Thursday, February 10, 2011

Last Call

Meanwhile, CPAC got underway today, the annual "I'm more conservative than you!" contest for GOP presidential "hopefuls".  I'm not sure what's funnier, the fact that half the field skipped CPAC this year because the LGBT Republican group GOProud was allowed to attend, and the Sarah Palin/Rick Santorum catfight that ensued as Palin was trying to play both sides on the fence...

Former Pennsylvania Sen. and possible 2012 GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum provided a questionable analysis of Sarah Palin's decision not to attend the annual Conservative Political Action Conference this weekend, saying that it might have something to do with the former vice-presidential candidate's priorities being focused on engagements that promised more "financial benefit."

"I have a feeling that she has some demands on her time, and a lot of them have financial benefit attached to them," Santorum, who will be at CPAC, told conservative commentator S.E. Cupp on a radio program Tuesday, according to Politico.

or Donald Trump saying that Ron Paul is unelectable.

He continued: "I wish there was a candidate that I saw that would be fantastic because I love what I'm doing." When people in the crowd shouted Ron Paul's name, Trump said: "By the way, Ron Paul cannot get elected. I'm sorry."

Trump was promptly booed.

2012 is going to be sooooo much fun.

Losing My Religion

The Kentucky Senate has passed a measure that would allow Kentucky schools to teach the Bible as an elective.

Bible classes could be taught in Kentucky public schools under a bill that's made it halfway through the legislature. The Senate voted 34-1 to approve Senate Bill 56 on Wednesday. Under the proposal, Bible courses would be offered as electives, meaning students could decide whether to take them.

Republican Sen. Joe Bowen of Owensboro, the bill's sponsor, said the intention is to acquaint students with a book that has had tremendous impact on American society and western culture.

Democratic Sen. Kathy Stein of Lexington said the measure is unnecessary because nothing currently prohibits Kentucky public schools from teaching about the Bible. A similar measure overwhelmingly passed in the Senate last year but died in the House.

That's true, but why stop at offering Bible study courses?  Why not a full comparative religion slate?  To all the folks that say "yes, there's nothing wrong with teaching classes about the Bible in public schools" would the same apply to a class on the Quran?  Certainly there are non-Christians in Kentucky schools.  Why not offer electives for them?

Besides, I thought conservative Republicans considered teachers to be overpaid Socialist union thugs.  Certainly they wouldn't feel comfortable having them teach their kids about the Bible, right?  Like sex education in the eyes of wingers, that should be up to the parents, right?  Also, I thought we had to cut money for education because it was bloated and corrupt.  Who's teaching these classes?  Are we spending taxpayer money to train teachers to teach the Bible or to hire church officials to do so?

Certainly this isn't an effort to violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by having a public institution promote Christianity as the state's "correct" religion, yes? 

Lot of questions here I'd like my lawmakers to answer.

Still Tea'd Off

The revolt of the Tea Party against the GOP leadership continues in the House.  Tuesday it was the PATRIOT Act failing to pass under expedited rules, now of all the things to fail, New York Republicans led by Rep. Peter King have defeated a measure that would strip funding from the United Nations.

A bill that would retrieve money already paid to the United Nations failed Wednesday afternoon 259-169, 290 votes were needed for passage. The bill is the third to fail under House stewardship this week. The U.N. bill would have return $179 million that was paid into the U.N. tax equalization fund.
The measure was brought up under House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-Va.) signature budget slashing initiative, known as YouCut, under suspension of House rules that required two-thirds vote for passage.
Several GOP sources said Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) had lobbied against the U.N. bill, at the urging of New York city officials. King had spoken to New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly about the funding.
King spoke on the House floor Wednesday, saying defeating the bill is "a matter of life and death."

This one wasn't even close to the 290 votes needed either, it failed by 31.  Why hold a vote on something that was so clearly doomed, especially after Tuesday's mildly embarrassing  PATRIOT Act loss?

It's like Orange Julius and Eric Cantor have no clue what they are doing.  It's one thing to cut this in the FY 2012 budget, but stripping money already allocated to the UN requires a two-thirds vote, and the Republicans knew this ahead of time.  If this was a symbolic gesture to force Senate Dems and the White House to kill the legislation, that's one thing...but you actually have to carry the vote in the House to be symbolic.

These guys haven't even been in charge of the House for a month now and they're already looking like fools, holding pointless votes on legislation that never had a chance of passing.

Where are the jobs, Mr Speaker?  That's what you promised America, right?

Denial Really Is A River In Egypt, Part 7

All indications are that the Egyptian strikes today, threatening oil tanker traffic through the Suez Canal, were the final straw for the Powers That Be keeping Hosni Mubarak in power.

Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak is to step down tonight, two sources have told NBC News, losing his 30-year grip on power after 17 days of mass uprisings across the country.

NBC's Richard Engel reported that a high-ranking source inside the president's office said the newly appointed vice president, Omar Suleiman, would take over. This was confirmed by a second source.

State television reported that country's supreme military council had expressed its "support of the legitimate demands" of the protesters after an all-day meeting. The latest developments came on the heels of repeated warnings by members of the regime of a military crackdown or coup.

Some pro-democracy protesters reacted cautiously to the reports Mubarak was leaving, saying they would only believe them if and when he announced his departure on television.

President Barack Obama on Thursday said the United States would do all it can to support an orderly transition to democracy in Egypt.

"We are witnessing history unfold," Obama said, adding "It's a moment of transformation that's taking place because the people of Egypt are calling for change."

"We want all Egyptians to know America will continue to do every thing that we can to support an orderly and genuine transition to democracy in Egypt," Obama said.

Make no mistake, Mubarak was going to remain through September elections before the Egyptian opposition called these strikes, and the strikes included Suez Canal workers.  That was the final piece of leverage they needed to convince the Egyptian military to pick a side.  Suddenly, the soldiers have all the power in this equation because Mubarak would need them to restore immediate order to the Suez Canal area, and it looks like they figured that out and made their move to take control.

Given rising worldwide food prices, rising worldwide oil prices on top of that would have turned into a nightmare scenario for a number of countries, including the US.  That still may be true.  24 hours ago, Mubarak was not going anywhere.  Now all indications are he is resigning and the army and Omar Suleiman are stepping in to take control.  The difference today is the strikes possibly shutting down the Suez if they were allowed to continue, and that would have cause massive economic chaos across the globe.

Mubarak had two choices:  resign or unleash a massive crackdown and retake the Suez Canal by military force.  It's clear that Mubarak lost control of the Egyptian Army, and the Egyptian Army wasn't about to start gunning down their own people in the streets, or told Mubarak to go to hell.  Even better, if the Army simply resisted Mubarak, they end up looking like heroes to the people, and they don't have to fire a shot.  Win-win for them.  Once the opposition spread to the Suez Canal, Mubarak's resignation became a question of how soon.

Without the Army, Mubarak was checkmated.  Well played, Egyptian opposition.  Very well played.  So the question remains, who's really in charge, Suleiman, the Army, someone else?  My money's on a gentlemen's agreement between Suleiman and the Army, and negotiations with the Egyptian opposition to form a new government and a new power-sharing structure.

Israeli, Saudi Arabian, American and European Union diplomatic phone lines are burning up as we speak.  They want this to go as smoothly as possible, because if things go south here, we have another Six-Day War situation on our hands, and then things get truly ugly.

Mubarak's departure means the chess match begins now in earnest.

[UPDATE] Ooops.  Mubarak Rick-rolled the entire planet.  He's not going anywhere.  Crowds in Cairo's Tahir Square are marching on the Presidential Palace in anger.   This is going to be bad, folks.  Very bad.

[UPDATE 2]  VP Suleiman has told protesters to go home.  Umm....they're not.  They are pissed off.  Wildcat strike underway in the Suez Canal.  On a scale of one to ten, this is pretty close to a nine on the screwed-o-meter.

It's looking like the Army and Suleiman indeed cut a deal...and that deal included Mubarak staying.

[UPDATE 3]  Egyptian opposition leader Mohamad ElBaradei, on Twitter this evening:

Nothing good will come of the Army "saving the country now".    The chess match has been canceled.  Welcome to the gun show.

I'll Have Tea, Thanks

A recent study suggests that for a yet undetermined reason, people who drink diet sodas daily are at significantly higher risk for heart attack or stroke.  Is this because of something in diet soda in particular?  The study is not comprehensive enough to cover that yet, but follow ups will shed some light on that.

The study, which followed more than 2,500 New Yorkers for nine or more years, found that people who drank diet soda every day had a 61 percent higher risk of vascular events, including stroke and heart attack, than those who completely eschewed the diet drinks, according to researchers who presented their results today at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference in Los Angeles.

There are many reasons that could contribute to this, but the results are enough to give pause before drinking that next Diet Coke.  Though it is likely to take a while for follow up studies to print conclusions, I'm grateful someone is looking into a potential risk.

StupidiNews! I Have Something In My Eye Edition

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Jurors are so convinced that a Cleveland teen should not have been charged with assaulting another teen that they've gone beyond acquitting him. A few are writing angry letters to police and intend to donate their jury pay to him.
At least three jurors plan to give the $100 they received to sit on the jury to defendant Demrick McCloud, 19, if McCloud earns a high school equivalency degree. They took only 30 minutes to find him not guilty in their deliberations Friday. The trial started Jan. 31.

The details fill in some blanks, but it's always nice to have a reminder that good things happen sometimes.

Ohio Changes Everything In A Heartbeat

So, what's the top priority of Ohio Republicans now that they control the State House, Senate, and Governor's mansion?  Jobs?  Economic recovery?  Rebuilding the state's infrastructure?

Yeah, right.

Republican lawmakers in Ohio unveiled legislation Wednesday that would ban abortions of any fetus found to have a heartbeat, a move that could ban most abortions in the state.

Under legislation sponsored by State Representative Lynn Wachtmann, doctors would be forbidden from performing an abortion the moment a heartbeat is detected in the fetus. Fetuses generally develop a heartbeat within six weeks of conception, and in some pregnant women a heartbeat can be detected within 18 days.

The Youngstown Vindicator describes the bill as "the most restrictive abortion ban in the country" and potentially "a precedent for other states eyeing comparable restrictions."

Robyn Marty at Alternet reports that the "heartbeat bill" amounts to an almost total ban on abortion.
For most women, [the law] would provide a window of two weeks or less in order to learn she was pregnant, make her decision about the pregnancy, arrange for an appointment, gather money for an abortion, obtain the mandatory counseling and sit through the required 24 hour waiting period. For a woman with irregular menstrual cycles, by the time she realizes she is pregnant it likely would already be too late to do anything but continue the pregnancy.
Legal experts say the bill challenges Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion in the US. That ruling set the standard that a pregnant woman can abort a fetus until it is "viable," meaning capable of living outside the womb. But since a fetus develops a heartbeat long before it becomes "viable," the proposed Ohio law challenges that standard.

That prompted Case Western Law School professor Jessie Hill to call the bill "symbolic legislation ... that's clearly unconstitutional," reported the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The Plain Dealer noted that, with last fall's elections, all three branches of Ohio's state government are under Republican control, making the state a prime candidate for experimentation with a socially conservative agenda.

So Ohio's "heartbeat bill" will almost certainly pass in a heartbeat.  The question is how quickly will it get to the Supreme Court, and how many Republican controlled states will follow suit in filing copies of the law.  Georgia, Arizona and Texas plan to, certainly Florida will with its GOP supermajority.

The point of the law is to of course A) pass and B) go straight to SCOTUS to be used as the vehicle to strike down Roe v. Wade and end abortions in the country, period.  And should the heartbeat measure somehow fail, well, there's four other abortion restriction bills ready to go in the Ohio Statehouse this month.

The one thing I haven't seen any mention of is allowances for cases of rape or incest, but the law does make an exception for the health of the mother.  Nice to know that if your wife, sister, aunt, daughter, friend, granddaughter etc. gets raped in Ohio, the state plans to make her have that child.

I usually let Bon handle stories like this, but this one has national implications.  Pay attention, folks.

Things can change in a heartbeat.

If It's Thursday...

Jobless claims finally firmly under least for a week.

New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits dropped more than expected last week to touch their lowest point in 2-1/2 years, a government report showed on Thursday, offering assurance that the labor market was strengthening despite January's poor jobs numbers. 

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 36,000 to a seasonally adjusted 383,000, the lowest since early July 2008, the Labor Department said.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims slipping to 410,000. The prior weeks figure was revised up to 419,000, from the previously reported 415,000. 

Good news, right?   Mostly.  Then again, claims have been all over the map this month.  One week of sub-400k claims does not a recovery make.  We'll see how long it lasts.

It Takes A Special Kind Of Crazy

When your own campaign staff says you're not qualified to run for President, it's time to reevaluate your goals.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), the Tea Party star who has been eyeing a possible run for President, is now being badmouthed by an unusual source: Ron Carey, a former chairman of the Minnesota GOP -- who also happens to be one of Bachmann's many ex-chiefs of staff!

The Associated Press reported on the potential conflict of two Minnesotans -- Bachmann and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty -- who are both moving towards a potential White House bid. And Carey, who served as Bachmann's fifth chief of staff for just five months -- she has had quite a few chiefs of staff during her mere four years in the House -- isn't about to support Bachmann:

"While she passes the conservative test, my opinion from my association with her is she's not going to be an electable candidate for us," said Carey. "And even if she were elected I don't believe she would be ready for the position of the president of the United States."

Doesn't get more frank than that, folks.  Granted, this may be an effort by the T-Paw camp to put the kibosh on the Bachmanniac to put all the Minnesota support behind the former Governor, and if it is, it's working.  Bachmann is even less qualified for President than Palin is as far as I'm concerned.

Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks this way.


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