Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Last Call

Steve M on the NPR Schiller/James O'Keefe gotcha story, where O'Keefe's crew of brave gonzo "journalists" got outgoing NPR Foundation exec Ron Schiller on tape admitting he thought the Tea Party rank and file are basically a bunch of racists:

This has upset a lot of people who think all Muslims are sharia-seeking jihadists, and who think all liberals are ideologically indistinguishable from Stalin and Mao.

Can we at least not lie to ourselves? As this becomes a big scandal marked by endless self-righteous huffing and puffing, can we at least tell the truth, which is that this is not a debate about neutrality or privatization? Can we admit that if the ideological poles were reversed -- if NPR were a culturally conservative government-funded organization, and a prominent representative of the organization revealed right-wing cultural biases on tape -- the people who are howling right now would be rushing to the representative's defense?

We know this because they defend religious right military chaplains who proselytize. We know this because they still greatly admire General Jerry Boykin, the guy who said of a Muslim enemy, "I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol" (and who was promoted rather than disciplined after saying it).

The point is that the military is part of the government, and is culturally right-wing -- and the right never deounces ideological statements like Boykin's that cross the line. As we discuss Schiller (and we will, endlessly), let's at least try to remember that. Let's try to remember the obvious fact: that this is about the right trying to win one for its side, not about trying to keep things balanced. The right would have no problems whatsoever with a government-funded Fox News, and I don't care how much rightists deny that.

Now, why would anybody think the Tea Party folks are racists, or at the minimum led by racists who are cynically manipulating racist fears of a changing demographic?

Steve's right however:  Republicans could give a damn, they just want NPR off the air.  That's what happens when people disagree with them.  It's just collecting another scalp in the name of controlled ignorance.

And speaking of controlled ignorance, James O'Keefe III, the awesome ninja video dude behind the "Secret agent Senator's office break-in" faked video and the "ACORN pimps and hos" faked video and the "CNN Surprise Boatsecks" video invented a fake Evil Mooslim organization complete with faked web site in order to try to trick NPR into taking a $5 million donation from them.  NPR didn't bite.

Pamela Geller, on the other hand...

You'd think they'd learn that everything the guy says is basically a lie.

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

John Cole asks:

The question I have for you all, though, is do these people ever have a solution for improving education beyond “firing bad teachers” and bemoaning wasted education money? Have you ever heard anything?

Well, there's Rick Scott's crackpot plan to privatize Florida's education system and turn it into a massive for-profit scheme to rake in the billions each year the state spends on schoolkids, and it's a plan so completely transparent as a fraud that even with a two-thirds GOP super majority in the state's legislature, other Republicans aren't even buying it.

A proposal touted by Gov. Rick Scott to radically expand school vouchers is unlikely to gain any traction in the state Legislature anytime soon, key lawmakers say.

"I'm not here to destroy public schools," said state Stephen Wise, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, when asked about Education Savings Accounts, suggested by Scott's education transition team and endorsed by the governor.

The idea is to divert public education funds to participating parents, who would receive 85 percent of the per-pupil cost of public school. The money would go into the savings accounts that could be used by parents for private school tuition, private virtual schooling, tutoring or college costs.

The transition team's report says the proposal would save the state 15 percent of the cost of public school education and give parents more control.

But the idea has alarmed critics, including Progress Florida, a non-profit organization that promotes progressive values, which has launched a petition drive and started a Facebook page to "Stop Rick Scott's Private Voucher Scheme," describing the plan as "fiscally irresponsible, and potentially unconstitutional."

I've talked about Scott's voucher nonsense before, and how his transition team is so eager to pursue it:  it's larded up with officials who would directly profit from effectively privatizing the state's school systems, pushing "online schools" and pocketing the difference.  Indeed, Scott's budget proposal includes cutting $4.8 billion from Florida schools and increasing vouchers by $250 million next year as he ramps up the scheme, something I called months ago:

Cutting taxes only puts that much more pressure for counties to go along with Scott's cut-rate online scheme.  "Want to balance your budget?  What if you didn't have schools to pay for?"

Indeed.  It's full speed ahead on this crazy train.  Oh wait, dude killed the high speed rail project, so it's a slow boat to hell instead.  Dismantle government, privatize it, rip off the populace without the middlemen.  The American way.

President Odubya Crashes And Burns On Gitmo

President Obama's first major promise upon taking office was to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  Two years later his failure to close Gitmo is now complete.

President Barack Obama will allow new military terror trials of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, the White House announced Monday. But Obama's statement said that the U.S. "will continue to draw on all aspects of our justice system" -- including federal courts -- to handle terrorism cases.

The announcement comes more than two years after Obama signed an executive order order Guantanamo Bay to close by January 2010. A White House fact sheet acknowledged that in recent months, "some in Congress have sought to undermine" the process developed by the Departments of Justice and Defense to "determine which system - military or civilian - is most appropriate based on the nature of the evidence and traditional principles of prosecution."

The White House said it would continue to "vigorously defend the authority of the Executive to make these well- informed prosecution decisions, both with respect to those detainees in our custody at Guantanamo and those we may apprehend in the future."

"A one-size-fits-all policy for the prosecution of suspected terrorists, whether for past or future cases, undermines our Nation's counterterrorism efforts and harms our national security," the White House fact sheet said.

Granted, a fair amount of blame for this goes straight to Democrats in Congress who not only abandoned the President on closing Gitmo, bt did everything they could to undermine and reverse the promise out of abject fear of "escaped prisoners blowing up nursery schools" even though America continues to safely house terrorists in US prisons on US soil.

Congress was even more afraid of the world finding out more about Bush-era abuses of power after 9/11 too.  But that included President Obama, who soon found himself not only emulating President Bush on civil liberties failures, but expanding them into national permanence.

So two years later, here we are, right back where we were in 2008:  prisoners held without due process or hope of due process, detained indefinitely without trial at the whim of the President, and kangaroo court military tribunals used to "process" the rest.  We have learned precisely nothing, other than President Obama has completely reversed his first promise upon taking office.

I like President Obama personally.  I like many of his policies.  But on this he has utterly and completely failed the American people, and that's something I'm not going to forget...or forgive.  At some point in the future Gitmo will have to be closed, but the President who does it will never be Barack Obama.

Oh For Frak's Sake, Don't We Have Enough Wars Right Now?

We have to "intervene" in Libya now?  Really, David Frum?

President Barack Obama is wrestling with a decision whether or not to intervene in Libya.

Here is a consideration that should top the president's thinking process: What message will it send if Moammar Gadhafi survives?

An anti-American, anti-Western supporter of international terrorism can hold power by killing large numbers of his own people. Meanwhile, nondemocratic rulers aligned with the West are nudged from power by their former friends.

If you were the king of Saudi Arabia, what conclusion would you draw? Would you not assess: It's a lot safer to be an American enemy than an American friend? After all, an American enemy can use maximum violence with impunity.

Here's the question you should be asking, numbnuts.  With a disastrous nearly decade-long war in Afghanistan still with no real end in sight and war in Iraq still continuing for almost as long, what makes any human being think we can just "intervene" in Libya without completely wrecking what stability is left in the Middle East and North Africa? 

There should be no "wrestling" with the question.  Republicans have made it clear we can't afford to do much of anything to save domestic spending programs because the deficit hangs over us like the Sword of Damocles, ready to disintegrate our economy.

Now we're seriously entertaining a third war?  Gosh, where are we going to get the money for that, not to mention the troops.  We're a tad busy right now, are we not?


The Perfect Gift: Maid Service

JENNINGS, Mo. (AP) — Investigators are trying to determine whether mummified human remains found in a suburban St. Louis home are those of the mother of the home's hoarding elderly occupant, who died nearly three weeks earlier.
Police and a forensic investigator with the St. Louis County medical examiner's office tell the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that it's unknown how long the remains had been in the Jennings home.
The home's occupant, Gladys Bergmeier, was 75 when she was found dead in her bed Feb. 7. A relative found the mummified remains of an elderly woman weeks later.

 This isn't the first time this has happened.  One has to wonder what would be comforting in keeping bodies (preserved or otherwise) in the home.  When death is the subject, reactions can be very different and very personal.  Still, I admit I am curious to hear the results if they are able to determine the identity of the corpse.

StupidiNews: Mr. Roboto Edition

STEVENAGE, England – Eden Sawczenko used to recoil when other little girls held her hand and turned stiff when they hugged her. This year, the 4-year-old autistic girl began playing with a robot that teaches about emotions and physical contact — and now she hugs everyone.
"She's a lot more affectionate with her friends now and will even initiate the embrace," said Claire Sawczenko, Eden's mother.

This is a huge leap in progress for autistic children.  The robot interacts with them with facial expressions while remaining safe for them.  One robot is so advanced it can play Wii with the kids.  This will never replace good old fashioned therapy and care, but it is a foot in the door to communicating with the most difficult and unreachable cases, and give these kids a chance to come out of a shell we don't understand and join us in the world.

How Not To Be Orange Julius

Steve M pretty succinctly wraps up Gov. Scott Walker's problem in Wisconsin:  he doesn't have anybody crazier than himself around.

Even when voters are turning out to cast votes for certifiably crazy teabag-style extremist candidates, a significant percentage of those voters actually believe they want reason and moderation to prevail; they really believe they want everyone after the election to come to an understanding of how to solve our problems through compromise. That's just the way it always is in America -- right-wing extremists can persuade quite a few swing voters that voting for them is consistent with moderation, because Fox and talk radio have made the argument that the liberal lefty commie Democrats are extremists on the other side, and a vote for far-rightists is a vote for "balance." (That's also the meaning of Fox's slogan "fair and balanced.")

Scott Walker's mistake was letting himself himself be perceived as the extremist he actually is, rather than as a guy merely restoring "balance." He needed a "bad cop" who was seeking even more extreme stuff -- or, at the very least, he needed to say, "I'm a reasonable guy; look at how little I'm actually asking for." 

Orange Julius on the other hand has complete Tea Party nutbars like Michele Bachmann, Louie Gohmert, and Steve King around to make him look reasonable by comparison, and it's working.  Democrats are happy to agree to $50 billion in cuts when Sen. Rand Paul wants to cut $500 billion from domestic spending and get rid of the Departments of Education, Energy, and the EPA.

Walker doesn't have anyone crazy around to make him look sane, therefore he's losing the battle horribly.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

Well, America.  It was nice knowing you.

Rovio CEO Mikael Hed says the immensely popular Angry Birds game is coming to Facebook next month with “completely new aspects to it that just haven’t been experienced in any other platform.”

According to All Facebook, Hed used the word “collaborative” to describe aspects of the game, adding that “the pigs will have a more prominent role.”

Take a look at the Angry Birds page on Facebook, and you’ll see that something is up. If you “like” the page, Rovio promises to keep you posted on all the latest news about the upcoming Angry Birds migration to Facebook.

Other game developers must be envious of the meteoric rise of Angry Birds. First it starts out as an iPhone game, then it’s ported to Android, Palm and Nokia, then suddenly there are multiple versions of the game, and it’s showing up on PCs, PSP/PS3, Windows 7 Phone, there’s a movie tie-in, an animated series, and there’s even a 3D version in the works. And next month we’ll be playing it on the largest social network in the world.

We are doomed.  Like Stephen King's The Stand doomed.  Like Resident Evil: Apocalypse doomed.  Like AMC's The Walking Dead doomed.


Shining The Light On The Sunshine State's Scott

Republican Gov. Rick Scott of Florida is doing things his way or else, and it's the state's Republicans who are already sick of the guy running the state like Rick Scott, Inc.

“The governor doesn’t understand there is a State Constitution and that we have three branches of government,” said State Senator Mike Fasano, a Republican from New Port Richey who upset Mr. Scott with rough handling of his staff during a testy committee hearing. “They are talking about the attitude that he is still the C.E.O. of his former health care corporation, and that is not going to work in this state, in Tallahassee, in my district. The people believe in three branches of government.”

Republican lawmakers in Florida were hoping for a smoother transition. Instead, they say, they got top-down management from a political novice.

With the Legislature convening on Tuesday for a potentially arduous two-month session that is bound to usher in major cuts in spending and jobs and radical changes to education, pensions, unemployment benefits and Medicaid, the governor will be tested on a broader, more public scale. Florida faces an estimated $3.6 billion budget shortfall this year and has a stubborn 12 percent unemployment rate.

“I think there have been some understandable growing pains because government doesn’t function like a corporation,” said Speaker Dean Cannon, a Republican from central Florida, taking a more measured tone than Mr. Fasano.

“I like Governor Scott a lot as a person and a leader,” Mr. Cannon said. “I think he’s going through the understandable adjustment of the transition from campaigning to governance.” 

Suck it up, Florida GOP.  Rick Scott is everything you said you wanted in a state chief executive:  a business tycoon who was going to run the state according to the free market principles you hold near and dear.  Now that you're finding out that means all Floridians who aren't making bank have their necks on the block as Scott will gut education, prisons and Medicaid to eliminate the state's corporate income tax by 2018, you're recoiling in horror.

And yet that's exactly what Democrats said Scott would do.  He's planning to "balance" a $3.8 billion budget hole with $4 billion plus in property tax cuts and corporate income tax cuts...and then some $8 billion plus in spending cuts, including taking some 3 million Floridians off Medicaid and making them the federal government's problem, cutting billions from Florida schools, and eliminating 8,000 state jobs, and that's for starters.

Republicans in the state see this for what it is:  political suicide that they are being asked to participate in, and they want zero part of it.  But you wanted Governor Galt and baby, you got him in spades.

Reap what you sow, gentlemen.  Too bad millions of Floridians have to reap that whirlwind as well to literally eliminate taxes on the corporate class.  Because that's all that matters to Rick Scott.


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