Thursday, March 17, 2011

Last Call

Well this pisses me off to no end.  I actually completely agree with Rand Paul.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Thursday that opposes any U.S. military intervention in Libya as the Obama administration has begun pushing for greater United Nations involvement in the conflict.

“I have great sympathy for people that are involved in that war there,” Paul said in response to a question on Libya at a news conference on the federal budget. “We’re involved in two wars right now, and I don’t think we really need to be involved in a third war. I do think the questions of war are the most important decisions we make as a country and as representatives, and that needs to be something that is considered and voted on in the Senate and the House. I tell people I won’t vote to go to war unless I’m ready to go or send my kids.”

Paul added that in addition to financial questions about American involvement in Libya, there are other concerns, including the lack of more information about the opposition forces in the country.

“Can somebody anywhere tell me with a surety that the people fighting against Gaddafi are not in favor of radical Islamic government or radical Sharia-type government?” Paul asked. “I don’t know that. I’m not sure anybody knows that. I’m not sure anybody even knows who the leaders are. It’s not that I don’t sympathize with them wanting to overcome a tyrant. I just don’t know if I know enough that I’m willing to go and say that I’m absolutely fighting for freedom by going over there or sending our kids over there.”

It's a good thing it's St. Patty's day, because right now I need to knock back a few.   Jesus hell, he actually said something that I would have said in his place.  Meanwhile the UN Security Council has voted to bomb the crap out of liberate Libya, and take "all necessary measures" to protect civilians, opening the way for the eventual, inevitable US ground invasion of Libya.  France is eager to begin, saying the air war could start in less than 24 hours.  There will be no "occupation force", it will simply be called something else.

And so we will most likely be bombing Libya sometime this weekend.  West Texas Intermediate shot up $6 from $96 to $102 today, and when the bombing starts expect the real fun to begin.

Five dollars per gallon gas as a national average is only months away at this point, and here I am agreeing with effing Rand Paul.

Bartender, another round, please.

The GOP Declares War On Tote Bags, Part 2

As expected, the full House has opted to eliminate all current and future funding for NPR, which for them was a free shot (and a source of many more free shots as long as NPR refuses to defend itself.)

Legislation to bar federal funds from being spent on National Public Radio passed in the House of Representatives on Thursday, although its ultimate prospects of becoming policy looked doubtful.
HB 1076 was approved by a 228 to 192 vote after morning and afternoon debate sessions.

The move follows recent controversies involving NPR's executives, and other Republican efforts to defund or limit federal spending on public broadcasting.

The House bill put NPR specifically in its crosshairs, with Republicans citing fiscal responsibility as a key motivation.

"It's called tightening the belt," Majority leader Eric Cantor said on the floor. "It's time to reflect the common sense of the American people."

Under the bill, affiliate stations could not use federal funds to pay for NPR-produced programs or to pay member dues.

Republicans said it would save up to $60 million annually. About two percent of NPR's budget comes from the federal government.

Democrats argued the bill was a thinly veiled ideological attack that does not save money but threatens 27 million weekly listeners' content.

Public broadcasting has long been criticized by conservatives and many Republicans as leaning left. Most recently critics have pointed to a video sting operation that showed then NPR senior vice president for fundraising Ron Schiller disparaging the conservative Tea Party movement.

If anyone thinks this is really about the $60 million, you probably should listen to more NPR, you might learn something.  The bill has no chance in the Senate, but it sure gives the GOP a nice, sedentary punching bag to whale on for a while, mainly because it fulfills the secondary aim of any GOP action, It Pisses Off Liberals(tm).

Likewise, NPR has been pretty adamant about admitting to its listeners that it's under attack and that they need listener support and hey, Democrats are getting in on the act too.

House Democrats are fundraising off their Republican counterparts' push to take away federal funding from NPR, accusing the GOP of overreaching.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) circulated a fundraising e-mail to supporters Wednesday in response to the House GOP's decision to hold a vote Thursday to derive public radio of taxpayer funds.

"First, they tried to restrict access to reproductive health care. Then, they proposed catastrophic cuts to teachers, nurses, and researchers," reads the appeal from DCCC Chairman Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.). "Now the Republicans want to control the news."Democrats are looking to turn the tables on Republicans, who renewed their campaign to strip NPR of federal funding after they took control of the House. 

Of course this plan only works if people hear about it, which I'm at least trying to help with.  Still, it's a smart move by the DCCC and let's face it, I actually think NPR's enjoying the attention.  Certainly I'm betting their fundraising is up right now, so no doubt long term this is a win-win-win for NPR, the GOP, and the Dems.  Anthony Weiner did remind the House that the GOP's pledge to not "shove bills down America's throat" and allow 72 hours for debate doesn't mean a damn thing when it comes to scoring cheap political points as the bill still had 24 hours on the clock to go when House Republicans broke yet another promise.

Then again that will not be the case in a couple weeks when the GOP almost certainly decides to attach this defunding measure to the budget bill and dares to shut down the government over NPR.  And I'm fully betting that the Democrats will throw the tote bag under the bus when that happens, along with pretty much the entire middle class.

And yes, all this is happening despite the fact that the whole James O'Keefe sting video was a badly edited pile of crap.  The Village says it's relevant, so it's now on public record as "the truth" that NPR hates flyover country and anyone who doesn't have a MENSA IQ, so Real Americans will now punish them.

The GOP goalposts have now been moved to eliminate NPR, period...just like abortions, gay marriage, and brown people.

Playing The Paranoia Angle, Part 13

She's baaaaaack!

"I am running for the United States Congress," she said in a video uploaded to YouTube, asking viewers for support. "The 2010 election was bittersweet. Conservatives had some victories, but we still face obstacles from Democrats in Congress and the White House."

Angle will seek the seat currently held by Rep. Dean Heller (R) of Nevada's 2nd district, a heavily conservative seat that Republicans have held for decades. Angle lost to Heller in the 2006 election by a mere 421 votes. Heller is reportedly eying the open seat of retiring Sen. John Ensign (R).

Angle's solid tea party support in Nevada and fundraising capabilities make her a serious candidate for the seat, though she is likely to be challenged by heavyweights such as state GOP Chairman and Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki (R), according to the National Journal.

"I'm most concerned about the enormous debt that we're passing along to our children and our grandchildren," Angle said," calling for a "government based on the constitution, fiscal responsibility and personal accountability and resourcefulness."

The resourcefulness part is her making stuff up about what she thinks the Constitution actually means.  Then again, given the Republicans that made it into Congress in 2010, Angle's not such a standout in the insanity department anymore.

Which, frankly, is the problem.

Getting A Head In Miami

Steve M. points out that Tuesday's special election to recall Miami's mayor, Carlos Alvarez, was pretty much a wipeout, losing the recall vote by a staggering 75 points.  The right is eagerly claiming the Tea Party now rules South Florida, but the truth is Carlos Alvarez was removed by one of the Forbes 400, Norman Braman, who simply bought himself a recall election.

"County voters have demonstrated by their ballots that they are tired of unaccountable officials, of being ignored and of being overtaxed in this very difficult recessionary time," Braman said at a news conference.

Alvarez maintained throughout the recall effort that raising taxes was necessary to fill a $444 million gap and avoid cuts to critical social services. He said those affected by the property tax increase had enjoyed an artificially low 3 percent annual cap on tax increases during the real estate boom, and that the last round of contract negotiations had authorized most of the employee raises.

Francisco Rodriguez, 58, a bus driver, said his property taxes increased by about $600 this year, leading him to cancel his health insurance. He voted to remove Alvarez.

"It's time for him to go," Rodriguez said. "We want a change."

There have been numerous recalls of state officials in recent years, but not any of a local government official in an area as big as Miami-Dade County. said Joshua Spivak, a recall expert and senior fellow at Wagner College in New York. The Los Angeles mayor was recalled in 1938, but Spivak said the population at that time was smaller.

Alvarez, a former county police chief, also says Braman is angry over losing an effort to block the county from funding a new $600 million stadium for the Florida Marlins baseball team.

At Alvarez's urging, the county commission approved it.

"The defining issue really is the type of government that the citizens of this community are looking for," Braman said. "It's about empowering the people of this community to take it back from the politicians who have been running it, and running it in a way that I think endangers the fiscal future of our community."

So when Alvarez blocked Braman's new stadium, Braman bought himself a recall for Alvarez.  Make no mistake, when Braman says to take Miami "back from the politicians" he means give it to the "rightful" owners of America:

The Forbes 400.

Revenge, as Carlos Alvarez found out, is a dish best served by somebody who can afford to do a proper job of it.

The Netflix Conundrum, Part 3

SAN FRANCISCO – Netflix Inc. is trying to buy the Internet streaming rights to a 26-episode drama starring Kevin Spacey before the series is shown on a television network.
If the deal is completed, it would mark a bold step in a new direction for Netflix's popular video subscription service. Netflix currently boasts more than 20,000 titles in its streaming library, but most of them are previously aired TV series and older movies.

The talks were reported earlier by A person familiar with the negotiations on Wednesday confirmed Netflix's interest in the series, called "House of Cards." The person spoke on condition of anonymity because a deal hasn't been reached.

Bold step, indeed.  It's clear where the future delivery of entertainment lies.  Someday, cable won't be a separate service.  It's all just going to be data pipes that deliver all content to homes.  Netflix is jumping ahead and shaping the vision of what is inevitable: instant content delivered with minimum overhead, and delivery for the slower class of customers that cling to outdated equipment.

And Now Here's Something We Hope You Really Like

THE HAGUE (AFP) – Police in several countries have arrested scores of alleged members of an online paedophile ring and rescued 230 children in "the biggest case of its kind", Europol said.

A third of the arrests in the round-up which began three years ago were made in Britain, the policing agency said.

230 kids beat the odds and were "rescued from further harm" in the record-breaking bust, and at least 180 actively dangerous criminals are taken away.  That's a win-win, and some welcome good news.  

Both Vile Insult And Badge Of Honor

Many beltway GOP types are delighted at Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer's remarks that Washington is full of uncompromising "Scott Walker Republicans."

Ahead of yesterday's House vote to fund the federal government, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) painted the Republicans rebelling against Speaker John Boehner from the right as Scott Walker Republicans -- uninterested in compromise, single-minded in pursuit of a right-wing policy agenda.

The statement quickly diffused through the Capitol, and Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) -- an influential conservative and former Republican leader, who voted against the spending measure -- took kindly to it. On Twitter, Pence joked, "Sen. Schumer called us 'Scott Walker Republicans?' That's the nicest thing anybody has said about me in a long time!"

Turns out this is a view shared by both the so-called "Scott Walker Republicans" themselves, and Republicans who voted to pass the compromise plan.

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), who supports a grand bargain on spending, and voted with his leadership, put it bluntly. "I understand why Schumer would fear Scott Walker," Kingston said in a brief interview in the Speaker's Lobby, just off the House floor. "That's his -- what he doesn't understand is that's a pretty damn good compliment so people will take that."

On the other side of the GOP divide, Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who strongly opposes passing any spending measure unless it's used as leverage to gut the health care law, had a similar view. "If I had to choose, I'd a lot rather be Scott Walker than Schumer," King told me. "I don't take that as an insult, and there are a lot more that are sympathetic and in Scott Walker's favor in our own conference."

One thing's for sure:  All Republicans now own Scott Walker's actions. If they see abject refusal to compromise with Democrats, cynical destruction of middle-class working families and selling out states to corporate interests as complements, then yes, Scott Walker is the new face of the GOP.

That's the whirlwind they plan to reap, then by all means do so.

Land Of The Rising Core Temperature, Part 9

As Japanese officials continue to struggle to cool the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi, the US State Department is offering to pull families of American government personnel in the country out.  The real problem isn't the radiation however, but something far more mundane:  a massive blackout due to loss of power generation capacity.

An unscheduled, large-scale power outage is possible in Tokyo and surrounding areas on Thursday evening if power demand exceeds that of this morning, Japan's trade minister said.

Trade minister Banri Kaieda said demand this morning almost reached the available capacity of Tokyo Electric Power Co due partly to lower temperatures than normal, adding that electricity demand usually peaks in the evening or early night.

"There is a possibility of unpredictable, large-scale blackout. In order to make sure to avoid the unexpected, we'd like to ask industry users to save electricity and ordinary people to save electricity in the evening and at night," Kaieda said at an extraordinary news conference in the afternoon.

TEPCO's power supply capacity is 33,500 mega watts(MW) for Thursday, but power demand this morning reached a peak of 32,920 MW, Kaieda said, compared with a peak of 32,500 MW on Wednesday.

In a sign that Tokyo residents were heeding the call, the central Akasaka area, its narrow streets lined up with sushi restaurants and noodle shops normally packed with office workers and lit up by neon signs and glowing office towers, was submerged in near darkness.

Some ATMs are down in Japan and people in the northern part of the country continue to struggle without power, water, and food.  The situation is far more likely to produce casualties from the cold and lack of food and running water than the radiation right now.  The official death toll is nearing 6,000 but expected to go much higher.

The odds of a major recession in Japan are near absolute at this point.  The effects of the Sendai earthquake will be felt around the world in 2011 and beyond.

To The Shores Of Tripoli, Part 4

The fix is in on Libya.

My forecast that we would be in a shooting war with Libya by early May might actually need to be moved up significantly.  The US, UK, and France are now backing a UN no-fly zone resolution over Libya anddropping far more ominous hints of much more robust military action.

Air strikes against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces are among options being discussed as diplomats try to hammer out a U.N. Security Council resolution, a diplomatic source said.

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. raised the possibility of "going beyond a no-fly zone," Wednesday as Gadhafi's troops pounded the rebel-held cities of Misrata and Ajdabiya.

Ambassador Susan Rice said a "range of actions" were up for serious discussion, including but not limited to a no-fly zone, which has "inherent limitations in terms of protection of civilians."
The international community is keenly aware of the urgency and gravity of the situation on ground, Rice continued. She said she hopes to see a serious resolution as early as Thursday.

It's not known what other UN Security Council permanent members China and Russia will want in order to allow the air war, but I'm pretty sure they'll get whatever they want.  With a UN resolution on a no-fly zone coming as soon as today, we could be at war in Libya as soon as this weekend.

I honestly don't know what to say.  Certainly the US will make up the overwhelming bulk of any forces the UN commits to Libya, and that will almost certainly mean that after the bombing campaign ends, we will have troops on the ground.

It is Iraq all over again.  Of course we'll have to stay in Libya to prevent "Islamists" from taking over.  How many years will America be in Libya?

Sadly, we're about to find out.

StupidiNews, St. Patty's Day Edition!

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