Friday, March 18, 2011

Last Call

At this point, Qaddafi has achieved some sort of self-mockery dictator zen.

The United States accused Muammar Gaddafi of defying international demands for an immediate ceasefire, and France's U.N. envoy predicted military action within hours of an international meeting on Libya on Saturday.

A unilateral ceasefire declared on Friday by the Libyan government appeared to have done little to convince outside powers to hold off on plans for air strikes to force an end to an increasingly bloody civil war.

Residents in the rebel-held western city of Misrata said they faced heavy bombardment on Friday -- a charge the government denied -- while a U.S. official said Gaddafi's forces were still advancing toward the rebels' eastern stronghold Benghazi.

Within hours of President Barack Obama saying the terms of a U.N. resolution meant to end fighting in Libya were non-negotiable, his U.N. envoy, Susan Rice, asked by CNN whether Gaddafi was in violation of these terms, said: "Yes, he is."

UN calls for ceasefire.  Qaddafi says "OK, we stopped firing."  Then his forces proceed to bomb rebel positions, then claims that he wants international observers to prove he's holding up to the cease fire, while continuing to bomb rebel positions anyway.

He has a bright future as either a three-year old with a bag of Skittles, or as a Republican lawmaker.

Hell, Yemen? Hell Yeah, Man

If that wasn't enough for you, the Middle Eastern state of Yemen just went critical today as protesters were gunned down by rooftop snipers in the capital of Sanaa.

Gunmen on rooftops shot dead up to 42 protesters at an anti-government rally in Sanaa after Muslim prayers on Friday, enraging the opposition and prompting President Ali Abdullah Saleh to declare a state of emergency.

Medical sources and witnesses told Reuters that Yemeni security forces and plainclothes snipers, who protesters said were government security men, had opened fire on the crowds. The Interior Ministry put the death toll at 25, but doctors said 42 people had died and at least 300 were injured.

Saleh, struggling to maintain his 32-year grip on power in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula state, said the deaths had occurred in clashes between demonstrators and other citizens at a protest encampment at Sanaa University.

"I express my extreme sorrow for what happened today after Friday prayers in the university district," Saleh told a news conference in Sanaa, blaming gunmen among the protesters for the violence.

"The police were not present and did not open fire," he said. "It is clear there are armed elements inside these tents and they are the ones who opened fire."

He declared a 30-day state of emergency that gives wider powers to security forces and bars citizens from bearing arms in public. A curfew was being discussed.

Bahrain, now Yemen.  Saudi Arabia is probably pretty damn nervous about right now, as is, oh, pretty much everyone else on the planet.  Something's got to give soon on the Arabian Peninsula, however.  When it does, it's not going to be pleasant.

Land Of The Rising Core Temperature, Part 11

A truly sorry sight today as Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) chief Akio Komiri broke down and cried after admitting at a press conference that yes, the Fukushima Daiichi plant has been releasing harmful levels of radiation for days now.

The boss of the company behind the devastated Japanese nuclear reactor today broke down in tears - as his country finally acknowledged the radiation spewing from the over-heating reactors and fuel rods was enough to kill some citizens

Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency admitted that the disaster was a level 5, which is classified as a crisis causing 'several radiation deaths' by the UN International Atomic Energy.

Officials said the rating was raised after they realised the full extent of the radiation leaking from the plant. They also said that 3 per cent of the fuel in three of the reactors at the Fukushima plant had been severely damaged, suggesting those reactor cores have partially melted down.

After Tokyo Electric Power Company Managing Director Akio Komiri cried as he left a conference to brief journalists on the situation at Fukushima, a senior Japanese minister also admitted that the country was overwhelmed by the scale of the tsunami and nuclear crisis.

He said officials should have admitted earlier how serious the radiation leaks were.

After leaving the presser, Komiri left in tears, ushered off stage by aides.  Could have told you this was happening, but it's still important to keep in mind that the 850,000 without power and water in Japan right now for a week as temperatures still get below freezing and snow blankets the area, with no food and no water, well they have a hell of a lot bigger problems to worry about than radiation.

The death toll is almost 7,000 now, with still 10,000 plus missing and hope at this point for them has all but run out after a week of hell.  No, the radiation hasn't helped any, but that's not what's going to ultimately create the body count here.

Birthers Get A Trump Card

It shows you how utterly ridiculous Republicans are that anyone even remotely considered to be making a run at Obama's job in 2012 has bow and scrape to the Republican birther majority, even somebody who's a long-shot like Donald Trump.

In an interview with ABC News' Ashleigh Banfield that aired Thursday, Trump said he had some doubts that President Barack Obama was a U.S. citizen.

"Everybody that even gives any hint of being a birther -- a word you didn't use -- even a little bit of a hint like 'gee, you know, maybe, just maybe this much of chance,' they label them as an idiot," he told Banfield.

"Let me tell you, I'm a really smart guy," Trump continued. "I was a really good student at the best school in the country. The reason I have a little doubt -- just a little -- is because he grew up and nobody knew him."

"When you interview people, if I ever got the nomination, if I ever decide to run, you may go back and interview people from my kindergarten. They'll remember me. Nobody ever comes forward. Nobody knows who he is until later in his life."

"It's very strange. The whole thing is very strange," he added.

If the American business magnate wants the Republican nomination then he may need support from the birthers. A recent PPP poll found that a majority of Republican voters don't believe Obama was born in the U.S.

Words that could have come from any Republican circa 2008.  Or 2009.  Or 2010.  Or 2011 for that matter.  Trump is just the latest to drink the birther Kool-Aid.  Anyone who will be making a serious run in 2012 for the GOP nomination will have to deal with the fact that Republicans are birthers, although I still feel that most of the non-believers are mouthing the words to cover up good old-fashioned "He's not one of us" racism.

I'm not sure which is worse, frankly.

Epic Fail: "This Won't Ever Catch Up To Us" Edition

While San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency officials say other inspections found the 82-year-old Sunset Tunnel and the 94-year-old Twin Peaks Tunnel “in good serviceable condition,” outside engineers question the wisdom of failing to inspect them for earthquake safety, particularly considering the defects that have been found.
 Corroded steel beams surrounded by loose pieces of concrete held up the tunnel at its eastern end. A retaining wall was rotting. Further down the tunnel, corroded concrete beams and slabs were so deteriorated that inspectors said they “may be compromised.” And at the tunnel’s western end, the ceiling contained “extensive cracks,” one three-quarters of an inch wide and 10 feet long.

Yet despite this urgency, no repairs have been made. SFMTA officials outlined the scope of work this week, saying the agency plans to invest about $1 million to fix the worst of the problems by January 2013. The remaining defects will be repaired after that, SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said, although the $6 million needed has yet to be obtained.

Asked if the tunnels’ vulnerability to earthquakes had ever been studied, Rose said no.
I can understand funds are hard to come by, but this is negligence bordering on disaster.  

Tell Us How You Really Feel

Ty Myers, owner of Fenix Tattoo, has a message for Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn.
The 7x15 foot sign hanging outside his Pioneer Square shop reads: "Parking $3.50, Small business $0, (Expletive) you Mayor McGinn."
The mayor has changed parking rates and times on local businesses in Pioneer Square (Seattle), and one owner in particular told them how he really feels.  This is, of course, against the sign laws, but I don't think he cares.

But The Catfood Commission Came Back, The Very Next Day, Part 6

Former Clinton official Erskine Bowles is confident the Catfood Commission will soon have its way in Washington and tells the Dirty F'ckin Hippies to go screw themselves (and I am really, really getting sick of writing posts that involve Former Clinton Officials and Hippie Punching.) 

Mr. Bowles had harsh words for fellow Democrats. He dismissed the idea that raising taxes alone might help erase the deficit, saying "raising taxes doesn't do a dern thing" to address health care costs that are projected to be a big driver of future fiscal problems.

He also said the White House, and House and Senate leadership would have to step in and help drive the process forward. "We're going to have to have get to the promised land," he said.

Luckily, Jon Chait is there to beat him with a math stick.

The Affordable Care Act has a wide-ranging series of reforms to transform the incentive structure of insurers, hospitals and physicians, so as to control the long-term rise in costs. Bowles-Simpson just says, we're only going to pay so much and no more, without doing anything to ensure that the cost of the care actually stays within those bounds.

The problem is, if health care costs continue to skyrocket, we're in trouble no matter what. Simply shifting more of the cost onto people will replace public debt with private debt. Moreover, setting a cap in perpetuity isn't a terribly effective way to bind future policymakers. You can say they can only spend so much, but if the caps are hard to meet, they'll go around them. You need mechanisms to make the caps effective, but Bowles-Simpson has little of that.

The one step that actually would reduce the deficit substantially and in the correct time frame is letting the Bush tax cuts expire. I can't think of a good fiscal rationale for Bowles to dismiss that, though the political logic of doing so is clear enough.

The bottom line is the biggest single deficit creator over the next ten years is the Bush tax cuts.  These need to go away for the wealthiest Americans at the very least.  But nobody is talking about that, not Erskine Bowles and certainly not Republicans, whose solutions to the deficit include trying to deal with trillions by cutting $60 million from Public Broadcasting and saying the Democrats aren't serious about deficit reduction, then saying we should bomb Libya.

The people talking seriously about the deficit are few and far between, and none of them have "Former Clinton official" on their job resume.

A Poll On Winning That Loses, Big Time

At this point I have to consider Public Policy Polling may have jumped the shark.

We've found a lot of brutal poll numbers for Sarah Palin so far in 2011: down in South Dakota, down in South Carolina, down in Arizona, only up by 1 point in Texas, only up by 1 point in Nebraska to name a few. But this has to be the worst- independent voters say they would support Charlie Sheen over Palin for President by a 41/36 margin. Seriously.

Despite her deficit with independents Palin does lead Sheen 49-29 overall. We also tested Barack Obama against Sheen and the President leads 57-24.

Hey guys?  We have enough actual maniacs trying to destroy the country with their idiotic antics.  The idea that independents and Democrats would choose Charlie Sheen over Sarah Palin is not helping at all towards fixing it.  Our political system is badly broken as it is, and neither Sheen nor Palin should be considered legitimate people to make pancakes without burning down your house, much less be pretend President.

This is a stupid Village trick, PPP, and quite beneath you.  Knock it the hell off.

Land Of The Rising Core Temperature, Part 10

With Japan finally and grudgingly admitting that the Fukushima Daiichi disaster is at least as bad as Three Mile Island, nuclear officials are now raising the distinct possibility that the plant is beyond saving, and that the Chernobyl "concrete box" option is now on the table.

Japanese engineers conceded on Friday that burying a crippled nuclear plant in sand and concrete may be a last resort to prevent a catastrophic radiation release, the method used to seal huge leakages from Chernobyl in 1986.

But they still hoped to solve the crisis by fixing a power cable to at least two reactors to restart water pumps needed to cool overheating nuclear fuel rods. Workers also sprayed water on the No.3 reactor, the most critical of the plant's six.

It was the first time the facility operator had acknowledged burying the sprawling complex was possible, a sign that piecemeal actions such as dumping water from military helicopters or scrambling to restart cooling pumps may not work.

"It is not impossible to encase the reactors in concrete. But our priority right now is to try and cool them down first," an official from the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co, told a news conference.

I do feel a lot better about the situation here, at least the Japanese now have more than a short-term plan (spraying water to cool the fuel rods), they have a medium term plan (get the cooling pumps back online with power strung in from another utility) and now a long-term plan (bury the plant if necessary).

Considering the damage already done to the plant, I'm thinking we're going to see a transition this weekend to the medium-term plan and then the long term one.  I don't see how the plant can be considered safe without a complete refit of nearly all the reactors, and the PR hit at this point would be incalculable.  Nobody would want to live near this thing.  Another earthquake hits Japan, hey, how bad would it have to be to cause more chaos in an already weakened plant?

I understand the Japanese are trying to save face here, but if they are quietly admitting that putting this place under several metric craptons of sand and concrete is now an option, it's because they're planning on doing it down the road.  After all, at this point the plant looks like this:


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