Thursday, March 24, 2011

Last Call

There's fail, and then there's Detroit fail.

In what appears to be a major security breach, components for a live bomb were allowed to remain in the federal building in Detroit for three weeks before the bomb squad was called in to remove it.

The Detroit Police Department bomb squad was finally called in March 18 to remove the device in the McNamara Federal Building, which houses the FBI, IRS and offices for Sen. Carl Levin. The pipe bomb device had apparently been discovered three weeks earlier by a building guard.

"A contract guard apparently saw this package outside on Feb. 26th," according to David Wright, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 918, which represents the Federal Protective Service Employees.

"Against all security protocols -- an unattended package should be treated with extreme caution -- he picked up that package and took it inside basically on the premise of 'lost and found' property. And apparently stored it. That was on Feb. 26. On March 18th, last Friday, someone got the idea to x-ray the package. At that point wires were seen... and it turned out to be a bomb."

The contract security guard has been suspended and in the coming days a special training team will be deployed to Detroit to re-train the building's security personnel on proper protocol, according to Chris Ortman, spokesman for Federal Protective Service. Look, I'm all for unions and employees fighting for a living wage, but I'm also for government employees not being stupid screw-ups, either. Especially in this environment of anti-government domestic terrorism, security training at government buildings in this country needs to be much better than it is.

Dude's lucky his face didn't get blown off.

To The Shores Of Tripoli, Part 7

NATO confirms they will take over the operation of Libya's no-fly zone from the US over the weekend.

NATO has reached an agreement to take over the no-fly zone in Libya from the United States "in a couple of days," NATO's secretary general said Thursday.

"NATO has now decided to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya. We're taking action as part of the broad international effort to protect civilians," Anders Fogh Rasmussen told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "We will cooperate closely with our partners in the region and welcome their contributions."

NATO is considering enforcing a wide range of measures called for by the U.N. Security Council resolution on Libya, including the protection of civilians from Gadhafi's ground forces, Rasmussen said.

Military authorities will decided which country will take the initial lead using the "already established chain of command," Rasmussen said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed this evening that this will happen, so that's one major objection that I had to Odyssey Dawn that's been resolved.   Here's what bugs me about that plan however:

All 28 NATO allies have authorized military authorities to develop a plan for NATO to take on the broader mission of civilian protection under U.N. Resolution 1973, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday. Clinton said she will travel to London to attend an international meeting on Libya on Tuesday.

At some point, the broader mission to "protect civilians" will have to include some sort of ground force, just a matter of who is going in.

Ohio Gets That Poll-Taxed Look

Ohioan Kay at Balloon Juice flags down this story as deeply unpopular Ohio Republicans continue to waste no time in turning the state into Wingnut hell.  Their next target:  Voter ID laws that disenfranchise the poor, minorities, and college students.

Now, Ohio House Republicans are attempting to go further than Blackwell ever dared. In an obvious attempt to gain an advantage in the 2012 presidential election, they are attempting to rush through a bill (HB 159) that would make it more difficult for eligible citizens to have their votes counted. Ohio already has a tough voter ID law, but the proposed bill would make the burden on eligible citizens more onerous, requiring that in-person voters present one of four specified forms of government-issued photo identification.

So what's the point of the bill?  To disenfranchise certain segments of Ohio's voting populace.

A close look at the bill’s specifics paints an even uglier picture. The bill would require those who vote in person on election day to present one of four forms of government-issued ID: a driver’s license, a state ID issued by the registrar of motor vehicles, a military ID, or a U.S. passport.

Absentee voters are not bound by this requirement, with one big exception: Those who cast absentee ballots in person (which other states refer to as early voting) are required to present one of the required forms of ID. Students of election fraud will recognize that this is exactly backwards. While voting fraud is rare, most documented incidents involve mail-in absentee ballots. Of course, the real motivation for going after in-person voters is obvious. Democrats are more likely to cast in-person absentee ballots, rather than vote by mail, and those are the votes that the bill’s sponsors are seeking to suppress.

There's a shocker.  What about a fee waiver?  Yes, but you have to apply for a waiver for a state identification card ahead of time according to the bill itself:

(C) An individual who cannot afford to pay the fees prescribed in division (A) of this section, including any lamination fee, may apply to the registrar or a deputy registrar for the issuance to that individual of an identification card or a temporary identification card under this section without payment of any fee.
The registrar shall, by rule, establish standards to determine whether individuals are able to pay the fees prescribed in division (A) of this section. An application made under division (C) of this section shall be accompanied by such documentary evidence of income and expenses as the registrar may require by rule, to determine the individual's ability to pay those fees.

In other words, it's up to the county registrar to determine if you have to pay the fees or not for an ID card to vote, and the burden of proof is on the prospective voter.  Technically, it's not a poll tax.  Effectively, it's going to disenfranchise thousands of traditionally Democratic voters in 2012 if it becomes law and put a huge burden on Ohio election officials to determine who can vote, meaning that Ohio 2004 is going to look like a picnic by comparison.

Odds are very good this is going to become law.  So what can Ohioans do about it?

If Ohio’s bill passes, the lawyers challenging it will surely do their homework and take the time to develop stronger evidence of its negative impact on eligible voters. It will help their case if the Republican-dominated legislature rushes the bill through with scant evidence of voter impersonation fraud, as appears to be their plan. These procedural defects, in addition to the history of vote suppression in Ohio, can also be used to distinguish Crawford and challenge the law on federal equal protection grounds.

There’s also the possibility of a state constitutional challenge to Ohio’s ID bill, if it becomes law. When Missouri passed a comparable photo ID law, that state’s supreme court struck it down under that state’s constitution. It’s true that Ohio Supreme Court justices are elected as nominees of their parties, that Republicans hold a 6-1 majority, and that the court has generally been sympathetic to Republican interests in election cases. But it’s hard to believe that the court could overlook the transparently partisan purpose behind Ohio’s proposed bill, particularly given the absence of evidence that in-person voter impersonation is a serious problem.

Yet another possibility is a race discrimination lawsuit under Section 2 of the Voting Right Act. Ohio’s proposed law is part of a phenomenon in recent years that I’ve dubbed the new vote denial. While the old vote denial involved practices like literacy tests and poll taxes, the new vote denial is much more subtle. Supporters of modern-day barriers to minority participation cite neutral reasons for their practices – most often, as with Ohio’s bill, voter fraud. But the Voting Rights Act doesn’t just prohibit intentional race discrimination, which is notoriously hard to prove. It also bars a voting law or practice that “results in” the denial or abridgement of voting rights based on race. Cases under Section 2 tend to be factually complicated, relying on a combination of statistical, historical, and anecdotal evidence of race discrimination. With some legwork, there’s a good chance that of a successful challenge to Ohio’s law under the Voting Rights Act.

The problem is if the law passes, the damage to Ohio Democrats in 2012 will already be done.  Once the 2012 election is over the lawsuits may arrive, but the House, Senate, and White House could be in Republican hands, thanks in no small part to laws like this.

The time to mobilize Ohio Democrats on this measure is now.

Bachmannia Rising

Michele Bachmann is in for the Birther Sweepstakes GOP 2012 nomination.

CNN has exclusively learned that Rep. Michele Bachmann will form a presidential exploratory committee. The Minnesota Republican plans to file papers for the committee in early June, with an announcement likely around that same time.
But a source close to the congresswoman said that Bachmann could form the exploratory committee even earlier than June so that she could participate in early Republican presidential debates.
"She's been telling everyone early summer," the source told CNN regarding Bachmann's planned June filing and announcement. But the source said that nothing is static. 
"If you [debate sponsors] come to us and say, 'To be in our debates, you have to have an exploratory committee,' then we'll say, 'Okay, fine...I'll go file the forms.'"
Three GOP presidential primary debates are planned before and during early June: The first one on May 2 at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California and another on May 5 in South Carolina. CNN plans a GOP presidential primary debate in New Hampshire in early June.
The only thing that could possibly make this any better from my point of view as a sarcastic Dirty F'ckin Hippie Blogger is for Sarah Palin to throw her moose hat into the ring too....and have their respective winger blogger camps fight it out over who's more Presidential while the other of course is a vapid idiot who will surely doom the party if they get the nomination.
Let the games truly begin.

It's Like Beer Goggles, But Worse

Some people expect perfection and don't know what to do when life deals lemons. For example, take Paula and Marc Santala.  Paula was pregnant and in labor when they were pulled over for going 101 mph on the interstate.  The Santalas are astounded that they weren't allowed to continue to drive to the hospital.  The inconsiderate officers insisted she go in an ambulance.  Marc did not see the birth, as he was detained.  "It's something they took away from us that we can never get back," he said.

This man was a danger on the road.  He is annoyed that the police insisted on sending his wife to the hospital in an ambulance, instead of being grateful that there was a competent and fully equipped medical team that escorted her.  And by the way, hundreds of people were also protected from a distracted driver that was not only endangering his unborn  child and wife, but every car passed on the way.  What responsible police officer would allow this potential disaster strike not only an unborn infant but other families unknowingly in danger?  

There is a huge span between "that's a bummer" and "it's not my fault, it must therefore be yours and you owe me something."  It really is regrettable that he missed the birth of his child.  What's shocking to me is the utter disregard for other people, not only on their part but in the article itself. The Santalas are like pouting children.  I guess I'm overly practical, but I value safety and responsibility over an emotional moment.  Thank God the cops in Denver feel the same.

This was their eighth child, by the way.  Miracle of childbirth aside, this man has a healthy family, a happy ending and a traffic ticket.  Yet he is inconvenienced and upset about it, by golly.

Excuse Me, There's Something In My Eye (Again)

After a house fire, Terisa Acevedo thought her dog Lola was gone.  She got a pleasant surprise, and has been reunited with her dog.  Lola survived for just under a month in subfreezing conditions at times, and with no protection from wild animals.  It is believed that she scrounged for food and drank from the toilet  among other sources.  She is expected to pull through, but is still under strict care.

And suddenly, I feel a little bit better about the world.

Birthers Get A Trump Card, Part 2

Hey look folks, Donald Trump may be a lot of things:  egotistical, creepy, hair-challenged, but the one thing he isn't is stupid.  The guy has learned that if you want serious attention as a GOP contender for 2012, you play the birther card, and he's jamming his foot down on that pedal as hard as he can now.

Real estate mogul Donald Trump called on President Barack Obama Wednesday to produce his birth certificate and prove he was born in the United States.

"I want him to show his birth certificate. I want him to show his birth certificate," Trump said on ABC's "The View." "There's something on that birth certificate that he doesn't like."

The potential 2012 presidential candidate said Obama was "probably" born in the U.S., but repeated questions he raised last week about the president's childhood.

"If you go back to my first grade, my kindergarten, people remember me. Nobody from those early years remembers him," Trump said. "If you're going to be president of the United States, it says very profoundly you have to be born in this country."

Trump wants the attention, and the Village will keep giving it to him, as long as goes down this road.  It's exactly what he's aiming for.  I don't think Trump actually believes this crap for a second...but let's remember a majority of Republican primary voters do believe it.

And that's all you have to know about Trump's birther conversion.  He's playing to the folks who will be deciding the GOP nominee next year.  The only candidate who's not a birther at this point is Mitt Romney, and I'm betting even he'll be forced to jump on the Birther Express before too long, or he's toast.

Mark my words, the person who wins the GOP nomination will run on President Obama "hiding a deep, dark secret" in his birth certificate, and if he held a press conference today and said "Here's my damn birth certificate" there's not a single birther who would believe him anyway.

PS, it's not about his birth certificate, it's about President Obama being the first non-white US President, and it always, always, ALWAYS has been.

Meanwhile In Ottawa...

So yeah, if you haven't been paying attention to Canadian politics this week (I dunnae blame you on that) it's looking like their own version of the government shutdown play is about to lead to a no-confidence vote for PM Stephen Harper and new elections in May.

The Harper government is set to fall Friday on a non-confidence motion, plunging the country into a fifth election campaign in just over 10 years and setting the stage for a vote in early May.

The Conservatives knew their days were numbered after the opposition panned this week’s federal budget. But they would have preferred to be brought down on the budget vote, helping them to campaign on their financial plan.

Instead, the Liberals have managed to delay the vote, making their non-confidence motion the election trigger. And the theme of that motion — respect for democracy and Parliament — is something the Tories don’t want in the spotlight.

The motion chides the government for showing contempt for Parliament by failing to fully disclose the multibillion-dollar costs of its tough-on-crime agenda, corporate tax cuts and plans to purchase stealth fighter jets.

While an election appears unavoidable, both the Conservatives and NDP claimed Wednesday that there was still a chance to steer clear.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois could yet change their minds on the budget.

"The opposition still have the opportunity to put Canadians’ interests first," he said. "It is not too late for them to step back.

"Our economy is not a political game."

Maybe, but if there's anything Canada has imported over the last decade from us, it's rabid conservatism.  The Conservatives took power in 2008 and avoided most of the financial crisis then, but it's caught up to our northern neighbors big time here in 2011 as Harper and the Conservatives are looking to cut social spending and increase military spending (sound familiar?)  However, opposition parties have the votes to crack the Harper government wide open, and that vote is expected tomorrow.

Harper's problem is he's stuck in no-man's land.  The cuts he's trying to make aren't big enough to please Canada's right (who want to dismantle entire programs) and are large enough to piss off Canada's left (who are angry at the tax cuts and military spending.)  When you walk down the middle of the road, you get hit by the truck, and that's exactly where Harper's heading.

Not a whole lot is expected to change (this is Canada, folks) but it could be interesting to see who emerges as the new PM and where the budget will go.

Any Portugal In A Storm, Part 2

As widely expected, Portugal's parliament has rejected draconian austerity measures, and as a result Prime Minister Jose Socrates has resigned, leading many to speculate the next step is an EU bailout of the country.

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates tendered his resignation after plans to cut the budget were rejected by parliament, pushing the country closer to an international bailout.

President Anibal Cavaco Silva said late yesterday he will meet the main parties on March 25 and the government will retain its powers until he accepts Socrates’s resignation. The vote came hours before European Union leaders meet in Brussels to sign off on measures aimed at drawing a line under the region’s sovereign debt crisis.

The risk is that investors dump Portuguese bonds in the face of a political stalemate that delays the negotiation of a rescue package, which Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc estimates may be worth around 80 billion euros ($113 billion). The cost of insuring Portuguese debt against default is near a record high.

“It’s pretty inevitable” that Portugal will need a rescue, said Jacques Cailloux, a London-based economist at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc. “The market will deteriorate in the absence of other measures going through. There is obviously the risk of further downgrades, which will become anticipated by the markets and be a self-fulfilling prophecy.” 

Everyone's expected this, the only question is how quickly the bailout can be worked out and how close to that 80 billion euro number the bailout will be.  It could be as soon as this weekend, depending on how that EU debt crisis meeting goes today, but you can expect that will be the main topic in Brussels.

That will make three countries on the EU bailout train.  And there will be more before the year is out, I would suspect.


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