Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Last Call

When I say Republicans are misogynistic, evil bastards, this is what I mean.  Republicans in the Indiana state House passed one of the nation's strictest abortion laws, outlawing nearly all abortions whatsoever after 20 weeks.  Democratic State Rep. Gail Riecken proposed an an admendment that make exceptions in case of rape or incest.

Republicans voted it down.  Republicans like Eric Turner.

TURNER: With all do respect to Rep. Riecken, I understand what she’s trying to do. But as you know that when the federal health care bill was going through Congress there was a lot of discussion whether this would allow for abortion coverage and of course we were all told it would not. And the bill, my house bill 1210, would prevent that for any insurance company to provide abortion coverage under federal health care bill. This [amendment] would open that window and I would ask you to oppose this amendment.
I just want you to think about this, in my view, giant loophole that could be created where someone who could — now I want to be careful, I don’t want to disparage in any way someone who has gone through the experience of a rape or incest — but someone who is desirous of an abortion could simply say that they’ve been raped or there’s incest.

He wants to be careful when he basically says Indiana women who say they are raped are all liars, and none of them deserve an exception because they are dirty, horrible, evil slutty women with vaginas that are filled with sin and no man in Indiana would ever rape a woman, ever, so there's no need for the exception amendment.

The logical rebuttal to Turner's point, that some women might lie, is not to assume all women are liars.  It's that when a woman says no, she means no, and that if she's still forced to have sex, it's rape.

When people say "Well Democrats are just as bad" this is what I mean when I say "No, they are not."

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

Jennifer Rubin might have a point about "Obama's energy hypocrisy" if A) every President hadn't said the same thing since Nixon about our dependence on foreign oil and when Republicans were in charge of the country's economy, they did nothing about it,  B) the problem in this country really was lack of domestic production and not the fact we consume twice as much oil daily in this country as the entire country of China, C) Obama hadn't led off with the strictest fuel efficiency standards ever, standards that are expected to get tougher soon to lower that consumption (which Republicans are fighting tooth and nail) and D) Obama didn't actually say as part of his speech that yes, we do need to increase domestic energy production, key word being energy and not just oil.

Of course, if Rubin paid attention to basic facts, she wouldn't be a complete effing hack, either.

The Best Legislature Money Can Buy

Hey, why muck about with the middleman when it comes to buying and selling state lawmakers?  Florida is well on its way to making it legal.  Howard Troxler of the St. Petersburg Times explains:

It is now legal in Florida for the leaders of our House and Senate, of both the Republican and Democratic parties, to operate what are laughably called "leadership funds."

If you are an interest group in Florida, a corporation, a lobbyist seeking favor, you go to these "leadership" funds run by lawmakers …

And you pay them.

They will launder the money into local elections around the state, to keep electing more obedient followers.
This is so astonishing a corruption that it defies belief.

The bill in question is House Bill 1207, passed in the 2010 legislative session.

Then-Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed it. Last Thursday the Legislature overrode the veto.

The House vote was 81-39. The Senate vote was 30-9.

The twisted logic used in the Capitol, and what your legislator will try to tell you, is that it's better for the Legislature to be paid off directly.

See, they will write it down in a separate little report. So this is all about "informing the public" and "transparency."

If they try to give you this line, just ask this question:

"So, is it legal to make unlimited payoffs to 'leadership funds' that are operated directly by the leaders of the Legislature, or not?"


Nice work if you can get it.  And now Florida lawmakers will be getting plenty of it:  Cash.  Everyone has their own personal slush fund.  Unlimited money can be given to it.  That's "free speech" we have been told.

Lawmakers for sale.  Get them while they're hot.

Big Brother Gets All... Brothery

Prompted by privacy concerns, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is circulating draft legislation that would require law enforcement officials to obtain warrants before using data collected from mobile devices for tracking purposes.

If formally proposed as it’s now written, the bill would severely curtail the ability of police to use geolocation information acquired by wireless carriers. Such data is utilized frequently to pinpoint the whereabouts of criminals through items such as cell phones, global positioning systems and computers.

Sorry, I honestly thought protective measures were already in place.  I have dealt with the FCC and other communication regulations, and I had no idea.  Shows what I know.  It appears in the era of spying and then justifying the data once you have it, that your location and other information is up for grabs and not that hard to get.  Now for the bit that made my stomach actually churn:

“Law enforcement will say, ‘I don’t have time to get a warrant, so I guess we can’t do that,’” Wormeli said. “That puts the life of [a] victim in danger. There are consequences.”

Wormeli conceded that current law could be revised for clarity and strengthened regarding commercial use of location data. But he was steadfast that Wyden’s bill unduly restricts police from ensuring the public’s security.

“When it comes to public safety, we have a history in this country allowing the law enforcement agencies … to use whatever tools they need as long as they can show that it is a reasonable application of the tool,” Wormeli said. “I much rather see legislation that started from that whole notion of permission.”

To which I humbly reply: I just bet he freaking would.

I am sorry if our rights are an inconvenience to law enforcement, but do your job.   If a judge would not justify a warrant, that means there is a reason.  The article mentions the reasonable application of the tools, but we also read daily about gross abuses of authority.  This is the foundation of checks and balances put in place to protect us, and ones that should never be sacrificed. To let this slip and go unprotested is to allow our privacy to be manipulated by people who just want us to trust them to do what's right.  Kind of ironic, since they're stomping the hell out of our rights to privacy and control of our private data.  Highly abusable private data, who we talk to, what we say, where we are.  Already there are "helpful" services that allow remote "technical support" of devices.  That means we're one step away from

New tag: Privacy Stupidity.  The war on privacy isn't going anywhere.  I am going to rant on this for a while.

It's A Lot Like Freedom Fries... Just More Stupid

CNN ( -- Japan's nuclear power plant crisis is no laughing matter in Springfield: Networks in several European countries are reportedly reviewing episodes of "The Simpsons" for any "unsuitable" references to nuclear disaster.

An Austrian network has apparently pulled two eps, 1992's "Marge Gets a Job" and 2005's "On a Clear Day I Can't See My Sister," which include jokes about radiation poisoning and nuclear meltdowns, respectively.

Okay, I understand being sensitive to what is going on in Japan.  But I know a thing or two about tragedy, and I can say from experience that scrubbing the world so that it isn't offensive is a waste of energy.  Instead of taking the "what if" trail, put that energy into directly helping the people who are devastated.  I'm glad to see that someone thought of it, and the executive producer said he understood the concern, but this is a silly waste of time when there are far more important things to take care of right now.

Land Of The Rising Core Temperature, Part 20

The "concrete box" solution to Fukushima Daiichi is now very much on the table.

Top government spokesman Yukio Edano suggested Wednesday that all of the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant should be scrapped.

''It is very clear looking at the social circumstances. That is my perception,'' Edano said in a news conference when asked if all six reactors at the troubled nuclear plant should be decommissioned.

And with the damage to Fukushima's containment structures and the surrounding area (after all, you can't just turn off plutonium, folks) it's looking more and more like decommissioning the reactors means building a rather smart tomb around the place, especially since it's looking like the race to stave off nuclear disaster has been lost.

Richard Lahey, who was head of safety research for boiling-water reactors at General Electric when the company installed the units at Fukushima, told the Guardian workers at the site appeared to have "lost the race" to save the reactor, but said there was no danger of a Chernobyl-style catastrophe.

Workers have been pumping water into three reactors at the stricken plant in a desperate bid to keep the fuel rods from melting down, but the fuel is at least partially exposed in all the reactors.

At least part of the molten core, which includes melted fuel rods and zirconium alloy cladding, seemed to have sunk through the steel "lower head" of the pressure vessel around reactor two, Lahey said.

"The indications we have, from the reactor to radiation readings and the materials they are seeing, suggest that the core has melted through the bottom of the pressure vessel in unit two, and at least some of it is down on the floor of the drywell," Lahey said. "I hope I am wrong, but that is certainly what the evidence is pointing towards."

Last of the Fukushima Fifty out the door, turn out the lights.  We're now well beyond a "partial meltdown" scenario and into "what are our emergency containment options at this point".  It's just a matter of how much additional exposure is necessary before the Powers That Be give the order to box the thing in.

Home, Home I'm Deranged, Part 19

Gosh, remember when Cramer called a bottom to the housing market in July 2009?  Some 18 months later, housing prices are continuing to drop.

Home prices in January remained barely above lows hit during the worst of the recession, according to an index that tracks prices in America's biggest cities, and many analysts said they expected values to fall further as the housing downturn plumbs new depths.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index for 20 major U.S. cities, released Tuesday, showed prices dropped 3.1% from January 2010 and 1% from December as demand for homes remained weak and distressed properties — foreclosures and short sales — remained a large part of the market.

"Keeping with the trends set in late 2010, January brings us weakening home prices with no real hope in sight for the near future," said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at Standard & Poor's. "The housing market recession is not yet over, and none of the statistics are indicating any form of sustained recovery."

The 20-city index is 1.1% above its low hit in April 2009. A second index, tracking prices in 10 major cities, remained 2.8% above its April 2009 bottom. Many economists expect these widely watched indexes to dip below those previous benchmarks this year, marking a double dip in housing values as defined by Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller.

And I've only been predicting a housing double-dip for 18 months now (or more correctly that the housing depression never ended in the first place.)  The housing market will continue to crash and burn in 2011 and most likely well into 2012 at the very minimum.  There are just too many vacant homes and foreclosed properties out there to conduct a healthy market. 

And as housing values drop, more and more people are going to be underwater on their homes, meaning they'll face higher mortgage payments, risking mortgage default, and adding to the bonfire of the vanities.  There is no political will to deal with this situation right now in Washington either.

We're about to see another significant leg down in the housing market.

Shutdown Countdown, Part 12

Orange Julius:  Professional Hostage?  Ezra Klein muses:

The math of a possible budget deal isn’t particularly hard. If John Boehner can’t get enough Republicans, he can always move to the left and get some Democrats. As my colleague Paul Kane reports, there’ve been some preliminary feelers from GOP leadership looking into doing just that. Plenty of Blue Dogs would be happy to help out, and the Republican leadership could get a spending bill with cuts equal to their initial $30 billion proposal. By any normal accounting, that’d be a win. It’d be as if House Democrats had managed to send their first health-care bill, complete with public option, sailing through the Senate in order to head off a singe-payer proposal favored by the party’s liberal wing. What the arithmetic leaves out, however, is Eric Cantor.

Whether you call it the Tea Party or not, the hardline of the modern Republican Party has demonstrated its willingness and skill at deposing incumbent Republicans who are too willing to compromise with the other side. Deposing the Speaker of the House, however, is hard. But it’s a bit less hard if you have another option waiting in the wings. An option like Eric Cantor. As David Rogers and Jake Sherman note, Cantor has been separating himself from Boehner’s “I’m not going to put any options on the table or take any options off the table” and making it clear that he both opposes a short-term CR and hasn’t been informed about a range of compromise discussions. It’s an odd public stance for the Majority Leader to take. But it’s right in line with a Republican Party where the conservative caucus has promised to counter Paul Ryan’s budget with an even-more conservative document -- even though no one has yet seen Ryan’s budget!

In fact the WIN THE MORNING Village crew is all over this "Will Cantor go after Boehner as Speaker?" crap this morning, and I'm laughing my head off.  It's such crap.

I believe that garbage as far as Eric Cantor can throw me.  Absolutely this is "bad cop, insane cop trying to kill me in my sleep" being played for all to see.

This is the point where Orange Julius goes to Blue Dog Dems and says "I can't control Eric Cantor and the Tea Party anymore.  The only way we're going to get out of this without a shutdown is if you guys can help me out here and give me enough cuts to save my neck.  You'll be heroes, too...defying your party to reach across the aisle, the press will love it.  Otherwise, well, who do you think's going to be blamed here?  You'd better act fast, deal's only on the table for so long..."

And the Dems will fall for it.  At this point the worst Orange Julius can do is getting his initial $30 billion in cuts.  The Dems have already given up that much.  And the way Cantor's taking Alka-Seltzer tablets and using them to fake frothing at the mouth, he's going to get a lot more.

Folks, this is kabuki at its finest.  Dems are being played, Village is being played, US taxpayers are being played.  The odds of this being the final push for Republicans to get what they want (and then move on to getting even more long-term concessions in the debt ceiling bill) are higher right now than the odds of a shutdown.

Count on it.


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