Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Last Call

Denver Post editorial cartoonist Mike Keefe took home this year's Pulitzer, and he should have won just off this one here:

Joel Pett of the Lexington Herald-Leader here in Kentucky was a finalist in the competition too, and of his entries, I liked this one best.

Hug a cartoonist, folks. Lord knows we need them.

Mr. Potato Head Goes It Alone

Republican Governors are a hard-headed lot.  This time around it's Idaho Republican Butch Otter who today declared by executive order that Idaho is not allowed to participate in the "socialist horror" that is Obamacare in any way.

The executive order issued by the governor Wednesday prevents any state agencies from entering into agreements with federal agencies over optional provisions of the act. State departments would also not be able to accept any money from the federal government to aid with development of Obamacare provisions.

Agencies may apply for waivers in order to enter into agreements or accept federal money, but Otter would have to approve all requests.  Those waiver applications would become a matter of public record.

It might be no surprise to some to see Otter take this step.  In his State of the State address earlier this year, he warned that the state should “push back” on the federal government’s health care reform efforts.

House Bill 298 was toned down from two earlier versions that failed to clear the Legislature due to concerns that the state doesn’t have the authority to challenge the legitimacy of federal laws.

And yet that's exactly what Otter is doing here, ignoring the long-standing Supremacy Clause in the Constitution, and costing Idaho residents millions of dollars in more expensive health care.  OK, Idaho, if you think you can go it alone, the other 49 states would like their Medicare and Medicaid money back, too, you know.

We'll see how far this law gets.

Now This Is Rich

...or not, depending on how you look at it.  Does earning $250,000 a year and being in the top 6% of income earners in the country make you rich?  Not if you're actually in the top 6%, apparently.  The NY Times Catherine Rampell:

I am constantly amazed by how little Americans know about where they stand in the income and taxing distribution. The latest example is evident in a recent Gallup study, which found that 6 percent of Americans in households earning over $250,000 a year think their taxes are “too low.” Of that same group, 26 percent said their taxes were “about right,” and a whopping 67 percent said their taxes were “too high.”

And yet when this same group of high earners was asked whether “upper-income people” paid their fair share in taxes, 30 percent said “upper-income people” paid too little, 30 percent said it was a “fair share,” and 38 percent said it was too much.

I understand virtually nobody likes to pay taxes, but taxes for the wealthiest Americans continue to remain at historic lows.  Yet two-thirds of the top earners complain bitterly about taxes being too high.  The obvious connection here is that $250,000 a year doesn't make you "rich" in America, even though you're better off than 95% of the country.

The less obvious connection is that the top 1% has so much wealth right now even the rest of the Top 5% is bummed.

Final Shot

Tim Hetherington, who had an Oscar nod for Restrepo, has been killed in Libya today while working on a project.  Sources differ slightly, but it seems Hetherington and at least three other men were caught between rebels and government soldiers.  The group was apparently hit by a rocket propelled grenade.  Hetherington was pronounced DOA from extensive shrapnel wounds.

Celebrating 4/20

First, let us celebrate what makes this particular 4/20 extra special.  Many of my geek friends had pointed out that yesterday was the day Skynet assumed control in the Terminator movie franchise.  Whew, thank goodness that milestone is behind us.  Or is it? (Cue shrieking violins and a Windows commercial)

And now, some highlights:

We started the year off strong, with Teen Mom 2 "star" arrested for pot in January.  A teenager, with pot?  I am shocked, just shocked!  I chose the most pinktastic teenage girl site for extra journalistic goodness.  You are welcome.

Curious as to the marijuana laws in your state?  Check an updated status here.  It's color coded so you can read it, even if you're stoned.  In shades of green, naturally.

Denver is celebrating today, with a day-long party.  This comes  the day before the annual convention of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which is drawing attention from many.  The article is also the source of the best random line ever: Hackey sack, while not an official event at the gathering, seems likely to take place.

NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) is having a special today.  You can join for only $4.20!  I don't even know what that means, but I smell... a bargain!  Awesome pic of Willy Nelson for a bonus. 

Meanwhile, our nation is divided on the topic.  Still, for all the pot smokers out there, this is your day!  Happy munching to you, and may your Pink Floyd sound extra magical and mysterious today.

Damned If You Do...

Washington (CNN) -- Don't like the way airport screeners are doing their job? You might not want to complain too much while standing in line.
Arrogant complaining about airport security is one indicator Transportation Security Administration officers consider when looking for possible criminals and terrorists, CNN has learned exclusively. And, when combined with other behavioral indicators, it could result in a traveler facing additional scrutiny.
CNN has obtained a list of roughly 70 "behavioral indicators" that TSA behavior detection officers use to identify potentially "high risk" passengers at the nation's airports.

Damned if you don't...

Among those behaviors is, of course, not complaining about airport security.  Because, in their infinite wisdom, professionals have determined that the terrorists might just  might have been trained to blend in, and therefore it is also considered a possible factor.  The TSA says their data is accurate, because one alleged terrorist complained about the airport and the 19 before him did not. I mean... I have a lot of adjectives for stupid (this job sort of requires it) but even I'm stumped as to how to label something with this many layers of idiocy.

Which leaves me wondering what the hell is wrong with these people?  Why not just watch people carefully and be on alert in case of emergency?  Also important, this is a massive violation of our civil rights, and sets the stage for even more trampling of our rights to search and detainment.  I agree that anything shipped on public transit is subject to scrutiny.  However, the TSA has had multiple legitimate complaints about how they treat passengers.

"Expressing your contempt about airport procedures -- that's a First Amendment-protected right," said Michael German, a former FBI agent who now works as legal counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. "We all have the right to express our views, and particularly in a situation where the government is demanding the ability to search you."
"It's circular reasoning where, you know, I'm going to ask someone to surrender their rights; if they refuse, that's evidence that I need to take their rights away from them. And it's simply inappropriate," he said.

We need to nip this stupidity in the bud now, before it starts an upswing in stupidity outbreaks across the nation.  If criticizing loudly is considered an indicator of potential terrorist behaviors, I'm screwed.

War On Privacy: The Bad Guys Score A Point

DETROIT -- The Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is questioning the Michigan State Police's use of cellphone "extraction" devices.

The ACLU said MSP has used the devices to access information from cellphones that officers ask drivers they have pulled over to give them.

"It can contain information that many people consider to be private, to be beyond the reach of law enforcement and other government actors," said Mark Fancher, an ACLU attorney.
We have two disturbing issues here.  One is the ability of the police to adopt this practice without any apparent oversight.  Second, the people whose privacy is invaded don't seem to have much say about it.  So who really is policing the police?

The ACLU is asking why the state police is using devices that can gather data stored on cellphones, and why it is not telling the public about it. The ACLU said the devices could violate Fourth Amendment rights.

"There is great potential for abuse here by a police officer or a state trooper who may not be monitored or supervised on the street," Fancher said.

MSP released a statement this week that said it is working "in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act."

"The State Police will provide information in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act ... there may be a processing fee to search for, retrieve, examine and separate exempt material ... ," MSP said in a statement.

Fancher said MSP priced that information, pertaining to five devices, at about $500,000.

"This should be something that they are handing over freely, and that they should be more than happy to share with the public -- the routines and the guidelines that they follow," Fancher said.

In other words, let's give them some time to invent a policy to cover their butts.  The FOIA is supposed to allow citizens access to information. I understand that if research isn't within the parameters of the stored data there may be some reseach.  But inability to publish standard procedure?  I gotta call BS yet again.

More importantly, I will be following up on how this is handled, and any punishments doled out.  Those pesky Amendments are acting up again.

Ignoring The Moose In The Room

I agree with Betty Cracker.  Donald Trump is the new hotness among the wingers, while broke-down Sarah Palin is struggling desperately to stay relevant.  After two years of moaning that the Un-American Liberal Lamestream Media was focused on her every glaring flaw (which is funny, because the woman is nothing but) now the complaints are that the press is ignoring Palin.

Maybe it's because she's crashing and burning in 2011?  Betty explains.

The Palinites aren’t quite ready to face the hard truth—their idol is tanking in the polls against a short-fingered vulgarian like Trump and assorted other absurd figures because even most of her mouth-breathing sister-humping supporters now realize Palin isn’t qualified to manage a Taco Bell.

To hide their hurt, they’re going after their favorite punching bag, the “lamestream media” that they once excoriated for being overly focused Palin’s every fart and nose-twitch. Only now, they’re all “you don’t bring me flowers anymore.”

Which is about par for the course.   Even Tea Party diehards have increasing reservations about Palin (and Michele Bachmann for that matter.)

ABC News' Amy Walter reports: A new ABC News/Wash. Post poll finds that in a head to head match-up against President Barack Obama, 70% of those who say they are Tea Party supporters say they'll vote for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for president--compared to 69% for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Seeming Tea Party favorites like former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, meanwhile, draw 61% and 60%, respectively, against the president.

Yep...Mittens and the Huckster do better against Obama among Tea Party folks than Moose Lady or the Bachmanniac.   And it's still a good 18 months until the election.  Expect much more whining from Sarah Palin desperately trying to stay relevant by interjecting herself into everything she can.

On the other hand, how does Palin "trump" this level of stupid?

The GOP clown car cavalcade continues.

Exciting New Horizons In Obama Derangement Syndrome

John Cole notes that 27% number of winger idiots has reared its ugly head again.

Remember the offensive monkey/Obama/birth certificate email sent by the OC teahadist? Guess what:
In an exclusive Eyewitness News poll, SurveyUSA asked Southern Californians familiar with the email whether they found it offensive. Seventy percent said yes, 27 percent said no.
It’s starting to get freaky.

And how could you NOT find that offensive?

And yet, that 27% says a picture of the President as a toddler with monkey parents is perfectly fine.  Angry Black Lady has some very choice words for Orange County, California in general.  Please note the Orange County Republican who sent out the racist picture in the first place apologized by saying she's not a racist, and really it's your fault for being offended and you should be like Jesus and forgive her.

Oh, and she gets to keep her job as a county party official.  Gotta love it.

Changing Tides

For the first time, a CNN poll finds a majority of Americans, 51%, favor allowing gay marriage in the United States but there are a number of caveats in the crosstabs.

Although more Americans agree on this issue, a generation-and gender-gap still remains. Sixty percent of Americans under 50 support same-sex marriage, but only four in ten of those over 50 feel the same. More than half of men are against legalizing marriage between gay or lesbian couples, but 57 percent of women are in favor of it.

There's also a partisan divide on the issue. "More than six in 10 Democrats support same sex marriage, joined by more than half of independents, but seven in 10 Republicans are against it," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

The poll comes out just after Speaker of the House John Boehner moved to hire a conservative lawyer to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in a pending lawsuit. The Obama administration said it believed that DOMA to be unconstitutional and would no longer have the Justice Department defend it in federal courts.

Also in the poll, 41% of Americans favor legalizing marijuana.  Older Americans and Republicans are staunch opponents of both ideas, while self-declared liberals, college graduates, and people under 50 are proponents of both ideas.

This means as time marches on, both of these will be legalized at the federal level.  It may or may not happen in my lifetime (I think it will) but it will happen.


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