Saturday, April 30, 2011

Last Call

So, how's that Libya thing going?

One of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's sons -- Saif al-Arab Gadhafi -- was killed after a NATO airstrike, a spokesman for Libya's government said Sunday at a press conference.

Moammar Gadhafi and his wife were in their son's house when it was targeted, spokesman Musa Ibrahim said. Both of them are in good health, according to the spokesman.

The victim is one of two of Gadhafi's sons whose names begin with Saif. The other is Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, who had previously touted reform but has emerged as one of his father's most visible defenders in recent months.

Ibrahim said several of Moammar Gadhafi's grandchildren also died in the attack.

The house in Tripoli was destroyed by the strike, with a massive crater where the house used to be. At least one unexploded bomb could be seen at the scene.

Several of Qaddafi's grandchildren?  That's unconfirmed right now but if true, yeah this is bad, folks.  We're not exactly "winning" anything if we're bombing houses full of Qaddafi's grandkids, ya know?

This Week In GOP Pants On Fire Lies

I almost missed this bald-faced Pants on Fire lie earlier this month from RNC chair Reince Priebus, and it's a doozy.

During an interview on NBC’s Today show on April 5, 2011, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus criticized President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy.

Asked by host Meredith Vieira whether the recent run of job growth and falling unemployment numbers "throw a real monkey wrench" into his party’s argument, Priebus said, "No, not at all. Under this president, he’s promised millions and millions of jobs. We’ve lost 26 million jobs, Meredith, since he’s been president. He promised under an $850 billion stimulus program that we’d be on a path to recovery. We’ll none of that has come true. … I think that pointing out a snail’s pace in the job (growth) numbers is not going to be enough to undo 26 million jobs that are lost, Meredith."

Twenty-six million jobs lost under this President?  Priebus should be laughed off every network on TV.

We turned to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the official arbiter of U.S. employment numbers. We found that in January 2009, when Obama was sworn in, 133,563,000 Americans were employed. Today, that number is 130,738,000. That’s a significant decline -- but of 2.8 million jobs, a number roughly a tenth of what Priebus cited.

Gosh, you mean he flat out lied on TV about the President?  Shocking.  Republicans can't help themselves.  Even Michael Steele was smarter than this idiot.

Perhaps Priebus simply misspoke, or perhaps he misplaced a decimal point and ended up wrong by a factor of 10. Whatever the reason, the 26 million figure he cited on the Today show was ridiculously wrong. We rate it Pants on Fire.

Or he figured he could lie and nobody would care.  You know, like those awesome guys at NewsBusters.  Did these bastions of journalistic integrity catch Priebus's outright lie?

What do you think?

On Tuesday's NBC Today, co-host Meredith Vieira grilled Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on GOP criticism of the massive spending of the Obama administration: "...sixth consecutive month of job growth, unemployment numbers lowest in two years, it certainly appears that there is a recovery. So doesn't that throw a real monkey wrench into your argument?"

Priebus pointed out: "Under this president – he's promised millions and millions of jobs –  we've lost 26 million jobs, Meredith, since he's been president. He promised under an $850 billion stimulus program that we'd be on the path to recovery. Well, none of that has come true." Undeterred, Vieira followed by declaring: "And yet, even some Republican economists have said that in criticizing these numbers, the Republicans run the risk of looking like they're cheering for an economic reversal."

Nope.  They glossed right over attack Today host Meredith Viera for daring to question Priebus.  But they completely missed Priebus's massive lie.

Yeah, those NewsBusters guys...they're on the ball.

The Social Issues Truce Just Took A Rocket To The Face

Some ten months ago Indiana's Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels famously (or infamously) told the Weekly Standard that the country's next leader needed to call a "truce" on social issues until America's economy was stronger.

And then, he says, the next president, whoever he is, “would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues. We’re going to just have to agree to get along for a little while,” until the economic issues are resolved. Daniels is pro-life himself, and he gets high marks from conservative religious groups in his state. He serves as an elder at the Tabernacle Presbyterian Church, in inner-city Indianapolis, which he’s attended for 50 years. In 1998, with a few other couples from Tabernacle and a nearby Baptist congregation, he and his wife founded a “Christ-centered” school, The Oaks Academy, in a downtown neighborhood the local cops called “Dodge City.” It’s flourishing now with 315 mostly poor kids who pursue a classical education: Latin from third grade on, logic in middle school, rhetoric in eighth grade, an emphasis throughout on the treasures of Western Civilization. “It’s the most important thing I’ve ever been involved in,” he told me. His social-conservative credentials are solid.

But about that truce .  .  .

“He might be one guy who could get away with it,” said Curt Smith, head of the Indiana Family Institute, who’s known Daniels since the 1980s. “He has a deep faith, he’s totally pro-life, and he walks the talk. And in an acute situation, like the one we’re in now with the debt, he might get away with a truce for a year or two. But to be successful in office he’s going to have to show those folks he shares their vision.”

This week, Daniels just lined his truce against the wall and shot it.

Republican Governor Mitch Daniels released a statement Friday afternoon saying he will sign legislation stripping federal funds from Planned Parenthood in Indiana, the first state to make such a move. 

Some truce.  Not even the most vile GOP governors have gone this far.  Rick Scott of Florida, Rick Perry of Texas, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Rick Snyder of Michigan, John Kasich of Ohio...not even these hard right class-warriors have decided to punish their state's poor women and take away their health care options.

But unlike any of them, Mitch Daniels wants to be President.  And to be the GOP candidate in 2012, you have to declare war on your own constituents to be considered "serious".

Once he signs the bill, it will go into effect immediately, and would bar Planned Parenthood from receiving any public dollars -- including Medicaid payments, which are crucial to the group's patient population.

"We do around 500 pap tests a week," Indiana Planned Parenthood President Betty Cockrum told TPM in an interview earlier on Friday. "We will be making phone calls to Medicaid patients all over the state and telling them, either you have to pay for that pap test out of pocket, or you need to find someone else who can take you as a Medicaid patient. We can't do it anymore."

There are 28 Planned Parenthood centers in the state. Almost 60 percent of patients seen last year were living under the poverty line.

The announcement was met shock by Planned Parenthood in Indiana, who had earlier expressed confidence that Daniels would weigh the bill's consequences carefully before signing.

"The signing of HB 1210 into law is unconscionable and unspeakable. We will now suffer the consequences of lawmakers who have no regard for fact-based decision making and sound public health policy," said Cockrum in a statement.

"As many as 22,000 low-income Hoosiers will lose their medical home. Countless patients will find themselves without access to lifesaving tests to avoid the tragic outcomes of cervical and breast cancer and epidemic sexually transmitted disease here in Indiana."

She said Planned Parenthood would be filing an injunction immediately to try to halt "this alarming erosion of public health policy" in Indiana. 

But they're all evil harlot sluts, right?   So it's okay to single them out and make them pay, and restrict their basic health care.  That's what being a "compassionate Republican moderate" is all about.

In the end, they are all wingnuts.

Follow Up On Cell Phone Privacy

The director of the Center for Democracy and Technology's Project on Consumer Privacy has written an article for CNN explaining the importance of information on our devices.  He rightly points out that we need a public and universal privacy code to operate by, so people can have an understanding of what they can expect regarding privacy.  This would also give programmers an outline to go by when developing enhancements or apps.  The FTC is investigating the privacy issue and Congress has shown interest in the data and why it was collected.  It is still unclear what steps will be taken, if any.

Apple has kept their response to a minimum, but they have given a brief outline of some steps they plan to take to correct the information, including encrypting the file and updating it less frequently.  This lapse is a good reason to set some policies in place and define (and protect) our right to privacy.

Ubuntu 11.04 Review

So far it's a raging success in most ways.  Here are some of the first things you will notice:

The desktop interface, also known as Unity, gives it a look and feel unlike any operating system ever.   Some will like it, some will hate it.  I like it a lot, but it takes some getting used to.  There is a lot to learn about Unity, and I will be posting some basic information along the way.  It is very intuitive, and once you get the hang of navigating it is efficient and clean.

Programs run smoothly and are pared down. The response time is excellent.  My modest laptop runs it with full graphics easily, and I had twelve programs running at the same time and suffered no impact.  Unity makes it easy to switch work spaces and stay organized.  The new office software, called LibreOffice, loads much faster than OpenOffice and seems to have zero issues when transferring to traditional Microsoft  Word, including formatting and special characters.  Even with the most recent version of OO, this was a major challenge.

You can switch easily between different desktops to keep your work separate.

A few opportunities for improvement are with the boot loader.  Grub had a difficult time loading, and there are several known bugs with booting up the computer.  There are tricks around this, but complete newbies to Ubuntu or Linux may want to hold off a few weeks until those problems are taken care of.  The Ubuntu community is excellent about fixing issues quickly.

This is the first time I had to add some control features as though they were options.  The tweaks and settings category gives you instant access to settings that used to be built into the Administration toolbar. Sure, you can set them the hard way, but Ubuntu is supposed to be easy and pretty.  Rest assured, it is.

This new release has surpassed the hype.  Developers did a great job of keeping a lid on this and releasing a stable beta.  A lot of careful work went into this, and the glitches are few and far between.  However, as one can expect from such major changes, there are some glitches and they can be a little difficult on this first day of use.  Ubuntu is still easy to install and update, but for the first time I would recommend casual or new users hold off just a bit until they get the first round of fixes in.  That would guarantee a positive experience, because if you haven't worked with Linux it can be a little intimidating when it doesn't work out of the box and give you some time to adjust.

But pretty?  Oh my God, yes.  I've never seen anything like it, and I am in love.  The graphics are advanced and effortless, and the navigation is both logical and pretty.  Ubuntu has finally arrived, and reinvented themselves.  They have gotten rid of any bloated processes, and the result is a beautiful but lean and mean operating system.  This is a complete improvement over any previous Ubuntu flavors, and in both design and performance they have leapfrogged all other operating systems, at least in my book.  Because of the enormous scope of the changes, it will take some adjusting.  Still, despite the glitches I discovered, I had so much fun that I was up for a full 24 hours because I couldn't bear to put it down. A complete and utter newbie could pick this up and find their way, and a longtime Linux user is going to enjoy it for the elegant and powerful beast that Nat has proved to be.

My initial review is a full five stars out of five.  There is a lot of updating and testing to do but the bar has been set very high.

It's A Gas Gas Gas In Ohio, Part 3

Gas prices here in the Cincy/Tri-State area are now $4 a gallon a rising (Well OK, $3.999) and we still have a month until the summer driving season begins.  Breaking our local record of $4.25 a gallon here seems like a no-brainer.  John Wasik at Reuters argues actually enforcing the commodity speculation rules created by the Dodd-Frank legislation might take the steam out of speculator's sails, but the Republicans will never allow that to happen.

Commodity traders know the sky’s the limit because the key safeguards in Dodd-Frank that would rein in speculation are still mired in the rule-making process with the Commodities Futures Trading Commission.

Traders know they can also freely bet against a falling dollar. Oil, gold and other dollar-denominated commodities move inversely to the buck.

Speculation policing, however, is not on the books. The GOP budget plan even calls for cutting the CFTC’s staff by two-thirds, so even if the more stringent Dodd-Frank rules emerged, the agency may not have the cops to enforce them.

Congress has known for a while that speculators rule the roost and force oil prices higher. For years, political shaming sessions would be staged in front of key energy committees, but these wet-noodle floggings of oil company moguls never resulted in any meaningful investigations or tougher laws.

Meanwhile, oil companies and traders gorge on obese profits. Exxon-Mobil even had the cheek to post a recent blog noting “…it’s really not credible to suggest that we are responsible for world oil prices.” Sure, and Donald Trump has never made a dime in real estate and hates publicity.

Washington has already seen the evidence for speculative abuses. A long-forgotten 2006 report by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, showed that not only were speculators buying oil contracts for petroleum they would never use, their trades were run through opaque, unregulated exchanges.

The subcommittee faulted what it called the “Enron loophole,” (yes, that Enron) which Congress inserted in an infamous 1999 law deregulating commodities trading that permitted unpoliced over-the-counter exchanges. These devilish enterprises allowed derivatives such as credit default swaps to grow into a $60 trillion market — and we know what happened with those monsters in 2008.

Although the Senate probe concluded that speculation put oil prices on steroids two years before Wall Street’s massive meltdown, the money trust still wants to let speculators have their way. As a result, gasoline is above $4 a gallon in many urban areas with no ceiling in sight as politicians blame each other.

Of course the big Wall Street firms are making piles of cash off commodity speculation.  "Helicopter Ben's wrecking the dollar, all major central banks are trying to devalue their currency!  The flight to commodities is his fault!"   But when it comes to regulating commodities speculation and derivatives, we're met with nothing but silence.

Derivatives are the multi-trillion dollar Cloverfield monster in the room, folks.  Until they are reigned in (and Republicans and even some Democrats will make sure that never, ever happens) we'll continue to get screwed by these speculation cycles.

StupidiNews, Weekend Edition!

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