Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Last Call

What's the worst part about House Resolution 3, the truly awful bill that Republicans crafted to tell anyone in America without a gold-plated health insurance plan to go screw themselves?  Well, let's take a look, shall we?

Redefinition Of Rape: The bill sponsor Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) faced serious backlash after he tried to narrow the definition rape to “forcible rape.” By narrowing the rape and incest exception in the Hyde Amendment, Smith sought to prevent the following situations from consideration: Women who say no but do not physically fight off the perpetrator, women who are drugged or verbally threatened and raped, and minors impregnated by adults.
Smith promised to remove the language and while it is not technically in the bill, Mother Jones reports that House Republicans used “a sly legislative maneuver” to insert a “backdoor reintroduction” of redefinition language. Essentially, if the bill is challenged in court, judges will look at the congressional committee report to determine intent. The committee report for H.R. 3 says the bill will “not allow the Federal Government to subsidize abortions in cases of statutory rape” — thus excluding statutory rape-related abortions from Medicaid coverage.
Tax Increase On Women And Small Businesses: H.R. 3 prevents women from using “itemized medical deductions, certain tax-advantaged health care accounts or tax credits included in last year’s health care law to pay for abortions or for health insurance plans that cover abortion.” In doing so, the bill forces women and small businesses that provide health insurance that covers abortion to pay more in taxes than they would otherwise. Both economic conservative Grover Norquist and the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce noted that the bill is basically a tax increase.
Rape Audits: Because H.R. 3 bans using tax credits or deductions to pay for abortions or insurance, a woman who used such a benefit would have to prove, if audited, that her abortion “fell under the rape/incest/life-of-the-mother exception, or that the health insurance she had purchased did not cover abortions.” Essentially, the bill turns Internal Revenue Service agents into “abortion cops” who would force women to give “contemporaneous written documentation” that it was “incest, or rape, or [her] life was in danger” that compelled an abortion.
Bans D.C.-Funded Abortions: The most recent spending resolution contained a ban on abortions in the District of Columbia by redefining the D.C. local government as the federal government. Thus, health clinics in D.C. are banned from using public funds from D.C. taxpayers to provide abortion services. H.R. 3 “would enshrine the District ban into federal law.” According to the Office of Management and Budget office, such a restriction violates “home rule.”

And as vile as this bill is, the fact that all 235 Republicans voted yes for it isn't the worst part.

It's the fact that sixteen Democrats voted for this monstrosity.

Jason Altmire, Dan Boren, Jerry Costello, Mark Critz, Henry Cuellar, Joe Donnelly, Tim Holden, Dale Kildee, Daniel Lipinski, Jim Matheson, Mike McIntyre, Collin Peterson, Nick Rahall, Mike Ross, and of course, Heath F'ckin Shuler (who is quickly becoming my new Evan F'ckin Bayh chew toy.)

But that's just 15.  Number 16 on that list?  Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, representing Toledo.  A Democratic female House Representative voting for the most misogynistic bill in recent memory.  Kaptur's been solid as hell on Wall Street issues, sponsoring legislation that would have reinstated Glass-Stegall and she's been relentless on her support of real financial reform, railing against the Wall Street fat cats.

Which makes it all the more angering to see her then throw thousands of her own female constituents under the bus with this terrible, terrible vote.

Welcome to the Blue Dog list, Marcy.  Hell, this is way beyond Blue Dog, this is straight Republican territory.  Any of my Toledo readers know of anyone who can run against her, let me know.

Pictures At An Exhibition

President Obama today said that the pictures of bin Laden's body would not be released, citing national security implications.

In deciding not to make public the pictures of the corpse, Obama resisted arguments that to do so could counter skeptics who have argued there is no proof bin Laden is dead.

"I think that given the graphic nature of these photos, it would create some national security risk," Obama told the CBS program "60 Minutes."

"It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence. As a propaganda tool," the president added.

"There's no doubt that Bin Laden is dead," Obama said. "And so we don't think that a photograph in and of itself is going to make any difference. There are going be some folks who deny it. The fact of the matter is, you will not see bin Laden walking on this earth again."

The decision not to release photos of bin Laden followed intense debate in the Obama administration. CIA Director Leon Panetta had said on Tuesday the pictures would be released.

Washington had to weigh sensitivities in the Muslim world over what White House spokesman Jay Carney called "a gruesome photograph" of bin Laden before Obama made his decision.

I do have a minor qualm with the notion that this would "inflame" Islamist sensibilities, the truly twisted nutjobs on the far end of the spectrum aren't going to start being nicer to us after we ended the guy, picture or no picture.  Having said that, causing additional grief to some isn't worth it just to please the ghoulish twits on the right.

The President went on to say that we don't "spike the football" and that bin Laden wasn't a "trophy" to be displayed, and that argument I can agree with and respect.  Heck, even the GOP House Intelligence committee chair Mike Rogers of Michigan, agreed with the President on this.

Also note that the right is furious, starting with Sarah Palin desperately trying to re-inject her narcissistic quitter self back into the national debate by moaning that the President was "pussy-footing" around by not releasing the pictures.

Not more than 24 hours ago, the Obama Derangement Syndrome narrative was that "arrogant" Obama was taking Bush's rightful credit when he didn't deserve it.  Today, by not releasing the pictures of OBL's body, he's "weak" and "indecisive" again.  Oh, and the left demanded Abu Ghraib photos, so this is exactly like that too!

Gosh, it's almost like the wingers will pivot to attack Obama no matter what position he takes.

A Desire Named Streetcar, Part 2

The Cincy streetcar project isn't dead yet.

Despite the loss of state funding, Cincinnati's streetcar project is moving forward, albeit on a modified route.

City Manager Milton Dohoney announced that the new route will take riders between Fifth Street and Henry Street, essentially connecting Fountain Square with Findlay Market, using five streetcars instead of the originally planned seven.

The route will also take riders near the city's casino, which is now slated to open in 2013.

The revised route will cost $95 million to build, plus whatever it costs to relocate utilities.

But the biggest opponent of the streetcar project remains the Cincy chapter of the NAACP, who claims that the funding for the project is being taken away from other urban infrastructure and renewal projects for the city.

That doesn't add up to NAACP President Chris Smitherman, who's trying to get a public vote in six months in hopes of killing the project.

"We don't want another stadium deal," Smitherman said, referring to an oft-criticized agreement between the county and the Cincinnati Bengals. "We don't want to be left holding a bag on something we can't afford."

Smitherman does have a point that Cincy's infrastructure budget is a zero sum game at this point.  Would the money be better spent elsewhere?  It's possible.  I personally would like to see the streetcar downtown myself, but I'm far more worried about the effects of the new casino smack in the middle of downtown.

We'll see.

It's A Gas Gas Gas, Part 3

With the changeover to summer gasoline formulas underway here in Ohio, gas prices are hitting statewide records.

Auto club AAA says gasoline prices continue to rise to heights never seen before in Ohio.

The statewide average price for regular on Wednesday was a record $4.16 a gallon, according to the daily survey of gas stations done by AAA, the Oil Price Information Service and Wright Express. That's three cents more than the previous record, set on Tuesday.

Ohio pump prices have hit three new all-time highs since Saturday. Ohio is now among the 10 states with the highest gas prices; the state's average is 18 cents above the current national average for regular, which is $3.98 a gallon.

Needless to say, all-time statewide average highs being broken in early May does not bode well for say, the price of gas in August.  I can tell you across the river here in Kentucky, gas is somewhat cheaper.  I'm thinking that's not going to last much longer.

Game Over, Sony

Apparently not content with a major security breach, Sony is now (badly) trying to put some spin on the issue.  This article explains that in one breath, Sony says 77 million accounts may have been compromised.  Then, in their best "don't be silly" tone, they assure us that they will let us know if there appears to be any danger.  Thanks, guys.

I believe in forgiving an honest mistake, but this has crossed the line into official stupidity.  Sony has remained offline since, which means they know their network is not secure.  They do not seem to know how many accounts were affected, which means that they don't fully understand the breach.  Or worse yet, they know and are not saying.

People want answers, and while they  may need some breathing room to figure out what happened, Sony's response to this issue has been less than cooperative.  In fact, it really seems they are only releasing what they must and running around in a panic patching issues before the press discovers the full extent of the damage.  It's time to have a frank talk with their customers and regain some respect.

Anything To Win

(CNN) -- His was a suicide with a macabre twist. In February, former Chicago Bears safety David Duerson shot himself in the chest, but not before leaving behind a note requesting his brain be studied for evidence of a disease striking football players.
The plaintive note read, "Please, see that my brain is given to the NFL's brain bank."
Today, scientists announced that Duerson's brain tissue showed "moderately advanced" evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a dementia-like brain disease afflicting athletes exposed to repeated brain trauma.

Duerson's wife described him as articulate and bright, but that over time his personality and brain function changed.  After games, he would be dizzy or not himself, and asked her to drive.  Sometimes he had emotional outburts, which is not surprising when a study revealed the affected parts of his brain controlled mood and impulse control. It explains why he shot himself, but doesn't make the loss any easier for those who loved him.

Some may make the argument that athletes enter this knowingly, and accept the terms in exchange for fame and money.  I respectfully disagree.  Young athletes are pushed and directed without concern for their long-term health.  Signing waivers to protect colleges and pro teams is no the same as having a conversation in which the injuries are not only diagnosed, but truly assessed.  If players know of the dangers and accept them willingly, what to do then?  What safeguards can be put into place to make sure that a bright and talented professional can have a life on the side, and a retirement to look forward to?

It's a game.  Nobody's life or quality of life is worth scoring.  I don't care what the coaches say.  However, I don't have any good ideas for resolving the problem besides upping the care players receive, and the intent of those deciding when they are healthy and safe.

Your thoughts?

Daring Debbie Delivers?

McClatchy's Lesley Clark has a profile of Florida Dem Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Congresswoman tapped to take over the DNC and lead the donks' fundraising efforts for 2012.

Now the hard-charging 44-year-old, a Democratic rising star since she was elected at age 26 to the Florida state House of Representatives, is poised for her biggest role yet: President Barack Obama's choice to head the Democratic National Committee, a crucial part of his efforts to win another term. The one-time congressional staffer will be the third woman to hold the post when the DNC meets Wednesday to ratify Obama's decision.

Democratic strategists say Wasserman Schultz relishes going toe to toe with Republicans on issues she's passionate about, a factor that attracted the White House as it preps for a campaign that promises to be a bruiser.

"The fact that she's tough and doesn't back down is a really important strength that's going to be needed," said Karen Finney, a former national spokeswoman for the DNC. "This is not going to be an easy battle."

Wasserman Schultz chalks up her selection to a "range of skills and attributes that I think will be complementary to our needs."

"Florida is a hugely important state; women are hugely important to our success," she told McClatchy in an interview. "I'm a young mom, a good fundraiser and I can put a sentence together."

Just as important are Wasserman Schultz's doggedness, her comfort with the television camera and, as a lively liberal, her ability to re-energize part of the Democratic base that's been frustrated with Obama and stayed home in 2010. 

And again, that's exactly the kind of thing the bloodless DNC under Tim Kaine needed:  somebody with a pulse.  But it's that last part there that's the problem:  energizing the firebaggers to get them back in the fold in 2012, that's going to be the hard sell.  Schultz is an outstanding fundraiser and communicator.  But her legislative record is borderline Blue Dog at best.

However, stumping for and supporting Blue Dogs like Heath Shuler is another thing entirely.  Now that she's in charge of the entire ball of wax, it would be very nice to see her support true Dems that need the help instead of pouring cash into the laps of corporate Blue Dogs like Shuler.  Somehow, I don't think it's going to happen, which is a shame.

Reading between the lines of her interview on the health care reform 18 months ago with Cenk Uygur and given where that vote went is especially informative in hindsight.  She brings strong progressive credentials and words to the table.  But her actions?  Classic Blue Dog.

Keeping an eye on her.

The Birth Of The Deathers

If you thought the wingnut right despised Barack Obama before Sunday night, the last 60 hours or so have given rise to the next iteration of Obama Derangement Syndrome:  The Deathers.  Nearly the entire right-wing blogosphere is involved in various bits of tinfoil lunacy that proclaims something is amiss with Sunday's mission to kill bin Laden.

It ranges from "The military took over when Obama wouldn't authorize the mission" to "Leon Panetta killed OBL behind the President's back" to "Obama took 16 hours to make up his mind" to of course the far more blatantly evil stuff about the entire mission being faked and the government having Osama's body on ice for years.

But all of these idiotic rumors have one thing in common: they attempt to justify and explain Obama Derangement Syndrome.  Just like the Birther foolishness, the transformation to Deathers is nothing more than a different hand of cards dealt from the same deck of lies.  It centers on the country succeeding despite the involvement of the man they are obsessed with hating.

As I said yesterday, the Republican message that Democrats are weak on national security has been garbage for years, but the notion that Obama did what Bush did not has driven the right to the depths of their current depravity.  They will do and say anything to avoid giving credit to President Obama, including the foul, hateful rumors above, because the concept of Obama doing something right completely destroys their narrative that he is nothing more than the world's luckiest affirmative action baby.  They would have to admit being proud of their President.  They would in fact have to admit that he was their President, period.

That will never happen.  Their crazed hatred has no room for it.  And so we've gone in less than a week from the Birther nonsense to the even more insane Deather stupidity, all in an effort to try to find some larger movement to camouflage good old fashioned racism.

Look at the lengths the Obama haters have gone to in just the last seven days.

Look at the President's response and what he has accomplished in the meantime.

I rest my case.

Dennis The West Coast Menace?

My feelings on Dennis Kucinich are mixed at best.  He's a Democrat, but his idea of being a team player for the donks involves carrying water exclusively for Team Kucinich's Prickly Honor  (population one) more often than not.  With Ohio Republicans eager to redistrict the long-time Congressman out of existence, Dennis is looking for backup employment options.

Like running in Washington State.

The Seattle Times checked in with the congressman's office after he was observed spending an inordinate amount of time in Washington State -- where Kucinich once communed with an apparent alien at Shirley MacLaine's house, according to her memoir -- to find out whether he was scoping out a potential backup district. Kucinich's response certainly seemed to encourage the idea.

"After people found out that Congressman Kucinich's district could be eliminated or substantially altered in congressional redistricting by the Ohio Legislature's Republican majority, Congressman Kucinich received requests from people in twenty states, including Washington State, encouraging him to move and run in their area," a spokesman, Nathan White said in a statement. "Congressman Kucinich appreciates the interest expressed in his public service. As he has repeatedly said, he fully intends to remain in Congress; he just doesn't know in what district he will run. In the meantime, he is devoted to serving Ohio's 10th district as it currently stands."

White pointed to Kucinich's quotes in a recent Daily Show interview in which he and comedian John Oliver discussed the possibility of him leaving the state to run elsewhere in a parody of LeBron James' "Decision" special.

Pretty sure he'd do fine out there in the Land of Starbucks.  And maybe a new constituency will convince him to help out the rest of the party a bit more often.  We'll see.


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