Monday, May 9, 2011

Last Call

Arizona's GOP Gov. Jan Brewer wants to play for the big money round already on "So You Think You Can Be A Bigot?"

Arizona's Republican Governor Jan Brewer said on Monday she would seek an "immediate petition" with the Supreme Court to lift an injunction blocking key parts of the state's controversial crackdown on illegal immigrants.

Brewer signed the law in April 2010 requiring police to check the immigration status of anyone they detained and suspected was in the country illegally. It was challenged by President Barack Obama's Democratic administration in a lawsuit arguing it improperly meddled in federal issues.

A federal judge blocked key parts of the law shortly before it came into effect in July, in a ruling upheld last month by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Brewer told a news conference in Phoenix she would seek an "immediate petition" with the Supreme Court to lift the injunction.

"When faced with injustice, Arizonans will not sit idly, we will act," Brewer, accompanied by state Attorney General Tom Horne, told reporters.

Jan forgot to finish the sentence with the missing two words:  "like assholes."   She's very, very eager for the Supreme Court to strike down her little "Let's round up all the brown people" law, I guess.

While the three-judge panel on the 9th Circuit last month determined 2-1 that provision forcing police to check immigration status in the Arizona law were unconstitutional, all three judges agreed that Arizona had no right to create its own state-based immigration policy when that right is clearly reserved in the Constitution for the federal government, upholding the lower court injunction against the provisions to punish illegal immigrants at the state level.

In other words, the bill is a mess.  It will not pass muster in its current form.  The only question is how much of the law will be struck down.

The League Of Extraordinary Wingnuts Vs. The League Of Women Voters

If you want to know what's up in the Galtian Republic of Rick Scott, formerly known as "Florida", then the Reid Report is your go to news source.  For example, the League of Women Voters is ceasing voter registrations in the state thanks to Florida's soon to pass voter registration law, HB 1355.

It is with great regret that the League of Women Voters of Florida announces that we must cease our voter registration efforts in this state should HB 1355, the elections bill recently passed by the Florida legislature, become law.

Despite the fact that the League of Women Voters is one of the nation’s most respected civic organizations, with a 91-year history of registering and educating voters, we will be unable to comply with the egregious provisions contained in HB 1355.

Not only does the bill make it more difficult for voters to participate in our democracy via a decrease in early voting and new policies regarding address changes at the polls, it also imposes an undue burden on groups such as ours that work to register voters.

So what does HB 1355 do?

HB 1355, which passed the legislature last week, would force people who need to change their address on election day to vote on provision ballots, which are often not counted; would cut the number of early voting days from 14 to 8, and would place new restrictions and liabilities on groups that register people to vote. Republicans say the changes are needed to stop voter fraud, but presented no evidence of widespread voter fraud in Florida to back up their claims. The law is seen by many as an attempt to suppress the kind of votes that typically go to Democrats.

It would greatly increase the number of voters given provisional ballots instead of official ballots (particularly college students) and impose steep fines for any third party voter registration organization that failed to turn in any voter registration card with 48 hours of being signed by a resident.  The early voting period being shortened too makes it more difficult for low income voters to vote.  Republicans say the measures are needed to prevent voter fraud, but passed the bill in the state legislature without citing a single example of fraud that these measures would have prevented.

The bill is designed to disenfranchise the vote of traditional Democratic voting groups, period.  To Florida Republicans, anyone voting Democrat is probably guilty of fraud anyway.  The measure will almost certainly end up before the Supreme Court.  Whether that will happen before the 2012 election is anyone's guess.

They Never Existed In The First Place

Evan McMorris-Santoro wonders why every single member of the House GOP who took money from the Republican Majority For Choice PAC voted for the brutally anti-choice HR 3 bill.

For pro-choice Republicans, the vote means embarrassing questions. Basically every pro-choice group says H.R. 3 is an anti-abortion bill that goes far beyond the government's current prohibitions on abortion funding and actually raises taxes on women who want to seek abortion coverage in their private insurance plans.

That's a double-whammy for pro-choice Republicans. One, raising taxes under any circumstances is a no-no for anyone in the modern GOP. And, two, the bill has been cast as the biggest assault on abortion rights in years.

Voting against such a measure, then, would seem like a no-brainer. Except it wasn't. None of the about a dozen House GOP members the the Republican Majority For Choice PAC considers allies voted against H.R. 3. In fact, all of them voted yes.

"We opposed the bill, we considered it an anti-choice, big government intrusion and politically we think it's a bad move for the Republicans to keep focusing on this," K.R. Ferguson, executive director of the PAC told TPM.

Still, she says that she's not prepared to say the members who voted for it have given up their pro-choice credentials. She pointed to the refusal of some Republicans to sign on to the House plan to defund Planned Parenthood as the kind of thing that will keep the PAC's endorsement coming.

"I would not say we would stop supporting any of the members who took this vote," Ferguson said. She said that though it's hard to rectify being pro-choice and voting for H.R. 3, support from her PAC isn't "an all or nothing" prospect.

Seems to me that either all the Republicans who got the support of the RMFC PAC are full of crap or the PAC itself just exists to sneak in anti-choice Republicans into purple districts.  And since the set of anti-choice Republicans in the House now includes all Republicans in the House, I'm going to go with both.

There are no pro-choice Republicans in Congress.  Anyone who says they are is lying to you, because they think you're stupid enough to give to a Republican "pro-choice" PAC.

Cloudy Future - What Each Person Should Know

The cloud computing era is coming, and with it people are learning of its advantages as well as its weaknesses.  Sony was only the tip of the iceberg, when we take into account the global nature of the Internet, it becomes easy to spoof and trick the vulnerable into giving up their private information.  The article I have linked to also explains how reusing passwords is a serious no-no, as is exposing any private information that could hint to security question information and password resets.

When we hear of people falling prey to hackers, it isn't because they had to go through hoops and incredible feats.  It's almost always because of poor security habits ("password" is still used for a password!) and people's failure to understand just what can be done with a little data.

"Rogue cloud service providers based in countries with lax cybercrime laws can provide confidential hosting and data storage services," he said.

"[This] facilitates the storage and distribution of criminal data, avoiding detection by law enforcement agencies."

An easy parallel to draw is with the way Swiss bank accounts were rumoured to operate in the past.

While bank customers were offered the utmost of discretion with their financial transactions, that same courtesy could now be offered to those wishing to de-encrypt sensitive data.

It doesn't take a genius to see where this is going.  The real question is, what path are we going to take to a safe and private computing network?  If some people refuse to take accountability and push their safety onto others, that will lead to a heavily governed cloud environment.  It doesn't have to be this way, if only some folks would learn some basic safety measures.  Dear Lord, there are still people falling for the Nigerian bank account scam.  Perhaps the Clue Fairy will pay them a visit.

Gimme a "B!" Gimme a "U!" Gimme an "L L Y!" What's That Spell?

SENECA, Mo. (AP) — A lawsuit filed by two southwest Missouri high school cheerleaders who were removed from the squad has been dismissed.

The two Seneca High School cheerleaders sued the school district and several school officials last December after being kicked off the squad for alleged cyber-bullying.
While the letters OMG have served to take the intellectual value out of online chatting, it appears that if cheerleaders can now have their great works immortalized on Facebook.  I've been following this for a while, thinking it may lead to an actual story, but it turns out the only lesson is that we still need to clearly define what is legal and what is not, so that the gray areas are few and far between.  Was this normal high school catty behavior?  Was it something way out of line that could have seriously affected someone?  I don't know.  But all around the country, this is happening.  For the sake of the victims as well as those who may be accused for unbelievable reasons, it's time to get a game plan together.

Things Fall Apart, The Ryan Unicorn Plan Cannot Hold

As Republicans continue to backpedal away from the Ryan Unicorn Plan to scrap Medicare, Brian Beutler notes that without the savings from cutting trillions from the social safety net, the Ryan Unicorn Plan doesn't exactly balance the budget anytime soon.

It turns out that if you strike the Medicare plan from the GOP budget -- authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) -- it doesn't achieve fiscal balance anymore.

"It certainly blows a major hole in his plan," said Paul Van de Water, a health care and budget expert at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in a phone interview.

If you take Ryan at his word, and assume that the tax-side of his plan is revenue neutral -- a big "if" -- his plan balances the budget over decades entirely on the spending side of the government's ledger. Van de Water explains that if you take the Medicare privatization plan out of the equation, the budget sinks -- dragged down by higher spending, and then higher interest payments as a result of larger-than-projected deficits.

"That plus interest gets you into a range where you no longer balance the budget," Van de Water said.
That's not to say Ryan's plan would blow up the deficit. "Would it turn [it] into a disaster? Probably not because he was cutting so much elsewhere in his proposal. He has very deep cuts in in Medicaid, he also has very, very deep reductions in the rest of the government as well."

Of course, eliminating deficits is supposedly Congress' entire raison d'etre at this point. But if phasing out Medicare is off the table, and tax increases are off the table, that's just not going to happen.

Shocker:  Republicans have no interest in balancing the budget.  Now destroying the New Deal social safety net and doing everything they can to all but eliminate taxes for the richest Americans and for corporations?  That's another thing entirely.  But their economic plan has nothing to do with balancing the budget at all.

The Return Of The Nameless One

Someone jump-started Dick Cheney's battery and he emerged to complain about the President picking up after his mess.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday that President Barack Obama should put waterboarding back on the table.

Intelligence derived from the Bush-era enhanced interrogation program "probably" contributed to the of death Osama bin Laden, Cheney told Fox News' Chris Wallace.

"Which raises the question, if we were to now capture another new high value target, which is certainly more likely given this apparent trove of information that they recovered in bin Laden's compound, should the president reinstate enhanced interrogation including waterboarding?" Wallace asked.

"Well, I certainly would advocate it," Cheney replied. "I'd be a strong supporter of it."

"We went to a lot of trouble to find out what we could do, how far we could go, what was legal and so forth. Out of that emerged what we called enhanced interrogation. It worked. It provided some absolutely vital pieces of intelligence."

"It was a good program," he continued. "It was a legal program. It was not torture. I would strongly recommend we continue it."

You know, we've established that enhanced interrogation techniques goddamn torture didn't get us the info we needed to get bin Laden but regular interrogation techniques and smart fieldcraft did.  Cheney is flat out lying when he says it helped to capture OBL.  Let me repeat:  he's lying.  He wants us to now restart a program that did not yield any reliable intelligence towards getting bin Laden.

And like anyone at FOX News is going to call him on it.  But after all, this is what FOX News exists for:  the spreading of GOP propaganda, period.  You can tell the entire thing is falling apart at the seams, and the Republicans try desperately to claim total vindication for their sins.

Go home, Dick.  Nobody believes you anymore.

No Dealing On The Debt Ceiling, Part 6

Sunday, the NY Times editorial board summarily rejected the Republican plan to hold the country hostage to the debt ceiling to force draconian budget cuts.

The Republicans have long insisted on deep spending cuts — ignoring the fact that a failure to raise the limit by August at the latest would disrupt financial markets and endanger the recovery. The administration understands the danger, but giving in to overly deep spending cuts and making unwise tax concessions would also be damaging.

Both sides have indicated that a probable deal would impose a budget target and enforcement triggers, like automatic spending cuts, if the target was not met. A deal built on such mechanisms could keep markets calm, but they can also be a trap.

Democratic lawmakers and the White House must reject targets and triggers that rule out tax increases, because without higher taxes, the burden of cutting would fall largely on lower- and middle-income Americans. Some Republicans also have said they want the deal to include many of the spending cuts in the House-passed budget. That would be a disaster for vulnerable Americans and for the fragile recovery. Farm subsidies for rich farmers can go but not food stamps and Head Start. 

Seems like a complete dismissal of the Republican position to me.  As I've said time and time again, none of the real players in Washington politics, the major multinationals and financials, are going to allow the Republicans to blow up the bond market and ruin their profit margins.  They could give a damn about the lower and middle class, but they are directly threatened by massive cuts in government spending that many of these companies have government contracts for, and by the threat of default on the debt that would drive up borrowing costs and end the Fed's free money junkie train.  The Republicans are messing with the profit margins here, and you're going to see a lot harder push from the corporate media on this against the GOP here.  The editorial concludes:

It would be better if lawmakers would pass a clean debt limit increase for another year or two, and use the time to work diligently toward a true budget deal. Unfortunately, seriousness of purpose is not on the table.  

Which is Village for "You better knock this off before we kick your asses."  If the Village is breaking out the S-word..."seriousness"...and suggesting the Republicans lack it, then the Powers That Be are playing hardball.  No wonder Orange Julius is going to Wall Street again today to face angry corporate types on the debt ceiling, and their message to him is "get it together."

However, the financial experts that litter Wall Street have been essentially unanimous in telling Congress to not play games with the debt limit, echoing warnings from the White House that a default on U.S. debt would be an economic catastrophe.

Jamie Dimon, the chairman and chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase, said in March that it would be "crazy" to not raise the debt limit.

"This chatter about not meeting our obligations, I just don't understand it," he said at an event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "It's a moral obligation to ourselves. ... They should know that the United States is good for its money. Period."

The Manhattan group says it gathers members from "top executive levels of business, industry and finance."

Executives from Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan are listed among the group's trustees, as well as David Koch of Koch Industries and William Dudley, the president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

In other words, Orange Julius is facing his real masters today.  And they are not pleased with him at all.  I've been predicting this for months now, and I fully expect to see a clean vote on the debt ceiling passed, and soon.


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