Friday, May 13, 2011

Last Call

Louisiana is facing some more delta blues.

Louisiana residents are being warned today: The Army Corps of Engineers will open the Morganza spillway along the Mississippi River by Sunday, flooding millions of acres of rural farmland and sparing big cities like Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

"This is a historic amount of water," Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said.

"Some people may think, 'Well, the house is not underwater yet,'" Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said. "But they don't know the road is closed, may become closed. So if in doubt, people should get out. We want people to evacuated, not have to be rescued."

As much as 25 feet of water will spill out over 100 miles, displacing 2,500 people. In addition, 22,500 people and 11,000 structures in the backwater areas could be flooded.

If the gates remained closed and the levees along the Mississippi failed, Baton Rouge and New Orleans could both be flooded -- leaving a disaster worse than Katrina. 

The bigger problem (well, for the people who aren't in Louisiana anyway) is that there are a number of major oil refineries along the river from New Orleans to Baton Rouge.  If the Morganza spillway isn't enough to stop the flooding, then here in the Midwest, gas prices will quickly end up north of $5, if not $6 or more a gallon.  As it is, there are plenty of smaller refineries in the area south of Baton Rouge, as well as thousands of people and Morgan City, Louisiana.

And all that water is heading right down their streets.  It's being done to spare Baton Rouge and NOLA.  But the reality is this is a 100-year plus flood, folks.  We're talking 25 feet of water into a pair of cities that are below sea level.  If the levees fail anywhere on the east bank of the main river, it's going to make Katrina's flooding look like a pool party in comparison.

Next week is going to be bad, folks.  If you thought the flooding so far was gruesome, just wait a few days.

I Do Believe He's Found A Petard That Needs A-Hoisting, Gentlemen

The unlimited deluge of electoral campaign cash unleashed by Citizens United upon the American political system had but one weakness:

Stephen Colbert.

Stephen Colbert doesn't "want to be the one chump" without any unlimited corporate money going to his political action committee. That's why he showed up the the Federal Election Commission building in D.C. to formally request an advisory opinion on behalf of "Colbert Super PAC," a proposed independent expenditure only committee able to accept unlimited corporate, individual, political committee and labor contributions.

Accepting unlimited funding is "a right as described by the Citizens United case," Colbert said in response to a question from Politico's Ken Vogel. "I believe the Citizens United decision was the right one, there should be unlimited corporate money, and I want some of it. I don't want to be the one chump who doesn't have any."

Colbert said he expected the FEC to take his request seriously.

"I'm making an actual request. I want to find out whether I actually have to list Viacom and the fact that I have a show as a gift in-kind," Colbert said. "And if I don't, I can't wait to use the resources of my show."

And yes, it took a comedian in order to expose the idiocy of the Citizens United ruling in the first place.  Because what the ruling did is give political action committees the ability to treat campaign donations and support by third party PACs like the one Colbert is intent on forming as free speech, and basically eliminating limits on it.

If the ruling applies to Karl Rove's Crossroads PAC and the people invoked with this PAC or getting donations from this PAC like Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee or Newt Gingrich can go on FOX News and their opinions and support of candidates and positions are treated as free speech (and not necessarily the opinion of FOX News itself) then certainly it applies to Stephen Colbert's PAC, does it not?

Because that's what the Supreme Court has said.  And that's how it has worked for FOX since the ruling came down in January 2010.  President Obama is drafting an executive order toning down some of this nonsense, but Republicans and corporations are howling that Obama is a "fascist" for denying this "free speech".

Bless Stephen Colbert's little heart.  I hope he takes this all the way to November 2012.  If it takes him making a complete mockery of our political campaign finance system for America to demand something different, then so be it.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

And we're back!

Blogger kinda had some sort of issue with a time machine and a sperm bank, and basically screwed over everything I posted on Thursday and half of Wednesday too.  I got that straightened out and the posts should be all back.

We appear to be back to our regular scheduled craziness.  So what happened over the last 48 hours or so that Blogger tried to erase from the time stream?

The Senate Ethics committee released its report on now former GOP Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, who officially resigned his seat last week hoping the whole Osama thing would give him news cycle cover.  Which it did, and it worked too.  Right up until Senate Dems waited until yesterday to release the report, that is.  And not only is Ensign a complete scumbag, but now that he's not in Congress, he's facing the Justice Department and his chief of staff, John Lopez, just cut an immunity deal.

The special counsel working with the Senate Ethics Committee applied for immunity for both Lopez and Doug Hampton, the former Ensign staffer with whose wife Ensign had the affair that ended his Senate career. The Justice Department didn't agree initially to either request but eventually dropped its opposition to granting immunity to Lopez. Federal prosecutors ultimately indicted Hampton for violating conflict of interest laws.
The report concludes that Lopez's contacts with Doug Hampton after he left the Senator's office and began lobbying on behalf of clients were improper. From the report (which mentions Lopez's name 232 times):
Senator Ensign agreed with Mr. Hampton and Mr. Lopez, to have Mr. Lopez be the point person for Mr. Hampton's contacts with the Senator's office in order to provide Mr. Hampton with the necessary assistance for his lobbying efforts during his post-employment period, and not for the purpose of making certain that Mr. Hampton complied with lobbying restrictions.
The Senate Ethics Committee also discovered contemporaneous emails which showed Ensign "agreed to and encouraged the improper contacts between Mr. Hampton and Mr. Lopez." Lopez told investigators that Ensign wanted him to assist Hampton because the Senator "wanted it out of sight, out of mind," so that Lopez could take heat on the Senator's behalf.

For those of you a little rusty on d'affair l'Ensign, it goes something like this:  Ensign was basically shtupping Cynthia Hampton, a long-time family friend he had known for decades, when the Ensigns invited the Hamptons to movie in with them after the Hamptons were robbed in 2007.  Hampton's husband Doug found out about the affair and then kept his job with the Senator's office.

The real problem was that Ensign got sloppy and kept the affair up.  He got caught by people other than the Hamptions.  Doug Hampton drew the attention of the Feds.  It gets worse from there:  Doug Hampton is now facing seven counts of violating federal lobbyist conflict-of-interest laws, and as I mentioned before, Ensign's chief of staff, John Lopez, has just cut an immunity deal to spill the beans on Ensign and Hampton.

Ensign's parents gave the Hamptons a "gift" of $96,000 to make all this go away, on top of everything else.  That absolutely red flagged the Feds as the gift was posed as severance for Doug Hampton leaving his "job" as a senior Ensign aide.

Oh, but it gets even worse.  Turns out more than a few other people on Capitol Hill knew what kind of games Ensign was playing, most notably Oklahoma GOP Sen. Tom Coburn.

And now this whole mess is really, really going to get good.

Win Win Win (Epic Win Cubed)

I just love this stuff.  It's common sense being used to help everyone involved. A program shared between a few prisons has allowed prisoners an opportunity to perform good deeds.  Rescued animals are calming for the prisoners, and beneficial for animals in need of a home.  In some cases, it even helps little girls:

Butterfield trained Mickey through a 2-year-old program at Luther Luckett called Camp Canine that has resulted in adoptions for around 140 dogs. Celia's family adopted Mickey in June after a doctor suggested sleeping with a dog could calm her at night.

For many prisoners, this will fill a void and is far more logical than some of the other "perks" given prisoners for population control.  The companionship of an animal is a healthy and healing thing.  Allowing them to love and care for others is the core of rehabilitation.  Most importantly, everyone involved gets a second chance.

Now How Can That Possibly Go Wrong?

Blogger is back up, folks!  I was affected by a rare bug, and then the whole thing went down.  Barring any other technical issues, posts will now hit on schedule.

Yesterday, Visa, the world's largest payments processor, announced a series of advances to its system. (Check out the vague, glossy promo video here.) They include some handy tools to make paying for goods online a whole lot easier. But they also indicate that Visa is hurtling toward turning your smartphone into your credit card.

This technology is already being used around the world.  I'm actually for it, because I think it's safer than throwing around the numbers themselves.  The plastic is just something you have to carry, after all.  The password protected system is safer if people can truly make a special password and hold up to some security standards.  No sharing with that guy you've dated for a month, or using the same password that you have on your email account, or writing it on paper.  People who previously refused to participate in technology and online accounts will be brought in kicking and screaming.

The move is inevitable.  The full article explains some of the background fighting to shape the technology to shut out competition.  Right now there are no clear leaders, but Google's Android domination would make the most impact, and Visa is trying to insert themselves as a middleman so they can continue to profit from the transactions.  If they do not succeed, it will be a devastating loss for them.

Epic Animal (State) House Fail

Florida Republicans fail at pretty much every goddamn thing ever.  Gawker:

The state of Florida, somewhat famously, finally got around to banning bestiality last week. But, as the blog Southern Fried Science points out, there might be something wrong with the language used in the bill—specifically that it bans sex with "an animal." Did you know that humans are "animals," too?
Finally, we've found an excuse to fine or jail a large chunk of Florida. Here's the act's summary:
An act relating to sexual activities involving animals; creating s. 828.126, F.S.; providing definitions; prohibiting knowing sexual conduct or sexual contact with an animal; prohibiting specified related activities; providing penalties; providing that the act does not apply to certain husbandry, conformation judging, and veterinary practices; providing an effective date.
Seems clear to us: No sex for involving homo sapiens, ever.

In that case, I have some remedial material for Florida Republicans in the state legislature that's terrifically appropriate:

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