Thursday, May 26, 2011

Last Call

Hundreds are still missing in Joplin, Missouri in the wake of Sunday's tornado.

Officials Thursday said 232 people were still missing four days after a tornado tore through a Missouri town, and had only managed to identify one of the 125 bodies found in the storm's wake.

Some of the missing from Sunday's disaster in Joplin may be among the unidentified remains being stored in a hastily constructed mass morgue.

But officials pleaded with anxious family members for patience while they undertake a lengthy identification process involving DNA testing and fingerprinting.

"The 232, we can't presume that all of those are deceased," Andrea Spiller, Missouri's deputy director of public safety, told reporters.

Some may simply have failed to contact anxious friends and family. There may also still be people trapped in the rubble who have not been officially reported missing, Spiller cautioned.

Asked why families were not being allowed into the morgue to visually identify their loved ones, she replied: "It is not 100 percent accurate, and 100 percent accurate is our goal."

Bon can tell you that the damage out there is pretty devastating.  Some 75% of the city is gone, thousands of building flattened.  If there's anything you feel you can spare, donating to the Red Cross can help.

The Single State With Single Payer

Today, Vermont Democrat Gov. Peter Shumlin signed legislation creating the country's first single-payer state health care system.

Last month, the Vermont Senate passed legislation, approved earlier by the House, that would establish a single payer health care system in the state. The legislation would make Vermont the first state in the nation to, as Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) said, make health care “a right and not a privilege.”

The governor’s office just confirmed for ThinkProgress that Shumlin signed the legislation into law this morning, making the state the first in American history to pass legislation that will establish a single payer health care system to provide care to all citizens. Now that the law is signed, Vermont will spend the next four years setting up the system and preparing it for implementation.

In order to actually enact the system, the state needs a waiver from the Affordable Care Act health reform law. Currently, the federal government will start handing out state waivers in 2017 — three years after Vermont wants to implement its system. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) has introduced an amendment that would move the waiver date up to 2014, an idea that President Obama has endorsed.

And many expect the waiver bill to pass, as many red state Governors want out of the PPACA completely in order to implement their own state systems.  Only Vermont is going to full single-payer route however.  If Vermont's system works, it should be the model for the entire country, frankly.  But the state has taken a huge step into the history books today, and more power to them.

The Arizona Job

As expected the US Supreme Court issued a ruling upholding Arizona's 2007 law that harshly penalizes companies in the state that knowingly hire undocumented workers.

“Arizona hopes that its law will result in more effective enforcement of the prohibition on employing unauthorized aliens,” Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. wrote, adding that “the Arizona regulation does not otherwise conflict with federal law.”

The highly anticipated decision keeps intact the 2007 Legal Arizona Workers Act. Employers could have their business licenses suspended or revoked for hiring illegal immigrants, under the law.

The law also requires Arizona employers to use a federal program called E-Verify to check the immigration status of potential workers. Justices likewise upheld this provision, with Robert calling it “entirely consistent” with federal law.

The decision affirms the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which had likewise upheld the state law. It is a defeat for the politically powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Obama administration, both of which had opposed the Arizona law.

“Either directly or through the uncertainty that it creates, the Arizona statute will impose additional burdens upon lawful employers,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in dissent.

Breyer, joined by justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, added that fearful employers may now “erect ever stronger safeguards against the hiring of unauthorized aliens, without counterbalancing protections against unlawful discrimination.”

Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas joined in the most of the majority opinion.

So now, expect a number of other red states to pass similar laws across the country that puts the burden of proof of verifying employment status upon the business, not the state or the employee. Errors or mistakes in the E-Verify system may be a nightmare to the worker and of course cause serious problems with no real way to fight it, and that's still a major issue with the law.

But I really can't argue against businesses knowingly hiring undocumented workers under the table, and now that they may actually pay a price for doing so, maybe they'll stop.

Home, Home I'm Deranged, Part 21

Time for our monthly check on the housing depression numbers, and the figures are grim for 1Q 2011...very grim.

U.S. homes in the process of foreclosure sold at an average 27 percent discount in the first quarter and purchases of distressed properties fell to less than half the peak set two years ago, according to RealtyTrac Inc.
The discount reflects the price of distressed properties relative to normal sales. A total of 158,434 homes that sold in the period received notices of default, auction or repossession, down 16 percent from the fourth quarter and 36 percent from a year earlier, RealtyTrac said in a report today. At that pace, it would take three years to clear the supply of distressed and bank-owned houses, the Irvine, California-based company said.

“While this is probably helping to keep home prices relatively stable, it is also delaying the housing recovery,” Chief Executive Officer James Saccacio said in the statement. 

So even if there were no more additional foreclosures, it would still take into 2014 to clear out the backlog and to start stabilizing housing prices.  Fewer people are buying homes because A) lending standards are tougher and B) prices keep falling.  Those who wait to buy will be rewarded with a lower price, plan and simple, and since nobody's buying and foreclosures continue to flood the market, you have a classic oversupply and nobody buys market...meaning housing prices will continue to fall for years to come.

No way out of the housing depression in this country, not anytime soon. And neither the Democrats nor the Republicans seem all that worried about the three-year housing collapse going another three years...

USA Lags Badly In Internet Speeds

U, S, A! We're number nine! Wait, nine? At least according to a recent broadband survey by the FCC, yes. The good ol' US of A ranked ninth (out of the 29 member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) in fixed broadband penetration on a per capita basis, and 12th in terms of pure percentage -- behind the UK, South Korea, Iceland, the Netherlands, and plenty of others. Though, granted, these nations lack the sprawling amber waves of grain that America must traverse with cables. The US also trailed in wireless broadband adoption, ranking ninth yet again, behind the likes of Ireland, Australia and Sweden. Worse still, even those with broadband reported slower connections than folks in other countries. Olympia, Washington had the highest average download speeds of any US city with 21Mbps (New York and Seattle tied for second with 11.7Mbps), but was easily topped by Helsinki, Paris, Berlin, and Seoul (35.8Mbps). Well, at least we beat Slovenia... if only just barely.

We've been behind for years, and the gap is growing.  Considering this is the future of communication, we really can't afford to fall behind.  Our infrastructure is crumbling, and when we finally get around to fixing that, we should incorporate data pipelines that will grow into their potential.  I think we all know that won't happen, but it's a nice thought.

But oh wait, we knew this a few months ago, right?

You Can Trust Me... Really

While I am against regulation of the Internet, the recent comments by Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Google's Eric Schmidt against it are self-serving and hard to trust at face value.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Google boss Eric Schmidt have warned governments worldwide not to over-regulate the internet.

Mr Zuckerberg said governments cannot cherry pick which aspects of the web to control and which not to.

Mr Schmidt echoed his sentiments: "Technology will move faster than governments, so don't legislate before you understand the consequences".

The problem is, these two are the heads of the two companies that violate privacy and create the need for regulation.  Regarding the recent leaks and issues citizens have had with Facebook and Google, I had wavered on my stance to fight regulations and intrusions. I'm not saying I have changed my mind, but this problem has grown to the point that something is going to have to declare what is safe.

This is a wake-up call.  The guys saying not to regulate the web have the most to gain from it... at our expense.

You're Watching The Ed Joke

I've not been a fan of Ed Schultz, not since his "advice" to Dems in 2010 was to stay home and not vote.  I'm even less of a fan now that he's racked up a forced week off for calling right-wing radio host Laura Ingraham a "slut".

Yeah, sorry Ed, there's no excuse for this.  And frankly I wouldn't be terribly upset in the least if he didn't come back at all.  There are a number of liberal voices we could be supporting out there, but Ed Schultz is not one of them.

To his credit, he did apologize last night, and it seemed sincere and far more of an actual apology than any right wing media would ever deliver.  And it's a dirty, rotten double standard that right wing media figures say far worse on a regular basis.

But to his detriment, he has still yet to deliver an apology one-tenth as heartfelt for telling Dems to stay home from the voting booth in 2010.

When he apologizes for these words like he apologized Wednesday night for saying this last July...

And I'm announcing today, I'm not going to vote in the midterms. I'm not going to do it. You can say it's un-American. No, it's rather revolutionary is what it is. I'm at that point. I'm checking out.

I'm checking out of the Democrats because they are proving to me that they don't know how to handle these big babies over on the right that say no. You know what you do? You get in the driver's seat, you hit the throttle, and you run over them.

...someone get back to me.  Other than that, I could take or leave Ed.  I stopped listening to the guy then, so what he has to say about Laura Ingraham I could give a rat's ass about.

PS, way to give the Right Wing Noise Machine something to talk about other than Medicare, Ed.  Your timing is goddamn impeccable.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

How long will it take Double G and the rest of the anti-Obama left to go after the President for "being to the right of Herman Cain on foreign policy"?

Herman Cain opposes targeting terrorists who are U.S. citizens for assassination. Expressing surprise and disbelief that the Obama administration has such a policy, the presidential candidate told The Atlantic that Americans accused of terrorist activity should be granted due process, unlike foreigners.

"This is the first that I have heard -- you're saying it's okay to take out American citizens if he suspects they are terrorist related. Is that what you said?!" the former Godfather's Pizza CEO said when queried on the topic. "I've got to be honest with you. I have not heard that. I don't believe that the president of the United States should order the assassination of citizens of the United States. That's why we have our court system, and that's why we have our laws." Cain's position put him at odds with the Obama administration policy to target, among others, Anwar al-Awlaki, who in the wake of Osama bin Laden's death has moved up the list as a major target for U.S. anti-terror efforts.

Though he suffers from low name recognition, Cain generates strong enthusiasm among voters who get to know him, and performed well in the first GOP candidates debate. A long shot for the nomination, he is all confidence, having declared last week that when he wins the presidency, "we'll all be able to say, free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, this nation is free at last, again!" In order to test that hypothesis, I probed the candidate's positions on executive power and civil liberties in a 22 minute conversation that covered lots of ground but left no time for followup questions.

Conor Friedersdorf here thinks Herman Cain "performed well" at the debate earlier this month and that gosh, he's not such a bad guy.  You know, except for all the crazy "government is enslaving black people" stuff.

I'm more curious as to why The Atlantic is interviewing Cain in the first place.  Then again...Megan McArdle works here, so I really shouldn't be wondering too hard about them trying to pass Cain off as "the black Libertarian Obama isn't".

Exciting New Horizons In Obama Derangement Syndrome

Not real sure what's worse here, that Shelby Steele of the WSJ thinks you're stupid enough to believe that Obama's race is an advantage in politics, or that race is basically the only possible explanation as to why the entire GOP field is losing against him in the polls...and that makes you all racists, you know.

The point is that anyone who runs against Mr. Obama will be seen through the filter of this racial impressionism, in which white skin is redundant and dark skin is fresh and exceptional. This is the new cultural charisma that the president has introduced into American politics.

Today this charisma is not as strong for Mr. Obama. The mere man and the actual president has not lived up to his billing as a historical breakthrough. Still, the Republican field is framed and—as the polls show—diminished by his mere presence in office, which makes America the most socially evolved nation in the world. Moreover, the mainstream media coddle Mr. Obama—the man—out of its identification with his exceptionalism.

Conversely, the media hold the president's exceptionalism against Republicans. Here is Barack Obama, evidence of a new and progressive America. Here are the Republicans, a cast of largely white males, looking peculiarly unevolved. Add to this the Republicans' quite laudable focus on deficit reduction and spending cuts, and they can be made to look like a gaggle of scolding accountants.

How can the GOP combat the president's cultural charisma? It will have to make vivid the yawning gulf between Obama the flattering icon and Obama the confused and often overwhelmed president. Applaud the exceptionalism he represents, but deny him the right to ride on it as a kind of affirmative action.

A president who is both Democratic and black effectively gives the infamous race card to the entire left: Attack our president and you are a racist. To thwart this, Republicans will have to break through the barrier of political correctness. 

Yes folks, that's right.Shelby Steele is making the argument that the GOP cannot afford to look like a bunch of racists going into 2012, and that the only way they can win is to not let that clearly inferior buffoon of a negro who only got elected because he's black play the race card on Republicans.

It really is eye-opening, how much they truly, truly despise President Obama.
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