Thursday, June 16, 2011

Last Call

First Indiana, then Kansas, now North Carolina Republicans have stripped all state and federal funding to Planned Parenthood as the NC GOP voted to override Dem Gov. Bev Perdue's budget veto.

The state Senate voted 31-19 to override the veto Wednesday afternoon, after the House passed a similar measure late Tuesday night in a vote of 73-46, according to the News and Observer.

The budget prevents any state or federal funds from going to Planned Parenthood facilities, which Planned Parenthood officials say amounts to about $400,000 in funds, and will go into effect on July 1st.

The provision was added to the budget by abortion opponents who don't want any federal funds going to entities that perform abortions. As Planned Parenthood officials are quick to point out, federal law already bars any federal funds from being used to provide abortions. The federal dollars that go to Planned Parenthood are used to provide other health care services to women.

But it doesn't matter to Republicans.  Only dirty, evil, unclean poor women need Planned Parenthood, so let them rot.

Ahh, but they're not the only victims of the NC Republican budget.

Republican legislators say they have paid for all teachers and teacher assistant positions, and that the state budget is not to blame for the layoff notices they are getting.

"These pink slips are not our doing," Sen. Jerry Tillman, an Archdale Republican, said.
But local districts, who have to figure out how to make an additional $124 million in discretionary cuts, are cutting programs and jobs in response the state budget.

Jill Elberson, a middle school technology and math teacher in Randolph County, said she lost her job when the district cut its middle school technology program. A district spokesman said the cut is a consequence of the state budget.

Elberson, who has taught for six years, said her school is left with an elective business course that does not include instruction on commonly used software. And she is looking for work.

"I don't know how I'm going to make it if I don't get a job," she said.

Even better, the budget guts Smart Start and other early childhood education programs, and drops NC's per student education spending to the bottom of the 50 states...all in the name of, you guessed it, tax cuts.  Oh, but it gets better.
Over protests that they would effectively disenfranchise thousands of voters, the state Senate Wednesday night passed a bill that would require voters to show a photo ID.

The bill passed along party lines 31-19. It now goes back to the House for agreement on minor changes.

Meanwhile a House committee passed a bill that includes sweeping changes in election law, including eliminating Sunday early voting and same-day registration.

Republicans are promising they will override Perdue's veto should she dare to try it. North Carolina becoming a battleground state?  Not if Republicans have their way.

And they do.

Taxing The Imagination

How bad is Tim Pawlenty's economic plan?  It's considerably worse than even the Bush tax cuts for the rich, making deeper cuts to social programs and giving trillions more to the wealthy than Bush dared to dream of.

After taxes, the very wealthiest people in the country would see their after-tax income spike by over one-third. Those on the other end of the income spectrum would hardly notice the bump. And that's to say nothing of the fact that, without all that revenue, the government would no longer be able to fund the services many middle class and lower income Americans depend on.

From CBPP: "In 2013 the Pawlenty plan would give people in the top one-tenth of 1 percent on the income scale (i.e., people with incomes above $2.7 million) an average annual tax cut of $1.8 million"

His plan is driving the debate among GOP presidential hopefuls. Though not all of them will ultimately match his cuts or exceed them, they will certainly be using it as a benchmark.

That's insane.  It would add trillions to the national debt.  It would force the country to abandon the social safety net, not to mention basically everything but defense spending.   And yet it's the new reference point for just how much of the remaining country's wealth would be given to the nation's richest people at the expense of 90% of America.

This is what "moderate Republicans" like Tim Pawlenty plan to do should Republicans get control of Congress and the White House, and it would be the end of the country as we know it.

Canuckleheads In Vancouver

Yeah, it's heartbreaking what happened to the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals last night but...riots, guys?  Really?

The Boston Bruins won their first Stanley Cup in 39 years, defeating the Vancouver Canucks 4-0 Wednesday night in the seventh and deciding game of the National Hockey League's annual championship.

The loss didn't go over well with hundreds of mostly young Canuck fans, who took to the streets and set several overturned vehicles afire a few blocks from Rogers Arena where the game was played.
Some fans stopped to pose in front of the flames. Others danced on top of another overturned vehicle. A dull cloud of gray smoke choked some areas of downtown.

Aerial footage showed Vancouver police wading into the unruly crowd that continually taunted and threw things at the officers. Members of the crowd leaped over one street fire, and officers wrestled several fans to the ground. 

Yeah, there were some terrible calls and some devastating injuries for the Canucks...but it's not like Game 7 was close, guys.   It was over by the second period.

Actually I don't know how the hell the Canucks forced 7 games getting outscored in the two 10-0 during the series.  No excuse to blow up downtown Vancouver though.

Bourbon Distilleries Are Clear Targets Because They're So Flammable

Sen Mitch McConnell has apparently discovered that stupid terrorist mooks have teleporter transponders hidden in their brain stems that could allow Al Qaeda to send in millions of troops to instantly kill everyone in the state of Kentucky.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called on the Obama administration Tuesday to send two Iraqi nationals arrested recently in Bowling Green to the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
The two were charged with helping to plot attacks on U.S. troops.

"Sending them to Gitmo is the only way we can be certain there won't be retaliatory attacks in Kentucky," McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday.

"Sending them to Gitmo is the only way we can prevent Kentuckians from having to cover the cost and having to deal with the disturbances and disruptions that would come with a civilian trial. And sending them to Gitmo is the best way to ensure that they get what they deserve. So today I'm calling on the administration to change course — and get these men out of Kentucky."

Otherwise, Gorilla Grodd might take over Fort Knox or something.

Look folks, when Mitch McConnell says by sneding these two to Gitmo there will be the only way Kentucky can be certain not to be attacked, he's lying.  There is no certainly when it comes to terrorism, only acceptable risk.  Once you accept that truth, then there's no reason these guys can't be tried.  Pretending otherwise is foolish and dangerously stupid.  Throwing away due process out of fear is shameful.

Then again, this is Mitch McConnell we're taking about here.  And Republicans want you stupid, scared, and compliant for a reason.

Geek-O-Rama: Cloud Style, BitRock, and Zenoss have surveyed more than 500 members of the open source and systems management community about trends in cloud computing and users' preferences and plans. The result? There's a strong correlation between open source and cloud usage — and the survey found that Linux looms large in plans for deployments.

The survey was taken by 521 IT professionals in a broad variety of institutions, with 9% working for public companies, 51% working for private / privately-held companies, 11% working in educational institutions, 5% in government, and 4% at non-profits. The respondents range from CTOs (11%), IT managers (18%), to technical support (7%) and developers (12%).
Now that we have a profile of the people responding, let's take a look at the results. One of the most interesting, here at at least, is the OS that respondents plan to run. Overwhelmingly, Linux was on the shopping list for 83% of the respondents — compared to 66% for Windows, 8% looking to BSD, only 5% for Solaris, and 12% choosing "other." Naturally, many shops are looking at mixed deployments to satisfy needs for applications that run only on Linux or Windows, but it's clear from the survey that Linux is doing quite well.

The economy has forced businesses to make certain changes, and individuals as well.  The open source community is making dramatic changes in how they approach software, and the growing robust support for Linux has made it an attractive choice.  No longer do you have to hire a guru to just oversee Linux, and users don't need a two year learning curve in order to use their computers.

This is good news, because the shape of computer use is leaning towards cloud storage, and Microsoft will begin to lose its grip on the public.  Eventually, it will not matter what OS you use, documents and common programs will feel similar enough that the average user can find their way around.

Disabled Turtle Gets A Hand... Sort Of

"We have such a good feeling for this turtle. She has just kind of struck a nerve with all of us," said Kelly Martin, a biologist with the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, Florida. "Everybody's got a little soft spot for her."
The special affection for Clover comes from her disability; she is missing her rear flippers. According to Martin, the scars indicate that the flippers were bitten off by sharks.
Clover, an endangered leatherback turtle, got her name from a family vacationing from Vermont.  Clover is Vermont's state flower.
Clover, an endangered leatherback turtle, got her name from a family vacationing from Vermont. Clover is Vermont's state flower.
"With no rear flippers, leatherbacks and any sea turtle are not able to dig a proper egg cavity," Martin said, "so they end up depositing their eggs on the sand, and they don't survive."

Not only did the turtle get some much needed help, but they helpers are allowing nature to take it from there.  While that still makes me cringe, I see the necessity of that and respect them for doing the right thing.  And of course... awwwww.

Breaking: A. Weiner Is Gone

Called it.

Representative Anthony D. Weiner has told friends that he plans to resign his seat after coming under growing pressure from his Democratic colleagues to leave the House, said a person told of Mr. Weiner’s plans.

His decision follows of revelations of his lewd online exchanges with women, said a person told of Mr. Weiner’s plans.

The news comes as Democratic leaders prepared to hold a meeting on Thursday to discuss whether to strip the 46-year-old Congressman of his committee assignments, a blow which would severely damage his effectiveness.

Mr. Weiner, a Democrat, came to the conclusion that he could no longer serve after having long discussions with his wife,  Huma Abedin, when she returned home on Tuesday after traveling abroad with her boss, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. 

And so he goes.  Yet another voice for liberals silenced, because being a liberal isn't tolerated in Washington.  Double standard?  Definitely.

So when's Sen. David Vitter resigning?

[UPDATE]  Josh Marshall argues it was the sheer velocity at which the Dems dropped Weiner over this silly crap that is the lasting story here.

[UPDATE 2]  Greg Sargent puts forth that the real story is how Twitter has truly arrived in Washington with its first major political casualty and the "hyperkinetic pack journalism" it encourages.

Greek Fire, Part 32

The world markets are beginning to expect a Greek default and a breakup of the eurozone.

World stocks hit a three-month low on Thursday, the euro tumbled and top-rated government bonds rose as investors began to price in a possibility of disorderly default in Greek sovereign debt.

Euro zone and banking sources told Reuters Germany wants to delay the deadline for a second Greek aid package to September, reflecting disagreement within Europe on how to involve the private sector in a deal without triggering a default.

Political turmoil within Greece is also intensifying fears. Parliamentary resignations threw the Greek Prime Minister's plan to reshuffle his cabinet and seek support for an austerity package into disarray.

A Spanish auction suggested problems might spread. Weak demand prompted investors to push the country's 10-year yields to an 11-year high. The cost of insuring sovereign debt in Greece, Ireland and Portugal against default hit record highs.

Greek bonds are essentially bidless today, the spread between Greek and German debt approaching an absurd 20% or more.  Nobody's buying.  Liquidity is locked up tight.  We're finally seeing the European Bear Stearns moment.  The Greek Fire is about to spread to the rest of the PIIGS nations.

Besides worrying about a potential Greek debt restructuring, and the repercussions for European banks that hold the country's bonds, markets also fear that global economic growth momentum is slowing just as the Federal Reserve prepares to end its $600 billion bond buying program.

All this is prompting investors to unwind their risky assets going into the thin trading of the summer months.

"There's political turmoil in Greece, and the government doesn't look too stable," said Lutz Karpowitz, currency strategist at Commerzbank in Frankfurt.

"The risk is increasing that Greece may not get a bailout, and this is putting pressure on the euro."

Germany's playing it cool, trying to pretend the problem isn't Greek citizens aren't going to pay for another bailout of the Greek and European banks.  The reality is the Greeks aren't going to accept any more austerity to keep the bankers happy.  It's over.  The government has all but collapsed.

So where do we go from here?  Should the Greek government go under, then what?  More importantly we're seeing a mass shift away from sovereign debt in the eurozone right now.  People are getting out of the market as it looks increasingly like Greece will exit the eurozone and the euro currency and be left on its own.

It's the European banks who are going to take it in the shorts if that happens.  Hang on, folks.  This just got real.

Call Of The Huntsman

Former Obama Ambassador to China and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is throwing in his hat, to the deafening silence of pretty much everyone.

Former Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman will formally announce his bid for the presidency next week at Liberty State Park in New Jersey, with the Statue of Liberty as the backdrop, a Republican source told CNN on Tuesday.

Huntsman was Utah's governor from 2005-2009 before President Barack Obama -- the man Huntsman will be vying to unseat -- appointed him to the top diplomatic post in Beijing. That service, as well as his break with GOP orthodoxy on issues like climate change and civil unions are likely to be fodder for his rivals in the Republican primaries.

He has scrambled to assemble a campaign since returning to the United States at the end of April, making appearances in the early primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina in May. He has reportedly decided he would skip the Iowa caucuses, the first GOP presidential contest, because of his opposition to ethanol and farm subsidies -- two issues dear to Hawkeye State voters.

Huntsman did not take part in Monday night's CNN-sponsored Republican debate in New Hampshire.

Huntsman's problem is that he's way too moderate to survive the primaries, to the point where skipping Iowa means he absolutely has to win New Hampshire...and that's just not going to happen.  It would be a miracle if he broke the top 5, in fact.  

He's already roundly despised by most of the right, to the point where he's already trying to reintroduce himself to the Republican party.  I've got news for Huntsman:  your party loathes you.  the loathe you because you were Obama's ambassador to China.  They loathe you because you don't hate gays enough.  They loathe you because you don't hate science enough.  They loather you because you might be the one reasonable Republican candidate left, which means you have zero chance (as in less than Herman Cain.)

If anything, Huntsman just confirms how far to the right the political paradigm in this country has gone in just a few short years.

He'll be thrown out of the clown car almost as quickly as he entered it.  There's no room for a Republican candidate that's anywhere close to reasonable.

It's About Supression

USA Today ran an editorial earlier this week on Republican efforts in red states to force much stricter voter ID laws, and pulled no punches as to the reason why:

One study in Minnesota, done after an extraordinarily close Senate race in 2008, found a grand total of seven suspicious votes, out of nearly 3 million cast. No charges were filed that year. Those seven cases were exceeded by the dozen or so elderly nuns in nearby Indiana who were turned away from the polls for lack of picture IDs.

The nuns were exercising a surprisingly common choice. An estimated one in 11— do not have government-issued photo IDs. This, of course, is an option they should be free to exercise. They also have every right to participate in elections, and the government has an obligation to allow them reasonable access to the polls.

So does it make sense to place roadblocks in front of them in the name of policing a crime that barely exists? And does it make sense to try to issue IDs to millions of people who apparently don't want or otherwise need them? Many libertarians see this as a route to a national ID card system, which they deeply oppose.

There is also ample reason to doubt the sincerity of states that say they will provide IDs. When Georgia imposed an ID law in 2005, courts barred the state from charging for them, calling such fees a poll tax — an unconstitutional tactic once used by segregationists to keep blacks from voting. But given the true motive behind such laws, it's likely that states will find other ways to make the IDs hard to get. 

Just as Democrats try to help their cause by making it easier to vote through expedited registration and early voting, Republicans see a benefit in lowering the turnout among certain voters. The people most likely to be dissuaded by the hassle of obtaining an ID card — the old and infirm, the young and the poor — tend to vote Democratic. Shouldn't Republicans be looking for ways to expand their appeal to these groups, rather than throwing obstacles in their way?

Of course not.  When only people with the luxury of time and resources have the ability to vote, they are the only people that matter in our representative democracy.  And since the wealthier you are, the more likely you are to vote Republican, it's painfully clear that the GOP knows exactly what they are doing when it comes to making voting harder.

That's why we continue to see Republicans pull out phantom enemies like ACORN and argue that Democratic party efforts to increase voter turnout must be criminal -- and must be stopped by any means necessary.  I've talked about these voter suppression efforts before at length:

The bottom line is that whenever you hear Republicans complain about "voter fraud", they are complaining that it's too easy for groups that tend to vote more Democratic to vote and want to put in additional hoops to jump through in order to place financial or bureaucratic barriers to voting in front of the poor, minorities, students, and the elderly.

By restricting acceptable voters only to those who have current state issued drivers licenses or IDs, passports, or military IDs, Republicans are protecting America's voting system from those who don't have the money to pay for these IDs.  That would be violating poll tax laws, but the voter ID bills get around these by providing for waivers for the fee to purchase state putting the burden of proof that the fee should be waived on the prospective voter and not the state.

It's very clever, and very much designed to eliminate as many provisional ballots, student ballots, low-income elderly ballots, and minority ballots as possible.  Combined with continued disenfranchising efforts like limiting voting equipment in minority precincts, Republicans are setting up long-term disenfranchisement of traditional Democratic voter groups.

Glad to see somebody in the media is noticing.  This is going on right now in Indiana and Gov. John Kasich has his own plan for disenfranchising thousands of Ohio voters, where Ohio will offer waivers for the voter ID card fees...but only if the voter can prove they need the waiver, and the decisions on that are made by individual country registrars.   It's a poll tax, with the out clause that you have to request a waiver well ahead of time before the election.  For thousands of people who will show up to vote in Ohio next fall, who of course won't be aware of the new regulations and don't have a current ID, their right to vote is revoked.

And that's just what Republicans want:  as few people voting as possible.


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