Thursday, July 7, 2011

Last Call

Republicans:  massive government intrusion in your uterus, have to cut taxes on people making millions a year, couldn't give a damn about deadly e. coli.

At a time of rising concern over pathogens in produce, Congress is moving to eliminate the only national program that regularly screens U.S. fruits and vegetables for the type of E. coli that recently caused a deadly outbreak in Germany.
The House last month approved a bill that would end funding for the 10-year-old Microbiological Data Program, which tests about 15,000 annual samples of vulnerable produce such as sprouts, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cantaloupe and cilantro for pathogens including salmonella and E. coli.

Austerity.  Because really, it's your fault if your food kills you.

But The GOP Cares About Women, Part 4

The Republican crusade to criminalize being female continues, this time in Gov. Bobby Jindal's turf in Louisiana.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) signed a bill into law yesterday that requires women's health clinics to post signage notifying patients of alternatives to abortion.

At the signing ceremony, Jindal said he was proud to help make his state one that supports a "culture of life," adding that women will soon be treated similarly to criminals who are read their rights after an arrest.

"When officers arrest criminals today, they are read their rights," he said, according to a report by Louisiana paper The News-Star. "Now if we're giving criminals their basic rights and they have to be informed of those rights, it seems to me only common sense we would have to do the same thing for women before they make the choice about whether to get an abortion."

Because abortion is a crime, see?   And women who get them are criminals, and should therefore be treated as such.  "Culture of life" applies only to the unborn.  Once you're actually brought into this world, Republicans could give a damn about you.

Murdoch Phones It In

The Murdoch/News Corp phone hacking scandal in Britain has now officially blown up.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation will close its tabloid News of the World after this Sunday's edition, as a result of an escalating phone hacking scandal, James Murdoch said on Thursday.

"The News of the World is in the business of holding others to account," the deputy chief operating officer of News Corporation told staff. "But it failed when it came to itself."

The story behind this is pretty awful.

Rupert Murdoch promised full cooperation on Wednesday to resolve a scandal shaking his media empire after British Prime Minister David Cameron promised an inquiry into what he called "disgusting" phone hacking by a newspaper.

Responding in parliament to allegations that the News of the World eavesdropped on voicemail for victims of notorious crimes, including child murders and suicide bombings, Cameron said he was "revolted" and would order inquiries, probably into both the specific case and more widely into Britain's cut-throat media.

The opposition, keen to highlight Cameron's own ties to Murdoch and to two former editors at the eye of the storm, noted that any inquiry would not start, let alone finish, for months if not years. Critics accused the Conservative government of trying to bury the embarrassment of the long-running saga.

Murdoch, whose News International group faces boycotts from advertisers and readers as well as questions over a takeover bid for broadcaster BSkyB, made a rare public statement to say he too found the hacking, and reports of buying tips from police, "deplorable and unacceptable" and would ensure transparency.

But the 80-year-old Australian-born American media magnate made clear he was standing by Rebekah Brooks, the 43-year-old head of his British newspaper operation. She was editor in 2002 when, police say, a News of the World investigator listened to -- and deleted -- voicemails left for the cellphone of missing 13-year-old Milly Dowler, who was later found murdered.

News of the World went to any lengths imaginable to get the "story", and Murdoch's extensive ties to the UK government meant he had a hammer heavy enough to swing with impunity.   Now Murdoch has thrown the tabloid under the bus, but it's pretty clear there's a deep swamp of lies, payoffs, cover-ups and criminal acts here, bad enough to cost News of the World enough advertisers that Murdoch folded the paper today.

The man behind FOX News and the Wall Street Journal here in the states has a serious, serious problem in Britain.  Closing News of the World won't make this problem go away.

The Fourteenth Option, Part 2

Republicans are already warning President Obama they'll impeach him if he uses the 14th Amendment to stop the GOP debt ceiling hostage-taking.

While some have asserted that the debt limit might be unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment, and therefore President Obama does not need congressional approval to raise it, Republicans have been quick to express skepticism over the idea. On Tuesday, a Republican congressman went a step further, saying that if Obama were to use that argument to bypass Congress on the issue, it would be an impeachable offense.

"This president is looking to usurp congressional oversight to find a way to get it done without us. My position is that is an impeachable act from my perspective," said Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) at a meeting sponsored by the Tea Party group LowCountry 9.12 Project on Tuesday, first reported by Lindsay Street on Summerville Patch.

His comments were met with enthusiastic applause.

"There are a lot of things people say, 'Are you going to impeach the president over that?' -- No. But this? This is catastrophic," continued Scott. "This jeopardizes the credibility of our nation if one man can usurp the entire system set up by our founding fathers over something this significant."

That's hysterical, of course.  After eight years of Bush and Nancy Pelosi taking impeachment "off the table" Republicans now see having a Democrat in the White House as an impeachable offense.  After Clinton, do the Republicans really want to go there?  Stupid question.

Well, actually yeah, they do.  But will they?  Don't think so, at least, not right now.  They're more focused I think on winning in 2012.  But should Obama win a second term, I absolutely think impeachment will come if the GOP still controls the House.

"Very Embarrassed" Is An Understatement

SEATTLE -- The Seattle Police Department says they are "very embarrassed" after an assault rifle was left unattended on the back of a patrol car Monday night.
First published by The Stranger, Nick Gonzales snapped a picture of the menacing-looking rifle on the trunk of a Seattle Police car. It was around 9:00 p.m. and the car was parked outside the Roosevelt Hotel, near Pine and 7th Avenue, with no police officers in sight, said Gonzales.
In addition, after an officer got back into the patrol car, it was driven away with the rifle still on the trunk.
When I first read this, I admit I was skeptical.  When the quote came from the Seattle PD saying there would "some sort of discipline or change in policy" stemming from this, I knew it was just stupid enough to be true.

New tag: Police Stupidity

Italian Women Set Back A Few (Hundred) Years

This won't do much to reverse the coverage Italy has lately received in the global press for the nation's persistently patriarchal and sexist cultural outlook: Ma-Vib, an engineering firm outside of Milan, has chosen only its female employees in a recent round of layoffs.
"We are firing the women so they can stay at home and look after the children. In any case, what they bring in is a second income," Ma-Vib officials reportedly told Italy's small business administration, according to the UK Guardian. Italy has the lowest female employment rate in all of the European Union. And according to the World Economic Forum's 2010 Gender Gap Report, Italy ranks 74th globally in women's rights, the New Yorker reports.
So you heard them, ladies.  Get those shoes off, start making babies and let your man take care of you however he sees fit.  Independence is overrated, as is financial responsibility.  It sure sounds like they just decided for those poor silly women that they should behave a certain way.  I don't see any consideration for single mothers or (gasp) an independent single woman.

The antics of Prime Minster Silvio Berlusconi, who is accused of paying an underage woman for sex and using his influence to get her released from a shoplifting charge, have lent new immediacy to longstanding questions about the status of women in Italy. The charges came to light last November, and in February, hundreds of thousands of women took to the street in Rome and 200 other Italian cities to protest Berlusconi's behavior--as well as what they say is a sexist culture.  "It's a scandal. I do not believe in his values, his behavior and the way he treats women. Italy doesn't have a future if these are the values that sustain us," Paolo Campedel, who attended a rally in Padua in northern Italy, told Reuters.
I'm glad to learn that someone gets it.  I'll be following this and reporting back on it as it develops.  Like the former Minister of Eurpean Affairs, I did not know it was as bad as reported.  For a comparison article, I once looked up the information and to quote Emma Bonino, I said it cannot be so bad.  I chalked it up to a cultural or social misunderstanding, but this is coming from their own.  Women are often treated poorly at work, and there is a huge difference in pay and potential between women and men.  In a word: unacceptable. 

It's No Fair, They're Fighting Back

The White House's pointman on social networks is Jesse Lee, and you know you have somebody who's doing their job effectively if the Wingers are complaining about the fact he's not rolling over and letting them get away with stuff.

Of the 267 tweets written by Lee in just over a month, a stunning 40 of them have been directed at Kevin Eder, a prolific Twitter user with more than 83,000 tweets to his credit. That means 15 percent of Lee’s tweets — from an official White House account no less — have been with Eder.

One such example happened last week in a dispute over the budget.

Eder posted this tweet: “Hmm…it can’t be true that @SenateDems haven’t passed a budget in 790 days and the only plan Obama has is a speech. Right, @jesseclee44?”

To which Lee responded: “@keder @SenateDems Plan is keep negotiating w/ Rs & Ds, not default & trash economy, not voucherize Medicare to fund more tax cuts for rich.”

Lee’s obsession has impressed Eder, even if he’s a bit baffled by the White House’s decision to engage with him so aggressively.

“I like going back and forth with him,” Eder said of Lee. “But if you engage your fiercest critics on new media, you’re doing two things: On the one hand, you’re showing that you take their opinion seriously. That’s good for the non-influencer public to watch what’s happening. But on the other hand, the White House is legitimizing me. And quite literally, I’m a nobody.”

Got that?  Tucker Carlson's outfit is terribly upset that the White House's guy on Twitter is calling Wingers out on their lies and responding to them.  In the Winger world, the White House standing up for itself and seeking to set the facts straight?  That's "bullying".  Shame on the White House for doing that!

Granted, arguing on the internet is still arguing on the internet, but at least the White House is fighting back now.  And as John Cole points out, Jesse Lee must be doing a hell of a job because the Wingers can't stop complaining about him.

Storm Chasers

There are storms...and then there are storms.  The Great White Spot currently on Saturn has been raging for nearly eight months now.

Events began at 2105 GMT on December 5, when ground-based telescopes detected a "barely visible white point" on a normally unblemished and hazy part of Saturn's northern hemisphere, at around latitude 35 degrees north.

At the same time, Cassini turned its "ears" towards the target, listening in to radio emissions from the storm via an onboard plasma-wave instrument.

These signals are the telltales of lightning. Lightning cannot be seen visually on Saturn at night because of interference from sunlight scattered from the planet's ring system, which comprises billions of shiny particles.

Within a few weeks, the point had ballooned into a storm system that was some 10,000 kilometers (6,000 miles) across, roughly comparable with the diameter of the Earth, and after two months the clouds had almost encircled the entire planet.

Analysis of the data suggests that the "spot" is in fact a cluster of super-storms, produced by upwelling of heat, moisture and ammonia from water clouds from lower down in the Saturnian atmosphere, where the pressure is high.

As this mix rises into a cooler atmospheric layer called the tropopause, bright, white clouds of ammonia start to spread horizontally into a tail, sculpted by eastward jets of wind.

Every 29 years or so as Saturn completes its journey around the sun, the planet's summer solstice is a time of violent storms.  This time around the storms are particularly fierce, and they're giving astronomers quite a show.

Very cool.

No Dealing On The Debt Ceiling, Part 29

Time's starting to run out on the default clock, folks.  Recent moves this week by both Republicans and Democrats are giving rise to speculation that a deal is imminent.  BooMan for example sees Orange Julius folding like a lawn chair in a tornado.

Boehner will have to capitulate. It's his responsibility to pass something that the Senate Democrats will endorse and that the president will sign. That's his job. Unless he wants the U.S. to default on its debts, he has no choice. 

On the other hand, John Cole agrees with the notion that Boehner cannot back down without being replaced in the GOP leadership by the Tea Party fanatics.

The insane people are running the party, and now morons like David Brooks and the “reasonable Republicans” are like “WTF happened” when they were the ones fluffing the nutters for years. Even assuming there are Republicans left in the house that really are not insane enough to default the government, an assumption I am simply not willing to make, they are terrified they will lose their job like the other tens of millions of people suffering from Republican policies, because the teahadists will primary them.

I think both of them are missing the point, which is just how much the Dems have already surrendered to these nutbags.

Any deal that involves entitlements will have Republicans pounding the President and Democrats on the air screaming DEMOCRATS CUT YOUR MEDICARE AND SOCIAL SECURITY just like in 2010, and it is a battle the Democrats will lose and lose badly.  I'm not sure why Obama is bound and determined to do this, but there you are.

Why are we negotiating at all?  Katrina vanden Heuvel has the right idea.  Obama needs to pull out the 14th amendment card, and he needs to do it now.

Doing so will give him the leverage he lacks in the debt-ceiling negotiations. Right now, Republicans’ willingness to let the economy default, consequences be damned, gives them enormous leverage. But presumably, if a deal is not reached by the deadline, and the president is forced to exercise his constitutional obligation, Republicans will get nothing at all. Not the trillion dollars in cuts already agreed to. Not the additional trillion in cuts they are seeking. The threat, alone, of invoking the 14th Amendment defuses the bomb Republicans have strapped to the hostage.

I think the one thing that BooMan, John Cole, and myself can definitely agree on is the fact that the Republicans in 2011 are incapable of negotiating in good faith.  Since that's the case, pull out the trump card.  Obama's negotiations have gone well, and he's a shrewd guy when it comes to negotiations, but at this point we need to make it clear that we're all the hostages here, every one of us.

For months I convinced myself that Wall Street's bond market bigwigs and banksters wouldn't let the Republicans annihilate the markets with a default.  Now I'm convinced that the banksters are hedging side bets on another economic collapse and are more than happy to ignore the Republican suicide bombers.  Either way they make money, so why should they expend energy on pressuring the GOP one way or the other?

If the real choice now is either use the 14th amendment to go around the debt ceiling or default on America's debts (as increasingly it's looking like), I vote for the former.  The only way to win is to take the GOP out of the equation.

Unfortunately, it looks like the Dems may be the ones folding.

At a meeting with top House and Senate leaders set for Thursday morning, Obama plans to argue that a rare consensus has emerged about the size and scope of the nation’s budget problems and that policymakers should seize the moment to take dramatic action.

As part of his pitch, Obama is proposing significant reductions in Medicare spending and for the first time is offering to tackle the rising cost of Social Security, according to people in both parties with knowledge of the proposal. The move marks a major shift for the White House and could present a direct challenge to Democratic lawmakers who have vowed to protect health and retirement benefits from the assault on government spending.

“Obviously, there will be some Democrats who don’t believe we need to do entitlement reform. But there seems to be some hunger to do something of some significance,” said a Democratic official familiar with the administration’s thinking. “These moments come along at most once a decade. And it would be a real mistake if we let it pass us by.”

Rather than roughly $2 trillion in savings, the White House is now seeking a plan that would slash more than $4 trillion from annual budget deficits over the next decade, stabilize borrowing, and defuse the biggest budgetary time bombs that are set to explode as the cost of health care rises and the nation’s population ages.

That would represent a major legislative achievement, but it would also put Obama and GOP leaders at odds with major factions of their own parties. While Democrats would be asked to cut social-safety-net programs, Republicans would be asked to raise taxes, perhaps by letting tax breaks for the nation’s wealthiest households expire on schedule at the end of next year.

The administration argues that lawmakers would also get an important victory to sell to voters in 2012. “The fiscal good has to outweigh the pain,” said a Democratic official familiar with the discussions.

Which pretty much assures that anyone voting for this plan will draw the wrath of primary challenges and hatred.  I understand the whole "If everyone hates the plan then it must be good politics" thing, but...$4 trillion in cuts and we're counting on the GOP not to scuttle the deal?

Good luck getting this through Congress.

[UPDATE]  And the GOP has already moved the goalposts, now demanding that the debt ceiling be lowered and that a balanced budget amendment is added to the Constitution.


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