Friday, July 22, 2011

Last Call

And if walking away from any debt deal wasn't bad enough, the House has already begun the process of closing down government departments, starting with letting the FAA shut down rather than let workers keep their unions.

The Federal Aviation Administration will shut down at midnight after GOP senators refused to let go of an anti-union provision amending the National Mediation Board’s union voting rules. Speaking of the matter, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) lambasted his colleague Sen. Orinn Hatch (R-UT) on the Senate floor over the political manuevering, saying that Hatch is only presenting “one side of a story”:
We’re going to lay off 4,000 people at midnight tonight. Do you think that means anything to them? What I offered was a clean extension that didn’t get into the merits of this, which said let’s put this big debate aside and that debate aside and keep the agency working, the federal aviation administration. [Hatch] said, ‘No, you either take the Republican approach or else.’
And incidentally, he told you at the outset, the House Republicans have gone home. They’re gone. They sent this over and said, ‘Take it or leave it or close it down.’ That’s not a very sound choice for our country.

And that's exactly what the GOP did.  Air traffic controllers will still be on the job but 4,000 FAA employees are furloughed until further notice.   Nice work, guys.

No Dealing On The Debt Ceiling, Part 42

Steve Benen reminds us that this entire debt ceiling farce could be resolved in about five minutes.  Actual truth, five minutes.

Let’s set the record straight anyway, in case anyone’s forgotten. Congress could, today, pass a clean bill that raises the debt ceiling. It would immediately end the crisis, reassure investors and markets around the world, and clear the way for Democrats and Republicans to go right back to fighting again. The whole process would take a few minutes. It’s no different than having a car headed for a cliff, only to have the driver realize the brake works. All he has to do is step on it.

Since 1939, Congress has raised the debt limit 89 times. That’s not a typo. The issue has come up 89 times, and in 89 instances, Congress passed a clean bill. In fact, in two-thirds of these instances, there was a Republican president, and no one ever used the vote as leverage for a reward.

During the Bush presidency, Republicans raised the debt ceiling, without strings or preconditions, seven times. The current GOP leadership in Washington has voted to raise the debt limit 19 times. Bush’s former budget director said this “ought to be treated as the housekeeping matter it is.”

But we’ve now reached the point at which routine housekeeping, which didn’t even give conservative Republicans a second thought as recently as 2008, is considered beyond the pale. This is madness.

One effortless vote makes the entire problem disappear. I can’t think of any potential crisis that’s so serious and yet so easy to resolve. But this isn’t even a possibility because the Republican Party has lost its mind.

Meanwhile, all indications are that the House will not bother to work over the weekend and that the GOP continues to reject anything that isn't the ridiculous "Cut Cap and Balance" plan, which would amount to an across the board 25% cut in government spending, including Medicare and Social Security.

That plan, which is likely to die in the Democrat-controlled Senate today, would slash federal spending by $111 billion in the 2012 fiscal year, and go on to cap spending at about 20 percent of US gross domestic product. According to the Center for American Progress, "Cut, Cap, and Balance" would necessitate a 25-percent cut to every item in the federal budget, from defense spending to education to veterans' benefits. And if, say, defense spending was spared, it would mean far deeper cuts to other federally funded programs.

The Senate indeed has rejected the plan 51-47, and the GOP has responded by basically leaving the table.  An across the board 25% cut in everything or sovereign debt default, this is where the GOP is leaving us.  Indeed, late this afternoon Orange Julius announced the GOP was officially pulling out of any deal and walking away from the table.

House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner broke off talks with President Barack Obama on Friday and said he will begin negotiations with Senate leaders aimed at meeting an August 2 deadline to avert an unprecedented U.S. debt default.

In a letter to congressional colleagues, Boehner, the top U.S. Republican, said talks with the Democratic president had become futile, citing Obama's demand to raise taxes.

"The president is emphatic that taxes have to be raised," Boehner wrote. "As a former small businessman, I know taxes destroy jobs."

Needless to say, the President finally got angry this evening and went off.

Obama responded by appearing in the briefing room of the White House Friday evening, saying he was perplexed by Boehner's actions.

"This was an extraordinary fair deal," said the president. "If it was unbalanced, it was unbalanced in the direction of not enough revenue."

He said Republicans need to ask themselves, "What can they say 'yes' to?"

"We have now run out of time," said Obama. He called bipartisan negotiators back to the White House on Saturday morning.

"I expect them to have an answer in terms of how they intend to get this thing done in the course of the next week. The American people expect action," Obama said.

"What we're not going to do is continue to play games and string this along," said the president. "I've been left at the altar now a couple of times."

He added, "I cannot believe that Congress would be that irresponsible that they would not pass a package to avoid a self inflicted wound."

For the first time, Obama allowed for the possibility that the U.S. may default on its financial obligations. "If we default, then we're going to have to make adjustments."

  The Fourteenth Amendment is looking better and better.

Found The Problem, Your Governor Is Broken

Nate Silver crunches the numbers and finds America's Republican governors are far more conservative than the states they govern, explaining why Republican governors are increasingly unpopular...even in Republican states.

I’ve used data from the Web site to rate each current governor’s ideology on a scale that runs from zero for liberal to 100 for conservative. OnTheIssues evaluates candidates’ ideology in each of about two dozen major domestic policy areas based on their public statements and votes. My process is simply to average the ratings for each issue area together and then translate them to my zero-to-100 scale. (In some cases, OnTheIssues has not scored the candidate on a particular topic, in which case it is excluded from the average.)

For example, Christine Gregoire, the governor of Washington and a Democrat, winds up with a score of 10, meaning very liberal. Rick Scott, the newly elected governor of Florida, has a score of 91 (very conservative). Other candidates are more in the middle: Mike Beebe, the Democratic governor of Arkansas, has a score of 39 (quite moderate), while Mitch Daniels of Indiana, a Republican, scores at a 74 (about halfway between moderate and conservative).

We can compare these scores against the ideology of the voters in each state, as measured by 2008 exit polls. This is also simple: I assign zero points for every voter who describes themselves as liberal, 50 points for every moderate, and 100 points for every conservative, and then average the result.

And here's a chart of Nate's results:

There are a few very liberal governors on the D side on this scale, but with the singular exception of Utah Republican Gary Herbert, all of the Republican governors are above 70 on the 100 point conservative scale, while their respective states are all less than 70.  Pretty much every state in fact is between 45 and 65, meaning that all the GOP governors (again, Utah's Gov. Herbert excepted) are more conservative than any US state's populace by comparison.

Which explains chart number 2.

Hey, my own Governor, Dinosaur Steve, is a popular guy round these parts.  And if you check the bottom of the list there, it's Scott Walker, Rick Scott, John Kasich, Paul LePage, the Governors I've been talking about for the last six months as really screwing up their states.

Bottom line:  the closest thing to a moderate Republican governor in America in 2011 is Steve Beshear.  2012 is going to be ugly for the GOP.

Hacked Off In The UK, Part 6

Via Balloon Juice, News Corp's own WSJ is warning of Obama's Department Of Justice witch hunt against Rupert Murdoch as subpoenas are being prepared...

Commenting on the FBI inquiry, a News Corp. spokeswoman said: "We have not seen any evidence to suggest there was any hacking of 9/11 victim's phones, nor has anybody corroborated what are clearly very serious allegations. The story arose when an unidentified person speculated to the Daily Mirror about whether it happened. That paper printed the anonymous speculation, which has since mushroomed in the broader media with no substantiation."

The spokeswoman also said the company hasn't seen any "indication of a connection or similarity between the events, allegations and practices being investigated in the U.K. and News Corp's U.S. properties."

News Corp. and its recently bolstered legal team expect a possible broad investigation by the Justice Department into whether the alleged bribes paid to British police violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA, according to the people familiar with the company's strategy. The law is typically used to pursue charges against companies that bribe foreign officials to give them business contracts.

News Corp.'s team also is anticipating a possible FCPA-related investigation by the SEC, the people said. The SEC also could examine News Corp.'s prior disclosures, one of the people said. By law, companies must adequately alert investors to potential litigation or business pitfalls on the horizon.

A spokesman for the SEC declined to comment. 

I mean all of that must be true, the Wall Street Journal printed it.  Nothing to see here folks, move along.  There's no story here and if you're worried about the phone-hacking scandal, why News Corp. would like to remind you there's starving kids in Africa you should really be worried about.  Shame on you for following this story!

YouTube Wisdom

It won't change the world, but a giggle and a good point can be found below:


A Whole New Ball Game

SAN FRANCISCO – A U.S. State Department employee in San Francisco is facing charges that he looked up the passport applications of more than 100 celebrities in the government records system.
Authorities say Macias worked for the passport agency for 24 years, most recently as a fraud prevention manager. They say he logged into the system 168 times to view and sometimes print out celebrity applications.
When information becomes even more of a black market product, this is what we have to look forward to. Right now our peon status doesn't make us that interesting to most folks.  That will change.

What An Arnhole

LOS ANGELES - Arnold Schwarzenegger indicated in a court filing that he does not want to pay wife Maria Shriver spousal support or attorney fees as the couple ends their 25-year marriage.
The dispute may have little impact on the divorce, since the former Hollywood couple is expected to reach a confidential, out-of-court settlement.
The former couple does not have a prenuptial agreement, according to their filings. That means Shriver would be entitled to half of Schwarzenegger's assets under California law, although the exact terms were expected to be set through private mediation.

In what world can a marriage of this much money happen without a prenup?  Does Arnie think he can knock up the maid and get his wife to pick up the tab?   After two decades of butt pinching degrading caveman behavior, the nation has rallied around Shriver.  The reaction to his return to movies was "meh" to begin with, this could spiral into something like cosmic justice.

Massive Explosion Rocks Oslo

An explosion rocked the Norwegian city of Oslo this morning, the target appears to be the office of the country's Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg.

The blast blew out most windows on the 17-story building housing Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg's office, as well as nearby buildings including the oil ministry, which was on fire.

Reuters correspondent Walter Gibbs said he counted at least eight injured people.

The cause of the blast was unknown but the tangled wreckage of a car was outside one building. Police and fire officials declined comment on the cause. 

Breaking news at this hour, the explosion appeared to have happened at 9:45 AM EDT.  More on this as it comes in.

[UPDATE]  Norwegian police are confirming 2 dead, although PM Stoltenberg is safe.  Police are also confirming it was a bomb.

Cenk Yard Dog Fight

So Cenk Uygur has been hosting the 6 PM slot for MSNBC for most of the year now as the network shuffles time slots and hosts in the wake of losing Keith Olbermann, and this week Uygur was let go in order to replace him with Rev. Al Sharpton.  Now, I personally would love to see Dylan Ratigan get the back of somebody's hand and for Ugyur to stay on at Ratigan's 4 PM spot, but that was until Cenk threw this epic tantrum and covered his MSNBC bridges with napalm and termites.

In an online video Wednesday, Uygur offered a few more details about his departure.

“I was called in a few weeks ago and was told I will not get the six o’clock spot,” he explained. “They said, ‘You had really good ratings. You did everything we asked you to do but we went in a different direction. But we want you to stay.’”

“They offered, honestly, a lot of money for that different role. I said no.”

Uygur recalled a viewer who told him, “Watching Cenk on The Young Turks is like watching a tiger in the wild. Seeing him on TV, is like watching that same tiger in a zoo.”

At one point, MSNBC management directed him to “tone it down” because “we are the

“When your ratings are good and you don’t get the show, it leaves me to believe that might have been the reason,” Uygur said. “I didn’t want to work at a place that didn’t want me to do my kind of show, that wasn’t interested in my kind of show, didn’t want to challenge power.”

And the reason I call bullcrap on Cenk here is because if you've ever watched A) Morning Joe, B) Dylan Raitgan or C) Pat Buchanan on any MSNBC show, you know the network has no problem lighting into President Obama, Democrats, liberals, progressives, lefties, or anyone less conservative that Andrea Mitchell or Chuck Todd.

For the record, I'd rather see Cenk keep his show then any of the above Village numbnuts keep theirs.  But there you have it, he blew up spectacularly.  Hopefully Sharpton will do a good job...and it's about time there was another black face on the network besides Tamron Hall.

As for Cenk, well I think he'll land on his feet.

Chinese Plastic Fruit

Why just bootleg Apple products in China when you can bootleg the entire Apple Store experience?

Chinese counterfeiters have had a field day pumping out knockoffs of Apple Inc's best-selling iPhones and iPads, but one appears to have gone a step further -- a near flawless fake Apple Store that even employees believe is the real deal.

The store in Kunming was stumbled upon by a 27-year-old American blogger living in the city, the capital of China's mountainous southwestern Yunnan province.

Complete with the white Apple logo, wooden tables and cheery staff claiming they work for the iPhone maker, the store looks every bit like Apple Stores found all over the world, according to the blogger, who goes by the name "BirdAbroad".

But Apple has no stores in Kunming and only 13 authorized resellers in the city, who are not allowed to call themselves Apple Stores or claim to work for Apple.

"This was a total Apple store rip-off. A beautiful rip-off -- a brilliant one -- the best rip-off store we had ever seen," the anonymous blogger posted on Wednesday. "Being the curious types that we are, we struck up some conversation with these salespeople who, hand to God, all genuinely think they work for Apple."

An Apple spokesman in California declined to comment on the fake stores but said consumers can go to the company's website to locate authorized outlets.

And yes, the store apparently comes with clueless hipsters and disdain for everyone else.  Well played, China.  Well played indeed.


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