Saturday, July 30, 2011

Last Call

It's down to triggers on the debt ceiling impasse.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) isn't saying why both sides aren't any closer to a debt deal after a day filled with feverish negotiations Saturday, but Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) spelled it out during a floor speech Saturday night.

The sticking point for Dems, Kerry said, involves detailed negotiations over an enforcement mechanism that would require Congress to act on entitlement and tax reform by a date certain or faces the consequences. Democrats want to ensure that such a trigger does not simply mandate severe spending cuts, but also includes tax increases -- the so-called "shared pain" Democrats have cited lately. 

Naturally, the GOP in the Senate aren't biting, and as such the vote has been postponed 12 hours from 1 AM Sunday morning to 1 PM Sunday afternoon.

As noted here, Republicans are insisting on skewed triggers. The source provided some fresh details on precisely what they're asking for. One of their proposals would alter the way the government calculates inflation. It would thus reduce automatic increases in tax bracket levels and Social Security cost of living adjustments -- in effect a regressive tax increase, and a Social Security cut, each of which would result in modest savings.

Democrats reject this so called "chained CPI" option because they fear Republicans would happily block a balanced spending cut/tax increase package in favor of an automatic Social Security cut.

Republicans have also proposed "automatic sequestration" -- across the board spending cuts, including to entitlements -- with no corresponding revenue increases.

And we're right back to square one: Republicans refuse any revenue increases whatsoever and insist we have to cut spending...and cut it from Social Security.  Once again the GOP is playing for "When the clock runs out we get everything we want" so they will run the clock out.  It's what they are playing for right now.  They never, ever, ever, ever were going to make a deal in good faith.

Time for the 14th.

"I'm talking about that there's precedents for presidents to do things where the Constitution doesn't give the president explicit authority but it doesn't prohibit the president from doing it, and I believe there's a basis in the 14th amendment as decided in Perry v. United States," Sen Tom Harkin (D-IA) said on the Senate floor. "I think the president - barring action from the Congress - not only has the authority to do so, he has the responsibility to not let this country default."

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who already called on Obama to invoke the 14th Amendment days ago, repeated the suggestion on the floor tonight as time marched on and the sun outside grew increasingly faint.

The Huffington Post's Jennifer Bendery reported Saturday night that Pelosi may be changing her tune on the idea. Citing an unnamed member of Congress, Bendery reports that Pelosi is supportive of a 14th Amendment option behind the scenes

Now we're getting somewhere.  What are the Republicans going to do, impeach Obama?  They were going to do that anyway, you know.  Let them play that card when a vast majority of the country, some 71% mind you, disapprove of how the GOP has handled the debt ceiling mess.

Take the gloves off.  No reasonable deal is forthcoming.

A Rare Chance

Thanks to the hard work of some creative scientists, you can now go on an accurate 3-D tour of the Great Pyramid of Khufu.  This gives teachers an innovative new tool to bring history to life.  For geeky folks like me, it is a chance to experience something we likely will never come close to otherwise.  The tiny robot is not invasive, and captures images to allow the 3-D rendering to be as realistic as possible.

With help of cutting-edge 3D technology, the video lets users take a peek inside the 146m-high Great Pyramid, the last of the seven wonders of the ancient world still standing.
The scene appears as it might have 45 centuries ago - full of the loyal people of the second ruler of the fourth dynasty.
But the film is not pure entertainment - besides the educational aspect, it tries to explain one of the theories behind the pyramid's construction.
Lying north of modern-day Cairo, the largest and oldest of the three pyramids of the royal necropolis of Giza is believed to have been built as Khufu's tomb.

Just... awesome.  

Land Of The Rising Core Temperature, Part 36

As if northeastern Japan needed any more disaster-related problems right now, the country is facing brutal summer rains and deadly flooding.

Floods claimed their first victim in Japan and nearly 300,000 people were urged to flee their homes Saturday as a weather system that killed dozens on the Korean peninsula swept the country.

Local governments in the central province of Niigata and tsunami-hit Fukushima issued the guidance after the national weather agency urged citizens to be on maximum alert against more flooding and mudslides.

Helicopter footage on NHK showed bridges over the Shinano River in Niigata partially submerged, while trees and telephone polls had been knocked down.

Kamo City in Niigata was extensively flooded, with water submerging roads.

Forecasters warned that the rains could continue to be torrential after reaching 1,000 millimetres (40 inches) to date in Sanjo City, Niigata, 250 kilometres (155 miles) northwest of Tokyo, since they started Wednesday.

Yes, you're reading that correctly, a meter of rain in 4 days, and more on the way.  And yes, this is the same part of Japan, Fukushima prefecture, that has the still hot nuclear power plant disaster continuing.

Japan still needs help desperately, please keep them in mind.

No Dealing On The Debt Ceiling, Part 47

News is that 43 GOP Senators have vowed to block the Reid debt ceiling amendment in the Senate early Sunday morning, meaning there's basically no way forward right now.  I'm not sure what actually can be done, because the GOP has the vote to filibuster anything in the Senate, and of course will not let anything remotely viable pass the House.

Unless something major changes in the next 10-12 hours or so, we are heading off the cliff Tuesday morning.  We'll see what will happen, but right now there's nothing remotely hopeful about the situation.

And yes, my mistake was underestimating the Tea Party's willingness to destroy America's economy and put us into a near-depression in order to bring down President Obama.

Second Verse, Little Bit Louder And A Little Bit Worse

When I created the Privacy Stupidity tag, I expected it to be specific, not not necessarily a regular.  Right now this will make 34, which is about 25 more than expected.  The sad thing is that I haven't even scratched the surface.

Microsoft has collected the locations of millions of laptops, cell phones, and other Wi-Fi devices around the world and makes them available on the Web without taking the privacy precautions that competitors have, CNET has learned.
The vast database available through publishes the precise geographical location, which can point to a street address and sometimes even a corner of a building, of Android phones, Apple devices, and other Wi-Fi enabled gadgets.
Unlike Google and Skyhook Wireless, which have compiled similar lists of these unique Wi-Fi addresses, Microsoft has not taken any measures to curb access to its database.
No measures to protect that information?  What the hell?  With all the headlines regarding cell phone privacy I can't believe this was an oversight.  So what was it?  Without legal definition, we are at the mercy of interpretation.  This cannot go on.  We should know what information is collected about us and have the right to opt out.  Neither can happen while ambiguous terms and selective enforcement leave wiggle room for criminal invasions.  This should be a major storm and right now it's more of an "oops, well lookit that" sort of reaction.

What.  The.  Hell.

Grudging Respect For Fanatics Is Still Idiocy, Taylor

I understand most people have written off Taylor Marsh since her PUMA days in 2007-2008, but at this point she's finally fully crossed over into the abyss she's been yammering about for three years.

Our political culture is so wrapped up in moderation, centrism, capitulation and compromise that the Tea Party extortionists are the only political class in this country who stand for anything, albeit a whole lot of crazy. Whereas, Democrats and Republicans are basically different sides of the same corrupt coin, with Mr. Wonderful at the top, whether you’re talking about Obama or Romney; both mean nothing to behold when it comes to leadership or standing on a line. Mitt Romney’s learned well from Obama’s straddling stance of non-declaration and is basically following his “present” political state of mind.

She then goes on to say President Obama has a chance, but only because the public isn't paying attention to how unremittingly awful Baritt Oromney is. 

Also notice we have both of the major Firebagger fallacies distilled into one paragraph, first that there is no discernible difference between the two major political parties or their candidates, and second that the Tea Party deserves your respect because "at least they stand for something."

One would think this week would have disproved the first theory, and that the long annals of history's most dangerous fanatics would have already disproved the second, but that's what happens when your agenda was always to get rid of Barack Obama in the first place.  You look for any reason to justify that position, and here we have Taylor Marsh now saying that there's some merit to the Tea Party that's literally days away from plunging us into another recession, if not depression.

The most dangerous human quality is our ability to justify anything, it seems.  Given the events of this week, that's one crossed line too many.

The Fourteenth Option, Part 3

Lawrence O'Donnell and UCLA law prof. Jon Zasloff discuss what President Obama can and cannot do with the 14th amendment.

The most important thing to understand is if on Tuesday morning the Treasury does not have enough money to pay its debts, to pay its obligations and pay appropriations that Congress has already appropriate appropriated, that puts the President in a tight spot.  He can either take on more debt to pay these obligations, which has a constitutional problem, or what he can do is say if the Treasury doesn't have enough money, I'm going to pick and choose which debts, which obligations, which appropriations I'm going to pay.

The problem is the Supreme Court has already specifically held the President does not have that constitutional power.  The President cannot pick and choose, so the idea that somehow the President doesn't have the authority to raise the debt ceiling by himself and so what he has to do is pick and choose which debts, obligations, and appropriations to spend creates as many constitutional problems as it solves.

The question now is we have a situation where you have a Congress that has put the President in a situation where damned if you do, damned if you don't.  Nevertheless, pretty much every Constitutional scholar has recognized, there's some reserve power the president has in an absolute emergency to avoid catastrophes like a default on the debt, a default on obligations, default on appropriations, appropriations which, by the way, Congress has told him he must spend, and it's that reserve power in an emergency in a very limited circumstance that the advocates of the 14th amendment are saying that that is why the President can lift the debt ceiling by himself.

More importantly, Zasloff argues that since that authority covers preserving the full faith and credit of previous Congresses in meeting their obligations, that in this case President Obama can use that power to say that the 112th Congress must meet the obligations of previous ones.

It's important to note that the way things are looking right now, the President may very well have to do this Monday night if as I expect there's enough Tea Party opposition to getting the Reid bill through the House...that is if it even survives a Senate GOP filibuster early tomorrow morning.  No guarantee on that for sure.

StupidiNews, Weekend Edition!

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