Monday, August 1, 2011

Last Call

Meanwhile, the Koch brothers are really hoping you're too busy paying attention to the debt ceiling mess and screaming at the left so they can steal Wisconsin's recall elections.

As Politico reports, mailers have now turned up from Americans For Prosperity Wisconsin, addressed to voters in two of the Republican-held recall districts, where the elections will be held on August 9. The mailers ask recipients to fill out an absentee ballot application, and send it in -- by August 11, after Election Day for the majority of these races.

"These are people who are our 1's [solid Democrats] in the voterfile who we already knew," a Democratic source told Politico. "They ain't AFP members, that's for damn sure."

There are two other recall elections being held on August 16, targeting two Democratic incumbents, but they are both a distance away from the recipients of these particular mailers.

Furthermore, a close look at the mailer shows a continuation of irregularities that have already involved conservative groups and absentee ballots in the state.

The mailing address for the applications is listed as "Absentee Ballot Application Processing Center, P.O. Box 1327, Madison WI 53701-1327." A Google search shows that this address is not any sort of government office, but has been used by the conservative group Wisconsin Family Action.

In addition, Wisconsin Right To Life previously used the same address for absentee ballot application letters and phone calls that were sent out shortly before the July 12 Democratic primaries, but after the official deadlines for the applications. The group responded to criticism, saying the phone calls were intended to be for the general elections in August.

Calls placed by TPM to Americans For Prosperity Wisconsin, and to Wisconsin Family Action, were not immediately returned.

Dirty deeds, done dirt cheap.  Republicans know that if people actually vote, they they cheat. Shave off a couple thousand absentee ballots by assuring they show up after the deadline, that might be the difference a week from Tuesday.

The problem is how many folks are targeted by scams like this and they go unreported.  But this is what corporate money does to our election system, folks.

It needs to be stopped.

Nuked Gingrich, Part 8

Newt Gingrich continues to run the worst campaign for anything ever.  He bragged about his million plus Twitter followers, giving him twice as many as Sarah Palin, and more than the entire rest of the 2012 GOP field by multiple times.  It means of course he's the "People's candidate" with the most awesome social networking skills.

Naturally, it also means he's lying out of his ass.

Newt employs a variety of agencies whose sole purpose is to procure Twitter followers for people who are shallow/insecure/unpopular enough to pay for them. As you might guess, Newt is most decidedly one of the people to which these agencies cater.
About 80 percent of those accounts are inactive or are dummy accounts created by various "follow agencies," another 10 percent are real people who are part of a network of folks who follow others back and are paying for followers themselves (Newt's profile just happens to be a part of these networks because he uses them, although he doesn't follow back), and the remaining 10 percent may, in fact, be real, sentient people who happen to like Newt Gingrich. If you simply scroll through his list of followers you'll see that most of them have odd usernames and no profile photos, which has to do with the fact that they were mass generated. Pathetic, isn't it?

Yep, 90% of Newtie's Twitter followers are fake or bought accounts.  That's how you run a "grassroots" campaign, GOP style.  Just like everything else about Republicans, it's 90% bullshit.

Stuck In The Past

Hey Republicans?  If you don't want people thinking some of you may not be telling the truth when you vehemently declare there's no possible way you could be remotely considered racist, let's not use the perjorative "tar baby" to refer to the nation's first black President, mmmkay? Think Progress:

Appearing on the Caplis and Silverman radio show last Friday, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) said, “Now I don’t even want to have to be associated with [Obama], it’s like touching a tar baby and you’re stuck, you’re part of the problem now. You can’t get away.” The term “tar baby” is often considered a slur towards African Americans. Indeed, the term has such a derogatory history that the Oxford American dictionary revamped its definition to reflect the word’s racial undertones. If Lamborn wishes to cross-check, he should ask both then-Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) and Sen. John McCain (R-MA) — both of whom caught controversy for uttering the distasteful phrase.

And as TP notes, it's not like this is the first time Republicans have used the phrase in reference to President Obama.  Feigning ignorance here, especially by a sitting member of Congress, is not an excuse. 

But then again, what do you expect?  Can't help themselves.

Land Of The Rising Core Temperature, Part 37

Meanwhile, some brutally depressing perspective from Japan as the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster has by no means "just gone away".

Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, said it detected the highest radiation to date at the site.

Geiger counters, used to detect radioactivity, registered more than 10 sieverts an hour, the highest reading the devices are able to record, Junichi Matsumoto, a general manager at the utility, said today. The measurements were taken at the base of the main ventilation stack for reactors No. 1 and No. 2.

The Fukushima plant, about 220 kilometers (137 miles) north of Tokyo, had three reactor meltdowns after the March 11 magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami knocked out power and backup generators. Radiation leaks displaced 160,000 people and contaminated marine life and agricultural products.

The utility, known as Tepco, tried to vent steam and gas the day after the earthquake as pressure in reactor No. 1 exceeded designed limits. A buildup of hydrogen gas subsequently caused an explosion that blew out part of the reactor building.

“I suspect the high radiation quantity was an aftermath of venting done,” Matsumoto told reporters in Tokyo. “The plant is not running. I don’t think any gas with high radiation level is flowing in the stack.” 

Yes, TEPCO doesn't think enough radiation to outright kill a human in 15-20 minutes coming out of the vent shaft is a problem.  And please note we're not sure how much the actual radiation is because the friggin Geiger counter doesn't go any higher, you've pegged the damn thing out when you vented that stuff out into the environment.

Absolutely wonderful.  You think our government is incompetent and trying to kill you, you go.

Hello Admiral Obvious, Here Is Your Recipe For Disaster

A state-funded residential program designed to teach young adults how to live safe, productive lives mixes 16-year old-girls in foster care with sex offenders in their 20s.
The program groups juvenile offenders — including registered sex offenders — with foster teens. Each person in the program lives alone in one of 15 apartments in a building on West University, near Kellogg and Seneca.
Dorothy Loyd, vice president for transitional living services at Ozanam Pathways, the nonprofit provider that operates the program, said Ozanam isn't the only provider that commingles offenders and foster teens. It occurs at programs across the state, Loyd said. Ozanam is following state policies, she said.
"If the program is guilty of anything," Loyd said, "it's for taking kids that nobody wants to work with."
So let me get this straight in my head.  Mixing teenage girls with low self-esteem and sex offenders at just the right age to lead them astray is okay because there is a lack of reporting?  And the defense is to say the kids are unwanted so it's okay?

The other people featured in the article make more sense.  Still, holy cow.  Just... holy cow.

Facebook Facepalm

It's time to do a massive Facebook friend-purge, Missouri teachers. A new bill signed into law by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon makes it illegal for students and teachers within the state to have private relationships on Facebook.
We should note that the new law isn't targeting Facebook exclusively–or even social networks. The entire point of the legislation centers on curbing sexual misconduct between teachers and students. The "Amy Hestir Student Protection Act," named for a former Missouri public school student who was molested by a teacher decades prior, increases penalties for school districts that fail to report abuse allegations within a timely manner and fail to disclose instances of past abuse by former staff members.

Steps to protect kids from predators is great if it makes sense (for example, mandated reporting).  The Facebook restriction is stupid.  Facebook is a communication tool, and laws should not be used to replace good parenting or good judgment.  If parents want to see what their kids are doing on Facebook they (theoretically) have the right to check it out.  Just because some parents find it uncomfortable or unpleasant to monitor their kids and their activities does not make it appropriate to restrict communication.  This is like saying thou shalt not use Yahoo messenger or email, as Facebook is just a slight step away from those services. Meanwhile, thousands of healthy and productive interactions are hindered by good old Jay Nixon.  We should be grateful, really, that he is willing to step in and save us from ourselves. 

In Jay's honor (though he will not be alone for long) a new tag is created: Jackass. 

No Dealing On The Debt Ceiling, Part 48

Today, both parties try to sell the Big Deal(tm) to their respective caucuses with votes today.  With some 40 hours until the deadline, time is of the essence.  But in no way is everyone on board.

Urbandale, Iowa -- Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann issued the following response to President Obama's statement on the proposed debt limit deal:

"Mr. President, I'm not sure what voice you're listening to, but I can assure you that the voice of the American people wasn't the 'voice that compelled Washington to act.' It was you that got us into this mess, and it was you who wanted a $2.4 trillion dollar blank check to get you through the election. Everywhere I travel across the country, Americans want less spending, lower taxes to create jobs, and they don't want us to raise the debt ceiling.

"The President continues to press for a 'balanced approach,' which everyone knows is code for increased spending and taxes. Throughout this process the President has failed to lead and failed to provide a plan. The 'deal' he announced spends too much and doesn't cut enough. This isn't the deal the American people 'preferred' either, Mr. President. Someone has to say no. I will."

First of all how does a $2.4 trillion blank check work?  Second of all, for us not to raise the debt ceiling, we would have to go back and rework the 2010 budget resolution which already passed, and we would have to cut Social Security and Medicare.  Thirdly, raising the debt ceiling is so we can meet the obligations that Congress itself directed us to take, not to create additional spending.  Bachmann's simply lying about things.


After nearly setting an all time wettest month record in April, Cincinnati may be about to set a summer heat wave record for most consecutive days hitting 90 degrees or more.

Sunday was the 15th consecutive day the area had a high temperature of 90 degrees or more. The high was 93. The record - set back in 1901 - is 17 straight days.

Jim Lott, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, said "it looks like we got a good shot at" breaking the record this week. He said the high temperature today will be around 92 and Tuesday will have a high of 93. There's no chance of precipitation on either of those days.

Lott said there is a chance of showers and thunderstorms during the day on Wednesday.

"Depending on when those storms get in, they could affect the temperature," he said. "Right now we're forecasting a high of 91 degrees. But ... if the rain comes a little sooner then we're thinking we might not make it to 91. But right now it looks like we have a chance to make it."

As the hot weather continues, air pollution remains an issue.

A smog alert has been extended through today for Hamilton, Butler, Clermont and Warren counties in Ohio and Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties in Northern Kentucky.

Oh and the extended forecast into August?  Hitting 90 or close to it for the next ten days.  All time records for rain, now records for heat.  I know weather events are not climate events, but these are some scary weather events.

Collection Connection

Cash-strapped states are getting serious about collecting sales taxes from internet vendors, and they have a voice in Washington in Sen. Dick Durbin, who has introduced a bill to set federal standards for online taxation.

Struggling with weak economies, states will lose an estimated $10 billion this year and $11.4 billion next year in sales taxes that go uncollected on online purchases, according to studies by three professors at the University of Tennessee.

Although the fate of the bill by Democratic Senator Dick Durbin was uncertain given the anti-tax environment on Capitol Hill, his measure is backed by the National Governors Association and the National Retail Federation and even earned a pledge of cooperation from giant online retailer Amazon.

"It's being brought to a head by actions at the state level," said Indiana state Senator Luke Kenley, who heads the Streamlined Sales Tax Governing Board, a group of 24 states that has been lobbying Congress to enact a uniform sales tax for all retailers -- online and bricks and mortar alike.

Also pushing the issue to the forefront has been the sheer size of the online retail market -- $165 billion last year, according to Bernstein Research, which predicts 15 percent annual growth over the next decade.

"Online sales are growing exponentially and this loophole is creating winners and losers based on the tax code," says Jason Brewer of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, a trade group in favor of federal rules.

Durbin argued his bill involved no new taxes and applied only to taxes already imposed by the states that are not being collected. His goal is to provide states with the clear authority to require retailers to collect sales taxes already owed, treat all retailers equally regarding sales tax collection, and release consumers, currently expected to calculate and send in the taxes themselves, from that responsibility.

That last point is important, and exactly why the GOP will kill it and say we can't raise taxes ever blah blah blah when the reality is these are taxes states should be collecting but can't, because there's no federal laws regulating the mess.  Retailers will say "we don't want to collect sales taxes, we can undercut our competition that way."

So we'll see how far this goes.  My honest opinion is nowhere.


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