Friday, August 12, 2011

Last Call

The joke that anti-gay Republicans are in reality self-hating closet cases who get outed after secretly engaging in the same behavior they are actively trying to legislate against is rapidly approaching common enough to qualify as "stereotypical".  Your latest GOP self-loathing lawmaker?  Indiana state Rep. Phil Hinkle.

Indiana state Rep. Phillip Hinkle (R) is embroiled in controversy after The Indianapolis Star discovered emails appearing to solicit the paid company of a young man, sent from Hinkle's publicly listed email address.

In response to a M4M forum Craigslist post, Hinkle emailed the man, named Kameryn Gibson, and offered him $80 cash, with a tip of $50 or $60 "for a really good time" in the hours he proposed spending together at a local Marriott.

Gibson, whose ad lists him as 20 years old but is actually 18, said he met Hinkle at the hotel, and tried to leave when Hinkle said he was a state politician.

The Star writes:

He said the lawmaker at first told him he could not leave, grabbed him in the rear, exposed himself to the young man and then later gave him an iPad, BlackBerry cellphone and $100 cash to keep quiet.

The BlackBerry contained all of the emails between the young man and Hinkle. In one, Hinkle gives a physical description: "I am an in shape married professional, 5'8", fit 170 lbs, and love getting and staying naked."

And of course Hinkle's legislative record has him against same-sex marriage and against LGBT rights.  Now, being a self-hating prick is horrible, but not illegal.  This on the other hand:

Megan Gibson, Kameryn's sister, came to pick him up from the hotel after Hinkle thrust the bribes upon Gibson. She said that she spoke to Hinkle's wife on the BlackBerry, and told her her husband was gay. Hinkle's wife offered her $10,000 to keep quiet. 

This?  This is pretty much seriously illegal if that's what actually took place.  The thing that blows my mind is not that straight Republicans see being gay or bisexual as a "disease that needs to be cured", but that gay or bisexual Republicans see that as a "disease that needs to be cured".  I just do not understand that, but then again that's probably why I don't side with Republicans on issues.

You are who you are.  I'm a straight black man in his mid-30's, adopted by white parents, who happens to be shaped like a large piece of furniture, but that's who I am.  Your mileage may vary, as they say.

But I just don't get trying to go all emo on something like this.  It's silly.

London Calling, Texting, Tweeting Or Posting

British PM David Cameron has found his scapegoat for this week's deadly UK riots:  social networking.

Saying the "free flow of information" can sometimes be a problem, Cameron's government has summoned those two social-networking sites, as well as Research In Motion, makers of the BlackBerry, for a meeting to discuss their roles during the violent outbreaks.

"Everyone watching these horrific actions will be struck by how they were organized via social media," Cameron said Thursday during an address to Parliament. "Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill. And when people are using social media for violence, we need to stop them."

Cameron said that government officials are working with authorities "to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality."

If this sounds familiar, it's the same logic oppressive regimes fighting the Arab Spring revolution used in order to justify cutting off social networking services and internet access to citizens in countries like Egypt in January and in Libya in February.  Now, six months later, Britain is considering the same types of actions.

Cameron also wants the cooperation of social networking giants like Blackberry maker Research in Motion, Twitter, Facebook and Google to help them identify those who may have used these services to foment unrest this week in order to pursue legal action against them, as well as possibly taking action to prevent those convicted of crimes in the past from using social networks at all.  Needless to say, that's not sitting well with people.

"It may be tempting to smother that kind of speech when a government feels it is under siege, as Britain seems to feel that it is," wrote Matthew Ingram of tech blog GigaOm. "But doing this represents nothing less than an attack on the entire concept of freedom of speech, and that has some frightening consequences for any democracy."

Ingram questioned whether the government would be cracking down on telephone use or people talking about the unrest at their local pub if social media didn't exist. "That seems unlikely (although not impossible). But the British government's apparent willingness to consider shutting down or blocking access to Twitter and BlackBerry's BBM falls into the same category."

On ReadWriteWeb, writer Curt Hopkins said Cameron "joins the long line of powerful men who totally miss the point of social media."

"Banning those convicted of crimes from accessing social networks (the idea being that they used such access to organize criminal activities) is no different than banning the same criminals from accessing goose quills and ink pots," Hopkins wrote. "It will have zero effect on crime, aside from criminalizing social media itself."

The larger story is that Cameron is using social networking and social media in general as the scapegoat for this week's riots.   If British lawmakers allow Cameron to do that, it's only a matter of time before our government decides that maybe it would be a good idea to do that too.  I wonder which GOP governor or presidential candidate will be the first to say that convicted felons should lose their right to use Twitter, Facebook and text messaging?

I don't think that will be far off at all.

Taxing America's Patience, Part 4

Bruce Barlett adds to the growing list of polls showing an overwhelming majority (average results of 65%-30%) in favor of raising some taxes over all spending cuts to solve America's debt problem.  Some 23 polls taken in the last nine months finds again and again the American people want to especially see the rich pay their fair share of taxes in order to reduce the deficit.

Gallup finds Americans want the new Super Committee in Congress to do the same.

Six in 10 Americans say members of the new bipartisan "supercommittee" mandated to find new ways of reducing the federal budget deficit should compromise, even if the agreement reached is one they personally disagree with. This includes a majority of Republicans, independents, and Democrats. A majority of Tea Party supporters, however, say the committee should hold out for a plan they agree with, even if no agreement is reached. 

Preferred Approach for Supercommittee Members -- Hold Out for Plan You Agree With Even if It Prevents Compromise, or Agree to Compromise, Even if It Is a Plan You Disagree With; August 2011

Only the Tea Party says "my way or else", a small percentage of Americans, and yet they are getting exactly what they want. There's something wrong there.  Even Republican voters want some tax increases on those who can afford it, and even the GOP wants a compromise plan.

But the Tea Party is the only game in town, it seems.

Google+ Wins Bon's Respect

Google today announced a gaming element for Google+, the social network the company launched at the end of June. The new offering lets Google+ users play games from within the social network, including some that can be played with other Google+ users.
Some of the launch games include Rovio's Angry Birds, PopCap's Bejeweled Blitz, and Zynga's Poker. It's a tiny collection compared to what's offered on Facebook, which has made a booming business by offering social games that players can click away at while remaining within the social network's walls.
According to Google engineering director David Glazer, the initial batch of games was intentionally kept small so as to "get the kinks out of our APIs." Glazer said Google would be adding more developers and features "in small steps" ahead of a public release.
The sketch of Google+ is filling in nicely.  It has impressed users with the simplified approach to organizing information.  They have maximized nicely on Google integration, and their product works flawlessly with Ubuntu and Mint (I can't speak for the others but have heard no complaints). Their interface is clean and bug-free.  And that is where I felt my heart grow three sizes and dedicate itself to Google+.  Don't get me wrong, I love my friends on Facebook, but I see Google+ becoming a permanent fixture in my life.  I think Facebook and G+ may be the two social networks that hold up because of sheer numbers and established groups.  People are heavily invested in Facebook, but just in Android users alone Google has a massive edge on the market, barring some massive incident.  Which brings me to my next point.

Google's decision to roll out the gaming slowly is a sign of great responsibility and solid caution on behalf of users, and so far I haven't heard them get their due praise for prudence.  Not rushing to release shows a restraint and maturity that makes me feel warm and fuzzy, because with the wave of hackings Google surely knows there is a prize and a mighty big target on their backs.  As the new kid on the block, they have something to prove.   They know how destructive a mistake can be.  Showing such confidence and unapologetic announcement of the timeline is a very good thing, and did not get the acknowledgement it deserved.

Heaven Isn't Too Far Away

Warrant lead singer Jani Lane was found dead in a hotel in Los Angeles.  So far no details have been released, but Lane had recently struggled with alcohol and related issues.  It has not been released if it was due to illness, foul play or self-inflicted.

I saw Warrant back in the day, when I was the target age for all those bands.  They played with Firehouse and Trixter, and it was one of the best concerts I ever attended.  At a time when bands were crappy and remixed into awesomeness, it was good to see them play live, loud and strong.  I'm one of many who will miss him and the opportunity to see him perform again.

Fear Of A Black Planet

Oh come on, the headlines write themselves, people.

A planet orbiting a distant star is darker than coal, reflecting less than one percent of the sunlight falling on it, according to a paper published on Thursday.

The strange world, TrES-2b, is a gas giant the size of Jupiter, rather than a solid, rocky body like Earth or Mars, astronomers said.

It closely orbits the star GSC 03549-02811, located about 750 light years away in the direction of the constellation of Draco the Dragon.

"TrES-2b is considerably less reflective than black acrylic paint, so it's truly an alien world," David Kipping of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said in a press release issued by Britain's Royal Astronomical Society (RAS).

Considering its distance from its star is just three million miles, I'm impressed the planet's not actually on fire.  It does however appear to be pretty crispy.

Signatures from its atmosphere point to the presence of light-absorbing chemicals like vaporised sodium and potassium or titanium oxide.

But none of these substances can explain the planet's darkness, which is more extreme than any planet or moon in our own Solar System.

"It's not clear what is responsible for making this planet so extraordinarily dark," said David Spiegel of Princeton University.

Maybe it's covered in high-temperature ninja.  Billions of them.  Or maybe it's just nothing.

A Farce Of High Camp

Number of people who believe that Rep. Dave Camp, one of the GOP Super Committee guys, will actually leave tax revenues "on the table" please find another blog to read, this one is not for you.

Representative Dave Camp, head of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee in the House of Representatives, told Reuters in a telephone interview that the deepening global financial crisis would prompt him and other "super committee" members to pull together.

Asked what sort of pressure the economic turmoil put on the committee, he said: "It does add an importance to what we are trying to do. It makes the stakes even higher."

Camp, who was named on Wednesday to the new special deficit reduction panel, voiced optimism that the group of six Republicans and six Democrats would overcome the political divide and reach agreement.

"I don't want to rule anything in or out," Camp said. "I am willing to discuss all issues that might help us reduce our short and long-term debt and grow our economy," Camp said.

"Everything is on the table, until we as a group rule it out," he said. The economy and jobs are priorities, he added.

"Economic growth and job creation in the private sector -- that's what we need to use as a benchmark about any policy, but particularly tax policy," Camp said.

What he means by "leaving tax policy on the table" is "slashing corporate taxes" so even more of them end up with zero corporate income tax burden.  Camp is talking the good talk here, but if you remember the so-called "moderate" Republicans talked a good compromise speech during the health care reform debate too.

We remember how that turned out.  What Dave Camp really thinks about taxes has been well-documented.  He has said time and time again that he has no intention of raising taxes in "this economy" or any other US economy for that matter, and in fact has proposed to cut taxes on the wealthy and on corporations as part of "tax reform".  As a member of Simpson-Bowles, Camp pushed for capital gains tax cuts as well and opposed reducing tax expenditures and loopholes.

Camp insisted that the Bush tax cuts had to be extended for the wealthy.  He says that people who do not pay income taxes because they earn less than $13,000 or so a year create a "moral hazard" and that they need "skin in the game."  He's voted against closing loopholes for corporations that send jobs overseas.  He wants to repeal "Obamacare".  And of course, above all he wants to slash spending from social programs.

The people who are telling you Dave Camp is open to tax increases?  They need a good swift kick in the ass.

StupidiNews Focus: Going Postal On Unions

Today's StupidiNews story of the US Post Office wanting to lay of 120,000 workers is a huge story, possibly the biggest story of the year so far as jobs and the labor movement are concerned.  Jobs and unemployment, being the number one issue with voters time and time again, are critical in order to get our total economy back on its feet, and you can't do that well if the Post Office wants to get rid of a hundred thousand plus jobs over four years.  The true tale of employment carnage is much, much worse.

The financially strapped U.S. Postal Service is proposing to cut its workforce by 20 percent and to withdraw from the federal health and retirement plans because it believes it could provide benefits at a lower cost.

The layoffs would be achieved in part by breaking labor agreements, a proposal that drew swift fire from postal unions. The plan would require congressional approval but, if successful, could be precedent-setting, with possible ripple effects throughout government. It would also deliver a major blow to the nation’s labor movement.

In a notice informing employees of its proposals — with the headline “Financial crisis calls for significant actions” — the Postal Service said, “We will be insolvent next month due to significant declines in mail volume and retiree health benefit pre-funding costs imposed by Congress.”

Let that sink in.  The Post Office wants to not only break its contract with labor unions to put 120,000 people out of work, it wants to kick nearly all of its employees out of the federal employees health care plan and pension plan and replace them with something less.  Republicans like Darrel Issa want to know more about the plan and apparently have no problem with setting a precedent that will allow government to simply eliminate union contracts whenever it feels like it.

The fact of the matter is the USPS has already gotten rid of 200,000 plus jobs over the last ten years.  Under the new proposals anyone with less than six years of service would be subject to losing their job, period.  Postal unions are already vowing to fight these proposals, but you'd better believe the battle to weaken government unions and to demonize government employees at the state level was in preparation to gut the Post Office and eliminate all government employee unions as well.

I'll be keeping an eye on this one.  The Constitution mandates a national post office.  Imagine what Republicans would do to it if they got full control in 2012.


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