Monday, October 3, 2011

Last Call

So, if you go on national TV as a political pundit and compare the President of the United States to Hitler while talking about America's Israel policy, you might lose your day job.

Country singer Hank Williams Jr. is being removed from his regular spot on ESPN’s Monday Night Football after comparing President Obama to Adolf Hitler in an interview with Fox & Friends.

In a rambling appearance via satellite on FOX News on Monday morning, Williams said that Speaker John Boehener made a “political mistake” by joining Obama on the links for friendly game, because their meeting was “like Hitler playing golf with Benjamin Netanyahu.” Visibly shocked, the FOX & Friends hosts quickly pushed Williams to clarify his statement.

“I just want to say that we disavow any of those comments or analogies that he’s made, at least I’m going to say that, disavow the analogy between Hitler and the president,” co-anchor Gretchen Carlson said after the segment.

Williams Jr. has opened Monday Night Football with his “Are You Ready For Some Football?” song for years, but ESPN announced they were dropping him from tonight’s program within hours of his remarks. It’s unclear when — or if — he will return.

Yeah, even FOX's talking airheads were scrambling.  And before the Winger defense of "brave patriot" Hank Williams, Jr. there kicks in, Digby reminds of us of what happened to the Dixie Chicks when they simply said they were "ashamed" President Bush was from Texas.  The band was all but destroyed, they recieved constant death threats, their records were pulled by radio stations across America and there was an orchestrated right wing media effort to annihilate them that went all the way up to Senate hearings.

So no, I don't want to hear a damn thing about how Hank Williams, Jr. was assaulted by the "politically correct thought police."

Some Votes Count More Than Others, Part 2

I've said time and again that Republican voter suppression efforts are the major issue facing this country right now, and if this study is anywhere close to accurate the time to start pushing voter registration and education efforts is now.

Restrictive voting laws in states across the country could affect up to five million voters from traditionally Democratic demographics in 2012, according to a new report by the Brennan Center. That's a number larger than the margin of victory in two of the last three presidential elections.
The new restrictions, the study found, "fall most heavily on young, minority, and low-income voters, as well as on voters with disabilities. This wave of changes may sharply tilt the political terrain for the 2012 election."

The GOP takeover at the state level over the last several years has led directly to voter ID laws designed to disenfranchise millions of traditionally Democratic voters.  2010 proved that when turnout is low, Republicans run rampant.  In a presidential election year next year, that could very well prove to be fatal to the country.  If your cynical, jaded self recognizes only one difference between the GOP and the Democrats, it's that the GOP wants to make voting as difficult and as exclusive as possible.  Where they have gained power, they turn to voter ID efforts to limit turnout in order to maintain power.  Even if you dispute the numbers in the study, the GOP intent is clear.

Here's the real kicker:

Of the 12 likely battleground states, as assessed by an August Los Angeles Times analysis of Gallup polling, five have already cut back on voting rights (and may pass additional restrictive legislation), and two more are currently considering new restrictions.

One of those states is Ohio, and as folks across the river from me can attest to, Ohio's battle to stop John Kasich and the GOP from disenfranchising tens of thousands of Ohio voters is just beginning.  So far opponents of Ohio's measure have collected more than enough signatures to put the law to a referendum in 2012, meaning that as soon as the petitions are validated, Ohio will operate under the same voting laws as the 2010 election both this year and next.

But that's only one state.  The efforts to reduce turnout are national, well-funded, and well-coordinated.  Ohio proved that efforts to fight these restriction can work, but the bottom line is turnout and GOTV efforts in 2011 and especially 2012 are vital to preventing a complete Republican takeover.  It's past time to examine what you can do where you live to help locally with these efforts.  No matter what the GOP does, we have to get people out there to vote, period.

It's astonishing to think that in 2011, a major US political party is running on a platform to limit voting as much as possible.  So far they haven't paid a political price for doing so.

That needs to change.

It's Not The Size Of The Man In The Fight...

And looking at Bon's point from earlier today, I honestly don't understand the media obsession with Chris Christie's weight.  Yeah, he's a big guy, so what?  If you're going to go after Christie, he's got a long record of wingnuttery and semi-ethical New Jersey political nonsense to shine the spotlight on.

One of the most persistent stories that dogged Christie in his 2009 campaign was his unusual financial relationship with a top aide at his federal prosecutor office, Michele Brown. Christie lent Brown some $46,000, which he says was to help a family friend through a rough patch. But critics argued that the move was an improper conflict of interest heading into a gubernatorial campaign since Brown was in a position to help Christie in a variety of ways. Her job included handling FOIA requests, including those from Governor Corzine’s campaign, for example. And in one instance, she argued to colleagues in favor of wrapping up a major corruption probe before July 1, when Christie’s successor took over the US Attorney position, a move that ensured credit for the case would clearly flow to Christie. Brown resigned shortly after news of the loan broke and, according to the New York Times, she paid off Christie’s loan in October 2010.
It wasn’t the only allegation of conflict of interest that Christie fought off. The then-US Attorney testified before Congress on a series of no-bid monitoring contracts worth millions that he awarded to various law firms. One contract, worth up to $52 million, went to former Attorney General John Ashcroft, Christie’s old mentor. Another former US Attorney chosen for a monitoring contract, David Kelley, had previously investigated Christie’s brother in a stock fraud case in 2005 — he was not indicted while fifteen others were. Top lawyers at another firm he awarded a major contract to later donated about $24,000 to his campaign. Christie said the contracts were awarded on merit and accused Corzine of “character assassination” for raising the issue.
He was also accused of mishandling his office’s budget as US Attorney. In a 2010 report by the DOJ’s Inspector General, he was identified as one of the most profligate federal prosecutors in the country from 2007 to 2009, spending taxpayer cash on luxury hotels that exceeded government rates by as much as $242 a night. Christie said during the 2009 campaign that his office overspent only when there were no alternatives.

There are a number of serious ethical and corruption issues surrounding the New Jersey governor and they have nothing to do with his weight.  The more I see serious news organizations like Reuters engage the ridiculous "debate" over Christie's size, the greater disservice to what should be the actual debate is done.  Pretty soon we're going to be at the point where people will only talk about his size and not his record or corruption issues, and people will tune out "another story about Christie's waistline or whatever" even when the actual reasons as to why he shouldn't be in charge of anything are finally discussed.

No, I don't think Christie has anything close to a real shot at the White House because of his issues as a blue state governor in a blood-red primary season and his record is pretty repugnant, but honestly I find the constant stories about the "challenges" Christie faces because of his size about as ridiculous as the stories about the "challenges" women or minority candidates face in politics (not to belittle issues that do exist, but silly me, I believe a candidate should be judged on policy and record.)  What I mean by that is whatever actual issues that may arise from stories about Christie's weight are used for their "HA HA shock factor," not to actually have a debate.  It's been done to death with Hillary Clinton's gender and President Obama's race, Keith Ellison, Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman's religion, etc.  It's obnoxious:
Speculation that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will enter the U.S. presidential race has led to a feverish debate about the possibility of having the fattest man in the White House since the corpulent William Howard Taft squeezed behind the big desk in the Oval Office.
Replace that "fattest man in the White House" language with any other description of race, creed, gender, sexual orientation, religion and you see what the problem is.  Why is this acceptable?  And this is Reuters, folks. Why not just call him President Truffle Shuffle and be done with it.  Criminy.

So yeah, lay off the size stuff and check the guy's record.  Not only does this guy not deserve to be President, his crony capitalism adventures mean he shouldn't be in politics at all.  The size issue is a smokescreen but it's the latest shiny object to chase this week for our Awesome Media Guys.

The Many Faces Of Discrimination

When the word discrimination comes up, most people think of racial mistreatment, because it is so sickeningly common even in this modern age.  This blog spends a lot of time covering racial discrimination and the double standard goverment applies to the gay population.  However, there are many other ways to discriminate, and they are coming up in the news more frequently.  I also see them coming up in day to day contact with people, and my frustration is nearing the breaking point.

We all have our own blind spots.  I recently came face to face with one of mine.  While discussing athletes and sportsmanship, the subject of intelligence came up.  My husband rightfully called me out on assuming athletes were a notch lower on the intelligence scale based on something I said.  That isn't to say that I think all athletes are dumb, but it showed a gap deep in my mind that I had never bridged.  Despite my regular efforts to see people as individuals, I made a blanket assumption about how athletes would react, and all I could do was own it and try to improve.  Dumb jocks, dumb blondes, dumb insert-group-I-dislike is everywhere.  But there are worse ways to look at our fellow man.

There is discrimination against overweight people, for example.  Many critics of Chris Christie (say that three times fast!) moved right past his career and how he handled the issues and went immediately for his weight.    Not only is that immature, it's exposing a major bias we have as a country.  The number of overweight people continue to grow, as does the bias against them.  The bottom line is weight has no effect on intelligence, talent or potential.  It's a health risk, as is smoking, drinking to excess, or other behaviors that go all the way back to George Washington.  Big deal, even Obama smoked and don't even start on the booze-loving Bush family.  I have plenty of issues with Christie, but how he looks in a suit isn't one of them.

There is discrimination against women.  I've been paid less for working harder and in a higher position than my male coworkers.  I've been dismissed as weak and brainless.  I have been patted on the behind and I have been judged by my boobs and clothes.  I realize I'm fortunate that what I've suffered has only edged into annoying and an obstacle I can fight my way through over time.  In some parts of this country, being born a female is the equivalent of a life of servitude and abuse.  In some parts of the world it's a death sentence or a life of torture or mutilation.  In America, women are still treated as weaker and less intelligent, less capable and emotionally vulnerable.  We are conditioned to be people pleasing doormats who only win by knowing how to play to the stronger forces.  Strong women are still considered ball busters and full makeup is a silent requirement regardless. None of that holds a candle to being flogged in public for driving a car.  While that one woman was spared, how many bear scars for wanting the basic freedom of moving around?

Discrimination against the poor must be confronted.  There is still a snooty tendency to view the poor as shiftless, dishonest or underachievers.  The reality is there are thousands of folks who do everything right and still lose at the game of Life (especially if you score winning purely in financial terms).  I've always liked the way this blog stood up for the little guy, and over the years Z has pointed out a thousand ways that the odds are slanted against those who need a helping hand.  People doing without has become a much larger reality in the past few years, and there is no improvement in sight.  America doesn't promise that you will become successful if you work hard, only that you can drive your own destiny.  However, once upon a time the hardworking was able to rise based on their labors, and now there are hardworking people who cannot find employment.  Unemployed is no longer a choice, it's a forced reality for thousands who seek full-time jobs.  Employers exploit this working class because there is zero competitive risk by slashing benefits and lowering wages.  Job openings are always filled and until our economy changes the working poor will become a major section of the nation's labor.  A strong work ethic and sharp mind isn't enough to make it nowadays, many poor are condemned to stay there until some massive changes are made.

The problem with discrimination is that while we know that on one level it's wrong, sometimes on another level we demonstrate something else.  Even the good guys can make a mistake, and in this case all sides are guilty of something.  That doesn't mean we can't come clean now and try to fix our mistakes.  We can start by holding government accountable for their oversights, starting with some of the measures on the table that will further punish the poor and reward those who already have enough.  We can make sure to recall those events as reasons for voting in a better direction, and send the message that our memory goes back further than the last commercial break.  The first political movement to convert minorities into the majority we are once united will rule for a good long while.  You would think someone would be smart enough to figure that out and make it happen, but so far it has been an epic failure.

Microsoft Plays Dirty Again

This is from

MICROSOFT loves blocking or suppressing GNU/Linux installations, typically using a process it keeps describing as a feature. Microsoft has been sabotaging the MBR using the excuses that it is hard to support it (funny how one or two GRUB developers can handle it just fine). There is antitrust evidence about it going decades back and there there is the war on fast booting systems and battles against Linux using VM restrictions (fighting Linux with a Windows EULA). We have covered many such examples, even those that extend to ACPI.
This has existed for a while, what may be changing is that Microsoft wants in enabled on every computer that is pre-loaded with Windows 8.  It is sure to draw fierce opposition, and may actually backfire in a loss of sales from customers who would run a multi-OS setup.  I'm not worried yet, because a lot of things would have to pass before this becomes a reality, and Microsoft has been shot down by anti-trust measures in the past.  It's no less aggravating that to promote a supposedly optional feature they would try to choke all competition.

This is the type of asshattery that Microsoft is famous for, and is likely to be their undoing in the end.  Taking measures like this is like a press release saying the growth of other operating systems has them concerned, and in the end their concern for customers has forced them to remove all other choices.  They have no facts or reasons outside of their own interests, but they'll kill competition so they can look out for the ignorant who rely on them.

Holy cow.  Sounding an awful lot like Tea Party bullshit to me.

Taking Pot Shots At Washington State

From what I can tell, SeaTac has basically turned into the fourth season of Weeds.

Two years ago, before Washington’s medical marijuana industry went completely nuts, Scott Havsy was without question Tacoma’s top pot doc.

He seemed like an outrageous radical at the time.

Unlike most mainstream doctors, Havsy had no qualms about authorizing marijuana for patients he believed were qualified under the state’s medical marijuana law.

He advertised widely, urging patients to come and get their “green cards.” By his own estimate, he wrote authorizations for 80 percent of the patients who asked for them.

Now though, with at least 150 marijuana retail outlets in Western Washington – more than 40 in Tacoma alone – demand for the cards has fueled a profitable and competitive industry: clinics that exist solely to churn out the authorizations and whose standards make Havsy’s seem quaint in comparison.

Because patient records are confidential, it’s impossible to know how many of the cards are bogus, but anecdotal evidence suggests authorizers have strayed from the legislative requirements that patients have “terminal or debilitating” conditions.

For instance, at last month’s Seattle Hemp Fest, two recently licensed naturopaths from 4Evergreen, a clinic with branches in Tacoma and Seattle, drew the attention of the state Department of Health for allegedly setting standards too low.

They did exams in a tent and issued authorizations for between $150 and $200 each.

A recent guide to medical marijuana resources in Washington listed 22 clinics and authorization businesses in the Seattle-Tacoma area.

And there's big money in medical pot for those willing to play a little fast and loose with the rules, looks like.  The Purgatory that is the patchwork of medicinal marijuana laws in this country really needs something of a unifying federal law to oversee it, but the odds of that happening are precisely zero until the big phama companies decide there's enough money in it in order to push for a national bill.  I still think that's the most likely way that we'll see legalization, but it's still going to be a long ways off.  Certainly we'd need a Congress not full of puritanical, hypocritical meatheads, and we've been awaiting that particular event for about 225 years now.

Like national same-sex marriage, I think legalization is coming.  The timeline is iffy, but the eventual direction is there.  Hell, at this point we're opening up casinos in downtown Cincinnati.  Eventually states will want their cut of vice money and push for a national law on this if only for the revenue.

The Nameless One Strikes Back

Yep, nothing gets Dick Cheney out of his undisclosed location and onto the Sunday shows faster than President Obama succeeding where Bush and Cheney failed.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney is demanding an apology from President Barack Obama for slamming the Bush Administration on foreign policy and not using the phrase ‘war on terror.’

On CNN’s State of the Union Sunday morning, host Candy Crowley asked him that given President Obama’s foreign policy accomplishments if it really mattered to use the phrase.

Still upset over Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo that criticized their administration, Cheney continued to express the importance of the phrase to himself. 

In a just world, Dick Cheney would be demanding the top bunk in a federal penitentiary and getting shanked by his cellmate Donald Rumsfeld over it.  No matter how you feel about Obama prosecuting the wars Bush and Cheney left in his lap, the last person on earth who has the credibility to give the President noise about an apology is gorram Dick Cheney.

And the part there about Cheney still pissing and moaning about the President's Cairo speech?  Pipe that speech into his cell 24/7.  The only apologizing here should be done by Cheney, and it should be to the families and loved ones of every soldier that didn't come home from the sandbox (and to all the ones that did come home, just for good measure.)

Good lord.

Water's A Matter With You, California?

Gotta love finding third world water contamination problems in the world's seventh largest economy: the state of California.

While on a worldwide investigation of dirty drinking water -- with stops in Bangladesh, Uruguay and Namibia -- a United Nations investigator visited the Tulare County community of Seville in March. After seeing conditions, the investigator urged state and federal authorities to consider healthy drinking water a human right and clean up the mess.

In a state with the world's seventh-largest economy, it wouldn't take a lot of money to clean up the Valley's small-town water problems -- $150 million total for projects on record. San Francisco last year committed the same amount of money to help homeowners and businesses finance solar panels and water efficiency.

But small-town residents face an uphill fight for the healthy drinking water that most Californians take for granted. Townfolk feel they have nowhere to turn. State public health authorities make a habit of inviting them to apply for cleanup funding, then turning them down for technicalities.

Residents, activists, engineers and local officials say the Valley's small drinking water systems are barely a blip on the state's radar.

And it's the people who can least afford to do anything about it who are hurting the most.

They are not alone in shouldering an extra cost for water. Last year, 95% of the people in a survey of small water systems in Tulare County said they drink bottled water or purified water sold from a machine. The Pacific Institute, an Oakland-based nonprofit group, did the survey as a part of a report on the human cost of nitrates in the drinking water.

The survey results showed some people spend more than 10% of their income to buy water for their families, though the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the 1990s said 1.5% would be a better guideline.

The ARRA largely missed Tulare County because a much broader investment is needed statewide, and the projects aren't "shovel ready".  What's needed is a large investment in American infrastructure just at the time when states are cutting water projects and putting those that survive at the bottom of the list.  But hell, we can't even fix bridges and roads in this country anymore because we have to cut taxes on the wealthy and on corporations.

It's a damn shame.


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