Friday, December 16, 2011

Last Call

As a man much wiser than myself once sang, "You can't always get what you want."

Senate leaders have agreed to a plan that will prevent key policies, including a two percent payroll tax cut for employees, from lapsing on January 1, 2012, according to top aides. But the agreement will only extends the measures for two months, setting Democrats and Republicans up to relitigate this same fight fight early next year. And it comes at a political cost to Democrats who were forced to relent on a provision forcing President Obama to take a public position on the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The $30 billion package will be paid for by increasing the fees lenders pay to mortgage giants pay to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It includes two month extensions of the existing two percent payroll tax; emergency unemployment benefits; and the “doc fix” which prevents Medicare physicians from experiencing a deep automatic pay cut.

In a political hit for Democrats, Republicans insisted on and secured a provision that requires the Obama administration to either greenlight the Keystone XL oil pipeline or for President Obama to publicly nix it by declaring it not in the national interest. Sources indicate that Obama could deal with this requirement without forgoing a chance to revisit the issue after the election, as the administration originally planned.

Neither side is going to be happy with this deal, which considering what's at stake here, it's as good as it's going to get.   The mess will continue in two months.

Happy holidays, I guess.

Nuked Gingrich, Part 12

So right-wing radio loudmouth Michael Savage offered Newt Gingrich a million bucks to drop out of the race.  We all ought to be much more concerned with the gentleman who just gave Newt twenty million to stay in, a Greg Sargent explains:

Politico weighed in today with a bombshell revelation: Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is set to hand $20 million to a “Super PAC” backing Newt Gingrich. Such a sum could have a major impact on the GOP primary, enabling him to ward off the barrage of negative ads currently pummeling him daily — meaning that one extremely wealthy man could play an extraordinarily outsized role in helping decide the GOP nominee for president.

This prompted a good question from Taegan Goddard: “How on earth is this legal in American politics?” I checked in with David Donnelly of the Public Campaign Action Fund to get an answer.
It turns out there are scenarios under which this might not be legal. If someone who works directly for Gingrich’s campaign solicted this money in any way from Adelson, that would violate Federal laws that prohibit coordination between campaigns and super PACs.

But here’s the interesting twist: The scenario under which this is legal is, at bottom, not significantly different from having Gingrich’s campaign aides directly solicit such contributions.

Thanks to Citizens United and a subsequent court decision, Super PACs can raise unlimited sums, and spend it all advocating directly for or against a candidate, as long as there’s no coordination between the Super PAC and the candidate’s campaign. But this prohibition against coordination doesn’t really have much significance in the real world.

So yes, when the one percent drops $20 million in order to buy a race at a critical time, it's 100% legal because our Supreme Court has said our nation's most important resource when it comes to campaign speech is rich people who have tens of millions of bucks to give to people like Newt Gingrich on an idle Thursday.

Bought and paid for.

Fire Walker Chronicles, Part 5

How terrified is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and the state's GOP about the news that in just 30 days, Wisconsin Dems have already obtained 90% plus of the signatures they need to trigger a recall election?  Why, they're scared enough to actually try to sink the whole proceeding with this pathetic tactic.

Wisconsin Republicans have mounted a new response to the effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker — filing a lawsuit today against the state Government Accountability Board, which oversees elections, alleging that Walker’s 14th Amendment constitutional rights are being violated by the procedures the board uses in verifying, accepting or rejecting petition signatures.
The state GOP’s legal complaint argues that the GAB’s procedures for recall petitions, which involve the incumbent’s campaign challenging duplicate signatures of people who would have signed more than once — place an undue burden on the Walker campaign.
Under the law, the incumbent has a ten-day review period, in which to submit challenges.
“The GAB’s position that it is the responsibility of the Walker campaign to identify and challenge duplicate signatures flies in the face of the idea of a fair electoral process,” the party said in a press release.

Of course let's remember that "the idea of a fair electoral process" to Wisconsin Republicans is one where Wisconsin Democrats are regularly disenfranchised and misinformed of their right to vote at all as the GOP puts up as many roadblocks as possible to curtail voting among the poor and elderly.

The only problem here according to them is the unconstitutional part of Wisconsin's constitution that allows recalls.

Google Obtains Patent For "Driverless" Cars

A US patent for self-driving cars has been awarded to Google.

The intellectual rights relate to a method to switch a vehicle from a human-controlled mode into the state where it takes charge of the wheel.

It explains how the car would know when to take control, where it is located and which direction to drive in.

The search firm suggests the technology could be used to offer tours of tourist locations or to send faulty models to repair shops.

The application for Transitioning a Mixed-mode Vehicle to Autonomous Mode was applied for in May, but had been hidden from public view until this week.

The document describes using two sets of sensors. The first identifies a "landing strip" when the vehicle stops. This then triggers the second set which receives data informing the machine where it is positioned and where it should go.

This has several applications, from parking to sending your car to the mechanic while you are at work. For people who commute to work, their car could truly double as a mobile office while it handles the drive. As an intermediate step, it would be good to set in place while on the phone, eating, or other tasks that lead to accidents.

It's a ways off but not as far as we might think. The article is vague, but just for giggles I'll say in 2015 we will have a car that can handle itself 80% of the time or more. Google makes perfect sense, with their superior mapping they have an edge, and they have set industry standards for this type of technology so they are building on their own foundation.

Artsy Coolness

The captions are a little hokey, I have to admit.  Still, the link to this awesome apartment is worth it.  Acrylic tiles, permanent markers and too much time allowed one man to transform rooms into mind-bending freakishly cool spiffiness.

Click here to check it out.  Below is my favorite one so you can see what I'm talking about.

Getting The Book Thrown At Him

The Justice Department's three-year investigation into countless civil rights violations by Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio has resulted in "the most egregious" examples of racial profiling of Latinos one career civil rights investigator has said he's ever even seen.

The inquiry’s findings paint a picture of a department staffed by poorly trained deputies who target Latino drivers on the roadways and detain innocent Latinos in the community in their searches for illegal immigrants. The mistreatment, the government said, extends to the jails the department oversees, where Latino inmates who do not speak English are mistreated.

“The absence of clear policies and procedures to ensure effective and constitutional policing,” the report said, “along with the deviations from widely accepted policing and correctional practices, and the failure to implement meaningful oversight and accountability structures, have contributed to a chronic culture of disregard for basic legal and constitutional obligations.”

The report said Latino drivers were four to nine times more likely to be stopped in the sprawling county, which includes Phoenix and its environs, than non-Latino drivers. The expert who conducted the study called it the most egregious racial profiling he has ever seen in this country, said Mr. Perez, the prosecutor, without naming the expert.

The report said that roughly one-fifth of the traffic-related incident reports generated by the department’s human smuggling unit contained information indicating the stops may have been conducted in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable seizures.

The report also suggested that Sheriff Arpaio’s well-publicized raids aimed at arresting illegal immigrants were sometimes prompted by complaints that described no criminal activity but referred to people with “dark skin” or to Spanish speakers congregating in an area. “The use of these types of bias-infected indicators as a basis for conducting enforcement activity contributes to the high number of stops and detentions lacking in legal justification,” the report said. 

So yes, rampant civil rights violations of Latinos, intimidation, harassment and even incarceration of Arpaio's critics, ridiculously biased racial profiling in routine stops and armed raids based solely on skin color or language.  And guess which Republican presidential candidate immediately backed Arpaio after the announcement?

"He is tough," Perry said, adding that if he's president he won't be suing states such as Arizona for adopting their own immigration laws because "the administration has been an abject failure at securing the border."

Right.  That gives Joe Arpaio and his actual police state in Maricopa County run by actual police all the rights in the world to go after legal immigrants and anyone who might be dark skinned or speak a language that might be Spanish.

This guy needs to go away, preferably to a place where he gets a healthy brick shit-ton of his own medicine daily.

Geoff Davis Bows Out, And Good Riddance

My GOP Congressman and local pain in the ass Geoff Davis is bowing out of re-election.

In a letter to constituents, Kentucky 4th District Congressman, Geoff Davis says in order to spend more time with his family he will not seek re-election.

Davis spoke highly of his staff and of his work as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources. He also thanked his wife and children.

So boom, just like that, gone.  And it's not like redistricting was going to cost Davis his seat, either, even with Dems winning ground in KY and even Dem House Speaker Greg Stumbo's plan wouldn't mess with the 4th much at all.

Under Stumbo’s plan, the 1st, 5th and 6th districts — two of which are represented by Republicans — would become more Democratic, while the 2nd District would become more Republican. There would be little change to the 3rd and 4th districts. The 3rd District is confined to Jefferson County.

So there's got to be another reason why Davis is out.  He's not supposed to have much in the way of a serious challenge at all, but now he's hanging it up.  What's the story here?

I'd like to know.  Joe Sonka doesn't know either, but he has several educated guesses as to who will run for Davis's suddenly wide open seat.  He sees Nathan Smith versus Lewis County Judge and TP favorite Thomas Massie.

And that would be one hell of a race, based on Joe's description of Massie.

I saw this guy speak at a Tea Party rally in Scott County this year, and this is how I would describe him. Rand Paul, only with charisma and without an annoying whine. He spoke without notes for over a half hour and had the People of

Tea in the palm of his hands, talking about how he came into this good ole boy Democratic office and cleaned house. He is some kind of MIT numbers wizard who actually lived off of the grid for years, then decided to run for office and won. That sounds odd, but this guy has the rhetoric down and has talent. Also, KY Tea Party guru David Adams loves him.

I actually called him and spoke to him a few months ago, because I had heard rumors that he was thinking of primarying Mitch McConnell in 2014. He said he wasn’t interested, and might get out of politics after his term is up. The thought of Congress kind of intrigued him, but he was a huge Geoff Davis fan and assumed that he would be serving there for many many years.

But he isn’t. So… now?

Now maybe he's one of those guys that loves his current job too much to gamble on a run.  Maybe he's got skeletons, I don't know.  But man, Joe's not kidding when he says Boone County is TP central.  This is die-hard NOBAMA country, and you risk your vehicle with a Team O bumper sticker round these parts.

The friggin' high school mascot?  The Boone County Rebels.  Yeah, it's like that.

We'll see.


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