Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Last Call

Say what you will about Lil Kim, but he's making the right call with getting back to the discussion table for North Korea.

The United States said on Wednesday that North Korea had agreed to a moratorium on nuclear tests and long-range missile launches and to allow nuclear inspectors to visit its Yongbyon nuclear complex to verify a halt to all nuclear activities including uranium enrichment.

The U.S. announcement paves the way for the possible resumption of six-party disarmament negotiations with Pyongyang and follows talks between U.S. and North Korean diplomats in Beijing last week.

"To improve the atmosphere for dialogue and demonstrate its commitment to denuclearization, the DPRK has agreed to implement a moratorium on long-range missile launches, nuclear tests, and nuclear activities at Yongbyon, including uranium enrichment activities," the State Department said in a statement. "

The DPRK has also agreed to the return of IAEA inspectors to verify and monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment activities at Yongbyon and confirm the disablement of the 5-MW reactor and associated facilities," it said.

Hey, once again President Obama's "weak, vacillating stance" is working, with the super awesome added bonus of us not having to bomb the crap out of anyone.  It's like he knows what he's doing, and that Secretary Clinton continues to be one of the more underrated diplomats in US history.

Imagine that.  The White House has a competent foreign policy leader.  Shocking, I know.

RIP, Mr. Jones

TMZ broke the news that Davy Jones had died this morning of a heart attack.  I found myself sadder than I would have expected.  I was only a so-so fan of the Monkees, but I loved Jones as a person.  He never took himself too seriously, and was gracious and grateful to his fans, something unheard of now.

People ask me if I ever get sick of playing ‘Daydream Believer’ or whatever,” he told The Chicago Daily Herald, a suburban newspaper, in 2006. “But I don’t look at it that way. Do they ask if Tony Bennett is tired of ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco’?”

The Monkees knew their charisma carried their mediocre music talents, though they did improve over time.  They were just so darned nice, and unafraid to take a blow to the head.  I'll always have fond memories of them on Saturday mornings.  The other Monkees gave appropriately sad and classy press statements.  I'll miss him, and I will stop now before I snivel.

Weep Not For The Snowe Queen

Maine GOP Senator Olympia Snowe will not be running for re-election this year, suddenly opening up a major chance for the Democrats to pick up a seat.  From her statement:

After 33 years in the Congress this was not an easy decision. My husband and I are in good health. We have laid an exceptionally strong foundation for the campaign, and I have no doubt I would have won re-election. It has been an indescribable honor and immeasurable privilege to serve the people of Maine, first in both houses of Maine’s legislature and later in both houses of Congress. To this day, I remain deeply passionate about public service, and I cherish the opportunity I have been given for nearly four decades to help improve the lives of my fellow Mainers.

As I have long said, what motivates me is producing results for those who have entrusted me to be their voice and their champion, and I am filled with that same sense of responsibility today as I was on my first day in the Maine House of Representatives. I do find it frustrating, however, that an atmosphere of polarization and ‘my way or the highway’ ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions.

With my Spartan ancestry I am a fighter at heart; and I am well prepared for the electoral battle, so that is not the issue. However, what I have had to consider is how productive an additional term would be. Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term. So at this stage of my tenure in public service, I have concluded that I am not prepared to commit myself to an additional six years in the Senate, which is what a fourth term would entail.

Translation:  "My party has gone insane.  I'm leaving.  You guys deal with it."  Maine Democrats are happy, if not eager to try to pick up a badly needed seat in order to keep the Senate out of GOP hands.

“As we said from day one, unexpected opportunities will emerge and the DSCC will be in a position to seize on these opportunities," DSCC spokesman Guy Cecil said in a statement. “Maine is now a top pick up opportunity for Senate Democrats. If there is one place in the country that is likely to reject the extreme, anti-middle class, divisive agenda Republican agenda it is Maine. Democrats not only hold a strong registration advantage in the state, but this is a state that the President won by 17 points in 2008 and will likely win by a significant margin this year as well.”

As I said, there's no room for moderates in the GOP for women like Snowe.  And if the Tea Party Mainers looking to replace Snowe are anything like this clown, the Dems should have little problem.

I weep not for her.  She was a pain in the ass on health care reform and basically extorted tens of billions out of the stimulus package before she voted for it.

Good riddance.

That Whole Respectful Disagreement Thing

Digby is dead right when she raises all kinds of alarm bells about the Dems' number 2 guy in the House, Steny Hoyer, talking to Our Centrist Third Way Betters about deficit reduction legislation.

In a speech hosted Monday morning by Third Way, Hoyer revealed that he and other lawmakers are looking for the right moment to introduce a bill that would achieve the sorts of deficit reduction goals that have eluded Congress and the White House thus far.
“Members of both parties, and on both sides of the Capitol, are working to ensure that the next time we find ourselves at an impasse — which could be sooner, rather than later — we will be ready, with a legislative package in hand to address our debt and deficit in a comprehensive, long-term way,” Hoyer said.
Hoyer declined to discuss the specifics of this bill, but suggested it would deal with spending and tax policies of all kinds. He and his colleagues face one key problem: there’s a lot of white space on the legislative calendar this year, and that means they’ll have a hard time leveraging unwilling members into action.
If, however, he can get members of both parties to vote in significant numbers for this bill — including broad Republican support for higher taxes — it would have significant implications for both Congressional elections, and the ultimate policy direction the government takes when it ultimately does lock in a deficit reduction plan.

Yeah, I trust Steny Hoyer about as far as he can throw me.  He serves a useful purpose as long as Nancy Pelosi is the one calling the shots, but if Hoyer had his druthers, we'd be up to our necks in Blue Dog crap with no pooper scooper in sight.   My issue is with Digby's characterization at the end:

I'm beginning to think we should elect the most crazed Tea Partiers we can find and encourage them to hold fast and never pass any bill that President Obama might sign. With Democrats like Hoyer around, it's probably our only hope.

Ironically if that's Colbertian satire, it's not funny, because that's basically what 2010 proved when voters did exactly that in the House and in state legislatures across the country in a redistricting year (hindsight and all.)  If she's being truthful, it's even less funny and for the same reason.  Yeah, we need better Democrats than Hoyer, and the bar for that is "breathing and recognizes President Obama as the leader of the party and will not piss on him repeatedly in public" and all, but c'mon.

First of all, there's no way Hoyer's deficit reduction foolishness means he's going to get anything done that the President can sign as bi-partisan anything during an election year.  Republicans aren't serious about deficit reduction at all (see the payroll tax cut) and if anything, they want to increase the deficit in order to push up a debt ceiling fight from 2013 to as close to October as they can (again, see the payroll tax cut).  Secondly, giving the President something the centrists will get tingles over in an election year is not something the GOP is going to allow, period.

And finally, the irony this is that "electing the most crazed Tea Partiers we can find" is how we got into this entire mess we're in right now.  No matter what President Obama signs, it has to go through Congress and the Sausage-Making Process(tm) first.  The key there is getting more and better Dems.

I know, I'm reading way too much into this, but it's not like the stakes aren't Mt. Everest high.  So far, the joke's been on us for the last fifteen months, or do we really think that having birth control, affirmative action, and separation of church and state reviewed is a good idea or something?  Maybe there's more pressing issues than what Steny Hoyer might "give away at the table" right now, people.  Just an observation.

Epic Fail: Ma Bell Style

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (AP) -- When AT&T started slowing down the data service for his iPhone, Matt Spaccarelli, an unemployed truck driver and student, took the country's largest telecommunications company to small claims court. And won.

His award: $850.

Pro-tem Judge Russell Nadel found in favor of Spaccarelli in Ventura Superior Court in Simi Valley on Friday, saying it wasn't fair for the company to purposely slow down his iPhone, when it had sold him an "unlimited data" plan.

Spaccarelli could have many imitators. AT&T has some 17 million customers with "unlimited data" plans who can be subject to throttling. That's nearly half of its smartphone users. AT&T forbids them from consolidating their claims into a class action or taking them to a jury trial. That leaves small claims actions and arbitration.

Late last year, AT&T started slowing down data service for the top 5 percent of its smartphone subscribers with "unlimited" plans. It had warned that it would start doing so, but many subscribers have been surprised by how little data use it takes for throttling to kick in - often less than AT&T provides to those on limited or "tiered" plans

AT&T refers to their contract and their language stating they can throttle a customer who becomes a liability to the network. But that's not what customers are talking about here, and this is why Spaccarelli won. These customers are asking to be able to use what they are paying for.  AT&T is billing them for a service, failing to deliver, and hiding behind ambiguous language to stick it to their customers.  As customers become more tech savvy and dependent, they are going to have some uncomfortable questions.  If the FCC becomes involved it could lead to even more problems.  They promised a product and advertised a level of service that they cannot deliver.  Then they snark at the customer and blame them for the problem.  AT&T has come to represent the greed and bloated confidence that big business wields over regular folks.  It will be fun to watch them try to justify their behavior.

It will also be funny to see if this ruling sticks, and watch people nibble them to death with court appearances and expenses.  Of course, AT&T will just pass the cost back to the customer, but it would be satisfying to collect.

Great Balls Of Fire

RALEIGH, N.C. — Two orange orbs, just about 10 feet off the ground, floated past Steve Woody and his father as they hunted deer more than 50 years ago. The mysterious lights passed them, then dropped down the side of a gorge in the Blue Ridge foothills.

For at least a century, the Brown Mountain Lights have confounded residents and tourists in a rugged patch of Burke County, bobbing and weaving near a modest peak. Are they reflections from automobile headlights? Brush fires? A paranormal phenomenon, or something natural not yet explained by science?

Whatever the explanation, tourism officials are hoping all those decades of unanswered questions add up to a boost in visitors making their way to scenic outlooks around Linville Gorge with the goal of spotting something mysterious.

Unexplained mysteries like the Brown Mountain Lights have been the subject of cable TV documentaries and have fueled vast online communities of amateur investigators. Ed Phillips, Burke County's tourism director, is hoping to capitalize on that.

I like this kind of stuff, for a few reasons.  Someday you're going to hit pay dirt, and there's no telling a legit phenomenon from a hoax until you go see for yourself.  Nowadays, it's totally normal for people to have a cell phone camera with them, and the increase in cheap technology has allowed the curious to come out in greater numbers as well.  With a lot of local legends it's going to become time to put up or shut up.  Checking for EVP or heat signatures has finally let us perhaps learn something about the nature of rumored activity.  From ball lightning to voices, aliens to Bigfoot, the chance to obtain proof or be unable to obtain proof finally gives us a chance to discover the science behind what people have reported.  Even if the truth dispels the story (which is likely in most cases) just knowing the truth will be the reward.

Primary, Primarily

The Arizona primary was a complete blowout.  Romney won by 20 points over Santorum.  But Michigan was much closer, with Romney shaving out a 41-38% win over Slick Rick.  A few key findings in the Michigan exit polls reveal why Santorum lost:  First, Catholics voted for Mitt Romney, 44%-37%.  Second, the 9% of people who made up their minds to vote on Tuesday voted for Romney, 38-31%, but more importantly 47% of Michiganders made up their mind who they were going to vote for in 2011, and half of them voted for Romney compared to 24% to Santorum.  His remarks on JFK hurt him with Catholics...and he lost women by 5 points and men by 1.  Finally, "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" didn't hurt Romney in the least, because Santorum opposed it too.  In fact, Romney won the 44% of primary voters that approved of the auto bailout by five points.

So we go from must-win for Romney in Michigan to must-win for Santorum in Ohio on Super Tuesday.

Independent groups backing Romney, Santorum and Gingrich are already airing TV ads in the state. Santorum campaigned in Ohio Tuesday and Romney will be in Toledo Wednesday morning for an event, followed by another in Columbus.

Romney will confront many of the same challenges in Ohio that he faced in Michigan, without the benefit of his hometown connection.

Like Michigan, Ohio’s economy relies heavily on the auto industry, and Romney’s high-profile opposition of the government bailout of the industry is not likely to be received warmly by many voters. He supported an effort last year by Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) to restrict public unions’ collective-bargaining rights — an effort that was overwhelmingly overturned in the fall by voters in this union-heavy state. And Romney’s courtship of religious voters by supporting, for instance, an antiabortion “personhood initiative,” risks alienating female voters.

“The number one thing is the auto bailout,” said Eric Kearney, a Democrat from Cincinnati and minority leader in the Ohio Senate. “Ohio is the second-largest auto producer in this country. We rely on that. It’s a substantial portion of our economy. The first thing Mitt Romney says, and he repeats it, is he is against the auto bailout. Those are Ohio jobs he’s talking about that he doesn’t want to retain. I don’t get what his strategy is.”

Perhaps more than anything else, however, Romney’s difficulty connecting with average Americans may hurt him in a state such as Ohio. Romney acknowledged on Tuesday that his gaffes — including mentioning his wife’s “couple of Cadillacs” — have not been helpful to his cause. Republicans in Ohio agreed.

“People are like, ‘Yeah, he’s probably going to win, but I really don’t like him, and I’m not going to vote for him,’ ” said a high-ranking Ohio Republican who requested anonymity to speak freely. “That’s the collective zeitgeist.”

If Santorum can take Ohio, and then perform as well as I think he will in Georgia, Tennessee, and Oklahoma, Romney then is in big trouble.  If Santorum doesn't win Ohio he's done, especially if Newt will split the vote enough to give Georgia to Romney.  If that happens, then the nomination is effectively over. Either way, Romney wins Virginia...only he and Ron Paul are on the ballot there.

We'll see what next week brings.

From Way Downtown...Bang!

Via Spencer Ackerman at the Wired Danger Room, the United States Navy has three words for you:  Working. Railgun. Prototype.

The idea behind the Electromagnetic Railgun is to fire a bullet at hypersonic speeds using dozens of megajoules of electricity. The Navy wants it to guard the surface ships of the 2020s, unsubtly boasting to adversaries that messing with the ships will lead to bullets shooting across hundreds of miles of ocean in mere minutes. The Office of Naval Research says it will give sailors “a dramatically increased multimission capability,” like fire support for land strikes over long, long distances beyond the reach of enemy defenses, and defense against “cruise and ballistic missiles” that target ships. No wonder the railgun’s official motto is “Velocitas Eradico” — “Speed Kills.”
Lab tests have pleased the Navy, if not Congress. In December 2010, the Office of Naval Research fired a shot with 33 megajoules of energy, a world record, sending a 23-pound bullet 5500 feet in a single second. The Senate Armed Services Committee still found the science too impractical, and recommended killing the railgun, until a Navy congressional counterstrike revived the program.
Now that the Navy has an actual prototype railgun to shoot, the plan is to hook it up to sensors and cameras to test its performance at 20 and 33 megajoules’ worth of energy. Its goal is produce accurate shots from 50 to 100 nautical mile distances, which the Navy wants by 2017.

Sadly, we don't have 80-ton mechs to mount one of these on yet.  There are also other umm..."technical drawbacks":

Even railgun advocates concede there are a host of other challenges the hypersonic weapon will have to overcome. Its barrel will have to withstand repeated fires without wearing out. (The Navy wants to up firing rates to 10 per minute.) It’s got to fire smart bullets without frying the guidance systems during a blast. (The Navy says both BAE and General Dynamics are starting to design “a next-generation thermally managed launcher.”) And it’s got to be affordable. (The Navy has spent $240 million on the railgun so far, and it expects to spend about as much through 2017 on tests — before buying a single one of the things.)

And yeah, I know, a naval railgun's gonna be a "real big help" in policing the nebulous Af-Pak border regions and all, but there is a civilian technology upside:

Another big problem: the current generation of Destroyers can’t produce the power to fire the railgun without diverting juice from the propulsion systems. One of the goals of the railguns over the next five years is to create workarounds, so the guns will be relevant to their intended ships. Those include “an intermediate energy store using energy-dense batteries, similar to [those on] hybrid cars,” Ellis told reporters on a Tuesday conference call. “That enables us to put the railgun on ships that don’t have larger power supplies.”

Advances in battery storage technology that could say, make electric cars more widespread with batteries that are cheaper and more efficient wouldn't exactly be a bad thing.

Also, railgun. Because RAILGUN, that's why.  Velocitas Eradico, indeed.

StupidiNews, Leap Day Edition!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Last Call


The Barack Obama you voted for has been there the entire time, folks.

The Kroog Versus The Publishing Houses Of Austerity

Always a great day whenever I have an excuse to use this:

The Kroog's new book, "End This Depression Now!", hits on April 30.

How bad have things gotten? How did we get stuck in what now can only be called a depression? And above all, how do we free ourselves? Krugman pursues these questions with his characteristic lucidity and insight. He has a powerful message for anyone who has suffered over these past four years—a quick, strong recovery is just one step away, if our leaders can find the "intellectual clarity and political will" to end this depression now. 

Well, anyone who had read his column or this blog know Krugman's solution economically, it's the political part that's not working. I may have to check this one out.

More Both Sides Did It Nonsense

With Republicans saying they would have let the auto industry fail and take hundreds of thousands of jobs with it, Bloomberg's editorial page this morning wants Republicans to admit the plan to bail out the auto industry was absolutely the right thing to do...but the editors can't help but put nearly all of the blame for conditions that necessitated the bailout squarely on the shoulders of those evil, evil auto unions.

Under the circumstances, the combination of bailout and bankruptcy was right. Bankruptcy without public money would have meant destruction rather than restructuring. If conditions in financial markets had been normal, new private creditors might have forced radical, desperately needed changes on GM and Chrysler as part of ordinary bankruptcy proceedings. In 2008 and 2009, this was not possible; private lenders were too distressed even to think about supporting auto companies on the necessary scale.

Either the government had to put money on the table or the companies would be liquidated -- not easy to contemplate in Chrysler’s case and all but inviting disaster in GM’s. Job losses on that scale would have hammered an economy already on its knees. Bush took this view, and so did Obama weeks after being sworn in. The crucial thing was forcing real change on Detroit -- and Obama’s team did so.

The concessions demanded of shareholders, management, creditors and the UAW were severe. Obama has chosen not to mention the role the union played in bringing the industry so low in the first place, and likes to portray the terms extracted from it as a kind of noble sacrifice.

Nobly or otherwise, the union gave up a lot of ground. Although the UAW got shares in both companies, this was in exchange for payments owed to workers’ health-care benefit funds. The union wanted cash, not shares, for those obligations. The bankruptcies shut down inefficient plants, forced out tens of thousands of workers and cut wages for new hires. Some treasured union work rules, including overtime payments after working less than 40 hours a week and the “jobs banks” that paid idled workers for doing nothing, are a thing of the past. 

So the bailout was a good thing, but nearly all the concessions made were made by the unions.  As a result, one of the major paths forward into the middle class through manufacturing jobs was dismantled in a state that badly needed it.  It wasn't the unions who made GM's bad management and design decisions for 20 years, selling nothing but expensive trucks and SUVs at the expense of giving the smaller car market away to Japan and Korea.  It wasn't the unions who refused to jump onto the electric car bandwagon until it was nearly too late.

If anyone actually thought auto unions had too much power in America compared to corporations today, they're the reason why wages have been stagnant, if not falling now for decades.

LibreOffice: Check And Mate

Intel is now on board supporting LibreOffice, the freeware answer to Microsoft Office. While LibreOffice has many supporters, including Google, every major supporting act is a nail in the coffin of Microsoft domination. Microsoft Office has long been the common choice for businesses, with Excel and Word creating an industry standard that locked out competition. Then the freeware community began chipping away at the compatibility issues and sneaky Microsoft tricks to keep the .doc file format protected.

What this means for both businesses and common folks is that there is an acceptable and completely free office suite that is compatible with Microsoft Office and has a similar look and feel. For the most part, the same shortcuts and options exist and an average user can hop on and find their way around with minimum digging. It also means Microsoft is going to struggle to find a niche in this brave new world. Their attempt to enter the mobile phone market has been an epic fail, their software domination is at an end, and their bad PR among customers and the geek community has left them in the cold.

The long-term problem has been Power Point compatibility and performance. I have heard rumors of drastic improvement on the way, but I have yet to test that out. However, according to the site over 80% of readers felt LibreOffice has everything they need in an office suite. Based on the site and the geeky audience, that is pretty compelling. As more businesses adopt LibreOffice and save on licensing fees, that will become the last point of competition between the two. If LibreOffice follows their own trend, they will come out strong and give users what they want.

Fiddling Around

I love me some fiddle music, and I wanted to share a couple of songs that I hold dear to my heart.  If you enjoy music, please give these two a minute, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

First, we have the reason I switched to Celtic fiddle music.  For those of you who don't recognize her, Mairead Nesbitt tours with Celtic Woman (if you watch PBS I bet you recognize her).  Her style, her grace and the energy she brings to her playing is exactly what I like to feel and make my audience feel. I can't imagine not getting a shiver down my spine at the two minute mark. If obsessing over her sound is wrong, then I don't want to be right.

Then we have Leonard Smith, a one-armed fiddler who puts most players I know to shame. For those who don't play, I cannot describe how much attention must be paid to the bow. You are constantly measuring and changing the speed, pressure on the strings, and a dozen other factors. Eventually the hand on the violin is working without a lot of thought, like a good typist doesn't think when they get on a roll. But no matter how long you play, how good you get, you are always focused on your bow. Old Leonard reminds me that you can do it if you are willing to work to find a way. When I want to throw my fiddle down and call it quits, I play this video and it reminds me that love will find a way.

Fire Walker Chronicles: Think Of The Kids!

And suddenly, after cutting millions to Wisconsin schools and social safety net programs, GOP Gov. Scott Walker wants voters to think of how this awful recall fight is hurting kids and old people.

MSNBC’s Willie Geist asked Walker: “You find yourself in the middle of this, mired in a recall election. The latest Marquette poll has you 47 approve, 47 percent disapproves, split right down the middle in the state of Wisconsin. This could be a long fight for you — a special election scheduled to take place in June, a primary in May. How distracted are you from doing the business of Wisconsin by trying to essentially win re-election in the middle of your term?” (Note: The May and June dates are not yet officially declared by state election officials, but are the likely outcome of the administrative process.)
“Well, we’re focused,” Walker responded, “but it’s a huge distraction, not just for me, for the legislature. I mean, it’s $9 million of taxpayers’ money just to run this. Think about the number of kids we could help, think of the number of seniors we could help in our state with $9 million that we didn’t have to waste on this — this frivolous recall election.

And after taking big money from the Koch Brothers to save his bacon, who have sworn to help Walker destroy the state's public unions,  he has this to say about outside money:

“But really, I mean, in the end, I think it’s amazing, after a year of being attacked by out of state special interests, the tens of millions of dollars that were poured in, the fact that we’re ahead of any of the Democrats in the race I think bodes well for the election."

Yes, because there's no outside money coming to help Walker.  Not a dime, right?  Hey, you know what?  That $9 million Walker's complaining about?  That's about what he's gotten from Koch to run ads in the state so far.  Funny how that works.

Mendacious ass.

Stuck In The Middle With Chris

The reason I don't watch Sunday shows is that they are basically 2 hours of silly, mendacious false equivalences used to bash President Obama.  Up With Chris Hayes is a nice change of pace most of the time, but there are still segments where Chris tries to impress his right-leaning panelists by feeding them red meat.  Sunday's final half-hour was a prime cut of this, as Deaniac83 notes over at The People's View:

At a time when the entire GOP is busy constructing a fictional Barack Obama that doesn't actually exist, some on the "Left" have their own construction of yet another fictional Barack Obama. As opposed to the peacenik terrorist-loving Barack Obama constructed by the Right, the Left's fictional version of the president presides over a police state America. On his MSNBC show "Up with Chris Hayes," Chris Hayes launches a fresh attack on President Obama's "national security state." In this version, President Obama commits Syrian-style journalist-killing atrocities by... drum rolls please... prosecuting irresponsible leaks under specific, legally defined - with fully protected defendants' rights - circumstances. 

Yeah, Chris Hayes went there, equating the prosecution of leakers like Bradley Manning with the brutal and bloody deaths of journalists covering Syria's deadly al-Assad regime crackdown. Look Chris, I like your show. It's still head and shoulders above the pablum served up by your sister network, NBC.  But as much as you pride yourself on journalistic accuracy and deep drilling on subjects that cable news doesn't otherwise touch, you blew this one.

It is one thing to rigorously pursue disclosure in government business, and work within a framework of law and democracy to expand that framework in the public interest. It's quite another - and more than irresponsible - to equate the leak-prosecutions of individuals with their right to defend themselves in a court of law secured with open war on citizens and journalists in the cross-hairs of totalitarian regimes. It dishonors the memory and the sacrifice of the brave journalists who risk and give their lives in those regions by comparing their difficulties with a reporter sitting in a fancy press briefing room throwing out questions at the president's press secretary. It makes a mockery of the injustice facing those journalists on the frontlines there to equate it with legal prosecutions of leakers here. Perhaps more sadly, it harms the very effort to make our government more open when comparisons are taken to the level of the absurd.

And if there's anyone in the cable news business who should know better, it's Hayes. Sadly, this isn't his first slip, especially when it comes to guests like Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald.  There's a reason I've been glued to 4 hours of Melissa Harris-Perry, and ambivalent at best about Up With Chris Hayes.  There's no contesting that the former is worth your time, as the professor does an admirable job of flagging down such notions.   The latter, however, could stand to take a few notes on the subject.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Last Call

Via Tbogg, Mitt Romney once again commits the worst sin a politician can make:  lying badly enough to get caught red-handed.

Romney recalled he was “probably 4 or something like that” the day of the Golden Jubilee, when three-quarters of a million people gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the American automobile.

“My dad had a job being the grandmaster. They painted Woodward Ave. with gold paint,” Romney told a rapt Tea Party audience in the village of Milford Thursday night, reliving a moment of American industrial glory.

The Golden Jubilee described so vividly by Romney was indeed an epic moment in automotive lore.

The parade included one of the last public appearances by an elderly Henry Ford.

Only one problem with Romney's reminiscing...

And it took place June 1, 1946 — fully nine months before Romney was born

It's like Mitt's plan is to run the worst Presidential campaign in modern history so that the country ends up with Santorum in the White House, and he's doing a bang-up job of it.

Drive Thru Stupidity

OREM — It almost sounds too bizarre to be true, a Utah County teen is under arrest, accused of robbing two banks in less than an hour.

Authorities said a 16-year old boy allegedly took his mother's car without permission, drove to a nearby Central Bank branch and pulled into the drive up lane.

"He sent a note through the drive-thru canister telling the teller to send him money," said Orem Police Sgt. Craig Martinez. "He inferred on the note that he had a weapon."

After complying with the young man's demands, the tellers contacted police and were able to give a detailed description of the vehicle, including the license plate number. But before investigators were able to track the boy down, he allegedly used the same modus operandi at an America First Credit Union branch just 20 minutes later.
The article makes it clear Mom knew nothing about what her son was up to.  Still, it's sad that he will enter life with this kind of black mark on his record, because nobody got a win from this.  I'm honestly surprised there weren't charges pressed on the mother simply because of his age and that he used her car in the crime.

I'm also surprised that it worked.  I'd have sent a note back saying we'd be right with him after calling 911 from behind our bullet proof glass, and provide a picture of the car.  Better luck next time, Buttercup.

No Shoes, No Shirt, No Screaming Kids Part II

COMMENTARY | Grant Central Pizza of Atlanta, Georgia has finally done the unforgivable -- they have printed a disclaimer upon their menus asking parents to remove their unruly children from the restaurant. Why is this so unforgivable? Because in this modern age, no one is allowed to notice, let alone comment upon, children causing a disruption. Walk into a Wal-Mart at any time of the day or night and you will hear a cacophony of screams coming from children scattered around the store. Like sirens they blare unhindered by the apparently deaf parents.

When did such total lack of social consideration become our sentence? My father informs me I threw a temper tantrum once in public only once. I don't remember it, nor do I know what happened afterward, but I grew up knowing public displays of temper, aggression, or screeching were prohibited.

In recent years I have become a practical recluse in attempt to avoid shrieks of children in restaurants and theaters. If I am having a meal with friends and I have to shout over howling children or dodge projectiles lobbed at my head I am unlikely to return to an establishment that attracts such clientele. I was in a Trader Joe's recently and had to escape when I could no longer navigate around the toddlers with their individual carts and their middle aged mothers who didn't think it necessary to keep traffic flowing.
Some would label the author as judgmental or uptight, but I agree.  I can't go anywhere without someone's unattended brats opening packages, destroying property, or annoying the hell out of everyone around them.  Not all kids are this way, but plenty are.  It's nice to see an adult-only or well-behaved-kids-only policy in place once in a while.  The world is full of places to take children, there is no reason whatsoever to hate a business that caters to a legitimate desire.

More articles and studies are telling us how unhealthy it is to multitask and let the world pass you by.  We need to unplug and have real interactions with people.  It's difficult to enjoy a quiet, calming meal with someone's kids screaming next to you.  It's hard to unplug from your own children, but dealing with  strangers makes it impossible.  Especially strangers who came to the restaurant to dump their kids on the village so they can unwind.

Peace and quiet: it's a good thing.

Happy Belated Birthday To The Man In Black

Many thanks to Wired, who reminded me about Johnny Cash's birthday and A Boy Named Sue. I'm in my thirties and I still laugh when I hear "how do you DO? My name is SUE! Now you're gonna DIE!" Cash had a style all his own, and this was one of those perfect marriages between the right singer and the right song. Dry and with the air of one who is discreetly amused, Cash could tell a hell of a story.

In February 1969, Johnny Cash had a party at his house in Hendersonville, TN. As the evening went on, the party turned into a guitar pull, with some of Johnny’s friends trying out their latest songs. “Bob Dylan sang ‘Lay Lady Lay,’” recalled Cash. “Kris Kristofferson sang ‘Me and Bobby McGee.’ Joni Mitchell sang ‘Both Sides Now.’ Graham Nash sang ‘Marrakesh Express.’ And Shel Silverstein sang ‘A Boy Named Sue.’”

Cash loved Silverstein’s tune and asked him to write down the words. He might not have realized it then, but the song was about to change his life. He said, “We were leaving the next day to go to California and June said, ‘Take the words to ‘A Boy Named Sue’ to California. You’ll want to record that at San Quentin.’ I said, ‘I don’t have time to learn that song before the show.’ And she said, ‘Well, take them anyway.’”

Despite reading the lyrics, Cash gave the song his all, investing it with an actor’s bravado. There’s also a spontaneity and joy about the performance, with Cash obviously amused by Silverstein’s clever lyrics. And the inmates loved it, whooping and laughing along, especially when Cash shouted the lines, “My name is Sue! How do you do? Now you’re gonna die!” From the ovation at the song’s end, Cash suspected he might have a hit on his hands.

GOP Stupidity? Bring It On.

Author Robert Creamer agrees with what I've been saying for a while: GOP stupidity has jumped the shark to such a degree that it is actually a benefit to Dems.

Mr. Creamer starts with the obvious birth control issue, which has by far done the most damage.  Republicans generally play it safe and pick on minorities who don't have the numbers to come together and make them pay at the polls for their ignorance.  Now they've taken on an issue that affects women on a huge scale, and instead of backing away from the minefield they are charging right in.  Further down in the article he covers a few smaller or less recent mistakes that are piling up.  They are falling apart, and it's starting to show.  Choosing between Planned Parenthood and Forced Parenthood isn't much of a contest.

Taking on half the country's medical rights is stupid.  It's a texbook bad move.  It's right up there with a land war in Asia, or going against a Sicilian when death is on the line.  It's worse than messing around with Jim or saying "I'll be right back" if you suspect a killer in a hockey mask is on the scene.  Yet these fools are so proud of their righteousness that they are forgetting their job is to take care of Americans.  All of them.  And until they figure it out, they are doing more harm to their reputation than any mudslinging from the left could ever accomplish.

Not all women are pro-choice, as is their right.  However, the numbers show that virtually every woman supports contraception, and the majority of men.  The GOP attack on that has brought the cheers to silence, and made many women realize that our medical rights are in jeopardy.  It's not just abortion now, and that has led to many questions and clarifications.  If the two issues become permanently linked this could be the event that starts the return to medical services for women.  They had a chance to ease up.  Any one candidate could have stepped in with the voice of reason and scooped up millions of votes.  Instead, this double down epic fail shame spiral is what Republicans have to cope with.  Creamer's article does mention the trickle-down effect to all Republicans.  I had been more focused on all things presidential, but of course he's right.

The saving grace is that our votes are secret and personal.  Voters will have the privacy they need to make candidates feel the backlash.  Of course, it's an entirely different matter altogether as to whether Republicans will attribute it to their misogyny, or if they will blame it on something else.  Right now, I'll be satisfied if they have the debate while looking for a new job.

Tyranny Of The Majority

It's a good thing that we don't subject rights to voting, because of things like this.

The U.S. Supreme Court last week agreed to hear a case involving the use of race as a factor in college admissions. Most voters oppose the use of so-called affirmative action policies at colleges and universities and continue to believe those policies have not been successful despite being in place for 50 years.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 24% of Likely U.S. Voters favor applying affirmative action policies to college admissions. Fifty-five percent (55%) oppose the use of such policies to determine who is admitted to colleges and universities. Twenty-one percent (21%) are undecided.

So let's keep in mind that there's a reason why the GOP wants to change state constitutions with 50% + 1 referendums in order to exclude people all the time.  Rasmussen's questions were about as hostile as they possibly could be to the subject, by the way.  They were designed to get this reaction, and the right will use it to justify a Constitutional amendment to end it.

I mean, if the GOP gets control, they're going to end birth control, health care, living wages and dignity for people who can't afford them, let's just end higher education too.  The country needs a couple million inner city janitors, you know.

Nullification And Void, The Return

I've discussed the legal aspect of nullification before, where the states decide the Tenth Amendment means they don't have to follow laws they don't want to.  South Carolina tried it 1832 and got smacked down by Andrew Jackson over it (literally, Congress passed legislation authorizing the use of force against SC over this and Columbia folded in 1833.)   The nullification effort by South Carolina was basically the first real shot fired in the Civil War, although the real bullets wouldn't fly until nearly three decades later. 

With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and even before the passage of it, red states like Arizona began beating the nullification drum again.  Arizona was just one of many states that passed nullification laws in protest to President Obama being elected.   It's meaningless of course because the of the Supremacy Clause in Article VI of the Constitution:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.

Of course, that didn't stop South Carolina from trying to ignore it anyway based on the Tenth Amendment, and oh yeah, the Civil War, like I mentioned.

Over at PoliticusUSA, Rmuse finds Georgia Republicans have gone one big step further and want to basically opt out of the union altogether:

The Georgia legislators introduced the nullification bill that is summed up with the words, “In the event the General Assembly votes by a constitutional majority to nullify any federal statute, mandate, or executive order on the grounds of constitutionality, neither the state nor its citizens shall recognize or be obligated to live under such statute, mandate, or executive order.” The similarities to pre-Civil War sensibilities of Southern states is remarkable and reflect opposition to, among other things, the Affordable Care Act and the right of women to choose their own reproductive health. However, the impetus of nullification is rejection of Barack Obama as President of the United States and not any one particular law.

And of course this is all about having a black President in the White House.  It was obvious as to why this happened in 1832 and obvious now.

The unconstitutional idea that a state can nullify federal law was invoked during the 1830’s by slave owners in southern states nearly caused a civil war at the time, and was the motivation of secessionists who did start America’s bloodiest conflict. Except for segregated southern states using nullification to maintain Jim Crow laws, the concept has been the purview of “constitutional radicalism” until January 2009. Its resurgence during President Obama’s administration increased with conservatives who are inspired by a neo-Confederate hate-group founder, Thomas Woods, who authored a book, “Nullification,” that argues “states have the final say” on a variety of issues.  Woods once published an article declaring the Confederacy was “Christendom’s Last Stand,” and endorses the view that the Civil War was a “battle between atheists, socialists, and communists” on one side and “friends of order” on the other. His words are eerily similar to conservative accusations against President Obama.

There are several states that attempted to pass nullification laws since President Obama took office, and they are all states with Republican majorities and governors. Virginia governor Bob McDonnell signed an obviously unconstitutional law that purports to nullify portions of the Affordable Care Act, and several states have followed suit with many considering so-called “sovereignty resolutions” which claim states have the power to ignore federal laws that conservatives oppose. In New Hampshire in 2009, four state legislators introduced a resolution which would invalidate the entire Constitution if Congress passed any law conflicting with the right-wing view of federal power. There is only one connection between all of these nullification attempts and it is they all occurred during President Obama’s term with many coming before the ACA was passed and signed into law.

It's ridiculous, but we're right back to 1832 again as far as the Republicans go.  Obama Derangement Syndrome is a pretty awful thing to witness.  And millions of Americans are okay with this level of hatred.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Last Call

Nearly two years after the Deepwater Horizon spill vomited millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico, oil giant BP and rig operator TransOcean are still pointing fingers at each other in court as the blame game begins in earnest.

BP Plc (BP) officials overseeing the Macondo well that spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico ignored questions about whether safety tests done hours before a fatal blast on the drilling rig were flawed, lawyers for Transocean Ltd. (RIG) said in a court filing.

Donald Vidrine, the senior BP manager on the Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20, 2010, talked with an engineer about unsatisfactory well tests less than an hour before an explosion killed 11 workers on the rig and sent oil pouring into the waters off Louisiana, Transocean’s attorneys said in a filing tied to a trial set for tomorrow with billions of dollars at stake. Transocean owned the rig and was drilling in a well owned by BP and other partners.

While Mark Hafle, a Houston-based BP drilling engineer, warned Vidrine in a phone call that stability tests on the well might be flawed, “neither man stopped work” at the facility, Transocean officials said in the Feb. 24 filing. The BP officials allowed crews to continue displacing drilling fluid in the well with seawater, company lawyers said in the filing. Once the fluid was removed, the lighter seawater couldn’t stop natural gas from leaking into the well, leading to the explosion, the filing said.

The filing came three days before BP, Transocean, the U.S. government and plaintiffs suing over the oil spill are scheduled to begin a trial in New Orleans to apportion blame for the disaster and determine exposure to punitive damages. 

Next week's trial is going to be a pretty big deal, and I'm certainly going to be paying plenty of attention to it, as should you.

Especially the "apportion of blame and punitive damages" part.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

So, Rick Santorum said this today:

I don’t believe in an America where the separation between church and state is absolute. The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and visions of our country.

To which my response is:

Seriously.  Use of the First Amendment to justify the elimination of church and state in a man who could end up President is the most wildly disturbing and idiotic thing I've heard in a very long time.  He then takes JFK's 1960 speech on the subject, stood by his declaration that the idea of separation of church and state makes Santorum "want to throw up" and then rewrites history.

“Kennedy for the first time articulated the vision saying, ‘No, faith is not allowed in the public square. I will keep it separate.’ Go on and read the speech. ‘I will have nothing to do with faith. I won’t consult with people of faith.’ It was an absolutist doctrine that was abhorrent at the time of 1960.”

This is hogwash.  Yes, some Catholics thought the President had given too much ground to the secular in that speech, but by and large it was a necessary and thoughtful speech, made by a man with deep theological convictions as to why those two powers must remain separate.  Coming from a NY Catholic family myself, Kennedy's speech has special meaning and his words remain even more true today:

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute – where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote – where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference – and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him…. I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair, neither imposed upon him by the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office….
Whatever issues may come before me as President, if I should be elected – on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling, or any other subject – I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be in the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressure or dictate. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.

By the way, here's Kennedy giving that speech in 1960 in Houston:

And no, Rick Santorum is certainly no Kennedy.

This Is Why We Need Education, Folks

Like I pointed out over at Angry Black Lady's site, Rick Santorum thinks Obama is a "snob" for wanting college available to anyone who wants it.

But here's a great example of why education could be helpful:

REDFIELD, Iowa (AP) — A rural Redfield man is being treated for two gunshot wounds after an attempt to shoot a raccoon caught in a live trap backfired.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources says 68-year-old Larry Godwin was using a 22-caliber handgun to shoot the caged raccoon at around 11 a.m. Saturday when the bullet ricocheted off the cage and struck him in the lower abdomen on the right side. He dropped the gun and it fired again, shooting him again in about the same spot.
I mean hell, that's just so crazy it had to be shared on a site dedicated to fighting Teh Stoopid. Could you have passed by a headline that read: Man Shot Twice as he Tries to Shoot Caged Raccoon?

Church Stupidity

It looks like the Pope didn't give up stupidity for lent.

Speaking at the end of a three-day Vatican conference on diagnosing and treating infertility, Benedict also reiterated church teaching that marriage is the only permissible place to conceive children. Matrimony "constitutes the only 'place' worthy of the call to existence of a new human being," he said.

The pope pressed the church ban against artificial procreation, saying infertile couples should refrain from any method to try to conceive other than sex between husband and wife.

He told the science and fertility experts in his audience to resist "the fascination of the technology of artificial fertility. Benedict cautioned the experts against "easy income, or even worse, the arrogance of taking the place of the Creator," an attitude he indicated underlies the field of artificial procreation.

Why do they care so much? Why does he feel the need to tell millions of people how they should handle their private lives? The church has always hated knowledge, which is a major red flag for intelligent people. There is nothing wrong with science. The idea that science and God cannot coexist comes from the church itself.

Then we have the case of William Rowe, who was fired for not reading the prayers verbatim.  So let me make sure I'm following.  The church sends the message that it's what you do in this life, not what you believe.  Belief without action to support it is not enough.  Yet they fire a man for not reading something word for word, but if he had raped a little boy he would just be moved and protected.  Does that about cover it?

The Message Pitch

For all the readers out there who like to complain that Barack Obama is a tool of the wealthy, congratulations!  The American Future Fund is spending $4 million in SuperPAC ads in nine swing states this month to push that exact message to help the Republicans.

The AFF offensive highlights Obama’s claim – in a 2009 interview – that he didn’t “run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers.” The conservative group points out in its new ad that the Obama administration has included a lineup of veterans of the financial services industry, including White House chiefs of staff Rahm Emanuel, Bill Daley and Jack Lew.

“His White House is full of Wall Street executives,” the spot says. “Now, Obama’s flush with cash, returning to Wall Street for more glitzy fundraisers … Obama won’t admit to supporting Wall Street, but Wall Street sure supports President Obama.”

The AFF television ads will run on cable in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia. That’s real money going onto the airwaves in real states from a group that spent heavily in the 2010 midterms, but which has yet to fully ramp up for the 2012 general election.

Gosh, I wonder who the targets of those ads are?  After all, Nader voters cost Obama/Biden Missouri in 2008.  The Republican SuperPACs may not know who their candidate is yet, but they damn sure know who they're running against in November.  They're willing to spend big money to demoralize Obama voters already: $4 million in February, more than eight months before the election, to convince voters in swing states that Obama has failed them.

And again, these were the same SuperPAC folks that spent almost ten million in 2010 to defeat Democrats.  They're getting a head start here in 2012, and they're using an awfully familiar message to push, too.

It's the same ones we see the Useful Idiots pushing for the last two years.  Now the stakes are much higher, and the Republicans are using it to attack the Democrats.  And why wouldn't they?  It worked well for them in 2010.

If they are willing to spend $4 million in February to push this manic progressive nonsense, how much will they be willing to spend in months closer to the election?  Think about that while you're deciding which party is beholden to the 1%.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Last Call

Rick Santorum has figured out how to win the nomination.  Go as far to the right as possible, because 40-42% of America will vote for you no matter how much of a crazy, misogynist, homophobic bigot of a god-botherer you are.

The former senator was notably more energized here than he was in going through a litany of rehashed policy proposals to a modest crowd last night at an event his campaign billed as a major speech.

Asked why he was so tough on Romney, Santorum told reporters after his address: "Fight fire with fire."

Before a middle-class crowd, Santorum also amped up his populist message.

He noted his Italian immigrant lineage, joking that his ancestors didn't drop any vowels at the end of his name

And he took a tough shot at President Obama's declaration that he'd like all Americans to attend college.

"What a snob," Santorum, an attorney, said to loud applause, warning of teens being indoctrinated "by some liberal college professor."

There was also an unmistakable shot at Newt Gingrich.

"The only person I sit next to on a couch is my wife, period," Santorum said, a reference to Gingrich's climate change ad with Nancy Pelosi.

When your party is full of paranoid caricatures and cartoon villainy, you run as a sneering, neurotic mustache-twirling heavy.  You forgo the dog whistles and the coded language, and come out and say the President is an elitist snob for the view that everyone deserves a shot at college.  Everyone knows somebody who not only doesn't deserve a shot at college, but probably doesn't deserve a shot at being outside of prison.

And Ricky's brand of apocalyptic fatalism goes right to the heart of the Republican message:  those who are with us will share the spoils, those who are against us will share the wrath.  For all of his talk that America is the bestest most super-awesome country ever in all of space-time, Ricky's message is "It's time to admit our vision of America is screwed with all these gay, brown, elitists and jettison the dead weight and start over."

They no longer want to be part of an America where a black man can be President.  They're taking their ball and going home.  But they'll loot the treasury on the way out and take all the good silver.  The red state/blue state dichotomy ain't too different from the Blue and the Gray 150 years ago, to hear Ricky tell it.

And should he be the nominee, he'll get 60 million votes. Minimum.  Just like McCain/Palin.

Never forget that.

Iran, So Far Away, Part 12

The redemption of Rick Santorum as Serious Foreign Policy Thinker(tm) comes courtesy of Michael Ledeen in the WSJ.

After leaving the Senate in 2007, Mr. Santorum wrote about foreign policy frequently for the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he was a fellow until June of 2011. In essays written for the center, he acknowledges that terrorists are indeed inspired by radical Islam—but he wants to work with Muslims who do not wage jihad, subjugate women or oppress minorities. He's specific about the radicals: They are evil men who have perverted the meaning of "martyrdom," changing it from the act of dying for one's faith to killing others to advance the dominion of one's faith.

His opposition to tyranny abroad has been a constant in his political career. Even in the final days of his losing 2006 re-election campaign, Mr. Santorum never stopped calling for action against Iran and Syria. Apparently, Pennsylvanians weren't impressed by his Iran Freedom and Support Act, enacted in 2006, which imposed sanctions on the regime and authorized $100 million annually for the democratic opposition, or his 2003 Syria Accountability Act.

But today he looks prescient and gutsy. Back then, the Bush administration was trying to run away from such ideas. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at one point turned to a Democrat, then-Sen. Joe Biden, to block Mr. Santorum's Iran bill, before it finally passed. But Mr. Santorum's basic vision has prevailed.

And so it goes.  Clearly the Murdoch machine is hedging their bets when it comes to the very real possibility that the man who will carry the GOP's standard into battle against President Obama is going to be a know-nothing fundamentalist dipstick.  So like Bush 43 before him, the same "scholars" who told us that it didn't really matter that the Republican candidate is a moron because he would be surrounded by a brain trust of great minds led by the necessary vision and will to "win" are hard at work constructing the exact same fantasy with Iran as their target.

Ledeen and his crew of bloodthirsty ghouls have been after "regime change" in Iran now for over a decade.  To see him latch his lamprey maw onto Santorum's back to try to ride him into a war with Tehran should be setting off alarm bells in the head of every American old enough to vote.  They want war, and Rick Santorum is the best way to get it.  Ledeen allowed out of his crypt to try to sell Santorum as Commander-in-Chief means that not only is the GOP establishment making plans for Santorum vs Obama in the fall, but that when it comes to all the truly important boxes to be checked, that Ricky will do for them just fine.

The GOP establishment will prevent Santorum from winning over Romney?  Really?  At best they are hedging pretty damn hard, and at worst they are sabotaging the increasingly failtastic Mittens to get the man they wanted all along.  If "probability of deciding to go to war with Iran" is your top criteria for picking a GOP nominee, then Santorum's the clear choice.  If Murdoch and the neo-cons are backing him, the notion that Santorum will crash and burn long before Tampa is no longer so assured, is it?

Misogyny: Also Bigger In Texas

Texas Republicans have decided that if they can't ban Planned Parenthood in the state, they'll simply get rid of all the women's programs that Planned Parenthood helps to fund and provide.

If there was any hope that the state was seeking a compromise with the federal government over Texas’ Women’s Health Program, it’s fading fast. At the direction of lawmakers and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Texas Health and Human Services commissioner signed a rule on Thursday that formally bans Planned Parenthood clinics and other "affiliates of abortion providers" from participating in the program — something the Obama administration has said is a deal-breaker for the nearly $40 million-per-year state-federal Medicaid program.

"The Obama administration is trying to force Texas to violate our own state laws or they will end a program that provides preventative health care to more than 100,000 Texas women," said Allison Castle, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry. "This boils down to the rule of law — which the state of Texas respects and the Obama administration does not.

The rule, signed by Commissioner Tom Suehs on Thursday, takes effect March 14. Unless some last-minute agreement is brokered, the program, which receives $9 in federal funds for every $1 in state funds, will be either phased out or cut off by the end of March. At least 130,000 poor Texas women will lose access to cancer screenings, well-woman exams and contraception.

The goal of course was to end these programs all along.  This is why Republicans are fighting the contraception and Title X wars all over again, this is why they are suing the Obama administration over contraception rules, this is why they scream TENTH AMENDMENT and STATE'S RIGHTS and FEDERAL TYRANNY over this.  They don't want to help poor people.  They want them gone.

If red states make being poor, female, LGBT, and/or a racial minority so awful, and the legislative and social climate so hostile that people just leave the state, then the red states win.  That's what they've wanted all along.  They become some other state's problem.  It worked for the Jim Crow era.  It worked for Reconstruction era, it worked for the Civil Rights era, it's working again now.

Make it so awful not to be a white, Christian, straight male that everyone else says "screw it" and goes away.  And the more than do, the more political power these folks obtain in the state to turn the screws on the remainder.  Texas and Florida now have Republican super-majorities at the state level.  There's nothing Dems can really do at this point except wait for demographics.  Dick moves like this preempt that.  The Texas GOP now has enough power to basically end Medicaid in the state for poor women.  They want even more power.

They'll get it, too.

Show me Stupidity

Enough already.  They act like it's the employers who are being mistreated here.

After President Obama offered a compromise to his birth control coverage rule, which would allow faith-based organizations to opt out of covering the cost of contraception for employees and have a third-party insurer cover it instead, a number of congressional Republicans continued to insist that any employer, regardless of religious affiliation, should be able to decline to cover contraception.

Next week, the Senate is expected to debate Sen. Roy Blunt's (R-Mo.) amendment to the Transportation Authorization Bill, which takes that point of view a step further by allowing any employer to refuse to insure contraception or any other health service for any moral reason. The amendment has sent Senate Democrats into a tailspin because it would water down or nullify many of the landmark reforms they voted in with the Affordable Care Act.

"Here's the issue," Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the sponsor of the transportation bill, told reporters on Friday. "Our families deserve health care. They deserve access to insurance that covers health care. The Blunt Amendment is very clear: for any reason, an employer can deny a host of services from contraception, to breast cancer screening, to autism screening, to depression screening, to osteoporosis screening, to STD screening. And that is a sad day when one political party feels that it helps the American people to take away their access to health care."

Virginia woke up. Women are getting pissed, and rightfully so. The stupidity has just about reached its upswing, and when it all comes crashing down this will amount to political suicide. Don't think for a second I will miss a chance to throw this back in his face.

What an asshole. He is the perfect example of serving his ideas instead of the people. If enough women get out there and vote, we can teach them a lesson.

Meanwhile, he can enjoy health coverage that addresses his every need. I ashamed to be from the state, even though I couldn't disagree with him more.

Saturday Morning Stupidity

I hate to say "every week" or "every whatever" because then there is a pressure applied.  I'm going to start Saturdays off happy, though.  I'd like to say video, because I enjoy a nice clip from time to time, but then what if there's not a good video that week?  I hate to paint myself into a corner, but I can promise happy whether it's a video, cute cat,  or whatever fun I've stumbled across.  We have a lot of stupidity and ugliness in the news to wade through, so we earn a little giggle now and then.

This week, I have Bobby McFerrin demonstrating the pentatonic scale.  McFerrin is probably best known for "Don't Worry, Be Happy" but was actually raised around classical music.

This is one of the things I dig about music so much.  You don't have to know the science and rules of music to appreciate it.  As a race, a species, we understand a universal language.  McFerrin says everywhere he goes, every audience is on board.  Every time.  It reminds me of the awe that makes me play, that feeling you get when the notes are just right and it rings every nerve in your body.  That we know those rules without knowing them but can still have our own personal taste is just another reason why music can be as powerful as it is entertaining.


Meanwhile In Afghanistan

The Afghan Taliban is claiming responsibility today for the deaths of a US colonel and major shot and killed inside the Interior Ministry in Kabul today.

At least two American officers were killed inside the interior ministry in Kabul, a senior Afghan police official said Saturday.

According to the International Security Assistance Force, initial reports indicated that "an individual" turned his weapon against NATO service members.

The agency did not provide the nationalities of the victims, but the Afghan police official confirmed they were American.

The Tabilan is saying that the attack was in retaliation for the burnings of Qurans earlier in the week.  And yes, we're still over there.  And yes, people are still dying.

StupidiNews! Zombie Edition

David Morrissey will be playing The Governor on The Walking Dead.  You can click this link to read the article, but major spoiler alert has been given.  If you don't read it, the broad strokes are that he is a major character and will be a villain.  One look at his character and you know that, already.  Walking Dead has annoyed some viewers, but I remain optimistic.  A certain amount of stage setting has to take place, but they had better deliver some action soon.

Zombie Con 2012 is accepting registrations.  It's strictly first come first serve, and is guaranteed to be the best miserable time you can have.  It's hotter than hell, with some hard walking and unfriendly living conditions.  But then there's also a float trip, nightly zombie movie fest, and knowing you have participated in something so awesomely geeky as Zombie Con.  I'm trying to talk the husband into it now, by the way.

Last but not least, Amazon sells zombie apocalypse survival gear  products.  I'm not even kidding, check it out.  I have to say, there's a couple of things that will end up on my birthday wish list!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Last Call

First Lady Michelle Obama was in town yesterday for some fundraising and to visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

First Lady Michelle Obama made a quick trip to Cincinnati on Thursday, preaching her husband’s record to the choir and stopping briefly at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

She collected some big money - about 300 people paid anywhere from $250 to $10,000 to hear her speak and to meet her.

She delivered a vigorous defense of her husband’s administration to the crowd at the downtown Westin hotel, saying President Obama’s work “is not done.”

“If any family in this country is struggling,” the First Lady said, “we can not be satisfied with our own families’ good fortune.”

It's good to know Mrs. Obama is a resource that her husband can count on.  Our side needs all the help it can get.

“Who do we want to be?’’ she asked. “Will we be a country where success is limited to a few at the top? This country is strongest when we are all better off.”

Her husband came to office three years ago, she said, to bring about change; and said change “does not come easy.”

It was her first visit to Cincinnati since Sept. 2008, when her husband was running for president. Then, she spoke at a National Baptist Convention at the Duke Energy Center.

The GOP of course showed their respect.

Her comments drew criticism from Christopher Maloney, spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party.
“The time has come and gone for empty rhetoric and broken promises. Ohioans simply cannot afford another four years of job loss, higher taxes and increased debt under Barack Obama,” he said.

The First Lady praised the passage of health care reform legislation that she said has already “saved millions of seniors in this country an average of $600 a year for prescription drugs.”

“Now, there are some folks talking about repealing that reform,’’ she said. “Are we going to let that happen? Are we going to allow children to be denied health care coverage who have cancer or other serious diseases? We can’t do that.”

Shot back Maloney: “The ‘folks’ Mrs. Obama dismisses represent 2.3 million Ohioans and a majority of voters in all 88 Ohio counties who demanded the repeal of Obamacare’s job-killing mandate in November.”

He's referring to the very badly worded Issue 3 on last year's Ohio ballot, which was all about nullifying mandates, which of course is completely meaningless given the Supreme Court's century-plus precedents on the Commerce Clause since the Civil War.

Doesn't matter when the President is a ni-(CLANG)!

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

Steve M. has something of a point on Romney going all in on the winger right:

What this really reminds me of is a moment in a totalitarian regime when then the purges and rehabilitations seem to defy all logic, when the longtime loyalist with a few minor blemishes on his record becomes an unperson, while a former unperson becomes the chief inquisitor just because the regime has developed a new appreciation for his viciousness and willingness to apply the screws. But that's not a reassuring moment in the history of such a regime, is it? 

Or as people keep telling me, Romney could run on a platform of throwing liberals off cliffs, and he'd get 42% of the vote, bare minimum.

Then again, counting Santorum out as President is equally silly:

Over the past several weeks, Republicans have watched squeamishly as presidential contender Rick Santorum has waded into multiple controversies that risk alienating half the 2012 electorate: women.

But in fact, Santorum has grown more popular among women while talking about his opposition to abortion, his disapproval of birth control and his view that the federal government shouldn’t pay for prenatal screenings. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows not only that Santorum is doing better among GOP women than he was a few weeks ago, but also that he is less unpopular — and also less well known — among Democratic and independent women than his Republican rivals Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

Santorum's going after the base.  And if you're still a female Republican voter in 2012, you've already bought the notion that women should submit to men when it comes to sex anyway.  Of course they like him more now.  Candidate Santorum would get 42% of the vote in November, too.  All he has to do is get 9% more and the game's over for a big, huge chunk of America.

Don't take an Obama win for granted against these idiots.  They'll get 50 million votes just for being in the R column.  The Santorum folks are trying to run as Conservative Good Ol' Boy Dubya against Elitist Mitt (and Obama).  And they'll have unlimited millions to sell it.

Make The Gas Face For Those Little White Lies

One of the nation's biggest oil lobbyists in January warned the President that he could make life very uncomfortable for his re-election chances if he didn't approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

The oil industry's top lobbyist warned the Obama administration Wednesday to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline or face "huge political consequences" in an election year.

Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, said it would be a "huge mistake" for President Barack Obama to reject the 1,700-mile, Canada-to-Texas pipeline. Obama faces a Feb. 21 deadline to decide whether the $7 billion pipeline is in the national interest.

"Clearly, the Keystone XL pipeline is in the national interest," Gerard said at the trade association's annual "State of American Energy" event. "A determination to decide anything less than that I believe will have huge political consequences."

Jump to six weeks later:

Soaring gasoline prices are threatening to undercut President Barack Obama’s re-election prospects and offering Republicans an easy target. With prices pushing $4 a gallon and threatening to go even higher, Obama sought Thursday to confront rising public anxiety and strike back at his GOP critics.

Obama said dismissively that all the Republicans can talk about is more drilling — “a bumper sticker … a strategy to get politicians through an election” — when the nation’s energy challenges demand much more. In a speech in Miami, he promoted the expansion of domestic oil and gas exploration but also the development of new forms of energy.

For all the political claims, economists say there’s not much a president of either party can do about gasoline prices. Certainly not in the short term. But it’s clear that people are concerned — a new Associated Press-GfK poll says seven in 10 find the issue deeply important — so it’s sure to be a political issue through the summer.

You do the math.  I'm thinking Big Oil already has, and they're liking the numbers they see.  The Republicans and the Village certainly aren't above concern trolling President Obama, either.  Remember, he's "bad for business" when he doesn't give corporations a zero tax rate and all the steak fajitas they can eat on Tuesdays.

Presidents may not be able to do much about gasoline prices, but oil companies sure as hell can.

It's Time To Protect The Kids, Dammit

As punishment for eating a "forbidden" candy bar, a 9-year-old girl was forced to run in her back yard.  For three hours.  And then she dropped, and started having seizures.  She later died from dehydration.  Three hours.  I'm surprised she was even able to keep going for that long.  It makes sense to me that she was so scared she thought she was running for her life.  Which, of course, makes her death all the more depressing.

The 12-year-old who was found naked and eating from a garbage can was kept naked so she wouldn't get out of the car.  Her mother forced her to stay there while she worked as an aide at a local school.  I imagine she couldn't get her daughter enrolled without an address.  The little girl was wandering, naked and eating some bread she had found.  She was basically caged like an animal, and so hungry she wandered out naked in February.

Those are the main two from this week.  As the sane ones, we need to keep our eyes open.  Someone did the right thing and called 911, and that poor naked child is clothed and eating real meals.  Nobody saved the first girl, and she died at the hands of two people who should have loved her more than anyone (or anything) else.  Because I am constantly scanning small news sources, I am so weary of articles about kids, yet I am compelled to read them.  We're not in a place to promise kids happy ever after.  We should  be able to promise our willingness to help when we can and make that call when we must.  We should be able to let them expect a place to sleep and food to eat.  If we can't give them anything else, it's meeting those most basic needs so they can survive to conquer.
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