Thursday, May 31, 2012

Last Call

Over at Balloon Juice, mistermix notes that WaPo fact checker Glenn Kessler and PolitiFact disagree on last week's statement on President Obama's spending.  PolitiFact called it Mostly True, while Kessler, citing context, gave it three Pinocchios.  They can fight all they want to, but the point is, as mistermix points out, that our fact checkers are pretty much broken anyway when it comes to the most ridiculous liars out there:  Trump and the Birthers.

Some of you disagreed with my view that saying that birtherism was “long discredited” or “long debunked” isn’t good enough, but I think that’s a real symptom of one of the major issues in journalism that fact checking has done nothing to change. Being “discredited” or “debunked” are different ways of saying that a statement isn’t believed by the community, but it’s not a categorical statement that something is false. The statement “the sun rose in the west this morning” doesn’t need to be “debunked” or “discredited’—it’s plainly, verifiably false. If the fact checking movement in journalism were having any real impact, wouldn’t journalists just say that birtherism is, similarly, “false”? It’s a simple, discrete and verifiable fact that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. Yet four years after the fact checkers called out the birthers, journalists just can’t say that Donald Trump made a false accusation about Obama’s place of birth. It’s a “long-discredited accusation” in the Times and a “long-debunked contention” in the Post. I don’t know where to look to find better examples of the total failure of the fact checking project.

So why aren't Birther statements by Trump and others given "Pants on Fire" and "Four Pinocchios" ratings?  They're relevant political statements being made by campaign surrogates and/or Republican political officials about the President.  They are absolutely the bailiwick of the Kessler/PolitiFact crew.  It would take all of five minutes to write the article, and yet they never get written.

It's not just the fact checkers either.  Journalists simply aren't going to antagonize someone as rich as Trump, period.  It's fine to call the President a liar in "context" but when someone says "Earth's atmosphere is full of deadly methane" or "the speed of light is 4 miles an hour" or "President Obama was born in Kenya" you call them on it.


Dropping The Pretense

FOX News simply declares itself the adjunct of the Romney campaign by airing a 4 minute anti-Obama infomercial on FOX and Friends Wednesday morning.  Even our old friend and current Malkinvania Minister of Defense Cap'n Ed Morrissey is disturbed by the blatant political slant of it, unsolicited.

Should a news organization produce and publish attack ads like this? I know the initial response will be that other news organizations offer biased perspectives and hagiographies of Obama that go well beyond a single video … and that response is entirely valid.  However, we usually criticize that kind of behavior with other news organizations, too. If anyone wanted to look for evidence that the overall Fox News organization intends to campaign against Obama rather than cover the campaign, this video would be difficult to refute as evidence for that claim.

See, all it does is lower FOX to the level of the LAMESTREAM MEDIA, so it's okay.  Bonus "It wasn't our slickly produced campaign ad!" copout:

The package that aired on FOX & Friends was created by an associate producer and was not authorized at the senior executive level of the network. This has been addressed with the show’s producers.

And by "addressed" we mean "gave these outstanding go-getting sunzabitches a raise!" right?

Meanwhile, Romney now has a new campaign video to show all over the country, free of charge.  Remember, FOX is a "news organization" so if the FCC, the FEC, or the DOJ say word "boo" it's OBAMA ADMINISTRATION DECLARES WAR ON FOX, TENS OF MILLIONS OF AMERICAN PATRIOTS.

They're just daring someone to do something about them and they don't give a flying crap.

Syria-ous Opposition

Any hope that China and Russia would move to allow the UN a more robust role in preventing another Houla Massacre was quickly dashed this week as both countries vowed to continue to support keeping the al-Assad regime in power.

China and Russia on Wednesday reiterated their stance against military intervention in Syria despite soaring international condemnation in the wake of a massacre that killed more than 100, including children.

"One cannot take decisions on military operations in Syria by being guided by only emotions," Russian first deputy foreign minister, Andrei Denisov, was quoted as saying by the nation's state-run Itar-Tass news agency.

Denisov was responding to a statement by French President Francois Hollande, who accused Beijing and Moscow of blocking efforts to impose tough measures against the Syrian regime.

China urged the warring sides in Syria to resume diplomatic dialogue and support a peace plan by international envoy Kofi Annan.

"China opposes military intervention and does not support forced regime change," said Liu Weimin, a foreign ministry spokesman. "The fundamental route to resolving the Syrian issue is still for all sides to fully support Annan's mediation efforts and push all the relevant parties to carry out diplomatic dialogue."

China and Russia have vetoed U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning President Bashar al-Assad's regime for attacks on protesters.

"We believe that considering any new measures to affect the situation would be premature for the Security Council," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told Russia's Interfax news agency.

One has to wonder at this point what al-Assad would have to do in order for new measures to become necessary, but there is room enough for caution here.  Syria would not be Libya and the dynamics of intervention would be significantly different in a number of key ways, most notably with Syria's proximity to Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey...and oh yeah, Israel along the Golan Heights.  

Any action in Syria would put Western allies in a serious bind, not to mention Syria is a majority Sunni Muslim nation (75% or so) with pretty much zero Shi'ites, and that's not going to go over well with Iraq or Saudi Arabia (unless both nations decide to look the other way if we go after al-Asaad's Alawite sect to put the Sunnis in power, which would piss off all the Shi'ites.)

The thing is Syria actually has an Army and Air Force, even a Navy (and it's not old Soviet era surplus, either.)  There's a reason why China and Russia are so quick to block intervention, al-Assad has been a good customer.  It wouldn't be a cakewalk, and who knows what would happen with the long borders with Iraq and Turkey.

The great Muddle-Through continues, I guess.

Springfield Hospital Inflates Test Cost By Ten Times

A Springfield mother decided to investigate a charge that seemed ridiculously high.  As it turns out, she is right.  It seems there is a mandatory set of blood tests required on a newborn infant, and the local hospital was charging not over ten times the amount the state charged to process the blood.

She thought the bill from Mercy Hospital Springfield — $665 before insurance for drawing the blood and the tests — seemed high, so she started asking questions. What she found out is that the state lab that does the tests charges hospitals $65.
“I was flabbergasted at how much it was,” said Brown, an Ozark resident. “I think it’s ridiculous. The state charges $65, which even includes the postage.”
Sonya Kullmann, a spokeswoman for Mercy, said the hospital is reviewing the charge for the test to see if it should be changed. The standard fee at Mercy Hospital Springfield for the test is $629 — close to 10 times the charge by the state lab — which includes processing the blood, delivering it to the state lab, receiving the results and billing for the procedure.
Other hospitals ranged from $95 to close to what Mercy charges.

Gee, maybe this is part of the health care crisis.  When they're done screwing over people at their most vulnerable, it only makes sense to go after the people who are likely so busy and drowning in new responsibility that they won't have time to analyze their bill.  Thank goodness this woman is the exception and has brought this to light.

Hero Kicked Off Bus For Protecting Handicapped Girl

On the bus, Rich was shocked by how some of the younger middle school girls were treating a student with mental disabilities.
Rich complained about the bullying to the bus driver, then to school officials, but says the adults took no action.
Rich told Fox 35 about the mean middle school bullies: "They would be mean to her, tell her she couldn't sit on certain spots on the bus. They were giving her food that they put in her mouth. I actually had to tell her to spit it out because she didn't understand."
"When the school didn't do anything, I told the girls, if the school didn't do anything, I was going to do something."
However, that warning got Rich into trouble with school officials, who have now banned her from riding the bus.
Clearly, this kind and protective soul is the real threat.  The school has complained that only one side of the story is being told, but what a side to tell.  If these facts line up, it's hard to imagine what other side could explain how common assault is tolerated but threatening to stop it is punished by banishment.

She did just what we'd want, in a perfect world.  She stood up, she followed the channels, and when those channels failed to protect the innocent she made sure someone did.  She was punished for doing the right thing, at an age when she is learning how to step out and be independent.

Rich isn't in nearly as much trouble as the girl she was protecting.  If the bus driver isn't trying to control the situation, that poor child is at the mercy of the others, now without a buffer to help.

The Parable Of The Fishes And The Loathes

Who would Jesus have the government mass murder?  A Kansas Baptist pastor believes he has the answer...

The pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Seneca, Kansas says President Barack Obama has gone too far in supporting same sex marriage and it’s time for the U.S. government to begin killing gay men and lesbians.

“Terrorists are dangerous, the economy is a real and present danger,” Pastor Curtis Knapp told his congregation on Sunday. “But there is simply nothing other than the holocaust of the unborn which imperils the safety of our country or places our people in jeopardy as does the leader of the Western world publicly raising his fist at the heavens and declaring that the bedrock institution of society, ordained of God and meant to be protected by the state, is little more than a convention of convenience with the children of Sodom to transform the meaning of something, which is precious to Jesus Christ, and a living picture of his love for the church into a legally protected justification for perversion and a vehicle of hatred aimed directly at that love.”

Knapp went on to read from Leviticus 20: “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death.”

They should be put to death,” Knapp declared. “‘Oh, so you’re saying we should go out and start killing them, no?’ — I’m saying the government should. They won’t, but they should.”

Kill them all, let God sort them out.  We should totally put these guys in charge of the government and vote in hardcore Republican nutjobs like this so that they can make stuff like this happen.  What's that, you say?  "Morally bankrupt and borderline psychotic"?

Well, sure, but he's a Real American from the heartland, you know.  A real crazy American, that is.

The Texas Standoff

The only moderately close race in Texas on Tuesday was the GOP Senate primary to replace the retiring Kay Bailey Hutchinson, as Gov. Rick Perry's right hand man Lt. Gov David Dewhurst didn't get 50% +1 of the vote in the seven candidate race, meaning there will be a runoff between Dewhurst and Tea Party goofball Ted Cruz on July 31.

The runoff will be held July 31 and is shaping up to be a referendum on which Republican candidate voters perceive as the more conservative: Dewhurst or Cruz. Dewhurst has long led in public opinion polls, but limited government groups are hoping Cruz can pull an upset similar to Richard Mourdock's ousting of 36-year Senate veteran Richard Lugar in Indiana.

Dewhurst says he helped make the Lone Star state one of the country's most conservative, having held the powerful lieutenant governorship since 2003. Cruz, a fiery attorney and populist, counters that the tea party wave that began in 2010 is still going strong.

"Tonight, is a clear message to Washington special interests: don't mess with Texas. Texans want to elect their own United States senator," Dewhurst said. "Today, Republican voters made a choice between a conservative Texas businessman and Washington special interests."

Addressing his own cheering group of supporters in Houston, Cruz said "this is a victory for accountability" and challenged Dewhurst to five debates before the second round of voting. He has vowed to win the runoff, claiming energized Republicans are most likely to turnout in droves for it.
In a subsequent phone interview Cruz said, "we faced what everyone considered to be an unstoppable opponent with unlimited financial resources."

And if you're wondering what Texas Democrats are doing, well, they're there, I suppose.

On the Democratic side, former state Rep. Paul Sadler advanced to a runoff against perennial candidate Grady Yarbrough of San Antonio, who does not even have a campaign website. Yarbrough said in a phone interview that he expected a runoff with four candidates in the race.

Texas hasn't elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since Lloyd Bentsen in 1988, so the winner of the Republican primary should easily prevail in November's general election.

That may not always be the case, however.  The Texas GOP knows it.  The next time Dewhurst or Cruz come up for re-election in 2018, it may be a far different story.   Sadly, there's a lot of damage either one of these clowns will be able to do starting in January 2013.  Hutchinson at least rarely sided with the Democrats, especially on women's issues.  These guys?  Forget it.

Cruz is running to the right of Rick Perry's Lieutenant Governor.  That's frightening.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Last Call

The UN special tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands has sentenced Liberia's former leader, Charles Taylor, to 50 years in prison for his role in aiding rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone.

The first former head of state to be convicted of war crimes since World War II was sentenced to 50 years in prison Wednesday by an international court in The Hague, Netherlands.

The court convicted Charles Taylor last month of aiding rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone in a campaign of terror, involving murder, rape, sexual slavery and the conscription children younger than 15.

The prosecution had asked the Special Court for Sierra Leone for a sentence of 80 years for Taylor, the president of Liberia from 1997 to 2003, but the judges found the recommendation "excessive" citing the "limited scope" of the conviction in some points.

There is no death penalty in international criminal law, and Taylor, 64, would serve out his sentence in a British prison.

Taylor's record of crimes against humanity was purely awful.  He literally tried to take over Sierra Leone by funding rebels and sending in troops and weapons across the border from Liberia to allow multiple massacres of women and children in an orchestrated attempt to topple the government there through bloody terrorism.  It was moderately successful, so much so that outside funding of rebel forces was immediately apparent and pinned on Taylor ten years ago.  It's taken this long for him to pay the price, but pay it he will, spending the rest of his life in prison.

Child soldiers, roving rape gangs, prostitution slavery rings, assassinations of enemies, Taylor did it all.  Fifty years is a million years too short of a sentence for this monster.

Flamin' Hot Fries

Methinks the Mexican drug cartels might have bit off more than they can chew with their latest target.

Mexican drug cartels are not strictly drug cartels. One of their fastest growing markets is extortion of private citizens and businesses. Don’t pay, and you can be threatened — or worse. But largely, the cartels target small businesses and individuals, and stay away from the larger industries. Now several arson attacks over the weekend against a Mexican snack chip subsidiary might be the first time the cartels have targeted a multi-national corporation.
That corporation would PepsiCo. According to press reports, masked men attacked five warehouses and vehicle lots on Friday and Saturday nights belonging to the U.S. snack and soft drink giant. More specifically, PepsiCo’s Mexican subsidiary: Sabritas. Dozens of yellow delivery trucks — which transport Sabritas chips and Fritos, Cheetos and Ruffles (among other brands) for the Mexican market — were burned. The good news: no one was injured or killed. At least one member of the Knights Templar cartel was reportedly arrested. Video has also emerged of firefighters battling the blazing trucks and the European Pressphoto Agency released images of Sabritas’ smiley-face mascot illuminated by the flames.
“What we cannot allow is for this kind of isolated case to become generalized,” Gerardo Gutierrez, president of Mexico’s Business Coordinating Council, told the Associated Press. “The authorities have to take forceful action.”

Now the rumor is that the Mexican government is running surveillance operations on the cartels out of the ubiquitous Sabritas trucks (which everyone even remotely involved is categorically denying).  And the Knights Templar are a bunch of dangerous lunatics even for a Mexican drug cartel.  But I'm thinking screwing with a major multinational corporation is not going to end well strategically for these guys.

Alternately, here's 66% of the pitch for Expendables 3.  Just saying.

Just Stay Home

Glenn "Instadouche" Reynolds is back on the warpath again against college loans, arguing in the New York Post that higher education simply isn't worth the debt of student loans anymore.

For students, piece of advice No. 1 is: Don’t go into debt. When I went to law school, back in the ’80s, I turned down free rides at a couple of excellent schools to go to Yale Law School, even though it meant taking on a lot of student-loan debt. I’m not sure I’d advise anyone to do the same thing today, even to go to Yale Law, the undisputed king of the law-school rankings — and I’m positive I wouldn’t make a similar tradeoff for many other places, even Harvard Law.

Debt is what gets people into trouble in bubbles: They borrow heavily because they think the value of what they’re buying, whether it’s a house or a tulip, will go up. When it stops going up, they’re sunk.

Today, the value of an education isn’t going up, but the price is. That’s a bad combination. So don’t borrow heavily.

That’s good advice for schools, too. Those that borrow money based on the expectation that tuition revenue will continue to increase will have problems, and, in fact, some already are. Instead, schools should be looking to cut costs and increase value — the exact opposite of what many have been doing in recent years. 

And why are schools having to borrow money?  Because education budgets, particularly state university systems, are being shredded and conservative knuckleheads like Glenn here are demanding that universities cut costs the same way that public schools do:  fire instructors, drop classes and programs, and shrink admissions.  Not that schools are completely exonerated from being at fault.

But Reynolds wants state universities run like for-profit schools.  The problem is there's plenty of evidence that for-profit schools are more interested in creating profits than providing value or enhancing worth for students.  When students go into debt to pay for a education at a for profit school and don't get a job, Reynolds is saying it's the government's fault for making the student loan available in the first place.

We should be sending more kids to college, not less.  And yes, there's a lot colleges and universities can do in order to cut costs.  But eliminating student loans and grants isn't going to lower university price tags.  If anything it'll just redistribute the costs to taxpayers as there's fewer students.

It's crazy.

Russian Gay Activists Arrested

About 40 gay activists were detained by police in Moscow today while trying to demand their right to hold a gay pride parade, according to organizers of the march.
The activists gathered outside the Moscow city council building, where they were accosted by Orthodox Christians before being detained by the police. The Christians attempted to break up the gathering, throwing water, attacking protesters, and grabbing the demonstrators’ rainbow flags.
Gay rights opponent Dmitry Tsarionov spoke to the crowd in front of a sign that read, “Moscow is not Sodom.”
“I will not allow perverts to bring the wrath of God onto our city,” he said, according to The Associated Press. “I want our children to live in a country where a sin that so awfully distorts human nature is not preached in schools.”
My first thought was, oh that poor man, how awful it is for him to lose the right to speak his mind.  Then I felt the usual eye rolling annoyance at the "wrath of God" comment, and that education is again immediately attacked.

But then I realized... we are doing the same thing here.  Don't say gay, don't ask don't tell, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum, it's all the same thing except it's America.

I am incredibly sad right now.

Yet Another WTH

DETROIT (USA TODAY) — A 22-year-old pregnant woman survived after being bound, driven to Detroit, set on fire and shot early Saturday morning.
The woman, who was nine-months pregnant, had returned from a movie with her boyfriend and dropped him off at his house in Warren when she was approached from behind, Warren police Sgt. Dave Geffert said.
The woman's hands, feet and eyes were bound with duct tape. She was then forced into her car and driven to an unknown place in Detroit where she was doused with lighter fluid, set on fire and shot once in the upper back, he said.
The woman reported a male voice.  The rest of the details are sketchy, but it seems to be an utterly random act of violence, performed against a pregnant woman.  Because she can't identify her attacker, it's unlikely he will be caught, but one must hope for karma in a case like this.

Where's The Hypocrisy Again?

Jo Becker and Scott Shane at the New York Times gave us this article on "Obama's terrorist kill list" on Tuesday and it characterized President Obama signing off on which terrorists to try to eliminate thusly:

In interviews with The New York Times, three dozen of his current and former advisers described Mr. Obama’s evolution since taking on the role, without precedent in presidential history, of personally overseeing the shadow war with Al Qaeda. 

They describe a paradoxical leader who shunned the legislative deal-making required to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, but approves lethal action without hand-wringing. While he was adamant about narrowing the fight and improving relations with the Muslim world, he has followed the metastasizing enemy into new and dangerous lands. When he applies his lawyering skills to counterterrorism, it is usually to enable, not constrain, his ferocious campaign against Al Qaeda — even when it comes to killing an American cleric in Yemen, a decision that Mr. Obama told colleagues was “an easy one.” 

Questions about the President green-lighting assassinations aside (which is another gigantic discussion in and of itself I'll tackle later) my problem is with the notion that the President "shunned the legislative deal-making" to close GitmoThat's an absolute falsehood if you remember anything from 2009.

President Barack Obama’s allies in the Senate will not provide funds to close the Guantanamo Bay prison next January, a top Democratic official said Tuesday. 

With debate looming on Obama’s spending request to cover military and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the official says Democrats will deny the Pentagon and Justice Department $80 million to relocate Guantanamo’s 241 detainees.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the proposed changes to the bill were to be unveiled later. 

There was no deal-making process.  Republicans were universally opposed to closing Gitmo and Democrats in Congress completely folded on the issue, to the point that they actively blocked any deal to close Gitmo by revoking all funding to do so.  It was never going to happen and Congress, not the President, assured Gitmo would never close.

We can (and should) have a serious discussion on the President's powers to call the ball on who and when gets a face full of drone missiles, but that discussion should at least start with the truth of the why Gitmo is still open and why it will stay open for the foreseeable future.

So If You Want This Money Baby

CNN asks this question:

Justin Combs worked hard in high school to improve his football game and earn a 3.75 GPA . He recently received a $54,000 merit-based scholarship to UCLA, where he'll play football.
In April, Forbes named Justin Combs' dad,  Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, the wealthiest artist in hip-hop. Some say the family should return Justin's scholarship, arguing that Combs should pay for his son's education and taxpayer money should go to students with greater financial need. Other say Justin Combs earned the scholarship through his grades and athletic ability, and deserves to keep it.
What do you think? Should the Combs family keep, return or donate the money? Should students with wealthy parents have access to merit-based scholarships and financial aid?

Here's my question: Why is this even a question?

Justin Combs earned an athletic scholarship.  It was based on merit, and he kept a 3.75 GPA as a student athlete to boot.  if he was anyone else's son other than the most famous hip-hop media mogul on the planet, this wouldn't be asked.  There's nothing stopping P. Diddy from donating to UCLA in the amount of the scholarship too.  But it shouldn't be up to mob rule whether he does or not, nor should we be questioning the scholarship.

I can't help but think that if Justin's father was a hedge fund manager or CEO of a tech company, this wouldn't even be newsworthy (and my opinion that he not give back the merit scholarship would still stand.)  If I was completely cynical, I'd say this had something to do with race, but of course since Sean Combs is an extremely successful businessman who obviously raised a son with a fantastic work ethic and no small amount of physical skill, that can't possibly be it either.  Maybe it's politics, but if anything, Republicans should be screaming bloody murder over this.  Isn't this exactly what they say the success story of a strong, intelligent black father raising a gifted son should be?

So again I'm baffled by why this is being asked at all.  Again, should P. Diddy donate to UCLA in the amount of his son's scholarship (or more than that?)  Sure, if I were him, I'd make that happen, I can afford to.  But I wouldn't make my son give up something he earned with his own ability, especially a son trying to make his own way in the world in his father's very long shadow.  And we're certainly not implying that Justin Combs didn't earn a merit scholarship, right?

So unless one of those assumptions I made up there is wrong, why is CNN asking if he should return it outright?  If this was Bill Gates son, or Angelina Jolie's daughter, or Mitt Romney son, would this still be an issue?

I'd like to know.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Last Call

If you haven't noticed by now, there's more than one way to conduct war against a country.  Iran surely has figured that out as in addition to the crippling economic sanctions leveled against its oil exports and central bank by the US, it seems they now have a bit of a computer virus problem to boot.

A cyber-attack that targeted Iran’s oil ministry and main export terminal was caused by the most sophisticated computer worm yet developed, experts have warned.

The virus appears to have been directed primarily at a small number of organisations and individuals in Iran, the West Bank, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. This will inevitably raise suspicions that Israel or the US were involved in some way.

Analysts who have been decoding the computer worm, which is called W32.Flamer, have been unable to identify the source. But they say only a professional team working for several months could have been behind it.

The CrySys Laboratory, in Hungary, said: “The results of our technical analysis supports the hypothesis that [the worm] was developed by a government agency of a nation state with significant budget and effort, and it may be related to cyberwarfare activities.”It is certainly the most sophisticated malware we [have] encountered. Arguably, it is the most complex malware ever found.”

Orla Cox, a senior analyst at Symantec, the international computer security firm, said: “I would say that this is the most sophisticated threat we have ever seen.”

Flamer appears to be an advanced version of the Stuxnet worm that ravaged Iran's uranium processing centrifuges last year, and of course there's no way to prove who is behind it, but I'm betting that if we didn't do it, we know exactly who did.  Apparently it lie dormant for two years before waiting to strike, which it did last week.  Some brave warrior up in US Cyber Command got a case of Code Red and some King Dons for this, no doubt.

Welcome to the brave new battlefield frontier, folks.  Diplomacy through other means and all that.

A Long Bout With Chronic Suppression

Both the Congressional Black Caucus and the NAACP are finally doing something about the GOP suppression of African-American votes through the barriers of "Voter ID" and the removal of early voting laws by starting a massive campaign to register new voters and to help voters get the IDs they now have to have in dozens of states.  They key:  reaching potential voters through black churches.

African-American churches, historically at the forefront of the nation’s civil and voting rights efforts, are grappling this election year with how to navigate through the wave of new voting-access laws approved in many Republican-controlled states, laws that many African-Americans believe were implemented to suppress the votes of minorities and others.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus and several hundred clergy leaders from the Conference of National Black Churches are scheduled to hold a summit Wednesday in Washington to discuss the new laws, their potential impact on African-American voters and how churches can educate parishioners, help them register and help get them to the polls on Election Day to prevent any significant drop-off from 2008.

“We will have attorneys there who are well-equipped to provide the guidance to the clergy members,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., the Congressional Black Caucus chair and a United Methodist pastor. “They will understand, before they leave, about some of the new laws in certain states designed – as we interpret them – to reduce the turnout. The day is over when they could just stand in the pulpit and say ‘Go vote. It’s your duty.’ They’ve got to now be equipped with some sophisticated information to help inspire a turnout and protect parishioners from some of the schemes that are out there.”

Since last year, at least 15 states have passed a wide array of laws that they say are aimed at reducing voter fraud. Up to 38 states, including some of those 15, are weighing legislation that would require people to show government-approved photo identification or provide proof of citizenship before registering or casting ballots.

That's excellent news to hear, and I only wish it had begun sooner.  And hopefully the Congressional Hispanic Caucus can conduct a similar effort.  The Latino vote is only going to become more and more important for progressives as the elections wear on, but the GOP is doing everything they can to displace minority voters in order to maintain power.

No matter how you feel about GOP or Democratic party policies, the notion that we have to limit voting to only certain groups should greatly disturb all Americans.  Throughout our history, many have given their lives to help secure the right for citizens to vote.  Working now to reverse that trend is simply repugnant and an affront to their sacrifice.

It's good to see the CBC and the NAACP rejoin this fight.  Sadly, it seems that even in 2012 that fight will never end.

Read more here:

Minnesota's Burn Notice

A Minneapolis church famous for acceptance of gay rights and progressive causes just happens to burn to the ground during an election year where same-sex marriage is on the ballot.  That's not suspicious in the least.

According to the StarTribune, the Walker Community United Methodist Church caught fire around 8:20 p.m. Five of the firefighters who battled the blaze for hours were taken to the hospital, but their injuries were not life threatening.

“Some people at the scene Sunday night speculated lightning was the culprit, while close neighbors said they thought it could be arson,” the paper reported.

Walker Methodist Church is known within the Minneapolis progressive community as a meeting place for various activist groups. Communities United Against Police Brutality CUAPB, Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAC) and the Welfare Rights Committee all had offices in the building.

In June 2011, the church adopted a statement supporting LGBT rights and marriage equality. 

And now a year later, the church is gone.   But don't dare call the other side bigots, extremists, or hypocrites, because I'm sure anti-gay churches famous for their stance on LGBT issues like Westboro Baptist in Kansas get burned down all the time by extremist liberals, right?

Or you know, maybe God just enjoys burning down his own churches.  Who knows.  Hey, accidents happen, just like at southern black churches in the 60's, right?

It's Surprising What One Can Do

Especially when one doesn't care what is labeled "impossible" and tries anyway.

A German 16-year-old has become the first person to solve a mathematical problem posed by Sir Isaac Newton more than 300 years ago. Shouryya Ray worked out how to calculate exactly the path of a projectile under gravity and subject to air resistance, The (London) Sunday Times reported. The Indian-born teen said he solved the problem that had stumped mathematicians for centuries while working on a school project. Mr Ray won a research award for his efforts and has been labeled a genius by the German media, but he put it down to "curiosity and schoolboy naivety". "When it was explained to us that the problems had no solutions, I thought to myself, 'well, there's no harm in trying,'" he said.
His father taught him advanced math at an early age, and not only gave him knowledge but the desire to apply his talent.  At this point, the 16-year-old used math that is far above his father's reach, and is humble enough to play it down.

Well done, sir.  Well done.

Delta Blues

Delta Airlines has introduced a "basic economy" plan that supposedly offers a no-frills option.  Except it doesn't.

The airline tries to spin it like a boon for customers, with phrases such as "it's all about choice" and options.  But there are a few major flaws with basic economy, and travelers will find the meager savings a poor value.

First, you can't change your itinerary.  At all.  Even if you were willing to pay the exorbitant $50 fee to change your plans, it's simply not an option.  The customer's choice is to pay full price ticket to the next destination, or take the bus.

Customers can also choose to travel light, because they will pay even for carry-on bags under this plan.  It's reassuring to know that those traveling with only the clothes on their back will not be stuck with baggage fees.  There's so many of them, you know.

There are other minor sacrifices, such as being assigned seating upon check-in, but the major drawback will be the inability to change travel plans, even for circumstances beyond the traveler's control.  Delta says they are offering a choice, but to me it looks like they are charging a convenience fee to give you the right to pay $50 to change your plans and have a carry-on bag.

According to the article, it wasn't even a $20 savings on a trip from Detroit to Fort Lauderdale.  I expect this to be a black eye for them, at a time when it's hard enough to fill planes.  Delta is given the jackass tag for good reason.

The Invisible Sledgehammer In The Invisible Hand Of The Market

Johnny Volcano tell the truth again:

In defending Mitt Romney’s private sector experience Sunday, top surrogate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) explained that capitalism can be “cruel.”

“This is the free enterprise system. The only place in the world that I can recall where companies never failed was the old Soviet Union,” McCain said on “Fox News Sunday.” “And yes, the free enterprise system can be cruel.”

It exists to cull the weak and endorse the rich, who invest and decide who wins and who loses.  And Mitt Romney wants to do that to all of America.

The Obama campaign has run attack ads highlighting jobs lost at companies owned by Bain Capital, which Romney led. Host Wallace dug up quotes from McCain’s GOP primary campaign against Romney four years ago in which he criticized his Bain Capital record as well.

He managed companies, and he bought and he sold, and sometimes people lost their jobs,” McCain said at the time.

McCain stood by that comment Sunday, arguing that that’s how capitalism works. McCain cited the example of Bain Capital investing in Staples, a successful Bain investment, before turning to attack President Obama. It’s a lack of investment in small businesses that is stifling job growth today, McCain contended.

Sure.  And Mitt Romney wants to run America's government like a for-profit enterprise.  The sick, the poor, the elderly, well, they're a net drain on profits.

We'll have to downsize them under a Romney government, of course.

Behind Every Successful Democrat... a Villager telling him You're Doing It Wrong.  This week's contestant:  New York Magazine's John Heilemann, who is horrified to discover that the Obama campaign isn't rolling over for the hundreds of millions of dollars in GOP super PAC ads already crushing the airwaves in swing states.  He's so horrified that President Obama is fighting back that he completely turns on him:

But if the Obama 2012 strategy in this regard is all about the amplification of 2008, in terms of message it will represent a striking deviation. Though the Obamans certainly hit John McCain hard four years ago—running more negative ads than any campaign in history—what they intend to do to Romney is more savage. They will pummel him for being a vulture-vampire capitalist at Bain Capital. They will pound him for being a miserable failure as the governor of Massachusetts. They will mash him for being a water-carrier for Paul Ryan’s Social Darwinist fiscal program. They will maul him for being a combination of Jerry Falwell, Joe Arpaio, and John Galt on a range of issues that strike deep chords with the Obama coalition. “We’re gonna say, ‘Let’s be clear what he would do as president,’ ” Plouffe explains. “Potentially abortion will be criminalized. Women will be denied contraceptive services. He’s far right on immigration. He supports efforts to amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage.”

The Obama effort at disqualifying Romney will go beyond painting him as excessively conservative, however. It will aim to cast him as an avatar of revanchism. “He’s the fifties, he is retro, he is backward, and we are forward—that’s the basic construct,” says a top Obama strategist. “If you’re a woman, you’re Hispanic, you’re young, or you’ve gotten left out, you look at Romney and say, ‘This fucking guy is gonna take us back to the way it always was, and guess what? I’ve never been part of that.’ ”

Thus, to a very real degree, 2008’s candidate of hope stands poised to become 2012’s candidate of fear. For many Democrats, this is just fine and dandy, for they believe that in the Romney-Republican agenda there is plenty to be scared of. For others in the party in both politics and business, however, the new Obama posture is cause for concern. From the gay-­marriage decision to the onslaught on Bain, they see the president and his team as coming across as too divisive, too conventional, and too nakedly political, putting at risk Obama’s greatest asset—his likability—with the voters in the middle of the electorate who will ultimately decide his fate.

Whichever side is right, one thing is undeniable. For anyone still starry-eyed about Obama, the months ahead will provide a bracing revelation about what he truly is: not a savior, not a saint, not a man above the fray, but a brass-knuckled, pipe-hitting, red-in-tooth-and-claw brawler determined to do what is necessary to stay in power—in other words, a politician.

And it goes on for another six and a half pages or so.  The gist is that it's not Mitt Romney you should be afraid of, but Extremist Black Radical Barack Hussein Obama, who can't possibly be a centrist, but an awful politician and not a maverick like Romney.  Indeed, Heilemann goes on to soft-pedal Romney's record as McCain without the anger, a perfectly reasonable, perfectly sensible centrist...and you're not going to vote for...that other guy...are you?  You don't want to be one of the America-destroying partisans, do you?  Heilemann even has his own term for these awful people:  Obamans.

And according to Heilemann, the Obamans are desperate, scared, arrogant, delusional...and going to lose.

What’s clear is that an Obama victory could have profound political implications for the future of the Democratic Party. When 44 arrived in office, some forecast that he might usher in a New New Deal. (Nope.) But if he gains reelection by consolidating his party’s position with the electorate’s ascendant demographic forces, Obama may succeed in creating a viable post–New Deal coalition on which Democrats can build for years to come. “Ronald Reagan turned a whole bunch of people who are now seniors into Republicans,” says Messina. “What is happening now is that young people, women, and Latinos are becoming Democrats. That’s the coalition Obama brought; demographics brought it, too. And for the next 30 years, it is going to be a real challenge for Republicans.”

Of course, if Obama loses, all such grand talk will be consigned to the ash heap of history—and hubris.

The Village has to have their horse race, after all.  What better way than six months of OBAMA IS DOOOOOOOMED pieces in liberal news sources?   After all, these guys don't give a damn who ends up President:  they win either way.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Last Call

Ladies and Gentlemen, my senator, Rand Paul:

Mr. President, today I'm offering an Amendment to the FDA. I'm troubled by images of armed agents, armed FDA agents raiding Amish farms and preventing them from selling milk directly from the cow. I think we have bigger problems in our country without sending armed FDA agents onto peaceful farmers land and telling them they can't sell milk directly from the cow.

My Amendment has three parts, first, it attempts to stop the FDA's overzealous regulation of vitamins, food and supplements by codifying the First Amendment's prohibition on prior restraint. What do I mean by that? The First Amendment says you can't prevent speech, even commercial speech, in advance of this speech. You can't tell Cheerios that they can't say that there is a health benefit to their Cheerios.  Under our current FDA laws, FDA says if you want to market prune juice, you can’t say that it cures constipation.

You can’t make a health claim about a food supplement or about a vitamin, you can do it about a pharmaceutical, but you’re not allowed to do it about a health supplement.

I think this should change. There have been several court cases that show this goes against not only the spirit but the letter of the law of the First Amendment. So this amendment would change that.
This amendment would stop the FDA from censoring claims about curative, mitigative effects of dietary supplements. It would also stop the FDA from prohibiting distribution of scientific articles and publications regarding the role of nutrients in protecting against disease. Despite four court orders condemning the practice as a violation of the First Amendment, the FDA continues to suppress consumers’ right to be informed and to make informed choices by denying them this particular information. It’s time for Congress to put an end to FDA censorship.

In other words, if the food giants and the drug giants want to lie and say their product cures cancer, they should be allowed to.  If the product doesn't do what the claims say they do and actually ends up killing you, well then the free market will step in and consumers will put that company out of business.  Furthermore, the FDA saying "But these claims aren't true, you can't use them" is robbing our precious mega-corporations of the Founder's God-Given Right(tm) to bilk you out of billions with false data and misleading studies.  After all, if you're not smart enough to be able to judge the claims on your own, you deserve to have the Invisible Hand take your wallet.

Freedom to be fleeced for everybody!  What's more American than that?

Olympic Sized Tool

The pressure on Syria is ratcheting up since this weekend's awful massacre in Houla by the twisted al-Assad regime.

The killings of more than 100 Syrian civilians, including nearly 50 children, provoked outrage around Syria and worldwide Sunday as horrific images of the bodies in Houla spread across the internet.

Videos posted Sunday on YouTube show demonstrations in cities around the country, including Damascus, Daraa, Idlib, and the suburbs of Hama.

"Oh Houla, we are with you until death," protesters chanted in Daraa. And a demonstration in Idlib showed a U.N. vehicle among protesters. In the Hama suburbs, demonstrators called for President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

The UN Security Council condemned the massacre on Sunday, and now the UK is strongly considering barring Syrian officials from the 2012 London Olympics.

[Deputy PM] Nick Clegg has said that the government would stop Syrian military figures accused of human rights abuses from visiting the UK during the Olympics.

He said on Sunday that the government had recently changed the rules so that there was now a presumption that those individuals “shown to have abused human rights” would be banned.

Clegg was speaking after a Syrian general close to President Bashar al-Assad told the Times that he was determined to come to the Olympics in his capacity as president of the Syrian national Olympic committee. General Mofwaq Joumaa, who is hoping to lead a 31-strong Syrian delegation at the Games, said that it would be unfair if he was blocked because of his military background.

That's a pretty big move on the part of Clegg and the UK and the least they can do to make it clear that Syria's bloodthirsty goons won't be tolerated by the rest of the world.  Something's going to have to happen about Syria and soon.  I think it will.

Greek Fire, Part 57

And as the problems in Spain are accelerating, the biggest risk of collapse right now in Europe remains Greece.  Spain's economic disintegration would be far worse, but Greece's is far more likely, measured now in possibly weeks, not months before the Troika has to step in yet again or risk eurozone meltdown...and a global crisis.

Greece's public finances could collapse as early as next month, leaving salaries and pensions unpaid unless a stable government emerges from the June 17 election, according to Lucas Papademos, the technocrat prime minister who left office after this month's inconclusive vote.

Mr Papademos warned that conditions were deteriorating faster than expected with cash flow likely to turn negative in early June amid a sharp fall in tax revenues and a loosening of spending controls during two back-to-back election campaigns.

Mounting anxiety that Greece is headed for further political instability and a possible exit from the euro has prompted many Greeks to postpone making tax payments, and has also accelerated outflows of deposits from local banks.
Athens bankers estimate that more than €3bn of cash withdrawn since the May 6 election has been stashed in safe-deposit boxes and under mattresses in case the country is forced to readopt the drachma.

That's terrifying news.  The slow-motion bank runs in Greece are well underway, and people are simply putting off tax payments with no real government in power right now.  There's no reason to believe June's elections will break the deadlock, either.  None.  The Greek Fire is now burning through the country's cash on hand reserves.  It's not going to be able to pay employees within weeks.  That's only going to increase the bank runs and delay more tax payments.

I don't see a way out of this now other than Yet Another Bailout.  And this time, I think Germany will say "nein".

On the other hand, Spain is in real trouble too:

Why has this piece of bad news terrified global elites? In the first place because it demonstrates that in addition to huge costs in bailing out its banking sector the insolvent Spanish central government is going to get hit with massive bills from not only Catalonia but its other regional governments. It is going to have to go to the financial markets hat in hand to borrow more money than expected — this is going to drive interest rates up in Spain (and probably in Italy and Belgium) just at the time when Europe’s financial markets were trembling on the brink of yet another panic. And it means that Spain is likely to come to the EU much sooner than expected with a much bigger bailout request than anybody thought.

It's a race as to which country will need that bailout first.   But Spain's day joining the rest of the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Greece) in the Bailout Club is now a guarantee, folks.

It's getting scary.  Real bad.  And the Greek Fire is now picking up speed.

Dario Diary: I'm A Winner

Memorial Day weekend in this part of the country means the Indianapolis 500, arguably the most famous auto race on Earth, and Mr. Ashley Judd, Dario Franchitti, took home his third career trophy.  SI's Bruce Martin:

Before the start of Sunday's 96th Indianapolis 500, Dario Franchitti stood under an umbrella held by his wife -- actress Ashley Judd -- to shield himself from the scorching sun. He then leaned against the left-front tire to steal a moment of solitude amid a crowd of 350,000 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Judd's last words to her husband were, "I'll see you in Victory Lane."

Franchitti kept his date with his wife, driving into the history books with his third career Indianapolis 500 victory. He is just the seventh driver to complete that feat, and he did so in one of the most competitive Indy 500s in history.

There were 17 cars on the lead lap with a record 35 lead changes between 10 different drivers. The race was contested in 91-degree heat, which fell one degree shy of the all-time record (92 degrees) set in 1937.

As the laps dwindled, it appeared to be a two-man race between Franchitti and Target/Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon. The two traded the lead several times over the final six laps before Japan's Takuma Sato passed Dixon for second place. Sato went for the lead on the final lap, attempting to dive beneath Franchitti during the first turn, but his move didn't work. He lost control on the apron and crashed into the outside wall in Turn 1.

"I was going for the win, of course," said Sato, who was attempting to become the first driver from Japan to win the Indy 500. "I don't think Dario gave me enough room so I'm really disappointed. It was the very last lap and I drove in, but he didn't move up. I had nowhere to go, so I'm a little disappointed."

Franchitti crossed the finish line with the yellow and checkered flags waving. His two closet friends in the series, Dixon and Tony Kanaan, finished second and third respectively.

Give that man his milk bottle.  And Ashley Judd.  Yeah, there's a guy who won the lottery in this here universe.

Not Your Greatest Moment

MSNBC host Chris Hayes stepped in it Sunday when he said the following about Memorial Day and the US armed forces as "heroes":

“I feel… uncomfortable, about the word because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war. Um, and, I don’t want to obviously desecrate or disrespect memory of anyone that’s fallen, and obviously there are individual circumstances in which there is genuine, tremendous heroism, you know, hail of gunfire, rescuing fellow soldiers, and things like that. But it seems to me that we marshal this word in a way that is problematic. But maybe I’m wrong about that.”

It's a valid concern from a technical and word usage point of view, but as BooMan says, it's a pretty thickheaded thing to say on Memorial Day weekend on national TV.

 Now, some might say that calling all our dead soldiers 'heroes' is rhetorically proximate to legitimizing whatever they've been asked to do. If we call them 'heroes' then we are somehow making it more likely that we'll fight more stupid and unnecessary wars in the future. This is overwrought hand-wringing. We do have a problem when we make it taboo to criticize our soldiers or their missions. But we can segregate discussions of policy from maintaining some solemnity and respect for the dead

And Hayes did say he meant no disrespect to our men and women in uniform, true.  Choosing to say so on Memorial Day weekend, kind of a bad time to make that point.  Just saying.

On the other hand, if you want to be truly angry at someone who absolutely means disrespect for our fallen troops, there's freelance author and anti-war activist Charles Davis.

There is nothing honorable about serving in the US military. Good people join the armed forces, no doubt. But that's tragic, not heroic.

So on further analysis, Chris Hayes is off the hook, and Charles Davis is a complete asshole.  What a surprise, not all of the douchenozzles on the internet are conservatives.

If You Can't Steal A Presidential Election...

...suppress the vote beforehand to make sure the results will never be in doubt.

Hispanic, Democratic and independent-minded voters are the most likely to be targeted in a state hunt to remove thousands of noncitizens from Florida's voting rolls, a Miami Herald computer analysis of elections records has found.

Whites and Republicans are disproportionately the least-likely to face the threat of removal, the analysis of a list of more than 2,600 potential noncitizens shows. The list was first compiled by the state and furnished to county election supervisors and then the Herald.

The numbers change by the day. The state's Division of Elections says it initially identified roughly 180,000 potential noncitizens by performing a search of a computer database that doesn't have the most-updated information.

About 58 percent of those identified as potential noncitizens are Hispanics, Florida's largest ethnic immigrant population. They make up just 13 percent of the overall 11.3 million active registered voters.

Those who have been flagged as potential noncitizens by the state are being contacted by county election supervisors. Many legitimate voters aren't happy with what they see as a needless hassle from a government using bad data.

"I'm upset, because if someone is an American citizen, it is his right to vote. How can they be asking for this?" said Juan Artabe, a 41-year-old Democrat from Cuba who said he became a citizen in 2009.

"Very poor job by the elections department," Artabe said. He said he was contacted last week by the Miami-Dade elections office and sent in a copy of his citizenship papers so he wasn't struck from the voter rolls.

Working as intended, folks.   Florida's Republican party has complete dominance over the state legislature and Gov. Rick Scott signs whatever he wants to.  There's literally nothing Democrats can do to stop this variation on voter caging,  assuming that tens of thousands of eligible Florida voters are in fact ineligible to vote unless they respond to the state's inquiry.  If you don't respond to the letter by the deadline, you're off the rolls and can only cast a provisional ballot.  And of course, these responses and provisional ballots are not only voter harassment, but could potentially be "misplaced" by Florida election officials.

"Oh," but you say, "states purge voter  rolls all the time."  Not like this, they don't.  Think Progress:

According to data from the Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections obtained by ThinkProgress:
- 1638 people in Miami-Dade County were flagged by the state as “non-citizens” and sent letters informing them that they were ineligible to vote.
- Of that group, 359 people have subsquently provided the county with proof of citizenship.
- Another 26 people were identified as U.S. citizens directly by the county.
- The bulk of the remaining 1200 people have simply not responded yet to a letter sent to them by the Supervisor of Elections.
You can see a similar letter sent to alleged “non-citizens” by the Broward County Supervisor of Elections HERE. (“The Supervisor of Elections… has received information that you are not a citizen of the United States.”) If recipients of the letter do not respond within 30 days — a deadline that is mere days away — they will be summarily removed from the voting rolls. The voters purged from the list, election officials tell ThinkProgress, will inevitably include fully eligible Florida voters.

In short, an excess of 20 percent of the voters flagged as “non-citizens” in Miami-Dade are, in fact, citizens. And the actual number may be much higher.

Knock out a hundred thousand or so minority voters in Florida and Mitt Romney wins the state without having to lift a finger.  Republican Secretaries of State gave the election to Bush twice, once in Florida in 2000, and again in Ohio in 2004.  After Barack Obama's big win in 2008, they're not taking any chances now that they have control of even more state election boards, governor's mansions, and state legislatures.  The fix is in, and it starts in swing states controlled by the GOP at the state level.  There's no bigger single prize in that category this year than Florida.  Now that the state is fully under GOP control, they plan to permanently disenfranchise Democrats in the state so they remain in control unopposed for the foreseeable future.  And it starts with Gov. Rick Scott's "voter purge" of eligible minority voters.

We bemoan Egypt's rigged elections and say "Why don't they have a democratic process like we do?"  They do.  That's the problem.

The Moustache Of Freedom Rides Again

Tom Friedman's lack of self-awareness is nearly criminal.  On Sunday, Friedman bemoaned this unfortunate state of affairs:

Barack Obama is a great orator, but he is the worst president I’ve ever seen when it comes to explaining his achievements, putting them in context, connecting with people on a gut level through repetition and thereby defining how the public views an issue

Think about this: Is there anyone in America today who doesn’t either have a pre-existing medical condition or know someone who does and can’t get health insurance as a result? Yet two years after Obama’s health care bill became law, how many Americans understand that once it is fully implemented no American with a pre-existing condition will ever again be denied coverage? 

You know how most Americans get their news?  From the Village media.  From, you know, PEOPLE LIKE TOM FRIEDMAN.  Does Tom Friedman then think the positive benefits of the Affordable Care Act are worth repeating in order to help define to the public how vital it is?

Not really.

Within both education and health care, we need grand bargains that better allocate resources between remediation and prevention. In both health and education, we spend more than anyone else in the world — without better outcomes. We waste too much money treating people for preventable diseases and reteaching students in college what they should have learned in high school. Modern capitalism requires skilled workers and workers with portable health care that allows them to move for any job.  

The Affordable Care Act of course addresses those concerns through state exchanges, waste reduction, and the mandate, but of course we still need a "grand bargain".  Gosh, if only somebody had passed a law and the media would tell people about it.  You know, like Friedman here.

Jesus wept.

StupidiNews, Memorial Day Edition!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Last Call

BooMan asks:

Why Pick on Chief Justice Roberts?

Indeed, that's what George Will seems to be doing in his WaPo column this weekend.

Justice Anthony Kennedy is generally considered today’s swing vote, but his acerbic first question to the administration’s lawyer during the second day of oral argument changed assumptions: “Can you create commerce in order to regulate it?”

Concluding that Kennedy might be disposed to overturn the mandate, some Obamacare defenders decided that Roberts’s vote will be decisive. They hope to secure it by causing Roberts to worry about his reputation and that of his institution.

BooMan goes on to comment on Will's premise:

I feel like the two most likely results are a 6-3 decision to uphold, with Thomas, Scalia, and Alito dissenting, or a 5-4 decision to strike down the mandate, with all the liberals dissenting. I don't see a scenario where Kennedy votes to strike the mandate but Roberts saves it.

That's why I think George Will's premise is stupid. But maybe he doesn't want the embarrassment of losing this case by more than a 5-4 split. 

There's more to it then that.  Recall Karl Rove's law:  If conservatives are accusing liberals of doing something, conservatives are the ones actually doing it and it's projection.  Period.  From that we can assume that the pressure here is being put by conservatives on Justice Roberts.  But why?  BooMan has a point that it's Kennedy they should be pressuring, not Roberts.

I can think of at least two reasons.  One, they are going after Roberts to convince Kennedy.  Two, they are setting up a scenario where a 5-4 decision where Kennedy upholds the law and mandate and Roberts doesn't as illegitimate because Roberts is Chief Justice.

Pretty sobering thought.  But yes, Will is clearly scared that the law will be upheld here and that conservtives will miss their "chance to rewire the entire country" regardless of who ends up President in January.

Keep an eye on this line of attack from the Village.

Luke, Alex Pareene Is Your Father Now

Salon's Alex Pareene is probably not going to become Luke Russert's friend anytime soon as he rightly gives the Village's poster boy for useless nepotism a sound spanking (not to mention snark worthy of myself.)

On the basis of his impressive reporting and ease in front of the camera still being named Russert, Luke was promoted, after the election, to congressional correspondent. That’s the contempt with which NBC News views the occupation of journalism. To make Luke Russert a congressional reporter is to say, “We believe that this job requires no particular knowledge, training or skills. If a German shepard could be trained to speak, it could perform this work.” (That’s true of most cable news work, granted, but it really doesn’t have to be.) Proper reporting on the House of Representatives is actually difficult and largely thankless work, generally done by very hardworking and underpaid reporters. The assignment was transparently NBC’s attempt to help Russert develop chops, and what it has yielded thus far is the time Charlie Rangel called Luke dumb, which MSNBC turned into a two-day story.

NBC seems to be keeping Russert employed in the hopes that he’ll eventually develop an ability to simulate gravitas. Hopefully “Meet the Press” will still be on the air by the time Luke has mastered his serious face.

His Twitter feed presents a perfectly dull person with perfectly banal thoughts. When he drifts into attempted solemnity it’s usually more amusing than his actual attempts at humor. (More quality insight, right here.) It’s precisely what you would imagine the result would be if the elite Beltway press somehow collectively raised a child from birth — which is, in effect, what actually happened. He subscribes to every shibboleth of Washington conventional wisdom and shows fealty to all the proper institutions.

And yes, Luke Russert is precisely everything wrong with the DC press rolled into one obnoxiously banal little package.  When I think of all the correspondents and reporters who should have Luke Russert's job as NBC's Capitol Hill correspondent it makes me scream.

And make no mistake, there's a lot wrong with our media other than Russert.  He's a symptom, not a cause.  The cause is corporate ownership, period.

You think if NBC was worried about journalistic integrity that Russert would be anything more than an intern?

A Ballsy Tale

Mao Sugiyama, a self-described "asexual" from Tokyo, cooked up, seasoned and served his own genitalia to five diners at a swanky banquet in Japan last month, Calorie Lab reported.
Sugiyama sparked a firestorm of interest on April 8 with one tweet:
"[Please retweet] I am offering my male genitals (full penis, testes, scrotum) as a meal for 100,000 yen …Will prepare and cook as the buyer requests, at his chosen location."
To show you just how naive I am, I never thought anyone would pay for the privilege, so when I read the headline (come on, I knew even then I was going to write about this) my initial expectation was that this was a trick pulled on unknowing victims.

Nope.  He served them with  mushrooms and parsley.  I mean hey, if you're going to eat that, a little fungus should be a-okay, right?

I'll have the crocodile, thanks.

Zombie Invasion

This is a completely legit news article, but OMG zombies was all I could think while reading it.

(AP) MIAMI - Miami police say that an officer has fatally shot a naked man who was chewing on the face of another man on a downtown expressway off-ramp.
The Miami Herald reports that gunshots were heard at about 2 p.m. Saturday on the MacArthur Causeway off-ramp, which is near the newspaper's offices. Witnesses said that a woman saw two men fighting and flagged down a police officer, who observed a naked man mauling the other man. The newspaper quoted witnesses as saying that the officer ordered the naked man to back away, and when he ignored repeated demands, shot him multiple times, killing him.
If that guy gets up and starts walking, I'm going to the middle of a desert with a lot of ammo.  You're welcome to join me, but know I'll shoot anyone who is bitten.

The Pain In Spain Continues

The decay is starting to accelerate now in Spain's continued banking mess, with Bankia, Spain's biggest mortgage lender, now saying it needs almost 20 billion euros to stay afloat.

The government is trying to head off a collapse of the bank, which could threaten the Spanish banking industry and reverberate through the financial centers of Europe and beyond. The fear is that it will not have the money to save its banks, and their $1.25 trillion in deposits, and will need a rescue by the rest of Europe — even as political and financial leaders struggle to resolve Greece’s debt debacle. 

Bankia’s announcement came as Standard & Poor’s, the credit ratings agency, downgraded Bankia and two other banks, Banco Popular and Bankinter, to junk status and lowered the ratings of two other Spanish banks also staggered by mounting bad loans. A junk rating could make it even harder for Bankia to borrow its way out of trouble. 

The rising fear now is that the recent steady outflow of deposits from Spain’s banks, which are suffering from the bursting of Spain’s real estate bubble, to institutions outside the country could eventually turn into the sort of bank run that almost brought the financial world to its knees after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. 

Spain’s debt crisis is also playing out on another front. As its banks shudder, heavily indebted regional governments are also running out of money. On Friday, the government of the Catalonia region warned that it might no longer be able to finance its debts and called on the central government for help. While other regions have also sounded budget alarms, Catalonia is the biggest so far; it represents nearly one-fifth of Spain’s economy. 

The acceleration is beginning again, and it's starting to look like another bailout of Spanish banks will be needed just like Greece, Ireland, and Portugal got.   We'll see where it goes, but my guess is things will come to a head pretty soon in Europe.
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