Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Last Call

As expected, Johnny Volcano welcomed Mitt Romney to New Hampshire and the crowd responded with the thunderous sound of "meh."

At a Manchester high school, Romney entered the stage for a town hall with new supporter John McCain, who won New Hampshire’s primary in 2000 and 2008. After brief speeches in which McCain called on New Hampshire to “catapult [Romney] to victory” with a big showing, they opened up the floor to questions. First up? A self-proclaimed “Occupy Boston” and “Occupy New Hampshire” activist, who challenged Romney to defend his famous “corporations are people” line.

Clearly used to it at this point, Romney launched into a lengthy, detailed, and impressively delivered explanation of how he views corporations as “collections of people that are trying to have good jobs for themselves” rather than just “buildings.” He even mixed it up on a follow up question about whether retained earnings that corporations sit on rather than invest are still productive.

“When a business has profit it can do good things,” he replied.

One woman asked why he favored increasing health care costs, (“I don’t think anyone is in favor of seeing rising health care costs”). A Chinese-American immigrant said she felt his China-bashing rhetoric was “degrading” to Asians.

“I hope I haven’t put any Asians down,” he said, adding he supported legal immigration of all kinds. 

Trying to out-conservatives the conservatives may play in Iowa, but New Hampshire Republicans would be Democrats in any other state (they're the opposite of Kentucky Democrats, who would be Teabaggers in any other state.)  The discriminating Granite State voter is not stupid.  They pay attention to Romney's sea change on social policies and his anti-Occupy rhetoric, and they're not thrilled with him at all.

They'll still hold their nose and vote for him.  But it's entirely possible he's not the dead sure lock he was last night to win the state going away.

Oh, and in that "lengthy, detailed, and impressively delivered explanation" of Republinomics, Romney asked that Occupy New Hampshire activist to name a country with a higher per capita than the US.  Turns out there's several.

Driving home today, I heard a segment on NPR (couldn’t find it online) reporting on Romney facing a tough crowd in New Hampshire. One of the exchanges that caught my attention was Romney’s response to a question from a voter dissatisfied with “trickle down” economics. Romney fired back with a dare to “name one country with the same GDP per capita” as the US—implying that the US economy was (relatively?) successful because it was the richest in the world.

There’s two problems with that statement: The first is that it’s not true. The second is that GDP per capita is not the best metric.

To answer Romney’s challenge, I can name at least six countries with GDP per capita (using purchasing power parity) higher than the US:
  • Qatar ($88,222)
  • Luxembourg ($81,466)
  • Singapore ($56,694)
  • Norway ($51,959)
  • Brunei ($48,333)
  • United Arab Emirates ($47,439)
The above figures come from the IMF which ranks the US seventh, with a GDP per capita of $46,860 (see full list). Of course, other institutions use different measures. For example, our very own CIA ranks the US ninth (the other countries that sneak into the top ranks are Kuwait and Liechtenstein).

So please, I want to see Mitt use this claim again in a debate soon, and someone to slam his crank in the door when he does.

Swinging The Same Bat He Always Has

I love it when President Obama does something heroically, visibly bold like today's recess appointment of former Ohio AG Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  The Republicans have been blocking any and all appointments to the post because they want the federal bureau disbanded and demolished.  They don't want consumers to be protected from the financial industry, they want consumers to be sacrificed to it.

How angry are the Republicans and their lobbyist pals?  The GOP is furious, with Orange Julius and Mitch the Turtle frothing at the mouth and the US Chamber of Commerce is now all but threatening endless court challenges to the recess appointment until the end of time and space.

The recess appointments President Obama announced Wednesday are “almost certain” to be challenged in court, according to a top official with the nation’s largest business lobby.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has not decided whether it will file a legal challenge to the appointments, according to David Hirschmann, who heads the Chamber’s Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness. But he said he’s confident that Obama’s precedent-shattering move will land the administration in court.

"We've made no decisions ourselves," Hirschmann told The Hill. "What we do know is ... it's almost certain ultimately a court will decide if what the president did is legal or not."

Obama infuriated Republicans Wednesday by announcing the recess appointment of Richard Cordray to be the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Senate Republicans had blocked Cordray's nomination for months, so the president bypassed them with a recess appointment during the holiday break.

He followed that up later in the day with recess appointments for three members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), heading off another likely GOP filibuster.

Republicans are nothing less than completely apoplectic, because the President has used their own Bush-era plenary executive tactics against them in the name of the American consumer.

The recess appointments broke with legal precedent, as they while the Senate is holding regular pro forma sessions. Republicans insist the Senate has not been in recess thanks to the seconds-long sessions held every few days, but White House attorneys determined the procedural move is a gimmick that can be ignored by the president.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) blasted the move as an "unprecedented power grab" and said he expects "the courts will find the appointment to be illegitimate."

The gambit puts the bureau in "uncertain legal territory," according to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

So let's bring it, GOP.  Let's see the Supreme Court case.  Let's see the articles of impeachment.  Let's see your cards on the table while you try to do everything you can do destroy the federal agency created to reign in the excesses of the most egrigious Wall Street banks.  You do that in an election year.  Please.  By all means, hand the populist mantle to the Democrats for a generation, and side with the 1% while the President is campaigning to help the middle class.

“Cleveland, I know you’re hearing a lot of promises from a lot of politicians lately,” Obama said. “But today, you’re only going to hear one from me. As long as I have the privilege of serving as your president, I promise to do everything I can, every day, to make this country a place where hard work and responsibility mean something - where everyone can get ahead, not just those at the very top or those who know how to work the system.” 

You do that.  I could sure use a Democratic House and Senate to go along with President Obama's re-election, because that's exactly the trap the President wants you to walk into.

Step inside his wheelhouse and get leveled by another home run swing, boys.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

The Birthers will never, ever go away, and the legal efforts involving the  "Obama birth certificate" nonsense will be the stain of modern racism on this country the way Jim Crow laws were two generations ago and "young bucks with t-bones and welfare queens driving Cadillacs" were when I was a kid.

A group of Republican lawmakers in New Hampshire asked the state’s attorney general on Tuesday to launch an investigation into President Barack Obama’s citizenship, The Associated Press reported.

The effort was being staged in hopes that they may be able to knock Obama’s name off the New Hampshire primary ballot.

The group, led by state Rep. Laurence Rappaport (R), has not been told whether the investigation will proceed. Rappaport has long been attached to the so-called “birthers” in New Hampshire, and he helped former dentist Orly Taitz pursue a “birther” complaint with the state’s Ballot Law Commission in November.

Other Republicans who helped Taitz, who’s been repeatedly rebuked by the courts, included Republican state Reps. Harry Accornero, Lucien Vita and Carol Vita.

All of them have alleged that the long-form birth certificate presented by the White House last April was a forgery, but the Ballot Law Commission rejected their claims.

“There’s sufficient controversy that I want it investigated,” Rappaport said in November, according to The Concord Monitor. “Every time this is brought up… we get a lot of flak, but we’ve never gotten an answer.”

No answer will ever satisfy them.  And should Barack Obama be re-elected, I honestly believe we'll see either an impeachment effort or a Supreme Court case involving this utter idiocy, which will drive a non-trivial percentage of the populace to vote against him in November just to shut these assholes up, as awful as that is.  It will happen.  You know people right now who will vote for whatever crazy-ass Republican who makes it to the nomination for the sole reason that they believe it will make the Republicans stop destroying the country and the middle-class and that the Tea Party will magically disband on November 7th.

But what pains me the most is that 50 years from now, there will still be Americans on their deathbeds who will swear on their last breath that Barack Obama was never legally President of "their" United States of America.  Odds are very good that you know these people right now, too.

Breaking News: Police Shoot, Kill 8th Grader Who Brought Gun To School

Here is the original from USA Today:

Update at 12:45 p.m. ET: A seventh grade student who said he was two classrooms from where the shooting took place said the school was already on lockdown when he heard three shots, the Associated Press reports. Miguel Grimaldo, 12, said students later followed police out of the building and boarded buses that took them to a neighboring park, where his mother picked him up late this morning.

Brownsville is 280 miles south of San Antonio on the southern tip of Texas.

The details have been coming together in subsequent updates. Police confirm the teenager "engaged" them but whether that meant firing the gun is not known. Another teenager has been held for questioning. The teacher was not identified, but it seems an adult staff from the school made the original call reporting the gun.

No matter what happened today, regardless of what facts come to light, my heart goes out to the boy, his family and those who were scared and saddened today. When it's all sorted out a follow-up will be coming.

StupidiNews! Two Miracles Edition

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (AP) — A stray cat has survived two trips to a Utah animal shelter's gas chamber, leading shelter volunteers to seek a switch of its euthanasia method to lethal injection, which they called more humane.

She was saved and adopted, and is settling in well. The article above says they expected this cat really wanted to live. Though my heart breaks thinking about the others who were not so fortunate, this is a little bit of good. And for one special cat, a lot of good.  Excuse me, I have to go get something out of my eye, darn allergies.

On to miracle #2:

Rosie O'Donnell was invited to Diddy's New Year's Eve party.  She was invited by Mr. Combs himself, and showed up with guests.  Due to an error on the bouncer's part she was turned away.  That in itself isn't much of a miracle, but here's the amazing thing.  No Twitter rant.  No loud, nasal outcry that this was some kind of insult.  Silence.  Folks, an amazing thing happened that day.  Rosie O'Donnell showed some class.

Anything can happen if you just believe.

Well, Somebody Has To Do It

Science: now featuring mouse sperm in a petri dish.  Onwards and upwards, ever after.

Scientists in Germany and Israel have successfully grown mouse sperm in a laboratory, opening up the future possibility to grow human sperm from the cells of infertile men.

According to the science journal Nature , researchers were able to grow sperm by using germ cells, which are responsible for sperm reproduction in the testicles.

Researchers decided the best way to replicate sperm grow was to create an environment similar to the testicles.

They placed the germ cells inside an agar jelly compound not unlike the inside of the male reproductive organ, and watched them grow.

Stephen Gordon, a male infertility consultant, praised the experiment’s results, calling it a discovery that could revolutionize fertility treatment.

“Infertile men naturally want to be the father of their child but at present have to accept that can’t happen,” he told The Telegraph. “With the mouse discovery, that could now be a possibility.”

What just occurs to me is that it seems that 99% of infertility treatment stuff seems to be aimed at women, and it takes two to tango, as it were.  Still, being able to grow and harvest viable sperm from testicular cells seems like a pretty significant breakthrough if the process can be adapted to humans.  Keep kicking ass, Science!

Sanctum Santorum: Iowa Edition

How much of an utter disaster was Iowa for the GOP last night?  Mitt Romney officially beat Rick Santorum by 8 votes.  Eight. Votes.  And that Romney lead magically appeared literally at the last moment as the results from one of the precincts were "found" at about 2 AM eastern time as Santorum was winning by a handful of votes.

Yeah.  The Republicans can't even steal their own elections without looking like completely incompetent douchebags, and Romney still didn't get more than 25% of the vote.  No amount of spin can cover up this meltdown for Romney as that means 75% of Iowa's GOP caucus goes rejected him outright for people even crazier than he is.  Kevin Drum sums up last night:

So now we have a new anti-Romney who will suddenly learn the dangers being in the spotlight and having voters actually get to know him; a promise from a bitter Newt Gingrich that the gloves are off and he's now going to crush the Mittster and sow the smoking remains of his campaign with salt; the apparent end of Rick Perry; and a few days of chuckleheaded nonsense from people who should know better that Ron Paul owes a big part of his third-place success to his anti-war message and might now ride the burgeoning isolationist youth vote in the Republican Party to victory. (Actual reality: Ron Paul owes his success to his usual combination of economic crankery and fanatic opposition to social welfare in every possible form.) 

Worst part?  There's two debates between now and New Hampshire next Tuesday, another two debates between NH and South Carolina on the 21st, and another pair of debates between SC and Florida on the 31st.  It's going to be a bloodbath.

The GOP establishment will now do everything in its power to declare Romney Supreme Champion of Everything by next Wednesday and ignore the fact that Romney still can't get more than a quarter of the GOP to give a damn about him.  The base hates him.  It's  going to be ugly.

When's the last time you remember anyone winning a presidential primary or caucus with 25% of the vote, in such a painfully suspicious way?  Never.  It's a joke.  Now Mitt can claim victory with 24.6% of the vote, or pretend that Iowa never happened.  Either way, it means Iowa Republicans rejected Romney in vast numbers.

In no way did Romney wrap this up last night.  The GOP establishment versus the Tea Party cranks war is now in full bloom.  Enjoy the spectacle.

And remember, Barack Obama won yet again last night.


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