Friday, March 23, 2012

Last Call

On a day where President Obama spoke about Trayvon Martin's murder and said the following:

"All of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how does something like this happen," President Obama said Friday morning following a White House Rose Garden ceremony when asked about the 17-year-old's death.
The president called the shooting a "tragedy" and says "every aspect" of the case should be investigated. Obama gave his condolences to the slain teenager's parents and said if he had a son, "he'd look like Trayvon."

We have this going on at a Rick Santorum event...

At a shooting range in Louisiana on Friday, an onlooker encouraged Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum to pretend the target he was firing at was President Barack Obama.
“Santorum is shooting a 1911 Colt,” Politico’s Juana Summers tweeted from the sheriff’s office shooting range in West Monroe. “Range master says ‘Well, it’s not your first rodeo.’ Someone here says ‘pretend its Obama.’”

...and this out of the mouth of Newt Gingrich....

In a radio interview on Thursday, Newt Gingrich returned to one of his favorite recent themes, what he calls the “elite media” and their conspiracy to aid and abet the Obama administration.
In an article at Huffington Post, the former Speaker of the House is quoted as saying to Sandy Rios of the American Family Association that the “elite media” are “in the tank for Obama” and will do everything they can to see him re-elected.
“It is just astonishing to me how pro-Obama they are,” he said, “Do you think you are going to see two pages on Obama’s Muslim friends? Or two pages on the degree to which Obama is consistently apologizing to Islam while attacking the Catholic church?”

...and I just shake my head.  I'm a black male who has survived to the ripe old age of 36 and is not incarcerated.  I'm an exception in this country, it seems.  I live in one of the 24 states that has a law that solely exists to justify the use of deadly force as the ultimate sanction against someone who is merely perceived to be a threat, without evidence, due process, or the right to face your accuser (because hey, you're effing dead.)  The legislative need to create laws like this is a symptom of a much more awful syndrome, and in every case these laws were passed by "pro-life" Republicans led by the gun lobbyists.

These laws are designed to allow vigilantism, period.  It's the worst impulse of the whole Glibertarian/Paulite/Somali Pirate anarcho-justice codified into "I get to decide who lives and who dies, and I reserve the right to exercise that impulse at any point."  We're all castles stomping around killing each other, and may the best, most heavily armed castle win.  And as far as Republicans are concerned, well that impulse extends to "We've decided that having a black President violates our right not to have one, so we're going to do something about it from the ground up."

Trayvon Martin's awful, pointless murder is just a symptom of a much uglier sickness.

[UPDATENewt doubles down.
“What the president said, in a sense, is disgraceful,” Gingrich said on the Hannity Radio show. “It’s not a question of who that young man looked like. Any young American of any ethnic background should be safe, period. We should all be horrified no matter what the ethnic background.
“Is the president suggesting that if it had been a white who had been shot, that would be OK because it didn’t look like him. That’s just nonsense dividing this country up. It is a tragedy this young man was shot. It would have been a tragedy if he had been Puerto Rican or Cuban or if he had been white or if he had been Asian American of if he’d been a Native American. At some point, we ought to talk about being Americans. When things go wrong to an American, it is sad for all Americans. Trying to turn it into a racial issue is fundamentally wrong. I really find it appalling.”
Effing. Perfect.

Breaking Not So Bad

University of Virginia political prognosticator Larry Sabato seems to be leaning towards a wash in the Senate this year, with the GOP picking up Montana and Missouri, but the Dems might be able to counter in Nevada.

Ah, the Senate. The battle for control fascinates us — and all election observers — because there are so many intriguing races and personalities. Yet, as we update our ratings today and move in a new direction on Congress’ upper chamber, it is worth stressing at the outset that no party will truly control the Senate come January 2013. There is no chance at all that Democrats or Republicans will hit the magic 60 seats required to break filibusters and thus run the Senate. Increasingly, it looks likely that the winning party will have a smaller majority than the Democrats do now (53 seats) — if there is a majority at all. The tiny margin for the winning party will enable the new Senate to do what Senates do best: a whole lot of nothing (discounting talk, of course).

So yes, it's entirely possible we could be looking at a 51-49 Senate or even 50-50 with the Vice President as the deciding vote.  That could make things...interesting.

Let’s assume that, at the dawn of the 113th Congress in 2013, all 67 sitting senators not up for reelection this year — 30 Democrats, 37 Republicans — return to serve next year (no departures for the Cabinet, the Court or the Great Beyond). Next, let’s also assume that the 16 races we currently favor Democrats to win go to the Blue column, and the nine races where Republicans are favored go to the Red column. (See our full chart below.) Note that we have long flipped Nebraska and North Dakota from Democratic control to Republican control; former Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey’s return to Nebraska hasn’t moved us a bit. Note also, as we said above, we are assuming that Maine elects King, who in effect becomes an Independent Democrat akin to Connecticut’s Joe Lieberman or Vermont’s Bernie Sanders. Further, our analysis has Democrats holding seats that are actually or potentially competitive, such as Ohio, Michigan and Hawaii. Finally, we presume that Democrats don’t score surprising upsets in places like Arizona and Indiana.

With those assumptions in place, the Senate is tied exactly 46 to 46, with eight toss up races to decide whether Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) continues to lead the chamber, or whether Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) takes over. 

Those races are Montana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, Wisconsin, Virginia, Florida and New Mexico.  If Sabato's right, the GOP could pick up 2 seats, but the Dems would pick up a seat in Nevada.  They could win in MA too, leading to the wash theory, 53-47 as it is now.  Six of those 8 tossup seats are defended by Democrats however.   All 8 changing hands would give the GOP the +4 seats they'd need to get it outright, 51-49.

We'll see.  I think the GOP will come up a seat or two short.  But it's going to be damn close.

Observing The Anniversary

As the Affordable Care Act turns two today, the Serious Village Types are contractually obligated to inform us that it was the worst piece of legislation ever conceived and that President Obama is the worst politician of all time for wasting time trying to get GOP votes for the bill, and then going it alone without them, assuring they would vow to destroy the law.

We are assured that everyone hates the bill, left, right, and center, despite the fact that elements of the bill are popular (particularly the parts involving coverage for pre-existing conditions and keeping kids on insurance plans to age 26.)  But at this point I think Republicans have vastly overplayed their hand on it for three reasons.

One is MetamorphoMitt.  The one thing from his past that he can't shake away is MassCare.  Two, the GOP really can't stop themselves from twirling their collective evil mustaches when doing things like voting to kill the Medicare cost review board while complaining that Medicare costs too much.  The other is the GOP assault on women's rights, which is seriously driving away voters of both sexes.

All of these are going to seriously put a dent in the amount of damage the Republicans can do in November.  And call me crazy, but I think the Supreme Court may punt on the law until 2014 because the mandate isn't in effect yet, and precisely because the GOP has done zero to replace the law should it be struck down, there's a fair argument that nuking the law would be a massive burden for the states and for individuals.  Indeed, the government's argument is that without a replacement set of laws, the entire health care system itself could be at risk if the mandate is severed.

Meanwhile, the parts of the law that are going into effect are working slowly and surely behind the scenes, and the law is rolling inexorably forward.  I think we're going to be okay here.

Shiny Chrome

For one day, Chrome overtook Internet Explorer as the most commonly used browser.  They've been hovering for a while, a nagging but persistent threat to the shrinking IE crowd.

It was on a weekend, which is also telling.  When people aren't using their employer's preferences, and they are on their personal devices, Chrome is the popular choice.  And when it isn't number one, it is still very much in the top running.

Number one isn't everything.  Chrome has shown it is a viable and quality browser, and is around to stay.  I've never looked back once I tried it for the first time (thank you, Wizarth!).

Microsoft Office has a free and incredibly competitive alternative, loosening their hold on businesses who are cutting back on costs.  Internet Explorer is losing its dominance over browsers and the chance to hawk Microsoft services.  I believe we can all agree that the Windows mobile phone market is a joke.  So remind me, just what do we need them for again?

One Little Mystery Of The Universe, Solved

It won't cure cancer or stop world hunger, but we now know one thing for absolute certain. Something I had always secretly thought, but never knew until now.

God loves cats.

BOSTON -- A veterinarian says acting like a flying squirrel may have saved a cat from serious injury in a 19-story plunge from a Boston high rise.

Sugar the cat had no broken bones or cuts, just some bruising on her lungs after the fall from a window owner Brittany Kirk had opened to enjoy the recent unseasonably warm weather.

The Animal Rescue League estimates Sugar fell between 150 and 200 feet.

I couldn't have asked for a better birthday present.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

Yep, getting closer to the seminal Blazing Saddles moment in our national post-racial discourse involving President Obama.  Wonkette:

John Hood, president of the conservative North Carolina-based John Locke Foundation, has apologized for a very special graphic that one of his bloggers, “Hot Talk WRNN co-host Tara Servatius,” included in her post for the think tank’s blog this week. What is the controversy? All it did was show “President Obama in chains and drag with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken.” What is the controversy? Everyone loves Kentucky Fried Chicken! And look, Tara Servatius says she “didn’t think about the racial implications of the picture when I posted it. I simply don’t think in those terms.” She’s a fun one.

In an exchange with Myrtle Beach’s The Sun News, Servatius explains that her graphic of President Obama in chains and drag eating a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken “was meant to illustrate Obama’s southern political strategy, nothing more.”

No.  Just no no no no no.  Hell no.  Between this and the ni-CLANG Pants, I really want to punch the organs out of the next person who says I need to get over race in 2012.

It's President Obama in leather fetish gear, eating a bucket of KFC.  If you don't think THAT'S offensive, you're lying.  You posted the damn thing on purpose.  Congratulations, you pissed people off.  You win.  You know what's going to piss you off even more?  Obama winning in November despite all your awful, sick, lousy efforts to troll the electorate.

Deal with that.

Taking Leave Of Their Senses

In a move with little fanfare, the US Supreme Court issued a ruling that should definitely give supporters of health care reform pause, as well as women's groups.  In a 5-4 ruling on Tuesday, Justice Anthony Kennedy sided with the Roberts-Alito-Thomas-Scalia bloc in declaring that state employees cannot sue states over being denied personal leave under the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993.

The 5-4 decision is a setback for millions of employees of state agencies and state colleges, and it voided in part a provision in the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. Among other things the act said that employees had a right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to recover from an illness or childbirth.

The rights of employees of private companies are unchanged by the ruling.

In this case, Daniel Coleman was fired from his job with the Maryland Court of Appeals after his request for sick leave was denied. He sued for $1.1 million in damages, alleging that his rights were violated under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

And why was Coleman's case thrown out?

Kennedy, in the majority opinion, dismissed the suit and said that Congress could not subject states to suits over personal sick leave because it had nothing to do with remedying a pattern of sex discrimination.

Indeed, Kennedy's opinion went on to say that the states' rights to be immune from lawsuits overruled the individual's rights for recourse if they were fired for actually taking extended personal leave under the FMLA.  Because there is no discrimination at work here, states are immune from lawsuits on the matter.  Kennedy stated that Congress in the FMLA included the provision to sue for recourse in order to remedy discrimination against women for taking extended personal leaves for illnesses.  But Kennedy argues that there's no evidence states as employers were ever discriminating against women or anyone for that matter by denying strictly personal leave under the act.  No discrimination, no lawsuit as a recourse:

Without widespread evidence of sex discrimination or sex stereotyping in the administration of sick leave, it is apparent that the congressional purpose in enacting the self-care provision is unrelated to these supposed wrongs.

The legislative history of the self-care provision reveals a concern for the economic burdens on the employee and the employee’s family resulting from illness-related job loss and a concern for discrimination on the basis of illness, not sex.

But more importantly (and ominously), Kennedy made the broad argument that federal law in this case put an onerous legal and financial burden on the states and that the states could not be compelled by the federal government to have to accept such a burden.

In her dissent, Justice Ginsburg argued that gender neutral-based leave laws indeed were discriminatory against men, and specifically that society was more likely to deny personal leave to men precisely because men were seen as "the stronger sex", and that the recourse to sue was necessary precisely because of cases like this.

Requiring States to provide gender-neutral parental and family-care leave alone, Congress was warned, would promote precisely the type of workplace discrimination Congress sought to reduce. The “pervasive sex-role stereotype that caring for family members is women’s work,” id., at 731, Congress heard, led employers to regard required parental and family-care leave as a woman’s benefit.Carol Ball, speaking on behalf of the U. S. Chamber of Commerce, testified that she did not think “there are going to be many men that take up . . . parental leave.”

Still, the Kennedy argument worries me somewhat. It's a big jump to say that being sued is the same level of onerous burden that health care exchanges or the individual mandate constitutes a "burden" on the states.

But that's exactly the argument that opponents of the mandate are making.  It's foreboding.  Let's be honest, this is all going to come down to Kennedy again.


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