Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Last Call

In probably the greatest black culture smash hit since Homeboys in Outer Space, former Ohio GOP Secretary of State Ken "Voting Machine Integrity" Blackwell and former Clown Car Cavalcade contestant Herman "Dressed to the Nines" Cain want you to know how Republicans are working to protect the African-American vote. You know, by protecting voting precincts from African-American voters actually voting in them. Or something. Jim Newell at Wonkette is nicer than I am:
Herman Cain and Ken Blackwell, the former Ohio secretary of state who STOLE THE 2004 ELECTION WITH MACHINES, have teamed up to produce this video about the Right to Vote. They do so by criticizing the Justice Department’s attempts to ensure black people can vote in the face of new laws that are clearly trying to suppress black turnout. And how could DoJ also refuse to pursue the New Black Panther Party scandal? Herman Cain and Ken Blackwell would have pursued it, for civil rights.
Me, I couldn't resist the whole Mantan/Hollywood Shuffle angle, but then again that's probably why I'm a blogger as a hobby and not getting paid for it professionally.

Seriously, folks. Ken Blackwell talking about protecting the black vote is pretty much the equivalent of Gargamel explaining how all the Smurfs will be much safer and will be free from the sorrows of fungus-based housing if he just cages them, removes their skins, and uses them to make gold out of lead. Blackwell invented digital vote swiping and as both Secretary of State in charge of the election process WHILE STILL DUBYA'S STATE CAMPAIGN CHAIR, he sure did a great job of disenfranchising a whole hell of a lot of African-Americans in 2004 to give the state and the country to Bush. Look where THAT got us, right? Here's the video if you want a chuckle.

Me, I'm going to be over here, so completely outraged that an entire Super Star Destroyer hasn't crashed into Ken Blackwell's muppet head yet that I'm liable to start building one just for this purpose. Assholes.

The Chips Are All In, Gentlemen

Real Clear Politics pundit Sean Trende goes all in, declaring that the entire ACA will almost certainly be struck down tomorrow because there's no way to separate the doomed mandate from the entire law, meaning Chief Justice Roberts will author an opinion to jettison the whole thing:

If this seems like thin gruel to you, I concur. I wouldn’t give more than a 15 to 20 percent chance of the Affordable Care Act being upheld. And even that slim chance really is more a nod to the fact that we don’t know what is going on in the justices’ heads, so even when all the evidence points one direction, we have to leave some room for the opposite outcome.

I won't dwell on the arguments for and against striking down the individual mandate, which have been beaten to death by this point.  But I do wish to emphasize that there’s also a substantial chance that the court will strike down the entire law, contrary to what almost all news outlets have reported recently. This issue turns around the arcane question of severability, and there’s a reason CNN Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin called the arguments on this issue a “plane crash” for the government (as opposed to a mere “train wreck” after the arguments on the mandate).

Basically, laws typically include a severability clause specifying that if any portion of the law is struck down as unconstitutional, the remainder should survive. But Congress didn’t include a severability clause in the health care law.

The reason of course that Congress didn't provide a severability clause on the mandate was that basically all precedent leading up to the law clearly stated that the mandate was eminently constitutional, and in fact as Ezra Klein reminds us, conservatives championed the mandate for a reason.

Of course, this battle isn’t really about the constitutionality of the individual mandate. Members of the Republican Party didn’t express concerns that the individual mandate might be an unconstitutional assault on liberty when they devised the idea in the late 1980s, or when they wielded it against the Clinton White House in the 1990s, or when it was passed into law in Massachusetts in the mid-2000s. Indeed, Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.), arguably the most conservative Republican in the Senate, touted Romney's reforms as a model for the nation. Only after the mandate became the centerpiece of the Democrats’ health-care bill did its constitutionality suddenly become an issue.

The real fight is over whether the Affordable Care Act should exist at all. Republicans lost that battle in Congress, where they lacked a majority in 2010. Now they hope to win it in the Supreme Court, where they hold a one-vote advantage. The argument against the individual mandate is a pretext for overturning Obamacare. But it’s a pretext that could set a very peculiar precedent.

If the mandate falls, future politicians, who will still need to fix the health-care system and address the free-rider problem, will be left with the option of either moving toward a single-payer system or offering incredibly large, expensive tax credits in order to persuade people to do things they don’t otherwise want to do. That is to say, in the name of liberty, Republicans and their allies on the Supreme Court will have guaranteed a future with much more government intrusion in the health-care marketplace.

Which is true, but then again the whole point was to destroy Barack Obama's legacy and leave him cast as the biggest Presidential flop since Carter.  The last time the GOP did that, they got a dozen years of Reagan/Bush and then the Contract With America.  The rest is history.  And you can bet the Republicans will happily sell their version of "Obamacare" to the people as "real health reform" only without the parts that actually reform the system, grant affordable coverage to the millions that don't have it and lower costs.  It'll be as awful for our economy as the Bush tax cuts and the Medicare Part D prescription benefit were, only far worse.

We'll see how right Trende is tomorrow.

That's A Lot Of Quarters

Today marks the 40th birthday of video game company Atari, still kicking after bringing us Pong for the holidays in 1972.

In 1972, Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney were looking to produce an electronic tennis game to be called "Pong." They formed Atari Inc. on June 27 of that year and released the black-and-white tennis game five months later. The gaming world hasn't been the same since.
"Pong's" primitive, two-dimensional graphics look ridiculous now, but it was an immediate hit and is considered the first commercially successful video game.
But Atari's more lasting contribution to living-room entertainment may have been the Atari VCS, more commonly known as the Atari 2600. The home video-game console launched in 1977 and sold more than 30 million units before being discontinued in 1992 according to a Business Week report.
Many people credit the Atari 2600 as their gateway into the world of electronic gaming.
"While I had dabbled with the NES at a friend's house and Apple II titles at my uncle's, this was the first console that was mine," said Matt Paprocki of Toledo, Ohio. "It sucked me in and kept me there. I doubt any parent knows how important a little console that plays video games can be, or what it can do for someone's life. It's a path I started on and stayed on well into my adult life, all because of that faux wood box fitted with ungainly switches."
"You never forget your first love!" said Matt Thebert of Lawrenceville, Georgia. "But it also was the beginning of a whole era of populist electronics and computing where you could have in your home, finally, a computer and video games. Which as a kid meant I could explore these worlds from my home, not from a computer lab or, at that time, the public library, where we would reserve time in one-hour chunks on the Apple IIe to play 'Zork' in its amber glory."

Myself included. I got my Atari 2600 as a wee lad in the early 80's, back at the height of the Atari 2600 boom and proceeded to learn everything you ever needed to know about spatial Newtonian physics through making bank shots with tanks in Combat. Ask my brother, he still hates me for the shots I made.  Pac-Man, Crystal Castles, Donkey Kong, Demons to Diamonds, Yar's Revenge, man those were good times.

Sadly, Atari really isn't 40 years old, the name was sold off years ago to Infogrames and more or less used to make people in my generation go "Hey, Atari" and buy a crappy game.  They're promised to reform for what it's worth, but the name will never had the glory it did 30 years ago.  That's a shame.

Still, here's to Nolan and Ted, the closest thing to cool nerdy uncles I had growing up.  Nolan went on to found Chuck E. Cheese and he's still kicking it on Twitter these days, 40 years later.

Oops! Clerical Error Releases Accused Felon

A “clerical error” may have led to the mistaken release of a man accused of 19 felony child sexual assault charges that could carry a life sentence.
Prosecutors had deemed Antonio Alburquerque a flight risk and asked in a court document that he surrender his passport and wear a monitoring bracelet before bonding out of the Greene County jail .
In comments to authorities, Alburquerque, charged with multiple counts of deviant sexual contact with a minor, had made statements that he intended to move to Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic following his retirement, which was imminent.
A glitch in the case happened when the prosecutor’s request for the special bond conditions never reached the court docket.
Springfield has struggled with many issues, one of them being competent staffing for public service.  I'm not being snarky this time, it's a known issue and has been for as long as I've read the paper.  Still, this is craptastic even by our standards.

Today Is National HIV Testing Day

Maybe HIV scarred our generation more those who came after.  I was in junior high when it really became known.  I remember parents who were terrified we may learn it was passed through casual contact, the scientists who forecast the ability for the virus to go airborne. and the fear we all had when we learned sex could kill us.  That's pretty heavy stuff as you prepare for your first date.

It also changed parental culture.  Parents were (rightfully) told that they were doing kids a disservice by leaving them to a token sex ed class and whispers to fill in the blanks.  Ignorance was exposed, as we learned that some girls still thought you couldn't get pregnant your first time, or that eating certain foods would keep you from pregnancy.  We learned just how big the information gap was between minorities, which corresponded with pregnancy rates and other STD transmission.

If you're at risk, go get tested.  Just for the heck of it, reassure yourself that everything is okay.  Or, if there is a chance of bad news, spare your life and several others.  Denial is no excuse.

Also, keep this in mind as we struggle to teach kids about sex while the word "vagina" can't be said in mixed company.  While we make birth control more difficult to obtain, realize the young adults of the day are likely to pay for that with their lives.  So that some can feel proper, others will be forced to bear the burden necessary.

Primary, Primarily

Primary results from New York, Colorado, and Utah were pretty much as expected last night.   Both GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Dem Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York survived primary challenges pretty easily, and loudmouth jackass Charles Barron got rightfully stomped as the Democrat's endorsement from former KKK member David Duke all but spelled his end.

“When we launched this campaign we knew we were going up against ... the entire New York Democratic political leadership,” Barron said. “You know you good when you made the governor do a robo call for a primary.”

The two were vying for the seat vacated by retiring Democrat Rep. Ed Towns.

Barron lost to Towns in the 2006 primary, but Towns gave Barron his blessing in the primary.

The race drew intense scrutiny from the party because of Barron’s history of making incendiary remarks about Jews and gays — comments he toned down while campaigning.

The East New York councilman previously dubbed dictators Moammar Khadafy and Robert Mugabe his “heroes” - and compared the Israeli government with the Nazis.

Barron, once a member of the Black Panthers, also received a toxic endorsement from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

Barron lost to Hakeem Jeffries 72-28,  which goes to show you that no, African-American voters will not just vote for somebody because he's black, folks.  If he's a racist, bigoted asshole, he'll lose just as easily.

I'm still disturbed however that Barron got a quarter of the vote.  It means we've got along way to go in "post-racial" America and an ugly reminder that just because you're not white doesn't mean you can't be a racist asshole.  Glad to see him go down in defeat, but he should have never been on the ballot in the first place, New York.  We're going to have to have a chat later.

Impeachable Character, Once Again

The Republican de-legitimization of President Obama's second term begins before his first one ends.  Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl on the Presdent's recent immigration enforcement directive:

Well, that’s the executive’s job and there are only a couple of ways to do it… If the president insists on continuing to ignore parts of the law that he doesn’t like, and simply not enforce that law, the primary remedy for that is political. And you have it two ways: one is oversight through the Congress to demonstrate what they’re doing wrong and there are some potential criminal charges there for dereliction of duty. Although, I haven’t looked that up yet. And the other part of it is people need to react through the ballot box to turn out of office those people who are not doing their duty. Now if it’s bad enough and if shenanigans involved in it, then of course impeachment is always a possibility. But I don’t think at this point anybody is talking about that.

No.  Not until November 8th.  Wait, I take that back, at least one GOP candidate is running on impeachment of POTUS right now.

Allen Quist, a former state representative running against Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN) in Minnesota’s 1st congressional district, told a town hall late last week that Obama’s recent immigration policy, as well as his decision not to defend in court the Defense of Marriage Act, were both unconstitutional. While some Republicans would cautiously leave the matter there, Quist pressed on, declaring that Obama had committed an impeachable offense. If elected, he promised he would “not only propose it, [he] would argue it to the utmost of my ability and [he] would carry it like a banner to the American public.”

Should the GOP retain the House and President Obama be re-elected, I fully expect articles of impeachment will be sent to the Senate and the President will be tried.  There's no way the Senate will get the two-thirds needed for impeachment, but that's not the point, the point is to "put that Obama boy in his place" and for the GOP to raise money and run candidates, especially Senate candidates, on impeaching the President again in 2014, while basically spending every day in the 113th and 114th Congresses demanding the President and Vice President resign and hand the office over to the GOP Speaker of the House (who may or may not still be Orange Julius).

Of course, knowing these nutjobs, we could very well have ourselves a real constitutional crisis on our hands sometime next January or so.  We'll see.


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