Friday, July 06, 2012

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) 56 percent of the United States is in a drought. it will get worse. There will be food shortages and higher food prices. But hey, global warming doesn't exist!
2) You might have heard the story about the Florida man who was fired from his job as a lifeguard for saving a swimmer outside his designated zone. A few interesting facts:
  1. The beach in Hallandale is a public beach.
  2. The lifeguard positions were contracted out, privatized.
  3. The contractor who fired the lifeguard claims that the insurance company kept their premiums in check by insisting on clearly defined rescue zones: swim outside those zones, even with a lifeguard on duty, you swim at your own peril.
  4. The idiot, I mean, victim, was a full quarter of a mile outside the safe zone.
  5. The lifeguard post was not left unattended while the lifeguard, Tomas Lopez, went off to bail yet another Floridian asshole out of life-threatening danger.
  6. It's Florida.
I'm not sure what to make of this, other than the unidentified idiot who forced the situation ought to be thrown in jail for 30 days on moral grounds. On the one hand, rules are rules and its not like the guy started out in the safe zone and drifted off unwittingly. Where does the responsibility of a lifeguard end? A quarter mile? Half? A mile? Within line of sight? What if it's a false alarm, some douchebag playing at drowning to call attention to himself, leaving a person who might actually be drowning in the safe zone with less coverage? How can a lifeguard tell from a distance? Isn't the lifeguard's responsibility to the people who are there legally, primarily?
I lifeguarded when I was a youngster, and was fortunate enough to be assigned pool duties mostly (their own set of challenges, I assure you) but I have been involved in open water rescues and let me tell you, no matter how calm the water, they are far harder than pool rescues (which usually involve tossing a rope or a ring.) Kudos to Lopez for making the right call, since he saved a life, but this is a pretty knotty problem.
3) Ladies and gentlemen, but especially ladies, I present to you London's largest erection.
4) Excuse me....a WikiLeaks movie??
5) Welp, so much for that Syrian summit last weekend...
6) The reality of quantum computing is now two seconds closer.
7) International elections in the news.
8) The real threat the SCOTUS ACA ruling made to Romney's campaign.
10) California gets plenty of whales off shore and they delight tourists and residents alike. But this is once in a lifetime: these are blue whales, the largest animal ever to stalk the face of the earth.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Hey! You Think Ann Romney Ought To Be Investigated?

After all, she just accused the President of attempted murder and conspiracy...

Flip And Flop

Well, there's go ol' Mitt Romney again, tumbling through hoops to try to clarify a position that was clarified a week and a half ago, even tho that position was consistent with the position he took years ago as governor of Massachussetts, but inconsistent with the position he took during the primary campaign, which is now consistent with the position he's taken then:

 Just two days after Mitt Romney's top spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, said the former governor agrees with President Obama that the health insurance mandate does not represent a tax, the candidate reversed that positioning.

In an interview with CBS Wednesday from New Hampshire where Romney and his family are vacationing, the Republican candidate for president said due to the Supreme Court's majority decision, he too believes it's a tax.

"The Supreme Court has the final word and their final word is that Obamacare is a tax," Romney said. "So it’s a tax."

Ferhnstrom and Republican National Committee spokesperson Sean Spicer will likely fall on their swords over this.

Y'know, the Republicans used to be such a disciplined bunch of guys. You may not agree with what they stood for, but you felt they had come by that opinion honestly, and they kept their messages, however hateful and abhorrent, consistent.

That seems to no longer be the dynamic of the party, which we can trace to the Teabagger wing. It's hard to stay consistent when you feel your hands slipping off the life preserver that is winning elections. They'll lose, and keep losing, until they tell that wing to shut the hell up, and move to more moderate positions.

I think this dynamic, in part, played into the Roberts flip-flopping on ACA. While much speculation centers on his ego and vanity in what the legacy of a Roberts' court would be, weighing into that ego has to be a measurement of the insanity of the extremist right wing of both his court and the country in general. How could he not?

So when your political movement is affecting even the SCOTUS in ways that are harmful to your political aspirations, the time has come to jettison the loons.

Which would leave the GOP with precisely no base. Moderates have left the party in droves, now self-identifying as "independents" (and skewing that demographic rightward in the process), and many of those have found comfort in the arms of the Donkeys.

Which, of course, has given us on the left pause. After all, it was the likes of Ben Nelson and Blanche Dubois-- I mean, Lincoln that created the mess we found ourselves in when the ACA came to the fore in the first place.

Now, I've long held that a vital part of American democracy is two opposing forces wrestling over the issues of the day, but the key element has been two opposing forces with a single goal in mind: to legislate. Two opposing forces within the same party or two opposing forces that can't come to some understanding and get things done is an unhealthy situation.

See, as a winner-take-all electoral entity, America is subject to Duverger's Law. If you'd like a dirty and fast analogy, Duverger's describes American political parties as Sith lords: there can only be two. Never fewer, never more.

This is the extent of "choice" in America and as history shows, Duverger was spot-on. We've never had a viable third party but once, and that party ended up replacing the party it fractured from.

Screw that up, and you enter a period of extremist views, and some god-awful legislatin'.

Romney loses this November, and it should be a wake up call to the Republicans (whom you'd think ought to know better): get rid of the assholes and get back to work.

But it won't. And they won't. And that should bother us all.


Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Oh Dear...This One Is Going To Stick....

Earlier this year, Mitt Romney nearly landed in a politically perilous controversy when the Huffington Post reported that in 1999 the GOP presidential candidate had been part of an investment group that invested $75 million in Stericycle, a medical-waste disposal firm that has been attacked by anti-abortion groups for disposing aborted fetuses collected from family planning clinics. Coming during the heat of the GOP primaries, as Romney tried to sell South Carolina Republicans on his pro-life bona fides, the revelation had the potential to damage the candidate's reputation among values voters already suspicious of his shifting position on abortion.

But Bain Capital, the private equity firm Romney founded, tamped down the controversy. The company said Romney left the firm in February 1999 to run the troubled 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and likely had nothing to with the deal. The matter never became a campaign issue. But documents filed by Bain and Stericycle with the Securities and Exchange Commission—and obtained by Mother Jones—list Romney as an active participant in the investment. And this deal helped Stericycle, a company with a poor safety record, grow, while yielding tens of millions of dollars in profits for Romney and his partners. The documents—one of which was signed by Romney—also contradict the official account of Romney's exit from Bain.

The Stericycle deal—the abortion connection aside—is relevant because of questions regarding the timing of Romney's departure from the private equity firm he founded. Responding to a recent Washington Post story reporting that Bain-acquired companies outsourced jobs, the Romney campaign insisted that Romney exited Bain in February 1999, a month or more before Bain took over two of the companies named in the Post's article. The SEC documents undercut that defense, indicating that Romney still played a role in Bain investments until at least the end of 1999.

That's gonna leave a mark. You could make the case that his direct involvement in Bain decisions made after he "left" is irrelevant. He created a culture where farming baby corpses was acceptable behavior, full stop. Granted, if he was not informed of the intents of Bain Capital, it's hard to blame him for decisions they made post-departure.

But as the Mother Jones article shows, Romney was directly and actively partcipating in the decision to acquire Stericycle. Indeed, it's impossible that he was not deeply involved: he was the sole shareholder of at least three entities Bain lists in an SEC filing with regards to its purchase of Stericycle.

Now, no one is denying that aborted fetuses need to be disposed of, and Stericycle seems to be a pretty appropriate organization to do so. Indeed, if it hadn't run afoul of nearly every OSHA regulation with respect to handling medical waste, and hadn't been forced to settle with the states of Arizona...Arizona!... and Utah for antitrust actions in those states, it likely would have slipped into the deep chasm of anonymity, and Romney's campaign wouldn't be in such serious trouble.

In case you were wondering why Obama has never been intimidated by the spectre of a Romney candidacy throwing gobs of money against the wall to smear him, this is why.

Romney is in a no-win situation with this: he has offended and pissed off the very people who grudgingly got in line to support him AND managed to make his lies the centerpiece of his campaign this week at a critical moment in the campaign cycle: the Fourth of July. Many people aren't going away because it's in the middle of the week, so they're staying home and paying attention to the news.

That sound you're hearing? The noise from the game Pac-Man when Pac gets eaten? That's the campaign theme for Romney now.

Monday, July 02, 2012

States? Right.

In the victory on the Affordable Care Act last week came a few disappointments. This is one of them, and one of the most important:

But what happens if states choose not to expand Medicaid to meet the new guidelines? That's where the conservative majority, joined by liberals Stephen Breyer and Elana Kagan, surprised a lot of people. As the law was originally written, the entire Medicaid package became an all-or-nothing deal: States that didn't want to meet the new, more expansive guidelines were free to do so. But choosing that option meant forgoing all federal Medicaid money. The Court on Thursday ruled that choice was "coercive." Roberts, echoing the arguments of the law's challengers, likened it to holding a gun to the states' heads.

The remedy was not as extreme as it might have been: The justices didn't strike down the Medicaid expansion altogether. But they insisted that states choosing not to expand coverage give up only the money that would have gone to covering the new populations. Those states would remain eligible for the funds that they already get, to cover people who already qualify for Medicaid under the old guidelines.

And yet, it's extreme enough: people who do not have health insurance and cannot afford it under traditional private insurance plans will not have as much opportunity to get it.

My suspicion is, as with stimulus funds, over the longer term states will give up and give in. Governors across the nation at first were foursquare against accepting those funds, but quietly, even the last holdouts like Chris Christie have reneged on those vows. Same thing will likely happen here.

But here's the thing: this isn't just about Medicaid. For example, did you know that if your state doesn't set its speed limit at 55 (or require seat belt use, for that matter), it is ineligible for federal highway funds? In the future, the Federal government will have a hard time instituting sane regulation in exchange for dangling road repair in the faces of governors like a cherry for a sundae. The courts are effectively saying "You can only refuse to give more money than the status quo."

So...this is a pretty effective demolishment of much social engineering that the Federal government could impose (and includes such right wing plums as defense contracts and even a potential military draft) while at the same time putting social engineering through tax impositions into jeopardy.

Even tho the courts were pretty adamant that the individual mandate was a tax, it does not mean every tax will be allowable. And it won't surprise me if another lawsuit is forthcoming on that point with respect to ACA, anyway.


Because Goodness Knows...

...the public should be prevented from using public spaces.

When Is A Second More Than A Second?

When it crashes your website because you employ Java.


An explanation for Teabaggers.