October 7th, 2010

Room To Stand

Frustrated House still waiting for Senate action on 420 bills

By Russell Berman - 10/05/10 04:28 PM ET

The House ran another legislative lap around the Senate in September, widening the gap in the number of bills the chambers have passed this Congress to more than 400.

With only a lame-duck session remaining, the House since January 2009 has passed 420 bills that have sat on the Senate shelf, according to an updated list provided to The Hill.

The gulf in productivity has led to an escalation in tensions between the chambers, culminating in a veritable staring contest last month over the expiring George W. Bush-era tax cuts.

House Democratic leaders have frequently griped at the disparity, and the caucus chairman, Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), told The Hill last week that the slow pace of legislating in the Senate, where bills can be held up by the filibuster and other rules, “infuriates” members of the House.

Rank-and-file House Democrats said the lack of Senate action on legislation they had cast tough votes on had left them twisting in the wind before an increasingly agitated electorate. At the top of the list was the June 2009 cap-and-trade energy and climate bill, which passed the House by a slim margin but never made it to the Senate floor.

The gap in approved legislation increased by 48 in the three weeks Congress was in session in September, and by 130 since The Hill first reported on the disparity in February.

Among the House-passed bills from the most recent period still awaiting action in the Senate are measures to audit the claims fund set up by BP after the Gulf oil spill and legislation to increase screening for diabetes. The Senate has also yet to sign off on naming post offices for George C. Marshall, the late actor Jimmy Stewart and the civil rights leader Dorothy Height.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) declined comment. The Senate has a busy agenda for the lame-duck session in November but is expected to make no more than a small dent in the House stack before the 111th Congress concludes.

There are also bills that have passed the Senate but not the House, including a child nutrition measure being pushed by first lady Michelle Obama and the White House. (Lawmakers in the House have yet to agree on a way to pay for the funding in the bill.)

House leaders drew a line in the sand on holding a House vote on tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year, saying the Senate would have to act first.

When the Senate decided to punt the issue until after the elections, the House followed suit, despite protests from liberal members who wanted to cast their vote to extend middle-class tax cuts before they left for the campaign trail.

Source is angry

Lou Dobbs, American Hypocrite

In Lou Dobbs's heyday at CNN, when he commanded more than 800,000 viewers and a reported $6 million a year for "his fearless reporting and commentary," in the words of former CNN president Jonathan Klein, the host became notorious for his angry rants against "illegal aliens." But Dobbs reserved a special venom for the employers who hire them, railing against "the employer who is so shamelessly exploiting the illegal alien and so shamelessly flouting US law" and even proposing, on one April 2006 show, that "illegal employers who hire illegal aliens" should face felony charges.

Since he left CNN last November, after Latino groups mounted a protest campaign against his inflammatory rhetoric, Dobbs has continued to advocate an enforcement-first approach to immigration, emphasizing, as he did in a March 2010 interview on Univision, that "the illegal employer is the central issue in this entire mess!"

His scheduled October 9 address at the Virginia Tea Party Convention will mark his second major Tea Party address of the year, reviving questions about whether the former CNN host is gearing up for an electoral campaign. He recently told Fox's Sean Hannity that he has not ruled out a possible Senate or even presidential run in 2012.

But with his relentless diatribes against "illegals" and their employers, Dobbs is casting stones from a house—make that an estate—of glass. Based on a yearlong investigation, including interviews with five immigrants who worked without papers on his properties, The Nation and the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute have found that Dobbs has relied for years on undocumented labor for the upkeep of his multimillion-dollar estates and the horses he keeps for his 22-year-old daughter, Hillary, a champion show jumper.

The entire read, here.

It's a bit of a long one, but a really good and enlightening one. Thoughts?
Killjoy Spin
  • arisma

Professor pulls off ‘epic hack’ of voting system

The District of Columbia's plan to use a previously untried internet voting system for absentee ballots cast overseas has been raising red flags for a while. But now the ability of a team of computer experts to easily take over the system and reprogram it to play the University of Michigan fight song whenever a vote is cast has caused the whole scheme to be called off.

As blogger Brad Friedman reported on Monday, "The very short planned pre-election test phase, in which hackers were invited to try to manipulate the system, has been abruptly aborted in the wake of a, um, disturbing (if not wholly unpredictable) development,"

Initial accounts of the hack had passed it off lightly. The Asssociated Press story described it merely as "University of Michigan students hacked a prototype D.C. elections voting site and programmed it to play their fight song."

By the next day, Friedman had confirmed that "J. Alex Halderman, asst. professor of electronic engineering and computer science at the [University of Michigan], was, indeed, at the heart of the hack."


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TWiB! Season 3 Ep#11 "Obama: The Last Airbender" & other silly ideas.

Defending Obama and the Democrats is hard.

Not because I don't think they've done some good in the past two years, because I do. It's hard because I find myself constantly defending them, even when I'm not ecstatic about what’s happening. Don't let my overly public defense of the Democrats fool you; I'm annoyed, tired, and frustrated like a lot of people. Yet I don't suffer from this enthusiasm gap that's become all the rage to discuss. My enthusiasm is as strong as it has ever been because my choice is to either be frustrated with the Dems but know that a lot of good will come out of it or let the crazy people win. My issues with the Republicans and the Tea Party aren't simply "a difference in opinion," I'm overly enthusiastically against what they represent. I was really happy about Obama but my enthusiasm is on overdrive when it comes to stoping the Republicans.

But this doesn't mean I'm drinking the liberal Kool-Aid.

I've mocked the Democrats on numerous occasions in the past two years when I believed they were really screwing up. Their PR skills are lacking even when they're doing the right thing. The party’s various concessions to the bat-shit crazy contingent in order to push policies through has made my stomach hurt quite a few times, but even with all of that, I still have all the enthusiasm in the world. I am a hundred percent on whatever side that isn't the one who keeps spouting off about "Real America." I know for a fact that they aren't including me in that group. I'm a godless minority living in a big city. I look forward to the day I can say congratulations to my gay friends who have finally gotten married legally. I never want to have a conversation about abortion again, because I think it's a woman’s right to choose and I shouldn't have any say in it whatsoever. I'm for an Islamic community center near Ground Zero because the constitution says it’s right. I'm against Arizona immigration law and I'm thrilled that my diabetic friend will be able to get healthcare. I want DADT repealed and the Bush Tax Cuts to expire.

See, enthusiasm...

Maybe I would be on the other side of the enthusiasm gap if the G.O.TeaParty didn't build such a lovely bridge for me to cross over it with.


Obama's Approval Rating on Economy Falls Further

President Obama's job approval rating has changed little in the past few months, but with the economic recovery lagging desperately behind where most Americans would like it to be, his work to fix the ailing economy is scoring ever-lower marks.

The public is divided on the overall job he is doing now: 44 percent say they approve, while 45 percent disapprove -- virtually unchanged from last month.

The President's rating on the economy, however, has taken a further plunge in the latest CBS News Poll. Now, only 38 percent say they approve of the job he is doing handling the issue - which has been the problem weighing most heavily on the nation's collective mind for months. Half of those questioned (50 percent) say they disapprove of his work on the economy.


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This is a witty Space Ghost reference.

New York Asks to Bar Use of Food Stamps to Buy Sodas

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg sought federal permission on Wednesday to bar New York City’s 1.7 million recipients of food stamps from using them to buy soda or other sugared drinks.

The request, made to the United States Department of Agriculture, which finances and sets the rules for the food-stamp program, is part of an aggressive anti-obesity push by the mayor that has also included advertisements, stricter rules on food sold in schools and an unsuccessful attempt to have the state impose a tax on the sugared drinks.

Public health experts greeted Mr. Bloomberg’s proposal cautiously. George Hacker, senior policy adviser for the health promotion project of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said a more equitable approach might be to use educational campaigns to dissuade food-stamp users from buying sugared drinks.

“The world would be better, I think, if people limited their purchases of sugared beverages,” Mr. Hacker said. “However, there are a great many ethical reasons to consider why one would not want to stigmatize people on food stamps.”

The mayor requested a ban for two years to study whether it would have a positive impact on health and whether a permanent ban would be merited.

“In spite of the great gains we’ve made over the past eight years in making our communities healthier, there are still two areas where we’re losing ground — obesity and diabetes,” the mayor said in a statement. “This initiative will give New York families more money to spend on foods and drinks that provide real nourishment.”

New York State, which administers food stamps locally, signed on to the request, which was received by the Agriculture Department on Wednesday evening.

“We appreciate the state’s interest,” a spokesman, Justin DeJong, said. “We will review and carefully consider the state’s proposal.”

In 2004, the Agriculture Department denied a request by Minnesota to prevent food-stamp recipients from buying junk food. The department said that the plan, which focused on candy and soda, among other foods, was based on questionable merits and would “perpetuate the myth” that food-stamp users made poor shopping decisions.

Congress debated but rejected restricting the purchase of sugared drinks with food stamps as part of a 2008 farm bill, Mr. Hacker said. But this year, the chairman of the House’s Agriculture Committee, Collin Peterson, Democrat of Minnesota, said the House should think about such a ban in its deliberations over the next farm bill.

Mr. Bloomberg and his health commissioner, Dr. Thomas A. Farley, said the ban would help curb the city’s obesity epidemic, which they contend has been fueled by rising soda consumption over the past 30 years.

City statistics released last month showed that nearly 40 percent of public-school children in kindergarten through eighth grade were overweight or obese, and that obesity rates were substantially higher in poor neighborhoods. City studies show that consumption of sugared beverages is consistently higher in those neighborhoods.

Dr. Farley and the state’s health commissioner, Dr. Richard F. Daines, said in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times on Thursday that the ban would not reduce the ability of food-stamp recipients to feed their families. “They would still receive every penny of support they now get, meaning they would have as much, if not more, to spend on nutritious food,” Dr. Farley and Dr. Daines wrote. “And they could still purchase soda if they choose — just not with taxpayer dollars.”

The health of New Yorkers, and particularly obesity, is one of the mayor’s signature issues. During his first term in office, Mr. Bloomberg expanded the city’s smoking ban to almost all indoor public places, and he is proposing to expand it to beaches, parks and plazas. New York City has banned trans fats in restaurants and requires restaurants to post calorie counts.

The city’s campaign against sugary drinks has been especially aggressive. This week, it introduced ads showing a man drinking packets of sugar. But its attempt to persuade the State Legislature to impose a tax on the drinks was met with skepticism and opposition from the beverage industry and grocery owners.

Tracey Halliday, a spokeswoman for the American Beverage Association, said of the mayor’s request: “This is just another attempt by government to tell New Yorkers what they should eat and drink.”

The number of New Yorkers qualifying for food stamps has grown more than 35 percent in the past couple of years, mirroring a nationwide trend. And the mayor’s proposal could raise concerns about equity, since it is aimed at one segment of the city, its poorest. When Minnesota sought its ban, welfare rights advocates there accused the state of being patronizing to food-stamp users.

Anticipating such criticism, Dr. Farley and Dr. Daines said that the food-stamp program already prohibited the use of benefits to buy cigarettes, beer, wine, liquor or prepared foods.

The ban would affect beverages with more than 10 calories per 8 ounces, and would exclude fruit juices without added sugar, milk products and milk substitutes. A 12-ounce soda has 150 calories and the equivalent of 10 packets of sugar, according to the health department. City health officials say that drinking 12 ounces of soda a day can make a person gain 15 pounds a year.

Dr. Farley and Dr. Daines said that over the past 30 years, the consumption of soda and other sugary beverages in the United States had more than doubled, paralleling the rise in obesity. They blame that trend for the rising rate of diabetes, which now afflicts one in eight adults in New York City, and is nearly twice as common among poor New Yorkers as among wealthier ones.

Told of Mr. Bloomberg’s request on Wednesday, one food-stamp user, Marangeley Reyes, 24, of Harlem, said the mayor should not dictate what foods she bought. Ms. Reyes had just emerged from a Shop Fair supermarket on Lenox Avenue with a 20-ounce bottle of Orange Crush — she drinks at least one a day. But after giving it some more thought, she said, “I probably shouldn’t be drinking so much soda.”

Source: New York Times

Andrew Cuomo Increases Lead Over Carl Paladino


New York voters are angry but apparently they're not as angry as Republican nominee for governor Carl Paladino.

Paladino has fallen in a recent Quinnipiac University Polling Institute survey of his race against Andrew Cuomo.

Quinnipiac reported Thursday that Cuomo now leads Paladino 55%-37% among likely voters.

That compares with Cuomo having a 49%-43% lead split over Paladino in a poll released Sept. 22.

Here's some commentary on the new polling results from Maurice Carroll. the polling institute's director:

"Lots of New Yorkers are fed up with state government. Those who say they are angry go for Carl Paladino - but not by all that much. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo gets the votes of 41 percent of the angry people," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

"Since Quinnipiac University's last poll two weeks ago, it's been a looney-tunes time for Paladino in the news media - one time in a face-to-face fight with a reporter - and it shows."

"Cuomo moves into a double-digit lead," Carroll added. "After the dust settled from Paladino's big primary win, the big switch was in the independent vote - a small edge for Paladino two weeks ago turns into a small edge for Cuomo this time."

Scientists and Soldiers Solve a Bee Mystery


DENVER — It has been one of the great murder mysteries of the garden: what is killing off the honeybees?

Since 2006, 20 to 40 percent of the bee colonies in the United States alone have suffered “colony collapse.” Suspected culprits ranged from pesticides to genetically modified food.

Now, a unique partnership — of military scientists and entomologists — appears to have achieved a major breakthrough: identifying a new suspect, or two.

A fungus tag-teaming with a virus have apparently interacted to cause the problem, according to a paper by Army scientists in Maryland and bee experts in Montana in the online science journal PLoS One.
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Gene Simmons's "aggressive crusade against poor high school students and fun."

 The bassist and businessman behind the legendary rock band KISS was on hand at the MIPCOM convention in Cannes, France on Tuesday. And Gene Simmons had a message for aspiring entertainers everywhere: sue first, think later.

"Make sure your brand is protected," Simmons warned during a panel discussion. "Make sure there are no incursions. Be litigious. Sue everybody. Take their homes, their cars. Don't let anybody cross that line."
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Gene Simmons reminded me of an old South Park episode (in honor of South Park's return).

(no subject)

French veil ban clears last legal hurdle
France's constitutional court has approved the law set to ban wearing the Islamic full veil in public.

It approved it almost in its entirety, making one small change: the law will not apply to public places of worship where it may violate religious freedom.

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[sg] profile

Rutgers Pres.: We Did the Right Thing

Rutgers University President Richard McCormick says he’s pored over Tyler Clementi’s student records in the days following his suicide and he believes school officials did everything they could to investigate his complaint that his roommate was spying on him with a webcam.

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"Based on everything I know, I believe that we did all we could and we did the right thing," he said.

McCormick wouldn’t discuss what Clementi said in his complaint or how officials responded, citing federal student privacy laws. But he says proper procedure was followed.

"I have studied the record carefully and I can’t say very much about it ... But I believe Rutgers responded appropriately to the information that we had," he said.

This is the first time McCormick has answered questions about Clementi’s death. The 18-year-old freshman jumped to his death off the George Washington Bridge last month after his roommate filmed him having sex with another man and broadcast it on the internet.

Two students — Dharun Ravi, 18, and Molly Wei, 18 — were charged with invasion of privacy for the alleged internet voyeurism.


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  • taiki

Las Vegas Review Journal endorses Angle.

Not bolding any of this fuckery. The Review Journal is the only newspaper in Las Vegas, scratch that, there's the Sun but it's owned by Greenspun Media Group, who happens to also own the Review Journal. Even one of the weeklies is owned by them. Fuck them, fuck this town, fuck this state. A portion of my fellow Nevadans put this woman on the ballot with a straight face. I believe in trying to respect people, regardless of ideas. After reading this, I seriously need to reconsider that.

Harry Reid wears the scars of previous close encounters.

The 27-year Washington veteran lost his first U.S. Senate race in 1974 by a mere 600 votes. In 1998, he survived a challenge from John Ensign, prevailing by 428 votes.

So here he is again, locked in a tight battle, this time against Sharron Angle, a bit player on the Nevada political scene until she pulled off a surprise in June's Republican primary.

Six years ago, 12 years ago, even 18 years ago, a man of Sen. Reid's stature might have cruised to victory against such a rookie opponent.

But this isn't 2004 or 1998.

Something has stirred millions of Americans, perhaps waking them from their "who cares what happens in Washington" slumber. Independents and Republicans are energized, their grass-roots mobilized. The GOP sees control of the House -- perhaps even the Senate -- on the horizon.

And they seek to make Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate majority leader, their top trophy.

The good senator is 70 years old now, his gait a bit slower, his countenance slightly weary. He's become prone to verbal gaffes and sometimes loses his place while delivering the campaign stemwinder. As he has climbed higher and higher in the Democratic hierarchy, he has veered further and further to the left, becoming politically disconnected from Nevada and its residents.

For the past two years, Sen. Reid has been a water boy for the Obama White House, which is pushing perhaps the most radical liberal agenda in the country's history.

Whether it's shoving the unpopular and hugely expensive ObamaCare down the throats of the American people, or rewarding failing companies with taxpayer bailouts, or ginning up expensive and futile "stimulus" packages larded with pork that push the nation closer and closer to fiscal chaos, Sen. Reid has cheered them all.

Meanwhile, the senator endorses a cap-and-trade bill that would impose massive new taxes in the name of advancing green energy, forever disrupting the economy, making the nation considerably poorer and less competitive in world markets. He has encouraged the explosion of a bureaucracy that now tells us what types of light bulbs we may use, which washers and dryers we may purchase and whether we can fill in puddles on our own property.

All this while the nation remains ravaged by recession -- yet Mr. Obama and Sen. Reid can't understand why small businesses won't hire when the president routinely makes openly hostile comments about the private sector and Congress threatens to raise taxes on millions of entrepreneurs.

The Obama playbook -- to which Sen. Reid hitched his fortunes -- has failed miserably. Las Vegas is mired in 15 percent unemployment

Seriously crippled by this much baggage, Sen. Reid has calculated that his survival depends on portraying Ms. Angle as an "extremist" who would endanger women, children and the elderly.

In fact, Ms. Angle is well within the mainstream on most issues and embraces a political philosophy popular with millions of Americans who are making themselves heard this election cycle.

Ms. Angle sees government expanding to meddle in virtually every aspect of our lives and she stands up to say enough is enough. She sees red ink from sea to shining sea and she argues for a different direction -- one that forces Washington to live within its means, while keeping taxes at relatively low rates. She sees a crushing debt being foisted on our children and grandchildren and she demands fiscal restraint.

Sharron Angle sees entitlement programs that cannot be sustained without significant reforms and she has the courage to offer solutions. She sees an arrogant federal government that routinely ignores its constitutional boundaries, and she isn't shy about trying to push it back behind the fence.

Say this about Sharron Angle: You know what you're going to get. She's a reliable vote for individual rights, smaller government and constitutional principles.

On the other hand, a vote for Harry Reid is a vote for the status quo in Washington. More of the same big spending. More of the same bloated bureaucracies. More of the same partisan bickering. More of the same inaction on Social Security and Medicare. More of the same class warfare on taxation. More of the same disdain for the job-creating private sector.

The direction of this nation is at stake. This election offers a clear choice.

Harry Reid has an inspiring life story. But the boy who came from modest means in little Searchlight is no more. Instead, he's become Harry Reid, champion of liberal special interests inside the beltway.

That's why Nevadans should support Sharron Angle in this pivotal election.


Father and Infant Son Missing from Chicagoland Area

October 6, 2010 (SCHAUMBURG, Ill.) (WLS) -- A Schaumburg man and his child have been reported missing after never showing up at a doctor's appointment on Wednesday.

Police say Chris Miller, 29, picked up his four-month-old son, Jackson, from daycare and was supposed to take him to a doctor's appointment. Neither made it to the appointment. Any attempts to contact Miller on his cellphone have been unsuccessful as his phone appears to have been turned off. Miller's wife says her husband took a larger amount of breast milk and diapers than would have been necessary for the rest of the day.

Miller is 6'0" and weighs 180 pounds.

Authorities say the two are likely driving in a 2003 Black Volkswagen Beetle (Illinois plate #L324339) and may be en route to his family in Louisville, Kentucky.

Anyone with any information should contact the Schaumburg Police Department at 847-882-3586.


UPDATE: both father and son have been found! i don't know any more details about why he left, but everyone is just thankful that both and safe. thanks for all your thoughts and prayers!
this is a family friend's son... please please spread this anywhere. no amber alert yet, i think the mother doesn't want to scare the father into doing something irrational, but it's also not like him to do something like this. my family thinks he might've ran off with someone, but it's just a random possibility. we're all worried and just want baby jackson back with his mom.

Reports: Some states charge poor for public defenders

Reports: Some states charge poor for public defenders
By Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY

States increasingly are imposing fees on poor criminal defendants who use public defenders even when they can't pay, causing some to go without attorneys, according to two reviews of the nation's largest state criminal justice systems.

A report out Monday by New York University School of Law's Brennan Center for Justice found that 13 of the 15 states with the largest prison populations imposed some charge, including application fees, for access to counsel.

"In practice, these fees often discourage individuals from exercising their constitutional right to an attorney, leading to wrongful convictions, over-incarceration and significant burdens on the operation of courts," the Brennan report concludes.

In Michigan, the report says, the National Legal Aid and Defender Association found the "threat" of having to pay the full cost of assigned counsel caused misdemeanor defendants to waive their right to attorneys 95% of the time.

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Fleeing Somali Women Recount Tales of Horror

22-year-old Somali Halim Ibrahim. Image: Hugh Macleod 

Amina Ahmed's letter, typed out in English by a fellow refugee, tells of a little known horror she and others endure in the tragedy that is Somalia's ongoing civil war, the rape, forced marriage and even beheading of women at the hands of the Islamist militiamen who have overrun much of their country.

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SOURCE: www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11437595