Saturday, December 4, 2010

Friends Indeed

Definitely glad to make a blogroll trade with Michael Stickings and the crew at The Reaction. More than a little honored, too. Go check them out.

A Texas-Sized Case Of Bad Religion

Via TPM it seems Texas Republicans have a bit of a problem with State House Speaker Joe Straus...a very ugly problem with the fact that Straus is Jewish. The Texas Observer's Abby Rapoport details the fight:

When emails first appeared calling for dumping current Speaker Joe Straus in favor of "Christian conservative" leadership, Straus' more visible opponents initially dismissed accusations of anti-Jewish/pro-Christian bias. "I've never heard any one talk about Mr. Straus' religion," said Michael Quinn Sullivan, the head of Empower Texans and a vocal leader of the anti-Straus crowd. "There is no place in the speakership race for discussions of people's religion or lack thereof." Shortly afterwards, Straus' opponents took a new approach, condemning the emails and distancing themselves from the statements. "There is absolutely no place for religious bigotry in the race for Texas Speaker, and I categorically condemn such action," said state Rep. Ken Paxton, who's challenging Straus for the position. 

It seemed like things had died down, until I obtained an email exchange Tuesday between two members of the State Republican Executive Committee—Rebecca Williamson and John Cook. After Williamson sent a fact sheet to SREC members defending Straus, Cook responded by dismissing her claims and saying that "We elected a house with Christian, conservative values. We now want a true Christian, conservative running it." (You can see both emails here.) Since the SREC governs state Republican Party affairs, this marked the first time an elected party leader had semi-openly called for a "Christian conservative" Speaker. 

There is no mistaking the message being sent here. If you're not a Christian conservative, there's no place for you in the Republican leadership. They want a Christian conservative leadership...and a country to match. Anyone who doesn't live up to that, well enjoy being a second-class citizen.

That's how they roll.

Some are more equal than others.

Busting The Filibuster

Dems will still have control of the Senate come January, and their first move in the 112th Congress may very well involve making Senators actually physically filibuster bills in person rather than just threaten.

This week on The Big Picture With Thom Hartmann, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) laid out a path to fundamentally change the way the filibuster works. Merkeley told Hartmann to “mark this date on your calendar: January 5th. That’s the date we’re going to come in for the next Congress, and it’s on that date that a group of us is trying to pass a motion for the Senate to adopt new rules.”

Merkley then went on to explain his proposal for the new filibuster rules. The senator explained that by assembling 51 votes at the start of the new Senate, he wants to change the chamber’s rules so that when a senator engages in a filibuster, they have to go to the floor of the Senate, “defend your position, hold the floor, and if you’re not there, the Senate goes forth and holds a majority vote.” In other words, Merkley is proposing that if senators want to filibuster bills, they actually have to show up and physically spend time on the floor of the Senate to stop bills from going forth. “Hopefully we can bring together that magic 51 to say let’s make it function, the Senate function, to be that deliberative body that it once was,” he concluded.

If the Republicans are going to block any any all Senate business, then make them be there to do it. It's a great plan, one that should have been implemented as soon as the 111th Congress started. Having said that with Republicans controlling the House, there's no reason to make this a priority either. Nothing will pass the House that isn't a 100% Republican plan anyway. It almost certainly will be a moot point.

A Bunch Of Block Heads, Part 2

As expected in Saturday's session, Senate Republicans have blocked the Bush tax cuts being extended for just the middle class and are now supremely confident they will get the Dems to cave on the matter completely.

A bill limiting the tax cuts to the first $250,000 of household income fell short of the 60-vote threshold needed to limit debate, 53 to 36. A second measure raising the income threshold to $1 million also failed, 53 to 37.

The Saturday votes appeared to be part of the process towards reaching a deal. Democrats wanted to show where they stood – and only after they did that could they begin to accept the inevitable outcome, a temporary renewal of all the Bush tax cuts, rather than just those for the middle class.

“It became apparent the second time we met that actually there weren’t going to be any bipartisan negotiations to reach a decision until there had been a political catharsis on the Democratic side,” said Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who was tapped for the bipartisan working group. “We’ve been very congenial with each other, but it’s been very clear that we’re not going to be negotiating anything until all of this political process is over with.”

The votes were also aimed at registering Democratic concern about the direction of White House negotiations. Administration officials stepped up their advocacy late this week for some initiatives that Democrats view as crucial, including $150 billion worth of less-publicized tax cuts, hiring incentives and an extension of unemployment insurance. But unease remained about whether the White House was too willing to concede Republicans without getting enough in return.

So the question is what do the Dems do now? They need to follow this up with a tax cut bill of their own. They also need to go on the offensive and say "Look, the Republicans are holding 98% of America hostage to get tax cuts for the richest 2%." In other words, Dems have to be prepared to hurt Republican feelings here.

Put the Obama tax cut bill on the floor. Dare the Republicans to vote against it. Then hammer them. Use the bully pulpit, Mr. President.

[UPDATE] Looks like Obama is at least going to pick a fight.

A Couple Metric Craptons Of Spam

And it's Russian to boot.

Last month, Russia was the No. 1 source of spam in the world. It's probably because of Oleg Nikolaenko, a 23-year-old who was recently arrested for flooding the world with 10 billion spam emails a day.

Using a network of over 500,000 zombie computers known as the Mega-D botnet, Nikolaenko churned out 10 billion spam emails a day at the height of his operation. These advertised mostly counterfeit goods and herbal remedies--one Rolodex counterfeiter who was his client said he spent $2 million on spam advertising. But starting in 2007, the FBI began closing in on Nikolaenko. He was arrested on Nov. 4th, while in Las Vegas for a car show, and now faces a $250,000 fine and up to three years in prison.

Who knew spam was such a lucrative field, though? The case exposes a complex network of scam artists, money launderers and hackers whose only aim is to ply with grammatically atrocious pitches about sexual aids. Sounds sort of like blogging, only easier.

And this kid is just 23. He doesn't aim low, does he?

DREAM Sequence

Democrats in Congress are preparing to bring the DREAM Act up for votes next week.

Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Friday predicted a Senate vote on the DREAM Act will be held next week.

"Sen. Reid is going to call it," Durbin told The Hill shortly after the chamber adjourned at 3:30 p.m. Friday. Two procedural votes are scheduled for Saturday morning on competing plans to address the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts.

The legislation would provide legal residence to the children of immigrants who were brought into the country during their youth if they attend college or join the military. House leaders said this week they expect a vote in the lower chamber next week.

Republicans of course are going to do everything to kill this. We'll see.

StupidiNews,Weekend Edition!

A Chinese high speed train has set a record of just short of 300 MPH.
Federal law enforcement officials routinely track "persons of interest" by credit card, cell phone and customer loyalty cards without a warrant.
President Obama paid a surprise vist to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan yesterday.
The new free trade deal between the US and South Korea will begin with automobiles.
Scientists have determined that some bacteria can actually share electrons with each other when faced with limited food.
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