Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Last Call

Walter Reed Army Medical Center is closing as the Pentagon consolidates operations to save money.

The complex in northwest Washington near the Maryland border shifts most of its operations in August and finally shuts its doors on September 15 as a part of a consolidation with the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

The new facility will be called the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and will have campuses in Bethesda and Fort Belvoir, Va.

"The ceremony is not a closing, but a transition of the organization to the next iteration of what we call 'Borden's Dream,' so named after the Army Doctor who had the vision to create the first Walter Reed General Hospital," Col. Norvell Coots, commander of the Walter Reed Health Care System, said in a statement.

"But for the people who make Walter Reed the magical place that it is, this will be an emotional closure as we shut down this campus after more than 102 years of service to the nation," Coots said.

More than 1,000 people attended the "casing of the colors" ceremony where the flag of the unit was taken down and put into a protective covering, marking the unit's inactivation, according a spokesman. 

With the center a century old, it's probably past time for this to have happened.  Ironically, medical advances brought about by research and care of wounded veterans at places like Walter Reed has made it more necessary to house and treat soldiers with brain and spine injuries rather than to lose them to the ravages of combat.

And these days, our men and women in uniform are certainly seeing a lot of combat.  More soldiers are surviving the kind of deadly wounds from IEDs and bombs that even ten years ago would have killed them, but the downside is these wounded warriors need long-term care and assistance.  The Army and Marine Corps are especially having difficulties adjusting financially to this new reality, hence the closing of Walter Reed in order to consolidate operations with the NNMC in Bethesda.

Of course the primary driver of all this has been our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  With six weeks to go until the tenth anniversary of 9/11, we're still losing troops in both countries and many more are being critically injured.

They deserve to be brought home.

We Don't Need No Water...

...let this muthafracker burn, says the House GOP.

BOEHNER: Well, first they want more. And my goodness, I want more too. And secondly, a lot of them believe that if we get passed August the second and we have enough chaos, we could force the Senate and the White House to accept a balanced budget amendment. I’m not sure that that — I don’t think that that strategy works. Because I think the closer we get to August the second, frankly, the less leverage we have vis a vis our colleagues in the Senate and the White House.

Want to know why Obama's doing what he's doing?  Because he's dealing with fever-bright fanatics who truly believe that if we hit The Big Reset Button and destroy the economy, that everything will be AWESOME.  John Cole:

They think they can burn the entire system down and out of the ashes will form Conservatopia. They really do think of themselves as the vanguard of the Galtitariat. The folks sitting on the sideline keeping their powder dry, or the folks saying “They’re just negotiating” simply do not get it. We’re dealing with maniacs and true believers. When you look in Michelle Bachmann’s eyes, you’re not just seeing crazy, you’re seeing the glassy eyed stare of a modern day Manson family. Economic suicide bombers is a better analogy than most people realize.

And they will pull the trigger.

Middle-Class Blues For Black And Brown Americans

Filling in for Rachel Maddow this week, Melissa Harris-Perry uses her professorial skills to explain just what has gone wrong for the American Dream for so many minorities.

As people of color become a proportionally bigger part of the American population, our national coffers will rely on them even more. We cannot pay off the national debt if households cannot pay off their personal debt, and if they are in debt, then you can't cut enough to ever make it possible to fix our government's debt problems, and particularly not if you refuse to tax that one group whose wealth is still tick, tick, ticking up.

Professor Harris-Perry goes straight after the "we must live within our means" idiocy by pointing out that families don't "live within their means", but regularly take out mortgage loans, equity loans, car loans, and student loans all the time in order to improve their own situation or to cover emergencies that come up...or to cover income from a lost job.

What's more, for minority households, the access to credit is much more limited because wealth begets more wealth.  This is why when Republicans (and some Democrats) say the most important thing is cutting spending, you have to respond with "no, it's not."

Take Tyler Durden at Zero Hedge with this chart for example.

While everyone and their grandmother is foaming at the mouth how both republicans and democrats hiked the debt ceiling for umpteen times over the past x years, the truth is that never before has the ratio of the proposed debt ceiling to the tax receipt ratio been as high as it is now. At nearly 6 times, this means that the top line (forget bottom line) cash inflows into the Treasury are 6 times lower than the current debt ceiling. And following the upcoming $2.5 trillion this number will surge to almost 8 times. So please ignore the next "pundit" who is complaining about the hypocrisy of not agreeing to an outright debt ceiling hike this time around - as usual they have no idea what they are talking about.

God forbid we try to lower that ratio by allowing the Bush Tax Cuts to expire on the wealthy. But no, the only option it seems is the cut spending on the poorest Americans in order to keep them poor, and then blame them for not earning enough.

No, Both Sides Do Not Do It

Steve M. absolutely nails the Cult Of Both Sides Do It in out "liberal media".

The cult only says that "everyone's at fault" when Republican extremism is at fault. That's because the cult's real problem isn't a lust for centrism -- it's an aversion to acknowledging that Daddy GOP beats us. It's the kind of denial that takes place in households where there's domestic abuse.

The anti-'60s backlash (which has now gone on about four times as long as the period to which it's a reaction), combined with GOP ref-working of the "liberal media," has left us with a political culture that really can't bear the thought that Republicans are consciously acting in ways that are detrimental to the country. If this culture isn't "wired for the GOP" (as Josh Marshall says), it's certainly wired to be in denial of what's wrong with the GOP.

At all times, the system accepts the notion that Republicans are good and decent and well-meaning, even in failure (see, e.g., George W. Bush). At all times, it accepts the notion that what Republicans are advocating is within the pale. If Republican extremism becomes so blatantly obvious that it must be acknowledged, extremism on the other side must be found (or invented, or blown up out of proportion), so Daddy GOP won't be charged with abuse -- the story we agree on is that "everyone" was fighting. And we just go on living that way.

Those two bolded points are vitally important. For the last two decades, the GOP has never, ever been too extreme, while the mere existence of liberalism is an intolerable affront to America.   The Village will never admit that the GOP is going to break the country. The backlash against the media from the right for telling the truth about Newt Gingrich's government shutdown fight resulted in the impeachment of Clinton, the lection and re-election of Bush 43 and his little wars, the Bush Tax Cuts running up trillions in debt, the rise of the Tea Party and now today it's gotten to the point where they are aiding and abetting the GOP's economic terrorism.

When the Villagers say "President Obama is the only adult in the room" it means he is supposed to capitulate 100% to the GOP in order to calm them down, much like you would give into a child's tantrum at the store just to save yourself the embarrassment.  In 2010 the Tea Party was the greatest political movement of all time.  Now it's a bunch of unruly idiots, but it has to be "Washington's fault" and "Democrats must share the blame" for getting us into this mess because to admit otherwise would mean the Republicans wouldn't let the Villagers play on John McCain's tire swing anymore.

So yes, it's a situation where the Village is more afraid of losing access to the GOP in a Presidential election contest then they are the state of the country.  And for this, we all lose.

A Little Gassy

In a nutshell, this is why I love Wired so much.  They cover random geekery like this.

Exhaled by a dying star, the newly-discovered planetary nebula, Kronberger 61, is named for its finder: Austrian Matthias Kronberger, member of the amateur astronomy group Deep Sky Hunters.
Kronberger found the luminous bubble by searching a section of sky near the northern constellation Cygnus with Digitized Sky Survey data. This sliver of the sky is also covered by Kepler, NASA’s space telescope charged with finding habitable planets.
A new planetary nebula is a rare and valuable find. Without amateur help the discovery “would probably not have been made before the end of the Kepler mission,” said George Jacoby, a Kepler astronomer who requested the help of Deep Sky Hunters, in a press release.

Turn Your Head And Cough It Up, Microsoft

Microsoft has again extended its server system interoperability pact with Suse, almost five years after the original deal was struck between the software maker and Novell, the company behind Suse at the time.
The new extension, announced yesterday, will run until January 1, 2016. It again sees Microsoft commit to shelling out $100 million for Suse Linux Enterprise certificates, much as the last extension did in August 2008. The certificates will be used to buy support for Microsoft's enterprise customers who are running Suse Linux. It is not clear how much of the $100 million payment agreed upon in the 2008 extension actually changed hands.
Microsoft has tried to keep this as quiet as possible.  These advancements in the ability and popularity of Linux has forced them to cooperate or alienate a huge customer base.  As we can expect from Microsoft, they made the smart business decision here, but it had to be a bitter pill to swallow.

In addition, Microsoft will continue to refrain from suing Suse or its customers for using Linux, which Microsoft says violates its patents.

Well aint' that just downright nice of them.

Excuse me, I have to run out and do the Muahahahahahaha dance.  Enjoy the rest of your day.

Breath Of Fresh Air On Mileage Standards

President Obama is moving forward on new auto standards, relaxing them slightly in order to get a deal with automakers before 2012.

President Barack Obama’s administration altered its proposal for a 2025 U.S. fuel-economy average to 54.5 miles per gallon to make allowances for light trucks, said people familiar with the negotiations.
The White House is pressuring automakers to agree to a framework for a rule, to be released by Sept. 30, said two people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are confidential. The rule is to take effect in 2017.

The new fuel-economy target is a reduction from 56.2 mpg sought in a proposal to automakers including Ford Motor Co. (F) and Toyota Motor Corp. (7203), last month. It may reflect the White House’s desire to reach agreement as soon as possible, the people said. The rule may include credits for some types of technology, said three people with knowledge of the talks who declined to be identified.

“This seems to be how the game is played -- they put a big fuel economy number out there and then introduce loopholes,” said Jeremy Anwyl, CEO of, a Santa Monica, California-based website that tracks auto sales and pricing data. “They want to try to keep everyone happy.” 

Of course it depends on how big those light truck loopholes are.  Let's face it, from where I think gas prices will be in 2025, you're going to want your car getting 54 MPG.

Then again, the next time we get a Republican president, these mileage standards go away...and most likely the entire EPA along with it.

Land Of The Rising Core Temperature, Part 35

The Fukushima Daiichi disaster is still causing massive problems in Japan, despite our news being swamped by debt ceiling stupidity and summer record temps.  Turns out the warning signs about the plant being a potential catastrophe were there for years...and largely ignored by Japanese officials.

Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant ranked as one of the most dangerous in the world for radiation exposure years before it was destroyed by the meltdowns and explosions that followed the March 11 earthquake.

For five years to 2008, the Fukushima plant was rated the most hazardous nuclear facility in Japan for worker exposure to radiation and one of the five worst nuclear plants in the world on that basis. The next rankings, compiled as a three-year average, are due this year.

Reuters uncovered these rankings, privately tracked by Fukushima's operator Tokyo Electric Power, in a review of documents and presentations made at nuclear safety conferences over the past seven years.

In the United States -- Japan's early model in nuclear power -- Fukushima's lagging safety record would have prompted more intensive inspections by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It would have also invited scrutiny from the U.S. Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, an independent nuclear safety organization established by the U.S. power industry after the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, experts say.

But that kind of stepped-up review never happened in Tokyo, where the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency remains an adjunct of the trade ministry charged with promoting nuclear power.

And yet Japan did nothing.  No wonder the government of Prime Minister Naoto Kan is on the verge of collapse.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who is facing strident calls for his resignation, has rejected reports that he may well dissolve the Lower House of the Parliament to pave the way for early general elections, reports said on Tuesday.

Addressing a parliamentary panel in Tokyo, Kan said he favored holding of simultaneous polls to both the Upper and Lower Houses of the 'Diet' (Parliament) in 2013. "To speak of a snap election is against public sentiment," he said.

Kan has had to put up with fierce opposition from his own party as well as political opponents who accuse him of ineffective leadership and failure on the part of his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) government to provide timely help to victims of the March 11 earthquake-tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan.

Despite the Premier's claims, analysts believe that there is a political motive behind Kan's decision not to go in for snap polls. According to them, there might be further erosion of inner party support for Kan in the event of early elections owing to a possible consolidation of his rivals. Moreover, an exodus of DPJ supporters into the Opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) ranks is also feared.

Either way, Kan won't survive the year.  He may very well not survive the next six weeks, frankly.  Booting Kan won't fix the Fukushima Daiichi problem either.

No Dealing On The Debt Ceiling, Part 46

How bad are we screwed on the debt ceiling?  The GOP is hopelessly split on their own plan.

As a sign of just how reluctant conservatives are to throw in their lot with House GOP leadership and pass their plan to avoid default, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) suggested to reporters Tuesday that the votes aren't there yet.

"We're going to have some work to do to get it passed," Boehner said at a brief press conference in the lobby of RNC Headquarters. "But I think we can."

The reality is that Orange Julius's latest Fail-O-Matic is so bad, he's having to rewrite the thing after the Congressional Budget Office looked over it and laughed him out of the room.

Moments after the Congressional Budget Office released an analysis finding that the House Republicans' debt limit bill falls far short of one their key goals, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) decided to rewrite the legislation.

"We promised that we will cut spending more than we increase the debt limit - with no tax hikes - and we will keep that promise," reads a statement from Boehner spokesman Michael Steel. "As we speak, Congressional staff are looking at options to re-write the legislation to meet our pledge."

What it means is the vote on the bill will be delayed until tomorrow, and even then there's absolutely no guarantee that Boehner can get it passed.  And even if he does, the White House will shoot it down and the Senate won't pass it either.

In other words, Orange Julius may have done President Obama a huge favor and has eaten up so much clock that the Reid-McConnell "escape hatch" deal from earlier this month may be the only way out before Tuesday's deadline.

If Boehner's plan fails to pass the House, Orange Julius's political career is as fried as his fake tan.  And I won't shed a tear.  Josh Marshall:

I mentioned before that it's not clear whether John Boehner even has the votes for his own plan in the chamber he runs. In other words, will House Republicans even support Boehner's plan, the plan of their nominal leader, let alone anything that would pass the Senate or garner the president's signature?

At that point everyone should be able to see there aren't two sides here to tango, we're listening to the sound of one hand compromising.

The scenario being floated informally now by a lot of observers is that if and when we come to that point Republicans in the Senate, Wall Street and just a lot sane people in general who haven't come off the sidelines yet or haven't really been paying attention just say: Dude, you don't have a full deck, this is over.

In which case Obama gets his clean debt ceiling raise, and the GOP/Tea Party civil war begins in earnest.  Wouldn't that be excellent?


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