Friday, February 10, 2012

Last Call

Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker would never hold a grudge against the people trying to recall him.  Why, what would even make you think that?

Wisconsin will use a chunk of its $140 million share of a national settlement over foreclosure and mortgage-servicing abuses to help the state budget rather than assist troubled homeowners, Gov. Scott Walker and state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said Thursday.

Walker and Van Hollen said the majority of the settlement amount earmarked to Wisconsin under a $25 billion proposed nationwide agreement announced Thursday still would go to aid consumers in Milwaukee and other communities struggling with the specter of home foreclosure.

But of a $31.6 million payment coming directly to the state government, most of that money - $25.6 million - will go to help close a budget shortfall revealed in newly released state projections. Van Hollen, whose office said he has the legal authority over the money, made the decision in consultation with Walker.

"Just like communities and individuals have been affected, the foreclosure crisis has had an effect on the state of Wisconsin, in terms of unemployment. . . . This will offset that damage done to the state of Wisconsin," Walker said.

And why is there a budget shortfall all of a sudden?  Because Walker's budget games have led to a $140 million plus deficit that will require more "emergency" measures to fix.  Walker's budget team was projecting a surplus just four months ago.  Then reality hit.

A large reason for the change is a $273 million drop in projected tax collections, the memo said.

And now struggling homeowners get shafted again.   Walker cannot be kicked out of office fast enough.

I Can't Quite Put My Finger On It, But...

MoJo's Nick Baumann again does us an invaluable service by pointing out the obvious fact that President Obama's "unprecedented assault on America's religious freedoms" by requiring church-related hospitals and universities to cover contraception at the federal level has actually been on the books for, oh, about 12 years now.

In December 2000, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that companies that provided prescription drugs to their employees but didn't provide birth control were in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prevents discrimination on the basis of sex. That opinion, which the George W. Bush administration did nothing to alter or withdraw when it took office the next month, is still in effect today—and because it relies on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, it applies to all employers with 15 or more employees. Employers that don't offer prescription coverage or don't offer insurance at all are exempt, because they treat men and women equally—but under the EEOC's interpretation of the law, you can't offer other preventative care coverage without offering birth control coverage, too.

"It was, we thought at the time, a fairly straightforward application of Title VII principles," a top former EEOC official who was involved in the decision told Mother Jones. "All of these plans covered Viagra immediately, without thinking, and they were still declining to cover prescription contraceptives. It's a little bit jaw-dropping to see what is going on now…There was some press at the time but we issued guidances that were far, far more controversial."

After the EEOC opinion was approved in 2000, reproductive rights groups and employees who wanted birth control access sued employers that refused to comply. The next year, in Erickson v. Bartell Drug Co., a federal court agreed with the EEOC's reasoning. Reproductive rights groups and others used that decision as leverage to force other companies to settle lawsuits and agree to change their insurance plans to include birth control. Some subsequent court decisions echoed Erickson, and some went the other way, but the rule (absent a Supreme Court decision) remained, and over the following decade, the percentage of employer-based plans offering contraceptive coverage tripled to 90 percent.

This fight has been long settled based on Title VII law.  Clinton put it on the books on the way out without controversy, and it was on the books for every single day of the Bush 43 administration without controversy.  It was on the books for three years under the Obama administration, without controversy.  Nine out of ten businesses in the country, including religiously affiliated hospitals, schools, and charities, provided contraception coverage.  27 states went on to put similar provisions on their books without incident.

It wasn't an issue at all until an African-American Democrat in the White House decided during an election year that "Hey, this is a good idea, let's put this on the books for all 50 states" just after getting yet another monthly unemployment report that showed that his policies were starting to bring the jobs numbers back around, and that his prospects for re-election were improving along with that uptick on what basically everyone agreed up until that millisecond was the most important issue of the day, the economy itself.

Then, the existing rules of the game for the last dozen years changed literally overnight to fit the theory that the President was "declaring war on Americans' religious freedoms."  Then the rules immediately changed to create "a firestorm of controversy".  Then the rules changed so that people questioned why Catholics in the Obama administration, including the Vice-President and the Secretary of Defense, hadn't resigned in protest yet.

It wasn't an issue until the GOP started openly asking if they were going to lose big in November and Newt Gingrich had melted into babbling radioactive slag and Rick Santorum became the latest Anti-Romney, revealing the fatal weakness of "the frontrunner".

Only now do the god-botherers and the institutional misogynists and the bigots and the pinheads and the weasels have an issue.

Only now.  They are this desperate to defeat President Obama.

Dear America:

"I honestly can't possibly begin to fathom why America isn't rising up to demand liberals be tarred and feathered across the country by this point. And I totally can't believe you people are about to destroy my dreams of a permanent conservative majority where we dismantle decades of progress just for your own greed, ego, and bigotry!"

--John Hindraker, Power Line

Bonus Verbatim Stupid(tm):

Optimism about the economy is growing at the same time that the Republican Party is, in most peoples’ eyes, making a fool of itself, so it is hard to identify the main cause of Obama’s resurgence.

Yeah, it's terribly difficult to determine whether the President's policies or working, or if Republicans are just complete assholes.  Meanwhile, keep going after birth control and lunch breaks, guys.

A Special Place In Hell, Police Edition

I know we have both praised and criticized cops on ZVTS, but this is beyond reason. This guy deserves everything they can dish out, and then some.  His name is Skeeter.  I just have to point that out, because as hillbilly and inbred as my neck of the woods can be, I've never actually known an Skeeter.  Way to keep it fresh, Seattle.

SEATTLE -- A Lakewood police officer was charged with embezzling more than $120,000 from a fund for families of four colleagues who were shot to death while on duty then spending some of the money on trips to Las Vegas, the U.S. attorney's office said Wednesday.

Officer Skeeter Timothy Manos also is accused of making purchases of several thousand dollars at Costco and Home Depot with the money.

"This is a sad day for our community," U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan said in a statement. "These acts betrayed the memory of our fallen heroes, their families, fellow officers and all who supported the fund."

News From From Across The Pond

Naomi Watts is going to play Princess Di.  I searched for images, and all I found were some put together side-by-sides, nothing official.  However, I do see that Watts has some similar mannerisms.  There is this one look, that is one we all recognize.  Watts can resemble her without trying, which gives us hope.  I loved Di, for my generation she was like an aunt we all loved fiercely but never got to see at Christmas.  Anyone who dared to play her would be braving criticism.  Watts has a good start, and this would earn her some fans if she can pull it off.

In other news, Prince Harry is now a trained Apache pilot, and will be spending more time in Afghanistan.  For security reasons, there are no official dates or comments, but "Captain Wales" has not only earned recognition from the military, but his peers.  Despite a rocky partying beginning, the young prince has become an accomplished soldier and earned the respect of his peers.  One can only hope Di would be proud.

Rick Rolling The Country, Part 2

And Rick Santorum gets ever closer to self-parody of wingnut ignorance, fear-mongering, and utter stupidity.

Santorum's disdain for environmentalists was palpable and largely shared by the crowd of nearly 1,500 people here at the Meridian Convention Center. Perhaps sensing he was preaching to the choir, Santorum expounded upon his position that manmade global warming is a myth and a plot by the left to take freedoms away from the American people.

"This was a politicization of science," Santorum said, of the science behind global warming. "You hear all the time, the left – 'Oh, the conservatives are the anti-science party.' No we're not. We're the truth party. The absurdity and the politicization and the manipulation of data, why? Because the left is always looking for a way to control you. They're always trying to make you feel guilty so you'll give them power so they can lord it over you."

Connecting this position to foreign policy, Santorum said that by catering to these "radical environmental groups" President Obama has forced the country to increase its reliance on foreign oil, and he's signaled to Middle Eastern foes that we'd need their help in the future.

"We're throwing Israel under the bus because we know we're going to be dependent upon OPEC," Santorum said. "We're gonna say, Oh Iran, we don't want you to get a nuclear weapon, wink, wink, nod, nod, go ahead just give us your oil. Folks, the President of the United States is selling the economic security of this country down the river right now."

Rick Santorum is insane.  And millions share in his mass delusion that scientific fact doesn't matter, "truth" does.  And truth is whatever Ricky says it to be.  These retrograde, reactionary pinheads are one really bad voting day away from controlling this country.  If these assholes get power in November, you can kiss decades of progress and civil rights goodbye for the rest of your lifetime.  If they get enough power to enact Santorum's agenda, you can kiss generations of progress goodbye for your kids and grandkids too.

Time to pick a side, people.

Greek Fire, Part 51

And so the Greeks are left with their own Pompeii of Austerity, and it just blew up today.

Greek political leaders said they had clinched a deal on economic reforms and spending cuts needed to secure a second bailout, but euro zone finance ministers demanded more measures and a parliamentary seal of approval before providing the aid.

The European Union and the International Monetary Fund have been exasperated by a string of broken promises and weeks of wrangling over the terms of a 130 billion euro ($172 billion) bailout, with time running out to avoid a default.

Finance ministers of the 17-nation euro zone meeting in Brussels warned there would be no immediate approval for the rescue package and said Athens must prove itself first.

Jean-Claude Juncker, who chairs the Eurogroup, set three conditions, saying the Greek parliament must ratify the package when it meets on Sunday and a further 325 million euros of spending reductions needed to be identified by next Wednesday, after which euro zone finance ministers would meet again.

And so it goes.  Another Greek "deal" equals another EU austerity shakedown and another promise to bury the Greek people under the ashes of debt.  How long before the Greeks actually stop going on daily strikes?

It's going to get ugly fast, folks.  Keep an eye on this one.


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