Obama’s To-Do list for Congress

President Obama with NY Governor Andrew Cuomo at SUNY in Albany
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

President Obama announced Tuesday in upstate New York that his springtime “to-do list” to rev the economy and create more jobs amounts to five easy pieces small enough to hand to Congress on a three-by-three-inch piece of adhesive paper.

“It’s about the size of a Post-It note, so every member of Congress will have time to read it,” he said with evident scorn during a speech in Albany at SUNY’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering…

The president’s expression suggested he was delighted to tout the “simple ideas” he said Congress could pass right away to help the middle class…a miniature list of ideas that would demonstrate, as he described it, how a gridlocked Congress could “put the economy ahead of politics…”

Obama’s roster of familiar proposals includes legislation to permit struggling mortgage borrowers to refinance their loans at lower interest rates; an extension and expansion of existing tax breaks for clean energy manufacturers; a tax break for small businesses that hire more workers or raise wages in 2012; creation of a Veterans Jobs Corps to employ returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan in various public-sector jobs; and the elimination of tax incentives that permit U.S. companies to deduct the costs of moving jobs overseas.

The president, who deployed his “going forward” campaign slogan in Albany, added two other pending items to his entreaties to Congress: pass the surface transportation reauthorization bill before it expires June 30, and extend reduced student loan interest rates before they double on July 1.

Before Obama could finish speaking, Senate Republicans, objecting to Democrats’ budget offsets for interest revenues, blocked legislation that would have extended the current loan rates. Partisan skirmishing will continue over whether higher taxes on the wealthy or money from a federal health-care fund should be tapped as offsets. Democrats expect Republicans to reach an accord, probably late in June.

“We’re pleased that despite failing to address it in their budget, Republicans in Congress now profess to be concerned about this coming rate hike,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a written statement Tuesday. “But now it’s time for them to stop refighting old political battles and prove they’re serious by proposing a real solution to keep rates low for students without burdening middle class families or undercutting preventive health care for women.”

As I mentioned earlier in the week, Republicans told Leon Panetta to stop worrying about their efforts to pass a military budget larger than his request. They voted that the government could pay for it by cutting food stamps.

What thugs!

American sonic weapon being deployed in London during Olympics

The Ministry of Defence has confirmed a sonic device will be deployed in London during the Olympics. The American-made Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) can be used to send verbal warnings over a long distance or emit a beam of pain-inducing tones.

Anyone placing bets on which function the MOD is looking forward to testing on London crowds?

The equipment was spotted fixed to a landing craft on the Thames at Westminster this week…Royal Marines operating in patrol craft from HMS Ocean are also heavily armed with conventional firearms…

Oh, good. I was worried they might not be equipped to kill anyone the old-fashioned way.

The piercing beam of sound emitted by the device is highly directional. Some versions of the LRAD are capable of producing deafening sound levels of 150 decibels at one metre…

LRAD Corporation has previously sold the device to the US Army, which deployed them in Iraq for crowd control. They have also been bought by the US Navy and Air Force as well as a number of police forces worldwide.

It has been successfully used aboard ships to repel Somali pirates.

On a danger scale from 1 to 10 I wonder where Homeland Security classifies Somali pirates, Occupy demonstrators, trade union or Labour Party members?

Fashionistas try to sell floral dog collars to women clerics

The decision to admit women to the priesthood was always expected to change the face of the Church of England forever. But while the political, social and theological implications were hotly debated, few will have predicted one very practical change it would bring – in the field of fashion.

Now, almost 20 years after the first ordinations of women even the traditional dog collar is changing with new ranges of clerical dress incorporating floral designs, paisley patterns and even touches of leopard print.

Some of the latest designs were put on display in a catwalk show at Sandown Park racecourse in Surrey this week at a massive trade fair for all things clerical.

Well, what they’re showing is what the fashion mavens would like to sell to the distaff side of clerics. Doesn’t mean they’re going to succeed.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs backs gay veteran against DOMA

Just hours after President Obama announced on Wednesday that he supported same-sex marriage, the Department of Veterans Affairs said it would not defend the constitutionality of two federal laws that define marriage as between a man and a woman.

The declaration was made in a Connecticut case in which a disabled Navy veteran is challenging the constitutionality of the two laws, one of which is the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. The former sailor, Carmen Cardona of Norwich, is asserting that the government improperly denied her benefits.

Ms. Cardona says that after she married her partner in 2010, the V.A. regional office rejected her application for a spousal increase in her monthly disability compensation, citing federal statute defining a spouse as “a person of the opposite sex.”

Last year, President Obama ordered the Department of Justice to stop defending the constitutionality of DOMA. But Ms. Cardona filed her complaint before the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, where cases are generally argued by lawyers from the Department of Veterans Affairs, not from the Justice Department.

Until Wednesday, it had been unclear whether the V.A. would continue to defend the law.

In a statement released through her lawyers at the veterans legal services clinic at Yale Law School, Ms. Cardona said: “I am proud that Secretary Shinseki has joined me, the Connecticut Attorney General, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Vietnam Veterans of America and so many others in recognizing that all veteran families deserve fair treatment.”

The Republican-controlled House has hired a private lawyer to handle the DOMA cases the Obama administration has decided not to defend.

Just in case you wondered who is committed to screwing over veterans who happen to be gay.

West Cheshire College tries electronic badges for location, access

College staff and students have been issued with compulsory electronic badges that are capable of tracking their movements, leading to criticism of “Orwellian” tactics.

The devices can track wearers within 10 feet, but managers at West Cheshire College have denied they will be used for “Big Brother” surveillance.

The vocational college, which has one campus in Ellesmere Port and another in Chester, serves about 2,500 full time students and 5,000 part-timers. Most are teenagers. Only staff and full-time ‘learners’, as they are called, are required to have the badges.

Kevin Francis, the college’s building services manager, said the aim was to provide automatic registration and improve use of the estate. Students must wear them to register and to be able to access different areas…”We are interested in teaching and learning, building use and the security of students and staff. We’re not Big Brother…”

Although Mr Francis said that location information would be anonymised, it can be individualised too. Staff with first aid training can be identified if needed in an emergency, he stated.

However, he said he was “confident” that the data “couldn’t be used maliciously…We are not allowed to do anything with data that we have not been upfront about.”

No staff or student representatives had complained about them during prior discussions, he added.

So far the complaints are of the “what-if” variety. RTFA if you want to see them.

I have a habit of not condemning technology and science out of hand just because it offers the capability of misuse and abuse. Human beings have always been able to pervert hardware. The fearfull need to keep on eye on the human beings running the school – not so much the gear.

Algeria’s ruling coalition wins legislative polls

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Algeria’s National Liberation Front and a sister party have won legislative elections, defeating an Islamist alliance.

Dahou Ould Kablia, interior minister, said on Friday the National Liberation Front took 220 seats and its sister party in government, the National Democratic Rally, took 68 seats. The two parties now form a majority in the 462-seat parliament.

The Islamist Green Alliance came in a distant third in Thursday’s elections with just 48 seats…The new parliament will be entrusted with helping a new constitution as well as set the stage for the all-important 2014 presidential elections…

Turnout for the vote widely viewed as a test of the ruling elite’s legitimacy was 42.9 per cent, said the government. The figure, announced on Thursday evening by Kablia, marked an improvement on turnout at the last elections in 2007 and was claimed by some an endorsement for recent political reforms introduced in the wake of the Arab Spring…

…Calls for boycotts appeared not to have achieved the massive abstention some were predicting. Still, the fact that more than half of eligible voters did not go to the polls was no surprise in a climate of mistrust and cynicism against the parliamentary system, which many Algerians view as nothing more than a veneer for the military government…

The government appears to have made the right move at the right time – for a change. The initiative for boycotts has its roots almost exclusively in the most conservative Islamist communities. Though the generals often portrayed themselves as saving the people from theocracy – the tendency to fall back on undemocratic means as a quick and easy solution endeared them to no one.

A blot on the brave history of Algerians and their fight against colonial France.