Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Senate Finance Committee approves health care bill with one Republican vote

This is from The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — The Senate Finance Committee voted on Tuesday to approve legislation that would reshape the American health care system and provide subsidies to help millions of people buy insurance, as Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine, joined all 13 Democrats on the panel in support of the landmark bill.

The vote was 14 to 9, with all of the other Republicans opposed.

Democrats, including President Obama, had courted Ms. Snowe’s vote, hoping that she would break with the Republican Party leadership and provide at least a veneer of bipartisanship to the bill, which Mr. Obama has declared his top domestic priority. Ms. Snowe was a main author of the bill but she had never committed to voting for it.

But shortly after 1 p.m., she announced that she was on board, in a speech that silenced the packed committee room and riveted colleagues on both sides of the dais.

“Is this bill all that I would want?” Ms. Snowe asked. “Far from it. Is it all that it can be? No. But when history calls, history calls. And I happen to think that the consequences of inaction dictate the urgency of Congress to take every opportunity to demonstrate its capacity to solve the monumental issues of our time.”

In her speech, she said she still shared many of her Republican colleagues’ reservations about the legislation, and she pointedly warned Democrats that they could easily lose her support at any of the many legislative steps that still lie ahead.

“My vote today is my vote today,” she said. “It doesn’t forecast what my vote will be tomorrow.”

While I may not have been commenting on the health care debate over this past year, I have been watching the debate take shape. This is a huge, monster crisis with major stakes for everybody. Progressives want to model a new, public-provided health care system, possibly modeled after the British or Canadian public health care system. Big Insurance and Health Care Providers want to maintain the status quo on the current system. And as the recession sheds even more U.S. jobs, more Americans are finding their health care coverage either curtailed, or losing it altogether. We've seen congressional town hall meetings become disruptive by angry conservatives, who were bussed in by grass roots organizations funded by big corporations. Then there were the death panels, where Republicans accused President Barack Obama and the Democrats of rationing health care as a means of killing senior citizens. Then again, the Republicans have been opposed of everything that President Obama or the Democrats have introduced as legislation in Congress. The Republicans have shown themselves over this past year to be a Party of No.

But that has now slightly changed. We have one of the last few, remaining, Republican moderates to have actually voted in favor of this health care reform. Senator Olympia J. Snowe broke with the Party of No to approve the health care legislation in the Senate Finance Committee vote. If the bill comes before the entire Senate, Snowe may end up voting against it--especially if the House version of the health care bill provides some form of a public option, resulting in an angry compromise between the House and Senate versions. Either way, we have a bipartisanship bill of one Republican vote. That is going to be the best that the president, or the Democrats will ever get on this health care vote.

We'll see what happens next.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

GOP wants Sarah Palin to stay home

Now here is a fascinating twist to my previous posting, where Sarah Palin may have resigned from the Alaskan governorship to cash in on fame and fortune. I'm sure some of that fame would have included campaigning for GOP candidates. And yet, this Hill.com story reveals that some GOP candidates want her to stay home:

Republicans facing tough elections in 2010 don’t want Sarah Palin campaigning with them.

Though the soon-to-be-former Alaska governor is seen as popular with the conservative grass roots, several Republicans said she’d help them by staying home in Wasilla.

Several of these Republicans hail from districts or states carried in 2008 by President Obama, a frequent target of Palin’s criticism. Republicans must keep these districts and win others where Obama is popular if they are to gain seats next year.

GOP Rep. Lee Terry (Neb.), who squeaked out a victory despite his district’s overwhelming turnout for Obama, said he’d rather have House colleagues campaign for him than Palin.

“There’s others that I would have come in and campaign and most of them would be my colleagues in the House,” Terry said.

Rep. Frank Wolf, a Republican from Northern Virginia, which is increasingly becoming Democratic territory, offered caution when asked whether he’d welcome a Palin fundraiser.

“I don’t generally need people from outside my district to do a fundraiser,” Wolf said.

Several other lawmakers indicated a wariness about accepting help from Palin, but did not want to criticize the GOP’s vice presidential candidate from last year. They said Palin could hurt them by firing up Democrats.

An unnamed GOP lawmaker representing a district that Obama carried in 2008 told The Hill that if Palin came into his district, his opponent would “probably be doing a dance of joy.”

The head of the House Democrats’ campaign arm said he’d welcome Palin’s involvement in the 2010 campaign.

“We hope that she will be part of the future debate on the direction of the country,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).

Sarah Palin is a polarizing figure. We've seen it with her polarizing poll numbers, where the Republican voters love her, the Democratic voters hate her, and the independent voters want her to leave the national stage. This story is another confirmation of just how polarizing Sarah Palin can be. Those Republicans that do not want her campaigning in their states that are turning purple, or blue with Democratic and independent voters--voters that the GOP candidates will need to solicit if they are to win offices in 2010. The last thing they want is to be linked to Sarah Palin.

So which GOP candidates are welcoming Sarah Palin to stump for them? Going back to the Hill.com story:

Senate hopeful Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who faces a tough election in Missouri, said he wants Palin to come to his state.

“I think she would be helpful,” he said.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) also said he’d welcome a Palin visit.

“The answer is, if she can raise a lot of money for me, yes,” Grassley told reporters Tuesday. Grassley, who is up for reelection in 2010, said he remembers Palin having a big Iowa following during the 2008 campaign.

“[A]t three events I spent with her in Iowa during the last campaign, she had bigger turnouts than McCain had,” Grassley said.

Since the Iowa caucuses are the first test for Republican presidential candidates in 2012, a visit could also be beneficial to Palin, whom many still think could lead a future GOP ticket.

It is the red states! We're talking the conservative states here. Both Iowa and Missouri are conservative states, although Iowa's electoral votes went to Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election. Still, Chuck Grassley may feel that his U.S. Senate seat is strongly cemented so that he would welcome Sarah Palin to stump for him. The key point here is that Sarah Palin can campaign in the red, conservative states, drawing huge crowds of conservative voters who are obviously going to vote for the Republican candidate anyways, and not feel any fallout from tepid Democratic, or independent, opposition, in those conservative, red states. In other words, Palin plays off the strong red states where Democrats won't have much of a chance to win, claiming her own victory as a strong campaigner for GOP candidates. This brings us back to Sarah Palin's polarizing persona--use the polarizing persona where the base is strong, but stay away from the battleground where that same polarizing persona can weaken you. Considering Sarah Palin's own naked ambitions, and a potential 2012 presidential run, I'm thinking she'll be campaigning in those red states next year.

Levi Johnston claims Sarah Palin resigned to cash in on fame

I'm not sure if I'm buying this story from Bristol Palin's former fiancee, but I still find it rather interesting in the light that former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin has yet to provide and adequate reason why she resigned from the governorship. This is the entire story from Yahoo News:

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A spokeswoman for Gov. Sarah Palin is scoffing at comments by Bristol Palin's former fiance, who says he thinks Palin resigned to cash in on her fame.

"It is interesting to learn Levi is working on a piece of fiction while honing his acting skills," Palin family spokeswoman Meghan Stapleton said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

Levi Johnston, 19, whose wedding to Bristol Palin was called off earlier this year, said Thursday he lived with the Palin family from early December to the second week in January. He claimed he heard the governor several times say how nice it would be to take advantage of the lucrative deals that were being offered, including a reality show and a book.

"She had talked about how nice it would be to take some of this money people had been offering us and you know just run with it, say 'forget everything else,'" he said.

He said he thinks book deals were really what appealed to Palin.

"I think the big deal was the book. That was millions of dollars," said Johnston, who has had a strained relationship with the family but now says things have improved.

Compensation details of Palin's book projects haven't been disclosed. The former GOP vice presidential candidate has said she is facing more than $500,000 in legal fees.

Johnston made his comments at a news conference Thursday at the office of his attorney, Rex Butler.

Johnston came forward, Butler said, because Alaskans want to know why Palin has decided to resign, effective the end of the month.

Johnston is pursuing his own book deal and movie deal while working as a carpenter.

Asked if he would vote for her if she ran for president, Johnston said: "I think she's a great lady, but after seeing what she did now, you know, leaving Alaska, I would have to say, 'no.' Obviously she's stressed out as governor. I mean moving up to the vice president or president is huge. I just don't think anymore that she's cut out for the job."

If Johnston was living with the Palin family, from early December to the second week in January, then he certainly would have had an intimate access to Sarah Palin just after her loss as the GOP vice presidential candidate in the 2008 election. Sarah Palin went through a media wringer over questions of whether she was qualified for the vice presidential office, and was embroiled in ethical questions over Troopergate, the Wasilla ice hockey rink, and the Bridge to Nowhere. She certainly had her own share of fights with the Alaskan state legislature over the ethics investigations and charges against her. Sarah Palin also became the hottest GOP political personality, when John McCain chose her to be his running mate. So why go back to the Alaskan governor's office, and the squabbling with the Alaskan state legislature, when you can cash in on the fame and fortune of being the darling for the GOP? It certainly is a siren call for Palin's naked ambitions.

And since Sarah Palin has refused to provide an explanation for her resignation, then perhaps what Levi Johnston is saying could have a ring of truth.

Saturday Morning Cartoons--The Rebel Without Claws

To kick off today's Saturday Morning Cartoons, I found a Tweety and Sylvester cartoon that even I have not seen--The Rebel Without Claws. In this 1961 Civil War drama, the Confederates need to send an important message to General Lee, however all their carrier pigeons are missing in action with the exception of Tweety. So Tweety is given the dangerous mission, only to realize that the Union army is countering with their "Secret Messenger Destroyer," also known as Sylvester--I tat I taw a damn Yankee cat! And the battle jokes are engaged. What is especially nice to see here is Warner giving some better background scenery for this cartoon. You actually see some of the set battles, no man's land, the plantation homes, and even a Confederate ironclad--all serenaded with the rumble of explosions, cannon fire, and rifle shots. So here is Looney Tunes 1961 Rebel Without Claws. From YouTube:

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Sarah Palin's polarizing poll numbers

I saw this story on Countdown with Keith Olbermann last night, and I found it especially interesting. First, here is Olbermann's story about Alaska governor Sarah Palin's polarizing poll numbers:

And here is the USA Today source story for all this:

WASHINGTON — Sarah Palin's bombshell that she is resigning as Alaska governor actually has boosted her a bit among Republicans, a nationwide USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, though it also has dented her standing among Democrats and independents.

Two-thirds of Republicans want Palin, the party's vice presidential nominee in 2008, to be "a major national political figure" in the future. Three-fourths of Democrats hope she won't be.

Independents by 55%-34% would prefer she leave the national stage.

The findings underscore how polarized opinions of Palin were even before Friday's surprise announcement. Seven in 10 polled say their views weren't affected by her decision. Among those whose opinions shifted, Democrats by a 4-1 ratio and independents by 2-to-1 view her less favorably. Republicans are somewhat inclined to see her more favorably.

"For independents and Democrats, she's already not their candidate, and with Republicans her support is not based on her record as governor of Alaska," says GOP consultant Alex Castellanos.

The poll Monday of 1,000 adults — including 321 Democrats, 323 independents and 316 Republicans — has a margin of error of +/–3 percentage points for the full sample and 6 points for the partisan subsamples.

Palin's complaints about unfair treatment by the news media resonate with many respondents. Three-fourths of Republicans, more than half of independents and a third of Democrats say coverage of Palin has been unfairly negative.

When it comes to a potential presidential run, the USA TODAY Poll displays Palin's strength in the Republican base and weakness among swing voters, who traditionally decide national elections. Republicans by 71%-27% say they'd be likely to vote for her if she ran for president in 2012, while independents by 51%-44% would not.

The results are just fascinating. Two-thirds of Republicans want Sarah Palin to be a major political figure, while three-fourths of Democrats don't want Palin on the stage. Independents want Palin to leave the national stage by a 55%-34% majority. Sarah Palin is the darling of the conservative base here, but she stinks like a dead fish among Democrats and independents. Palin's inability to provide a reason why she resigned as Alaska's governor still implies that Sarah Palin is a quitter.

There is also another interesting polarizing poll number that I found on Palin. This is from Rasmussen Reports, with graphic via Daily Kos:

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is second only to Mitt Romney as the presidential candidate Republican voters say they’ll vote for in 2012 state GOP primaries, but she’s also one of two candidates they least hope wins the party’s nomination.

Graph showing Sarah Palin's contradictory polling stance among GOP voters. From Daily Kos.

In a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey, it’s close to a three-way tie when GOP voters are asked whom they would vote for – from among a list of six prominent Republicans - in the 2012 party primary in their state: 25% say Romney, while 24% say Palin and 22% opt for former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

After that, GOP primary voters list former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (14%), while Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty each received one percent (1%) of the vote. Six percent (6%) prefer some other candidate.

However, among those same six potential candidates, Palin and Barbour are tied as the ones GOP voters would least like to see win the party nomination in 2012. Twenty-one percent (21%) of Republican voters nationwide say that of both Palin and Barbour.


Forty percent (40%) of GOP voters nationally believe Palin has hurt her chances of winning the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 by resigning as governor of Alaska. Twenty-four percent (24%) say the resignation helps her chances, and 28% say it will have no impact on the race.

Forty percent (40%) of GOP voters nationally believe Palin has hurt her chances of winning the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 by resigning as governor of Alaska. That is the key reason for Palin's contradictory polling numbers in the Rasmussen poll numbers. While the GOP voters may love Sarah Palin, and select her in a hypothetical 2012 presidential race, these same GOP voters are also saying that they don't want Palin to win the GOP nomination in 2012. I think the GOP voters are fearful that, if Sarah Palin wins the 2012 GOP primary, she still will not be able to explain why she quit as Alaska's governor, allowing a huge opportunity for the Obama campaign to attack Palin. The USA Today / Gallup poll reveals some interesting insights among Democrats fears of Sarah Palin. The Democratic voters see Sarah Palin as a national political figure that can ignite, and excite, the conservative and Republican base. And she certainly can excite the Republican base, considering the crowds that came out to see her during last year's election. The Democratic voters do not want Sarah Palin to be a national political figure because she could end up challenging President Barack Obama in 2012, perhaps winning as the first female U.S. president.

What I'm trying to say here is that I think fear is gripping both sides of the political spectrum on Sarah Palin, bringing us these rather polarizing poll numbers. We don't know what is going to happen in 2012, or what Sarah Palin's political future, or presidential aspirations may be--only Sarah Palin knows that. Either way, Sarah Palin is here to stay.

Burris will not run for Senate in 2010

I guess Roland Burris finally realized just how Blago-radioactive he was for the Democrats in the Senate. From USA Today:

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Democratic official says Roland Burris will not run for a full Senate term in 2010.

The source says Burris has begun informing Democratic officials about his decision. The official spoke on condition because Burris had yet to announce his decision.

Burris was appointed by disgraced Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill the Senate seat vacated by President Obama. His appointment was criticized from the moment it was announced and prompted calls for Burris to resign.

In the Senate, Burris has been treated as something of a pariah because of his ties to Blagojevich, who was arrested in part on allegations he tried to sell the Senate seat.

By not seeking a full term, Burris increases Democrats chances of holding on to the Senate seat in 2010. Republicans had viewed Burris as a potentially easy target if he were to run for a full-term in the Senate.

Burris was treated as something of a pariah. It is not surprising, since the Senate Democrats never liked Burris because of Burris' ethics taint--not only was Burris selected by former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was indicted for trying to sell Barack Obama's former Senate seat, but Burris may have perjured himself on allegations that Burris "talked to some people" about raising money for Blagojevich. Burris has presented multiple stories about his contacts with Blagojevich, all contradictory. So the Senate Democrats wanted nothing to do with Burris. The Senate Republicans, however, loved Burris. The Republicans would love to see Burris run for re-election, after which the GOP could then drag the entire Blago scandal out during the 2010 election, and smear the Democrats with it. Of course, the Republicans wouldn't give Burris the time of day either. So Burris is sitting in Senate purgatory--damned by both political parties. It is ironic that Burris may have thought that Blago's selecting him to Obama's former Senate seat would have furthered Burris' political ambitions. Instead, I seriously wonder if Burris' political career is now over.

Michael Jackson's death reverberates through the halls of Congress

I honestly don't know what to say about this, except that I wonder if our congressmen have any frickin' brains in their thick skulls. I guess not. From Yahoo News:

WASHINGTON — Amid the great debates of the day over health care, global warming and economic recovery, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that there will be no pause in the action to honor Michael Jackson .

For the record, the San Francisco Democrat said that Jackson was "a great, great performer" and that his death has brought "lots of sadness . . . for many reasons."

However, she also made clear that she won't allow the House to debate a resolution honoring the fallen pop star from California .

"A resolution, I think, would open up to contrary views to — that are not necessary at this time to be expressed in association with a resolution whose purpose is quite different," Pelosi said.


A little background is in order.

Shortly after Jackson's death last month, Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas introduced a resolution saluting the singer's life and work. She held a framed copy of it on the stage at Jackson's memorial service Tuesday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles .

However, Republican Rep. Peter King of New York , who called Jackson a "pervert" and a "pedophile," had vowed to block the resolution.

Apparently not wanting anything to do with the fight, Pelosi addressed the issue at her weekly press conference, beginning with this: "We're into the popular culture now."

Not wanting to entirely quash the discussion, however, Pelosi said members could give short speeches honoring Jackson but that no roll call vote would be allowed.

"What I have said to my colleagues over the years, and certainly as leader and as speaker, is that there's an opportunity on the floor of the House to express their sympathy or their praise any time that they wish," Pelosi said. "I don't think it's necessary for us to have a resolution."

Okay, so we have this Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee introducing a resolution in the House, honoring Michael Jackson life and work, just after the singer died. However, New York Republican Rep. Peter King wants to block this resolution because he has called Jackson a "pervert" and a "pedophile." Of course, King ignores the fact that Jackson was never convicted of child molestation--King just assumes Jackson is guilty. Is it no wonder that our congressmen are idiots at times, arguing over Michael Jackson's dead body? Never mind the fact that the U.S. economy is still in the dumps, or that the CIA has admitted to lying to Congress. The big political controversy today is Michael Jackson!

At least Pelosi was smart enough to quash this idiotic resolution. Jackson has been honored enough over the past three weeks. Let him rest in peace.

Update: OMG! This is getting rich! Apparently King posted a YouTube video in which he called Jackson a "pervert," "child molestor," and a "pedophile. The video is not on King's YouTube website, but can be found here on Conservative New Media YouTube site:

Again, Jackson was tried on child molestation charges back in 2005, but was acquitted, and Jackson was cleared of all child molestation charges. And yet, here is this idiot King blathering on in saying Jackson is still saying that Jackson is still guilty. King continues to defend his comments, now claiming that he was criticizing the media for their excessive coverage of Jackson, and yet he still continues to call Jackson a child molester. I would guess that King is enjoying the negative coverage he is getting from his malicious comments on Jackson, using that negative coverage to stir up the hard-lined conservative base that may agree with King's comments. King may be stirring up his hard-lined conservative base, but at the cost of alienating an even larger group of voters that would at least respect Jackson's musical talent, and realize that these negative comments should have no place in the aftermath of the singer's death.

CIA lied to Congress

In some ways, this really isn't surprising. From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon E. Panetta, has told the House Intelligence Committee in closed-door testimony that the C.I.A. concealed “significant actions” from Congress from 2001 until late last month, seven Democratic committee members said.

In a June 26 letter to Mr. Panetta discussing his testimony, Democrats said that the agency had “misled members” of Congress for eight years about the classified matters, which the letter did not disclose. “This is similar to other deceptions of which we are aware from other recent periods,” said the letter, made public late Wednesday by Representative Rush D. Holt, Democrat of New Jersey, one of the signers.

In an interview, Mr. Holt declined to reveal the nature of the C.I.A.’s alleged deceptions,. But he said, “We wouldn’t be doing this over a trivial matter.”

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Silvestre Reyes, Democrat of Texas, referred to Mr. Panetta’s disclosure in a letter to the committee’s ranking Republican, Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, Congressional Quarterly reported on Wednesday. Mr. Reyes wrote that the committee “has been misled, has not been provided full and complete notifications, and (in at least one occasion) was affirmatively lied to.”

As I've said, I'm not surprised that the CIA lied to Congress from 2001 onwards. You have to go back to the individual sitting in the White House in 2001 that initiated this cult of lying--we're talking former President George W. Bush here. The Bush administration lied to Congress and the American people on just about everything--the WMDs in Iraq, intelligence failures and the reasons sending the U.S. into war in Iraq, the secret prisons, Abu Ghraib, waterboarding and torture, the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame, the U.S. attorney firings--the list just goes on. When President Barack Obama came into the White House of this year, I'd say that the CIA continued to lie to Congress because the Obama administration wanted to sweep the Bush administration's transgressions under a rug. I would say that President Obama doesn't want congressional investigations into the Bush administration for fears that a future Republican president may demand investigations into the Obama administration. In other words, it is politics as usual, and forget whether serious laws were broken by former leaders and public officials.

And we're seeing politics as usual continuing on in the NY Times story:

In a related development, President Obama threatened to veto the pending Intelligence Authorization Bill if it included a provision that would allow information about covert actions to be given to the entire House and Senate Intelligence Committees, rather than the so-called Gang of Eight — the Democratic and Republican leaders of both houses of Congress and the two Intelligence Committees.

A White House statement released on Wednesday said the proposed expansion of briefings would undermine “a long tradition spanning decades of comity between the branches regarding intelligence matters.” Democrats have complained that under President George W. Bush, entire programs were hidden from most committee members for years.

This is frickin' bullcrap on President Obama's part. The Obama administration doesn't want the CIA to disclose their activities, and their lying, to the entire congressional intelligence committees. So they make up this dog and pony show of saying that the CIA provided "a long tradition spanning decades of comity" to the congressional intelligence panels. That may have been true in the previous decades, but I can't recall a time when the CIA, and a previous presidential administration, engaged in such egregious lying to Congress--the Nixon administration's lying seems like child's play compared to what the Bush administration did. In this case, President Obama does not want to provide a fuller disclosure of intelligence matters to Congress, but would rather keep the status quoe of informing the congressional leaders, rather than the full committees.

Of course, this brings up another problem. Who is to say that a future presidential administration will probably order the CIA to continue lying to Congress--whether it is the congressional leaders, or the full intelligence committee members? If a future president, or an executive department, is going to lie to Congress about anything, then Congress is pretty much screwed here. There is no recourse that Congress has to punish such liars in the executive branch, with the exception of cutting off money funding such executive departments. Cutting off CIA funding may be a powerful punishment for the CIA's lying to Congress, but in today's polarizing political climate, that is not going to happen.

Which brings us to the polarizing political climate of today. Continuing with the NY Times story:

The question of the C.I.A.’s candor with the Congressional oversight committees has been hotly disputed since Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the agency of failing to disclose in a 2002 briefing that it had used waterboarding against a terrorism suspect. Ms. Pelosi said the agency routinely misled Congress, though she later said she intended to fault the Bush administration rather than career intelligence officials.

Since then, Republicans have called Ms. Pelosi’s complaint an unwarranted attack on the integrity of counterterrorism officers and have demanded an investigation. Democrats have rebuffed the demand.

In a statement Wednesday night, a C.I.A. spokesman, George Little, noted that the agency “took the initiative to notify the oversight committees” about the past failures. He said the agency and Mr. Panetta “believe it is vital to keep the Congress fully and currently informed.”

A couple of points here. First, the CIA is continuing to lie to Congress about previously lying to Congress. You just have to love the statement about the CIA taking the initiative to "notify the oversight committees" about the department's previous lies to Congress, but then implicitly rejecting the congressional Democrats demands for CIA director Leon Panetta to explain his lying to Congress for the past nine years, saying that Panetta believes it vital "to keep Congress fully and currently informed." Talk about doublespeak here. Panetta is not going to give squat to Congress.

But the more interesting point was the GOP attacks against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, when Pelosi complained about the CIA lying to her back in May, 2009. Republican leaders were demanding that Pelosi retract her accusations that the CIA lied to her. Former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich called for Pelosi's resignation. House Minority Leader John Boehner demanded that Pelosi should apologize for her accusations. Even CIA Director Leon Panetta jumped into the fray, saying in a May 15, 2009 message to agency employees, which was released to the public, "Let me be clear. It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress...That is against our laws and our values." Now it turns out that Pelosi was right about the CIA lying to her, the GOP was wrong in demanding Pelosi to retract her statements, apologize, or resign, and Panetta continued his lying, which furthered the GOP attacks against Pelosi. This was partisan politics, where the Republicans found an opportunity to smear Pelosi on this CIA lying--regardless of the facts. Now that it turns out that Pelosi was right on the CIA lying to her, the GOP has suddenly turned quiet, fearing that any criticism would now undermine their smear campaign against Pelosi. And you can bet that every GOP politician will never apologize to Pelosi for their own smears against her.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Man dies after falling into vat of chocolate

Talk about Death by Chocolate! This is from The MercuryNews.com:

CAMDEN, N.J. — Authorities say a man died after falling into a vat of melted chocolate in a New Jersey processing plant.

A spokesman for the Camden County prosecutor's office says the 29-year-old temporary worker at the Cocoa Services Inc. plant fell after a blade used to mix raw chocolate hit him. His name has not been released.

The accident happened Wednesday morning as the worker was loading chocolate into the vat where it's melted and mixed before being shipped elsewhere to be made into candy.

Prosecutor's spokesman Jason Laughlin says a co-worker tried to shut off the machine and two others tried to pull the man out of the 8-foot-deep vat.

Cocoa Services hires a second company — Lyons and Sons — to do the mixing.

California issues IOU's in wake of budget stalemate, banks will accept them until July 10th

It appears that the California budget stalemate between the legislature, and the Governator, is heading into a full-blown, statewide crisis. Or maybe I should say that this entire California budget crisis is heading into the toilet? Either way, the state is now printing out IOU's to pay for its bills. This is from a July 3, 2009 Los Angeles Times story:

Deep in debt and short on cash, California on Thursday churned out its first batch of IOUs in nearly two decades amid grumbles from bankers, growing public outrage and scant progress in negotiations to resolve the state's widening budget deficit.

The state controller's office fired up a pair of printing presses and began rolling out nearly 29,000 IOUs totaling more than $53 million, most of them destined for residents around the state still awaiting income tax refunds. Recipients also include some businesses, pensioners, health clinics, college students and many others who get checks from the state.

"We never thought we would do it again," said Dorothy Cottrill, who manages check disbursement at the state controller's office and still remembers the last time the state spun out IOUs in the lean days of 1992.

The unusual move came hours after a panel of state finance officials set the annual interest rate for the IOUs at 3.75% for banks and other financial institutions willing to accept the vouchers. Some banks, including Bank of America, Citi and Wells Fargo, have agreed to honor the paper, but only until July 10. Many recipients could receive their IOUs after that date.

Those who don't have a bank that will cash the IOUs can redeem them from the state Oct. 2, or sooner if officials settle on a solution to the financial crisis.

Rodney K. Brown, president and chief executive of the California Bankers Assn., said the state's failure to resolve the budget crisis "has placed a tremendous burden on California's citizens, communities and banks."

State officials estimated that without a budget resolution they will have to issue $3.2 billion in IOUs in July and $1.65 billion in August.

State Controller John Chiang said the IOUs "are a sign that the state is being fiscally mismanaged" and a precursor to further credit downgrades for California, already the lowest-rated state on Wall Street.

The IOUs come two days after state Senate Republicans, with the support of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, blocked an eleventh-hour attempt by Democratic leaders to push through budget proposals that would have staved off the IOUs, at least temporarily.

And in the wake of these IOU's being printed, the banks are saying that they will only honor the IOU's until July 10th. From this July 3, 2009 Los Angeles Times story:

Bank of America announced late Wednesday that it would redeem in full the state's IOUs (formally, "registered warrants") from current BofA customers who want to cash them in. But the bank set a cutoff date of July 10.

On Thursday, other big banks including Chase, Wells Fargo & Co. and Union Bank followed BofA's lead, saying they'll cash the IOUs from customers only through July 10.

Some banks, including City National, didn't set a cutoff date, but they didn't preclude doing so at some point. Many credit unions also have agreed to accept the IOUs from customers without setting a time limit, the California Credit Union League said.

The big banks' hardball strategy will create hardships for their customers if no budget deal is struck soon and the state continues to issue IOUs instead of checks. The state set a redemption date of Oct. 2 for the IOUs, although it said it might redeem them before then if it has the cash. Other lenders may step up to buy the IOUs in the interim, but probably at a discount to face value, unlike the big banks' redemption programs.

When asked why it set such a narrow window for customers to cash IOUs, BofA cited the "operational and financial" challenge of accepting them.

In some ways, I'm not surprised that the California budget crisis is going down the toilet. It seems like every year, there is a budget crisis taking place between the legislature and the governor--budget crisis after budget crisis going on for the past couple of decades. Meanwhile, bond proposition after bond proposition is passed every election year by California voters--with no way to pay for these bonds. So in the end, the California budget crisis has grown from a slow burning house fire, to an exploding conflagration, while the firefighters are bickering over how to pay for the water bill. In the end, everything burns to a crisp.

Google introduces PC operating system, takes on Microsoft Windows

All I can say is wow--we've got a battle between two software titans. From MSNBC News:

SUN VALLEY, Idaho — Google Inc. is hoping to gain greater control over how personal computers work with its plans to develop a free operating system that will attack Microsoft Corp.'s golden goose — its long-dominant Windows franchise.

The new operating system will be based on Google's 9-month-old Web browser, Chrome. Google intends to rely on help from the community of open-source programmers to develop the Chrome operating system, which is expected to begin running computers in the second half of 2010.

The early versions of the Chrome operating system will be tailored for "netbooks," a breed of low-cost, less powerful laptop computers that are becoming increasingly popular among budget-conscious consumers primarily interested in surfing the Web.

That is a direct challenge to Microsoft, whose next operating system, Windows 7, is being geared for netbooks as well as larger computers. (Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

The vast majority of netbooks already run on Windows, and that is unlikely to change unless Google can demonstrate the Chrome operating system is a significant improvement, said Forrester Research analyst Paul Jackson. He pointed out that many customers had returned the original netbooks that used open-source alternatives to Windows.

"It was not what people expected," he said. "People wanted Windows because they knew how to use it and knew how applications worked."

This is going to be an interesting battle to watch. Google is the king of search engine technology. If you want to search for something on the web, you "google" the topic, and get a ton of results to plow through. Microsoft Windows is THE operating system that has been installed on desktop, laptop, and now netbook, computers for both business and consumer use for years. If you purchase a new computer, more than likely the computer will be installed with some flavor of a Microsoft Windows OS [Sorry, I'm not going into Macs, or Linux systems here]. Google attempted to challenge Microsoft in the internet browser market with their Google Chrome, but it hasn't made much of a dent against MS Internet Explorer. Microsoft has tried to challenge Google in the search engine market with their own Bing search engine, which obviously hasn't toppled Google from the top search engine spot. Now Google is raising the stakes with an introduction of a Google operating system to challenge Microsoft Windows? What is even more amazing is that this Google Chrome will be some type of graphical user OS that may be sitting on top of a Linux engine--can you say Windows 3.1 sitting on top of DOS?

I don't know how successful Google Chrome will be against MS Windows. There are too many variables here--how robust, or easy to use will Google Chrome be in running on computers? Will Google Chrome crash as badly as Windows (Can you say Vista?) has at times? Will businesses and consumers be willing to drop Windows for Chrome? How will Microsoft's new Windows 7 fare in the OS market--especially in the aftermath of the disaster OS called Vista? Will consumers buy into Windows 7, or will the continue using XP? I do not believe that Google Chrome will topple Windows, but Chrome may find a niche in the OS market, similar to Linux or Mac.

All Michael Jackson News, all the time

Michael Jackson died.

I'll admit that I was a little surprised when I read the June 25, 2009 story on the King of Pop's death. What I found even more ironic is was how the mainstream news started out with their big morning news story about Charlie's Angel Farrah Fawcett's death from cancer, but then suddenly dropped Farrah's death for what would become the incessant coverage of EVERYTHING MICHAEL! For the past two weeks, the mainstream news media has been playing All Michael News, all the time. Here's the ambulance that transported Michael to the hospital. Here's the helicopter transporting Michael's body to the morgue--Look! There's Michael's body being transported from the morgue to the funeral home! If watching Michael Jackson's body being transported from one place to another was bad enough, with news pundits filling the video time of Jackson's body being transported with bloated commentary, then there was the Michael Jackson special tributes, the old pop star interviews, and the new, exclusive interviews with brother Jermain, the stories revolving around Michael's prescription drug use, the financial problems, the legal questions of who gets custody of Michael's children. It was endless. Of course, then there was the public funeral for Michael Jackson--a media moment that The New York Times called "a star-studded live concert infused with all the pageantry, sorrow and ghoulish curiosity that attends the untimely demise of a beloved, troubled superstar."

I just avoided watching the TV news for the past two weeks, trying to stay away from the All Michael Jackson News, all the time.

I'm sorry to hear that Michael Jackson died. I'm sorry for what his family has to endure, and that his children will no longer be with their father. I'll admit that Jackson was a musical genius, and possibly a troubled child trapped in a man's body. But watching the incessant media coverage of Michael Jackson was part exasperating, and part disgusting. This was not news--this was ghoulish entertainment pre-packaged as news, for big corporate media profit. Michael Jackson's death was milked by the corporate media for two weeks of advertising profit. Consider this NY Times story, where more than 31 million viewers watched Michael Jackson's memorial yesterday:

More than 31.1 million viewers tuned in to watch the memorial service held on Tuesday for Michael Jackson, according to numbers released on Wednesday by the Nielsen Company. The broadcast of the Staples Center event, at which the Jackson family and an ensemble of performers and political figures paid their respects to the King of Pop, was carried live from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern time on 18 television networks: ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, Telefutura, Telemundo, Univision, CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, Headline News, BET, E!, MTV, VH1, VH1 Classic, TV Guide Network and TV ONE.

By historical standards, the Jackson memorial was among the most watched funeral services of a notable personality in recent years. According to data provided by Nielsen, the funeral for Pope John Paul II in 2005 was watched by more than 8.8 million people, and the funeral of President Gerald R. Ford in 2007 drew more than 15 million viewers. In 2004, the funeral of President Ronald Reagan was watched by 20.8 million people and his burial drew 35 million viewers. The funeral of Princess Diana was watched by more than 33.2 million people in 1997.

You can bet that a lot of viewers were also watching all the Michael Jackson tributes, which were quickly put on by the news networks in the aftermath of the pop singer's death. And with that many viewers watching the All Michael Jackson News, all the time, all those viewer ratings translate to big advertising dollars that the corporate media could charge.

Of course, the All Michael Jackson News is not yet finished. Because now we've got the post-Michael Jackson RIP analysis currently taking place. It appears that nobody knows where Michael Jackson will be buried:

LOS ANGELES -- Now that the memorial is over, the question remains, 'What will happen to Michael Jackson's body?"

It was rumored the body would be buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills.

But police and cemetery officials say Jackson's body would not be returning to the cemetery where the family held a private service Tuesday morning.

Jackson's death certificate lists Forest Lawn as the responsible mortuary because the body was embalmed there.


Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter said Jackson's brain, or at least part of it, was still being held by investigators and would be returned to the family for internment once neuropathology tests were completed.

It's not uncommon for the coroner to hold onto a brain or samples from it. Winter said families sometimes delay burying a loved one until after the brain has been returned, but he had received no word from the Jackson family about their plans.

"The last I heard, they are not burying the body yet," Winter said.

All I can think of is put Michael Jackson in the ground, and let him rest in peace. And maybe we can move away from the All Michael Jackson News, all the time.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Robert McNamara died

In this Jan. 23, 1961, photo released by the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library in Boston, President Kennedy sits with Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, right, in the White House Oval Office in Washington. McNamara, the cerebral secretary of defense vilified for his role in escalating the Vietnam War, a disastrous conflict he later denounced as 'terribly wrong,' died Monday, July 6, 2009. He was 93.(AP Photo/Cecil Stoughton, White House via John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, Boston)

I guess Robert McNamara will no longer be tormented by the ghosts of Vietnam. From The New York Times:

Robert S. McNamara, perhaps the most influential defense secretary of the 20th century, who helped lead the nation into the maelstrom of Vietnam and spent the rest of his life wrestling with the war’s moral consequences, died early Monday at his home in Washington, the Associated Press reported, citing his wife, Diana. He was 93, and according to the news agency, had been in failing health for some time.

Serving Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson from 1961 to 1968, Mr. McNamara oversaw hundreds of military missions, thousands of nuclear weapons and billions of dollars in military spending and foreign arms sales. He also enlarged the defense secretary’s role, handling foreign diplomacy and the dispatch of troops to enforce civil rights in the South.

“He’s like a jackhammer,” President Johnson said. “No human being can take what he takes. He drives too hard. He is too perfect.”

As early as April 1964, Senator Wayne Morse, Democrat of Oregon, called Vietnam “McNamara’s War.” Mr. McNamara did not object. “I am pleased to be identified with it,” he said, “and do whatever I can to win it.”

Half a million American soldiers went to war on his watch. More than 16,000 died; 42,000 more would fall in the seven years to come.

The war became his personal nightmare. Nothing he did, none of the tools at his command — the power of American weapons, the forces of technology and logic or the strength of American soldiers — could stop the armies of North Vietnam. He concluded well before leaving the Pentagon that the war was futile, but he did not share that insight with the public until late in life.

Coming back from an absence with Sarah Palin's resignation as Alaska's governor

Coming back from an absence with Sarah Palin's resignation as Alaska's governor

My apologies for the lack of posting. I've stepped away from my blog for a while since I felt that either a) The content I was writing was becoming more of the same stuff day after day, or b) The political BS that was taking place over the past year was the same ole BS day after day--how am I suppose to write something analytical with the same crap coming down the pipe?

But then, I learned on Friday that Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin resigned from office. From The Washington Post:

Sarah Palin, the Republican Alaska governor who captivated the nation with a combative brand of folksy politics, announced her resignation yesterday in characteristic fashion: She stood on her back lawn in Wasilla, speaking into a single microphone, accompanied by friends and neighbors in baseball hats and polo shirts.

The announcement that she will step down by the end of July stunned the political establishment, fueling speculation about why she is leaving office with 18 months left in her first term and whether her future will include a run for the presidency.

Palin offered few clues about her ambitions but said she arrived at her decision in part to protect her family, which has faced withering criticism and occasional mockery, and to escape ethics probes that have drained her family's finances and hampered her ability to govern. She said leaving office is in the best interest of the state and will allow her to more effectively advocate for issues of importance to her, including energy independence and national security.

"I love my job and I love Alaska, and it hurts to make this choice, but I'm doing what's best for them," Palin said, the sun glinting off a seaplane on Lake Lucille behind her.

And you can watch the video of Sarah Palin's resignation speech here:

Part One;

Part Two;

I'll be honest, I'm just as surprised that Palin would quit the governor's post. And I'm not sure why she decided to quit. Her transcript of the resignation speech is rambling and disjointed--she claims that she wants to fight for Alaska's best interests, but that the media and "political operatives" had forced her to resign so that Alaskan taxpayer dollars would not be wasted on investigations against her office. Maybe there is some truth, in Sarah Palin's view, to that reason.

But in another sense, that is politics. There are always "political operatives" digging up dirt against enemies, and investigations taking place against politicians every day. It is the dirty side of politics. What we have here is a political neophyte, who was thrust into the national scene when she was obviously Not Ready for Prime Time. Sarah Palin was obviously not qualified to be the Republican vice presidential candidate, and that was clearly shown in both her inability to answer tough policy questions from the media (Remember Charlie Gibson's question to Palin about the Bush Doctrine?), and from the McCain campaign's heavy-handed attempt to shield Palin from media scrutiny with orchestrated campaign rallies and rah-rah speeches. There were also Sarah Palin's own skeletons in her closet, such as the Troopergate scandal, or the Bridge to Nowhere, Hockeygate, Palin and her husband's ties to the Alaskan Independence Party, and there is a few other Palin scandals that you can find here. Most of this is old news. But it is something politicians will have to endure, if they want to get into a higher office--and what political office is higher than the U.S. presidency? Did Sarah Palin finally crack under all the skeleton investigation pressures, and called it quits? I can't say.

What I can say here is that I believe Sarah Palin's political career may just be over now. She quit in the middle of her first term as governor--that is as much of a political suicide as you can get. She may still be popular with the hard-lined conservatives in the Republican Party, but if Sarah Palin is going to run for another national office, then she's going to have to seriously explain why she quit in the middle of her governorship to moderate and independent voters. Her resignation speech never gave a good reason why she quit, other than she buckled under serious political pressure. Who is to say that Sarah Palin will quit another political office--say the U.S. presidency--under political pressure that could be a hundred times worst? No one will elect a quitter into political office. That is what Sarah Palin will have to answer for, if she wants to continue a career in politics. And so far, Sarah Palin has yet answered that question.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Federal prosecutors indict Rod Blagojevich

Blago is indicted. From MSNBC News:

CHICAGO - Federal prosecutors made good on a promise to take action on a "significant criminal matter" Thursday, indicting former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on corruption charges.

While prosecutors went about their work, the impeached and ousted governor was apparently vacationing at a Disney World resort in Florida.

U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald had until Tuesday to produce an indictment replacing a criminal complaint filed against the former governor Dec. 9 after FBI agents arrested him at his Chicago home.

Blagojevich, 52, was charged in the complaint with scheming to sell or trade President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat and a host of other corruption. He denies wrongdoing.

Chicagoans had been anticipating Blagojevich's indictment for days.

"We're just hours away from a massive pay-to-play indictment against Gov. Blagojevich and possibly others," former federal prosecutor Patrick M. Collins said Tuesday while unveiling recommendations from a state reform commission launched in response to the scandal.

Collins, who sent Gov. George Ryan to prison for racketeering, is chairman of the commission, which wants legislators to impose sweeping changes.

And where is Rod Blagojevich as this federal indictment is handed down against him? Why, he's off to Disney World:

Blagojevich and his family were apparently in Walt Disney World. A hotel operator at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. connected a Thursday phone call to a room booked under Blagojevich. It went straight to voicemail.

I wonder if he'll get Donald Duck as a cell mate?

"Bailout" costs Domino's 11,000 pizzas

There is some rich irony here, as Domino's Pizza tried to cash in with the bailout. This is from MSNBC News:

CINCINNATI - "Bailout" was the magic word as Domino's had to give away thousands of free pizzas because someone stumbled on an online promotion the company scrapped.

Domino's Pizza Inc. spokesman Tim McIntyre said Wednesday that the company prepared an Internet coupon for an ad campaign that was considered in December but not approved.

He says someone apparently typed "bailout" into a Domino's promo code window and found it was good for a free medium pizza.

Word about the code spread quickly Monday night on the Web and 11,000 free pizzas were delivered before it was deactivated Tuesday morning.

Cincinnati-area franchise owner John Glass says his 14 stores gave away more than 600 pies, but that Domino's promised to reimburse him.

So, Domino's created an online advertising promo for an internet coupon, but then decided to scrap it. However, Domino's never deactivated the online promo. Someone found out that if you typed in the word "bailout" in the promo code window, Domino's will bail you out with a free medium pizza. And it only cost Domino's 11,000 pizzas here. What can I say, but Domino's made a colossal advertising screw-up in which 11,000 Americans became happy pizza eaters. With a medium, hand-tossed, pepperoni pizza priced at around $11.35, it only cost Domino's $124,850 for this pizza bailout.

Cantor calls Democrats "overreacting" to U.S. economic crisis

This is from Talking Points Memo:

It's hard to tell if Eric Cantor's testing a new message, or if this is the new Republican line on the Democrats and the state of affairs in the country, but Politico reports that, at the Christian Science Monitor breakfast this morning, the House GOP whip, said Democrats are "overreacting, as they often will, to crisis."

But back to this morning. Cantor told participants that "Doing too much has huge, huge pitfalls," better, in other words, to err on the side of doing too little.

Then, after praising Rush Limbaugh, he added that those pitfalls might propel Republicans back into control of the House in 2010--a feat that would require them, in historic fashion, to take at least 40 seats back from the Democrats.

Here is House GOP Leader Eric Cantor's quote of the Democrats overreacting to the economic crisis:

“As far as Rush, Rush has got ideas. He’s got following. He believes in the conservative principles that many of us believe in –- of lower taxes, of making sure that we turn back towards a focus on entrepreneurialism in this country, to promoting innovation and not stamping that out by over-reacting, if you will, which this town often does, to crisis.”

You can listen to the audio here via Plum Line.

The only thing I can think of is that Cantor is trying to galvanize the conservative base in opposing President Barack Obama's budget, and economic stimulus plan. And Cantor is talking to the base here by equating radio commentator Rush Limbaugh's "ideas" as a...conservative mandate? Rush Limbaugh wants President Obama to fail. I'm guessing that Cantor, since he believes in Rush's ideas, also wants President Obama to fail. Is this the Republican Party stance now? Because the day President Obama took the oath of office, the Republican congressional minority has been obstructing and criticizing everything the Obama White House, and the Democratic congressional leadership, have attempted to do in slowing the serious economic recession this country is currently in.

Of course, there is more. There is this incredibly insane quote from Cantor that the Democrats are "overreacting" to the nation's economic crisis. Overreacting? Excuse me, Mr. Cantor, but it was the Republican leadership in Congress, and the Bush White House that got us into this mess in the first place. That was when the GOP forced these huge tax cuts to the rich, while at the same time sent the U.S. into two disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, paying for everything by the nation's credit card. The Bush administration refused to enforce any type of regulatory oversight in the financial industry--let alone any industry--during the past eight years. Not only have we doubled our own national debt, from $5 trillion to $10 trillion dollars under the Bush administration, but an entire Ponzi scheme of repackaging investment securities based on over-valued home prices and subprime mortgages was also built up--even to the point of making exotic derivative hedges on these investments based on bad subprime debt. This entire house of cards has now crashed down, leading to a collapse of Wall Street investment firms and the billions of American taxpayer dollars that have been spent to bail these investment firms out. American consumers have closed up their wallets, fearful over whether they will still have a job, fearful of whether they can afford their homes--whose values have dropped underwater--and fearful of their retirement funds having been wiped out by this collapse. The U.S. is in a serious economic recession here that will not only take hundreds of billions of dollars of economic stimulus, but a serious reevaluation of how the federal government will regulate the business and financial industry to avoid construction of another house of cards. But Eric Cantor says that the Democrats are overreacting to this serious economic crisis.

I really do not know what to say.

Update: Looks like the Democratic Party has quickly responded to Cantor's rhetoric:

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Majority of Americans do not blame Obama for economic downturn

This is from The Washington Post:

The number of Americans who believe that the nation is headed in the right direction has roughly tripled since Barack Obama's election, and the public overwhelmingly blames the excesses of the financial industry, rather than the new president, for turmoil in the economy, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

At this early stage in his presidency, Obama continues to benefit from a broadly held perception that others should bear the bulk of responsibility for the severe economic problems that confront his administration. Americans see plenty of offenders, but only about a quarter blame the president and his team for an economy that's in the ditch.

Despite the increasing optimism about the future, the nation's overall mood remains gloomy, and doubts are rising about some of the administration's prescriptions for the economic woes. Independents are less solidly behind Obama than they have been, fewer Americans now express confidence that his economic programs will work, barely half of the country approves of how the president is dealing with the federal budget deficit, and the political climate is once again highly polarized.

The percentage of Americans in the new poll who said the country is on the right track still stands at just 42 percent, but that is the highest percentage saying so in five years and marks a sharp turnabout from last fall, when as many as nine in 10 said the country was heading in the wrong direction. Fifty-seven percent now consider the nation as moving on the wrong track.

Overall perceptions about the country parallel a rapid increase in the percentage of Americans who say the economy is improving. For the first time since late 2004, the gap between the numbers saying the economy is getting better and those saying it's getting worse is in the single digits (27 percent to 36 percent).

Two-thirds of Americans approve of the way Obama is handling the country's top job, and six in 10 give him good marks on issue No. 1, the flagging economy. Those figures are little changed from last month. But he receives lower marks for dealing with the federal budget deficit after submitting a plan that would see continued huge deficits over the next decade. Fifty-two percent back Obama on his approach to the deficit, with the public split about evenly over whether belt-tightening or big increases in spending should be used to try to improve the economy.

There is now a pronounced divergence between Democratic and Republican perceptions of the economy, a bigger partisan divide than the one that occurred 16 years ago after Bill Clinton took office. In early 1993, people in both parties were about equally likely to see the economy as improving, but now the number of Republicans who say it is souring is more than double that of Democrats.

A sharp rise in optimism has occurred among Democrats, who are about three times as likely to approve of the country's course as they were just before Obama's inauguration. Independents, too, are more optimistic, with twice as many feeling positive as in mid-January. Among Republicans, there has not been significant movement in either direction.

Obama's overall approval rating among independents has dipped six points, to 61 percent, and fewer than half, 45 percent, said he is doing a good job of handling the deficit. His approval rating among Republicans has dropped seven points, to 30 percent.

I think what is important to understand here is that Americans are still giving President Barack Obama the benefit of the doubt with this poll. They understand that President Obama is trying to fix the complex economic problems caused by the Bush administration, the deregulation, the housing bubble, and the excessive Wall Street greed that took place over the past decade. There is certainly a division between Americans on whether the country is heading in the right or wrong direction--where 42 percent say the country is heading in the right direction, and 57 percent say the country is heading in the wrong direction. With the serious economic problems taking place within the country, Americans are certainly divided, skittish, and worried about the direction of the country. And it is the same division with American perceptions on whether the U.S. economy is improving--27 percent saying the U.S. economy is getting better, verses 36 percent saying the U.S. economy is getting worst.

For the moment, this still is not an Obama economy. President Obama has at least a year to at least stabilize the U.S. economy, or turn it around. Americans may give President Obama a pass on the economy, but there is an expiration date. If President Obama and the congressional Democratic leadership can't turn the U.S. economy around by the beginning of next year, then they will the American voters' wrath in the 2010 midterm elections. And you can bet that the Republicans are just chomping on the bit, hoping that President Obama fails.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Saturday Morning Cartoons--Springtime for Thomas

Spring is coming, and what is a great way to celebrate spring, than with a good ole fashion Tom and Jerry cartoon. In this case, it is Springtime for Thomas. This 1946 cartoon has Jerry happily ready to be chased by Tom, however Tom is swooning over a cute lady kitty sunny herself by the pool next door. Jerry's evil little devil appears, and provides Jerry with a menage a trios plan on how to break up the romance between Tom and the lady kitty. Springtime is filled with high jinks and disastrous follies. From YouTube:

Thursday, March 26, 2009

RNC Chairman Michael Steele claims gaffes are "all strategic"

I honestly do not know what to say about this latest gaffe by Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, except that he claims all the gaffes he has made, ever since he took RNC chairman's job, are all part of a super-secret strategic plan. Of course, this includes the famous bickering between Steele and conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, in which Steele apologized to Limbaugh. Here is Steele's quote from an interview with CNN's Don Lemon, via Think Progress:

STEELE: So if I do something, there’s a reason for it. Even, it may look like a mistake, a gaffe. There is a rationale, there’s a logic behind it. […]

Q: There’s a rationale behind Rush, all that stuff?

STEELE: Yup, yup. … I want to see what the landscape looks like. I want to see who yells the loudest. I wanted to know who says they’re with me but really isn’t. … It helps me understand my position on the chess board. It helps me understand, you know, where the enemy camp is and where those who are inside the tent are.

Q: It's all strategic.

STEELE: It’s all strategic.

Here is the video via YouTube:

I'm trying to analyze Steele's quote here, and Steele's logic is beyond me. He claims that by making these gaffes, he is discovering who is friends and enemies are in this great political chessboard, even though the gaffes that he has made has so weakened his position--even to the point of ceding power and leadership of the Republican Party to Rush Limbaugh. It seems like every time Michael Steele opens his mouth, he digs himself into a deeper hole from which he will never get out of. A chessboard strategist, Michael Steele is not. I'm starting to think that Michael Steele couldn't even strategize a tic-tac-toe game. Mikey, if you want a little advice here--keep your mouth shut! This idiotic quote makes you, and the Republican Party, look even pathetic and incompetent in your media-spinning. This is just god awful.

Update: In that same interview, Michael Steele also claimed that "God Will Tell Me If I Should Run For President." From YouTube:

GOP squabbles over creating their own budget

This is a fascinating story from The Politico.com:

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) raised objections to an abbreviated alternative budget "blueprint" released today -- but were told by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) they needed to back the plan, according to several Republican sources.

The argument, coming a week before the full House and Senate are scheduled to vote on the budget, underscores the minority party's woes in a mounting unified opposition to President Obama's $3.6 trillion FY2010 budget proposal.

Ryan, the ranking Republican on the budget committee, plans to introduce a detailed substitute amendment for the Democrats' spending plan next Wednesday -- and still intends to do so.

But he and Cantor were reportedly told by Boehner and Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) they needed to move more quickly to counter Democrats' charge they were becoming the "Party of No," according to House GOP staffers.

The 19-page document, prepared by Pence's office, was distributed two days after President Obama criticized Republicans for trashing his detail-crammed 142-page budget outline without producing a credible alternative.

“In his egocentric rush to get on camera, Mike Pence threw the rest of the Conference under the bus, specifically Paul Ryan, whose staff has been working night and day for weeks to develop a substantive budget plan," said a GOP aide heavily involved in budget strategy.

"I hope his camera time was gratifying enough to justify erasing the weeks of hard work by dozens of Republicans to put forth serious ideas," the person added.

So, Representative Paul Ryan was busy creating a detailed Republican budget plan to introduce next Wednesday, but then Ryan's plan was thrown under the bus by House Minority Leader John Boehner and Representative Pence for their own zeal in shifting the Republican Party's image from "Party of No," to a party of...."Screw You?"

This is a huge disaster for the Republican Party.

Ryan was drawing up a detailed budget for the Republicans. The GOP could have presented that budget plan as an alternative to the Obama budget, and we could have had a debate on the details of both plans. That is fine and good for the American people because then they could compare the two budget plans, and the priorities between the two political parties. Instead, Boehner and Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence wanted to score some political brownie points against the Obama administration by presenting a cheap PowerPoint presentation as a sad excuse for a Republican budget plan. All because Boehner and Pence are worried about the GOP's image as a "Party of No?" Excuse me, Mr. Boehner, but you have created this GOP "Party of No" after the every House Republican voted against the Obama economic stimulus package. This is a party, where the leadership has been deferred to, not the congressional leaders, or even RNC Chairman Michael Steele, but to conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who has called for President Barack Obama to fail. This is a party where even the RNC chairman Michael Steele had to apologize to Rush Limbaugh, after Steele made some critical remarks against Limbaugh, calling Limbaugh's rhetoric "incendiary" and "ugly." And it is not just Steele that had to apologize to Limbaugh--Republican congressman Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) apologized to Limbaugh after telling Limbaugh to "back off" from his bombastic rhetoric. The GOP has been creating this image as "The Party of No," since the beginning of this year. And John Boehner thinks that giving a press conference in presenting a non-existent Republican budget will change the GOP's image as a "Party of No" into something else? This after Boehner destroyed a good chance of presenting a real alternative budget, next week, that could have slowly shifted the GOP's image away from this "Party of No?"

How much more stupidity can these Republicans sink into?

Republicans unveil new budget plan--big on spin, but no numbers

I found this story through The Washington Monthly, with the source coming from Talking Points Memo:

Stung by their stereotyping as the "party of no," House Republicans eagerly promoted the unveiling of their alternative to President Obama's budget today -- but when they finished speaking, reporters had one big question: Where's the actual budget? You know, the numbers that show deficit projections and discretionary spending?

There certainly was no hard budgetary data in the attractively designed 18-page packet that the House GOP handed out today, its blue cover emblazoned with an ambitious title: "The Republican Road to Recovery." When Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) was asked what his goal for deficit reduction would be -- President Obama aims to halve the nation's spending imbalance within five years -- Boehner responded simply: "To do better [than Obama]."

When pressed further by reporters, Boehner promised that Republicans would release their actual budget within the next few days and pointed a finger back at the president.

After Obama delivered a prime-time speech previewing his budget, Boehner said, "he didn't offer his details until days later."

The lack of any statistical heft in their packet left the House GOP stumbling out of the gate as it worked to re-dub itself as the "party of yes," in the words of No. 3-ranked leader Mike Pence (R-IN). House Republicans unveiled an alternative plan for the foreclosure crisis yesterday, and they are continuing to tout their economic stimulus proposal (along with an erroneous claim that it creates more jobs than Obama's).

You can read the Republican Road to Recovery here.

Let us call this Republican "budget" what it really is--a shiny little marketing gimmick which touts the same, stale, GOP talking points of more tax cuts, oil drilling, and business deregulation. There are no numbers, or even estimates, or even wild-assed guesses as to how much American taxpayer money will the Republicans spend in their own budget, or even where the money will go. Of course, there are lots of numbers in the Republican Road to Recovery on how the congressional Democrats and President Barack Obama's budget will spend us into so much debt like a drunken sailor in a whorehouse. A shiny little marketing brochure, presented by the Republican Party, as a "budget."

Then again, you have to understand what the Republican Party has become--a party bankrupted of any type of ideas or policy issues. This was a party that attempted to push its own extremist ideology down the rest of the country's throat during the eight years of the Bush administration--the Permanent Majority Party! This was a party that trumped ideology over policy, demanded rubber-stamping from its members, and refused to compromise with the Democrats. This was a party that sent this country into a serious economic crisis, a deep recession, created a financial mess, incurred a huge national debt, and has sunk us into two losing wars. And as a result of the GOP's hard shifting to the right, and the terrible economic and foreign policy problems that have occurred because of the conservative extremism, the Republicans were completely stomped in the 2006 and 2008 elections. Now with their ideas overwhelmingly rejected, the GOP has nothing left to present as a policy debate. Instead, the Republicans repackage the same, stale, ideas into new Powerpoint presentations, while giving press conferences to present their same crap under a new coversheet. The Republican Party has traded policy issues for marketing spin, and is hoping that the American public will be ignorant enough not to see through their charade. The GOP has not changed.

They are still the Republican Party of No:

Here is a DailyKos video of Republican Minority Leader John Boehner at a press conference, presenting the Republican Road to Recovery to reporters:

Shantytowns making a comeback

Tents under an overpass in a Fresno rail yard. Homelessness in Fresno has long been fed by the ups and downs in seasonal and subsistence jobs in agriculture, but the recession has cast a wider net and drawn hundreds of newly homeless, from hitchhikers to truck drivers to electricians. Photo: Jim Wilson/The New York Times.

This is from The New York Times:

FRESNO, Calif. — As the operations manager of an outreach center for the homeless here, Paul Stack is used to seeing people down on their luck. What he had never seen before was people living in tents and lean-tos on the railroad lot across from the center.

“They just popped up about 18 months ago,” Mr. Stack said. “One day it was empty. The next day, there were people living there.”

Like a dozen or so other cities across the nation, Fresno is dealing with an unhappy déjà vu: the arrival of modern-day Hoovervilles, illegal encampments of homeless people that are reminiscent, on a far smaller scale, of Depression-era shantytowns. At his news conference on Tuesday night, President Obama was asked directly about the tent cities and responded by saying that it was “not acceptable for children and families to be without a roof over their heads in a country as wealthy as ours.”

While encampments and street living have always been a part of the landscape in big cities like Los Angeles and New York, these new tent cities have taken root — or grown from smaller enclaves of the homeless as more people lose jobs and housing — in such disparate places as Nashville, Olympia, Wash., and St. Petersburg, Fla.

In Seattle, homeless residents in the city’s 100-person encampment call it Nickelsville, an unflattering reference to the mayor, Greg Nickels. A tent city in Sacramento prompted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to announce a plan Wednesday to shift the entire 125-person encampment to a nearby fairground. That came after a recent visit by “The Oprah Winfrey Show” set off such a news media stampede that some fed-up homeless people complained of overexposure and said they just wanted to be left alone.

The problem in Fresno is different in that it is both chronic and largely outside the national limelight. Homelessness here has long been fed by the ups and downs in seasonal and subsistence jobs in agriculture, but now the recession has cast a wider net and drawn in hundreds of the newly homeless — from hitchhikers to truck drivers to electricians.

“These are able-bodied folks that did day labor, at minimum wage or better, who were previously able to house themselves based on their income,” said Michael Stoops, the executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, an advocacy group based in Washington.

The surging number of homeless people in Fresno, a city of 500,000 people, has been a surprise. City officials say they have three major encampments near downtown and smaller settlements along two highways. All told, as many 2,000 people are homeless here, according to Gregory Barfield, the city’s homeless prevention and policy manager, who said that drug use, prostitution and violence were all too common in the encampments.

“That’s all part of that underground economy,” Mr. Barfield said. “It’s what happens when a person is trying to survive.”

He said the city planned to begin “triage” on the encampments in the next several weeks, to determine how many people needed services and permanent housing. “We’re treating it like any other disaster area,” Mr. Barfield said.

Reading this story certainly reminds me of the Hoovervilles during the 1930s Depression-era, although Atrios calls them Bushvilles. I could probably speculate as to why these new shantytowns are popping up--increased unemployment, people losing homes, retirement funds being wiped out, loss of health care, and so on. In reality, Americans are living in a survival mode here. And the shantytowns are the lowest level of survival mode here, where Americans have lost everything and are now living as homeless in tents, or rickety shacks. These new "Bushvilles" are economic disaster areas.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

American households' net worth plummets

This is not surprising, considering how the housing and financial crisis has sent American households' 401K retirement and housing values down significantly. From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The net worth of American households fell by the largest amount in more than a half-century of record keeping during the fourth quarter of last year.

The Federal Reserve said Thursday that household net worth dropped by a record 9 percent from the level in the third quarter.

The decline was the sixth straight quarterly drop in net worth and underscored the battering that families are undergoing in the midst of a steep recession with unemployment surging and the value of their homes and investments plunging.

Net worth represents total assets such as homes and checking accounts minus liabilities like mortgages and credit card debt.

Family net worth had hit an all-time high of $64.36 trillion in the April-June quarter of 2007 but has fallen in every quarter since that time.

The record 9 percent drop in the fourth quarter pushed total net worth down to $51.48 trillion, a level that is 20 percent below the third quarter 2007 peak.

After five straight years of sharp increases in home prices, the housing bubble burst in 2007, sending shockwaves through the financial system as banks were hit with billions of dollars of losses on mortgages and mortgage-backed securities.

It is going to take a very long time for American households to rebuild from these losses--that is, if these households can rebuild.

Chuck Norris wants to become President...of Texas?

Chuck Norris would love to become the next president of Texas.

I found this CNN story via the Washington Monthly:

From CNN's Lauren Kornreich

(CNN) – Actor Chuck Norris has his eyes on the presidency, but not the White House. Norris wrote that he would be interested in becoming the president of Texas, if the state were ever to secede from the Union.

“I may run for president of Texas,” Norris wrote Monday in a column posted at WorldNetDaily. “That need may be a reality sooner than we think. If not me, someone someday may again be running for president of the Lone Star state, if the state of the union continues to turn into the enemy of the state.”

The actor claimed “thousands of cell groups will be united around the country in solidarity over the concerns for our nation” and said that if states decide to secede from the union, that Texas would lead the way.

“Anyone who has been around Texas for any length of time knows exactly what we'd do if the going got rough in America,” Norris wrote.

“Let there be no doubt about that.” Norris was a strong supporter of Mike Huckabee’s presidential bid, and he helped to draw attention to the former Arkansas governor’s campaign.

My only analytical comment to Chuck Norris becoming President of Texas is this:

This type of nonsense from Norris brings us back to the Republican Party. Are the Republicans this deranged in wanting Texas to secede from the Union, and make Invasion USA's Chuck Norris its next president? Talk about insanity here.

Then again, maybe that is not such a bad idea after all: