Saturday, February 21, 2009

Saturday Morning Cartoons--Yogi Bear's Big Break

I haven't done a Yogi Bear cartoon in a while, so here is the first Yogi Bear cartoon, Yogi Bear's Big Break. Yogi premiered on Hanna Barbera's The Huckleberry Hound Show, October 2, 1958. In Yogi Bear's Big Break, Yogi is tired of being patronized by the tourists who are constantly saying "Look at the bears! Look at the bears! Lookatthebears!" Yogi wants to escape Jellystone Park, which is under the watchful eyes of the park ranger. So Yogi devises a number of escape plans, explaining how his plans will work to his pal Boo Boo. Naturally, all of Yogi's escape plans fail. And naturally, the park ranger catches Yogi trying to escape, ordering him back into the park. It is rather ironic how Yogi started off as a supporting character under Hanna Barbera's first star Huckleberry Hound, but has quickly broken out to be the major star--no, the icon--for Hanna Barbera's impressive collection of film animation. So here is Yogi Bear in his Big Break. From YouTube:



Yogi doesn't start stealing pic-a-nic baskets until February 5, 1959 in Bear on a Picnic.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Congressional approval ratings jump from 19 percent to 31 percent

This is from Gallup.com:

PRINCETON, NJ -- Gallup's latest congressional job approval rating, from a Feb. 9-12 poll, shows a sharp 12 percentage-point increase from last month, rising from 19% to 31%. While still quite negative on an absolute basis, this is the best rating for Congress in nearly two years.

Congress' approval ratings have been below 30% pretty consistently since October 2005. There have been a few exceptions to this, with ratings as high as 37% in early 2007 after the Democrats took party control of Congress after their victories in the November 2006 midterm elections, but those quickly disappeared. More recently, approval ratings of Congress had been about 20% or lower, including an all-time low rating of 14% in July 2008.

Congressional job approval ratings from 2006 to 2009. From Gallup.

This month's sharp increase largely reflects a more positive Democratic review of Congress. Since the previous measure from early January, Barack Obama has been inaugurated as president, and now Democrats have party control of both the legislative and the executive branches of the federal government.

I'm thinking that Congress' abysmal poll ratings were due to the perception that they were a rubber-stamp for the Bush administration. Back in October, 2005, the Republicans held control of Congress and pretty much rammed down their own ideology, and conservative legislation, down the country's throat. Of course, in 2005, the scandals were coming out against the Bush administration on the intelligence failures on Iraq, Valerie Plame, domestic spying, and torture. The GOP leadership refused to allow any serious congressional investigations into the Bush administration's connection with these scandals. The 109th Congress, at that time, was considered the "Do-Nothing" Congress. Even when the Democrats took control of the 110th Congress, after the 2006 midterm elections, they could not pass much legislation with a closely divided Senate, and both a threatening GOP filibuster in the Senate and a President Bush veto. The 37 percent uptick in 2007 was a positive result due to the Democrats' retaking control of Congress. But the Democratic leadership still could not effectively legislate.

Flash forward to today. We've got a Democrat in the White House, under President Barack Obama, and the Democrats in charge of Congress. With the economic stimulus bill having passed in Congress, and President Obama signing the bill, it is not surprising that the congressional approval ratings have shot up by 12 points. And even though the poll was taken on February 9-12, the American people have been watching the political events taking place during this debate on the stimulus bill, and how the Obama administration has been moving this bill through Congress, attempting to provide bipartisanship with Republican congressmen. And so far, the American people have been approving of both President Obama, and Congress.

But congressional approval only goes so far. The big losers are, again, the Republicans:

Democrats' average approval ratings of Congress more than doubled from January (18%) to February (43%). Independents show a smaller increase, from 17% to 29%, while Republicans are now less likely to approve of Congress than they were in January.

Congressional approval ratings for January and February, 2009, by political party. From Gallup.

Job approval ratings for the Republican Party dropped 4 percentage points between January and February of this year, from 23 percent in January to 19 percent in February. Contrast that to the 25 point percentage increase by the Democrats, between January and February, of this year. You can blame this 4 percent drop in the Republican's job approval ratings due to the GOP's incessant opposition and obstruction against the economic stimulus bill. Even as President Obama attempted to reach out for bipartisanship on the stimulus bill, not a single Republican House member voted for the stimulus bill, and only three Republican senators voted for the bill. This stimulus bill comes at a time when the U.S. is struggling through a severe economic recession, with Americans worried about the employment picture, the financial crisis, the housing crisis, and the plummeting 401K retirement funds. And with the Republicans opposing the stimulus bill at a time when the U.S. is facing such severe economic problems, it is no wonder that the GOP's approval ratings are sinking. It is a high-risk strategy that the GOP is playing, hoping that the worsening economic conditions will turn the American public against the Democrats and President Obama, sending the Republicans back into power in the 2010 and 2012 elections--for both Congress and the White House.

Burris now acknowledges fundraising effort for Blagojevich

This Burris scandal just continues to grow. From the Chicago Sun-Times:

U.S. Sen. Roland Burris has acknowledged he sought to raise campaign funds for then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich at the request of the governor’s brother at the same time he was making a pitch to be appointed to the Senate seat previously held by President Barack Obama.

Burris' latest comments in Peoria Monday night were the first time he has publicly said he was actively trying to raise money for Blagojevich. Previously Burris has left the impression that he always balked at the issue of raising money for the governor because of his interest in the Senate appointment.

In comments to reporters after appearing at a Democratic dinner, the senator several times contradicted his latest under-oath affidavit that he quietly filed with the Illinois House impeachment panel earlier this month. That affidavit was itself an attempt to clean up his live, sworn testimony to the panel Jan. 8, when he omitted his contacts with several Blagojevich insiders.

You can read Burris' give-and-take with reporters here.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Monday night joined a growing chorus of Democratic officials who want a deeper investigation of Burris' comments. But she did not go as far as some, including Republicans, who have said specifically they want Burris investigated for possible perjury.

"This is a particularly frustrating revelation," Madigan said of Burris' recent disclosure that he had contact with five Blagojevich insiders. "I encourage the Sangamon County state's attorney to take a closer look at this in the interest of truth, integrity and transparency."

Sangamon County State's Attorney John Schmidt did not immediately return a telephone call for comment today.

It seems like the more Burris opens his mouth, the more he contradicts himself regarding the conversations he had with the Blagojevich campaign, resulting in the deeper hole that Burris digs himself in. The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen recommends that "Perhaps now would be a good time for Burris to think about spending more time with his family."

Perhaps Roland Burris should really consider some more family time. Because this mess is just going to get even worst.

Sun-Times reports Blagojevich hit up Burris for cash

The ongoing saga of Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich continues on. This is from Saturday's Chicago Sun-Times:

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s brother solicited U.S. Sen. Roland Burris for up to $10,000 in campaign cash before Blagojevich named Burris to the coveted post — something Burris initially failed to disclose under oath before an Illinois House impeachment panel, records and interviews show.

Burris acknowledges being hit up for the money in a new affidavit he has sent to the head of the House committee that recommended Blagojevich be removed from office.

The affidavit is dated Feb. 5 — three weeks after Burris was sworn in to replace President Obama in the Senate.

Burris — who did not give money to the Blagojevich campaign fund in response to the previously undisclosed solicitation — provided a copy of the sworn statement to the Chicago Sun-Times Friday in response to questions about his contacts with the Blagojevich camp about fund-raising.

Burris acknowledged having three conversations with Robert Blagojevich, who headed the Friends of Blagojevich campaign fund — and one of those was likely recorded by the FBI.

Burris’ statement offers the third version of events he has given about his discussions concerning the Senate seat, to which Blagojevich appointed him in late December, after Blagojevich was hit with federal corruption charges that included an allegation he tried to sell the Senate appointment.

[....]

In October and again in November, Burris spoke with Robert Blagojevich, who initially asked him to host a fund-raiser. Burris said he’d get back to him after the election, sources with knowledge of the conversations said. The two later talked again, and Burris again was asked for campaign cash.

I've often talked about Republican stupidity in Washington, but apparently there are enough stupid Democrats in Chicago. Burris gets a call from Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brother, asking for $10,000 cash to Blagojevich's campaign fund. This took place before Blagojevich named Burris to the U.S. Senate seat. Smells like Blago was, again, trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat to Roland Burris. And Burris was interested in the job:

In all, Burris expressed interest in the Senate seat to five people in Blagojevich’s camp, documents obtained by the Sun-Times show. He disclosed just one of those contacts when asked Jan. 8 by state Rep. James Durkin (R-Western Springs) during the impeachment hearings to name any contact he had with Blagojevich’s people about the seat.

“I’m very surprised he didn’t make these disclosures,” Durkin said. “I don’t know if Mr. Burris was purposely being evasive during the committee or had selected memory issues.”

In a sworn statement filed with the House panel Jan. 5, before he testified, Burris said he had no contact with Blagojevich’s camp about the Senate seat aside from his appointment in late December. In testimony before the committee, he added that he spoke with Lon Monk, Blagojevich’s former chief of staff. In his new affidavit, Burris confirms he also spoke of his interest in the Senate appointment with Blagojevich insiders John Harris, Doug Scofield and John Wyma.

The discussions with Robert Blagojevich about money came after Burris spoke with those people. Burris had told the House committee he was unaware of any quid pro quo dangled by Blagojevich’s camp.

Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) said Burris’ new statement regarding his contact with Blagojevich’s emissaries represents a “fatal wound” to a potential 2010 Burris re-election bid. His new account contains “extraordinary detail” Burris should have disclosed to the impeachment panel when he testified and to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) before being seated, Radogno said.

“If it turns out this was some sort of attempt to avoid this coming out as part of the appointment process, then he doesn’t deserve to be senator,” Radogno said. “I think the whole thing stinks to high heaven.”

Burris has stated that he never contributed any money to Blagojevich's campaign, saying that "It would be inappropriate and pose a major conflict because I was interested in the Senate vacancy." The problem here isn't whether Burris gave money to Blagojevich in exchange for the U.S. Senate seat. The problem here is that Burris contradicted himself three times regarding conversations he had with former governor Blagojevich. Burris has even lied under oath before the House panel on January 5th on contacts he had with Blago's camp on the Senate seat. It is like Burris wanted so badly to stay away from the stink of Blago's corruption, that he was so willing to lie about the conversations he had with Blagojevich on the Senate seat, even though he never gave any money to Blago for the seat. Had Burris simply come clean with these conversations in the first place, rather than trying to hide them, the scandal would have quickly blown over. But with contradiction after contradiction after contradiction, Roland Burris has also acquired a rather fishy stink about him.

And this has resulted in state lawmakers calling for a perjury investigation against Roland Burris:

State lawmakers are calling for a criminal investigation into whether U.S. Sen. Roland Burris committed perjury before a state impeachment panel, in the wake of a Sun-Times exclusive story published online Saturday.

The development comes after the Chicago Democrat failed to initially disclose under oath to a House panel that he was hit up for campaign cash by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brother.

State Rep. James Durkin (R-Western Springs) said Saturday that the Sangamon County state prosecutor's office will be asked to review Burris' Jan. 8 sworn testimony before the House panel to determine whether Burris (D-Chicago) perjured himself.

"I don't trust anything that comes out of Roland Burris' mouth or from his pen," Durkin said.

[....]

Word that Burris' account of his appointment has changed yet again came as a surprise to some of his colleagues in the Senate, who were not aware of the affidavit's filing until learning of it from press accounts. It was unclear what response might be triggered by Burris' revisions.

An aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who initially sought to block Burris from being seated, said the Senate leader intended to take a closer look at Burris' new affidavit. But Reid's office declined to say whether the new revelations would reopen the question of whether Burris should be Illinois' junior senator.

"Senator Reid is reviewing the affidavit," Reid spokesman Jim Manley told the Sun-Times Saturday.

I should talk about the fallout here on Burris' latest contradiction. First, Illinois state Republican leaders are calling for Burris' resignation here. In this MSNBC story, Rep. Jim Durkin states "I think it would be in the best interest of the state if he [Burris] resigned because I don't think the state can stand this anymore." The Republicans would love to see Burris resign, after which they would then call for a special election on the vacant Illinois U.S. senate seat, and hopefully snatch the seat from the Democrats. Democratic leaders are demanding that Burris "come clean" on his contradictions and lies:

SPRINGFIELD -- A key Democrat on the House panel that moved to impeach Gov. Blagojevich believes that Democratic U.S. Sen. Roland Burris should be called back before the committee to explain his “absolutely misleading” testimony about his appointment.

Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock), the first Democrat to call for Burris to be hauled back before the House Special Investigative Committee, also said Monday that the Sangamon County state’s attorney should open a perjury probe if Burris refuses to show up. Republicans called for a similar perjury probe over the weekend.

Burris “has an obligation to come clean,” Franks said.

Burris’ latest version of events leading to his appointment -- outlined in a Feb. 5 affidavit that committee members were not informed of until the Chicago Sun-Times broke the story Saturday -- is not sufficient, Franks said: “You can’t cross-examine an affidavit.”

Franks said he felt “betrayed” when he learned Burris had dramatically altered his Jan. 8 testimony before the committee.

Other Democrats called Monday for more information from Burris. “We can’t have the people of Illinois thinking their new U.S. senator lied under oath,” said State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie).

Burris should “make himself available to answer any and all questions,” said State Rep. John A. Fritchey (D-Chicago).

It appears that Roland Burris is starting to find himself alone, and friendless. He completely screwed up. And now with calls for a potential perjury investigation against Burris, nobody wants to touch Burris with a hundred-foot pole. Burris is toast. The Republicans want Burris to resign, and have a special election to snatch the U.S. Senate seat for themselves. The Democrats just do not want to have anything to do with him--Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office is stalling for time by reviewing the latest Burris affidavit. They are waiting to see if the Illinois state legislature will open perjury investigations against Burris, and what will result in the investigations against Burris. The best thing for the state of Illinois would be for Roland Burris to resign from his U.S. Senate seat, and have the new governor Pat Quinn select a new replacement senator. However, Burris denies any wrongdoing, saying it was the media's fault for misconstruing the facts:

U.S. Sen. Roland Burris defiantly defended himself Sunday against allegations he misled a state impeachment panel while under oath by not disclosing multiple contacts with former Gov. Blagojevich’s inner circle or being approached by the ex-governor’s brother for campaign cash before the appointment.

“Throughout my career, I’ve always conducted myself with honesty and integrity,” Burris said during an emotional press conference about why he quietly filed paperwork to revise his testimony, which the Chicago Sun-Times was the first to report Saturday.

“I responded to all questions that were asked of me by the impeachment committee in the time allotted. At no time did I ever make any inconsistent statements,” Burris said, blaming the impeachment panel for not asking him the right questions and the media for misconstruing the facts.

Is it time to pass the popcorn?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Fender-bender in the Atlantic

I wonder if they both had insurance? From CNN.com:

LONDON, England (CNN) -- A British Royal Navy nuclear submarine and its French equivalent collided while on operations in the Atlantic Ocean earlier this month, defense ministries in Paris and London confirmed Monday.

Both vessels, HMS Vanguard and Le Triomphant, were armed with nuclear warheads and suffered damage but were able to return to port under their own power following the collision.

"Two "SNLE" (nuclear submarines), one French and the other British, were, a few days ago, on standard patrols in the Atlantic. They briefly came in contact in a very slow speed while they were immersed," the French Ministry of Defense said in a statement.

"There is no casualty or injury among the crew. Neither the nuclear deterrent mission nor the nuclear security have been compromised."

In an earlier press release issued on February 6, the Ministry of Defense said the vessel's sonar dome had been damaged in a collision. The vessel was able to return to its base at Ile Longue in Brittany, northwest France, accompanied by a frigate.

The UK's Ministry of Defence also confirmed the incident. In a statement, the First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Jonathan Band said the collision occurred during "routine national patrols."

"Both submarines remained safe and no injuries occurred. We can confirm that the capability remained unaffected and there has been no compromise to nuclear safety," Band said.

HMS Vanguard returned to its home base at Faslane in Scotland on February 14. The UK's Sun newspaper reported that dents and scrapes were visible on the vessel's hull as it was towed into dock by a tugboat.

Both the UK and French nuclear deterrent operations depend on complete secrecy, despite both countries' membership of NATO. But naval analyst Richard Cobbold told CNN that procedures would be in place to ensure that French and British submarines were routinely kept apart.

"Either one of these submarines was doing something different or somebody made a mistake -- but we don't know that," Cobbold said.

You would think that, in an ocean as big as the Atlantic, both subs would not collide with each other under the sea. But they did. You would also think that both the British and French military commands would coordinate their plans to keep their nuclear submarines apart from each other. In this case, they didn't. Or some big SNAFU took place that both countries never expected. My guess is one sub was driving on the left, while the other sub was driving on the right, and they both collided into each other.

Or perhaps both of the subs collided with each other in this fashion:

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Saturday Morning Cartoons--For Scent-imental Reasons

It is a Valentines Day weekend. And to celebrate Valentines Day, there is only one cartoon character who shows us the true nature of being in love--yes, we're talking about Pepe Le Pew! Here is Pepe in his 1949, Academy Award winning cartoon For Scent-imental Reasons. Directed by the great Chuck Jones, this short film is unique in that ABC had cut out two suicide sequences for television viewing. The first was where the female cat, later named Penelope Pussycat, had locked herself in a glass case, with Pepe arguing for her to come out. Penelope refuses, pantomiming that Pepe stinks. Pepe pulls out a gun, points it to his head, and then walks out of sight. Moments later, the gun is fired. A horrified Penelope rushes out of the case, and into the arms of Pepe, who tells her, "I missed, fortunately for you," continuing his lavish kisses on Penelope. A second suicide sequence was also cut out, where Penelope stands on a window sill, threatening to jump. Pepe believes that Penelope is trying to prove her love to him by committing suicide, and that he will save her. Pepe grabs Penelope, but then drops her. Pepe declares his own love for Penelope, saying "Vive l'amour! We die together." Pepe falls into a paint can, while Penelope falls into a barrel of water. ABC cut the scene of Pepe trying to save Penelope from jumping, and the line "We die together." This is the uncut version, showing both suicide scenes. From YouTube:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Poll shows American support for investigations into Bush administration wrongdoings

This is a rather interesting Gallup poll to consider:

PRINCETON, NJ -- Earlier this week, Sen. Patrick Leahy called for a special commission to investigate possible government wrongdoing by the Bush administration in its anti-terror policies, as well as possible attempts to politicize the Justice Department through the firing of U.S. attorneys who were viewed as potentially disloyal to the administration. While Americans appear to support some kind of investigation into these matters, no more than 41% favor criminal probes.

These results are based on a Jan. 30-Feb. 1 USA Today/Gallup poll. In addition to Leahy's recent call for a "truth commission" that would investigate but not prosecute Bush administration officials, a House committee led by Rep. John Conyers is awaiting responses to subpoenas of former Bush administration officials regarding Bush-era policies and actions.

For each of three controversial actions or policies of the Bush administration, survey respondents were asked whether there should be a criminal investigation by the Justice Department or an investigation by an independent panel that would issue a report of findings but not seek any criminal charges, or whether neither should be done.



While no more than 41% of Americans favor a criminal investigation into any of the matters, at least 6 in 10 say there should be either a criminal investigation or an independent probe into all three. This includes 62% who favor some type of investigation into the possible use of torture when interrogating terrorism suspects, 63% who do so with respect to the possible use of telephone wiretaps without obtaining a warrant, and 71% who support investigating possible attempts to use the Justice Department for political purposes.

So far, President Obama has been reluctant to pursue such investigations, but Leahy and Conyers in particular are calling for an accounting of what happened on Bush's watch.

A couple of points here. It is obvious that the Obama administration doesn't want a congressional investigation into the Bush administration wrongdoings--George W. Bush is out of the White House, and President Obama wants Congress to concentrate on cleaning up the Bush administration messes with the reforms in the financial industry, housing, the economy, the frozen credit market, and such. There may also be a fear that, if the Obama administration concentrates heavily into investigations of the previous Bush administration, then President Obama may be on the receiving end of investigations by a successive Republican White House, or Congress, intent on exacting revenge against the Obama administration. Instead of political brinkmanship here, you could call this political fearmanship.

Unfortunately, President Obama is completely wrong here. Too many wrongdoings and criminality by the Bush administration have been exposed during the past eight years. We all know what those wrongdoings were--the Bush domestic spying program, the use of torture, the Valerie Plame outing, the politicization of the Justice Department, and the firing of the U.S. attorneys. As much as I would like to see criminal investigations into some of the top Bush administration officials--particularly Dick Cheney and Karl Rove--I seriously doubt that any criminal investigations, or indictments, will be handed down against these officials. Instead, I'll accept the independent, or congressional, investigations into the causes for these Bush wrongdoings, and what steps could be taken to stop a future administration from engaging in these same criminal acts. However, the American people are demanding these investigations, as per the Gallup poll.

One interesting detail here is, again, the partisanship that divides American opinions regarding the investigations into the Bush administration:

Perhaps not unexpectedly, a majority of Democratic identifiers favor a criminal probe into all three matters -- including 54% who do so with respect to warrantless wiretaps, 51% for the possible use of torture, and 52% for the firing of U.S. attorneys.



In contrast, Republicans are most likely to oppose any type of investigation, including a majority who say so in regard to the possible use of torture (54%) and warrantless wiretaps (56%). Republicans are more receptive to an investigation into possible efforts to politicize the Justice Department, with 24% favoring a criminal probe and 28% in favor of an independent panel report. Still, the greatest number (43%) of Republicans think there should be no investigation into the Justice Department matter.

Independents' views on all three matters fall in between those of Republicans and Democrats, with a majority favoring some type of investigation but (unlike Democrats) not a criminal probe.

There is not much to say here. Democrats are angry at the past eight years of Bush wrongdoing, and they want punishment enacted against the top Bush officials. Of course, the top three Bush wrongdoings are the domestic spying, torture, and U.S. attorney firings--all three have been written in the news media, and on liberal blogs. So it is now wonder that Democrats want criminal investigations enacted against the Bush administration officials. In contrast, the Republicans want these investigations to end. President Bush is out of the White House, so let's end the investigations. It is ironic that a majority of Republicans are against investigations into torture and domestic spying. I'm guessing that the Republicans want to cover up these potential Bush administration abuses, fearing a combination of criminal charges handed down against former Bush officials, and a further tarnishing of a failed Bush legacy. So the political partisanship continues on.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Republican stupidity continues....

I found this Matt Yglesias posting on how U.S. Rep. Steve Austria blames Franklin Delano Roosevelt for causing the Great Depression by....wait for it....an economic stimulus package:


U.S. Rep. Steve Austria said he supports a scaled-down federal economic-stimulus proposal, but the Beavercreek Republican told The Dispatch editorial board that the huge influx of money into the economy could have a negative effect.

"When (President Franklin) Roosevelt did this, he put our country into a Great Depression," Austria said. "He tried to borrow and spend, he tried to use the Keynesian approach, and our country ended up in a Great Depression. That's just history."

Most historians date the beginning of the Great Depression at or shortly after the stock-market crash of 1929; Roosevelt took office in 1933.

Rep. Austria then backtracked on his claim that Roosevelt started the Great Depression. In an email today, Austria wrote, ""I did not mean to imply in any way that President Roosevelt was responsible for putting us into the Depression, but rather was trying to make the point that Roosevelt's attempt to use significant spending to get us out of the Depression did not have the desired effect. Roosevelt did not put us into the Depression, but rather his policies could not pull the nation out of the recession."

In one sense, Austria is right. It was not FDR's New Deal policies that ended the Great Depression. It was the U.S. entry into the Second World War that ended the Great Depression, bringing the U.S. economy back into full production. And what did the Roosevelt administration do to bring the U.S. economy back into production after the U.S. entered the war? The Roosevelt administration spent billions of dollars building tanks, bombs, aircraft, warships, guns, bullets, while drafting millions of American men into the military. The U.S. government borrowed the money--by selling war bonds--to spend on all the war equipment, and the labor costs in paying for the U.S. soldiers and sailors. It was one, huge, economic stimulus package that brought the U.S. out of the Great Depression! That is some significant spending here! And FDR presided over that economic stimulus package. Then again, maybe Rep. Steve Austria doesn't realize how much of a fool he is.

Stupid is as stupid does.

Huckabee calls economic stimulus bill, "anti-religious"

I saw this story yesterday in the Washington Monthly, and I've been meaning to comment on it. Apparently, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee believes that the economics stimulus package is "anti-religious." What the frack? From the Politico.com:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee warned supporters Tuesday that the $828 billion stimulus package is “anti-religious.”

In an e-mail that was also posted on his blog ahead of the Senate’s passage, Huckabee wrote: “The dust is settling on the ‘bipartisan’ stimulus bill and one thing is clear: It is anti-religious.”

The former Republican presidential candidate pointed to a provision in both the House and Senate versions banning higher education funds in the bill from being used on a “school or department of divinity.”

“You would think the ACLU drafted this bill,” Huckabee said. “For all of the talk about bipartisanship, this Congress is blatantly liberal.”

“Emily’s List, radical environmental groups, etc. all have a seat at the decision making table in Washington these days,” he continued. “Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are in charge and they are working with an equally ‘progressive’ President Obama (remember his voting record is more liberal than Ted Kennedy!).”

In the e-mail, Huckabee concedes that there is little that conservatives can do in the near term, but advocated mobilization to defeat those “masquerading as ‘conservative Democrats.’”

Steve Benen, at the Washington Monthly, sets the record straight:

Regular readers know the story by now, but if you're just joining us, this myth has been making the rounds in right-wing circles for about a week. Originally, the American Center for Law and Justice, a right-wing legal group formed by TV preacher Pat Robertson, said the stimulus bill includes a provision that would prohibit "religious groups and organizations from using" buildings on college campuses. Soon after, religious right groups and right-wing blogs were up in arms, demanding that lawmakers fix the "anti-Christian" language of the bill. Fox News and the Christian Broadcasting Network helped get the word out to the far-right base about the nefarious measure. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) actually tried to have the provision removed from the bill.

There was, however, one small problem: there was no such measure. The ACLJ doesn't know how to read legislation, and didn't realize that the standard language in the bill simply blocks spending for on-campus buildings that are used primarily for religion (like a chapel, for example). This same language has been part of education spending bills for 46 years. It's just the law, and it's never been controversial.

Huckabee is either deliberately deceiving people, or he's making reckless accusations without knowing the facts. Either way, this is ridiculous.

First, I have to wonder if Mike Huckabee has been eating too many of his popcorn-popper-fried squirrels. The second thing I have to wonder is have the Republicans descended into some form of delusional insanity with these incoherent rantings? Because that is what I'm hearing over the past couple of weeks. We've got House Minority Leader Eric Cantor sending a pro-union spoof of a commercial as a response to a union attack ad against Cantor for his opposition to the economic stimulus bill. Top GOP strategist Alex Castellanos called Republican senators, who were considering supporting the economic stimulus package, wussy Republicans. And then there is the story of the GOP congressmen congratulating themselves in their delusional "victory" in obstructing the Obama administration's economic stimulus plan. Republican Rep. Pete Sessions called for the GOP to engage in a Taliban-like insurgency against President Obama and the congressional Democratic leadership. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wanted to kill the economic stimulus bill because it contained a disaster insurance program for livestock owners that could include "honeybee insurance." And finally, Mike Huckabee isn't alone in his ranting over the stimulus package being anti-religious. Republican South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint brought this same controversy up about a week ago:

Check out this video of Sen. Jim DeMint flat-out lying on the Senate floor as he discusses the need to pass his amendment to strip this provision from the legislation, as he proclaims that Christians would be locked out of opportunities for higher education and proclaims that it was inserted into the bill by some nefarious cabal of people who are intent on silencing "traditional, freedom-loving Americans" and who are "so hostile to religion that they are willing to stand in the schoolhouse door, like the infamous George Wallace":


It is like the Republican Party is self-destructing into bratty, insolent, little children, who will whine and complain about and how they are not taken seriously in the political process by the mean Democratic congressional leadership--not President Obama, who wants to extend bipartisanship to the Republicans. Never mind the previous eight years the GOP had control of the White House, or the six years they controlled Congress during the Bush administration's term. Never mind the hard-lined conservative agenda of tax cuts to the rich, domestic spying, fear-mongering, torture, crass cronyism, and endless war that the Bush administration, and the GOP, shoved down the American peoples' throats. The Republicans are trying to blame their previous eight years of their own failed leadership on the Democrats, and the Obama administration. So right after President Obama took the oath of office, the Republican obstructionism began in the hope that Obama would fail, and that such a failure could bring the control of Congress back to the Republicans in the next election. But a funny thing happened--President Obama got his economic stimulus package through Congress, and past the Republican obstructionism. President Obama's poll numbers are especially high, while a majority of Americans have disapproved of the congressional Republicans' obstructionism. This is obviously driving the Republicans batshit crazy here. And they are responding in such a crazed, lunatic manner.

House-Senate negotiations reach deal on economic stimulus plan

Good Lord--that was fast! From the Washington Post:

House and Senate negotiators reached agreement today on a stimulus plan with a cost of about $789 billion after scaling down the versions passed by both houses, congressional leaders announced.

"The differences between the Senate and House versions were resolved," Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters this afternoon.

He said the final version "creates more jobs than the original Senate bill and spends less than the original House bill." The bill passed by the Senate yesterday totaled $838 billion. The House version approved last week had a price tag of $819 billion.

House and Senate negotiators, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Reid, huddled this morning to try to iron out the final details on the massive package in advance of a formal House-Senate conference this afternoon in the Lyndon Baines Johnson Room off the Senate floor. Democrats hoped the conference would produce quick agreement and set the legislation on a glide path to passage in the House tomorrow and the Senate over the weekend.

The agreement on a trimmed stimulus package came as Obama continued his public exhortations to lawmakers to send him legislation he can sign into law.

"Enacting this plan is both urgent and essential to our recovery," he said at a construction site in Fairfax County. "The time for talk is past."

I guess President Obama will get to sign his economic stimulus bill by the end of the week.

More banks declaring big losses, while Congress blasts Wall Street CEOs

I found a couple of stories showing more banks declaring big losses. First, let us take a look at Credit Suisse:

Credit Suisse posted a worse-than-expected fourth-quarter net loss of 6 billion Swiss francs ($5.2 billion), taking it to its biggest-ever annual loss, due to poor trading and restructuring charges.

But the Swiss bank said 2009 started strongly and all its divisions were showing a profit in the year to date, echoing upbeat comments from rival UBS on Tuesday when it reported the biggest annual net loss in Swiss history.

Switzerland's second-largest bank said on Wednesday that its net loss for the full year was 8.2 billion francs, in line with what some Swiss newspapers had predicted but worse than the average analyst forecast of 6.3 billion.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected the bank to turn in a 4 billion franc net loss for the quarter.

[....]

"While our full-year results are clearly disappointing, we entered 2009 with a very strong capital position, a robust business model, a clear strategy and well-positioned businesses," Chief Executive Brady Dougan said in a statement.

So while Credit Suisse has posted one of its biggest annual losses, the chairman thinks that they "entered 2009 with a very strong capital position." In other words, we will return to profitability....Soon. Credit Suisse reported that their investment bank made "significant losses in December due to the standard hedges becoming ineffective due to market turmoil and as credit spreads widened." They gambled in the credit and derivatives markets based on over-valued subprime mortgage investments. And now they are feeling the losses on their books based on the collapsing values of these subprime mortgage investments.

Of course, the losses don't stop at Credit Suisse. How about UBS Bank:

ZURICH - Swiss bank UBS AG said Tuesday it lost 8.1 billion Swiss francs ($7.57 billion) in the fourth quarter and announced it would cut a further 2,000 jobs as it refocuses on its home market after a troubled year abroad.

The results exceeded the fears of analysts, who on average had predicted net losses of 6.2 billion francs ($5.79 billion).

A year earlier Switzerland's biggest bank had reported a net profit of 1.33 billion francs. The latest results bring its full-year loss to 19.7 billion francs for 2008.

UBS said it plans to refocus on its core activity in Switzerland, its international wealth management franchise, and its global onshore business. To this end it will create two new business units. Wealth management and Swiss bank will be led by Franco Morra and Juerg Zeltner, while wealth management Americas will be led by Marten Hoekstra.

UBS is also shedding 2,000 jobs at its loss-making investment banking unit, which has been blamed for many of the bad investment choices that have seen the bank write down tens of billions of francs (dollars) since mid-2007.

Interesting that UBS is cutting 2,000 jobs from its investment banking unit, which probably also gambled in the derivatives strategies based on the subprime mortgage investments. Of course, UBS is creating new "wealth management" business units, hopefully to entice the ubber-rich people to invest in UBS banking, rather than socking their money in zero-interest Treasury bonds as a safe means to park their money in this market turmoil.

Finally, we've got Congress blasting Wall Street CEOs during a hearing today. From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — Eight of the nation’s top bankers faced off against critical lawmakers in Congress on Wednesday, who questioned their use of tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer money and pointed out the growing public anger at the banks in the bailout.

“When you took taxpayer money, you moved into a fishbowl,” said Representative Paul E. Kanjorski, Democrat of Pennsylvania. “Now, everyone is rightly watching your every move from every side.”

The eight banks collectively received $125 billion in bailout money in exchange for shares in their companies, and two of them — Citigroup and Bank of America — were given tens of billions of dollars more because of their financial problems.

The banks’ chief executives, who testified before the House Financial Services Committee, find themselves in different positions financially, but they all face extreme scrutiny over the money they were given. Their banks provide essential credit throughout the economy, but some analysts have suggested recently that they have not used the government money to increase lending.

Lawmakers are also concerned about bonuses the banks paid out to their employees and whether the banks are able to pay the bonuses primarily because of the government money.

Representative Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the committee, said the problem for lawmakers was that the government needed to help the banks in order to help the economy, but that many taxpayers did not want to see the banks helped.

“Here’s the dilemma: there is in the country a great deal of anger about the financial institutions, including those represented here,” Mr. Frank said.

Mr. Frank said the banks would receive “collateral benefit” because they would be helped by the government’s broader efforts to heal the economy.

The banking executives said they were aware of the ill will that surrounds them.

“It is abundantly clear that we are here amidst broad public anger at our industry,” said Lloyd C. Blankfein, the chief of Goldman Sachs. “Many people believe — and, in many cases, justifiably so — that Wall Street lost sight of its larger public obligations.”

Lawmakers brought up the overarching question of the day. “What did you do with the new money,” asked Gary L. Ackerman, Democrat of New York, who said it seemed to him that the banks were not loaning out the funds they received from government.

Each of the bankers outlined the ways in which they had used the government capital. Goldman, for instance, increased its financing to lend to clients like Sallie Mae and Verizon Wireless. Morgan Stanley said it had made $10.6 billion in new commercial loans and $650 million in loan commitments to consumers.

As much as I would like to see Wall Street bankers deserve their own punishment for their excessive greed, this hearing is nothing more than political posturing on both sides. The congressmen are showing the American voters how they are "acting tough" against greedy Wall Street bankers, who are squandering away the taxpayer's bailout money on everything but providing loans in the credit markets (Of which they probably are doing). The Wall Street bankers have come to Capitol Hill to defend themselves against "Wall Street greed," saying that while their banks are willing to lend out the bailout money, the credit pullback "comes from a retreat of lenders like money market funds and hedge funds — not a retreat of the banks." So the banks may be willing to put up the money, but the lenders are not willing to lend in this frozen credit market. That may also be partially true. Either way, there is a lot of hot-air talk coming from this hearing, but nothing will ever be done about it.

Republican discourse on unions--We don't take sh*t from nobody. You got that, a**hole?

I found this Washington Monthly post, and I'm just amazed at the classlessness of the Republican discourse on unions. But first, some background. Yesterday, the pro-labor groups Americans United for Change and the public workers union AFSCME unveiled a national commercial attacking Republican leaders, in both the House and the Senate, for their opposition to the Obama administration's economic stimulus plan. You can see the commercial here via YouTube:



Now whether you agree with these two groups or not, the commercial is pretty standard in attempting to increase voter awareness, and anger, of the Republican opposition to the stimulus plan, and hopefully direct that anger against the Republican leadership by flooding the phone banks. The groups also planned to air radio commercials targeting 18 House members, from both parties, and three Republican Senators while offering them a "second chance" to vote for the stimulus plan. These targets included House Minority Whip Eric Cantor. You could also see in the TV commercial, a photo of Rep. Cantor with the quote, "Just saying no."

So these two unions have aired a commercial attacking the Republican Party over the stimulus plan. How has the GOP responded to this attack? Very badly. House Minority Leader Eric Cantor sent journalists Greg Sargent and Glenn Thrush a profanity-laced, video response. From YouTube:



What is even more amazing is that Cantor press secretary Brad Dayspring told Thrush that "You could post this [video] as my response."

This prompted Washington Monthly's Steve Benen to ask, "I can't help but be curious what the response would be if a member of the Democratic congressional leadership promoted a video attacking, say, Focus on the Family or the National Rifle Association with a profanity-laced video. I assume it would be a fairly big deal." I'll have to agree with Benen on this. If a Democratic congressmen had attacked the NRA, or Focus on the Family, with this type of profanity-laced video as their office response, not only would the conservative groups be outraged, but also conservative congressmen, conservative bloggers, and Faux News would be endlessly showing the commercial until the next election. And yet Cantor thinks that this is a perfectly acceptable response.

Of course, there is even more to this story. In the comments section of the Washington Monthly post, commenter Sean claims that this was a pro-union parody of the AFSCME union:

It's an old pro-union clip, and the voice is the original voiceover guy for the official version, not a new voiceover. The original voiceover guy wrote an alternate script for the original AFSCME ad and recorded it. Apparently, it was an underground union hit for decades before someone uploaded it to youtube.>>

That's exactly right. My uncle worked for AFSCME and used to pull out a VHS tape w/ both versions, clean and parody, and play them in that order. I hadn't seen the "tha $*&)#!(@! yoon-yun" version in more than 20 years until I saw it online a few weeks ago. And yes, it's still awesome.

Maybe Cantor thought he was doing ju-jitsu - useing a clip in which a union spoofs itself to discredit the pro-stimulus union ads? That approach seems not to have worked for him.

So this video has been out for years. It was created by pro-union workers to spoof the AFSCME as we're the workers that do all the "sh*t work you take for granted." Cantor doesn't even realize that this commercial is a spoof. Is Cantor that much of a clueless moron, or is it that Canto cannot respond to the union attacks against him for opposing the economic stimulus package when this country in a deep recession with over 3.6 million American jobs lost?

If Cantor's clueless response is just one example of how low the GOP has gone in descending to this level of insulting discourse and completely opposing everything the Obama administration and the congressional Democrats will propose on legislation, then how will President Obama expect to get any sort of bipartisan leadership for his agenda if the Republicans are acting like bratty little children?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dow drops 382 points

I guess Wall Street didn't like the bailout plan. From MSNBC News:

NEW YORK - Investors are frustrated with the government’s latest bank bailout plan — and showing it by unloading stocks.

The major stock indexes fell more than 4 percent Tuesday, including the Dow Jones industrial average, which tumbled 382 points. Financial stocks led the market lower, a sign of how concerned Wall Street is about the government’s ability to restore the health of the banking industry.

Traders and investors said the lack of specifics from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on how the government will direct more than $1 trillion in public and private support was troubling.

The plan is aimed at restoring proper functioning to credit markets, which seized up over worries about bad debt after the September bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. The latest plan calls for a government-private sector partnership to help remove banks’ soured assets from their books. It would also boost an effort to unclog the credit markets that govern loans to consumers and businesses.

“The good news is they are going to spend a trillion dollars, the bad news is they don’t know how,” said James Cox, managing partner at Harris Financial Group.

“They built this up as being a panacea,” he said. “There was so much hope pinned on them to do a good job. The expectations have been so high. It’s hard to live up to.”

Investors also questioned whether this plan, which followed previous efforts in the final months of 2008, would work. Some selling was to be expected, however, as stocks rose sharply last week ahead of the announcement.

Geithner’s speech “basically puts a spotlight on the fact that the government has no idea how to fix the problem,” said Jeff Buetow, senior portfolio manager at Portfolio Management Consultants. “People bought on rumor and hope, and now they’re selling on reality.”

Wall Street was probably expecting a blank check on this latest bailout plan, where the government would give them taxpayer money to do whatever they pleased. Any plan, forcing Wall Street to accept strings attached to the bailout money, would have sent the market downwards. I'll admit that the Obama administration's bank bailout plan is a little short on details, but the administration has only been in office for two weeks. We will probably see more details come out in the next couple of months. Of course, we also have the Senate passing the economic stimulus plan today, however the MSNBC story claims that traders showed no interest in the passing of the bill--they may have been expecting the bill to pass since the deal was made on the stimulus bill, Saturday.

U.S. within three hours of an economic collapse

I found this YouTube video on both Daily Kos, and Bonddad, and even I'm surprised this country was to an economic, and financial, collapse. This is a C-Span video, where Rep. Paul Kanjorski, Dem. PA-11, explains that, during the financial crisis of mid-September, 2008, investors pulled out $550 billion from U.S. money market accounts in the U.S., forcing a near run on the U.S. banking industry. Here is what Kanjorski said, at around the 2 minute mark, in this January, 2008 YouTube video:



And here is the transcript of the exchange:

I was there when the secretary and the chairman of the Federal Reserve came those days and talked to members of Congress about what was going on... Here's the facts. We don't even talk about these things.

On Thursday [September 15, 2008], at about 11 o'clock in the morning, the Federal Reserve noticed a tremendous drawdown of money market accounts in the United States to a tune of $550 billion being drawn out in a matter of an hour or two.

The Treasury opened up its window to help. They pumped $105 billion into the system and quickly realized that they could not stem the tide. We were having an electronic run on the banks.

They decided to close the operation, close down the money accounts, and announce a guarantee of $250,000 per account so there wouldn't be further panic and there. And that's what actually happened.

If they had not done that their estimation was that by two o'clock that afternoon, $5.5 trillion would have been drawn out of the money market system of the United States, would have collapsed the entire economy of the United States, and within 24 hours the world economy would have collapsed.

Now we talked at that time about what would have happened if that happened. It would have been the end of our economic system and our political system as we know it.

There is not much more to say, except that the events leading up to that fateful September day was not good. And while the run on the banks was stopped with the liquidity injection, the underlying problems of the housing and subprime mortgage collapse, the gambling on collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) based on the values of the subprime mortgages, and the huge losses the financial industries have due to the speculation, are still with us today. Unless something is done to repair, and reform, the problems in the housing and financial industries, and jump-start the frozen credit markets, we may end up seeing another serious run in the U.S. financial markets.

Only the next time, the government may not be able to stave off the crisis.

Senate approves stimulus plan

This is from The New York Times:

WASHINGTON – The Senate voted on Tuesday to approve an $838 billion economic stimulus plan that stands to become the most expansive anti-recession effort by the United States government since World War II.

Congressional leaders said they would immediately begin to work out the differences between the Senate measure and an $820 billion version passed by the House, with President Obama also likely to have a strong voice in the talks.

As the Senate voted on the recovery package, President Obama told an audience at a town meeting in Fort Myers, Fla.: “Doing nothing is not an option. You didn’t send me to Washington to do nothing.”

Mr. Obama, who took to the road for the second straight day to push for Congressional approval of his economic recovery package, appeared alongside Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, a Republican, in an effort to show that his plan has attracted bipartisan support in economically troubled parts of America. On Monday he traveled to Elkhart, Ind., where the unemployment rate is 15.3 percent.

Despite numerous differences in the two bills approved in the Senate and the House, the overall scope of the economical recovery effort is now clear — sprawling in its reach, with tax cuts for individuals, families and businesses, assistance for jobless and low income Americans, aid to states, and huge spending on education, healthcare, energy and technology.

The Senate approved its bill most along party lines, by a vote of 61 to 37, with three Republicans joining 56 Democrats and two independents in favor. (There is one vacancy in the Senate, from Minnesota, and Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, a Republican nominated to become Mr. Obama’s Commerce Secretary, did not vote.)

The opposition of most Republicans underscored insurmountable disagreements, over both economic and political philosophy, in addressing the recession.

A couple of comments here. First, the vote was a party-line vote, with only three Republicans supporting the stimulus plan. These Republicans were senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snow from Maine, and Arlen Specter from Pennsylvania. In a sense, it is no surprise, since the Obama administration has been lobbying heavily for these senators' support to the stimulus bill. Also voting was Senator Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who has been battling a brain tumor. Kennedy made a special trip to Washington in order to support this measure.

This is a huge, first victory for President Obama. It shows the country that Obama can move a major piece of legislation through Congress, despite almost total opposition from the Republicans. And there will probably be even more major legislative pieces that will have to go through Congress--reform bills for the financial and banking industry and health care reform are two huge problems that the Obama administration will have to tackle soon. The big loser here is the congressional Republicans. They decided to scrap bipartisanship with the Obama administration to craft an economic stimulus bill to help the American people, in order to play an opposition party with their own, crazed dreams of political power play. The Republicans wanted Obama to fail with this plan, wanted the U.S. economy to sour, and the American people to suffer, so that they can get elected back into power in the next midterm, and presidential, elections. They do not care about governing the country when they are in power--they just care about absolute power.

We will soon see just how far this stimulus bill will help the U.S. economy.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Gallup / CNN polls show Obama having upper hand in stimulus fight

I have found two public opinion polls that are showing some interesting results in the economic stimulus fight between President Barack Obama and the congressional Republicans. First is this Gallup public opinion poll:

PRINCETON, NJ -- The American public gives President Barack Obama a strong 67% approval rating for the way in which he is handling the government's efforts to pass an economic stimulus bill, while the Democrats and, in particular, the Republicans in Congress receive much lower approval ratings of 48% and 31%, respectively.



These findings, based on Gallup Poll interviews conducted Feb. 6-7, underscore the degree to which Obama appears to be maintaining the upper hand over his opponents from a public opinion perspective as he and congressional leaders wrangle over the precise form and substance of a new economic stimulus plan. (Recent Gallup polling also shows that a slight majority of Americans in general favor the idea of passing a stimulus plan of around $800 billion, a sentiment that has stayed constant over the last several weeks.)

Obama will address the stimulus issue before a nationwide audience on Monday night with his first prime-time news conference. He will also conduct town-hall meetings this week in Elkhart, Ind., and Fort Myers, Fla., as part of his efforts to help sell his view of the urgency of passing a stimulus package. The new Gallup data certainly suggest that these public relations efforts will find a generally receptive audience.

The data in particular show the sharp divide between the public's views of how Obama has handled efforts to pass a stimulus bill and its views of how the Republicans have handled this -- a divide that quantitatively produces a 36-point approval gap.

So we have 67 percent of Americans approving of President Obama's efforts in passing the economic stimulus bill, while 58 percent of Americans disapprove of the Republican obstructionism against the economic stimulus bill. And yet, the GOP is claiming victory in their opposition against the Obama stimulus plan. Who are they trying to sell this victory to?

The answer to that question is their 31 percent base, who will support the GOP regardless of how far the Republican Party will send this country into a huge disaster. These are the extreme conservatives, the Bible-thumpers--the folks who still give President Bush a 33 percent job approval rating as he left office. What this Gallup poll says is that all the rantings from the Republican congressmen, all the talk of finding their opposition voice, and all the obstructionism of the Obama stimulus plan, is really a PR-campaign to rally their base in opposing the Obama administration. This is a campaign to curry higher conservative voter turnout in the upcoming midterm elections to regain congressional seats, and hopefully control, of Congress. It is playing politics over policy. What is especially frightening is that if the GOP is successful in blocking enough of the stimulus package to make it impotent enough in failing to pull the U.S. economy out of its recession, there will probably be even greater economic pain for middle-class Americans, and probably for the base of the GOP residing in the southern states, and the Midwest. Economic pain for a high-stakes GOP power play.

A new CNN poll also shows similar results to the Gallup poll. From CNN.com:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — A new national poll suggests that three out of four Americans approve of the job Barack Obama's doing as President — but the economic stimulus package he's trying to push through Congress is not nearly as popular.

Seventy-six percent of those quesioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday give President Obama a thumbs-up when it comes to the way he's performing his duties, with 23 percent disapproving of the way Obama's handling his job as president.

And the CNN poll has these interesting details:

Three out of four Democrats support the bill, but that number drops to 51 percent for self-identified independents, and just 32 percent for Republicans. Nearly seven in ten Republicans questioned oppose the bill.

"Partisanship is alive and well — not just in the House and Senate, but in the rank-and-file as well," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "The partisan split that has been a staple of American public opinion for decades is alive and well."

[....]

Sixty-four percent of those polled say the current bill being debated in the Senate would help the economy a lot or somewhat, with 36 percent feeling that the package would not help the economy much or at all.

"The public may be lukewarm on the stimulus package because they only see limited benefits from it," Holland said. "Sixteen percent say it would help the economy a lot, but 48 percent foresee only some improvements if the bill passes."

The CNN poll shows a partisan divide with a three-quarters majority of Democrats supporting the bill, a 51 percent majority of independents supporting the bill, and a 70-percent majority of Republicans opposed to the bill. The Gallup poll also shows a partisan divide between the stimulus bill, but the results are more muddled with the Republican base:

Previous research has suggested that there is a sharp partisan divide concerning almost everything involved with the massive economic stimulus plan. The sense of urgency that it be passed is no exception.



Only 29% of Republicans are willing to say that passing a new stimulus bill is critically important, contrasted with the nearly two-thirds of Democrats who hold this view.

Still, a clear majority of Republicans say it's at least important to pass the bill.

The Gallup poll confirms with the CNN poll that only around a third of the Republicans support the stimulus bill, while the rest may think it is not important, or somewhat important. I'm guessing that the results were skewered by both the way the Gallup question was asked, and in its responses. But still, both polls show that, while the Obama administration may have wanted to bring bipartisanship into this stimulus bill, partisanship still remains both inside Congress, and the American people.

And yet, regardless of political party affiliation, Americans want some type of economic stimulus plan passed by their government. The CNN poll shows that 64 percent believe that the current stimulus bill would help the U.S. economy a lot, or somewhat. The Gallup poll shows that 51 percent of Americans believe the stimulus plan is "critically important" helping the U.S. economy, while 29 percent say the stimulus plan is "important." In other words, Americans support some type of economic stimulus plan to halt this U.S. economic slide. Americans want the government to help them out of this economic malaise. If an economic stimulus plan is not passed, then the lawmakers in Washington are going to feel a very serious wrath from the American people--regardless of party affiliation here.

GOP sees victory in obstructing Obama stimulus plan

This is from The Washington Post:

Three months after their Election Day drubbing, Republican leaders see glimmers of rebirth in the party's liberation from an unpopular president, its selection of its first African American chairman and, most of all, its stand against a stimulus package that they are increasingly confident will provide little economic jolt but will pay off politically for those who oppose it.

After giving the package zero votes in the House, and with their counterparts in the Senate likely to provide in a crucial procedural vote today only the handful of votes needed to avoid a filibuster, Republicans are relishing the opportunity to make a big statement. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) suggested last week that the party is learning from the disruptive tactics of the Taliban, and the GOP these days does have the bravado of an insurgent band that has pulled together after a big defeat to carry off a quick, if not particularly damaging, raid on the powers that be.

"We're so far ahead of where we thought we'd be at this time," said Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), one of several younger congressmen seeking to lead the party's renewal. "It's not a sign that we're back to where we need to be, but it's a sign that we're beginning to find our voice. We're standing on our core principles, and the core principle that suffered the most in recent years was fiscal conservatism and economic liberty. That was the tallest pole in our tent, and we took an ax to it, but now we're building it back."

The second-ranking House Republican, Rep. Eric Cantor (Va.), put it more bluntly. "What transpired . . . and will give us a shot in the arm going forward is that we are standing up on principle and just saying no," he said.

The fact that the stimulus legislation keeps moving forward nonetheless has done nothing to dim Republicans' satisfaction. Rather, they sense a tactical victory, particularly in the framing of their opposition to the plan as a clash with congressional Democrats instead of with President Obama, who remains far more popular with voters than does Congress.

If I'm reading this story correctly, the Republicans are more happy about obstructing President Obama on not just the economic stimulus bill, but everything else, while claiming they support "core principles" of....what? More tax cuts? More failed supply-sided economics? More handouts to Big Business? Are these not the same, failed, economic policies of the Bush administration? It is like the Republicans have dressed up in their finest regalia, sipping champagne, and are celebrating how they are winning on the Titanic, even as the ship continues to sink. And don't bother with the rearranging of the deck chairs--the deck chairs have already floated away. But I guess these GOP idiots are happy that they've found their voice, and are screeching the ridiculous drivel of their winning the tactical battles while the entire ship sinks into a deeper economic malaise.

Krugman claims stimulus cuts will eliminate 600,000 jobs

This is from Paul Krugman at The York Times:

I’m still working on the numbers, but I’ve gotten a fair number of requests for comment on the Senate version of the stimulus.

The short answer: to appease the centrists, a plan that was already too small and too focused on ineffective tax cuts has been made significantly smaller, and even more focused on tax cuts.

According to the CBO’s estimates, we’re facing an output shortfall of almost 14% of GDP over the next two years, or around $2 trillion. Others, such as Goldman Sachs, are even more pessimistic. So the original $800 billion plan was too small, especially because a substantial share consisted of tax cuts that probably would have added little to demand. The plan should have been at least 50% larger.

Now the centrists have shaved off $86 billion in spending — much of it among the most effective and most needed parts of the plan. In particular, aid to state governments, which are in desperate straits, is both fast — because it prevents spending cuts rather than having to start up new projects — and effective, because it would in fact be spent; plus state and local governments are cutting back on essentials, so the social value of this spending would be high. But in the name of mighty centrism, $40 billion of that aid has been cut out.

My first cut says that the changes to the Senate bill will ensure that we have at least 600,000 fewer Americans employed over the next two years.

The real question now is whether Obama will be able to come back for more once it’s clear that the plan is way inadequate. My guess is no. This is really, really bad.

So the centrist congresscritters in the Senate have decided to cut just enough spending from the Obama stimulus bill to eliminate 600,000 jobs--creating a stimulus package that will not stimulate the economy. I'm wondering which is worst--the crazed Republicans demanding that the Obama stimulus plan be shelved for more of their tax cuts to the uber-rich and Big Business, or the centrist congressmen destroying the most effective part of the stimulus bill, while keeping the tax cuts. This U.S. economy is screwed either way by both classes of these congressional idiots.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Ginsberg's cancer brings up speculation of Obama court make-up

Two days ago, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg went into surgery, after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. From MSNBC News:

Ginsburg, 75, had the surgery at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. She will remain in the hospital for seven to 10 days, said her surgeon, Dr. Murray Brennan, according to a release issued by the court.

In 1999, Ginsburg had surgery for colon cancer and had chemotherapy and radiation treatment. The only woman on the court, she has been a justice since 1993.

The pancreatic cancer was discovered during a routine, annual exam late last month at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

If there was one issue that was overlooked in the 2008 elections, it was the Supreme Court. Ginsburg is just one of the four justices in the Court's liberal wing--with justices Stephen Breyer, David Souter, and John Paul Stevens being the other three. Ginsburg is 76 years old, and has told law clerks that she intends on serving the Court until her 80s. If Ginsburg's cancer forces her to step down from the court, it will be Barack Obama--and not John McCain--that would be responsible for selecting her replacement. If John McCain were sitting in the Oval Office, he could replace one of the four liberal justices with a conservative justice, forcing the Court into a more conservative stance. Remember, Ginsburg is 76 years old, Breyer is 71, Souter is 70, and Stevens is 89 years old! Compared to the Courts conservative justices ages where justices Anthony Kennedy is 73, Samuel Alito is 59, Chief Justice John Roberts is 54 years old, Justice Antonin Scalia is 73 years old, and Justice Clarence Thomas is 61 years old, three of the conservative justices are still below retirement age. We are going to see at least one Supreme Court justice being replace over the next four years. I'm guessing it will be John Paul Stevens, considering he is currently 89 years old--he will be 93 years old at the end of Obama's first term. Of course this is pretty much a given. After that, we've got a number of justices in their 70s--Ginsburg, Breyer, Souter, Kennedy, and Scalia. There may be retirements from any of them over the next eight years. This is why it was so important for the Democrats to take control of the White House, to maintain the ideological status quo of this Court.

Which brings us to the speculation of who Obama may choose for his first Supreme Court justice selection? According to this MSNBC News story:

President Barack Obama took office with a strong prospect that his first four years in office could bring two or more openings on the high court, though he may well be replacing aging liberal justices with younger ones.

Barring the unexpected, the court's balance of power — four on the left, four on the right, one in the middle leaning right [Kennedy is the swing vote] — is not likely to change significantly.

[....]

Chances are, Obama's first appointment will be a woman — especially if it's to take the place of Ginsburg, the only woman on the court. And, like Ginsburg, she will be liberal leaning.

Like every sitting justice, she also probably will be a federal appeals court judge. Obama has a number of options along those lines, including these five:

* Judge Diane Wood of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
* Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
* Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.
* Pam Karlan, a law professor at Stanford University.
* Judge Margaret McKeown of the 9th Circuit in San Francisco.

Either Wardlaw or Sotomayor would be the court's first Hispanic justice.

So it will certainly be interesting to see who Obama may select for his first appointment. A first Hispanic judge would be an impressive achievement to add to Obama's presidential legacy. But the important factor here is that the Court will maintain its balance between the liberal and conservative ideologies. Obama will select at least one justice in the four, or eight, years he will be president. It is just a matter of time.

Saturday Morning Cartoons--Chilly Willy in Polar Pests

Saturday Morning Cartoons--Chilly Willy in Polar Pests

For today's Saturday Morning Cartoons, we have Polar Pests, starring that famous penguin Chilly Willy. At the Kalamazoo Zoo, Zookeeper Clyde discovers that the Antarctic penguin has escaped--going south for the winter. The zoo's director then sends Clyde south to catch another penguin, saying quietly, "If you fail, YOU'LL LOSE YOUR JOB!" So Clyde heads south to Antarctica, where he discovers Chilly Willy ice fishing. And the chase begins. Try and count how many times Chilly Willy and Clyde the poor walrus, who is also trying to fish through the ice for his food. From YouTube:

RNC Chairman Steele under investigation by Feds

Oh my--looks like our newly selected RNC Chairman Michael S. Steele is under investigation by the Feds. From The Washington Post:

Michael S. Steele, the newly elected chairman of the Republican National Committee, arranged for his 2006 Senate campaign to pay a defunct company run by his sister for services that were never performed, his finance chairman from that campaign has told federal prosecutors.

Federal agents in recent days contacted Steele's sister, a spokesman for Steele said yesterday.

The claim about the payment, one of several allegations by Alan B. Fabian, is outlined in a confidential court document. Fabian offered the information last March as he was seeking leniency for himself during plea negotiations on unrelated fraud charges. It is unclear how extensively his claims have been pursued. Prosecutors gave him no credit for cooperation when he was sentenced in October.

Steele spokesman Curt Anderson said he did not know what information the federal agents were seeking, but he dismissed Fabian's allegations as patently false. "It's from, what, a convicted felon? And it has no substantiation in fact," he said.

Fabian's claims emerge as Steele begins his new role at the RNC, where he oversees the raising and spending of hundreds of millions of dollars in party money. The former Maryland lieutenant governor has faced questions about his handling of campaign money in prior elections and was twice fined for missing filing deadlines.

The recent allegations outlined four specific transactions. In addition to the payment to Steele's sister, Fabian said that the candidate used money from his state campaign improperly; that Steele paid $75,000 from the state campaign to a law firm for work that was never performed; and that he or an aide transferred more than $500,000 in campaign cash from one bank to another without authorization.

The bank transfer was made against the explicit wishes of other Maryland Republicans, who had hoped to use it to support the campaigns of state legislators, said aides to Steele and former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

The U.S. attorney's office inadvertently sent the confidential document, a defense sentencing memorandum filed under seal, to The Washington Post after the newspaper requested the prosecution's sentencing memorandum.

U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein declined to comment. Fabian could not be reached, and his attorney, James Wyda, declined to comment.

Now if these federal investigations end up with indictments against Steele, I seriously wonder just how long Steele will be staying on in his RNC chairman job.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Senators reach tentative deal on stimulus package

This is from The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — Spurred by a dismal unemployment report for January, senators were close to reaching an accord on Friday evening on an economic stimulus program of some $800 billion sought by President Obama to pull the country out of the worst recession in years.

Democrats appeared to have succeeded, after a long day of private negotiations and intense public debate, to have won the support of enough Republicans to move the package toward a final vote. Assuming there is a final vote, passage would be assured.

Exact outlines of the accord were not immediately available, but the senators reportedly agreed to cut some spending and strip out some business tax cuts to gain enough Republican support.

Once the Senate votes on the package, differences between the Senate legislation and a considerably different version passed recently by the House would have to be reconciled. President Obama has said he hopes all that can be accomplished in time for him to sign the measure within 10 days.

Three centrist Republicans, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine, were said to be among the senators being wooed by Democrats, whose efforts were bolstered by Rahm Emanuel, the president’s chief of staff, who is a former Congressman from Illinois.

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, and Mr. Emanuel reportedly met with Ms. Collins and Mr. Specter Friday evening to smooth out any remaining wrinkles. Soon afterward, Mr. Reid conferred with his fellow Democrats to gain their approval.

The Senate negotiations and day-long public debate were given new urgency by the announcement on Friday morning that 598,000 jobs were lost in January. Democratic lawmakers said it was time to stop quibbling about the exact parameters of the legislation, which mixes safety net spending, tax cuts and a huge infusion of dollars into federal programs.

Now if Harry Reid can get this deal through, and the stimulus bill voted on tonight, then we may at least have some legislation to help the U.S. out of this economic slide. And President Barack Obama is going to have a huge first victory under his belt. If President Obama failed to get this stimulus package through, we would have had another two months of partisan bickering over another economic stimulus bill, as both American consumers, workers, and businesses looked on at the deteriorating economic situation. I'm not saying that the U.S. economy will miraculously get better, now that the stimulus bill is close to passing. But the passage of this stimulus bill will help in restoring confidence to the U.S. economy, and restore confidence that Congress and the White House are working towards fixing this nation's economic problems. That is important.

Looking back at my previous post, where GOP strategist Alex Castellanos called Republican bipartisanship, over Obama's economic stimulus plan, as "wussy Republicans," I wonder if Castellanos is just angry at how Arlen Specter, Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins were certainly wooed into supporting the Obama stimulus bill (Depending if all three are supporting the bill under this tentative agreement). So now we've got some name-calling between Republicans here.

Top GOP strategist calls GOP senators supporting the stimulus "wussy Republicans"

I am not making this up. I found this YouTube video through Americablog. CNN's Wolf Blitzer talked with top GOP strategist Alex Castellanos on the possible Republican bipartisanship, taking place in the Senate, over President Obama's economic stimulus bill. Castellanos called those Republican senators, who are considering supporting the economic stimulus bill, as both "Democratic-lite," and "wussy Republicans." From YouTube:



I don't know what else to say, except is this guy another frickin' lunatic? Or is Castellanos trying to shame the moderate Republican senators from supporting this bill? Politics before policy?