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.