Saturday, January 31, 2009
Election Day In Iraq. One Thing Is Certain: Saddam Hussein Will NOT Get 99.99% Of The Vote. I'm NOT Sure If Anyone Will.
Labels: General information
Anyone Can Grow Up To Be President. You'll Can Surmise I'm A Fan Of Joel Pett.
Friday, January 30, 2009
SORRY GOP, But I'm NOT Impressed With Your SYMBOLIC Act! Watch.
POTUS Barack Obama Creates "Middle Class Task Force" Headed By Vice Potus Joe Biden. I Don't Really Know What That Means! Watch Video And Tell Us.
BREAKING NEWS: Mike Duncan SUDDENLY Drops Out Of RNC (GOP) Race. Amazing! It Looks Like It's Going To Be My Second Choice: Michael Steele.
Senator Mitch McConnell Calls Out The GOP (Republicans), Warns The Party About Racism. I Say: Thanks For Speaking The TRUTH To Those Who SHUN It!
Read more here, or excerpts below:
WASHINGTON—After crushing defeats in back-to-back elections, the top Senate Republican warned Thursday that the GOP risks remaining out of power in the White House and Congress unless it better explains its core principles to woo one-time faithful and new loyalists.
"The results of the two recent elections are real, and so are the obstacles we face as a party," Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told the Republican National Committee on Thursday. "My concern is that unless we do something to adapt, our status as a minority party may become too pronounced for an easy recovery."
"The situation is challenging, but it's far from irreversible," McConnell added, a dash of optimism in an otherwise stark assessment of where the Republican Party went wrong as he provided a road map for how it can right itself.
He spoke to Republicans gathered in Washington to choose the next national chairman; four candidates are trying to unseat former President George W. Bush's hand-picked RNC chairman, Mike Duncan of Kentucky. The vote is Friday.
Implicit in McConnell's message was the concern that the Republican Party under Bush strayed from its beliefs, resulting in drubbings in two straight elections.
While McConnell praised Bush as a man of principle, he said: "We can all agree, sad as it is, that he wasn't winning any popularity contests. And history shows that unpopular presidents are usually a drag on everybody else who wears their political label."
McConnell called for the GOP to embrace its conservative principles -- and resist diluting its message -- to bring people back and attract new rank-and-file. Still, he added: "It's clear our message isn't getting out to nearly as many people as it should ... Too often we've let others define us. And the image they've painted isn't very pretty."
He acknowledged GOP fears that certain demographics from certain regions have shunned the party. And, he warned: "In politics, there's a name for a regional party: it's called a minority party."
Just eight years after Republicans controlled the White House and Congress, the GOP finds itself out of power and trying to figure out how to rebound while its foe has grown much stronger. The Democratic Party is empowered by a broadened coalition of voters -- including Hispanics and young voters -- who swung behind President Barack Obama's call for change.
Meanwhile, Bush left the White House with very low job approval ratings, Republicans saw their ranks in Congress grow even smaller and the party finds itself without a standard-bearer. Perhaps even more damaging to the GOP, the slice of the country that calls itself Republican has shrunk over the past few years as Obama and his Democrats attracted voters of all political stripes.
Editor's comment: Thanks, Senator, for calling out the GOP.
Today The GOP Picks A Leader. We Support Mike Duncan And Urge His Re-election.
Back To Kentucky And Away From BLAGO, Governor Steve Beshear Suffers Slight Loss In Approval Rating (48% Approve, While 43% Disapprove).
OK, So Maybe We Should NOT Laugh, But Here Goes.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Tod "BLAGO" Blagojevich Is Not Only A Political THUG, But He Is A Raving DELUSIONAL Lunatic. Watch And Listen. Be Careful, You May PUKE!
BREAKING News: Illinois Senate UNANIMOUSLY CONVICTS Political Thug, Rod "BLAGO" Blagojevich, And OUSTS Him From Governorship. Stay tuned.
Economic WOES Continue. Pay Attention To Video News.
Labels: Economic news
Here We Go Again. More Murder/Suicides Due To BAD Economic News. Follow Link.
POTUS Barack Obama Signs His First Bill Into Law; It Is The Ledbetter Equal Pay Act. Watch Video.
Political Thug And Illinois Governor, Tod "BLAGO" Blagojevich, Makes Final Plea For Mercy. Impeachment Vote Is Imminent. Watch Video.
MOVEON.Org Aims To "Move On" Against Republicans Who Voted Against Stimulus Bill With New Ad. Watch Ad.
Lexington, Kentucky Herald Leader Editorial: GOP Rhetoric Ringing Hollow.
Is it just us or does anyone else find this ironic? Congressional Republicans who never uttered a peep against spending the country into a hole on an unprovoked war are suddenly appalled by deficit spending to try to salvage the U.S. economy.
They were fine with wrecking and then rebuilding Iraq on the taxpayer's dime. But now it would be wasteful and ineffective to put Americans to work rebuilding this country's infrastructure.
The economic meltdown that took out 50,000 jobs in a single day this week poses a genuine threat to the security of American families.
Yet Republicans offer little in the way of ideas except more Bush-style tax cuts and anti-government platitudes. If those two things held the key to prosperity and a balanced budget, we'd be there, instead of facing the worst recession since World War II.
No one likes digging us deeper into debt to other countries. The need for stimulus spending reminds us of the shopaholic who promises to cut up his credit cards after one last spending spree.
But President Barack Obama is keenly mindful that the country can't keep spending beyond its means. History will judge him on whether he restores the government to fiscal soundness and puts the economy on more sustainable footing.
Obama inherited an economic crisis that demands action. That's in stark contrast to his predecessor who inherited a $128 billion surplus that was projected to grow to $5.6 trillion in 10 years, but was wiped out many times over by the Iraq war and tax cuts for the wealthy.
Obama and Congress have no good choices. The economy is shattered, and nothing is going to turn it around quickly.
Obama and congressional Democrats are just trying to prime the pump with federal spending and targeted tax cuts that will create jobs in the private sector and help families pay their bills and send their kids to college. The goal is not, as some Republicans contend, to create big new government programs.
It's great that Republicans are suddenly finicky about waste and fraud in government contracting -- where were they when billions went down that rat hole in Iraq? -- and that they realize we're shoving the bill for today's spending onto our grandchildren.
But what about the almost 3 million Americans who will slide into poverty by this time next year if national unemployment catches up with the six states where 9 percent of workers are already jobless?
Maybe Republicans just want to be able to blame Obama for an economy that's not going to perk up fast. But their ideology is ringing awfully hollow in an economy stripped of its comforting bubble.
Editor's comment: "No one likes digging us deeper into debt to other countries. The need for stimulus spending reminds us of the shopaholic who promises to cut up his credit cards after one last spending spree."
The above quote, dear Editor at H-L, explains vividly the fallacy of your argument in support of the stimulus package!
Not Reagan's [And For That Matter, NOT Abraham Lincoln's] GOP Anymore".
By Mickey Edwards
In my mind's eye, I can see President Ronald Reagan perched on a cloud and watching all the goings-on down here in his old earthly home.
Rolling his eyes and whacking his forehead over the absurdities he sees, he's watching his old political party twist itself into complex knots, punctuated by pauses to invoke "the Gipper's" name.
It's been said that God would be amazed by what his followers ascribe to him; believe me, Reagan would be similarly amazed by what fervent admirers cite in their desire to be seen as true-blue Reaganites.
On the premise that simple is best, many Republicans have reduced their operating philosophy to two essentials: First, government is bad (it's "the problem"); second, big government is the worst and small government is better (although because government itself is bad, it might be assumed that small government is only marginally preferable).
This is all errant nonsense. It is wrong in every conceivable way and violative of the Constitution, American exceptionalism, freedom, conservatism, Reaganism and common sense. In America, government is ... us.
What is "exceptional" about America is the depth of its commitment to the principle of self-government; we elect the government, we replace it or its members when they displease us, and by our threats or support, we help steer what government does.
A shocker: The Constitution, which we love for the limits it places on government power, not only constrains government but empowers it. Limited government is not no government. And limited government is not "small" government. Simply building roads, maintaining a military, operating courts, delivering the mail and doing other things specifically mandated by the Constitution for America's 300 million people make it impossible to keep government "small."
It is boundaries that protect freedom. Small governments can be oppressive, and large ones can diminish freedoms. It is the boundaries, not the numbers, that matter.
What would Reagan think of this? Wasn't it he who warned that government is the problem? Well, permit me. I directed the joint House-Senate policy advisory committees for the Reagan presidential campaign. I was part of his congressional steering committee. I sat with him in his hotel room in Manchester, N.H., the night he won that state's all-important primary. I knew him before he was governor of California and before I was a member of Congress.
Let me introduce you to Ronald Reagan.
Reagan, who spent 16 years in government, actually said this: "In the present crisis," referring to the high taxes and high levels of federal spending that had marked the Democratic administration of President Jimmy Carter, "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."
Reagan then went on to say: "Now, so there will be no misunderstanding, it's not my intention to do away with government. It is rather to make it work."
Government, he said, "must provide opportunity."
He was not rejecting government, he was calling -- as President Obama did at his inauguration -- for better management of government, for wiser decisions.
This is the difference between ideological advocacy and holding public office: Having accepted partial responsibility for the nation's well-being, one assumes an obligation that goes beyond bumper-sticker slogans. Certitude is the enemy of wisdom and, in office, it is wisdom, not certitude, that is required.
How, for example, should conservatives react to stimulus and bailout proposals in the face of an economic meltdown? The wall between government and the private sector is an essential feature of our democracy. At the same time, if there is a dominant identifier of conservatism -- political, social, psychological -- it is prudence.
If proposals seem unworkable or unwise -- if they do not contain provisions for taxpayers to recoup their investments; if they do not allow for taxpayers, as de-facto shareholders, to insist on sound management practices; if they would allow government officials to make production and pricing decisions -- conservatives have a responsibility to resist.
But they also have an obligation to propose alternative solutions. It is government's job -- Reagan again -- to provide opportunity and foster productivity. With the nation in financial collapse, nothing is more imprudent, and more antithetical to true conservatism, than to do nothing.
The Republican Party that is in such disrepute today is not the party of Reagan. It is the party of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Newt Gingrich, President George W. Bush and Karl Rove. It is not a conservative party; it is a party built on the blind and narrow pursuit of power.
Not too long ago, conservatives were thought of as the locus of creative thought. Conservative think tanks (full disclosure: I was one of the three founding trustees of the Heritage Foundation) were thought to be cutting-edge, offering conservative solutions to national problems.
By the 2008 elections, the very idea of ideas had been rejected. One who listened to Barry Goldwater's speeches in the mid-1960s, or to Reagan's in the 1980s, might have been struck by their philosophical tone, their proposed (even if hotly contested) reformulation of the proper relationship between state and citizen.
Last year's presidential campaign, on the other hand, saw the emergence of a Republican Party that was anti-intellectual, nativist, populist (in populism's worst sense) and prepared to send Joe the Plumber to Washington to manage the nation's public affairs.
American conservatism always has had the problem of being misnamed. It is, at root, the political twin to classical European liberalism, a freedoms-based belief in limiting the power of government to intrude on the liberties of the people.
It is the opposite of European conservatism (which Winston Churchill referred to as reverence for king and church); it is, rather, the heir to British philosopher John Locke and President James Madison, and a belief that the people should be the masters of their government, not the reverse -- a concept largely turned on its head by the Bush presidency.
Over the past several years, conservatives have turned themselves inside out: They have come to worship small government and have turned their backs on limited government. They have turned to a politics of exclusion, division and nastiness. Today, they wonder what went wrong, why Americans have turned on them, why they lose, or barely win, even in places such as Indiana, Virginia and North Carolina.
And, watching, I suspect Reagan is smacking himself on the forehead, rolling his eyes and wondering who in the world these clowns are who want so desperately to wrap themselves in his cloak.
Edwards is a former congressman from Oklahoma, a lecturer at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School and author of "Reclaiming Conservatism."
Editor's comment: You forget, Mickey Edwards, that it was Ronald Reagan who suggested that "government is bad (it's "the problem")"!
You see, my BIGGEST problem with the GOP is that the party has FAILED to follow the teachings of its Founding Father: my hero, Abraham Lincoln.
When the party does, then it can count on UNABASHED loyalty from its members.
GEORGE WILL: Republicans And The Stimulus.
By GEORGE WILL
WASHINGTON -- Summoned to remove a fish bone agonizingly stuck in a rich man's throat, British surgeon Joseph Lister did so. When the grateful patient asked the charge for this service, Lister replied: "Suppose we settle for half of what you would be willing to give me if the bone were still lodged in your throat." The point -- that the price one will pay depends on the urgency of the purchase -- is pertinent to the President's "stimulus" proposal.
Frightened people are receptive to his pleas for large and quick action: Just do it -- we'll count the cost later. As Emerson said, when skating on thin ice, safety lies in speed, and the administration's confidence in what it is doing should be -- this is not its fault -- thin.
Economic policymaking in turbulent times is a science of single instances, meaning no science at all. When economic theories matter most -- when the economy is in uncharted waters -- all theories are necessarily untested. Hence attempts to derive prescriptions from the New Deal are somewhat surreal.
Furthermore, our language is bewitching our intelligence. Long ago -- a year ago -- Russell Roberts, economics professor at George Mason University, deplored terms that suggest that economics is a science akin to medicine. With a "stimulus," of a sort that makes the legs of a dead frog twitch, the government will "inject" money as a doctor gives a blood transfusion. Or as a life-reviving "jolt" from a defibrillator.
Sensible people are queasy about throwing trillions of dollars at barely understood problems on the basis of untested theories. For Republicans, the question is: What are the duties of the opposition at a moment like this? The answer has three components, beginning with elementary political arithmetic:
Having received near 53 percent of the popular vote -- better than Ronald Reagan's 50.7 percent in 1980 -- Barack Obama won 100 percent of the presidency, and almost that much of the nation's leadership expectations now that the public, which really should diversify its investments, invests such extravagant hopes in presidents. To govern is to choose, always on the basis of imperfect information, and the President may never have more public support than he has now. He deserves some deference. Some.
Second, congressional Democrats have turned the 647-page stimulus legislation into an excuse for something that never needs an excuse -- an exercise in wretched excess. They have forfeited some of the President's claim to deference.
The opposition should oppose mere opportunism, which comes in two forms. One is presenting pet projects hitherto considered unworthy of funding, as suddenly meritorious because somehow stimulative. The other attaches major and nongermane policy changes to the stimulus legislation, counting on the need for speed to allow them to escape appropriate scrutiny. For example:
The stimulus legislation would create a council for Comparative Effectiveness Research. This is about medicine but not about healing the economy. The CER would identify (this is language from the draft report on the legislation) medical "items, procedures, and interventions" that it deems insufficiently effective or excessively expensive. They "will no longer be prescribed" by federal health programs. The next secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Daschle, has advocated a "Federal Health Board" similar to the CER, whose recommendations "would have teeth": Congress could restrict the tax exclusion for private health insurance to "insurance that complies with the board's recommendation." The CER, which would dramatically advance government control -- and rationing -- of health care, should be thoroughly debated, not stealthily created in the name of "stimulus."
The opposition's third duty is to assert inconvenient truths, one of which is that the truth shall make you modest. There never is a moment when an open society that wants to remain such does not need the wisdom of Friedrich Hayek, the Nobel Prize-winning economist who said: "The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design." So the deference accorded this President should be proportional to his willingness to acknowledge that neither he nor anyone else can know whether the stimulus will work.
And from the quantity of deference owed to him, Republicans should subtract the sum of the opportunism of congressional Democrats. If Republicans conclude that the truly stimulative portion of the legislation is less than half the size of the portion composed of banal and brazen opportunism, and irrelevant but consequential policies surreptitiously pursued, they should oppose it.
George F. Will is a syndicated columnist with The Washington Post. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
Editor's comment: This stimulus package sure feels like that bone lodged in our collective throats!
Do You Wanna Know Which States Have Gone Begging For Bailout Money? Follow The Link Below To Read The States' Letter.
OK, Maybe The Chill In The Air Will Let Us Laugh!
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
We Can Laugh At BLAGO.
Louisville Courier Journal's David Hawpe Joins The "Dump Jim Bunning" Wagon.
By David Hawpe
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
It's a cliché, of course, but then so is "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few" -- and just think how useful Winston Churchill's description of Royal Air Force airmen's valor during the Battle of Britain has been over the decades. Since the observation first was made by the wartime prime minister in the House of Commons, endless numbers of quipsters and scribblers have paraphrased it and/or reapplied it.
For example, right now it accurately describes the relationship between American consumers and the major credit-card companies -- "never has so much been owed by so many to so few."
With slight revision, it depicts the partnership between all those failed bankers who have grabbed federal bailout money and all those American taxpayers who have supplied it -- "never has so much been owed by so many to so many."
Looking ahead, we may say of our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, "Never will so much be owed by so many."
But since I prefer to write about things political, I want to apply the Churchill quote to what's happening in the nascent race for Jim Bunning's Senate seat. A few challengers are queuing on the sidelines -- not yet prepared to commit, but eager to toe the starting line.
Seldom in Kentucky politics has there been such a show of determination to push an incumbent luminary out of office.
And we ought to be grateful for this apparent demand that Jim Bunning (in the phrase first invoked by Cromwell, to dismiss the Rump Parliament of 1653) "in the name of God, go."
We should welcome all these prospective candidates for the Bunning seat, Republican and Democrat.
In 2004, our junior senator and his supporters embarrassed not only themselves but all the rest of us with shameful re-election tactics, including, among other things, anti-gay innuendo and anti-Arab stereotyping.
Bunning told diners at a GOP event that then-state Sen. Daniel Mongiardo looked like one of Saddam Hussein's sons. His campaign manager issued a non-apology: "We're sorry if this joke, which got a lot of laughs, offended anyone."
During the same campaign, Bunning supporters, led by Senate President David Williams, mocked Mongiardo as "limp-wristed" and a "switch-hitter."
Seldom has so much political muck been spread so widely across Kentucky by so many.
The kind of attention Bunning gets in Washington can best be illustrated by his making Time magazine's 2006 list of five worst senators. He was nicely summed up in an accompanying headline as "The Underperformer."
More recently, he has been entirely absent, during some periods of what everybody, Republican and Democrat, concedes is a national crisis.
What, Jim worry?
This is a guy who welcomed his party's nomination of Sarah Palin for vice president. He saw it as a political coup du ciel -- manna from heaven. He enthused that it "charges up the delegates" because "the conservative base has absolutely no complaints" about the choice. Never mind that it actually was the coup de grâce for John McCain's presidential aspirations.
The really good news is that in addition to now-Lt. Gov. Mongiardo, there are really good potential candidates with impressive backgrounds, personal toughness and political clarity, who could take Bunning on, including Secretary of State Trey Grayson, U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis, Auditor Crit Luallen and Attorney General Jack Conway.
The best news is that even the dwindling number of top Kentucky Republicans seem quietly intent on doing what they can to toss the party's baggage.
If they succeed, never will so many of us owe so much to so few.
David Hawpe's columns appear Wednesdays and Sundays in the Community Forum. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor's comment: Jim Bunning has been a RELIABLE Conservative, but some of his antics have left me scratching my head -- literally.
BREAKING News: U. S. House Passes "House Passes [POTUS Barack] Obama’s Stimulus Package". Republicans Voted No. OINK! OINK!!
Animal Rights Group PETA Joins Porn Group. Watch Video. WARNING: EXPLICIT. You MUST Be An Adult To View Video!
More Economic News As GM Takes Step To Reverse Course, Will End Controversial "Jobs Bank" On Monday. Read More And Applaud.
GM to end controversial 'jobs bank' Monday
By BREE FOWLER
NEW YORK (AP) -- General Motors Corp.'s "jobs bank" program will end Monday, following a similar move at Chrysler LLC that helps satisfy the conditions the government imposed when it lent the automakers $17.4 billion late last year.
The program gives union workers at the Detroit Three most of their pay and benefits while they are laid off - sometimes for years. It was the target of much ire during the companies' requests for a federal bailout.
GM spokesman Tony Sapienza said Wednesday that the 1,600 GM workers in the jobs bank will be placed on layoff and will need to file for unemployment. They'll receive about 72 percent of their salaries, paid by state unemployment benefits and GM subsidies. The workers also will get medical and other benefits from the company.
The length of time workers can receive unemployment benefits varies from state to state but usually amounts to about 48 weeks, Sapienza said. After that, they'll no longer get paid.
Christine Moroski, a spokeswoman for the United Auto Workers union, declined to comment.
Sapienza said the move will allow cash-strapped GM to use state unemployment benefits to help cover some of the costs of paying the workers.
"We really appreciate the union's willingness to work with us as we continue to restructure for long-term viability," Sapienza said.
UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said in early December that the union would suspend the jobs bank, after members of Congress criticized the money-seeking automakers for paying workers who are not on the job. Some Republicans sought more concessions from the union, and a bill to provide loans to GM and Chrysler died in the Senate before the Bush administration stepped in to grant aid.
Each automaker's jobs bank varies, but at GM, laid-off workers could get 85 percent of their base pay, plus benefits, without reporting to work while the company tried to find them jobs elsewhere. Or workers could get full pay by reporting to a factory or union hall, where they could be called upon to perform community service or tasks around the plant.
Union officials said late last week that Chrysler was eliminating its jobs bank effective Jan. 26. Like at Detroit-based GM, Chrysler's affected workers will continue to receive supplemental pay to make up much of their wages after unemployment compensation.
Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Chrysler was also required to eliminate its jobs bank as a condition of its $4 billion in Treasury Department loans. GM was granted $13.4 billion and already has received $9.4 billion of those funds.
The terms of the loans call for GM and Chrysler to eliminate "the payment of any compensation or benefits to U.S. employees of the company or any subsidiary who have been fired, laid-off, furloughed, or idled, other than customary severance pay."
It has been unclear whether this provision also requires the companies to eliminate the supplemental pay they provide while workers collect unemployment benefits.
Both automakers must submit plans by Feb. 17 showing that they can become viable. If the Treasury isn't satisfied with the plans, the government could call in the loans at the end of March.
Ford Motor Co. didn't take any government money, but company officials and Gettelfinger have said they expect the Dearborn, Mich., automaker to get the same concessions as the other companies so it's not disadvantaged.
Editor's comment: SAD it took government to FORCE GM and the rest of the BIG Three to do what common sense should have made them do to begin with.
Hopefully, a more viable GM will emerge from all of this economic retrenchment.
And More Economic News, As Boeing Slashes 10,000 Jobs. Stay Tuned.
Are People Of Washington, D. C. "Snow Wimps"? Yes, Says POTUS Barack Obama. Watch Video.
POTUS Barack Obama's More Economic News ...
"Stimulus Bill Near $900 Billion".
Obama Agrees to Trim Alternative Minimum Tax; Lobbies Rush for Cut of the Pie
By GREG HITT and ELIZABETH WILLIAMSON
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. economic stimulus package neared $900 billion in the Senate, as President Barack Obama wooed Republicans ahead of an expected House vote Wednesday.
Question of the Day
The rare trip by a president to Capitol Hill revealed the urgency in Congress and the White House over a cure for the souring economy. More than 70,000 layoffs were announced this week and fresh data showed unemployment last month rose in all states.
The day was marked by Democratic deal-making. The Obama administration indicated it would agree to a $69 billion Senate proposal to shield tens of millions of middle-income Americans from the so-called alternative minimum tax, a priority of Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. The panel later folded the change into the Senate bill.
Who Gets What
See how some of the major stimulus spending will be shared by the states.
A Closer Look at the Plans
White House officials also spread the word that Mr. Obama was willing to drop a proposed expansion of contraceptive coverage under Medicaid that has become a symbol for Republican critics. Late Tuesday, Democratic leaders agreed to drop that provision, as well as another measure providing support for refurbishing the capital's National Mall, ahead of the final vote on the House floor Wednesday. Both measures had been lampooned by Republicans.
The magnitude of the spending bill, and its urgency, drew a swarm of lobbyists seeking money and tax breaks. The concrete and asphalt industries battled over how the government should spend billions proposed for road and bridge repairs, while dairy and beef cattle producers butted heads over talk that the government might buy up dairy cattle for slaughter to drive up depressed milk prices. Unions backed infrastructure spending. States sought budget bailouts.
"When you've got 800-plus billion dollars to spend, you'll have an equal number of opinions on how it should be spent," said Chris Galen, spokesman for the National Milk Producers Federation, the dairy industry's main lobbying group.
The economic stimulus package proposed by Democratic House leaders totals $825 billion and includes three broad pieces: a $365.6 billion spending measure for such brick-and-mortar projects as highways and bridges; a $180 billion measure to boost jobless benefits and Medicaid, among other things; and a $275 billion tax-relief package, which includes a plan to give a $500 payroll tax holiday to all workers, a proposal from Mr. Obama's presidential campaign.
President Obama said, 'We're not going to get 100% agreement, and we might not even get 50% agreement,' but he thought lobbying Congress was helpful.
The Democrats controlling the House have the votes to pass a stimulus bill. In the Senate, Democrats need only the support of a few Republicans to collect the 60 votes needed for passage. But Mr. Obama wants broad support, and to win over some of the Republicans seeking less spending and more tax cuts.
"I would love to not have to spend this money," Mr. Obama said, according to individuals familiar with the president's meetings with Republicans. Mr. Obama defended the plan, they said, but suggested he'd be open to new ideas to help small businesses, and that changes could come after the House vote.
"We're not going to get 100% agreement, and we might not even get 50% agreement," Mr. Obama told reporters after he left the Senate Republican lunch. "But I do think that people appreciate me walking them through my thought processes on this."
The sight of this much federal cash and tax favors has prompted a rough-and-tumble competition. Billions of dollars in proposed road and bridge repairs, for example, have pitted the concrete and asphalt industries against one another.
Concrete lobbyists want more money for such long-term projects as interstate highways, bridges and waterworks -- projects that, not coincidentally, use more concrete. The asphalt industry prefers repaving and road repair that use more asphalt.
"When you have a road or highway that needs to be fixed quickly, asphalt is the way to go," says Margaret Cervarich, a vice president at the National Asphalt Pavement Association.
Craig Silvertooth, the president of the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing, said he's concerned that lawmakers have failed to include tax incentives for energy-efficient roofs using solar panels. But the geothermal heat pump industry -- represented by lobbyists for one company, Oklahoma-based ClimateMaster Inc. -- said it won equal footing with solar and wind companies through a 30% homeowner tax credit in the House bill for installation of a geothermal heat pump.
Lobbyists for U.S. footwear makers and retailers want lawmakers to wall off their drive to scrap import taxes on cheap shoes from a competing push to lower tariffs on all imported clothing and textiles.
The shoe lobby sent a letter to congressional leaders Tuesday asking for a stimulus provision abolishing the import tax on synthetic, fabric and canvas shoes. The American Apparel & Footwear Association, the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America and retail footwear companies say the tax can reach 67.5%.
Republican Sen. John Ensign of Nevada wants to add similar legislation to the stimulus. But the effort could fail if combined with a separate push by apparel importers to lower tariffs on all foreign textile and apparel products. The apparel measure faces stiff opposition from lawmakers and U.S.-based textile plants.
Business interests also are working to promote tax proposals included in the Senate version of the stimulus plan but not, so far, in the House version.
Both the House and Senate packages include tax incentives to encourage capital investments by businesses, expand support for development of renewable energy sources, and help businesses use current losses to claim tax refunds against profitable years in which they paid taxes.
The Senate tax package, which was approved by the Finance Committee late Tuesday on a 14-9 vote, also created a limited tax benefit to encourage corporations to restructure debt.
High-tech companies struck out with the House when they sought tax credits for spending on bringing broadband infrastructure to rural and so-called underserved areas. But the firms struck pay dirt Tuesday in the Senate Finance Committee, winning a 10% tax credit for investments in current-generation broadband technology, and a 20% tax credit for investments in "next-generation" broadband, not only in rural and underserved areas but any residential area.
Once the House and Senate pass their versions of the stimulus package, negotiators from each branch will hammer out a final version of the bill. The compromise bill would require a second vote in the House and Senate before reaching the president's desk.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said government borrowing prompted by enactment of the plan would add another $347 billion, pushing the estimated cost of the stimulus plan to more than $1 trillion, including interest.
Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag sent a letter Tuesday to House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) saying Mr. Obama was "committed to paying for any of the temporary tax cuts included in the recovery plan that he would like to make permanent," and supported a return to "pay-as-you-go" budget rules for nonemergency spending.
Write to Greg Hitt at email@example.com and Elizabeth Williamson at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sorry I Have Not Posted Much Today, But Here Go: You Won't Believe What's In That Stimulus Bill. Read More.
You won't believe what's in that stimulus bill.
"Never let a serious crisis go to waste. What I mean by that is it's an opportunity to do things you couldn't do before."
So said White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in November, and Democrats in Congress are certainly taking his advice to heart. The 647-page, $825 billion House legislation is being sold as an economic "stimulus," but now that Democrats have finally released the details we understand Rahm's point much better. This is a political wonder that manages to spend money on just about every pent-up Democratic proposal of the last 40 years.
We've looked it over, and even we can't quite believe it. There's $1 billion for Amtrak, the federal railroad that hasn't turned a profit in 40 years; $2 billion for child-care subsidies; $50 million for that great engine of job creation, the National Endowment for the Arts; $400 million for global-warming research and another $2.4 billion for carbon-capture demonstration projects. There's even $650 million on top of the billions already doled out to pay for digital TV conversion coupons.
In selling the plan, President Obama has said this bill will make "dramatic investments to revive our flagging economy." Well, you be the judge. Some $30 billion, or less than 5% of the spending in the bill, is for fixing bridges or other highway projects. There's another $40 billion for broadband and electric grid development, airports and clean water projects that are arguably worthwhile priorities.
Add the roughly $20 billion for business tax cuts, and by our estimate only $90 billion out of $825 billion, or about 12 cents of every $1, is for something that can plausibly be considered a growth stimulus. And even many of these projects aren't likely to help the economy immediately. As Peter Orszag, the President's new budget director, told Congress a year ago, "even those [public works] that are 'on the shelf' generally cannot be undertaken quickly enough to provide timely stimulus to the economy."
Most of the rest of this project spending will go to such things as renewable energy funding ($8 billion) or mass transit ($6 billion) that have a low or negative return on investment. Most urban transit systems are so badly managed that their fares cover less than half of their costs. However, the people who operate these systems belong to public-employee unions that are campaign contributors to . . . guess which party?
Here's another lu-lu: Congress wants to spend $600 million more for the federal government to buy new cars. Uncle Sam already spends $3 billion a year on its fleet of 600,000 vehicles. Congress also wants to spend $7 billion for modernizing federal buildings and facilities. The Smithsonian is targeted to receive $150 million; we love the Smithsonian, too, but this is a job creator?
Another "stimulus" secret is that some $252 billion is for income-transfer payments -- that is, not investments that arguably help everyone, but cash or benefits to individuals for doing nothing at all. There's $81 billion for Medicaid, $36 billion for expanded unemployment benefits, $20 billion for food stamps, and $83 billion for the earned income credit for people who don't pay income tax. While some of that may be justified to help poorer Americans ride out the recession, they aren't job creators.
As for the promise of accountability, some $54 billion will go to federal programs that the Office of Management and Budget or the Government Accountability Office have already criticized as "ineffective" or unable to pass basic financial audits. These include the Economic Development Administration, the Small Business Administration, the 10 federal job training programs, and many more.
Oh, and don't forget education, which would get $66 billion more. That's more than the entire Education Department spent a mere 10 years ago and is on top of the doubling under President Bush. Some $6 billion of this will subsidize university building projects. If you think the intention here is to help kids learn, the House declares on page 257 that "No recipient . . . shall use such funds to provide financial assistance to students to attend private elementary or secondary schools." Horrors: Some money might go to nonunion teachers.
The larger fiscal issue here is whether this spending bonanza will become part of the annual "budget baseline" that Congress uses as the new floor when calculating how much to increase spending the following year, and into the future. Democrats insist that it will not. But it's hard -- no, impossible -- to believe that Congress will cut spending next year on any of these programs from their new, higher levels. The likelihood is that this allegedly emergency spending will become a permanent addition to federal outlays -- increasing pressure for tax increases in the bargain. Any Blue Dog Democrat who votes for this ought to turn in his "deficit hawk" credentials.
This is supposed to be a new era of bipartisanship, but this bill was written based on the wish list of every living -- or dead -- Democratic interest group. As Speaker Nancy Pelosi put it, "We won the election. We wrote the bill." So they did. Republicans should let them take all of the credit.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
I Had A Guy Tell Me Today That Illinois And Kentucky Need To Be Merged Into One State. I Laughed, But "Pay To Play" Is No Laughing Matter. Watch Video
The Economy Takes Another TRAGIC Turn.
POTUS Barack Obama Tells Moslems That We Are Not Their Enemies. Watch.
Citigroup Aims High With Your Stimulus Package.
Please Let Me Know When You Are TIRED Of Hearing From This FOOL.
Eugene Robinson: Obama Should Form A Truth Commission.
By Eugene Robinson
WASHINGTON -- Before President Obama can do, he must undo. Repairing the damage that George W. Bush did to the nation's values, honor and pride will be complicated and, at times, politically inconvenient. But nothing is more urgent, and nothing will ultimately reap more benefits at home and abroad.
The executive orders that Obama signed Thursday concerning the detention of terrorism suspects are a beginning. Much more remains to be undone.
Obama's campaign pledge to shut down the prison at Guantánamo was unequivocal, and his decree ordering that the place be closed within a year is really just an official promise to honor that pledge by a time certain. Guantánamo will still be in operation tomorrow. Obama gave himself and his advisers time to figure out how to honor their commitment, but it will be a great disappointment if concrete action takes anywhere near that long.
Guantánamo is more than a prison housing several dozen dangerous individuals and a handful of true terrorist masterminds. The name itself has become shorthand for the Bush administration's arrogant disregard for international legal norms. In terms of America's moral standing in the world and Obama's vow not to abandon our nation's noblest ideals for the sake of expedience, every day the Guantánamo prison remains open is a day too long.
I know it will take time to review the circumstances of each of the estimated 245 prisoners now being held there. I know that new procedures will have to be developed to prosecute suspects who were interrogated with methods the courts will consider torture, meaning that the evidence against them is tainted. I know that it has been difficult to find countries willing to accept some detainees who turned out to be innocent victims of the Bush administration's detention policies. I know that moving suspects to federal or military prisons will provoke howls on Capitol Hill, especially from the members whose states or districts must act as hosts.
None of this should take a year. An executive order becomes real when it is followed -- promptly -- with action.
More immediate and definitive, at least at first glance, is Obama's order banning the Bush administration's "enhanced" interrogation techniques, which critics say are nothing but torture hidden behind a sinister euphemism.
Obama limited all U.S. interrogators to the methods specified in the Army Field Manual, which forbids physical abuse. The order ends the practice of waterboarding, a technique of simulated drowning that was used during the Spanish Inquisition and the reign of the Khmer Rouge -- and also, to our nation's shame and dishonor, during the presidency of George W. Bush.
Obama said his actions, taken on his second full day in office, signal that "the United States intends to prosecute the ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism ... in a manner that is consistent with our values and our ideals." Implicit is an acknowledgement that the previous administration's actions were not consistent with those values and ideals -- and here is where Obama needs to go further.
There are many "known unknowns," to echo Donald Rumsfeld, about the Bush years. We don't know the full story of the secret offshore CIA prisons where terrorism suspects were held and interrogated. We don't know the extent of the "rendition" program, in which suspects were handed over to cooperative countries for aggressive and reportedly abusive questioning. We don't know the full extent of the administration's warrantless domestic electronic surveillance.
And there are "unknown unknowns." Isn't it conceivable that the Bush administration took other measures that would curl our hair if they were revealed?
Obama should form an official blue-ribbon panel, some sort of "truth commission," to investigate Bush's conduct of his "war on terror" and report to the American people. The point isn't to prosecute anyone. The point certainly isn't to reveal genuine national security secrets whose disclosure would put lives in danger. The point is to know, and to remember.
This nation's ideals of due process, rule of law, humane interrogation, privacy and governmental openness are not mere embellishments. They are essential to who we are. By disregarding those ideals, the previous administration diminished us all.
A thorough investigation would be controversial and could make it more difficult for Obama to move ahead with his agenda in other areas. But as he said Thursday, we must honor our values "not just when it's easy, but also when it's hard."
Eugene Robinson is a Washington Post columnist. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
Labels: POTUS Barack Obama
Robert J. Samuelson: It's Truly A Global Crisis.
By Robert J. Samuelson • The Washington Post • January 27, 2009
WASHINGTON -- We all want President Obama to succeed in reviving the economy, but that shouldn't obscure his long odds. We need to recognize that we're grappling with three separate crises that, though interwoven, are also quite distinct. The solution to any one of them won't automatically resuscitate the larger economy if the others remain untreated and unchanged.
Here are the three.
First: the collapse of consumer spending. American consumers represent 70 percent of the economy. Traumatized by plunging home values and stock prices -- which have shaved at least $7 trillion from personal wealth -- they've curbed spending and increased saving. That's led directly to layoffs. In December, vehicle sales were down 36 percent from year-earlier levels.
Second: the financial crisis. Lower lending deprives the economy of the credit to finance businesses, homes and costly consumer purchases (cars, appliances). The deepest cuts involve "securitization" -- the sale of bonds. Investors have gone on strike. In 2008, the issuance of bonds backing credit card loans fell 41 percent and those backing car loans 51 percent.
Third: a trade crisis. Global spending and saving patterns are badly askew. High-saving Asian countries have relied on export-led growth that, in turn, has required American consumers to spend ever-larger shares of their income. Huge trade imbalances have resulted: U.S. deficits, Asian surpluses. As Americans cut spending, this pattern is no longer sustainable. Asia is tumbling into recession.
Overcoming any of these crises alone would be daunting. Together, they're the economic equivalent of a combined Ironman triathlon and Tour de France.
Consider consumer spending. The proposed remedy is the "economic stimulus" plan. This seems sensible. If government doesn't offset declines in consumer and other private spending, the economy might spiral down for several years. Last week, House committees considered an $825 billion package, split between $550 billion in additional spending and $275 billion in tax cuts.
But in practice, the stimulus could disappoint. Parts of the House package look like a giant political slush fund, with money sprinkled to dozens of programs. There's $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, $200 million for the Teacher Incentive Fund and $15.6 billion for increased Pell Grants to college students. Some of these proposals, whatever their other merits, won't produce many new jobs.
Another problem: Construction spending -- for schools, clinics, roads -- may start so slowly that there's little immediate economic boost. The Congressional Budget Office examined $356 billion in spending proposals and concluded that only 7 percent would be spent in 2009 and 31 percent in 2010.
Assume, however, that the stimulus is a smashing success. It cushions the recession. Unemployment (now: 7.2 percent) stops rising at, say, 8 percent instead of 10 percent. Still, a temporary stimulus can't fuel a permanent recovery. That requires a strong financial system to supply an expanding economy's credit needs. How we get that isn't clear.
The pillars of a successful financial system have crumbled: the ability to assess risk; adequate capital to absorb losses; and trust among banks, investors and traders. Underlying these ills has been the consistent underestimation of losses. Economists at Goldman Sachs now believe that worldwide losses on mortgages, bonds, loans to consumers and businesses total $2.1 trillion. In March, the Goldman estimate was about half that.
All the new credit programs -- the Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and various Federal Reserve lending facilities -- aim to counteract these problems by providing government money and government guarantees. Probably Obama will expand these efforts, despite some obvious problems: If government oversight becomes too intrusive or punitive, it might deter much-needed infusions of private capital into banks. Again, let's assume Obama's policies succeed. Credit flows rise.
Even then, we have no assurance of a vigorous recovery, because the economic crisis is ultimately global in scope. The old trading patterns simply won't work anymore. If China and other Asian nations try to export their way out of trouble, they're likely to be disappointed. Any import surge into the United States would weaken an incipient American recovery and probably trigger a protectionist reaction. Down that path lies tit-for-tat economic nationalism that might harm everyone.
Indeed, if the rest of the world doesn't buy more from America, any U.S. recovery may be feeble. What's needed are policies that correct the imbalances in spending and saving. As Americans save more of their incomes, Asians should save less and spend more, so that they rely more on producing for themselves rather than exporting to us. The great trade discrepancies would shrink.
But this sort of transformation requires basic political changes in Asia. Whether China and other Asian societies can make those changes is unclear. The implications are sobering. The success of Obama's policies lies, to a large extent, outside his hands.
Robert J. Samuelson is a Washington Post columnist who specializes in economics.
Labels: Economic news
Oh Brother. Now Jim Bunning Is Squabbling With Mitch McConnell. Read More.
Read more here, or excerpts below:
Bunning takes aim at McConnell
By Halimah Abdullah - firstname.lastname@example.org
U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Southgate
A rift between Kentucky’s two Republican U.S. Senators surfaced publicly Tuesday as U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning groused to reporters that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn’t publicly backed his 2010 re-election bid.
Bunning said McConnell must have suffered “a lapse of memory” last week when he told reporters at the National Press Club in Washington that he didn’t know if Bunning planned to seek re-election. Bunning, who is widely considered the nation’s most politically vulnerable GOP senator, said he told McConnell of his re-election intentions in early December.
McConnell’s lukewarm support is typical when members of Congress disagree with the senate minority leader on issues, he said.
Bunning, who has accused McConnell of taking marching orders from President George W. Bush during the last administration, has also differed with McConnell on the $700 billion bailout of the floundering financial sector and on immigration policy reform.
McConnell “had a lapse of memory when he was speaking to the press club last week when he said he didn’t know what my intentions were,” Bunning said. “Whatever Mitch says is whatever he says. He’s the leader of the pack and he can say whatever he wants and get away with it.”
McConnell declined to comment Tuesday on Bunning’s remarks.
Bunning also expressed frustration with what he sees as a systemic lack of financial support from both McConnell and national Republican fund-raising committees.
In the final weeks of the 2004 election cycle, political experts say McConnell helped Bunning eke out a narrow 1.4 percentage point victory against Democratic challenger Daniel Mongiardo, then a state senator from eastern Kentucky and now the state’s lieutenant governor, by loaning staffers and helping the junior senator raise much-needed funds.
“He won because McConnell picked him up and carried him,” said Jennifer Duffy, Senate analyst with the non-partisan Cook Political Report. “McConnell got out there and made some personal appeals and got his own organization involved. He made sure they had the money.”
However, Bunning’s re-election coffers are low, a fact he attributes to his inability to raise funds during McConnell’s own contentious re-election bid.
“For two years Sen. McConnell had a broom out and swept the state of Kentucky. For two years I did not hold a fund-raiser in the Commonwealth of Kentucky because I knew how important McConnell’s race was,” Bunning said.
Bunning’s campaign reported having about $150,000 on hand last week — far less than the $1 million political experts suggest Bunning would need by the end of the first quarter in order to start his campaign on solid footing.
Bunning said Tuesday that he will need $10 million to mount a competitive bid. He is putting together a campaign staff, planning several fund-raisers for coming weeks and will conduct polls later this spring.
But while Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is slated to pitch in to help raise funds, McConnell is not, Bunning said.
The palpable tension between the two Kentucky senators reflects the bleak landscape for the Republican party for the 2010 mid-term elections, said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
“McConnell and other Republican leaders, both state and national, are trying to nudge Bunning into retirement,” Sabato said.
“Kentucky is a Republican state but Bunning has squeaked to his two victories. This is one of those rare cases when a party would be better served not to support its incumbent.”
Senate Republicans face a difficult re-election picture in 2010. Already three key Republicans, Florida’s Mel Martinez, Sam Brownback of Kansas, and Kit Bond of Missouri, have announced they will not seek re-election.
Republicans must keep all of the 41 seats they currently hold to retain the ability to filibuster legislation they do not deem favorable, Sabato said.
However, Bunning’s absence during the busy first week of the 111th Congress coupled with his dwindled war chest has raised questions about the 77-year-old’s viability as a candidate.
Bunning, who sits on the Senate’s Finance, Energy and Natural Resources and Banking committees, missed three cabinet confirmation hearings and a GOP strategy session on President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package earlier this month.
He also missed critical votes on releasing the second portion of the $700 billion federal bailout on the nation’s troubled financial sector — a measure Bunning has staunchly opposed in the past. Bunning’s congressional staffers attribute his absences to family commitments and declined to discuss exactly where the senator was for the better part of a month.
Already, the 2010 campaign looks as if it will feature the strange political twists and turns that have been the hallmark of Bunning’s previous bids and the Republican party’s recent efforts in statewide races.
McConnell’s relative silence on Bunning’s re-election gambit is similar to the senate minority leader’s approach to Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s re-election campaign in 2007.
“If that’s what you consider the Fletcher treatment, I guess that’s what I’m getting,” Bunning said.
The 2010 race may also feature a repeat match between Bunning and Mongiardo. During the 2004 campaign, Bunning said Mongiardo looked “like one of Saddam Hussein’s sons.”
Mongiardo is an Italian-American. Bunning later apologized for the statement.
“An incumbent has to make a very personal decision. No one can force anyone in or out of a race,” Sabato said. “We’ll have to see if Bunning continues to run uphill.”
Winter Wonderland: There Goes My Tree.
We all woke up to a FROZEN Tundra -- reminds one of Canada in Winter.
And yes, the ice weighed down my tree, and my tree succumbed to the weight!
I wonder if all those folks at the grocery store stayed home today? -- or maybe they went back to the stores to get whatever was left!!
Stay warm -- and safe ya'll.
Labels: General information
Monday, January 26, 2009
OK, Here's The Story Of Coach Jason Stinson. How Much You Wanna Bet The Coach Will Cop A Plea?
Labels: High school sports
MANY Will Be FAT, But It Won't Be Me.
Worse, a lot of items were gone, and their displays stared back at you.
I found a Manager and asked him whether they were running a special, or giving stuff away.
He immediately informed me that the weather is supposed to get nasty (now I'm NOT a weather watcher, or anything of that nature, but I have heard that saying numerous times) and people are shopping in case if that ACTUALLY happens -- or WORSE, and the world comes to a crashing end; hey, wait a minute -- if that happens, we will not need to eat, at least not what we bought at Kroger.
Then I wondered: could the grocery stores be colluding with the guys at the grocery stores to get us to buy until we drop? By the way, the store Manager also informed me that Walmart called to see if Kroger STILL had milk (Kroger did) and Walmart is now (as we speak), sending its shoppers to Kroger.
Imagine that: Walmart actually changing stripes and acting CIVIL!
Maybe, the world is coming to an end afterall, and I did not need groceries anyway.
If the world does not come to an end, then I have won because all these shoppers will get FAT from snorting all the groceries they have hoarded -- and my sweet revenge will be that I won't get fat like them.
Then again maybe I am fat already.
Well, never mind.
Labels: Popular culture
Timothy Geithner "Squeaks By" As Treasury Secretary 60 To 34.
Monnster Truck Monstrosity. You See The Guy In The Video? He Got "Wiped Out" -- NO Kidding.
The Real Barrier To Barack Obama's "Responsibility" Era.
The real barrier to Barack Obama's 'responsibility' era.
By PHILIP K. HOWARD
Calling for a "new era of responsibility" in his inaugural address, President Barack Obama reminded us that there are no limits to "what free men and women can achieve." Indeed. America achieved greatness as the can-do society. This is, after all, the country of Thomas Paine and barn raisings, of Grange halls and Google. Other countries shared, at least in part, our political freedoms, but America had something different -- a belief in the power of each individual. President Obama's clarion call of self-determination -- "Yes We Can" -- hearkens back to the core of our culture.
But there's a threshold problem for our new president. Americans don't feel free to reach inside themselves and make a difference. The growth of litigation and regulation has injected a paralyzing uncertainty into everyday choices. All around us are warnings and legal risks. The modern credo is not "Yes We Can" but "No You Can't." Our sense of powerlessness is pervasive. Those who deal with the public are the most discouraged. Most doctors say they wouldn't advise their children to go into medicine. Government service is seen as a bureaucratic morass, not a noble calling. Make a difference? You can't even show basic human kindness for fear of legal action. Teachers across America are instructed never to put an arm around a crying child.
The idea of freedom as personal power got pushed aside in recent decades by a new idea of freedom -- where the focus is on the rights of whoever might disagree. Daily life in America has been transformed. Ordinary choices -- by teachers, doctors, officials, managers, even volunteers -- are paralyzed by legal self-consciousness. Did you check the rules? Who will be responsible if there's an accident? A pediatrician in North Carolina noted that "I don't deal with patients the same way any more. You wouldn't want to say something off the cuff that might be used against you."
Here we stand, facing the worst economy since the Great Depression, and Americans no longer feel free to do anything about it. We have lost the idea, at every level of social life, that people can grab hold of a problem and fix it. Defensiveness has swept across the country like a cold wave. We have become a culture of rule followers, trained to frame every solution in terms of existing law or possible legal risk. The person of responsibility is replaced by the person of caution. When in doubt, don't.
All this law, we're told, is just the price of making sure society is in working order. But society is not working. Disorder disrupts learning all day long in many public schools -- the result in part, studies by NYU Professor Richard Arum found, of the rise of student rights. Health care is like a nervous breakdown in slow motion. Costs are out of control, yet the incentive for doctors is to order whatever tests the insurance will pay for. Taking risks is no longer the badge of courage, but reason enough to get sued. There's an epidemic of child obesity, but kids aren't allowed to take the normal risks of childhood. Broward County, Fla., has even banned running at recess.
The flaw, and the cure, lie in our conception of freedom. We think of freedom as political freedom. We're certainly free to live and work where we want, and to pull the lever in the ballot box. But freedom should also include the power of personal conviction and the authority to use your common sense. Analyzing the American character, Alexis de Tocqueville, considered "freedom less necessary in great things than in little ones. . . . Subjection in minor affairs does not drive men to resistance, but it crosses them at every turn, till they are led to sacrifice their own will. Thus their spirit is gradually broken and their character enervated."
This is not an ideological point. Freedom in daily choices is essential for practical reasons -- necessary for government officials and judges as well as for teachers, doctors and entrepreneurs. The new legal order doesn't honor the individuality of human accomplishment. People accomplish things by focusing on the goal, and letting their instincts, mainly subconscious, try to get them there. "Amazingly few people," management guru Peter Drucker observed, "know how they get things done." Most things happen, the philosopher Michael Polanyi wrote, through "the usual process of trial and error by which we feel our way to success." Thomas Edison put it this way: "Nothing that's any good works by itself. You got to make the damn thing work."
Modern law pulls the rug out from under all those human powers and substitutes instead a debilitating self-consciousness. Teachers lose their authority, Prof. Arum found, because the overhang of law causes "hesitation, doubt and weakening of conviction." Skyrocketing health-care costs are impossible to contain as long as doctors go through the day thinking about how they will defend themselves if a sick person sues.
The overlay of law on daily choices destroys the human instinct needed to get things done. Bureaucracy can't teach. Rules don't make things happen. Accomplishment is personal. Anyone who has felt the pride of a job well done knows this.
How do we restore Americans' freedom in daily choices? Freedom is notoriously malleable towards self-interest. "We all declare for liberty," Abraham Lincoln observed, "but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing."
Freedom, however, is not just a shoving match. Freedom has a formal structure. It has two components:
1) Law sets boundaries that proscribe what we must do or can't do -- you must not steal, you must pay taxes.
2) Those same legal boundaries protect an open field of free choice in all other matters.
The forgotten idea is the second component -- that law must affirmatively define an area free from legal interference. Law must provide "frontiers, not artificially drawn," as philosopher Isaiah Berlin put it, "within which men should be inviolable."
This idea has been lost to our age. When advancing the cause of freedom, law today is all proscription and no protection. There are no boundaries, just a moving mudbank comprised of accumulating bureaucracy and whatever claims people unilaterally choose to assert. People wade through law all day long. Any disagreement in the workplace, any accident, any incidental touching of a child, any sick person who gets sicker, any bad grade in school -- you name it. Law has poured into daily life.
The solution is not just to start paring back all the law -- that would take 10 lifetimes, like trying to prune the jungle. We need to abandon the idea that freedom is a legal maze, where each daily choice is like picking the right answer on a multiple-choice test. We need to set a new goal for law -- to define an open area of free choice. This requires judges and legislatures to affirmatively assert social norms of what's reasonable and what's not. "The first requirement of a sound body of law," Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. wrote, "is that it should correspond with the actual feelings and demands of the community."
The profile of authority structures needed to defend daily freedoms is not hard to imagine. Judges would aspire to keep lawsuits reasonable, understanding that what people sue for ends up defining the boundaries of free interaction. Schools would be run by the instincts and values of the humans in charge -- not by bureaucratic micromanagement -- and be held accountable for how they do. Government officials would have flexibility to meet public goals, also with accountability. Public choices would aspire to balance for the common good, not, generally, to appease someone's rights.
Reviving the can-do spirit that made America great requires a legal overhaul of historic dimension. We must scrape away decades of accumulated legal sediment and replace it with coherent legal goals and authority mechanisms, designed to affirmatively protect individual freedom in daily choices. "A little rebellion now and then is a good thing," Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Madison, "and as necessary in the political world as storms are in the physical . . . ." The goal is not to change our public goals. The goal is make it possible for free citizens to achieve them.
Mr. Howard, a lawyer, is chair of Common Good (www.commongood.org), and author of the new book "Life Without Lawyers," published this month by W.W. Norton & Co.
Labels: General information
SHAMELESS Political Thug, BLAGO, Does "The View".
POTUS Barack Obama Goes Environmental. Good For Him. Watch Video.
Here's Your Every Monday Redbox FREE Movie Code. Enjoy.
With so much going on, I have simply forgotten to do so.
But here we go again with me posting them.
Again, sorry, but enjoy, ya'll.
Below is the code:
Amen To That.
By David S. Broder
WASHINGTON -- The dynasties are disappearing.
The latest proof came when Caroline Kennedy, the only daughter of John and Jackie Kennedy, dramatically removed herself as a possible replacement for Hillary Rodham Clinton -- a dynast by marriage -- in the Senate seat from New York once held by her Uncle Bobby.
Caroline's announcement came just two days after a seizure in the Capitol had served as a reminder that her surviving uncle, Ted Kennedy, the veteran senator from Massachusetts, is battling a serious illness, a malignant brain tumor.
And it came just two weeks after the heir apparent to the Bush family dynasty, former Gov. Jeb Bush, had taken himself out of consideration for the Senate seat that will become vacant next year in Florida.
Jeb is young enough that he could have another bite at the apple, running in 2012 or a later year to succeed his father and his brother, the two George Bushes, as president. But the last time Jeb's name was on a ballot was in 2002 -- and the lapse of a decade is a lifetime in politics.
As for the Kennedys, where there once seemed to be a limitless supply of them -- handsome, energetic and ambitious -- they now can count only one federal officeholder in the younger generation, Sen. Kennedy's son Patrick, a congressman from Rhode Island. Patrick is enormously popular at home, but his reputation in Washington has been shaped more by his personal problems than his political accomplishments.
These two families have written their way into the history books, along with such tribes as the Adamses, the Lees, the Roosevelts, the Tafts, the Harrisons, the Byrds and the Frelinghuysens.
My friend Stephen Hess, a political historian who has written a fine book about these and other "leading families," offers no sweeping generalizations about their rise and fall.
There is almost always an ancestor with the talent and drive to lift his sights beyond what others can envisage. Until now, those pioneers have mostly been males. Joseph P. Kennedy and Prescott Bush made their fortunes on Wall Street before turning to government service and instilling the ambition in their sons.
But it will not be long before the inheritance shifts to the maternal line, given the pace with which women are moving into higher office in both federal and state governments.
For now, though, women and men alike are inheriting the political gene mainly from their fathers -- as witness Kansas. Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker, its former Republican senator, is the daughter of Alf Landon, the state's former governor and the 1936 Republican presidential nominee. Kathleen Sebelius, now the Democratic governor, learned politics from her father, John Gilligan, who was once the governor of Ohio.
I see no inevitability in the fading of particular dynasties. Some children may receive too close-up a view of the costs of public life, the wear-and-tear on marriages and families. But others are unfazed. Jerry Brown, the former governor of California, saw the father whose name he bears, Edmund G. "Pat" Brown Sr., defeated in his third term bid for governor by Ronald Reagan. But Jerry keeps running, currently serving as state attorney general, and likely trying for governor again next year.
And speaking of ambitious attorneys general, New York's Andrew Cuomo, the son of Mario Cuomo, the former governor, has been poised to swoop in and claim the New York Senate seat that had seemed to be ticketed for Caroline Kennedy -- at least until The New York Times ran verbatim excerpts from its interview with her, a transcript so studded with "you knows" and broken sentences as to invite a Tina Fey imitation.
Mario Cuomo, like Pat Brown, saw his career end in defeat -- something his son desperately wants to avenge. But Andrew was passed over for the Senate seat when Gov. David Paterson picked Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand on Friday.
My favorite surviving dynasts are Mark and Tom Udall, the Democratic cousins just elected to the Senate from Colorado and New Mexico, respectively. They are the sons of Morris "Mo" Udall, the courageous and marvelously humorous congressman from Arizona, and his brother, Stewart, who left the House to become John Kennedy' secretary of the Interior -- two of the best friends the environment and public lands have ever had.
That's the kind of legacy we can always use.
David S. Broder is a columnist with The Washington Post. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
Labels: General information
BLAGO Is On Television Spinning A Tale. Watch.
Move Along Folks. There Is No News About "Mondiardo To Run Against Bunning"!
Words To Live By.
-- James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1791
Labels: Words to live by
And Again, It's Joel Pett. Laugh Awhile.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Kathleen Parker: May Obama Have Good Karma.
By Kathleen Parker
It may be time to take a closer look at karmic justice -- that mysterious quid pro quo by which good and bad acts are rewarded in kind.
One needn't believe in past lives and reincarnation to note that there's a whole lotta shakin' goin' on. Put another way: What goes around comes around.
The most obvious manifestation is the 44th president of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama.
I mention his middle name only because Chief Justice John Roberts did during last week's swearing-in ceremony, a proper time for proper names. It was wholly karmic that those who have been hissing "Hussein" as though it were a profane indictment of Obama's patriotism should have to hear it pronounced with dignity and respect in the presence of a largely approving world.
It has never been clear to less-fevered minds why the name's association with Iraq's Saddam was more compelling than with Jordan's King Hussein, now deceased, and his son Abdullah II have been among our most valuable allies in the Middle East.
But never mind. The name now belongs to the President of the U.S., biracial leader of the free world. Karma be praised.
Another karmic image, both tragic and jarring, lingers from the inauguration - that of Vice President Dick Cheney being transported from the halls of power in a wheelchair. The man whose long political career has been characterized by erect certitude -- and who advised Bush through a series of disastrous misjudgments -- was no longer capable of walking upright because of a back injury.
To the extent that our physical ailments reflect our interior lives, his final public appearance as vice president must have seemed a monument to karmic justice to the least of his fans. Likewise, Bush seemed paler than usual and wan next to a youthful, energized Obama.
Despite his cheerful attitude, it cannot have been easy for Bush to see the Mall teeming with people who had come to celebrate not only a new president, but Bush's departure.
The bad vibes didn't stop there.
After first praising Bush for his service, Obama aimed many of his remarks straight at the heart of Bush's policies. Most piercing was his promise to the rest of the world that America was now ready to lead again.
Obama recalled earlier generations that "faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions."
"They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please."
There's little question for whom that was intended, but Obama was off the mark when he said that "we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders."
Say what one will about Bush, he was not indifferent to the suffering of others. In fact, he is credited with saving millions of lives by allocating billions to fight AIDS and malaria in Africa. He also has been instrumental in helping bring an end to civil war in Sudan and was among the first to declare the atrocities in Darfur as genocide.
By those acts, surely, Bush has accrued a store of good karma, if little public acclamation, to balance whatever justice is his due.
On a lighter note in the annals of karmic history, Illinois first lady Patricia Blagojevich has been fired from her $100,000 job as a fundraiser for the homeless.
And former French President Jacques Chirac was taken to the hospital after being bitten by his pet Maltese poodle. The pup was being treated for depression, apparently unsuccessfully.
Somewhere, Tony Blair is smiling.
And now for our turn.
Obama didn't use the precise words, but he implied in his inaugural address that our current crises are karmic justice for decades of self-indulgence, greed and irresponsibility. It's not that we necessarily deserve a collapsed economy, two wars and a warming planet, but we can't place all the blame elsewhere.
Urging a new era of responsibility -- long the rallying cry of conservatives -- Obama was essentially invoking ancient scripture: "For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
As presidential mantras go, we could do worse. May good karma be with him.
Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist who lives in South Carolina. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Labels: POTUS Barack Obama