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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Banks in Florida, Maryland and Utah were closed yesterday

Florida, Maryland, Utah Banks Shut as Financial Crisis Deepens
By Ari Levy
Jan. 31 (Bloomberg) -- Banks in Florida, Maryland and Utah were closed yesterday as regulators wrapped up the busiest month for failures since the housing slump began in 2006.
Ocala National Bank in Florida and Suburban Federal Savings Bank of Crofton, Maryland, were shut by federal regulators, according to statements sent by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. MagnetBank of Salt Lake City was seized by the Utah Department of Financial Institutions. The banks had total assets of $876.4 million and deposits of $790 million.
Six banks have failed this month as tumbling home prices and a 16-year high in unemployment boost foreclosures. The FDIC classified 171 banks as “problem” in the third quarter, a 46 percent jump from the previous period amid the worst housing crisis since the Great Depression.

"Enduring struggle against terrorism and extremism."

Obama Abandons 'War On Terror' Catchphrase
WASHINGTON — The "War on Terror" is losing the war of words.
The catchphrase burned into the American lexicon hours after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, is fading away, slowly if not deliberately being replaced by a new administration bent on repairing the U.S. image among Muslim nations.
Since taking office less than two weeks ago, President Barack Obama has talked broadly of the "enduring struggle against terrorism and extremism." Another time it was an "ongoing struggle."
He has pledged to "go after" extremists and "win this fight." There even was an oblique reference to a "twilight struggle" as the U.S. relentlessly pursues those who threaten the country.
But only once since his Jan. 20 inauguration has Obama publicly strung those three words together into the explosive phrase that coalesced the country during its most terrifying time and eventually came to define the Bush administration.
Speaking at the State Department on Jan. 22, Obama told his diplomatic corps, "We are confronted by extraordinary, complex and interconnected global challenges: war on terror, sectarian division and the spread of deadly technology. We did not ask for the burden that history has asked us to bear, but Americans will bear it. We must bear it."
During the past seven years, the "War Against Terror" or "War on Terror" came to represent everything the U.S. military was doing in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the broader effort against extremists elsewhere or those seen as aiding militants aimed at destroying the West.
Ultimately and perhaps inadvertently, however, the phrase "became associated in the minds of many people outside the Unites States and particularly in places where the countries are largely Islamic and Arab, as being anti-Islam and anti-Arab," said Anthony Cordesman, a national security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.
NEW YORK — Most Republican governors have broken with their GOP colleagues in Congress and are pushing for passage of President Barack Obama's economic aid plan that would send billions to states for education, public works and health care.
Their state treasuries drained by the financial crisis, governors would welcome the money from Capitol Hill, where GOP lawmakers are more skeptical of Obama's spending priorities.
The 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, planned to meet in Washington this weekend with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and other senators to press for her state's share of the package.
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist worked the phones last week with members of his state's congressional delegation, including House Republicans. Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, the Republican vice chairman of the National Governors Association, planned to be in Washington on Monday to urge the Senate to approve the plan.

Guantanamo judge refuses to suspend trial

The decision by Army Col. James Pohl immediately raised questions about whether other cases could be affected
NEW YORK — A military judge stunned prosecutors and defence attorneys Thursday by rejecting U.S. President Barack Obama's bid to suspend all Guantanamo Bay court proceedings for 120 days — calling the government's argument "unpersuasive" in the case of a terror suspect in the USS Cole bombing.
The decision by Army Col. James Pohl immediately raised questions about whether other cases could be affected — including that of Canadian-born terror suspect Omar Khadr, whose trial judge last week accepted the 120-day suspension.
At the very least, the ruling placed a kink in the new administration's bid to buy time to review the cases of the 21 terror suspects currently charged among the 245 remaining detainees at the U.S. naval base in Cuba.
The White House appeared taken by surprise — but played down the effects of the decision.
"I believe that all the other trials were stayed, which I think continues to give us what we need to evaluate who is at Gitmo, and make the decisions commensurate with the executive order that the president signed," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said, adopting a term for Guantanamo commonly used among servicemen.
"But we're working to get some consultation on that."
Prosecutors and defence lawyers alike suggested Pohl's decision may mean the government will be forced to drop charges against Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri — or else, his currently scheduled Feb. 9 arraignment will go ahead.

One respects the office by honoring its place in a constitutional system, not by wearing a suit.

Former Bush White House chief of staff Andrew Card complained to right-wing talk-show host Michael Medved that President Obama is insufficiently respectful of the presidency. Apparently, one demonstrates respect for the presidency by their choice of attire:
Traditionalists may not approve of Obama's easy-going style, but we're a long way from a "laissez faire locker-room experience." A frat house it isn't.
The other thing to consider here is exactly how one "respects" the presidency. For Card and others who served with Bush, it's about choice of clothing. For those who serve with Obama, it's about honoring institutional limits and the rule of law.
Or, put another way, where exactly does a loyal Bushie get off talking about "respecting" the presidency? Did George W. Bush always wear a coat and tie? Sure. Good for him. But while he was wearing nice clothes and demanding that his staff do the same, he also oversaw a scandal-plagued White House that trashed constitutional norms and routinely ignored the laws that the president twice swore to faithfully execute.
One respects the office by honoring its place in a constitutional system, not by wearing a suit.

Friday, January 30, 2009

"Bush Is My 'Homeboy'"

After touting the need for the party to reach out to different constituencies and geographic regions Steele punctuates his acceptance speech with a shot across the bow to the opposition.
"For those who plan to obstruct," he declares, "get ready to get knocked over." You hear that Tim Kaine?
For their part, Democrats were quick to distribute unflattering information about Steele -- like his repeated references to George W. Bush as his "homeboy."


Cuomo Said to Eye Return of $4 Billion in Early Merrill Bonuses
By Erik Larson
Jan. 29 (Bloomberg) -- New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo may demand the return of $4 billion in bonuses paid by Merrill Lynch & Co. just before it was acquired by Bank of America Corp., a person familiar with the matter said.
Cuomo also wants to know what Bank of America Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Lewis, 61, knew about the accelerated bonuses and about Merrill’s surprise $15 billion net loss in the fourth quarter, the person said. Lewis fired Merrill’s CEO John Thain this month after the losses required more federal aid.
The attorney general’s office is looking at whether the companies’ shareholders had all necessary information about Merrill’s finances and whether federal bail-out loans to Bank of America were used properly, the person said, asking not to be identified because the investigation is confidential.
“No longer will this country stand for wasteful spending of tax dollars on bonuses for executives whose companies have taken huge losses and required taxpayer bailouts,” Cuomo said today in a statement about bonuses paid at Wall Street firms that received funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program or TARP.
The Wall Street Journal reported the expanded nature of Cuomo’s investigation earlier today.
Thain, 53, and Bank of America’s chief administrative officer were subpoenaed this month by Cuomo. The attorney general wants to find out what Thain told his firm’s directors and Bank of America officials about ballooning losses in December, the person said. Thain was in charge of trading, investment banking and brokerage operations at the combined company, which is based in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Possible Fines Cont.


Organizing For America Takes First Action For Obama Agenda
Organizing for America, the campaign apparatus left over from Barack Obama's presidential run, sent out its first call to action on Friday in support of the president's agenda.
The organization, which is now housed within the Democratic National Committee, emailed everyone who has hosted a house party for the president, encouraging them to do the same in support of the White House-backed economic recovery package.
Last year, America lost 2.6 million jobs. This week, some of our biggest companies announced plans to cut tens of thousands more.
The economic crisis is deepening, but President Obama and members of Congress have proposed a recovery plan that will put more than 3 million Americans back to work.
You can learn more about how the plan will help your community by organizing an Economic Recovery House Meeting.
Organizing for American has roughly 13 million e-mail addresses and two million active volunteers, though its strength in helping to advance specific legislative items has yet to be tested.


WASHINGTON — Samantha Power, the Harvard University professor and Pulitzer Prize-winning author who earned notoriety for calling Hillary Rodham Clinton a "monster" while working to elect Barack Obama president, will take a senior foreign policy job at the White House, The Associated Press has learned.
Officials familiar with the decision say Obama has tapped Power to be senior director for multilateral affairs at the National Security Council, a job that will require close contact and potential travel with Clinton, who is now secretary of state. NSC staffers often accompany the secretary of state on foreign trips.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Power's position, as well as that of other senior NSC positions, have not yet been announced. One official said the announcements would be made in the near future.
White House officials would not provide details of Power's new role.
Power was an early and ardent Obama supporter until the "monster" comment forced her off his campaign, but she was rehabilitated after the election when she made a gesture to apologize to Clinton and was included in the transition teams for both the State Department and the U.S. mission to the United Nations.
At the time, an official close to the transition said Power's "gesture to bury the hatchet" with Clinton had been well-received. Power and Clinton have met at least once since Clinton's confirmation last week when they both appeared at a State Department ceremony at which Obama announced the appointment of special envoys to South Asia and the Middle East.
Reporters at the event saw Power and Clinton chat briefly at the end, although the conversation was inaudible. Cont.

The bankrupt (literally) policies of the last eight years would no longer be seriously considered as a solution.

Mitchell Bard,
While Republicans are free to oppose Obama's solutions to the financial mess if they think they have better ideas, merely advocating the old failed policies should not be tolerated.

Obama Hosting Labor Leaders At White House For Order Signing -- "A Big Deal"

The Obama administration has notified leading labor officials that it will host them at the White House tomorrow at an event where President Obama plans to sign an untold number of executive orders that are friendly to organized labor, several labor sources tell me.
The event, which hasn’t been announced yet, is being seen as a big deal by organized labor officials, because it will affirm Obama’s commitment to the unions at a critical moment, and it’s the first White House event solely dedicated to hosting labor leaders. Among those who will attend tomorrow: AFL-CIO chief John Sweeney and senior SEIU official and Change to Win chair Anna Burger, sources said.
Union officials have been looking for a labor-friendly gesture like this from the White House. Some are privately grumbling that the administration hasn’t signaled a firm enough commitment to the Employee Free Choice Act, labor’s top priority. Others say he hasn’t been aggressively pushing for the confirmation of Labor Secretary designate Hilda Solis, which is still held up in limbo by Republicans for various reasons.
Spokespeople for AFL and SEIU declined comment, and the White House didn’t immediately respond.
“Administration officials have informed us that executive orders involving labor issues will be signed tomorrow at the White House, with labor leaders invited to attend,” a senior official at a major union told me. It’s not known precisely which executive orders are set to be overturned, and top union officials are scrambling right now to try to figure out what precisely the White House has in mind.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Are you with Obama or Rush?

President Obama and a key outside ally are stepping up efforts to ensure passage of the massive economic stimulus package, reaching out to Congress with both carrots and sticks.
While the president and his top aides are using all the trappings of the office, courting members through phone calls, cocktail parties, West Wing sit-downs and even a politically mixed Super Bowl party, liberal groups are dispensing with the niceties and seeking to drive a wedge between Republicans and one of the right’s most influential leaders.
Politico has learned that tomorrow Americans United for Change, a liberal group, will begin airing radio ads in three states Obama won — Ohio, Pennsylvania and Nevada — with a tough question aimed at the GOP senators there: Will you side with Obama or Rush Limbaugh?\
“Every Republican member of the House chose to take Rush Limbaugh’s advice,” says the narrator after playing the conservative talk radio giant’s declaration that he hopes Obama “fails.”
“Every Republican voted with Limbaugh — and against creating 4 million new American jobs. We can understand why a extreme partisan like Rush Limbaugh wants President Obama’s Jobs program to fail — but the members of Congress elected to represent the citizens in their districts? That’s another matter. Now the Obama plan goes to the Senate, and the question is: Will our Senator"—here the ad is tailored by state to name George Voinovich in Ohio, Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania, and John Ensign in Nevada—"side with Rush Limbaugh too?”
Asked to respond, Limbaugh had a message for his party.
“Senate Republicans need to understand this is not about me,” he wrote in an email. “It is about them, about intimidating them, especially after the show of unity in House. It is about the 2010 and 2012 elections. This is an opportunity for Republicans to redefine themselves after a few years of wandering aimlessly looking for a ‘brand’ and identity.”
Brad Woodhouse, the Democratic strategist who is overseeing the ad campaign, said: “The House Republicans put their Senate colleagues in the crosshairs because they decided to play politics rather than do the right thing.”
The radio buy comes on the heels of TV campaign by Americans United for Change and other liberal groups that began Thursday and targets GOP senators in Maine, New Hampshire, Alaska and Iowa, and another by the Laborers Union aimed at Senators in Iowa, Kentucky, Nevada and Tennessee; both designed to rally support for the stimulus package.As their allies take to the airwaves, Obama and his top aides are conducting their own internal inside-outside lobbying effort.

Official: Obama to repeal 4 Bush executive orders

Source: Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama plans to overturn four Bush-era executive orders that organized labor opposed.
A labor official tells The Associated Press that Obama will reverse one order that allowed unionized companies to post signs informing workers that they were allowed to decertify the union. Critics said the order was unfair because nonunion businesses were not required to post signs letting workers know they were legally allowed to vote for a union.
The official says the other three orders address similar administrative rules for labor groups. The official disclosed the plans on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to pre-empt the White House's plans.

Airlines Report ‘Shocking’ Plunge In Traffic

Source: Financial Times
The airline industry reported on Thursday an “unprecedented and shocking” plunge in global air cargo traffic.
Air freight accounts for 35 per cent of the value of goods traded internationally and the International Air Transport Association said traffic volumes had fallen by 22.6 per cent year-on-year in December.
Giovanni Bisignani, Iata director general, said, “there is no clearer description of the slowdown in world trade. Even in September 2001 (after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US), when much of the global fleet was grounded, the decline was only 13.9 per cent.”
International passenger traffic fell in December by 4.6 per cent. Iata said the drop was less dramatic than in cargo, as volumes had been supported by year-end leisure travel that had been booked in advance.
Airlines are still struggling to reduce capacity to match falling demand, however, and are flying with more empty seats. Capacity was reduced by 1.5 per cent year-on-year in December, resulting in airlines filling only 73.8 per cent of available seats, down from 76.2 per cent a year ago.
President sides with labor, will repeal executive orders unions opposed.
Obama may pick GOP Sen. Gregg for commerce, would be replaced by Dem.
Economic crisis driving high profile deaths, but rate up in middle class too.
Guards will be able to keep jobs if they switch employers"The Iraqi government has informed the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that it will not issue a new operating license to Blackwater Worldwide, the embassy's primary security company, which has come under scrutiny for allegedly using excessive force while protecting American diplomats, Iraqi and U.S. officials said Wednesday," The Washington Post reported from Mosul early Thursday.

Dems Play Hardball: Target Republican Senators For Stimulus Support (VIDEO)

Tell Senator Grassley to Support President Obama's Economic Plan
Democrats are planning to aggressively target vulnerable Republican Senators on the stimulus package passed by the House Wednesday night without any GOP support.
Greg Sargent has the ad -- here's the version targeting Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley:

The ads will be sent widely to the press later this morning by the coalition funding them, which includes Americans United for Change, MoveOn.org Political Action, AFSCME and SEIU.
The spot shows some arresting images of the recession -- chained up factories, empty warehouses -- and features Obama talking about our dire economic times and his economic package, an effort to harness Obama's popularity to push the plan at a time when Republicans are training their fire on House Dems, rather than the White House.
The rest of the ads can be seen on the website Americans United For Change.
Along with the ads, Democrats "will run campaigns in their districts," an official tells Politico.
The White House plans to release state-by-state job figures "so we can put a number on what folks voted for an against," an administration aide added. "It's clear the Republicans who voted against the stimulus represent constituents who will be stunned to learn their member of Congress voted against [saving or] creating 4 million jobs."
Over 30 groups have joined the campaign, including the SEIU and AFL-CIO, MoveOn.org, ACORN, and the Campaign for America's Future.

Senate banking chairman: Confiscate Wall St. bonuses

By Alexander Bolton
Posted: 01/29/09 03:18 PM [ET]
Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) has vowed to use all legal means available to confiscate Wall Street bonuses paid out at the end of last year.
Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, told reporters that he would press the Treasury Department to recoup the more than $18 billion in Wall Street bonuses paid out after one of the worst years in stock market history.
The White House said Thursday that President Obama had one word in reaction to a report from the New York state comptroller that Wall Street firms paid nearly $20 billion in bonuses — "outrageous."
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama was appalled by the report, and planned to address it during a meeting with new Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
The bonuses were paid despite the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing a third of its value in 2008.
The bonuses also took place as the federal government offered hundreds of billions to the banking industry.
“I’m going to look at every possible legal means and otherwise to make sure this money gets paid back. We can’t be underwriting [this] to the tune of billions of dollars,” said Dodd.
Dodd said the Wall Street bonuses are unacceptable at a time when the government is pouring tens of billions of dollars into banks to shore up the ailing financial market.
Dodd said if taxpayer money was used, “directly or indirectly,” to pay bonuses, “This infuriates the American people, and rightly so.
“If you do it I’m going to bring you before the committee and demand to know why you have the right to give those kind of benefits to people in the midst of this kind of crisis when American [taxpayers] are writing checks to underwrite this kind of activity,” Dodd said.

How's this for a curiosity?

We posted earlier on this interesting finding by Think Progress, which found that in the discussion over the economic stimulus package, the cable news networks allowed GOP lawmakers to outnumber their Democratic colleagues by a two-to-one margin. How's this for a curiosity? The Fox News Channel did the best job of anyone in balancing the opposition. Naturally, that's a pretty surface-level observation that doesn't necessarily speak to the quality of each sides contribution to the debate, or how well one side was received over the other. MSNBC, on the other hand, seems to have gone out of their way to let on any conservative who wanted to to get in their licks. But again, this is a pretty surface-level observation.That said, Matt Yglesias neatly reiterates the standard Rule of Engagement, where booking decisions are concerned:
When the GOP is in power, it's important to have more Republican guests because they're the influential newsmakers. And when the GOP is out of power, it's important to have more Republican guests to provide an alternative point-of-view to that presented by the powers that be.
If you've got data points that disprove this contention, let us know!

Limbaugh Still Controls The GOP: Video Proof

"How much longer will conservatives allow Limbaugh to be their voice?"

More than anything else, the clearest warning shot fired at President Barack Obama's hopes for some sort of "post-partisan" America was the one that hit Representative Phil Gingrey. The Georgia Republican said something eminently sensible earlier this week in defense of his own party's leadership in the House:
I mean, it's easy if you're Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or even sometimes Newt Gingrich to stand back and throw bricks. You don't have to try to do what's best for your people and your party.You know you're just on these talk shows and you're living well and plus you stir up a bit of controversy and gin the base and that sort of thing.
Days later, in one of most embarrassing public displays you are likely to witness in your lifetime, Gingrey was utterly, thoroughly emasculated by Rush Limbaugh on the air. Honestly, it was pretty breathtaking. Even the haters had to pause.
It was well worth the moment of reflection. See, like a lot of people, I sort of see Obama's rise to the Presidency as a conquering of those old "Nixonland" tactics of tar, smear, and fear. But Limbaugh's not going down easily. Rather, he's positioning himself for another oppositional heyday.
And lest you think there are limitations on Limbaugh's ability to influence conservative opinion -- and conservative votes -- you'd better take another moment and check out this video from Media Matters for America, which ably documents the Limbaugh effect. Media Matters' Karl Frisch points out that "Limbaugh's latest comments prove that he is out of step with the American people and their hopes for overcoming this economic crisis." So he asks, "How much longer will conservatives allow Limbaugh to be their voice?" In light of what happened to Phil Gingrey, it's a pressing question.

Rush Limbaugh: Who's really calling the shots?


GOP Rep: We Can't Be "The Party Of No"

Enehoa said:::

"Rush Limbaugh and the party of No" is the new Republican campaign slogan. Let's start printing signs now for the 2010 election. hahahahahahah.

In an editorial in Politico, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor says that Republicans can't simply be the "no" party.
At a moment when the country needs our help, it would be a great mistake for the House GOP to turn inward and simply become the party of "no." We want our new president to succeed, and America needs our new President to succeed, which is why we will contribute the full force of our ideas to help him navigate the choppy waters. That's why our leadership met with the president three times to offer him our ideas on the stimulus, including among other proposals a reduction in small business tax liability by 20 percent.
Of course, all 178 Republicans in the House refused to vote for the stimulus package. And while they requested one meeting with Obama, it was the president who invited them in and brought them back twice. Not only did he listen to Republican ideas, he incorporated them into the stimulus -- including tax cuts and asking for some Democratic provisions to be removed.
So the Republicans have pinned the blame on a different Democrat. "The onus is on Speaker Pelosi. She needs to meet with us," Cantor said after the vote. "She needs to open her doors. We need to begin to work truly in a bipartisan fashion."

1993 All Over Again?

By David Weigel 1/29/09 6:03 AM
One of the goals of the unanimous Republican “no” vote on the stimulus package Wednesday was producing news analyses like this one, from The New York Times.
The failure to win Republican support in the House seemed to echo the early months of the last Democratic administration, when President Bill Clinton in 1993 had to rely solely on Democrats to win passage of a deficit-reduction bill that was a signature element of his presidency.
And we all know what happened in 1994. Still, I don’t think the analogy holds up.
1. The Obama stimulus package is popular. A May 25, 1993 Gallup poll pegged support for Clinton’s plan at 44 percent, and opposition at 45 percent. The Democratic House narrowly supported the plan two days later. But the final Gallup poll before yesterday’s House vote put support for President Obama’s plan at 52 percent, with opposition at only 37 percent. Even a flawed Republican poll on the stimulus (which suggests that tax cuts are more popular than spending, ignoring the fact that the stimulus includes both) revealed that most voters, panicking about the economy, support the stimulus package.
2. Clinton wasn’t popular; Obama is. As Michael Crowley points out, Clinton was already reeling from scandals and missteps by May 1993, when the budget vote was held. His popularity had dipped below 50 percent, and in some polls his net approval rating had inched into negative territory. Clinton’s Democrats were less popular than Obama’s Democrats—while Clinton was beating President George H.W. Bush, the party was losing seats in the House Banking Scandal backlash. Obama is cresting in the mid-60s or low-70s, depending on the poll, the Democrats have gained ground in two consecutive elections, and voter identification with the Democrats is soaring.
3. The Clinton budget raised taxes; the Obama stimulus doesn’t. I think this is the most important distinction. The Clinton budget reconciliation increased income taxes, raised the corporate tax rate to 35 percent, and raised the gas tax by 4.3 cents per gallon. Basically, every American paid more taxes after the budget was passed. The Obama stimulus package doesn’t raise anyone’s taxes. It includes $275 billion of tax cuts. Are they poorly designed? Arguably. But they’re tax cuts! I literally cannot remember a time when the entire Republican conference in either house voted against tax cuts. In that Republican poll mentioned above, upwards of 60 percent of voters want tax cuts right now.
The Republican strategy here is incredibly bold. The party’s betting against Obama’s current popularity and against the chance of an economic recovery by 2010 (or 2012), having done very little work convincing Americans that the stimulus tax rebates amount to “welfare” (one popular argument) or that, after eight years of deficit spending, voters should worry about the cost of this bill. I’m skeptical about the political oomph of attacking “wasteful spending,” even though (in a growing economy, at least) it makes more sense than endless tax cuts. But maybe the strategy will pay off. Or maybe putting 177 Republicans on record against tax cuts will come back to hurt them.
We’ll find out.

Rush: 177, Obama: 0

Obama tried to charm them, Rush tried to bully them. And the results are in. Round 1 goes by unanimous decision to Rush Limbaugh. Not one House Republican voted with the president on the stimulus package even after his "charm offensive."These guys are the barbarians at the gate, there's no charming them. President Obama went to visit them, he invited them over to the White House, he had drinks with them, he stood by while they bad-mouthed Congressional Democrats, he adjusted the bill for them, he cut out the contraception education and he added tax cuts. In the end, what did he get for his efforts? A big fat doughnut. Nothing.
Not one House Republican voted for his stimulus package. 177-0.
On the other side, they went groveling over to Rush, tripping over themselves to court his favor and take his tongue-lashings (how grotesque does that sound?). In the end, he got them all (and all the national attention -- which was his true goal).
Now, Obama might be playing a chess match here. He might be positioning himself politically to be able to say to the American people, "Now look, I tried to be bi-partisan. I did all I could. And they did not budge. They are obstinate, partisan and obstructionist." He would have an excellent case to make.
Maybe he is that smart. But I believe he was also partly naïve enough to believe that he could convince them. That they would listen to reason. That they would be swayed by his compromises. That's not how they roll.

Angry Dems Demand Leadership Cut Off GOP Obama "Wouldn't Do Anything Differently"

Dump the Friking lot of them and tell them to get out of the way, There is a new party in town, the last eight years are finally over, and there is no more of the same.
Rank-and-file Congressional Democrats had been willing to give Republicans the business tax cuts and other provisions they wanted in the stimulus. That is, up until every single one voted against the bill on the House floor Wednesday.
Now, in both the House and the Senate, angry members are lobbying Democratic leaders to yank those tax breaks back.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was asked Thursday by the Huffington Post why the business tax cuts, whose purpose was to garner Republican support, would be left in the bill if no Republicans supported it regardless.
"That's what my members ask me," said Pelosi. "It wasn't something that was suggested [by Democrats]. It was a heavy lift for our members, but they understood that it has a benefit and were willing to support it."
So far, she said, she has been resistant to removing the cuts from the package. "It's something that we can live with," she said. "I can't answer why they wouldn't vote for this even though their main net-operating-loss carry-back suggestion was part of the tax cuts."
Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) said that Democratic leadership was still willing to work with the GOP. "I've heard that discussion," he said of the push by Democratic members to take back the business tax cuts and include provisions, such as funds for family planning, that were eliminated due to Republicans objections.
Clyburn said he was still standing behind President Obama's call for a bipartisan approach.
Democrats on the Senate side, who witnessed the Republican shut out in the House, have had similar feelings, said Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
Asked if Democratic leadership would revoke the Republican provisions of the bill, Durbin said that "we haven't reached that point, although there are many Democrats who are saying, 'Let me tell you: We included things in this package to bring in Republicans. It didn't work in the House. They didn't get a single Republican vote.'"
For now, said Durbin, Democrats haven't yet pulled out Republican provisions or asked the GOP to leave the table.
"We haven't reached that point," he said. "In fact, Republican senators I've spoken to today said, 'Don't give up on us. We still want to work with you.'"


Show some restraint, and show some discipline, and show some sense of responsibility."
President Barack Obama responded Thursday to a front page story in the New York Times which reported that Wall Street handed out $18.4 billion in bonuses for the year, calling the payments "outrageous"
From the AP:
President Barack Obama issued a withering critique Thursday of Wall Street corporate behavior, calling it "the height of irresponsibility" for employees to be paid more than $18 billion in bonuses last year while their crumbling financial sector received a bailout from taxpayers. "It is shameful," Obama said from the Oval Office. "And part of what we're going to need is for the folks on Wall Street who are asking for help to show some restraint, and show some discipline, and show some sense of responsibility."
The president's comments, made with new Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner at his side, came in swift response to a report that employees of the New York financial world garnered an estimated $18.4 billion in bonuses last year. The figure, from the New York state comptroller, drew prominent news coverage.

White House Unbuttons Formal Dress Code
WASHINGTON — The capital flew into a bit of a tizzy when, on his first full day in the White House, President Obama was photographed in the Oval Office without his suit jacket. There was, however, a logical explanation: Mr. Obama, who hates the cold, had cranked up the thermostat.
“He’s from Hawaii, O.K.?” said Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, who occupies the small but strategically located office next door to his boss. “He likes it warm. You could grow orchids in there.”
Thus did a rule of the George W. Bush administration — coat and tie in the Oval Office at all times — fall by the wayside, only the first of many signs that a more informal culture is growing up in the White House under new management. Mr. Obama promised to bring change to Washington and he has — not just in substance, but in presidential style.
Although his presidency is barely a week old, some of Mr. Obama’s work habits are already becoming clear. He shows up at the Oval Office shortly before 9 in the morning, roughly two hours later than his early-to-bed, early-to-rise predecessor. Mr. Obama likes to have his workout — weights and cardio — first thing in the morning, at 6:45. (Mr. Bush slipped away to exercise midday.)
He reads several papers, eats breakfast with his family and helps pack his daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, off to school before making the 30-second commute downstairs — a definite perk for a man trying to balance work and family life. He eats dinner with his family, then often returns to work; aides have seen him in the Oval Office as late as 10 p.m., reading briefing papers for the next day.
“Even as he is sober about these challenges, I have never seen him happier,” Mr. Axelrod said. “The chance to be under the same roof with his kids, essentially to live over the store, to be able to see them whenever he wants, to wake up with them, have breakfast and dinner with them — that has made him a very happy man.”
In the West Wing, Mr. Obama is a bit of a wanderer. When Mr. Bush wanted to see a member of his staff, the aide was summoned to the Oval Office. But Mr. Obama tends to roam the halls; one day last week, he turned up in the office of his press secretary, Robert Gibbs, who was in the unfortunate position of having his feet up on the desk when the boss walked in.
“Wow, Gibbs,” the press secretary recalls the president saying. “Just got here and you already have your feet up.” Mr. Gibbs scrambled to stand up, surprising Mr. Obama, who is not yet accustomed to having people rise when he enters a room.


A nearly $820 billion stimulus package passed the House of Representatives Wednesday without a single Republican vote. The bill now moves to the Senate, where it stands a better chance of picking up at least a modicum of bipartisan support.
Approval of the bill is a victory for President Barack Obama and comes only eight days after his inauguration -- the swiftest passage of such a massive package in American history. The vote was 244-188, with 11 Democrats crossing party lines and opposing the measure.
Obama ventured to Capitol Hill on Tuesday and met separately with House and Senate Republicans in hopes of garnering their support. He invited roughly a dozen GOP moderates to the White House Tuesday evening for an extended discussion -- and cookies and soda -- with chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. And before Wednesday's vote, six House Republicans, five Senate Republicans and an equal number of Democrats gathered for a White House meeting.
Obama also persuaded House Democrats to remove provisions related to family-planning from the stimulus and -- over the objections of many Democrats -- inserted large tax cuts for businesses that Republicans wanted.
None of it was enough.


What Red Ink? Wall Street Paid Hefty Bonuses
Published: January 28, 2009
By almost any measure, 2008 was a complete disaster for Wall Street — except, that is, when the bonuses arrived.
Despite crippling losses, multibillion-dollar bailouts and the passing of some of the most prominent names in the business, employees at financial companies in New York, the now-diminished world capital of capital, collected an estimated $18.4 billion in bonuses for the year.
That was the sixth-largest haul on record, according to a report released Wednesday by the New York State comptroller.
While the payouts paled next to the riches of recent years, Wall Street workers still took home about as much as they did in 2004, when the Dow Jones industrial average was flying above 10,000, on its way to a record high.
Some bankers took home millions last year even as their employers lost billions.
The comptroller’s estimate, a closely watched guidepost of the annual December-January bonus season, is based largely on personal income tax collections. It excludes stock option awards that could push the figures even higher.
The state comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, said it was unclear if banks had used taxpayer money for the bonuses, a possibility that strikes corporate governance experts, and indeed many ordinary Americans, as outrageous. He urged the Obama administration to examine the issue closely.
“The issue of transparency is a significant one, and there needs to be an accounting about whether there was any taxpayer money used to pay bonuses or to pay for corporate jets or dividends or anything else,” Mr. DiNapoli said in an interview.
Granted, New York’s bankers and brokers are far poorer than they were in 2006, when record deals, and the record profits they generated, ushered in an era of Wall Street hyperwealth. All told, bonuses fell 44 percent last year, from $32.9 billion in 2007, the largest decline in dollar terms on record. Cont

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

You Better Believe It

There's a killer web graphic that was created back in the post-Republican Convention days while everyone was writing spasmodic, breathless "Obama should [fill in the blank]" blog entries and "Oh crap! We're gonna lose!" newspaper columns. Not that there's anything wrong with that, really. The Obama campaign slipped in the polls during Sarah Palin's very brief golden age -- an era of roughly two weeks following the Alaska governor's successful recitation of a convention speech without, you know, choking on her own vomit.
Very few of us were confident of an Obama victory at the time. After all, previous Democratic nominees had been riding bullet trains to victory in the polls, only to gradually and utterly bonk as the summer segued into autumn. Even candidate Obama was warning us about the Democratic habit of "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory." Yeah. Anyone who claims to have been absolutely 100 confident of a Barack Obama victory in the first week of September 2008 is either lying or lying.
However, some people were more confident (hopeful, perhaps) than others.
The web graphic is actually a photograph of Barack Obama from his Invesco Field acceptance speech. In it, he's looking directly into the camera with an expression of fierce determination on his face -- his teeth gnashed in an Eastwood snarl, his left hand gesturing as though he's kung fu fighting his way through an oversized cinderblock made of SlapChop-minced Republican skulls.
The large, white text superimposed at the top reads: "Everyone chill the fuck out." The text at the bottom exclaims: "I got this!"
Sure enough, two months later, we watched as this liberal African American man with the noble yet politically unusual name "Barack Hussein Obama" defied the odds and won red states like Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Indiana and the commonwealth of Virginia.
Fade out the roaring crowds at Grant Park.
Dissolve to late January. Cont.


Not only are some of the most non-trusted companies in America blatantly trying to buy off Congress, but they're using our bailout money to do it. Enough!
You can't make this stuff up. Breaking news from The Huffington Post:
Three days after receiving $25 billion in federal bailout funds, Bank of America Corp. hosted a conference call with conservative activists and business officials to organize opposition to the U.S. labor community's top legislative priority.
Participants on the October 17 call -- including at least one representative from another bailout recipient, AIG -- were urged to persuade their clients to send "large contributions" to groups working against the Employee Free Trade Act (EFCA), as well as to vulnerable Senate Republicans, who could help block passage of the bill.
...Donations of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars to Republican senatorial campaigns were needed, they argued..."If a retailer has not gotten involved in this, if he has not spent money on this election, if he has not sent money to [former Sen.] Norm Coleman and all these other guys, they should be shot. They should be thrown out their goddamn jobs," Marcus declared.
Not only are some of the most non-trusted companies in America blatantly trying to buy off Congress, but they're using our bailout money to do it. Enough!
If there was ever a time to join Change Congress's political "donor strike" in support of fundamental campaign finance reform, this is it.
Click here to join the fight for reform.
Patrol sergeant forwarded jail mug shots of people wearing Obama shirts.

U.S. Had To Let Iranian Arms Shipment Go

(CBS/AP) The nation's top military officer said Tuesday the United States did all it could to intercept a suspected arms shipment to Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, but its hands were tied.
Separately, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said it is too soon to tell whether the prospect of new U.S. engagement with Iran will bear fruit.
Mullen confirmed that a Cypriot-flagged ship intercepted in the Red Sea last week was carrying Iranian arms, and U.S. authorities suspect that the shipment was ultimately bound for the Gaza Strip, where Hamas and Israel are observing a shaky truce after three weeks of fighting.
"The United States did as much as we could do legally," Mullen said, adding that he would like more authority to act in such cases. "We were not authorized to seize the weapons or do anything like that."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Taking Responsibility: Republicans Continue Recovery Obstruction
Scott Lilly, 01.26.2009
Senior fellow at the Center for American Progress
There appears to be no factoid or morsel of misinformation Republicans are unwilling to utilize to make the case to do nothing other than provide still more tax cuts to their business friends.

White House Solar Panels: What Ever Happened To Carter's Solar Thermal Water Heater? (VIDEO)

President Obama's first days in office have been chock full of reversing the actions of the previous president, from halting midnight environmental regulations to taking steps toward closing the Guantanamo Bay prison site.
It reminds me of another famous undoing, and raises a question: What happened to the solar panels that President Jimmy Carter had put on the White House and President Ronald Reagan had removed? Well, it turns out someone's making a documentary for me all about that. See the description and trailer below.
In 1979, Jimmy Carter, in a forward-looking move, installed solar panels in the roof of the White House. This symbolic installation was taken down in 1986 during the Reagan presidency. In 1991, Unity College, an environmentally centered college in Maine acquired the panels and later installed them on their cafeteria.
In "A Road not Taken", swiss artists Christina Hemauer and Roman Keller travel back in time and, following the route the panels took, interview those involved in the solar panel decisions, in the oil crisis of the time, and in the way that that moment presaged our own era. The documentary essay is still in work and will be about 70 minutes long.

Liar, Liar, Liar.

Last Tuesday, the AP reported on a leaked Congressional Budget Office (CBO) “analysis” that had concluded that “it will take years before an infrastructure spending program proposed” by President Barack Obama “will boost the economy.” Conservatives, such as House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), quickly pounced on the story, claiming the CBO had proved that “government spending isn’t going to get our economy back on track.”
After the AP first wrote up the “report,” the rest of the media piled on the story. In a new analysis, ThinkProgress has found that since the AP’s report last Tuesday, the CBO report has been cited at least 81 times on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, the Sunday shows and the network newscasts in order raise questions about Obama’s recovery plan. Here are a few examples:
– “There’s a Congressional Budget Office report out today that suggests that the $825 billion stimulus proposal from Democrats, which is supposed to be timely and temporary, actually offers most of its spending a couple years from now,” — Carl Cameron [Fox News, 1/20/09]
– “Even the Congressional Budget Office is very skeptical about the rapidity with which that stimulus, this set of proposals, can move through, and that it could be four years before we see the results,” — Andrea Mitchell [MSNBC, 1/21/09]
– “Well that was another question raised in this Congressional Budget Office study. It was suggesting that a lot of the spending proposals in the original plan would not really take effect for a couple of years, so it wouldn’t clearly help create jobs in the first two years of the president’s administration,” — Ed Henry [CNN, 1/23/09]
– “There was a report out earlier this week from [the] Congressional Budget Office pointing out that the appropriated funds, that portion of the stimulus package that, you know, less than half of that was really going to be spent even within the next two years,” — Karen Tumulty [CNN, 1/24/09]
As the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim and the American Prospect’s Tim Fernholz reported last Friday, the CBO report being touted by conservatives and the media isn’t an actual report. “We did not issue any report, any analysis or any study,” a CBO aide told the Huffington Post.
Instead, the CBO “ran a small portion of an earlier version of the stimulus plan through a computer program that uses a standard formula” to determine how quickly money will be spent. As Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Scott Lily
notes, even that CBO analysis is based “almost entirely on a review of historical data on program performance,” which likely applies “less during an economic crisis like the one we currently face.” OMB Director Peter Orszag says that 75 percent of the stimulus plan “will be spent over the next year and a half.”
The CBO is
working on a full analysis of the plan to be released shortly.
UpdateThe full CBO report is now available
here. It finds that roughly two-thirds of the plan's recovery investments will come in the first 18 months after it is enacted.
UpdateIn a blog post, CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf notes that the full report is "
the first cost estimate that CBO has prepared" for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act "in its entirety."

NY financier arrested in purported $400 mln scam

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Authorities on Monday arrested the chief executive of a private New York financing firm on suspicion of running a purported Ponzi scheme that attracted $400 million in investments, U.S. law enforcement officials said.
Nicholas Cosmo, head of Agape World Inc on New York's Long Island, was said to provide commercial bridge loans, but was instead operating a traditional Ponzi scheme in which early investors are paid with the money of new clients, officials said.
"Nicholas Cosmo took the advice of an attorney and complied with an arrest warrant," said Al Weissmann, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which is investigating Agape World and Cosmo along with the FBI.
Another law enforcement official, said agents had visited Cosmo's office on Monday expecting to arrest him, but he was not there.
He complied with the warrant on Monday night and was expected to appear in magistrate's court on Tuesday in Central Islip on Long Island, FBI and USPIS officials said.
Link Here

Barack Obama struck a note of foreign policy confidence Monday night

Barack Obama struck a note of foreign policy confidence Monday night, telling an Arabic news station that al Qaeda leaders and Osama bin Laden "seem nervous" now that they don't have George W. Bush as a recruiting tool.
In his first formal interview since taking office, the president spoke with the Dubai-based station Al Arabiya on topics pertinent to the Arab and Muslim worlds. Much of the interview was spent defining the new approach that the United States would implement in that region: respectfulness over divisiveness, listening over dictating, engagement over militarism. But the president drew the line when it came to terrorist organizations.
"Their ideas are bankrupt," he told host Hisham Melhem, when asked to respond to recent audio clips from al Qaeda leadership calling him various epithets. "There's no actions that they've taken that say a child in the Muslim world is getting a better education because of them, or has better health care because of them."
Pressed later in the interview to comment on Bush's use of the term 'War On Terror,' and the implications that the phrase held, Obama once again distanced himself from his White House predecessor.
1/27/09 President Obama Interview with Al Arabiya Muslim TV STATION PART 1

Monday, January 26, 2009

Who led us down the Road to Ruin?

The worst economic turmoil since the Great Depression is not a natural phenomenon but a man-made disaster in which we all played a part. In the second part of a week-long series looking behind the slump, Guardian City editor Julia Finch picks out the individuals who have led us into the current crisis
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