Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Drill, baby, drill, Part II

Notice the cynicism and raw politics behind Obama's partial lifting of the offshore oil drilling ban - - the offshore drilling ban remains in effect for the west coast and Northeast, but not the Southeast, Gulf Coast or Alaska, i.e., who you generally vote for will determine whether your coast is protected.

Immigration official to be fired for doing his job?

A leaked memo about the Obama administration's strategy in deporting undocumented immigrants has outraged immigrant rights activists who want the president to fire a top immigration official.

The activists, including two from South Florida, demanded the dismissal Tuesday of John Morton, assistant secretary of Homeland Security for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

. . . The memo, authored by James M. Chaparro, director of ICE's Detention and Removal Operations, complained about dwindling noncriminal deportations and outlined new goals for ICE agents charged with apprehending undocumented immigrants in order to boost the number of deportations.

. . . Activists are furious because the memo contradicts ICE's strategy shift under Obama to go after foreign convicts while deemphasizing work-site raids and arrests of undocumented foreign nationals with no criminal records.

The law provides for undocumented immigrants to be deported.

A government official sworn to uphold the law is being threatened with dismissal for suggesting we enforce the law.

That's insane.

By the way - - Immigration shifted policy "under Obama to go after foreign convicts while deemphasizing work-site raids and arrests of undocumented foreign nationals with no criminal records"? There is no law which provides that illegals can stay and work here as long as they don't get arrested. Obama needs to enforce the law as written.

No need for profiling?

Two suicide bombers including one impersonating a police officer killed 12 people in southern Russia on Wednesday, two days after deadly suicide bombings blamed on the region's militants tore through the Moscow subway system.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Wednesday's blasts in the province of Dagestan may have been organized by the same militants who attacked the Moscow subway.

. . . Bombings and other attacks occur almost daily in Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia, provinces in Russia's North Caucasus region where government forces are struggling against a separatist Islamist insurgency.

Of course, according to certain Obama administration justice department officials, it would be racist racial profiling to stop and search all citizens of or travelers to and from Dagestan, Chechnya or Ingushetia at our borders or airports . . .

Drill, baby, drill?

That chant by McCain, Palin and their supporters during the last election was dismissed as a stupid, overly simplistic and environmentally dangerous solution to "the energy crisis".

That was yesterday. Today:

In a reversal of a long-standing ban on most offshore drilling, President Obama is allowing oil drilling 50 miles off Virginia's shorelines. At the same time, he is rejecting some new drilling sites that had been planned in Alaska.

Obama's plan offers few concessions to environmentalists, who have been strident in their opposition to more oil platforms off the nation's shores. Hinted at for months, the plan modifies a ban that for more than 20 years has limited drilling along coastal areas other than the Gulf of Mexico.

Obama was set to announce the new drilling policy Wednesday at Andrews air base in Maryland.

I won't hold my breath until the media announces that either Palin was correct or Obama is now stupid, too.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Right wing violence

For what it's worth, I believe JFK was shot by a member of the Communist Party who met his Russian wife while "studying" in Moscow, and RFK was shot by a Palestinian nationalist angered by Bobby's support for Israel.

And, the only Congressman with any evidence of violent acts against him is the Republican whip Eric Cantor.

Funny, with all those TV cameras and video cell phones at the healthcare and Tea Party rallies, there's no tape of anyone spitting at or directing racial or sexual slurs at any member of Congress. What are the odds?

Why does no one in power see a pattern?

The return of terror attacks to Moscow shows that Russia's decade-long fight against an Islamic insurgency has not worked, analysts said Monday.

Russian state security services say the twin subway bombings that killed 38 people Monday in Moscow are likely the work of Chechen suicide bombers.

How many people need to be killed by "Islamic insurgency" before those in power notice that the root of terrorism is largely "Islamic insurgency"?

We were lied to about healthcare . . . again

In the immediate afterglow of the passage of the healthcare bill, all we heard from the media was, "Now it's popular!"

Once more, White House spin was reported as fact.

But, not so fast:

Nearly two-thirds of Americans say the health care overhaul signed into law last week costs too much and expands the government's role in health care too far, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, underscoring an uphill selling job ahead for President Obama and congressional Democrats.

Those surveyed are inclined to fear that the massive legislation will increase their costs and hurt the quality of health care their families receive, although they are more positive about its impact on the nation's health care system overall.

Republicans won't work with Obama . . .

. . . because voters don't want them to.

His past support for Obama's economic policy is killing Charlie Crist's political career.

Gov. Charlie Crist's popularity among Republicans has dropped "significantly" over the past year, leaving him 11 points behind Marco Rubio among Republican primary voters, a new poll shows.

The former House speaker holds a 48-37 percentage point lead over Crist among likely GOP primary voters, while 15 percent remain undecided, according to the poll released Friday by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, Inc.

It tracks a stunning reversal for Crist who led Rubio - - 53 points to Rubio's 47 points - - in a similar poll in May 2009. But that poll showed Crist's lead was based on name recognition. The two were tied last June among GOP voters who were familiar with both candidates, pollster Brad Coker said.

Rubio's rise, he said, has been accompanied by a major boost in name recognition among Republicans: 10 months ago, only about half of the GOP primary electorate had heard of Rubio. Now his recognition is up to 87 percent among those surveyed.

And his favorable rating has nearly doubled, from 24 percent to 42 percent, with a negative rating of 10 percent.

. . . Coker said centrist Crist's favorable rating with Republicans had consistently hovered around 50 percent since he began running for governor in 2005.

But it has dropped to 37 percent, while his unfavorable rating has shot up from single digits to 32 percent.

. . . Statewide, Crist tops Meek 50 percent to 26 percent and Rubio is ahead 44 percent to 29 percent. Meek in May 2009 was unknown to 67 percent of voters and Coker said he still is unknown to more than half the voters.

Think about it - - past rumors about Crist's sexual orientation hurt Crist less among conservative voters in past elections than current talk of Crist's support for Obama. And, Rubio's absolute uncompromising rejection of Obama's policies doesn't appear to be hurting him among all voters.

Florida: Swing state swinging against Obama

Remember how passage of Obamacare was going to help Democratic candidates?

Attorney General Bill McCollum's decision to sue the federal government over healthcare reform looks like a political winner, according to a new poll showing that he has widened his lead over state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink in the race for governor.

The Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey released Monday shows that 51 percent of registered Florida voters approve of McCollum's lawsuit, while 39 percent are opposed.

As the state appears to lean toward the right, the Republican McCollum draws 49 percent support compared to 34 percent who would vote for Sink, a Democrat, according to the poll of 625 registered Florida voters.

"The lawsuit probably gave McCollum a little lift and has put him in a strong position, but there's more going on here," said Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker.

Coker said the numbers that "jump out at me" are those that show McCollum is winning support from 24 percent of Democrats, while Sink only draws 3 percent of Republican support.

"Also, there's no gender gap. That's a problem for Sink," he said. "A Democratic woman can't win without the strong support of women."

. . . McCollum appears to be picking up momentum. The last time Mason-Dixon polled the race, in June, McCollum had a 6 percentage point lead. Now he's up 15 percentage points.

Voters have begun to view McCollum in a better light, with 39 percent saying they have a favorable view of the attorney general - - a 10 percentage-point increase since the last Mason-Dixon poll. In that time, Sink's numbers haven't moved, with 24 percent of voters expressing a favorable view of her. . . .

Monday, March 29, 2010

ACORN's revenge

Remember the trumped up felony charges against the activists who brought down ACORN?

Felony charges have been reduced to a misdemeanor for four conservative activists who allegedly planned to tamper with the phone system in the New Orleans office of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu in January. One defendant is the son of the acting U.S. attorney for Western Louisiana.

The four are James O'Keefe, 25, who gained notoriety for posing as a pimp in a videotaped sting of ACORN offices; Robert Flanagan, 24, son of acting U.S. Attorney William Flanagan; Joseph Basel, 24, and Stan Dai, 24. They were charged today with one count each of entering a federal building under false pretenses. When arrested Jan. 25 they were charged with entering under false pretenses to commit a felony. Two were dressed as telephone repair technicians seeking access to the phone system to investigate reports of problems.

O'Keefe claimed said he was investigating complaints that constituents could not get through to Landrieu's office to respond to her support of the health care overhaul.

The defendants went undercover in disguise with a camera, just like the 60 Minutes news crews or Michael Moore's documentarians. Except, they had an angry administration go after them with trumped up charges.

If you notice, there's been no outraged accusations of selective prosecution or cries of scandal from the ACLU and all the other First Amendment absolutists. It appears their support for First Amendment rights depends upon their political agreement with the defendants.

More good work by the FBI

The FBI said Sunday that agents conducted weekend raids in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio and arrested at least three people, and a militia leader in Michigan said the target of at least one of the raids was a Christian extremist group.

The FBI continues to successfully apprehend threats from the left and the right, from both crazy militia extremists and crazy foreign fundamentalist terrorists.

Let's hope their professionalism survives the administration's partisan games.

The Big Effing Deal

Joe Biden's latest and biggest gaffe to date was his on camera description of Obamacare as a "big f@#$ing deal".

Of course, the administration displayed no embarrassment and offered no apology.

Rather, the administration's spokesmen and spinners ran with it, and adopted the slogan.

I'm not a prude. Far from it. But, I'm truly surprised that the Obama administration does not realize that Biden's comment was an offensive inappropriate turn off to most people.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

U.S. deaths double in Afghanistan

The number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan has roughly doubled in the first three months of 2010 compared to the same period last year as Washington has added tens of thousands of additional soldiers to reverse the Taliban's momentum.

Talk about bait and switch. Obama ran as the anti war candidate, not the healthcare candidate.

Palin's not going away

Again, say what you will about her, but she displays a lot more loyalty, consistency and political courage than some of her critics.

Sarah Palin told thousands of tea party activists assembled in the dusty Nevada desert Saturday that Sen. Harry Reid will have to explain his votes when he comes back to his hometown to campaign.

The wind whipped U.S. flags behind the former Alaska governor as she stood on a makeshift stage, holding a microphone and her notes and speaking to a cheering crowd. She told them Reid, fighting for re-election, is "gambling away our future."

"Someone needs to tell him, this is not a crapshoot," Palin said.

At least 9,000 people streamed into tiny Searchlight, a former mining town 60 miles south of Las Vegas, bringing American flags, "Don't Tread on Me" signs and outspoken anger toward Reid, President Barack Obama, the health care overhaul and other Democrats who supported it.

Something else that was wrong when Bush did it . . .

Fed up with waiting, President Obama announced Saturday he would bypass a vacationing Senate and name 15 people to key administration jobs, wielding for the first time the blunt political tool known as the recess appointment.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

More immigrant / domestic terrorism

A Chicago cab driver was charged Friday with attempting to provide funds for explosives to al-Qaeda and discussing a possible bomb attack on a stadium in the United States this summer, according to a federal complaint.

Raja Lahrasib Khan, 56, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Pakistani origin, was charged in the complaint filed by the FBI with providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

When will we notice the pattern, and take steps to stop it?

Sarah Palin and John McCain

Say what you will about Sarah Palin (and I'm no big fan), but she seems to have more loyalty than most of those who mock her:

In 2008, John McCain gave Sarah Palin a national stage when he picked her as the GOP's first female vice presidential nominee.

Today, Palin returns the favor as she campaigns for McCain in Arizona where he faces a Republican primary against former congressman J.D. Hayworth. McCain is seeking re-election to a fifth U.S. Senate term . . .

A lot has happened since that campaign for the former Alaska governor - - a best-selling memoir, a regular gig as a pundit on Fox News and, this week, news that she has inked a deal with Discovery to host a reality TV show, Sarah Palin's Alaska.

Iraq election results are too bad to spin

No one's even trying to say this is "good news":

Former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said Saturday his secular political alliance is open to bringing any of his rivals into a governing coalition that can restore Iraq's place in the Arab and Muslim world after years of war.

Allawi's Iraqiya bloc came out the top vote-getter in March 7 parliamentary elections, edging out his chief rival, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who vowed to challenge the results . . .

Allawi, a Shiite who has called for a greater voice for the Sunni minority that dominated Iraq before the fall of Saddam Hussein, has appealed for a broad coalition centered on national identity rather than religious sect . . . Sunni neighborhoods across Baghdad erupted into wild pandemonium after the results were announced, dancing in the streets and waving Iraqi flags. But with the Sunni minority making up only about 15-20% of Iraq . . .

How's this going to turn out?

In a harbinger of what may be in store, twin bombings hit a busy area in the town of Khalis, about 50 miles north of Baghdad, just before the election results were announced Friday night.

The police spokesman for Diyala province, Capt. Ghalib al-Karkhi, said Saturday that 57 people were killed and 73 were wounded in the explosions, first from a car bomb that went off outside a restaurant and then from a roadside bomb just a few steps away.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Fightng the last nuclear war

The United States and Russia reached a breakthrough agreement Wednesday for a historic treaty to reduce the nuclear arsenals of the former Cold War rivals, the most significant pact in a generation and an important milestone in the decades-long quest to lower the risk of global nuclear war.

The scary future we confront is not the Russian nuclear arsenal.

It is religious fundamentalist terrorists with a handful of nuclear weapons.

Very double standard on abortion

With little fanfare, President Obama signed an executive order yesterday designed to ensure that no federal money can be used for elective abortions under the nation’s new health care law.

The order had been demanded by a key bloc of antiabortion Democrats as the price for their support for the health bill that narrowly passed the House Sunday night.

. . . Obama invited Stupak and other lawmakers to the Oval Office for the signing of the order but made no effort to draw attention to it, and no members of the media were allowed in the room.

Try to imagine the firestorm of media coverage (complete with discussions of botched back alley abortions and wire hangers) if a President Bush or McCain or Palin signed an executive order barring federal funds for abortion "and no members of the media were allowed in the room" (complete with discussions of freedom of the press and allegations of fascist media manipulation).

Obama realizes the obvious

President Barack Obama, in his harshest censure of Cuba's repression of dissent, Wednesday said Havana had used "a clenched fist" against "those who dare to give voice to the desires of their fellow Cubans."

Obama also appeared to hint that his efforts to improve U.S. relations with the Raúl Castro government have lost steam in the face of the recent string of tough actions by Havana.

"During the course of the past year, I have taken steps to reach out to the Cuban people and to signal my desire to seek a new era in relations between the governments of the United States and Cuba," said a four-paragraph statement released by the White House.

"I remain committed to supporting the simple desire of the Cuban people to freely determine their future and to enjoy the rights and freedoms that define the Americas," he added, making no mention of a similar commitment to improved government-to-government relations.

The statement amounted to the president's harshest condemnation of Cuba since he was inaugurated. Last spring, he eased U.S. restrictions on Cuban-American travel and remittances to Cuba and launched bilateral talks on immigration and direct mail service.

Better late than never to realize that the Castros' Cuban communist dictatorship is brutal and evil and undemocratic.

Maybe one day he will realize that Palestinian rejectionism and terrorism is the cause of Mideast turmoil, not Israeli construction of 200 homes in the historically Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sick children can't be denied coverage*

*in 2014.

Remember the mantra regarding passage of the healthcare bill and its immediate benefits? Remember the promised "immediate" effect, that sick children can't be denied coverage?

But health advocates and some insurers say the law does not clearly state that such protection starts this year. If it doesn't, uninsured children with pre-existing conditions might not get help until 2014, when the law requires insurers to issue policies for all applicants regardless of health condition.

This is what happens when you pass a 2400 page bill no one's read - - no one knows what's in it.

How the media views the Catholic church:

"a church that became a criminal conspiracy to protect and enable child rapists"

The media will always respect and excuse some groups as "religions of peace", notwithstanding the evidence.

But, the Catholic church? The media dismisses the Catholic church as "a church that became a criminal conspiracy to protect and enable child rapists", nothing more, nothing less.

If any media talking head said something similar about any other religion, he would be banned from polite society.

Figures don't lie . . .

but liars figure.
New claims for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week.

The Labor Department said Thursday that first-time claims for jobless benefits dropped 14,000 to a seasonally adjusted 442,000. That's below analysts' estimates of 450,000, according to Thomson Reuters.

But most of the drop resulted from a change in the calculations the department makes to seasonally adjust the data, a Labor Department analyst said. The department updates its methods every year. Excluding the effect of those adjustments, claims would have fallen by only 4,000.

"[M]ost of the drop resulted from a change in the calculations the department makes to seasonally adjust the data"?

You knew it was just a matter of time before someone started monkeying around with the methodology in order to make the numbers look better.

I don't buy it

The FBI is investigating acts of vandalism and a death threat aimed at Democrats who voted for the health care legislation.

Remember the alleged White House vandalism by Clinton staffers after Bush was sworn in, including the silly allegation that the letter "W" was removed from all White House typewriters? It turned out it was all exaggeration and spin (you can't remove the letter "W" from a word processing program on a computer, and they stopped using typewriters in the White House in the early 90's).

Today's allegations of threats against pro healthcare reform Representatives sound like the same type of hyper ventilation, exaggeration and spin.

I have a feeling that the "freshman Democrat from Virginia" reporting "that a gas line had been severed at his brother's home" is going to look like a fool when the truth comes out.

Not so fast . . . .

Obama is FDR, and Pelosi is the strongest woman in the history of the world (Queen Elizabeth I? Catherine the Great? Indira Gandhi? Golda Meir?) You know that's true, because you heard it on MSNBC. After all, they rammed through an unpopular "health insurance reform" bill, without single payer provisions or even a public option trigger.

Then again . . .
Senate Republicans learned early Thursday that they will be able to kill language in a measure altering President Obama's newly enacted health care overhaul, meaning the bill will have to return to the House for final congressional approval.

It appeared initially that deleting the provisions, dealing with Pell grants for low-income students, should not cause major problems for Democrats hoping to rush the bill to Obama and avoid prolonging what has been a politically painful ordeal for the party. Democrats described the situation as a minor glitch, but did not rule out that Republicans might be able to remove additional sections of the bill.

The president, who signed the landmark legislation into law on Tuesday, was flying to Iowa later in the day for the first of many appearances he will make around the country before the fall congressional elections to sell his health care revamp.

Obama was appearing in Iowa City, where as a presidential candidate in 2007 he touted his ideas for health coverage for all. His trip comes with polls showing people are divided over the new health law, and Democratic lawmakers from competitive districts hoping he can convince more voters by November that it was the right move.

To paraphrase the vice president, this could be a big f#@*ing deal.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Another hidden healthcare tax

Hidden among healthcare reform is yet another new tax.

Health care reform has a 3.8% solution that some worry could have unhealthy side effects on financial markets.

The legislation, separate from the bill President Obama signed Tuesday and still awaiting Senate approval, has a 3.8% Medicare tax levied against high-income taxpayers' investment income. The fear is that the stock and bond markets could be disrupted as wealthy investors jockey portfolios to manage the tax. "It's a big hike," says Gregg Wind, of accounting firm Wind & Stern in Los Angeles. "It's really wild."

Single taxpayers who earn more than $200,000 and married taxpayers with combined income of more than $250,000 would face the new tax on their investment gains starting in 2013, says Mark Nash of PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The tax would be applied to investment income including interest, dividends, rents, royalties, annuities and capital gains, he says. It would not apply to distributions from retirement plans, he says.

And, it isn't indexed for inflation. In an era of multi trillion dollar deficits and looming inflation, cops and fire fighters will soon be earning $200,000.

Where are the guardians of civility today?

Remember all those media and White House critics of the tea partier's foul mouthed and bad tempered protests? They're suddenly silent. For some reason, they hold the vice president to a lower standard than a retired steel worker holding a hand made sign on a street corner.

It's a good day for Vice President Biden, but the veteran Democrat is the latest public figure to get caught cussing on the open mike.

After introducing President Obama today to a group of whooping Democratic lawmakers at the health care bill signing, Biden could be heard telling his boss, "This is a big f------- deal!"

. . . Obama administration officials didn't seem too concerned about Biden's latest entry.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs tweeted, "And yes, Mr. Vice President, you're right."

This is the same Robert Gibbs who found "you lie!" offensive.

Healthcare "bounce"?

More Americans now favor than oppose the health care overhaul that President Obama signed into law Tuesday, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds — a notable turnaround from surveys before the vote that showed a plurality against the legislation.

By 49%-40%, those polled say it was "a good thing" rather than a bad one that Congress passed the bill. Half describe their reaction in positive terms — as "enthusiastic" or "pleased" — while about four in 10 describe it in negative ways, as "disappointed" or "angry."

The largest single group, 48%, calls the legislation "a good first step" that needs to be followed by more action. And 4% say the bill itself makes the most important changes needed in the nation's health care system.

After nonstop media cheer leading, celebration and applause, less than half the country describes the health care bill as a "good thing".

That sounds like a victory, and it's being spun as a victory, but it's not.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A false promise of the healthcare bill

In a region where huge numbers of people are uninsured, several major South Florida healthcare leaders on Monday applauded the U.S. House of Representatives for passing healthcare reform, while others expressed caution about the sweeping change that could affect nearly all Americans.

Huge numbers of people in South Florida are illegal aliens, so huge numbers of people in South Florida will continue to be uninsured notwithstanding the passage of healthcare reform. You would think opinion makers and community leaders in the health field would be aware of that.

No relief for the armed forces

Army Staff Sgt. Bobby Martin Jr. has been fighting insurgents in Iraq or Afghanistan longer than the entire three years the Korean War lasted.

At age 34 and finishing a fourth combat tour, he has seen five of his men killed since 2003. Four died this year, including two on Martin's birthday in May. Thirty-eight cumulative months in combat have left him with bad knees, aching shins and recurring headaches from a roadside blast, ailments he hides from his soldiers.

Out of earshot of his troops, Martin concedes, "This is a lot of wear and tear."

American soldiers of the 21st century are quietly making history, serving in combat longer than almost any U.S. soldiers in the nation's past, military historians say.

For many, the fighting seems without end, a fatalism increasingly shared by most Americans. A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll conducted late last week found that 67% believe the U.S. will constantly have combat troops fighting somewhere in the world for at least the next 20 years.

. . . The cycles of combat have been so long and so frequent that nearly 13,000 soldiers now have spent three to four cumulative years at war in Iraq or Afghanistan, according to Army records. About 500 GIs have spent more than four years in combat, the Army says.

"Undoubtedly this is unprecedented," says Stephen Maxner, a military historian and director of the Vietnam Center and Archive in Lubbock, Texas.

This was one of the things the Democrats promised to change.

Healthcare hiring freeze

"My feeling is: No action is worse than some action," says Osborne, 55, who has owned the shop for 30 years that employs 35 workers to whom he does not provide health care. "In principle, people should have health care. They've got to take a stab at it somewhere. But from a practical standpoint, I don't really know what's going on."

That comment — not understanding what health care reform really means to a business — seems the common reaction from small-business owners. In a nation of more than 29.6 million small businesses with about 58 million employees, it seems less a matter of being for it or against it and more a matter of not understanding what it means for them.

Many also seem to be trying to push the whole issue aside until they can't any longer, even though the bill utterly changes the way small-business owners will purchase and provide health insurance for themselves and their employees. Among those who have more than 50 employees — and who are still trying to survive the fallout of the financial meltdown — some are focusing on the fact that many of the provisions won't kick in until 2014.

Government involvement in the marketplace always distorts the marketplace.

In this case, if you were an employer, you would delay new hires until you figured out how the healthcare bill impacts your business. Consider it the healthcare hiring freeze.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Pro life Democrats

At 4 p.m. ET Sunday, hours after the debate had begun on the floor of the House, Stupak announced that he and seven fellow Democratic holdouts had reached a deal with the White House and would vote in favor of the bill. Their decision ensured that the Democrats would have the votes to pass it. . . . The last-minute compromise: a promise that after the health care bill passed, Obama would sign an executive order affirming that it would not result in any government funding for abortions.

If President McCain signed this executive order, we'd be hearing about back alley abortions resulting in millions of deaths, and all the Democratic women who voted for the healthcare bill would instead be waving wire coat hangers in the air.

Healthcare passes . . .

Democrats lose.

There is no way the Democrats retain control of Congress in 2012.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

So much stupid

Whichever side you're on regarding healthcare, it's no excuse for being stupid.

Rep. Louise Slaughter, another member of the abortion rights caucus, left her meeting confident. The diminutive New York Democrat, whose original Kentucky accent remains pronounced, said she felt an agreement with Stupak was at hand. "It makes me so happy that after hundreds of years, we can finally catch up with the rest of the world," she said.

Does Rep. Slaughter actually believe "the rest of the world" has had national health insurance plans for "hundreds of years"?

Where people from the Department of Motor Vehicles run healthcare . . .

A PATIENT was left infertile after doctors operating on his testicle removed the wrong one.

The bungling medics' mistake has prompted an urgent overhaul of procedures at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds.

Details of the error surfaced this week after the hospital was forced to confess all thanks to freedom of information laws.

Care at the hospital had previously been rated "good" by the Care Quality Commission.

Happy birthday Iraq war

Thousands of protesters carried signs that read "Indict Bush Now" and flag-draped cardboard coffins on Saturday urging the immediate withdrawal of all troops sent into combat overseas.

Protesters rallied at Lafayette Park across from the White House and then began marching through downtown seven years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Seven protesters, including activist Cindy Sheehan, were arrested after the rally. Stops on the march route include military contractor Halliburton, the Mortgage Bankers Association and The Washington Post offices.

The protest — which calls for the immediate withdrawal of troops sent to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan— drew a smaller crowd than the tens of thousands who marched in 2006 and 2007. But organizers said many more people have become disenchanted with President Barack Obama, who has pledged to withdraw troops from Iraq, because he ordered more troops into Afghanistan.

If McCain were president, and we still had troops in Iraq, and we were escalating in Afghanistan, and we were running not so covert operations in Kuwait and Pakistan and Iran, there would be massive street protests hyped by the media. But, because this is all the work of a successful "anti war" presidential candidacy . . .

P.S. - To those with "Indict Bush" signs: He's no longer the one prosecuting these wars. His party lost Congress in 2006, and the White House in 2008. The people who promised to cut off war funding run Congress . . . since January, 2007.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Our Afghan "ally"

The Afghan government was holding secret talks with the Taliban's No. 2 when he was captured in Pakistan, and the arrest infuriated President Hamid Karzai, according to one of Karzai's advisors.

The detention of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar -- second in the Taliban only to one-eyed Mullah Mohammed Omar -- has raised new questions about whether the U.S. is willing to back peace discussions with leaders who harbored the terrorists behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Karzai "was very angry" when he heard that the Pakistanis had picked up Baradar with an assist from U.S. intelligence, the advisor said. Besides the ongoing talks, he said Baradar had "given a green light" to participating in a three-day peace jirga that Karzai is hosting next month.

Our troops are fighting and dieing to defeat the Taliban and secure Afghanistan's quasi-democratic government. If our capture of Taliban leaders makes the Afghan president "very angry", what and who are we fighting for?

Abortion and healthcare

I'm personally pro choice on the federal level, on both libertarian and Constitutional grounds. (Be honest - - there is no way that the founding fathers intended the federal government to regulate birth control.) It truly is an issue to be decided on a state by state basis.

At the same time, I am always surprised by the extent to which my fellow pro choice advocates misread public opinion on the issue. They take a "me and my friends agree so everyone else must agree, too" attitude. Here's a classic example from a classic "progressive" blog:
Several undecided House Democrats came out in support of the health insurance bill today, but it's still not clear whether leaders have the 216 votes they need. Between six and twelve Democrats are in Bart Stupak's bloc, which will vote for the bill only if it severely restricts private insurance coverage for abortions. . . . Given how much Democrats rely on women voters to win elections, it's amazing that they would sell out abortion rights to appease a few anti-choicers.

They really believe that all women are pro choice, and that the anti choice position is held by only "a few anti-choicers".

No wonder they can't get anything done with super majorities.

Conservative Democrats committing political suicide

Conservative Democrats from Republican leaning districts are committing political suicide by supporting Obamacare.
Another member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats is switching his vote from "no" to "yes" on health care.

Rep. Allen Boyd of Florida told the Tallahassee Democrat that the revised House health care bill is "not perfect" but meets his criteria, especially when it comes to lowering the budget deficit. In November, the paper reported, Boyd had voted "no" on the original House version of health care because he did not think it would slow the rise of medical costs.

You have to assume they've been promised political jobs and judicial appointments if and when they lose in 2012.

Ambassador Boyd?

Obama making "final" health care pitch

That's the headline - - "Obama making final health care pitch to House Dems".

He's made a "final" pitch every 4 to 6 weeks since last August.

How many times can you make your "final health care pitch" before it becomes a joke?

Friday, March 19, 2010

More environmental hypocrites

A U.S.-backed proposal to ban the export of Atlantic bluefin tuna prized in sushi was rejected Thursday by a U.N. wildlife meeting, with scores of developing nations joining Japan in opposing a measure they feared would devastate fishing economies.

Monaco introduced the proposal at the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES. It argued that extreme measures for the iconic, migratory fish were necessary because the stocks have fallen by 75 percent due to widespread overfishing.

But as debate opened, it became clear that the proposal had little support. Only the United States, Norway and Kenya supported the proposal outright. The European Union asked that implementation be delayed until May 2011 to give authorities time to respond to concerns about overfishing.

. . . The tuna defeat came hours after delegates rejected a U.S. proposal to ban the international sale of polar bear skins and parts, showing that economic interest at this meeting appeared to be trumping conservation. It also raised the prospect that a CITES meeting that was packed with several dozen promising proposals could end next week in failure for environmentalists.

The Americans argued that the sale of polar bears skins is compounding the loss of the animals' sea ice habitat due to climate change. There are projections that the bear's numbers, which are estimated at 20,000 to 25,000, could decline by two-thirds due by 2050 due to habitat loss in the Arctic.

But Canada, Greenland and several indigenous communities argued the trade had little impact on the white bears population and would adversely effect their economies.,atlantic-bluefin-tuna-ban-rejected-031810.article

Countries which supported the global warming treaty - - pursuant to which funds would be transferred from the U.S. to third world nations - - oppose the bluefin tuna and polar bear export bans - - pursuant to which they would have to respect the environment and help preserve endangered species.

But, of course, the U.S. is deemed the threat to the environment.

Swine flu and the government's takeover of healthcare . . .

As the latest in a series of "final" and "most important" and "determinative" votes on healthcare approaches, this is timely:

Last fall, as swine flu cases mounted and parents desperately sought to protect their kids, the hard-to-get vaccine was handed out in some surprising places: the Royal Caribbean cruise line, the headquarters of drug giant Merck, the Johnson Space Center and a Department of Energy office in Idaho.

In some cases, financial institutions and other recipients got doses before some county health departments and doctors' offices, according to records obtained by The Associated Press through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Also, even though the federal government spent more than $1.6 billion to manufacture and distribute the vaccine, there is no complete record of where it went.

. . . To be fair, at least 85 percent of the doses given in the first six weeks went to groups most at risk for flu complications - children and other young people, pregnant women and those with certain health problems, according to an estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wall Street banks and cruise ship companies accounted for a tiny fraction of the 30,000 or so sites sent vaccine in those desperate early days.

In the government run battle against swine flu, "there is no complete record of where" "$1.6 billion to manufacture and distribute the vaccine" went, and approximately 15% of the first wave of vaccines went to insiders and the well connected ahead of those most in need.

Consider the swine flu program a test drive of Obamacare.

Boy Scouts and child molesters

Confidential files from the Boy Scouts of America show that the organization knew of at least 1,000 suspected child molesters from 1965 to 1985 and tried to hush it up, an attorney in a sexual abuse lawsuit charges.

The accusations came in the opening day Wednesday of a $14 million civil suit in Portland, Ore., brought by the victim of a man who confessed to Scout leaders that he had molested 17 Scouts but was allowed to continue participating in Scouting activities, The Oregonian reports.

The Boy Scouts had fought to keep the files confidential, but the state Supreme Court rejected their argument that opening them could damage the lives and reputations of people not a party to the lawsuit, the Associated Press says.

Why do organizations (religious and secular) that ban gays (allegedly to protect children from pedophiles) turn around and cover up for child molesters?

Diminishing returns

Instead of going to Indonesia, where people like the artist above were expecting President Obama's return to his boyhood home next week, the president will be spending this weekend locked in the health care debate.

Heading towards a make-or-break House vote Sunday, Obama returns to his comfort zone this morning: He's scheduled to give a big political stemwinder on his No. 1 legislative priority at a suburban Virginia sports arena.

George Mason University's Patriot Center, which seats 10,000, is a venue made for the kind of rally atmosphere that buoyed Obama at so many of his appearances throughout his presidential campaign. Early this morning, Washington radio station WTOP was interviewing students who had camped out overnight for seats.

Is there anything Obama has to say on this subject that anyone hasn't yet heard?

It's as if he now realizes that all he's good at is making pretty speeches.

Hotels hurting

Neil Cornelssen says he misses the free cookies in the evening at one hotel and the daily newspaper outside his door at others.

He's also noticing that bath towels in a growing number of hotel rooms are shabby and need to be replaced.

Cornelssen, a sales manager in Marlton, N.J., is one of many frequent travelers who say they see the tangible effect that the recession has had on the nation's hotel industry. Among them: run-down rooms with fewer bathroom amenities, closed club lounges, fewer concierge staffers, slow room service, reduced hours at restaurants and bars, and infrequent airport shuttles.

"The unfortunate reality of today's marketplace," says Hotels magazine Editor-in-Chief Jeff Weinstein, is hotels are "more focused on saving cash than delivering the best service."

Obama's phony neo populist attacks on business travel and trade conventions didn't help the industry. And, who was hurt? Blue collar and clerical hotel, catering and convention trade employees.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

They're still writing the health care legislation?

President Obama and his chief allies in Congress struggled Wednesday to finish writing historic health care legislation that meets strict fiscal targets in time for a vote in the House of Representatives this weekend.

How can anyone say this is a good idea if no one yet knows what they're voting on?

Not a good sign . . .

President Obama says he is "absolutely positive" he has made the right decisions on health care, financial reform and the stimulus bill. "I knew these things might not be popular," he tells Fox News Channel's Bret Baier, but he says he believes that in time he will be "vindicated in having made those tough decisions."

When a president says he will be vindicated by history, it means the president knows he's getting hugely unpopular now.

P.S. - Unless they're freeing the slaves, they're usually not vindicated by history. Think of Iraq, Vietnam, Carter's economic plan, Ford pardoning Nixon, Watergate, etc.

Damaged luggage claims drop

Complaints that airport screeners lost, stole or damaged items in passengers' bags have plunged more than 50% as the government imposed tighter safeguards on luggage, federal records show.

. . . and because most people now take as much of their baggage as they can onto the plane ever since the airlines starting imposing baggage charges.

Poll: Most OK with 5-day mail service

A majority of Americans are willing to accept cuts in mail delivery days to preserve the U.S. Postal Service, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll found.

. . . because most people now rely on email, instant messages, text messages, faxes and private overnight delivery services. The U.S. Post Office is rapidly becoming an anachronistic jobs program.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Obama's justice department in a nutshell

Attorney General Eric Holder told Congress on Tuesday that Osama bin Laden will never face trial in the United States because he will not be captured alive.

In testy exchanges with House Republicans, the attorney general compared bin Laden to mass murderer Charles Manson and predicted that events would ensure "we will be reading Miranda rights to the corpse of Osama bin Laden" not to the al-Qaeda leader as a captive.

Holder sternly rejected criticism from GOP members of a House Appropriations subcommittee, who contend it is too dangerous to put terror suspects on trial in federal civilian courts as Holder has proposed.

The attorney general said it infuriates him to hear conservative critics complain that terrorists would get too many rights in the court system.

Terrorists in court "have the same rights that Charles Manson would have, any other kind of mass murderer," the attorney general said. "It doesn't mean that they're going to be coddled, it doesn't mean that they're going to be treated with kid gloves."

The comparison to convicted killer Manson angered Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, who said it showed the Obama administration doesn't understand the American public's desire to treat terrorists as wartime enemies, not criminal defendants.

Stupid macho posturing of the kind criticised during the Bush administration ("we will be reading Miranda rights to the corpse of Osama bin Laden") combined with naive and misplaced notions of moral equivalency (comparison of Osama bin Laden to Charles Manson).

Obama's birth certificate

A Hawaii Democratic state senator has introduced two bills that he hopes will put an end to the "birther" debate that has overwhelmed the state Department of Health with requests for President Barack Obama's birth certificate, The Honolulu Advertiser reports.

One would open up state birth records under strict conditions to people who currently have no legitimate right to see them and the other would permit government officials to ignore people who won't give up seeking them.

Democratic state Sen. Will Espero, who introduced the two bills, says does not necessarily believe that everyone should see birth certificates that are now restricted, The Advertiser reports, but hopes to trigger legislative hearings on the issue.

This is one more example of unnecessarily excessive government secrecy empowering conspiracy theorists.

Why should the president's (or any other public official's) birth certificate be secret?

More American anti-American terrorism

A Pakistani court charged five young Americans on Wednesday with planning terrorist attacks in the South Asian country and conspiring to wage war against nations allied with Pakistan, their defense lawyer said.

The men — all Muslims from the Washington, D.C., area — pleaded not guilty to a total of five charges, the most severe of which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, defense lawyer Hasan Dastagir told The Associated Press.

"My clients were in good shape and high spirits," Dastagir said.

The men, ages 19 to 25, were charged by an anti-terrorism court inside a prison in Sargodha, the city in Punjab province where they were arrested in December. They were reported missing by their families in November after one left behind a farewell video showing scenes of war and casualties and saying Muslims must be defended.

. . . Two of the detained Americans are of Pakistani origin, while one is of Egyptian, one of Yemeni and one of Eritrean descent.

Someone needs to start asking why certain Americans of certain backgrounds are refusing and / or failing to assimilate.

In past wars, German-Americans, Italian-Americans, Japanese-Americans, etc. all fought against their "motherlands" and for their "homeland".

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Corrupt Dodd to clean up corrupt system?

Trying to fix the broken U.S. financial system is no way to win a popularity contest. Standing by himself, Christopher Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, on Monday announced his second attempt to plug loopholes in financial regulation and find ways to prevent a repeat of the crisis that overtook Wall Street in late 2008. His first attempt was declared dead on arrival last fall by his Senate colleagues.

Dodd is not running for reelection because of his involvement in various corruption scandals, insider deals and questionable transactions, including a fishy vacation home in Ireland and a discounted home mortgage loan from a failed lender he regulated.

The fact that he is still chair of the senate banking committee is an embarrassment.

Why is a corrupt man the person to trust to reform a corrupt financial system from which he personally profited?

Karma for John and Elizabeth Edwards

John and Elizabeth Edwards had a two pronged presidential campaign strategy - - remind people that Obama was black, and remind people of the Lewinsky scandal.

This is karma (for at least the second half):
Rielle Hunter seems to be having some regrets about her her GQ spread. On The View today, Barbara Walters said she had talked to Rielle Hunter this morning.

"She was in tears when she called," said Walters, "and said that when she saw the pictures in GQ she screamed for two hours. She said she found the photographs repulsive."

So Walters says she asked if that was the case why did she pose for them? "She said she trusted Mark Seliger, whom she said is a brillant photographer and quote, 'I went with the flow,'" recounted Walters.

Walters says Hunter "thought that having one of those photos was okay and would be sexy and that there were others that were just beautiful headshots, but that GQ picked photos to hit one note."

Monday, March 15, 2010

23 injured in Egypt after Muslims attack Coptic Christians

Muslims attacked a community center and burned several homes belonging to Coptic Christians in northwestern Egypt over the weekend, injuring 23 people, in a rampage that a local bishop said was incited by a radical Muslim preacher.

The rioting began Friday when a group of young men hurled rocks at the church community center in Marsa-Matruh, a city along Egypt's Mediterranean coast. The attacks then spread to nearby homes and left behind destroyed cars and other property.

Copts, who make up most of the 8 million Christians in a country of 80 million people, generally live in peace with Muslims, but violence occasionally occurs.

Human-rights groups say attacks on Copts are on the rise, underscoring the government's failure to address chronic sectarian strains in a society where religious radicalism is gaining ground.

Why no comment from those who cry about "profiling" at U.S. airports? This seems to be far more discriminatory.


We keep being told how well things are going in Afghanistan . . .
A suicide squad detonated bombs at a newly fortified prison, police headquarters and two other locations late Saturday, killing at least 30 people in the largest city of the southern Taliban heartland.

Obama will leave children behind

A plan to overhaul the 2002 education law championed by President George W. Bush was unveiled by the Obama administration Saturday in hopes of replacing a system that in the last decade has tagged more than a third of schools as failing and created a hodgepodge of sometimes weak academic standards among states. . . . In the proposed dismantling of the No Child Left Behind law, education officials would move away from punishing schools that don't meet benchmarks and focus on rewarding schools for progress, particularly with poor and minority students.

There is nothing wrong with failing if you don't pass the test, and everything wrong with rewarding progress (i.e., failing by less than last time).

I don't want to be operated on by a surgeon who "made progress" from year to year. I want a surgeon who passed his boards.

We will do no favor to poor and minority students if we go back to rewarding effort rather than objective academic achievement in reading and math.

Redistricting and race

A citizens' initiative on the November ballot aimed at forcing the Legislature to draw political districts differently is drawing resistance from some African-American political leaders.

Fair Districts has a bipartisan team of honorary co-chairs and is backed by an array of labor unions, interest groups and individuals usually aligned with the Democratic Party. . . . "The whole point here is to draw districts that make sense geographically and that are not rigged to accomplish a particular political result" . . .

The new districts, which will be in use for the first time in the 2012 elections, must not "favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party," the ballot question says, and cannot deny equal political opportunity to racial or language minorities in electing legislators or members of Congress. . . .

Republican legislative leaders are already considering legal action against the initiatives, claiming the language would make it impossible for them to draw districts that would comply with federal laws and the U.S. Constitution.

But in what could be just as important politically, the ballot proposal has divided members of the Democrat-dominated legislative black caucus, with some members saying standards are needed to restrain a partisan Republican Legislature and others openly disdainful of the idea.

The caucus has not taken a formal position in support of the Fair District initiative.

If you gerrymander districts to achieve racial or ethnic purity, you increase both minority and Republican representation in any legislative body (in large part because you consolidate Democratic leaning minority voters into fewer but more ethnically uniform districts).

On the other hand, if you redistrict into compact geographically logical districts, you will likely increase Democratic seats in any legislature but decrease "safe" minority seats.

How do you vote on this if you're a minority Democrat?

The Obamacare vote

Democratic leaders scrambled Sunday to pull together enough support in the House for a make-or-break decision on healthcare reform later this week, expressing optimism that a package will soon be signed by President Barack Obama despite a lack of firm votes for passage.

The rosy predictions of success, combined with the difficult realities of mustering votes, underscore the gamble that the White House and congressional Democrats are poised to make in an attempt to push Obama's healthcare plans across the finish line. The urgency of the effort illustrates growing agreement among Democratic leaders that passing the legislation is key to limiting damage to the party during this year's perilous midterm elections.

I don't know if Obama has the votes to pass Obamacare.

I do know that he also doesn't know.

The talk of inevitability is simply Obama's attempt to psych out the opposition.

Terrorism in Mexico

Three people associated with the U.S. Consulate office in Ciudad Juarez were killed Saturday in the troubled city, prompting swift condemnation from President Barack Obama.

"The president is deeply saddened and outraged by the news of the brutal murders of three people associated with the United States Consulate General in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico," White House National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said in a prepared statement, "including a U.S. citizen employee, her U.S. citizen husband and the husband of a Mexican citizen employee."

On Sunday, the U.S. State Department ordered the evacuation of dependents of U.S. personnel in six U.S. consulates in Mexico.

It's nice Obama noticed. Too bad no one notices that the real terrorist threat we will confront in the next decade comes from across our porous southern border with Mexico.

I took yesterday off . . .

but I'm back.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

From New Jersey nuclear complex to al-Qaeda camp in Yemen

The American arrested in a sweep of al-Qaeda members in Yemen last week had worked as a laborer at five nuclear complexes in South Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, federal officials said yesterday.

Sharif Mobley, 26, had a "red badge" clearance, the highest level a laborer can obtain, while working at the Salem-Hope Creek nuclear plants in Salem County, according to a spokesman from the union local to which he belonged.

Sharif Mobley went from nuclear complexes in South Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland to an al-Qaeda camp in Yemen.

But, according to some in this administration, those concerned about the threat of terrorism are cry babies and bed wetters.

Vaccines and autism

The vaccine additive thimerosal is not to blame for autism, a special federal court ruled Friday in a long-running battle by parents convinced there is a connection.

While expressing sympathy for the parents involved in the emotionally charged cases, the court concluded they had failed to show a connection between the mercury-containing preservative and autism.

"Such families must cope every day with tremendous challenges in caring for their autistic children, and all are deserving of sympathy and admiration," special master George Hastings Jr. wrote.

But, he added, Congress designed the victim compensation program only for families whose injuries or deaths can be shown to be linked to a vaccine and that has not been done in this case.

On one side is science, medicine and the courts. On the other side are Oprah and Jenny McCarthy. Who would you believe?

Holder forgot

Attorney General Eric Holder gave more ammunition to his critics Friday, admitting he had failed to tell a Senate committee about a half-dozen briefs to the Supreme Court that he had signed, including two involving a terrorism dispute.

Holder's aides said the failure to mention the briefs last year prior to his confirmation was an oversight and a mistake.

He forgot? Either he's a liar, or he's not competent enough for the job.

Figures don't lie but . . .

President Barack Obama, claiming that momentum is building for a historic overhaul of the nation's health insurance system, on Friday postponed a trip to Asia so he can stay in the capital next week to twist arms in Congress.

. . . "The president feels some momentum on this issue," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said.

After facing widespread public opposition for months, Gibbs said the tide started to turn in favor of the Democratic proposal when insurance companies began announcing big increases in premiums several weeks ago. That helped fuel a backlash and gave "new life" to the proposals stalled in Congress, he said.

Public opinion polls, however, haven't shown a turn in favor of the legislation, which is designed to help 31 million people get health insurance and to regulate rates for those who already have it.

The Gallup Poll, for example, found this week that 45 percent supported the legislation and 48 percent opposed it, essentially unchanged from a December survey and a slight drop in support since January.

The administration's poll tested, fact free spin of the week is "momentum".

It's just not true - - public opinion is fixed.

Swine flu beaten

Swine flu came in like a lion but seems to be going out like a lamb. And the regular flu season never even got started.

After scaring the bejeebers out of us last spring and fall, the H1N1 virus seems to have collapsed by the end of the year. This year, there haven't been any H1N1 deaths in Miami-Dade and Broward, and just six in all of Florida.

Even better, for reasons scientists can't explain, swine flu tended to squeeze out regular seasonal flu. Of all U.S. patients hospitalized for flu this season, 99.4 percent had H1N1, not seasonal flu, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We're almost at the end of the flu season. It could be a very mild one," said Dr. Vincent Conte, chief epidemiologist for the Miami-Dade Health Department. "Even seasonal flu cases are few and far between."

Some will say that we overreacted to the threat of swine flu.

In fact, modern medicine beat swine flu.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Stimulate road repairs

Drivers are battling an epidemic of teeth-rattling potholes, jarring not only wheels and tires but also transportation departments trying to pay for road fixes.

"The roads are so bad, you have to wear a mouthpiece," says David Alston, 50, a school bus driver in Iselin, N.J..

Pothole patching crews are making repairs earlier this year after an unusually severe winter of heavy snowstorms followed by freezing temperatures, then a quick warm-up.

. . . Potholes are good news for car repair shops. Somerset Tire Service in East Meadow, N.Y., is seeing almost triple the usual number of customers coming in with blown tires, bent rims and other damage, says assistant manager Steven Walchak.

The pothole problem is unlikely to improve unless more money is spent to maintain roads, says Peter King, executive director of the American Public Works Association. "What we are seeing is the result of deferring maintenance over time," King says. "Next year it will be worse, and two years from now even worse."

If you were designing a stimulus program to create temporary employment with immediate impact and societal benefit, you would give the unemployed shovels and a paycheck and put them to work on road repairs.

Instead, the stimulus bill was filled with pork barrel paybacks to campaign supporters and donors.

U.S. House rejects pullout from Afghanistan

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly rejected a measure calling for President Barack Obama to pull U.S. forces from Afghanistan, in an election-year test of his decision to escalate the war.

But dozens of Obama's Democrats in the House did support the pullout resolution, indicating division over war policy ahead of November congressional elections in which Republicans are expected to make gains.

Sixty-five lawmakers, most of them Democrats, voted for the pullout resolution written by liberal Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich, while 356 voted against.

It was the first challenge by members of the Democratic majority in Congress to U.S. involvement in the conflict since Obama ordered 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan and an offensive began last month to retake the Taliban stronghold of Marjah in Helmand province.

. . . Supporters of the Kucinich resolution said it was time for lawmakers to consider if they wanted to continue the nearly nine-year-old war in Afghanistan in which about 1,000 U.S. soldiers have been killed and hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent.

The Democrats ran as the "anti war" party in 2006 and 2008.

Now we know that all except 65 representatives were simply playing politics on the issue.

Record deficits

The government ran up the largest monthly deficit in history in February, keeping the flood of red ink on track to top last year's record for the full year.

The Treasury Department said Wednesday that the February deficit totaled $220.9 billion, 14 percent higher than the previous record set in February of last year.

So far, all the Washington talk about deficit cutting is . . . talk.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Toyota could face criminal charges

Congressional probes, mushrooming lawsuits and a federal probe into reporting of acceleration defects have raised the risk of criminal charges for Toyota.

The legal stakes are high for Toyota, because it is the first automaker embroiled in major safety issues since tough new criminal penalties became law after 2000's rollover recalls involving Ford Explorers and Firestone tires. The Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act for the first time made individuals who intentionally mislead federal regulators about safety defects subject to possible criminal fines and/or prison.

Toyota revealed last month that a federal grand jury in the Southern District of New York subpoenaed documents relating to sudden acceleration in various vehicles and braking issues in the Prius.

People died because Toyota tried to save millions by replacing floor mats instead of braking systems.

Toyota could face criminal charges?

Toyota should face criminal charges.

Roethlisberger - Smoke and fire

A Pittsburgh TV station reported on Wednesday that that Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger admitted to police that there was consensual contact between him and his 20-year-old accuser last Friday, but there was not sexual intercourse.

After a while, you would think these public figures in politics, media and sports would learn that they are exposed to blackmail and slander, and show a little discretion. And, that you don't do certain things in public places

As to Roethlisberger, this is the second time he's been involved in an incident like this. There's smoke and fire.

The real problem for Democrats - -

Is President Obama losing his base?

Liberal and progressive organizations that helped propel him to the White House are turning on him now, little more than a year after he took office. Their collective discontent, on issues from health care to nuclear energy to the handling of terrorism suspects, could mean bad news for Democrats during this fall's congressional elections.

Polls show that liberals and blacks still approve of the job Obama's doing. That approval, however, doesn't necessarily mean they will make the effort to vote, and many of the activists and groups that worked to get people to the polls in 2008 say they're not inclined right now to help Democrats in the fall.

"The energized base which transformed the nation and elected our first black president (is) now disengaged," Democratic political strategist Donna Brazile says. "If this was September, I would hit the panic button."

This is the real problem Democrats face. The liberal / progressive portion of the base will vote for the Democrats in 2010, but they won't volunteer or give as much as they did in 2008.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Iran is correct about one thing

Taking aim at the U.S., Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that it's the United States that is playing a "double game" in Afghanistan, fighting terrorists it once supported.

At a press conference in the Afghan capital, Ahmadinejad was asked to respond to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who earlier in the week accused Tehran of "playing a double game" by trying to have a good relationship with the Afghan government while undermining U.S. and NATO efforts by providing some support to the Taliban.

Tehran has said it supports the Afghan government and denies allegations that it helps the Taliban.

"I believe that they themselves," who are now fighting militants in Afghanistan, "are playing a double game," he said. "They themselves created terrorists and now they're saying that they are fighting terrorists."

Let us never forget that America helped create the Taliban to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Always remember that no action ever taken in Afghanistan by an outside power has ever turned out as intended.

Eric Massa

Obama boosters are celebrating the self destruction of Massa after his criticism of Obama, Emanuel and the Democratic congressional leadership.

I don't see how this does anything but hurt the image of all congressional Democrats.

Hours after resigning amid allegations of sexually harassing staffers, former House member Eric Massa went on national TV Tuesday to deny sexual impropriety but acknowledged he had been overly familiar with his congressional aides.
"I own this misbehavior," he told Fox News commentator Glenn Beck. "I am at fault."

Two publications reported Tuesday that the allegations involved physical contact — contradicting Massa's initial claims that the harassment was verbal. The Washington Post said Tuesday that the ethics panel was looking into charges that Massa groped male staffers; Politico said there were allegations of improper conduct with interns.

USA TODAY could not independently verify the reports.

"I did nothing sexual," the New York Democrat told Beck. Later, on CNN's Larry King Live, Massa said, "It is not true, period."

At the same time, Massa portrayed himself as a victim of Democratic leaders, who he said resented his opposition to some of President Obama's initiatives, such as health care and climate change legislation.

Mr. Popularity

Mr. Popularity, Barack Obama, is in Missouri today, campaigning for passage of Obamacare.

Robin Carnahan, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate from Missouri in 2010, will not appear with him. In fact, she's in Washington, D.C. today.

Carnahan knows that appearing with Obama at this time would doom her candidacy.

Debit card overdrafts

In a significant policy reversal, the USA's largest bank plans will stop allowing consumers to overdraw their checking accounts with one-time debit card transactions.

Bank of America's (BAC) new policy — which takes effect in mid-June for new customers and early August for existing customers — comes amid intense public scrutiny of financial institutions' overdraft fees. In 2009, banks earned about $38.5 billion from overdraft and insufficient-funds fees, estimates Moebs Services, an economic research firm.

Congress is weighing legislation to crack down on these fees. And the Federal Reserve has issued a rule that requires financial institutions to get consumers' consent before charging them to pay certain debit card and ATM overdrafts.

If you don't let banks charge fees to those who bounce checks (and a "debit card overdraft" is a bounced e-check) by spending money they don't have in their accounts, those of us who don't bounce checks with regularity will suffer when we make our once a decade mistake.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Victory or defeat?

Despite numerous news reports that Pakistan had arrested an American al Qaeda operative in the port city of Karachi, the U.S. government is unaware that anyone affiliated with the terrorist network, American or otherwise, has been captured in Pakistan recently, U.S. officials said Monday.

"None of this appears to be fact at this point," said a U.S. official who asked not to be further identified because the official wasn't authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

U.S. and international news reports that first appeared Sunday quoted unnamed Pakistani intelligence officials as saying that Pakistani agents in Karachi had arrested Adam Gadahn, a Californian who'd converted to Islam and oversees al Qaeda's propaganda operations.

Gadahn, 31, is the most wanted American member of al Qaeda and the first U.S. citizen since the 1940s to be charged with treason.

On Sunday, this was reported as a "great victory" for the Obama administration.

If not true, is it a defeat?

Where's the homeowners' bail out?

Michael Keigans is "underwater" on his mortgage, owing $80,000 more than his Deerfield Beach house is worth.

Keigans figures it could take a decade or two to recover the lost equity, so he's tempted to walk away, even though he has the money to pay. "Why keep putting money into a house that's going down in value?" he asks.

It's a question being debated in many households nationwide as the housing crunch continues. Some borrowers feel they have a moral obligation to pay the mortgage, but a growing number of homeowners and consumer advocates say walking away could be a smart business decision.

Borrowers have to weigh several practical considerations of so-called strategic default. They risk being sued by the lender for the unpaid mortgage balance for up to 20 years. Their credit will take a huge hit, making it difficult to get a credit card or a car loan. And the poor credit rating could affect future employment and mean higher auto insurance rates.

Some homeowners, unable to strike deals with their lenders, are willing to face those consequences for the opportunity to shed burdensome mortgages.

In Broward County, Florida, where I live, more than half of all residential mortgage holders are "underwater".

Where's our bailout?

Urban organic gardens

Last fall, Eric Alperin, a San Francisco artist, heard about blackberries, plums and loquats growing on public property in his city and free for the picking.

Armed with bags and a pole device for picking fruit from tall branches, Alperin and his wife went foraging.

"It was great," he said. "We picked as much as we could carry and had beautiful, fresh, free city fruit," Alperin said. "I'll definitely go (picking) again." Fruit-picking opportunities like that are becoming more common, as volunteers in cities including Boston, Detroit, Philadelphia and Madison, Wis., mobilize behind a goal of planting fruit trees on public land in city parks and neighborhoods.

"This is part of what's obviously been an explosion in interest in locally grown and organic food," said Janet Parker, a founding member of a group called Madison Fruits and Nuts. "I think we're coming to realize more and more that it doesn't make any sense, at this late date with climate change being what it is, to truck in so much of our food from California, in the cases of apples, sometimes New Zealand."

. . . Akin said that in the past year, his group has been inundated with funding requests from cities and counties in California, Nevada, Georgia, Wyoming, Florida, Arizona and Vermont. The group will make funding decisions on these projects this year.

Since 2005, the foundation has provided trees and advice to planting projects in 20 states, Akin said.

The irony in ingesting fruits and vegetables from these "organic and locally grown" urban gardens is that urban soil is full of toxic material and heavy metals. I wouldn't eat anything grown in the White House garden or New York's Central Park or any inner city.

Creeping pot legalization

From California, where lawmakers may outright legalize marijuana, to New Jersey, which implemented a medical use law Jan. 19, states are taking unprecedented steps to loosen marijuana restrictions. Advocates of legalizing marijuana say generational, political and cultural shifts have taken the USA to a unique moment in its history of drug prohibition that could topple 40 years of tough restrictions on both medicinal and recreational marijuana use.

A Gallup Poll last October found 44% favor making marijuana legal, an eight-point jump since the question was asked in 2005. An ABC News-Washington Post poll in January found 81% favor making marijuana legal for medical use.

Ready or not, pot will soon be legal in the states where most people live.

This is another social movement that is going forward, unnoticed and unstoppable.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Deja vu in 2010?

Republicans lost control of Congress in 2006 because they were seen as corrupt and out of touch and to blame for an unpopular war.

Since then, Democratic Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was impeached for putting a senate seat up for sale, Democratic New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned over a prostitution scandal, Democratic 2004 vice presidential nominee John Edwards was involved in a "baby daddy" scandal, Democratic Rep. Eric Massa resigned after sexually harassing a male aide, Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel was involved in financial and tax scandals, and Democratic New York Gov. David Paterson is likely to resign over abuse of process in support of a woman-beating aide.

Plus, the crowning achievement of the Democratic Congress may be passage of a healthcare bill supported by less than 40% of the population, and bitterly opposed by a greater number.

And, wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere continue.

Deja vu?

Healthcare: Americans first?

Mentally ill patients are being placed on waiting lists for treatment because Florida's mental health institutions are crowded with illegal immigrants.

The crisis puts Florida at the forefront of a national debate over whether illegal immigrants should enjoy the same rights to public health care as legal residents.

Whether or not you think everyone has a right to healthcare, I think we can all agree that any such right applies to U.S. citizens, and not to illegal immigrants.

Or, does everyone in the world have the right to illegally sneak into America and get free healthcare?

The healthcare alternative not taken

Some oppose abortion, some are worried about premiums, and some have zeroed in on taxes. But House Democrats do have this in common: They're all being heavily courted to support President Obama's health care legislation.

Imagine if Obama had simply said, "we're going to expand Medicaid to include the 15 million poorest currently uninsured Americans", and then focused on regulatory reform to promote equity and contain costs?

Obama could have gotten his 4 to 10 Republican votes, plus all Democrats.

Instead, he tore the country apart with one year of rancorous debate, ignored more pressing issues, and designed an overly bureaucratic, overly complex, overly partisan and overly expensive plan . . . to expand insurance coverage to the 15 million poorest currently uninsured Americans.

No comment

One of Pope Benedict XVI's elite ushers — already in jail over a corruption probe — has been dismissed for an alleged gay-prostitution ring, according to new reports from Italy. An elite Vatican singer also was over the sex scandal.

Angelo Balducci is a "Gentlemen of His Holiness" (Papal Gentlemen), who serve the pope on special occasions, such as when heads of state visit the Vatican. Balducci helped carry the coffin of Pope John Paul II. He is also a board member of Italy's public works department and a Vatican construction consultant.

Balducci was among four people arrested on corruption charges last month. The prostitution allegations emerged later and became public yesterday when the Italian newspaper La Repubblica published excerpts of police wiretaps of Balducci's phone.

Ghinedu Ehiem of Nigeria, who sang with the Giulia Choir of St. Peter's Basilica for 19 years, was dismissed Wednesday after his name appeared in transcripts. Police accuse him of procuring male prostitutes for Balducci as part of "an organized network," but he has not been charged with any crime, Reuters says.

Parks hit in budgets

Lawmakers in at least a dozen states have contemplated the closure of up to 400 state parks this year, according to a National Association of State Park Directors survey, says Philip McKnelly, the association's executive director.

The exact number to be closed remains a moving target, he says, as budget negotiations continue and compromises such as reducing hours and cutting staff are made to avoid closures.

Government leaders are tempted to view parks as expendable, McKnelly says, although public recreation facilities are important during an era of unemployment and financial stress.

For some reason, lawmakers who appropriated the cost of building and opening parks never considered the continuing and explosive costs of operation and maintenance.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Responsive government

How's this for responsive government?

David Axelrod . . . the president’s closest aide, longest-serving adviser and political alter ego. . . . in an interview in his office . . . was often defiant, saying he did not give a “flying” expletive “about what the peanut gallery thinks” and did not live for the approval “of the political community.”

The president's closest adviser wants us all to know (via The New York Times) that he doesn't "give a “flying” expletive" about what we think. Nice.

Al Qaeda and the U.S. Army

Al-Qaeda's American-born spokesman on Sunday called on Muslims serving in the U.S. armed forces to emulate the Army major charged with killing 13 people in Fort Hood.

In a 25-minute video posted on militant websites, Adam Gadahn described Maj. Nidal Hasan as a pioneer who should serve as a role model for other Muslims, especially those serving Western militaries.

"Brother Nidal is the ideal role-model for every repentant Muslim in the armies of the unbelievers and apostate regimes," he said.

On the other hand, our Army brass is afraid to be accused of profiling.

Obama's healthcare argument: Trust me

In private pitches to Democrats, President Obama says he will persuade Congress to pass his health care overhaul even if it kills him and even if he has to ask deeply distrustful lawmakers to trust him on a promise the White House doesn't have the power to keep. . . .

Some answers, however, rely more on faith than fact. Confronting party unrest on his left and right, Obama is calling for political courage, citing historic opportunities and essentially saying "trust me" in areas inherently murky, uncertain and out of his control.

This was supposed to be the reality based, science based, fact based administration.

But, now, their best argument is "trust me".

Iran begins production of cruise missiles

Iran announced Sunday that it has started a new production line of highly accurate, short range cruise missiles, which would add a new element to the country's already imposing arsenal.

Gen. Ahmad Vahidi told Iranian state TV that the cruise missile, called Nasr 1, would be capable of destroying targets up to 3,000 tons in size.

The minister said the missile can be fired from ground-based launchers as well as ships, but would eventually be modified to be fired from helicopters and submarines.

It's time for more than a stern warning and empty toothless threats of sanctions.

Or, will we wait until nuclear armed missiles are on their way to U.S. territory from Iranian subs?