Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy 2010!

Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right.
   ~Oprah Winfrey

Auld Lang Syne (most sung song of the world)

Stir the eggnog, lift the toddy, Happy New Year, everybody.
   ~Phyllis McGinley

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Confirm Errol Southers, NOW!

Last week's attack on a Detroit-bound flight that originated in the Netherlands (and was thankfully stopped in progress by quick-reacting passengers) could have, as we have been told ad nauseum, been prevented by better communication between American and Dutch authorities.

A month ago Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's father told the American consulate that his son had taken up with radical Islamists. The Homeland Security Department did what they should have done and placed him on a terrorist watch list, meaning that he would be subjected to additional security measures if he tried to board a plane. Only the TSA didn't communicate with the Dutch authorities, who failed to detect explosive material on Abdulmutallab when he passed through a security inspection in Amsterdam.

Why didn't the TSA do it's job? MAYBE BECAUSE THERE IS NO ONE AT THE HELM? That's right, the position of TSA director is vacant.

There is a nominee, and a counter-terrorism expert at that. The person the Obama administration nominated for the job is Errol Southers, who is eminently qualified to deal with terrorism, as a former special agent with the FBI, the Los Angeles airport assistant chief for security and intelligence, the associate director of the University of Southern California's Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events and most recently the deputy director of homeland security for the state of California.

Two Senate committees have already approved Southers by a bipartisan vote. This should be a no-brainer.

Enter DeMint, one of the most combatative conservatives in the Senate. He has single-handedly blocked the nomination over the specific issue of preventing TSA workers from exercising their right to vote on whether they want to be represented by a collective bargaining agreement.

So thanks to DeMint, instead of having a highly qualified expert on terrorism running the TSA, someone who certainly would have attended to the detail of letting the Dutch know who they should pay closer attention to during an inspection, we instead have a vacancy in this critical position.

Thankfully, no one lost their life in this attack. But had 279 passengers and crew in the plane, and perhaps hundreds more on the ground died in the attack, it would be fair to ask whether Jim DeMint was at fault.

The Senate should vote to confirm Errol Southers IMMEDIATELY!

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Thursday, December 24, 2009


When Christmas bells are swinging above the fields of snow,
We hear sweet voices ringing from lands of long ago.
And etched on vacant places,
Are half forgotten faces
Of friends we used to cherish, and loves we used to know –
When Christmas bells are swinging above the fields of snow.

When hanging up the holly or mistletoe, I wis
Each heart recalls some folly that lit the world with bliss.
Not all the seers and sages
With wisdom of the ages
Can give the mind such pleasure as memories of that kiss
When hanging up the holly or mistletoe, I wis.

~Ella Wheeler Wilcox,

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Modern Christmas Tale

Congress, pass real health care reform.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Jobs For Main Street

In a 217 to 212 vote Wednesday evening, the House passed the Jobs for Main Street Act (H.R. 2847) "to create or save jobs here at home with targeted investments ($75 billion) for highways and transit, school renovation, hiring teachers, police, and firefighters, small business, job training and affordable housing – key drivers of economic growth that have the most bang for the buck. These investments are fully paid for by redirecting TARP funds from Wall Street to Main Street."

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Deficit Economy

Despite Republican claims otherwise, a new analysis released today by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that Bush-era policies are what caused our economic downturn and huge deficit.

The Source of the Deficit Mess

Steve Benen, Washington Monthly:
Republican lawmakers and far-right activists have suddenly discovered, after eight years of dramatic fiscal irresponsibility, that they care deeply about deficit reduction again. Worse, they're absolutely convinced that President Obama and those free-spending Democrats are responsible, putting a terrible burden on future generations.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a report today, analyzing the existing deficit in detail, and what factors created it. Here's hoping Republicans and Teabaggers are paying attention. [...]

This isn't just about pointing fingers for self-satisfaction or partisan vanity. It's important for the public to realize who's responsible, in large part because it's important for the public to weigh policymakers' credibility. If GOP lawmakers embraced policies that are almost entirely responsible for the deficit those same lawmakers are now complaining about, it's a relevant detail.

And on a related note, for those who believe deficit reduction must be a top national priority -- a group that's apparently pretty large -- it's important to recognize which party's proposals are effective in improving, or not, the fiscal landscape.

President Obama will deserve plenty of blame over the course of his presidency, but holding him responsible for getting us into this budgetary mess doesn't make sense.

President Obama Largely Inherited Today’s Huge Deficits

Economic Downturn, Financial Rescues, and Bush-Era Policies Drive the Numbers

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
Special Series: Economic Recovery Watch

Some critics charge that the new policies pursued by President Obama and the 111th Congress generated the huge federal budget deficits that the nation now faces. In fact, the tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the economic downturn together explain virtually the entire deficit over the next ten years (see Figure 1).

The deficit for fiscal 2009 was $1.4 trillion and, at an estimated 10 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), was the largest deficit relative to the size of the economy since the end of World War II. Under current policies, deficits will likely exceed $1 trillion in 2010 and 2011 and remain near that figure thereafter.

The events and policies that have pushed deficits to astronomical levels in the near term, however, were largely outside the new Administration’s control. If not for the tax cuts enacted during the Presidency of George W. Bush that Congress did not pay for, the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that began during that period, and the effects of the worst economic slump since the Great Depression (including the cost of steps necessary to combat it), we would not be facing these huge deficits in the near term.

While President Obama inherited a bad fiscal legacy, that does not diminish his responsibility to propose policies to address our fiscal imbalance and put the weight of his office behind them. Although policymakers should not tighten fiscal policy in the near term while the economy remains fragile, they and the nation at large must come to grips with the nation’s deficit problem. But we should all recognize how we got where we are today.

continue reading...

Analysis Behind and Beyond Government Economic Reporting

See the charts at Shadow Government Statistics:

Inflation, Money Supply, GDP, Unemployment and the Dollar

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Financial Reform Bill

On Friday, December 11, the House passed the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (HR 4173), a bill to overhaul and reform financial regulations.

A short summary of the bill's provisions can be read at the Reuters Factbox.

For eight years, President Bush and his Republican allies ignored growing risks in the financial markets as Wall Street and big banks exploited loopholes and harmed America’s families and small businesses. Their failure to regulate financial markets and control these risks left Wall Street and the big banks to gamble with our money, which compromised our future, our savings, and the American Dream. We know what happened: the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Wall Street reform is the next critical step to create jobs and grow the economy. As we rebuild our economy, we must put in place common-sense rules to ensure big banks and Wall Street can't jeopardize our recovery and hurt hard-working families and small businesses once again. Wall Street may be bouncing back, but we know from experience that left to their own devices they’re not going to police themselves.

On December 11th, the House passed the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (HR 4173) by a vote of 223-202. This comprehensive financial regulation reform bill will enact common-sense reforms including ending bailouts by helping ensure taxpayers are never again on the hook for Wall Street’s risky behavior and bad bets; protecting families’ retirement funds, college savings, and homes and businesses’ financial futures from unnecessary risk by Wall Street lenders and speculators and high-paid corporate executives; protecting consumers from predatory lending abuses, fine print, and industry gimmicks; and finally bringing transparency and accountability to a financial system that has run amok.

More information:

Bill Summary

Bill Highlights

Full bill text

Summary of Title I - Financial Stability Improvement Act

Summary of Title II—Corporate and Financial Institution Compensation Fairness Act

Summary of Title III—Over-the-Counter Derivatives Markets Act

Summary of Title IV—Consumer Financial Protection Agency Act

Summary of Title V—Capital Markets

Summary of Title VI—Federal Insurance Office

Myths vs. Facts

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Big Eddie: To Senators Deciding Health Care

Big Eddie challenges Senators to get out and see the real people who are affected by lack of health care.

Senators Should Visit a Free Health Care Clinic to Really See the America They Represent... and Deny

Ed Schultz:

On Thursday, I hosted my MSNBC "Ed Show" from the Kansas City Convention Center. There have been few days in my thirty year broadcasting career that have moved me as much as this experience did. I saw the real America. In the middle of the country, two thousand miles from the beltway, I witnessed middle class Americans standing in line for hours waiting to see a doctor. Some had not seen a doctor in years. They have jobs, some working two jobs, but can't afford the cost of insurance and basically are on the GOP plan: pray you don't get sick.

The stories were gut wrenching. I couldn't help but think this is where the Senate needs to do their business. Do it right in front of the eyes of the people in their own country who are struggling to make ends meet and live in dignity. The Senate should do business in front of the families that have played by the rules and have been dealt a personal set back for one reason or another. Have the guts to tell these people to their face that they aren't worthy of health care because they don't have money. They may see these faces briefly on the campaign trail, but they make no decisions in front of them when they are standing in line in pain, in agony and in desperate need.

America has a heartless side to it as well. That is demonstrated when U.S. Senators put the God Almighty Dollar in front of people who put them in office. How any law maker could deny full access and full health care coverage is beyond me. Senators who put themselves ahead of the people and who have been spoiled by the Washington good life have lost their soul and what it means to be an American. We throw billions of dollars at wars, often without hesitation, but some in the Congress are willing to treat humans in their own country like a piece of machinery that can be left in a junk yard.

My God, what has happened to America ?

In the arena of despair and need, I saw first hand the best of America. Over 1600 volunteers and more than 600 medical personnel and fifty five doctors willing to take the personal time and care about this crisis. Care about their fellow countryman and neighbor. Heroes, that's what they are. Not selfish lawmakers who have best health care in the world. These were real heroes who hoped for a better America and were willing to take the time to do their part. The National Association of Free Clinics and the people who work in this organization are the best of the best. They should be doing the voting, making the policy and writing the rules. Not heartless self indulged Senators who we have been trusted to be the care takers of our country.

I beg the Senate: please make the correct decision for this country and pass the torch to a new generation with compassion and moral compass with a health care bill that never falls short of any need for any American.


The Ed Show @ MSNBC

12-10-09 video: Free health clinic arrives in Kansas City

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Failures Want To Finish The Fail

Senator Orrin Hatch admits that the GOP incompetence failed this country for years, and they damn near destroyed this country in the process. His solution to all the problems we now face because of that incompetence is to (are you kidding me?) let them finish the job!

Orrin Hatch: New GOP Majority the Solution to Republican Failures

From 2001 through 2008, what Thomas Frank deemed the Republican "wrecking crew" essentially demolished U.S. prosperity and the American dream. For the eight years George W. Bush presided in the White House and the six that the GOP controlled Congress, Republican stewardship produced endless budget deficits, a massive tax windfall for wealthy Americans, an unnecessary war in Iraq, sharp increases in poverty and those without health insurance and, of course, the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression. But as Utah Senator Orrin Hatch announced Monday, the solution to the problem of Republican mismanagement is to return the GOP to the majority.

Appearing on the Fox Business channel, Senator Hatch assured host Alexis Glick that the prescription for the malignant cancers caused by the GOP was to introduce more Republican carcinogens into the American body politic...
Oh, and tax cuts.
Of course, Hatch's comical call for a new Republican majority comes just one month after he warned about a future with Congress in Democratic hands. As he made clear, the GOP is worried not that Obama's health care initiatives might fail, but that they might succeed.
Yeah, doing something good that could actually be to the benefit of the people is such a terrible thing, in Batsh*t Crazy GNOP world.

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Friday, December 04, 2009

Republican Clown Car Fail

When Republicans try to pull off stunts and fall out of the clown car, they might end up getting run over:

Coburn/Vitter plan goes awry
Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and David Vitter (R-La.) no doubt thought they were being clever. They crafted an amendment that would force members of Congress to get their coverage through a public insurance plan, if the public option were included as part of health care reform. If it's good enough for American consumers, it should be good enough for their elected representatives, right?

They had no idea how much Democrats agreed with the sentiment.

As we talked about this morning, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) not only loved the idea, he wanted to join the right-wing senators as a co-sponsor on their amendment. When they refused -- this was supposed to be a conservative stunt, not a real idea -- Brown used procedural tactics to make himself a co-sponsor of the Coburn/Vitter measure, whether they like it or not.

Then, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said she, too, wanted to join. Soon after, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) endorsed the Coburn/Vitter amendment and also asked to be a co-sponsor. [...]

The fun part of this is that it's a stunt gone awry. Coburn and Vitter were probably whispering to themselves, "We'll show them." It didn't occur to them that Democrats would call their bluff.


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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Bernanke Nomination On Hold

On Thursday, December 3, 2009 at 10:00 AM, the Senate Banking Committee will meet in OPEN SESSION to conduct a hearing on the nomination of The Honorable Ben S. Bernanke to be Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.Hearings are webcast live at:

Bernanke Hearing: Taxpayers Deserve Answers

U.S. PIRG Statement on Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s Confirmation
December 2 - "Chairman Bernanke needs to answer serious questions about his advice and actions leading up to, during and in the aftermath of the financial meltdown. Taxpayers can't afford another undetected housing bubble. Businesses can't afford another lending freeze. None of the unprecedented actions taken by the Federal Reserve have led to more jobs and financial security for families. And without meaningful transparency, no one knows exactly what he's done.

"In addition, the Fed's new claims that it's a born-again consumer advocate and bubble-fighter are just claims. Congress needs to enact legislation to protect consumers, prevent systemic risk and to audit and democratize the Federal Reserve."

Senator opposes Fed chief Bernanke renomination
Senator Bernie Sanders said on Sunday he will not vote to reconfirm Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve, in a preview of the rough treatment Bernanke may get this week on Capitol Hill.

From the Press Release: Sanders Puts Hold on Bernanke
December 2, 2009

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today placed a hold on the nomination of Ben Bernanke for a second term as chairman of the Federal Reserve.

“The American people overwhelmingly voted last year for a change in our national priorities to put the interests of ordinary people ahead of the greed of Wall Street and the wealthy few,” Sanders said. “What the American people did not bargain for was another four years for one of the key architects of the Bush economy.”

As head of the central bank since 2006, Bernanke could have demanded that Wall Street provide adequate credit to small and medium-sized businesses to create decent-paying jobs in a productive economy, but he did not.

He could have insisted that large bailed-out banks end the usurious practice of charging interest rates of 30 percent or more on credit cards, but he did not.

He could have broken up too-big-to-fail financial institutions that took Federal Reserve assistance, but he did not.

He could have revealed which banks took more than $2 trillion in taxpayer-backed secret loans, but he did not.

“The American people want a new direction on Wall Street and at the Fed. They do not want as chairman someone who has been part of the problem and who has been responsible for many of the enormous difficulties that we are now experiencing,” Sanders said. “It’s time for a change at the Fed.”

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

No More, Mr. President.

President Barack Obama will try to sell his reasons to the American public tonight for adding 30,000 more troops, at a estimated cost of $1 million per year for each additional soldier sent, as part of a new counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan. Yet another mess left to the new administration when the last administration took their eye off the ball when they had the chance to get Osama bin Laden, according to the Tora Bora Report to the members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Some of us aren't buying it so easily:

Olbermann on Afghanistan: Get out now

Nov. 30: In a Special Comment, Countdown’s Keith Olbermann argues that in the face political and financial opportunism, not to mention outright lies about the war in Afghanistan, and the stark historical warning represented by Vietnam, President Obama should make the change he promised during his campaign and pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan. 9:15

With tens of thousands of Americans dying yearly from lack of adequate health care and millions still going without health care, the Republicans are all too eager to let the country know just exactly where their priorities are:

Conservative Senators Embrace Putting Off Health Care For Americans In Favor Of Escalation In Afghanistan
Both a troop escalation and health care reform carry significant price tags — roughly $100 billion and $80-$100 billion a year respectively. (It should be noted that health care reform, unlike a troop surge, would cut the deficit.)

When it comes to these two debates, hawkish senators have laid out their priorities. They are more than willing to fund a risky troop surge that is increasingly opposed by both Americans and Afghans, yet remain stalwart opponents of health care reform that could save the lives of the 45,000 Americans who die every year because they lack access to health care. [...]

As the number of Americans on food stamps rises to an all-time high, the unemployment rate hits double-digits, and Americans continue to perish due to lack of health coverage, how can these senators justify draining funding from crucial domestic programs to pay for an escalation of the war in Afghanistan?

"The patience ends, Mr. President. We cannot afford this war."

Bring our troops home. Now.

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Pennsylvania college wrong to single out fat students for mandatory course

Lincoln College, an historically African-American college in Pennsylvania, has announced that any student must past a BMI (body-mass index) test in order to graduate. If according to the BMI, the student is 'obese,' then the student must go through a fitness course before graduating, and if they fail to finish the fitness course then they don't get a diploma.

I don't even know where to begin pointing out how stupid this is.

First, it is insulting to people who are, after all, adults. A college is in the business of providing education. It's not up to them to be the fitness czar for their students. And frankly this could be humiliating for a lot of people.

Second, BMI is a single number which in fact does not measure very well what kind of shape a person is in. I guarantee you that the majority of players in the NFL have a BMI which would classify them as 'obese,' but they are not out of shape at all.

Third, the presumption here is that if a person is overweight then it is a fitness issue. But it may not be. It might be an issue involving metabolism, disease or genetics. There are a lot of reasons why people are overweight, and in some cases exercise might even make things worse (such as if the person has a disease which also puts stress on their heart.)

Fourth, if we do this then how far does this go? Will they require that smokers go through a smoking cessation course before they can graduate? If someone gets a parking violation on campus will they have to go to driving school? If someone studies a lot will they be required to attend a course on stress release? Will joggers have to take a course on proper podiatric care? Are they going to make students provide proof that they have gotten all their prescriptions filled? I mean, there are a lot of ways people can risk their health, and once you begin with this you may be opening a Pandora's box. Keep in mind too that this is a college that is making this requirement, not even a health agency (though I'd be against it if it were a health agency too.)

I understand that obesity is a problem, especially in the African-American community which this college serves but if the people in charge of the college want to do someting about it how about providing more physical education or nutrition courses and information that will be available to all students, but mandatory for none?

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