Wednesday, February 25, 2009

After eight years of mangled words and crude expression, how refreshing was it to witness a president who was quite the opposite? Last night Obama was inspiring, not insipid, direct and yet not threatening, forceful while still conveying gentle optimism and encouraging words of hope. Compared to what we had it was like air conditioning on a 100-degree, humid day. To not see the scowl of Cheney in the background or to hear the many references to war, terror, enemies. It was wonderful.

The moment that was most revealing -- in a disturbing way -- was when Obama said "America does not torture." It was an eerie moment with the sense that everyone in the chamber knew that over the last several years we did exactly that, tortured, despite Bush/Cheney's denials and wordplay around the matter. It was an unspoken, accepted belief in the room that we had tortured and after Obama spoke those words, everyone rose to their feet and clapped, acknowledging that a shameful period of time had finally passed, but recognizing also that crimes were committed and nothing was or has been done. Really sad.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

  • Alan Keyes is still hard at work being insane.

  • What a shocker! The Bush presidency was indeed providing the likes of Fox News, Limbaugh, etc. with talking points. Just call them partisan disseminators.

  • If there's one thing certain about this year's Oscars, it's that Slumdog will win best picture.

  • From a recent AP poll, approval ratings on handling of the economy: Obama +41% (68% approve vs. 27% disapprove), Democrats in Congress +4% (49% vs. 45%), Republicans in Congress -26% (33% vs. 59%). Looks like the GOP has their work cut out for them...

  • And it appears as if one of the things they're going to spend their time on is getting to the bottom of the whopping 3% of the stimulus bill that they believe to be pork. I'm willing to bet in the many bills that the GOP-controlled Congress passed during the Bush years, the amount of pork in those spending behemoths was well above 3%, well above... It's never about the amount of pork but rather that the spending is going towards things the GOP does not favor, plain and simple.

  • GW's former speechwriter declares that recessions can be good for you. I suppose this follows the same logic that global warming is good because it will boost crop output in certain parts of the world. Gads. And I thought Bill Kristol's column in the Times was dopey...

  • The biofuel boom is destroying rainforests.

  • Dennis Kucinich on Fox Business talking about the SEC and Allen Stanford. What's most disturbing to me is to see the depths to which Fox will go to get people to tune in to their fledgling (and failing?) business channel. Watch the video: young "hip" male with long hair, to his right a gorgeous model with a VERY low cut dress, the "newscast' taking place at a bar -- WTF?
  • Friday, February 20, 2009

    The Republicans may have screwed themselves with their adamant stance against the stimulus bill. I get the fact that they stacked all their chips on the bet that Obama and this bill will not successfully impact the economy, and in effect they're hoping we transition from a recession to a depression (have to love that "country first" BS!).

    But it may not work the way they believe. If the economy does in fact slowly recover, needless to say Obama (and the Dems) wins and the Republicans lose, game over. However, if indeed the economy stays in the tank and it appears as if the stimulus bill was all for naught, there is a good possibility the public will not immediately and categorically blame Obama (and the Dems) for this outcome. The Republicans may try to make the case that the $800 give/take billion was a waste, but the public isn't always that dumb and mindless. With the help from Dems, the public could realize that 1) 20/20 hindsight blame is cheap and easy, 2) at least Obama and the Dems tried, at least they tried to do something in the face of grave circumstances, and 3) the public will hopefully recall that the economy was already in deep, deep trouble before Obama set foot in the White House. It's more difficult to slowdown a runaway train once it's been able to attain higher speeds. As many have already written (particularly Paul Krugman), this stimulus bill may be too light to tackle the problems we now face, but arguably it also came too late.

    As it is there's already signs of rescue plan fatigue. A few more such plans were announced recently and the stock market just heads lower on the news. People may now have low expectations that any of this stuff will work -- which further gets to my point. For the Republican plan to work, they need not only that Obama fail, but also that people have very high expectations that he will succeed. Regarding the latter, the public is hopeful and supports Obama, yet that doesn't necessarily mean they have high expectations given the daunting task(s) at hand (only the worst economy since the Great Depression).

    To sum up, if the economy recovers this year, Obama and the Dems are big winners and the GOP huge losers. If the economy does not recover this year, and either remains as bad as now or possibly even gets worse, the Republicans still may not end up winners. They didn't try to do anything to help, were rooting against the president at the time, and the public may decide that given the degree to which the economy is and has been reeling, no one person or entity can be blamed for it.

    In my mind, Republicans face more of a lose-tie or lose-nothing scenario on this matter as opposed to what they believe to be a lose-win situation. Regardless, one thing is clear: they're clearly betting against the economy, and the country.
  • Absolutely priceless. The shameless GOP at work.

  • Regarding what I wrote about Norm Coleman and the GOP on Feb. 9th, six days later it appears as if I was right. Franken may never see the light of Washington.

  • I also wrote on Feb. 9th: "Obama needs to do what he did to win the White House: appeal directly to the public, circumventing the wrapped-in-politics swamp that is currently and has been DC." Four days later in Politico: "But the strategy to promote these items is getting an emergency overhaul. Obama plans to travel more and campaign more in an effort to pressure lawmakers with public support, rather than worrying about whether he can win over Republican votes in Congress." Excellent.
  • Monday, February 09, 2009

    Can we stop reading about how Obama has got his wish: to limit the pay of all financial executives on the planet? Many are making it sound as if this executive pay limit applies to all companies in the entire financial industry, as opposed to just those companies requesting taxpayer-funded aid -- obviously not true. That still leaves thousands upon thousands of firms that can pay whatever they want to top talent.

    As for the pay limit applied to TARP-needy firms, what's wrong with some form of "punishment" for their past misdeeds in exchange for lifeblood aid? Also, the exorbitant plane purchases and lavish parties attracted as-expected wide attention, all but forcing the hand of media-sensitive Obama and Congress to originate and implement this pay limit.

    Also, don't you just love the way these complainers don't necessarily mind capitalism bending a bit by way of receiving savior funds to prop up companies that the invisible hand is supposed to extinguish, and yet they'll scream "socialism" if you dare curb compensation on said firms...?

    So enough with the excessive generalities. Obama and Congress are not instituting a blanket ban on high comp for all financial companies. Such mischaracterizations are irresponsible and serve as simple-minded propaganda.
    Why the political content of Forbes magazine is nearly as funny as that of the WSJ editorial page:
    Before the September meltdown one might have graded George W. Bush with a "B" (on the Reagan scale) for his two-term presidency. On the exemplary side, Bush prevented a post-9/11 attack, and he cut taxes in 2003, which sparked the economy. What prevented a higher grade were bad appointments (Donald Rumsfeld, Michael Brown and the near disaster of Harriet Miers, to name only three, with more to come) and speaking skills that embarrassed even his fans.

    Alas, the Bush Administration's bobble of the 2008 financial crisis knocked W down to a "C," at best....
    Yeah, Harriet Miers was his big screw-up -- geez.
    I wonder, could the GOP be encouraging Norm Coleman to keep up his hopeless fight to win Minnesota, to at least delay Franken's seating as long as possible to deny him voting on the crucial matters that face us?
    Michael Hirsh of Newsweek recently wrote a column with some terrific points. Some segments:
    The reason Obama is getting so few votes is that he is no longer setting the terms of the debate over how to save the economy. Instead the Republican Party—the one we thought lost the election—is doing that. And the confusion and delay this is causing could realize Obama's worst fears, turning "crisis into a catastrophe..."
    Obama's desire to begin a "post-partisan" era may have backfired. In his eagerness to accommodate Republicans and listen to their ideas over the past week, he has allowed the GOP to turn the haggling over the stimulus package into a decidedly stale, Republican-style debate over pork, waste and overspending.
    Obama has allowed Congress to grow embroiled in nitpicking over efficiency when the central debate should be about whether the package is big enough.
    Obama needs to remind the American people that unless the Republicans get on board, they will bear political responsibility for failing to act in the face of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
    The lesson: to court bipartisan compromise only works if both parties involved are sincere in their intentions. Obama tried (too) many times to win over Republicans and as much as he tried, he got nowhere. Instead, he's been treated to harsh criticism from the GOP's water-carriers, namely talk radio and Fox News.

    Obama needs to do what he did to win the White House: appeal directly to the public, circumventing the wrapped-in-politics swamp that is currently and has been DC. As we now fully understand and realize, the GOP is willing to do only that which they perceive to be in their interest -- the country be damned.

    Sunday, February 08, 2009

  • How a national home insulation plan would boost the economy, cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, and save consumers billions of dollars over the years. An investment that would have a multi-pronged payoff. Alas, there's not a shot the GOP would support such a sensible idea. It needs to be much more idiotic and imprudent for the Republicans to go for it.

  • Reminder from 2004 (prescient): 60% of U.S. corporations paid zero taxes from 1996-2000 (hardly a period of recession). 94% of corporations had a tax liability of less than 5% of income. "...any benefit working families have received from the Bush tax cuts has been more than offset by the additional tax burden they must bear because corporations no longer pay their fair share of taxes." And yet Republicans now want to push through even more tax cuts.... Insanity.

  • On Friday morning, Steve Benen wrote, "The Senate bill grew, not by additional stimulus spending -- the chamber narrowly defeated a measure to expand infrastructure investment -- but by adding $94 billion in tax cuts. The Nelson/Collins group, to make the package 'palatable,' isn't eyeing the tax breaks that aren't stimulative, they're eyeing about $100 billion in spending that is stimulative." So they were looking to add about $100 billion in tax cuts and subtract about $100 billion in spending, or about a $200 billion swap. The original plan was already too small when it came to stimulus spending and the Senate compromise version is even smaller. Paul Krugman says "this is really, really bad."

  • It's about time they admitted to it: Rep. Sessions (R-TX) urged the GOP to become more like the Taliban. The party of crazies.

  • Keith Olbermann's Special Comment to Dick Cheney is an absolute must-view:

  • Bush: eight years of blunders, no admission of mistakes, no apologies. Obama: within weeks of his taking office, he admits, "I screwed up." Now that's change.

    Tuesday, February 03, 2009

    Sunday, February 01, 2009

    I hardly write about sports, if ever, but with this Super Bowl I have to make this point. If the Arizona Cards win, it will be the biggest fraud to occur in any sport in quite some time. Many will protest, saying "But they won the Super Bowl! End of story." Sorry, in most years the winner of the Super Bowl is more often than not the best team in the NFL that season, or certainly one of the top 3. Yet this year with the Cards making it all the way to the big one, it proves that on rare occasion an impostor can have everything break their way and stand to be crowned #1.

    What do I mean? The Cards finished the regular season a mediocre 9-7 to win the weakest division in the NFL. They won their home games (6-2) but had a losing record on the road (with several losses absolute blowouts), meaning they frequently took advantage of teams having to make the long trip to Phoenix, but then faltered badly when they had to make same trip to East Coast. Thanks to their divisional standing, they were fortunate to get home field advantage in two post-season games, a huge edge, and the one game they did not (as +10 pt. dogs to the Panthers) they again were fortunate with the Panthers turning the ball over six (!) times). Note: typically if a team has a net turnover margin of two or greater in a game, they don't win. Six turnovers makes it near impossible to win.

    The NFL should re-evaluate their playoff rules. It should not be that the winners of each division get home field advantage. These teams should obviously get into the playoffs but it should be the W/L record that dictates home fields. The fact is the Cards should have never been at home in the post-season given their pedestrian record. Meanwhile, we saw the 12-4 Indy Colts have to play on the road versus the 8-8 SD Chargers -- it's simply not right.

    I fully expect the Steelers to win by double-digits. They're simply the better team, esp. on defense (which typically is what matters most in these big games). However, the better team does not always win and again, in this case not only would the lesser team prove fortunate to win, but the clearly lesser team is lucky to have made it this far in the post-season. Kudos to them for making it so far with a subpar team, but I'm sorry, if they hold up that Super Bowl trophy, I for one will not suddenly erase their stats and their regular season record and salute them as best in the league. Not even close.