Friday, February 27, 2009

Piling on Jindal: Kenneth the Page Fires Back

Daily Kos is the latest to pile on Bobby Jindal for what was a calamitous national TV appearance. Today's story line is the Katrina tale.

The Louisiana governor already has taken hits from both sides.

Daniel Kurtzman is promoting the Kenneth-the-page angle.

Kenneth, of course, has issued a response.
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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ok, where are all the wingnut "Impeach Obama" Chants and T-Shirts?

Senior Democrat Senator: Obama Threatens the Constitution

Sen. Robert Byrd, the longest-serving Democratic senator, is criticizing President Obama’s appointment of White House “czars” to oversee federal policy, saying these executive positions amount to a "power grab" by the executive branch.

In a letter to Obama on Wednesday, Byrd complained about Obama’s decision to create White House offices on health reform, urban affairs policy, and energy and climate change. Byrd said such positions “can threaten the Constitutional system of checks and balances. At the worst, White House staff have taken direction and control of programmatic areas that are the statutory responsibility of Senate-confirmed officials.”

While it's rare for Byrd to criticize a president in his own party, Byrd is considered by some to be a constitutional scholar who has always stood up for the legislative branch in its role in checking the power of the White House.

John Breshnahan at The Politico has the rest of the story here.


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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

He's (not) Young and (not) Hip, He's Our Vice President

Biden Asks for Web Site's 'Number'
The vice president made a techie gaffe Wednesday as he asked an aide to tell him a Web site's "number," stirring questions online whether he knows how the Web works.

Vice President Joe Biden, tasked with overseeing the $787 billion stimulus package, has been having a little trouble with his "numbers."

During an interview on CBS' "Early Show" on Wednesday, Biden told viewers to check out a government-run Web site tracking stimulus spending, but admitted he was embarrassed because he couldn't remember the site's "number."

"You know, I'm embarrassed. Do you know the Web site number?" he asked an aide standing out of view. "I should have it in front of me and I don't. I'm actually embarrassed."

Biden, who seemed to indicate that he thought the Internet worked like a giant telephone, sounded an unusually Luddite note inside an administration often heralded for its mastery of the Web.

Click here to see the gaffe.

Web sites, as much of the "Early Show" audience may have been aware, are generally referred to by their URLs or addresses. The one Biden was searching for was, which he announced moments later when reminded of the proper address.

Bloggers wondered aloud whether the vice president knew how to use the Web, though some correctly pointed out that Web sites do indeed use a number system, and are identified by their numeric Internet Protocol address.

A spokeswoman for the vice president had not offered comment by the time this article was published.

Biden isn't the first politician to make a serious flub concerning the ways of the Internet -- former Sen. Ted Stevens called it a "series of tubes" in a now-famous address on the floor of the Senate.

But this wasn't even Biden's first error involving the name of the Web site. During a nationally televised address to the U.S. Conference of Mayors on Feb. 20, he directed the assembled leaders to visit the stimulus site -- but sent them to the wrong one.

"We've already set up a Web site,, which will show where and how the money is being spent," he said, apparently unaware that the government has its own domain. Before a government tweak last Friday, directed Web users to a commercial research company.
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Abu Ghraib Tactics Surface Among U of Colorado Undergrads

Eventually, we can conclude, she let go. How else would authorities have captured this darling photo of U of Colorado super soph Chalie Simon?

More details here.

A hint at Chalie's appeal: She and Jon Donkor have been through this break-up about 20 times.
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Obama Must Be Doing Something Right: Heritage Foundation Finds Only 12 Problems With Mortgage Plan

That's right. Heritage's Ronald Utt and David John can find only a dozen flaws with Obama's Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan.

The simplest gripe? That's easy. No. 10:
"The program will cost $275 billion ($75 billion for problem mortgages and $200 billion for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac)."
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GOP Rising Star Puts it to the Dems

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, the 37 year-old rising GOP star, who was among the first governors to turn down "stimulus" funding targeted for his state, gave the Republican response to President Obama's marathon speech to Congress last night. In doing so, he drew contrasts in basic principles with the new President and may have given the nation a preview of the 2012 general election fight. Jindal pointedly noted that the Democrats put their faith in the federal government to solve the nation's woes, whereas he advocates putting faith the the people.

In his response from the governor's mansion in Baton Rouge, Jindal defended the virtues of small government that he said even his own party had abandoned in recent years.

"Instead of trusting us to make decisions with our own money, they passed the largest government spending bill in history with a price tag of more than $1 trillion with interest," he said of Democrats. "Democratic leaders say their legislation will grow the economy. What it will do is grow the government, increase our taxes down the line and saddle future generations with debt."

Speaking of Obama, Jindal said that "we appreciate his message of hope, but sometimes it seems like we look for hope in different places. Democratic leaders in Washington, they place their hope in the federal government. We place our hope in you, the American people."

And in response to the President's remark earlier this month that without immediate action on the economy, "our nation will sink into a crisis that, at some point, we may be unable to reverse," Jindal retorted: "A few weeks ago, the president warned that our country is facing a crisis that he said we may not be able to reverse," Jindal said. "Our troubles are real, to be sure. But don't let anyone tell you that we cannot recover. Don't let anyone tell you that America 's best days are behind her."

The first Indian American elected governor is a Baton Rouge native and the son of immigrants, and he used the response to tell some of his story: "Like the president's father, my own parents came to this country from a distant land," Jindal said. "When they arrived in Baton Rouge, my mother was already four and half months pregnant. . . . To find work, my dad picked up the yellow pages and started calling local businesses. Even after landing a job, he could still not afford to pay for my delivery, so he worked out an installment plan with the doctor. Fortunately for me, he never missed a payment."

So much for any bipartisan desire for nationalized health insurance.

The full transcript of the Governor's speech can be found here.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Living in River City

Fact Check: President Glosses Over Complex Realities

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's assurance Tuesday that his mortgage-relief plan will only benefit deserving homeowners appears to be a stretch.

Even officials in his administration, many supporters of the plan in Congress and the Federal Reserve chairman expect some of that money will go to people who should have known better than to buy that huge house.

The president glossed over a number of complex realities in delivering his speech to Congress and a nation hungry for economic salvation.

A look at some of his assertions:

OBAMA: "We have launched a housing plan that will help responsible families facing the threat of foreclosure lower their monthly payments and refinance their mortgages. It's a plan that won't help speculators or that neighbor down the street who bought a house he could never hope to afford, but it will help millions of Americans who are struggling with declining home values."

THE FACTS: If the administration has come up with a way to ensure money does not go to home buyers who used bad judgment, it hasn't announced it.

Defending the program Tuesday at a Senate hearing, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said it's important to save some of those people for the greater good. He likened it to calling the fire department to put out a blaze caused by someone smoking in bed.

"I think the smart way to deal with a situation like that is to put out the fire, save him from his own consequences of his own action but then, going forward, enact penalties and set tougher rules about smoking in bed."

Similarly, the head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. suggested this month it's not likely aid will be denied to all homeowners who overstated their income or assets to get a mortgage they couldn't afford.

"I think it's just simply impractical to try to do a forensic analysis of each and every one of these delinquent loans," Sheila Bair told National Public Radio.


OBAMA: "We have already identified $2 trillion in savings over the next decade."

THE FACTS: Although 10-year projections are common in government, they don't mean much. And at times, they are a way for a president to pass on the most painful steps to his successor, by putting off big tax increases or spending cuts until someone else is in the White House.

Obama only has a real say on spending during the four years of his term. He may not be president after that and he certainly won't be 10 years from now.


OBAMA: "Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn't afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day."

THE FACTS: This may be so, but it isn't only Republicans who pushed for deregulation of the financial industries. The Clinton administration championed an easing of banking regulations, including legislation that ended the barrier between regular banks and Wall Street banks. That led to a deregulation that kept regular banks under tight federal regulation but extended lax regulation of Wall Street banks. Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, later an economic adviser to candidate Obama, was in the forefront in pushing for this deregulation.


OBAMA: "In this budget, we will end education programs that don't work and end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don't need them. We'll eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq, and reform our defense budget so that we're not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don't use. We will root out the waste, fraud and abuse in our Medicare program that doesn't make our seniors any healthier, and we will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas."

THE FACTS: First, his budget does not accomplish any of that. It only proposes those steps.

That's all a president can do, because control over spending rests with Congress. Obama's proposals here are a wish list and some items, including corporate tax increases and cuts in agricultural aid, will be a tough sale in Congress.

Second, waste, fraud and abuse are routinely targeted by presidents who later find that the savings realized seldom amount to significant sums. Programs that a president might consider wasteful have staunch defenders in Congress who have fought off similar efforts in the past.


OBAMA: "Over the next two years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs."

THE FACTS: This is a recurrent Obama formulation. But job creation projections are uncertain even in stable times, and some of the economists relied on by Obama in making his forecast acknowledge a great deal of uncertainty in their numbers.

The president's own economists, in a report prepared last month, stated, "It should be understood that all of the estimates presented in this memo are subject to significant margins of error."

Beyond that, it's unlikely the nation will ever know how many jobs are saved as a result of the stimulus. While it's clear when jobs are abolished, there's no economic gauge that tracks job preservation. The estimates are based on economic assumptions of how many jobs would be lost without the stimulus.


OBAMA: "First, we are creating a new lending fund that represents the largest effort ever to help provide auto loans, college loans and small business loans to the consumers and entrepreneurs who keep this economy running."

THE FACTS. Obama appeared to be referring to an expanded Federal Reserve program established in the Bush administration but never activated. The program would unclog consumer lending, allowing the Fed's program to expand to $1 trillion from $200 billion. The Fed said it will lend the money to banks and other financial institutions in order to spur more lending by those companies through credit cards and student and auto loans.
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Monday, February 23, 2009

A House (and Senate) Divided

Analysis: Clinton's mockery of Obama proves true

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- During the most contentious stretch of the Democratic presidential primary campaign last winter, then-candidate Hillary Clinton mocked Barack Obama for his pledge to transcend Washington's entrenched partisanship.

"The sky will open. The lights will come down. Celestial choirs will be singing and everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect!" Clinton bellowed.

Obama dismissed Clinton's sarcasm as overly cynical and further evidence she was a creature of Washington. But as President Obama prepares to make his first major address to Congress, Clinton's comments are borne out.

For a candidate who won the White House on a mantle of bringing the country's two political parties together, Washington could not be more divided on Obama's initial weeks in the Oval Office and the policies he has put in place.

Depending on who you ask, in 30 days the new president has either rescued the nation's economy from financial ruin or set in motion the most liberal government in a generation, and one that's likely to prolong -- perhaps even prevent -- the country's economic recovery.

There have also been heated debates over a string of executive orders and bill signings that have fundamentally reversed several policies of the Bush administration -- including the closing of Guantanamo Bay, a firm decree against torture, the extension of children's health insurance, and the lifting of a ban to give funds to international groups that perform abortions.

"Clinton's earlier critique of change has quickly become very valid," said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. "The Washington of George Bush is the same Washington of Barack Obama. The promise of bipartisanship and hope in Washington is difficult to actually achieve."

It's the massive $787 billion stimulus bill that has drawn the most criticism -- and praise -- in the president's first month. To be sure, while former president Clinton famously declared an end to the "era of big government" 13 years ago, Obama will herald its return in his speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday.

Congressional Democrats and Obama supporters argue the new president has admirably taken bold action in response to the dire conditions he inherited, swiftly accomplishing a string of dramatic reforms in a town known to operate at a sluggish pace.

Obama has also enacted dramatic Wall Street reforms, salary caps on CEO pay, and a wide-ranging plan to stem the ongoing foreclosure crisis.

"This is a presidency on steroids," wrote Eugene Robinson, a liberal columnist for the Washington Post. "Barack Obama's executive actions alone would be enough for any new administration's first month. That the White House also managed to push through Congress a spending bill of unprecedented size and scope ... is little short of astonishing."

But scorn from the right is equal to admiration from the left: He championed a new way of doing things in Washington, but Obama went about shepherding his stimulus bill in a very old-fashioned partisan way, Republicans said.

That Obama signed the historic measure into law 1,500 miles away from Washington in Denver, Colorado, was a symbol to some of just how much animosity it had stirred up in the nation's capital.

"If this is going to be bipartisanship, the country's screwed," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, declared last week. "I know bipartisanship when I see it."

Amidst the passage of Obama's major economic reforms and the country's continued economic turmoil, was a transition process that began smooth but quickly turned rocky after embarrassing revelations regarding several of the president's appointees.

Beleaguered by tax issues or charges of impropriety, three of Obama's appointees withdrew their names, including Tom Daschle who would have led the Health and Human Services Department, Nancy Killefer, nominated as a the chief government performance officer, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, tapped to head the Commerce Department.

A fourth appointee -- Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire -- also withdrew his name for Commerce last week, citing "irresolvable conflicts."

Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton each lost one cabinet appointee during their first terms. Presidents Carter, Reagan and the elder Bush lost none during their transition process.

Suddenly, a vetting process that was self-proclaimed as the most thorough in history -- and included a 60-page questionnaire -- looked downright amateur.

"It raises questions about whether the Obama team did their homework," said David Gergen, an adviser to several former presidents and a CNN contributor.

Obama's approval rating stands at 67 percent in the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll -- a number any politician would envy, but still 9 points lower than it was only two weeks ago. The president saw his biggest decline among Republicans, down 19 points among members of the opposite party. The poll also said that only about half of all Americans now think Obama can put an end to partisan gridlock in Washington. Watch why Obama's approval rating dropped

Still, when Obama addresses Congress for the first time, he's certain to highlight that in an extraordinary short amount of time, the new administration has managed to make fundamental imprints on how the government operates -- accomplishments that have taken other presidents years longer to achieve.

"Major actions have come out of such a young White House," Zelizer said, "Even though he hasn't been able to get Republicans to join him, that's still a big victory."
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The Obama Plan: Gateway Drug to Dependency...

This is your state government. This is your state government hooked on Stimulus...

The Wall Street Journal opines here that the new Stimulus law sets a "long-term budget trap for the states" that The One has failed to point out.

Here's an excerpt:

Debt-laden state governments were supposed to be the big winners from the $787 billion economic stimulus bill. But at least five Republican Governors are saying thanks but no thanks to some of the $150 billion of "free" money doled out to states, because it could make their budget headaches much worse down the line. And they're right.

These Governors -- Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Butch Otter of Idaho, Rick Perry of Texas and Mark Sanford of South Carolina -- all have the same objection: The tens of billions of dollars of aid for health care, welfare and education will disappear in two years and leave states with no way to finance the expanded programs. Mr. Perry sent a letter to President Obama last week warning that Texas may refuse certain stimulus funds. "If this money expands entitlements, we will not accept it. This is exactly how addicts get hooked on drugs," he says.

Consider South Carolina. Its annual budget is roughly $7 billion and the stimulus will send about $2.8 billion to the state over two years. But to spend the hundreds of millions of dollars allocated to the likes of Head Start, child care subsidies and special education, the state will have to enroll thousands of new families into the programs. "There's no way politically we're going to be able to push people out of the program in two years when the federal money runs out," Mr. Sanford says.

The Medicaid money for states is also a fiscal time bomb. The stimulus bill temporarily increases the share of state Medicaid bills reimbursed by the federal government by two or three percentage points. High-income states now pay about half the Medicaid costs, and in low-income states the feds pay about 70%. Much of the stimulus money will cover health-care costs for unemployed workers and single workers without kids. But in 2011 almost all the $80 billion of extra federal Medicaid money vanishes. Does Congress really expect states to dump one million people or more from Medicaid at that stage?

The alternative, as we've warned, is that Congress will simply extend these transfer payments indefinitely. Pete Stark, David Obey and Nancy Pelosi no doubt intend exactly this, which could triple the stimulus price tag to as much as $3 trillion in additional spending and debt service over 10 years. But the states would still have to pick up their share of this tab for these new entitlements in perpetuity. Thanks, Washington.

Read the full piece here.
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Sunday, February 22, 2009

UCLA Student Project: Find Bin Laden

The LA Times reports on an ambitious class project at UCLA, where a geography class project has used space-age tools to place Bin Laden at one of three locations.

From the LA Times:

"Using standard geographical tools routinely employed to locate endangered species and fugitive criminals, the group said there is a high probability that Bin Laden has been hiding in one of three buildings in the northwestern Pakistani city of Parachinar, a longtime hide-out for mujahedin fighters.

"Osama bin Laden"He may be sitting there right now," said UCLA biogeographer Thomas W. Gillespie, who led the study published online Tuesday in the MIT International Review, an interdisciplinary journal of international affairs."
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