Thursday, September 30, 2010

POLITICS - Just Who Is "Rich" Debate

"In Tax Cut Plan, Debate Over the Definition of Rich" by DAVID KOCIENIEWSKI, New York Times 9/29/2010

Excerpts (2pg article)

Much of the debate about whether to extend the Bush tax cuts has focused on big economic issues: how the decision might affect the fragile economy, the widening federal deficit and hiring by small businesses.

As the political battle drags on, however, it has also veered into a more basic matter of fairness, whether a person who earns more than $200,000 a year should be taxed at rates similar to those who make $5 million.

President Obama has proposed preserving the cuts for middle-class Americans and letting them expire for the top 2.5 percent of taxpayers — individuals who make more than $200,000 a year and families whose income exceeds $250,000.

But others in Congress have questioned why ending what Mr. Obama frequently calls “tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires” should also raise taxes on families making $250,000. The Senate will not vote on the matter until after the midterm elections, and some Democrats are pushing for a compromise that would leave the cuts in place for those higher up the income scale.

“I think the $250,000 level is too low,” said Senator James Webb, Democrat of Virginia. “I’m asking that it be raised.”

One proposal being discussed is a millionaires’ tax, which would create one or two additional tax brackets for the wealthiest Americans and eliminate the Bush tax cuts only for those who earn more than seven-figure incomes.
“If you make the tax law simpler, more easily understood and fairer, you end up with a higher level of compliance and more revenue,” said Senator Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire, co-sponsor of a tax overhaul plan that would eliminate many deductions and exemptions and reduce the total number of brackets from six to three.
At the heart of the debate is the fact that, like most Western countries, the United States has a progressive tax code that levies higher rates on people with higher incomes. But the concept of class and the issue of taxes are both so politically charged that discussions about how to calibrate those rates and how much income qualifies someone as rich in the contemporary United States are incendiary.
But in some expensive sections of the country, many families with income levels near the $250,000 cutoff insist that they have more in common with middle-class Americans than millionaires or billionaires.

“You take a couple in Westchester County, a police officer with a lot of overtime and a principal at a public school,” said Vincent R. Cervone, a certified public accountant in New York City. “They’re grateful to be working. They aren’t in danger of eviction or starving. But the cost of the average house is $500,000 — five times the national average. Taxes are higher than the rest of the country. If they have a couple of children in college, can you call them rich? Not by any common-sense standard.”

The dispute over what income level qualifies as rich is caused, in part, by the tendency of people to gauge their own wealth by comparing themselves to those closest to them. A study released this month by two Princeton University professors found that in most of the country, people feel comfortably middle class if they earn $70,000. But in New York City, the figure was $165,000. The median income in New York City is $55,980, according to the Census Bureau.

J. Bradford DeLong, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said many of the top earners in the United States did not consider themselves rich because they compared themselves to the statistically small segment of the people who earned more than them, rather than the much larger segment who made less.

“It is pathetic and embarrassing that somebody with five times the median household income, someone in the top 2 or 3 percent of the population, thinks of himself as just another ‘average Joe,’ ” said Professor DeLong, who was a deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury Department in the Clinton administration. “Why don’t you ask someone who makes $40,000 or $50,000 a year if they have a lot in common with a family making $250,000?”
Congress reduced the number of brackets in the 1980s in an effort to make the tax code simpler and to cut down on the abuse of shelters and deductions.

In the last 30 years, however, the percentage of total income earned by the top 1 percent of Americans has grown sharply — to 23.5 percent in 2007, from about 9 percent in 1979. And the income share of the top 0.1 percent has grown even faster — to 6 percent in 2007 from 2 percent in 1988.

Hay! A Republican with a GOOD idea, reduce the total number of brackets from six to three.

My personal definitions:
  1. RICH = You are NOT in danger of eviction or starving, and DO have "disposable" income.

  2. UPPER MIDDLE CLASS = Your income covers your normal expenses and you have some SMALL "disposable" income to cover unexpected expenses.

  3. MIDDLE CLASS = Your income covers your normal expenses, but you spend ALL your income and have NO safety-net for unplanned expenses.

  4. WORKING-POOR = You have an income, but it does NOT cover your normal and necessary expenses.

  5. POOR = NO job, NO income other than government programs IF you qualify.

For clarification, "disposable" income = income NOT spent, AND includes savings and investments.

By the way, I'm in #2 above. At least as of this date.

ENVIRONMENT - New Threat to Gulf States?

"Drilling Plans Off Cuba Stir Fears of Impact on Gulf" by CLIFFORD KRAUSS, New York Times 9/29/2010


Five months after the BP oil spill, a federal moratorium still prohibits new deepwater drilling in the American waters of the Gulf of Mexico. And under longstanding federal law, drilling is also banned near the coast of Florida.

Yet next year, a Spanish company will begin drilling new wells 50 miles from the Florida Keys — in Cuba’s sovereign waters.

Cuba currently produces little oil. But oil experts say the country might have reserves along its north coast as plentiful as that of the international oil middleweights, Ecuador and Colombia — enough to bolster its faltering economy and cut its dependence on Venezuela for its energy needs.

The advent of drilling in Cuban waters poses risks both to the island nation and the United States.

Ocean scientists warn that a well blowout similar to the BP disaster could send oil spewing onto Cuban beaches and then the Florida Keys in as little as three days. If the oil reached the Gulf Stream, a powerful ocean current that passes through the region, oil could flow up the coast to Miami and beyond.

The nascent oil industry in Cuba is far less prepared to handle a major spill than even the American industry was at the time of the BP spill. Cuba has neither the submarine robots needed to fix deepwater rig equipment nor the platforms available to begin drilling relief wells on short notice.

You can hear the waring bells going off in the Gulf States.

WORLD - China's Effect on Economics

"Release of Fisherman Reflects China's Rising Economic, Military Power"
PBS Newshour 9/29/2010

ECONOMY - Bush Tax Cuts, Another View

"Former Labor Secretary Reich: Bush-Era Tax Cuts 'Hurt Quite a Lot'"
PBS Newshour 9/29/2010

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

ON THE LITE SIDE - One of my Favorite Songs

POLITICS - A Business View of GOP 2010

"Can business afford Jim DeMint?" by Steven Pearlstein, Washington Post 9/29/2010


For all you in the business community who are rooting for a Republican victory in the November elections, a bit of unsolicited advice: Be careful what you wish for.

You're probably thinking that with Republicans in control of one or both houses of Congress, business will be back on top again, setting the agenda, rolling back the socialist tide and forcing an anti-business administration into a humiliating retreat.

In reality, what you'll get is political paralysis for the next two years, and quite possibly longer than that.

Consider the case of Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, the new Republican kingpin and enforcer on Capitol Hill. DeMint claims he was misquoted by Bloomberg Businessweek last week as saying that his goal for the next Senate is "complete gridlock." But you'd never know it from the way he's behaving during the Senate's do-nothing, pre-election legislative session. DeMint makes no apologies for saying that there's no place for bipartisan compromise or consensus or some "watered-down Republican philosophy," as he put it. For DeMint, this is war. The only acceptable outcome is total victory, and any Republican who dares to disagree will be treated as a traitor during the next election cycle.

The good news, of course, is that you won't have to spend a minute over the next two years worrying about tax increases or climate-change legislation or that odious card check idea that would open the doors again to union organizing. The bad news is that you can kiss goodbye tax reform, education reform, infrastructure investment or any new trade treaties. With DeMint cracking the ideological whip in the Senate, and a new crop of young and hungry conservatives beginning to take charge of the Republican caucus in the House, Democrats will be in no mood to strike any deals on these business priorities. Ditto for a Democratic president readily wielding his veto.

Bold emphasis mine

So, I'm not the only one that sees the truth about today's GOP. They want to be the Dictators of America, our way or no-way.

POLITICS - Obama's Rolling Stone Interview

(click here for article)

RELIGION - What Do Americans Really Know

First, religion is a very touchy subject, but as an Agnostic Theist I was very surprised by this.

Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life (Survey)

"What Americans Do and Don't Know About Religion"
PBS Newshour 9/28/2010

WORLD - More News About Orwellian North Korea

"In North Korea, Is Power Struggle or Smooth Transition Ahead?"
PBS Newshour 9/28/2010

ECONOMY - "Home" vs "a Box You Live In"

I am posting this mainly because I was shocked at the implication that people would see their home as an investment. I guess that makes me a traditionalist in the way President Obama stated in quote below.

My home is something that gives me comfort and pride. A place I love and the hub of my life. I am 65 and this is the tradition of home I was brought up with.

It MAY be that younger generations do not have this same feeling, tradition, about their home. A way to put it may be the younger generations live in a house (just a box they live in, an investment) rather than a home in the traditional sense.

"To Rent or to Buy? Housing Market Leaves No Easy Answers"
PBS Newshour 9/28/2010

From transcript

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If you want a house you got to save for a while. You got to wait until you have 20 percent down. You should go for a mortgage that you know you can afford.

You've got to -- there shouldn't be any surprises out there, right? That kind of traditional thinking about saving and thinking about the house not as something that is always going up 20 percent every year and you're going to flip and take out home equity loans and all that -- we've got to have a different attitude, which reflects what you talked about, more of an attitude that this is your home. This is not just a way to make quick money.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

ECONOMY - On the Blue Collar Front

"Surprise! Blue collar jobs are coming back" by Chris Isidore, CNN 9/27/2010


As the labor market continues to struggle, one surprising bright spot stands out amid the list of battered industries -- factory jobs.

Manufacturing employment began its decline long before the recession, losing jobs every year since 1998. But since the start of this year, there's been a 1.6% gain in manufacturing jobs -- about twice the pace of growth in other private sector jobs.

Even if manufacturing hiring stays flat the rest of this year, the industry is poised to post its biggest percentage gain in jobs since 1994.

"In 2008 and 2009, manufacturers would not hire," said Norbert Ore, head of the Institute for Supply Management's survey of manufacturers. "Today they're willing to fill openings, willing to hire. Here and there, they're adding a shift."

About 26% of manufacturing companies surveyed by ISM reported adding staff, compared to only 5% cutting workers. Only 13% of service sector employers said they were adding workers, while 18% are still cutting jobs. And the ISM index for manufacturing employment stands at a 35-year high.

SCIENCE - Spy or Scientist With a Viable Solution

I am posting this as a political/science question not as a comment on the "Secrets Case."

The question? We need cheaper and safer energy sources. So just WHY is this scientist's idea not worth investigating? Why does our government not fund this research, but chose a more "elaborate" (aka expensive) path?

"Zeal for Dream Drove Scientist in Secrets Case" by WILLIAM J. BROAD, New York Times 9/27/2010

Excerpts (from 2pg article)

Dr. Mascheroni, who is known as Leo, was trained at a physicist at the University of California, Berkeley. At Los Alamos, he was exposed to information on nuclear arms and worked on teams that sought to make energy advances.

In 1988, after nine years at the weapons lab, he left and embarked on a personal crusade to achieve what had eluded thousands of other scientists: a controlled version of nuclear fusion, the violent process that powers the Sun, the stars and hydrogen bombs. His proposal — the use of a big laser — was considered among the most futuristic of the alternatives on the table.

Skeptical of federal plans for laser fusion, he promoted his own as cheaper, faster and far more likely to succeed. Its wavelength was much longer, and its blasts of concentrated light far easier to achieve. He dismissed resistance to his plan as an overzealous commitment to the status quo.

“It’s a cultural thing,” he told The New York Times in 1988. “They don’t want to admit something different.”

He won guarded approval. A Los Alamos panel led by Gregory H. Canavan, a respected senior scientist, found Dr. Mascheroni’s idea worth exploring. The main attraction, the panel said, was that his laser system might prove to be as little as one-twentieth the cost of its rivals.
Despite his rebel status and impolitic ways, he was often taken seriously. He won the backing of a former Central Intelligence Agency director, R. James Woolsey, who helped him promote his vision. Ultimately, however, the nation chose a more elaborate laser path.

Bold emphasis mine

POLITICS - Tax Cuts, View From Obama's Economic Adviser

"Clinton Adviser Tyson: Drop Tax Cuts for Wealthy to Spur Spending" PBS Newshour Transcript 9/27/2010


JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour): We hear it from even a few Democrats, which is just, this is the wrong time to let any of these tax cuts lapse.

LAURA TYSON, Obama Economic Adviser: OK. Well, I think, let me -- let me distinguish here ideal policy from a compromise policy. My ideal policy would be to allow the top two brackets to expire at the end of this year, to move off of the Bush tax cuts for the top 2 to 3 percent of the American population, to take the resulting additional tax revenue, which is probably in the order of $35 billion to 40 billion dollars next year, and to take that money and spend it on job-creating programs.

The Congressional Budget Office itself has done an analysis of 11 different programs, ways you can stimulate job growth. Retaining the Bush tax cuts for the top 2 percent is number 11 on the list in terms of effectiveness. It's not as effective as giving grants to state and local governments.

It's not as effective as unemployment compensation. It's not as effective as a temporary payroll tax reduction targeted at employment, or spending on infrastructure. So, by all means, we have to worry about the jobs deficit next year reaching into revenues.

JEFFREY BROWN: Exactly. Excuse me for interrupting. I was just thinking that, even though...


JEFFREY BROWN: ... even though the argument that we hear often is that among those top earners are small business men and women, who create jobs.

LAURA TYSON: Well, unfortunately, that is a very misleading statement. Sure, there are some small businesses in those top two income brackets.

But the reality is that only about 2 to 3 percent of all small business filings every tax year are in the top two to three -- two or three -- the top two income tax brackets. So we're really talking about 98 percent of small business filings wouldn't be affected by allowing the Bush tax cuts for the top two income tax brackets to expire on schedule.

Please take special note of the last paragraph above.

Monday, September 27, 2010

POLITICS - Another View of GOP non-Pledge

Form alt.politics.usa, by EarlG, Democratic Underground

Last week the GOP released its much-awaited "Pledge To America," a rehashed "Contract With America" which aims to dispel the popular notion that Republicans have got absolutely nothing new to offer whatsoever.

Want to know what's in it?

I'll give you a clue:

(see below)

The "Pledge to America" was filled with familiar proposals to slash taxes and spending and cut down on government regulation, as well as repeal President Barack Obama's health care law and end his stimulus program.

See, they have ideas!

All we have to do is cut taxes, reduce spending, and do away with everything the Democrats have done the past two years, and lo and behold it's morning in America all over again.

Just one problem...

The plan steers clear of specifics on important issues, such as how it will "put government on a path to a balanced budget."

It omits altogether the question of how to address looming shortfalls in Social Security and Medicare, which account for a huge portion of the nation's soaring deficit, instead including a vague promise.

"We will make the decisions that are necessary to protect our entitlement programs."

So how is the GOP going to do all the great stuff that's featured in their very special document, for example vowing to "cut taxes and federal spending" while simultaneously providing "full funding for missile defense programs?"

I'm glad you asked.

According to Think Progress: "GOP’s ‘Pledge To America’ Is To Ask Americans How To Solve America’s Problems"

During the roll-out of the House GOP's "Pledge to America" gimmick, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) was asked for specifics on how his colleagues would balance the budget and cut the deficit, but he wasn't able to hide the fact that document falls short on details.

"I don't have all of the solutions," Boehner said, adding that the American people "will help us get the answers."

Nice work John -- that should look good on a bumper sticker.

"GOP 'Pledge' vows cuts, repeal of health care law" by JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, AP 9/24/2010

Pushing toward big gains on Nov. 2, House Republicans promised to end a slew of Democratic policies and restore Americans' trust in government as they rolled out a campaign manifesto designed to show they're listening to an angry public and are focused on creating jobs.

"The land of opportunity has become the land of shrinking prosperity ... Our government has failed us," Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California declared. "We will take back our country. We will restore for a better future. This is our pledge to you."

At a hardware store in suburban Washington, senior House Republicans in shirt sleeves showed off the 21-page document they say would guide them should they gain a majority of seats in the midterm balloting five weeks away.

The "Pledge to America" was filled with familiar proposals to slash taxes and spending and cut down on government regulation, as well as repeal President Barack Obama's health care law and end his stimulus program. In a show of unity, Senate Republicans and Haley Barbour, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, issued strong statements of support.

The unveiling capped a private debate among Republicans that had pitted those who favored making an agenda public against others who argued it would merely open the party's candidates to criticism in a campaign that has been tilting their way.

Republicans have sought to turn the midterm elections into a referendum on the policies of President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress. Democrats, in turn, want it to become a choice between two alternatives — what they describe as their own efforts to fix the economy, as opposed to what they criticize as Bush-era policies that led to a severe recession.

For their part, Democrats dismissed the GOP plan as recycled ideas that would further exacerbate the nation's problems.

"Republicans want to return to the same failed economic policies that hurt millions of Americans and threatened our economy," said Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

With polls showing voters disenchanted with Obama, worried about the economy and mad at elected officials, the agenda also vows to change the way Congress works — requiring every bill to cite its constitutional authority, for example, and to be made public for three days before a vote.

"Putting spending, putting the policy of economic growth in place and cleaning up the way Congress works is not only a stark contrast to this president and this Congress," said Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. "It's a contrast to the way we conducted ourselves a decade ago. We spent too much money. We lost our way."

The plan steers clear of specifics on important issues, such as how it will "put government on a path to a balanced budget." It omits altogether the question of how to address looming shortfalls in Social Security and Medicare, which account for a huge portion of the nation's soaring deficit, instead including a vague promise: "We will make the decisions that are necessary to protect our entitlement programs."

Republicans are favored to add substantially to their ranks on Nov. 2, perhaps enough to seize control of the House.

Their new agenda is rife with the kind of grass-roots rhetoric that could appeal both to tea party activists and to independent voters the GOP is courting in its quest for control.

"Regarding the policies of the current government, the governed do not consent," the pledge says. "An arrogant and out-of-touch government of self-appointed elites makes decisions, issues mandates and enacts laws without accepting or requesting the input of the many."

Polls show large majorities are fed up with Congress and both parties and show Republicans have a chance to earn the public's trust on key issues.

The latest Associated Press-GfK poll found nearly three-quarters disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job, with 68 percent disapproving of Republicans compared with 60 percent disapproving of Democrats.

Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, the head of Republicans' House campaign committee, said the agenda was drafted to answer the public's skepticism about government and give them a "deliverable."

"A number of people are very cynical about the reliability and the sincerity of either party," Sessions said. "We've put things on a sheet of paper."

POLITICS - GOP Propaganda Minister is Back

"Rove Returns, With Team, Planning G.O.P. Push" by JIM RUTENBERG, New York Times 9/26/2010


In 2004, the Republican master strategist Karl Rove led weekly sessions at his Washington residence where, over big plates of his butter-smothered “eggies” and bacon slabs, he planned the re-election of President George W. Bush — and what he hoped would be lasting Republican dominion over Democrats.

In April, Mr. Rove summoned several of the important players behind Mr. Bush’s ascendance to his home once again, this time to draw up plans to push a Republican resurgence.

Over takeout chicken pot pies, the group — the Republican fund-raiser Fred Malek, the onetime lobbyist and Bush White House counselor Ed Gillespie, and former Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter Mary Cheney, among others — agreed on plans for an ambitious new political machine that would marshal the resources of disparate business, nonprofit and interest groups to bring Republicans back to power this fall.

When Mr. Rove left the White House in 2007, Democrats rejoiced at what they believed would be the end of his political career and the brand of Republicanism he espoused. This election season is proving that he is back — if he ever really left at all.

The landscape has changed, with Mr. Rove at times clashing with potent new Tea Party-style activists, some of whom view him as a face of the old party establishment they want to upend.

Already a prominent presence as an analyst on Fox News Channel and a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Rove is also playing a leading role in building what amounts to a shadow Republican Party, a network of donors and operatives that is among the most aggressive in the Republican effort to capture control of the House and the Senate.

He has had a major hand in helping to summon the old coalition of millionaires and billionaires who supported Mr. Bush and have huge financial stakes in regulatory and tax policy, like Harold C. Simmons, a Texas billionaire whose holdings include a major waste management company that handles some radioactive materials; Carl H. Lindner Jr., a Cincinnati businessman whose American Financial Group includes several property and casualty insurance concerns; and Robert B. Rowling, whose TRT Holdings owns Omni Hotels and Gold’s Gym.

Rove, the quintessential Big-Money mouthpiece, attempting to buy an election.

POLITICS - New Focus on Gas Industry Regulation

"Gas Blasts Spur Questions on Oversight" by ANDREW W. LEHREN, New York Times 9/24/2010


At a Christmas Eve gathering in 2008, a natural gas explosion (9/9/2010) in a suburban Sacramento neighborhood killed a 72-year-old man and injured his daughter and granddaughter. Investigators determined that Pacific Gas and Electric was to blame for a leak, but federal and state regulators never cited the utility for safety violations.

It was one example of what many experts and studies say is weak oversight of gas pipelines in the United States, a problem that has contributed to hundreds of pipeline episodes that have killed 60 people and injured 230 others in the last five years. Those figures do not include the final toll of the explosion of another Pacific Gas and Electric pipeline this month in San Bruno, Calif., that left seven people dead and more than 50 injured.

Though the cause of that explosion was still under investigation, it was the latest event to raise concerns among safety experts. Several independent government reviews, going back several years, have found systemic problems with the way the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the federal agency in charge of pipeline oversight, enforces safety rules.

In 2004, for example, the General Accounting Office documented how pipeline safety enforcement “needs further strengthening.” It noted that average fines of less than $30,000 offered little deterrence and that the agency had trouble collecting the fines.

A 2008 Congressional Research Service report said that the enforcement strategy of federal agencies of the nation’s pipelines was an “ongoing concern.”

“I believe there is a lack of a strong safety culture in the natural gas industry,” said Jim Hall, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board from 1994 to 2001 and an experienced pipeline investigator. “When you have a lack of enforcement activity, you end up with a tragedy.”

An examination of the pipeline agency’s safety record points to many shortcomings, as well. For example, a review by The New York Times of all enforcement cases initiated during the past eight years shows that a third of them are unresolved.

NOTE: There is confusion in the Times article; the linked reference to the "natural gas explosion" in the article is a 9/9/2010 incident, NOT 2008.

POLITICS - GOP Pledge Full of Holes

"Republicans' "Pledge to America" falls short on some of its facts" by Brooks Jackson, 9/24/2010



The Republican “Pledge to America,” released Sept. 23, contains some dubious factual claims:
  • It declares that “the only parts of the economy expanding are government and our national debt.” Not true. So far this year government employment has declined slightly, while private sector employment has increased by 763,000 jobs.

  • It says that “jobless claims continue to soar,” when in fact they are down eight percent from their worst levels.

  • It repeats a bogus assertion that the Internal Revenue Service may need to expand by 16,500 positions, an inflated estimate based on false assumptions and guesswork.

  • It claims the stimulus bill is costing $1 trillion, considerably more than the $814 billion, 10-year price tag currently estimated by nonpartisan congressional budget experts.

  • It says Obama’s tax proposals would raise taxes on “roughly half the small business income in America,” an exaggeration. Much of the income the GOP is counting actually comes from big businesses making over $50 million a year.

For details on these and other examples please read on to the Analysis section.

The Analysis section of the full article goes through each "pledge" quoting it, then analyzing it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

EDUCATION - Texas Education Board at it Again

"Textbooks May Be Too Pro-Islam, Anti-Christian, Texas State Education Board Says" by SARAH NETTER, ABC News 9/23/2010

Students in Texas may be getting a glorified view of Islam, according to some state education leaders who are pushing for a resolution that would denounce social studies textbooks as biased against Christianity.

Though the president of conservative-leaning Texas State Board of Education supports the measure as promoting religious equality in schools, faith leaders and activists have condemned the board's proposal as intolerant and anti-Muslim.

"It's clearly just an attempt to propagandize the state's student population against the faith of Islam," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Washington D.C.-based Council on Islamic-American Relations. "Somehow they were getting too rosy a picture of Islam."

The board of education is set to vote Friday on the resolution, which was proposed by a one-time board candidate who failed to get elected earlier this year. It charges that "pro-Islamic/anti-Christian bias has tainted some past Texas social studies textbooks."

It also refers to the board of education as the "principal democratic check and balance" against "otherwise often-unresponsive editors and unaccountable authors."

But the Texas Freedom Network, a state religion and education watchdog group, said this measure is just another attempt by the hard-right majority to infuse its own religion and politics into the education of millions of school children.

"It's really hard to know if this board will pass something as inflammatory as this," spokesman Dan Quinn said. "I assume it will be close."

Gail Lowe, the governor-appointed president of the board of education, dismissed the criticism that the proposal, which she supports, is anti-Muslim.

"The resolution is not attacking that religious group," she said. "There are some entities that like to stir up controversy even when there isn't any."

Lowe said she hasn't studied the textbooks or the passages called into question by the resolution, which would bear her signature should it pass, but that she intends to before Friday.

The critics, she said, are "unnecessarily worrying."

"It has nothing to do with anyone's personal religious beliefs," she said.

Muslim Activist Says Texas Promoting 'Anti-Muslim Propaganda'

The proposal doesn't say children shouldn't learn about Islam, Lowe noted, just that there should be more emphasis on Christianity to give students a balanced education.

Lowe said she's been told that the textbooks treat other religions, such as Judaism, Confucianism, Sikhism and Buddhism, in the same light as Islam, but only Christianity seems to be demonized. The resolution however, does not mention any other religions besides Islam.

But at a time when anti-Muslim rhetoric seems to have reached fever pitch in the U.S., between the debates over to so-called "Ground Zero mosque" in New York City and a Florida pastor's one-time plan to burn a pile of Korans, Hooper said the board's proposal is just another way to contribute to "today's atmosphere of anti-Muslim hysteria."

"Given the atmosphere today, nothing shocks me but one would hope that cooler heads would prevail here and they would ultimately see it's not in the best interest of Texas or the United States of America to promote anti-Muslim propaganda," he said.

Lowe denied that the Texas school board's actions had anything to do with the current debate over Muslims in America.

"Possibly, since 9/11 people are very nervous about terrorist groups. Regrettably, most of those individuals came from Muslim countries," she said. "But I think that textbooks show that the bias existed before 9/11."

The debate over the textbooks is fresh on the heels of the board's recent controversy over the entire social studies curriculum.

In May, the board approved new standards that call for greater emphasis on Biblical references and the Christian traditions of the founding fathers as well as on noted Republican leaders including Ronald Reagan and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Quinn said that just the debate about the textbooks is "yet another black eye" for the state of Texas.

"It's been one culture war after another on this board," he said. "Once you attack one religion, you have to be wary. What are they going to go after next?"

Texas Education Leader Says Textbook Debate is 'Message to the Publishers'

The musings of the Texas School Board of Education are closely watched by educators and administrators across the country. Because the state purchases textbooks in bulk for its nearly 5 million students, industry publishers often will write to their preferences given that most other states allow individual districts to purchase textbooks on their own.

Though the resolution wouldn't affect any immediate changes in Texas school, Lowe said she knew the industry was watching.

"It would be a message to the publishers that we are looking for balanced religious treatment," she said. "I guess it sort of tells them on the front end this is what we're looking for."

California, the nation's largest textbook purchaser, has a bill pending specifically to keep watch for any Texas-related content before ordering its own textbooks.

The most recent Texas proposal is unusual, Lowe noted, in that it was not offered up by a sitting member of the board.

"This has been the only time that a member of the public has come before us to offer a resolution," she said. "I had four board members who expressed interest in discussing it further."

The proposal came from one-time school board candidate Randy Rives, who Quinn identified as a member of the same social Conservative network that controls the board. The language of the resolution, Lowe said, is Rives' own and has not been altered.

He uses words such as "tainted," "false editorial stereotypes" and "whitewashes" in describing the current content of the books in Texas schools and wrote that "more such discriminatory treatment of religion may occur as Middle Easterners buy into the U.S. public school textbook oligopoly."

Let the book burnings BEGIN!

Horace Mann (Congressional speech 1849)

Ignorance breeds monsters to fill up the vacancies of the
soul that are unoccupied by the verities of knowledge.

POLITICS - Republican's "New" Musical, Split Reviews

"Conservatives split on GOP's new 'Pledge To America,' unveiled by House Republicans" by Aliyah Shahid, New York Daily News 9/23/2010


Not everyone is as wild about the GOP's latest "Pledge to America" as House Minority Leader John Boehner.

While liberals have predictably slammed the Republicans' plan, unveiled Thursday, to fix the country, the pledge is getting mixed views from conservative pundits, some of whom argue the 21-page document is all bark and no bite.

Conservative blogger Erick Erickson called the pledge the "most ridiculous thing to come out of Washington since George McClellan."

Erickson blasted the document for not providing specific, long-term solutions.

"Yes, yes, it is full of mom-tested, kid-approved pablum that will make certain hearts on the right sing in solidarity," he wrote on his blog, "But like a diet full of sugar, it will actually do nothing but keep making Washington fatter before we crash from the sugar high."

The pledge gathers familiar talking points for Republicans, such as cutting taxes and slashing government spending. It comes at a time when the GOP is gearing up for the midterm elections and hoping to gain majorities in Congress.

The pledge is taking a page from the 1994 GOP playbook when the Republicans touted their "Contract with America," which offered a specific plan of action for a GOP Congress. That year the Republicans gained control of the House.

Similarly, the new pledge may counter the perception that the GOP has adopted a strategy of rejecting every Democratic bill without having solutions of their own.

Conservative commentator and former Bush speechwriter David Frum echoed Erickson's disapproval but said he's not surprised that the document offers nothing new.

"Did you seriously imagine that they would jeopardize the prospect of victory and chairmanships by issuing big, bold promises to do deadly, unpopular things?" asked Frum.

He also said the "Pledge to America" is a pledge to do nothing and even goes against what the Tea Party stands for.

"Tea party activists have been claiming all year that there exists in the United States a potential voting majority for radically more limited government," Frum wrote. "The Republican ‘Pledge to America' declares: Sorry, we don't believe that."

Of course, not all conservatives outright decried the pledge. Some, like syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin, said they were cautiously optimistic.

"Sure, signing off on political pledges is a little like ordering X-ray glasses from a comic book -- you just know it's not going to be nearly as good as advertised -- but I like the GOP's effort so far," she wrote.

And Tony Perkins, president of the conservative, Christian lobbying organization, The Family Research Council, said the pledge is "not exceptional, but it is satisfactory."

On stage! New musical, staring the Republican Party, with new costumes and arrangements of same-old-songs.

"We Pledge to (screw) America (again)"
Conductor: John Boehner
Arrangement by: John Boehner
With the GOP Chorus

POLITICS - Hidden Big-Money Election Influence

"Hidden Under Tax-Exempt Cloak, Political Dollars Flow" by MIKE McINTIRE, New York Times 9/23/2010


Alaskans grew suspicious two years ago when a national organization called Americans for Job Security showed up and spent $1.6 million pushing a referendum to restrict development of a gold and copper mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay.

It seemed an oddly parochial fight for a pro-business group based in the Washington suburbs that had spent tens of millions of dollars since the late 1990s roughing up Democrats with negative advertisements around election time.

But after the mine’s supporters filed a complaint with the state, it became clear that what was depicted as grass-roots opposition was something else entirely: Americans for Job Security, investigators found, had helped create the illusion of a popular upwelling to shield the identity of a local financier who paid for most of the referendum campaign. More broadly, they said, far from being a national movement advocating a “pro-paycheck message,” the group is actually a front for a coterie of political operatives, devised to sidestep campaign disclosure rules.

“Americans for Job Security has no purpose other than to cover various money trails all over the country,” the staff of the Alaska Public Offices Commission said in a report last year.

The report went mostly unnoticed outside Anchorage. But its conclusions suddenly loom large in the current debate over nonprofit advocacy groups like Americans for Job Security, which campaign watchdogs say allow moneyed interests to influence elections without revealing themselves. Congress is now wrangling over a bill that would require some disclosure.

With every election cycle comes a shadow army of benignly titled nonprofit groups like Americans for Job Security, devoted to politically charged “issue advocacy,” much of it negative. But they are now being heard as never before — in this year of midterm discontent, Tea Party ferment and the first test of the Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited, and often anonymous, corporate political spending. Already they have spent more than $100 million — mostly for Republicans and more than twice as much as at this point four years ago.

More evidence of why we Americans need to get BIG-MONEY out of politics. It is also evidence on just how wrong the Supreme Court decision was, just how bad it hurts America.

As long as ANY politician needs large sums of money for campaigning, BIG-MONEY can have undue influence on elections.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

POLITICS - President Clinton's Very Good Advice

"Clinton Gives Advice on Democratic Path to Victory" PBS Newshour Transcript 9/22/2010


JUDY WOODRUFF (Newshour): President Clinton, thank you very much for talking with us.


JUDY WOODRUFF: We are here at the hotel in New York where the Clinton Global Initiative is meeting. For the last five years, the main focus has been on developing countries -- the rest of the world.

This year, you've expanded the focus to this country, your home country -- a struggling economy, the need to create jobs. Why do you think -- well over a year after the recession ended -- the economy still hasn't taken off here?

BILL CLINTON: Because of the nature of this recession, primarily, and because of the way it played out in people's lives. Let me just give you a couple of examples. We lost about $3 trillion in immediate economic activity. We actually have done a better job coming out of it in the last year than other countries have. We've recovered 70 percent of our GDP growth, Germany: 60 (percent), Japan: 50 (percent), the U.K.: 30 (percent).

But that's not enough to get people back to work and everybody is still spooked. Banks have $1.8 trillion in cash now. The financial system was saved. That cash is uncommitted to loans. So, and then it takes a long time to start these new jobs. The stimulus bill did not fail, but only a third of the stimulus was ordered to creating new jobs and it's going to have a big impact but there is a long lag time.

Then the final problem is ... in the last decade, we dropped from first to 12th in the world with the percentage of our people with college degrees at the time when the difference between people with a college education without it got bigger. That is, the unemployment rate -- the chart and all the press yesterday -- the unemployment rate among non college graduates is about 11 percent and it's right at 4 (percent) for those have degrees. And for the first time now, we've got posted job openings in America going up twice as fast as new hires. If we were just filling for those jobs with skilled people we'd have 5 million more people at work.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You know so many business leaders as well as political leaders, why do you believe that they are not using -- you've said, I think -- $1.6 trillion in cash they are sitting on in these businesses to create jobs?

BILL CLINTON: Well, the good news is they don't want to spend the money overseas or they would have already done that because about 80 percent of this money -- $1 trillion plus -- is in the hands of 75 companies. And that's one where probably neither party can give you the answer.

I think my party's got the right answer on the job training and on where the jobs are growing in small business and manufacturing and green energy, and I think the financial oversight bill will lead to more lending in positive ways and I think repealing it, which the other side wants to do, will lead to more gambling -- which got us in trouble in the first place.

But neither party has done this. I think that in order to answer your question really what we need to do is to interview those 75 companies that have 85 percent of this money and find out what it would take to get them to invest.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Because I'm asking because you know so many of these...


JUDY WOODRUFF: Is it your sense that they are justified in not spending the money to create jobs?

BILL CLINTON: Well, it's not that they don't want to. I mean let's take Cisco. I talked to John Chambers today. They've actually created 6,000 jobs in America this year. But they've got a lot more money they can use.

I talked to another executive who's got $1 billion in the bank said he could create 10,000 jobs tomorrow. He's trying to determine what the new environment will cost him. That is, he wants to know over the next five years what are his taxes, will he spend more or less for health care. If so, how much? What are the environmental rules going to be?

I think a lot of this is just settling down. People were so traumatized by all the horrible things that happened from, you know, after the financial meltdown in 2008, it was a real problem. But I think, that I think is a fairly easy, straightforward thing to do.

The real money though -- the banks have multiple, so if they have $1.8 trillion in cash they could loan $18 trillion in money and end the global recession. The job training program.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Politics. I have to ask you about this. We are 5 and a half weeks away from the midterm elections, it's looking like a tough reckoning for Democrats in November. Few people know the American electorate as well as you do. Can President Obama still get people to listen to him to get a message across? Or have people just stopped listening?

BILL CLINTON: Well, some have stopped listening. They do that. I found it myself. I told him the other day, as far as I could tell they hadn't said anything about him they didn't say about me in '94. And part of it is just frustration because people don't feel better. Then there is this larger -- the Republican narrative against him has two points.

One is: They had 21 months to fix this mess, they didn't fix this, put us back in. The larger narrative is he's a closet socialist who wants to spread this bureaucratic government pall across the country and crush the spirit of liberty and individual initiative and small business vitality and it's not American.

I think what he should say back is to their charge: They put us in a $3 trillion hole and 21 months wasn't enough to get out of it. They dug, you gave them eight years to dig this hole, just give us two more years, give us four years to dig out of it. Just half what you gave them and if it's not better you can throw us all out in two years. That is: people are angry and you need to do it.

But then I would advise him and all the Democrats to talk about what we are going to do now and ask them who is more likely to do it. In other words, if this is a referendum on people's anger and apathy -- so our side stays home and their side's inside -- we don't do well. If it's a choice between who is going to do what, we can do well. And that's what I hope it will be.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But the president has been saying for some weeks, maybe months he has been saying the election is a choice between continuing with present policy or going back to the Republican policies of the last administration, and so far Democrats are not nearly as energized as Republicans, conservatives and certainly not as energized as the tea party.

Readers, please pay close attention to the following, particularly the last paragraph ...

BILL CLINTON: That is because he needs to explain, he and all of the Democrats each on their own -- and I'd like to see some national advertising -- explain why we didn't get out of the hole, but then the stimulus it did more good than it was projected to do, not less. And talk about how, their position is inherently not tenable if you are thinking. I mean we had Republican presidents for 12 years before I became president. They quadrupled the national debt. We paid $600 billion down on the national debt. They could have stayed with the budget I had, we'd be out of debt by 2012. They only care about the deficit and spending when Democrats are in.

Instead of staying with my budget plan they went back to trickle-down economics. They doubled the debt all over again, before the financial meltdown. Before the meltdown, we only had 2 ½ million jobs -- 10 percent as many as in my eight years. The American people say we don't care, we're angry, we're frustrated -- and they are buying all this. Our side is neither defended the -- they just have taken these attacks without an effective defense. And since people are literally not feeling better, they may be going back to embracing the changes, the policies that got us in trouble.

Let me just give you one example. There was a big chart in the paper yesterday, unemployment among non college graduates almost 11 percent. Among college graduates 4 percent. Where new job openings are going up twice as fast as job hires because there is a big skills mismatch. OK. Here is one thing this election is about:

The Democrats support the student loan reform that makes it cheaper to finance a college education and gives every single college graduate from now on the right to pay their loan back as a small percentage of their income over 20 years. Massive economic significance. The Republicans are committed to repealing it, taking the money they were giving the students and giving it back to banks for basically no risk. In other words they are running on a promise to make it more expensive and harder to go to college, on a record that saw us drop from first to 12th in the world in the percentage of young adults who are college graduates for the first time since World War II.

And people want to be apathetic in the face of that, or do they want to vote for that? No, they say, 'Bill I'm sorry that's going to happen but I'm just so angry. I have to vote anyway.' I mean we need to make this election about something real and clear and if it is than we should honorably embrace the results and not feel bad. I don't think we're putting up a good fight yet.
JUDY WOODRUFF: One last question, I've looked at your schedule over the next few weeks, you are slated to appear with a number of Democratic candidates. I am told you are going to be out on the road for much of the month of October. In fact, you are in greater demand in a number of these races, these competitive races, out on the trail than the president is. How do you explain that?

BILL CLINTON: Well, they always like you better when you're gone. They always do. I think that, you know, and it may not be popular to say this is but what I honestly believe -- I'm not running for anything anymore. I can't run for anything. But I do spend an hour a day studying this economy. I love my country and I want us to do well.

I believe the president and the Congress have done better than the American people think. I'm not upset that they are not getting credit for it because Democrats get hired when the country is messed up and people hire us to fix things. People don't feel better. They don't feel things fixed. So it's OK they are not getting credit for it.

But what the American people need to do is to do what's best for themselves and their family. The only things that really matter are: what are we going to do now? And once you settle on that, who is more likely to do it? If the election is about that, I think we'll do fine. Take a few licks in the marginal races that we shouldn't probably have won anyway. If the election is about my anger, my apathy, my amnesia about who's going to do what, then that's a tough environment for us.

But the Republicans have been really very straightforward in what they want to do. It's not just repeal health care. They want to repeal the student loan reform. They want to repeal the financial oversight. They want to move toward privatizing Social Security and Medicare. They want to do, in short, what they've wanted to do for 30 years.

And we now we had all this experience. It doubled the debt, produced 10 percent as many jobs as I did, got us in the mess we're in. And so our answer is we're going to throw the Democrats out after 21 months and bring back the people who made the decisions that put us in a hole in the first place?

I think what the Democrats need to say is: 'we share your anger, we honor your anger. If we fail you throw us out but you gave them eight years, give us four. Just half as much as you gave them. Give us four. If it's not better in two years, you can vote us all out. But give us enough time to get out of the hole and move America forward,' and then say what you're going to do. I think that's the main chance they've got to make this a good election.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And they've got five weeks to do it in.

BILL CLINTON: Five weeks. That's plenty of time. If you look at the, the one interesting thing is both parties are held in fairly low esteem and people just think 'well if I throw the Democrats out maybe they'll be forced to work together.' In other words, it's not really, but there is not much understanding of these specific differences in what they are offering to do.

And I think maybe the apathy vote is more important for the Republicans in their surging even in the tea party vote. The tea party vote, its manifestation is their base voters are going to show up. That always happens. Once you are out you feel more threatened, you get more energized, you want to show up.

What's more important is that all those people who voted for the first time ever in 2006 and 2008 realize that this is not, there are no one-time miracle votes. Citizenship is a lifetime job and if you want to protect the votes that you cast and protect the policies you support, you've got to show up again and if don't you can't complain if you lose and everything you voted for is washed away. It's your fault for staying home. That's what people have to understand.

Bold-blue emphasis mine

President Clinton is saying the same thing I have in this blog. President Obama and the Democrats have NOT been in control long enough to dig our economy out of the 8yr hole the Republicans dug.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

POLITICS - Woodward Book on Obama Administration

"White House doesn't dispute Woodward book's portrayal of Obama" by Anne E. Kornblut, Washington Post 9/22/2010


With juicy nuggets of the new Bob Woodward book on President Obama starting to emerge, the official White House reaction so far is: It's just fine.

Many of Obama's senior advisers have already obtained and read the book, "Obama's Wars," and are satisfied with the image it conveys of the president, a senior administration official said Wednesday.

"The President comes across in the [Afghanistan] review and throughout the decisionmaking process as a Commander in Chief who is analytical, strategic, and decisive, with a broad view of history, national security, and his role," the official said in an e-mail.

But details of confidential meetings and classified documents, along with damning quotes from the principals, paint a picture of the president's team that is at odds with that perception. In Woodward's telling, Obama oversees a staff of bickering advisers and an administration that was rife with infighting during the Afghanistan policy review. If there were any remaining doubts that the "no drama, Obama" mantra left the building long ago, the Woodward book puts them to rest.

In my view, this is how it should be. Good hardy arguments on what to advise a President on what to do, but the President making the final decision.

This is MUCH better than the lock-step G.W. Bush administration.

POLITICS - More GOP-Sewage Blocking Legislation

"Senate Republicans hold up Dream Act for children of immigrants" by Shankar Vedantam, Washington Post 9/22/2010


Republican lawmakers on Tuesday stalled a Senate measure to allow children of undocumented immigrants to get on a path to citizenship, and accused the Obama administration of seeking amnesty for illegal immigrants through administrative changes within the Department of Homeland Security.

The Dream Act, which would grant permanent residency to immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and who have completed some time in college or in the armed forces has been a sought-after goal for Democrats, who attached the measure to an important defense spending bill. Republicans used a procedural vote to block the bill. Immigration advocates accused Republicans of sacrificing the well-being of thousands of young people to cater to nativist sentiment.

Brent Wilkes, national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said the vote showed that the Republican party had "once again proven that when Latinos need support, they support a different constituency even when the constituency they are supporting does not have a dog in the fight. If my kids are legal and they are going to college, why would I want to stick it to my neighbor's kids?"

Senate Democrats vowed to reintroduce the Dream Act, but odds of the measure becoming law this year are slim.

In a day of fast-moving action, Republicans released a draft of a memo they said was composed by Department of Homeland Security staff to explore ways to create a more lenient immigration system, with expedited approvals for visas and family reunification, and measures to head off deportations of undocumented immigrants.

"Done right, a combination of benefit and enforcement-related measures could provide the administration with a clear-cut political win," reads the draft memo, dated Feb. 26, 2010. The draft, released by Republican senators to the news media, does not cite an author. A Republican congressional staff member who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about the matter said the memo was sent to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

I have to wonder if the GOP have completely written-off the Latino vote. They are even more the party of "ONLY whites need apply."

SCIENCE - 10yr Old Mars Lander Back

"Mars spacecraft bounces back from computer glitch" by Staff, MSNBC 9/21/2010

A powerful NASA spacecraft around Mars has bounced back yet again Saturday, resuming its study of the Red Planet three days after a recurring computer glitch temporarily waylaid its mission.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter started gathering science data again on Sept. 18, NASA officials announced. On Sept. 15, the orbiter put itself into precautionary "safe mode" a sort of spacecraft hibernation after spontaneously rebooting for unknown reasons.

It was the fifth time in two years the MRO spacecraft had experienced computer problems. Before last week's hiccup, the last time the orbiter went into safe mode was August 2009, when it went into a months-long slumber. It was revived in December of that year. [ 10 Things to Know About MRO ]

The Mars orbiter suffered a series of unexpected computer reboots in 2009, putting it into safe mode four times, according to NASA officials. But then, as now, the spacecraft always came back to life.

The $420 million orbiter launched in August 2005 on a mission to look for past and present signs of water and to perform a comprehensive survey of the Red Planet's surface and atmosphere. MRO also serves as a communications link between NASA's Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity and their controllers on Earth.

The spacecraft has also been helping NASA find the best Martian landing spot for the space agency's next rover, the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity, which is slated to launch next year.

MRO has generated three times more data than all other deep-space missions those that venture beyond Earth's moon combined.

The orbiter completed the primary science phase of its operations in November 2008, but it continues to observe Mars both for science and to support future landing missions, NASA officials said.

In operation since 8/2005, WOW!

HEALTH - Oral Drug for Multiple Sclerosis

"Oral MS Drug Wins Approval" by John Gever, MedPage Today 9/22/2010


The FDA has approved fingolimod (Gilenya), the first oral drug for multiple sclerosis to reach the market.

Its label states that the drug may "reduce relapses and delay disability progression in patients with relapsing forms" of MS, according to an FDA announcement.

An FDA advisory committee voted unanimously in June to recommend the approval of the drug, which will be available in 0.5-mg capsules.

Fingolimod inhibits migration of T cells out of lymph nodes, essentially bottling them up to prevent them from attacking the protective myelin sheaths surrounding nerve fibers. Specifically, the drug causes the sphingosine-1-phosphatase receptor, which normally sits on the surface of T and B cells, to withdraw into the cell interior.

All other approved treatments for MS -- interferon-beta, glatiramer acetate (Copaxone), and natalizumab (Tysabri) -- are injection drugs. Patients and clinicians have voiced a desire for orally available alternatives.

"The FDA's approval of the first oral disease modifying therapy is a significant step for people with MS, and helps address the unmet need for additional therapies," according to Aaron Miller, MD, of Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City, in a statement provided by the National MS Society.

POLITICS - GOP Seen From Maine

"Cheers and Jeers: Wednesday" by Bill in Portland Maine, Daily KOS 9/22/2010



Okay, America, you've rightfully made your point quite clear. You're mad. Angry. Pissed. Disappointed. Confused. Scared. Poorer. Joblesser. And because Democrats control Congress and the White House, you're planning to either vote for Republicans out of anger or no one at all out of indifference. Gotcha.

Lemme tell you something. I'm pissed, too. At the politicians, sure, but also at you. Because you may be about to make one of the most misguided mistakes in modern history by turning over the reins to the Republicans at a time when we can least afford to have 'em running around with gavels in their hands.

Read this carefully: the only time we can ever afford to have modern-day Republicans in power is when things are already really, really good. Then, when they immediately start fucking things up---as they inevitably will---we can at least absorb the blow and survive. But as of today things still suck really bad. And with Republicans in power you can count on things sucking even worse---as in, down the drain.

Republican leadership amounts to giving millionaires daily tongue baths and turning everything over to the private sector so that America becomes the Land of the Almighty Shareholder. That worked out real well in September, 2008---the month the GOP-loving Wall Street slicksters turned the gleaming American dream into a pile of rubble.

Republican ideology is made of "facts" they conjure out of bullshit, which they make palatable by throwing them into Rupert Murdoch's Easy-to-Half-Bake media oven and coating 'em with globs of red, white and blue Freedom Frosting and a bunch of sparkly candles of mass distraction. Yum---brainwash cake is so dewicious!

Oh, and Republicans think it's cute to make a game out of saying NO to everything, even good things and useful things and responsible things that would've made life a little better or easier for you and me. Isn’t that helpful! Y'know what intelligent people call someone who runs around saying NO to everything all the time? A three-year-old who needs a nap.

Republicans' words, their deeds, their plans and their actual record of accomplishment are what landed us in our current shithole. All modern Republican leaders know how to do is steal from the poor, give to the rich, foist their angry god on everyone, and break things. That seems to be their reason for being. (And those rare GOP candidates who have a sliver of decency in them? You may have noticed they're getting booted left and right by their own people---the ones who dress up like George Washington and threaten armed revolution if they don’t get their way.)

The Democratic leadership is guilty of sucking, too, no doubt. But here's the difference: Republicans want to prevent or reverse progress, Democrats actually make progress...just too slowly for our liking.

The stimulus was too small. It only created or saved over 3,000,000 jobs, prevented a wholesale depression, and fixed a whole bunch of broken stuff that Republicans ignored when they were in power. (And you do realize that a third of the money was in the form of almighty tax cuts, right?)

The recovery is taking too long...even though any sane person knows that the damage was so bad that we'll be lucky to emerge from it in, say, five years even under the best of circumstances. At what point do We The People finally get it into our heads that instant gratification is pretty much limited to junk food and masturbation? We're suffering now because we were encouraged to not think beyond our next credit card transaction. I still remember the previous Republican president giving us executive orders to go shopping, shopping, shopping and home buying, home buying, home buying. And we did. And we are.

The health care bill wasn't grand enough, even though tomorrow, September 23, is the day when parents can start keeping their kids on their policies through age 26, when you can no longer get kicked off your policy because you get sick, when you'll no longer bump into lifetime coverage limits, and when kids can't be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. The mandate forcing us to buy health insurance, which kicks in a few years from now, worries me, I'll admit. But look at the good that lies in just those four benefits above. That's some serious ulcer prevention right there, man.

So progress by the Democratic leadership is too slow. I agree. It is. But it's progress. Vote for Republicans and we get a minimum of two years of no progress. Hell, they're slappin' themselves on the back for their brilliant plan to shut off the lights and go golfing if they take back the House. That's right---they're advertising that a vote for Republicans is a vote to shut down the government. That's off-yer-rocker shit right there, America.

The United States government is fucking frustrating to watch. It's populated with wankers on both sides working under often-batty rules and they drive everyone crazy. But one side gets good stuff done and one side doesn't. One side cares about you and one side really doesn't. Both sides get massive pressure from billionaires and corporations to do their bidding (against you!), but only one side puts up something resembling resistance. One side embraces equality for minorities and one side certainly does not. One side embraces real science and one side embraces junk science. One side doesn't believe in scaring the pants off you any which way it can and the other side can't go a day without doing it (Gay marriage will destroy civilization! The smoking gun will be a mushroom cloud! Obama wants to impose Sharia law!). Guess which side is which?

There is nothing rah-rah about these midterm elections, America. Nothing. It's just not that kind of year. If I don’t see a single piece of confetti or hear one brass band I won’t care in the least. All I want is for you and everyone in your sphere of influence to circle November 2 on your calendars and vote to keep Democrats in the majority. If you do, we'll continue our slow but steady recovery despite the lockstep obstruction the minority Republicans will keep throwing up. If you don't, well, we won't.

Love him or hate him, President Obama is right about one thing: When you put your car in "D" and hit the gas it goes forward. When you put it in "R" and hit the gas you go backwards. And if John Boehner or Mitch McConnell are at the wheel, they'll back us right off a cliff. I know this for a fact because, at 46, I'm old enough to know from experience that that'

Bold-blue emphasis mine

I absolutely, totally, agree; and I'm 65. It would be the biggest mistake American voters could do in 2010.

POLITICS - GOP Under Voodoo Spell

"Republicans under a spell" by Richard Cohen, Washington Post 9/21/2010

Christine O'Donnell, the Tea Party candidate from lil' ol' Delaware, confesses to have once "dabbled into witchcraft" -- a fittingly ungrammatical revelation that not only was to be expected but explains what has happened to the Republican Party. Someone -- possibly you know who -- has cast a spell on it, and now it has a candidate whose main contribution to political thought or, indeed, the plight of the poor is to have railed against masturbation, which she likened to adultery. Only a spell can explain such thinking.

Only a spell also can explain how Newt Gingrich, possibly a presidential candidate, can attribute the politics of Barack Obama to "Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior." Obama allegedly picked up this behavior from his father, whom he knew only fleetingly, which is to say almost not at all, and who has long been dead. This, as Gingrich and others under the spell can tell you, is proof of the demonic power that can come out of the grave, enter the White House (look, the gate-crashing Salahis did it) and pervade the very body and mind of the commander in chief. It's enough to give you the willies.

Similarly, only a spell can explain why much of the Republican Party insists on calling Obama a socialist. To apply this label to the very man who saved Big Finance, who rescued Goldman Sachs and the rest of the boys, who gave a Heimlich to the barely breathing banks, can only be explained by witchcraft or voodoo or something like that. It has caused the GOP to lose its mind. Obama did something similar to the American auto industry, saving it from itself. He did not let it fail or nationalize it, as a socialist would have done, but pumped cash into it so that -- this is me speaking -- it can fail later on.

The unseen effects of witchcraft are clearly the reason about one-fifth of Americans believe Obama is a Muslim. In fact, as time goes by, more and more people subscribe to this belief -- a phenomenon so at odds with logic or rational thinking that the explanation has to lie in the darkest of arts -- witchcraft and voodoo. (The GOP does the voodoo that you do so well.) Many other Americans think Obama was not born in the United States but abroad, in Indonesia or Kenya or even Hawaii, which unknown to a lot of people is an American state. (It's Alaska that's a foreign country.) The new GOP Senate candidate and Tea Party favorite in Alaska, Joe Miller, answers almost any question by referring to the Constitution. Nothing in it about Social Security, he observed. It also permitted slavery, he fails to observe.

This fatuous infatuation with the Constitution, particularly the 10th Amendment, is clearly the work of witches, wiccans and wackos. It has nothing to do with America's real problems and, if taken too seriously, would cause an economic and political calamity. The Constitution is a wonderful document, quite miraculous actually, but only because it has been wisely adapted to changing times. To adhere to the very word of its every clause hardly is respectful to the Founding Fathers. They were revolutionaries who embraced change. That's how we got here.

To hear Republican conservatives at the recent Values Voter Summit was to hear speaker after speaker talk about things that could not be seen and did not exist. One is the so-called homosexual agenda, which has made a political movement out of sexual orientation. This agenda, whatever it may be, must be a mystery to gay conservatives, of which there are several.

O'Donnell is where the GOP has been heading for some time. The party's leaders have steadfastly refused to take a stand against any idiocy, even suggesting they agree that Obama might not be a Christian. Their intellectuals have supported and advanced the know-nothingness of Sarah Palin. Nothing to them is beyond the pale. This party is not fit to govern. It would support the Joker but not Batman, who hangs too much with Robin.

So now it has a candidate in Delaware who truly is a career politician. She seems to have no means of support except campaign funds. She supposedly lives in her headquarters, although this is somewhat in dispute. Whatever the case, she has no job and no views worth a moment's consideration. (She even appalls Karl Rove.) She's not likely to win, but the way things are going this year, she just might. People are angry. People are mad. The night is dark.

Witch way out of here?

The GOP has always believed in witchcraft, starting with "Tickle-Down (Voodoo) Economics."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

POLITICS - Better News, But Not the Best

"Generic Ballot Virtually Tied: Democrats 46%, Republicans 45%" by Frank Newport, Gallup 9/20/2010

(full article includes graphs, tables, and methodology)

Republicans losing strength in September compared with August

Gallup's generic ballot for Congress for the week of Sept. 13-19 shows a 46% Democratic and 45% Republican split in registered voters' preferences for the midterm congressional elections. It is the second week out of the last three in which the two parties have been virtually tied.

Gallup's tracking shows a shift from a 49% to 43% Republican advantage in August to a 46% to 45% GOP advantage so far in September. Both of these estimates are based on very large samples, with more than 7,000 interviews conducted in August and more than 5,600 so far in September.

Regardless of these modest shifts in voting intentions, Republicans remain significantly more likely than Democrats to say they are "very" enthusiastic about voting in this year's midterm elections.

The enthusiasm gap this past week was 19 percentage points, with 47% of Republicans very enthusiastic about voting, compared with 28% of Democrats. Republicans have enjoyed at least a 10-point advantage on this measure since Gallup began tracking congressional election preferences in March, including margins of 16 points or higher since August.

Given this continuing enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats, even a tie in registered voters' preferences will almost certainly mean the Republicans will garner the most votes on Election Day.

Bottom Line

Republicans have so far this month lost a little of the unprecedented strength they had among registered voters in August. Voting intentions among registered voters from Sept. 1-19 show a virtual tie between Republicans and Democrats, which is down from the six-point Republican advantage in August. Gallup will begin estimating the voting preferences of the probable 2010 electorate in October, which is highly likely to show a larger Republican advantage than is seen among registered voters.

The pace of midterm congressional election campaigning is beginning to pick up, both at the individual district level, and in terms of national news emphasis. Last week's primary elections, for example, focused news attention on the potential impact of more conservative, Tea Party-backed Republican candidates on the general election. It is possible that further shifts in voter sentiment will be seen in the weeks ahead.

Now all we have to do is close the "enthusiasm gap" to keep Republicans from sending American further down the toilet like the did 2000-2008.

ECONOMY - Class of 2011 Jobs

"Hiring Outlook Improves For Class Of 2011" Huffington Post 9/20/2010

According to a new report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the job outlook for college graduates next year is practically rosy.

Employers in the Midwest and the West will see the biggest increase in hiring, NACE's Job Outlook 2011 predicts. On average, employers will hire 13.5 percent more graduates than in 2010.

NACE Executive Director Marilyn Mackes said that many employers will recruit and hire in the fall. "Employers typically try to hire their top choice candidates early," she said.

(click for better view)

POLITICS - The Party-of-NO, Same Old Tricks

"Short of Repeal, G.O.P. Will Chip at Health Law" by ROBERT PEAR, New York Times 9/20/2010


Republicans are serious. Hopeful of picking up substantial numbers of seats in the Congressional elections, they are developing plans to try to repeal or roll back President Obama’s new health care law.

This goal, though not fleshed out in a detailed legislative proposal, is much more than a campaign slogan. That conclusion emerged from interviews with a wide range of Republican lawmakers, who said they were determined to chip away at the law if they could not dismantle it.

House Republicans are expected to include some specifics in an election agenda they intend to issue Thursday. Although they face tremendous political and practical hurdles to undoing a law whose provisions are rapidly going into effect, they are already laying the groundwork for trying.

For starters, Republicans say they will try to withhold money that federal officials need to administer and enforce the law. They know that even if they managed to pass a wholesale repeal, Mr. Obama would veto it.

“They’ll get not one dime from us,” the House Republican leader, John A. Boehner of Ohio, told The Cincinnati Enquirer recently. “Not a dime. There is no fixing this.”

Republicans also intend to go after specific provisions. Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, a senior Republican on the Finance Committee, has introduced a bill that would eliminate a linchpin of the new law: a requirement for many employers to offer insurance to employees or pay a tax penalty. Many Republicans also want to repeal the law’s requirement for most Americans to obtain health insurance.

Typical from the Party of NO.

No requirement for most (NOT all) Americans to have healthcare, which would make healthcare insurance cheaper for everyone. Bulk buying like Wal-Mart or COSTCO, that allows them to offer products cheaper. That is, this forces health insurance providers to have cheaper offerings to consumers.

Companies not offering healthcare insurance (note applies ONLY to companies with 50+ employees), a profits ABOVE your health attitude.

The Republican Party does NOT care about YOUR health. They only care about company profits (aka money).

HEALTH - Genetically Modified Salmon

"How Safe Would Genetically Modified Salmon Be to Eat?"
PBS Newshour 9/20/2010

MY personal view, NOT YET.

Wall-Street companies do NOT have a good track record of putting our health ABOVE making a profit. Just look at the drug industry and risks found AFTER a drug was FDA approved and released.

And NOT labeled? NO WAY! The should be labeled so we, the consumer, DO have full information to make our choice. The industry NOT wanting labels is an example of profit before consumer health.

OIL SPILL - Latest Update 9/20/2010

"Adm. Allen on Oil Cleanup: 'We're Negotiating How Clean Is Clean'"
PBS Newshour 9/20/2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

ECONOMY - The Wail of the Rich

"The Angry Rich" by PAUL KRUGMAN, New York Times 9/19/2010


Anger is sweeping America. True, this white-hot rage is a minority phenomenon, not something that characterizes most of our fellow citizens. But the angry minority is angry indeed, consisting of people who feel that things to which they are entitled are being taken away. And they’re out for revenge.

No, I’m not talking about the Tea Partiers. I’m talking about the rich.

These are terrible times for many people in this country. Poverty, especially acute poverty, has soared in the economic slump; millions of people have lost their homes. Young people can’t find jobs; laid-off 50-somethings fear that they’ll never work again.

Yet if you want to find real political rage — the kind of rage that makes people compare President Obama to Hitler, or accuse him of treason — you won’t find it among these suffering Americans. You’ll find it instead among the very privileged, people who don’t have to worry about losing their jobs, their homes, or their health insurance, but who are outraged, outraged, at the thought of paying modestly higher taxes.

The rage of the rich has been building ever since Mr. Obama took office. At first, however, it was largely confined to Wall Street. Thus when New York magazine published an article titled “The Wail Of the 1%,” it was talking about financial wheeler-dealers whose firms had been bailed out with taxpayer funds, but were furious at suggestions that the price of these bailouts should include temporary limits on bonuses. When the billionaire Stephen Schwarzman compared an Obama proposal to the Nazi invasion of Poland, the proposal in question would have closed a tax loophole that specifically benefits fund managers like him.

Now, however, as decision time looms for the fate of the Bush tax cuts — will top tax rates go back to Clinton-era levels? — the rage of the rich has broadened, and also in some ways changed its character.

For one thing, craziness has gone mainstream. It’s one thing when a billionaire rants at a dinner event. It’s another when Forbes magazine runs a cover story alleging that the president of the United States is deliberately trying to bring America down as part of his Kenyan, “anticolonialist” agenda, that “the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s.” When it comes to defending the interests of the rich, it seems, the normal rules of civilized (and rational) discourse no longer apply.

At the same time, self-pity among the privileged has become acceptable, even fashionable.

Tax-cut advocates used to pretend that they were mainly concerned about helping typical American families. Even tax breaks for the rich were justified in terms of trickle-down economics, the claim that lower taxes at the top would make the economy stronger for everyone.

These days, however, tax-cutters are hardly even trying to make the trickle-down case. Yes, Republicans are pushing the line that raising taxes at the top would hurt small businesses, but their hearts don’t really seem in it. Instead, it has become common to hear vehement denials that people making $400,000 or $500,000 a year are rich. I mean, look at the expenses of people in that income class — the property taxes they have to pay on their expensive houses, the cost of sending their kids to elite private schools, and so on. Why, they can barely make ends meet.

Bold emphasis mine