Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"I'd rather be waterboarded"


98 Percent of Welfare Applicants Pass Drug Test

$178 million to save $5,000 a month? How does that even make sense???

LINK

Thanks to Florida Gov. Rick Scott's insistence that people on welfare use drugs at a higher rate than the general population, the state's Legislature implemented a policy earlier this year requiring all applicants for temporary cash assistance to pass a drug test before getting any help.

The results: Ninety-eight percent passed. And the process will cost the state $178 million.

-snip-

Cost of the tests averages about $30. Assuming that 1,000 to 1,500 applicants take the test every month, the state will owe about $28,800-$43,200 monthly in reimbursements to those who test drug-free.

That compares with roughly $32,200-$48,200 the state may save on one month’s worth of rejected applicants.

Net savings to the state: $3,400 to $5,000 annually on one month’s worth of rejected applicants. Over 12 months, the money saved on all rejected applicants would add up to $40,800 to $60,000 for a program that state analysts have predicted will cost $178 million this fiscal year.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Text of S&P downgrade of U.S. rating

LINK

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services said today that it lowered its long-term sovereign credit rating on the United States of America to ‘AA+’ from ‘AAA’. Standard & Poor’s also said that the outlook on the long-term rating is negative. At the same time, Standard & Poor’s affirmed its ‘A-1+’ short-term rating on the U.S. In addition, Standard & Poor’s removed both ratings from CreditWatch, where they were placed on July 14, 2011, with negative implications.

The transfer and convertibility (T&C) assessment of the U.S.–our assessment of the likelihood of official interference in the ability of U.S.-based public- and private-sector issuers to secure foreign exchange for debt service–remains ‘AAA’.

We lowered our long-term rating on the U.S. because we believe that the prolonged controversy over raising the statutory debt ceiling and the related fiscal policy debate indicate that further near-term progress containing the growth in public spending, especially on entitlements, or on reaching an agreement on raising revenues is less likely than we previously assumed and will remain a contentious and fitful process. We also believe that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the Administration agreed to this week falls short of the amount that we believe is necessary to stabilize the general government debt burden by the middle of the decade.

Our lowering of the rating was prompted by our view on the rising public debt burden and our perception of greater policymaking uncertainty, consistent with our criteria (see “Sovereign Government Rating Methodology and Assumptions,” June 30, 2011, especially Paragraphs 36-41). Nevertheless, we view the U.S. federal government’s other economic, external, and monetary credit attributes, which form the basis for the sovereign rating, as broadly unchanged.

We have taken the ratings off CreditWatch because the Aug. 2 passage of the Budget Control Act Amendment of 2011 has removed any perceived immediate threat of payment default posed by delays to raising the government’s debt ceiling. In addition, we believe that the act provides sufficient clarity to allow us to evaluate the likely course of U.S. fiscal policy for the next few years.

The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed. The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy. Despite this year’s wide-ranging debate, in our view, the differences between political parties have proven to be extraordinarily difficult to bridge, and, as we see it, the resulting agreement fell well short of the comprehensive fiscal consolidation program that some proponents had envisaged until quite recently. Republicans and Democrats have only been able to agree to relatively modest savings on discretionary spending while delegating to the Select Committee decisions on more comprehensive measures. It appears that for now, new revenues have dropped down on the menu of policy options. In addition, the plan envisions only minor policy changes on Medicare and little change in other entitlements, the containment of which we and most other independent observers regard as key to long-term fiscal sustainability.

Our opinion is that elected officials remain wary of tackling the structural issues required to effectively address the rising U.S. public debt burden in a manner consistent with a ‘AAA’ rating and with ‘AAA’ rated sovereign peers (see Sovereign Government Rating Methodology and Assumptions,” June 30, 2011, especially Paragraphs 36-41). In our view, the difficulty in framing a consensus on fiscal policy weakens the government’s ability to manage public finances and diverts attention from the debate over how to achieve more balanced and dynamic economic growth in an era of fiscal stringency and private-sector deleveraging (ibid). A new political consensus might (or might not) emerge after the 2012 elections, but we believe that by then, the government debt burden will likely be higher, the needed medium-term fiscal adjustment potentially greater, and the inflection point on the U.S. population’s demographics and other age-related spending drivers closer at hand (see “Global Aging 2011: In The U.S., Going Gray Will Likely Cost Even More Green, Now,” June 21, 2011).

Standard & Poor’s takes no position on the mix of spending and revenue measures that Congress and the Administration might conclude is appropriate for putting the U.S.’s finances on a sustainable footing.

The act calls for as much as $2.4 trillion of reductions in expenditure growth over the 10 years through 2021. These cuts will be implemented in two steps: the $917 billion agreed to initially, followed by an additional $1.5 trillion that the newly formed Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction is supposed to recommend by November 2011. The act contains no measures to raise taxes or otherwise enhance revenues, though the committee could recommend them.

The act further provides that if Congress does not enact the committee’s recommendations, cuts of $1.2 trillion will be implemented over the same time period. The reductions would mainly affect outlays for civilian discretionary spending, defense, and Medicare. We understand that this fall-back mechanism is designed to encourage Congress to embrace a more balanced mix of expenditure savings, as the committee might recommend.

We note that in a letter to Congress on Aug. 1, 2011, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated total budgetary savings under the act to be at least $2.1 trillion over the next 10 years relative to its baseline assumptions. In updating our own fiscal projections, with certain modifications outlined below, we have relied on the CBO’s latest “Alternate Fiscal Scenario” of June 2011, updated to include the CBO assumptions contained in its Aug. 1 letter to Congress. In general, the CBO’s “Alternate Fiscal Scenario” assumes a continuation of recent Congressional action overriding existing law.

We view the act’s measures as a step toward fiscal consolidation. However, this is within the framework of a legislative mechanism that leaves open the details of what is finally agreed to until the end of 2011, and Congress and the Administration could modify any agreement in the future. Even assuming that at least $2.1 trillion of the spending reductions the act envisages are implemented, we maintain our view that the U.S. net general government debt burden (all levels of government combined, excluding liquid financial assets) will likely continue to grow. Under our revised base case fiscal scenario–which we consider to be consistent with a ‘AA+’ long-term rating and a negative outlook–we now project that net general government debt would rise from an estimated 74% of GDP by the end of 2011 to 79% in 2015 and 85% by 2021. Even the projected 2015 ratio of sovereign indebtedness is high in relation to those of peer credits and, as noted, would continue to rise under the act’s revised policy settings.

Compared with previous projections, our revised base case scenario now assumes that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, due to expire by the end of 2012, remain in place. We have changed our assumption on this because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act. Key macroeconomic assumptions in the base case scenario include trend real GDP growth of 3% and consumer price inflation near 2% annually over the decade.

Our revised upside scenario–which, other things being equal, we view as consistent with the outlook on the ‘AA+’ long-term rating being revised to stable–retains these same macroeconomic assumptions. In addition, it incorporates $950 billion of new revenues on the assumption that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for high earners lapse from 2013 onwards, as the Administration is advocating. In this scenario, we project that the net general government debt would rise from an estimated 74% of GDP by the end of 2011 to 77% in 2015 and to 78% by 2021.

Our revised downside scenario–which, other things being equal, we view as being consistent with a possible further downgrade to a ‘AA’ long-term rating–features less-favorable macroeconomic assumptions, as outlined below and also assumes that the second round of spending cuts (at least $1.2 trillion) that the act calls for does not occur. This scenario also assumes somewhat higher nominal interest rates for U.S. Treasuries. We still believe that the role of the U.S. dollar as the key reserve currency confers a government funding advantage, one that could change only slowly over time, and that Fed policy might lean toward continued loose monetary policy at a time of fiscal tightening. Nonetheless, it is possible that interest rates could rise if investors re-price relative risks. As a result, our alternate scenario factors in a 50 basis point (bp)-75 bp rise in 10-year bond yields relative to the base and upside cases from 2013 onwards. In this scenario, we project the net public debt burden would rise from 74% of GDP in 2011 to 90% in 2015 and to 101% by 2021.

Our revised scenarios also take into account the significant negative revisions to historical GDP data that the Bureau of Economic Analysis announced on July 29. From our perspective, the effect of these revisions underscores two related points when evaluating the likely debt trajectory of the U.S. government. First, the revisions show that the recent recession was deeper than previously assumed, so the GDP this year is lower than previously thought in both nominal and real terms. Consequently, the debt burden is slightly higher. Second, the revised data highlight the sub-par path of the current economic recovery when compared with rebounds following previous post-war recessions. We believe the sluggish pace of the current economic recovery could be consistent with the experiences of countries that have had financial crises in which the slow process of debt deleveraging in the private sector leads to a persistent drag on demand. As a result, our downside case scenario assumes relatively modest real trend GDP growth of 2.5% and inflation of near 1.5% annually going forward.

When comparing the U.S. to sovereigns with ‘AAA’ long-term ratings that we view as relevant peers–Canada, France, Germany, and the U.K.–we also observe, based on our base case scenarios for each, that the trajectory of the U.S.’s net public debt is diverging from the others. Including the U.S., we estimate that these five sovereigns will have net general government debt to GDP ratios this year ranging from 34% (Canada) to 80% (the U.K.), with the U.S. debt burden at 74%. By 2015, we project that their net public debt to GDP ratios will range between 30% (lowest, Canada) and 83% (highest, France), with the U.S. debt burden at 79%. However, in contrast with the U.S., we project that the net public debt burdens of these other sovereigns will begin to decline, either before or by 2015.

Standard & Poor’s transfer T&C assessment of the U.S. remains ‘AAA’. Our T&C assessment reflects our view of the likelihood of the sovereign restricting other public and private issuers’ access to foreign exchange needed to meet debt service. Although in our view the credit standing of the U.S. government has deteriorated modestly, we see little indication that official interference of this kind is entering onto the policy agenda of either Congress or the Administration. Consequently, we continue to view this risk as being highly remote.

The outlook on the long-term rating is negative. As our downside alternate fiscal scenario illustrates, a higher public debt trajectory than we currently assume could lead us to lower the long-term rating again. On the other hand, as our upside scenario highlights, if the recommendations of the Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction–independently or coupled with other initiatives, such as the lapsing of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for high earners–lead to fiscal consolidation measures beyond the minimum mandated, and we believe they are likely to slow the deterioration of the government’s debt dynamics, the long-term rating could stabilize at ‘AA+’.

On Monday, we will issue separate releases concerning affected ratings in the funds, government-related entities, financial institutions, insurance, public finance, and structured finance sectors.”

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Steve King: Covering Birth Control Could Make Us A 'Dying Civilization'

LINK

The new set of guidelines issued by the Department of Health and Human Services this week that will require health insurers to cover birth control with no co-pays have been controversial for a number of reasons, ranging from cost issues to moral objections.

Some conservative groups, such as Americans United for Life, have condemned the guidelines because they might force insurers to cover the morning after pill, which many anti-abortion advocates equate with abortion. The Catholics for Choice organization opposes the fact that the guidelines exempt certain religious organizations from having to cover birth control. And some businesses worry that the expanded coverage will raise insurance premiums for everyone.

But Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) expressed a fairly extreme concern on the House Floor Monday night about the expanded preventative health coverage: offering free birth control to women could eventually kill off the entire human species.

KING: We have people that are single, we have people that are past reproductive age, we have priests that are celibate. All of them, paying insurance premiums that cover contraceptives so that somebody else doesn't have to pay the full fare of that? And they've called it preventative medicine. Preventative medicine. Well if you applied that preventative medicine universally what you end up with is you've prevented a generation. Preventing babies from being born is not medicine. That's not— that's not constructive to our culture and our civilization. If we let our birth rate get down below replacement rate we're a dying civilization.
The new guidelines under the Affordable Care Act were nearly unanimously recommended by a panel of experts at the non-partisan Institute of Medicine, and they ensure that health insurance companies will fully cover a range of preventative health services for women, including contraceptives, cervical cancer screening, breast-feeding supplies and HIV testing and counseling.

An estimated 98 percent of sexually active women in America have used some form of birth control at some point in their lives. According to a recent Thomson Reuters/NPR poll, 77 percent of American voters believe that insurers should cover the cost of birth control with no co-pays.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bachmann Has Cold Shoulder for Tough Questions

LINK

Rep. Michele Bachmann really doesn't want to answer questions about her husband's Christian counseling clinics or about why her district has been dubbed a "suicide contagion area" by Minnesota officials.

Bachmann has an increasing amount to answer for. Mother Jones broke a story this week about the "teen suicide epidemic" in Bachmann's district. Nine teenagers have died during the last two years, and some parents are directly assigning blame to Bachmann.

“I feel if I hadn't moved to this district my daughter wouldn't have died,” one mother told Mother Jones.

So far Bachmann has said nothing about the problem, although she wasn't shy about opposing antibullying measures proposed in her state in 2006.

A photojournalist with TV station WQAD in Moline, Ill., said his station has evidently been cut off from Bachmann in retribution for an anchor just asking about whether so-called reparative therapy, aimed at turning gay people straight, is offered by her clinics.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Polls: Voters Want Debt Limit Deal to Cut Spending and Raise Taxes.

LINK

Voters appear to favor raising some taxes as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling, two new polls show.

With the U.S. expected to go into default if the debt ceiling isn’t raised soon, Quinnipiac University’s Polling Institute released a survey Thursday showing voters, 67% to 25%, prefer a deficit-reduction deal that includes both spending cuts and higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations rather than only cuts spending. Democrats, predictably, favored a plan with the tax increases, 87% to 7%, independents were less enthusiastic, 66% to 26%, while Republicans were divided, 43% to 48%.

The survey of 2,311 registered voters had a margin of error of 2 percentage points.

A Gallup poll released Wednesday concluded that Americans want the majority of deficit reduction to come through spending cuts, but most favor some combination of reduced expenditures coupled with higher revenues.

When asked how Congress should reduce the federal deficit, 30% said “mostly with spending cuts” and 32% chose “equally with spending cuts and tax increases.” Just 20% said the deal should be exclusively spending cuts and 11% wanted a deal mostly or only with tax increases.

The poll of 1,016 adults had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

SEIU "thugs" acquitted

This made national news at the time, the big bad SEIU "thugs" attacking a poor innocent man. Will the acquittal make the headlines? Somehow I think not.

LINK

Service Employees International Union members Elston McCowan and Perry Molens had been accused of misdemeanor assault in the August, 2009 tussle with button salesman Kenneth Gladney. The fight caught national attention at a time when there was rampant speculation the union had been dispatched to tamp down opposition to President Obama’s health care reform.

Jurors heard conflicting testimony in the two-day trial over who actually started the fight, and they viewed video tape showing the end and aftermath of the brawl — but no video showed who threw the first punch.

Gladney, who took the witness stand wearing a neck brace, testified that McCowan had started the fight by cursing him for displaying an offensive President Obama button, and then slapping Gladney’s hand. Gladney testified that Molens then joined in the attack against him.

McCowan testified that Gladney was the first to turn what had been a verbal argument into a physical fight. Molens testified that he came upon a fight in progress and pulled Gladney off his fellow union member McCowan.

McCowan and Molens were represented by high-profile defense attorney Paul D’ Agrosa, whose legal fees, McCowan said, were paid by the union. During his closing argument, D’ Agrosa questioned whether Gladney was wearing a neck brace to the trial for sympathy, saying it reminded him of a “Brady Bunch” episode.

Gladney had testified that he underwent recent neck surgery not related to the August 2009 fight. Later, outside the court, Gladney told a reporter he belived his neck problems were the result of “blunt trauma” he suffered in the fight.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lawmakers reintroduce ERA in wake of Supreme Court's Wal-Mart decision

It's about damn time this passed, only 3 states to go!!!

LINK

Democratic lawmakers are reintroducing an amendment that would ensure against gender discrimination in the U.S. in the wake of this week's controversial ruling by the Supreme Court.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) on Wednesday reintroduced the Equal Rights Amendment at an event outside the Capitol.

“The Equal Rights Amendment is still needed because the only way for women to achieve permanent equality in the U.S. is to write it into the Constitution,” Maloney said, according to a subsequent press release.

“Making women’s equality a constitutional right — after Congress passes and 38 states ratify the ERA — would place the United States on record, albeit more than 200 years late, that women are fully equal in the eyes of the law,” she said.
The reintroduction of the amendment follows Monday’s decision by the Supreme Court to shelve a major gender-discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart.

Tax rates and job creation in one graph

From Ezra Klein:

In theory, the GOP is so committed to resisting tax hikes because it’s so committed to creating jobs. “The fact is you can’t tax the very people that we expect to invest in the economy and create jobs,” says Speaker John Boehner. But Michael Linden’s chart comparing average annual job creation at different marginal tax rates begs to differ:


Monday, June 27, 2011

Bachmann confuses John Wayne with serial killer John Wayne Gacy

HA!

LINK

ABC's Sara Just and Russell Goldman report: While spending time in her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa to formally announce her candidacy Michele Bachmann misidentified her hometown as the birthplace of legendary actor John Wayne.

Wayne’s Iowan hometown is a landmark but it is in Winterset, Iowa, about three hours away from Bachmann’s hometown of Waterloo.

“What I want them to know is just like John Wayne is from Waterloo, Iowa, that’s the spirit I have too,” she told Fox News.

But as the Washington Times first noted, Waterloo is famous for its link to another John Wayne – John Wayne Gacy, the infamous serial killer of the 1970s. Gacy moved to Waterloo as a young adult, managed several fast food restaurants there and was charged with sexual assault there, his first criminal conviction.

From Pixelated Palace: Video Games are protected by the 1st Amendment!

LINK

Hey gang - Look, I'm sorry, I really never expected to have a reason to talk about anything relating to politics here. But this is rather large news. From my inbox:


Just moments ago, the Supreme Court in a 7 to 2 decision, has decided that, like music, books and movies, video games are First Amendment protected speech in the case Brown v. EMA. So many people took action signing the gamer petition and directly filing briefs with the Court.

The decision has been a long time coming, and we're so pleased by today's news. We're sure this isn't the end of the fight. One decision doesn't mean that we won't see elected officials attempted to test these new parameters. You better believe the ECA will continue to fight for the rights of the entertainment consumers and we hope you'll stand with us and add your voice.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

AFL-CIO urges recess appointment for Warren

Please appoint Elizabeth Warren, Mr. President! Her nomination has been held up long enough. Show some spine.

LINK

The AFL-CIO is calling for a recess appointment of Elizabeth Warren as the head of the fledgling Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

In an email sent to the labor federation’s activists Thursday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka asked them to urge President Obama to appoint Warren to the head of the agency.


“No matter who gets the recess appointment of President Obama, Republicans have made it clear they’ll scream and holler. This reflects a sorry state in our politics — but it’s also a historic opportunity to recess appoint Elizabeth Warren, who’s already shown as acting director of the CFPB that she’s a true champion for working families,” Trumka wrote in the email. “Urge President Obama to recess appoint Elizabeth Warren — who will truly stand up for consumers.”

At the moment, Warren is a special adviser to the bureau, which was created by the Dodd-Frank financial services reform bill that passed last year. Warren, seen as a liberal champion who has been tough on Wall Street, has come under heavy criticism from Republican lawmakers.

Last month, 44 GOP senators said they would filibuster any nominee to head up the agency unless changes were made to the bureau. That has been countered by a letter from 89 House Democrats sent to Obama last week calling for a recess appointment of Warren as head of the bureau.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mitt Romney announced 2012 bid

Good luck Willard, you are going to need it.

LINK

As Mitt Romney makes it official, it appears to be all about the economy and about New Hampshire. But the man who many considered the early front-runner in the race for the GOP presidential nomination will have to share the spotlight on the day he officially jumps in the race.

The former Massachusetts governor and 2008 Republican presidential candidate will formally announce his second bid for the White House, declaring his candidacy at an event Thursday in New Hampshire, the state that holds the first primary in the presidential caucus and primary calendar.

Romney will sharply criticize President Barack Obama over the state of the economy, saying "Barack Obama has failed America."

According to excerpts of his speech released in advance by his campaign, Romney will attack Obama for expanding the role of the federal government, adding, "we are only inches away from ceasing to be a free market economy. I will cap federal spending at 20 percent or less of the GDP and finally, finally balance the budget."

Charlie Bass vs. Medicare

GOP Can’t Handle The Truth: Taxes Are Lower Under Obama Than Reagan

The Reagan mythology has a long reach.

LINK

President Obama met with House Republicans today at the White House to discuss ways to move forward on negotiations regarding the nation’s debt ceiling and the budget. During the discussion, talk evidently turned to taxes, and when Obama noted that taxes today are lower than they were under President Reagan, the GOP, according to The Hill, “engaged in a lot of ‘eye-rolling’“:

Republicans attending a White House meeting on Wednesday didn’t take kindly to President Obama telling them tax rates were higher during the Reagan administration. GOP members engaged in a lot of “eye-rolling,” according to a member who was on hand to hear Obama, who invited House Republicans to the White House for discussions on the debt ceiling. [...]

“[The President] made a comment like the tax rate is the lightest, even more than (under former President) Reagan,” Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) told The Hill following the meeting. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) joked that during the meeting, “We learned we had the lowest tax rates in history … lower than Reagan!”

That House Republicans find this preposterous is symptomatic of the hold Reagan mythology has over them. After all, for seven of Reagan’s eight years in office, the top tax rate was higher than the current 35 percent. In six of those years, it was 50 percent or more. And every year that Regan was in office, the bottom tax bracket was higher than the current ten percent.

For a family of four, the “average income tax rate under Reagan in 1983 was 11.06 percent. Under Clinton in 1992, it was 9.18 percent. And under Obama in 2010, it was 4.68 percent.” During Reagan’s time, income tax revenue ranged from 7.8 to 9.4 percent of GDP. Last year, it was 6.2 percent and is not projected to climb back to 9 percent until 2016. In fact, in 2009, Americans paid their lowest taxes in 60 years.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Attorney General Holder orders more episodes of the “The Wire”, or a movie

Yes please!!!!

LINK

Sometimes government officials draw fire for potentially overstepping their authority — but Attorney General Eric Holder will probably get some praise for ordering the writers of the critically-acclaimed television series HBO “The Wire” to come up with more episodes or a movie.

The gritty fictional series, which ran five seasons on HBO, showed the raw side of Baltimore as it endured hundreds of murders annually and a rampant drug scene. The show focused on the cash-strapped city police trying to root out crime as well as the drug dealers fighting for turf, using children to run their corners and the related effects on the city.

On Tuesday three of the actors, Wendell Pierce (“Bunk”), Sonja Sohn (“Kima”) and Jim True-Frost (“Prez”), dropped by the Justice Department to join Holder in trying to draw attention to the issue of protecting children from drug abuse and exploitation.

But Holder could not resist a plea — well really an order — to the writers David Simon and Ed Burns for more.

“I want to speak directly to Mr. Burns and Mr. Simon: Do another season of ‘The Wire’,” Holder said, drawing laughter and applause from the audience. “That’s actually at a minimum. … If you don’t do a season, do a movie. We’ve done HBO movies, this is a series that deserves a movie. I want another season or I want a movie. I have a lot of power Mr. Burns and Mr. Simon.”

Wendell “Bunk” Pierce, who is now on the latest HBO hit “Treme”, chimed in with a “hear hear.”

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The 5 Senators who voted against Ryan's destruction of medicare

So glad my Senator Scott Brown voted against it!

LINK

One of the dissident Republicans was Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who objects that Ryan's plan — which would not balance the budget for decades — is not a serious response to fiscal challenges facing the country.

The other four Republican "no" votes — Mainers Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, Massachusetts' Scott Brown and Alaska's Lisa Murkowski — came from comparably more moderate members, who based their objections on Ryan's assault on Medicare, among other concerns.

Dick Cheney: ‘I Worship The Ground Paul Ryan Walks On’

This says all I need to know about Paul Ryan.

LINK

Former Vice President Dick Cheney gave the afternoon keynote address at the KPMG Global Energy Institute conference in Houston yesterday. While his remarks were focused on energy and the oil markets, Cheney also opined on other popular current events. During the question-and-answer period, Cheney gave a ringing endorsement of embattled Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), author of the Republican Medicare-killing budget:

“I worship the ground the Paul Ryan walks on,” he said referring to the Republican congressman from Wisconsin. “I hope he doesn’t run for president because that would ruin a good man who has a lot of work to do.”

Cheney reserved a presidential endorsement only because he thought Ryan should focus on selling his budget. While Ryan has won over almost every single Republican member of Congress and received a warm welcome from the Koch brothers, Cheney’s endorsement may cool the burn Ryan felt after voters resoundingly rejected the GOP nominee in New York’s special election on Tuesday, an election widely viewed as a referendum on Ryan’s plan.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

‘Heckuva Job’ Brownie Criticizes Obama For ‘Toasting The Queen’ During Tornadoes

Unbelievable. I thought this was an Onion headline at first...

LINK

After violent storms slammed three mid-western states and claimed 14 lives yesterday, President Obama announced he would be returning from his long-planned European trip to visit Missouri on Sunday. But that wasn’t good enough for Michael Brown, the FEMA director during Hurricane Katrina who is widely blamed for the Bush administration’s incompetent handling of the crisis that left tens of thousands of New Orleans residents stranded and helpless.

Brown, whose prior experience included working for the International Arabian Horse Association, resigned in disgrace amid a public uproar when it came to light that he had virtually no experience in disaster response — but only after President Bush famously patted him on the back in front of TV cameras, telling him, ”Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job.” At least 1,836 people died as a result of the worst natural disaster in modern American history, many because FEMA help did not come quickly enough. As the nation reeled at images of the devastation, Brown tried to blame the victims themselves “by noting that the crisis was worsened by New Orleans residents who did not comply with a mandatory evacuation order.”

Yet Brown evidently thinks he has the moral authority to condemn Obama’s handling of the tornado disaster. In an interview with Fox New’s Neil Cavuto, Brown blasted Obama for “playing ping-pong” while people died and “being more concerned with toasting the Queen” than taking care of tornado victims:

BROWN: In this situation, they’re almost tone-deaf. I mean, you stop and think about it, your press office should be recognizing that the visuals that Americans are seeing is of this devastation. Don’t put a visual of the president up playing ping-pong. It’s awful.

CAVUTO: So you don’t have a problem with the president being abroad with the Queen and the Irish prime minster just doing fun stuff?

BROWN: No, I do have a problem with that. It’s not like he’s at a G8 summit. This is not a diplomatic trip of any sort. This is just a — he went to Ireland for God’s sake to visit relatives! It’s time to come home…in this case, the perception is that the president is detached. He’s more concerned about raising a toast to the Queen. People have died.

Rush Limbaugh's Ratings Have Fallen 30% In The Last Six Months

Good! Pretty hard to feel bad for the Vulgar Pig Boy. I hope they continue to go down, maybe America has finally woken up that it's all bullshit what he's spewing.

LINK

The just-released Arbitron report reveals that a lot less people are listening to right-wing talk radio.

With a lull in ratings since November, Rush Limbaugh had a 3.0 share of listeners for his radio time slot, which is a 33% slide from October and from last April, reports Crain's Business.

Meanwhile, The Sean Hannity Show was reported to be down 28% from its peak numbers in the fall.

Interestingly, numbers for Don Imus' Imus in the Morning were said to be up year over year.

Premiere Radio Networks, which syndicates the shows, tells Crains they are not worried: Limbaugh and Hannity “continue to be No. 1 and No. 2."

Cantor Says Congress Won’t Pay For Missouri Disaster Relief Unless Spending Is Cut Elsewhere

Completely outrageous, this man deserves to be thrown from office.

LINK

Firefighters and rescue workers who arrived in Joplin, MO, found that the deadly tornado that hit the state Sunday had left a “barren, smoky wasteland” in its path. Rescue workers worked through more storms in an effort to find potential survivors, even as the death toll rose to at least 119. President Obama pledged full support to the state Monday, telling survivors, “We’re here with you. We’re going to stay by you.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), however, said that before Congress approved federal funds for disaster relief, it had to offset the spending with cuts to other programs. The Washington Times reports:

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Monday that if Congress passes an emergency spending bill to help Missouri’s tornado victims, the extra money will have to be cut from somewhere else.

“If there is support for a supplemental, it would be accompanied by support for having pay-fors to that supplemental,” Mr. Cantor, Virginia Republican, told reporters at the Capitol. The term “pay-fors” is used by lawmakers to signal cuts or tax increases used to pay for new spending.

Democrat takes GOP House seat in New York

Americans have realized that the GOP is not here to "save" Medicare, they are here to destroy it. And they are overwhelmingly rejecting the Ryan plan. Go Democrats!!!

LINK

In a special House election carefully watched by national political strategists, Democrat Kathy Hochul won what had been a Republican seat Tuesday in upstate New York, lifting Democrats’ hopes for the 2012 campaign.

As her campaign’s centerpiece, Hochul attacked changes in the Medicare program proposed by House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan.

“I will fight any plan that tries to decimate Medicare — that is something people in this district feel passionately about and I do as well,” Hochul said in a debate last week with Republican opponent Jane Corwin, who supported the Ryan budget plan.

Hochul captured 47 percent of the vote, Corwin 43 percent. Also on the ballot was a Democrat-turned-Tea Party candidate, Jack Davis, who took 9 percent.

Celebrating victory, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Rep. Steve Israel said, "Even in one of the most Republican districts, seniors and independent voters rejected the Republican plan to end Medicare."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Crysler pays off loans from the US

President Obama proves the naysayers wrong once again!

Chrysler Announces Loan Repayment, Another Payoff of President Obama’s Investment

In a wire transfer this morning, the Chrysler Group paid back $7.5 billion in government loans it received from the U.S. and Canadian governments.

It’s a success story few expected. In 2008, the auto industry was on the brink of collapse and the jobs of thousands of Americans were at stake. President Obama chose an alternate outcome, directing the federal government to back the loans that gave America’s car companies the lifeline they needed.

In the time since, those automakers have reinvented their companies and turned the industry around.

As Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne put it yesterday, “Tomorrow is payoff day." The Detroit News reports:

More Solid Proof That Obamacare Is Working

This is what supporters have been saying all along, just give it time to work!

LINK

Recent data provided by the nation’s largest health insurance companies reveals that a provision of the Affordable Care Act – or Obamacare – is bringing big numbers of the uninsured into the health care insurance system.

And they are precisely the uninsured that we want– the young people who tend not to get sick.

The provision of the law that permits young adults under 26, long the largest uninsured demographic in the country, to remain on their parents’ health insurance program resulted in at least 600,000 newly insured Americans during the first quarter of 2011.

Wellpoint, the nation’s largest publicly traded health insurer with some 34 million customers, reports adding 280,000 new members in the first three months of 2011.

Add in the results of some of the other large health insurers including Aetna, who added just short of 100,000 newly insured to their customer base, Kaiser Permanente’s additional 90,000, and Highmark’s 72,000 new customers, and we begin to sense our health insurance pools are filling up with some badly needed young blood.

Monday, May 23, 2011

ObamaCare vs. RomneyCare

What's the difference between ObamaCare and RomneyCare? RomneyCare covers abortions.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

"Don't Steal From Medicare to Support Socialized Medicine"

BREAKING: Senator Scott Brown to vote against Ryan Budget!

Good! He's up for election again next year and must realize that in order to be elected again in Mass. he can't vote like a Tea Bagger.

Scott Brown a 'no' on Ryan budget


GOP Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.) said Monday he won't support Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) budget when it comes up for a vote in the Senate.

Brown, a centrist who is running for reelection in 2012, said that Ryan's plan helped jumpstart a necessary debate, but that Ryan's Medicare reforms go too far.


"While I applaud Ryan for getting the conversation started, I cannot support his specific plan — and therefore will vote 'no' on his budget," he wrote in a Politico op-ed.

"Our country is on an unsustainable fiscal path," he added. "But I do not think it requires us to change Medicare as we know it. We can work inside of Medicare to make it more solvent."

Brown follows centrist GOP Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), who announced last month she will not vote for the plan.

Friday, May 20, 2011

What do you call a Tea Party where no one shows up?


Here is South Carolina Republican Governor Nikki Haley speaking at a Tea Party no one bothered to show up for. Rachel Maddow has the details.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Breaking: Patriot Act to be extended 4 years!

LINK

CNN has learned that Congressional leaders have agreed on a tentative deal that would extend the Patriot Act for four years.
The deal to extend the expiring law was sealed today by Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to senior Democratic and Republican sources.
The move would largely take the issue off the table for the next election by extending the law well beyond November 2012.

Um, this doesn't take the issue off the table for 2012. What about those of us who have opposed it since the beginning? What about President Obama's campaign promise to include oversight in the Patriot Act? This has been a black eye for the country and needs to go away, not 4 more years!

Obama Backs Deal Based on 1967 Lines

LINK

Seeking to harness the seismic political change still unfolding in the Arab world, President Obama for the first time on Thursday publicly called for a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would create a non-militarized Palestinian state on the basis of Israel’s borders before the 1967 war that led to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

“At a time when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are casting off the burdens of the past, the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent that ever,” he said.

Although Mr. Obama said that “the core issues” dividing Israelis and Palestinians remained to be negotiated, including the searing questions of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees, he spoke with striking frustration that efforts to support an agreement had so far failed. “The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome,” he said.

The outline for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement came in what the president called “a moment of opportunity” after six months of political upheaval that has at times left the administration scrambling to keep up. The speech was an attempt to articulate a cohesive American policy to an Arab Spring that took a dark turn as the euphoria of popular revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt gave way to violent crackdowns in Bahrain and Syria, a civil war in Libya and political stalemate in Yemen.

Who increased the US Debt?

Here's a hint, it wasn't President Obama...

Text Of President Obama’s Speech On The Middle East

From Oliver Willis:

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery

“A Moment of Opportunity”

U.S. Department of State

May 19, 2011

As Prepared for Delivery –

I want to thank Hillary Clinton, who has traveled so much these last six months that she is approaching a new landmark – one million frequent flyer miles. I count on Hillary every day, and I believe that she will go down as of the finest Secretaries of State in our nation’s history.


The State Department is a fitting venue to mark a new chapter in American diplomacy. For six months, we have witnessed an extraordinary change take place in the Middle East and North Africa. Square by square; town by town; country by country; the people have risen up to demand their basic human rights. Two leaders have stepped aside. More may follow. And though these countries may be a great distance from our shores, we know that our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics and security; history and faith.

Today, I would like to talk about this change – the forces that are driving it, and how we can respond in a way that advances our values and strengthens our security. Already, we have done much to shift our foreign policy following a decade defined by two costly conflicts. After years of war in Iraq, we have removed 100,000 American troops and ended our combat mission there. In Afghanistan, we have broken the Taliban’s momentum, and this July we will begin to bring our troops home and continue transition to Afghan lead. And after years of war against al Qaeda and its affiliates, we have dealt al Qaeda a huge blow by killing its leader – Osama bin Laden.

Bin Laden was no martyr. He was a mass murderer who offered a message of hate – an insistence that Muslims had to take up arms against the West, and that violence against men, women and children was the only path to change. He rejected democracy and individual rights for Muslims in favor of violent extremism; his agenda focused on what he could destroy – not what he could build.

Bin Laden and his murderous vision won some adherents. But even before his death, al Qaeda was losing its struggle for relevance, as the overwhelming majority of people saw that the slaughter of innocents did not answer their cries for a better life. By the time we found bin Laden, al Qaeda’s agenda had come to be seen by the vast majority of the region as a dead end, and the people of the Middle East and North Africa had taken their future into their own hands.

That story of self-determination began six months ago in Tunisia. On December 17, a young vendor named Mohammed Bouazizi was devastated when a police officer confiscated his cart. This was not unique. It is the same kind of humiliation that takes place every day in many parts of the world – the relentless tyranny of governments that deny their citizens dignity. Only this time, something different happened. After local officials refused to hear his complaint, this young man who had never been particularly active in politics went to the headquarters of the provincial government, doused himself in fuel, and lit himself on fire.

Sometimes, in the course of history, the actions of ordinary citizens spark movements for change because they speak to a longing for freedom that has built up for years. In America, think of the defiance of those patriots in Boston who refused to pay taxes to a King, or the dignity of Rosa Parks as she sat courageously in her seat. So it was in Tunisia, as that vendor’s act of desperation tapped into the frustration felt throughout the country. Hundreds of protesters took to the streets, then thousands. And in the face of batons and sometimes bullets, they refused to go home – day after day, week after week, until a dictator of more than two decades finally left power.

The story of this Revolution, and the ones that followed, should not have come as a surprise. The nations of the Middle East and North Africa won their independence long ago, but in too many places their people did not. In too many countries, power has been concentrated in the hands of the few. In too many countries, a citizen like that young vendor had nowhere to turn – no honest judiciary to hear his case; no independent media to give him voice; no credible political party to represent his views; no free and fair election where he could choose his leader.

This lack of self determination – the chance to make of your life what you will – has applied to the region’s economy as well. Yes, some nations are blessed with wealth in oil and gas, and that has led to pockets of prosperity. But in a global economy based on knowledge and innovation, no development strategy can be based solely upon what comes out of the ground. Nor can people reach their potential when you cannot start a business without paying a bribe.

In the face of these challenges, too many leaders in the region tried to direct their people’s grievances elsewhere. The West was blamed as the source of all ills, a half century after the end of colonialism. Antagonism toward Israel became the only acceptable outlet for political expression. Divisions of tribe, ethnicity and religious sect were manipulated as a means of holding on to power, or taking it away from somebody else.

But the events of the past six months show us that strategies of repression and diversion won’t work anymore. Satellite television and the Internet provide a window into the wider world – a world of astonishing progress in places like India, Indonesia and Brazil. Cell phones and social networks allow young people to connect and organize like never before. A new generation has emerged. And their voices tell us that change cannot be denied.

In Cairo, we heard the voice of the young mother who said, “It’s like I can finally breathe fresh air for the first time.”

In Sanaa, we heard the students who chanted, “The night must come to an end.”

In Benghazi, we heard the engineer who said, “Our words are free now. It’s a feeling you can’t explain.”

In Damascus, we heard the young man who said, “After the first yelling, the first shout, you feel dignity.”

Those shouts of human dignity are being heard across the region. And through the moral force of non-violence, the people of the region have achieved more change in six months than terrorists have accomplished in decades.

Of course, change of this magnitude does not come easily. In our day and age – a time of 24 hour news cycles, and constant communication – people expect the transformation of the region to be resolved in a matter of weeks. But it will be years before this story reaches its end. Along the way, there will be good days, and bad days. In some places, change will be swift; in others, gradual. And as we have seen, calls for change may give way to fierce contests for power.

The question before us is what role America will play as this story unfolds. For decades, the United States has pursued a set of core interests in the region: countering terrorism and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons; securing the free flow of commerce, and safe-guarding the security of the region; standing up for Israel’s security and pursuing Arab-Israeli peace.

We will continue to do these things, with the firm belief that America’s interests are not hostile to peoples’ hopes; they are essential to them. We believe that no one benefits from a nuclear arms race in the region, or al Qaeda’s brutal attacks. People everywhere would see their economies crippled by a cut off in energy supplies. As we did in the Gulf War, we will not tolerate aggression across borders, and we will keep our commitments to friends and partners.

Yet we must acknowledge that a strategy based solely upon the narrow pursuit of these interests will not fill an empty stomach or allow someone to speak their mind. Moreover, failure to speak to the broader aspirations of ordinary people will only feed the suspicion that has festered for years that the United States pursues our own interests at their expense. Given that this mistrust runs both ways – as Americans have been seared by hostage taking, violent rhetoric, and terrorist attacks that have killed thousands of our citizens – a failure to change our approach threatens a deepening spiral of division between the United States and Muslim communities.

That’s why, two years ago in Cairo, I began to broaden our engagement based upon mutual interests and mutual respect. I believed then – and I believe now – that we have a stake not just in the stability of nations, but in the self determination of individuals. The status quo is not sustainable. Societies held together by fear and repression may offer the illusion of stability for a time, but they are built upon fault lines that will eventually tear asunder.

So we face an historic opportunity. We have embraced the chance to show that America values the dignity of the street vendor in Tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator. There must be no doubt that the United States of America welcomes change that advances self-determination and opportunity. Yes, there will be perils that accompany this moment of promise. But after decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be.

As we do, we must proceed with a sense of humility. It is not America that put people into the streets of Tunis and Cairo – it was the people themselves who launched these movements, and must determine their outcome. Not every country will follow our particular form of representative democracy, and there will be times when our short term interests do not align perfectly with our long term vision of the region. But we can – and will – speak out for a set of core principles – principles that have guided our response to the events over the past six months:

The United States opposes the use of violence and repression against the people of the region.

We support a set of universal rights. Those rights include free speech; the freedom of peaceful assembly; freedom of religion; equality for men and women under the rule of law; and the right to choose your own leaders – whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus; Sanaa or Tehran.

And finally, we support political and economic reform in the Middle East and North Africa that can meet the legitimate aspirations of ordinary people throughout the region.

Our support for these principles is not a secondary interest– today I am making it clear that it is a top priority that must be translated into concrete actions, and supported by all of the diplomatic, economic and strategic tools at our disposal.

Let me be specific. First, it will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region, and to support transitions to democracy.

That effort begins in Egypt and Tunisia, where the stakes are high –as Tunisia was at the vanguard of this democratic wave, and Egypt is both a longstanding partner and the Arab World’s largest nation. Both nations can set a strong example through free and fair elections; a vibrant civil society; accountable and effective democratic institutions; and responsible regional leadership. But our support must also extend to nations where transitions have yet to take place.

Unfortunately, in too many countries, calls for change have been answered by violence. The most extreme example is Libya, where Moammar Gaddafi launched a war against his people, promising to hunt them down like rats. As I said when the United States joined an international coalition to intervene, we cannot prevent every injustice perpetrated by a regime against its people, and we have learned from our experience in Iraq just how costly and difficult it is to impose regime change by force – no matter how well-intended it may be.

But in Libya, we saw the prospect of imminent massacre, had a mandate for action, and heard the Libyan people’s call for help. Had we not acted along with our NATO allies and regional coalition partners, thousands would have been killed. The message would have been clear: keep power by killing as many people as it takes. Now, time is working against Gaddafi. He does not have control over his country. The opposition has organized a legitimate and credible Interim Council. And when Gaddafi inevitably leaves or is forced from power, decades of provocation will come to an end, and the transition to a democratic Libya can proceed.

While Libya has faced violence on the greatest scale, it is not the only place where leaders have turned to repression to remain in power. Most recently, the Syrian regime has chosen the path of murder and the mass arrests of its citizens. The United States has condemned these actions, and working with the international community we have stepped up our sanctions on the Syrian regime – including sanctions announced yesterday on President Assad and those around him.

The Syrian people have shown their courage in demanding a transition to democracy. President Assad now has a choice: he can lead that transition, or get out of the way. The Syrian government must stop shooting demonstrators and allow peaceful protests; release political prisoners and stop unjust arrests; allow human rights monitors to have access to cities like Dara’a; and start a serious dialogue to advance a democratic transition. Otherwise, President Assad and his regime will continue to be challenged from within and isolated abroad

Thus far, Syria has followed its Iranian ally, seeking assistance from Tehran in the tactics of suppression. This speaks to the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime, which says it stand for the rights of protesters abroad, yet suppresses its people at home. Let us remember that the first peaceful protests were in the streets of Tehran, where the government brutalized women and men, and threw innocent people into jail. We still hear the chants echo from the rooftops of Tehran. The image of a young woman dying in the streets is still seared in our memory. And we will continue to insist that the Iranian people deserve their universal rights, and a government that does not smother their aspirations.

Our opposition to Iran’s intolerance – as well as its illicit nuclear program, and its sponsorship of terror – is well known. But if America is to be credible, we must acknowledge that our friends in the region have not all reacted to the demands for change consistent with the principles that I have outlined today. That is true in Yemen, where President Saleh needs to follow through on his commitment to transfer power. And that is true, today, in Bahrain.

Bahrain is a long-standing partner, and we are committed to its security. We recognize that Iran has tried to take advantage of the turmoil there, and that the Bahraini government has a legitimate interest in the rule of law. Nevertheless, we have insisted publically and privately that mass arrests and brute force are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain’s citizens, and will not make legitimate calls for reform go away. The only way forward is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue, and you can’t have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail. The government must create the conditions for dialogue, and the opposition must participate to forge a just future for all Bahrainis.

Indeed, one of the broader lessons to be drawn from this period is that sectarian divides need not lead to conflict. In Iraq, we see the promise of a multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian democracy. There, the Iraqi people have rejected the perils of political violence for a democratic process, even as they have taken full responsibility for their own security. Like all new democracies, they will face setbacks. But Iraq is poised to play a key role in the region if it continues its peaceful progress. As they do, we will be proud to stand with them as a steadfast partner.

So in the months ahead, America must use all our influence to encourage reform in the region. Even as we acknowledge that each country is different, we will need to speak honestly about the principles that we believe in, with friend and foe alike. Our message is simple: if you take the risks that reform entails, you will have the full support of the United States. We must also build on our efforts to broaden our engagement beyond elites, so that we reach the people who will shape the future – particularly young people.

We will continue to make good on the commitments that I made in Cairo – to build networks of entrepreneurs, and expand exchanges in education; to foster cooperation in science and technology, and combat disease. Across the region, we intend to provide assistance to civil society, including those that may not be officially sanctioned, and who speak uncomfortable truths. And we will use the technology to connect with – and listen to – the voices of the people.

In fact, real reform will not come at the ballot box alone. Through our efforts we must support those basic rights to speak your mind and access information. We will support open access to the Internet, and the right of journalists to be heard – whether it’s a big news organization or a blogger. In the 21st century, information is power; the truth cannot be hidden; and the legitimacy of governments will ultimately depend on active and informed citizens.

Such open discourse is important even if what is said does not square with our worldview. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard, even if we disagree with them. We look forward to working with all who embrace genuine and inclusive democracy. What we will oppose is an attempt by any group to restrict the rights of others, and to hold power through coercion – not consent. Because democracy depends not only on elections, but also strong and accountable institutions, and respect for the rights of minorities.

Such tolerance is particularly important when it comes to religion. In Tahrir Square, we heard Egyptians from all walks of life chant, “Muslims, Christians, we are one.” America will work to see that this spirit prevails – that all faiths are respected, and that bridges are built among them. In a region that was the birthplace of three world religions, intolerance can lead only to suffering and stagnation. And for this season of change to succeed, Coptic Christians must have the right to worship freely in Cairo, just as Shia must never have their mosques destroyed in Bahrain.

What is true for religious minorities is also true when it comes to the rights of women. History shows that countries are more prosperous and peaceful when women are empowered. That is why we will continue to insist that universal rights apply to women as well as men – by focusing assistance on child and maternal health; by helping women to teach, or start a business; by standing up for the right of women to have their voices heard, and to run for office. For the region will never reach its potential when more than half its population is prevented from achieving their potential.

Even as we promote political reform and human rights in the region, our efforts cannot stop there. So the second way that we must support positive change in the region is through our efforts to advance economic development for nations that transition to democracy.

After all, politics alone has not put protesters into the streets. The tipping point for so many people is the more constant concern of putting food on the table and providing for a family. Too many in the region wake up with few expectations other than making it through the day, and perhaps the hope that their luck will change. Throughout the region, many young people have a solid education, but closed economies leave them unable to find a job. Entrepreneurs are brimming with ideas, but corruption leaves them unable to profit from them.

The greatest untapped resource in the Middle East and North Africa is the talent of its people. In the recent protests, we see that talent on display, as people harness technology to move the world. It’s no coincidence that one of the leaders of Tahrir Square was an executive for Google. That energy now needs to be channeled, in country after country, so that economic growth can solidify the accomplishments of the street. Just as democratic revolutions can be triggered by a lack of individual opportunity, successful democratic transitions depend upon an expansion of growth and broad-based prosperity.

Drawing from what we’ve learned around the world, we think it’s important to focus on trade, not just aid; and investment, not just assistance. The goal must be a model in which protectionism gives way to openness; the reigns of commerce pass from the few to the many, and the economy generates jobs for the young. America’s support for democracy will therefore be based on ensuring financial stability; promoting reform; and integrating competitive markets with each other and the global economy – starting with Tunisia and Egypt.

First, we have asked the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to present a plan at next week’s G-8 summit for what needs to be done to stabilize and modernize the economies of Tunisia and Egypt. Together, we must help them recover from the disruption of their democratic upheaval, and support the governments that will be elected later this year. And we are urging other countries to help Egypt and Tunisia meet its near-term financial needs.

Second, we do not want a democratic Egypt to be saddled by the debts of its past. So we will relieve a democratic Egypt of up to $1 billion in debt, and work with our Egyptian partners to invest these resources to foster growth and entrepreneurship. We will help Egypt regain access to markets by guaranteeing $1 billion in borrowing that is needed to finance infrastructure and job creation. And we will help newly democratic governments recover assets that were stolen.

Third, we are working with Congress to create Enterprise Funds to invest in Tunisia and Egypt. These will be modeled on funds that supported the transitions in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. OPIC will soon launch a $2 billion facility to support private investment across the region. And we will work with allies to refocus the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development so that it provides the same support for democratic transitions and economic modernization in the Middle East and North Africa as it has in Europe.

Fourth, the United States will launch a comprehensive Trade and Investment Partnership Initiative in the Middle East and North Africa. If you take out oil exports, this region of over 400 million people exports roughly the same amount as Switzerland. So we will work with the EU to facilitate more trade within the region, build on existing agreements to promote integration with U.S. and European markets, and open the door for those countries who adopt high standards of reform and trade liberalization to construct a regional trade arrangement. Just as EU membership served as an incentive for reform in Europe, so should the vision of a modern and prosperous economy create a powerful force for reform in the Middle East and North Africa.

Prosperity also requires tearing down walls that stand in the way of progress – the corruption of elites who steal from their people; the red tape that stops an idea from becoming a business; the patronage that distributes wealth based on tribe or sect. We will help governments meet international obligations, and invest efforts anti-corruption; by working with parliamentarians who are developing reforms, and activists who use technology to hold government accountable.

Let me conclude by talking about another cornerstone of our approach to the region, and that relates to the pursuit of peace.

For decades, the conflict between Israelis and Arabs has cast a shadow over the region. For Israelis, it has meant living with the fear that their children could get blown up on a bus or by rockets fired at their homes, as well as the pain of knowing that other children in the region are taught to hate them. For Palestinians, it has meant suffering the humiliation of occupation, and never living in a nation of their own. Moreover, this conflict has come with a larger cost the Middle East, as it impedes partnerships that could bring greater security, prosperity, and empowerment to ordinary people.

My Administration has worked with the parties and the international community for over two years to end this conflict, yet expectations have gone unmet. Israeli settlement activity continues. Palestinians have walked away from talks. The world looks at a conflict that has grinded on for decades, and sees a stalemate. Indeed, there are those who argue that with all the change and uncertainty in the region, it is simply not possible to move forward.

I disagree. At a time when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are casting off the burdens of the past, the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent than ever.

For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.

As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values. Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums. But precisely because of our friendship, it is important that we tell the truth: the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.

The fact is, a growing number of Palestinians live west of the Jordan River. Technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself. A region undergoing profound change will lead to populism in which millions of people – not just a few leaders – must believe peace is possible. The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome. The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation.

Ultimately, it is up to Israelis and Palestinians to take action. No peace can be imposed upon them, nor can endless delay make the problem go away. But what America and the international community can do is state frankly what everyone knows: a lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples. Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people; each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.

So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, and a secure Israel. The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.

As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself – by itself – against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism; to stop the infiltration of weapons; and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. The duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.

These principles provide a foundation for negotiations. Palestinians should know the territorial outlines of their state; Israelis should know that their basic security concerns will be met. I know that these steps alone will not resolve this conflict. Two wrenching and emotional issues remain: the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees. But moving forward now on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation to resolve those two issues in a way that is just and fair, and that respects the rights and aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians.

Recognizing that negotiations need to begin with the issues of territory and security does not mean that it will be easy to come back to the table. In particular, the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel – how can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist. In the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question. Meanwhile, the United States, our Quartet partners, and the Arab states will need to continue every effort to get beyond the current impasse.

I recognize how hard this will be. Suspicion and hostility has been passed on for generations, and at times it has hardened. But I’m convinced that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians would rather look to the future than be trapped in the past. We see that spirit in the Israeli father whose son was killed by Hamas, who helped start an organization that brought together Israelis and Palestinians who had lost loved ones. He said, “I gradually realized that the only hope for progress was to recognize the face of the conflict.” And we see it in the actions of a Palestinian who lost three daughters to Israeli shells in Gaza. “I have the right to feel angry,” he said. “So many people were expecting me to hate. My answer to them is I shall not hate…Let us hope,” he said, “for tomorrow”

That is the choice that must be made – not simply in this conflict, but across the entire region – a choice between hate and hope; between the shackles of the past, and the promise of the future. It’s a choice that must be made by leaders and by people, and it’s a choice that will define the future of a region that served as the cradle of civilization and a crucible of strife.

For all the challenges that lie ahead, we see many reasons to be hopeful. In Egypt, we see it in the efforts of young people who led protests. In Syria, we see it in the courage of those who brave bullets while chanting, ‘peaceful,’ ‘peaceful.’ In Benghazi, a city threatened with destruction, we see it in the courthouse square where people gather to celebrate the freedoms that they had never known. Across the region, those rights that we take for granted are being claimed with joy by those who are prying lose the grip of an iron fist.

For the American people, the scenes of upheaval in the region may be unsettling, but the forces driving it are not unfamiliar. Our own nation was founded through a rebellion against an empire. Our people fought a painful civil war that extended freedom and dignity to those who were enslaved. And I would not be standing here today unless past generations turned to the moral force of non-violence as a way to perfect our union – organizing, marching, and protesting peacefully together to make real those words that declared our nation: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.”

Those words must guide our response to the change that is transforming the Middle East and North Africa – words which tell us that repression will fail, that tyrants will fall, and that every man and woman is endowed with certain inalienable rights. It will not be easy. There is no straight line to progress, and hardship always accompanies a season of hope. But the United States of America was founded on the belief that people should govern themselves. Now, we cannot hesitate to stand squarely on the side of those who are reaching for their rights, knowing that their success will bring about a world that is more peaceful, more stable, and more just.

Afghanistan: Then & Now

How Dare You?!?!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Obama Campaign Selling Official Birth Certificate Shirts

Too funny!

Meghan McCain, Cindy McCain Fire Back At Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck hasn't a clue. The only thing that would be vomit inducing is him fully clothed! Meghan McCain is very sexy.



LINK



ORIGINAL STORY: Cindy McCain lashed out at Glenn Beck after he mimed vomiting over her daughter Meghan's recent skin cancer PSA.



McCain was only one of the women featured in the ad, which compared not wearing sunscreen to being naked, and which showed McCain seemingly naked.



On Beck's Wednesday show, he and his co-hosts spent over eight minutes mocking McCain. Beck pretended to vomit repeatedly (with detailed sound effects) while looking at McCain's ad or even hearing her name.



"Put some extra clothes on," he said. "Like, lots of extra clothes...has she thought about a burqa, just to be extra safe?"



UPDATE: Meghan McCain also weighed in on Glenn Beck's mockery of her in a Thursday column for the Daily Beast.



"Clearly you have a problem with me, and possibly women in general, but the truth is, it’s 2011 and I heard your show on Fox was canceled," McCain wrote. "Isn’t that an indication that the era of the shock jock pundit is over?...There really is no need to make something like my participation in a skin cancer PSA into a sexist rant about my weight and physical appearance, because I’m going to let you in on a little secret, Glenn: you are the only one who looks bad in this scenario, and at the end of the day you have helped me generate publicity for my skin cancer PSA, a cause that I feel quite passionate about."

John Stewart pwns Bill O'Reilly

And of course, Fox News edited this video for their morning show, and removed Jon's criticism of Fox News, so lame.

Friday, May 13, 2011

John McCain: Torture did NOT lead to Bin Laden

Thank-you Senator.

LINK

But this must be an informed debate. Former attorney general Michael Mukasey recently claimed that “the intelligence that led to bin Laden . . . began with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who broke like a dam under the pressure of harsh interrogation techniques that included waterboarding. He loosed a torrent of information — including eventually the nickname of a trusted courier of bin Laden.” That is false.

I asked CIA Director Leon Panetta for the facts, and he told me the following: The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. The first mention of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — the nickname of the al-Qaeda courier who ultimately led us to bin Laden — as well as a description of him as an important member of al-Qaeda, came from a detainee held in another country, who we believe was not tortured. None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed’s real name, his whereabouts or an accurate description of his role in al-Qaeda.

In fact, the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on Khalid Sheik Mohammed produced false and misleading information. He specifically told his interrogators that Abu Ahmed had moved to Peshawar, got married and ceased his role as an al-Qaeda facilitator — none of which was true. According to the staff of the Senate intelligence committee, the best intelligence gained from a CIA detainee — information describing Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti’s real role in al-Qaeda and his true relationship to bin Laden — was obtained through standard, noncoercive means.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Romney to offer health proposal

Nice try Willard, but you can't run away from your past!

LINK

Mitt Romney, whose emerging candidacy for president has been clouded by GOP doubts over his health care plan in Massachusetts, is planning a bit of political jujitsu tomorrow: taking the biggest perceived negative of his campaign and attempting to turn it into a positive.

The former Massachusetts governor will seek to redefine his candidacy by delivering a major speech outlining his vision for dismantling President Obama’s overhaul and creating a new national model.

Romney is expected to propose tax breaks for consumers buying coverage on the open market; a requirement that insurers cover patients with preexisting conditions; and provisions giving states more power in the health coverage arena.

His advisers say they wanted Romney to deliver this, his first major policy speech, before he announces his formal campaign and begins participating in debates, as a way to blunt the attacks that are sure to come. They also want him to be seen as putting forth ideas on not only a substantive issue, but one that has dogged him for the past year.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Prime Minister Is Defiant as Pakistan Outs C.I.A. Officer

Yet another blow to US/Pakistan relations....

LINK

In apparent retaliation, the ISI appeared to have told a conservative daily newspaper, The Nation, the name of the C.I.A. station chief who is posted at the American Embassy in Islamabad. A misspelled version of the station chief’s name appeared in the Saturday edition of The Nation.

In December, the prior C.I.A. station chief had to leave Pakistan after he was publicly identified in a legal complaint sent to the Pakistani police by the family of victims of the American drone campaign. The station chief received death threats after his identity was exposed. At the time, the Obama administration said it believed that the ISI had deliberately made the name public.

The new station chief was responsible for directing a large part of the operation that killed Bin Laden, including supervision of a C.I.A. safe house from which operatives spied on the compound where Bin Laden lived for five years. There was no expectation that he would leave Pakistan, American officials said.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The cost of bin Laden: $3 trillion over 15 years

Was it worth it?

LINK

The most expensive public enemy in American history died Sunday from two bullets.

As we mark Osama bin Laden's death, what's striking is how much he cost our nation—and how little we've gained from our fight against him. By conservative estimates, bin Laden cost the United States at least $3 trillion over the past 15 years, counting the disruptions he wrought on the domestic economy, the wars and heightened security triggered by the terrorist attacks he engineered, and the direct efforts to hunt him down.

What do we have to show for that tab? Two wars that continue to occupy 150,000 troops and tie up a quarter of our defense budget; a bloated homeland-security apparatus that has at times pushed the bounds of civil liberty; soaring oil prices partially attributable to the global war on bin Laden's terrorist network; and a chunk of our mounting national debt, which threatens to hobble the economy unless lawmakers compromise on an unprecedented deficit-reduction deal.

All of that has not given us, at least not yet, anything close to the social or economic advancements produced by the battles against America's costliest past enemies. Defeating the Confederate army brought the end of slavery and a wave of standardization—in railroad gauges and shoe sizes, for example—that paved the way for a truly national economy. Vanquishing Adolf Hitler ended the Great Depression and ushered in a period of booming prosperity and hegemony. Even the massive military escalation that marked the Cold War standoff against Joseph Stalin and his Russian successors produced landmark technological breakthroughs that revolutionized the economy.

An Honest Birther

Friday, May 6, 2011

Mission Accomplished

Private-sector job market improves, reaches 5-year high

Some good news, the economy addded 268,000 jobs in April, the most in 5 years! We're not out of the woods yet but things are finally looking better.
LINK

In April, the overall economy added 244,000 jobs, but 24,000 Americans working in the public sector left the workforce, as state and local governments continued to cut spending. The private sector, however, added 268,000 jobs, marking the 14th consecutive month of private-sector growth.

More important that the streak, however, is the data. The 268,000 total not only beat expectations, it's a genuinely good number. We're accustomed to dealing with relative encouragement -- results that are only heartening because of the larger, awful context. But a month in which 268,000 private-sector jobs were created is actually quite strong regardless of context.

Osama Bin Laden Dead, Al Qaeda Confirms

Suck it, assholes!

LINK

Al-Qaida on Friday confirmed the killing of Osama bin Laden and warned of retaliation, saying Americans' "happiness will turn to sadness."

The confirmation came in an Internet statement posted on militant websites, signed by "the general leadership" of al-Qaida. The announcement opens the way for the group to name a successor to bin Laden. His deputy Ayman al-Zawahri is now the most prominent figure in the group and is a very likely contender to take his place.

The statement, dated May 3, was the first by the terror network since bin Laden was killed Monday by U.S. commandos in a raid on his hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The statement's authenticity could not be independently confirmed, but it was posted on websites where the group traditionally puts out its messages.

"We stress that the blood of the holy warrior sheik, Osama bin Laden, God bless him, is precious to us and to all Muslims and will no go in vain," the statement said. "We will remain, God willing, a curse chasing the Americans and their agents, following them outside and inside their countries."

"Soon, God willing, their happiness will turn to sadness," it said, "their blood will be mingled with their tears."

In the statement, al-Qaida also called on the people of Pakistan – "where Sheik Osama was killed" – to rise up in revolt against its leaders. It also said that an audio message bin Laden recorded a week before his death would be issued soon.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mission Finally Accomplished

Isn't it so rich that Osama Bin Laden was killed 8 years to the day of Bush's Mission Accomplished debacle? And how petty it was of him to decline President Obama's invitation to join him at ground zero. Some things never change.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

I'll stop calling them Teabaggers....

I'll stop calling them Teabaggers when they stop referring to the Democratic Party as the "Democrat Party".

I'll stop calling them Teabaggers when they stop calling Healthcare Reform "ObamaCare".

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

President Obama Approval Rating Jumps to 57%

Great news, he certainly deserves it!

Bin Laden news gives Obama 11% approval bump

A new CBS News/New York Times poll shows President Obama's overall approval rating has jumped by an impressive 11 percentage points in the wake of the U.S. military mission which killed Osama bin Laden, and there is overwhelming support for how Mr. Obama handled the situation.


But Americans do not feel safer. In fact, the poll shows that six out of every ten Americans believe the threat of terrorism will increase in the U.S. over the next few months as a result of bin Laden's death.

The poll found that 57 percent of Americans generally approve of Mr. Obama in the wake of the raid in Pakistan. Two weeks ago, when bin Laden was still America's most-wanted terrorist, the president's overall approval rating was at 46 percent. A whopping 85 percent of those polled gave Mr. Obama high marks for his handling of the operation to find bin Laden.

It's unclear, however, how long Mr. Obama's rise in the polls will last.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

You didn't get mad when....

From Bartcop:

You didn't get mad when the Supreme Court stopped a legal recount and appointed a President.

You didn't get mad when Cheney allowed Energy company officials to dictate energy Policy.

You didn't get mad when a covert CIA Operative was revealed.

You didn't get mad when the Patriot Act was passed.

You didn't get mad when we illegally invaded Iraq looking for WMD'S that didn't exist.

You didn't get mad when we spent over 600 Billion dollars(and counting) on Iraq War.

You didn't get mad when over 10 billion dollars just disappeared in Iraq.

You didn't get mad when Bush was illegally wiretapping us at home and work.

You didn't get mad when Bush borrowed money to give to the oil companies.

You didn't get mad when Bush failed to catch Bin Laden.

You didn't get mad when you saw the cockroaches at Walter Reed.

You didn't get mad when we let New Orleans drown.

You didn't get mad when Bush got 4,500 soldiers killed.

You didn't get mad when the deficit hit the trillion dollar mark.

You finally got mad when---- Obama decided that people
in America deserved the right to see a doctor if they are sick.

Illegal wars, lies, corruption, torture, giving your tax dollars to super-rich, are all OK with you?
But helping other Americans is the last straw?

Seven presidents have tried to pass a Health Care Plan of some sort and
have failed. None have had the "hate filled" opposition this president has received.