Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Once Again: Obama Is Not A Policy Wonk

Benjamin Kirby comes out against the federal pay freeze. Kirby calls upon President Barack Obama to end the pay freeze.

But there's a time for conciliatory negotiations and there's a time to roll up your sleeves and fight.

Now is the time to fight. Obama has the hope in him. But does he have the fight?

Frankly, I think federal employees deserve a fight -- and they're not going to get it. The every day working people of the federal government -- who make 24 percent less than their counterparts in the private sector -- just got used as a political chit.

Kirby went from urging Obama to fight to throwing in the towel in three paragraphs. Progressives can not even summon up the strength to write posts appealing to Obama's nonexistent champion to the common-man side. Ezra Klein noted that Obama didn't frame the pay freeze with doing away with the Bush tax cuts for the rich, as a way for Obama to say everyone must make sacrifices to pay down the deficit. The Economic Policy Institute has come out against the pay freeze. We have seen on the state level, the economy has added more state government workers to unemployment numbers.

It would be one thing if Obama truly believed the pay freeze was necessary. Obama makes the pay freeze announcement right before a scheduled meeting with Republicans. I read a White House official say the administration wanted to pre-emp Republicans. The two year pay freeze will save $2 billion in 2011. That is small change when the Congressional Budget Office said the deficit is $1.3 trillion for 2010.

Does anyone seriously still believe Obama is a policy wonk? It is bad when Ron Paul calls Obama a corporatist. Obama represents the most stupid aspects of neoliberalism in the past 20 years. Imagine scientists placing Mickey Kaus' political instincts, Harold Ford's love of Wall Street, and Martin Peretz's foreign policy in one person. That person is Barack Obama.

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The Florida Foreclosure Scam

Rolling Stone columnist Matt Taibbi wrote about Jacksonville's "rocket docket" foreclosure court in Jacksonville, Florida. The judges do not read the dockets. The judges are only concerned with going through as many as 25 foreclosure cases in an hour. Obviously, the banks love this court. The retired judges in the rocket docket court do not examine if the homeowner has been swindled in a fraudulent deal.

The foreclosure courts were created by the Republican-controlled Florida legislature. The retired judges staffed to the court are not familiar with current financial and foreclosure laws. The foreclosure hearings were not open to the public. There is a good question on if this honors the spirit of the Florida Sunshine laws. Judge A.C Soud threatened to hold attorney April Charney in contempt for bringing Taibbi into a hearing. First amendment advocates wrote a letter to Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady urging that foreclosure hearings be made public. The Jacksonville foreclosure court was moved to a public courtroom.

The Sarasota Hereld-Tribune reports a David J. Stern law firm did illegal foreclosures.

There, on the foreclosure documents open to everyone, is the evidence that at least one law firm's employees repeatedly broke a state law in a rush to push cases through the courthouse so banks could seize people's homes.

The evidence -- missing signatures and misdated documents that could have not been signed on the dates specified -- can be found on an important document called a "mortgage assignment." The paperwork helps prove a lender has the legal right to seize a property.

This wasn't in the Jacksonville rocket docket court. Taibbi reports the problems are widespread in the Florida foreclosure courts.

Obviously this is not criminal court and the presumption of innocence concept is not in effect. But I don't see a judge simply waving through every stack of bogus foreclosure papers that comes through his courtroom door as meeting any kind of sane evidentiary standard either. The mere fact that a bank is a bank, and a bank's laywer is a bank's laywer, and that both of them together claim that this or that homeowner is in default -- that has no legal meaning whatsoever, as far as I can see.

The judge's point here is that it's not up to him to mount a defense strategy for homeowners in default. But the idea that it is beyond a judge to open a file and simply check to make sure the names and dates are right -- particularly given the widespread coverage of this phenomenon, when we know that virtually 1005 of these securitized mortgages lack proper paperwork and will inevitably involve fraudulent or doctored filings upon foreclosure -- that is appalling.

Foreclosure cases across the state are stalled after David J. Stern has been dropped by it's clients. Stern has laid off so many staff that they don't have attorneys to show up to foreclosure hearings with clients they still have.

"What we're seeing is multiple cases where it's set for hearing with the Stern firm, but they don't send the paperwork like they're suppose to, either to withdraw or for summary judgement (of foreclosure)." said Chief Judge Thomas McGrady. "So we've had court time set aside that they request, but they didn't bother to call us and notify us. They just don't show up."

Something fishy is up. The real David J. Stern lives in a $15 million mansion and could not be reached for comment by the St. Petersburg Times. I would not be surprised if Stern leaves the country before an investigation starts.

Where is Rick Scott and the Republicans in the Florida legislature on this. These people complain about the need to investigate ACORN. Floridians were illegally kicked out of their homes and Republicans are silent. Why aren't the few elected Democrats in Tallahassee making a stink about this.

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Florida Behind on Class Size Reductions

Journalist Gary Fineout tweets this distressing fact.

"(Department of Education) releases data that shows 35 counties and more than 44k classes are not in compliance with final push of class size."

The class size amendment was passed with the votes of Florida citizens in 2002. Florida has had years to prepare itself for the amendment. The anti-class size amendment failed at the polls this year. The voters made it clear that they support class size reduction.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush and the Florida legislature have been attempting to undermine the amendment for years. Republicans in the Florida legislature passed a bill placing the anti class size reduction amendment on the ballot. Florida nationally has ranked near the bottom in K-12 education. The failure to properly implement class size reduction is a good example of why.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Screaming Trees - Troubled Times

I edited the size down so people would not have to watch the incredibly annoying amateur video.

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Who Is Peter Corrigan?

Peter Corrigan has been named to Rick Scott's economic transition team. Corrigan is the president of Florida Family Insurance Company. Attorney Mark Nation blogged about suing and beating Florida Family Insurance Company in court. FFIC refused to pay a sewage claim to Nation's client. FFIC claimed the language of the insurance policy made and "unambiguous exclusion for sewage backups." Nation found that the FFIC made the policy's language ambiguous.

However, based on the language of the policy, I believed that the policy could be read to only exclude sewage backups which originate from a sump. As this was a gravity fed line, there was no sump involved. The court agreed, leaving one very happy condo owner.

Interestingly, upon reviewing the information which Florida Family had previously filed with the Department of Financial Services, Bureau of Rates and Forms, I found that the insurer's policy was a standard ISO policy; however, the insurer had modified this particular part of the policy. By modifying the standard policy, the insurer actually created the ambiguity which led to the confusion. Had the insurance company not modified the standard ISO form, then this loss would have been excluded.

Here is a 2006 video of Corrigan making a request to the Florida government to raise property insurance prices. Corrigan's rate increase request was for 14.1 percent. Representatives from the Office of Insurance Regulation had problems with FFIC not having reinsurance cost numbers to justify the rate increases. FFIC had discrepancies in their numbers.

Fun fact: FFIC was asked the cost discrepancy between the managing general agent compeensation at 18 percent. However, commissions are 19.9 percent. Corrigan did not have an answer for the difference. Go to 32:16 of the video and see for yourself.

Related: Who Is Timothy Kuebler?

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Who Is Timothy Kuebler?

Florida Governor-elect Rick Scott named his economic transition team. An interesting name on the list is Timothy Kuebler, the Senior Vice President, Titan Florida Cement and Aggregate. Before Kuebler was pouring foundations in Florida, he was part of the management team of Builder's Concrete and Supply Co. Kuebler's profile on the Titan Florida Cement web site confirms this.

Builder's Concrete and Supply Co. was one of five concrete companies in Indiana that was caught in a price fixing scheme. The federal government prosecuted the executives of these companies.

1. For purposes of this Plea Agreement, the "Relevant Period" is that period from in or about July, 2000 and continuing until May 25, 2004. During the Relevant Period, the defendant was a corporation organized and existing under the laws of Indiana with its principal place of business in Fishers, Indiana. During the Relevant Period, the defendant was a producer of ready mixed concrete and was engaged in the sale of ready mixed concrete in the Indianapolis, Indiana metropolitan area and elsewhere. Ready mixed concrete is a product whose ingredients include cement, aggregate (sand and gravel), water, and, at times, other additives. Ready mixed concrete is made on demand and, if necessary, is shipped to work sites by concrete mixer trucks.

2. During the Relevant Period, the defendant, through some of its officers and employees, including high-ranking personnel of the defendant, participated in a conspiracy with other persons and entities engaged in the production and sale of ready mixed concrete, the primary purpose of which was to fix the price of ready mixed concrete sold in the Indianapolis, Indiana metropolitan area. In furtherance of the conspiracy, the defendant, through its officers and employees, engaged in conversations and attended meetings with representatives of other ready mixed concrete producers in the Indianapolis, Indiana metropolitan area. During those meetings and conversations, the defendant and its co-conspirators reached agreements to fix the price at which ready mixed concrete was to be sold in the Indianapolis, Indiana metropolitan area.

3. During the course of the conspiracy, the defendant's President on at least two occasions hosted meetings among the conspirators at which prices, discounts, and conditions of sale for the metropolitan Indianapolis, Indiana area were discussed and agreed upon by the defendant and its coconspirators. Those meetings were held in a horse barn located adjacent to the defendant's President's home on property he owns in Fishers, Indiana. The defendant's President also made numerous telephone calls and participated in several meetings among smaller numbers of individuals to ensure the compliance of his coconspirators with the conspiracy agreements. In addition to the defendant and its President, more than five individuals associated with the defendant's corporate coconspirators participated in the conspiracy on behalf of the companies they owned or by which they were employed.

4. During the Relevant Period, the corporate conspirators purchased substantial quantities of equipment and supplies from outside Indiana which were necessary to the production and distribution of ready mixed concrete. During the Relevant Period, the business activities of the corporate conspirators who produced and sold ready mixed concrete affected by this conspiracy were within the flow of, or substantially affected, interstate trade and commerce. Below are the facts of the case listed in the Justice Department plea agreement.

5. Acts in furtherance of this conspiracy, including the conspiratorial meetings and conversations described above, were carried out within the Southern District of Indiana. In addition, sales of ready mixed concrete affected by this conspiracy were made by one or more of the conspirators to customers within the Southern District of Indiana.

Kuebler is named in the plea agreement.

13. The defendant will cooperate fully and truthfully with the United States in the prosecution of this case, the conduct of the current federal investigation of violations of federal antitrust and related criminal laws involving the manufacture and sale of ready mixed concrete, any other federal investigation resulting therefrom, and any litigation or other proceedings arising or resulting from any such investigation to which the United States is a party ("Federal Proceeding"). The ongoing, full, and truthful cooperation of the defendant shall include, but not be limited to:

1. producing all non-privileged documents, including claimed personal documents, and other materials, wherever located, in the possession, custody, or control of the defendant, requested by attorneys and agents of the United States;

2. using its best efforts to secure the ongoing, full and truthful cooperation, as defined in paragraph 14 of this Plea Agreement, of the current and former directors, officers, and employees of the defendant as may be requested by the United States, but excluding Gus B. Nuckols III, a/k/a Butch Nuckols, John Blatzheim, and Timothy Kuebler, including making these persons available, at the defendant's expense, for interviews and the provision of testimony in grand jury, trial and other judicial proceedings in connection with any Federal Proceeding as described above.

Builder's Concrete and Supply Co was sentenced to pay a $4 million fine. I am shocked that Kuebler didn't mention that on his Titan Florida Cement bio. That must have been an oversight.

The Justice Department used the information granted in the plea agreements to build their prosecution against Chris Beaver, operations manager of Ma-Ri-Al Corp. Sales Manager Ricky J. Beaver of Ma-Ri-Al Corp was also indicted. A separate imdicted was issued to John J. Blatzheim, Executive Vice-President of Builder’s Concrete and Supply. These three were the major players in concrete price fixing. They held a meeting with other concrete-mixing companies in a barn to create the price monopoly. This is where Timothy Kuebler once again enters the picture. Nothing is more exciting than cloak and dagger concrete price-fixing meetings in a barn.

The first meeting in Nuckols’ horse barn took place on July 12, 2000. Tr. II-142. Nuckols explained that he invited his competitors to the horse barn because, “knowing it wasn’t the right thing to do, we didn’t want to be out in public doing this.” Tr. I-46. See also Tr. II-142 (Haehl) (“[The horse barn] was private and, you know, what we were
doing there was not legal.”).

The participants were Scott Hughey, President of Carmel Concrete, Tr. II-289; Richard Haehl, Vice-President of Shelby Materials, Tr. II-122; his brother Philip Haehl; John Huggins from Irving Materials; and Nuckols and Tim Kuebler from Builder’s Supply. Tr. I- 66-67; II-143. Nuckols could not recall with certainty whether anyone from Ma-Ri-Al attended, but both Richard Haehl and Scott Hughey testified that Ricky Beaver represented Ma-Ri-Al. Tr. II-143 (Haehl); II- 304 (Hughey).

Chris Beaver was convicted and went to prison.

Rick Scott has a man who admitted in a plea bargain agreement being involved in a federal crime advising him on economic policy. Scott wasn't kidding when he said Florida is open for business.

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Disturbing Story on Obama Economic Team

According to Los Angeles Times columnist Richard Wolffe, a White House senior adviser told him that Obama called a meeting with the economic team about the level of unemployment. Obama called this meeting the day before the election. The goal of the meeting was not to find a solution for unemployment. The meeting was an intellectual debate on if the cause of unemployment was structural or cyclical.

I find this hard to believe. Obama has never exhibit economic policy wonkery. If Obama did he would have never hired Lawrence Summers and Tim Geithner. Obama is not going to take time out of his schedule to have academic debates. Obama wants new jobs created so he can get re-elected. The details are secondary.

Economist (and Lawrence Summers protege) Brad Delong calls the White House adviser quoted a "liar."

Given who they were and what I know of how they all think, all the members of Obama's original economic policy team--except, I suspect, Peter Orszag--did indeed have different views of what would be the best policy to try to generate jobs in the short run, but they all agreed that anything was better than nothing. (Peter thought, I think, that only policies that promised credible long-term deficit reduction were better than nothing.)

Orszag is no longer serving in the Obama administration. Orszag has advocated in his New York Times column to extend the Bush tax cuts and gushed about the deficit commission's recommendations. Summers will soon be out the door. Geithner is hoping quantitative easing by devaluing the dollar will increase exports. Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke sees short-term inflation, created by QE, helping job gains.

The action by the Obama administration on quantitative easing and signing the Recovery Act of 2009 suggests the economic team does not believe unemployment problems are structural. Paul Krugman comes to the same conclusion.

What I want to know is, who was arguing for structural? I find it hard to think of anyone I know in the administration’s economic team who would make that case, who would deny that the bulk of the rise in unemployment since 2007 is cyclical. And as I and others have been trying to point out, none of the signatures of structural unemployment are visible: there are no large groups of workers with rising wages, there are no large parts of the labor force at full employment, there are no full-employment states aside from Nebraska and the Dakotas, inflation is falling, not rising.

The real question is why did the Obama senior adviser tell Wolffe that the White House economic team hasn't figued out if the increase in unemployment is structural or cyclical? Either the Obama economic team is clueless or the Obama adviser has an axe to grind. Either possibility doesn't fill me with hope. What seems to be clear is Team Obama is falling apart and the finger-pointing has begun.

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

David Stockman on Increasing Taxes For the Rich

Economist David Stockman has gone on-record saying that trickle down economics does not spur growth. Stockman worked in the Reagan administration. Stockman said Reagan knew tax cuts and increased spending would cause a federal deficit. Reagan wanted to create the deficit to justify killing New Deal programs. Stockman told Fareed Zakaria the Republican Party took the wrong lesson from the Reagan years.

And then when Dick Cheney, who should have known better, in the 2001 debate, I think it was, about the Bush - first Bush tax cut, it was totally not need. He said, well, Reagan proved that deficits don't matter. Reagan proved nothing of the kind, and, yet, that became the mantra and it just led the Republican Party away from its traditional sound money, you know, fiscal restraint principles that were really the heart of the Republican Party and its job in our system.

Stockman said the Republican Party is unwilling to go off-message about cutting taxes. Stockman advocates tax increases for the rich and cuts in federal spending.

ZAKARIA: That simply that the hole is too large that you could - you can indulge in the fantasy that you just do one or the other, but part of what you want to do is you really feel very comfortable raising the taxes - raising taxes substantially on the rich because you feel that there has been a real divergence in the fate of - of Americans over the last 25 years.

STOCKMAN: Yes, because this wasn't a real solid, sustainable, productivity, technology-based prosperity. Much of this was a debt- fuelled money - easy money bubble. In fact, it was a serial bubble. First, the dot-com and then the housing and consumer credit and the ATM machine and everybody buying, you know - borrowing from their house in order to buy things they couldn't afford.

So all of this ended up, strangely enough, shifting wealth and income to the very top strata of our society in a way that we've never seen in history. Because it wasn't real, sustainable, mainstream economic growth and prosperity. One number that I think is shocking is that in 1985 the top five percent of households had $8 trillion of net worth. By the peak of this bubble in 2007 they had $40 trillion.

ZAKARIA: So from $8 to $40 trillion.

STOCKMAN: Eight to 40. Five fold in 25 years.

ZAKARIA: And the economy didn't -

STOCKMAN: A $30 trillion gain.

ZAKARIA: Right. And the economy didn't grow five fold.

STOCKMAN: The economy didn't grow five fold, and it was because of the bubble valuations of assets, stocks and bonds and real estate and all of the other speculative classes.

I'm saying that it is now so distorted that to get the economy back to health, we're going to have to reset some basic parameters of our economy, and one of them in this environment would be a higher tax burden on the upper income than a conservative, like myself, would ordinarily advocate.

But right now, this isn't about growth. This isn't about Morning in America in 1980. This is about solvency. This is about cleaning up the mess the morning after from a 30-year binge that wasn't sustainable as we've learned.

Stockman is one of many economic minds worried that America's economy is fueled more on trading paper than actually inventing new things. Florida gubernatorial candidate Jeff Greene became a billionaire buying credit default swaps that would pay out if the mortgage market crashed. Greene made money placing a wise bet. Not because he was the next Henry Ford or Thomas Edison.

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Must See TV

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Chris Hayes hosts a panel on the cynicism of President Obama. It is rare to see Obama attacked from the Left on cable tv. Short version: the panel agrees Obama is politically incompetent and a corporatist. The panel sees the Bush tax cuts as the make or break issue for Obama.

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The Hack Thirty

I actually thought about getting together with the Ropers to compile a list of the worst political columnists. I did a poll on a prior blog and Ann Coulter was the winner. Salon beat me and made the Hack Thirty list.

The Top Ten

Richard Cohen

Mark Halperin

Thomas Friedman

David Broder

Marty Peretz

Marc Thiessen

Jonah Goldberg

Maureen Dowd

Laura Ingraham

Peggy Noonan

Alex Pareene gives a summery to the lowlights to all of the thirty columnists

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I Have No Faith in Faith-Based Initiatives

President Barack Obama courageously panders to Christian conservatives who will never vote for him.

Speaking with Barbara Walters, Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama also described how they involve their daughters in daily prayer.

"Michelle and I have not only benefited from our prayer life, but I think the girls have too," the president told Walters. "We say grace before we eat dinner every night. We take turns."

"[I]n the end, we always say we hope we live long and strong," the first lady said.

"Long and strong. And that we give back."

The Bush administration used the Faith-based Initiative to promote their false Christian values. Evangelical David Kuo worked in setting up the Bush administration's faith-based program. Kuo remembers Karl Rove giving the very unchristian commandment, "Just get me a fucking faith based thing. Got it?

It is actually hard to find out what Obama's Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships has actually accomplished. The faith-based agenda died because of the Bush administration's own neglect.

Obama signed an executive order the guidelines the Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. It is hard to find what positive results have come from Obama's faith-based efforts.

During the 2008 election, Obama said that religious institutions must end discriminatory hiring practices, in order to get federal money. Obama backed off that vow after getting elected. What seems to be clear is Obama, like Bush, wants to please religious voters. The bigger story is there is an no tangible benefit from using federal money for faith-based policies. There are no great faith-based success stories the government can point to. The media should report that the Bush and Obama faith-based initiative are the federal government's version of the emperor with no clothes.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Joel Award Winner: John Kyl

It is time to give out the Joel Award. The award goes any celebrity, pundit, blogger or politician that purposely contradicts himself or herself.

It is so nice to see Sen. Jon Kyl get busted for his hypocrisy. Kyl voted earlier this year to ban earbarks from Senate legislation. Kyl also agreed to Senate Republicans recent pledge for a two year ban on earmark. Kyl's office in sent out a press release to brag about supporting the earmark ban.

Earlier this year, the Senate considered a measure that would have put a moratorium on earmarks for 2010 and 2011. I voted for the moratorium, but 68 senators opposed it.

The Senate will likely have another chance to vote on it. Senator McCain has joined Senator Coburn and two Democrats, Senators McCaskill and Mark Udall, who are pushing for a vote on a Senate-wide moratorium.

Republicans have already spoken. On November 16, the Senate Republican Conference approved a two-year moratorium on earmarks. Republicans in the House have also adopted a similar ban on earmarks.

Kyl was so disciplined that he was able to keep his vow for three days.

Only three days after GOP senators and senators-elect renounced earmarks, Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, the No. 2 Senate Republican, got himself a whopping $200 million to settle an Arizona Indian tribe's water rights claim against the government.

Kyl slipped the measure into a larger bill sought by President Barack Obama and passed by the Senate on Friday to settle claims by black farmers and American Indians against the federal government. Kyl's office insists the measure is not an earmark, and the House didn't deem it one when it considered a version earlier this year.

But it meets the know-it-when-you-see-it test, critics say. Under Senate rules, an earmark is a spending item inserted "primarily at the request of a senator" that goes "to an entity, or (is) targeted to a specific state."

Most Republicans were never serious about earmarks. Republicans needed a talking to talk about cutting spending without actually making hard cuts. Kyl's own press release cites earmarks as totaling $16.5 billion. That is a faction of the federal budget. Republicans don't want to anger their corporate interests by making cuts to defense spending or Medicare Advantage. Entitlement programs are popular with the public. Defense contractors donate to politicians in both parties. Naming some obscure earmark and then declaring all would be well if we ended earmarks is an easier sell.

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Why Andrew Gillum Should Be Next FDP Chair

Andrew Gillum gives his pitch for why he should be the next Florida Democratic Party chair. Gillum offers some interesting ideas to restructure the party.

Fundraising – Restructure our fundraising operation to support both local and statewide candidates. We can’t win statewide unless we win locally. I will strengthen our fundraising base by launching a small donor initiative to recruit every registered Democrat in Florida to make a small donor gift to the Florida Democratic Party, with proceeds split between the state party local DECs.

Staffing Structure – Conduct a complete assessment of the party staffing and strategically restructure our organization to incorporate a robust Communications, Research, and Policy Department and a Constituency & Outreach Department, to include college & youth, caucus and elected official outreach.

Building the Bench – Launch an initiative with local DECs, beginning immediately, to recruit and train local candidates and campaign managers, field organizers, finance directors, communications staff, and volunteer coordinators.

Redistricting Plan – Assemble a talented panel of attorneys and redistricting experts to create a counter redistricting proposal that will ensure an equitable plan that fully incorporates the intentions of Amendments 5 and 6.

Fighting the Radical Right – Create an opposition research team to closely monitor the actions of the Republican Party and its leaders to expose corruption, double standards or efforts to force its ultra-conservative agenda on Floridians.

I like the opposition research team idea. The Florida Democratic Party's current version of opposition communication is Eric Jotkoff copying and pasting news articles and blog posts and then sending these articles in emails. An opposition research team can dig up interesting pieces of information on Republicans. Bloggers and the media will lock onto a story on a Republican if there is dirt.

If the Florida Democratic Party doesn't have a legal team in place by now to fight for redistricting then Karen Thurman has been utterly useless. The Florida legislature will make the districts from guidelines the Commerce Department's census findings. Republicans have super-majorities in the legislature. The Florida Democratic Party has to fight for fair districts. The alternative is Democrats having their districts carved out into oblivion.

Building a bench and fielding good local DECs is something that should have been Thurman's first priority. The Florida Democratic Party let Republicans run unopposed in many legislative races. Why people acted surprised after the Republicans won super-majorites in the Florida House and Senate is what I can't understand. The FDP can't win if they don't show up.

The grassroots organization on the local level sucks. Florida Republicans are much better at getting out the vote.

Gillum would make an interesting choice for chair. He is young and black. Both groups voted in underwhelming numbers in this past election. (So much for Kendrick Meek helping black voter turnout.) Gillum seems to have some idea for what is ailing the Florida Democratic Party. We haven't heard a single interesting idea from Rod Smith on how to turn the Florida Democratic Party around. Smith has lost two statewide elections and was part of Alex Sink's disastrous Panhandle strategy.

Gillum can engage young and minority voters who feel alienated by the GOP. The base of the party needs a spokesman that can get people motivated. That is why Howard Dean's election to the DNC provided the successes of 2006 and 2008. Have you heard anyone used the words "Tim Kaine" and "motivated" in the same sentence? Smith becoming chair will produce the same lack of enthusiasm.

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Friday Cat Blogging

Tampa' Big Cat Rescue takes in wild cats that have been abused by their previous caretakers. Cameron is a lion and Zabu is a white tiger. The two have been companions for years.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fox News Won't Air DADT Repeal Ad

Fox News is really scared about their on-air position on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

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Write A Caption: Glenn Beck

Image the Mr. Rogers show hosted by the Jack Nicholson character from The Shining.

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The terrible price of acquiescence


I heard one who said: "Verily,
What word have I for children here?
Your Dollar is your only Word,
The wrath of it your only fear.

"You build it altars tall enough
To make you see but you are blind;
You cannot leave it long enough
To look before you or behind.

"When Reason beckons you to pause,
You laugh and say that you know best;
But what it is you know, you keep
As dark as ingots in a chest.

"You laugh and answer, 'We are young;
Oh, leave us now, and let us grow:'
Not asking how much more of this
Will Time endure or Fate bestow.

"Because a few complacent years
Have made your peril of your pride,
Think you that you are to go on
Forever pampered and untried?

"What lost eclipse of history,
What bivouac of the marching stars,
Has given the sign for you to see
Milleniums and last great wars?

"What unrecorded overthrow
Of all the world has ever known,
Or ever been, has made itself
So plain to you, and you alone?

"Your Dollar, Dove, and Eagle make
A Trinity that even you
Rate higher than you rate yourselves;
It pays, it flatters, and it's new.

"And though your very flesh and blood
Be what the Eagle eats and drinks,
You'll praise him for the best of birds,
Not knowing what the eagle thinks.

"The power is yours, but not the sight;
You see not upon what you tread;
You have the ages for your guide,
But not the wisdom to be led.

"Think you to tread forever down
The merciless old verities?
And are you never to have eyes
To see the world for what it is?

"Are you to pay for what you have
With all you are?"--No other word
We caught, but with a laughing crowd
Moved on. None heeded, and few heard.

-- Edwin Arlington Robinson, American poet and three-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

(H/T and big hugs to Cogitamus reader MR Bill)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Quote of the Day 2

"Hahahaha. Just got an email on the RS Contact line that the person has decided to take viagra before going through the TSA pat down. LOL."

Erick Erickson, on Twitter.

I much as I disagree with Erickson, I gotta admit, that is funny.

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Tom Hartman On Obama's Neoliberalism

Tom Hartman delivers a good breakdown on how President Barack Obama is a neoliberal. Hartman doesn't actually use the word neoliberal. Hartman describes Obama as being aligned with the Democratic Leadership Council. Obama told corporatist Democrats and declared, "I Am A New Democrat." The term "New Democrat" is code for neoliberal. Harold Ford, Evan Bayh and Joe Lieberman have served as DLC chairs. When those names are mentioned the word "change" doesn't suddenly come to mind.

Hartman makes an excellent point about how corporatist Obama really is. Can anyone imagine FDR mandating people buy private insurance.

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The Simpsons Makes Fun of Fox News

Bill O'Reilly is mad at The Simpsons for making fun of Fox News. Proving once again O'Reilly has no sense of humor. What makes matters worse for O'Reilly is that The Simpsons clip he shows is hysterical.

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How Rick Scott's Jobs Plan Meets Reality

I previously blogged about the nonsense known as Rick Scott's 7-7-7 plan. There are factually incorrect statement such as these.

Government run wind insurance has driven private insurers out of the market and will result in an enormous tax increase or auto insurance rate increases if we get hit with a major hurricane or a number of costly hurricanes burdens job creation with one of the worst regulatory frameworks in the nation.

Actually, private insurers refused to offer property insurance to homes in coastal areas. As for costly increases, State Farm attempted to raise property insurance rates 47.1 percent last year. Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty rightly rejected State Farm's request. State Farm decided to drop all property insurance claims in Florida. Private insurers are either refusing to cover homeowners or charging astronomical rates. Homeowners went to Citizens Property Insurance not because they love big government, but because there was no other option.

Scott's 7-7-7 Plan has a lot of nice pictures. There isn't one chart or any indication that there was an economic study done to come up with the magic number of 700,000 job. I find it odd that a man who ran on the talking point that government can't create jobs plans to create jobs as Governor.

Scott's plan is eliminating government development agencies, throwing money at universities for research and development. I blogged before that there is limited short term job creation with R&D tax credits.

Scott steals a page out of Jeb Bush's playbook by planning to use the Innovation Fund "that brought Scripps and Burnham. Scott fails to say his proposals would bring 700,000 jobs. The reason is the 7-7-7 Plan is nothing a campaign pamphlet. It is one of the most unserious policy proposals I have ever read. Now comes this economic report.

Florida will gain at least a million new jobs over the next seven years, which is 300,000 more than promised by Governor-elect Rick Scott without the tax cuts and other changes he's seeking, state economists predicted Monday.

While their long-term forecast remained rosy, the economists from the Legislature and Gov. Charlie Crist's office were gloomier about the immediate future than in July when they last updated their economic estimate.

If we are to take Scott at his word (and we shouldn't) then his job creation plan would decrease new jobs by 300,000. The reality is Scott never had a jobs plan. Below is the 7-7-7 Plan. Take a look at it yourself if you don't believe me.

Scott Rick Jobs 7-7-7 Plan

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Kathy Castor's Gulf Coast Bill

Rep. Kathy Castor is the sponsor of the Gulf of Mexico Economic and Environmental Restoration Act of 2010. The bill will set up a Council a State to deal with recovery payment. Castor is unhappy with the slowness of the current payment system set up by the Obama administration and BP America. Keith Overton, Vice-President of TradeWinds Resort told Creative Loafing's Mitch Perry that he has had difficulty dealing with BP Kenneth Fineberg, administrator of the BP Disaster Victim Compensation Fund.

“What’s strange is that when you to talk to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility and they say we’re not paying claim s just yet in that region…yet a property adjoining us has been paid $317,000, and we’ve been paid nothing. “ When CL spoke to Overton directly after the news conference, he said he was referring to the Alden Beach Resort Hotel off of Gulf Blvd.

Overton said that in lieu of receiving any compensation, he’s had to make up for the loss of revenue by reducing all his employees paychecks by 6.5 % since the repercussions of the spill began affecting bookings in the spring. There’s also the fact that the “brand in Florida has been significantly damaged,” Overton said, referring to the tourism industry overall.

Every Gulf Coast state will have to submit a restoration plan to the Council a State. Each state will have to clean the local environment, and submit research on how the spill will affect the state environmentally and financially.

(A) IN GENERAL- The Council shall require a State submitting a State comprehensive restoration plan under this section to ensure that the plan addresses the effects in the State of the Gulf oil spill with regards to the economy, the environment, and public health, both physical and mental.

(B) SPECIFIC ELEMENTS- The Council shall require a State submitting a State comprehensive restoration plan under this section to ensure that the plan specifically addresses the following elements:

(i) Environmental restoration and remediation, including in coastal and marine ecosystems.

(ii) Academic and applied research regarding the economy, environment, and public health.

(iii) Seafood marketing.

(iv) Tourism marketing.

(v) Coastal land acquisition.

(vi) Ecosystem resource planning and coastal and marine spatial planning (as that term is defined in Executive Order 13547 (75 Fed. Reg. 43023)).

(vii) Renewable and clean energy production and development, energy conservation, and related retrofitting projects.

Castor's bill will give grants to each state that has green plans. The plans must be approved by the Council.

(1) CLEAN ENERGY PROJECT- The term `clean energy project' means any electricity generation, transmission, storage, heating, cooling, industrial process, or manufacturing project the primary purpose of which is the deployment, development, or production of an energy system or technology that avoids, reduces, or sequesters air pollutants or anthropogenic greenhouse gases, including projects based on the following energy technologies:

(A) Solar.

(B) Wind.

(C) Geothermal.

(D) Biomass.

(E) Hydropower.

(F) Ocean.

(G) Fuel cell.

(H) Advanced battery.

(I) Carbon capture and sequestration.

(J) Next generation biofuels.

Castor believes she can get bipartisan support for this bill. She is even going to attempt to enlist the support of Senator-elect Marco Rubio. I don't share her optimism. I hope I am wrong. This is an outstanding bill. The payment process has been too slow. John Kerry and Joe Scarborough had a fascinating conversation about America missing a financial opportunity by not going green. They are right. Republican global warning denialist will cite the Exxon-backed Institute for Energy Research as scientific fact. Castor's best hope is to past the bill during the lame duck session.

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Quote of the Day

"JUST WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW: North Korea fires artillery barrage on South. If they start anything, I say nuke ‘em. And not with just a few bombs. They’ve caused enough trouble — and it would be a useful lesson for Iran, too. We can’t afford another Korean war, but hey, we’re already dismantling warheads. . . . "

Glenn Reynolds

Reynolds has no idea the environmental damage one nuclear warhead would cause. The radiation would kill potentially millions of South Koreans. Theoretically, a single cobalt bomb could kill all life on the planet. Furthermore, it is the South Korean government's decision what military or diplomatic action should be taken. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has called an emergency meeting of the government. The United States should follow South Korea's lead. Not nuke a country that did not attack the United States.

Glenn Reynolds is insane. Did it ever occur to Reynolds that Russia, China and Britain might consider the United States an unhinged rogue nation if we start launching preemptive nuclear attacks against third world countries. It would put the United States national security at risk if nuclear-powered nations aligned against the Obama administration.

I'm amazed Reynolds is a tenured law professor. I would love to find out what his students and fellow professors think of his blog.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Chris Knight Leaves Scott's Transition Team

Chris Knight was forced to resign from the Florida Highway Patrol in 2007. Electra Bustle, executive director of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, found that Knight had falsified a document. A six month investigation showed that Knight had discriminated against black employees under his command. Elgin Jones of the South Florida Times scanned the FHP web site during Knight's tenure and noticed something interesting.

Whether he discriminated against blacks or not can be debated, but a visit to the FHP website this week showed Knight giving out all sorts of awards to FHP troopers and staff over the past few years. Maybe it’s me, but I could not find a single black person on the website receiving any awards from Knight. You would think the FHP had more sense than this, and while I may not be the sharpest tack in the box, you can’t tell me there are no blacks in the department who are deserving of recognition.

One would think anyone in government would keep his or her distance from Knight. Rick Scott made Knight a member of his transition team. Of course, Knight's past caught up with him.

Chris Knight was let go from the transition team after the Herald/Times asked about his qualifications. Knight was forced to resign from the Florida Highway Patrol in 2007 after falsifying a memo and using it to justify the firing of a commander. The state eventually paid $525,000 to end a lawsuit filed by the commander.

Welcome to the new world order according to Rick Scott. The media should ask the anti-government Scott why he would hire someone with a dismal government track record. I love to see video of Scott trying to stay on his banal talking points. Voters will see Scott has an allergic reaction to straight forward answers.

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Write A Caption: Rand Paul Edition

Beats me why Rand Paul is dressed like this. The image doesn't look photoshopped but I could be mistaken.

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Axelrod Out, Plouffe In

I take this as a good piece of news. David Axelrod is leaving the White House. The political strategy and messaging of the Obama administration has been a disaster. I don't blame that entirely on Axelrod. A New Republic reports that Axelrod has become increasingly frustrated with the direction Team Obama has been going. Axelrod can best serve Obama by laying the groundwork for Obama's 2012 campaign.

The good news is David Plouffe is taking over Axelrod's job. Plouffe was Obama's presidential campaign manager. Plouffe didn't join the White House team because he had a child. Plouffe has advised Obama without holding an official White House role. James Carville had a similar working relationship with the Clinton administration.

Plouffe is the best hope Obama has to get his political strategy back on track. Plouffe carries more weight because he doesn't need the White House job. Plouffe can make vast sums of money as a consultant and on the lecture circuit. My hope is that Plouffe can get Obama out of neoliberal mode and reshape him back into the populist of 2008.

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Why Obama Should Pay Attention to Political History

Via Peter Schorsch: this video shows the electoral map from 1920 to 2008. Notice how popular the Democratic Party was for several years when so-called socialist Franklin Delano Roosevelt created Social Security and the jobs program. The maps was stark blue from 1960 to 1964. During that time Lyndon John passed civil rights and Medicare legislation. It would have been interesting how long the Democratic Party would have remained popular if Johnson didn't get bogged down in Vietnam.

The Obama people should look at this map and notice the Democratic Party is at it's most popular when it implements real change. Unfortunately, Obama's twin obsessions are bipartisanship and independent voters. Bipartisanship is a myth that only exists in Obama's head. The independent voters Obama seeks will not vote for him in 2012. If Obama seeks white conservative voters and continues to alienate the progressive base and the Democratic establishment - voters will stay home and many Democrats won't be enthused to fundraise for a president who they feel has hurt the party.

It has been a while since America has had a one-term president.

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Why Rick Scott Will Avoid the Media

Brian Crowley must kidding himself if he thinks Rick Scott is going to invite the Tallahassee press corp over for a beer. Scott and many other Republican candidates in the age of the Tea Party went out of their way to ignore the mainstream media. Republican candidates and elected officials can use Fox News, The Weekly Standard, The National Review, RedState.com, and social media to get their message out. Republicans don't want to be asked hard questions and repeat what happened to Rand Paul on Rachel Maddow's show.

It is not the media's job to become pals with Scott. What the media should do is press Scott for answers. Crowley admits the media handled Scott with kid gloves.

Scott violated all of the traditional rules during the campaign. He held few news conferences. He never waivered from his talking points: Question? Hey Rick what time is it? Scott: I made mistakes, I learned from them.

And Scott's campaign strategy of avoiding the media got him elected. Scott has no personality and is horrible the few times he has been interviewed. The last thing Scott wants to do is be interviewed.

Sharron Angle avoided the Nevada media. The media in Nevada aggressively kept pressure on Angle to answer questions on her past controversial statements. The worst thing the media could have done is try to be pals with Angle.

Crowley is looking at Scott as a media consultant and former political reporter. What Crowley fails to understand is that the political landscape has changed. What Crowley is proposing would only hurt journalism coverage of Scott. The Governor-elect has several proposals that will affect schools, jails, growth management and health care in the state. The media should aggressively cover these stories. Drinking beers with Scott isn't going to sell more newspapers or help inform the public.


Quote of the Day: Glenn Beck Edition

"If I may make a prediction, they are going to make this into a talking point, a regular talking point. You are going to hear the liberals come out and start to throw MSNBC under the bus, and throw them under the bus hard, and here’s why, MSNBC is marked for death. If it is sold to Comcast, Comcast will run it like a business. If it remains liberal, it will just be a good liberal station. It will just run things that will actually get ratings. If it’s not, it will most likely just be a news channel, or I mean, I don’t know what they’re going to do with it, but it won’t feature Keith Olbermann and they know that."

Glenn Beck, on his radio show. MSNBC is not going to get rid of Keith Olbermann. The reason is Olbermann is the network's star and brings in the most advertising revenue. Corporations care more about money than politics.

Beck must have watched Network one too many times. How is an entire corporation like MSNBC "marked for death"? Beck fails to explain this bit of hyperbole.

Bonus quote:

"So just like everyone as soon as they start to outlive their usefulness for radicals and revolutionaries, they shoot them in the head, and that’s exactly what’s going to happen to MSNBC, and they’ll offer up a false choice, they’ll say look we’re willing to get rid of MSNBC and you get rid of Fox and we can have real news. Mark my words, that’s that what they’ll say. We’ll get rid of MSNBC, and you get rid of Fox. Yeah, really you’ll do that? You shoot the shows that nobody watches on one that’s marked for death anyway? Well, how big of you. I don’t think so."

Can Beck give names who who will be pulling the trigger and committing murder? If Beck really is psychic and can see into the future, doesn't he have a civic responsibility to prevent murder?

Beck will get called out on his latest conspiracy theory and will use the defense that he is just an entertainer. Beck has been honest about why he makes bizarre statements.

With a deadpan, Beck insists that he is not political: "I could give a flying crap about the political process." Making money, on the other hand, is to be taken very seriously, and controversy is its own coinage. "We're an entertainment company," Beck says.

Beck told the New York Times that he is a "rodeo clown."

He added later: “I say on the air all time, ‘if you take what I say as gospel, you’re an idiot.’ ”

Beck made his career as a Morning Zoo shock jock. Beck plays with puppets on his Fox News show. Off-the-record Fox News employees told Howard Kurtz that Beck practices crying in rehearsals for his show. Beck is the professional wrestling version of broadcast journalism. Beck lets people know it is an act. People still hang on every banal utterance preached by Beck.

Beck is actually worse than right-wing pundits like Sean Hannity who makes no attempt to hide his love of the Republican Party. Beck uses his inflammatory rhetoric to full-fill his greed and desperate need for attention. Beck is the Paris Hilton of Fox News.

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Here's to you, Alan Grayson--A liberal turns her lonely eyes to you

I know I'm not alone in hoping that Florida Congressman Alan Grayson returns to Washington soon. He's been one of the very few Good Guys to ever represent our unique and complicated state, and now he's leaving:

"There's not any doubt about it. The people's business is not being done. There's enormous influence by lobbyists and by special interests," he says. "And the other side has completely sold out to them."

Grayson says he always resisted the influence of those lobbyists.

"A good description of what happened in my case is that they couldn't buy me, so they decided to destroy me with negative ads [during the midterm campaign] that people in my district saw an average of 70 times," he says.

Grayson responded with a controversial ad of his own. It called his opponent "Taliban Dan" and repeated clips in which Webster appeared to say about his wife "she should submit to me." Although the spot was roundly criticized, Grayson says he was justified in running it.

"We had to do it because, in my case, he ducked every debate we were scheduled to have. And the result of that is that we had no way to communicate his record except for the fact that we could run ads that people called negative ads," he says. "And it's unfortunate that the system leaves no other possibility."

Grayson says the ad was a last resort.

"The average voter in Orlando saw that ad twice. The average voter in Orlando saw 70 ads calling me, an incumbent Congressman, a liar, a national embarrassment, a loudmouth, a dog and an evil clown," he says. "So I don't think that my opponents or anyone in the media for that matter — none of whom ever came to my defense — can lecture me on civility in politics."

Let's face it, this whole "civility" argument is a baldfaced joke. It's a silencing technique, really; it's what the entrenched Villagers, aka the White House press corps, call the lefty bloggers--Oooh, they're so foul-mouthed and uncivil!

But why should it be considered uncivilized to speak the plain truth? It should not be thought rude or "conversation-stopping" (ahem, Jon Stewart) to point out that Bush is a war criminal--that's exactly what he, Dick Cheney, and a slew of administration members, not to mention all the unethical (and often thieving, brutal, and/or murderous) independent contractors who profited wildly from the Iraq boondoggle, actually are.

Don't people realize that the lying war criminals who brutalized and murdered others without reproof could, as easily and with as little fear of consequences, harm them?

It's not indelicate to call out the Republicans and Blue Cross Blue Shield Dog Democrats for their pro-insurance-industry stance on health care reform (which is to say, don't reform it at all)--it's dead accurate, and Grayson, in his bold, unflinching, and courageous way, was simply doing his job as one of Florida's elected leaders.

Speaking the truth, and fighting for people instead of plutocrats.

Sadly, those who control the message are, themselves, controlled by corporations--some of which have vast defense industry sectors--who own the majority of media outlets now. It is beyond frightening, and I don't know what we can do to counteract it other than keep speaking out on the fora which remain available to us and informing and encouraging people.

They do eventually come around. Some of them do, anyway.

Minstrel Boy is often writing that democracies are historically short-lived and bloody. I often wonder if human nature, even modern-day human nature, is still not that different from the ethos of our canine brethren in that we fall into packs, each with its leader and attendant hierarchy, as opposed to running governments of the people, by the people.

I wonder if, despite the noble intentions of our more cognitively evolved individual pack members, the group at large will always, inevitably, return to the ways of the wild.

At least wolves don't lie to each other about why they're attacking something or collapse their entire social structure by selling worthless debt instruments en masse and leaving countless numbers of their pack-mates homeless and hungry while they line their own dens with yet more mink and caviar.

Also at litbrit.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

TSA Strip Searches Boy

Via GottaLaff: TSA forced a young boy to strip. This is what happens when two political parties can't have rationale discussions about national security. President Barack Obama and Republican John Mica have failed to show leadership on the pat-down controversy.

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MadTV - Wizard of Oz (Alternate Ending)

MadTV does their parody of the Wizard of Oz. This is hands down one of the best comedy sketches in the history of television. The youtube clip has received nearly 8,000 comments. The sketch is more edgy than anything that will ever be seen on SNL.

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Poll Finds Republicans More Trusted On Social Security

More proof the deficit commission was a political disaster for the Obama administration. The Republican Party is now more trusted on dealing with Social Security than Barack Obama.

Who will better handle Social Security

• Republicans vs. Democrats in Congress: 31% (R) to 28% (D); 34% both the same

•Republicans in Congress vs. Obama: 33% (R) to 26% (Obama); 31% both the same

The Republican congress polls 7 percent higher than Obama. What is interesting is the poll shows even the Tea Party is against raising the retirement age. 74 percent of the Tea Party is against cutting Social Security benefits to decrease the deficit. Democrats are on the right side of the issue. However, it is obvious Obama has a perception problem on Social Security that goes beyond the Tea Party.

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End the Pretense That Obama Will Fight

My response to Benjamin Kirby's post.

I (and my fellow blogger Tas) have blogged repeatedly about why Obama's economic policies were a failure. Franklen Delano Roosevelt tried stimulus and it failed. What saved the FDR economy was the jobs program.

I am not surprised that the team of Geithner, Summers, Orszag, and Goolsbee failed. Goolsbee wrote papers saying not to worry about the housing market crashing. Summers backed repealing Glass–Steagall Act. Orszag wrote an op-ed repeatedly describing the deficit commission's Social Security proposals as progressive. These people are always wrong. Their proposals actually hurt the country. The President who hired is a faith-based believer in neoliberalism. Any serious policy wonk wouldn't let Lawrence Summers within a 100 yards of the White House.

What surprised me is how the White House mishandled the politics side. This administration has been hostile towards the base and the Democratic caucus for a while. I know since I blogged about that.

I understand for merely political purposes it is in Obama's interest to maintain the pretense of bipartisanship. When Obama makes bipartisanship into a religion, gets stood up by McConnell and Boehner and doesn't heal the riff with Democratic elected officials and the base then there is a problem. As for bloggers and activists urging Obama to have a showdown with Republicans - it will never happen. Obama has shown a distaste for partisan fights. Obama will see his proposals destroyed and be a one-term president before having a Clinton v. Gingrich epic battle. Going back to Obama's time in the Illinois state legislature, there was never a moment Obama was willing to get his hands dirty in a partisan fight.

Obama is going to run to the middle. The White House isn't interested in helping the Democratic caucus or the progressive base. Obama and his team are thinking about 2012. Obama will triangulate with Jon Stewart's imaginary center and sign horrible bills to say something was accomplished. Welcome to the next two years.

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The Hypocrisy of John Mica

John Mica is now running from the very Transportation Security Administration he helped created.

Jim DeMint placed killing unionization of TSA employees above national security by placing a hold on President Obama's appontment of a new TSA chief administrator. Mica disingenuously blames Obama for DeMint's hold.

MICA: We didn't have a TSA administrator for over a year. It was one of the last appointments the Obama administration made. (Cross talk) So you had an out of control agency... a rudderless agency which is difficult to manage even if you had it all together.

Mica's plan is to kick TSA out and have private companies do the screening. It is painfully obvious to me that Mica never read the 9/11 commission report. Private screener failed miserably and let the hijackers aboard the planes. Furthermore, is Mica suggesting that private companies be given the same authority to use x-ray scans and pat down private body parts? Mica is just ranting about the wonders of private companies after such security measures have failed before.

Mica supported the TSA pat-downs in 2004.

The patdowns could be made obsolete by new machines being tested at six airports nationwide that suck in air around passengers and quickly detect explosive material. But that project is two years behind schedule, said Florida Rep. John Mica, a Republican who chairs the House aviation subcommittee.

“My biggest fear is suicide bombers on an aircraft,” he said. “We just don’t have too many other options than to pat people down to try and detect the explosives.”

Mica did not support pat-downs for travelers on private planes.

"We're concerned," Mica said, "but you can't protect yourself against every single small aircraft or every vehicle."

Translation: Mica's response is hell no to pat-downs to people rich enough to afford their own planes. In Tampa, 15 year-old Charles J. Bishop slammed a private plane into the Bank of America Plaza building. Bishop voiced his supported Osama bin Laden. Bishop was killed in the crash. Bishop's act of terrorism in 2002 shows Mica does not take national security seriously.

Update: Mica is urging travelers not to participate in Opt-Out Day.

“I think the public needs to work with us. We will get it right,” Mica said on CNN’s "State of the Union." “I’m not going to support that but we need to get it right and we will.”

Mica support the pat-downs during the Bush administration. Mica now feels differently that there is a Democratic administration and heat on him for helping to create the TSA. A true profile in courage.

Mica criticized John Pistole, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), for signing off the new invasive pat-down procedures. He said Pistole needs to change course because of the public outcry against the pat-downs.

“I don’t think the rollout has been good and the application is even worse. This needs to be refined,” Mica said. “He says this is the only tool and I believe he’s wrong.”

Really? Mica himself said in 2004 that the pat-downs were necessary.

“My biggest fear is suicide bombers on an aircraft,” he said. “We just don’t have too many other options than to pat people down to try and detect the explosives.”

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Saturday Night Live sketch on the TSA controversy.

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Floridians Who Don't Have A Voice

As Thanksgiving approaches, Benjamin Kirby reminds us of Floridians who are poor, living on food stamps or homeless. The numbers.

# In Pinellas County, 28,821 children live in poverty. That's 17% of children. Their Thanksgiving won't be like yours or mine.

# In Florida, unemployment is at 12%.

# In July 2010, 19.4 million U.S. households (41.8 million persons) received food stamps. That's 1 in every 6 households, an increase of 20% over the previous year. Based on the Census Bureau’s American Community Surveys for 2006-08, just under 60% of families who received food stamps had children under 18 years of age. Of these families, approximately 60% were headed by single females. Food stamps don't usually get you the kind of Thanksgiving you or I will have.

# In Florida, 40% of homeless people are families. 23% are children under the age of 18. Their Thanksgiving won't be like yours or mine, either.
In Pinellas County, there are 2,232 unsheltered homeless persons, meaning they have to sleep on sidewalks, park benches, bus stops, doorways, in encampments, along railways and the Pinellas Trail, etc. This is an increase of 83% from 2007.

# In a ten-year period in Florida, there were 149 attacks on the homeless, and 28 deaths. These are hate crimes, and they happened in cities across this state.

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Allen West's Health Care Double Standard

Jane Hamsher makes an interesting point on Republican Allen West. The latter has been highly critical of the Affordable Care Act signed by President Barack Obama. West wrote a post on Atlas Shrugs pledging to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

My pledge to the people of the 22nd District is simple-once elected I will do everything in my power to repeal the repugnant portions of this monstrous piece of legislation."

West fails to mention in his post is he receives government health care through the Veterans Administration. West also did not make a vow to refuse government health care all members of Congress receives. I have no problem with veterans or members of Congress receiving government health care. I do have a problem with West's hypocrisy.

Side note: West's guest post is nearly unreadable. An example of the prose of Allen West.

The theme of endurance led me to recall one of my favorite maxims, “the race is not given to the swiftest, but to he that endures to the end”. Therefore I remembered the Man for whom the Olympic distance race was named, the Greek Soldier Phidippides. If I may set the stage, in 490 BC the great Persian Empire sought to expand their territory and move into Europe, under King Darius I. They landed a huge army in Greece, city-states who created the first ideals of democracy, just outside of Athens on the open plains of Marathon.

How much you want to bet West saw Clash of the Titans?

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Obama Backs TSA Intrusive Search Policy

Via Texas Betsy: change you can believe in. President Barack Obama backs the TSA nude x-rays and groping searches.

"But at this point, TSA in consultation with counterterrorism experts have indicated to me that the procedures that they have been putting in place are the only ones right now that they consider to be effective against the kind of threat that we saw in the Christmas Day bombing."

This is evidence Obama is not a policy wonk. A serious policy thinker would have realized the potential problems with nude body scans and body searches around people's sexual organs. Obama's security advisers pitched this policy and he signed off with out asking about the legal questions or if there were other options.

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Connie Mack's Horrible Mailer

Alex Leary of the St. Petersburg Times theorizes that Republican Connie Mack IV is laying the groundwork for a run against Sen. Bill Nelson. My first thought is I am going to be live blogging mind-numbingly boring debates between Nelson and Mack.

Leary notes Mack's fundraising letter does not mention the Republican as a House of Representatives candidate for 2012. It could be we just had the midterm election. Mack does take a shot at Bill Nelson.

We must end the overspending, overtaxing, over-regulating, and over-borrowing that are holding us back; that's the ultra-liberal and counter-productive philosophy Senator Bill Nelson has zealously followed his entire career.

I wish the writer of this mailer would end the use of run-on sentences.

Bill Nelson is an "ultra-liberal"? Really? That's hysterical. I wish Nelson was liberal.

All these Republican mailers always sound the same. Mack's mailer mention "overspending" but fails to mention Mack voted for George W. Bush backed-bills 87 percent of the time in 2006 and 88 percent in 2007. Bush signed record-breaking budgets. Mack has a hard time being taken seriously as a fiscal conservative while voting for Bush's spending proposals.

Exactly how are the Democrats overtaxing? Obama's "Make Work Pay" tax cut was the largest tax cut for the middle class in history. The "Make Work Pay" tax cut was part of the stimulus bill. Mack voted against the stimulus and the tax cut. Why Obama and the White House political team didn't attack Republicans for voting against the "Make Work Pay" tax cuts is a subject for another post.

My favorite paragraph from the Mack mailer.

Let's tell the professional politicians like Florida's Senior Senator, incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson, that we've seen their liberal speeches, and seen their liberal results and we aren't fooled - and we won't forget.

Exactly how does one "see" a speech. Is the writer of this mailer able to see sound? I wonder why someone with such a cool super-power is working as a Mack staffer.

If Nelson is a "professional politician" than does that make Mack the Shaggs of the Republican Party. Mack has been in Congress for six years. Did Mack fail to get the memo that he is a professional politician?


TSA "logic" explained: I'm going to need to see you naked before you get on your flight.

"When I contemplate the natural dignity of man, when I feel (for Nature has not been kind enough to me to blunt my feelings) for the honour and happiness of its character, I become irritated at the attempt to govern mankind by force and fraud, as if they were all knaves and fools, and can scarcely avoid disgust at those who are thus imposed upon."
-- Thomas Paine

Greetings readers, and once again--*sigh*--my apologies for the long absence. (I'll spare you the boring details.)

In light of the current outrageous state of affairs with airline security--and our government's wholesale casting aside of Americans' civil rights and privacy, just because we want to go from point A to point B--I'm posting the spot-on (and dreadfully funny) Xtranormal video and strongly recommending the series of excellent TSA posts my co-blogger Lisa Simeone has been putting up at Cogitamus.

In case you're still catching up: the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have, in recent months, been spending countless millions of dollars on new, intrusive full-body scanning machines that utilize a type of x-ray radiation in order to see your skin beneath your clothes. So yes, that means they get to see you naked, from top to bottom, if you want to get on board an airplane at most U.S. airports. And it means your skin gets irradiated.

Well, you do have another option, one which, in addition to being shockingly invasive and sadistic, would seem to be punitive and coercive--in other words, aimed at forcing more people to submit to the scanners: you can undergo what is euphemistically called an "enhanced pat-down".

Enhanced as in, they will grope your sexual organs and breasts, sometimes directly on the skin, often without informing you that they're going to do that--in full view of other passengers waiting in line--and ask you to remove any medical devices or prostheses so they can humiliate you by holding them up and examining them, as they did to one flight attendant who was a cancer survivor wearing a breast prosthesis after her mastectomy. Yes, they will offer "private screenings", but you won't be allowed to document their procedures on video, not unless you want to be arrested; for this reason, many passengers who wish to avoid the radiation and thus submit to the gropefest are choosing to have it done out in the open, in front of witnesses.

Have there been abuses? You betcha. Already. Head on over to Cogitamus, and scroll through Lisa's numerous posts and the attendant comment threads. A Christian cookbook author was forced to strap her baby into a stroller and was then sexually assaulted when a TSA agent groped her beneath her clothes (she has wisely retained a lawyer). Numerous women report having their shirts unbuttoned and their underwear exposed to all and sundry; some have even had their underwear pulled away from their bodies while the agent peered in, front and back.

Listen, I'm not a prude. I've gone to nude beaches; I've been dressed, undressed, and re-dressed by fashion-show folk; I've given birth three times; when I was at UF, my friends and I would regularly go skinny-dipping in one of the many lakes and sinkholes near Gainesville. Furthermore, I don't belong to any organized religion, much less one that forbids women to expose their bodies. I respect the worldview of those individuals, of course; I simply don't have a problem, myself, with voluntary nudity in the appropriate context.

No, this is not about my modesty--or the lack thereof, ahem!--or, for that matter, yours.

This is about our Fourth Amendment right to be free from intrusive and unreasonable search and seizure.

This is about our rights to be secure in our person. Our right to be considered innocent until proven guilty, not guilty until proven innocent.

This is about our right to refuse to allow our children to have strangers touch parts of their bodies when we have all along been teaching them that only parents and doctors should touch said parts, and if someone else attempts to do that, they should scream loudly and inform a responsible adult.

This is about what it means to live in America, Land of the Free (to travel about the country) and Home of the Brave (as opposed to Home of the Pants-wetting Sheep Who Are Easily Coerced Into Giving Up Our Rights The Moment Someone Invokes The Terrorist Bogeyman).

As numerous security experts, including one responsible for the highly successful procedures at Israel's Ben Gurion airport, have noted, these scanner machines are not effective, and despite dosing you up with potentially cancer-causing radiation, they are not subject to the strict regulatory oversight, maintenance protocols, and calibration rules the way medical x-ray machines and CAT scanners are. They cannot detect some kinds of explosives, and they cannot detect anything that resides in a body cavity. Though the so-called Underwear Bomber is often cited as the reason the TSA needs to see you naked, the aforementioned experts state that these scanners probably would not have detected the type of explosives he attempted to use. It was passengers who thwarted that attack, as he succeeded only in setting his testicles on fire and embarrassing the CIA (again) when reports surfaced indicating that foreign offices had ignored the warning communiques of his own father, thus leaving him free to board an airline without setting off any alarm bells real or metaphorical.

Indeed, they are an enormous and shamefully wasteful expenditure by our government, one that was shot down by the House and somehow still foisted upon the public. A boondoggle and a giveaway to certain ex-Department of Homeland Security heads and their new, Dickensianly-named employers.

Good police work--by the FBI, for example--is what stops terror attacks before the perpetrators even get near an airport. Well-trained air marshals on select flights, metal detectors, responsible behavioral profiling by highly-trained personnel, chemical explosive detectors, and selective, secondary screening of high-risk passengers are what will keep us as safe as can be expected in a world, in a reality, where--let's face it--there are never any guarantees.

Other than this one: you are far more likely to be struck by lightening than to experience an airborne terrorist attack.

Oh, and this one: history tells us that when you give up some of your rights, you shouldn't expect to ever get them back.

Please contact your Senators and House Representatives and let them know you will not stand for these shameful, unconstitutional, and (ironically) terrorizing TSA procedures.

Also at litbrit.