Monday, December 20, 2010

Rick Scott's Transition Epic Fail

There was a reason Rick Scott avoided talking about Florida policy when he was running for governor. Scott has a contempt but no understanding of how state government actually works. Scott came into Tallahassee and fired everyone from all the state agencies. Scott never accounted for not having enough time to hire qualified people.
Scott is now forced to eat crow.

Gov.-elect Rick Scott is revoking the pink slips for at least five of Gov. Charlie Crist's department heads and at least 400 other mid to upper-level managers while he takes his time to staff up for his new administration, according to a list released by the Scott transition team Monday. Download Scott staff list 121810

Among those asked to stay on board for 60 to 90 days is Department of Children and Families secretary George Sheldon, Department of Corrections Secretary Walt McNeil, Agency for Workforce Innovation director Cynthia Lorenzo, Department of Business & Professional Regulation Secretary Charlie Liem and Agency for Persons with Disabilities Secretary Jim DeBeaugrine.

Enu Mainigi has been criticized for the manner in which she handled the transition process. Mainigi is running the transition from Fort Lauderdale. She is a Washington-based attorney. Common sense would dictate that Mainigi handle the transition in Tallahassee. Mainigi dismissed such notions in a Miami Herald interview.

"It is a game," Mainigi said. "One of the reasons we've primarily run the transition outside of Tallahassee is because we don't really want to be distracted by the rumors and the buzz."

Actually, Scott and Mainigi are creating much of the "rumors and buzz" by operating the transition inside a star chamber. Rick Scott got elected because he bought a lot of TV ads and Alex Sink ran her disastrous Panhandle strategy. Scott didn't get elected because he shares the most charismatic traits of JFK, Reagan, Clinton and Obama. Most people find the guy creepy. Scott and Mainigi can only intimidate the GOP establishment and the media for so long.

Peter Schorsch details how Scott and Mainigi have no problem promising two different people the same job.

No one — and I mean no one — in the legislative branch has a clue about what to expect from Rick Scott’s administration. Members and staffers, new and veteran alike, simply don’t know what to make of Scott…they don’t know, beyond what they read in the media, who he’ll rely on in the Legislature, in the bureaucracy or the lobby corps. People who think they are going to work in the administration are literally talking to other people who were promised the same job. It’s all very Kaiser Soze: lots of incomplete information, none of which adds up to a full portrait.

This is going to be a long four years.

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It's the Economy, Obama People

Economist Brad Delong served in the Clinton administration. Delong knows several people in the Obama administration and is amazed by how out of touch they are.

When people in the White House ask me whether I think Obama's SOTU address should be about tax reform or Social Security reform (i.e., 2/3 Social Security benefit cuts, 1/3 tax increases offered by the administration--and God alone knows what happens after that), I want to say: Why not make the SOTU address about jobs and economic recovery?

Perhaps the Obama administration need to watch the documentary The War Room. The movie chronicles the successful 1992 Bill Clinton campaign. James Carville wrote the words "the economy. Stupid." Many Americans are either unemployed or underemployed. President Obama needs to talk about the economy and jobs. If Obama claims the tax cuts will stimulate the economy then he and the American people will be sadly disappointed.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Alice In Wonderland: Tea Party Edition

I always found the Mad Hatter annoying. I now know why.

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Louie Gohmert Channels Robert Byrd

Rep. Louie Gohmert claims repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" threatens the existence of America. Never mind that Israel allows gays to openly serve in the military. I doubt Gohmert would tell pro-Israeli conservatives that Israel's existence is about to end. The general consensus is Israel has a formidable military.

GOHMERT: To my friend who said that history would judge us poorly, I would submit if you would look thoroughly at history -- and I'm not saying it's cause and effect -- but when militaries throughout history of the greatest nations in the world have adopted the policy that "fine for homosexuality to be overt" -- you can keep it private and control your hormones fine, if you can't, that's fine too -- they're toward the end of their existence as a great nation.

Gohmert is making the same argument that the late Sen. Robert Byrd made to President Bill Clinton about ending the ban of gays in the military. Byrd gave a rambling spiel to Clinton about Tiberius and Caesar and the fall of the Roman empire. George (Stephanopoulos documented Byrd's exchange with Clinton in his book "All Too Human.") Byrd is also a well known bigot and former member of the Klu Klux Klan.

Gohmert might want to use a more orignail talking point.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Equality Meet Up

Equality Florida is having a meet up in Palm Beach County tomorrow.

Equality Florida – Palm Beach County

December MeetUp

Time: Thursday, December 16 · 6:30pm - 7:30pm

Location: The Cottage

522 Lucerne Avenue

Lake Worth, FL


Obama & Biden Singing Little Drummer Boy

Biden sings a lot like Bruce Springsteen.

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Tax Cuts Bill Passes Senate

The Obama - Republican tax compromise passed 81 to 19. The bill heads now to the House. There are enough Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats to pass the bill.

Update: The senators that voted no on the tax cut compromise.

Bingaman (D-NM)
Coburn (R-OK)
DeMint (R-SC)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Ensign (R-NV)
Feingold (D-WI)
Gillibrand (D-NY)

Hagan (D-NC)
Harkin (D-IA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Merkley (D-OR)
Sanders (I-VT)

Sessions (R-AL)
Udall (D-CO)
Udall (D-NM)
Voinovich (R-OH)
Wyden (D-OR)

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Why Republicans Should Stop Defending Violent Tea Party Rhetoric or How Crazy Guy Bring Gun To School Board Meeting

Panama City, Florida: the Bay District School Board was held hostage by ex-convict Clay Duke. The gunman sprayed a V from the movie V for Vendetta on the wall. In the movie a masked hero fought the government and would leave a V as his calling card.

Before is the video. Fortunately, no school board members were hurt. Duke was shot in the leg by a security guard. Duke turned the gun on himself and committed suicide.

What is even more disturbing is Duke said on his Facebook page.

"My Testament: Some people (the government sponsored media) will say I was evil, a monster (V)... no... I was just born poor in a country where the Wealthy manipulate, use, abuse, and economically enslave 95% of the population. Rich Republicans, Rich Democrats... same-same... rich... they take turns fleecing us... our few dollars... pyramiding the wealth for themselves. The 95%... the us, in US of A, are the neo slaves of the Global South. Our Masters, the Wealthy, do, as they like to us..."

This is the same kind of nutty rambling you can hear on Glenn Beck's show. I certainly don't believe the vast majority of Tea Partiers want to shoot up school board meetings. I don't even know if Duke was a Tea Party member. I do recall Tom Coburn defending Tea Partiers who talked about taking up arms against the government. I would ask Sen. Coburn if he would have liked to be in that board meeting and have a gun pointed at him. In case Coburn forgot he is a member of the government.

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Write A Caption: Michael Steele

Michael Steele is the crazy uncle who thinks he is still hip.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Allen West On Censoring the Media

Allen West and other Tea Party candidates campaigned on restoring the Constitution to government. West's love for the Constitution doesn't extend to the First Amendment. West advocates on censoring the media.

WEST: There are different means by which you can be attacked. I mean it doesnt have to be a bomb or an airplane flying into a building. It doesn’t have to be a shooting. It can be through cyber attacks, it could be through leaking of very sensitive classified information. Regardless of whether you think it causes any harm, the fact that here is an individual that is not an American citizen first and foremost, for whatever reason gotten his hands on classified American material and put it out there in the public domain. And I think that we also should be censoring the American news agencies which enabled him to do this and also supported him and applauding him for the efforts. So that’s kind of aiding and abetting of a serious crime.

This same argument was made by conservatives when the Pentagon Papers were released. The Pentagon Papers revealed the government lying about the Vietnam war. It is interesting that conservative like West don't trust government with their taxes but is willing to belive the government would never lie about its foreign policy. West is willing to let the State Department operate in secret without oversight from the fourth estate. That is counter to how a democracy operates

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John Boehner's 60 Minutes Interview

Cenk Uygur rightly takes Lesley Stahl to task for giving John Boehner a softball interview. Stahl doesn't ask Boehner about handing out tobacco lobbying checks on the House floor or asking bankers for campaign funds in exchange for deregulation.

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Quote of the Day

"About that “interest in reform is grudging even on a good day”: Teachers, better than anyone else understand the devil in the details. Any market-based refrom effort must rely on a high-stakes testing regime. Such testing has been in place since 1990 and has shifted our schools from a culture of learning to a culture of testing. For all parties concerned, student performance on such tests are becoming the only thing that really matters.

"The Sun-Sentinel realizes that Scott and the Republicans are ramming their vision of reform through, much like congressional Dems did Obamacare, freshly."

Conservative blogger Umpire, of Practical State.

I am a progressive who has seen the FCAT has been graded by Kelly Service temps lacking college degrees. Florida's dismal national ranking in education hasn't improved because of the FCAT.

State spending on education as percentage of total resources
Florida ranks 42nd. As a state, Florida spends only 3.1% of its resources on education.
Source: Education Week, Quality Counts, 2009

State per capita spending on corrections vs. education
Florida ranks 50th in per capita spending on education, but ranks 16th in the nation in spending on corrections.
Source: NEA Rankings of the States 2008

High School Graduation Rates
Florida ranks 43rd, with 60.8 percent of public high school students graduating with a diploma.
Source: Education Week, Quality Counts, 2009

Standardized Test Scores
Florida students rank 48th in the nation in average composite scores on the ACT, a standard college entrance exam.
Source: American Legislative Exchange Council, Report Card on American Education, 2008

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Florida Democratic Party Chair Election

On January 8, 2011, the Florida Democratic Party will make Rod Smith King officially announce the new party chair. The suspense is killing me. Who is it going to be out of the field of one candidate?

Florida Democratic Party To Elect Party Chair On January 8th Near Orlando
Thank Chair Karen Thurman For Her Service To Party

The Florida Democratic Party State Executive Committee will meet at the Gaylord Palms Hotel on January 8th to elect a new Party Chairperson to finish the term of Chair Karen Thurman, who recently announced her intentions to retire. Additionally at the meeting, Florida Democrats will thank Chair Thurman for her career of service to the State of Florida and the Democratic Party.

Who: Florida Democratic Party State Executive Committee

What: Meeting to elect next State Party Chair

When: January 8, 2011
Meetings begins at 10:30 AM
Election expected around 1:00 PM

Where: Gaylord Palms Hotel
6000 W Osceola Parkway
Kissimmee, FL 34746

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Adam Putnam Takes Couragous Stand For Sugary Drinks

The Florida State Department of Education was set to make Florida the first state to ban the sale of chocolate milk. Incoming Agriculture Commissioner came to the rescue of chocolate milk drinkers everywhere.

Recently I was elected to serve as the next Commissioner of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). I am excited about this opportunity to champion programs and policies that improve the quality of life for Florida's citizens. One such area that I look forward to tackling is ensuring that Florida's students have better nutrition options to reduce obesity and related long-term health risks. This is a topic your Board has discussed recently for possible policy recommendations. However, instead of looking at the entire nutrition intake of students, you have chosen to focus only on the nutrition content in beverages served in Florida schools. It is my belief that any nutrition improvement plan needs to be certain that students are receiving the best possible nutrition package, in concert with total wellness initiatives, to allow them to reach their optimum achievement potential. I believe in this approach so much that I campaigned on doing what other states have done, and that is transferring the school feeding programs into FDACS, with a goal of improved nutrition and the development of better lifelong eating habits. First steps would be to take a comprehensive look at current school foodservice offerings, rather than making individual product recommendations that do not address the broader health picture. This comprehensive approach will need time to develop and I would appreciate your Board considering delaying any plans to address just a single component of the nutrition factors and instead allow time for a complete approach to building a healthier generation of Florida students.

Board of Education member John R. Padget said the vote to ban chocolate milk is on hold.

"I do think that, as a courtesy to the commissioner-elect, we obviously won't be taking any new votes on this on Friday," Padget said. "The real solution to the number of obese and overweight children in our society is that we all work together, so I don't take the commissioner-elect's interest in a negative way."

Putnam's letter

Putnam is asking that the State Board of Education to let the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services school nutrition guidelines. Part of the reason school nutrition has been so horrendous is because food wholesalers have heavily contributed to school board campaigns. If Putnam really cared about nutrition he would support the State Board of Education voting to ban chocolate milk. Instead, we see Putnam making a power grab for school nutrition guidelines. Putnam is seeing campaign dollar signs in his eyes like the true pol he is.


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Monday, December 13, 2010

Florida Republicans Plan to Cut Medicaid Part 2

The Heritage Foundation is pushing the Florida government to opt out of Medicaid.

To stanch the fiscal hemorrhage, the conservative Heritage Foundation says Florida could save $28 billion over five years by simply opting out of Medicaid. Though that might sound like a radical move, it dovetails philosophically with Attorney General Bill McCollum's lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare.

Opting out also matches legislators' determination to pass a constitutional amendment to prevent the federal government from compelling people to participate in any health-care system. Both the House and the Senate have listed the resolution -- AJR 1 and SJR 1 respectively -- as their first order of business in 2011.

Medicaid is funded differently than Medicare. States have to provide matching grants to Medicaid. No matching funds from Florida means no federal funding. Florida is facing serious problems funding Medicaid. That is due to Florida's economic problems and the Republican obsession with tax cuts. Republicans have long hated Great Society programs like Medicaid. The best way to kill it is not fund it.

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Governor-elect Rick Scott went on his "Let's Get to Work" tour of Florida. St. Petersburg Times business columnist Robert Trigaux noted a question Scott is getting asked by business executives.

Certainly one strategy emerging in Scott's arsenal appears to be incentives. Most states wave incentive packages at businesses to persuade them to relocate, to expand or to stay where they are when other states come calling.

The challenge during hard economic times? Incentives typically require tax dollars or, at least, the promise to businesses of lower taxes in the future.

Trigaux's question about tax incentives is easy to answer. Florida is facing a state budget shortfall. The money isn't there for state assistance. Instead, Scott will create more corporate tax loopholes. This will only add to future budget problems. Is hard to explain how many of these corporate tax cuts will create jobs.

The City of Tampa took the St. Petersburg Times Forum off of the tax rolls. Former owner Bill Davidson said he couldn't afford to keep the team in Tampa if he actually had to pay taxes. The city happily obliged and saved Vincent Lecavalier's job.

In truth, Lecavalier would just be playing hockey for the Lightning in another city. Most of the workers at the St. Petersburg Times Forum are only employed part-time. I should know since I used to work there. The City of Tampa spent millions to build a venue for the Lightning and then is collected little if nothing in return on tax. Ask yourself if you would build a a retail store for a rich person and then not ask for rent payments. That is exactly the kind of incentives Rick Scott will implement.

Another fun fact: taxes aren't levied at people who rent luxury suites at sports venues in Florida.

The St. Petersburg Times did a special report in 2003 on Florida's tax loopholes. Many corporations end up paying no taxes to the state.

Carnival Corp., Florida's 10th-largest public company with 4,220 South Florida employees and a $136-million state payroll, posted more than $1-billion in profits last year.

It also paid nothing in Florida corporate income tax.

Neither did Verizon Communications Inc., the phone giant that employs 12,500 people in Florida, or Saddlebrook Resorts Inc., the elite retreat in Wesley Chapel that is home to a famous tennis training center.

In fact, 98 percent of the estimated 1.5-million businesses in Florida paid nothing. And many of those that did pay found ways to reduce their tax bills.

Trigaux notes Florida has one of the most corporate-friendly tax systems in the country. In Scott's mind, big government is keeping corporations down. Scott is still stinging from Columbia/HCA $1.7 billion fine and being forced off the companies board.

The truth is pay is low k-12 schools are among the worst in the country. Companies look at these things when they move branches to Florida. Transportation and urban sprawl are horrible. Students graduate from FSU, UF and USF only to seek work out of state. These are the things that need to be changed, in order to create jobs. Scott's solution is hire Ayn Rand fanboys to deal with transportation.

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Worst Candidate of the Year: Alex Sink

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

I have a personal soft spot for the awfulness of Kendrick Meek and Christine O'Donnell. I should send personal thank you notes to both candidates for the great comedy material they provided this blog.

Alex Sink and Charlie Crist both made The Daily Rundown's finalists for worst candidate. What made Alex Sink stand out is she lost to Rick Scott. Losing to a man whose company was caught embezzling $1.7 billion from Medicare is pretty bad.

This campaign cycle had its share of horrible candidates. Rick Scott being one of them. It is not a stretch to think Sink would have trouble running a campaign against someone as loony as Allen West.

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Tax Cuts Update

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Democrat Chris Van Hollen said the House Democratic caucus will not support the estate tax. House Democrats intend to pass a different tax bill than the Senate. Van Hollen said the bill will go to the floor for a vote in the lame duck session.


Paul Krugman said he can not support the Obama-McConnell tax cut compromise.

The actual stimulus in the plan comes from the other measures, mainly unemployment benefits and the payroll tax break. And these measures (a) won’t make more than a modest dent in unemployment and (b) will fade out quickly, with the good stuff going away at the end of 2011.

The question, then, is whether a year of modestly better performance is worth $850 billion in additional debt, plus a significantly raised probability that those tax cuts for the rich will become permanent. And I say no.

Krugman correctly believe the stimulus doesn't have enough for the $850 billion price tag. The one year extension of unemployment benefits and Social Security payroll tax cut only keeps things from getting worse. What is needed is a national jobs program. The best stimulus is giving people gainful employment. The Obama economic team though throwing stimulus dollars at the private sector would suddenly increase jobs. Lawrence Summers predicted the stimulus would drastically reduce unemployment. The White House now hopes to get unemployment down to 8.5 nationally before the 2012 election. The reason why Obama's original stimulus failed because there wasn't enough funded for job creation. Another factor is Obama and Summers compromised with Mitch McConnell on tax cuts that failed to justify their cost.

Senate Republicans seek to slash income and corporate tax rates as well as the overall level of spending in the bill. "We need to sober up here and take a look at what we're doing," said Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Summers said Obama wants to keep his tax cuts but will consider other changes. He said "Buy American" provisions for U.S. manufacturers could "send a protectionist signal."

The president "has been prepared to walk a long mile for bipartisan support," Summers said. In the end, he said, Obama wants the best possible package delivered to his desk by Feb. 16.

Obama and Summers caved. The stimulus had $237 billion in tax cuts. Republicans didn't vote for the stimulus bill and the economy still sucks. Obama and Summers are essentially using the same failed policy.

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The Rational Actor's Libertarian Fête

In the winter of 2007, I wrote this sonnet sequence in response to some of the worrisome events I'd seen take place that year--specifically, the many ill effects that deregulation and greed had wrought, and the often ghastly (and even fatal) consequences of holding profits and self-interest in greater esteem than such incidental and seemingly trivial matters as the health, safety, and financial well-being of human beings both here and abroad, from whence much of our food and most of our consumer goods are imported.

The FDA and Consumer Product Safety Commission are in marginally better shape under our current White House (though I've yet to hear of any of the shuttered labs being re-staffed and re-opened).

Sadly, however, this poem would seem to be even more on-point now, in late 2010, than it was when I first wrote it. Especially the last two lines.

The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached.
-- from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

The Rational Actor's Libertarian Fête

Come now, the ever-bitterer winter wind
Reminding one and all what season nears,
And with it come the needs and wants of friends;
The plight--the suffering!--told of distant spheres.
Ah, what is there to do but shake one's head
And wonder at the choices people make?
They knew what they were doing. He made his bed.
Some people want to live life on the take.
I suffered; there were sacrifices made.
The roads I chose have led me to this place,

And all my efforts now will be repaid;

My just desserts spread forth before my face.

Let this be, then, the year we celebrate
At the Rational Actor's Libertarian Fête!

Come in, have drinks; we've everything to please--
Our own self-interest, you'll be glad to know,
Means cocktails that are light on antifreeze
And bread with just the faintest melamine glow.
We're reasonably sure the Champagne flute
Won't leach a cloud of lead into each bubble--
Or Christmas-colored plastic cups might suit?
No need to thank the Chinese for their trouble.
It's quite a spread, when all is said and done:
There's corn--and beans--with tortured DNA;
The Monkfish, I am told, will surely stun;
There's penicillin in the shrimp souffle.
It's doubtful that the roasted pig will kill you;
Though, even then, the hospital will bill you.

Come now, the ever-bitterer winter wind,
Reminding one and all that all are one;
And so the needs and wants of nearby friends,
And suffering humans under a distant sun,
Become our needs and wants--it's all-impacting.
Each dollar saved becomes a lead-laced train
That sickens those too young for Rational Acting.
Each weakened law begets a poisoned grain.
And so the guests of honor at their Fête
May find their appetites are somewhat numb;
They'll hope the howling coming from the gate
Is not The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come,
His corrupted chains of debt stretched through the air,
Borne by toxic winds of laissez-faire.

D.N.T. 11/25/07

Originally published at Ezra Klein, Jon Swift's Best Blog Posts of 2007, and litbrit.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

DCCC Attacks Tax Cut Deal

The DCCC is attacking Republicans on the tax cut deal. The DCCC doesn't attack Obama. It is fascinating to see how politically far apart the DCCC and the White House are on tax cuts.

Voice Your Outrage at Republicans Despicable Vote on Social Security

Just one week after voting to give millionaires a tax break that increases the deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars, House Republicans voted in droves against giving seniors $250 to cover their Social Security cost of living increase. Let's hold their feet to the fire.

The House of Representatives Democratic caucus as a whole is much more liberal than the Obama White House. My take is Obama isn't really going to care about the incoming House Democratic caucus since they will be the minority party. Obama made the tax cut deal with Republicans without bring in House or Senate Democratic leadership before his official announcement. It would be mistake for Obama to exclude the Democratic House membership. The result will be his policies will be attacked from the Left.

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Jim Norman: A Lobbyist's Best Friend

Florida State Sen. Jim Norman has no credibility claiming that he is not influenced by lobbyists. Norman failed to disclose $500,000 the late Ralph Hughes gave Norman's wife $500,000 to purchase a house in Arkansas. Hughes donated to Norman's political campaigns. Norman claims the money was a loan and an investment on property. Hughes surving family want the money back.

Norman's first Senate bill (which I can't find online) would make structural changes to the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission. The PTC regulates taxi and limousine services that operate in Hillsborough County, Florida. Norman claims he talked to no lobbyists when making this bill.

Norman said he didn't consider the contributions when sponsoring the bill. "I didn't even speak with anyone from the cab industry," he said.

Documents filed in Hillsborough County lists Tampa Taxi Coalition Louis Betz as the person who prepared Norman's legislation. Betz has no idea how paperwork he filed would have his name on it.

Norman received $5,000 from the taxi and limo industry during his Senate campaign. Norman has zero credibility when he says lobbyists hold no sway on him.

Sen. Ronda Storms want to eliminate the PTC. Her reasoning is rather bizarre.

Storms: "They have a rule that says cabbies have to wear socks. I mean, please. Come on.

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Sherrod Brown Open Letter to President Obama

Sen. Sherrod Brown published a letter written to President Barack Obama.

Dear Mr. President,

With our economy struggling, our working families hurting, and our deficit crisis worsening every year, we need to take action to create jobs, bolster the middle class, and bring our budget into balance.

But the agreement you’ve struck with Senate Republicans is a bad deal. It doubles down on a failed strategy of tax cuts for the super-wealthy that would explode our deficit without strengthening our economy. It’s too high a price to pay for the support of those who have continually refused to put the middle class first.

Instead of giving in to obstruction, we should fight it. I am willing to stay in session as long as it takes to overcome a filibuster and extend both unemployment benefits for jobless Americans and tax cuts for the middle class. If our colleagues on the other side of the aisle want to spend their holidays refusing to help working families struggling to enjoy a Christmas of their own unless their wealthy friends get another bailout, let them.

Mr. President, I know that you share my desire to pass good economic policies that help working families. But a deal that also includes bad policies that will worsen our deficit and fail to help our economy falls short. By standing our ground and standing strong for the middle class, we can do better. And I urge you to do just that.


Sherrod Brown
U.S. Senator, Ohio

Sen. Brown is asking citizens to sign his petition.

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SNL Obama's Stockholm Syndrome

Via Crooks and Liars: Saturday Night Live makes fun of President Barack Obama's tax cut deal by comparing it to Stockholm syndrome. Obama goes on to talk about how much he loves trickle down economics and that Bristol Palin was robbed of victory on Dancing With the Stars.

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Why Bernie Sanders Position Is Smart Policy and Politics

Sen. Bernie Sanders tapped into something very special with his near-filibuster. The Senate server temporarily shut down. Obama's neoliberal tendencies and political team's decision that a tax cut deal would play well with independent voters in 2012. Sander's stirring floor speeches is proof that populism sell politically.

The Obama team is made the tax cut deal strictly for their 2012 re-election chances. As the bizarre Bill Clinton press conference illustrates this White House is disorganized. Obama's lame excuse that he couldn't talk about tax policy with President Clinton and the media was disaster. It made Obama appear as if he doesn't care and needs a former president to do his heavy lifting. I think there is truth to the latter. Another example of disorganization is Obama not consulting with leaders of the Democratic caucuses before making the tax cut deal. This was amazingly stupid Obama only has himself to blame for his caucuses being angry at him.

Obama's complaints that Congress should have handled this and progressives should be on his side. Whether you agree with his grievances, it appears that Obama expect other people to follow lockstep with him. At the end of the day Obama is the leader of the Democratic Party.

People have compared Obama to Bush I. The comparison I will make is George H.W. Bush was hated by the Republican establishment, the base, had a slumping economy and went back on a tax pledge. Bush lost his re-election bid.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Cat Blogging

Be prepared for cuteness overload of bobcat and domestic cat kittens together.

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Sen Sanders Call to Action

Sen, Bernie Sanders said he is issuing a "call to action" and not a filibuster. Progressives are urging 1,000,000 citizen calls to the Senate for a better tax bill. The phone number of the United States Senate is 1-866-338-1015.

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Quote of the Day: Bernie Sanders Filibuster

"People are going cold. People don't have enough food. People are homeless."

Sen. Bernie Sanders, on the Senate floor.

Whether or not Sanders filibuster will be successful, he is doing a needed service of reminding America of the disadvantaged people in the country.

Sanders is on C-SPAN right now.

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Note to Obama: Clinton is Not President

I am reading tweets about Bill Clinton answering questions about Obama's tax cuts. Obama walked away from the podium. This is bizarre. Isn't Obama suppose to be president? Clinton is getting hammered and he isn't in office anymore. Disaster.

I better tune in to C-SPAN.

I respect Clinton taking one for the team, but don't do this to the guy. It is Obama's job to sell his agenda. I understand the politics of bringing a former president to stump for the tax cuts. Judging by the way the media is hammering Clinton it isn't working. If Obama wants this tax cut package he is going to have to do the heavy lifting. My contempt for the tax cuts aside, what happened to Obama's skills as an orator?

Update: I am not making this up. Obama left Clinton at the podium because he had holiday parties to attend. This is what Obama told the White House Press Corp. I'm speechless.

Update: Obama leaves Clinton's side near the end of the video.

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Thursday, December 09, 2010

Best or Worst Headline of the Day

I don't know whether to laugh or cry. This headline does sum up what passes as policy thinking in Washington.

Sen. Conrad: Extend All Tax Cuts; Time to Get 'Serious' About Deficit

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The Meat Puppet - Up On The Sun

I always thought Kurt Cobain did Meat Puppet songs better than the Meat Puppets. I still love this song.

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Bill McCollum's Anti-Global Warming Movie

Outgoing Attorney General Bill McCollum sent a memo out to Florida Cabinet members Charlie Crist, Alex Sink and Charles Bronson disputing the science of global warming. McCollum urged his fellow a pseudo-documentary called The Great Global Warming Swindle. The director According to the The Buzz, Martin Durkin is a Marxist. Below is the trailer.

Some of the experts Durkin interviews are a hoot. Piers Corbyn is a meteorologist and owner of Weather Action. WA makes forecasts a year in advance. WA went on the stock market. Corbyn allowed people to place bets on the weather. Bad move.

Weather Action - one of the unlikelier stock market debutantes of recent years - is to take shelter in private ownership once more after a two-year buffeting of the sort that would normally merit a warning to shipping.

The forecasting service is selling its PLC status as a "shell" for £273,540 minus the £1 that founder Piers Corbyn will pay to get back his unorthodox weather bureau.

In a final twist to the Weather Action story, the shares - which had slumped from the 79p issue price to 24p - rocketed 370% to close at 90p once it was announced yesterday that Weather Action would no longer own, er, Weather Action.

Asked if he was hurt, Mr Corbyn replied: "Yes and no."

Professor Ian Clark has been involved with the think tank the Competitive Enterprise Institute. The think tank is funded by Texaco, Inc, Amoco Foundation, Inc. and a host of other environmentally unfriendly corporations.

Professor Bill Ball has worked for the Natural Resource Stewardship Project and The Friends of Science. Last time I blogged about the former, the NRSP didn't have their web site up. That is still the case. A University of Calgary found auditor report found the Friends of Science do not conduct scientific research.

Barry Cooper solicited research money from the University of Calgary. The auditor report FoS Science was using funding to run political and anti-global warming ads. FoS told potential donors that they could get a tax right off by donating through the University of Calgary. The school sent a cease and desist letter to FoS. The audit report could not conclude if the research done by FoS with U of C money was legitimate.

These are the so-called experts from the documentary McCollum wants other elected officials to watch. Below are the memos McCollum sent out.

McCollum Anti-Global Warming Memo

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Why Litbrit Right About Rules Mattering

I was perplexed by this Joy-Ann Reid post.

Liberals theoretically despise George W. Bush, but in reality, they want Barack Obama to BE George W. Bush — flouting the rules and flouting Congress, while liberal members of Congress appear to have been so trained by the Bush era to follow the White House’s lead, they desperately need Obama to tell them what to do, and to “fight” (ill-defined) before they’re willing or able to do their jobs.

Fellow PR blogger Litbrit has been a longtime fan of Barack Obama. That is until Obama floated the rules.

The last straw was not, as I thought most likely, the president's unnecessary caving in to the obstructionist Republican minority in Congress and extending the costly Bushian tax cuts for wealthy Americans. No, it was this nasty Wikileaks revelation--about the current White House administration's despicable sotto voce attempts to strong-arm certain more law-abiding (and probably more morally-upright) foreign governments and thus stymie war crimes investigations abroad--which sparked my own epiphany. I realized that despite my having passionately called for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney for their war crimes back in 2007 (great comment thread there at Ezra's old place, if you've got time), I was now at a point where I was allowing others--even some fellow lefties--to (nearly) convince me of how politically inexpedient, how inconvenient, and how costly-to-the-national-morale such war crimes investigations would be. And I was also--mistakenly (oh how mistaken I was!)--believing, all along, that President Obama would eventually turn his seemingly robust moral attentions to the ugly task of holding the criminals accountable. I could wait; it would happen. I was wrong. Jonathan Turley sums it up nicely:

Sadly, I was one of those people telling Litbrit impeachment would be a waste of political energy. I realize now how wrong I am.

Litbrit wants and expects the President to honor the "rules" we call international law. Litbrit blogged about another Wikileaks revelation. A June 24, 2009, a cable between US assistant ambassador Joseph Mussomeli and Afghan Interior Minister Hanif Atmar reveals private defense contractors (aka mercenaries) DynCorp used children for paid sexual services.

1. (C) SUMMARY: Assistant Ambassador Mussomeli discussed a range of issues with Minister of Interior (MoI) Hanif Atmar on June 23. On the Kunduz Regional Training Center (RTC) DynCorp event of April 11 (reftel), Atmar reiterated his insistence that the U.S. try to quash any news article on the incident or circulation of a video connected with it. He continued to predict that publicity would "endanger lives." He disclosed that he has arrested two Afghan police and nine other Afghans as part of an MoI investigation into Afghans who facilitated this crime of "purchasing a service from a child." He pressed for CSTC-A to be given full control over the police training program, including contractors. Mussomeli counseled that an overreaction by the Afghan goverment (GIRoA) would only increase chances for the greater publicity the MoI is trying to forestall.

The Guardian Reports the Obama administration got a Washington Post reporter to bury the story. What the Washington Post failed to report was young Afghan boys ages 8 to 15 years-old were sexually molested by two Afghan police officers and other men at a party thrown by DynCorp. The children are called Bacha boys. The boys wear make-up and women's clothes. They dance for men and are their sexual services are sold off to the highest bidder. Frontline did a story on the hidious practice.

Reid is wrong. Progressives are mad because policies like this hurt America. It is hard to cheer on Obama when his tax cut package will raise taxes on those making under $30,000. It is hard to believe that are foreign policy will become sane when the Obama administration cover up child rape. I wish Obama would have more respect for the rules and so does Litbrit.

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Obama Pressuring DEM Congress to Say Rich Tax Cuts Popular

The Huffington Post reports the White House is now pressuring Congressional Democrats to go out and say tax cuts for the rich are popular.

That an administration would promote polling data backing its policy preferences is normally not an astounding revelation. But the private push of the Gallup study struck the Senate aide as depressing if not counter-productive. Even as the president was insisting that he thought an extension of rates for the wealthy is poor economics -- "I'm as opposed to the high-end tax cuts today as I've been for years," Obama said on Tuesday -- his aides were privately embracing the idea that extending the Bush tax cuts across the board was politically prudent.

"We are making the argument for (Republicans)," said the Senate aide, who sent over the email on condition that it could not be reprinted. "The White House now wants us to defend extending the Bush tax cuts."

I have yet to read articles on Obama pressuring Democrats on financial reform, repealing DADT or the DREAM Act. Obama lobbied Senate Democrats to not support a bill allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. The deal resulted in costing the taxpayers $76 billion in savings. This president backs policies that continue to hurt the American people.

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Petra Haden - I Can See For Miles

At the urging of legendary punk rock bassist Mike Watt, Petra Haden record an acapella cover version of The Who Sell Out. Haden did all the voices on the record herself. Including the album's fake commercials. Haden performs a live version of I Can See For Miles with other female singers.

Petra Haden - I Can See For Miles

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Obama's Says He's Too Tough On GOP

President Barack Obama complains to MSNBC's Chuck Todd about his bad rap of being too tough on Republicans. I literally laughed when I first saw this.

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The Unseriousness of Ronda Storms

Florida Sen. Mike Fasano called a meeting of the Senate Committee on Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations. Fasano seeked input from other committee members on what to do with the controversial "Taj Mahal" building. The $48 million, 97,000-square-foot 1st District Court of Appeal courthouse had personal kitchens for each judge. a gym, and other luxuries that are more suited for Donald Trump than civil servants. Sen. Ronda Storms had this brilliant policy proposal to deal with the "Taj Mahal" building.

"We should insist on our pound of flesh and make them put the air at 80 in the summer and at 50 in the winter," said Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Brandon.

Storms idea was to punish the judges who lobbied for the "Taj Mahal" building by changing the temperature of the thermostat. No one is even certain if the 1st District Court of Appeal judges will be allowed to reside in the building. Storms thermostat idea accomplishes absolutely nothing.

Storms other brilliant policy idea is ending the Hillsborough Transit Agency. Storms' reason is certainly original.

"They have a rule that says cabbies have to wear socks," Storms said in a Dec. 1 St. Petersburg Times article. "I mean, please. Come on."

Perhaps Storms is so against socks because of her public feud with Black Sock the sock puppet. And yes, Storms actually had a public feud with a sock puppet and filed charges.

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Poor Will See Tax Increases Under Obama Tax Cut Deal

The St. Petersburg Times editorial board rules that President Barack Obama got played on the tax cuts deal.

Another example: The president and congressional Republicans agreed to a 2 percent cut in payroll taxes for one year. While every working American would enjoy some benefit, those making $106,800 or more in 2011 would get the maximum $2,136 tax cut. A cut in payroll taxes can stimulate the economy, but it should have been targeted to middle- and lower-income households who are more likely to spend the money. It makes no sense to cut payroll taxes for all and deprive the Social Security system of the money just as the president's deficit commission and fiscal conservatives are focused on shoring up the program's future solvency.

The Tax Policy Center made this chart. Under the "Make Work Pay" tax cuts if you make under $10,000 you receive a $315 tax cut. The payroll holiday tax provides only a $118 tax cut for that bracket.

Obama let his "Make Work Pay" tax cuts sunset. In exchange, Obama got the payroll holiday tax cut. Republicans get to bleed Social Security and Medicare. In return, Obama raised taxes on the three lowest brackets. Those making between $10,000 to $20,000 will see their taxes increase by $173. The St. Petersburg Times is right. Obama got played.

Update: Lawrence Summers admits to Politico that taxes for those making under $20,000 will go up.

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Florida Republicans Plan to Cut Medicaid

The Florida government is running a $3 billion budget deficit going into the new legislative session. The Florida constitution demands that the budget be balanced. Which is why Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon called tax cuts a "top priority."

We also asked Cannon about how the Legislature can afford to approve tax cuts or incentives for businesses this year after news this week that the state's budget shortfall is $3 billion or more.

"It is something that is literally the top priority," Cannon said. "Finding out where to make those cuts and how to make those policy changes to support them is the biggest item, I think, in the windscreen of the Legislature right now."

Incoming Florida Gov. Rick Scott has made the campaign promise of a 19 percent property tax cut. Property taxes have become regressive in Florida. Reform is needed. It is hard to see how Scott can pull off that big of a tax cut when the budget shortfall. It weren't work, but I have no doubt Scott and the Republicans in the Florida legislature will push for tax cuts. Damn the consequences.

Cannon and other Florida Republicans are planning to pay for the tax cuts by cutting Medicaid. There is nothing Democrats in the Florida legislature can do about it. Sen. Joe Negron is planning $2 billion in Medicaid cuts.

Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who chairs the Senate health budget committee, said he expects to have to trim $1 billion to $2 billion in healthcare costs. He said he is targeting ``soft'' services, such as payments to consultants who don't provide direct care to patients.

Administrative costs do eat up a portion of health care funding. I doubt Negron is going to find $2 billion in savings. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer cut Medicaid costs by refusing to cover transplant surgery. Brewer has refused to call a special session to address the issue. Brewer's policy has placed the lives of people needing transplants at risk. Brewer dismissed the complaints of patients to Think Progress.

Brewer is incorrect about only bone marrow patients not being able to get transplants. Randy Shepherd is in need of a heart transplant. Tiffany Tate fears that if she doesn't get a transplant she will die.

This is the kind of Medicaid we are going to get in Florida if Republicans have their way. J.D. Alexander makes the debunked argument of trickle down economics.

``It's too early to speak to that, one way or the other,'' said Senate Budget Chairman JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales. ``Clearly, putting more money in people's pockets helps them to grow business and feed their families. But, that said, we are facing a fairly challenging economic situation.''

Florida has a tax system that provides tax cuts for stadium luxury suites and yachts. Yet Floridians will see Medicaid cut by Republicans that have long made their contempt for government health care well known. People should be very worried. I'm sorry, but Rick Scott and Dean Cannon are the last two people I want to be making decisions on health care.

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Quote of the Day

Cowardice asks the question - is it safe?
Expediency asks the question - is it politic?
Vanity asks the question - is it popular?
But conscience asks the question - is it right?
And there comes a time when one must take a position
that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular;
but one must take it because it is right.

-- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hat tip to Litbrit for the quote.


The Good & Bad of Obama - Republican Tax Cut Deal

Mark Zandi, an economist I respect, tells Ezra Klein is enthusiastic about the Obama-Republican tax cut deal.

"This will make a difference," he says. "It will add a lot to growth in the first half of next year, when the recovery will be at its most vulnerable. It really seals the deal for the recovery evolving into a self-sustaining economic expansion."

Unemployment will be extended. That is good. Unemployment benefit are stimulative. These people aren't going to spending money on vacations in the Bahamas, contrary to what Republican elected officials may believe. People unemployed have to spend money on groceries, rent, etc. The unemployed will be putting money back into the economy.

Where people may be confused is unemployment is not extended for people unemployed for over 99 weeks (the 99ers) will get no extension. The extension merely means unemployment benefits will be budgeted in the 2011 budget. States decide the length unemployment can be collected. The federal government provide federal money to help the states pay unemployment benefits.

The bad news is President Barack Obama got unemployment benefits money that Republicans would have had to place in the 2011 budget. Republicans don't want to be on the side against unemployment benefits during bad economic times. What Obama and Republicans failed to do is provide unemployment benefits for people that have been out of work for two years. The job market is extremely difficult right now. It is difficult for people to get transportation money to go to several interviews a day. It is also difficult for people to buy new clothes for interviews. The unemployment rate is much higher than reported by the Labor Department. Unemployment might actually be up to 15 percent. Unemployment data doesn't record the 99ers (people unemployed over 99 weeks).

An example of how horrible Obama is at messaging is misleading.

Now, if that’s the standard by which we are measuring success or core principles, then let’s face it, we will never get anything done. People will have the satisfaction of having a purist position and no victories for the American people. And we will be able to feel good about ourselves and sanctimonious about how pure our intentions are and how tough we are, and in the meantime, the American people are still seeing themselves not able to get health insurance because of preexisting conditions or not being able to pay their bills because their unemployment insurance ran out.

The tax cuts compromise does not address people whose unemployment benefits that have run out. These people will hear Obama's words and think the President is going to give them unemployment benefits. The policy details matter. Obama either doesn't know how his compromise addresses unemployment benefits or he he overstating the deal he made.

Zandi told Klein he expects positive stimulus results from the small businesses being allowed to make 100 capital investment deductions.

His estimate is higher than, say, the estimate from Macroeconomic Advisers (they put it at an extra half-a-percentage point in 2011) because he thinks the provision to allow businesses to deduct 100 percent of the costs of new investments in 2011 will be more effective at spurring business spending than most analysts currently predict. "I think we’ll see a big pop from it next year," he says.

My understanding is that the deduction will be used for businesses buying machinery. I am not sure if the deduction will be allowed for other fixed assets, such as land or buildings. There is no official bill yet. If the deductions include land and buildings than we may see more small businesses starting up. Considering the shape the economy is in it is a good tax deduction proposal.

Getting the economy back on track takes priority over the federal deficit. The deficit will not be reduced while millions are unemployed or underemployed. However, there is a fiscal headache on the horizon. The way Obama and the Republicans handled the tax cuts deal is an indication they don't have the stomach to seriously deal with the deficit. Congressional Democrats had two years to solve the Bush tax cuts issue and punted. The Bush tax cuts debate is proof Washington's leadership does not have the resolve to deal with the deficit maturely.

Earned income credit will be in the tax cut package. EIC will help poor people with children. However, I can't believe that this was something that Obama had to compromise on. The Bush administration had EIC. It is a mainstream and popular tax deduction. Word is there increase in EIC tax benefits.

I have heard a conservative argue the estate tax to 35 percent will create jobs. Republicans have made repealing the so-called death tax a religious conviction. There was no estate tax in 2010. Congress allowed the estate tax to elapsed. In the big scheme of things this isn't a huge deal. Joe Rosenberg of the Tax Policy Center estimates the revenues lost at around $55 billion. I don't like it, but I wouldn't hold up unemployment extensions to get the estate rate up to 45 percent.

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Write A Caption: Rick Scott and Marco Rubio

Bask in the glow of the new leadership in Florida politics.

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Blogger Granted Florida Capital Press Pass

Peter Schorsch of Saint Petersblog has been granted a Tallahassee capital press pass. Schorsch is the first blogger to granted a press pass to cover the Florida state government. Schorsch will cover the legislative session.

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Pushing Rope Newspaper Latest Edition.

The new edition of the Pushing Rope online newspaper is out.


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Husker Du - Sorry Somehow

Probably my favorite Husker Du song. Grant Hart's kiss off classic is one of the best break-up songs in rock music.

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Keith Olbermann Tribute to Elizabeth Edwards

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Keith Olbermann has a fantastic tribute to Elizabeth Edwards.

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More Proof Obama Is Not a Policy Wonk

White House officials told Scott Wilson of the Washington Post that President Barack Obama made the tax cut deal to please independent voters.

The move is based on a political calculation, drawn from his party's midterm defeat, that places a premium on winning back independent voters.

The strategy emerged from hours of post-election meetings among senior administration officials who, after poring over returns, exit polls and midterm history, have determined that the loss of independent voters who supported Democrats in 2008 cost the party dozens of races this year. That conclusion places Obama at odds with many liberal Democrats, who say the midterm losses were the result in part of a political base dispirited by the president's penchant for compromise.

I continue to say Obama is not a policy wonk. If Obama really cared about the deficit he would not have been so ready to make a deal on extending the tax cuts. It is now obvious the Deficit Commission was merely a dog and pony show. Obama ran in 2008 on ending the Bush tax cuts for the top two brackets. The reason progressives are angry is they are holding Obama to his previously stated policy positions.

We now learn the tax cut deal had nothing to do with extending unemployment extension. This was about getting Obama re-elected. This wasn't about reducing the deficit. This was about Obama courting independent voters. This is sickening beyond words.

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Quote of the Day

"We measure progress by how many people can find a job that pays the mortgage, whether you can put a little extra money away at the end of each month so you can someday watch your child receive her college diploma.We measure progress in the 23 million new jobs that were created when Bill Clinton was president... "

Barack Obama, accepting the Democratic nomination.

I wonder if Obama still measures progress by that same standard.

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Why Progressives Should Be Critical of Obama

Obama posted an Organizing For America video to state his case for his tax cuts compromise. Obama continues to talk about compromise and bipartisanship. All Obama accomplished was alienating the base and continuing the same tax cuts that haven't stimulated the economy. I continue to be convinced that the Deficit Commission was nothing more than political theater.

Obama loses any pretense that he is concerned about the deficit. All of the tax cuts will add to the deficit. Obama froze federal pay without even attempting to use it as a bargaining chip. Unemployment extension could have been a separate fight. Republicans would lose politically if they hold up unemployment extensions. Instead, Republicans can say they supported aiding the unemployed.

The Obama administration and Republican Party deal dropped the estate tax from 45 percent to 35 percent for people giving $5 million to their heirs. Obama laughably says the tax cut deal with stimulate the economy. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is not happy about the estate tax deal.

“We believe the estate tax in the bill is a bridge too far,” the Speaker said. That provision shifts the balance in the agreement to Republicans and “ends any kind of symmetry between the two sides.”

What makes matters worse is that their is no certainty in the tax structure system. This is horrible policy. Come 2012, we will have the same political fight during a presidential election year. Progressives are not going to believe Obama's promise of repealing the two top upper-income brackets when he is up for re-election. The middle class will have uncertainty about their tax rates. The federal government will have a harder time calculating deficit reduction (as if either party cares) and the budget. Early leaks of the price tag are $700 billion to $900 billion. Obama and the Republicans are digger a deeper fiscal hole for tax cuts that don't provide stimulus.

This was the time for Obama to fight. The complaint from some progressives is criticizing Obama helps the Republicans. This is about the American people. Obama and Republicans are placing their personal political priorities above stimulating the economy and dealing with the deficit. The federal government needs to start another FDR-style jobs program. Roosevelt was able to employ 4 million people in the first two months of the program. $700 billion to $900 billion being wasted on tax cuts could be used to give people jobs.

Obama's idea of getting tough is talking down to his own base.

And we will be able to feel good about ourselves and sanctimonious about how pure our intentions are and how tough we are, and in the meantime, the American people are still seeing themselves not able to get health insurance because of preexisting conditions or not being able to pay their bills because their unemployment insurance ran out.

LynnW49 read that Obama comment and posted how Obama's so-called health care reform is financially hurting her.

Thanks to the bridge plan in Obamacare, I did get health insurance this fall. In the first 3 months, it has gone up 20% so that it now costs more than the insurance plan I lost before Obamacare. I have the right to criticize the Obama compromise­s on health care. I now have insurance, but I will not have it for for long because the rate increase makes it unaffordab­le.

I am not saying that the Republicans are better because they certainly are not. The current version of the GOP is a right-wing fringe group run by people like Jim DeMint. However, Obama's policies have real world consequences to many Americans. The holiday payroll tax will have a negative impact of Social Security revenue. Millions of American seniors depend on Social Security. To say we can't criticize is because it will help Republicans misses the point that are elected leaders are suppose help the American people. We are seeing a lack of leadership from Obama and Republicans.

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More on Castor's Gulf Coast Bill

Kathy Castor is the sponsor of the Gulf of Mexico Economic and Environmental Restoration Act of 2010. The bill will address payment to the victims of the BP spill and environment clean-up. The Tampa Tribune editorial board has voiced it's support of the bill.

Some fishermen and hoteliers, meanwhile, have gone under or taken tremendous economic hits as Americans changed vacation plans to avoid the predicted damage. Across the country people have stopped buying Gulf shrimp, oysters and game fish, even though tests have, for the most part, indicated most of the catch is safe. The Gulf Coast "brand" has been damaged.

But Castor's bill would help pay for the efforts of the Gulf Coast states affected by the spill â Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana â to rebrand the region. The message is simple: The beaches are beautiful, the water clean and the food safe.

The Tampa Tribune is asking Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson to sponsor a Senate version of the bill. Rubio went on the CNN show The Situation Room to proclaim his support for offshore drilling as oil from the Deep Horizon pipe gushed into the ocean on a video screen behind him.

Sen. Nelson has a good environmental record. Nelson is Castor's best option in the Senate.

One thing the Obama administration can do is get rid of Kenneth Feinberg. People have become increasing unhappy with the way Feinberg as handled claims against BP. The Obama administration can restore confidence by sending Feinberg back to the Treasury Department. Feinberg has only paid out $44.1 million of the $20 billion from BP's compensation fund. Feinberg has been accused of being more concerned with protecting BP's interest than that of Gulf Coast residents. The Castor bill would speed up the claims process.

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Daily Kos No Tax Deal Petition

Daily Kos is running a petition urging Democrats in Congress not to support extending the tax cuts for those making over $250,000-a-year.

We cannot support the deal to extend the Bush tax cuts for millionaires. Thank you, Senator Sanders and Representative Welch, for staying in the fight against any extension of the Bush tax cuts for millionaires. Keep it up!

Sen> Bernie Sanders has threatened to block passage of the tax cut deal struck between President Barack Obama and Republicans. Here is Sanders' contact page. is also running a petition.

Update: Sen. Sanders released this statement.

In my view, it is a moral outrage that at a time when this country has a $13.8 trillion national debt, a collapsing middle class and a growing gap between the very rich and everybody else that the Republicans would deny extended unemployment benefits to 2 million workers who are desperately struggling to pay their bills and maintain their dignity. It is also beyond comprehension that the Republicans would hold hostage the entire middle class of this country so that millionaires and billionaires would receive huge tax breaks. In my view, that is not what this country is about and it is not what the American people want to see. Our job is to save the disappearing middle class, not lower taxes for people who are already extraordinarily wealthy and increase the national debt that our children and grandchildren would have to pay.

The immediate political task in front of us is to rally the American people so that in the next several weeks we can find at least a few Republicans who will join us in saying no to increasing the deficit by giving tax breaks to the wealthy and no to holding the unemployed and the middle class hostage.

I believe that we have the American people on our side on this issue. My office, and I come from a small state, has received more than 600 calls today, 99 percent of them in opposition to this so-called compromise that the president negotiated with the Republicans.

I will do everything in my power to stand up for the American middle class and defeat this agreement.

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Obama's State Dept. jokes about Osama but is serious about WikiLeaks

Guest post by Ron Brynaert

Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Philip “P.J.” Crowley isn't playing around when it comes to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.

At the Daily Beast, Howard Kurtz reports, "As Julian Assange steps up his rhetoric and his releases of sensitive material, the State Department is becoming increasingly undiplomatic."

With Julian Assange in jail, the State Department steps up its WikiLeaks counteroffensive. Howard Kurtz talks to State brass about his motive and why he should be considered dangerous.

As Julian Assange steps up his rhetoric and his releases of sensitive material, the State Department is becoming increasingly undiplomatic.

“Mr. Assange is not seemingly worried about real lives and real careers which can be put at risk of being intimidated, jailed or killed,” Assistant Secretary P.J. Crowley told The Daily Beast. His most recent statements “really unmasked him.”

Hours after WikiLeaks published a secret memo listing more than 100 factories, labs, and underseas cables that the United States considers critical for world security, Crowley said: “In releasing that kind of information, Mr. Assange is giving a group like al Qaeda a potential targeting list.”

All seriousness now, Mr. Crowley is not in a joke-telling mood.

Unfortunately, when the subject matter is al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden, the State Department flack believes it's his duty to turn into Robin Williams (of the unfunny Patch Adams variety).

On March 29, 2010 at a State Dept. press conference a reporter and Crowley had the following exchange after President Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan:

QUESTION: I hope you have some Osama bin Laden soon.


QUESTION: I hope you have Osama bin Laden coming soon.

MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.) We all hope for that day.

In May, Crowley's joking on bin Laden attracted a bit more attention.

AFP reported,

The US State Department, after hearing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad say Osama bin Laden was in Washington, joked Wednesday it found no trace of him despite a thorough search.

"We've done an intensive search here at the Department of State -- every nook and cranny, every rock -- and we can safely report that Osama bin Laden is not here," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said.

"You mean Greater Washington, or you just looked at the State Department?" a reporter asked as he played along with the joke from Crowley, the spokesman for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"Just the confines of the State Department, but it was reported by the president of Iran that he's here in Washington. That's news to us," Crowley said before turning to the news of the day.

"And thank you for laughing," he said, smiling broadly.

Just a few weeks ago, on November 16, Crowley again elicited laughs when asked about Osama bin Laden, although the transcript seems to be missing the punchline:

Q And -- but just to follow up, should we wait for later in the day? Because the second is that bin Laden is still at large because the U.S. Army has not caught him, you know. So --

MR. CROWLEY: I'm not sure. Is there a question there?

Q He says it is because we haven't caught him. Bin Laden is still out there.

(Cross talk.)

MR. CROWLEY: (Laughs.) That would be true. (Laughs.)

Q So is it -- how do you take it? Like is it that you know where he is and you are just letting him around?

Q (Tell us ?).

MR. CROWLEY: Look, we continue our hunt for and interest in capturing Mr. bin Laden.

The funny thing is, years ago, when Crowley worked for the progressive Center for American Progress, he was more serious about Osama bin Laden.

The blog Jihad Watch reported in June of 2007,

P.J. Crowley, a military analyst at the Center for American Progress and a former national security aide to President Clinton, said the Iraq war has diverted assets that could be used to find bin Laden.

"Now that he is in the tribal areas, I doubt that a bounty of any number will be helpful," Crowley said "Given tribal relationships, they will protect him."

But after being tapped to Obama's State Department in May of 2009, Crowley began to dismiss bin Laden's relevance.

From an Associated Press article in January shortly after the failed underwear bomb attempt,

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said that while bin Laden remains a "catalyst" for terrorist activities by groups affiliated with his organization, there is no indication that he or his lieutenants have a direct hand in ordering attacks.

"They offer strategic guidance and rely on their affiliates to carry out that strategic guidance," Crowley said in an interview. The audio tape made public Sunday offers no evidence that bin Laden's relationship with affiliates such as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, based in Yemen, has changed, Crowley said.

"He's trying to continue to appear relevant" by talking up an attempted attack by an affiliate, Crowley added.

This October 15, 2001 interview of Crowley, when he was vice president of the Insurance Information Institute, is very revealing in a post-WikiLeaks sense.

TERENCE SMITH: Colonel Crowley, Dr. Rice told reporters today that analysts were still studying the messages to see if there was any imbedded message to al-Qaida's followers in it but had not yet detected any. Do you feel it was a legitimate request to limit the exposure of these?

P.J. CROWLEY: I think it is unusual but not necessarily unprecedented. In every crisis there's always going to be times where the news media is in possession of information that, as you evaluate the national interest, it's better that they not broadcast right away or not broadcast at all. This is a little bit unusual in the nature of the delivery system where al-Qaida will pass a videotape to al Jazeera and then from there to the networks, but, you know, bin Laden is not the President of the United States. He should not be able to have unfettered access to our airwaves any time one of those tapes gets past.

I do agree with Bob that this is something where we need to have the administration make its case. If they have concerns that there are codes being passed, they need to be able to substantiate that. I also agree that over time these guys don't wear well. As we saw, for example, in the crisis in Kosovo, the more we heard from Slobodan Milosevic, the stronger the international resolve was to defeat him. I think that could be well the case in this instance, but I think early on where we have this kind of very strong emotion and unprecedented kind of situation caution is appropriate.

"It could well be that it's putting television at a slight reportorial disadvantage but television, on many occasions agrees to restrictions in return for access," Crowley said in October of 2001.

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