Saturday, February 28, 2009

Good Book

Just finished The Forever War by Dexter Filkins. Great read.

Steny Let Us Down

I don't know what to believe in anymore.

Desperately Protecting AIG's House of Cards

The world's biggest insurer seems destined to become the property of the government. I was surprised to see that the government owns about 80% of the company and yet it still posted the worst quarter in market history. Another large infusion of cash is probably going to come within the next week and by that point we will have committed $250 billion into this sinking company. Its too bad that we had to save this company from going bankrupt because ultimately we are going to end up paying for the company's mistakes without getting much back in return for our investment. AIG made the mistake of putting themselves at risk simply to make a few more bucks in fees and so its greed helped put us in the economic mess we find ourselves in today. It is sad to see a company that had been worth almost one half a trillion dollars collapse due poor decision making and greed. And even though we could have let AIG fail, the losses associated with such a decision would have been catastrophic. The one thing we should learn from this company is that regulation is needed to protect the public from having to foot the bill for mistakes that could have been prevented.

Buffett sees a gloomy 2009

When Warren Buffett says that we will see the economic crisis continue this year, we have to take notice. This cannot be good for President Obama because Buffett is considered a genius in the field of economics. Both McCain and Obama mentioned his name repeatedly during the campaign as a person they would turn to for advice. Yet, even he could not turn 2008 into a successful year for his company Berkshire Hathaway. His lack of optimism for this year is frightening and I think the President better come up with something to calm people down after revelations like these.

Governor Of Kansas Tapped to Lead HHS

Finally, the HHS post has been filled. I was not surprised to see Sebelius named for the position given her strong backing of Obama during his campaign. With the proposed plans that Obama has stated he would like to see accomplished with health care reform, Sebelius will certainly face an uphill battle. Trying to create the national database of health records, limit costs of Medicare, and provide health insurance to children and the unemployed are just what has been announced so far. Obama has to hope that Sebelius can bring to the table what he thought he was going to get from Daschle because otherwise he will be in for a long fight with Republicans and the wealthy who will end up paying for these programs.

Family Feud

Liberals mobilize in lobby wars

Song of the day

White House set to reverse health care conscience clause

President Obama is getting ready to change some of the anti-abortion policies that George Bush supported. By altering the health care conscience clause, Obama would essentially be saying that regardless of your point of view, you have an obligation to do what is in the best interest of the patient and their feelings. I think that putting all of the options on the table for a patient is beneficial because it increases the chance of making a well-informed decision on something that will have a lasting impact on one's life.

Legal dreamteam at SCOTUS

Obama steals the show at Verizon

President Obama stole the show last night at the Wizards-Bulls game. It must have been a long day for him after traveling to North Carolina for his press conference on his plan for Iraq and then heading back to D.C. for the night game. I have never seen a basketball game stopped because of a member of the crowd entering the stands like last night. President Obama seemed to win over the crowd with his friendly face and attention to the little kid seated next to him. Maybe if the Wizards give Obama tickets more often, they can finally win back some recognition and support from the fans after their dreadful season this year.

Education chief favors longer school year

Obama's education plan includes lengthening the school day and year to compete competitively with countries like China and India. I can agree that with the extra attention devoted to education, we can work on strengthening graduation rates, while instilling character and value in our nation's youth. I know in Arizona especially the public education system is terrible and that any student who attends such a school is at a significant disadvantage compared to the rest of the nation. Education reform and funding can be helpful in returning our nation back to forefront of the world.


As we have discussed in class, the constitutionality of the DC vote remains up for question. Since it is not considered a state by the constitution, technically it should not be given voting representation in the government. I will be interested in seeing where this thing goes once it inevitably passes through Congress and is signed into law by the President. Will someone want to challenge the legality of it, and if so who has the right to bring the case in front of the Supreme Court?

Top Republicans embrace Iraq plan

Now that the Democrats have the Republican's on their side what will Pelosi say? Perhaps, something contrary to Obama, the actual President?

'Fred the Shred' Puts Face on British Banking Crisis

Unease among the anti-war left

Tax the rich-- in Red states

Many taxpayers in states in the northeast and west (those states with high state and local taxes) must pay the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). Thus, the increased taxes on high income individuals will fall disproportionately on those in Red states.

Friday, February 27, 2009

GOP split over possible 2012 contenders

A poll conducted by CNN essentially puts the 2012 GOP candidates as the same who were at the forefront in the 2008 election. Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and Mitt Romney were the top three vote getters, which is a bit surprising considering how unsuccessful the party was in generating support for them last time. I would think a new upcoming member of the party would be better served to run considering that I do not believe either of these three political figures represent enough to counteract Obama's popularity at this point. Palin seems to be caught up in tax scandals and would get treated harshly by the media again. Romney is now coming out against President Bush, but it may be too little too late. Huckabee just seems like a Southern Republican who would not appeal to a nationwide audience.

Nevada's Security Savings is 16th bank to fail in 2009

Although FDR face a much worse banking crisis than we are in now, President Obama is seeing some of the same problems. With 16 banks failing within two months, confidence in the banking system is at a low-point. It doesn't help matters when the new Secretary of the Treasury does not disclose enough details of his plans for recovery. I would expect one of Obama's next priorities to be coming up with a detailed plan at relieving banks of some of their bad assets without having to go to nationalization.

Canadians intercepted Russian bombers before Obama visit

President Obama's security may have been protected by Canada prior to his visit. Russian bomber planes were prevented from entering Canadian air space. I don't think these planes were trying to harm the President, but who knows whether or not they would have actually done something had they not been stopped?

Jim Bunning Threatens to Resign to Hurt GOP

Who said Republicans were good at sticking together?

Has twitter jumped the shark?

Best Farewell Letter Ever

This is an old news item, but worthy of reading nonetheless. Here is what one news souce had to say about the letter:

"There's no doubt which was the most popular reading material in the blogosphere this weekend - the extraordinary 'farewell letter' from Andrew Lahde, one of the most successful hedge fund manager in the world, who has said goodbye - and good riddance - to his old life in spectacular fashion.
Lahde became famous a year ago when his Santa Monica-based fund, Lahde Capital, returned a staggering 1000 per cent plus during 2007. The fund made its profit by shorting US suprime mortgages, which Lahde correctly predicted were a ticking time-bomb.
He was doing well this year, too, claiming a return of 400 per cent plus until he suddenly announced last month that he was bowing out. Then, on Friday, he decided to write an open letter to his former investors."

Talk about pork

The DC voting measure passed the Senate yesterday; attached to it, however, was a measure that will effectively end the gun-control laws in the city. This amendment will no doubt cause issues for the final reconciliation of the Senate bill with that of the House, which does not have the gun-control measure attached.

The case of the vanishing moderates

Firms defraud government but get new US contracts

When I read this article I was disturbed by the amount of money that our government is giving to companies that are supposed to be suspended from receiving federal funding. I understand that sometimes it may be in our best interests to deal with a company on the suspension list if they have improved their deficiencies and offer the service at the best price. However, to give a company money because we mistakenly did not find them on the suspended list is horrible.

Gillibrand Prefers Soliloquy to Sound Bite

Gillibrand is overall getting positive reviews from her constituents, most describing her as warm, articulate and a good listener. Part of that may to do with her five minute answers to simple questions, she explains her positions in exhausting, sometimes excruciating, detail. And then she explains some more. Her acceptance speech lasted 25 which she cut short to receive a phone call from Obama. Her constituents may be impressed but her staff seems more annoyed.

How Not to End Another President’s War

One parallel is plain as early as the first hundred days. As with Richard Nixon and Vietnam, Barack Obama’s political fate will be inextricably tied to the wars he inherits.

Court: Va. man owns 1776 copy of Declaration

One of the rare copies of the Declaration of Independence will remain in the hands of a citizen rather than the state of Maine. I was unaware that 250 copies had been made in 1776 to be read to the citizens of Massachusetts. The Virginia Supreme Court ruled that Maine only owns the right to a transcription of the copy that it has in its historical record books. I agree with the decision, but rather than having a private collector hold such a rare piece of American history, I would much rather see it on display for public viewing.

While the World Is Cleaning Up Its Act The Government Is Falling Behind

In a special report The Economist details how the worlds waste is becoming a greater problem even as many countries are becoming increasingly efficient in their waste disposal. The report examines the slow reaction of governments to the fast paced steps by many private organizations towards proper waste disposal.

Even the Oracle of Omaha Feels It

Warren Buffet, the largest shareholder and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, is often considered to be one of the worlds greatest investors. Yet even he has not been able to escape the mounting losses that have hit the financial sector. Berkshire Hathaway stock has suffered its largest dip into the red since Buffet took over in 1965 as the company is expected to report a loss of 8.5% .

Corporate Jets

D.C. Voting Measure Clears The Senate

The Senate voted to give DC a representative in Congress, however they attached an amendment which would reverse most of DC's gun laws. Since the two bills have different provisions, one has to wonder what will happen in conference. Hopefully the bill will make it through both chambers, but I have a feeling that the gun law amendment will be a problem.

Government to Take Bigger Stake in Citigroup

Citigroup announced this morning that the government will soon own up to 36% of its shares. This plan will not cost any more money; instead, Citigroup will repay up to $25 million of the $45 billion in government bailout in exchange for ownership stock. Even though this plan is probably necessary for restoring confidence in the banking system, it seems a little too close to nationalization.

Obama Sets Date on Troop Withdrawal

President Obama announced today that the end of Iraq war operations would be set for August 31, 2010. This falls short, by three months, of the time frame that Obama had ran on during his campaign but still speeds the withdrawal from previous expectations. Currently there are 142,000 troops stationed in Iraq. After this scheduled withdrawal 35,000-50,000 troops will remain in the country in order to facilitate training of the Iraqi's own force, civilian protection, and to aid in counterterrorism. This has gone against his parties wishes, yet there will have to be a full withdrawal under the current SOFA agreement by December 31st of 2011 which was signed under Bush. To date more than 4,250 U.S. servicemen and women have died in the war.

U.S. Economy Shrank 6.2% Last Quarter, Most Since ’82

It should be well noted that the figure of 6.2% is an annualized rate. Although this shows us in a significant recession, our economy is doing much better than many others.

Because we do not have an export-based economy, we are not as vulnerable to the economic cycle as some economies like Japan. Japan's annualized change in GDP was -12.7% for the fourth quarter.


Maria Kalman confesses her love for Abraham Lincoln.....NYT

Ryanair may charge for toilet use on planes

I know the airline industry is struggling to make profits, but charging to use the restroom is ridiculous. All of the cost cutting maneuvers such as reducing staff, charging for baggage, and charging for drinks/food are things that I can accept. Yet, these changes will inevitably lead to charging for almost every little perk or advantage that passengers have. Airlines would be best served by charging a little bit more in the overall far price than ticking these fees on during the flight.

U.S. to control up to 36% of Citi

Citigroup will be receiving more help from the government in a move designed to provide more security to holdings of the company. It does make me feel a bit more safe in terms of the company's future because the government is essentially making itself a major stakeholder, which indicates that it does not plan on letting the company fail anytime soon. I like the fact that many members of the Board will no longer be able to retain their positions, but I would have liked the Treasury to have applied more pressure to the company CEO and Board Chairman. The Treasury should take more of a leadership role in the company and work on reducing some of the troubled assets the company owns.

Poll: Race for Gillibrand's congressional seat competitive

As Michael pointed out yesterday in class, the seat opened up with Kirsten Gillibrand's move up to the Senate is looking like it will go back to Republicans. Siena College reports that GOP candidate James Tedisco leads Democrat Scott Murphy by 12 percent in the polls. While in the short term this seat does not do much to change the power control of House, Republicans would be well served to win this seat and retain it during the midterm election in 2010 when control of the House may be up for a change.

Johann Hari: Clint Eastwood shows how America is changing

Officials: Obama to Leave Up to 50K Troops in Iraq Through 2011

According to news sources, Obama wants a swift end to the War in Iraq, in which the Iraqi people can take control of their nation and the US can slowly withdraw.

Coming of new ice age in DC

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Huckabee: MSNBC is 'MSBS'

Mike Huckabee is getting in on the MSNBC media focus. He said that MSNBC is full of bs for its inability to report the news in accordance with his views. I did find it funny though that Huckabee is using MSNBC's Chris Matthews comments about Jindal to increase his social conservatist roots. He claims that Matthews has finally found religion, which I found as a good use of rhetoric appealing to his religious background.

Budget winners and losers

It should come as no surprise that the biggest losers in the budget plan proposed by President Obama are the wealthy and George Bush. With a significant tax increase designed to take over for those making over $250,000, Obama hopes to pay for his health care plan and lower the national deficit. George Bush is basically attacked with the budget plan because his two main goals were to lower taxes for the elite and increase spending for the Pentagon. Obama lowers the growth rate of spending for the Pentagon. The biggest winners are those without health care and environmentalists who will now see some of their issues brought to the forefront of debate. Clean energy programs are being given more incentives, while oil companies that cause a dependency on foreign nations will be hard hit.

Obama aims high for higher education

With the significant investment loss in the stock market, many universities will be facing major problems in terms of its endowment. President Obama's plan to make more money available for college students should help make up for this loss. Over the years, the government's ability to pay for a significant portion of a person's tuition has decreased with the rising costs associated with attending a higher learning institute. Graduation rates can increase with more spending directed towards giving students an equal chance at attending a university.

And Do I Hear $2 Million? No? $1 Million? Sold!

For anyone who's wanted to buy that condo on the upper east's your chance.

Another newspaper bites the dust

Food and sex

Definition of lenity

Rule of lenity

From yesterday's oral argument.

At EPA, First Lady Focuses on Pollution's Cost to Children

The first lady visited the EPA today to advocate one of the President's main concerns: the environment. She particularly targeted children, stating that environmental conditions will affect children's health for decades to come and that solutions must start today. I think sending the First Lady to conduct speeches such as these is a good political maneuver; she is well spoken, loved by the public, and perhaps the only person who can voice his message as well as he can.

DC Vote and Fairness Doctrine

More Than One Way to Take Over a Bank -NYT

This article (which is a magazine preview) talks about different types of nationalization can occur for organizations such as banks. Interesting article that provides many international examples.

Paging Uncle Sam

Excellent Op-Ed from Thomas Friedman on the role/perception of American power in the world. Definitely worth reading to remind yourself how important we are.

CIA Adds Economy To Threat Updates

In a sign of how devastating the global economic crisis has become, the CIA is now providing the President a daily update on the global financial crisis and its cascading effects on the stability of countries through the world.

Kosovo trial clears Serbian leader

I still have vivid memory of the crisis in Kosovo during the early part of this decade. Although problems still exist in the area, the former Serbian President Milan Milutinovic no longer presides as a national leader. The UN war crimes tribunal cleared him of all of the war crime charges against him letting him off the hook for some grave injustices that took place under his watch. Even though he was acquitted it leaves a stain on his reputation that five of his former officials were all found guilty of war crimes in Kosovo and have been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Senate Rejects Amendment to Cede D.C. to Maryland

The Senate rejected a bill that would redraw Maryland's boundaries to include most of DC today. Maryland Senator Benjamin L. Cardin voted against the bill, stating that residents of Maryland do not wish to overtake DC but rather want DC residents to have their own representatives.

Economy & Liberal Arts Education

In a time when people are getting laid off left, right and center and when people are reevaluating employee worth, a degree in the liberal arts doesn't really help. This article is an uncomfortable look into the qualities that employers now look for. Degrees in fields such as science and mathematics (basically any quantitative skill)are worth more in our current system. After all, R&D in technologies for a cleaner environment and alternative energy sources, medicine and similar technical fields are ever essential.

Are degrees in government still worth the same? I actually think that demand for government majors will increase now that politics has become such an important part of the economy and change. What do you think? Are most of us doomed?

Holder 'impressed' with Gitmo, but still committed to closure

Eric Holder did not see any injustice being preformed at Gitmo during his visit, but he still is committed to closing the prison within the next year. In fact, he even mentioned that prisoners were being treated really well and that the guards were on their best behavior. Although, it may have just been a cleanup for his visit, it appears as though the problems that have been cited during the Bush administration no longer exist at Gitmo, making it even more curious as to the decision to close it and find places for each of the inmates.

Governor Jindal, Rising G.O.P. Star, Plummets After Speech

Governor Jindal crashed and burned in his response to President Obama's speech on Tuesday night. Delivering his speech as if it were a bed-time story, Jindal made weak arguments and pointed to issues, such as Katrina, that shed his own party in a bad light. The worst part was that throughout the entire speech, all I could think about was how much he sounded like Kenneth from 30rock.

U.S. could reap billions taxing Web gambling

The government may want to take a look at its internet gambling ban in this time of economic concern. A recent study showed that we could raise almost $52 billion over the next ten years if we were to tax online gambling rather than totally disallow it. Yes, privacy concerns and protection of consumer money and security is important to keeping it banned, but why shouldn't we take advantage of this when we could definitely use the money. Gambling online has increased exponentially over the last decade and poker especially is something that we could regulate and get back something in return for.

Editorial against DC vote bill

Bloggers and unions try to push Dems left

In Southern Iraq, commanders say we can leave

I never thought I would be reading an article like this before the next decade. It just goes to show you how versatile and flexible our military has become in terms of carrying out a mission it was never designed for. It took 6 years of hell, but maybe Iraq will turn out alright after all!

Card Check not popular among PA GOP

Arlen Specter is a key swing vote.

Iran to Begin Tests at Nuclear Station

Iran's nuclear program continues to progress, despite international sanctions. Though these tests are for nuclear power, it shows just how far along the Iranians are. If we wish to ensure that these plants are used for peaceful purposes, and prevent the Iranians from developing nuclear weapons, then talks between the US and Iran need to start soon.

Strong ratings for Obama speech

Obama's talk to a joint session of Congress drew a 52.4 million viewers across cable and broadcast networks.

Bush Oil-Shale Leases Canceled by Salazar

Oil drilling in the United States just became a bit more difficult on the Pacific Coast. Ken Salazar will no longer allow the government to lease federal land for the purpose of oil drilling in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. While the cost of oil is not as high as it was last year, it is becoming more expensive now. New energy efficiency policies are being employed by the Obama administration, which is a good thing for the future. However, we will not be able to get ourselves out of dependency on foreign countries overnight and so the preservation of federal land comes at a cost.

Cannabis worth £1m seized at port

What would happen if we legalized drugs like these and heavily taxed them? Would we still have large numbers of drug cartels in operation?

CIA Director Panetta already talking tough

With little CIA experience, Panetta is coming into power of one of our most important agencies in the country. Gathering intelligence to coincide with our military prescience in the Middle East and around the world may be the difference between another terrorist attack on America. We need to restore some of the confidence in our top intelligence agency that we lost under President Bush's regime. The tactics that Panetta will allow under interrogation to gather proper intelligence remain to be seen, but he has said that the whole army field manual is open to interpretation.

GOP pins hopes on N.Y. House race

Capitals Lead Washington Into New Ice Age

Obama, Reagan, and FDR

New Yorker Profile: Rahm Emanuel

The lead researcher at Meet the Press told me that whenever he begins research on a person he looks to the profiles that others have done on them. He cited the New Yorker profiles as the best possible to provide a great insight on the person. In this newest issue, the New Yorker profiles Rahm Emanuel, Obama's  Chief of Staff. The article has some good bits, mostly about Rahm's personality...he is a very driven and intense guy. Read it, love it, learn it. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Napolitano orders review of Wash. immigration raid

In the first immigration raid since President Obama took office, 28 illegal immigrants were arrested. The more important point is that Homeland Security did not inform their Director of the action and actually went against the immigration policy that President Obama is trying to convey. Under his policy, he wants to go after the employers rather than the illegal immigrants. We will see if this change in direction actually is successful in eliminating the practice of employing illegal immigrants. Immigration reform is not high on the President's priority list at this point, but it should at least be dealt with in the proper manner and time frame.

Can Newspapers Survive?

With the newspaper industry struggling mightily due to increased opportunities gained by the Internet, how much longer will they be able to last? Paper subscriptions are down significantly and companies like the Tribune Co. have had to file for bankruptcy protection and sell off assets to keep their papers alive. Personally, I enjoy both forms of viewing the news. Being online allows for more information access through multiple sources, but sometimes it can become too encompassing and take up a lot of time. At this point though it looks as if news in paper form will not be around much longer especially during economic downturns causing decreased revenue from advertising.

Son’s Death Recasts Image of British Leader

The son of David Cameron, who is the leader of the Conservative Party and a candidate for Prime Minister, died at age six today. Cameron, who was thought by many to be too high-class and snobbish, has gained great public support for his attitude towards this sensitive issue. Instead of acting hostilely towards the media, Cameron has opened up his family life (including openly discussing his son's cerebral palsy) to the British public. The tragedy of his son's death has triggered a day of morning in Britain.

Senate trial: Haggling over what evidence to allow

The Senate race for Minnesota is heating up with the evidence debate that occurred today in the trial. Norm Coleman is trying to show that some of the votes that were counted from the absentee ballots were actually cast on election day as well, making it a double vote. Coleman wants the voting process essentially be done over again which at this point seems like a very unlikely result of the ongoing conflict.

Obama Budget Would Create $634 Billion Health-Care Fund

Obama's new health care plan with is one of the three focal points of his administration will change the way insurance and pharmaceutical companies operate. Nearly one-third of the reserve fund would be generated by forcing private insurers who sell Medicare managed care plans to undergo a competitive bidding process. Drug manufacturers and hospitals would face reductions as well. If the budget is approved, drug companies would be required to increase the rebate they now provide for medications sold to Medicaid patients from 15 percent to 21 percent.

Busy day for the Supreme Court today...

The Supreme court ruled today on one of the most important first amendment cases in the past decade. In a unanimous vote, the court ruled that a religious sect could not force a city to allow them to erect a religious monument in a public park. The case raised important questions of what types of monuments would become mandatory to allow in public places if the religious sect won. Writing the opinion, justice Alito stated that this case favored the free speech of government. I agree with the ruling; the government should be allowed to express its own opinions and wishes because the people can always express their dissatisfaction by voting them out of office.

Another house problem for Dodd

Lawmakers give up pay raise in 2010

Following President Obama's lead, Congress will be following suit by foregoing a schedule pay raise next year. To them the pay increase of a little over $4700 will be better used for policies and laws that they put into place. I commend them for not taking this pay increase because at this time we definitely need to be conserving our governmental spending towards only the most important issues. Although it does not amount to a billion dollars in savings, it is still a substantial amount that taxpayers will now see used in a way to benefit them more directly.

"Oh god..."

I missed the speeches last night, but now I'm curious. Apparently after Bobby Jindal took the podium to make a rebuttal speech, someone at MSNBC was still miked and muttered "Oh god..." under his breath. This article speculates that it was Chris Matthews

Sen. Byrd questions Obama's use of policy 'czars'

Senator Byrd of West Virginia makes a valid point that with the introduction of czars for policy issues typically reserved for Congress, President Obama may be over utilizing his role as President. For a highly respected Democrat such as Richard Byrd to oppose some of President Obama's policies in public, it goes to show that not everyone is on the same page. At this point the President is winning on this issue and using his presidential power to exercise his will in appointing policy czars. At some point though, Congress may begin attacking this on a more widespread scale especially of the czars are unable to get much accomplished.

Gore business: 2340 lobbyists on climate

Al Gore has established his legacy as the man fighting against global warming. Whether or not climate control actually makes a difference is besides the point because now the industry has grown so large that we have almost four lobbyists on the subject per member of Congress. President Obama stated in his campaign that he was interested in bringing more energy efficient programs to America and with the amount of attention it is receiving, things may actually get done in a way that could make Al Gore proud.

Bing, Cockrel to go 1-on-1 for Detroit mayor's job

An interesting twist to the Detroit mayoral race has former NBA player Dave Bing as the leader to take over for the ousted sex-scandal ridden mayor Kilpatrick. Detroit is in one of the nation's worst economic crises due to the auto industry and lack of school performance. All of the sudden it seems like NBA players' popularity is translating into political careers. Last year, Kevin Johnson won the mayoral job in Sacramento and for Bing to win this year it would be another significant gain for the career prospects of basketball players after they have quit playing.

Solis is labor secretary after several weeks' delay

With Solis now a member of Obama's cabinet, the beginning of the rejuvenation of the labor market can begin. She is more committed to helping the common worker than the previous administration, but it may come at a significant cost to businesses. She will be key in helping oversee the jobs created/saved by the stimulus plan and so it will be important for her to get started as soon as possible on her strategy for overseeing the significant increase in job creation. Also, having been at the airplane hearing yesterday, she may be able to help pilots and airline employees gain back some of the benefits they have lost over the last eight years due to a struggling airline industry.

Members of Congress twitter through Obama's big speech

Twittering has become the new craze in Congress, so much that member's can't even put their phones away while the President is addressing them!

Experts: Why many air crashes are survivable

A Turkish airplane crashed this morning on as it descended towards Amsterdam. What is the likelihood of survival and is it still a safe means of travel?

Banker in Obama speech recognized for his generosity

Mr. Abess Jr. from Florida sold one bank to another bank and received a large bonus. Unlike many who tend to save or spend their bonuses, Mr. Abess gave the money from the sale of City National Bank to all the bank's workers. Why should we be surprised at someone's good will in a time like this? This is America, after all, and people are nice.

Brief by Professors of Linguistics in Figueroa Case

They conclude, with some very convincing analysis, that the petitioner is correct. The phrase in question is:
"Whoever, during and in relation to any felony violation enumerated in subsection (c), knowingly transfers, possesses, or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person shall, in addition to the punishment provided for such felony, be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 2 years."

"Knowingly" clearly refers to the "use [of] a means of identification of another person," not just to the "use" of something undefined. The grammar is pretty apparent. The Government's brief uses some sketchy linguistic logic, such as citing the Chicago Manual of Style to explain adverbs; it must have been excruciating to pick apart the grammatical details...

WInners and Losers in Obama's Speech

"Don't Mess with Joe" was a killer line. And the point about education is ambitious--it's easy to forget in a college environment that less than one-third of adults have bachelor's degrees. Trying to get everyone to attend one year of college or vocational school would be a daunting task, but has potentially large payoffs.

Obama's Use of Framing

An interesting analysis from George Lakoff, the noted political linguist. I don't agree with all his conclusions--he seems a bit blindly pro-Obama--but he's definitely right that Obama has been trying to evoke values with his policies. Rather than devising new policies, though, Obama has tended to repackage traditional liberal programs in rhetoric that makes them more acceptable to conservatives (note all his talk in the speech tonight about "responsibility" and "accountability"). So far, he seems to have been successful in bringing the middle on board, though less so with hardcore conservatives.

Pakistan's Deal with the Devil

Absolutely fantastic article on the implications of the Zardari government's deal to allow Sharia Law in the Swat Valley. Needless to say, the outlook is grim; more bad news for the U.S. effort in Afghanistan.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bunning threatens to sue NRSC

Former Major League Baseball pitcher Jim Bunning is starting to cause problems for the Republican Party. Recently, he said that Justice Ginsburg is probably going to die within the next year. Even though the cancer that she faces is very critical and life-threatening, his comments were insensitive considering she has come back to the bench. Now, Bunning is threatening to sue his Republican colleagues if they do not support him in the 2010 election. Republicans have been effective at generating disapproval of Democrats control of Congress so far, but with outbursts like these, it will not be long before their communication strategies will be needed for damage control rather than offensive attack.

Clooney skips Oscars to meet Obama

Did you wonder why you did not see George Clooney at the Oscars on Sunday night? Well, it turns out he was meeting with President Obama about Darfur. The violence and genocide in Sudan has gone on far too long and maybe appointing an envoy can help bring about peace. George Mitchell has not done much so far since he was made special envoy to the Middle East in terms of actual peace agreements, but he has set the tone that we are serious about helping work out the problems we see in the world. It will have to be someone well respected within the global world because gaining cooperation from China will be difficult.

Obama's Grammar

As a fellow grammar nerd, I would also urge Obama to fix his "I, me" problem.

Blagojevich Strikes Again

Senator Burris is still refusing to resign, even after being urged to do so by his fellow Illinois senator, Senator Durbin. There truly is no one willing to take Burris' side anymore.

NASA Satellite Crashes Before Reaching Orbit

NASA's new Orbiting Carbon Observatory crashed today while making its way out of the atmosphere. The satellite, created to monitor global warming, crashed into the Indian Ocean when its protective nose cone failed to separate. The loss of $278 million and the vessel carrying groundbreaking technology was a huge blow to NASA, which seems to become increasingly less respected by the public with each new publicized disaster.

Stephen M. Walt on Accountability

I apologize for the length of this post, but this article was sent in an email to my office at State and I thought I should share it.

Richard Perle is a Liar
By Stephen M. Walt

Mon, 02/23/2009 - 12:11pm

I was thinking about two former American government employees this weekend, and how the differences between them tell us a lot about why the United States is in so much trouble today.

The first person is Eugene Kranz, the legendary NASA flight director immortalized in the film Apollo 13. I watched a rerun of the film on Friday night, and was struck again by his remarkable leadership of the team that improvised the astronauts' rescue after an in-flight explosion crippled their spacecraft and placed their lives in peril. Many readers probably remember the moment in the film when Kranz tells his
colleagues: "Failure is not an option." This line may have been apocryphal, but when I survey the landscape of problems we face at home and abroad, I wish we had more people like Kranz in key leadership positions.

Yes I know, it's just a movie, but Ed Harris's portrayal is consistent with what we know about Kranz himself. Above all, Kranz was a leader who took full responsibility for his actions. Here's what he told his colleagues after the tragic fire on the launching pad of Apollo 1, a fire that killed astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee:

Spaceflight will never tolerate carelessness, incapacity, and neglect. Somewhere, somehow, we screwed up. It could have been in design, build, or test. Whatever it was, we should have caught it. We were too gung ho about the schedule and we locked out all of the problems we saw each day in our work. Every element of the program was in trouble and so were we... Not one of us stood up and said, 'Dammit, stop!'...We are the cause! We were not ready! We did not do our job. ...
From this day forward, Flight Control will be known by two words:
'Tough' and 'Competent.' Tough means we are forever accountable for what we do or what we fail to do...Competent means we will never take anything for granted...When you leave this meeting today you will go to your office and the first thing you will do there is to write 'Tough and Competent' on your blackboards. It will never be erased. Each day when you enter the room these words will remind you of the price paid by Grissom, White, and Chaffee. These words are the price of admission to the ranks of Mission Control."

That is the kind of attitude that lands men on the moon, builds a healthy economy, and when necessary, wins wars.

Now compare that frank and honest statement with the behavior of another former government employee: Richard Perle. In a recent article in The National Interest and a public appearance at the Nixon Center, Perle has tried to sell the story that neither he nor his fellow neoconservatives had any significant influence on the foreign policy of the Bush administration, and especially the decision to invade Iraq.
Specifically, he denounces the supposedly "false claim that the decision to remove Saddam, and Bush policies generally, were made or significantly influenced by a few neoconservative 'ideologues.'" He suggests that no one has ever documented this claim, either conveniently ignoring the many books and articles that did exactly that, or misrepresenting what these works actually say.

Given that Iraq turned into a debacle that the United States is having trouble escaping, it is hardly surprising that Perle is denying his role now. But that's not what he said back when the war looked more promising. In an interview with journalist George Packer, recounted in the latter's book The Assassins' Gate, Perle described the key role that the neoconservatives played in making the Iraq War happen.

"If Bush had staffed his administration with a group of people selected by Brent Scowcroft and Jim Baker, which might well have happened, then it could have been different, because they would not have carried into the ideas that the people who wound up in important positions brought to it."

The "people who wound up in important positions" were key neoconservatives like Douglas Feith, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Paul Wolfowitz, and others, who had been openly calling for regime change in Iraq since the late 1990s and who used their positions in the Bush administration to make the case for war after 9/11, aided by a chorus of sympathetic pundits at places like the American Enterprise Institute, and the Weekly Standard. The neocons were hardly some secret cabal or conspiracy, as they were making their case loudly and in public, and no serious scholar claims that they "bamboozled" Bush and Cheney into a war. Rather, numerous accounts have documented that they had been openly pushing for war since 1998 and they continued to do so after 9/11. As neoconservative pundit Robert Kagan later admitted, he and his fellow neoconservatives were successful in part because they had a "ready-made approach to the world" that seemed to provide an answer to the challenges the US faced after 9/11.

The bottom line is simple: Richard Perle is lying. What is disturbing about this case is is not that a former official is trying to falsify the record in such a brazen fashion; Perle is hardly the first policymaker to kick up dust about his record and he certainly won't be the last. The real cause for concern is that there are hardly any consequences for the critical role that Perle and the neoconservatives played for their pivotal role in causing one of the great foreign policy disasters in American history. If somebody can help engineer a foolish war and remain a respected Washington insider -- as is the case with Perle -- what harm is likely to befall them if they lie about it later?

Let's keep a few facts in mind. Perle and his neoconservative buddies helped develop and sell a policy that has left over 4,000 US soldiers dead and more than 30,000 wounded, was directly responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis, and will end up costing the United States more than a trillion dollars. Yet instead of having the integrity and courage to acknowlege his role and admit his mistakes -- as an honest man like Gene Kranz would -- Perle now offers us a squid's ink cloud of lies and prevarications. Although his absurd claims have been promptly and properly challenged, does anyone seriously think he will pay a larger price? The National Interest was all-too-willing to publish his rewriting of the historical record, and no doubt prestigious organizations like the Council on Foreign Relations will be happy to give him a platform at future meetings. Look for him on the Lehrer Newshour and CNN too; heck, he could even end up with his own show on Fox News.

Let's face it: there is little or no accountability in Washington, where being wrong means never having to say you're sorry; indeed, you don't even have to admit responsibility for past mistakes, no matter how serious. It's just the American taxpayer who ends up footing the bill, along with the soldiers who fought and died for these blunders.

As Frank Rich and others have figured out, we are in trouble today because we have allowed a culture of corruption and dishonesty to permeate our institutions and pollute our public discourse. Until that changes -- until our public institutions contain a lot more truth-tellers like Gene Kranz and fewer liars like Richard Perle -- we are not going to know where we stand, where we are headed, or whom to trust.

Stephen M. Walt

Newest Chapter in CNBC/White House Spat

Rick Santelli, and all the people who allow him to stay on the air, is completely delusional and is poisoning the debate in this country. The time for this kind of "fake outrage" reporting has passed. This country is in dire straits and needs to have intelligent discussions on the issues. These people need to be kicked off the air (and in the mouth).

I can tell you CNBC will not be getting any White House interviews for a LONG time.

Bernanke's Economic Update

Helicopter Ben had 2 important things to say today.

1) If we stabilize finance, we could be pulling out of this by 2010.
2) The government will take increased ownership of banks only as needed.

Nice to hear some optimism.

Senator Hatch on constitutionality of DC Vote bill

Out of Congress and still out of work

The tough economy is even taking its toll on former members of Congress. Typically when a Congressman leaves his/her office, they are recruited by some business as a person who can lobby their former colleagues or into a position of which they have great expertise from their experience prior to entering Congress or knowledge they gained while working for Americans. Senator Sununu was a member of the elder Bush's inner circle during his stay in the White House, yet he is left unemployed. If guys like him can't get a job, then it goes to show how devastating a time this is for our country.

Sullenberger tells Congress: Pay cuts driving out best pilots

I was fortunate enough to attend the hearing in which the pilot, first officer, and flight attendants spoke in front of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. It was amazing to see the heroes right before my eyes speaking about the events that occurred on that frightening January day. The air traffic controller Patrick Harten described how he tried to direct the flight to a nearby New Jersey airport and I could tell he was still feeling the effects of post traumatic stress disorder. The other topic discussed was the pay for pilots and how airline companies have not been able to give proper pension plans and payment options to their pilots. I was unaware that most pilots have to work second jobs simply to get by and make ends meet. Yet, I do not know how we can address this issue without talking about the labor for the auto industry as well.

AIG in talks with U.S. government, sees $60 billion loss

Despite receiving over $85 billion from the federal government, AIG is making news again for its failure to do much with that money. I find it reprehensible that they will stand to lose over $60 billion for the 4th quarter considering that our aid was supposed to get them back into sustainability. Do we really want to invest more in a company that has lost consumer confidence and seems to lack the necessary leadership and organization to get itself of trouble? The problem is that we have already invested a significant amount of money and to let this insurance giant go bankrupt would be a tremendous disservice to Americans whose taxes were pushed through to this company.

DC Voting Rights Passes Key Hurdle

As of about thirty seconds ago, cloture on the DC Voting Rights Bill passed. The vote on the actual bill should come tomorrow.

More on anti-Yoo

The anti-Yoo

3 Taliban Leaders Unite Against U.S. In Pakistan

More bad news on the Afghanistan front.

Afghanistan is going to fail regardless of how many troops President Obama puts in unless Pakistan steps up its game in Southern Waziristan. This is just more proof of that.

The search for gold in Congo

A NYT slideshow of photos from a gold mine in the Congo.

This Week at War...

This article from Foreign Policy gives a good overview of what occured last week in the US military. Going off of a point from Steven's post, this article brings up the point that soldiers must now prepare for what is known as "hybrid warfare".
"Capstone Concept for Joint Operations requires U.S. military forces to master not only combat, but three additional activities: security (protecting the local population, a basic requirement of a counterinsurgency campaign); engagement (training and supporting indigenous military and security forces); and relief and reconstruction".
However, many are complaining that their training has not prepared them for such responsibilities. Now that we know what to expect when we send our troops off to war, how are we going to fix our training and support programs for them to make sure they are prepared?

As War Ebbs, Europe Returns to Iraq

Now that Iraq is relatively stable, "Old Europe" is swooping in to grab lucrative reconstruction contracts. It's nice to see our useless allies appreciate the work we have done in Iraq.

U.S. Army Captain Learning New Skills In War-Torn Afghanistan

Part of the problem with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that our military has been asked to do tasks it does not train for. How can we expect 19 year old kids from the American heartland to be not only soldiers, but politicians, diplomats, urban planners, contruction managers, and more? It seems unfair for us to heap such high expectations on the backs of these kids and the officers who lead them. So, is the public's response to Iraq/Afgahnistan a failure of U.S. policy and foresight or the result of way to high expectations for American power/capabilities?

Freed Detainee in U.K. Tells of Abuse by U.S.

Yesterday Guantanamo Bay released the first prisoner under Obama's administration. Binyam Mohamed arrived home in London and immediately spoke to the press of the torturous methods used against him at Guantanamo. His statement raises the question of whether or not the US will see an increase in backlash from the world community when more prisoners are released. The world deplored us when we refused to release the prisoners; now that they are beginning to be let go, will the international community become even more anti-US when the details of Guantanamo become public?

Women's History Month

March is Women's History Month... Be sure to look out for neat exhibits going on throughout the month. The link is to the Smith.'s Heritage Month website.

Steny and the Feud

Maybe Charlotte can enlighten us on this top feud among House leaders. I thought everyone loved Steny. I know I do.

Will the recession change movies?

Even with the recession, this January was the best in box office hisory. CNN chalks this up to a need for a "$10, two hour escape". He also assert that more comedies are likely to be made in the comming years since those are the films that have been most popular with viewers durring the recession.

Bill Clinton to campaign for Gillibrand

Bill Clinton is lending his star power to the new senator to help her raise money for her 2010 campaign for reelection. Clinton will be headlining a fundraiser for Gillbrand in which tickets range from $1,000 to $4,800.

Lawmakers seek new gov't agency for food safety

Former Hamiltonian Tom Vilsack is supportive of a new agency to oversee food safety. I agree with him that eliminating the two agencies that now deal with it (Agriculture Department and FDA) and establishing a new one would allow for more to get accomplished in the area of inspiring consumer confidence. Additionally, it would enable President Obama to claim more job creation with such an agency, boosting his credibility in the area of stimulating the economy.

Congress to hear ditched plane's crew, controller

The miracle on the Hudson comes to the Potomac. Today, Congress will get to hear from the pilot and crew from the US Airways plane that safely landed on the river in January. With all of the recent plane crashes around the country, safety is of utmost importance for people in the sky. We should take what we can from this hearing and try to instill more precautions prior to and during time on the plane. With the airline based in Arizona, I tend to fly on their fleet a lot and for me trust in the crew helps me feel more comfortable when flying. On a side note, I also heard that the airline will stop charging for soda and water, as none of its competitors copied the unpopular strategy.

North Korea says it is preparing satellite launch

Yes, I agree with North Korea that it has a right to advance its space development program as should any country that chooses to do so. However, the underlying reason for such a satellite launch does not appear to be related to improvement in the field of aeronautics. Building missiles that have the possibility of reaching the U.S. or any other country for that reason is unacceptable and we need to negotiate with North Korea to help see that military operations are not tied with this satellite. Hillary Clinton's visit to Asia must not have been good enough if we were not able to delay such a launch from occurring so soon.

But over in England... bankers argue: ‘We need a pay rise’

So what is it going to be? Nationalized banks or bonuses for bankers?

Banks might be nationalized....

Race for Gillibrand seat

Can GOP come back from dead in Northeast?

A new center?

My Boss, Health Care, and President Obama

Bob Greenstein, Executive Director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (where I am interning) gave a speech today at Obama's fiscal responsibility summit. It's really neat to see the organization adapting to the new administration.

I was also intrigued by the stance that Obama took with his choice of speakers at the summit; many of them deliberately tied the budget deficit into health care reform, arguing that the savings of a reformed system are necessary to keep us from long-term budget "explosion." Looks like we know what the next item on the legislative agenda will be... health care, justified by the recession and deficits. It's a very clever tactic.

Disclaimer: In this post, as with all my others, my views are my own and unrelated to those of the Center.

Stimulus Watch

Altough Obama's website isn't up yet, an independent team of concerned citizens has put together this site tracking each individual stimulus project listed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and allowing people to vote and comment on the suitability of the projects. It seems to have become a magnet for knee-jerk reactionaries and anyone who hates Keynesian economics; there's much unintentional hilarity in statements like "Let them do foot patrol or ride bycles [sic]" in response to a project to purchase new police cruisers. Nonetheless, the goal of transparency is right; we just need more thoughtful people to participate in voting and commenting.

The Formula That Caused the Financial Crisis

A fascinating read; Wired puts the blame for the crisis on a single mathematical model that encouraged investors to make risky decisions. I'm a big fan of statistics and modeling--but when the results are applied without proper knowledge of their limitations, the effects can be truly disastrous.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Primate Act of '09

The recent cartoon outrage over the rabid primate is making its way to Congress. With the Captive Primate Safety Act, owning a primate as a pet would become increasingly more difficult since primates would not be able to be transported across the country for the purpose of becoming a pet. Since it failed to pass in the previous Congress, the media coverage of this incident may help to encourage enactment of this bill. What a weird turn of events for a bill that did not even reach the floor of the Senate for a vote last session.

Rove skips House Judiciary deposition

Karl Rove is giving President Obama his first test with his refusal to show up today before Congress. President Bush did not allow any of his aids to appear in front of Congress to testify about the testimony of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. At this point though we do should stop worrying about the past cabinet and worry about the new one. With positions still needed to be filled, President Obama should focus on this and his other policy goals at this time. With even more pressure now for a truth council to expose the problems with the previous Presidency, Rove may not be in such a fortunate position to stay away from Congress.

Obama talks helos with McCain

The latest squabble between the former Presidential opponents is now over a helicopter. Although I do see how it is important for the government spending to be curtailed at this point in time, I think it is a bit much for Senator McCain to get so worked up over the Presidential helicopter. President Obama has said he will not purchase another one so the issue should be over with now. Yet, I would like to see how Senator McCain will respond to some of the new issues that face our nation such as the housing crisis and the enactment of the new stimulus package. Bipartisanship appears to be out the window with recent Republican action, which may not necessarily be a bad thing for either party.

Locke is Likely to be Commerce Nominee

What a cartoon... the only way to go is down....

Recession and relationships

What's up with rising gas prices?

I was just having a conversation about rising gas prices the other day. The price per barrel has remained stable, so why are gas prices rising anyway? According to this article, it's all supply and demand. Obviously, I'm not pleased with increases in gas prices, but having survived $4.50 a gallon last summer, I feel like anything is still an improvement over that.

And right on the heels of my last post...

Citigroup banks fall for $27 million Nigerian scam

Ugh. As if banks weren't having enough financial troubles as it is...

A Truth We'll Have to Accept

David Brooks' piece (who I have posted in the past) deals with an important point. However, unfortunate, it appears that we have to get beyond the idea of bailing out Wall Street idiots. David's piece that essentially admits that we are all in this together is a rebuttal in some ways to Rick Santelli on CNBC Thursday and the Gibbs comments that followed. I think Brooks (a big government conservative) understands that in a perfect world Wall Street would be punished...however, if it were a perfect world we wouldn't have fraudulent I/O strip valuations and investment ponzi schemes...

The mysteries of rock-creek park

After 8 years, DC police are finally ready to issue an arrest warrant in the Chandra Levy case. This has been one of the most famous homicide cases in the past decade: a horror story of adultery, murder, and a ruined political career that's passed down to all new dc interns. According to police, they will be issuing an arrest warrant for Ingmar Guandique, a Salvadoran immigrant, within the next few days. I still don't think I'll be walking through Rock Creek Park by myself anytime soon...

U.S. Markets Down Sharply Despite New Plan for Banks

The stock market plunged to a record low today, worse than it has been in 11 years. Te reason for this drastic drop is said to be the public's uncertainty of the new bank bailout plan. As we discussed briefly in class, it seems to me that one of the biggest issues with the bailout is the public's lack of understanding. It might help the market if people understood the difference between the bailout and the stimulus and the step-by-step plans for bank recovery.

Completely random

Interesting story, especially in today's economic times, about a lottery winner who was careless and lost it all.

Last-ditch attempt to get DC voting rights

After our debate last week, it'll be interesting to see what they decide.

Love me, I'm a liberal.

Will anyone sue?

Did you know?

Court rules against al-Qaida member, a US citizen

Ahmed Omar Abu Ali lost out on his attempt to have the Supreme Court hear his case. This seems to be a victory for former President Bush and his attempt to crack down on terror. Despite his claims that he was tortured and not give a fair shake at the legal process, he still will be forced to enter prison to serve his 30 year sentence. It will be interesting to see how the Gitmo detainees fare in court because they could be facing similar situations to this al-Qaida member.

Clinton's Candor Abroad Draws Mixed Reviews

Hillary Clinton just finished up her first trip as Secretary of State, and already we are seeing a dramatic shift in rhetoric. Instead of sticking to the normal talking points, Hillary decided to use a more concillatory tone. For example, Mrs. Clinton decided not to harp China about Human Rights. Her decision shows a marked difference in policy, and recognizes that constantly attacking on an issue won't solve.

Personally, I believe that Hillary Clinton's demeanor during her trip is what our foreign policy needed. In being less critical of foreign governments, and more critical of US policy, Clinton has given the new administration more avenues with which to address outstanding issues. I hope Hillary is just as candid when she visits other parts of the world.

Ginsburg is back at Supreme Court after surgery

Luckily for us, we will be able to see Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg in action during our visit to the Supreme Court this week. With her battling cancer, it is pretty remarkable that she will continue to fulfill her duty to the Court.

Obama pledges $15B for Medicaid, answers critics

One of the President's next goals as he moves away from the stimulus and housing packages seems to be related to health care. At this point, I think he should not make any moves until he gets his cabinet position filled. Although moving fast with his policy agenda can be beneficial, at this point it is best that if we are going to change health care drastically, then we need to take some time to get it done right.

Biden to be Stimulus Czar

Clinton's mockery of Obama proves true

Hillary Clinton's mockery of Barack Obama's pledge to end partisanship which Obama dismissed Clinton's sarcasm as overly cynical and further evidence she was a creature of Washington is becomign more and more valid.

Politics of social security

Is Michelle Obama really in the kitchen?

Michelle Obama is currently projecting the image of "first mom" however washington verterans belive that this is just her being cautious in the early stages of hers husbands presidency. "She is looking and learning, and isn't going to make the same mistakes because she's aware of what the mistakes were," said Letitia Baldridge. Many beilive that she will come into a substancial role in US politics and may even be able to sell America on health care reform, something that Hilary Clinton was not able to do.

Criticism of DC vote plan

Pomegranates: New Afghanistan Counter-Narcotics Strategy

I cannot believe it has taken 8 years for NATO/US to figure this out. Do we ever learn from history? The same problem is going on in Latin America where the FARC is financed by cocoa production. As always, there has been too much emphasis on interdiction and eradication rather than offering viable economic alternatives and rehabilitation. Perhaps if we had started this program sooner, the Taliban might not be as formidable as it is today.

Obama's First 100 Days

The BBC has been tracking developments during Obama's first 100 days in office. Helpful for papers/debates/midterm??

Guantanamo man arrives back in UK - BBC

A follow up to our Guantanamo debate...
The British provide a case-study for the US for handling the return of prisoners to their home countries.

Iraq's War Widows Face Dire Need with Little Aid

The number of widows in Iraq has been increasing to the point where the government is no longer offering them financial support to help raise their families. Only 1 in 6 women who are widowed are receiving any sort of state aid. The author points out that the only way to receive this aid is by either having strong connections within the government or to enter into a temporary marriage. With Iraq's social structure being in such a precarious situation right now, it is important to make sure that widows and other vulnerable populations are getting the support they need.

The 10 most influential D.C. Twitterers

Twitter is becoming the new communication tool for some of the most influential people in Washington D.C. Politicians are using it to get out their message and even add some humor to their lives. It is a way for people to get some personal information about those who represent them. I found it interesting that Politico ranked Karl Rove as the most influential person to have a Twitter account, while President Obama came in fourth. President Obama has been able to get over a quarter of a million followers , but his account seems less personal than many of the other members on this list.

Freddie Mac investigates self over lobby campaign

Freddie Mac is back in the news after it has reported that it is looking into money it spent lobbying Congress in order to ensure it could succeed during the housing boon a few years ago. Who knows if the legislation it prevented could have helped lessen the housing crisis at this point? What we do know is that there really does not seem to be a point to the investigation right now because it is a waste of time and money. A company such as Freddie Mac needs to be focusing on rebuilding itself. Even if the company is not using money it received from the government for this investigation, I would like to see the company improve its organization and image in a way that benefits the stockholders in the company.

College professors, faculty are raking in millions

Some of the top professors in the country are not feeling the economic squeeze. With some doctors earning over a million dollars a year as professors, there may not be a need to go back to private practice. Research grants and private aid come into the universities to help cover these enormous salaries. Although many of the nation's professors are not being given an opportunity to get on tenure track, this goes to show that if you can get to the top of your field, you can generate a sizable income.

The gatekeeper

Forget change: GOP eyes retro strategy

The GOPs new comeback...

Nuclear power? Yes please...

Considering my unbiased comparison paper of the different types of renewable energy and nuclear power, that I worked on during my gap year in Parliament, this is quite an interesting turn-around for the Lib-Dems, a party originally against nuclear energy.

Stimulus too slow?

Term limits for SCOTUS

On Wednesday, you might ask about this proposal.

Politics of card check bill

For our debate on Thursday.

From Captive to Suicide Bomber

The Post poses the question of whether the treatment of Guantanamo detainees increases the likelihood of them committing future terrorist acts. The logic is plausible, although it is worth noting that the individual mentioned in this piece was not necessarily peaceful to begin with--he likely had gone to Afghanistan to fight the Northern Alliance.

The case suggests that the arbitrary nature of the U.S. detention policy is as threatening as its harshness--the captive was released when his condition had clearly deteriorated and made him more dangerous. President Obama cannot just craft a policy that is more humane; he will have to find a way to undo the harms of prolonged detention on former prisoners. Washing the United States' hands of the detainee problem will be neither safe nor just.

Obama Will "Call Out" Mayors on Use of Stimulus Money

It seems the nation's mayors will be impressed, much like Hamilton students, with fear of the fires of hell.

On a more serious note, Obama has been taking a proactive, "I will make change" stance with regards to oversight; this is another example of him pledging to get things done personally, invoking the public trust in his ability. Is there a risk of getting bogged down with this kind of direct management, as with Jimmy Carter? Or is Obama setting a good example at the top?

Support for bank nationalization grows

What would FDR think? This is a good read cause it comes from a round table discussion that includes Paul Krugman.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Trashing of Space

The Economist sheds light on what is becoming a growing problem in space as countries continue to litter our atmosphere due to such things as missile defense tests and space shuttle rockets. As the debris goes around our planet over 900 satellites have to contend with these circling potential crashes that grow by the day.

Big Events for the Week

The Economist gives a rundown of just a few big events that are set too happen this week in international politics.

On budget, Obama faces 'trickiest public relations challenge of his young presidency'

An overview of team Obama's PR strategy on his budget reduction strategy.

For Obama girls, no escaping chores

Really nice article from the NYT on how Barack and Michelle are working really hard to make sure their daughters have a normal life in the White House. It's nice to have a young family back in the White House!

Alter's Most Recent Article in Newsweek

If you're intrested.

Personally I found this article to be poorly written. I enjoyed The Defining Moment but not so much this piece.

EU heads back financial clampdown

It seems as though President Obama has already influenced the global economy. With news that European Union is now going to regulate financial markets, it appears as though President Obama's plan is serving as a guide for Europe. Executive pay limits and aid to banks and car companies seem to be in line for many of the EU's countries. I find it interesting how quickly the President's agenda is being followed by other countries since we are not exactly sure how our plan will actually turn out. I guess FDR's point that action needs to be taken is becoming a lesson for the world.

Fresh Paint & Flowers at Iraqi House of Horrors

**Be sure to check out the pictures that go along with the article.
Abu Ghraib gets a make-over and reporters were allowed a rare tour of the prison.
There were no prisoners in sight however and many are still skeptical that these changes are simply changes in the building, and not in the attitude of the jailers and the Iraqi government.

Street Eyes Geithner's Second Act

So far I have not seen much to believe that Tim Geithner's ability to transform the economy trounces his inability to correctly calculate his taxes. When you go in front of the nation for a speech on a plan to solve the bank and housing crises, you should be clear in what you want to do. The last time Geithner made a speech, the nation saw a tremendous loss in the stock market and decreased in their confidence that Geithner was the right man to lead us out of this economic rut. The next time Geithner speaks, he should keep in mind what he did wrong and focus on inspiring citizens to invest rather than causing them to fear for the worst.

Oscars Ballot

For everyone who's watching the Oscars tonight......8:00!!!

Hold the Eulogies, Kennedy Says....

New job for W?

Dear Gov. Kaine: Spare Some Stimulus Cash?

Virginians are increasing their wist list for this stimulus money.... 

Arnold: I'll take govs' money

With the recent budget conflict over with, Governor Schwarzenegger is now focusing on getting his piece of the pie from the stimulus plan. Unlike some of his fellow GOP governors, he is willing to accept government funding as a means to reduce some of the debt his state will be facing in the future. Knowing that he can not run for reelection, this move does not seem to lessen his legacy or importance to the GOP. At this point all he can do is worry about what is going on now as opposed to what will happen with his successor.

Supreme Court hears immigrant's ID theft case

Here is an article talking about the Supreme Court case we will be watching this week. It gives a good synopsis of what the issue of the case is and how both sides are going to argue in court.

Obama's Tuesday speech a broad look at economy

The next big speaking engagement on the President's agenda is Tuesday night in front of Congress at the Capitol. It does appear that he will be focusing a majority of his speaking time to how the economy can recover with his plans. Considering that this is a major issue facing the nation right now, I can see the importance of delivering an effective and well-crafted speech regarding how the stimulus and housing plans are going to help Americans. A failure to do so would further give Republicans another reason to either refuse acceptance of stimulus money or to continue attacking the plans through the media.

Speaker Pelosi

The politics of bailouts

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Investigate Bush?

A good summary from the New York Times of the history of efforts to hold past administrations accountable. I think the congressional commission model holds the most promise; a party of outside experts like the 9/11 Commission can be criticized as out of touch (unlike Congress, where members are accountable to votes), and prosecution failed in the Iran-Contra scandal. The Church Commission after Nixon left laws in place that endure today; I think that kind of mark is necessary to avoid a repetition of the excesses of power in the Bush administration.

Commentary on the White House / CNBC Rants

Nate Silver suggests that Obama, unlike prior presidents, has been forceful about going after critics on cable news. Obama's team has certainly seemed to embrace the oppositional style of liberal organizations in calling out Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and others on their comments. While I'm in favor of impassioned debate, I worry that focusing too much on nitpicking opponents' arguments (as Media Matters for America and other liberal groups are fond of doing) paints all parties with the same brush of shallow bickering. Obama has been at his strongest when he takes the high ground and leaves partisan rhetoric aside.

Combined Posts: Charlotte and Brandon

Today, we went to the Washington Capitals Hockey Practice at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex.  With the team coming off of a bad loss last night to the Colorado Avalanche, the team was up for quite a workout today.  We arrived at the rink two hours prior to the start of practice and headed towards the visitors gate to catch a glimpse of the great Alex Ovechkin. Freezing by the glass, Charlotte  captured some great photos of the team skating and sprinting down the ice. After an intense session, the team was exhausted and headed towards the locker room. We shouted for autographs and managed to get the All-Star Defenseman Mike Green to come to us for a signature. We then headed to the parking garage where we came across two other players heading home, Tom Poti and David Steckel (pictured above). It was quite "the saturday" experience for two Hamiltonians in this exciting city. 

Obama Has Plan to Slash Deficit, Despite Stimulus Bill

Obama's budget goals for 2010 have the national deficit cut in half. After spending $787 billion on the stimulus, Obama plans to slash the deficit by withdrawing from Iraq, raising taxes on the wealthy, and cutting Medicaid Advantage subsidies for insurance companies.

Is thrift good?

The cold, hard world is closer than you think

Poll: Obama More Popular Than Jesus, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

A Harris poll came out with figures suggesting that more people consider President Obama to be the greatest hero ever than any other person or religious figure. For people to be calling him their hero at this point is a bit much since we have not seen the actual results of his policy agenda. I can see how he has transformed the public into a similar sort of awe and hope for the presidency as FDR once did, but for him to trounce some of the world's greatest activists and leaders does not seem proper at this time.

Hold the Eulogies, Kennedy Says

This is a nice tribute article to Senator Kennedy and his accomplishments over his long political career. He continues to fight against his brain cancer and I think it is remarkable that he has been able to fight the cancer for so long. I remember sitting in the Senate gallery when the stimulus package was passed and when Senator Kennedy walked Senators from both sides of the aisle came to talk with him before he passed his vote. For him to even be considering politics at this time is a testament to him and I commend him for showing that no matter what health problems you may face, you should live life in a way that is important to you.

CNBC response to WH rant against CNBC rant

White House rant against CNBC rant

CNBC rant

Don't run or walk alone in the park

A tale of two GOP governors

Obama: tax cuts will be felt by April 1

It did not take long for President Obama to get rolling with his stimulus plan. With a significant portion coming in tax cuts, many citizens will be able to experience some of the benefits within the next two months. I am not exactly sure what and extra $13 a week will do for the average worker, but if this is what the President wants to do then we have to see what type of an effect it will have.

Bank Shares Topple on Talk Of Possible U.S. Takeover

In the last 10 days since Geithner "sought to assure the nation that banks could be stabilized without being taken over" there has been growing concern by banks that a take over would occur or that banks might be nationalized. What will this all mean?

Barry Kidney Transplant Completed

The DC council member is now recovering from yesterday's kidney transplant. Question still existing... how much more money does he owe in taxes, and will he eventually be prosecuted and sent to jail??

Obama Pledges to Seek Deficit Cuts

I guess President Obama is taking a lesson out of FDR's presidency by looking to cut the budget deficit while still spending money to create job growth through a stimulus package. President Obama will have to be careful not to upset a group like the veterans as FDR did in order to decrease some of the deficit. There probably will be a decrease to some degree in terms of defense spending in Iraq, which might help reduce the size of the deficit, but it will be interesting to see what else the President decides to cut down on.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Officials to commit to build Flight 93 memorial

After visiting the memorial this week at the Pentagon, I was really moved by the dedication shown to remember those who tragically died in the plane crash on September 11th. When I saw this article, it reminded me of the importance to honor the heroic acts of the passengers on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania that day. For them not to have a memorial tribute felt wrong to me, so I am glad to see that we will be commemorating them with a special memorial on the site of the crash.

Reid pushing for climate change bill

Al Gore may finally get his wish to push forth a true attempt to end global warming. With the EPA's recent regulation changes, it appears that energy and the environment are becoming more of an issue on the political stage. Democrats have the majority in Congress and I believe that they could probably pass some legislation to reduce some of the pollutants in our air that were previously vetoed and denied by former President Bush. Now, whether or not President Obama decides this is an issue that he feels is a top priority remains to be seen at this time despite his commitments during the campaign.

US May Seek Deal To Keep Kyrgyzstan Base Open

President Obama's desire to move troops to Afghanistan would be easier if an agreement with Krygyzstan to continue using a military base located there. With it serving as one of the key air bases in the region, it would serve us well to work out some solution to the proposed order from the Kyrgyzstan to force the U.S. out from the base. Diplomatic negotiations with this country can not only help us retain an ally in the region, but also provide us with much needed support for our increased attention to Afghanistan.

Gitmo and Bagram

Who says fuel efficient cars have to be expensive?!

Definitely follow this story. A 70mpg car for $7,000?!?! For all (any?) of you who follow Top Gear, you know this will be an amazing story. For those who have never watched Top Gear before, you should start watching it now! It's an amazing show that, thanks to its immense budget, does some of the craziest things with automobiles.

The Clintons Bid Farewell to Socks the Cat

Socks started out as a stray cat who was saved by Chelsea Clinton. He then lived in the Governor's Mansion in Arkansas with Bill and Hillary Clinton, and moved into the White House with the family during Clinton's presidency. In a statement, the Clintons said, "Socks brought much happiness to Chelsea and us over the years, and enjoyment to kids and cat lovers everywhere. We're grateful for those memories, and we especially want to thank our good friend, Betty Currie, for taking such loving care of Socks for so many years."

America's Auto Industry: The Reckoning

Please read for a detailed summary of all the problems currently facing Detroit that have nothing to do with actions taken by any of the Big Three. It's really sad to see so many forces aligned against these companies considering how important they are to America's economy, history, and image. It's also really frustrating given how Congress just doesn't seem to give a damn.

AP Interview: LaHood eyes taxing miles driven

President Obama's Transportation Secretary has come out with a new idea to replace the gas tax: a tax on the number of miles you drive. While, this may seem like a way to generate revenue to cover what would be achieved through the tax on gas, I see it as having a tremendous start-up cost with the technology that will need to be input into all cars. Yes, it may cut down on driving, thereby reducing our need for gasoline, but I do not think it will have a huge effect on reducing gasoline-powered cars. I think that we would be best served if we encouraged use of solar energy and battery-powered engines through tax cuts or incentives.

Change we can believe in

Brett Mandel '91 is running for Controller of the City of Philadelphia.

In China, Clinton Says Human Rights 'Can't Interfere' With Talks

Madam Secretary Clinton stated today that human rights issues will not be on her agenda during her visit to China. While agreeing that China needs to be pressed on these issues, Clinton stressed that the global financial crisis must be her focus. These remarks met with heavy criticism from groups like Amnesty International. There's no doubt that human rights are a vital topic in China, but I think Secretary Clinton is correct to put them on a back burner for the time being. Sometimes slight appeasement is necessary in order to achieve cooperation on other matters; at this point, trying to fix the financial crisis should be at the top of everyone's list.

A Closer Look at the Employee Free Choice Act

pretty self explaintory, an overview of thursdays debate issue

While New York Bleeds, Washington Thrives

It is interesting that even if the rest of the country is feeling economic hardship, D.C. is able to capitalize and generate significant growth. Wall Street has definitely curtailed the wealth of people in New York and around the country, but it is leading to job creation within D.C. Oversight commissions are now becoming popular with the President as a means of ensuring government spending is done properly. It appears as though Washington is the place to be if you want to make a name for yourself now.

Netanyahu invited to form government in Israel

If Netanyahu can form a government within 6 weeks, it looks like the United States will be dealing with a conservative, hardliner government in Israel. This dose not pose well for the peace process and for settling Iran's nuclear program diplomatically.

Obama to Mayors: Don't Screw up the Stimulus

It's nice to see the President taking an aggresive, public stand against corruption and wasteful spending. While it is good politics for Obama, it also places emphasis on things that have lacked attention in recent years: transparency, accountability, and efficiency.

Employee Free Choice Act

Perspective of Chamber of Commerce.

Rick Santelli's Tea Party Time

Santelli rants on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade against Obama’s newly announced housing bailout plan. A nice article with a collage of opinions about his performance.

Employee Free Choice Act

AFL-CIO's perspective.

One explanation of current financial crisis

McCain campaign donates Stanford contributions

Another problem with the investment market has reached Capitol Hill. Both President Obama and Senator McCain took money from this troubled investor. I am not so sure that money given to both candidates should be placed into the hands of charitable causes when there are people who actually spent money with Stanford and now are sure to lose most of their investment. Although, I see the value in giving money to charity, what do you say to investors who are now out of their retirement funds or lack the financial resources to get by. As we have seen with Madoff, there were a lot of impacted people who now are struggling to pay their bills.

Mixed Signs from the Bond Market

Bond trading has increased which many have seen as a signal that the credit markets are beginning to thaw.

While I certainly hope credit begins to reenter the marketplace I am a little weary that perhaps the bond market is expanding only because other avenues of finance are not functioning that well.

Our very own member of the media elite

Fox News: Fair and Balanced and Useless

Diploma belt tilts Democrat

The New Deal & Art

Another Smithsonian post.....
Starting February 27th there is going to be an exhibit at the American Art Museum showcasing paintings done by artists under the New Deal's Public Works of Art program. (This program only lasted 6 months) There could be some good insight at this exhibit as to how varied and experimental the New Deal actually was.

The future's looking bright.....

The Wounded of Afghanistan

Some amazing photos from the NYT

Taxation with representation-- but lots of federal $$$$

NM leads the way among states by getting $2.05 in federal spending for every tax dollar it send to Washington. Poor NJ gets only 60 cents for every tax dollar sent to Washington. Check out this link to see how much federal spending DC gets per tax dollar.

Deafening Silence on Burris Matter

Did you think Blagojevich was gone for good? As it turns out, the ripple effect created by his senate-seat scandal is still emanating through the senate. Senator Burris, who was appointed by Blagojevich before leaving office and then asked to serve by President Obama, is now under investigation. And his plan to deflect the scandal? To cease making already-scheduled public appearances and to refuse to answer questions concerning the scandal. It'll be interesting to see how that strategy pans out.
DC does not think voting rights alone will give them equality with other states, they beilive the only way to do this is DC statehood. The DC Voting Rights bill will not change the District’s political status or afford either democracy or equality under the US Constitution for DC residents. Only statehood will give us democratic self-government and our two Senators and one Representative in Congress,” said Renee Bowser. While statehood will "will end Congress’s control over local laws, policies, and budgets, citing a long list of examples of Congress imposing its will on the District over the opposition of residents".

Labor advocates rally for easier unionization.

Sacramento feels that the Employee Free Choice Act would act as a stimulus for the state of California. The EFCA makes it easier for workers to organize. Instead of a secret ballot election which is now in place, the EFCA makes unionization possible if a majority of the workers sign cards expressing support. Along with stimulating the economy, this bill also works to "level the playing field" between corporations and their employees.

Bill Clinton's advice for Obama

I agree with former President Clinton that Obama needs to start communicating positively about the stimulus package. I am getting tired of hearing of the gloom and doom that would have happened if we did not pass it through Congress. As FDR illustrated, boosting confidence in the economy and the country comes through positivity and hope. President Obama should take this advice so that he too can become a morale booster and promote the good things that will come about from spending this large sum of money. Yes, the Democrats lost the publicity battle on the stimulus, but at this point, recovery can come with a greater emphasis on what we are doing right as opposed to what we are doing wrong.

Is the Administration Winging It?

One of the lessons Eric pointed out in class that President Obama could learn from FDR was just winging it as things come up. I thought this article was interesting in pointing out how the President might be taking that advice. Although it is Karl Rove speaking (obviously biased), there are some points that he makes that illustrate this lesson. As we talked about in class, there really is no way to determine how many people's jobs will be saved/created with the introduction of the stimulus package and so for President Obama to come up with a number of 3 million is a bit arbitrary. Additionally he knew that the upcoming bank rescue plan would be a huge emphasis of concern within the media after the stimulus package, yet he allowed Geithner to hold a press conference about it without offering any details, causing the stock market to decrease in value tremendously.

Keeping the Airwaves Free

The fairness doctrine is something that is causing a storm throughout the political radio airwaves. In this article, Rush Limbaugh makes his case as to why he believes that his show should not be forced to offer the other side to his political comments. As we discussed a little after class last night, I think it is highly commendable that so far President Obama has not done much to go after ensuring this doctrine gets followed considering that Democrats seem to be in a position to gain the most from such a move. Or maybe he is just afraid Democrats put on these radio shows against big GOP heavyweights will be seen as weak and unable to make coherent arguments.