Tuesday, March 31, 2009

wire regarding tonight's election

NY 20th Special Election

Scott Murphy (D): 77,344 - 50%

Jim Tedisco (R): 77,285 - 50%

% Precincts Reporting: 100%


Note: the process going forward is that paper ballots are counted(absentee and provisional) and, if needed, a recanvass occurs. NY GOP filed suit in NY State Supreme Court today to slow down the canvass.

UCSD sends welcome e-mail to rejected students

I cannot even imagine a situation like this occurring to me. To receive an email admitting acceptance into an academic institution is one the best accomplishments that a person can achieve during their lifetime and to cause a distressing situation like this must be traumatic to those involved. I know that many of the individuals probably got into other schools and so it is not a problem for them, but for those who unfortunately have not been accepted anywhere else it has to have been a major disappointment. Computer errors are things that I could see as honest mistakes and I would be willing to accept an apology. However, I can definitely see the importance of ensuring that these types of things do not happen on a regular basis or on such a large scale. Let's just hope that Hamilton doesn't allow for a mistake like this to set off unneeded hysteria and confusion for potential incoming students.

Republicans Disinvite Palin to Major Fundraiser

A major snub to Sarah Palin may be just an indicator of how Republicans feel towards her leading in the march to retake Washington by storm. I found this story hilarious because for her not to comprehend the magnitude or importance of working the network is totally inconceivable to me. She really needs to be concentrating her efforts on reaching into the base and securing a more likeable position if she has any further political ambitions. Newt Gingrich seems like a good choice to replace her and I probably would have wanted to hear him speak rather than her anyways. At least his political accomplishments have led to major achievements by the Party, Palin still needs to build up her resume to come anywhere near the power and respect that Gingrich demands from his colleagues. I would suspect that she will take more initiative and put more thought into how she wants to attack the campaign trail because it is never too early to begin preparing. President Obama probably doesn't see her as much of a foe and unless she steps up her efforts I cannot imagine how poorly Republicans would do if she is the one they put up to challenge him.

Israel hasn't paid his dues

The New York Senate race is definitely heating up after Steve Israel decided not to pony up money to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. In one sense, I see it as very smart and strategic of him to be ensuring that his war chest will be large enough to mount a well-scaled attack. Having money doesn't always translate into wins, but the more you have the more chances you have to get your name out there and potentially taint the campaign of your challengers. However, this strategy may also come back to haunt him if he is not able to rally up the support from his colleagues because their PACs and influence may just steer the ultimate winner into the Senate. I have real trouble believing that Gillibrand is actually going to wind back up in her current position and if that is the case then a strong campaign run by a Representative like Steve Israel may be just what is needed to steal the coveted position. Israel and others considering similar strategic moves will need to weigh these options and decide whether the rewards outweigh the risks because a wrong move now basically could take you out of the race early and end any potential shot at moving up the career ladder in the future.

Sebelius admits errors, pays $7,000 in back taxes

Not another tax issue! Filling the position of Health and Human Services Secretary has already been hard enough, but now more problems have arisen with the next tax problem on the agenda. I don't see the errors Sebelius made as costing her a spot in the administration, but it just illustrates the point that paying your taxes is a tricky business. I had never thought that it was so difficult to get taxes paid properly before all of these issues came to light, but evidently many people make mistakes that go unchecked. I doubt that either Daschle or even Sebelius would have paid up the taxes they had failed to account for if not for wanting to be in the administration and going through the rigors. Yet, at least with Sebelius I do not see any extremely egregrious errors that would make you believe she was trying to hide something. Missed tax payments like from these key officials might not mean much seperately, but I guess when you look at the overall picture we could have been collecting a lot more under the previous administration and had we done so maybe some of the issues that Americans are looking to correct now would have been easier to deal with. With the April 15th deadline coming soon, you may just want to give yourself an extra review before turning it in because who knows what might show up if you plan on running for a political job in the future.

Our very own Eric Kuhn on networking!

Eric, Hamilton's own expert networker, just published a great article on ExceptionMag.com about social networking. It ties in perfectly with last night's event. Anyone with a facebook, linkedin, or twitter account should definitely read this!

Committee Hearing

Today I attended a hearing before the the House Committee on Ways and Means' Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures. The hearing was in regards to banking secrecy practices. The witness list was composed of the IRS Commissioner, a Tax attorney from Boston, a Law professor from the University of Michigan, and a lawyer from New York.

Over the course of my internship, I have done a lot of research on all things relating to international taxation, including reading transcripts of hearings such as the one I actually went to today. The IRS Commissioner, Douglas Shulman, said the exact same thing at today's hearing that he did at a Senate hearing on UBS two months ago. While he made very good points and was able to lay out the IRS's plan to combat such secrecy practices, I found myself wishing he had been able to say more. It has been months since the UBS case and still there seem to have been no real progress made in the plan to circumvent banking secrecy laws. The financial crisis has showed that now more than ever government agencies need to be working quickly and effectively to actually make progress in solving the problems instead of just giving the same speech over and over.

Another aspect of the hearing that I found frustrating is the fact that these hearings seem to serve no real purpose. Many members of the committee were not even present and those who participated did not ask enough follow-up questions when their initial inquiries were side-stepped. Holding hearing after hearing on the same issues won't fix the economy; maybe instead of listening to the same issues be discussed over and over again members of Congress should start taking action.

China takes centre stage

This article discusses the bold moves China has taken in the wake of this economic crisis. Their public statements about the reliability of the dollar have raised questions about our economic plans. Despite these claims, China has much to lose by weakening the dollar. Any move towards an international currency would seriously devalue the billions of dollars worth of U.S. bonds they currently hold. Secondly, China exports 20% of its goods to the United States. Any devaluation would make their goods more expensive, and would amplify the effect the global economic crisis is already having on the Chinese economy.

How Obama Screwed GM

I couldn't agree more with this NY Times Op-Ed. The way Obama has handled helping General Motors has done more harm than good. I am severely disappointed to see Obama going for the quick political victory rather than looking to achieve long-term success for the company.

Gates Securing A Role Under Yet Another President

Interesting look into the personality of Secretary Gates. I personally like him a lot for his pragmatic, nonpartisanship approach. What a nice change from Rummy.

Proof of Gate's pragmatic approach comes from another article talking about how he has lobbied Congress for an increase in the State Department's budget. Gates realizes that there is no permanent military solution in Afghanistan or Iraq, and that there needs to be a civilian surge in addition to a military one. There is no way Rumsfeld (or most other cabinet members to be honest) would ever advocate for other departments to get a larger share of the funding pie. It's nice to see a realization that we are all working together to achieve the same goal, and that in order to be successful, everyone needs to be able to fully do their job.

Wars, Terror Fight Total $685.7 Billion

Eight years of war have almost been equivalent to the stimulus bill. Think how many schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, and high-speed railways could have been built with this money, and imagine the returns we would have gotten on those investments...

pretty funny article about google earth

Alice Waters and Obama’s ‘Kitchen’ Cabinet

Tara Parker-Pope interviewed Alice Waters about Obama's future White House Chef and the posibility of have a WH garden.

Treating an Illness Is One Thing. What About a Patient With Many?

With the aging of the baby boomer generation it is going to be important to learn how to treat patients with many chronic illnesses. With 68% of medicare costs being put towards people with more then one condition, I think it is important to put more time and effort into studying this.

Who's driving what?

I believe that everyone has a right to purchase whatever kind of car they want if they are able to pay for it accordingly. However, President Obama may not want to take a look in the White House staff parking lot if buying American is his main priority. I can understand how many of the more environmentally conscious members of the administration would want to buy Hondas or Toyotas and if they feel that is best for them then I do not see any problem with that. However, President Obama is taking a new stance to go tough on the industry and so leading by example is one way to achieve the goals he hopes to see accomplished within by summer. One of the more interesting automobile choices comes from Ed Montgomery who rides in on his Harley Davidson each morning. Just surveying the parking lot would give the impression of the diverse car market available to citizens and with a collection of luxury and foreign cars making their way to the White House each morning we can see how our American car industry has failed to meet with the advances made by its competitors.

Groups say stimulus lobbying rules are too strict

I thought this article was interesting giving the topic for tomorrow's class. I am glad to see that transparency has become a very important component of President Obama's plans because one of the best ways to hold people accountable for their actions is to understand what is actually going on. Lobbyists have the same access to the President, but their opinions and topics for conversation will now be constricted solely to those that are determined by the administration. It is better to set strong ground rules from the beginning and give each person an equal opportunity to voice their opinions and their potential ideas than to set the rules as things go by. Despite the disapproval of many of the biggest lobbying organizations in the country, we cannot allow ourselves to be run at their behest. Yes, they are important at bringing issues to light, but ultimately the public does not elect them to lead the country and so it is the responsibility of our lawmakers to make the final decisions about what steps and priorities to take.

Bush to throw out first pitch

Despite the unproductive seasons the Texas Rangers have displayed in the past few years, President Bush is making the team a household name again at least for one night with his decision to throw out the first pitch on opening day. One of my favorite memories of the 2001 World Series when my team the Arizona Diamondbacks won was when President Bush threw out the opening pitch at Yankee Stadium. The perfect throw with the eagle flying in the sky made me and most of the nation feel invincible over the threat of terrorism that had taken over the country on 9/11. We stood united if not for the love of the game, then at least for how perfect the moment was in World Series history. Although President Bush threw a badly aimed pitch last year to open the Washington Nationals season debut, he will have his chance to redeem himself and show how baseball helped turn his life around for the better. It goes to show that even if the many people in the country dislike the President's actions, at least Texas still has his back when it matters and if things go right he may even end up back in the ownership ranks of the Rangers in due time.

Analysis: Is first lady the president's secret diplomatic weapon?

"What can the first lady accomplish when she accompanies her husband on his first trip to Europe? She can play a role in the rebranding of America. President Obama is still considered a figure of hope to the world, but even abroad, he is not immune from criticism. Maybe Michelle can help quall those skeptics.

From post-partisanship to fight club?

California plant recalls 1 million pounds of pistachio products

Now pistachio nuts are being recalled, what's next almonds? Salmonella strains were found last week during routine test by Kraft Foods, one of about three dozen companies that purchase pistachios from Setton Farms. According to CNN, Kraft notified the FDA on March 24, but no comment from Setton Farms, which is the second largest pistachio processor in the US. I think that lately, problems with food processors and manufactures has been this demand for quick production and quick distribution, to meet consumer demands and to make a profit. Unfortunately, it means that events like finding salmonella in foods, is likely to occur.

Automaker Porsche posts euro 5.5B 6-month profit

Porsche may have demonstrated how to make a profit in the auto industry without actually posting record sales in the luxury car department. One of the few auto companies that is actually doing well right now is the VW brand and the stake that Porsche bought in a couple of years ago is now paying off huge dividends. Rather than allying itself solely to its luxury cars that typically would only sell in good economic times, Porsche is proving why it deserves it title as one of the best automakers in the world. GM has a very diversified group of car subsidies under its wings and I will be interested to see if the new month deadline President Obama has given the company will actually do much to bring the company back into a future devoid of the bankruptcy protection that it will most likely need. Even though Wall Street hasn't been doing well and the large number of Ponzi schemes are finally coming to light, instead of putting all of your eggs into one basket is never a smart idea and so finding a way to make the most of its assets could enable GM to succeed with the taxpayer's money.

Yemeni held at Guantanamo since 2001 to be released

BoldTerror suspect is to be released from Guantanamo bay. This comes "after the Obama administration asked a federal court Monday to postpone his pending case." The "hard part" according to the Justice Department, will be "finding a country willing to take him." This was  one of the concerns that was discussed at the Guantanamo debate a few weeks back and now look what is happening.

What's in a name?

GWOT replaced by CAEWWTDUH.

Reid to MoveOn: Back Off!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Webb Crime Bill Gets Surprise Support

"Jim Webb stepped firmly on a political third rail last week when he introduced a bill to examine sweeping reforms to the criminal justice system. Yet he emerged unscathed, a sign to a political world frightened by crime and drug issues that the bar might not be electrified any more."

Perils of economic development strategies

Good Dan Quayle Quotes... yea its a long Monday

"If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure."

"Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child."

"What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is."

"One word sums up probably the responsibility of any vice president, and that one word is 'to be prepared.'"

"Welcome to President Bush, Mrs. Bush, and my fellow astronauts."

"Mars is essentially in the same orbit . . . Mars is somewhat the same distance from the Sun, which is very important. We have seen pictures where there are canals, we believe, and water. If there is water, that means there is oxygen. If oxygen, that means we can breathe."

"The Holocaust was an obscene period in our nation's history. I mean in this century's history. But we all lived in this century. I didn't live in this century."

"I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy -- but that could change."

"I have made good judgments in the past. I have made good judgments in the future."

"The future will be better tomorrow."

"We're going to have the best-educated American people in the world."

"People that are really very weird can get into sensitive positions and have a tremendous impact on history."

"We have a firm commitment to NATO, we are a part of NATO. We have a firm commitment to Europe. We are a part of Europe."

"I am not part of the problem. I am a Republican."

"I love California, I practically grew up in Phoenix."

"A low voter turnout is an indication of fewer people going to the polls."

"When I have been asked during these last weeks who caused the riots and the killing in L.A., my answer has been direct and simple: Who is to blame for the riots? The rioters are to blame. Who is to blame for the killings? The killers are to blame."

"Illegitimacy is something we should talk about in terms of not having it."

"We are ready for any unforeseen event that may or may not occur."

"For NASA, space is still a high priority."

"Quite frankly, teachers are the only profession that teach our children."

"It isn't pollution that's harming the environment. It's the impurities in our air and water that are doing it."

"[It's] time for the human race to enter the solar system."

"Verbosity leads to unclear, inarticulate things."

"I stand by all the misstatements that I've made."

Colleges Are Accepting More Students Who Can Pay Full Fare

Colleges this coming year will be paying closer attention to financial need than before. After enduring budget cuts and decreased endowments, most colleges are still attempting to keep their financial aid levels the same. However, more students than ever before are in need of that aid, stretching school budgets to their breaking point. In order to keep acceptance statistics high, schools are now accepting more and more students who don't need financial aid.

I think this is a dangerous development for the quality of our secondary education system. Financial need should never hinder a talented individual's chances of reaching their full potential. Hopefully this increased awareness of need won't last very long; if it does we will undoubtedly see decreased standards in our education.

A Showdown on Voting Rights in the Supreme Court

A recent Supreme Court lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of a provision in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that requires Justice Department approval of any changes to electoral practices in states that historically suppressed minority votes. The challenge comes from an unlikely source; for a test case, conservative lawyers picked a local utility board official who had to get approval for his decision to move a polling station from a garage to a local school.

While updating laws to prevent unnecessary burdens makes sense, this case has troubling implications. President Bush and Congress reauthorized this section of the Voting Rights Act in 2006, so a change by the courts would override the popular will. Also, on issues related to potential discrimination, there is good reason to be cautious in rolling back reforms--consider the wide allegations of voter suppression in the 2000 and 2004 elections. Yet the makeup of the Supreme Court after President Bush's appointments has altered the court's civil rights stance notably (including a repeal of the option for racial balancing in public schools in 2007), which means this law is unlikely to survive.

After Initial Successes, Electoral College Foes Set Sights on Higher Peaks

A movement to bypass the Electoral College is gaining ground in Colorado, the first swing state to endorse the measure. Essentially, the plan is an end run around amending the constitution to remove the Electoral College; it proposes that each state will pass a law giving all of its electors to the winner of the popular vote.

I support this plan, even though my small state of Vermont would lose most of its influence in the presidential race; a system where the President is the winner of the popular vote is simply more democratic. While a post-Electoral College America would lost some of the drama of campaigning for "swing states," it would ensure that the president is elected by all the people without giving undue influence to some states over others.

Momentum Grows for Relaxing Cuba Policy

A bill will be announced in the Senate tomorrow that will end nearly all travel sanctions between the US and Cuba. The sanctions have been in place since 1961, but their validity has been highly debated for the last decade or so. While sanctions can often be an effective tool, these particular ones have been too-long standing and have not brought about any substantive change in Cuban domestic policy.

When a High-Profile Endorsement Is Low-Profile

Very late in the race, Obama is finally advertising his support for congressional candidate Scott Murphy. The election takes place tomorrow. However the DNC only spent 10,000 on the advertisement so it is unlikely that it will reach many viewers. In the election, which has been looked at as referendum to the early stages of the Obama administration, Democrats have downplayed Obama’s support in order to avoid blame and criticism in the event of a lose. So far in the election Republicans have pumped $1.6 million into the campaign comparing to $953,000 from democrats.

Republicans use Bill Clinton's strategy for 2010 elections

This article discusses the campaign phrase use by Bill Clinton against George H.W. Bush “It the economy stupid” stating that the republicans will take a similar approach in 2010. Republicans have already twice used the phrase that Obama is “spending too much, taxing too much and borrowing too much." And it seems they will continue to do so. The article also discusses the idea that Obama will begin to have trouble blaming republicans for the financial state since democrats are in power.

Obama diary: The first 100 days

I don't remember if this has already been posted. It would make a good link on the side bar of the blog...

Obamas To Pay for WH Renovation

Looking to set an example of efficient spending, the Obamas have decided to spend their own money to decorate the White House to their tastes.

No Change Soon on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

It looks like Obama learned from Clinton's mistake.

White House First Children

I am jealous of the Obama girls, Sasha and Malia. The world knows them, the world wants to dress them, and the world is pretty much their oyster. This is probably true for any of the children that have occupied the White House. They have the opportunity not only to meet Senators, Cabinet members, House Reps and other political luminaries, but they get to be mollycoddled by them and know them on a different level than any random intern ever could.

In a world where connections can take you far, and one in which I'm going to a networking party in the evening, aren't you jealous too?

UH OH Blanche

Blanche Lincoln seems to be in trouble down south. Here are the reasons some Dems are wary of the Obama budget. This could cause trouble for the budget and EFCA. Stay tuned.

Encyclopedia of Life

Another Smith. update: They have been adding things daily to the Encyclopedia of Life. I've been doing some work on this project that the Smithsonian is doing and it's really neat - you can find pretty much any animal, plant, organism, you name it. Check it out!

Merkel Is Ready to Greet, and Then Resist, Obama

With the first G20 summit meeting just three days away, European leaders are holding steady on their resistance to upping the stimulus packages. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is particularly vocal in her opposition of Obama's plans.

This opposition could prove to be a major problem for Obama, as well as for the overall global financial interests of the US in the coming months. If Obama leaves the week of Summit meetings without having achieved his goals, or at least negotiated a compromise between his goals and those of the European nations, he may be viewed as the newcomer who couldn't stand against the experience of Merkel, et al.

Grapes with the Apes

Wine tasting at the zoo on April 16th (6-9pm)! You get to meet the baby gorilla too.....

Woods fightback seals superb win

A little bit of golf news...Tiger Woods overcame a five-shot deficit to beat Sean O'Hair and win his first title since returning from injury at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

McConnell criticizes Obama 'explosion of government'

House Minority Leader is criticizing Obama's administration in tackling tough problems and calling for a need to have smaller government, rather than large government. In an interview with CNN broadcast on Sunday, McConnell said voters elected Obama because they were upset about past policies but not because they wanted a much more liberal government. Will the republicans make a comeback in the next election? Only time will tell....

Obama aides flunk GM and Chrysler

The Obama administration gave General Motors and Chrysler LLC failing grades Monday for their turnaround efforts and promised a sweeping overhaul of the troubled companies. The government plans to give the automakers more money, but it is also holding out the threat of a "structured bankruptcy."

Guns on Campus: Bills would allow guns at college

All of the recent gun shootings in campuses around the nation has caught the attention of the Texas legislature. No doubt the state is obviously in favor of allowing people to carry weapons for sport and protection, but they are trying to take it a step further by giving students the opportunity to hold their guns in class with the proper licensing and registration of course. Personally, I don't know how much safer having guns in the classroom would make me feel especially given how with even the slightest mistake something bad could go wrong. However, if a situation like Virginia Tech were to occur, I would rather someone take the shooter out then allow the shooter to go on a rampage. My mixed feelings on the situation strike at the real question at stake here and that is does having a gun for protection actually increase the likelihood of increasing public safety? That is something we don't know and really have no way of knowing until a situation presents itself. Hopefully, another shooting won't take place to cause us to have to test it out.

Few in flood zone have insurance

It is very sad to see all of the victims of the Fargo flooding being taken away from their homes and their normal lives. I am reminded of Katrina all over again even though the damage and number of people hurt is not as many, the hurt still remains the same. Unfortunately, it looks like many of the families hurt by this flooding will have nothing to go back to once it dies down. Flood insurance is something that may seem like a luxury to some, but in the light of Katrina and this incident maybe paying the extra $800 a year to ensure protection isn't so bad. I hope that FEMA and the Red Cross are able to rally around the citizens of Fargo and help rebuild the area because without the necessary help and assistance it leave a huge dent in the community. We were able to rally around those who were victims of the levees breaking in New Orleans and I would expect us to do something in a similar vein now that we have faced similar adversity.

U.S. deploys anti-missile ships before North Korea launch

I see the threat of North Korea as a big problem for the Obama administration. Missile launches seem like just the beginning if China is not willing to set down the law on North Korea through UN sanctions because if the wrong people are able to get their hands on this new type of weaponry then the national security of our country could be at risk. I am in agreement with Robert Gates that at this point we shouldn't be stopping the missile launch expected this week right now because maybe it is just a satellite orbit that is being done. However, if we find out that it is not then maybe doing something ahead of time would prove forthright. It is obvious that the United States and Japan see the threat of missile launches to public safety or else why would they send four anti-missile ships out into the ocean. With that being said, it is important to strengthen up our allied forces and build a strong coalition that can coerce China into giving in and going through the proper measures to thwart any attempt from Kim Jung-Il to sell or attack using his newfound defense system. Once this week is over with, it will present Obama with a clear challenge to either turn up the heat or stay the course on North Korea.

Alaska Democrats aim to block Palin's state Senate pick

In a story that keeps getting weirder, Governor Sarah Palin has more controversy headed her way after her nomination for a state Senate seat. Palin essentially chose a Republican who re-registered as a Democrat just a few weeks ago to take over a Democratic seat in the Alaskan Senate. With her strong popularity in the state, I see it as a very smart move because at worst her pick is rejected and another Democrat fills the position. This tactic will enable her to go after huge rewards her nomination because she has the chance to make the body even more conservative. It just goes to show how parties care so much about getting things as close to their way as possible and are willing to try anything to make it happen. I see this as a very smart political move for Palin and if she is able to get her candidate in place she will can add a significant battle to add to her resume. The more she is able to think in these sort of terms the better off her future political prospects will be because at this point she already seems to a have a starting base and all she needs now is to build it up by demonstrating her strategic planning and future for the Republican Party.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Chancellor Faces Fight With Teachers Over How to Improve D.C. Schools

Improving the education system in the nation's capitol is definitely something that we should strive to achieve because it is so valuable to give each child the opportunity to better themselves and accomplish their life goals. The main issue that I see that is on the table is simply the accountability of teachers in ensuring that students do well inside and outside of the classroom. Definitely, teachers play a significant role in providing an education to kids and they should be doing their best to make sure students are getting the most out of their academic experience. If I were a teacher and this new plan is put into place I would struggle with the decision to give up lifetime tenure for a huge increase in salary. Yes the increase would pay teachers more properly for their job and it would keep teachers on their toes and force them to strive for excellence year after year. However, if the accountability standards are going to be with test scores it would be very difficult to really determine if that is the way to encourage learning of knowledge in the classroom. Teaching to a test can be both productive and costly depending on how the class is structured and maybe with this new plan we can finally see the results that we should expect from our school system.

McCain supports Palin for president ... sort of

Acting like the politician he is, Senator McCain did not really give out much on he plans to look at the next presidential election. I think he was very smart not to go out on a limb for Sarah Palin because if she is put to the test again, I am very hesitant to believe she could do much better for the Republicans than some of the other potential candidates being named out there. Although Palin does exemplify the Republican's social conservatism, the next candidate should appeal to all three components of conservatism if they want to challenge President Obama. One of the reasons President Bush was so successful was that he could appeal to the social, fiscal, and national security conservatives of the Party and so his use of rhetoric enabled him reach all parts of the base. McCain and his fellow Republicans would be best served to find another candidate who can do similar things as President Bush in terms of the campaign mode because if you look at Palin as the leader of the Party then you miss out on attracting a larger audience and voter base.

Smoke break gets more expensive with tax boost

With President Obama needing to find a way to pay for some of health care plans for children in SCHIP, he agreed to raise the tax on cigarettes by almost 70 cents. I hope that this measure is able to actually get people to decrease their smoking habits given the long-term health effects that arise from having such a habit. One of the more interesting aspects of this increase is how the companies have raised their prices to counteract the profit losses they expect to see this year. I see this as potentially causing some unrest from smokers because given the state of the economy, any increases in luxury items can cause problems and potentially the decision not to buy as many or even any at all. At least President Obama is doing something that he himself will have to pay for in order to get his political goals accomplished. As a smoker, Obama will subject himself to the higher prices and serve as an example to his fellow citizens. With the price increase, the government stands to accrue $30 plus billion in extra revenue, not a light figure, and I see this as only a portion of what is needed for the grand health care plans of the administration and it will definitely be interesting when the final budget comes out how Congress plans to pay for the rest of it.

Why Monday's Post Will Look a Lot Different

If you read the Washington Post tomorrow you will be in for a big change with the decision to trim down some of the least popular pages in the paper. I am not very disappointed in what they decided to cut given that if people want to know the price of stocks or read silly comics then you can do so online. However, just the fact that one of the biggest newspapers in the country is feeling the heat makes me feel a bit sad because it just leads to the inevitability of newspapers going out of business with the age of technology. I was hoping to see a sudden resurgence that would keep the industry alive for a bit longer, but now even with reorganization it does not look like that will happen. So if you were able to get your hands on an issue of the Post today make sure to keep hold of it because it will be a keepsake for the future.

Inflation Ahead

Currently, the Fed Funds rate is effectively zero. In addition, the Federal Reserve is planning to purchase $300 billion in Treasury bonds and $850 billion in mortgage-related debt. In order to pay for this $1.75 trillion purchase, the Fed is going to simply print money.

We're pretty worried about deflation right now but in the next few years we're going to see high levels of inflation as a result of this monetary policy.

I just finished reading a book about monetary policy by Milton Friedman. The theory is pretty basic: inflation arises when the supply of money grows faster than output. Heading back to Macro 102, the Phillips curve illustrated the inverse relationship between inflation and unemployment.

According to the Phillips curve, high inflation leads to low unemployment because and abundance of money means businesses can hire more people and higher inflation lubricates labor markets. Low inflation means high unemployment for the opposite reasons.

While the Phillips curve may work in the short-run, Friedman rejects it in the long run. After all, inflation takes years, not months, to develop and/or be cured. Also, people begin to expect inflation, thereby removing the positive side of and increase in nominal income.

Friedman writes:
"We have been misled by a false dichotomy: inflation or unemployment. That option is an illusion. The real option is whether we have higher unemployment as a result of higher inflation or as a temporary side effect of a cure for inflation."

I agree with this idea and I am a little worried about the next few years. As soon as we begin to pull out of this recession, the Fed is going to have to tighten interest rates like crazy to stem inflation. In turn, this could potentially create an inflationary recession.

GM's Saturn, Apparently Doomed, Still Pitching Hard

I was watching the NCAA tournament yesterday and it seemed like at almost every commercial break I would see an advertisement projecting the Saturn car brand's new outlook on the car industry. I did not know that GM was looking to get rid of this brand prior to reading this article, but it seems a bit odd to me that all of this effort is being put into a sinking ship. If GM really feels that Saturn is a bad asset then while you do need to ensure that the recognition of the brand name is there and that people want to buy that type of car you still need to be fiscally responsible with taxpayer money. The ads didn't seem very enticing to me and I can't speak for others, but it is probably a similar sentiment felt by those who saw the same commercials. Dumping money into this failing brand may be helpful in selling it off, but I don't see how Saturn will generate any significant long-term revenue boost to GM and especially with the type of advertisements that are being put out there for display. GM will most likely be getting more money from President Obama and maybe they will be able to reorganize their efforts in a more productive manner.

Blago's $2.3 million hit list

While I was reading a story on the Chicago Sun Times website this morning I discovered that they have their own section devoted simply to on the clock reporting of the famed former governor Blago. They have games, blogs, stories, and legal documents all housed up in a special section and it is definitely worth a look if you have some time. I did come across an article that reported a number of people who Blago hoped to hit up for some cash during his recent campaign and the names he wanted include some of the very same candidates that were being thrown around for the open Senate seat. Obviously, Roland Burris was on the list, but I discovered that pretty much anyone that Blago had something to bargain for was also included on the list. Congressmen, billionaires, and sport team owners were among the 150 that Blago explored fundraising efforts through and it just goes to show how much thought he put into his power as governor of Illinois. He must have been planning for a long time how Obama's open Senate seat was going to play out given how much he was requesting from potential candidates to succeed him in office. The Blago story just keeps getting more and more interesting and I cannot wait to see what he comes out with in his book because this kind of stuff just seems like the tip of the iceberg on what could be one of the greatest tell-all books of our generation.

Critics call WTC tower name change unpatriotic

One of the most awe-inspiring sights I have had the privilege of seeing was the World Trade Center Ground Zero. I can remember watching the towers go down in flames on television as a middle schooler and at the time I couldn't imagine what was going on or the magnitude it would have on our future. Going to Ground Zero reminded me of the many heroes who went up and risked their lives to save the lives of others and it represented a day of unity where the entire nation rose together and for once were all sharing a similar sentiment. I can understand how rebuilding on the site can be a sign of symbolism that whenever we are thrown down, we rise back up stronger and better than ever. That in and of itself is a very powerful message that I feel would show the world that we really will not let anything deter us from providing a safe and high quality of life to our citizens. I kind of liked the name Freedom Tower for the proposed new building, but if it has to be changed then I am amenable to the idea. The only problem I see with this large project is the idea that it will probably be another target on our back that potential enemies might attack given its symbolic nature. If the new tower becomes the biggest in New York then it serves in the same capacity as it did prior to the attack and that was one of the main reasons that the terrorists moved on that building in particular. Additionally, I am unsure how many businesses would be willing to move back into the site of such tramatic experiences or if even new businesses would feel safe enough to take a chance. That is something that we will have to deal with and conquer just like we have with other roadblocks in the past.

Best Places for Business and Careers

I saw this article and was very surprised to see some of the biggest growth markets in the country for job opportunities and company expansions come from North Carolina and Colorado. I really had no idea that North Carolina is doing so well and that practically six of the top 20 cities come from the state. Even funnier is the notion that all of these cities have Division I basketball teams that most often thrive during competition. I would have thought North Carolina would be struggling mightily with the banking industry going down in flames especially in Charlotte where Bank of America has its corporate headquarters. Additionally, U.S. Airways which houses itself in Charlotte is also struggling to deal with the lack of passengers going on vacations during this economy downturn. I guess the markets are much better prepared to deal with the economy than I thought and it is nice to see that even in rough times, cities are able to prepare in advance for such an occurrence and build up business empires that will keep the city and state afloat. Investing in greater technology seems to be paying strong dividends and it is something that cities around the nation might want to explore in the future.

New Ads Urge Key Democrats to Support Obama's Budget

"MoveOn.org Political Action has released radio ads asking key Democratic members of the House and Senate to support President Obama's budget. The ads tap into the populist outrage over AIG's bonuses and remind voters that the Obama budget would make AIG executives and hedge fund managers pay more in order to invest in economic recovery."

Syria: Peace w/ Israel Possible

New piece by New Yorker's Seymour Hersh, who received emails from Syrian President Assad.

No conspiracy theory, just facts.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

CNN in third place in prime time for first time

Has the nation shifted its opinion of its news reporters? I am very surprised by the fact that CNN has declined in ratings to the point where it now falls behind MSNBC and Fox News in the rotation for prime time news reporting. I guess people like hearing opinions coming from the sides their political beliefs coincide when they listen to the news. Obviously, CNN is a liberal leaning news source, but Fox News and MSNBC are starting to report more in polarizing terms and that seems to be selling in the public's eyes. Fox definitely should be near the top because it represents one of the few Republican based television sources available and their anchors and show leaders are recognized even by those who don't watch their shows. CNN though does have some name recognition with Larry King and Anderson Cooper, but it lacks the big star during the key 8 pm slot that could tilt the audience in their direction. Being competitive at this time is important because if it allows its competitors to gain more loyal supporters than eventually CNN will be faced with a giant question of how to best put together its schedule in way that will capitalize on its assets.

Spanish court considers trying former US officials

For those of you who wanted some justice from a possible Bush truth commission, you may be getting your wish now that Spain has opened up six criminal case investigations. Torture treatments and war crimes seem to be at the forefront of the decision to move forward with these cases. I am very surprised to see this even coming up because in all likelihood I see nothing come out of this except maybe a few headlines down the road. I do not see any arrests being made even if the six individuals are found guilty because there is no way the United States is going to extradite these individuals to Spain to face their charges. Alberto Gonzales is the biggest name being thrown under the bus, making it little in terms of name recognition from the administration. Had they decided that Dick Cheney or even President Bush had done something wrong enough to warrant investigation I would have found Spain actually making a big decision, but without the big fish to fry this doesn't even seem worthy of the time it will take to make charges or even an investigation stick.

Senator tackles out-of-network insurance issue

I am glad that Senator Rockefeller is standing up to the medical insurance industry. I find it outrageous that people are unable to receive the coverage that they pay for under their insurance plans solely because the hospital they visit is not in network with the insurance carrier. If you are paying for insurance than you should not have to battle your carrier to pay for adequate coverage especially in highly expensive situations like heart transplants or cancer treatments. People should be able to go to the hospitals that will provide the best treatment available to them so that they can recover back to full strength. When companies like UnitedHealth force patients to pay more out of cost for their operations then we do need to investigate the process like Rockefeller intends to do in the near future. If insurance carriers are able to dictate the terms of coverage like they have been then it comes at a significant cost to those in need who have rightly paid for what they should be receiving in medical treatment. Fairer treatment and calculations need to be made and hopefully a hearing can bring about the necessary changes.

Geithner leads by example … in coach

For all of the things that I have disliked from Tim Geithner, this stands out as something I feel good about. Instead of wasting another $250,000 on a private plane, Geithner gets that it is all about saving taxpayers money and serving as an example of how to curb government spending. One of the main concerns I have with the way Congress works is the constant use of private planes to fly back to the district at a significant cost to taxpayers. Yes, it is important for constituents to be able to see and talk with the representatives, but when members like Nancy Pelosi take private jets at the cost of $500,000 for a weekend visit, is it really worth it? Even though it may be a little more risky security wise, I think members can actually reach out to common members of their voting base while in coach and really gain a sense of how a typical person thinks about the state of the nation.

Cantor and Hoyer among those receiving funds from bailed-out firms’ PACs

It appears that Congressman Hoyer, was one of a few members of Congress who received PAC donations from TARP recipients. Firms associated with PAC include AIG, American Express, and Citigroup, just to name a few. Not only could this hurt members with re-election campaigns and could impact people's trust or distrust of the government in managing tax payers money. I am sure that I will have a lot of calls about this next week, so I will try to find out more.

Republicans' Budget Gets Hammered in Press

On Friday, Republicans unveiled their alternative to Obama's budget. What ensued was an absolute massacre in the press. The DNC released the following ad in an effort to heap on the pain, but anyone who was watching the news yesterday already knows how awful Republicans looked.

The failed budget rollout, plus Michael Steele's numerous debacles and Eric Cantor's confession that he was watching a Britney Spears concert instead of the President's big press conference earlier in the week, make me think the Republicans need to find new leadership. NOW.

Spring break is stimulus blitz time for Dems

I think it very strategic for the Democrats to be going after the public with speeches on the stimulus rather than the budget with its off time. It seems to me that Republicans have failed to unite and form a strong stand against the budget or even put together a budget that they could toil around in comparison to the one of President Obama. Since the stimulus will start hitting cities around the nation very soon, the first-term members can show some of the benefits they feel the stimulus will generate to each of their districts to instill some confidence in what they are doing. Essentially like it has boiled down to in the New York race, the stimulus can either be phrased in terms of job creation and needed infrastructure improvement or in terms of wasteful spending. I think by the next election, we will see which side was able to get across their message the best and with Democrats holding an advantage in being incumbents they can start their message war right now before they can be attacked by potential 2010 challengers. Even though they will not be in Washington for the Easter recess, I still see how important time in the district will be in terms of gearing up for future battles because the public support will dictate whether or not moving forward is an appropriate initiative for each Representative.

Republicans Ad Against Murphy

I was looking at some of the advertisements that the National Republican Congressional Committee came out with for the New York race and this one definitely caught my eye. If you can you should definitely look at this YouTube clip because it illustrates a serious low blow to the Democratic candidate. One the key issues that is finding its way into the race is the decision over the death penalty for any circumstances and Murphy has been against it according to his beliefs, which to me seems fine if he is consistent in all circumstances. Yet, he has not been very careful in disclosing this affinity and it may end up costing him if an advertisement like this finds its way into the television commercial spots Tedisco starts promoting. In all honesty I do not really see how the death penalty should be such an important issue in the race given that it is not likely that either candidate will be doing anything with their stances while serving in Congress. New York has to establish its own guidelines and Congress probably will not get involved. Now, looking at it from a bigger ideological point of view the stance represents more than simply the death penalty and strikes to illustrate how polarized the candidates are in their belief system. Murphy's stance seems to be in line with a more liberal stance and not very centralized, whereas Tedisco seems to be a little bit more closer to the center and if voters realize this they may just give the election back to Tedisco and the Republicans.

Missouri's Carnahan in lead for Bond's seat

One of the key battleground races in the upcoming 2010 election will take place in Missouri with Senator Bond retiring. President Obama came pretty close to capturing the state and now that Bond is letting himself out of the political arena, Democrats are poised to take another seat in their quest for a filibuster-proof Senate. Rather than looking at some new blood, both parties appear to be interested in former state officials who already have some name recognition, which could come in handy to the independent voters who show at the polls. I would not be surprised to see the Democrats candidate Robin Carnahan take a victory because the Republicans are going to be in a battle against themselves before they can even start thinking about the Democrats. It is this advantage that I think will enable Carnahan to find faults in both her potential rivals and work on capitalizing on them right away. Yet, whomever makes it out the Republican primary will definitely be battle-tested and a strong competitor and so it should eventually come down to the wire just like President Obama's chances did in the state during the 2008 election.

Sacramento: Mayor probe jeopardizes federal money

I remember Kevin Johnson making headlines for the right reasons when he was playing for the Phoenix Suns alongside Charles Barkley. I find it a bit disappointing to see such a nice guy get involved with problematic spending with his charitable organization. Now not only did the members of his organization suffer with a diversion of funds, but now the city of Sacramento will now be punished for their mayor's actions. The city could definitely use some of the stimulus money and for KJ to be on the restricted list is something that I nor many of his fellow constituents saw coming. Yes the issue was brought up during the race for mayor, but citizens overlooked this and voted him into office. Now they are the ones paying for it and unless KJ finds alternatives to rebuilding the city's infrastructure and education projects, it might not be a very successful term for the embattled mayor.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Has Obama-mania reached its limit?

Is President Obama losing some of his appeal and zest with the public? Thinking about what he has done over his short term in office, it seems like he is everywhere and trying to reach as many people as he can. As we read with Charles Jones, the permanent campaign does not always suceed nor should it be one of the main tactics used to increase support for the president's political goals. Personally, I like the fact that President Obama did his March Madness bracket because when I beat him in it, I know that I was able to accomplish something better than the President. That is the fun side of what the president has done. I still like hearing what his plans for the nation are in his press conferences and late night talk show gigs, but sometimes it is a bit too much for me when I go into a store and see every magazine with his picture on the front. Yes, President Obama has a tremendous audience to reach and it is lofty of him to go after explaining things to the public through ads and emails, but it is starting to get a bit annoying when it even reaches me at the office. All day long people call in asking for support in passing Obama budget and they read an email that the administration's team sent out. I don't mind people have that opinion, but when I am trying to get work done at the office and people just keep calling in about the same thing with the same words, it has gotten on my nerves a few times this week. I understand politically how Obama wants to keep his base loyal to him and help his fellow Democrats get reelected, but maybe a little less publicity could do the administration some good.

FAA wants to keep bird strike records confidential

I am disappointed with the FAA's preference to lock up the numbers on bird strikes in the nation's airports. I don't agree with the notion that people will simply not go to an airport given the risk of a bird strike because people care more about getting to where they need to go than about anything else. Just because we have seen a couple of bird related accidents occur in the past year become public does not mean that they are so prevalent as to cause us to really start worrying about plane safety. The old adage that is more dangerous to drive a car than fly in a plane still holds true despite the plane crashes that have come about as of late. At the same point, I am just out of curiosity interested in determining how birds actually cause major damage to planes. The worst that comes out of this would be the need to install bird radar in aviation towers and that to me is better for us anyways. When I went to the hearing about the Miracle at the Hudson crash on the Hill, the air traffic controller stated that the technology most airports have is not the best quality and that more than anything frightens me the most. It is better for us to know what is going on so we can put pressure on and devote attention to getting airports what they need to make sure everyone is as safe as can be.

Reid: Roberts 'didn't tell us the truth'

I find it bit too much for Senator Reid to be bashing Chief Justice Roberts' political opinions. It should have been obvious that he was going to be a conservative justice given the role President Bush pegged for him. There really is no basis for these attacks now especially since Chief Justice Roberts has not done anything outrageous that would cause the type of destruction Reid accuses him and Alito of having the ability to do. When we had the opportunity to meet with Chief Justice Roberts, I found him to be a very likable person who had a strong foundation in his opinions, which are the type of judges we need to uphold the laws of our country. Additionally, I do not see any purpose or gain that Senator Reid can achieve as a result of these comments. President Obama will likely have the opportunity to replace two members and just like his predecessors, he can chose whomever he feels will ensure that the constitutionality of our nation remains intact. The Senate's role is to act as an advisor, but when we start getting into party politics in deciding who is going to serve on the Court then we are doing it injustice. The way it plays out is that sometimes one political outlook will have the majority and other times the political outlook will shift in the opposite direction. That is the nature of the Court and regardless of one's political opinions, I see each member as doing what they believe is in the best interests of the nation and for that I cannot fault them. While Democrats may not be able to cause a shift in the near future, they do have the opportunity to put into people who they feel will serve their initiatives the best and as long as the judges do what they think is right then we have to let it play out.

National Cherryblossom Festival

Official website for the Cherryblossom Festival that begins this weekend. Highlights include a Smithsonian Kite Festival, Lnatern Lighting Ceremony, Grand Sushi and Sake Tasting, parades, and even a free evening concert called Blossoms in the Breeze: The Sounds of Spring by Japanese Composers. Check it out!

Auto Industry Regulations Update

Two recent regulations for the Auto Industry have been in the news. The first is the Department of Transportation's announcement today that Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards will rise by 8% by 2010. A more detailed description of this can be found here: http://wot.motortrend.com/6498170/government/new-cafe-regs-finally-released-fleet-wide-avg-of-273-mpg-by-2011/index.html

The second regulation is a proposal by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to require all car paints to meet a 20% reflectivity requirement by 2016. The idea behind this is that darker colors like black absorb more sunlight, thereby requiring more use of the air conditioning, which in turn uses more fuel. However, some people are upset about this proposal since it could effectively ban colors like black and navy blue. More info can be found here: http://wot.motortrend.com/6500391/government/no-black-cars-california-air-resources-board-proposes-shake-up-of-color-palette/index.html

Brazil Pres Lula Blames Econ Crisis on White People

I have great respect for President Lula for bringing Brazil into its own as a great power, but this kind of rhetoric is the exact opposite of what we need right now. The world should be trying to work together to resolve this crisis rather than pointing fingers. Furthremore, the issue of who is responsible for this crisis is not black or white, but is instead many shades of grey. Not all white people with blue eyes caused this crisis, and to make such a rash statement only produces backlash, which in turn leads to a lack of cooperation.

NY State Eases Rockefeller Drug Laws

In a big victory for State Democrats, NY has eased the infamous Rockefeller Drug Laws that required mandatory sentencing for nonviolent drug crimes. Instead, judges will now be able to decide sentences for themselves. This means more addicts will end up going to rehab rather than jail, and the State expects to save around $250 million a year!

More Bizarre Holidays

Since I posted a story yesterday about holiday's being canceled by budget cuts, I thought it only fair to show that many more are created every year by state Governors.

Some examples:
Aug. 1 was the start of Clown Week in Wisconsin
September was Clean Hands Month in Nevada
Sept. 26 in Hawaii was a day of awareness for the nene, or Hawaiian goose

I suppose you can never be too aware of clean hands and geese, as long as no state funds are being spent in the process.

Seymour Hersh

Seymour Hersh

Why We All Love Chuck Grassley

"Brown proposes tit-for-tat on gun amendment"

If nothing else, this made me laugh.

D.C. Taxpayers Can Give To Statehood Fund

I thought this was really interesting, especially because before reading this article I had no idea what a shadow senator was. For me, this article just reinforced what a strange and precarious situation D.C. is in without voting representation in Congress.

No more quarter bus

They're shutting down the Adams-Morgan/U St. Link effective this Sunday :-( No more quarter buses to the 9:30 club or Ben's Chili Bowl. Sometime in the near future they're going to establish a new route that will go from Woodley Park to McPherson square that will run along U St. as well. The good news about this new route is that once it's established, it'll make it really easy to get to Target in Columbia Heights. The new route should look something like this:

View Larger Map

Spring has sprung!

Spring is here, and those of us who cook know what that means: farmer's market time! The Dupont farmer's market, which is open year round, is pretty good, but I'm looking forward to exploring the city more and seeing other areas' markets. Plus, the lamb vendor at the Penn's Quarter market intrigues me.

Anyone want to cook dinner together? :-)

Frustration Over Easter Egg Roll

Who knew that the White House Easter Egg role was such a popular event? Moms from NY to Colorado and all across the country stayed up until midnight on Wednesday in order to get tickets for the egg roll online. Apparently, this new and more technologically advanced way of obtaining tickets angered many people, stating that they would rather stand in line for hours to get their tickets.
I know that on Thanksgiving the President pardons a turkey ... does he pardon a bunny on Easter Sunday?

Political Parties See Dramatic Decline in Fundraising

I thought this article was interesting, considering that we were just talking in class about how party strength is on the rise again. Even if party unity, or partisanship, is growing, with the economic crisis actual party clout will decrease. As donors contribute less and less, the Republican and Democratic parties won't be able to provide funding and support for their candidates. It remains to be seen whether this will have an effect in the midterm elections; I think that if neither party has the funding to contribute as much as usual to campaigns, all other things being equal, the general makeup of Congress will most likely stay the same.

Ghostwriters Write Celebrities' Twitter Entries (Gasp!)

Shaq sums it up best, with his own Twitter-honed brevity coming through...
It’s 140 characters. It’s so few characters. If you need a ghostwriter for that, I feel sorry for you.

Three Good Op-Eds on Afghanistan

"The Winnable War" by NY Times Columnist David Brooks:

"Say You're Staying, Mr. President" by The Economist

"Words Fail Us" by Sarah Chayes, featured in LA Times

As New Lawyer, Senator Defended Big Tobacco

Before her life in politics started, Kristin Rutnik, now Kristin Gillibrand, worked for Philip Morris helping them protect themselves from federal investigation. Gillibrand has refused to talked about her work with Philip Morris, canceling all interviews with the New York Times.

Dear AIG: I Quit!

I'm surprised no one has posted a link to this yet--some great stuff here. An former AIG financial products unit exec published his resignation letter to his boss in the New York Times, explaining that he felt betrayed that the company capitulated to public pressure over the bonus issue. The real treat is in the comments section, where the Times has selected a number of very thoughtful reader opinions on entitlement and responsibility. It makes for good reading on a surprisingly complex topic--undoing government contracts in a kneejerk fashion is terrible policy, but it's hard to feel sympathy for a member of a knowingly overpaid industry expressing anguish over money when so many others have been hurt by this recession to a much greater degree.

Fox News Insults Canada's ISAF Mission

In a blatant episode of unenlightened, moronic journalism, the Fox News show "Red Eye" mocked Canada's combat mission in Afghanistan. Given that Canada is one of the few countries whose troops operate in Southern Afghanistan, without limitations on their mandate, these comments are entirely idiotic and insensitive. Also, of all the countries operating in Afghanistan, Canada has sustained the highest casualty ratio. It frustrates me to know that shows like Red Eye are allowed on the air, and even worse, that people watch them. This is just another example of the traditional media abdicating its role as a credibile news source.

Oh, and I would love to see the hosts and panelists of Red Eye go to Afghanistan and see for themselves how soldiers routinely operate in 6000+ elevation with 90+ pound packs, and engage in gruesome fighting with a fanatical enemy. These armchair quarterbacks disgust me.

Obama likely to show automakers 'tough love'

Essentially, I see the auto industry bailouts as a means for the Obama administration to push forward with its energy and environmental policy goals. Instead of treating the car companies like the banks, we are forcing them to drastically alter their game plans to receive the funding they need to stay afloat. Now, I believe that this is a good thing because obviously the companies have failed at doing it their own way with building SUVs and not really reacting to the gas price problems that we have had over the past few years. I guess it just means that reorganization and new game plans are what President Obama and his team believe will best prepare our country for the future. He has already taken part in some energy conservation and alternative projects in his short time in office and moving the car companies in this manner is a nice first step. I just don't know about the short-term viability of the companies in the mean time. It takes a long time to build more gas-conservative vehicles and the first ones are probably going to be sold at a loss given the high price for production. Are we willing to take the short term loss to potentially have a long term gain? It appears President Obama thinks this is a risk worth taking because ultimately the reward could be significant.

Commentary: Obama is flunking economics

Perhaps it is still too early to tell? Or maybe it is Geithner who is flunking economics?

Gregg: from Cabinet to chief fiscal critic

Senator Gregg is a highly respected elected official, but at some point he needs to take his power and use it to improve the state of the country. I don't mind that he didn't want to participate in President Obama's cabinet because in all likelihood I don't see how much influence or leeway he really would have had and it would have potentially been very damaging to Republicans in the next election. However, I would like to Senator Gregg come up with some things he feels will get us back on track rather than simply criticize what's going on. Our country will be better prepared to move forward if we have all the potential options on the table rather than simply one side of the coin, and someone like Gregg has the ability to give us those opportunities. When we have a responsible party model of government which we are very close to today, then the opposing party is not only supposed to provide accountability for the party in power, but also to provide alternative options. All I hear about is that the budget is too big and that spending on health care and things of that nature are too expensive. Considering I am not an expert or privy to the information that our Congressmen are, I would like to see the best possible budget put forward and for that to happen we need to have the pros and cons of each key issue and then make a determination as to whether it is a worthwhile investment of public taxpayer money.

Mint unveils first coin with Braille text

I think it is really cool that the U.S. mint designed a coin that can be read by blind citizens. Not only does it provide a chance for the blind to get a new opportunity to expand their experience base, but it also provides a nice gesture for the National Federation of the Blind with part of the proceeds heading towards this organization. I am all for providing the best possible quality of life for all citizens as desired by the Founding Fathers and this seems like a very nice chance to get a step closer to reaching this goal. I know that sometimes when fundraising efforts become commonplace and nonmeaningful they run the risk of being unsuccessful, but this new innovative coin may break this and give back to the community in a very special way.

Obama and Bush

Thursday, March 26, 2009

"Members of Congress Illegally Milk D.C. Tax Break"

The actual article requires a subscription, but I have a good summary of the article here. Some representatives are claiming D.C. residence for tax purposes even though they're (obviously) supposed to be permanent residents of their states.

Pretty lame under any circumstances, but given 1) the economic crisis and 2) D.C.'s lack of voting representation, I'd call this seriously uncool (yes, that's my politically accurate term for it).

GOP transparency push seen as attack on Michelle O.

I see the decision to propose an amendment bringing more transparency to the first lady as very unnecessary. In all honesty, the first lady does more of the work of promoting the work of her husband and the administration than sometimes even the President does himself. We already have access to public records of what goes on in the White House, is it really necessary to know where the first lady goes on her everyday tasks of promoting service and education? I do not really care where the first lady spends her time as long as it is productive and it acknowledges the strong position she is in to get some good done for the country. By making her meetings public we stand to see more of the gotcha politics in place from the media and definitely more criticism from whoever is in the opposing party at the time. This is not what we should be focusing our attention on in Congress given all of the issues that face the nation. I don't really see the transparency push as an attack on Michelle as some others have pointed out, but it is obvious that people expect her to play a big role during her husband's time in office if they make this sort of claim. Given the role of the public lady in our history, transparency doesn't really seem that big of an issue to me, but if this will enable citizens to become more informed on the potential issues of importance than I guess it may be a good thing.

Pizza-making machine has Italian chefs in a spin

This is one of the more interesting ideas that I have seen recently given the increase in fast food consumption by the public at large. It seems very smart to be trying out new food machines and I know if I ever passed by something like this it would definitely draw my attention. Making a pizza in three minutes is a lot quicker than it normally takes in a pizzeria, but the quality probably doesn't come close. Can we expect to see a pizza-making machine in our country anytime soon? I think it definitely a possibility with the success it has seen over in Italy.

Rep. Cantor speaks out on Britney concert

I find it extremely odd that Representative Cantor attended the Britney Spears concert at the Verizon Center on Tuesday night and claimed that he was holding a political event. What type of political event can you have with screaming teenage girls all around you? It would be one thing if he actually enjoyed the performer and that was the reason he attended the concert, but either he is too afraid to admit that or he really thought holding an event at the arena was a good idea. I guess you could reach a lot of people at the concert and possibly some Virginians who made the trek up for the event, but are their really big influential members of the Party who are going to the concert to talk politics? Maybe its just me, but I would have expected a different venue for a big political event especially given his target audience.

Obama Spending Plan Faces First Test in New York Race

Finally the big guns are stepping up in the New York race for Gillibrand's open seat. I am starting to see the advertisements that have been infiltrating the district and they seem right on target. Republicans are making the connection to big spending and Democrats are drawing on the notion that 76,000 jobs have been saved. But what really caught my attention was President Obama's decision to get involved in the race. I had been teetering on the fence as to whether he should do anything because on the one hand he should be above trying to influence Congress and spending time trying to get another member who in the scope of things doesn't really make any difference, but on the other hand he is the leader for Democrats and he sort of does have a responsibility to do what he can to ensure his Party retains the loyal following of the public. Sending out 60,000 emails seems like he is back on the campaign trail and he is trying to put his influence in the race. I have seen first hand how powerful his email list is because I get calls all day long from constituents who read verbatim from the emails the Obama administration sends and they seem to be totally in support of him. Prior to Obama's influence I did not expect Murphy to be able to overtake Tedisco, but now I am having second thoughts about this notion given how well Murphy has done without it. Overall, Tuesday is going to be a turning day in politics because one way or another we will have great insight as to how the nation is starting to view the Obama administration

Tim Geithner Less Popular Than Jello On Facebook

Aw poor Geithner....

Explaining Why Wall Street Execs are Overpaid

A solid analysis of why pay in the securities industry rose 97% from 1992 to 2007, greater than any other industry; essentially, regulation decreased so there were more opportunities for clever people to do financial manipulation, the labor pool is limited because Wall Street firms tend to hire people from exclusive colleges (a trend with which we are all familiar), and firms can beat out regulators by hiring regulatory professionals for more money than the government can afford to pay them. This makes the issue of salaries complex, since attempts to regulate pay on Wall Street will have to be mixed with broader regulations on the stock exchanges to see any real benefit.

The main thing to take away here, though, is that financial industry employees make more money than the free market should let them earn. That alone is a solid reason to back regulation--the usual counterarguments about "free enterprise" fall flat when it is clear that restricting businesses in this area would better approximate a free market outcome.

Democrats see Obama Moving in "Right Direction," But Less "Satisfied"

An interesting comparison by the Pew Research Center of the recent divergence between two measures used to track the national mood: a question asking if Americans think the country is heading in the "right direction" or "wrong track," and a question asking if individuals are satisfied or not with "the way things are going in the United States."

I'm not surprised that views about a "right direction" have taken precedence over satisfaction in the recent polls; Americans are facing tough economic times, but Obama's speeches have continued to invoke an atmosphere of hope that sustains a more forward-looking mood.

Geithner Cartoon

More Young People Lining Up for Government Jobs

More college and Grad school graduates are opting for federal employment than ever before. A recent survey of undergrads showed that government jobs were chosen as the first choice out of 46 given options. The main cause of this surge is no doubt the struggling economy; young people entering the work force want to believe that their jobs will be secure. Another factor of government's recent popularity could also be Obama's campaign to ignite an interest in public service. I don't think I would want to work for the government right out of school, but it's encouraging to think that government agencies will be receiving fresh, new perspectives on old issues.

Sec. Geithner Pushes For Regulatory Reform

Treasury Sec. Timothy Geithner is appearing before the House Financial Services Cmte., where he will provide further details on plans to increase executive power over failing non-financial companies. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) chairs the hearing entitled, “Addressing the Need for Comprehensive Regulatory Reform.” I was again lucky to be a witness at this event today where he set out his goals for securing the economy and preventing similiar economic events in the future.

Sex and sensibility: The Pope in Africa

The Pope visited Africa the other week, taking tours of Cameroon and Angola. While the Pope is usually welcomed warmly on the continent, many did not take kindly to his views on condom use and AIDS. Says the Economist, "He suggested the disease could be beaten through chastity, abstinence and “correct behaviour”. Speaking in a continent where more than 20m people have died from AIDS and another 22.5m are infected with HIV, his statement sounded otherworldly at best, and crass and uncaring at worst". The position that Benedict stated goes against what many leaders have been trying to promote in their struggle to help solve the AIDS problem. I feel that the church needs to change their position on this view and use their visibility to help end the AIDS crisis.

Divide (Electoral Votes) and Conquer? No, Obama Still Won

This is an interesting article about what would have happened if our electoral votes were split by district (like Nebraska and Maine) instead of a winner take all system. I am a particularly adament supporter of the electoral college, partially due to living in a small state. However, I do sympathize with voters who feel like their vote doesn't matter if they live in states where the election is decided long before a candidate is announced. I would support making the electoral college district based. This would still preserve the electoral system, while giving the individual more of a say in the Presidential election.

U.S. Plans New Drone Attacks In Pakistan

The use of unmanned drones to attack terrorists hiding out in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province has becoming increasingly important since Pakistan decided to give up control of the SWAT valley to the Taliban. With Pakistan unwilling to go after the Taliban (in fact the Inter-Services Intelligence agency is still supporting militant groups in Afghanistan, including the Taliban), the U.S. must exercise whatever force it can to neutralize the growing threat.

Space tourist blasts off to ISS

Video of the space shuttle blast-off. I'm seriously considering changing my plans for the future to include "space tourist"...

In Afghan War, U.S. Dominance Increasing

The fact that our NATO allies are unwilling to do what is necessary in Afghanistan irritates me to no end. An attack on one is an attack on all according to the NATO charter. Yet, NATO has continuely refused to accept its share of the burden. Also, its not like a failed Afghanistan doesn't pose a threat to Europe. Last time I checked, Al Qaeda has attacked Europe numerous times, while opium and heroin from Afghanistan enters into Europe just as it does the United States. Furthermore, an unstable Pakistan is a direct result of the resurgent Taliban. I bet you cannot find anyone in Europe who thinks an unstable Pakistan is a positive development.

If EU countries want to maintain their relevancy, they need to prove their abilities in the international arena. This means committing to Afghanistan. You cannot claim power and importance without exercising it; no one is going to take you at your word.

Oh, Roland...

Prominant author, Jeffery Toobin wrote a New Yorker profile on Roland Burris called 'The Replacement'. I don't think it is an unfair portrayal. From what I've heard he's just kinda crazy, well intentioned...but crazy. Anyway, its pretty interesting. I mean, the guy put his study abroad time in Hamberg on his tombstone as one of his 'accomplishments'.

This is what Burris has to say about his extravagent gravesite..

'Burris told me that it was the cemetery’s managers who persuaded him to build the mausoleum. “It was their insistence,” he said. “ ‘Because this is not so much for you, Roland.’ And I didn’t even think about people thinking about my ego. This is for young people who can see a person who had accomplishments.” '

On another note, how many of the 91,000,000 questions do you think Obama will answer during his 20 min. webchat?

I think....3.

AIG Death Threats

I have no linked story for this but it is all over MSNBC today and they make me watch it constantly. Apparently AIG execs are getting emails and voicemail death threats lately via the AIG website comments box. Some of this stuff is outrageous.


'you need to be taken out one by one and shot in the head. there is a special place in hell for you pond scum'

'get the bonus, we will get your children'

... that last one was from somebody named 'Jacob the Killer'

Some of these people left their real names, email addresses, phone numbers, and addresses. The Attorney General who released these threats and the FBI will be making a few housecalls in the near future I presume...

Dick Cheney, the GOP's own toxic asset

Karl Rove Op-Ed. In WSJ

Today Karl Rove wrote a rather incendiary column in the WSJ. While reading I was reminded of our dissucssion of Jones. It appears Rove is using the Jonesian ideological timeline against Obama and his promises of change. Here is a quote from the article that reminded me of it...

"Suddenly, though, it doesn't seem like a time of new politics and new concerns. Many Americans are anxious -- and in some cases angry -- about a set of old issues: deficits, taxes and the national debt"

Kauffman Making Name

Senator Kauffman, who replaced JoeBiden in the Senate, is making a name for himself in the Senate with his tough stance against the banks. Kauffman shows that any interim senator can make play hardball especially when they do not plan on reelection.

The Emanuel Brothers

Sit down, and read the tale of three loud, headstrong brothers who each chose a different path, found a ladder and climbed to the top. The one born first, Ezekiel, chose medicine. The second, Rahm, chose politics. The third, Ari, chose Hollywood. Three vastly different fields, and three success stories.

Click on the link for a thrilling article about the great Emanuel brothers.

Fears of More Misery in Darfur

NYT slide-show

Cities Deal With a Surge in Shanty Towns

As a reporter brought up in Obama's Presidential Address the other night, shanty towns have been making a reappearance over the past several months. The number of homeless people is growing rapidly and states not only have to figure out how to get these people re-employed but also make sure that they have a safe living environment. Fresno, California has roughly 2,000 homeless people living there right now - and for a city of 500,000 that's a lot. City and state officials are hoping that Obama's recovery plan will help eliminate the need to live like this and get families and veterans back in their own homes.

The Budget to Cancel a Holiday?

If the DC mayor's budget proposal goes through, Emancipation Day will be "discontinued" next year. This day has only been a holiday for four years, and while some think it's unnecessary, others are worried about the message that will be sent out if it is canceled.

Although I think there are way too many random holiday's already, I've never thought about the fact that a budget could create or destroy one. Maybe a holiday with a little less historical significance could be canceled instead. Personally, I think Columbus Day is somewhat outdated...

Fireside webchat

Laid off U.S. workers seek future in college

With the struggling economy, it is obvious that finding a job in the open market is a lot tougher than it has been in the past. No longer can someone rely upon simply holding a bachelor's degree or sometimes even an upper graduate degree to get in the field of their choice. I found this article interesting because it highlights the increased desire to go back to college to acquire more education and build up a better knowledge base of information and change into a field more appropriate to their financial and career goals. Even still, I see it very difficult for adult workers to be going back to community colleges to get secondary degrees because not only do they have to continue to do their school work, but they also have work on the side just to keep themselves afloat. I appreciate the fact that people are trying to better themselves and I feel for them given the state of the economy. It just serves as a lesson to me that opening yourself up to new ideas and opportunities while you are young and able to do so may be better for you in the long run if the economy ever turns like this again.