Saturday, December 19, 2009

What Changed? White House Now Supports Franken Rape Amendment

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN)

Sen. Al Franken's (D-MN) "rape amendment," which guarantees that rape victims who work for defense contractors can pursue charges against their employers, has been championed by many but opposed by Obama's Department of Defense. The Pentagon initially called the measure unenforceable. But the provision, part of the defense appropriations bill, made it through conference committee and is now supported by the White House.

So what changed?

A senior administration official explains to TPM: The White House was concerned about the original language, which would have prohibited the DoD from using companies whose employment contracts contained an "arbitration clause," which would keep employees from taking the company to court for Title VII offenses, which include rape, sexual assault, harassment and false imprisonment. That language, the official said, may have forced the government to reneg on multi-billion-dollar contracts. Because of a clause in many of those contracts, the government would still have to pay the contractors, even though the work wouldn't be performed.

Another concern: The Pentagon deals with a massive number of contracts and would never be able to make sure the arbitration clauses were stripped in all those contracts.

So White House staff, after a week or so perusing contract and grant law, came up with a "clever construct," the official said. The contractors, in order to stay in the lucrative government contract business, don't have to remove the arbitration clauses. But they can't enforce them.

If it works the way the administration tells us, this is good news for Jamie Leigh Jones, the woman who inspired Franken's amendment. While working for KBR in Iraq, Jones was allegedly drugged, gang-raped and locked in a storage container by her co-workers. She's been fighting, unsuccessfully, to bring her case to court because of the abritration clause in the contract she signed.

It's good news for her even though the new restriction will not be retroactive per se, and even though it doesn't go into effect until 60 days after the President signs the appropriations bill.

But it will affect any company, such as KBR, once it signs a new contract. (And the major contractors sign a lot of contracts.) Here's the real bite to the restriction: It will affect the entire company, and everyone who works for it.

So the second KBR signs a new contract, Jones -- and anyone else with similar claims -- will be able to take her case to court. If KBR tries to enforce their arbitration clause, they could lose millions in future government contracts.

Of course, there is a national security waiver. The secretary of defense can waive the restriction if, say, a contractor is the only one who can provide a certain service or product. But the secretary would have to explain, in detail, why no one else could fulfill the contract. And, according to the official, that explanation would be posted online, in public view. (The idea here being that another company who makes the same product could step forward.)

And the amendment will only apply to companies with contracts worth $1 million or more -- but that will include most contractors.

If the amendment works the way the White House says, it will do what Franken wanted: Give rape victims their day in court.

The appropriations bill still needs to be approved by the Senate, where Republicans are threatening to filibuster in an attempt to stall health care legislation. But it is expected, eventually, to pass, and to be signed by the President.

Original here

Flashback: McCain Refused To Grant 30 Seconds Of Time During Iraq War Debate

mackYesterday, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), acting on the orders of the Senate leadership, refused to grant Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) “an additional moment” to continue speaking on the Senate floor after his 10 minutes expired. Franken’s objection caused Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to groan about how Franken’s move was unprofessional, unprecedented, and disrespectful:

McCAIN: I’ve been around here 20-some years. First time I’ve ever seen a member denied an extra minute or two to finish his remarks. … I just haven’t seen it before myself. And I don’t like it. And I think it harms the comity of the Senate not to allow one of our members at least a minute. I’m sure that time is urgent here, but I doubt that it would be that urgent.

Unfortunately, McCain’s memory is suffering. In fact, McCain has engaged in the very same behavior that he was criticizing Franken for yesterday.

On October 10, 2002 — just ahead of the looming mid-term elections — the Senate rushed a debate on a war authorization giving President Bush the power to use force against Iraq. The resolution ultimately passed the Senate after midnight on an early Friday morning by a vote of 77-23.

During the course of the frenzied floor debate, then-Sen. Mark Dayton (D-MN) spoke in favor of an amendment offered by Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) that would have restricted Bush’s constitutional powers to wage war against Iraq. After a minute and a half, Dayton ran out of time, prompting this exchange:

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator’s time has expired.

Mr. DAYTON. I ask for unanimous consent that I have 30 seconds more to finish my remarks.

Mr. McCAIN. I object.

Byrd stepped in to grant Dayton time to finish his remarks. But just moments later, Byrd asked for more time to speak for himself. Again, McCain objected, prompting Byrd to chide him for doing so. “This shows the patience of a Senator,” Byrd said. “This clearly demonstrates that the train is coming down on us like a Mack truck, and we are not even going to consider a few extra minutes for this Senator.”

After being publicly shamed, McCain acquiesced to Byrd’s request. But moments later, McCain added this disclaimer: “I wish to say very briefly that I understand people have a desire to speak. We have a number of Senators who have not spoken on this issue. It is already looking as if we may be here well into this evening. From now on, I will be adhering strictly to the rules.” In other words, he acted just like Franken did yesterday.

Original here

Democrats gain 60th vote on health bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Democrats reached a compromise on Saturday with the last holdout senator that secured the 60 votes they need to pass a broad healthcare overhaul sought by President Barack Obama.

Barack Obama | Healthcare Reform

A marathon negotiating session on Friday clinched an agreement with Democrat Ben Nelson ensuring federal funds would not be used to pay for abortions and providing extra Medicaid funds for his home state of Nebraska.

Nelson, a strong abortion rights opponent, had been the elusive 60th vote for the sweeping revamp, Obama's top legislative priority and the subject of intense political brawling for months.

"Today is a major step forward for the American people," Obama said at the White House. "After a nearly century-long struggle we are on the cusp of making healthcare reform a reality in the United States of America."

Nelson's backing should secure victory for Democrats in the first of a series of crucial procedural votes scheduled to begin at 1 a.m. (0600 GMT) on Monday and possibly conclude with final Senate passage on Christmas Eve.

"It seems that way," Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said when asked if Democrats had the 60 votes they need to muscle the bill through the Senate against unified Republican opposition.

If the Senate approves the bill, it must be melded with a version passed on November 7 by the House of Representatives and both chambers must approve it again before sending it to Obama for his signature.

Reid introduced a 383-page amendment on Saturday making changes aimed at securing the last votes, including the abortion compromise and the dropping of a government-run public insurance option to appease moderates like independent Joe Lieberman.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office gave the revised bill a rosy review, saying it would cost $871 billion over 10 years and cut the federal deficit by $132 billion in the same period -- meeting Obama's cost target and goal of deficit reduction.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who has vowed to use every tool possible to delay the bill, forced the public reading of Reid's amendment. That took more than seven hours on Saturday.

Afterward, Reid filed a series of procedural motions to bring debate to a close and set up a string of closing votes to begin early Monday. The moves came during a rare Saturday session as a huge snowstorm slammed the U.S. capital, shutting down traffic.


"If they were proud of the bill they wouldn't be doing it this way," McConnell told reporters. "They wouldn't be jamming it through in the middle of the night on the last weekend before Christmas."

Obama has asked the Senate to finish by year's end to prevent the issue from spilling into the campaign for November 2010 congressional elections. Opinion polls show the bill losing public support, with majorities now opposed to it.

The Senate bill would extend coverage to 30 million uninsured Americans, provide subsidies to help them pay for the coverage and halt industry practices like refusing insurance to people with pre-existing medical conditions.

Reid's amendment incorporates a variety of changes, from dropping the government-run public insurance option to adding non-profit health plans offered by private insurers and administered by a federal agency.

Other revisions take aim at insurance industry margins and taxes, including a cap on profits. Still, insurers would see a delay to the bulk of new taxes and now they would be phased-in over time.

Health insurance plans for large groups would have to spend at least 85 cents of every dollar on medical costs under the revisions, potentially crimping their profits. The amendment dropped the bill's tax on elective cosmetic surgery and added a 10 percent tax on indoor tanning, a potential cause of cancer.

Also included is an increase in the bill's Medicare payroll tax from 0.5 percent to 0.9 percent on income over $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples.

But much of Reid's focus had been on winning Nelson's support. He and other abortion rights opponents feared the federal subsidies could be spent on plans covering abortion.

Nelson said the agreement would allow states to prohibit abortion coverage in the new insurance exchanges created under the bill and mandate that every state exchange include an insurance plan that does not cover abortion.

It would require payments for abortion coverage be made separately with private funds.

"The plan that we've put together here, that we have agreement on, in fact walls off that money in an effective manner," Nelson told reporters. "I would not have voted for this bill without these provisions."

He said he could drop his support if the abortion deal was altered in negotiations with the House of Representatives.

Reid defended the additional federal funds for Nebraska that will permanently pay for the bill's expansion of the Medicaid health program for the poor -- all other states have to start picking up the tab in 2017.

"That's what legislation is all about," Reid said. "It's compromise."

Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, a strong supporter of abortion rights, told reporters she believed the compromise would adequately separate public and private funds for abortion coverage under the bill.

Advocates on both sides condemned the abortion deal.

Planned Parenthood called it "a sad day when women's health is traded away for one vote."

Douglas Johnson, the legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee said, said the compromise "solves none of the fundamental abortion-related problems with the Senate bill."

The House version of the healthcare bill includes stricter anti-abortion language. The Senate rejected an amendment incorporating the language last week.

(Additional reporting by Susan Heavey, editing by Eric Beech and Jackie Frank)

Original here

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Obama Calls for More U.S. Exports to Asia

WASHINGTON--U.S. President Barack Obama, fresh from his first presidential trip to Asia, called for the U.S. to increase exports to that region, saying even small gains would help put many unemployed Americans back on the job.

"As we emerge from the worst recession in generations, there is nothing more important than to do everything we can to get our economy moving again and put Americans back to work, and I will go anywhere to pursue that goal," Mr. Obama said in his weekly radio address to the nation.

The president's remarks follow his four-nation tour of Japan, Singapore, China and South Korea, a trip he said was prompted largely by economic interests. Now back in the U.S., he promised to continue to focus on ways to combat U.S. unemployment.

Mr. Obama warned the U.S. shouldn't return to relying on growth fueled by consumer borrowing, urging the nation to spend less, save more and get the record federal deficit under control. He also called for a greater emphasis on exports, saying a 5% increase in U.S. exports to Asia would result in hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs.

The president touted an upcoming White House forum on jobs and economic growth, where business executives and owners, labor unions, economists and financial experts will discuss ways to spur hiring and get the economy moving again.

"It is important that we do not make any ill-considered decisions--even with the best of intentions--particularly at a time when our resources are so limited. But it is just as important that we are open to any demonstrably good idea to supplement the steps we've already taken to put America back to work. That's what I hope to achieve in this forum," Mr. Obama said.

The Republican address, delivered by Sen. Mike Crapo (R., Idaho), focused on legislation unveiled this week by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), to overhaul U.S. health care. Mr. Crapo encouraged voters to read the 2,074-page bill, suggesting that would be "a real eye-opener."

Mr. Crapo said that if Mr. Reid's bill becomes law, it would drive up health-care costs, increase taxes and impose hundreds of billions of dollars of cuts on Medicare, the federal health program for older Americans. He also complained that it would establish "a massive governmental intrusion into management of our health-care economy" and that despite its cost and sweep, it would still leave millions of Americans without health insurance.

"This is not true health-care reform, and it is not what the American people want," said Mr. Crapo.

Write to Judith Burns at

Original here

Democrats hold line, but cracks show


Senate Majority Leader Reid during a new conference following the passage of a cloture vote on the Senate Health Care reform bill. | John Shinkle/Politico
Reid will face bruising negotiations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who is intent on keeping intact major provisions of her far more left-leaning bill. Photo: John Shinkle

Senate Democrats pushed ahead with President Barack Obama’s vision of health reform Saturday night – after a day that exposed significant divides in the party that could make it all but impossible to complete work on a plan by year’s end, or even sink the bill altogether.

In a 60-39 vote on strictly partisan lines, the Senate sent the $848 billion health care bill to the floor for debate after the Thanksgiving break, but not before a clutch of moderates served notice that they couldn’t back the bill in its current form.

One key provision – for a government-run insurance plan that would allow states to opt-out of coverage – effectively died in the Senate chamber Saturday, as the last two Democratic holdouts demanded changes to the bill. s

“I am opposed to a new government administered public health care plan as a part of comprehensive health care reform, and I will not vote in favor of the proposal that has been introduced by Leader Reid as it is written,” said Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), the last Democrat to commit to a vote for opening debate. Two hours earlier, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) had said much the same thing.

Their comments signal that weeks of negotiations remain on a bill Obama once hoped to have on his desk by Christmas – and even raised the prospect that splits in the party over the public option, abortion and other aspects of the bill could scuttle passage altogether.

That timetable has always been worrisome to the White House because it would push the delicate final passage of the legislation into an election year, with Democrats skittish about voter backlash for a plan that draws decidedly mixed reviews in the polls.

Senate Democrats, though, are pushing for roughly three weeks of floor debate in December that could complete work on a bill by Christmas. That would be followed by a “mini-conference” over the holidays between Democratic House and Senate leaders – who would hope to have a bill to present to their caucuses in time for a mid-January vote.

“We’re going to have some long days, we’re going to have weekends,” Senate Health Committee Chairman Tom Harkin said. "We’re going to have three weeks. That means we’ll finish on the 23rd of December. And maybe, actually, a little before then – actually the weekend before then.”

The Democratic celebration in the Senate was subdued. There were a few scattered "yays" and applause when the tally was announced. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nv.) accepted handshakes.

Sen. John McCain (R-Az.) made light of the vote as it was going down.

"What is going to happen? What is going to happen?" McCain said, rubbing his hands together in mock anticipation from his seat on the Senate floor. "Oh, this is so tense."

His comments could be heard in the gallery. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), sitting next to him, smiled and buried her head in her hands.

"We can see the finish line, but we're not there yet," Reid told reporters after the vote.

"The road ahead is a long stretch. But we can see the the finish line...we have the momentum...we're going to keep this process moving, I have no doubt," said Reid, who conceded that "We know not all 60 senators in my caucus agree on every aspect of this bill.”

Asked about the moderates’ opposition to a public option, Reid reiterated his support for a strong public option and said Schumer and Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) were working with Landrieu on a compromise that everyone in the caucus could accept.

Schumer spokesman Brian Fallon, though, said that while the New York senator is open to compromise, "no such talks have yet taken place, and there is not any compromise at hand beyond what Leader Reid has already inserted into the bill."

There's still at least a chance that Democrats won't be able to bridge the divides inside their own party on the public option, abortion, how to pay for reform and other issues that could prevent a final deal from coming together.

“Absolutely not," said Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, one of the more liberal members of the Democratic Caucus, when asked if he was open to further discussion of the public option. “We’ve compromised four times now.”

“Four members of the Senate aren’t going to tell the other 55 what to do on these issues,” he said.

Other progressives signaled a willingness to deal.

“We expected it all along that we continue to negotiate on the public option," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) echoed Stabenow.

"I, for one, am willing to work with folks," he said. "We need to make sure we can pass this bill, and if takes flexibility on either side, nobody should have their mind closed to that flexibility."

Even if Reid can assuage the moderates in his caucus by pulling his bill to the right without losing liberal support, he’ll face bruising negotiations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is intent on keeping intact major provisions of her far more left-leaning bill. Pelosi’s version of the public option, for instance, is far more open-ended than Reid’s.

And then there are the Republicans, who vowed Saturday to try to block health reform from ever leaving the Senate.

Democrats are expecting multiple Republican amendments on hot-button issues such as medical malpractice, immigration and abortion. The challenge for Reid is finding a way to shield his members from taking politically difficult votes and to prevent the passage of a GOP amendment that could sink the entire deal.

Reid has promised a “free-wheeling, wide-open amendment process,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who added that Republicans are likely to attempt to filibuster each amendment, meaning Reid would have hold together his 60 votes time and again.

"The battle has just begun," McConnell added. "The American people are asking us to stop this bill, and we are going to do anything and everything we can to prevent this measure from becoming law."

Still, Reid declared victory for the bill and predicted that he could get a version of health reform passed and sent for Obama’s signature. The 8 p.m. vote was a significant milestone in a health care reform debate that has stretched over decades.

Reid’s bill would cover 94 percent of all Americans by creating a public health insurance option, increasing subsidies for those who can’t afford insurance and requiring individuals to own insurance. Reid would pay for this by raising taxes on insurers who offer so-called Cadillac tax plans, bumping up Medicare taxes for the wealthy and creating a “Botox tax” on cosmetic surgery.

Aside from the public option, there are other big differences with the House bill, including how to pay for reform. The House counts on a tax on couples earning more than $1 million a year to pay for it – an idea that has zero support in the Senate.

But as it has for months, the public option remained the greatest obstacle to passing a bill.

Two of those who voted yes on Saturday – Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) -- have already said they’d join a filibuster of the current bill and both have raised objections to the public option.

The vote Saturday was likely to resurrect interest in the idea of using a “trigger” that would kick in a public plan if states lack enough affordable health care options. That plan has the support of a Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe (R), one of the few GOP senators who might cross party lines to back the bill, though she voted against cloture on Saturday.

Some Democrats – including Obama – have signaled a preference for the trigger to bridge deep divides in the party, Landrieu, too, spoke in favor of the trigger.

“Our caucus knows this is a real serious issue for us from the beginning,” said Landrieu, who has been in discussions with other centrists. “A third are for the public option, a third are adamantly against and a third are in the middle. I am adamantly against but would consider a principled compromise because I understand this is one of the issues we have to find a solution for or it could blow up the whole effort.” Landrieu also was unapologetic in describing how she sought more help for her state in the health reform negotiations – even saying reports that she got $100 million more in Medicaid dollars for Louisiana were false. It was really $300 million, she said.

“I’m proud to have asked for it. I’m proud to have fought for it, and I will continue to. That is not the reason I’m moving to the debate,” Landrieu said.

Lincoln instead spoke of de-coupling the public option from a federal government role – apparently a reference to a plan being crafted by Carper for a national health insurance plan that would be run by a not-for-profit firm, not by the government.

Lincoln, who is facing a tough reelection fight in 2010, also put fellow Democrats on notice about the political stakes in her race -- saying she’s already faced some $3.3 million in ads trying to sway her vote on the bill, from the left and the right.

And she laid down a laundry list of concerns, most of which also are shared by her fellow centrists: that the bill must protect seniors on Medicare, make insurance more affordable for small businesses, enhances competition with private insurers, and must not increase the deficit – and do it all without a public option.

For a day at least, Reid could breathe a sigh of relief, having passed a major test of his leadership by holding together 58 Democrats and 2 independents on a vote to open for debate a bill that doesn’t pass muster with many of them.

In sometimes heated floor remarks, Republicans called the $848 billion bill a budget-busting, tax-raising monstrosity that would hurts seniors, small business and families.

McCain said Reid was guilty of budget gimmickry by cutting Medicare and raising taxes in the first year of the bill, 2010, but not starting many of the services until 2014. “I don’t think Americans really understand the scam that’s going on here,” McCain said. “I think Bernie Madoff went to jail for this kind of behavior.”

And both sides sparred over the nature of Saturday’s vote – with Democrats saying it’s merely a chance for debate to begin and Republicans saying it’s a back-door endorsement of the $848 billion plan.

The missing vote was Ohio Republican George Voinovich, an opponent of the bill who announced that he would skip the vote for a thirtieth anniversary celebration of his election as Cleveland mayor.

"The Democrat plan would make life harder for the vast majority of Americans. It raises their taxes, it raises their health care premiums, it cuts their Medicare and drives millions off the private insurance they currently have,” McConnell said.

Democrats accused them of scare-mongering and said the bill is a sensible and long-overdue fix to a badly broken health care system.

“The key elements of this health care reform bill, I repeat: reduces short-and-long term debt, expands coverage, promotes choice and competition, reforms the insurance market, improves quality of care,” Reid said.

Ted Kennedy's widow, Vicki, phoned Reid in the Senate cloakroom immediately after the vote.

She was emotional, as was he, Reid said.

"I will remember the call always, always," the majority leader told reporters. "We both said Ted would be happy."

Original here

Missouri Billboard Calls for Revolution: War Against America

Via Thinkprogress.

Fired Up! Missouri points out that the Lafayette County Republican Central Committee is highlighting a new billboard in the state with steps for a "citizens guide to revolution of a corrupt government": It calls for citizens to "starve the beast" and "vote out incumbents" -- and if that doesn't work, "PREPARE FOR WAR."

Look, I'm all for reasonable and rational criticism of our government as the representatives of the people - but at a certain point you have to pull over the crazy train before it goes completely off the tracks.

Also read the Other Diary on this.

This we have coming in addition to the Psalm 109:8 Shirts on Cafe Press we have stuff like this appearing....

Nevermind the fact that there is no Gun Legislation on the horizon, that the House Health Care Bill practically reverses Roe V Wade and Obama has done literally nothing about DOMA or DADT - still they fear the exact opposite.

And via Huffpo in Colorado we now have this which is accusing Obama of being a Jihadist in support of the Ft. Hood Shootings!

More on this see "President of Jihad" Diary.

As I've written before the hole in the deficit was blasted George W. Bush with his Wars of Choice and the Great Recession of 2008.

First of all, the primary complaint coming from the Tea Parties was the issue of Government Spending, particularly in the wake of the 2008-2009 Deficit. That would be shown in the following chart from OMB in Billions of Dollars (I've added a column showing the difference between these years, item by item, and the percent of increase to the deficit for each item so we can all see exactly where it came from)

Spending 2008 2009 Difference % of Deficit
Discretionary Spending

Defense 612 726 114 9.84%
Non-Defense 508 586 78 6.73%

Mandatory Spending

Social Security 612 675 63 5.44%
Medicare 386 425 39 3.36%
Medicaid 201 262 61 5.26%
Other 411 429 18 1.55%
260 260 22.43%
Recovery Act
267 267 23.04%
Interest 253 167 -86 -8.85%
4 4 0.41%
Total Outlays 2983 3801 818 70.58%

Individual 1146 953 -193 -16.65%
Corporate 304 175 -129 -11.13%
Social Security 658 655 -3 -0.26%
Medicare 194 192 -2 -0.17%
Unemployment 40 44 4 0.35%
Retirement 9 9 0 0.00%
Excise 67 66 -1 -0.09%
Estate Tax 29 26 -3 -0.26%
Customs 28 24 -4 -0.35%
Fed Reserve 34 25 -9 -0.78%
Other 17 16 -1 -0.09%
Total Taxes 2526 2185 -341 -29.42%
Deficit -457 -1616 1159

It might seem like a legitimate grievance to point out the U.S. Deficit jumped from $400 Billion to $1.6 Trillion in one year, but the truth clearly shows the primary reason why was - Tax Revenues Went DOWN ALMOST 30%!!! There are two reasons for that, one could be the Tax Cuts Implemented by President Obama in the Recovery Act (except the real impact of this change won't show up until Fiscal Year 2010) and the other is the fact that people lost their jobs (and homes) during the economic down turn - which came to full-blown fruition under President Bush's "starve the people/feed the corporations policy" - that they weren't able to pay taxes the way they did the previous year. They were Broke!

Obama walked into Office with a $1.4 Trillion budget shortfall on DAY ONE. The fact is that the Stimulus Bill actually Cut Taxes for Small Business and the fact that the Banks have actually been paying back the TARP funds - none-the-less these people still rail on!

Wolf Interstate Leasing in Wheat Ridge, Colorado has put up a billboard insinuating that President Obama is somehow tied to Jihadists and the Fort Hood shootings. The billboard features cartoons that show a caricatured President morphing from a suit-wearing politician into a turban-wearing jihadist. The words, "Remember Ft. Hood" appear at the bottom.

Let's not pretend that this type of thing is merely coming from a so-called "Fringe" element - not when the Majority of Republicans believe that Acorn Stole the Election.

The new national poll from Public Policy Polling (D) has an astonishing number about paranoia among the GOP base: Republicans do not think President Obama actually won the 2008 election -- instead, ACORN stole it.

There is a deep seated fear and paranoia at work here. A fear of that which is "Different" - a fear of losing "Their America" - which let's just be frank and admit is, is the "Good White Christian" America. They can not believe or stomach what they see as the oncoming descendency of White/Christian Priviledge and Influence. This is why they have focused laser-like on Obama and in particularly ACORN - because both of them represent the ascendency of the forgotten. The minority becoming the majority and the increasing irrelevance of their own myopic, paranoid concerns.

And of course the number one cheerleader for the Fear Parade is Fox News - who are Trawling For Violence against the President and Government.

Frank Sheaffer on Maddow:

The Truth About ACORN:

As the video points out ACORN has only registered 2 Million people - so exactly how did they cast the 9.5 Million Votes that put Obama over the top against McCain?

Paranoia and Delusion doesn't have to be logical - it's simply exists and continues to feed itself into further and further frenzy. It doesn't matter if Obama succeeds, they will ignore and deride it - if he fails they will Cheer.

They will do whatever it takes, even destroy this nation from the inside - to "Save" it from the future that they fear Obama will bring.

Original here

Senate Votes to Move Health Debate Forward

[Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) speaks at a news conference following the Senate's 60-39 vote to bring health-care-reform bill to a full debate on the floor of the Senate.]
Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) speaks at a news conference following the Senate's 60-39 vote to bring health-care-reform bill to a full debate on the floor of the Senate.

WASHINGTON—Democrats and independents closed ranks Saturday and voted to move forward with debate on landmark legislation that would overhaul the nation's health system and extend health insurance to 31 million Americans.

The 60-39 Saturday vote came after a handful of undecided senators—centrist Democrats Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas—signaled their readiness to begin action on the $848 billion package crafted by Democratic leaders.

The vote was a validation of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's strategy of building consensus first among party loyalists rather than reaching across the aisle to Republicans, a move that would have forced the Nevada Democrat to pare ambitions and push a more modest bill.

"They shouldn't be afraid to debate," said Sen. Reid, who was celebratory after the vote. "This is the United States Senate."

Republicans, who were threatening a filibuster to stall action, said the legislation would cost too much. "Move over, Bernie Madoff," said Sen. Christopher Bond (R., Mo.). "Tip your hat to a trillion-dollar scam."

In the final tally, all 58 Democrats, and the two independents allied with the party, joined together to move forward on the bill. The roll call was conducted with senators sitting at their desks, a rarely used show of decorum that underscored the significance of the vote. Thirty-nine Republicans were opposed. One Republican, Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, didn't vote.

Sixty votes are needed in the 100-member Senate to end a filibuster. The vote set the stage for two to three weeks of debate in December and perhaps more in January, in a struggle that is sure to color the 2010 fight for control of Congress.

Mr. Reid said he took a call in the Senate cloakroom immediately after the vote from the widow of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who devoted much of his career to the cause of health care. "Ted would be happy," Mr. Reid said, adding he sees the "finish line" ahead for the bill.

The push in the Senate follows approval in the House Nov. 7 of companion legislation that would overhaul the health system.

Republicans, who are vowing to use every tactic available to slow action and frustrate the White House's top domestic priority, portrayed the vote as an endorsement of the legislation. It includes new taxes and cuts in Medicare payments to health-care providers, in addition to an expansion of Medicaid, the federal-state health program for the poor, and new government subsidies to help lower- and middle-income people buy insurance.

Republicans beseeched wavering moderate Democrats not to fall into line, hoping to derail the bill and force Mr. Reid to deal more directly with the minority party. "Today in the Senate, we don't need 40 Democrats to stand up for what's right. We need just one," said Sen. Mike Johanns (R., Neb.).

But they couldn't get it.

Beginning Friday, the final undecided Democrats starting coming off the fence. First was Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson, who said he didn't want to deny the voters in his state a voice on the issue. "The Senate owes them a full and open debate," he said.

Getty Images

Sen. Mary Landrieu, pictured with Sen. Tom Harkin, has decided to vote to advance health-care debate in the Senate.

Then came Sen. Landrieu. The Louisiana Democrat said Saturday the bill crafted by Sen. Reid isn't perfect, citing a need for more aid to help small businesses purchase insurance, among other things. But she said her concerns didn't merit standing in the way of action. "I've decided that there are enough significant reforms and safeguards in this bill to move forward, but much more work needs to be done," she said.

A few hours later, Sen. Lincoln of Arkansas took to the Senate floor. She also voiced concerns, noting she didn't favor the proposed government-run insurance plan "as it is written" in the bill. But Sen. Lincoln said she didn't intend to hold up debate, and complained Republicans – who are gunning for her defeat next year -- were simply trying to "revive their political party" by opposing the initiative.

"Although I don't agree with everything in his bill, I have concluded that I believe it is more important that we begin this debate to improve our nation's health-care system for all Americans, rather than simply drop the issue and walk away," she said. "That is not what people sent us here to do."

Of all the wavering senators, Sen. Lincoln was under the greatest pressure. She faces a tough re-election battle next year, and polls show the health legislation is not popular in her conservative state. Republican strategists swiftly blasted her Saturday for giving Democratic leaders the "60th vote" to take up the bill.

"Obviously, the pressure from the left wing of her party finally got to Blanche Lincoln," said Amber Wilkerson Marchand, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm of Senate Republicans. She said "the people of Arkansas will have an opportunity to hold" Sen. Lincoln "accountable when they cast their ballots next November."

Though the economy is emerging again as a major issue for voters, Democratic leaders in both chambers of Congress, as well as the White House, are heavily invested in enacting health legislation, intending to make good on a major Democratic promise from the 2008 campaign.

Senate Nears Key Vote on Health Bill


In a rare Saturday session, the senate was expected to approve key procedural motion to proceed with beginning debate on health-care reform after Thanksgiving. Video courtesy of Fox News.

The outcome of debate in the Senate – where the push for health-overhaul legislation died in 1994 -- is the biggest uncertainty facing Democratic leaders and the White House. Not only do Republicans have big leverage to shape debate, but Democrats are not united on details, and difficult negotiations lie ahead on issues like the government-run insurance plan and aid to small businesses, among other things.

The legislation would create a national "exchange" where small businesses and individuals could purchase insurance. It would require most people to carry health insurance or face a penalty of up to $750 per person.

Under the bill, employers with more than 50 workers who don't offer insurance would be required to make a payment to the government to defray the taxpayers' cost of insuring the workers. Additionally, insurers would be barred from engaging in a range of practices – such as denying insurance because of pre-existing conditions -- that critics say have led to gaps in coverage across the country and created turmoil in family budgets. The bill would also create a government-run insurance plan, while giving states the option not to participate.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill would reduce the deficit by $130 billion over the next decade, in part due to cuts in Medicare payments to health-care providers but also because of a range of new taxes. They include new fees on drug makers and medical-device makers, a tax on high-value insurance plans, and higher Medicare payroll taxes for families making more than $250,000 a year.

"Senators who support this bill have a lot of explaining to do," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.). "Americans know that a vote to proceed on this bill is a vote for higher premiums, higher taxes, and massive cuts to Medicare. That's a pretty hard thing to justify supporting."

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Traffic cameras used to harass and limit movement of peaceful protestors

Britain is full of license-plate cameras, cameras used to send you tickets if you're caught speeding, or driving in the bus-lane, or entering London's "congestion-charge zone" without paying the daily fee for driving in central London. And because of Chekhov's first law of narrative ("a gun on the mantelpiece in act one will go off by act three"), the police have decided to also use these cameras as a surveillance tool, to "catch terrorists" (and other bad guys). So any police officer can add any license number to the database of "people of interest" and every time that license plate passes a camera, the local police force will receive an urgent alert, and can pull over the car, detain the driver, and search the car and its passengers under the Terrorism Act.

And, of course, police officers are less than discriminating about who they add to this list. For example, "Catt, 50, and her 84-year-old father, John" were added to the list because a police officer noticed their van at three protest demonstrations. And now Catt and John get pulled over by the police and searched as terrorists.

Environmental activists tend to be pretty forgiving of license-plate cameras, because they're a critical piece of congestion-charge systems that charge people money for driving instead of using public transit. This kind of regressive tax (the £10 charge in London is a pittance and no disincentive to the wealthy, and is crippling to the marginal and the poor) is also much beloved by the law-and-economics crowd, who assume that rational consumers will all be equally disincentivized by a little friction in the system.

But congestion charges require license plate cameras, and license plate cameras are an enormous piece of artillery to hand to the world's police, who are increasingly pants-wettingly afraid of any sort of public protest -- including environmental protests. I support reducing driving as much as the next green, but environmental change will require lots of protest, and that protest will get exponentially harder with the growth of the traffic cameras that are absolutely integral to congestion charge schemes.

The two anti-war campaigners were not the only law-abiding protesters being monitored on the roads. Officers have been told they can place "markers" against the vehicles of anyone who attends demonstrations using the national ANPR data centre in Hendon, north London, which stores information on car journeys for up to five years.

Senior officers have been instructed to "fully and strategically exploit" the database, which allows police to mark vehicles with potentially useful inform-ation such as drink-driving convictions.

The use of the ANPR database to flag-up vehicles belonging to protesters has resulted in peaceful campaigners being repeatedly stopped and searched.

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal Kent and Essex police deployed mobile ANPR "interceptor teams" on roads surrounding the protest against the Kingsnorth power station, in Kent, last year.

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Administration eyes ways to help laid-off workers

By CHARLES BABINGTON, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration is considering steps to ease the burdens of laid-off workers, including possible extensions of unemployment and health benefits, officials said Saturday.

The administration has stopped short of calling for a second economic stimulus package to augment the $787 billion measure approved this year. But with the jobless rate continuing to climb, President Barack Obama said Saturday he is exploring "additional options to promote job creation."

Administration aides said possibilities include:

_extending enhanced unemployment-insurance benefits beyond Dec. 31, when they are set to expire.

_extending a tax credit for laid-off workers who buy health insurance through the COBRA program. That program allows workers to keep their company's health insurance plan for 18 months after they leave their job, if they pay the premiums.

_extending a tax credit for first-time home buyers. This credit also is set to expire soon.

The administration has discussed these possibilities with congressional leaders, officials said, but no decisions have been made.

White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers expressed interest in these ideas in an online interview with the Atlantic magazine. "I don't know what the term 'second stimulus package' exactly means," Summers said. "We certainly need to continue to support people who are in need, whether it's unemployment insurance, or a COBRA program that for the first time provides that people who are laid off get supported in being able to maintain their health insurance."

In his weekly radio and Internet video address Saturday, Obama said his proposed health care overhaul would create jobs by making small business startups more affordable. If aspiring entrepreneurs believe they can stay insured while switching jobs, he said, they will start new businesses and hire workers.

"I hear about it from small business owners who want to grow their companies and hire more people, but they cant, because they can barely afford to insure the employees they have," Obama said. "One small business owner wrote to me that health care costs are and I quote 'stifling my business growth.' He said that the money he wanted to use for research and development, and to expand his operations, has instead been 'thrown into the pocket of healthcare insurance carriers.' "

Dismissive Republicans blamed the continuing job losses on Democratic policies and said the president's health proposals won't help.

The unemployment rate rose to 9.8 percent in September, the highest since June 1983, as employers cut far more jobs than expected. The government reported Friday that the economy lost a net total of 263,000 jobs last month, from a downwardly revised 201,000 in August. All told, 15.1 million people are now out of work, the Labor Department said, and 7.2 million jobs have been eliminated since the recession began in December 2007.

Obama said he has met people "who've got a good idea and the expertise and determination to build it into a thriving business. But many can't take that leap because they can't afford to lose the health insurance they have at their current job."

Small businesses create many of the nation's jobs, Obama said, and some have the potential to become big companies.

Obama praised the Senate Finance Committee for crafting a health care bill that includes many of his priorities. Small businesses could buy health insurance through an exchange, he said, "where they can compare the price, quality and services of a wide variety of plans."

The government would subsidize health insurance for many businesses and individuals, the president said.

In the weekly Republican address, Rep. Candice Miller of Michigan said the original Obama-backed economic stimulus package fell far short of its goals. She criticized a House-passed energy bill that would set limits and costs on greenhouse gas emissions. The plan, which the Senate has not taken up, "would increase electricity bills, raise gasoline prices and ship more American jobs overseas," Miller said.

She called for deeper tax cuts for small businesses so the economy can get back on track.

"Washington Democrats' job-killing agenda makes me think they're living on a different planet from the families living in America's suffering heartland," Miller said.

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"Darned good" Republican Whitman endorsed U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer in 2003

Former eBay executive Meg Whitman, the 2010 gubernatorial candidate who has recently portrayed herself as a "darned good" conservative Republican, endorsed Democratic U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer in 2003, records show.

"Whitman contributed $4,000 to Boxer in the 2004 reelection campaign -- and endorsed Boxer as a part of Technology Leaders for Boxer,'' confirmed Boxer aide Rose Kapolczynski today.

And, she signed an "open letter" appealing for support from the California technology executives, touting Boxer as a "dynamic and courageous leader" on the tech front.

Whitman's name was included in a "Friends of Boxer" release when the committee of a dozen technology leaders was formed in 2003 to assist the California Democrat in her 2004 re-election effort, which pitted her against GOP former Secretary of State Bill Jones.

The move by Whitman to back the Democratic junior Senator came about because "in the spring of 2003, some technology leaders were interested in announcing their support for Boxer, so our campaign went out and talked to a wide range of leaders. And Meg Whitman was among them,'' Kapolcyznski said.

"She agreed to endorse the Senator...there was a fundraising event in Silicon Valley later in the year and Whitman maxed out to the campaign,'' she said.

Why would Whitman, who has repeatedly said that she backs Republican values, throw her support to Boxer -- reviled by Republicans as one of the U.S. Senate's most liberal members?

"(Boxer) has been a strong supporter of research and development funding, which benefits Silicon Valley,'' Kapolcyznski said. "She's worked to promote exports of technology overseas and she's always had a strong relationship with the technology industry.''

Whitman spokesman Sarah Pompei, asked about the endorsement, said today that "at the same time that Barbara Boxer was fighting against internet taxes, which earned Meg Whitman's support, Steve Poizner was arguing for tax increases to support transportation projects and cover budget shortfalls in Sacramento. It's nothing new, Meg Whitman has supported members of both parties who fought against internet taxes."

Indeed, Cisco System chair and CEO John Chambers, today a member of Whitman's economic task force and one of her major backers, actually headed the Boxer Tech group. He gushed that he was in full support of her re-election because her "leadership on Silicon Valley issues such as stock options, broadband, R&D tax credit, and export controls shows she is responsible to the needs of the California economy.''

Whitman, the eBay CEO, was so convinced of Boxer's strength that she, too, released her own statement. "Barbara Boxer is a courageous leader and friend of California's technology industry,'' Whitman said in the 2003 Democratic campaign release.

It's a quote Boxer may end up using in her 2010 re-election campaign against either California Assemblyman Chuck DeVore or former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, two Republicans who are aiming for her seat.

The news that Whitman backed and endorsed Boxer -- considered Public Enemy Number One for the GOP in California -- comes just days after the eBay CEO faced heat over her failure to vote for decades. She assured grassroots activists at the state GOP convention last week of her solid Republican credentials.

"I'm a Republican, and you'll find I'm a darn good one,'' she told them. "I've committed myself to running for one of the toughest chief executive jobs on the planet because I believe Republican ideals, truly and consistently applied, will save this state."

Posted By: Carla Marinucci

Original here

Is Rep. Alan Grayson The New “Mr. Smith” (Goes To Washington)

By Amy Beth Arkawy


The Democrats—wishing and hoping for a hero in the health scare debate—may have finally found their guy. Not that he’s perfect. But hey, who is? Freshman Florida Congressman Alan Grayson boldly and succinctly laid out the Republican plan for health care reform late Tuesday night. It’s his Wednesday follow-up that’s raising eyebrows on both sides of the aisle.

On Tuesday, the brash reformer, who ran on an anti-corruption platform and has apparently been making good on his campaign promises (so much so, his seat is considered one of the more vulnerable Democratic seats in 2010), with grade school poster board visual aids clearly stated the republican plan as, “Don’t get sick. And if you do get sick, die quickly.”

This scathing, sound-bitable description threw the House Republicans into a fast frenzy. These characters—who have spent months stonewalling and spewing fear with the regularity of Old Faithful—quickly demanded an apology. It was the most “mean-spirited statement” Rep. Duncan from Tennessee had ever heard on the House floor. Really? What about Rep. Ginny Brown- Wade’s characterization of the Democrats’ plan as “essentially saying to America’s seniors: ‘Drop Dead’?” Or Rep. Virginia Fox calling for a Republican plan that “will be pro-life because it will not kill senior citizens.” Or Rep. Paul Braun: “Their plan’s gonna kill people?” And on and on all month long from the stop and set the reset repubs.

I know liberal and conservatives hear things differently; I’m pretty sure they’ve done a study at Harvard or somewhere to support this thesis (otherwise some scholar’s got a grant application in the mail). But I don’t think Congressman Grayson’s terse comments violated the rules of decorum of that esteemed (and dainty) body. But GOP ears were bleeding red, white and blue indignation. And so Rep. Tom Price from Georgia took to the floor Wednesday morning and demanded an apology from Grayson. Or else. The or else, of course, was a rebuke similar to the one Rep. Joe Wilson received following his infamous “You lie” outburst at President Obama.

Again, there are substantial differences between Wilson’s rude blurt hurled at the President during a speech before a joint session of Congress, and the daily rhetoric reps toss at each other in spirited political gamesmanship. But, as I said, liberals and conservatives hear things differently.

So on Wednesday Grayson apologized. Sort of. He said, “I apologize to the 45,000 people who die each year because they don’t have health insurance. I apologize to the dead and their families.” So far so good. The guy’s getting fitted for a cape, right? Well, not exactly. Grayson couldn’t resist, I guess, going for the hyperbolic flourish. He ended with, “I apologize that we didn’t vote to end this Holocaust in America sooner.”

Uh oh. Even heroes misspeak. As I heard the word leave his lips it started to run in a cinematic slo-mo; I just knew he regretted it as it slipped out, wrapped tightly in righteous indignation. He must have been sweating as visions of himself being lambasted over the Fox News spit flashed through his mind.

Maybe not. Grayson appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC Wednesday night and hardly bristled at his own faux pas. To her credit, Maddow—undisputedly the most even-tempered of all cable TV hosts—gave him three chances to rescind the Holocaust reference. He bobbed and weaved in classic pol style. But by the third time, she cornered him, practically spoon-fed him the right answer. “Do you think you should have used the word ‘Holocaust?” she gently pressed. Finally, Grayson gave in, conceding, “It probably wasn’t the best choice of words.”

And it wasn’t for obvious reasons. The Holocaust is such a loaded term for so many people. Using it in this context offends many and only serves as a distraction from Grayson’s solid facts, his stats, his sentiment. It allows Republicans to dodge their own culpability by making him, his perceived insensitivity, the issue.

But Grayson seems undaunted. After his meek concession to Maddow, he launched into a diatribe about the kind of politicians Americans want and need. “People want Democrats with guts. People want Congress to solve their problems… or at least work on them.” Somewhere along the line he called the repubs, “foot-dragging, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals.” Okay, so we’re back fitting Grayson for his cape.

The thing is: as one who has called for folks on both sides to ratchet down the rancor, I can’t pull a double-standard (I don’t, after all, work for FOX News). So, if it’s not helpful for the republicans to offer rabid rhetoric, the same applies to the democrats. But I admit to rooting for Grayson, seeing him as a sort of chunkier, brazen 21st Century Mr. Smith taking on Washington. And wishing there were more like him.

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Conservatives Revel In America's Olympic Defeat

When the International Olympic Committee voted against Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympics this morning -- after the President and First Lady flew to Copenhagen to push for it in person -- the Weekly Standard newsroom burst into applause.

"Cheers erupt at Weekly Standard world headquarters," wrote editor John McCormack in a post titled "Chicago Loses! Chicago Loses!"

The line was quickly removed, but ThinkProgress caught it in time and posted a screenshot of the post.

But even with the edits, McCormack is still obviously reveling in America's defeat.

"As a citizen of the world who believes that No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation, I'm glad that the Obama White House's jingoist rhetoric and attempt to pay back Chicago cronies at the expense of undermining our relationships with our allies failed," he wrote.

McCormack's fellow conservatives joined in the celebration.

"Chicago and Tokyo eliminated. No Obamalypics," Michelle Malkin tweeted, following up with, "Game over on Obamalympics. Next up, Obamacare."

"Please, please let me break this news to you. It's so sweet," said Glenn Beck on his radio show.

"Hahahahaha," wrote Red State's Erick Erickson. "So Obama's pimped us to every two bit thug and dictator in the world, made promises to half the Olympic committee, and they did not even kiss him. So much for improving America's standing in the world, Barry O."

The Drudge Report announced the news like so: "WORLD REJECTS OBAMA: CHICAGO OUT IN FIRST ROUND. THE EGO HAS LANDED."

"The worst day of Obama's presidency, folks. The ego has landed. The world has rejected Obama," echoed Rush Limbaugh.

"For those of you ... who are upset that I sound gleeful, I am. I don't deny it. I'm happy," Limbaugh said. "Anything that gets in the way of Barack Obama accomplishing his domestic agenda is fine with me."

"President Obama fails to get the Olympics while unemployment goes to 9.8% Iran continues nuclear program. America needs focused leadership," Newt Gingrich tweeted. Then he added, "Somehow charm and oratory dont seem to work in foreign affirs but historians have warned that foreign policy is different than campaigning." (sic)

"ChicagP\/\/n3D!" tweeted Newsmax, of recent fame for running, then pulling, a column about an impending military coup against Obama.

Apparently no one read the tweet from former Bush flack Scott Stanzel.

"Note to GOP officials/consultants - resist the temptation to pile on about Chicago losing the Olympic bid just because Obama made the pitch," he wrote, advice reportedly passed on by Former Mitt Romney spokesman Kevin Madden.

Fox News, however, saw it coming. A Fox anchor told senior adviser David Axelrod she could "imagine the headlines" that would come out of this, that Obama had been "rebuked," and had "failed." Axelrod simply responded that no one could doubt Obama's influence after watching the G-20, and said neither he nor the President have any regrets about trying.

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BREAKING: Texas Judge: Ban On Gay Marriage Unconstitutional

by David Badash

A Dallas, Texas state district judge will hear the case of a same sex couple who have filed for divorce. The state’s attorney general had argued that since Texas doesn’t allow same sex marriage, it cannot allow same sex divorce.

The judge disagreed.

Original here

The perils of long-term unemployment

Alarming as the climb in unemployment is, the growing duration of joblessness is more worrying still.

America’s army of long-term unemployed — those without work for six months or more — swelled to 5.4 million, according to today’s figures. This is roughly equal to the combined populations of Los Angeles, San Diego and Sacramento. (For the internationally minded, it is slightly more than the population of Finland.)

More and more workers are exhausting benefits. As of the start of this month around 400,000 stopped receiving assistance. Another 1.3 million will use up their entitlement before the end of the year.

This calls for stronger action from the federal government.

A further extension of jobless benefits is now critical. These have already been stretched out to an unprecedented 79 weeks in some states with high unemployment. Congress should now press ahead with plans for an additional 13 weeks.

In addition to preventing large numbers falling into poverty, this is among the best forms of fiscal stimulus. Money given to the unemployed is almost certain to be spent quickly.

A recent survey for the National Employment Law Project found that 67 percent of unemployed adults had cut back on basics like food and groceries. Almost half had fallen behind with rent payments and a third had been forced to move in with friends or family.

No other form of government spending delivers such an immediate sugar rush to the economy. Unlike the cash for clunkers program, it is not merely stealing consumption from the future.

Still, there is a danger in such a stimulus. Allowing Americans the luxury of being pickier about which job they choose can have costs.

When it comes to unemployment, time matters. Skills atrophy after extended periods without work. Then, when growth picks up, these workers are no longer in a position to fill new jobs.

A slew of academic papers suggest that a quick return to the workforce — even in a humbler capacity — is often a good idea, especially for the young. Research by Tom Mroz at Clemson University showed that a six-month spell of unemployment at the age of 22 reduced wages even a decade later.

So the extra spending on unemployment benefit needs to be combined with much more assistance with job searching and retraining. According to the OECD, U.S. funding for retraining and job searching has risen by less than 20 percent during the crisis.

Failure to do more to retool the long-term unemployed will create lingering problems for the U.S. economy. Extending benefits is an important first step, but it is not enough to ensure that the administration’s stimulus is effective. For the more Americans are permanently dislocated from the workforce, the less robust any recovery will be.

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Thank You, Mr. President

Count me as one conservative who is disappointed that President Obama's hometown will not be hosting the 2016 Olympic Games.

Chicago is a beautiful city that would have made a perfect backdrop for the Olympics. The President was right to fly to Copenhagen to try to land the games, not for the sake of his city, but for the good of his country. The fact President Obama failed makes me respect him more for taking the chance, and the fact many right-wing figures opposed the President's mission shows just how narrow-minded partisanship makes us all.

For the better part of 20 years, a bitterness has infected our politics that has weakened our country.

We Republicans spent eight years trying to delegitimize Bill Clinton.

Democrats spent the next eight years doing the same to George W. Bush.

Now that a Democrat is in the Oval Office again, it is the GOP who is trying to delegitimize a sitting president.

When I try to talk to Republicans about the need to break this cycle of viciousness, some cite the chapter and verse of every hateful left wing attack against George W. Bush.

Whenever I attempt to have a conversation with some Democrats about the need for us respect our president-- whether he be an Obama or a Bush-- I am told that Bush deserved whatever he got because he was a lying war criminal who hated the Constitution and loved torturing

Fortunately, there are a growing number of Americans who believe we cannot continue going on this way.

You and I may disagree on how the CIA handled terror suspects. But that does not mean that you are soft on terrorism anymore than it means that I hate the Constitution.

You and I may have a different approach to Afghanistan. But just because you want to stay there another five years doesn't mean you are an imperialist. And if I believe a decade in that forsaken land is more than enough, that doesn't mean I'm soft on al Qaeda or the Taliban.

It just means that we view the world differently.

That creative tension--that intense give and take--has been what has kept America strong since Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton fought like hell in George Washington's White House.

Hamilton wanted a strong centralized government while Jefferson believed that the government that governed least governed best.

Both men were frustrated by the checks and balances that stood in the way of their agendas, but that debate shaped America for years to come.

But something has gone terribly wrong.

Today on Morning Joe, NBC News Legend Tom Brokaw remarked to Pat Buchanan about how the level of partisanship is even more intense today than during the depths of the Watergate crisis. Brokaw was commenting on Congressman Grayson's comments, but he could have easily
been talking about Joe Wilson or death panels or the bizarre claim that the President "hates all white people."

Some of the rhetoric is dangerous. But what we saw from some conservative corners regarding the President's failed Olympics bid was just plain stupid.

I'm happy for Rio and think it is past time that South America got a chance to host the Olympic Games. But put me down as one conservative who is glad my president flew across the ocean to try to bring the 2016 Games to America.

Nice try, President Obama. And thanks for taking time away from your young girls for the sake of your hometown and your country, Michelle. I know that's never an easy thing to do.

Original here

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Birther Orly Taitz Compares Self To Mandela, Wants Judge Tried For Treason

In an interview with TPM just now, Birther evangelist Orly Taitz fired back at Clay Land, the U.S. district court judge who tore apart Birtherism and threatened Taitz with sanctions in an order today, saying that "somebody should consider trying [the judge] for treason and aiding and abetting this massive fraud known as Barack Hussein Obama."

"This is so outrageous what this judge did -- it goes in the face of law and order," said Taitz, reached at her office in Mission Viego, CA. "Not every judge is as corrupt as Judge Land. Some judges believe in the Constitution. And some judges believe in the rule of law."

The withering 14-page order by Land, a George W. Bush appointee, tossed out a "birther soldier" case brought by Taitz and Army Capt. Connie Rhodes, who wants to defy a deployment order because she believes Barack Obama does not legitimately possess the presidency.

A clearly frustrated Land called Taitz's suit -- the second filed in the Middle District of Georgia -- "frivolous" and threatened her with sanctions if she kept at it.

I asked Taitz what she will do next with the Rhodes case, which was filed and tossed out in another district before it was refiled with Land. "This is the decision of Connie," she said. "I will be talking to her and making a decision."

And if Rhodes is open to continuing the fight, would Taitz go along?

"Oh absolutely, absolutely," she said. "Listen, Nelson Mandela stayed in prison for years in order to get to the truth and justice."

And Taitz brushed off the possibility of sanctions. "I'm not afraid of sanctions. Because I know this is not frivolous. I know this is extremely important -- the most important issue in this country today."

"Judge Land is a typical puppet of the regime -- just like in the Soviet Union," she said.

Original here

Your request is being processed... Jimmy Carter: Wilson's Outburst 'Based On Racism' (VIDEO) Read more at:

ATLANTA (AP) -- Former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday that U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst to President Barack Obama during a speech to Congress last week was an act "based on racism" and rooted in fears of a black president.

"I think it's based on racism," Carter said at a town hall held at his presidential center in Atlanta. "There is an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president."

The Georgia Democrat said the outburst was a part of a disturbing trend directed at the president that has included demonstrators equating Obama to Nazi leaders.

"Those kind of things are not just casual outcomes of a sincere debate on whether we should have a national program on health care," he said. "It's deeper than that."

Wilson, a South Carolina Republican, was formally rebuked Tuesday in a House vote for shouting "You lie!" during Obama's speech to Congress last Wednesday.

The shout came after the president commented that illegal aliens would be ineligible for federal subsidies to buy health insurance. Republicans expressed their disbelief with sounds of disapproval, punctuated by Wilson's outburst.

Tuesday's rebuke was a rare resolution of disapproval pushed through by Democrats who insisted that Wilson had violated basic rules of decorum and civility. Republicans characterized the measure as a witch hunt and Wilson, who had already apologized to Obama, insisted he owed the House no apology.

Wilson's spokesman was not immediately available for comment, but his eldest son defended his father.

"There is not a racist bone in my dad's body," said Alan Wilson, an Iraq veteran who is running for state attorney general. "He doesn't even laugh at distasteful jokes. I won't comment on former President Carter, because I don't know President Carter. But I know my dad, and it's just not in him."

"It's unfortunate people make that jump. People can disagree -- and appropriately disagree -- on issues of substance, but when they make the jump to race it's absolutely ludicrous. My brothers and I were raised by our parents to respect everyone regardless of background or race."

South Carolina's former Democratic Party chairman said that he doesn't believe Wilson was motivated by racism, but said the outburst encouraged racist views.

"I think Joe's conduct was asinine, but I think it would be asinine no matter what the color of the president," said Dick Harpootlian, who has known Wilson for decades. "I don't think Joe's outburst was caused by President Obama being African-American. I think it was caused by no filter being between his brain and his mouth."

Harpootlian said he received scores of racial e-mails from outside South Carolina after he talked about the vote on Fox News.

"You have a bunch of folks out there looking for some comfort in their racial issues. They have a problem with an African-American president," he said. "But was he motivated by that? I don't think so. I respectfully disagree with President Carter, though it gives validity to racism."

Carter called Wilson's comment "dastardly" and an aftershock of racist views that have permeated American politics for decades.

"The president is not only the head of government, he is the head of state," he said. "And no matter who he is or how much we disagree with his policies, the president should be treated with respect."

The South Carolina Republican lawmaker was formally rebuked Tuesday in a House vote divided by party lines. Wilson shouted "You lie!" during Obama's speech to Congress last Wednesday.

Carter was responding to a question submitted Tuesday night at a town hall held at his presidential center in Atlanta.

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Do You Have the Right to Flip Off a Cop?

By Sean Scully / Philadelphia

David Hackbart was mad, and he wanted to show it, but he didn't think he would end up in federal court protecting his right to a rude gesture and demanding that the city of Pittsburgh stop violating the First Amendment rights of its residents.

Hackbart, 34, was looking for a parking space on busy Murray Avenue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood on April 10, 2006. Spotting one, he attempted to back into it, but the driver of the car behind him refused to back up and give him sufficient room. Hackbart responded in the classic way. "I stuck my hand out the window and gave him the finger to say 'Hey, jerk, thanks,' " says Hackbart. "That's all I was trying to say — 'Thanks, thanks a lot.' "

At that moment, a voice rang out telling Hackbart not to make the rude gesture in public. "So I was like, How dare that person tell me? They obviously didn't see what happened. Who are they to tell me what to say?" he says. "So I flipped that person off. And then I looked, and it was a city of Pittsburgh cop in his car right next to me."

That turned out to be police sergeant Brian Elledge, who happened to be passing in the other direction in his cruiser. Elledge whipped around and pulled Hackbart over, citing him under the state's disorderly-conduct law, which bans obscene language and gestures. And here's where the problem lies, says state American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) legal director Witold (Vic) Walczak: the middle finger and equivalent swear words are not legally obscene. In fact, courts have consistently ruled that foul language is a constitutionally protected form of expression. A famous 1971 Supreme Court case upheld the right of a young man to enter the Los Angeles County Court House wearing a jacket emblazoned with the words "F___ the Draft." (Read about how disorderly conduct is often a cop's call.)

"The law is clear that people have the constitutional right to use profanity, especially when it comes to government officials, because that is a form of political speech," Walczak says. "But despite that, we have police officers regularly misapplying the law to punish people who offend them — that's really what it comes down to." (Read a brief history of disorderly conduct.)

U.S. District Judge David Cercone ruled in March that the citation, along with the $119.75 court costs imposed by a city court, was clearly unconstitutional. The question, however, is whether the city has a pattern of tolerating this kind of constitutional violation. The ACLU says it found 188 cases from 2005 to 2007 in which people were cited under similar circumstances, despite an entry in the police department's training manual making clear that vulgar speech is not illegal.

The question was set to go to trial in Federal District Court last week, but the matter was delayed at the last moment while the two sides explored a settlement. The city's law department declined to comment on the case.

The problem is not confined to Pittsburgh. In 2007, a woman in Scranton, Pa., was cited for yelling obscenities at an overflowing toilet in her home — a tirade overheard by her neighbor, an off-duty police officer. She was later acquitted on constitutional grounds, and the city paid her a $19,000 settlement. "We probably handle a dozen of these cases every year," Walczak says. "We're actually negotiating with the state police right now, trying to force them to change their training and written materials to make clear you can't do this."

It is, of course, part of a larger question. The recent controversy over the arrest of historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. — who was charged with disorderly conduct in his home after police arrived to investigate an erroneous report of a burglary in progress — was cast in racial terms: a white officer distrusting a black homeowner. But Walczak says this issue seems to have more to do with a police officer being confronted by an angry and disrespectful person and turning disorderly-conduct laws into a "contempt of cop" law, as he puts it. "Frankly, I think having someone dropping the F-bomb is better than resisting arrest or taking a swipe at a police officer," Walczak says. "But what we're seeing too often is that police who are offended by a lack of respect, often manifested by profanity or cursing, will punish people for that." (Read Ta-Nehisi Coates on the Henry Louis Gates Jr. affair.)

Elledge and the city police department have consistently refused to comment on the case. But Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, says police officers are not out to systematically punish people who mouth off. "There is certainly no substitute for good judgment on the street," says Pasco, whose organization represents officers nationwide, including Pittsburgh, "and if in the officer's judgment, maintenance of order is going to be preserved by giving a citation or making an arrest, then the officer is going to use his judgment to make that arrest or issue that citation." (See pictures of Henry Louis Gates Jr.)

Officers clearly have varying levels of tolerance for rudeness from the people they encounter, he says, but he expressed little sympathy for anyone making rude remarks to or gestures toward officers. "Police officers have better things to do than give people citations," he says. "And if people are doing things to distract police officers from doing those things, then they should be held accountable in some way."

But Hackbart, a paralegal who learned about court rulings on vulgar language in a communications-law class, says police should not be able to punish people by issuing citations they know to be unconstitutional. Elledge "shouldn't be allowed to conduct himself like that with no repercussions," he says. "Does everybody have to go through this to defend themselves against a bogus charge?"

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