Saturday, January 31, 2009

Steele Proves He's More of the Same

I didn't expect the newly-elected RNC chair Michael Steele to be so divisive so soon. He even calls up Joe the Plumber's favorite bone, "redistribution of wealth." Soon, he'll be speaking with Sarah Palin at his side and he looks like he'll be another Rush Limbaugh tool. The GOP is a vacant lot.
Sorry Mr. Steele, but the American people rejected republican policies and their divisiveness. Good luck with that. 

CNN: "I know we're living in the era of bipartisanship," Steele joked to the House GOP congressmen who gathered this weekend to discuss policy and politics. "I thought it was very important to send a signal, and you sent it loudly, very clearly, that this party, the leadership of this caucus, would stand first and foremost with the American people. You made it very clear that in order to grow through this recession that you not redistribute the wealth of the people of this nation."

The former Maryland lieutenant governor specifically spoke about his mother as he slammed the Obama plan.

"My mom was a sharecropper's daughter with a fifth-grade education," Steele said. "And my mother knew how to balance the budget without taking money out of my pocket."

Steele drew cheers from the crowd when he pledged the GOP would re-take the majority in Congress, beginning with the fight over New York's 20th congressional district — recently vacated by the state's newly-named senator, Kirsten Gillibrand. She defeated GOP Rep. John Sweeney in 2006.

"I'm in the business of winning elections," said Steele. But he also noted that he was unsuccessful in his 2006 bid for the Senate.

Listen to him address the House republicans, the most Palinesque types (it starts aroun 4:20 if you want to skip ahead):

He says he's in the business of winning elections. Isn't that Karl Rove's mantra? Ick.

Germany Urges Iran to Step Up

Obama put the word out -- the U.S. has a new approach to foreign policy and that already has brought change. The European Union has stepped up to help Obama close Guantanamo and now Germany is urging Iran to behave.

Xinhua: German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier urged on Friday Iran not to reject new U.S. President Barack Obama's offer to open direct talks on the country's nuclear program, saying diplomacy was the way to solve the dispute.

Obama has shifted U.S. policy on Iran since he took office on Jan. 20 and wanted to engage in "direct diplomacy" with Iran, according to the report of AP. "I think it is time for us to urge Iran and the Iranian leadership not to reject this hand," Steinmeier said in a speech to lawmakers on Friday and stressed the importance of "diplomatic solution" to settle Iran's nuclear issue.

The diplomats from the UN Security Council's permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany will meet "in the Frankfurt area" on Feb. 4, German Foreign Ministry spokesman Jens Ploetner said Friday.

Just Because Steele is Black Doesn't Mean He's Obama

Electing a black man doesn't mean the republican party is ready for change or as Steele put it "something completely different."
Conservative republicans still don't get Obama. They think we elected Obama because he's black. That's because they can't get past their narrow world view. Look at GOP spokesman Rush Limbaugh who thinks he's being forced to support Obama because he's black. How do people think like that? 
Choosing Michael Steele to lead the republican party is a good move on the surface --diversity starts with diversity-- but are republicans ready for change? Are they ready to give non-whites a big hug? Are they ready for immigration reform? Are they ready to solve problems without uttering "tax cuts?" Are they ready to solve complex social problems? Are they ready to inform their extreme wing that we are more than a Christian nation?
Is Steele himself ready to make those big changes? He sure said a lot of good things in his acceptance speech, though he didn't get specific.
Can't wait to see republicans have a healthy debate, or not.

The Root: Steele, who won the chairmanship after six ballots at the RNC 's winter meeting in Washington, characterized his win as a recognition that “it is time for something completely different.” And while there was a lot of debate about which direction the party ought to go and who should lead it there, there was no debate whatsoever that the party needs a revival after eight years of the Bush administration.

Central to the GOP's perceived troubles is the idea that it had become too insular, too narrowly cast and too lacking in diversity. In the final round of balloting Steele defeated South Carolina GOP chairman Katon Dawson, 91-77, and race was a clear undercurrent. Dawson’s fatal disadvantage may have been in the fact that he was a member of an all-white country club until he began seeking the chairmanship of the party. Some party insiders worried that choosing Dawson as their leader would simply serve to reinforce the race issues that have dogged the party for years.

In the end, enough GOP delegates were concerned to choose Steele over Dawson, who is acknowledged as a more accomplished fundraiser and manager.

Despite the aesthetic progress, Steele faces a formidable task in trying to revive the GOP which has, over the past two elections, lost control of both houses—Congress and the White House. Steele characterized it as an identity crisis.

Obama's Pre Super Bowl Interview

Update: See the interview with Matt Lauer here. 

If you haven't already heard, Obama's rooting for the Steelers.
Before the game, Matt Lauer will interview Obama live: 
NBC News' Matt Lauer before the game. (This would be the TV network delivering the game in all its 6 pm EST kickoff glory.)
Obama's Super Bowl party partial guest list:

Senator Bob Casey (D-PA)

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA)

Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD)

Congressman Artur Davis (D-AL)

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)

Congressman Charlie Dent (R-PA)

Congressman Mike Doyle (D-PA)

Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ)

Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)

Congressman Paul Hodes (D-NH)

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-DC)

Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-PA)

Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI)

John McCain was invited but said he'll be watching with his family.

Obama's FDA Pick Coming Soon

Maybe one of the TV networks could secure the rights for the FDA extreme makeover. This agency seems to be in the pocket of the drug industry and has failed to protect the public from peanut butter, tomatoes and spinach. And they work at a snail-like pace. 

Reuters: President Barack Obama will announce in coming days his pick to lead the struggling Food and Drug Administration with the aim of strengthening the agency's regulatory muscle, the White House said on Friday.

The news comes amid a recall of hundreds of products tied to salmonella bacteria-tainted peanuts that have sickened more than 500 people in at least 43 states, including numerous children, and possibly led to eight deaths.

"The president hopes in the next few days to announce a pick for commissioner at FDA," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told a press briefing.

Companies and consumer advocates have been anxious for Obama to name the next leader at the agency, which regulates roughly a quarter of the nation's products, including pharmaceuticals, medical devices and dietary supplements.

Names floated for the post include Joshua Sharfstein, head of Baltimore's health department; Robert Califf, cardiologist at Duke University; Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Steve Nissen; and Susan Wood, former head of the FDA's Office of Women's Health.
Who is Joshua Sharfstein?
But Sharfstein may have the inside track. He’s now leading the assessment of the troubled FDA for the Obama transition committee, a role that could boost his chance of being nominated.

What’s more, he’s got a powerful patron in Rep. Henry Waxman, the guy who just beat out John Dingell for chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Sharfstein used to be an investigator on Waxman’s previous committee, Government Reform and Oversight.

In that role, he worked on one of Waxman’s favorite causes: putting the tobacco industry under the regulation of the FDA. And a bill along those lines seems poised for passage next session.

Sharfstein can’t talk to the media because of his role in the presidential transition. But some of his published work gives you an idea of his approach.
Here's Duke Califf.
Califf has served on the Cardiorenal Advisory Panel of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Pharmaceutical Roundtable of the Institute of Medicine (IOM). He also served on the IOM Committee that recommended Medicare coverage of clinical trials, which Congress recently approved. He is director of coordinating center for the Centers for Education & Research on Therapeutics™ (CERTs), a public-private partnership among the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the DCRI, academia, the medical products industry, and consumer groups. This partnership focuses on research and education that will advance the best use of medical products.
Oprah's doc Mehmet Oz writes about Steve Nissen in 2007. Nissen is big on transparency:
WSJ: Barack Obama most definitely doesn’t have time to read the journal Nature right now. But maybe can spare a minute for a quick read of the Health Blog? We’ll save him some time with the high points from some letters by prominent researchers about what he should do on a bunch of scientific and medical issues.
The one that really caught our eye comes from Steven Nissen, a Cleveland Clinic cardiologist who’s in favor of significant reform of the FDA.
Nissen, himself a potential candidate for FDA commish and often viewed as an enemy of Big Pharma, sounds off in favor of a fixed six-year term for the FDA chief to make the agency less susceptible to political pressures.
He also wants reconsideration of the system in which the drug industry funds a lot of the FDA’s budget through user fees: a system criticized by some for giving the industry too much sway over the agency.
Another Nissen call: Transparency when it comes to those letters the FDA sends when it’s decided on whether or not to approve drugs. Right now, most of the contents of the letters are secret.
Susan Wood:
On Capitol Hill, in the Department of Heath and Human Services, and now at SPHH's Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy, Professor Susan Wood has dedicated her career to applying scientific evidence to health policy decisionmaking. She joins the School from the FDA, where she was Assistant Commissioner for Women's Health and Director of the Office of Women's Health until 2005, when she resigned on principle over the continued delay in approving emergency over–the–counter contraception.

Judd Gregg Commerce Secretary Announcement Monday?


Jake Tapper says New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, a republican, could be nominated to lead the Department of Commerce as early as Monday.
Who is Gregg? Here is his past voting record. He's for immigration reform and free trade. He's a moderate republican. Here's his senate site.

A plus for Gregg is that he could secure a 60-person majority needed to block a republican filibuster, which prevents a bill from being voted on. But to secure the majority, Al Franken also needs to win the senate seat. Gregg also needs to be replaced by a democrat. Here's an update - Gregg is looking to keep his seat republican. It's probably a good idea or else his nomination would like like a political move.
What Gregg has said about the stimulus:

NYT: “I’m trying to participate constructively, help the new president where I can be helpful and be part of the loyal opposition where I disagree with him.”

On the morning after the House passed an $819 billion package of stimulus spending and tax cuts without a single Republican vote in favor, the action moved to the Senate, where Republicans began mobilizing for a fight. Mindful of the danger of simply opposing a popular new president at a time of national distress, they were intent on coming to the floor with proposals of their own to substantively change the bill, including additional tax cuts and reduced spending.

“We do need a very robust and aggressive stimulus package,” Mr. Gregg said, “but we need one that works and is focused on the problem, which is housing, and that essentially doesn’t end up aggravating the long-term debt of the country” with spending that extends beyond the two-year life of the recovery plan.

Part of his bio:
As the Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, Senator Gregg continues to emphasize the critical importance of a fiscally responsible federal budget -- one that will fund U.S. defense and homeland security needs while controlling overall federal spending, so that future generations can inherit a government they can afford. Senator Gregg will work with other leaders in Congress to aggressively reduce the size of our federal budget deficit while addressing the rate of growth of entitlements. In addition to these responsibilities, and knowing that millions of Americans rely on Social Security, Senator Gregg remains deeply involved in efforts to save the program. He previously served as Bipartisan Co-Chair of the National Commission on Retirement Policy, Co-Chair of the Senate Republican Task Force on Social Security, and Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee Task Force on Social Security. In past Congresses, he introduced a landmark bipartisan proposal to save Social Security for the next 100 years without raising taxes and to move us closer to solving this core public policy problem.

Gregg speaking on H1-B program, which businesses, especially tech companies, have been trying to expand to bring in more highly skilled and educated international workers to the U.S.:

Dems Getting On Board With Teacher Performance Pay

This is my biggest beef with the teachers' union -- they protect the lousy teachers. It takes a special person to teach and public schools seem to attract and keep the worse instead of attracting and hanging on to the best.
As good teachers get their due-- higher pay -- more people will be inspired to teach and teachers will be inspired to do better. There are fine teachers out there who can't afford to teach. See Obama's education agenda here.

CQ Politics: To most ears, that didn’t sound like an especially revolutionary sentiment. But teachers’ unions have long opposed any sort of tinkering with the traditional pay system in the public schools, which tethers compensation chiefly to credentials held and years spent in the classroom. And since those unions form an important bloc of support for the Democratic Party, that had also been the party’s basic line about teacher pay.

But the party is starting to back away from that longtime article of faith. In the last several years, lawmakers, school district heads and even some union officials have begun proposing alternative approaches to setting the salaries — enhancing the compensation of teachers willing to work in underserved schools or to specialize in hard-to-staff subject areas, for example, or for teachers whose students show appreciable academic improvement.

The push will intensify in the coming weeks, because advocates of performance pay are planning to include $200 million in the economic recovery legislation for federal grants to test the notion. But the debate will really take off later in the year, when Congress is expected to start writing a reauthorization of elementary and secondary school policy, embodied in the 2002 law known as No Child Left Behind. At that time, advocates will push for $2.2 billion in grants, set aside in a previous bill called the Teach Act, to provide bonuses and incentives for enhancing teacher performance.

No More President Obama on Plates?

Manick Sorcar's Obama in seeds

White House lawyers are looking for ways to control Obama's image, which is on everything from plates to toilet paper. To me, it seems like a dumb move. It's like the music industry suing over music downloads.
I guess the concern is that people could conclude that Obama endorses certain products. Well, Research in Motion may as well come out with an Obama BlackBerry because Obama's over the moon for his BlackBerry.
But Ty's Malia and Sasha dolls crossed the line because they're reaping profits on Obama's daughter's image. They should be at least be compelled to donate some of the sales to charity.
I won't drink Pepsi with their new logo that coincidentally looks like the Obama sunrise.
Ben & Jerry's on the other hand, was a big supporter of Obama, so if I liked pecans, I might eat some Yes Pecan.
Love all the Obama art and I don't see White House lawyers going after that sort of thing. If they did, they'd have serious backlash.
Bloomberg: White House lawyers are examining ways to control the use of the president’s image, while recognizing the worldwide fascination about Obama’s election, First Amendment free-speech rights and easy access to videos and photos on the Web.
“Our lawyers are working on developing a policy that will protect the presidential image while being careful not to squelch the overwhelming enthusiasm that the public has for the president,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
Obama’s calls for change and his “Yes We Can” campaign mantra are being evoked to sell assembly-required furniture in Ikea’s “Embrace Change” marketing campaign, bargain airfares during Southwest Airlines Inc.’s “Yes You Can” sale and “Yes Pecan” ice cream at Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc. shops. Read the rest

Obama Picks Scott Gould as Deputy Secretary Veterans Affairs

Scott Gould, currently an IBM vp, worked on Obama's transition team.

Military Times: Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki praised President Barack Obama’s intent to nominate Scott Gould as next deputy secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Gould is vice president for public sector strategy at IBM Global Business Services and a former intelligence officer in the naval reserve. He has also worked at the Commerce and Treasury departments.

Gould “is fully committed to fulfilling President Obama’s vision and my goals for transforming the Department of Veterans Affairs into a 21st century organization,” Shinseki said. “He understands the fundamentals that will drive that transformation: veteran-centric, results-oriented and forward looking.”

Madoff's Family Members Also Lowlife Swindlers?

The wives of the Madoff brothers tried to protect assets by pulling an O.J. Simpson-- not murder --but filing to protect Bernie's $9.6 million home and brother Peter's $4.3 million home under Florida's Homestead Act, which allows people to keep their homes from creditors. They did so right around the time the SEC started kicking up some dust. Love Peter Madoff's title: "Compliance Officer."
Read more here.
Here's a compilation of Madoff misdeeds.

Robert Gibbs Press Briefing Jan. 30

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:55 P.M. EST

MR. GIBBS: Happy Friday. How's everyone today? I have my trusty week ahead -- though it's not that detailed, you'll find out. (Laughter.) Saturday, I have. We'll get it out a little bit later. Again, I apologize, I'm still a little under the weather.

Let me give you a couple of quick announcements and give you a better answer to a question that was asked yesterday that I didn't have any information on, and should have.

First of all, Director Blair conducted his first PDB this morning with the President. So we're glad to -- glad that he's been confirmed and glad to have him onboard. The Obama administration today announced an emergency contribution of more than $20 million to relief efforts in Gaza, as part of the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund. That was announced by Senator Mitchell in the region this morning.

The President has called and talked to President Hu Jintao of China, and we will have some more information and a readout on that a little later this afternoon.

And then lastly, let me go through just quickly the DTV question from yesterday, which as I said, I should have been better prepared for.

I think you all have copies of letters that were sent from the transition to both Houses of Congress in January. The transition, obviously, in an agency -- in the agency review process determined what it believed to be shortfalls in planning for the DTV transition. For instance, it found that the coupon program for converters had 3.3 million requests sitting on a waiting list, and that the FCC told Congress that the call center that it had established could not handle the rate of incoming calls.

The transition asked that Congress delay the February 17th transition. The House -- I'm sorry, the Senate voted on that last week and passed that delay. The Senate took -- I mean, sorry, I'm confused today -- the Senate voted on that, the House took the bill up under a suspension of the rules requiring two-thirds of those present supporting the bill. The bill passed with an overwhelming majority, but not with the necessary two-thirds. The Senate last night took the bill up again and passed it. I'm told that the House will vote next week. We anticipate that the House will pass a delay on DTV to June 12th. If that gets to the President's desk, and when that happens, the President will sign that delay into law so that we might undergo a little bit better planning process to ensure no interruption for people with televisions.

And with that, let's get going.

Yes, ma'am.

Q Thanks, Robert. A couple questions on the economy. Can you explain what the President's strategy will be in the coming days to all these senators on the stimulus package? What kind of meetings does he have planned? Does he plan any sort of different-looking strategy than he did with the House, for whatever reason? And then secondly, I want to clarify, or see if you can clarify, something that Vice President Biden said in an interview yesterday. He said that any new money for the financial industry-type bailout would not be requested until all the $350 billion has been spent. Is that accurate?

MR. GIBBS: I don't remember that part of the transcript but let me -- let me check on that. Obviously -- I hate to do this, I think both of these answers are largely going to hedge toward answers that I gave yesterday to a couple of these questions.

As I said, the President will continue to reach out to Democrats and Republicans and seek ideas on ways to improve or strengthen the package if those ideas are out there. I said he didn't forestall the idea or close the door on sitting down with leaders in order to do that, from both parties.

You know, the President will continue to do whatever is possible to get this bill going and to get it moved quickly to his desk.

Q Does he have anything on the schedule, in terms of calls he's making?

MR. GIBBS: I don't have anything for next week, but I will -- let me see what there is. I know the President will work next week on an economic stimulus bill. And as I've done here several days this week, you know, again we've got more statistics that remind us just how important it is to get something that stimulates the economy quickly to the President's desk so that we can get relief to the American people.

The economy shrank at its fastest pace since 1982, according to statistics released just today. In addition, those statistics demonstrated that consumer spending was down I think for the second quarter. Sales of new homes -- these were figures released yesterday -- were their worst since the 1960s. More companies announced mass layoffs. And Ford Motor Company reported a huge loss in their quarterly earnings.

Again, I think all of these demonstrate the need for Congress and the President to work together to get something done as quickly as possible for the American people.
...
Q There have been new revelations that call into question the ability of the FDA to keep our nation's food supply safe with the salmonella epidemic. More than 500 people are sick, more than half of them are children, eight people have died. On the campaign trail last year President Obama said as the parent of two young daughters, "There are few issues more important to me than ensuring the safety of the food that our children consume."

So what are you guys doing about this?

MR. GIBBS: Well, obviously we've read reports, I think on the AP wire today, about trouble at FDA last year. We've certainly read reports -- and I think the Justice Department is looking into the business practices of the company in Georgia. And I know the President hopes in the next few days to announce a pick for commissioner at FDA to address all of what you said.

I think the revelations have no doubt been alarming, that whether it was our own regulatory system or a company that repeatedly found salmonella in its own testing would continue to ship out that product is beyond disturbing for millions of parents. The President, like I said, in the coming days will have a new commissioner at FDA and hopefully we'll be able to announce also picks at things like the Consumer Product Safety Commission and places like that to put in place a stricter regulatory structure to ensure that the type of thing that happened in this case doesn't happen again.

Yes.

Q Senator Judd Gregg said he's under consideration for Commerce Secretary. Can you talk a little bit about that?

MR. GIBBS: You know, I -- let me give largely the answer I gave to some of you yesterday, which is -- and some of you heard my ranting on this during the transition -- I'm not going to get into the name-game or the final four of picks for this job or that.

I talked to the President specifically about a decision on the next Commerce Secretary, and the last time I talked to him this morning a final decision had not been made. I know that's something that he hopes to make a decision on and announce shortly. But until the President tells me to make a personnel announcement from this podium, I'll refrain from getting into individual names on that.

Chip.
There's so much more here.

Obama's Weekly Address Jan. 31

Obama on those nearly $20 billion in bonuses: "The American people will not tolerate such arrogance or greed."
I say we need a list of those folks for a wall of shame on the Internet.
Obama says Tim Geithner will announce a new strategy to loosen credit.
Hmmmm, wonder what that will be? Seems he would have to demand that the banks who get bailout money lend money, instead of hording it or buying other businesses or giving out bonuses.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Bob Schieffer's New Washington Unplugged Web Show

In this episode, Sen. Richard Shelby says some republicans will "jump ship" and vote on the stimulus. He won't vote for it unless it's completely revised and that's what he told Obama. Do republicans even realize their stale same old policies are irrelevant, over?
Schieffer also talks to Bill Burton, deputy press secretary, about the Super Bowl at the White House. Members of congress and their families are invited.

Michael Steele New RNC Chair

Michael Steele is the first black man to head the RNC. Republicans get an A+ for recognizing that you can't be diverse if you're not diverse. Steele grew up in a house of democrats and credits Reagan (there's that name again) for turning him into a republican. He's got a lot of work to do. Maybe he can shut down the Rush types. I'd be happy if the republican party could do that. Of course, the Rush types will be spending the next few weeks sucking up. 
See a video on what he says about Obama.
Read more here.
10 things you didn't know about Steele
Here is Steele's "blueprint for tomorrow:"
Blueprint - Grassroots


Here is Steele's acceptance speech:

Just for fun, check out the republicans on Twitter here. Republicans talk guns and tweets:
At a recent debate, the candidates to become chairman of the Republican National Committee were asked -- after rattling off how many guns they own -- whether they have any "followers" on Twitter, the popular online social network for short messages.

They didn't miss a beat.

"Yes, the number is growing last time I checked -- 300 to 400," replied candidate Michael Steele, a former lieutenant governor of Maryland. Users of the site keep track of posts, or "tweets," from other users by becoming their followers.

Another candidate, Katon Dawson, chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, said he would be Twittering away at that very moment if it weren't for the debate rules. "I'm just not doing it today because you told us we couldn't," he said.

Then Ken Blackwell, a former secretary of state of Ohio, trumped them both. "I do Twitter, but let me just say I have 4,000 friends on Facebook, which is probably more than these two guys put together, but who's counting?" Read more at the WSJ.

The End of the Republicans?

Perhaps it will be the republicans who will soon be going out of business. They certainly seem to be out of touch and outdated.
This story is really interesting. I'd just go here and read it all.

RCP: Scratch that question. When not one single, solitary Republican vote can be found in the House of Representatives to support the president's $819 billion stimulus package, it's pretty clear that the GOP caucus has been meeting in a soundproof room.

What I've been hearing from Republicans in both the House and Senate has been a kind of attenuated, distorted echo of the economic doctrine that the party has preached, if not always practiced, since the Reagan years. It's perfectly appropriate, of course, to ask whether a specific spending proposal would have the desired stimulative effect; indeed, some items were removed from the stimulus bill for that reason. But underlying the Republican criticism has been a familiar formula: more tax cuts, fewer spending initiatives.

But Americans know that this philosophy has already taken us as far as it could. Americans know that taxes can only be cut by so much before the federal government's effectiveness inevitably suffers. Americans know that that spending money doesn't necessarily mean wasting it. Americans know that the economic crisis means that taking the position that government is inherently oppressive, if not fundamentally evil, is now intellectually bankrupt, because government is the only instrument we have in the high-stakes attempt to induce financial and economic recovery.

If Republicans hadn't broken the bank with drunken-sailorish spending during most of George W. Bush's time in the White House, their complaints about the cost of the stimulus package and its impact on future deficits would be more credible. As things stand, we have to let actions speak: absolute solidarity among House Republicans in voting no. Read the whole thing.

Republican Governor Crist Likes Stimulus

Gov. Charlie Crist says the people of Florida need the stimulus.

Robert Gibbs Press Briefing Jan. 29

The White House is posting all of Robert Gibbs press briefings. Here's the one from yesterday:

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:12 P.M. EST

MR. GIBBS: All right, sorry I'm both late and early, all at the same time. (Laughter.) And I --

Q Even the Clinton White House has never done that -- to be late and early. (Laughter.)

MR. GIBBS: Let me apologize in advance. My five-and-a-half-year-old has a cold; therefore, I have a cold. So if I sniff a little bit, it's because of that.

Just a couple of quick things, and we'll get into your questions. In addition to the calls that he made yesterday to foreign leaders, he also called last night Prime Minister Aso of Japan. Also, in addition to later last night, the President signed disaster declarations for both Arkansas and Kentucky and spoke with both of the governors of those two states to notify them of those signatures.

You all, I hope, were at the Lilly Ledbetter signing this morning, so you know a little bit about that.

And then -- and we'll try to conclude this at an appropriate time -- at 3:00 p.m., the President will take a group of you into a meeting with the President and Treasury Secretary Geithner. I know the President is anxious to make a few remarks there about some -- about stuff that's been in the news the last couple of days, and particularly stuff that was on the front page of our newspapers this morning relating to CEO bonuses, which he will get into at that -- at those remarks.

And with that, let me take a few questions. Jennifer.

Q News-of-the-day question -- the military judge's ruling in the USS Cole suspect case at Guantanamo. We'd like a comment on that, first of all, but also kind of the bigger picture. I mean, you guys have asked for a delay in all the trials there. Does this throw a kink into that? How does it affect the broader effort to step back and take a look at those detainees?

MR. GIBBS: Well, let me --

Q Repeat the question, because we can't hear with the --

MR. GIBBS: Oh, I'm sorry, with the new Zamboni? (Laughter.)

Q Repeat the question.

MR. GIBBS: Yes, the question related to -- come on in, guys. (Laughter.) All right. All right. No more -- the place is now sold out, so no more tickets.

This was -- Jennifer asked a question about the ruling that just came down, which did not grant a stay for the military commission in one case. We just learned of the ruling here, as you did, and we are consulting with the Pentagon and the Department of Justice to explore our options in that case. I believe that all the other trials were stayed, which I think continues to give us what we need to evaluate who is at Gitmo and make the decisions commensurate with the executive order that the President signed.

But we are -- we're working to get some consultation on that, and when we have some we'll certainly let you know about that.

Q Just to be clear, what you're saying is that this -- the action in this one case you don't believe throws a kink into the ability to evaluate the entire situation --

MR. GIBBS: No, not at all.

Q -- and the status of detainees there?

MR. GIBBS: Not at all.

Yes, sir. Read the rest here.

Obama: Labor Unions Are Part of the Solution

Obama's signing three executive orders related to labor today. He called labor unions part of the solution, not the problem.
Biden, "the pride of Delaware" talked about the middle class task force. See my prior post - Joe, vice president Biden, writes about the task force in USA Today.
There is, of course, an associated website: StrongMiddleClass. The first task force meeting will be held in Philadelphia. All the material from the meetings will go up on the Website. See Joe's comments here.
Obama's remarks:

Joe Biden's Middle Class Task Force

VP Biden is looking at how to make the middle class stronger. The task force, he says will be transparent.

Commentary by Joe Biden

For years, we had a White House that failed to put the middle class front and center in its economic policies.

President Obama has made it clear that is going to change. And it's why he has asked me to lead a task force on the middle class.

America's middle class is hurting. Trillions of dollars in home equity, retirement savings and college savings are gone. And every day, more and more Americans are losing their jobs.

For the backbone of the USA, it's insult on top of injury. Over the course of America's last economic expansion, the middle class participated in very few of the benefits. But now in the midst of this historic economic downturn, the middle class sure is participating in all of the pain. Something is seriously wrong when the economic engine of this nation — the great middle class — is treated this way.

President Obama and I are determined to change this. Quite simply, a strong middle class equals a strong America. We can't have one without the other.

An economy for all Americans

Right now, our most urgent task is to stabilize our nation's economy and put it back on track. That is what our economic recovery package moving through the Congress is all about. We need to make these critical investments to jump-start our economy.

On top of this urgent task, though, we have an important long-term task as well. Once this economy starts growing again, we need to make sure the benefits of that growth reach the people responsible for it. We can't stand by and watch as that narrow sliver of the top of the income scale wins a bigger piece of the pie — while everyone else gets a smaller and smaller slice.

One of the things that makes this task force distinctive is it brings together — in one place — those agencies that have the most impact on the well-being of the middle class in our country. We'll be looking at everything from access to college and training with the Department of Education, to business development with the Department of Commerce, to child care reform with Health and Human Services, to labor law with the Department of Labor. With this task force, we'll have a single, high-visibility group with one goal: to raise the living standards of middle-class families. Read the rest at USA TODAY

Here's Joe:

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Saltsman Out of the Running to Chair RNC

This is a plus for the republicans. Chip Saltsman, who thought it was amusing to send out an offensive CD to friends at Christmas, will not head the Republican National Committee. Read about that here.

Do Republicans Matter?

Not according to Hugh Jackson who writes this at The Guardian:

But the press seems oblivious to the fact that November's election, coupled with the election results of 2006, also mark a stark change for American politics and policy – a change that should be reflected in coverage of Obama administration initiatives but that thus far remains largely obscured by the media's stubborn insistence on covering Washington the same way that they've reported on it for decades.

Specifically, the press is still covering Republicans as if they matter.

Granted, on any given day, at least two living breathing Republicans will matter. That's how many Republican senators Democrats need to reach the supermajority required to overpower obstruction tactics allowed the minority under Senate rules, and pass legislation.
And furthermore:
But whatever Republican it is that matters on any specific piece of legislation, it most assuredly will not be the house minority leader John Boehner. Unlike the Senate, the US House has no refined and dainty rules allowing the minority Republicans, as one of their patron saints William Buckley put it, to stand athwart history yelling Stop.

Contemporary House Republicans consist primarily of culture-war-hardened wing-nuts in congressional districts drawn so as to capture a sufficient number of Limbaugh-listening voters to render the districts "safe" for hard-right ideologues like, well, contemporary House Republicans. They're now heavily outnumbered by the Democrats, 256 to 178. And they're irrelevant as hell (which is irrelevant indeed when one factors in the likelihood that there is no hell). Read the whole thing cause it's pretty good.

Obama Rooting for Steelers

Obama with the Steelers during the campaign.

Salazar Pledges to Rehab Scandal-Ridden Interior

From Whitehouse.gov.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar kicked off the daily press briefing today with his plans for cleaning out a department that has become famous for scandal.

"Over the last eight years, the Department of Interior has been tarnished by ethical lapses, of criminal behavior that has extended to the very highest levels of government," he said.

He’s taking over a Department plagued by Jack Abramoff-related scandals and another involving sex and drug use by Interior employees, and promised to clean house.

"We will work to reform the Department of the Interior, to restore the public's trust and confidence in the highest levels of ethics and accountability that the American people deserve," he said.
Salazar spoke yesterday as part of the daily White House briefing.
Today, he outlined his plan:
Today, I want to outline the first steps to reform that I plan to take in this Department.

I am speaking with you because the ethical lapses in this office, and the individuals who engaged in blatant and criminal conflicts of interest and self dealing, set one of the worst examples of corruption and abuse in government.

So today, I am directing the following actions, which my chief of staff, Tom Strickland, will lead. Tom Strickland is a former United States Attorney for Colorado. He served as United States Attorney while I served as Colorado’s Attorney General and top law enforcement officer.

1). First, I am redirecting an examination of potential criminal conduct by those who were directly involved in the scandals described in the three Inspector General reports. I have asked the Department of Justice and, if appropriate, the Colorado United States Attorney’s office, to review whether the criminal determinations made earlier were correct. Given the seriousness of the findings of the OIG, I want to make sure that those who blatantly flaunted the law receive the appropriate sanction. Read the rest.
Read yesterday's briefing here.

Republicans Afraid Stimulus Would Benefit Immigrants

Other than bigotry, I can't figure a reason why conservative republicans focus so much attention on immigrants. Immigrants seem to be their scape goat for everything. Perhaps the mindset could be attributed to the lack of diversity in the republican party.

Newsweek: The $800 billion-plus economic stimulus measure making its way through Congress could steer government checks to illegal immigrants, a top Republican congressional official asserted Thursday.

The legislation, which would send tax credits of $500 per worker and $1,000 per couple, expressly disqualifies nonresident aliens, but it would allow people who don't have Social Security numbers to be eligible for the checks.

Undocumented immigrants who are not eligible for a Social Security number can file tax returns with an alternative number. A House-passed version of the economic recovery bill and one making its way through the Senate would allow anyone with such a number, called an individual taxpayer identification number, to qualify for the tax credits.

Obama: Executive Bonuses Shameful

These people are paying themselves with taxpayer money. I wonder if they're feeling shamed or if they're trying to figure out what to do with their bonuses. These people ought to be individually named on the Internet somewhere.

MSNBC: The president reacted harshly Thursday to reports that corporate employees got paid more than $18 billion in bonuses last year.

Said Obama: "That is the height of irresponsibility. It is shameful."
The president said he and new Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will have direct conversations with corporate leaders to make the point.

Obama said there is a time for corporate leaders to make profits and get paid bonuses but now is "not that time."

Obama's mad:

Obama's Middle East Welcome

Time: As President Barack Obama's new Middle East envoy held talks with Egyptian leaders across town on Wednesday, students at Cairo University were offering up their views of the new American President — and the very mention of his name brought warm smiles and delight in their eyes. They like Obama. Even Omar Youssef, 20, who earlier this month had joined angry protests, tinged with anti-American sentiment, against Israel's war in Gaza, is impressed by what he's heard about Obama thus far. "He's a man of diplomacy and speaks well," Youssef explains, standing around the corner from Egyptian security vehicles crammed with riot police in case more protests erupt. "Bush, Arab people hate him. But the world needs a man like Obama." (See pictures of people around the world watching Obama's Inauguration.)

What George Mitchell, Obama's Mideast peacemaker, brings to the table:

Imagine Turning On Your Computer To Read the Newspaper

Funny 1981 video snagged at Politico. Little did journalists realize, newspapers would be on their deathbed in 2009:

Obama's Bipartisan Super Bowl

Yesterday Obama invited congress members to a cocktail party. Robert Gibbs says more outreach this weekend over the Super Bowl game. Gibbs spoke at a press briefing today. Check out TheHyperFix if you're on Twitter. The Washington Post reporter writes The Fix and twittered about the press conference, adding some funny commentary about Chuck Todd's hair cut.
Will Obama throw out the opening pitch for the White Sox? Gibbs will check.

AP: President Barack Obama was welcoming House and Senate leaders from both parties to the White House for drinks Wednesday night as he continues to lobby lawmakers to pass his economic recovery bill despite stiff GOP opposition.
The getting-to-know-you-better session was to get under way after the House voted 244-188 to approve Obama's $819 billion stimulus bill. It was a swift victory for the new president, but it was achieved without a single Republican vote despite Obama's heavy push for a bipartisan show of support on the measure.
Republicans say the bill devotes too little money to tax cuts and too much on spending.

Gibbs on Today Says Final Stimulus Will Have Bipartisan Support

The stimulus bill, which passed the house (without republican support) is now in the senate and Obama will continue to work with republicans. In the end, Obama's press secretary Robert Gibbs says it will have bipartisan support.

Obama Signs Lilly Ledbetter Inspired Bill


Lilly Ledbetter, who has fought for equal pay for women, was a regular during the campaign. Obama often talked about her struggle and Ledbetter made a commercial for Obama. She also went along on the Whistle Stop tour as Obama made his way to inauguration.
McCain opposed the fair pay for women. Don't ask me why.
Here's what Obama said:

It is fitting that with the very first bill I sign - the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act - we are upholding one of this nation's first principles: that we are all created equal and each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness.

It is also fitting that we are joined today by the woman after whom this bill is named - someone Michelle and I have had the privilege of getting to know for ourselves. Lilly Ledbetter didn't set out to be a trailblazer or a household name. She was just a good hard worker who did her job - and did it well - for nearly two decades before discovering that for years, she was paid less than her male colleagues for the very same work. Over the course of her career, she lost more than $200,000 in salary, and even more in pension and Social Security benefits - losses she still feels today.

Now, Lilly could have accepted her lot and moved on. She could have decided that it wasn't worth the hassle and harassment that would inevitably come with speaking up for what she deserved. But instead, she decided that there was a principle at stake, something worth fighting for. So she set out on a journey that would take more than ten years, take her all the way to the Supreme Court, and lead to this bill which will help others get the justice she was denied.

Because while this bill bears her name, Lilly knows this story isn't just about her. It's the story of women across this country still earning just 78 cents for every dollar men earn - women of color even less - which means that today, in the year 2009, countless women are still losing thousands of dollars in salary, income and retirement savings over the course of a lifetime.

But equal pay is by no means just a women's issue - it's a family issue. It's about parents who find themselves with less money for tuition or child care; couples who wind up with less to retire on; households where, when one breadwinner is paid less than she deserves, that's the difference between affording the mortgage - or not; between keeping the heat on, or paying the doctor's bills - or not. And in this economy, when so many folks are already working harder for less and struggling to get by, the last thing they can afford is losing part of each month's paycheck to simple discrimination.

So in signing this bill today, I intend to send a clear message: That making our economy work means making sure it works for everyone. That there are no second class citizens in our workplaces, and that it's not just unfair and illegal - but bad for business - to pay someone less because of their gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion or disability. And that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory, or footnote in a casebook - it's about how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives: their ability to make a living and care for their families and achieve their goals.

Ultimately, though, equal pay isn't just an economic issue for millions of Americans and their families, it's a question of who we are - and whether we're truly living up to our fundamental ideals. Whether we'll do our part, as generations before us, to ensure those words put to paper more than 200 years ago really mean something - to breathe new life into them with the more enlightened understandings of our time.

That is what Lilly Ledbetter challenged us to do. And today, I sign this bill not just in her honor, but in honor of those who came before her. Women like my grandmother who worked in a bank all her life, and even after she hit that glass ceiling, kept getting up and giving her best every day, without complaint, because she wanted something better for me and my sister.

And I sign this bill for my daughters, and all those who will come after us, because I want them to grow up in a nation that values their contributions, where there are no limits to their dreams and they have opportunities their mothers and grandmothers never could have imagined.

In the end, that's why Lilly stayed the course. She knew it was too late for her - that this bill wouldn't undo the years of injustice she faced or restore the earnings she was denied. But this grandmother from Alabama kept on fighting, because she was thinking about the next generation. It's what we've always done in America - set our sights high for ourselves, but even higher for our children and grandchildren.

Now it's up to us to continue this work. This bill is an important step - a simple fix to ensure fundamental fairness to American workers - and I want to thank this remarkable and bi-partisan group of legislators who worked so hard to get it passed. And this is only the beginning. I know that if we stay focused, as Lilly did - and keep standing for what's right, as Lilly did - we will close that pay gap and ensure that our daughters have the same rights, the same chances, and the same freedom to pursue their dreams as our sons.

Thank you.

Obama gives his signing pen to Lilly:

Michelle and Lilly's remarks today:

Obama Picks Joshua DuBois to Head Faith-Based Giving

Salon: DuBois, a political strategist who was religious affairs director in the Obama campaign, will head the President's Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, a senior administration official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement had not yet been made by Obama.

Obama said during the campaign that he wanted to expand White House faith-based efforts begun under former President George W. Bush.

But while he endorsed Bush's initiative to give religious groups more equal footing when getting federal funding, he also promised to tweak it.

He has changed the name of the White House effort from its original Office of Faith-based Initiatives to display a broader focus. Obama has promised to increase spending on social services, increase training for charities applying for funding and make that a grass-roots effort, and to elevate the program's status within the White House.

Republicans Can't Stop Thinking About Tax Cuts

Instead of thoughtfully considering their thumping, republicans resort to the same old, what they call "back to basics."
Hello! Basics -- tax cuts -- don't work anymore. At least not as the sole solution. Get a clue.
The only thing I've seen from the republicans is whining that the democrats aren't listening. But no one is listening because they keep offering the same lame solution, tax cuts. If you want people to listen, you have to be saying something.
These are different times. Republican policies brought the country to its knees.
They say there isn't anything in the stimulus for job creation but everything creates jobs or helps people keep jobs, and at the same time invests in our infrastructure.
But here's where I'm with republicans, a whole bunch of money unwisely spent would be disastrous. Obama would have four short years in office.
See the stimulus here.

CNN: Most Republicans are balking. They appreciate the president's efforts to reach out to them, but they don't see that spirit of bipartisanship in the Democratic leadership of Congress. In their view, the Democratic bill is wrong in principle.

Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, the House Republican Conference chairman, says the bill that the House Democrats bring to the floor "will literally be a catch-all of traditional pet programs and more government."

And it won't work, many Republicans say.

"The best economic stimulus there is is a job. And this bill is short on stimulus that is needed to create that," said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee.

In summary:

Obama Says At Ease In the Oval Office


Our president is a happy man because he gets to eat with his family. How cool is that? What an awesome commute: 30 seconds.
New Oval Office dress code: no coats necessary and business casual on the weekend.

NYT: Thus did an ironclad rule of the George W. Bush administration — coat and tie in the Oval Office at all times — fall by the wayside, only the first of many signs that a more informal culture is growing up in the White House under new management. Mr. Obama promised to bring change to Washington and he has — not just in substance, but in presidential style.

Although his presidency is barely a week old, some of Mr. Obama’s work habits are already becoming clear. He shows up at the Oval Office shortly before 9 in the morning, roughly two hours later than his early-to-bed, early-to-rise predecessor. Mr. Obama likes to have his workout — weights and cardio — first thing in the morning, at 6:45. (Mr. Bush slipped away to exercise midday.)

He reads several papers, eats breakfast with his family and helps pack his daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, off to school before making the 30-second commute downstairs — a definite perk for a man trying to balance work and family life. He eats dinner with his family, then often returns to work; aides have seen him in the Oval Office as late as 10 p.m., reading briefing papers for the next day.

“Even as he is sober about these challenges, I have never seen him happier,” Mr. Axelrod said. “The chance to be under the same roof with his kids, essentially to live over the store, to be able to see them whenever he wants, to wake up with them, have breakfast and dinner with them — that has made him a very happy man.”

Obama at ease:
Mr. Obama has also brought a more relaxed sensibility to his public appearances. David Gergen, an adviser to both Republican and Democratic presidents, said Mr. Obama seemed to exude an “Aloha Zen,” a kind of comfortable calm that, Mr. Gergen said, reflects a man who “seems easy going, not so full of himself.”

At the Capitol on Tuesday, Mr. Obama startled lawmakers by walking up to the microphones in a Senate corridor to talk to reporters, as if he were still a senator. Twice, during formal White House ceremonies, Mr. Obama called out to aides as television cameras rolled, as he did on Monday when the director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa P. Jackson, asked for a presidential pen.

“Hey, Lisa,” Mr. Obama called out to his staff secretary, Lisa Brown, “does she get this pen?” This is a really good story you should read at NYT

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Obama May Visit Chicago in February

CT: Barack Obama may return to Chicago for a home visit as early as mid-February, during a time when Illinois will be awash in celebrations marking Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday.

The possible trip could be one of Obama's first flights on Air Force One and comes with the question of where the president—and potential traffic jams—will land.

Aides declined to comment on Obama's February schedule, but a source close to him said he could make his first presidential visit to Chicago as early as Presidents' Day weekend, when his daughters have a three-day break from school.

Obama's Trip To Canada Set for Feb. 19

Swamp: The president's first international trip - it was previously announced that Obama will be Canada-bound, like many new presidents before him - will come Feb. 19.

The White House, which announced the date today, released no other details. While the capital, Ottawa, is a natural stop, others are being considered, according to an administration official who spoke with the A.P. under the cloak of anonymity.

"This is a testament, not just to the size of our trading relationship and the closeness of our alliance, but also the strength of our friendship," Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the House of Commons today.

Parliament will not be in session the week of Obama's visit, making an address to Parliament unlikely.

From the Toronto Star:
Confirmation of the visit comes after Obama and Harper spoke by telephone on Friday to discuss dates and the early outline of an agenda for the meeting.

Harper said that the economy would likely top the agenda although he expected that the environment, climate change and energy security would also be discussed during the visit.

In an interview with the Star last week, Harper predicted that Obama's administration would mark a "fresh start" for relations between the two countries.

"I think that we now have a new administration that Canadians are clearly very comfortable with, at least out of the gate," Harper told the Star.

Harper said Obama's presidency is a "real opportunity" to move forward. "I think everybody acknowledges that Canada-U.S. relations improved after our government came to office. But I actually think they probably could have improved more," he said.

He said the chance of even better relations was hindered by the focus of the administration of former president George W. Bush on domestic U.S. problems.

Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, made his first foreign visit to Mexico.

Zero House Republicans Support Stimulus

The bill passes but republicans, in the minority, hold out for more tax cuts. It's all they know.

CNN: The House on Wednesday evening passed an $819 billion economic stimulus package Wednesday on a party-line vote, despite President Obama's efforts to achieve bipartisan support for the bill.

The final vote was 244 to 188. No Republicans voted for the bill, while 11 Democrats voted against it.

The Senate is likely to take up the bill next week.

"I hope that we can continue to strengthen this plan before it gets to my desk," Obama said in a statement after the vote. "We must move swiftly and boldly to put Americans back to work, and that is exactly what this plan begins to do."

Republicans don't really matter. In one way, I'd like to kick them down the street, and in another, they have some points. This calls for Keith Olbermann, who's over the top-ness usually irritates me, but feels appropriate now:

See who voted no.

Obama Wonders What a Snow Day Is

Obama Meets With Business Leaders


Transcript:

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON THE ECONOMY
AFTER MEETING WITH BUSINESS LEADERS
White House East Room
January 28, 2009
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. I want to thank Sam and David for their outstanding words. I want to thank all of you for being here today.

A few moments ago, I met with some of the leading business executives in the country. And it was a sober meeting, because these companies and the workers they employ are going through times more trying than any that we've seen in a long, long while. Just the other day, seven of our largest corporations announced they were making major job cuts. Some of the business leaders in this room have had to do the same. And yet, even as we discussed the seriousness of this challenge, we left our meeting confident that we can turn our economy around.

But each of us, as Dave indicated, are going to have to do our share. Part of what led our economy to this perilous moment was a sense of irresponsibility that prevailed in Wall Street and in Washington. And that's why I called for a new era of responsibility in my inaugural address last week, an era where each of us chips in so that we can climb our way out of this crisis -- executives and factory floor workers, educators and engineers, health care professionals and elected officials.

As we discussed in our meeting a few minutes ago, corporate America will have to accept its own responsibilities to its workers and the American public. But these executives also understand that without wise leadership in Washington, even the best-run businesses can't do as well as they might. They understand that what makes an idea sound is not whether it's Democrat or Republican, but whether it makes good economic sense for their workers and companies. And they understand that when it comes to rebuilding our economy, we don't have a moment to spare.

The businesses that are shedding jobs to stay afloat -- they can't afford inaction or delay. The workers who are returning home to tell their husbands and wives and children that they no longer have a job, and all those who live in fear that their job will be next on the cutting blocks -- they need help now. They are looking to Washington for action, bold and swift. And that is why I hope to sign an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan into law in the next few weeks.

And most of the money that we're investing as part of this plan will get out the door immediately and go directly to job creation, generating or saving 3 to 4 million new jobs. And the vast majority of these jobs will be created in the private sector, because, as these CEOs well know, business, not government, is the engine of growth in this country.

But even as this plan puts Americans back to work it will also make the critical investments in alternative energy, in safer roads, better health care and modern schools that will lay the foundation for long-term growth and prosperity. And it will invest in broadband and emerging technologies, like the ones imagined and introduced to the world by people like Sam and so many of the CEOs here today, because that's how America will retain and regain its competitive edge in the 21st century.

I know that there are some who are skeptical of the size and scale of this recovery plan. And I understand that skepticism, given some of the things that have happened in this town in the past. That's why this recovery plan will include unprecedented measures that will allow the American people to hold my administration accountable. Instead of just throwing money at our problems, we'll try something new in Washington -- we will invest in what works. Instead of politicians doling out money behind a veil of secrecy, decisions about where we invest will be made public on the Internet, and will be informed by independent experts whenever possible.

We will launch a sweeping effort to root out waste, inefficiency, and unnecessary spending in our government, and every American will be able to see how and where we spend taxpayer dollars by going to a new website called recovery.gov -- because I firmly believe what Justice Louis Brandeis once said, that sunlight is the best disinfectant, and I know that restoring transparency is not only the surest way to achieve results, but also to earn back the trust in government without which we cannot deliver the changes the American people sent us here to make.

In the end, the answer to our economic troubles rests less in my hands, or in the hands of our legislators, than it does with America's workers and the businesses that employ them. They are the ones whose efforts and ideas will determine our economic destiny, just as they always have. For in the end, it's businesses -- large and small -- that generate the jobs, provide the salaries, and serve as the foundation on which the American people's lives and dreams depend. All we can do, those of us here in Washington, is help create a favorable climate in which workers can prosper, businesses can thrive, and our economy can grow. And that is exactly what the recovery plan I've proposed is intended to do. And that's exactly what I intend to achieve soon.

Thank you very much for being here.

Now Republicans Are Just Being Goofy

John Boehner says the republican bill will create 6.2 million jobs, twice as many jobs at half the cost. Yeah right. Bull dinky.

Iran Ready for Diplomacy?

There are a bunch of stiff heads who would rather see Iran as the enemy and continue to shun them and the Muslim people as a whole, but that doesn't bode well for our own national security.

Stiff heads need to get with the program and they probably need to grow up a little, too. They still think Christianity is at war with Islam. Under Bush, that's what the U.S. has been communicating to the Middle East. Just check out any conservative website.

It's all about respecting language and words. if the most powerful country is going to disrespect other nations by calling them evil, then obviously, duh, that's going to rankle a lot of world leaders.

And it has.

Obama is using words and taking small gradual actions to back up those words-- sending peace envoys, doing Arab-language interviews.

At least the doors seem to be opening now, whereas, under Bush, all the doors were slammed shut.

CNN: "If changes happens, we will welcome such an endeavor," Ahmadinejad told a crowd of thousands in a speech broadcast on national television from the western region of Khermenshah.

"We welcome change, but providing change is fundamental and is in the correct direction."

In Tuesday's interview with Al-Arabiya, Obama said his administration will offer a hand of friendship to the Muslim world.

"My job ... is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy," Obama said. "We sometimes make mistakes. We have not been perfect."

Obama addressed Iran specifically, prefacing his remarks with "Iranian people are a great people," but adding "Iran has acted in ways that are not conducive to peace and prosperity in the region."

Still, it's going to be a crazy huge challenge. Ahmandinejad is a wee bit off kilter in his demands:
"If certain parties want to bring about change, change entails for them to apologize to the Iranian people and try to make amends for their blackened history, their past record, the atrocities they have committed against the Iranian people," Ahmadinejad said.

He also called on the United States to end its support of Israel. Obama said in his interview that the U.S. will continue to be a strong ally with Israel.

Obama Talks To Military Heads About Iraq and Afghanistan

Aside from the stimulus bill, Obama's meeting today with military leaders:

CNN: Obama will be sitting down with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to get what the White House calls a "comprehensive view of the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan and the impact on our forces."

The administration plans to decrease troop deployment in Iraq and focus on the fight against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan, an environment that Adm. Michael Mullen, the head of the Joint Chiefs, says "grows increasingly perilous every day."

Robert Gates says Afghanistan is now the priority:

Going after drug labs and drug lords:

Afghans are very skeptical:

Stimulus Will Pass House But With How Many Republicans?

No one can say that Obama didn't try to get bipartisan support. By the time the final bill reaches Obama's desk mid-February, it seems likely that it will have bipartisan support. Republicans are pushing for more tax cuts, of course.
Obama's remarks today:

The Swamp: "When it comes to rebuilding our economy, we don't have a moment to spare,'' Obama said in an address staged in the East Room of the White House and carried live by cable television news networks on this day that the House is preparing to cast the first, and most likely successful, vote on the stimulus plan.

"Corporate America will have to accept its own responsibilities to its workers
and the American public,'' said Obama, reiterating a promise that his plan will create or save 3 to 4 million jobs in the next few years. "But these executives also understand that
without wise leadership in Washington, even the best-run businesses can't do as well as they might.

"The vast majority of these jobs will be created in the private sector,'' Obama said. "In the end, the end to our economic troubles lies less in my hands'' than it does in the hands of American workers and the companies that employ them.

"All we can do, those of us here in Washington, is to help create... an environment in which business can prosper,'' Obama said. "That's exactly what I intend to achieve - soon.''


Republicans talk about yesterday's meeting with Obama. House republicans say they weren't consulted at all by House democrats. 

It seems to me that republicans don't tend to think creatively or broadly on job creation. For them, it's only about smaller government and tax cuts. I'm sort of on the fence. Republicans have a point in that some of this money is being given to organizations that aren't run very well. If there is no oversight, this stimulus could be disastrous. Obama says each dollar will be accounted for at recovery.gov. Here's some of what the republicans don't like in the bill:
WSJ: We've looked it over, and even we can't quite believe it. There's $1 billion for Amtrak, the federal railroad that hasn't turned a profit in 40 years; $2 billion for child-care subsidies; $50 million for that great engine of job creation, the National Endowment for the Arts; $400 million for global-warming research and another $2.4 billion for carbon-capture demonstration projects. There's even $650 million on top of the billions already doled out to pay for digital TV conversion coupons.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

House Democrats Strip Stimulus

I see a strategy here.
The republicans complain about what they don't like in the stimulus bill. First it was contraceptives, then it was fixes to the National Mall. Once they publicly complain, Obama agrees to remove it from the stimulus, not because he's bowing but because he's allowing republicans to save face. He's allowing them to own the stimulus bill by removing objections. It's not as if those two things are crucial to the stimulus. Behind closed doors they likely discuss the things that aren't up for debate. 

It's brilliant salesmanship. It's bipartisanship. 

Obama Wins Over Blue Dogs


The Blue Dog Coalition, a group of 47 House democrats, promotes fiscal responsibility, balancing budgets and that sort of thing.

Reuters: A bloc of fiscally conservative Democrats on Tuesday won a commitment from President Barack Obama's administration for efforts to balance the government's checkbook, enabling many of them to support the economic stimulus plan.

A day before the House of Representatives votes on the $825 billion stimulus package, Obama's budget director, Peter Orszag, said the government must eventually get back to paying for non-emergency spending without boosting the deficit.

"We need to return the fiscal responsibility and pay-as-you-go budgeting that we had in the 1990's for all non-emergency spending," Orszag said in a letter to Congress.
"The president and his economic team look forward to working with the Congress to develop budget enforcement rules that are based on the tools that helped create the surpluses of a decade ago," he said in the letter.

The bloc, known as the Blue Dog Democrats, had sought in meetings with Obama aides a commitment that the new president would work to ensure the burgeoning budget deficit is not further bloated by increases in mandatory government spending programs, like Social Security and Medicare, or by tax cuts.