Archive for: March, 2009

The Great GOP $3,100 Energy Tax Lie

Mar 31 2009 Published by under Featured News

After attempts to label President Obama’s cap and trade proposal a sales tax on energy failed, Republican have shifted their attack to calling Obama’s plan a tax that will cost American families an additional $3,100 a year. The problem is that this is a lie.

Republicans have been claiming that, “The Administration raises revenue for increased spending through a series of new taxes, including a light switch tax that would cost every American household $3,128 a year. What effect will this have on Americans struggling to pay their mortgages?” Where did the GOP get this number from?

According to Polifact, the number came from a 2007 M.I.T. study. When the GOP uses the term light switch tax what they are really referring to is Obama’s cap and trade plan. What the GOP did to come up with their numbers was use a little warped math.

They used the cap and trade program in the M.I.T. report, not Obama’s, and divided the hypothetical revenue number from the report by the number of households in the country to come up with their $3,100 number. However, when Republicans asked John Reilly an economist and one of the authors of the report about the numbers, they were told that they were wrong, “Someone from the House Republicans had called me (March 20) and asked about this,” Reilly said. “I had explained why the estimate they had was probably incorrect and what they should do to correct it, but I think this wrong number was already floating around by that time.”

Reilly even told them why their calculations were wrong, “That’s just not how economists calculate the cost of a tax proposal. The tax might push the price of carbon-based fuels up a bit, but other results of a cap-and-trade program, such as increased conservation and more competition from other fuel sources, would put downward pressure on prices. Moreover, consumers would get some of the tax back from the government in some form.”

The motivation for the GOP is simple. They are looking for a way to oppose cap and trade without being opposed to combating global warming. Republicans consider this more government regulation on the private sector, and cap and trade would also violate the Republican ideology of never doing anything that would harm the corporate bottom line, but anti-climate change legislation has widespread support, so the GOP has to find a way to scare public support away from Obama’s proposal.

I first wrote about this on Saturday, when the GOP first starting floating the attack that Obama’s cap and trade was a sales tax on energy. The GOP is trying to pull a page out of the same playbook that they used to defeat President Clinton’s health care reform. If the GOP can’t find a good reason to oppose a bill, they try to scare people by claiming that the proposed program is too expensive, all the while hiding the real reason why they oppose the legislation. It is tactics like these, which turn people away from politics. The Republican Party is still trying to scare America, instead of lead it.

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Gov. Mark Sanford Compares Accepting Stimulus Money to Child Abuse

Mar 31 2009 Published by under Featured News

Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) continues to try to give a rise to his 2012 presidential hopes by waging war against the stimulus package. Today on the Glenn Beck show, Sanford said that accepting stimulus money was the equivalent of fiscal child abuse.

Here is the video courtesy of Think Progress:

Host Glenn Beck sought to clarify Sanford’s point that it was better for the future of the children in his state not to take the federal stimulus money. Sanford said, “Since we don’t have any of this money that’s now being dispensed from Washington, DC; since we’re going out and printing money and we’re issuing debt to solve a problem that was created by too much debt; since that’s taking place, and since those costs will be borne by the next generation, in fact it is sort of fiscal child abuse to do what we’re doing.”

Let’s give Gov. Sanford a little straight talk about poor children in his state. According to the most recent data available from National Center for Children in Poverty, compiled before the recession, 19% of the children in his state live in poverty, and 39% of those children have only one parent that is employed either part year or part time, while 33% of the children don’t have an employed parent. According to South Carolina Kids Count, 14% of First Graders are not ready for first grade, and 13% of students in the state have to repeat one of the first three grades. Thirty three percent of all tenth graders fail one part of their exit exam on their first try, and 32% of students don’t graduate high school.

The real child abuse comes in healthcare. According to a November 2008 study by FamiliesUSA, South Carolina has the 13th highest percentage of uninsured children in the country at 12.2%, and even worse, 88.5% of these uninsured children come from homes where at least one parent works year round. As bad as these numbers are, I suspect that all have gotten worse during this recession. The state’s unemployment rate is already at 11%, and is expected to peak at 14%, yet Sanford thinks it is child abuse to help poor families with stimulus money.

We all know that Sanford is just one of the Republican governors who are throwing their states under the bus in the hope of being the 2012 GOP nominee. However, to compare the taking of federal stimulus money to child abuse when the governor is turning down money that would help the poor children of his state, for the sole purpose of advancing his own political ambitions is wrong. Sanford is trying to build his rep as real conservative off of turning down stimulus money. While this may appeal to some Republicans, I can’t see how it helps his political star with the rest of the country.

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Rachel Maddow is poised to Dethrone Larry King

Mar 31 2009 Published by under Featured News

Although, she isn’t putting up Glenn Beck like numbers over at Fox News, MSNBC’s Rachael Maddow’s show is up 98% in total viewers and she is now running virtually even with CNN’s Larry King at 9 pm. Could the end be near for the venerable King?

According to the NBC press release on the 2009 first quarter ratings, “The Rachel Maddow Show again out-rated CNN’s “Larry King Live” among A25-54 in March (340,000 vs. 293,000), and finished within 50,000 total viewers (1,133,000 vs. 1,177,000).”The Rachel Maddow Show” was up 98 percent in total viewers compared to March 2008 (1,133,000 vs. 573,000) and up 70 percent in A25-54 (340,000 vs. 200,000). It isn’t as if Larry King is losing viewers. King’s ratings are up 20%, and he is up 9% in total viewers. The problem would seem to be that King’s ratings are relatively flat.

The scary thing for CNN when it comes to Larry King is that on some nights he is getting beaten by Maddow in total viewers. Last Thursday, Maddow outdrew King 1.2 million to 1.1 million. However, Maddow’s ratings were still about half of Sean Hannity’s over at Fox News. On Friday, Maddow and King ran about even with King winning 875,000-844,000 but on Monday Maddow beat King 974,000-918,000. As you can see, Maddow isn’t just competitive with King, she is beating him. I think these numbers say more about the popularity of Maddow’s show, which on some nights is better than Keith Olbermann’s Countdown, than any decline for Larry King.

The problem for CNN is that before the rise of Fox News, King was a cable ratings monster, and THE place for newsmakers to go. Over time though, King’s show has become the home of criminal mysteries, and entertainment conversation. For viewers who want political talk, either FNC or MSNBC is the place to go. It is really is only a matter of time until Maddow starts beating King on a nightly basis, and with CNN’s other prime time struggles, I do wonder how much longer they can stick with King. To me, King’s slide is another symptom of CNN’s inability to keep up with the times.

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Afghanistan Passes a Law that “Legalizes” Rape

Mar 31 2009 Published by under Featured News

Seeking allies for the upcoming election Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai signed the Shia Family Law which negates the need for sexual consent between married couples, approves child marriage, and restricts a woman’s right to leave the home. While Americans are considering the military challenges in Afghanistan, there are also political and human rights issues that Obama administration also must address.

As the The Independent points out, this law is reminiscent of the hard line Taliban regime. International media criticism of Karzai’s decision has been severe. The Daily Mail ran a headline that asked if Karzai was as bad as the Taiban.

Shinkai Karokhail, a female member of the Afghan national parliament explained why the law was passed now, ‘It’s about votes. Karzai is in a hurry to appease the Shia because the elections are on the way.’ The controversial section in the law is Section 132 which states, “states that women must obey their husband’s sexual demands and that a man can expect to have sex with his wife at least ‘once every four nights’ when traveling, unless they are ill.”

Afghanistan passes a law that takes away the need for sexual consent from a wife, and we hear nothing from the Obama administration. I understand the political realities surrounding Karzai’s fragile regime, and the U.S. worries that any criticism could embolden Karzai’s opposition, but if Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration want to be a champion of human rights, they can’t pick and choose where they criticize based on political expediency.

In fact, here is what Hillary Clinton said in her speech at the International Conference on Afghanistan, “The status of Afghanistan’s army, the lives of women and girls, the country’s education and health systems are far better today than they were in 2001. So if all of us represented here work with the government and people of Afghanistan, we will help not only to secure their future, but ours as well.”

I don’t think that the Shia Family Law makes life better for women and girls in Afghanistan. Just like any other administration, President Obama should not get a free pass on human rights issues. In my opinion, Democrats should be held more accountable on human rights issues, because they tend to campaign on them.

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The Curious World of Bill O’Reilly

Mar 30 2009 Published by under Featured News

Bill O’Reilly gave an interview recently to The Hollywood Reporter where he continued his feud with NBC/MSNBC by calling MSNBC a hateful product that only exists to make money, unlike FNC where O’Reilly once described the disappearance of Laci Peterson as good for ratings. It a strange world Bill O’Reilly lives in, a very strange world.

He continued with his NBC left wing conspiracy theory by saying, about NBC, “They’re dishonest people who do a lot of damage. They put out a product — MSNBC — that is hateful, and they’re doing it solely to make money.. (Jeff) Zucker is in charge of the whole deal, so that delineation doesn’t wash. It’s that brand. Now, I have a lot of respect for the “Today” show because they do a very good job. But if you look at that NBC operation, they’re all left-wing ideologues.”

O’Reilly slipped in this bit of delusion about why liberals hate Fox News, “Because we beat their brains out and their representatives can’t stand up to us, so of course they’re not going to like the situation.” He said that he attacks powerful and dishonest people and organizations like GE and Keith Olbermann, “If the powerful are dishonest and peddling hate, we will expose them. Look, GE was the last company doing business with Iran while they were killing American military personnel in Iraq, and I’m not supposed to get upset about that?”

Here is some reality. FNC and O’Reilly are in it for the money too. Here is what he said about why FNC devoted so much coverage to the Laci Peterson case, “We do Laci Peterson every 15 minutes and see the numbers go up. It’s a story that resonates with women particularly.” O’Reilly has also used his show to claim that all poor people are lazy, “It’s hard to do it because you gotta look people in the eye and tell ‘em they’re irresponsible and lazy. And who’s gonna wanna do that? Because that’s what poverty is, ladies and gentlemen. In this country, you can succeed if you get educated and work hard. Period. Period.”

How could I not include O’Reilly’s comments about the rape and murder of Jennifer Moore? O’Reilly showed his compassion by describing the situation as, “She was 5-foot-2, 105 pounds, wearing a miniskirt and a halter top with a bare midriff. Now, again, there you go. So every predator in the world is gonna pick that up at 2 in the morning.” If Bill is the opposite of hateful, then I don’t ever want to meet his definition of love and compassion alone in a dark alley.

It is an interesting world that O’Reilly lives in. He obviously isn’t on Earth with the rest of us, unless he is so deluded that he actually buys his defense of the hate he spews every day on the radio and TV as a good thing. In O’Reilly’s world, anybody that dares hold Bill accountable is a hate filled enemy. O’Reilly likes to see himself as the one who holds the powerful accountable, but who holds him accountable?

O’Reilly’s gimmick is selling enemies and hate. This is why he ambushed Amanda Terkel of the Center for American Progress. Like all good McCarthyites, O’Reilly needs an enemy, without one he is just a crazy old white guy yelling into a camera.

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Former Cheney Aide Doesn’t Deny Assassination Hit List

Mar 30 2009 Published by under Featured News

Last month journalist Seymour Hersh broke the story that the Bush administration used an executive assassination ring to go into countries and execute people on a hit list. Today on CNN’s The Situation Room, former Cheney aide John Hannah said that a list of targets exists and there are troops in the field who have the authority to capture or kill certain individuals.

Here is the video courtesy of Think Progress:

Host Wolf Blitzer asked Hannah about a list of targets for assassination, and he replied, “There’s clearly a group of people that go through a very extremely well-vetted process, interagency process…that have committed acts of war against the United States, who are at war with the United States or are suspected of planning operations of war against the United States, who authority is given to our troops in the field in certain war theaters to capture or kill those individuals. That is certainly true.”

Hannah also said that he doubted that Congress was notified about the assassinations. Hersh originally said at a University of Minnesota event last month that, “Right now, today, there was a story in the New York Times that if you read it carefully mentioned something known as the Joint Special Operations Command — JSOC it’s called. It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently. They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office. They did not report to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or to Mr. [Robert] Gates, the secretary of defense. They reported directly to him. …Congress has no oversight of it. It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on.”

At first I thought that this story was too outrageous to be true, but with the story yesterday that Cheney tried to sabotage Obama with Israel, and with the wide list of documented secret activities that have been confirmed to have gone on under the Bush administration, is this really a surprise? Cheney believes in the unlimited authority of the Executive Branch, so would it really be that big of a stretch that he would be in charge of an executive assassination ring? Until I see evidence that contradicts this report, I am inclined to believe it.

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Cheney Tried to Sabotage Obama with Israel

Mar 29 2009 Published by under Featured News

In a piece in the New Yorker by Seymour Hersh about the complexities facing the Obama administration on the issue of Syria, Hersh reports that now former vice president Dick Cheney tried to sabotage the relationship between then president elect Obama and Israel by saying that Obama was pro-Palestinian and that he would never support their efforts.

Hersh writes that, “Cheney began getting messages from the Israelis about pressure from Obama when he was President-elect. Cheney, who worked closely with the Israeli leadership in the lead-up to the Gaza war, portrayed Obama to the Israelis as a “pro-Palestinian,” who would not support their efforts (and, in private, disparaged Obama, referring to him at one point as someone who would “never make it in the major leagues”).”

Hersh’s reporting is excellent, as it details the potential complexities facing the new administration as they try to form an approach to Syria, while also dealing with Iran. Is anyone surprised at all that Cheney would try to poison the Irsrael/Obama relationship before it ever got started? Sadly, it also isn’t much of a surprise that Cheney thought that Obama wouldn’t make it in the major leagues of politics. You know, there is no way that Obama could possibly be as successful as the least popular administration ever.

Cheney’s insult of Obama makes me wonder what he considers being successful in the “major leagues?” Would it be an approval rating in the teens and twenties? How about carrying out policies that alienate the United States from the rest of the world, or perhaps it is completely destroying your political party to the point where it is directionless and virtually insignificant?

Cheney is in no position to talk about success in the big leagues. It was borderline criminal of him to use his last days in office to try to undermine the Obama relationship with Israel, but he is delusional if he thinks that he was a success in the big leagues.

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Ben Stein Defends Jim Cramer While Applauding Jon Stewart

Mar 29 2009 Published by under Featured News

In his column for The New York Times today, Ben Stein defended CNBC’s Jim Cramer for playing the financial soothsayer, while also applauding The Daily Show host Jon Stewart for bringing us back to reality.

Mr. Stein classified himself as bemused by the Cramer/Stewart exchange. Stein defended Cramer by writing, “Humans can’t consistently pick the right stocks or call markets, foretell political or geopolitical events or successfully predict changes in interest rates or commodity prices…Yet, we cry out for someone to tell us the future, like children who want to hear the end of the story. When Mr. Cramer tries to satisfy that need, he is doing no more than answering a deep human wish. But he — and everyone else in a similar situation — should make it clear that these are no more than opinions and guesses, which could easily be wrong and often are. This is not just boilerplate. This is life. The way it is.”

He said that he didn’t fault Cramer for his shtick, “I DON’T blame Mr. Cramer for trying to act as if he knows the future. That’s his gig. But the most that economic seers can do is apply broad, generally acceptable principles to current situations and try to go from there. When I stray far from that, I hope that thoughtful readers will call me to account. Life is deeply, terrifyingly uncertain. I applaud a comedy guy from Comedy Central for calling us all to account.”

It is rare when television captures the mood of the country at a critical moment the way that the Stewart/Cramer interview did. I think that in years to come when the financial crisis is discussed on television, clips of that interview will be played. Ben Stein offered a very philosophical opinion. It is true that Jim Cramer alone should not be blamed. I don’t fault him for his television persona either. I always have viewed Cramer as entertainment. I would never make a financial move based on what a TV personality said.

Stewart does deserve praise because he was able to channel an unwieldy issue into an understandable discussion. President Obama is the only other person who has had a degree of success explaining this issue. I don’t think we have heard the last about the Stewart/Cramer interview, because it has become culturally relevant. Ben Stein’s piece offered an explanation for why individuals are so willing to place their faith in people like Cramer, and why critics like Jon Stewart serve such a pivotal role when faith isn’t enough to explain a crisis.

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Petraeus Disagrees with Cheney’s Criticism of Obama

Mar 29 2009 Published by under Featured News

Today on CNN’s State of the Union program, Centcom Commander Gen. David Petraeus disagreed with former vice president Dick Cheney’s statement that President Obama’s national security policy has made the US safe and more vulnerable to a terrorist attack. Petraeus also came out against the Bush torture policy.

Here is the video courtesy of Think Progress

Host John King asked Petraeus if he agreed with Cheney’s view of Obama’s national security policy. Petraeus said, “Well, I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that, John. I think that, in fact, there is a good debate going on about the importance of values in all that we do. I think that, if one violates the values that we hold so dear, that we jeopardize — well, in fact, I put out a memorandum to the soldiers in the Multinational Force-Iraq, when I was the commander, because of concern that we may not be taking some of these seriously enough. As you know, the field manual came out, from the Army, that is used by all of the different services that completely, clearly outlaws torture. So we think for the military, in particular, that can’t — that’s a line that can’t be crossed.”

Cheney has defended the torture policy as essential, but Petraeus disagrees. This is the same Dick Cheney that praised Gen. Petraeus as a man of candor and integrity after Moveon.org ran the infamous General Betray us ad. In September 2007 Cheney said of Petraeus while speaking in Kansas City that he admired the, “integrity and candor that Gen. Petraeus showed in his hearings before Congress,” and he added that “the attacks on him by MoveOn.org in ad space provided at subsidized rates in the New York Times last week were an outrage.”

The Bush administration used Petraeus to buy time and political cover for their Iraq policy, but Petraeus’s own methodology is much closer to the Obama policy that it is to Bush/Cheney. It does seem as if Cheney has become the deposed ruler grumbling in exile across the Potomac River. Petraeus is correct to disagree with Cheney’s statements. When Petraeus talks about perceptions, and reinforcing American values, this is something Bush and Cheney never cared for. They thought that military might was all that matter, and this view had disastrous results for the country.

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McCain Won’t Endorse Palin for 2012

Mar 29 2009 Published by under Featured News

John McCain was on Meet the Press today, and he gave an interesting answer when he was asked about supporting Sarah Palin for 2012. He only said that Palin should compete, and talked about all the good candidates the GOP has for 2012. He gave a let’s wait and see answer to supporting Palin.

Here is the video:

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When host David Gregory asked McCain if he would support Palin in 2012, he answered, “I’d like to see her compete. I think we’ve got some very good candidates: Jon Huntsman and–the problem when I run down these names, I always leave, leave out a, a name–Bobby Jindal, Tim Pawlenty. There’s, there’s so many. There’s a lot of good, fresh talent out there. On specifically supporting Palin, he said, “Oh, I’d have to see who the candidates are and, and what the situation is at the time. But have no doubt of my respect, admiration and love for Sarah and her family.”

That certainly sounds like an answer that a former nominee would give about a running mate who he didn’t see eye to eye with. The Palin and McCain camps are still trading jabs and blame over who was at fault for last year’s defeat. McCain could be a big problem for Palin, especially if he endorses someone else for the 2012 primary. I could see McCain endorsing Tim Pawlenty or Bobby Jindal. Above everything else, McCain is a good party soldier and he support whoever the nominee is.

The McCain/Palin relationship is reminiscent of the Kerry/Edwards situation in 2004. The two didn’t seem to like each other. Edwards was added to the ticket because he was supposed to be the young star that would push Kerry over the top. After they lost both sides blamed each other, and Kerry never gave a thought to endorsing Edwards in 2008. It is obvious there is some bad blood between the McCain and Palin camps, and this could cause a bit of embarrassment for her in the 2012 primary.

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