Friday, February 6, 2009

Dangerous Waters you're swimming in...

A question for our Republican friends...

Even though the new President has bent over backwards to be bipartisan, even at the risk of pissing off his own base, he's done so...and you've slapped him in the face for it.

He caved to some of your demands on putting tax cuts into the Stimulus, even though it may be a bad idea.

He's open to trimming some of (but not all) of the size of the Stimulus (it still has to be in the $800 Billion dollar range, though).

And now he's even caved to your (well, Kit Bond's) self-important demand that the CIA Interrogators won't be prosecuted.

Here's my question. What if the Stimulus goes down?

What if it takes Bipartisanship with it?

What's going to save your CIA Interrogators then?

If Stimulus goes down, what incentive is there for the Obama Administration not to declare all out war on the Bush Administration? What's to stop the Justice Department? More importantly (and constitutionally, since its their Stimulus Bill you're pissing on) what's to stop the House?

It's the old Washington saying, the enemy isn't the other party, it's the Senate.

If I were my Republican friends, I'd think long and hard about this.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Damn. (AUDIO)

Obama: Speech at the Energy Department Feb. 5, 2009 (VIDEO)

UPDATE: (4:24pm Pacific)

Here is the complete transcript:


U.S. Department of Energy
Washington, D.C.

12:12 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. Well, it is a thrill to be here. Thank you, Secretary Chu, for bringing your experience and expertise to this new role. And thanks to all of you who have done so much on behalf of the country each and every day here at the department. You know, your mission is so important, and it's only going to grow as we transform the ways we produce energy and use energy for the sake of our environment, for the sake of our security, and for the sake of our economy.

As we are meeting, in the halls of Congress just down the street from here, there's a debate going on about the plan I've proposed, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan.

This isn't some abstract debate. Last week, we learned that many of America's largest corporations are planning to lay off tens of thousands of workers. Today we learned that last week, the number of new unemployment claims jumped to 626,000. Tomorrow, we're expecting another dismal jobs report on top of the 2.6 million jobs that we lost last year. We've lost half a million jobs each month for the last two months.

Now, I believe that legislation of such magnitude as has been proposed deserves the scrutiny that it has received over the last month. I think that's a good thing. That's the way democracy is supposed to work. But these numbers that we're seeing are sending an unmistakable message -- and so are the American people. The time for talk is over. The time for action is now, because we know that if we do not act, a bad situation will become dramatically worse. Crisis could turn into catastrophe for families and businesses across the country.

And I refuse to let that happen. We can't delay and we can't go back to the same worn-out ideas that led us here in the first place. In the last few days, we've seen proposals arise from some in Congress that you may not have read but you'd be very familiar with because you've been hearing them for the last 10 years, maybe longer. They're rooted in the idea that tax cuts alone can solve all our problems; that government doesn't have a role to play; that half-measures and tinkering are somehow enough; that we can afford to ignore our most fundamental economic challenges -- the crushing cost of health care, the inadequate state of so many of our schools, our dangerous dependence on foreign oil.

So let me be clear: Those ideas have been tested, and they have failed. They've taken us from surpluses to an annual deficit of over a trillion dollars, and they've brought our economy to a halt. And that's precisely what the election we just had was all about. The American people have rendered their judgment. And now is the time to move forward, not back. Now is the time for action.

Just as past generations of Americans have done in trying times, we can and we must turn this moment of challenge into one of opportunity. The plan I've proposed has at its core a simple idea: Let's put Americans to work doing the work that America needs to be done.

This plan will save or create over 3 million jobs -- almost all of them in the private sector.

This plan will put people to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, our dangerous -- dangerously deficient dams and levees.

This plan will put people to work modernizing our health care system, not only saving us billions of dollars, but countless lives.

This plan will put people to work renovating more than 10,000 schools, giving millions of children the chance to learn in 21st century classrooms, libraries and labs -- and to all the scientists in the room today, you know what that means for America's future.

This plan will provide sensible tax relief for the struggling middle class, unemployment insurance and continuing health care coverage for those who've lost their jobs, and it will help prevent our states and local communities from laying off firefighters and teachers and police.

And finally, this plan will begin to end the tyranny of oil in our time.

After decades of dragging our feet, this plan will finally spark the creation of a clean energy industry that will create hundreds of thousands of jobs over the next few years, manufacturing wind turbines and solar cells, for example -- millions more after that. These jobs and these investments will double our capacity to generate renewable energy over the next few years.

We'll fund a better, smarter electricity grid and train workers to build it -- a grid that will help us ship wind and solar power from one end of this country to another. Think about it. The grid that powers the tools of modern life -- computers, appliances, even BlackBerrys -- (laughter) -- looks largely the same as it did half a century ago. Just these first steps towards modernizing the way we distribute electricity could reduce consumption by 2 to 4 percent.

We'll also lead a revolution in energy efficiency, modernizing more than 75 percent of federal buildings and improving the efficiency of more than 2 million American homes. This will not only create jobs, it will cut the federal energy bill by a third and save taxpayers $2 billion each year and save Americans billions of dollars more on their utility bills.

In fact, as part of this effort, today I've signed a presidential memorandum requesting that the Department of Energy set new efficiency standards for common household appliances. This will save consumers money, this will spur innovation, and this will conserve tremendous amounts of energy. We'll save through these simple steps over the next 30 years the amount of energy produced over a two-year period by all the coal-fired power plants in America.

And through investments in our mass transit system to boost capacity, in our roads to reduce congestion, and in technologies that will accelerate the development of innovations like plug-in hybrid vehicles, we'll be making a significant down payment on a cleaner and more energy independent future.

Now, I read the other day that critics of this plan ridiculed our notion that we should use part of the money to modernize the entire fleet of federal vehicles to take advantage of state of the art fuel efficiency. This is what they call pork. You know the truth. It will not only save the government significant money over time, it will not only create manufacturing jobs for folks who are making these cars, it will set a standard for private industry to match. And so when you hear these attacks deriding something of such obvious importance as this, you have to ask yourself -- are these folks serious? Is it any wonder that we haven't had a real energy policy in this country?

For the last few years, I've talked about these issues with Americans from one end of this country to another. And Washington may not be ready to get serious about energy independence, but I am. And so are you. And so are the American people.

Inaction is not an option that is acceptable to me and it's certainly not acceptable to the American people -- not on energy, not on the economy, not at this critical moment.

So I am calling on all the members of Congress -- Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate -- to rise to this moment. No plan is perfect. There have been constructive changes made to this one over the last several weeks. I would love to see additional improvements today. But the scale and the scope of this plan is the right one. Our approach to energy is the right one. It's what America needs right now, and we need to move forward today. We can't keep on having the same old arguments over and over again that lead us to the exact same spot -- where we are wasting previous energy, we're not creating jobs, we're failing to compete in the global economy, and we end up bickering at a time when the economy urgently needs action.

I thank all of you for being here, and I'm eager to work with Secretary Chu and all of you as we stand up to meet the challenges of this new century. That's what the American people are looking for. That's what I expect out of Congress. That's what I believe we can deliver to our children and our grandchildren in their future.

Thank you so much, everybody. I appreciate it. Thank you. (Applause.)

A matter of emphasis...

I love the Mainstream Media because you can always go there to get such straight answers.

Can you detect the sarcasm in my voice? It's a blog, it's hard to tell.

For example, in Reuters today, you see the following headline: Obama CIA pick may back "limited" abuse prosecution.

President Barack Obama's choice to head the CIA said on Thursday he would support "limited" prosecution of any agents who deliberately violated the law in interrogating terrorism suspects.

Former White House chief of staff Leon Panetta, in Senate confirmation hearings on his nomination, broke with outgoing CIA Director Michael Hayden to support a congressional inquiry into the agency's detention and interrogation program launched after the September 11 attacks.

He said the Senate Intelligence Committee would be an appropriate place for an inquiry "to learn lessons from what happened" in the program, and said he would do everything he could to cooperate.

Ahhh, wonderful to hear.

But wait a minute Reuters is European. (Damn you, old Europe!!) Time Magazine, a fine American publication, on the other hand, has a different take entirely called: Panetta: Don't Punish Waterboarding.

CIA Director nominee Leon Panetta says the CIA interrogators who used waterboarding or other harsh techniques against prisoners on the authority of the White House should not be prosecuted.

Panetta told a Senate panel on Thursday that those individuals should not be prosecuted or investigated if they acted pursuant to the law as presented by the attorney general.

See, America the trick gotta keep reading, because Time Magazine eventually says the same thing, despite its headline; which as you know is written by someone else.

However, Panetta says that if interrogators went beyond the methods that they were told were legal, they should be investigated and prosecuted.

The Bush White House approved CIA waterboarding of three prisoners in 2002 and 2003. The CIA banned the practice internally in 2006.

President Barack Obama has prohibited harsh interrogation techniques.

For the record, that's whole Time article.

But before we go cheering Reuters, they loop back as well:

Panetta said he considered "waterboarding" to be torture, but did not support prosecuting agents who relied on high-level legal guidance allowing such techniques.

But at the same time...

However, "if there were those who deliberately violated the law, and deliberately took actions which were above and beyond the standards presented to them, then obviously in those limited cases there should be prosecution," he said.

This is all good, but the truth of what's going to happen probably lies somewhere in between Reuters and Time. I bet Panetta wouldn't mind prosecuting some of his guys, if for no other reason than to get them to squeal on the big fish: Rummy, Cheney and the unemployable Gonzalez. But remember, he's not a prosecutor. He also doesn't want to start a rebellion on his first day at Langley.

The best strategy is to punt the thing to Congress, and let them do the dirty (and constitutionally mandated) work.

But if there's one thing to bear in mind, that did put me in a bit of a cold sweat, it's this paragraph from the Reuters article:

Panetta said he would if necessary ask Obama to allow harsher interrogations than those covered by the Army Field Manual, which the president last month set as the government standard. The manual bans techniques such as waterboarding.

"I would not hesitate," to seek broader interrogation authority, Panetta said, adding "I think that this president would do nothing that would violate the laws that are in place."

He promised to tell Congress if Obama were to authorize a departure from standards the president imposed last month.

So...the President might go back to torture, but he'll warn us first?

I don't see how that stands with "this president would do nothing that would violate the laws that are in place." Methinks (mehopes) this is a way to placate the Republicans on the panel.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The President continues...

From the Washington Post.  There's more, but this the good stuff...

In recent days, there have been misguided criticisms of this plan that echo the failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis -- the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems; that we can meet our enormous tests with half-steps and piecemeal measures; that we can ignore fundamental challenges such as energy independence and the high cost of health care and still expect our economy and our country to thrive.

I reject these theories, and so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change. They know that we have tried it those ways for too long. And because we have, our health-care costs still rise faster than inflation. Our dependence on foreign oil still threatens our economy and our security. Our children still study in schools that put them at a disadvantage. We've seen the tragic consequences when our bridges crumble and our levees fail.

Every day, our economy gets sicker -- and the time for a remedy that puts Americans back to work, jump-starts our economy and invests in lasting growth is now.

Now is the time to protect health insurance for the more than 8 million Americans at risk of losing their coverage and to computerize the health-care records of every American within five years, saving billions of dollars and countless lives in the process.

Now is the time to save billions by making 2 million homes and 75 percent of federal buildings more energy-efficient, and to double our capacity to generate alternative sources of energy within three years.

Now is the time to give our children every advantage they need to compete by upgrading 10,000 schools with state-of-the-art classrooms, libraries and labs; by training our teachers in math and science; and by bringing the dream of a college education within reach for millions of Americans.

And now is the time to create the jobs that remake America for the 21st century by rebuilding aging roads, bridges and levees; designing a smart electrical grid; and connecting every corner of the country to the information superhighway.

These are the actions Americans expect us to take without delay. They're patient enough to know that our economic recovery will be measured in years, not months. But they have no patience for the same old partisan gridlock that stands in the way of action while our economy continues to slide.

So we have a choice to make. We can once again let Washington's bad habits stand in the way of progress. Or we can pull together and say that in America, our destiny isn't written for us but by us. We can place good ideas ahead of old ideological battles, and a sense of purpose above the same narrow partisanship. We can act boldly to turn crisis into opportunity and, together, write the next great chapter in our history and meet the test of our time.

The writer is president of the United States.
I had to leave that last part in.  Too cool.

Colbert nails 'em...(VIDEO)

Staunch Conservative Stephen Colbert (not to be confused with Comedy Central Comedian Stephen Colbert) has a warning for the Republicans.

Let's get it on…

This morning, Barack Obama struck back

President Obama mounted a staunch defense today of the economic stimulus plan now before Congress, chiding critics who want it to focus primarily on tax cuts and asserting that Americans rejected their theories in the November elections.

In an appearance at the White House with Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, Obama urged Congress to act quickly on the stimulus package, which has come under attack from Senate Republicans and some Democrats alarmed by its roughly $900 billion price tag.

"We know that even if we do everything we should, this crisis was years in the making, and it will take more than weeks or months to turn things around," Obama said. "But make no mistake: A failure to act, and act now, will turn crisis into a catastrophe and guarantee a longer recession, a less robust recovery, and a more uncertain future. Millions more jobs will be lost. More businesses will be shuttered. More dreams will be deferred."

Oh yeah...

Proof, once again, that the man's read The Defining Moment. Action, and action now.

But my favorite moment, one reflective of the campaign, is his turning toward the Conversative talking point, and finally…finally…counterpunching.

Apparently referring to Republican foes of the stimulus plan, Obama said recent criticisms of it "echo the very same failed economic theories that led us into this crisis in the first place: the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems, that we can ignore fundamental challenges like energy independence and the high cost of health care, that we can somehow deal with this in a piecemeal fashion and still expect our economy and our country to thrive."

Obama added: "I reject those theories. And so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change."

Translation. I won. Get over it. Lead. Follow...or prepare to get rolled over.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Rod Blagojevich and his one moment of sanity. (VIDEO)

I think the man's scum, but Blago made his best case for going on TV as much as he did during the run up to his Impeachment Trial.  He said he had young daughters, and didn't want them to believe he was guilty (about 3:15 in). Okay, even though I think he is guilty, I can live with that.  I understand that.

At the same time, he lied about being allowed to call witnesses. As I recall, he wanted to pull down every member of the Obama Administration to embarass them during his trial. The Illinois Senate said no, only witnesses germane to the case would be allowed, and Blagojevich threw a hissy fit, going on all those aforementioned Talk Shows, claiming he wasn't allowed any witnesses at all.

From the Chicago Sun Times:

The rules do prohibit both House impeachment prosecutors and the governor’s lawyers from subpoenaing people who “could compromise the U.S. Attorney’s criminal investigation of Rod R. Blagojevich.” But none of the rules prohibit Blagojevich from presenting his side of the story, said Sen. Matt Murphy (R-Palatine), one of the people who drafted them.

The President is Wrong...

"This will be the first time on this blog that I am going to wholeheartedly disagree with Barack Obama.  He wants to appoint Senator Judd Gregg, a Republican as Commerce Secretary, theoretically giving the Democrats a 60 seat majority after the Democratic New Hampshire Governor, John Lynch, appoints his replacement.  But...

"Senator [Judd] Gregg [R-NH] has said he would not resign his seat in the U.S. Senate if it changed the balance in the Senate," Governor John Lynch said in a statement given to the Union Leader. "Based on my discussions, it is clear the White House and Senate leadership understand this as well."

Hey, I got an idea.  Maybe Judd Gregg shoudn't be Commerce Secretary.

This is not a guy or a position that I'm losing a lot of sleep over. Personally, I would have stuck with Richardson, despite his troubles, especially after seeing this.

Added to that, let's face facts, Judd Gregg was about to get his ass kicked in the upcoming Senate Elections in 2010. Why help him or his party out? If he wants the job, then these are the conditions. You take it, I appoint who I want (a Democrat). If that's too much for you, fine. Stay in the Senate, and get removed via the ballot box. Works for me either way.

Blue Hampshire has more about this. (They're a progressive site dealing exclusively with New Hampshire Politics. And no, it's not one I regularly visit.)

But if the Republicans filibuster just one bill out of the Senate after today, I think John Lynch should pay a political price for his decision.  While I'm sure there's been pressure from Harry Reid and Barack Obama, the final decision rests with John Lynch, and he should have said hell no...

Monday, February 2, 2009

Don't forget your Frank Rich for the day...

Frank Rich of the New York Times:

[Y]ou might think that a loyal opposition would want to pitch in and play a serious role at a time of national peril. Not by singing “Kumbaya” but by collaborating on possible solutions and advancing a policy debate that many Americans’ lives depend on. As Raymond Moley, of F.D.R.’s brain trust, said of the cross-party effort at the harrowing start of that presidency in March 1933, Hoover and Roosevelt acolytes “had forgotten to be Republicans or Democrats” as they urgently tried to rescue their country.

The current G.O.P. acts as if it — and we — have all the time in the world. It kept hoping in vain that the fast-waning Blago sideshow would somehow impale Obama or Rahm Emanuel. It has come perilously close to wishing aloud that a terrorist attack will materialize to discredit Obama’s reversals of Bush policy on torture, military tribunals and Gitmo. The party’s sole consistent ambition is to play petty politics to gum up the works.

If anything, the Republican Congressional leadership seems to be emulating John McCain’s September stunt of “suspending” his campaign to “fix” the Wall Street meltdown. For all his bluster, McCain in the end had no fixes to offer and sat like a pet rock at the White House meeting on the crisis before capitulating to the bailout. His imitators likewise posture in public about their determination to take action, then do nothing while more and more Americans cry for help.

The problem is not that House Republicans gave the stimulus bill zero votes last week. That’s transitory political symbolism, and it had no effect on the outcome. Some of the naysayers will vote for the revised final bill anyway (and claim, Kerry-style, that they were against it before they were for it). The more disturbing problem is that the party has zero leaders and zero ideas. It is as AWOL in this disaster as the Bush administration was during Katrina.


The Republicans do have one idea, of course, but it’s hardly fresh: more and bigger tax cuts, particularly for business and the well-off. That’s the sum of their “alternative” stimulus plan. Obama has tried to accommodate this panacea, perhaps to a fault. Mainstream economists in both parties believe that tax cuts in the stimulus package will deliver far less bang for the buck than, say, infrastructure spending. The tax-cut stimulus embraced a year ago by the G.O.P. induced next-to-no consumer spending as Americans merely banked the savings or paid down debt.

Sunday, February 1, 2009