Wednesday, December 31, 2008

January 2009... End of an Error

This is the last day of the year 2008. A year when the effects from the missteps, failures and duplicities of the tumultuous eight years of the Bush administration came home to roost. Or, should we say, were flung at him.

As Bob Herbert laments today in "Add Up the Damage" (NYTimes).... "This is the man who gave us the war in Iraq and Guantánamo and torture and rendition; who turned the Clinton economy and the budget surplus into fool’s gold; who dithered while New Orleans drowned; who trampled our civil liberties at home and ruined our reputation abroad; who let Dick Cheney run hog wild and thought Brownie was doing a heckuva job."

The invasion of Iraq is a good example of the wrecking ball the White House mafia took to our country. Herbert reflects on the devastation.... "The Bush administration specialized in deceit. How else could you get the public (and a feckless Congress) to go along with an invasion of Iraq as an absolutely essential response to the Sept. 11 attacks, when Iraq had had nothing to do with the Sept. 11 attacks?

"Exploiting the public’s understandable fears, Mr. Bush made it sound as if Iraq was about to nuke us: 'We cannot wait,' he said, 'for the final proof — the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.'

"He then set the blaze that has continued to rage for nearly six years, consuming more than 4,000 American lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.... The financial cost to the U.S. will eventually reach $3 trillion or more, according to the Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz."

So just how does The Decider view this sorry Iraq-war chapter in his catalog of horrors?

"A year into the war Mr. Bush was cracking jokes about it at the annual dinner of the Radio and Television Correspondents Association. He displayed a series of photos that showed him searching the Oval Office, peering behind curtains and looking under the furniture. A mock caption had Mr. Bush saying: 'Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere.' ”

Couldn't you just die laughing.

Now The Decider is trying to tidy up the record of his apocalyptic reign by rewriting history. But, we were given a more accurate image to remember him by in the form of a size 10. No, not the measurements of his ego-inflated all-hat-and-no-cattle Stetson, but the shoes of an irate reporter flung at his head during his recent legacy-burnishing trip to Iraq.

For a Bush legacy summation after eight years of pent-up frustrations, for a you-deserve-no-breaks-today job evaluation.... on the your-place-in-history scale of 1 to 10, this shoe-fly moment was a ten plus.

On January 22 Barack Obama will right the national course and restore the forward momentum our nation enjoyed before we were so rudely interrupted.

That most of all is why we celebrate the arrival of 2009, a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

In Some the Superficial Runs Very Deep....

Sometimes when you're least expecting it you are gifted with a "wow" moment.

Today's "wow" moment erupted on MSNBC's early show "Morning Joe" hosted by Joe Scarborough with sidekick Mika Brzezinski.

From time to time Mika is able to lure her father Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski onto the show to share his foreign policy wisdom. Today, as all too often happens, arrogant Joe thinks he knows it all and uses his best "final word" pushy attitude to talk down views differing from his own and started down that path with Dr. Z.

But..... today, Dr. Z turned the tables and delivered a jolt to Jivin' Joe. He interrupted Joe in mid-spout after Joe flatly stated about the current dangerous Israel-Hamas escalation of the Palestine conflict.... "you cannot blame what's going on in Israel on the Bush administration."

Unable to bear Joe's sound-bite-analysis any longer, an exasperated Dr. Z stopped Joe in his tracks and face-to-face charged him of having "such a stunningly superficial knowledge of what went on, it is almost embarrassing to listen to you."


Mika, as evidently is her assigned task, did her squirming best to restrain Joe's typical slash and burn response.... even throwing her father under the bus by explaining to the obviously ego-bruised Joe that her father's "stunning" comments would pass for affection in their family. For shame Mika. What price honor?

The Morning Joe show has great guests, but Joe needs to drop the rude "Imus wanna-be" routine. He can't pull it off and despite Mika's best efforts, too many times he boringly makes himself and his talking-point world view the story, taking time away from the truly interesting and knowledgeable opinions being offered by real experts.

Here is the video of this "wow" encounter.

Thanks for the upper, Dr. Z.... we needed that! Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

GOP Senators: Put USA First

What are the GOP Senators thinking? "Auto Bailout Clears House but Faces Hurdles in Senate." (WaPo)

"The House last night approved an emergency plan to prevent the collapse of the nation's domestic automobile industry, but the measure faces serious opposition in the Senate, where Republicans are revolting against a White House-brokered deal to speed $14 billion to cash-starved General Motors and Chrysler."

After giving white-collar financial types over a trillion dollars.... with barely a string attached.... to bail them out of the fix we're in largely because of their reckless lending and "bundling" practices, Republican senators.... especially southern senators who are protecting their foreign-owned local auto manufacturers.... are threatening to risk all to "stand on principle" and reject a comparatively paltry $14 billion bridge-loan to the blue-collar Big Three.

Risking all means.... bankruptcies that would throw up to 3 million out of work and possibly turn a deep recession into a 1930s depression!

Already rocketing unemployment makes such a denial of financial help an even more death-defying act.... "New Unemployment Claims Surge Unexpectedly." (Huffington)

"The Labor Department reported Thursday that initial applications for jobless benefits in the week ending Dec. 6 rose to a seasonally adjusted 573,000 from an upwardly revised figure of 515,000 in the previous week.

"New jobless claims last week reached their highest level since November 1982...."

And the GOP wants to play Russian Roulette with millions of jobs. It's time to forget mindless ideology and narrow lobbying interests.... it's time to vote for America. Pass the auto financial aid bill!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Blag the Extorter

Just follow your nose. It's not like Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich didn't already exude the stink of corruption.

In April of this year, a Chicago Tribune investigation revealed that at least three of every four $25,000 donors to Boss Blag got something from the administration.... including jobs, contracts or favorable regulatory rulings.

A month later Illinois lawmakers passed an ethics reform bill targeted directly at Blagojevich and his record-setting efforts to collect campaign contributions from state contractors.

The effect of this legislation .... it kicked Boss Blag's arm-twisting into high gear.... "with the urgency of a salesman meeting his annual sales target," according to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. The end of July The Tribune reported that in the month since lawmakers passed the ethics bill, the governor ramped up his efforts by collecting more than a quarter of a million dollars from those with business before the state.

Besides using his office in an effort to trample the Tribune's editorial voices of criticism, Boss Blag thumbed his nose at the state's attempts to reign him in .... toward the end of August he vetoed the ethics bill saying he wants it to be tougher and to include lawmakers as well as himself.

Undoubtedly Boss Blag knew he was being bugged and taped.... but he must have thought he was the windy city's Tony Soprano..... too smart for the Feds, using his "organization" to make crime pay, big time.

His big take would be the selling of the U.S. Senate seat vacated by president-elect Barack Obama. By Illinois law, as governor, Boss Blag is the only person who can name Obama's replacement.

Note to Illinois lawmakers: You couldn't see this situation developing? You were happy to just let this extortionist name your one of two U.S. Senators for Illinois?

Yesterday.... federal prosecutor Fitzgerald of Scooter Libby investigation fame made Boss Blag and his chief of graft, John Harris, do the perp walk, arresting them on corruption charges.


Despite Fitzgerald saying that "the breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering," hours after his arrest Boss Blag was out of jail on his own recognizance.... on a $4,500 bond.... chump change to Boss Blag. (ABC)

Today he's back in the governor's office and as of this writing still has the sole power to appoint Obama's replacement.

Even though according to the Tribune timeline, the "federal criminal investigation" of Boss Blag began in June of 2004, an investigation of what has been labeled as a political crime spree, he was, and still is, allowed to continue to abuse the considerable power of his office.

We need to hear much more.....

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Crawford Crawl

Here's a little ditty to set your foot to tappin', and your spirits soaring. Listen here to.... "Crawl Back to Crawford" (YouTube) by Matt Farmer, performed by the Blue State Cowboys:


Well, for eight long years
We've been payin' your rent
But now your lease done run
And all our money's been spent
So pack up your bags and take a last look around
At how you drove a great nation straight into the ground

And don't let the door
Hit you in the ass on the way out
Don't bother with the goodbyes
Just make sure that you stay out
There ain't no need to call
No need to write
We don't even need you to turn out the light
Just crawl back to Crawford, brother
Promise that you'll leave us alone

Every step of the way, your story's been the same
Just cruisin' through the world
On your daddy's name
You had the oilmen friends
You had the Skull and Bones
But it never would have happened if your name was Jones

Slam dunk, privatize, deregulate
Tax cuts, trickle down
The politics of hate
Flag pin, waterboard
Intelligent design
You were handed your throne by just five of the nine.

Thanks, Matt and the Blue State Cowboys, we needed that!

Matt and the Cowboys are from Chicago and, as Matt said, they wanted to "offer our musical tribute to W's 'legacy.' "

Many of us will admit to suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome... and while this musical gem offers some respite, we'll only find lasting relief when The Decider crawls back to Crawford!

After eight long years.... just 41 more agonizing Bush-days to get through.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Unveiling Bush's Legacy

"Welcome to my hanging."

So said popularity bottom-feeder President George W. Bush at the unveiling of his Union League of Philadelphia's portrait.

Continuing to entertain his receptive audience, he complimented the artist, Mark Carder, for his fine job and observed, "I was taken aback by how much gray paint you had to use."

He later remarked, "I'm especially proud to be co-recipient with a guy I call '41'... we owe our achievements to the same savvy political counselor and firm disciplinarian: Barbara."

After these witty and self-deprecating remarks The Decider made an unabashed grab for Abraham Lincoln's distinguished coattails.

The Union League presidential gallery displays portraits of every Republican president since Lincoln. Bush seized on "Abe's" controversial leadership legacy saying.... "the principles on which he stood have stood the test of time: All men are created equal under God, he said, unflinchingly throughout his presidency. Liberty was given to every man, woman and child on the face of the earth. He has taught Presidents that you must act on your principles and make tough decisions, regardless of the political consequences.

"I have been a..... I have drawn strength from his example. I have learned lessons by reading about Abraham Lincoln"

Oh, pleeeeeze.

Too bad The Decider didn't live up to his own rhetoric or Abe's example.

An editorial in today's The New York Times, "Tortured Justice," paints a far different portrait than the one Bush wants us to see.... "The nation’s courts continue to grapple with the abuses committed by President Bush’s administration in the name of fighting terrorism. The extent of the damage to American liberties, and how lasting it will be, will be told in part by the outcome of two cases that are to be heard by the federal courts."

"On Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that turns on Mr. Bush’s claim that he can order people living in the United States to be detained by the military indefinitely without charges. The case involves Ali al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar who was in the United States legally. He was declared an enemy combatant in mid-2003 and has been held in a Navy brig since then..... This intolerable reading of the law would leave a president free to suspend the rights of anyone, including American citizens."

The second case involves "a Syrian-born Canadian with no ties to terrorism who became a victim of the Bush team’s lawless policy of 'extraordinary rendition' — the outsourcing of interrogations to foreign governments known to torture prisoners.

"Mr. Arar’s ordeal began in 2002, when he was seized by federal agents as he tried to change planes on his way home to Canada from a family vacation. After being held incommunicado in solitary confinement and subjected to harsh interrogation without proper access to a lawyer, he was 'rendered' to Syria, where he was tortured. He was locked up for almost a year in a dank underground cell the size of a grave before he was finally let go."

The Union League Bush portrait depicts a benignly smiling man.... not the ruthless, law-breaking, Constitution-rending, outlaw president who destroyed the American ideal of equal justice for all. Hopefully when hanging The Decider, the Union League doesn't place his portrait anywhere near honest Abe's.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Sixty-seven Years After Infamy....

"December 7, 1941.... a date which will live in infamy.... the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. "

So said President Franklin D. Roosevelt as he asked Congress for a Declaration of War sixty-seven years ago.

On that day Japan also attacked Hong Kong, Guam, the Philippine Islands, Wake Island and Midway Island.

In response to this all-out attack, Roosevelt clearly and forcefully declared.... "As commander in chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us...."

Today it is much different. Seemingly nationless enemies strike civilian populations.... cloaked suicidal terrorism is the new norm, not declarations of war between nations.

As Richard A. Clarke who was the White House counterterrorism coordinator under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush explains today in his op-ed "Plans of Attack" (WaPo) .... "Ten young men land a small boat at a quay in a city of 18 million people. Within minutes of setting ashore, they are throwing grenades and raking crowds with automatic weapons fire. Days later, almost 200 people are dead, more are wounded, the financial capital of a nation of a billion people has ground to a halt, and the world is riveted.

"To most of the world, the Mumbai massacre seems inexplicable and random, like the periodic devastation caused by typhoons or tornadoes, or simply pointless, just killing for killing's sake. But the attack was neither random nor pointless. The carnage in Mumbai was goal-oriented, an attempt to advance an overall strategy that is being ruthlessly pursued by the Islamist radical network."

That is the face of conflict today.

Even Osama bin Laden's dastardly 9/11 attack on the twin towers wasn't a Pearl Harbor.... it wasn't backed by a nation declaring war. The very nationless nature of the attack allowed the Bush presidency to name its own target for retaliation.... Iraq.... leading America down the shadowy path of their selective-intelligence "war on terrorism."

Clarke maps out the terrorism minefield facing the Obama administration.... "Seven years after 9/11, the United States has neither eliminated the threat from al-Qaeda nor secured Afghanistan, where bin Laden's terrorists were once headquartered.

"To accomplish these two tasks, we must now eliminate the new terrorist safe haven in Pakistan. But that will require effective action from a weak and riven Pakistani government. It might also depend upon dealing with the long-standing India-Pakistan rivalry."

In the wake of Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt galvanized the nation through his leadership and call for shared sacrifice as he declared war on Japan. It now falls to Barack Obama to rally the nation, and the world, to a common goal.... the defeat of the hydra-headed terrorist monster.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Life Without Duffy.... Stuffy

If a picture is worth a thousand words.... what is the cost of losing that picture?

Iowa is about to find out.

The once-Pulitzer Prize winning Des Moines Register just showed the door to the last of their what-makes-us-any-different-than-getting-the-news-online-or-from-TV-networks feature.... it chopped Brian Duffy from its staff, thus ending his quarter of a century tenure as the Register's front page political cartoonist and the unique standing of the Register as the only newspaper in the country that carried a front-page cartoon commentary.

It's like taking away our morning coffee.... or the jam on our toast, the raisins in our bran flakes, the frosting on our cinnamon bun!

Let's hope the Register doesn't Bush-up their mistake by refusing to listen to disappointed, even outraged, readers who not only looked forward to Duffy every morning, but counted on him for the wry smile that helped them face another day.... especially during these unsettled times.

Register, reconsider.... please.... give us back our Duffy!

Here is Duffy's final (it doesn't have to be) cartoon.... it says it all without a thousand words!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Big Three: Bush, Hoover, Buchanan

Harold Meyerson looks George W. Bush in the eye and calls him what he is.... Herbert Hoover.

In "Bush's Final Fiasco" Meyerson compares the Bush administration's handling of our downward-spiraling economy to the actions of the 1930's Great Depression president .... "Herbert Hoover, we should recall, had a program for dealing with the Depression. It consisted of lending to banks but opposing fiscal stimulus or direct aid to individuals. Which is why Hank Paulson's frenzied endeavors to prop up the banking sector and Bush's dogged resistance to assisting anybody else amount to pure neo-Hooverism.

"As the 1930s began, Hoover believed that the coordinated actions of the private sector could save the beleaguered economy. It soon became apparent that the only action that private-sector businesses could agree upon was closing down factories and offices and throwing people out of work. Under immense pressure to do something, in late 1931 Hoover asked Congress to establish the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, to provide funds to banks it deemed creditworthy.

"Having done his bit to bail out the banks, however, Hoover rested. He opposed provisions that would have enabled homeowners to hang on to their homes."

Sound familiar?

As Meyerson points out, "The Bush administration's approach to today's meltdown is to direct all its energies and largess to lending institutions. There is, as yet, no program to help floundering homeowners renegotiate the terms of their mortgages. The president is opposed to further stimulus programs, even though private-sector investment in the United States has all but ceased."

Meyerson asks, where's the outrage? He suspects that the answer "is that you can only irreversibly give up on a president once. Further catastrophic failures on the president's part elicit only diminishing returns. Buchanan did nothing while the South seceded: That was it for him. Hoover did nothing as farmers, workers and middle-class America got wiped out: With that, he was beyond rehabilitation. Nixon had Watergate: Enough said. One mega-strike and you're out."

And when it comes to mega-strike outs, Bush has swung and missed over and over. Meyerson counts three biggies.... "He misled us into a nearly endless war of choice to disarm a threat that never really existed. He let a great American city drown. And now he stands by while the economic security of tens of millions of Americans is vanishing.

"Yet in the hearts of his countrymen, Bush's place is already fixed. Even before the financial collapse, he was in the ninth circle of presidential hell, with Buchanan and Hoover. At his own party's national convention this summer, his was the name that no one dared speak.

"And so, though his mishandling of the economy is criminally inept, he is being spared one more outbreak of public rage by two countervailing public sentiments: Americans' relief that he soon will be gone and their kind reluctance to kick a corpse."

Bush justifies his record by saying he kept us safe for eight years (he myopically doesn't count 9/11 or the myriad of victims of his ill-conceived policies).

That's kind of like saying that despite his rampaging through our domestic and foreign landscape like a bull in a china shop one tea cup survived..... but President Decider, that tea cup was made in China.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanks to the Giving....

Thanksgiving blessings!

A Nation of Dolts....

After eight years as the poster boy for gut-decision uninformed leadership by a man who called the Constitution "just a piece of paper,".... the incurious Decider's sorry legacy will be legions of like-minded dummies.

Proof of the decline of an educated U.S. populace was highlighted by Kathleen Parker in "Voters Fail the Test." (WaPo)

As Parker says, "So much for the wisdom of The People.

"A new report from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) on the nation's civic literacy finds that most Americans are too ignorant to vote.

"Out of 2,500 American quiz-takers, including college students, elected officials and other randomly selected citizens, nearly 1,800 flunked a 33-question test on basic civics."

Here's the scary part.... "In fact, elected officials scored slightly lower than the general public with an average score of 44 percent compared to 49 percent.

"Most bracing: Only 27 percent of elected officeholders in the survey could identify a right or freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment."

That's right, our leaders. You know, the ones deciding all things that affect our daily lives.

Really not surprising since we watched incredulously as John McCain's VP choice, Sarah Palin.... the governor of a state.... didn't know the duties of the next office she sought, the vice presidency of our country. She thought the Vice President "ran" the Senate.

Of those taking the test, "Forty-three percent didn't know what the Electoral College does. And 46 percent didn't know that the Constitution gives Congress power to declare war."

What's behind this dumbing down of America?

"The ISI found that passive activities, such as watching television (including TV news) and talking on the phone, diminish civic literacy."

What increases civic literacy?

"Actively pursuing information through print media and participating in high-level conversations -- even, potentially, blogging -- makes one smarter. "

That's right.... blogging! Bloggers personify the First Amendment.... you know, freedom of speech, freedom of the press.

Only a sorry 0.8 percent of all test-takers scored an 'A.'

Parker points out, "America's report card may come as little surprise to fans of Jay Leno's man-on-the-street interviews, which reveal that most people don't know diddly about doohickey. Still, it's disheartening in the wake of a populist-driven election celebrating joes-of-all-trades to be reminded that the voting public is dumber than ever."

Let's face it.... most of the economic trouble we are in has come about because people didn't understand the loan agreements they were signing, financial institutions didn't understand the far-reaching ramifications of their actions, and our government was unable to anticipate the severity of.... and appropriately regulate.... this financial house of cards.

It's hopeful that an intellectual Barack Obama prevailed over the McCain-Palin hillbilly-pandering roadshow. As The Decider would put it.... "Our children is learning!"

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It's Fear Itself....

From Bear Stearns to Citi Group our deer-caught-in-the-headlights Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has been the Bush administration's frantic bailout fireman.... hosing down failing financial institutions before they burst into flames.... they hope.

Fireman Paulson answered the four-alarm only after Wall Street and financial institutions had partied during the Bush administration's unregulated anything-goes trickle-down orgy like Shriners at a Vegas convention.... and the whole country is suffering the hangover.

OK... that's the problem. So far, throwing money at the problem hasn't helped in any noticeable way. People are still losing their homes and jobs, the markets are still on life support and credit lines are still constipated.

What to do? Robert Samuelson opines today in "A 'Wealth Effect' In Reverse." (WaPo) "The 'wealth effect' refers to the tendency of people to adjust their spending as their wealth... concentrated heavily in housing and stocks... changes."

Samuelson points out, "... now the wealth effect is reversing. As stock and home values drop, Americans are scrambling to increase savings and curb spending. The plausible math is daunting. Since September 2007, Americans' personal wealth has dropped about $9 trillion, says economist Nigel Gault of IHS Global Insight."

The reversal in fortunes has fostered more than long-overdue consumer prudence, it has fueled fear.... and fear is the sand in the cogs of the battered economy as it grinds to a near halt.

Overcoming fear is vital if we are to reverse this self-perpetuating plummet.... fear keeps consumers and investors immobilized in the meltdown headlights, unable.... or unwilling.... to take the steps necessary to avoid the collision.

As Samuelson says, "Americans are less upset by hardships they've experienced than by those they imagine."

It'll take more than bailout money to re-energize the economy.... in the coming months it will take nerves of steel and leaders who can instill confidence faster than a speeding bullet.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Vilsack Wrong Tom

We were so sure. Who better than a former governor from not just any state, but ag Iowa whose caucus-goers planted Barack Obama's feet squarely on the path toward his field of dreams.

Everyone said so, even the Washington Post reported that former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack was a "near shoo-in" for Obama's cabinet position as Secretary of Agriculture.

Everyone said so that is, except Obama and now "Vilsack ends ag secretary speculation." (DMRegister) It isn't going to happen.

"Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack on Sunday said that he won't be the next agriculture secretary, ending speculation that an Iowan would snag the post important to a large swath of the state's economy. In an e-mail, Vilsack said he had never been contacted by aides to President-elect Barack Obama about that position or any other."

You can hear the air going out of the Iowan-in-the-Obama-cabinet balloon. Why not Vilsack? We may be able to answer that question only when we know who Obama settles on. But he's given us big clues.

Obama's 13-page policy position "Rural Leadership for Rural America" shows that Obama supports ensuring that "farm programs are strong and are targeted to support family farm farmers."

Part of that support is spelled out succinctly on his rural issues site. Obama will "implement a $250,000 payment limitation so that we help family farmers - not large corporate agribusiness," something Congress has not had the political will to accomplish on several tries.

So really, in light of Obama's policy positions on agriculture, Vilsack never had a chance. Vilsack never saw an agribusiness he didn't like, in fact he "has a glowing reputation as being a schill for agribusiness biotech giants like Monsanto." (Grassroots) Vilsack had big ideas for agriculture tied to big agribusiness, not the family farmer.

Ag secretary is a key position in the cabinet with a portfolio ranging from overseeing food safety, the food stamp program, food distribution during disaster relief efforts, the U. S. Forestry Service and the food that is fed to our children in school to setting farm policy, national nutritional standards and food labeling.

Who is most likely to fill that bill and support the family farmer?

Perhaps Tom Buis who is currently the president of the National Farmers Union and has advocated for family farmers.

Prior to joining NFU Buis served for nearly five years as senior ag policy advisor to.... guess who.... Obama's close advisor and an early power-behind-the-movement strategist, South Dakota's former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle who will serve in Obama's cabinet as Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Buis was also special assistant for ag to U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh (D-IN), and before moving to Washington was a full-time grain and livestock farmer in Indiana. Buis currently also serves as a member of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers executive committee, an organization that represents more than 600 million international farm families.

Buis sounds like a much better fit for a family-farm friendly administration.

But one thing that seems certain.... this Thanksgiving insofar as ag secretary goes, Vilsack isn't the Tom on the short-list menu.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Jindal"s "Fix" Is In

When it comes to Louisiana's GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal's attitude toward making the GOP relevant after their November drubbing, one is reminded of Peggy Lee's "Is that all there is, my friends?..... then let's keep dancing."

Jindal told an audience of 800 yesterday in West Des Moines at a fundraiser for the socially conservative Iowa Family Policy Center, " 'There are things we can do as private citizens working together to strengthen our society. Our focus does not need to be on fixing the (Republican) party,' he said. 'Our focus needs to be on how to fix America.' " (DM Register)

Oh noooooooo! The Republican party has been trying to "fix" America for eight years, and look where we are.... nowhere!

Worse than nowhere.... our creditors can still find us!

Jindal, please focus on fixing the GOP.... the country needs two viable parties.... haven't you noticed that the Republican party is stuck in reverse, mired in social crusades against gays, choice, privacy, and science.

The "focus" of the Iowa Family Policy Center is even narrower.... it is working for a marriage amendment to the Constitution aimed at gay marriage. They evidently think they can "fix" America and their own marriages by denying those rights to others.... promoting a "Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as being between one man and one woman."

With this kickoff tour, it's obvious to which base Jindal is going to pander in his 2012 presidential bid.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Will the GOP Evolve?

There is a battle being waged in Texas and within the GOP party.
The outcome of that battle will determine if they go forward toward the liberating cultural complexities and scientific advances of the 21st century. Or, if they will continue their backwards fall into the embrace of the suffocating superstitions of religious fundamentalism.

Case in point.

"State education panel hears evolution debate." (Dallas Morning News) "Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution grabbed center stage Wednesday as State Board of Education members heard from dozens of Texans trying to influence the panel on how evolution should be covered in science classes of the future.

"College professors, science teachers and pro-evolution groups urged the board to drop a rule that requires the strengths and weaknesses of Darwin's theory to be taught in science courses, while conservative groups aligned with a sizable bloc of board members said the rule has worked well and hasn't forced religion into those classes as critics charge.

Of course, conservatives aren't fooling anyone. Their religious wolf under the cloak of "educational freedom" is trying to ambush impressionable hearts and minds.

The first vote on the issue by the state education board will be in January. At stake are the science guidelines for elementary and secondary schools and the materials used for state tests and textbooks. The guidelines would remain in place for a decade after their approval by the state board.

The state's most famous Texan, George "Is Our Children Learning?" Bush, has already weighed in on the debate. In 2005 he famously told reporters that he believes that intelligent design.... creationism repackaged.... should be taught alongside evolution as competing theories. (WaPo)

The report on Bush's remarks explains that "Much of the scientific establishment says that intelligent design is not a tested scientific theory but a cleverly marketed effort to introduce religious -- especially Christian -- thinking to students.

".... Bush's remarks heartened conservatives who have been asking school boards and legislatures to teach students that there are gaps in evolutionary theory and explain that life's complexity is evidence of a guiding hand."

It isn't just the Texas education system at the crossroads, an increasingly marginalized GOP is trying to read the what-went-wrong tea leaves after their defeat in the last election.

As Kathleen Parker said in her recent editorial, "Giving Up on God," (WaPo)..... "the evangelical, right-wing, oogedly-boogedly branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue" to do so unless the GOP faces "the gorilla".... perhaps that should be monkey.... "in the room."

Parker diagnosis is, "Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party."

Texas, don't let it kill your educational excellence too.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Obama Taking the Wheel

"The first step is half the longest journey."

In this case, the longest journey is back from the rusting gates at the junkyard of our economy if the U.S. automobile industry collapses.

The first small, but significant, step is "Rep. Dingell Loses Energy Post - Waxman to Head Key Panel; Change Is Blow to Automakers." (WaPo)

Why, you may ask, is this change a blow to automakers. Because in Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) they are losing from the House Energy and Commerce Committee chair their premier gas-gussler enabler to no-nonsense Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) fresh from the chairmanship of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

"Waxman's victory signaled the rise of a younger, more environmentally conscious party eager to support the policies of President-elect Barack Obama. Waxman's supporters said his win probably would mean a smoother ride through Congress for Obama's energy agenda, which focuses on spending $150 billion on research for producing renewable fuels and 1 million new plug-in hybrid cars.

"Dingell, 82, who was first elected to represent his Dearborn-based district in 1954... has been chairman or ranking Democrat of the energy committee since 1981, at times feuding with fellow Democrats, including Waxman, over efforts to impose fuel-efficiency standards on cars."

Dingell kept the better-gas-mileage-brakes on for the the resistant, short-sighted Detroit manufacturers.

For the automakers who jetted into D.C., the hearings before Congress were a car wreck.

Eugene Robinson points out today in "Detroit: Get a Clue".... (WaPo) The Detroit CEOs "could have hitchhiked to Washington to beg for alms and they still would have been raked over the coals. But the fact that they came in their corporate jets was a bit much."

So the CEOs were sent home with a roadmap for reaching their $25 billion bridge.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) demanded of the jetsetters, "Until we can see a plan where the auto industry is held accountable and a plan for viability on how they go into the future... we cannot show them the money." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid echoed: "We can only help if they (the automakers) are willing to help themselves." (WaPo) The plan is to be submitted to Congress on December 2.

Robinson suggested that "Richard Wagoner of General Motors, Robert Nardelli of Chrysler and Alan Mulally of Ford should begin the inevitable cost-cutting by firing their public relations consultants.

"They left Capitol Hill empty-handed, but they're bound to get some kind of federal help, however grudging. In the end, I don't think either George W. Bush or Barack Obama wants to be remembered as the president who lost the auto industry."

Or needlessly lost millions of jobs in an unforgiving economy.

(It was just announced that GM is selling two of its private jets.)

All of these course corrections are just baby-steps tottering toward an uncertain future for the U.S. auto industry, an industry that is a critical keystone underpinning the rescue of the American economy.

The longest journey can be successful if it travels.... at last.... in the right direction.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

No Bailout for Blue Collars?

It's discouraging all the way around.

Discouraging that "Auto Execs Fly Corporate Jets to D.C., Tin Cups in Hand," (WaPo) thus confirming the impression that Detroit just doesn't get it.

Discouraging that lawmakers were taking gotcha shots at the auto executives because they flew in separate corporate jets to the hearings this week.... admittedly an ill-timed display of corporate excess for a trio of executives begging for an additional $25 billion from the public trough.... instead of focusing on the million jobs that would be lost if the companies were allowed to fail.

Discouraging that the news outlets then gleefully looped the committee's stick-it-to-them sound bites.... like Rep. Gary Ackerman's (D-NY) who needled, "There's a delicious irony in seeing private luxury jets flying into Washington, D.C., and people coming off of them with tin cups in their hands.... It's almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high-hat and tuxedo. . "

Sis boom! Very clever. Lots of time taken up with precious cleverness. Time that would have been better spent trying salvage the situation. Pink slips can fly later.

Did we, the many imminent jobless, hear anything about the engineering already under way for more efficient "green" cars, or the renegotiated union contracts that will greatly reduce overhead costs to make the Detroit cars more competitive? No.... the media is more interested in the entertainment value of zingers delivered by camera-savvy legislators.

Let's admit up front that it appears that the Big Three CEOs are all probably a bunch of arrogant, over-paid and pampered executives.

So.... evidently the reasoning for many on The Hill goes.... let's throw a million people out of work, suffer hundreds of billions in lost wages (you know, the green stuff that buys things) and more billions in lost tax revenues because we don't like the cut of the jib of three pouty corporate peacocks.

Not to mention delivering a shock to our economy that will rip the Dutch boy's finger away from the already over-stressed economic dike.

Lawmakers, let's keep our eyes on the ball. Are you going to tell us that you whipped out the taxpayer checkbook for the white-collar crowd.... a blank $700-billion-plus check at that, with more goodies yet for "perky" AIG.... but will balk at using $25 billion of those bailout funds for the blue collars?

We're not looking for retribution here, or cutesy-pie finger pointing. Work with the auto execs, holding your nose if you must.... but save those jobs. In the big picture, it'll be the best bailout money spent so far in this whole sordid mess.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hillary: A Doppelganger or a Cuckoo?

Doppelganger: A ghostly counterpart of a living person. Cuckoo bird: Lays egg in another bird's nest, and when the cuckoo hatches it takes over the nest.

Thomas Friedman is pondering today in "Madam Secretary?" (NYTimes)

"My question: Is Obama considering Mrs. Clinton for this job in order to get her off his back or as a prelude to protecting her back?"

"That backing is the most important requirement for a secretary of state to be effective. Frankly, Obama could appoint his dear mother-in-law as secretary of state, and if he let the world know she was his envoy, she would be more effective than any ex-ambassador who had no relationship with the president.

"Our current president never cared about this, so neither of his secretaries of state were particularly effective. Rather than having Colin Powell’s back, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld delighted in stabbing Powell in the back, particularly when he was on the road.

"But being close to the president is not enough. Condoleezza Rice had a close relationship with Bush, but Bush had no coherent worldview to animate her diplomacy, so all her travels added up to less than the sum of their miles...

"Foreign leaders can spot daylight between a president and a secretary of state from 1,000 miles away. They know when they’re talking to the secretary of state alone and when they are talking through the secretary of state to the president.....

"My question is whether a President Obama and a Secretary of State Clinton, given all that has gone down between them and their staffs, can have that kind of relationship, particularly with Mrs. Clinton always thinking four to eight years ahead, and the possibility that she may run again for the presidency. I just don’t know."

And don't forget just vain Bill. Bill Clinton famously said during his 1992 presidential campaign that with him you get "two for the price of one." But it's 2008, and Maureen Dowd opines that getting Hillary for Secretary of State means getting "Two for the Price of Two." (NY Times)

Dowd thinks the grumpy hubby will come around if Hillary becomes the Mistress of Foggy Bottom. "At least Bill has the satisfaction of seeing that he has roiled the previously serene and joyous Obamaland. It may be Obama’s very willingness to take the albatross of Bill from around Hillary’s neck and sling it around his own that impresses Bill.

"Obama is overlooking all his cherished dictums against drama and leaking and his lofty vetting standards to try and create a situation where the country can benefit from the talent of the Clintons while curbing their cheesy excesses, like their endless cash flow from foreigners."

But, there is a deep unease with many counting on real change, unconvinced that regardless of their current public posture of support for the Obama White House, the Billary will do only what is best for Billary.

And shadowing about the world as Obama's Doppelganger may not fit into Billary's long-term ambitions.

As Chuck Todd points out today in "First Read".... "HillaryLand seems to be making a concerted effort to start tamping down speculation about the secretary of state job. Reports from the New York Times and Politico are sparking the debate about whether she's 100% ready to make the leap from the Senate and 100% ready to give up politics for a while (at least while at State)...

"Today's Wall Street Journal and the AP confirm that the Obama folks are letting it be known that Bill Clinton is fully cooperating with the vet. So while the Hillary folks use the Times/Politico to signal reluctance, others are using the WSJ/AP to suggest that the momentum is still building for the Clinton appointment to happen."

And that is pure chaotic Clinton conundrum-making style.... fogging the question of a closet-cuckoo Hillary in Obama's cabinet nest in Shakespearean "to be, or not to be" fashion.

Hopefully, not.

Des Moines Holds Steady

Des Moines has high-fived lots of atta-boys lately. Earlier this year Forbes rated Des Moines metro 4th in the nation in their "Best Places for Business and Careers."

In May, Kiplinger issued a list of "Best Cities to Live, Work and Play" and Des Moines came in 9th on the list. Why? Here's what Kiplinger sees.... "Des Moines’s friendly, hometown atmosphere, top public schooling and affordable cost of living make it an ideal place to raise a family. But it also has big city amenities, including a growing arts scene with galleries, a symphony orchestra, a ballet and opera, trendy shops and an expanding skyscraper cityscape.

"The local economy is gaining momentum as well. Jobs will increase mainly in finance, insurance, government and manufacturing. About 60 insurance companies here make the city the third largest insurance center in the world.

"Housing is still affordable. The median price for a single-family home is just under $150,000. In the northwest suburbs, for example, a 2,100-square foot three-bedroom home will go for $165,000. For those seeking trendier accommodations, a one-bedroom condo in the downtown’s newly redeveloped Western Gateway neighborhood can fetch a price of under $130,000, while a 2,700-square foot, newly renovated Victorian home in the western suburbs can go for just under $330,000."

And the Des Moines housing market is still healthy, yet affordable, six months later even though the nation is experiencing a decline in housing prices. As The Des Moines Register reports this morning, "Des Moines bucks trend, sees increase in home prices."

"The Des Moines metropolitan area was one of 28 areas nationwide to see its median home sale prices climb in the third quarter, squeaking 1 percent higher to $155,400, a National Association of Realtors report showed on Tuesday."

Des Moines.... steady as she goes.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Iraq Corruption By "Western Standards"

Oh, this is rich.... "Premier of Iraq Is Quietly Firing Fraud Monitors" (NYTlimes)

"BAGHDAD — The government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is systematically dismissing Iraqi oversight officials, who were installed to fight corruption in Iraqi ministries by order of the American occupation administration, which had hoped to bring Western standards of accountability to the notoriously opaque and graft-ridden bureaucracy here."

Western standards! Western standards! You mean like Wall Street robber barons who Ponzi-schemed trash loans, driving the world into a financial abyss? You mean like lobby-ridden D.C. with legislators on the take and worse.... like Alaska's Senator Ted Stevens convicted of 7 counts of fraud but still in office (for now). Those Western standards?

The Iraq crimes.... "One Iraqi former chief investigator recently testified before Congress that $13 billion in reconstruction funds from the United States had been lost to fraud, embezzlement, theft and waste by Iraqi government officials."

This sounds like business as usual, Western standards.

After all, we gave our Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson $700 billion plus dollars to "rescue" our economy. It's estimated he has probably spent half of if, or about $350 billion. Why "estimated?" Because Paulson won't tell anyone how the money was allocated! Even Congress! Western standards.

"...Stuart W. Bowen Jr., who leads an independent oversight office in Washington, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, and who is currently working in Iraq, said he knew of six of the dismissals. He said the inspectors general were vulnerable because once their offices were created, the United States provided little support and training for what was a startling concept for the bureaucracy, which was shaped by the secrecy and corruption of the Saddam Hussein era."

Look, why is anyone surprised that the Bush administration provided little support and training, they can't govern here. After legislating strict oversight for the $700+ billion bailout, that oversight was never made operational.

Secrecy?... you mean like the way Undisclosed Location Cheney and Executive Privilege Bush operate?

Really, what can we expect unless we set the example? Let's just quit throwing good money after bad in Iraq.... let's no longer "occupy" ourselves with their corruption of our billions and concentrate on cleaning up our own act.

No more U.S.-made Baghdad billionaires! Bring our troops home.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A $25 Billion Bridge to Somewhere

While "let's party" AIG and trash-loan banks wallow in a promised $700 billion of bailout taxbucks, there is a big debate in D.C. on whether or not to use $25 billion of that bailout to rescue the manufacturing backbone of our country, the auto industry's Big 3.

As Jeffrey D. Sachs explains in "A Bridge for the Carmakers - The Future Is in Sight. They Just Need Help Getting There" (WaPo) "We face an unprecedented financial calamity, energy crisis and environmental threat. A vibrant, growing U.S. automobile industry should play an essential role in solving all three. The technologies that will win the day are in sight; industry has already made important advances. A partnership with government is vital and should begin this week."

And not only that.... if Washington doesn't take action, the second big "D" could be the legacy of George W. Hoover. Sachs warns "...the sudden closure of an automaker would be catastrophic, possibly pushing our economy from recession to depression. Because of the impact on parts suppliers, the shutdown of one company would imperil domestic production across the board, and the jobs at risk include not only the 1 million in vehicle assembly and parts but millions more that would be caught in the resulting cascade of failures. The industrial Midwest -- especially Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Tennessee -- would be devastated, and the shock waves would reverberate across the world."

This isn't the time for faux-conservative ideology or petulant pay-back for the auto industry's past myopic performance.... this is the time for bold action. This week could be the start.... or the end.... of the rest of our financial lives.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Bar" Boyle and His Ilk

This is a massive failure of competence, oversight and just plain humanity.... "Gangrene, death follow stay at facility." (DMRegister)

Ruth Louden is a victim of the "system."

"A year ago, Louden was in good spirits and good health. Twice widowed, she lived alone in an immaculately maintained Grinnell apartment where she liked to crochet. She had recently renewed her driver's license and had just returned from a trip to California, where she traveled by herself to visit her daughter. A lifelong Iowan and a graduate of the Music Conservatory at the University of Dubuque, Louden played the piano on a regular basis - and usually from memory

"While at her apartment on Feb. 16, Louden fell, fracturing a bone in her left ankle. Her doctors didn't think a cast was necessary, but they put her leg in a brace and a medical stocking and sent her to Grinnell's Friendship Manor nursing home for short-term therapy."

And then.... "Louden's doctors allegedly gave Friendship Manor written orders to monitor the circulation in her leg and to check her skin every shift for any signs of swelling or redness.

"Over the next four weeks, Louden complained to the staff of 'horrible' and 'excruciating' pain, state inspectors later alleged. During that time, inspectors say, Friendship Manor staff gave Louden pain medication but never evaluated the cause of her pain or pulled back the stocking to examine her leg.

"On March 20, a physical therapy aide at Friendship Manor noticed Louden's leg smelled like 'rotting meat.' She also noticed blood seeping through the stocking.

"Louden was rushed to a local hospital where an emergency room physician noted the smell of 'rotting flesh.' A wound dressing that had been applied at the hospital four weeks earlier appeared untouched, as if it never had been changed at Friendship Manor, inspectors said.

"Louden was diagnosed with gangrene."

It need never have happened at all.... "One of her doctors later told state inspectors the situation was 'very upsetting' because the bone fracture that had resulted in Louden going to Friendship Manor was almost 'nonexistent.' The amputation, he said, was avoidable.

"According to the inspectors, workers at Friendship Manor acknowledged that during Ruth's 25-day stay, they never removed the stocking to check the condition of her leg. She was never examined by a physician while at the home."

The action taken.... "At the recommendation of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, federal officials fined Friendship Manor's owners $4,050 for each of the 25 days Louden was at the home. They also imposed a $150 per day fine for the 76 days the home needed to correct other alleged problems. Those fines totaled $112,650."

Who is responsible? "Friendship Manor is owned and managed by two for-profit companies based in South Dakota. The president of both companies is Tim Boyle, a real estate developer.

"Boyle did not respond to several requests for an interview. State records indicate he is appealing the fine.

"Boyle has complained to his congresswoman, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., arguing that Friendship Manor was under doctors' orders to keep the stocking on Louden's leg. The doctors told state inspectors they expected the facility's staff to understand that temporarily removing the stocking would be necessary to conduct the physician-ordered skin checks."

Lots of finger pointing. But on the most basic level, why did no one try to get to the root of Louden's suffering?... tell her doctors of her "horrible, excruciating pain."

The negligent, absentee for-profit nursing home owners are bringing out the big guns.... lobbyists.

"Around the same time Boyle was complaining to Congress, the industry lobbying organization he heads began scheduling meetings with Iowa state lawmakers.

"The Iowa Healthcare Association, with Boyle as board president, is now telling legislators that the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals is too aggressive in its enforcement of health and safety regulations.

"In one of the written presentations for legislators, the association says the inspections department is 'flogging' nursing homes and blocking seniors' access to health care, in part by imposing huge fines against the owners and prohibiting new admissions until care problems are addressed."

Listen up lawmakers.... maybe Boyle is right. Maybe large fines aren't the answer. How about a little prison time for these negligent elder-abusers?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Lame Duck Dines on Quail

The world economy is in meltdown mode. People are losing jobs, homes, life savings, pensions and more. The backbone of the U.S. economy, the automobile manufacturer's Big 3, are tottering on the brink of bankruptcy, bankruptcies whose shock waves would ripple out to millions of households.

So, last night visiting heads of state of 20 countries met at the White House for a dinner held on the eve of a financial summit prompted by global economic distress. There was a "Full Plate at White House for G20: Economic Talk and Quail." (WaPo)

And quail? Is this a meeting of AIG bailout-billionaires?

No, it's a meeting of twenty world leaders, representing 90% of the world economy, meeting to discuss "global economic distress," who at their "working dinner" are dining on, among other delicacies: "... fruitwood-smoked quail, thyme-roasted rack of lamb and baked Vermont brie with walnut crostini, along with three wines."

The theme of the meeting is "Let Them Eat Cake."

These heads of state who allowed or fostered the deregulated "globalization" of the world economy have no shame. Especially the host, The Decider, who will happily dine on lame-duck until he dumps his eight years of garbage on Barack Obama on January 20.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Facing Down GOP's Devils

The GOP is at a crossroads. Will they take the social conservative route to please the religious right and Paliniacs, or a more moderate road with a bigger tent than social policy and anti-intellectualism.

Christine Todd Whitman, who headed Bush's EPA from 2001 to 2003 and is currently co-chair of the Republican Leadership Council, wades into the debate in "Free the GOP - The Party Won't Win Back the Middle as Long As It's Hostage to Social Fundamentalists" (WaPo)

It's not the first time Whitman has been the canary in the coal mine. After the 2004 election Whitman published, "It's My Party Too: The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America," which she co-authored with this article's co-author, Robert Bostock.

Whitman says of that 2004 book...."Our central thesis was simple: The Republican Party had been taken hostage by 'social fundamentalists,' the people who base their votes on such social issues as abortion, gay rights and stem cell research. Unless the GOP freed itself from their grip, we argued, it would so alienate itself from the broad center of the American electorate that it would become increasingly marginalized and find itself out of power."

It's 2008, and the GOP is out of power.

The GOP ignored Whitman's fading canary call as John McCain allowed himself to become co-opted by Bush/Rove social fundamentalists and upstaged by their Vacuous Valkyrie, Sarah Palin.

The new sell-out McCain.... as opposed to the mythical 2000 maverick.... didn't attract moderates, and so he lost even though his percentage of "value voters" increased. As Whitman explains, "McCain actually won more votes from self-identified white evangelical/born-again voters than Bush did four years ago -- 1.8 million more. But that was not enough to offset the loss of so many moderates."

As for Palin's value to the ticket, Whitman calls it as she see it, "Palin has many attractive qualities as a candidate. Being prepared to become president at a moment's notice was not obviously among them this year. Her selection cost the ticket support among those moderate voters who saw it as a cynical sop to social fundamentalists, reinforcing the impression that they control the party, with the party's consent."

Whitman accuses the GOP of suffering from a political Stockholm syndrome, "In the wake of the Democrats' landslide victory, and despite all evidence to the contrary, many in the GOP are arguing that John McCain was defeated because the social fundamentalists wouldn't support him.

"They seem to be suffering from a political strain of Stockholm syndrome. They are identifying with the interests of their political captors and ignoring the views of the larger electorate. This has cost the Republican Party the votes of millions of people who don't find a willingness to acquiesce to hostage-takers a positive trait in potential leaders
"Unless the Republican Party ends its self-imposed captivity to social fundamentalists, it will spend a long time in the political wilderness. On Nov. 4, the American people very clearly rejected the politics of demonization and division. It's long past time for the GOP to do the same."

There may be a glimmer of hope for those who identify with Whitman's clarion call for the Republican party to flee their social conservative captors. It comes from GOP governors who are holding a summit in Miami.... though McCain's Trophy Vice must have thought she was still in Alaska.... "Sarah Palin gets cold reception in Sunshine State GOP gathering" (NYDailyNews)

It was clear that the state governors thought it was grown-up time, a time to address substantive issues. As once-considered-for-VP Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota pointedly said, " 'Drill, baby, drill!' by itself is not an energy policy" referring to the chant that became a staple of Palin's rallies - the target of his tweak was clear."

Social fundamentalists take no prisoners, give no ground. The question remains... can the GOP be deprogrammed? Possibly, with a soul-searching intervention by determined moderate voices in the GOP. But it will be an ugly exorcism.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bailing Out the Bailout

Congress gave the Bush administration the power to go to war in Iraq if all else failed.... with a misleading MWD scare. The Bush neocons snatched up that power and ran with it, right into a mismanaged wall.

That was the first "big time" Bush White House policy disaster.

Fast forward to September 2008 and the second "big time" disaster.... the collapse of the U.S. financial and housing markets.

Congress once again trusted the Bush administration with $700 billion plus to "manage" the collapse. The Bush Treasury snatched up that money and ran with it, right into a mismanaged wall.

The headline says it all... "Bailout Lacks Oversight Despite Billions Pledged - Watchdog Panel Is Empty; Report Is Unfinished" (WaPo)

The alarming news is that "In the six weeks since lawmakers approved the Treasury's massive bailout of financial firms, the government has poured money into the country's largest banks, recruited smaller banks into the program and repeatedly widened its scope to cover yet other types of businesses, from insurers to consumer lenders.

"Along the way, the Bush administration has committed $290 billion of the $700 billion rescue package.

"Yet for all this activity, no formal action has been taken to fill the independent oversight posts established by Congress when it approved the bailout to prevent corruption and government waste. Nor has the first monitoring report required by lawmakers been completed, though the initial deadline has passed."

What happened? "In approving the rescue package, lawmakers trumpeted provisions in the legislation that established layers of independent scrutiny, including a special inspector general to be nominated by the White House and a congressional oversight panel to be named by lawmakers themselves."

This rudderless bailout of taxpayer gold is drifting toward the shoals without a captain, or a crew.

Will it help that the bailout legislation provided for a Financial Stability Oversight Board "whose five members include Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke?" Hardly, "it has no staff of its own, and few expect that policymakers can conduct oversight of themselves. 'It's sort of a joke in terms of oversight,' a congressional aide said.

So, where are we? Yesterday a panicky Treasury Secretary Paulson addressed the nation.... "Treasury Redefines Its Rescue Program - Plan to Buy Distressed Assets Is Abandoned In Favor of Aid to Loosen Consumer Credit" (WaPo)

Paulson announced a series of moves that redefine the federal government's $700 billion rescue plan for the financial industry "in order to tackle what he called a dire situation in the consumer credit markets.

"In recasting the program, the Treasury no longer plans to buy troubled assets from financial firms, the idea initially presented to the country, but instead will offer aid to banks and other firms that issue student, auto and credit card loans in part by jump-starting the market that provides financing for these companies."

This latest reversal of Congressional intent evidently took The Hill by surprise.... it's stunning that they still trust, that they can still be surprised by The Decider's maladministration. It's clear that Bush has already mentally moved on to his Texas rocking chair, Paulson is the poster boy for the Peter Principle, and the Obama calvary is charging ahead but they're still in transition limbo-land.

The tourniquet needed to stop the financial hemorrhaging is public confidence in government and jobs. The administration's entire unaccountable bungling approach has made the situation worse.... consumer confidence is in the dumper.

Now it's a race to see if the economy can be kept on life support until it reaches the Obama emergency room on January 20.