Even assuming the best, this is so obviously a token gesture it makes it less likely that anyone will assume the best in the future:
President Barack Obama on Monday ordered his Cabinet to find ways to
slice spending by $100 million, but acknowledged it's a "drop in the
bucket" and said there's a "confidence gap" that he needs to overcome.
The theory of the current deficits is that the economy is so enfeebled that cuts would compound and be disastrous. I agree with that. But when the economy recovers, we're going to need to take big action to get the deficits back to acceptable levels. And by "acceptable" I mean "like Clinton," not "like Bush."
What Obama should have done is order his cabinet secretaries to develop contingency plans for cuts to come. He should have asked for proposed department budgets cutting five, ten and 25%, with an emphasis on totally eliminating a few functions rather than downsizing all equally into ineffectiveness.
I generally find President Obama's finesse admirable, but not everything can be finessed. In a couple of years he's going to need to get real about spending cuts, and the planning ought to start now.
I just came back from the local Tea Party protest. Let me say at the outset that there's almost nothing that makes me feel better about this country than just regular folks out protesting their government. I get a democratic rush that lasts for days. And let me say as well that there was likely no one at this protest with whom I have more than passing agreement on just about anything, at least when it comes to the details that back up generalities like "I'm in favor of freedom."
All of that said, what I saw was not a corporate-sponsored, AstroTurf event. Whoever payed for the tent and the microphone -- and my bet is it was some Republican group or another, because there was nothing non-partisan about the protest -- the people who showed up for it were genuine pissed-off Americans. They were older and whiter than the population of Louisville as a whole, but they stood in the cold holding hand-lettered signs and appeared absolutely sincere in their belief that things have gone wildly wrong.
I'm bad at counting crowds, but there were far more people than I was expecting, between 500 and 1,000. If critics of the Tea Parties thought the organizers to be unfocused in just exactly what it was they were protesting, the protesters themselves weren't. This was a pure, anti-big government eruption of anger, powered by people who are angry that their hard-earned money is being given to other people. Much of their anger is, in my opinion, misplaced. The economic disaster happened on President Bush's watch, not President Obama's. But the anger was real and much as I support the various bailouts, they're right to be pissed. We should all be pissed.
There's been a fair amount of smugness on the left about this. The Kieth Olbermann's of the world are having lots of fun making teabagging jokes and are dismissive of the protests as little more than a Fox News promotion. Republicans, in general, are more comfortable with a top-down management style than are Democrats. But what I saw out there was not paid corporate shills. It was real people -- many with their children in tow -- expressing very real disgust.
If Democrats are going to retain power, they're going to have to engage with these people and indicate at least respect for their concerns. I also think the Obama Administration needs to show a real path, once the crisis is passed, to balancing the budget.
Yesterday's high temperature in Louisville was 30 degrees. Looking at the 10 day forecast, we're into the 40s and 50s every day, which takes us out to the second week of March, March is the month, here, when spring usually gets some traction. So: Yesterday was likely the last day of this Winter in which the high temperature failed to rise above freezing.
I may just make it through another one.
UPDATE: It is currently 33 degrees in Louisville, so my thesis holds. The next close call is Monday, March 2, when Weather.com predicts 38 degrees. If we can make it through that, WGN's first scheduled television broadcast of the Cubs is March 4.
Castro still lives, but North Korean dictator/nutcase Kim Jong Il has just missed another significant state event, leading to speculation that he may be seriously ill or even dead.
With a whole lot of concern and very little credible information,
pundits, media and foreign governments have tried to interpret the
limited circumstantial evidence available. This points to Kim still
being alive, analysts said, given the lack of unusual military or
government activity and the fact that the North hasn't been canceling
visits or reeling in its delegations.
"But given the seriousness of a stroke, this brings to fore the issue
of stability in the North Korean regime," said L. Gordon Flake,
executive director of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation in
Washington. "In the end, we can probably conclude this is the beginning
of the final chapter."
"The final chapter" can mean only one thing: Another Dead Pool!
That's right, regular reader: Per F/A tradition, entirely for our own entertainment, we're going to bet on the impending death of someone we don't like. As a Christian, I'm ashamed of myself. But what the hell. If one can't be disrespectful to mentally defective autocrats who live too far away to do anything about it, who can one be disrespectful to?
So: I'll see if I can figure out a set of rules that won't drag the contest on for a hundred years. Maybe some kind of combination deal with Castro, who has to be seriously close to death. (A good pool on Castro, if medical reports were a little more detailed, would be "name that complication." I'd pick a debilitating rash in March.) Maybe we can, if you'll pardon the phrase, kill two birds with one stone.
I'll get back to you.
To read about Kim Jong Il's astounding golf game, click here.
To read about the original Fidel Castro Dead Pool, click here.
To survey the official government life expectancy tables in order to help formulate your bet, click here.
$150,000 being a lot for clothing, even at expensive stores, the New York Times calls around the shops on Sarah Palin's shopping list and doesn't seem to find evidence of actual shopping. After all, you'd think they'd remember something like someone coming in and spending, for example, $79,000 in an afternoon:
Consider also the $4,902.45 charge at Atelier New York, a high-end men’s store, presumably for Ms. Palin’s husband, Todd, the famous First Dude.
Karlo Steel, an owner there, said he had gone through the store’s
receipts for September, twice, and found no sales that matched that
amount, nor any combination of sales that added up to the total.
Because the store carries aggressively directional men’s wear, he
caters to a small clientèle and knows most of his customers by name, as
well as the history of their purchases.
"Aggressively directional" being an industry term that means, apparently, "not the sort of thing you'd wear to a Republican campaign rally."
As if having Michael Jackson's shopping budget (and taste in red leather jackets) weren't embarrassing enough, could it be that some campaign staffer used the wardrobe acquisition project to spruce up his or her own look? Or perhaps some store employee padded the bill for a staffer paying no attention to actual cost?
Could this be a scandal in three acts: the exorbitant self-indulgence of the clothing itself, the ridiculous stonewalling and justification of that cost, and -- finally, in a plot twist deserving of O. Henry -- the shocking revelation of what lawyers call "conversion," but the rest of us know as embezzlement?
When the CIA expressed concern that their post-911 "harsh interrogation techniques" would look like war crimes if publicly revealed, the Bush Administration waved its magic wand and pronounced the techniques as American as apple pie.
The repeated requests for a paper trail reflected growing worries
within the CIA that the administration might later distance itself from
key decisions about the handling of captured al-Qaeda leaders, former
intelligence officials said. The concerns grew more pronounced after
the revelations of mistreatment of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and further still as tensions grew between the
administration and its intelligence advisers over the conduct of the
So, to recap: the spooks doing the torture took one look at the way the Administration stood up for the pathetic misfits who'd done the Administration's bidding at Abu Ghraib -- the Administration, you should remember, sold them out completely -- and drew a line in the sand. The line had nothing to do with right and wrong, American or Un-American. It had entirely to do with covering the collective CIA ass, given the craven character of the Administration:
"The CIA believed then, and now, that the program was useful and helped
save lives," said a former senior intelligence official knowledgeable
about the events. "But in the agency's view, it was like this: 'We
don't want to continue unless you tell us in writing that it's not only
legal but is the policy of the administration.' "
The Administration, which believed torture to be necessary, did what the CIA asked, in two still-classified memos. Then they lied about it. Then the Republicans held Presidential debates and every single candidate except one insisted we need to do more of this kind of thing. Then the nominee, who was himself tortured, preened and postured against torture but ceded the CIA the authority to keep torturing anyway, so as not to be perceived as weak by the quivering Republican base.
This election is about one thing: what kind of country do you want the United States to be? It's important to remember, when Republicans held power, what kind of country they worked so hard and so dishonestly to turn us into.
Drudge leads this morning with this article, which notes that liberal voter registration group ACORN registered "Mickey Mouse" to vote in Florida. This is presented by outraged conservatives as evidence that Democrat voter fraud is rampant.
The list of conservative conspiracy theories is long and ever-growing. Conservatism, as currently constructed, is utterly dependent on the existence of nefarious, dark forces working secretly against Real Americans. ACORN is the bogeyman of the moment.
Leaving aside the fact that investigations of alleged mass voter fraud by Democrats have almost always come up empty, there's this: In most states, any group registering voters is required by law to turn in all registration cards that are filled out. If you walk up to a registration table, fill the card in as "Queen Victoria" and blow your nose on the signature line, that registration card still has to be turned into the appropriate state office.
There's a good reason for that law: it keeps me, for example, from setting up a voter registration table at a grocery store and then throwing a away all the cards from people I'd prefer didn't vote. People like, for example, you. You would then stroll confidently into your polling place, but would denied a ballot because you're not registered.
To keep people like me from screwing people like you, states-- including Florida -- passed laws requiring that all voter registration cards be turned in, whether they're filled out by Joe Six-Pack or Mickey Mouse. By law, it's not the job of the person gathering the cards to judge the legitimacy of the person attempting to register.
If ACORN had not turned in the Mickey Mouse registration card, ACORN would have been breaking the law. And eagle-eyed clerks working for state discovered the fraud and Mr. Mouse will not be allowed to vote -- unless he shows up with proper I.D. The system, in other words, worked.
So let's stuff the outrage, OK? Republicans are going to take a beating in November, and it has nothing to do with voter fraud.
If I had $249,999 in a bank savings account, I'd spread it evenly over three banks to stay under the FDIC limit of $100,000.
Barack Obama and John McCain, on the other hand, think that the FDIC should raise it's coverage to $250,000 so that those of us who have $249,999 in our savings accounts do not have to be inconvenienced by taking action to preserve our own wealth.
There are certainly bigger issues, in these times of financial doom, but I disagree. I think this is one of those times when people should be inconvenienced. Inconvenience forces people to think things throug ha little. It's also going to be hard for the FDIC to live up to its existing obligations in the next few months without piling more obligations on top of them. Right now, on this small issue, I think we need to stand pat.
People who are nervous should spread their risk over several banks.
And Congress should get over its bottomless wallet, feel-good bullshit.
If, when the crisis passes, we want to raise the level of insurance, then we should do that, and we can raise the insurance premium banks pay at the same time.
Right now, when no one knows what's going to happen next, I'm in favor of requiring people to be attentive to their own best interests. It seems to me that's preferable to asking our debt-crippled government to take on any more obligations it may not be able to fulfill.