Saturday, February 7, 2009

Obama sends 20 million dollars to Gaza.

Middle East: This went under the radar. Exactly who is he letting in to America with this migration act? I am hoping there are background checks going on or is this just 20 million that will head up in Hamas's hands?

Unexpected Urgent Refugee and Migration Needs Related to Gaza

SUBJECT: Unexpected Urgent Refugee and Migration Needs Related to Gaza

By the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, including section 2(c)(1) of the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 (the "Act"), as amended (22 U.S.C. 2601), I hereby determine, pursuant to section 2(c)(1) of the Act, that it is important to the national interest to furnish assistance under the Act in an amount not to exceed $20.3 million from the United States Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund for the purpose of meeting unexpected and urgent refugee and migration needs, including by contributions to international, governmental, and nongovernmental organizations and payment of administrative expenses of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration of the Department of State, related to humanitarian needs of Palestinian refugees and conflict victims in Gaza.

You are authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.


January 27, 2009

Obama's home loan rework rewards liars and cheats.

Nation: All you responsible homeowners working hard to keep up on payments, all you renters saving up for the right kind of home you can afford. Suckers!

In a nod to Main Street over Wall Street, sources familiar with the plan say Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner plans to allocate almost half of the remaining $350 billion in funds from the Trouble Asset Relief Program to the so-called "Mo Mod," or mortgage modification, platform.

"Mo Mod" is an algorithmic mortgage processing program that can rewrite up to 500,000 loans a month, and will be a major part of Treasury's plan to help repair tattered bank balance sheets.

The 21-day "Mo Mod" program works by structuring a new mortgage that more accurately reflects a home's worth so that a troubled borrower no longer owes more on their home than the property is worth.

The process then enables a lender to pool these new mortgages together into securities that reflect more accurately a home's value, which makes them less risky for investors.

As outlined, this plan will be much broader in scope than the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s plan with IndyMac, which was initiated by FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair and has only been able to rework about 5,000 mortgages since last summer.

But it will also bail out borrowers who helped trigger the housing crisis by taking out loans they were unable to pay back from the outset, something that has drawn criticism because it effectively rewards the bad behavior of rogue borrowers and lenders.

The "Mo Mod" platform relies on proprietary technology developed by a Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.-based real-estate appraisal firm Smithfield & Wainwright, which built the system over 20 years and uses it for banking clients looking to liquidate mortgage holdings.

Obama dumbs down patriotism.

Politics: Typical of him to use the term patriotism to mean supporting a trillion dollar pork bill.

Mr. Obama called Ms. Collins and Mr. Specter, as well as Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, another Republican expected to support the deal, to acknowledge they were acting against pressure from their party and, one official said, to thank them for their patriotism in helping advance the bill at a critical time.

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

David Obey: Stimulus bill spending not my problem.

Politics: Here on NPR lies a real ass of a politician who doesn't give a damn about the bill just as long as the money is spent.

When this bill passes, a Niagara Falls of money will flow out of Washington and into the accounts of state highway commissioners, governors and legislatures, local school boards, county executives — even mayors, Binder says.

"It raises a whole host of questions about how efficiently money can be spent, how effectively it will be spent, how quickly money can be spent, just because there's no set process here for determining how money will get out the door to create jobs or, as the president said, to save jobs," she says.

U.S. Rep. David Obey (D-WI), the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, helped write the bill and says he doesn't like being asked about earmarks.

"We simply made a decision, which took about three seconds, not to have earmarks in the bill," he says. "And with all due respect, that's the least important question facing us on putting together this package."

Leaving out the earmarks does mean Congress will have less control over how the money is spent. But, Obey says, "So what? This is an emergency. We've got to simply find a way to get this done as fast as possible and as well as possible, and that's what we're doing."

That doesn't mean Congress will be responsible if the money is spent badly, he says.

"The person who spends the money badly will be responsible. We are simply trying to build as many protections in as possible," Obey says. "We have more oversight built into this package than any package in the history of man. If money is spent badly, we want to know about it so we can hold accountable the people who made that choice. And guess what? Regardless of what we do, there will be some stupid decisions made."

Obama the petulent temper tantrum throwing President.

Politics: Unfortunately, this wretched pork filled garbage of a bill will pass sometime next week. But it has exposed Obama not as the post racial bipartisan black Jesus but the typical politician who thinks he must get his way and if not throws a hissy fit.

The heightened rhetoric reflects White House frustration that Obama's earlier efforts, which included high-profile visits to House and Senate Republicans last month, yielded not a single House GOP vote for the legislation. In the Senate, Obama and his allies were battling Friday for just a handful of Republican votes to avoid a bill-stopping filibuster.

"He's going on offense," Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., said after listening to Obama's more combative speech Thursday at a House Democrats' retreat. "I think the president decided that it's time to lay out the facts to the American people, as he did going into the campaign, and take control of this debate."

"We can't sit back and just let them define us," Clyburn said.

....Obama and his Democratic allies agreed to kill a few such provisions, such as money to resod the National Mall, in hopes of winning some Republican senators' support. Around midweek, however, Obama began changing his tone. Democrats need not apologize or compromise further except on small items, he said.

Some critics, he said at Thursday's retreat, contend the bill "is full of pet projects. When was the last time that we saw a bill of this magnitude move out with no earmarks in it? Not one."

Ratcheting up the sarcasm, the president said: "So then you get the argument, 'well, this is not a stimulus bill, this is a spending bill.' What do you think a stimulus is?"

"That's the whole point," he said, as the audience hooted and applauded.

You have poll results showing a sharp decline in approval of the bill since details became known, Obama needs this to pass quickly. But all this drama exposed Obama and gave Republicans new life because it showed Obama is thin-skinned with his talks of bipartisanship being great as long as its on his terms.

If he doesn't get his way , here comes a hissy fit. The GOP realizes its not the end of the world and they can go after Obama using what the Dems did to Bush which was snipping and cutting at him bleeding his support by a thousand cuts over time.

The next step when this bill passes is to keep on where, how and why the money is being spent in the various states. The type of programs it will be spent on and create is ripe for the typical wasteful and corrupt spending that can be used at a later date to point out that critics were right about it.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Victoria Lindsay attackers all take plea deals.

Crime: Some jail time would be nice.

The two remaining teenage girls accused in the videotaped beating of a former Mulberry High School cheerleader accepted plea deals Wednesday morning.

Kayla Hassall, 16, and April Cooper, 15, will be punished as juveniles.

Circuit Judge Keith Spoto must devise appropriate sentences at their March 11 sentencing hearings.

Hassall and Cooper were charged with participating in the March 30, 2008, attack of Victoria Lindsay, then 16, and threatening to post videos of the beating on YouTube and MySpace.

In the hallway outside the courtroom, photographers captured Hassall as she offered a tearful apology to Talisa Lindsay, the stepmother of Victoria Lindsay, who also came to the brief hearing Wednesday.

As part of her plea deal, Hassall pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery. Prosecutors dropped a felony count of kidnapping, which carried a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Cooper pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor battery.

The final plea deals assure that a trial won't take place in the infamous beating case, which has generated national media attention.

Along with their other three co-defendants, Hassall and Cooper are prohibited from giving interviews to the media for profit. They must also write letters of apology.

Brittany Mayes, 18, pleaded guilty Jan. 20 to misdemeanor battery.

She faces either juvenile or adult sanctions for the battery charge, which carries a maximum punishment of up to a year in jail, at her sentencing hearing March 5.

Prosecutors have described Brittini Hardcastle and Mercades Nichols as principal suspects in the beating.

Hardcastle was identified along with Cooper by Lindsay as striking her on the video footage, according to court records.

Hardcastle, 18, pleaded guilty Jan. 29 to false imprisonment and battery. Prosecutors agreed to drop a felony charge of tampering with a witness.

Hardcastle could receive up to five months in jail and three to five years' probation at her March 20 sentencing hearing.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Robert Gibbs makes Scott Mcclellan look halfway decent.

Politics: I guess being seated to Helen Thomas finally made Tapper snap.

CBO: Obama stimulus harmful over long haul

Politics: You can't help but give a short term boost with this much taxpayer money being poured into the economy but this is all about getting himself and the Dems to the midterms while voting on a bill to pay off political allies.

President Obama's economic recovery package will actually hurt the economy more in the long run than if he were to do nothing, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday.

CBO, the official scorekeepers for legislation, said the House and Senate bills will help in the short term but result in so much government debt that within a few years they would crowd out private investment, actually leading to a lower Gross Domestic Product over the next 10 years than if the government had done nothing.

CBO estimates that by 2019 the Senate legislation would reduce GDP by 0.1 percent to 0.3 percent on net. [The House bill] would have similar long-run effects, CBO said in a letter to Sen. Judd Gregg, New Hampshire Republican, who was tapped by Mr. Obama on Tuesday to be Commerce Secretary.

Obama: Pass the pork bill or we will crash and burn.

Politics: The panic of a politician not seeing everyone roll over for him when he commands is so sad.

President Barack Obama warned on Thursday that failure to act on an economic recovery package could plunge the nation into a long-lasting recession that might prove irreversible, a fresh call to a recalcitrant Congress to move quickly.

In an op-ed piece in The Washington Post, the president argued that each day without his stimulus package, Americans lose more jobs, savings and homes. His message came as congressional leaders struggle to control the huge stimulus bill that's been growing larger by the day in the Senate. The addition of a new tax break for homebuyers Wednesday evening sent the price tag well past $900 billion.

Senate Democratic leaders hope for passage of the legislation by Friday at the latest, although prospects appear to hinge on crafting a series of spending reductions that would make the bill more palatable to centrists in both parties.

Obama painted a bleak picture if lawmakers do nothing.

"This recession might linger for years. Our economy will lose 5 million more jobs. Unemployment will approach double digits. Our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse," Obama wrote in the newspaper piece titled, "The Action Americans Need."

Digital Pirates Winning Battle With Studios

Entertainment: Unless you go with a North Korean style crackdown worldwide, you are never going to win against the pirates.

On the day last July when “The Dark Knight” arrived in theaters, Warner Brothers was ready with an ambitious antipiracy campaign that involved months of planning and steps to monitor each physical copy of the film.

The campaign failed miserably. By the end of the year, illegal copies of the Batman movie had been downloaded more than seven million times around the world, according to the media measurement firm BigChampagne, turning it into a visible symbol of Hollywood’s helplessness against the growing problem of online video piracy.

The culprits, in this case, are the anonymous pirates who put the film online and enabled millions of Internet users to view it. Because of widely available broadband access and a new wave of streaming sites, it has become surprisingly easy to watch pirated video online — a troubling development for entertainment executives and copyright lawyers.

Hollywood may at last be having its Napster moment — struggling against the video version of the digital looting that capsized the music business. Media companies say that piracy — some prefer to call it “digital theft” to emphasize the criminal nature of the act — is an increasingly mainstream pursuit. At the same time, DVD sales, a huge source of revenue for film studios, are sagging. In 2008, DVD shipments dropped to their lowest levels in five years. Executives worry that the economic downturn will persuade more users to watch stolen shows and movies.

“Young people, in particular, conclude that if it’s so easy, it can’t be wrong,” said Richard Cotton, the general counsel for NBC Universal.

DTV change delayed yet again.

Media: Its not like in 4 months you will see a 99% ready rate on this nonsense. Just go already.

American TV viewers have four extra months to get ready for the day their local stations shut down their analog transmitters, thanks to a delay in the digital TV transition approved by Congress Wednesday.

The House, by a vote of 264 to 158, passed a Senate bill that would reset the death of analog TV to June 12, a measure President Barack Obama is expected to sign.

An estimated 6.5 million homes -- including many elderly, poor and disabled Americans -- would lose TV service after February 17 without the delay, supporters argued.

People who pay for cable or satellite TV service will be unaffected by the change.

The delay was opposed by Republicans who said the government has already given people years to prepare for the switch to digital TV.

"If you don't know this date is coming up, you're probably not watching television," said Rep. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican. "And if you're not watching television, you probably won't know on February 18 whether it occurred or not."

It looks like a majority of stations are going to switch over on Feb 17th anyway.

The FCC said Tuesday that over a thousand stations would still be able to turn off their analog signals before June 12 if they choose to.

Some stations have already indicated they are sticking with the Feb. 17 date. The FCC said it had heard from 276 stations to that effect, in addition to 143 stations that had already pulled the plug, and another 60 who said they planned to do so before Feb. 17. The FCC had pointed out that some of those 276 may change their minds once the date changes.

Obama ‘Common Sense’ fakery on Executive Pay

Business: If you take Tarp money then yeah there should be curbs across the entire business in regards to pay. But if Obama is talking about salary capping executives then he is out of his socialist mind.

In announcing executive pay limits on Wednesday, President Obama is trying to hold the financial industry accountable to taxpayers while aiming to change an entrenched corporate culture that endorses outsize bonuses and perks that often bear little relationship to corporate performance.

Mr. Obama also needs to deflect a growing populist outrage over sky-high pay among the banks and other companies now on the public dole. His announcement comes just days before the administration is expected to unveil a new strategy — and possibly request more money from Congress — to guarantee or buy outright hundreds of billions of dollars in bad assets held by banks.

The new rules would set a $500,000 cap on cash compensation for the most senior executives, curtail severance pay when top executives left a company, restrict cashing in on stock incentives until government assistance was repaid and prod corporate boards to closely scrutinize luxury perquisites like private jets and country club memberships.

The plan’s effectiveness in curbing executive pay may not be known for years, however. Past administrations have also been critical of excessive pay, but corporate executives have found ingenious ways around limits, often hiring consultants to create new forms of compensation.

.....But none of that put a significant dent in executive pay. A recent study by Equilar, a compensation research firm, found that the chief executives of the 10 largest financial services firms in a survey of 200 companies with revenue of at least $6.5 billion were awarded a total of $320 million last year, even though the companies had mortgage-related losses of $55 billion.

Some companies may not find the new pay curbs all that burdensome. The plan does not limit the size of bonuses that can take the form of restricted stock above the $500,000 cap — though companies would have to give shareholders a nonbinding vote on such awards.

Indeed, troubled financial institutions are already giving executives significant sums of restricted stock — shares that are locked up for years and can be sold only under specified conditions — in part because they are trying to preserve cash. Alan Johnson, managing director of Johnson Associates, a Wall Street pay consulting firm, said that in some cases, restricted stock was making up 60 percent of executives’ total compensation.

Obama's pork bill failing and breaking the 5 day rule.

Politics: Something doesn't seem right...

Hot Air: Stimulus bill support drops to 37%

CNN: Unhappy voters jam Capitol Hill phone lines.

Instapundit/ POLITICO: “Obama appears poised to break his campaign pledge to give the public five days to review a bill before he signs it.”

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

UPDATE: More: Obama’s five-day rule: Broken again.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Illegals costs California quite a lot.

Immigration: Via the LATIMES, no wonder California is a broke state.

First, nobody seems to know exactly. Numbers vary widely, depending which side they come from in the ongoing angry debate over whether people who entered the country illegally to work should be allowed to stay or loaded on the southbound truck.

But here are some no-agenda numbers:

* There were 2.8 million illegal immigrants living in California in 2006, the last year for which there are relatively good figures, according to the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California. That represented about 8% of the state's population and roughly a quarter of the nation's illegal immigrants. About 90% of California's illegal immigrants were from Latin America; 65% from Mexico.

* There are roughly 19,000 illegal immigrants in state prisons, representing 11% of all inmates. That's costing $970 million during the current fiscal year. The feds kick in a measly $111 million, leaving the state with an $859 million tab.

* Schools are the toughest to calculate. Administrators don't ask kids about citizenship status. Anyway, many children of illegal immigrants were born in this country and automatically became U.S. citizens.

If you figure that the children of illegal immigrants attending K-12 schools approximates the proportion of illegal immigrants in the population, the bill currently comes to roughly $4 billion. Most is state money; some local property taxes.

* Illegal immigrants aren't entitled to welfare, called CalWORKs. But their citizen children are. Roughly 190,000 kids are receiving welfare checks that pass through their parents. The cost: about $500 million, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office.

Schwarzenegger has proposed removing these children from the welfare rolls after five years. It's part of a broader proposal to also boot off, after five years, the children of U.S. citizens who aren't meeting federal work requirements. There'd be a combined savings of $522 million.

* The state is spending $775 million on Medi-Cal healthcare for illegal immigrants, according to the legislative analyst. Of that, $642 million goes into direct benefits. Practically all the rest is paid to counties to administer the program. The feds generally match the state dollar-for-dollar on mandatory programs.

So-called emergency services are the biggest state cost: $536 million. Prenatal care is $59 million. Not counted in the overall total is the cost of baby delivery -- $108 million -- because the newborns aren't illegal immigrants.

The state also pays $47 million for programs that Washington does not require: Non-emergency care (breast and cervical cancer treatment), $25 million; long-term nursing home care, $19 million; abortions, $3 million.

Schwarzenegger has proposed requiring illegal immigrants to requalify every month for Medi-Cal benefits, except pregnancy-related emergencies.

There also are other taxpayer costs -- especially through local governments -- but those are the biggies for the state. Add them all up and the state spends well over $5 billion a year on illegal immigrants and their families.

Wonderful, SCHIP covers illegals.

Politics: As we see the first steps of government runned health care, Obama is please with what he has signed.

The bill the president signed continues health coverage for 7 million children, adds 4 million children to the rolls and "finally" lifts the ban on states providing children who are illegal immigrants health insurance if the state chooses to do so, Obama said.

Think of the children

Obama vs Pelosi/Reid for the Dem party.

Politics: This is just admitting what is in front of everyone's face. Reid and especially Pelosi think Obama is their errand boy to sign whatever legislation they cook up so he can rubber stamp it.

Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) -- one of the lead Blue Dogs -- made a startling admission to lefty Liberadio on Sunday, suggesting the White House quietly encouraged him to buck House leadership on the stimulus.

Cooper was one of 11 Dems to vote no -- joining every GOP House member.

"Well, I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but I actually got some quiet encouragement from the Obama folks for what I’m doing," said Cooper, one of about 55 House Democrats to sign a letter criticizing Speaker Nancy Pelosi for suspending normal debate and committee rules on the $819 billion package.

He went on -- and on:

"They know its a messy bill and they wanted a clean bill. Now, I got in terrible trouble with our leadership because they don’t care what’s in the bill, they just want it pass and they want it to be unanimous. They don’t mind the partisan fighting cause that’s what they are used to. In fact, they’re really good at it. And they’re a little bit worried about what a post-partisan future might look like. If members actually had to read the bills and figure out whether they are any good or not. We’re just told how to vote. We’re treated like mushrooms most of the time."

Citigroup not planning to cancel Mets stadium deal

Nation: Wasting $400 million on a stadium deal when you have bailout money paying for it not a good idea.

Citigroup Inc (C.N: Quote, Profile, Research) is not planning to pull out of its $400 million marketing deal with the New York Mets baseball team, a person familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

The 20-year deal, which includes naming rights for a stadium in New York City known as Citi Field, attracted political scrutiny after Citigroup received more than $45 billion from the U.S. government in recent months to help shore up its balance sheet amid the global financial crisis.

A report in the Wall Street Journal earlier on Tuesday said the bank was considering pulling out of its contract. But a person familiar with the matter said the bank was not planning to do so.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Snowplow driver burys car.

Canada: I'm with the snowplow driver on this one as the car owner seems to be an insufferable dolt.

A Montreal snowplow driver has been suspended for dumping a whopping pile of snow onto a car after a dispute over a parking space.

Now the couple who found their car looking more like an igloo than a sedan want an apology from the driver.

"I think [he] should be sorry for what he did. He caused a lot of trouble for a lot of people," Roy Dudley, the owner of the car, told CBC News.

On Friday night, Dudley parked his Volkswagen Jetta on Lorne Crescent near his home east of McGill University. A private snow-removal crew contracted by the city was clearing snow off one side of the street, so Dudley chose a spot on the other side.

Dudley said one of the drivers ordered him to move his car because it could get in the way of their efforts to clear the narrow roadway.

However, Dudley refused, saying there were no signs prohibiting him from parking there.

The plow driver's boss arrived on the scene and suggested a truce: He offered to clear out a space for Dudley's car on a street nearby.

Satisfied, Dudley moved his car to the new space and returned home. But he awoke Saturday to a frosty surprise.

The entire street was clear except for two mountains of hard-packed, dirty snow covering his car.

Charles Bonnet Syndrome would scare me to death.

Medical: I would be in panic mode all the time.

The condition was named after Charles Bonnet, an 18th-century Swiss natural philosopher whose grandfather had seen people, patterns and vehicles that were not really there. Bonnet was the first person to identify that you could have visual hallucinations and still be mentally sound.

The condition can affect anybody at any age with diminishing eyesight. Even people with normal vision can develop it if they blindfold themselves for long enough.

But most people who have CBS have it as a side-effect of age-related macular degeneration - the most common cause of blindness in the UK. It is thought that up to 60 per cent of patients with severe vision loss develop CBS.

Crucially, CBS is caused by lack of visual stimulation rather than mental dysfunction.

Usually, on opening our eyes, the nerve cells in the retina send a constant stream of impulses to the visual parts of the brain. If the retina is damaged, the stream of impulses reduces, but - rather than lie dormant - other parts of the brain become hyperactive.

So when the brain isn't receiving as many pictures as it is used to, it builds its own artificial images instead from the areas we use every day to process faces, objects, landscapes and colours.

GM, Chrysler offer workers cash, cars to leave

Business: Via Reuters.

General Motors Corp (GM.N) and Chrysler LLC on Monday began offering a new round of retirement incentives including vouchers for cars as the automakers move to reduce workers and inventory.

GM will offer its U.S. hourly workers $20,000 in cash and a $25,000 voucher to buy a vehicle as an incentive to retire or leave the company, an official with the United Auto Workers union briefed on the plan said.

The No. 1 U.S. automaker declined to comment.

Chrysler's program offers retirement-eligible workers $50,000 in cash and a voucher of $25,000 for a new Chrysler vehicle if they leave, according to a person with direct knowledge of the offers.

Workers who opt to leave Chrysler with no retiree health care benefits would get $75,000 and a $25,000 car voucher, the person said.

Chrysler confirmed that it was offering a new round of buyouts to workers that would be available until February 25.

Both GM and Chrysler are under pressure to cut labor costs further under the terms of a $17.4-billion U.S. bailout extended to the two struggling automakers.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Cricket team changes name from Crusaders as not to offend.

UK: More PC stuff but at they can be now known as the Pink Panthers.

In a move that is likely to stir even more unrest within the already unhappy ranks of the county's membership, from next season the Middlesex Crusaders will be known as the Middlesex Panthers.

The very low-key admission came from Vinny Codrington, the county's chief executive, who denied that the change had been caused by political correctness, but then seemed to contradict himself in an interview with the Sun newspaper. "We have had one or two complaints from our Muslim community and our Jewish community and we obviously pay attention to that.

"There have been people who have found the name rather upsetting. For example, one of our former presidents was Jewish and he didn't particularly like the name, although he just got on with it. The name was nothing whatsoever to do with the Crusades in the 11th and 12th century."

The Crusaders name is a fairly recent development, coming about in the early 1990s when marketing men decided that county names in isolation were not appealing enough. Middlesex's Crusader nickname originated as a reflection of the three seaxes on the county crest. A seaxe, or seax, is an Old Saxon sword dating to a period before the Crusades, but that subtly appears to have been lost when the nickname was decided.

"It's like Manchester United changing their name," one member told the Sun. "But because of a tiny minority we're being stripped of it. It seems like a waste of time and money."

African Union demands Mugabe sanctions be lifted.

Africa: The spineless cowards of the AU falling lock step over a bogus power sharing deal.

The African Union (AU) on Saturday urged the lifting of sanctions against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s regime as he prepares to share power with his opposition rival in a unity government.

The AU’s executive council adopted a resolution ahead of yesterday’s summit calling for “the lifting of sanctions against Zimbabwe to help ease the humanitarian situation in the country.”

African Union head Jean Ping, when asked about sanctions levied by the UA and EU, said: “I think that everybody today should help Zimbabwe to rebuild its economy, because an agreement has been reached.

Since disputed elections last March, Zimbabwe’s shattered economy has nose-dived further. It has the world’s highest inflation rate — 231 million percent — and is struggling with a cholera epidemic that has claimed some 3,000 lives.

Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai this week acceded to a decision by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional bloc that a unity government be formed according to a strict timeline which would see him sworn in as prime minister on Feb. 11.

Human Rights Watch doesn't mind Obama's renditions

Politics: I am amused and delighted to see the naked hypocrisy of these wretched bastards who screamed bloody murder over this practice the last 8 years now having qualifications because of Obama.

The CIA's secret prisons are being shuttered. Harsh interrogation techniques are off-limits. And Guantanamo Bay will eventually go back to being a wind-swept naval base on the southeastern corner of Cuba.

But even while dismantling these programs, President Obama left intact an equally controversial counter-terrorism tool.

Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States.

Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said that the rendition program might be poised to play an expanded role going forward because it was the main remaining mechanism -- aside from Predator missile strikes -- for taking suspected terrorists off the street.

The rendition program became a source of embarrassment for the CIA, and a target of international scorn, as details emerged in recent years of botched captures, mistaken identities and allegations that prisoners were turned over to countries where they were tortured.

The European Parliament condemned renditions as "an illegal instrument used by the United States." Prisoners swept up in the program have sued the CIA as well as a Boeing Co. subsidiary accused of working with the agency on dozens of rendition flights.

But the Obama administration appears to have determined that the rendition program was one component of the Bush administration's war on terrorism that it could not afford to discard.

.....The decision to preserve the program did not draw major protests, even among human rights groups. Leaders of such organizations attribute that to a sense that nations need certain tools to combat terrorism.

"Under limited circumstances, there is a legitimate place" for renditions, said Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "What I heard loud and clear from the president's order was that they want to design a system that doesn't result in people being sent to foreign dungeons to be tortured -- but that designing that system is going to take some time."

wink wink nod nod

Ohio Seek Slice Of the Stimulus Pie

Nation: Or my title, " Ohio eager to suck on the taxpayers teat like a dying man in the Sahara."

At least act with some dignity that you are going to waste billions of dollars in bailout money and money going to political friends.

Ohio is banking on a combination of its political importance and its deep needs to corral stimulus money. It was no coincidence that Obama chose the prominent battleground state to make a campaign-like trip only four days before he assumed the presidency.

The state has lost more than 100,000 jobs in the past year. With tax revenue dropping and demands on government growing, the state cannot pay for all the services the legislature and governor authorized, including health care and road projects, and has already cut nearly $1.9 billion from the current budget.

Strickland projects a deficit of $7.3 billion in the next two-year budget. Working with other Democratic governors, he has sought $250 billion for education, particularly to prevent deep staff cuts, as well as money to help meet rising Medicaid costs.

In a budget proposal that Strickland will make today, he projects that Ohio will receive $3.4 billion for emergency fiscal relief, including Medicaid and education funding. The sum does not include anticipated federal infrastructure dollars.

Brown and Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) are pressing their colleagues on Capitol Hill to give "great weight" to unemployment and foreclosure rates, contending that the economic crisis is affecting states unequally.

Brown is also seeking heavy investment in water and sewer projects. In a letter to Obama, he cited an Environmental Protection Agency study that identified $20 billion in needs in Ohio alone, including $6 billion to upgrade sewage systems that overflow during heavy rains, sending a cascade of wastewater and storm runoff into rivers, streams and lakes.

As Congress and the White House work on the $800 billion-plus cocktail of tax cuts and spending increases, the maneuvering is underway back home in anticipation of the money's arrival.

"I've had a hundred e-mails from every little university that wants new windows," said Ronald Richards, appointed as the state's "infrastructure czar" by Strickland to review bids for the federal dollars that are routed through the governor's office.

Strickland and his staff have spent weeks broadcasting the arrival of stimulus money and seeking advice from public and private interests about how to spend it. He invited more than a dozen business executives to the governor's residence in December, and he convened a meeting of his cabinet and legislative leaders to talk strategy with Richards.

"The challenge is: Can you do things that get the money out fast and are really thoughtful?" Richards said in an interview. "My role is to put a process in place."

Richards will have no shortage of supplicants.

For Cuyahoga, it's the wind proposal on Lake Erie, in keeping with Obama's call for green projects that deliver job growth and enduring benefits. For Toledo, it's a sewer system. For Cleveland, it's $730 million spread among four large building projects, including two highways and a bridge.

Bob Armstrong, mayor of Defiance (population 17,000), wants $4.7 million for the next phase of the town's sewer upgrade, mandated by the EPA. Defiance's part-time lobbyist is on the case in Washington, "going to each of the offices, lobbying with all of the congressmen to send stimulus money."

The cash, Armstrong explained, would pay for a year of sewer work that the town currently expects to underwrite on its own. Streets would be torn up; pipes would be laid; streets would be paved. The work would be done by a private contractor.

Cleveland's ambitions for rescue funds are far larger, running 22 pages. But Mayor Frank G. Jackson is focusing on his four biggest priorities, most notably a new Inner Belt highway bridge with a $350 million price tag.

"If we don't tend to it soon, we're facing the prospect of closing it down for a year to repair it. That's unacceptable to us," said Ken Silliman, the mayor's chief of staff.

Yet Silliman said preparations are incomplete and no dirt could be turned for at least two years, much slower than Obama has in mind.

Republican state Sen. Jon Husted counts himself a skeptic about all the good works and grand hiring that the stimulus package is supposed to produce.

"What are the states going to do with this money?" said Husted, a former state House speaker. "We're going to take all the money that we can take and put it into our ongoing expenses. The stimulus package is in some ways turning into a state and local government bailout package."

Sunday, February 1, 2009

NYTIMES: Welfare System Failing to Grow

Nation: Times seems unhappy with the fact that welfare systems around the country are not growing fast enough with people depending on government to be their saviors.

Despite soaring unemployment and the worst economic crisis in decades, 18 states cut their welfare rolls last year, and nationally the number of people receiving cash assistance remained at or near the lowest in more than 40 years.

The trends, based on an analysis of new state data collected by The New York Times, raise questions about how well a revamped welfare system with great state discretion is responding to growing hardships.

...The deepening recession offers a fresh challenge to the program, which was passed by a Republican Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996 amid bitter protest and became one of the most closely watched social experiments in modern memory.

The program, which mostly serves single mothers, ended a 60-year-old entitlement to cash aid, replacing it with time limits and work requirements, and giving states latitude to discourage people from joining the welfare rolls. While it was widely praised in the boom years that followed, skeptics warned it would fail the needy when times turned tough.

So the problem is that in hard times it is not easy to get back on the dole?

“When we started this, Democratic and Republican governors alike said, ‘We know what’s best for our state; we’re not going to let people starve,’ ” said Mr. Haskins, who is now a researcher at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “And now that the chips are down, and unemployment is going up, most states are not doing enough to help families get back on the rolls.”

...Born from Mr. Clinton’s pledge to “end welfare as we know it,” the new program brought furious protests from people who predicted the poor would suffer. Then millions of people quickly left the rolls, employment rates rose and child poverty plunged.

But the economy of the late 1990s was unusually strong, and even then critics warned that officials placed too much stress on caseload reduction. With benefits harder to get, a small but growing share of families was left with neither welfare nor work and fell deeper into destitution.

“TANF is not an especially attractive option for most people,” said Linda Blanchette, a top welfare official in Pennsylvania, which cut its rolls last year by 6 percent. “People really do view it as a last resort.”

All welfare should be seen as a last resort, the whiners in this piece come from the thinking that welfare is for the poor as a lifestyle that should be growing by leaps and bounds except for that darn 90's reform.

Rental-Car Firms Seek a Bailout

Nation: This went under the rader from the pork filled bill passed in the House.

Add rental-car companies to the list of those seeking a federal bailout.

Stagnant credit markets, slumping demand for travel and the automobile industry's hardships are hobbling rental-car companies like no other downturn since the modern industry emerged in the 1970s. Fewer travelers are renting cars. And rental-car companies are struggling to find buyers for their used automobiles -- an important source of revenue -- and secure financing to purchase new ones to replace them.

Now, Avis Budget Group Inc., Hertz Global Holdings Inc. and other rental-car companies are lobbying Congress to allow them to use Troubled Asset Relief Program funds to finance new auto purchases. The House of Representatives included a clause in a TARP reform bill that it passed last week to give the government authority to back loans to rental-car companies and other fleet purchasers. The bill has now moved on to the Senate.

The industry's plight illustrates the domino effect the financial crisis is having on the broader economy. Legislators added the clause to the bill because the rental-car industry, which buys as many as 1.8 million new vehicles a year, is the U.S. auto industry's biggest customer.

"If our desire is to get car buying and credit flowing again, enabling people who buy hundreds of cars at a time is a good way to do it," said Steven Adamske, a spokesman for Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.

In addition to rental-car companies, trucking companies, limousine services and other big fleet purchasers could benefit from the clause.

So all this is about is artificially boosting companies who otherwise would have to make difficult business decisions just like everyone else is doing now. Terrific.

Pepsi's Superbowl ad offends me.

Entertainment: Comparing John Belushi with Jack Black is like comparing the cure for cancer with cancer. If Jack Black is this Gen Y's Belushi, it is just confirmation how awful this Generation has it.

Superbowl movie ads are up. GI JOE still looks generic.


Fast and the Furious 4 aka Vin Diesel and Paul Walker try to get their careers on track.

Pixar's Up: As always with Pixar looks quality and cute.

Land of the Lost starring Will Ferrell.

Year One: Starring Jack Black and the ever annoying David Cross in one of the unfunny trailer you will see all year.

Transformers 2: Its Bay and it has explosions. I ask for nothing else.

Star Trek: I want Star Trek relaunch to be great but I am getting serious bad vibes from this as if they hunted down the good looking people and then thought about the franchise.

Then we get to GI Joe aka No Americanism in this flick. We knew from reports they were going to make sure to downplay American ties to it and from this trailer they have succeeded since it looks like a generic team action flick.

Links via Neogaf

So Springsteen gonna cut a check from his Walmart profit?

Business: Let us believe that Bruce Springsteen and his people didn't do a good enough job to vet Walmart. When will he cut a check and donate every single cent of money he gets from sales to worthy worker causes?
Another curious thought is how THE BOSS! He of the people miss all the Walmart controversy. He acts like a out of touch rich...oh.. never mind.

Auto suppliers want US government bailout

Business: Of course they do and why not since everyone else is getting one.

Auto suppliers are preparing to head to Washington to ask for government help in surviving a deep slump in car sales that has slashed the production of new cars and trucks to the lowest level in a generation.

"We're formulating our position and the scope of what a potential ask might be," said David Andrea, vice president of Original Equipment Supplier Association, which is expected to handle the petition for the supplier companies.

Suppliers had already asked for help in November when Congress was considering a bailout of cash-strapped General Motors and Chrysler, who were granted 13.4 billion dollars in loans.

Since then, the situation has worsened as US production was slashed by 36 percent in December and is expected to be down even more in the first quarter after GM, Ford and Chrysler halted nearly all production in January.

To top it all off, Chrysler said it is seeking price cuts from suppliers as part of the viability plan it has to submit to the US Treasury Department on February 17.

Dozens of suppliers could be on the verge of collapse, warned Linda Hasenfratz, president of the Original Equipment Suppliers Association.
"There is no production. So there is no cash coming in," said Hasenfratz, who is also the chief executive officer of Linamar Corp. of Guelph, Canada.

But there are no easy fixes and the industry is headed for months of major restructuring and consolidation, warned Juergen Reers, managing partner for Roland Berger Strategy Consultants.

"There are a large number of suppliers that have entered into the crisis with a relatively weak balance sheet," Reers told AFP.

"They've had no revenues in recent weeks, which is putting further pressure on their liquidity. A lot of suppliers are cash constrained. Smaller and weaker suppliers are becoming insolvent."

Iran mocks Obama basically calls him a weak punk.

World: Some point Obama will realize that playing nice with you enemies is a bad thing. Until then we will see more of this sort of mocking of weak America.

US President Barack Obama's offer to talk to Iran shows that America's policy of "domination" has failed, the government spokesman said on Saturday.

"This request means Western ideology has become passive, that capitalist thought and the system of domination have failed," Gholam Hossein Elham was quoted as saying by the Mehr news agency.

"Negotiation is secondary, the main issue is that there is no way but for (the United States) to change," he added.

After nearly three decades of severed ties, Obama said shortly after taking office this month that he is willing to extend a diplomatic hand to Tehran if the Islamic republic is ready to "unclench its fist".

In response, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad launched a fresh tirade against the United States, demanding an apology for its "crimes" against Iran and saying he expected "deep and fundamental" change from Obama.

Reducing California state payroll = Impossible.

Nation: Every sector in private business is going thru job losses that come naturally with the business cycle except government. In California, its near impossible to cut back on a bloated system that has turned into a government welfare system.

The notion that the only safe job in a recession is a state Civil Service job was punctured this week when a Sacramento court gave the governor the authority to take an ax to the government payroll.

Thursday's Superior Court ruling, which greenlighted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to shut down much of state government on two Fridays each month -- forcing 238,000 mostly unionized workers to stay home without pay -- follows decades in which the state workforce remained relatively impervious to financial crises.

..The governor's plan to temporarily cut state worker pay to the federal minimum wage during last summer's cash crunch also failed. The state controller refused to make the salary reductions, which would have been repaid to the workers once a budget was signed. The courts declined to intervene before a budget deal was reached.

Labor leaders say that when the economy goes south, Californians need government services more than ever and that it is simply not a practical time to throw public employees onto the street.

"There are certain things that the state needs to do more of during bad times," said Jim Zamora, spokesman for Service Employees International Union, Local 1000, which represents tens of thousands of state workers. "You can't cut the workforce without making decisions about what it is that you are not going to do anymore."

Unemployment claims that need to be processed rise in tough times, as do requests for welfare assistance, for example.

Government healthcare programs are stressed by Californians who have lost their private insurance. And some things, such as prisons, continue to operate around the clock.

Indeed, despite the furloughs and the governor's urging departments to make only the most essential new hires, all indications are that the state has not completely curbed its appetite for new employees.

The State Personnel Board’s website lists 2,975 current vacancies. Of those, 1,172 were posted in the last two weeks. One local entrepreneur, Ken Mandler, continues to hold popular workshops on how to get a state job. He said he was too busy in meetings with clients to be interviewed.

Labor leaders argue that California already has one of the most efficient workforces, with a lower ratio of state employees to the population than most other states. But there are other factors in play.

California labor law generally stipulates that a governor cannot require give-backs from unionized state employees without offering something in return. The courts, until this week, have generally upheld that principle.

Bad times, can't cut government workers.
Good times, can't cut government workers.

This is the future of America under Obama. Get used to it.