Monthly Archives: January 2009

RNC Leader Follies

I love the little news scrolls coming across my desk today, as the Republican National Committee seeks to elect a new chairman — the guy who will lead the Republican Party.

The first ballot had Mike Duncan in the lead.  Mike Duncan has been the head of the RNC, which mounted massive losses in Congress in the 2006 and 2008 election (not to mention, of course, the loss of the White House in 2008).  Duncan was Bush's appointed guy, and a strong supporter of Bush policies.  So electing him would signal that the Republican Party is going to stay with the Bush doctrines, foreign and domestic.

Naturally, though, there was competition.

And by the third ballot, Mike Duncan has dropped to second place.  He then, in a surprise to many, withdrew his name.

So who became the frontrunners?  Michael Steele, noted because he is an African-American.  And Katon Dawson of South Carolina, who recently had to abandon his membership in a "whites only" country club.

Where are they now?  Given (primarily) those two choices, what is the temperature of the new "rebranded" Republican party?

After the surprise drop out of former Chairman Mike Duncan, South Carolina party chairman Katon Dawson has taken a two-vote lead over Michael Steele, 62-60.

This comes despite Duncan encouraging his voters to go with Steele, a source close to Duncan told First Read.

Anuzis moved to 31, and Blackwell remained at 15, rounding out fourth-round voting.

The winning candidate needs 85 votes to clinch. That means Dawson now needs 23 more votes, and Steele needs 25.

Duncan met with Steele privately prior to dropping out to tell him of his plans, a source said. The source added that "he likes Steele," but he's not sure that the members will all move to Steele. Many of them aren't warm to Steele, because he's not a committee member.

The source also said that Duncan pulled out because he's a "party guy" and didn't want a long, drawn-out fight.

This now is shaping up to be a fight between, fundamentally, an "insider" (Dawson) and an "outsider" (Steele). It also ironically sets up the first African American to lead the Republican Party against a party chairman from the South, who was a member of a country club that was formerly was all-white.

It would be a political embarassment to have the black guy lose; it only solidifies (perhaps unfairly) the perception that the GOP is not exactly minority-friendly.  On the other hand, if Steele (who is not only black, but more moderate) wins, what will be the response of the Republican rank-and-file?

Then again, this whole "RNC leader" selection process might just be like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

UPDATE – 3:08 pm:  Blackwell (another African-American), who was running last in the fourth round of balloting (see above), bows out and throws his support to Steele.

UPDATE - 3:30 pm: Michael Steele has re-gained the lead in the fifth round of voting for RNC chair.

Michael Steele: 79
Katon Dawson: 69
Saul Anuzis: 20

Aaaand… Anuzis dropped out without endorsing anybody. 

So the next round should be the last.  Which is good because, in his liveblog, NRO's Jim Geraghty notes that in addition to the other weighty questions hanging over this balloting for the chairman of the RNC who will lead the party out of the political wilderness …

the RNC has to be out of the ballroom by 5 p.m. because a wedding is slated to use the room starting at 5:30.

Steele only needs to get 6 of Anuzi's forfeited 20 to win 85 votes and take the throne.

UPDATE – 4:05 pm:  It's Steele, with 91 votes.

Steele is the most moderate candidate, and (unlike Dawson) not from the South (NOTE: But he is pro-life).  And he's black.  Signs of a major shift in the Republican party.

Conservatives are becoming dust in the wind…..

UPDATE:  On Twitter, Ana Marie Cox observed, “Strong showing for Steele –widely considered a ‘moderate’ — in #rncchair suggests that Rs at least considering abandoning Palinism,” which she defined as, “[a]ggressive know-nothingism, pride in ignorance.” “It’s a diverse party. We’re tired of being labeled as white supremacists,” said a committee member from Rhode Island.

And it looks like social conservatives will be very unhappy…..

Overlooked

While there is much brouhaha and attention being paid to the stimulus bill (and Blago, who I am glad to see go), what many are missing is this:

The Democratic-controlled Congress moved a step closer to handing President Barack Obama an early health care victory Thursday as the Senate passed a bill extending government-sponsored health insurance coverage to about 4 million uninsured children.

The bill, which was approved 66-32, authorizes an additional $32.8 billion over the next 4 1/2 years for the State Children's Health Insurance Program. The House plans to take up the same measure next week.

Even with the added spending, an estimated 5 million children still would be without health insurance. During his election campaign, Obama called for requiring all children to have health coverage.

That's the SCHIP program that was controversially denied by Republicans and George Bush last year….

Harsh Realities

Ouch:

The number of jobless American workers receiving unemployment checks rose to the highest level since the government began keeping records in 1967.

A Labor Department spokesman said the number of Americans drawing jobless benefits for a week or longer rose to 4,776,000 in the week ended Jan. 17, the latest data available.

The number eclipses the prior mark set in November 1982, when 4,713,000 million Americans drew benefits.

Americans who moved to collect their first unemployment checks rose for the third consecutive week, to 588,000, according to a government report released Thursday.

The number of Americans filing for unemployment claims has surged by 61% from this time a year ago.

In graph form:

1233337983729_map

UPDATE:  More ouch with the GDP.  The fourth quarter of last year:

The U.S. economy shriveled at the end of 2008, shrinking by the most in 26 years….Gross domestic product fell at a seasonally adjusted 3.8% annual rate October through December, the Commerce Department said Friday in the first estimate of fourth-quarter GDP.

….Federal government spending helped the economy….Also preventing the economy from sinking further were inventories, which rose at the end of 2008. On a down note, the inventory increase was likely unintended — the result of companies getting stuck with unwanted merchandise because demand has tailed off in the recession….Inventories increased by $6.2 billion, after going down $29.6 billion in the third quarter and $50.6 billion in the second quarter. Inventories added 1.32 percentage points to GDP in the fourth quarter.

Wanna see that in graph form?

You sure???

Ooooo-kay….

GR2009013001353 

I say again… "Ouch"

Obama May Pick Republican for Commerce Secretary

I think Obama's gesture to the right is noble, but ultimately self-defeating.  As the House vote on the stimulus package shows, Republicans simply aren't in a mood to compromise or be post-partisan.  So why bother?

That's why I am troubled by this:

The Obama administration has been floating the idea of naming Republican Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.) to be Commerce Secretary, several Senate sources said Thursday.

Really?  Is he the best person for the job.

Of course, there is a silver lining.  With Gregg out of the Senate, his replacement would be appointed by New Hampshire's governor — a Democrat.  If she appoints a Democrat (and assuming Al Franken gets seated), that will result in a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

Pepsi Varieties

Because it's Friday…..

  • Pepsi: PepsiCo's signature cola flavor and its namesake cola.
  • Diet Pepsi: The sugarfree equivalent.
  • Pepsi Free: Introduced in 1982 by PepsiCo as the first major-brand caffeine-free cola and is today sold as Caffeine-Free Pepsi and Caffeine-Free Diet Pepsi.
  • Crystal Pepsi: Discontinued; clear version of cola; introduced in 1992 and sold until 1993.
    • Crystal by Pepsi: Discontinued (non-cola) citrus flavored reformulation of Crystal Pepsi.
    • Pepsi Clear: Clear soda released in Mexico as a limited edition during Christmas 2005, the Mexican equivalent of Crystal Pepsi
  • Pepsi AM: Contains more caffeine than a regular Pepsi and marketed as a morning drink. Introduced in 1989 and discontinued in 1990.
  • Pepsi Boom: A caffeine, sugar and artificial sweetener-free Pepsi only sold in Germany, Italy and Spain
    • Pepsi Fresh: More fresh Pepsi. Designed for summer 2007.
    • Pepsi Natural "a new cola made with only natural ingredients", due in 2007
    • Pepsi NEX: A zero calorie Pepsi developed by Suntory and sold only in Japan[1]
  • Pepsi Blue: A blue colored fruity soda (non-cola). Given a huge marketing push, often considered a major flop on the order of New Coke. No longer produced. In Iceland, Pepsi Blue was sold for a brief period of time during the winter of 2003/2004, and in India during the 2003 Cricket World Cup. It was sold for a longer period in Austria, and is still available in some parts of Mexico. It was also sold in the Philippines for a limited time only, usually it appears during Christmas season. Likewise, it was sold for a limited time in Australia and Finland. In 2009 Pepsi Blue will be brought back for a limited time.
  • Pepsi Blue Hawaii: A Limited Edition Pepsi released in Japan. A pineapple and lemon flavored soda, blue in color.
  • Pepsi Carnival: A tropical fruit flavored Pepsi available in Japan for a limited time that debuted in summer 2006. Later Released as Pepsi Summer Mix in 2007 in the US, However the formula was most likely different.
  • Pepsi Fire: a limited edition, cinnamon flavored variety that is sold in Guam, Saipan, Thailand, Mexico, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines.
  • Pepsi Gold: Limited edition gold colored variant as part of a 2006 FIFA World Cup and ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 promotion.It had a hint of ginger, but nowhere near the spice level of Pepsi Red, and was sold in Southeast Asia, Central Europe and Russia.
  • Pepsi Green: a bright-green variety introduced in Thailand on January 15, 2009.[2]
  • Pepsi Holiday Spice: a limited edition variety which the company began selling November 1, 2004 in the U.S.A. and Canada for an eight-week period, and again in the 2006 Christmas season. It is flavored with a seasonal finish of cinnamon, somewhat similar to the Swedish Julmust.
    • Christmas Pepsi: Almost identical to Pepsi Holiday Spice, with nutmeg and cocoa added to the ingredients list, and was marketed over the 2007 and 2008 Christmas seasons.
  • Pepsi Ice: Pepsi with an icy mint flavor. Sold in Guam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. In summer 2007 Pepsi used the name Pepsi Ice in the Czech Republic and Slovakia for a limited edition cola with apple flavor.
  • Pepsi_cucumber Pepsi Ice Cucumber: Limited edition Pepsi released in Japan. Cucumber flavors are added to this. Pepsi Ice Cucumber is a clear drink.
  • Pepsi Kona, a coffee-flavored cola which was test-marketed on the East Coast of the USA.
  • Lemon Pepsi: Limited Edition to promote NFL kickoff 2008, same taste as Pepsi Twist
  • Pepsi Lime: with lime flavor added, introduced onto the market in the spring of 2005.
    • Pepsi Limón: Pepsi with lime flavor released in Mexico in 2002, later returns as Pepsi Twist in 2004, no longer produced.
    • Pepsi A-ha: Lemon flavored Pepsi sold in India.
  • Pepsi Raging Razzberry:This soft drink was available in 1991 and it has been said that it didn't really taste like raspberry, but was considered a raspberry twist
  • Pepsi Raw: Fruity cola tested and available in the United Kingdom.
  • Pepsi Red: Released in Japan sometime in 2006, it has a general ginger flavor and is somewhat spicy.
  • Pepsi Retro (rendered in written advertisement as PEPSI retro): Released in Mexico in February 2008. Pepsi made with natural ingredients, sugar cane and cola nut extract.
  • Pepsi Samba: A "Tropical Flavoured Cola" containing the flavors Mango & Tamarind, distributed in Australia. It was released in Australia in the 3rd Quarter of 2005 and was expected to be in production for a limited time only. Many people did not like the taste. Recently many Australian supermarkets were clearing out their remaining stock at prices as low as 15 cents (2 litres).
  • Pepsi Si: The word used in its Spanish context ("yes") and printed on cans. Used as a marketing gimmick in predominantly Hispanic areas.
  • Pepsi Strawberry Burst
  • Pepsi Summer Chill: "Chilled Apple Cola". Sold in Poland during summer 2007. In the Czech Republic and Slovakia the same product was sold as Pepsi Ice.
  • Pepsi Summer Mix: Pepsi with tropical fruit flavors. Released in early Spring of 2007, and was discontinued Fall to Winter of 2007. Was available in limited areas only; was a big hit for the northeastern United States.
  • Pepsi Tropical Chill
  • Pepsi Tropical: Short lived drink that was Available both in the US, UK & Japan in late 1994.
  • Pepsi Kickoff: Pepsi with a "kick" of lemon. To be released to promote the 2008 NFL season. A diet version is to be made, also.
  • Pepsi Twist: a lemon flavored variety.
  • Pepsi Twist Mojito: A Pepsi with a mix of lemon and mojito taste. Has no alcohol. Sold in Italy.
    • Pepsi Twistão Sold during summertime in Brazil, it's a Pepsi with a lemon flavor stronger than regular Pepsi Twist. "Twistão", in Portuguese, is the augmentative of "Twist".
  • Pepsi Vanilla: Released in Canada and the U.S. in 2003 as Pepsi's answer to Vanilla Coke. Contains vanilla extract as well as both natural and artificial flavors.
  • Pepsi White: Pepsi with yogurt flavor, available in Japan
  • Pepsi Wild Cherry: a cherry flavored variety, introduced in 1988. Available for a brief period in th UK in the late 1980s. Originally called "Wild Cherry Pepsi", its name was changed along with the formula in 2005.
  • Pepsi X Energy Cola: contains more caffeine than regular Pepsi, and also contains guaranine. Pepsi is the first major cola brand to have an energy drink line extension. The cola-based product has a unique flavor and a reddish tint. It is sold in several countries worldwide.
  • Pepsi 100: Only available for a limited time to celebrate 100 years of the drink in 1998 and came back on 2003 to celebrate the name..
  • Pepsi Gold: Unlike Pepsi, it is calorie-free, caffeine-free & sugar-free Pepsi.

(Source)

O’Reilly Dumber Than Supermodel Jessica Alba

Heh:

Jessica Alba is setting the record straight: Sweden was neutral during World War II.

Alba and Fox TV show host Bill O’Reilly traded punches last week after the presidential inauguration. After Alba told a Fox reporter that O’Reilly was “kind of an a-hole;” he retaliated by calling her a “pinhead” for telling a reporter to “be Sweden about it,” assuming she meant Switzerland.

“I want to clear some things up that have been bothering me lately,” Alba blogged on MySpace Celebrity. “Last week, Mr. Bill O'Reilly and some really classy sites (i.e.TMZ) insinuated I was dumb by claiming Sweden was a neutral country. I appreciate the fact that he is a news anchor and that gossip sites are inundated with intelligent reporting, but seriously people… it's so sad to me that you think the only neutral country during WWII was Switzerland.”

Although Switzerland is more frequently cited as an example of neutrality, Sweden did indeed follow a policy of neutrality during World War II. History point to Alba.

And Sweden (like Switzerland) has refused to join NATO, too.  Neutral.

“Slumdog Millionaire” Kids Still Live In Poverty

Loved the movie.  So I found this disconcerting:

Slumdog5 Their roles in Slumdog Millionaire have won them international acclaim and seen them rub shoulders with the film’s glamorous stars and its British director.

***

But the reality of life for Rubina Ali and Azharuddin Ismail is far closer to that of the characters they play in the story of love, violent crime and extreme poverty in India.

Yup.  Ali earned 500 British pounds ($710) for one year’s work and Ismail earned 1700 pounds ($2414), “less than many Indian domestic servants“:

Both children were found places in a local school and receive £20 a month for books and food. However, they continue to live in grinding poverty and their families say they have received no details of the trust funds set up in their names. Their parents said that they had hoped the film would be their ticket out of the slums, and that its success had made them realise how little their children had been paid.

The children received considerably less than the poor Afghan child stars of The Kite Runner, who embarrassed their Hollywood producers when they disclosed that they had been paid £9,000.

Rubina and Azharuddin live a few hundreds yards from each other in a tangle of makeshift shacks alongside Mumbai’s railway tracks at Bandra. Azharuddin is in fact worse off than he was during filming: his family’s illegal hut was demolished by the local authorities and he now sleeps under a sheet of plastic tarpaulin with his father, who suffers from tuberculosis.

A Fox Searchlight spokesperson said he is “proud” of their treatment and boasted, “For 30 days work, the children were paid three times the average local annual adult salary.”

Chart Of The Day

Just who is Republican nowadays?

Not many:

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Gallup concludes that there are only five solid Republican states — representing a grand total of 2% of the population — left in the entire country. Full report here.

How To Deal With Rush Limbaugh

The wrong way:

In a bid to capitalize on Rush Limbaugh's recent comment that he hopes President Obama "fails," national Democrats launched a petition drive Wednesday taking direct aim at the conservative radio host.

"Jobs, health care, our place in the world — the stakes for our nation are high and every American needs President Obama to succeed," says the petition, sponsored by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "Stand strong against Rush Limbaugh's Attacks — sign our petition, telling Rush what you think of his attacks on President Obama."

The right way:

Ignore him.

Nathan Tabor On Evolution and Gays

Our locally-living nationally-syndicated columnist, Nathan Tabor, is a howl today. 

After trying to make the argument that Obama's policies will effectively result in genocide of African-Americans (yes, he really makes that argument), Tabor writes:

But blacks are not the only minority group which could suffer under the Democratic regime in Washington. Democratic leaders believe that children must be taught evolution, and they cringe at the common-sense notion of intelligent design. The evolutionary theory promoted by Charles Darwin teaches survival of the fittest. That would place homosexuals at the bottom of the chain, since they cannot procreate. Under evolution, they are destined to die out, forced out of existence by the heterosexuals who can procreate.

Ummmm…. boy.  Stuck on stupid. 

Nathan apparently believes that homosexuals are the offspring of homosexuals and therefore, that demographic is genetically destined to die out under an evolutionary theory.

And, as a corollary, apparently this can be twarted by teaching intelligent design to children.

This of course leads Nathan to his ultimate conclusion:

The idea that our nation's Democratic leaders are anti-black, anti-minority, and anti-homosexual is an inconvenient truth. It is uncomfortable to read because it is uncomfortable to write. But, as an old adage goes, the truth will make you free. Only when Democrats confront their own bigoted demons can true progress begin, can we finally heal as a nation.

I see.  By electing Obama, Democrats have revealed themselves to be bigots.  Thanks for the insight, Nathan.

One wonders if Nathan really believes anyone — including conservatives — would actually swallow his crap.

They’re Out To Get You

Spare me.  They're making a Broadway musical out of Michael Jackson's Thriller:

According to the press release, the musical take its plot from the actual music video, a “horror film spoof in which a young couple are out on a date on a beautiful full moon evening, when suddenly the young man, played by Jackson, turns into a werewolf.” This sounds like it could be Cats, but with zombies instead of kitties.

On a positive note, the musical will reportedly also feature songs from both Jackson’s Off the Wall and Thriller, so you can pretty much expect to see “Billie Jean” and its sidewalk that lights up when you step on it at some point during the production. Michael Jackson will also reportedly be a part of the creation of the musical in some capacity. The creative team and estimated theater dates of the show have not yet been revealed.

Thrillerdance

The CBO Report

So the Republicans went out in front of the cameras yesterday to let the world know something.  According to a non-partisan study by the Congressional Budget Office, the money from Obama's stimulus plan won't be spent until quite some time.

The media picked this up and reported it as fact.  The Washington Post, for example:

Stimulus Projects May Be Slow, CBO Says

A report by the Congressional Budget Office found that only about $136 billion of the $355 billion that House leaders want to allocate to infrastructure and other so-called discretionary programs would be spent by Oct. 1, 2010. The rest would come in future years, long after the CBO and other economists predict the recession will have ended.

***

But the CBO analysis appears to confirm the complaints of many Republicans and other critics, who have long argued that spending money on highway construction and other infrastructure projects is ineffective at quickly jolting a sluggish economy. The report was distributed to reporters yesterday by aides to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

The report also suggests that the House measure would violate Obama's rules for the stimulus package; Obama aides have said they want the bulk of the spending to occur before 2011. Obama has pledged that the measure would save or create at least 3 million jobs over the next two years.

The networks ran with it as well, reporting it at least 81 times:

– “There’s a Congressional Budget Office report out today that suggests that the $825 billion stimulus proposal from Democrats, which is supposed to be timely and temporary, actually offers most of its spending a couple years from now,” — Carl Cameron [Fox News, 1/20/09]

– “Even the Congressional Budget Office is very skeptical about the rapidity with which that stimulus, this set of proposals, can move through, and that it could be four years before we see the results,” — Andrea Mitchell [MSNBC, 1/21/09]

– “Well that was another question raised in this Congressional Budget Office study. It was suggesting that a lot of the spending proposals in the original plan would not really take effect for a couple of years, so it wouldn’t clearly help create jobs in the first two years of the president’s administration,” — Ed Henry [CNN, 1/23/09]

– “There was a report out earlier this week from [the] Congressional Budget Office pointing out that the appropriated funds, that portion of the stimulus package that, you know, less than half of that was really going to be spent even within the next two years,” — Karen Tumulty [CNN, 1/24/09]

The problem?  No such CBO report exists.

The CBO did do a preliminary analysis on an older version of Obama's stimulus package, not the one being offered now.

But today, we have the actual CBO report on the actual stimulus package.  Let's return to the Washington Post, in today's article (written by the same journalist):

House Plan Offers 'Noticeable Impact'

CBO Sees 65% Spent by End of Fiscal 2010

Approximately two-thirds of the spending and tax cuts contained in an economic stimulus package crafted by House Democrats would flow into the economy by the end of fiscal 2010, producing a "noticeable impact on economic growth and employment," congressional budget analysts said yesterday.

In an eagerly awaited analysis of the stimulus package, which is set for a vote in the House tomorrow, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded that the measure would cost the federal government about $816 billion over the next 10 years and that approximately $526 billion, or about 65 percent, would be spent by the end of September 2010

Got that?  The "fake" CBO report said that "about $136 billion… would be spent by Oct. 1, 2010"; the real one, released today, says "approximately $526 billion, or about 65 percent, would be spent by the end of September 2010."

Way to report, media.

Is Obama's stimulus package perfect?  No.  There is some unnecessary spending which probably won't stimulate the economy or provide jobs.  (NOTE: the most controversial spending provision — where money was allocated to medicare for the distribution of contraceptives — was removed this morning).

And there are too many tax cuts which won't help at all.  Bob Herbert is frustrated:

The truth, of course, is that the country is hemorrhaging jobs and Americans are heading to the poorhouse by the millions. The stock markets and the value of the family home have collapsed, and there is virtual across-the-board agreement that the country is caught up in the worst economic disaster since at least World War II.

The Republican answer to this turmoil?

Tax cuts.

They need to go into rehab.

The question that I would like answered is why anyone listens to this crowd anymore. G.O.P. policies have been an absolute backbreaker for the middle class. (Forget the poor. Nobody talks about them anymore, not even the Democrats.) The G.O.P. has successfully engineered a wholesale redistribution of wealth to those already at the top of the income ladder and then, in a remarkable display of chutzpah, dared anyone to talk about class warfare.

And yes, some of the spending is a little slow.  But Steve Bene reminds us of two points:

As for the "slowest" parts of the package, the CBO analysis notes a variety of factors, including "seasonal" concerns — school renovations are better over the summer, and highway construction in the north over the winter is inherently tricky.

What's more, I'm also reminded of something Paul Krugman noted over the weekend: those portions of the stimulus plan that'll kick in later might help, too, since the economy will need ongoing boosts. "[W]e're looking at a situation where even if some of the projects are continuing to add spending two years out, two-and-a half, even three years out, that's not such a bad thing," Krugman explained.

So, it's not too bad.  The important thing is to get it passed, and passed now.  The House GOP seems unified in voting "no" on the bill.  That's fine, if not entirely predictable.  Maybe we shouldn't try to appease them.  Perhaps the thing to do is to take the bill back and make it better.  After all, the GOP votes aren't needed.  The whole "bipartisan" attempt was nice, even noble, but that requires both parties to play.

Eight Is Enough

She — and the doctors — were expecting septuplets, but surprise, surprise.  An eighth one appeared, making it the second known time that octuplets were born in the United States.  Story here.  And here.

Obama Throws An Elbow

Sure, Obama is willing to talk with, and listen to, members of the GOP — and solicit their views.

But it's nice to know that he's no pushover:

President Obama listened to Republican gripes about his stimulus package during a meeting with congressional leaders Friday morning – but he also left no doubt about who's in charge of these negotiations. "I won," Obama noted matter-of-factly, according to sources familiar with the conversation.

Countdown to right-wing whining that Obama isn't being "bi-partisan" enough by virtue of the fact that he's not caving in to their demands.  10, 9, 8, 7….

UPDATE:  Wow, that was quick.

UPDATE:  Of course, Obama has said this about himself…

Sacrifice

Gscookie I know in these hard economic times, we have been called upon to make sacrifices.

But really.  This is just too much to ask:

If you seem to be tearing through those Girl Scout Thin Mints a little faster this year, you aren't imagining things.

Fewer cookies were packaged into Thin Mints, Do-si-dos and Tagalongs boxes this year, and the Lemon Chalet Crème cookies were resized to compensate for the rising cost of baking staples.

I'll bear any burden, meet any challenge, etc.  But don't fuck with my Girl Scout Thin Mints.

Can't they get a government bailout loan or something?

Time To Change The Fourth Circuit

This op-ed piece in the New York Times reminds me: we can (and should) do something about the Fourth Circuit.

The article is written by Judge Wilkinson, a staunch conservative, and a main driving force that gives the Fourth Circuit the reputation as being the most conservative in the country.

The Fourth Circuit is the federal court of appeals (one court level "below" the U.S. Supreme Court) that presides over Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the Carolinas.  It, like the other circuit courts are powerful, as this 2003 NYT article states:

Few pay much attention to federal courts below the Supreme Court level. But they should. The appellate courts, created in the late 19th century to relieve overcrowding of the Supreme Court's docket, decide about 28,000 cases a year compared with the highest court's 75 or so. Practically speaking, they have the final say in most matters of law; their reach is broader, if not deeper, than the Supreme Court's itself.

The Fourth Circuit has been damaging, and carries the potential to do more damage:

It pushes the envelope, testing the boundaries of conservative doctrine in the area of, say, reasserting states rights over big government. Sometimes, the Supreme Court reins in the Fourth Circuit, reversing its more experimental decisions, but it also upholds them or leaves them alone to become the law of the land.

Some of the 4th Circuit's best-known rulings, upheld by the Supreme Court, include striking down a law allowing rape victims to sue their attackers in federal court and preventing the Food and Drug Administration from regulating tobacco.

It's no surprise then, that during the Bush administration, the 4th Circuit has been the court of choice on national security, issuing key rulings that backed the government on the detention of enemy combatants and the prosecution of Sept. 11, 2001, conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.

Judge Wilkinson is worried:

With four vacancies on our 15-member court, the 4th Circuit may be the best game in town. With the new numbers in the Senate, the temptation is there to go for an ideological makeover.

And naturally, he doesn't want to see that happen.

On one level, he is correct.  The courts should not be full of ideologues.  But in making that comment, Wilkinson has a blind spot to his own ideological makeup.

He's not going anywhere.  But with Obama in office, and a Democrat-controlled Congress, now is the time to provide, not an ideological "makeover", but an ideological course correction to a more balanced Fourth Circuit.

UPDATE:  A comment at Volokh Conspiracy about Wilkinson:

As chief judge of the Fourth Circuit during the Clinton Administration, Wilkinson repeatedly made statements claiming that the Senate should not confirm any Clinton nominees to that court because it would reduce the court's "collegiality." He immediately ceased his objections when Bush took the oath of office.

Now, on the third day of the Obama Administration, Wilkinson warns that President Obama better not nominate any judges who don't agree with Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson. I'd like to know who he thinks he's fooling.

Another Good Beginning

Obama reversed the gag rule:

THIS WEEK marks the 20th anniversary of a profound and misguided change in US foreign policy: the Reagan administration's "global gag rule," which was first announced at an international family planning conference in Mexico City in August 1984.

The "Mexico City" policy prohibits US dollars and contraceptive supplies from going to any international family planning program that provides abortions or counsels women about their reproductive health options.

The problem with the "gag rule" of course is that most family planning programs abroad, like the ones here, provide all kinds of health services to women — not just abortions.  In fact, for most international family planning facilities, abortion represents a small fraction of the services provided.

The policy isn't about money going to pay for abortions. Even those groups that use only private funds for abortion services — where abortion is legal — are barred from assistance. This is money going to family planning programs.

And what has been the consequence?

In Kenya, for example, two of the leading family planning organizations have been forced to shut down five clinics dispensing aid from prenatal care and vaccinations to malaria screening and AIDS prevention. Kenya's experience is common, according to "Access Denied," a report on the impact of the global gag rule on developing nations. Researchers found that programs for rural communities and urban slums have been scaled back by as much as 50 percent. As a result more women are turning to unsafe abortion — a leading cause of death for young women in much of Africa — because they lack access to family planning information and essential contraceptive supplies.

In other words, better to have people dies from malaria and AIDS rather than destroying fetuses.  So much for the "culture of life".

The “Obama Is Dangerous” Meme Starts

Over at The Corner, Mark Thiesson (former Bush speechwriter) gripes:

Less than 48 hours after taking office, Obama has begun dismantling those institutions without time for any such review.  The CIA program he is effectively shutting down is the reason why America has not been attacked again after 9/11. He has removed the tool that is singularly responsible for stopping al-Qaeda from flying planes into the Library Tower in Los Angeles, Heathrow Airport, and London’s Canary Warf, and blowing up apartment buildings in Chicago, among other plots.  It’s not even the end of inauguration week, and Obama is already proving to be the most dangerous man ever to occupy the Oval Office.

[Emphasis mine].

Hyperbole, lies, hyperbole, lies.

The CIA program that Obama is "effectively shutting down" is, as we all know, the torture program.  But was the torture program "singularly responsible" for stopping, say, the Library Tower attack in Los Angeles?  Nope.  According to intelligence experts:

U.S. intelligence began to unravel the plot after Zaini Zakaria, an engineer from Malaysia, was arrested in December 2002. Zaini had spent time in training camps in Afghanistan. There, he came into contact with Hambali, who later recruited him into the "planes operation" as a pilot. Zaini obtained a general aviation license in Malaysia in 1999 and was working toward a license to fly jets from Australia. However, he reportedly pulled out of the al Qaeda plot after seeing media coverage of the 9/11 attacks.

Zaini was arrested by Malaysian authorities, under that country's Internal Security Act, and sent to the Kamunting Detention Center in Taiping. The next arrest — which probably was the death knell for the Library Tower plot — was that of Mohammed in Pakistan, in March 2003. Hambali was captured in Thailand in August the same year, which effectively put all the key players behind bars.

Policework — catching the bad guys — put the plot (which never got behind the formative stage anyway) down.  Not torture.  Torture (if any existed — by us or the Malaysians) may have revealed the plot, but at the point of its revelation, it was already defunct.

And even then, how do we know the Liberty Towers plot is even true?  An al-Qaeda operative says so?  Under torture (perhaps)?  Is that reliable information?  Might the operative be saying something — anything — simply to end the interrogation?

To Boldly Split Verbs Where No One Has Split Them Before

Did Chief Justice Roberts mess up the Constitutional oath?  Or was he just a stickler for proper English grammar?

The oath says "…will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States…".  Roberts prompted Obama to say "…to execute the Office of the President of the United States faithfully…"

But this op-ed suggests that Roberts simply was using proper English by not splitting his verbs:

But a simpler explanation is that the wayward adverb in the passage is blowback from Chief Justice Roberts’s habit of grammatical niggling.

Language pedants hew to an oral tradition of shibboleths that have no basis in logic or style, that have been defied by great writers for centuries, and that have been disavowed by every thoughtful usage manual. Nonetheless, they refuse to go away, perpetuated by the Gotcha! Gang and meekly obeyed by insecure writers.

This doesn't strike me as plausible.  The oath of office – yes, with the split infinitive — is set out in the constitution:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

[Emphasis mine].

Roberts is a strict textualist.  There is no way he would veer from the actual text of the Constitution in order to make a grammatical (and arcane) point. 

Furthermore, very quick research has shown that Roberts, in his legal opinions, is no stranger to split-verb usage, as well as infinitive-splitting.

It should be also be noted that "to the best of my ability" also splits some verbs.  And Roberts didn't screw around with that.

So the final verdict?  It was a flub.

Hitting the Ground Running

From closing Gitmo to transparent governing, from freezing last-minute Bush regulations to slowing the government-lobbying revolving door, the Obama administration has been very busy these past 24 hours.  WaPo has the full rundown, all of it extremely gratifying to read.

Glenn Greenwald praises:

Barack Obama will have spent his first several days in office issuing a series of executive orders which, some quibbling and important caveats aside, meet or actually exceed even the most optimistic expectations of civil libertarians — everything from ordering the closing of Guantanamo to suspending military commissions to compelling CIA interrogators to adhere to the Army Field Manual to banning CIA "black sites" and, perhaps most encouragingly (in my view):  severely restricting his own power and the power of former Presidents to withhold documents on the basis of secrecy, which has been the prime corrosive agent of the Bush era.  As a result, establishment and right-wing figures who have been assuring everyone that Obama would scorn "the Left" (meaning:  those who believe in Constitutional safeguards) and would continue most of Bush's "counter-Terrorism" policies are growing increasingly nervous about this flurry of unexpected activity.

Revelations From Bush Era: American Journalists Spied Upon

One day into his administration, and Obama is already making leaps and bounds in removing the secrecy that so characterized the Bush Administration.  In the sweep of a pen, Obama has made the process of governing more open and transparent.

But the damage has been done.  MSNBC's Keith Olbermann interviewed Russell Tice, a former National Security Agency analyst last night. Tice says that, under the ruse of making sure that the NSA did NOT target American media and journalists, they actually collected information on every communication those journalists and media organizations had 24/7.
 

And it gets potentially worse:
"The National Security Agency had access to all Americans' communications — faxes, phone calls, and their computer communications," Tice claimed. "It didn't matter whether you were in Kansas, in the middle of the country, and you never made foreign communications at all. They monitored all communications."

Tice further explained that "even for the NSA it's impossible to literally collect all communications. … What was done was sort of an ability to look at the metadata … and ferret that information to determine what communications would ultimately be collected."

2008 Oscar Nominees (And My Predictions)

Let's get right to it:

BEST PICTURE
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Frost/Nixon
Milk
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

Probably one of the easiest categories to predict this year.  It's Slumdog Millionaire.

BEST DIRECTOR
Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
Stephen Daldry, The Reader
Gus Van Sant, Milk

When in doubt (as I am), go with the guy who directed the best picture.  So, it's Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire).

BEST ACTOR
Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn, Milk
Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Tough category — they are all deserving.  Glad to see Richard Jenkins there, but he's up against heavyweights.  But the sentimental favorite will probably take the statue: Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler).

BEST ACTRESS
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Kate Winslet, The Reader

Kate Winlet had two good movies this year – Revolutionary Road and The Reader.  Oddly, she won for both at the Golden Globes, with her role in The Reader considered to be a "supporting" role.  Her performance in Revolutionary Road wasn't even nominated, nor was Sally Hawkins, who won the Golden Globe for Best Actress (Musical or Comedy) for Happy Go Lucky.  Still, for a good year (if nothing else), it'll go to Kate Winslet (The Reader).

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Josh Brolin, Milk
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road

I don't think there's much question on this one: Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams, Doubt
Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler

First of all, its great that every major actor in Doubt got nominated.  I don't think Meryl or Philip are going to take it.  Viola Davis is probably the only one of the cast to stand a chance.  Marisa is (as always) my sentimental favorite, but I'm going to pick Viola Davis (Doubt).

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Frozen River , Courtney Hunt
Happy-Go-Lucky, Mike Leigh
In Bruges, Martin McDonagh
Milk, Dustin Lance Black
WALL-E, Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, Pete Docter

Wall-E?  Really?  Not much to, you know, write, seeing as the movie lacked dialogue for the first half.  I'm going with Martin McDonagh (In Bruges), but only because I just did a reading of his stage play "The Pillowman", and I think he's an excellent writer.  Well, no.  I actually saw In Bruges and thought it was very good.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Eric Roth
Doubt, John Patrick Shanley
Frost/Nixon, Peter Morgan
The Reader, David Hare
Slumdog Millionaire, Simon Beaufoy

Very competitive category.  I don't think Shanley did a great job of adapating his stage play.  For me, I think it's a coin-toss between Eric Roth, David Hare, and Simon Beaufoy.  But I give the slight edge to Eric Roth (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button).

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Bolt
Kung Fu Panda
WALL-E

Is there any question?  WALL-E.

BEST ART DIRECTION
Changeling
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
The Duchess
Revolutionary Road

The Dark Knight.  A guess.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Changeling
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

The Reader.  Another guess.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Australia
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Duchess
Milk
Revolutionary Road

I'm going with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, only because it spanned many time periods.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)
Encounters at the End of the World
The Garden
Man on Wire
Trouble the Water

Well, I loved the documentary Man on Wire.  It's the only one of the nominees I've seen.  I don't think it has the gravitas of an award-winning documentary however.  Trouble the Water, about the aftermath of Katrina, will probably win.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
The Conscience of Nhem En
The Final Inch
Smile Pinki
The Witness — From the Balcony of Room 306

Given the political climate, I'm going with the MLK-related film: The Witness – From the Balcony of Room 306.

BEST EDITING
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Frost/Nixon
Milk
Slumdog Millionaire

Frost/Nixon.  A guess.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
The Baader Meinhof Complex (Germany)
The Class (France)
Departures (Japan)
Revanche (Austria)
Waltz with Bashir (Israel)

I'm going with the animated autobiographical film from Israel: Waltz with Bashir.

BEST MAKEUP
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Hellboy II: The Golden Army

I think it's pretty clear it'll be The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Alexandre Desplat
Defiance, James Newton Howard
Milk, Danny Elfman
Slumdog Millionaire, A.R. Rahman
WALL-E, Thomas Newman

Let's give it to the Indian: A.R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire)

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
''Down to Earth,'' (WALL-E)
''Jai Ho,'' (Slumdog Millionaire)
''O Saya,'' (Slumdog Millionaire)

Odd that the Springsteen song from The Wrestler didn't make it.  I think it'll be one of the Slumdog songs.  So I'll guess "O Saya" (Slumdog Millionaire)

BEST SOUND EDITING
The Dark Knight
Iron Man
Slumdog Millionaire
WALL-E
Wanted

WALL-EA reasoned guess.

BEST SOUND MIXING
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Slumdog Millionaire
WALL-E
Wanted

WALL-EA reasoned guess.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Iron Man

Oh, what the hell — The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.  I'd like to see a non-actiojn film win one of these for a change.

Do-Over Done

Obama was sworn in again.

Hope restored.

UPDATE:  Well, you would think that would be the end of it.  I mean, it wasn't necessary in the first place (George Washington wasn't sworn in until seven weeks until his administration).  But no.  NOW the gripe is going to be that Obama, when he re-took the oath, did not have his left hand on the Bible.  This, of course, makes no difference (legally or otherwise).  You can swear on a Dr. Seuss book, a stack of Playboys, or nothing at all.

What’s Different About This Picture?

Ovalobama 

Well, the obvious.  It's President Obama, rather than President Bush.

But there's something else.

Scour photos of the Oval Office over the last eight years and there is one thing you won't see — a man sans jacket.  That's because Bush had a rule — jackets always in the Oval Office. 

Obama, consciously or subconsciously in keeping with his roll-up-our-sleeves attitude, has dispensed with that rule rather quickly.

Was Condaleeza Rice Our First Black (and Woman) President?

Section 1 of the 20th Amendment:

The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.

Okay.  So Bush and Cheney stopped being President and Vice-President at the stroke of noon.  But because things were running behind schedule, Obama had not taken the oath.  He wasn't sworn in until 12:03, because YoYo Ma & Friends were still fiddling around. 

But if Bush and Cheney weren't President, then was Obama automatically President during those minutes? 

It would seem so ("the terms of their successors shall then begin").

But wait. Article II, Section 1 states the following:

Before he enter on the execution of his office, he shall take the following oath or affirmation:–"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

So there is  a gray area here.  Is the oath a pre-requisite to being President (along with the 12:00 noon requirement)?

One could argue that Obama became President at noon, but he could not execute the duties of that office until he took the oath.  In other words, he was a powerless leader for a prescious few minutes.

But there are other views.  Professor Ken Katkin, a constitutional law professor, makes an interesting argument, and comes to an interesting conclusion:

(1) The 20th Amendment provides that “[t]he terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January. . . . ”

(2) Art II., Sec. 1 Cl. 8 provides that “[b]efore he enter on the Execution of his Office, [The President] shall take the following oath. . . ”

(3) President Obama did not take the Oath of Office until about 12:03 pm today, after Vice President Biden took it at about 12:01 p.m.

(4) Therefore, there was a brief window (just after noon) when George Bush and Dick Cheney were no longer President and Vice President, but Barack Obama and Joe Biden also were not yet qualified to enter on the Execution of their offices.

(5) The Presidential Succession Act, 3 U.S.C. sec. 19(a)(1), provides: “If, by reason of . . . failure to qualify, there is neither a President nor Vice President to discharge the powers and duties of the office of President, then the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall, upon his resignation as Speaker and as Representative in Congress, act as President.” Section 19(b) states that the President Pro Tempore of the Senate shall act as President (under the same terms and conditions) if the Speaker of the House fails to qualify.

(6) Neither Nancy Pelosi nor Robert Byrd actually resigned their seats in the Congress. Thus, neither of them qualified to become Acting President under the Presidential Succession Act. Plus, interbranch appointments might be unconstitutional anyhow. See Akhil Reed Amar and Vikram David Amar, Is the Presidential Succession Law Constitutional?, 48 Stan. L. Rev. 113 (1995); but see Howard Wasserman, Structural Principles and Presidential Succession, 90 Ky. L.J. 345 (2002).

(7) Section 19(d)(1) of the Presidential Succession Act provides: “If, by reason of . . . failure to qualify, there is no President pro tempore to act as President under subsection (b) of this section, then the officer of the United States who is highest on the following list, and who is not under disability to discharge the powers and duties of the office of President shall act as President: Secretary of State . . . ”

(8) Notably, Section 19(d)(1) does not condition the Secretary of State’s assumption of the powers and duties of the office of President on resignation of her current office, nor does elevation of the Secretary of State raise any constitutional issue of interbranch appointment.

(9) The term of office of the Secretary of State does not automatically terminate at noon on the 20th day of January.

(10) On January 20, 2009, Condoleeza Rice was (and is) still the Secretary of State.

(11) Accordingly, from 12:00 noon until 12:01 p.m. (when Vice President Biden took the oath of office and became Vice President), Condoleeza Rice was momentarily the Acting President of the United States, our first African-American President.

Sadly, Katkin is wrong on his timing.  Biden was not sworn in at 12:01 p.m.; he was sworn in before noon (before Yoyo Ma and Perlman played).  So, presumably, Joe Biden was President for a few minutes under the Presidential Succession Act.

The academic issue gets thornier when you consider that President Obama did not take the presidential oath as written.  In giving the oath, Chief Justice Roberts misplaced the word "faithfully".  He corrected himself, but Obama repeated the words as Roberts initially said them, an an awkward crosstalk between the two.

The obvious solution to this minor problem is for the oath to be re-administered.  It takes 30 seconds, and can be done in private.  In fact, Charles Cooper, head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel under President Ronald Reagan, said that he would be surprised if the oath hadn't already been re-administered.

Assming that the oath has not been re-administered, then our President is Joe Biden.

But don't get your hopes up, conspiracy theorists.  Legal challenges to Obama's presidency won't survive.  Lyle Denniston explains why.

UPDATE:  Some believe that, as a matter of tradition, an incoming President takes the oath of office privately before the official ceremony.  There's no knowing if Obama did this.  If he did, then of course, everything in this post is moot.

The Brilliance of Pat Buchanan

Pat bemoans the fate of the GOP:

What has been happening to the GOP? Three fatal contractions.

Demographically, the GOP is a party of white Americans, who in 1972 were perhaps 90 percent of the national vote. Nixon and Reagan rolled up almost two-thirds of that vote in 1972 and 1984. But because of abortion and aging, the white vote is shrinking as a share of the national vote and the population.

[Emphasis mine]

Rrrrright, Pat.  Because minorities don't get abortions and never die.

About The New White House Website

First of all, it's got a blog.

Secondly, to its credit, it reflects Obama's commitment to open and transparent government.  Case in point:

The President's executive orders and proclamations will be published for everyone to review, and that’s just the beginning of our efforts to provide a window for all Americans into the business of the government.

And even better:

One significant addition to WhiteHouse.gov reflects a campaign promise from the President: we will publish all non-emergency legislation to the website for five days, and allow the public to review and comment before the President signs it.

One hopes that people will take this seriously, rather than just rant.

Videos of Flight 1549 Landing In The Hudson

From security cams at a New York pier:

A ten minute video (crash starts at 2:00) shows the speed of the current and rescue operations.  At about 3:12, you can see one of the passengers fall off the slippery wing into the cold water on the right hand side.

Prediction

A certain segments of wingnuts — the same ones who claim that Obama isn't a natural born citizen — will claim that Obama isn't actually president because of the flub-up of the Presidential Oath (which, by the way, was Chief Justice Robert's fault). 

Here's the vid for those who missed it:

Stay Classy, Religious Conservatives

Oops.  Too late.

Over at WorldNetDaily, the Christian News service, we get this editorial from WND CEO Joseph Farah:

Pray Obama Fails

That's why I do not hesitate today in calling on godly Americans to pray that Barack Hussein Obama fail in his efforts to change our country from one anchored on self-governance and constitutional republicanism to one based on the raw and unlimited power of the central state.

It would be folly to pray for his success in such an evil campaign.

I want Obama to fail because his agenda is 100 percent at odds with God's. Pretending it is not simply makes a mockery of God's straightforward Commandments.

So you will not see me joining in the ritual of affirming Obama and his mission in public or private prayer this week – or any other week.

An Historic Day

I'm talking, of course, about the 5th anniversary of this blog.

The first post was January 21, 2004, a passing reference to a State of the Union drinking game.  I had blogged for several years prior to that — at a group blog called "Freespeech" — but this was my first foray into something of my own.

So it's been five years — 6517 posts, 1148 comments, and over 533,000 visitors.  You would think I would have something profound or reflective to say, but no.  It's just a blog.

Speaking of historic days, I hear this Obama guy takes office in 45 minutes.  Again, I lack anything profound to say.  I am astounded by the TV shots of 2 million people on the mall.  I'm interested to hear his address, and find the "ask not what you can do for your country can do for you…" moment.

Here at work (for those who made it in — we had an inch of snow) there are TV monitors in every floor.  Our conference room has a projection screen.  And I will pop in.  But I'm not much for ceremony, finding myself more interested in Obama as President, than Obama becoming President.  I'm far more interested in our long national nightmare being over.

A Conservative On “Rent”

By the conservative pundit, Stage Right:

And then, I made the same mistake I made with most of the actresses I was foolish enough to date.  I made a seemingly innocuous remark which unveiled me as insensitive, mean, unfeeling and….  a conservative!.  I said:  “Why are these punks spending all their time playing with their camera and guitar.  They should get a job and pay the poor guy who owns the building.  They owe him rent for the past year for God’s sake!”

Silence.

She stared at me in stunned disbelief.  I realized that I was staring back at yet another Broadway Chorus Dancer who I would have to refer to as my “Former girlfriend”. 

She's better off….

BONUS STAGE RIGHT:  Andrew Lloyd-Webber is an awesome composer because he's conservative.

Wingnuts Go Bats**t Crazy On Krispy Kreme

Krispy Kreme press release, announcing it'll give you one free donut on inauguration day:

"Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Inc. (NYSE: KKD) is honoring American's sense of pride and freedom of choice on Inauguration Day, by offering a free doughnut of choice to every customer on this historic day, Jan. 20. By doing so, participating Krispy Kreme stores nationwide are making an oath to tasty goodies — just another reminder of how oh-so-sweet 'free' can be."

Overreactionary wingnut group, seeing the word "choice" in the above press release, responds:

KRISPY KREME CELEBRATES OBAMA WITH PRO-ABORTION DOUGHNUTS

"The next time you stare down a conveyor belt of slow-moving, hot, sugary glazed donuts at your local Krispy Kreme you just might be supporting President-elect Barack Obama's radical support for abortion on demand – including his sweeping promise to sign the Freedom of Choice Act as soon as he steps in the Oval Office, Jan. 20.

The doughnut giant released the following statement yesterday:

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Inc. (NYSE: KKD) is honoring American's sense of pride and freedom of choice on Inauguration Day, by offering a free doughnut of choice to every customer on this historic day, Jan. 20. By doing so, participating Krispy Kreme stores nationwide are making an oath to tasty goodies — just another reminder of how oh-so-sweet "free" can be.

Just an unfortunate choice of words? For the sake of our Wednesday morning doughnut runs, we hope so.  The unfortunate reality of a post Roe v. Wade America is that "choice" is synonymous with abortion access and celebration of 'freedom of choice' is a tacit endorsement of abortion rights on demand.

President-elect Barack Obama promises to be the most virulently pro-abortion president in history.  Millions more children will be endangered by his radical abortion agenda.

Celebrating his inauguration with "Freedom of Choice" doughnuts – only two days before the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision to decriminalize abortion – is not only extremely tacky, it's disrespectful and insensitive and makes a mockery of a national tragedy.

 A misconstrued concept of "choice" has killed over 50 million preborn children since Jan. 22, 1973. Does Krispy Kreme really want their free doughnuts to celebrate this "freedom.""

As of Thursday morning, Communications Director Brian Little could not be reached for comment. We challenge Krispy Kreme doughnuts to reaffirm their commitment to true freedom – to the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – and to separate themselves and their doughnuts from our great American shame."

American Life League was cofounded in 1979 by Judie Brown. It is the largest grassroots Catholic pro-life organization in the United States and is committed to the protection of all innocent human beings from the moment of creation to natural death.  For more information or press inquiries, please contact Katie Walker at 540.659.4942.

These people can't be mocked by others.  They do a good job just mocking themselves.

Other Than That, Mrs. Lincoln….

Prof. David Kopel, at Volokh Conspiracy:

The poll also asked for an assessment of President Bush. The Left was unanimous in rating him "Terrible." Nobody on the Right rated him as "Great," and only 29% gave him "Good." The winning plurality was "Fair," with 41%.

I voted "Good," since I graded on a curve, and thought him much better than Bill Clinton or George H.W. Bush. My rationale: "No successful terrorist attacks since 9/11."

(Emphasis added)

Snarky commentor:

My rating of Captain E. Smith, RMS Titanic:

"Good. No iceberg strikes since 4/12."

“This Miracle Brought To You By Unions”

Salon:

The fiercest opposition to the loan proposal — and nearly a third of the 35 votes against ending debate on the deal — came from Southern Republicans, and the ringleaders of the opposition all come from states with a major foreign auto presence. Not coincidentally, nearly all of those states — except Kentucky — are also "right-to-work" states, which means no union contracts for most of the employees at the foreign plants. The Detroit bailout fell victim to a nasty confluence of home-state economic interests and anti-union sentiment among Republicans.

Yes, the anti-union sentiment is big among southern Republicans.  Among them, Senators Shelby (R-AL), DeMint (R-SC), McConnell (R-KY), and Corker (R-TN).

But over at Daily Kos, diarist emptywheel reminds us of something:

They're calling it a miracle–the successful landing of a US Airways jet in the Hudson and subsequent rescue of all 155 passengers. They're detailing the heroism of all involved, starting with the pilot and including cabin crew, ferry crews, and first responders. What they're not telling you is that just about every single one of these heros is a union member.

There's the pilot:

What might have been a catastrophe in New York — one that evoked the feel if not the scale of the Sept. 11 attack — was averted by a pilot’s quick thinking and deft maneuvers,

[snip]

On board, the pilot, Chesley B. Sullenberger III, 57, unable to get back to La Guardia, had made a command decision to avoid densely populated areas and try for the Hudson,

[snip]

When all were out, the pilot walked up and down the aisle twice to make sure the plane was empty, officials said.

Sullenberger is a former national committee member and the former safety chairman for the Airline Pilots Association and now represented by US Airline Pilots Association. He–and his union–have fought to ensure pilots get the kind of safety training to pull off what he did yesterday.

Then there are the flight attendants:

One passenger, Elizabeth McHugh, 64, of Charlotte, seated on the aisle near the rear, said flight attendants shouted more instructions: feet flat on the floor, heads down, cover your heads.

They are members of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA. Yesterday's accident should remind all of us that flight attendants are first and foremost safety professionals–they should not be treated like cocktail waitresses.

There are the air traffic controllers:

The pilot radioed air traffic controllers on Long Island that his plane had sustained a "double bird strike."

They're represented by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. Someday, they'll rename National Airport for the work these men and women do to keep us safe in the air.

There are the ferry crews:

As the first ferry nudged up alongside, witnesses said, some passengers were able to leap onto the decks. Others were helped aboard by ferry crews.

They're represented by the Seafarers International Union. They provide safety training to their members so they're prepared for events like yesterday's accident.

There are the cops and firemen:

Helicopters brought wet-suited police divers, who dropped into the water to help with the rescues.

They're represented by the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association and the Uniformed Firefighters Association and Uniformed Fire Officers Association.They're the men and women who performed so heroically on 9/11–and they've been fighting to make sure first responders get the equipment to do this kind of thing.

Bob Corker and Richard Shelby like to claim that union labor is a failed business model.

But I haven't heard much about Bob Corker and Richard Shelby saving 155 people's lives. 

Yyyyyup.

Bush’s Farewell Address To The Nation

You ever have a high school teacher who was intimidating, if only becuase you knew that he or she had some control over your grades, and therefore, your future?

Then, did you ever come across that high school teacher long after you had left high school, and he/she seemed a little pathetic because of their powerlessness and inconsequentiality?

That's what it felt like for me, listening to Bush last night.

I listened to him try to pat himself on the back.  Sad, almost.

Wanting credit for making the "tough decisions", George?  That's kind of like expecting to get passing grades for perfect attendance.  Showing up and being "the decider" really isn't going to put you in the history books.  It's the actual decisions you make, and how you make them, that matters.  Making decisions based on questionable evidence, and evidence you know to be questionable, is not praiseworthy.  It's flawed.

Similarly, he said this:

"Like all who have held this office before me, I have experienced setbacks. There are things I would do differently if given the chance. Yet I've always acted with the best interests of our country in mind. I have followed my conscience and done what I thought was right."

Well…..duh.  Of course you did what you thought was right.  Nobody suspected otherwise.  Even I, a harsh critic, never suspected that you intentionally woke each morning determined to do what you thought was wrong for the country.

But the point is, your policies were wrong for the country.  And it appears that you will never become so enlightened as to live with that.  Unfortunately, we all will.

Now please go, se we can start missing you.

P.S.  George Bush, making a "tough decision"….

UPDATE AGAIN:  Talk about setting your bar low.  Conservative blog Redstate, in a post entitled: "Will Left Accept That They Were Wrong About Bush?" actually says this:

We stand here watching Bush kindly say his goodbyes and we see George W. Bush stepping down like every American president before him (well, except the ones that died in office, of course). Even Darth Cheney is packing up for his last ride into the sunset.

***

So, will each of these half sentient, dillweeds fess up that they were wrong? Will they turn to their fellow dillweed, whack-jonse friends and say: “Ya know, I have to hand it to Bush. He was an alright guy for following the Constitution and going home to Texas like he’s supposed ta.”

Can we expect the braindead HuffyPosters, the drug addled DailyKossacks, or the human wreckage that are the denizens of DemmocraticUnderground.com to apologize for their wild-eyed, foolishness?

Will they? Huh, huh?

(Emphasis mine). 

Uh…… so we're supposed to give credit to Bush, and admit that we were "wrong" about him…. because he's leaving office when he's constitutionally mandated to?

Short Flight

From Flightaware (an free online service that tracks where flights are):

1549

UPDATE:  Not much seen picture of the flight pre-ditching:

Article-1118283-0314186D000005DC-465_468x229

Theater Talk

It's on at weird times around here — mostly used as filler — so you should just set your TIVO to automatically record "Theater Talk", if you haven't done so already.

Baby Hitler Removed

A follow-up to a story I posted about a month ago, involving a NJ supermarket who refused to make a birthday cake for a kid.  (And why?  The kid's name was Adolf Hitler Campbell).

That story caught a few national headlines, especially the father's laughable dismissal of his son's name (as well as his daughter's name: JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell.

Well… now….

Three-year-old Adolf Hitler Campbell, whose family's attempt to get him a birthday cake made him an instant object of sympathy (his parents, not so much), was taken from his parents by NJ authorities. According to Lehigh Valley Live, "New Jersey's Division of Youth and Family Services took the 3-year-old, as well as JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell, 1, and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell, who turns 1 in April" from their home. It's unclear why the children were taken, but Holland Township police Chief David Van Gilson "said his department received no reports of abuse or negligence." Parents Heath and Deborah Campbell are expected to attend a hearing today.

While I am loathe to defend these parents, I don't think social services can step in and remove children from the house because of their selfish dickhead parents gave them crappy names.  

I suspect there's more than that…
 
UPDATE:  No, it's not because of the names, says a spokeswoman for New Jersey's Division of Youth and Family Services, reiterating the policy that they only remove a child from their parents when there is an "imminent" danger.
 
What that "imminent danger" was in this case, is still not known. 

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Nashville

Today, the Tennesee General Assembly met today to choose their House speaker.  The body consists of 99 representatives.  The breakdown after recent elections: 50 Republicans, 49 Democrats.

The Speaker is an important position; he chooses, among other things, who heads what committees, etc.

Mumpower The Republicans had their nominee in line.  They were going to choose Jason Mumpower (pictured, right), a wingnut from Bristol County.  

Mumpower was eager for the job, and he had an agenda: bans on gay adoption and fostering, new concealed weapons laws, new constitutional limits on abortion, new anti-immigrant legislation, and mandating the teaching of “intelligent design” in public schools, among them.

Everyone knew Mumpower would become Speaker.  The press knew it, the public knew it.  It was a fait accompli.

So at today's assembly, the new members were sworn in.  And the first order of business came up: choosing the next Speaker.

Then the comedy of errors started.

Mumpower called for an immediate vote on selection of the Speaker (i.e., him).  The Democrats wanted a 30-minute recess.  So, the assembly voted on whether to have the recess.  All Republicans voted against the recess, except for freshman Republican State Rep. Terry Lynn Weaver of Lancaster.  Terry Lynn, making her first vote ever in the assembly, purportedly hit the wrong button and cast her vote with the Democrats.

So the Democrats won, and a 30-minute recess was called for.

That was all they needed.

When they all came back, the Democrats had a plan.  After Mumpower was nominated for Speaker, the Democrats nominated a moderate Republican for Speaker — a man by the name of Kent Williams. 

And all the Democrats voted for Kent Williams, and (of course), Kent Williams voted for Kent Williams, making him Speaker by a vote of 50-49.

According to one report, "the official Republican nominee, Jason Mumpower, was left speechless, clutching the family bible that he had brought in preparation for taking the Speaker’s oath of office."

And that's how moderate Republican Kent Williams — not the fundamentalist wingnut — became Speaker of the Tennessee Assembly today.  As Williams went to the podium to accept his selection as the new Speaker, he was greeted with a chorus of boos from Republicans.

Nice manuevering from some state Dems.

More here.