Saturday, September 25, 2010

Republican Obstruction Has A Very Real Price

And over 100,000 Americans are about to pay that price.

Tens of thousands of people will lose their jobs within weeks unless Congress extends one of the more effective job-creating programs in the $787 billion stimulus act: a $1 billion New Deal-style program that directly paid the salaries of unemployed people so they could get jobs in government, at nonprofit organizations and at many small businesses.

In rural Perry County, Tenn., the program helped pay for roughly 400 new jobs in the public and private sectors. But in a county of 7,600 people, those jobs had a big impact: they reduced Perry County’s unemployment rate to less than 14 percent this August, from the Depression-like levels of more than 25 percent that it hit last year after its biggest employer, an auto parts factory, moved to Mexico.

If the stimulus program ends on schedule next week, Perry County officials said, an estimated 300 people there will lose their jobs — the equivalent of another factory closing.

“It’s very scary, because there’s just no work,” said Brian Davis, a 36-year-old father of four, who got a stimulus-subsidized job with the City of Lobelville after he lost his job of 17 years at an auto parts plant that shed hundreds of jobs. Now he faces the prospect of unemployment again.

“This was a huge help,” Mr. Davis said. “The way the economy’s been and the way people are struggling, you’re worried about putting food on the table for your children and keeping the electricity on.” 

Again, these are real jobs that the stimulus program created.  They were created not just for government work but for small businesses as well.  But Republicans want to shut to program down.  The only things government should be used for if you're a Republican is fighting trillion-dollar wars for oil and making the rich richer.

But that sure as hell didn't stop Republicans from taking credit for these programs when people got employed.

In Mississippi, an innovative program used the money to pay private companies to hire nearly 3,200 workers, and to pay their salaries on a sliding scale so that the employers would end up paying the entire amount after six months.

Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican, described the initiative there as “welfare to work.” Mr. Barbour, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, said in an interview last winter that he hoped the program would be extended past this month, since it took so long for the state’s program to get federal approval.

The federal program has helped employ nearly 130,000 adults and has paid for nearly an equal number of summer jobs for young people, according to an analysis by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal policy institute in Washington.

If the program is allowed to lapse, up to 26,000 workers in Illinois will lose their jobs in the coming weeks, along with 12,000 workers in Pennsylvania and thousands more in other states, according to LaDonna Pavetti, the director of the center’s welfare reform and income support division. 

Republicans have no problem giving hundreds of billions to the nation's wealthiest people, but funding workfare programs like this in a rotten economy is just "government waste".   But hey, if another 130,000 Americans lose their jobs, that makes the Democrats look bad and helps the Republicans.  They get to go on TV and go "Where are the jobs, Mr. President?"

The answer of course is the Republicans cut people off so they can cut taxes on millionaires.  Still think the solution to our economic problems will be solved by more Republicans?

Can't Find Out

Double G takes on the notion that details about President Obama's "terrorist assassination program" is a state secret as the administration says, rendering attempts to stop it or even talk about it as moot.

At this point, I didn't believe it was possible, but the Obama administration has just reached an all-new low in its abysmal civil liberties record.  In response to the lawsuit filed by Anwar Awlaki's father asking a court to enjoin the President from assassinating his son, a U.S. citizen, without any due process, the administration last late night, according to The Washington Post, filed a brief asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit without hearing the merits of the claims.  That's not surprising:  both the Bush and Obama administrations have repeatedly insisted that their secret conduct is legal but nonetheless urge courts not to even rule on its legality.  But what's most notable here is that one of the arguments the Obama DOJ raises to demand dismissal of this lawsuit is "state secrets":  in other words, not only does the President have the right to sentence Americans to death with no due process or charges of any kind, but his decisions as to who will be killed and why he wants them dead are "state secrets," and thus no court may adjudicate its legality.

Even I have to agree with Greenwald's attack on Obama here. This is the kind of power that no President of America should possess under any circumstances.

The same Post article quotes a DOJ spokesman as saying that Awlaki "should surrender to American authorities and return to the United States, where he will be held accountable for his actions."  But he's not been charged with any crimes, let alone indicted for any.  The President has been trying to kill him for the entire year without any of that due process.  And now the President refuses even to account to an American court for those efforts to kill this American citizen on the ground that the President's unilateral imposition of the death penalty is a "state secret."  And, indeed, American courts -- at Obama's urging -- have been upholding that sort of a "state secrecy" claim even when it comes to war crimes such as torture and rendition.  Does that sound like a political system to which any sane, rational person would "surrender"?

Does the President have the authority to declare an American citizen as a terrorist and then bring the might of our military against that person for the express purposes of assassinating that American citizen?  President Obama indeed claims that right now, and claims that it is inalienable because of state secrets.  This is further than even Bush/Cheney went.

If I do have a problem with Obama, it is on terrorism and civil liberties.  In this narrow but vital respect he really is worse than Bush is.  This President is saying that an American citizen can be killed on sight without due process, and that even discussing why is forbidden.

That is not something America should ever do, and yet we're doing it right now.

More on this from BooMan, Marcy Wheeler, and Digby.

Thune Enough

As widely expected, South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune has tossed his hat into the ring of 2012 contenders.

“He thinks his family would be on board. ‘I’m taking a very full look at it,’ he says. And why not. The Republican field is wide open. And Obama is vulnerable.”

Thune gets a high-level endorsement, from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
“I think he’s the complete package and is the kind of person who could conceivably go the distance in a race for the presidency,” McConnell told Hayes. “I think he’s an extraordinary talent, and I hope that he will run and win.’”

Hayes adds that Thune faces “many obstacles”: “He has virtually no national profile. He worked briefly as a lobbyist. He voted for TARP. He is a defender of earmarks. He would be running against Washington from Washington. … Despite his proximity to those who craft the Republican agenda, Thune does not have a signature issue—something Thune skeptics point to as a liability for a potential presidential candidate.”

In other words, in an arena with Huckabee's religious baggage, Romney's religious, social, and economic baggage as Massachusetts' Mormon Governor, and the looming specter of Sarah Palin, John Thune emerges as "the kinda harmless, not-crazy one".

He will go far with that.  That is, right up until the Tea Party demands he chug the hard-core right-wing Purple Drank.  The reality is unless Thune goes full Birther lunatic fringe, he'll never advance past the primary.  And if he does, he'll never win the general.

A Thune/Palin ticket however might be the compromise he's looking for...but I don't ever see Sarah Palin playing second fiddle again.

New tag:  Mostly Harmless John Thune.


Many thanks to Zandar, who graciously gave me some space on his blog. I will join his valiant movement against the Stupid. I hope I don't disappoint! Our personality and experiences color our opinions drastically, so I'd like to take a moment to introduce myself and set the foundation.

I live in Springfield, MO. Except for a few months here and there, I have always called this area home. I'm 34 years old, married to a wonderful fellow, and enjoy several hobbies. I contribute as a ghost writer on two professional writing sites, as well as write under my own name. I am a member of a citizens editorial committee hosted by the Springfield News-Leader, a creative effort to bring people together and trying to find solutions to local issues. I'm a classically trained violinist and am a member of an adult student orchestra and play with a couple of more informal groups on the side. My life has been built around the pursuit of knowledge and understanding, regardless of the subject. I contribute content for an online RPG, and if that isn't geeky enough for you I don't know what would do the trick.

Politically, I am liberal but am far more interested in learning facts and making sense than fulfilling expectations of what I "should" believe. I am a Christian but avoid organized religion after growing up in the Bible belt. While Zandar and I agree most of the time, there are certainly occasions where we disagree and go back and forth debating the best way to view world events. I am humble in my beliefs, because life has taught me to appreciate how easily one stray comment or idea can change everything.

That's enough rambling about me. It's a pleasure to be welcomed here. Thanks again!

Bon The Geek

In Judgment Of Judges

The NY Times notes a growing movement to rein in "activist judges" at the state level with direct elections, which loosely translated means "Corporations using the Citizens United decision to buy mobs to dispatch judges who have silly liberal ideals that don't jibe with oligarchy."

After the State Supreme Court here stunned the nation by making this the first state in the heartland to allow same-sex marriage, Iowa braced for its sleepy judicial elections to turn into referendums on gay marriage.

The three Supreme Court justices on the ballot this year are indeed the targets of a well-financed campaign to oust them. But the effort has less to do with undoing same-sex marriage — which will remain even if the judges do not — than sending a broader message far beyond this state’s borders: voters can remove judges whose opinions they dislike.

Around the country, judicial elections that were designed to be as apolitical as possible are suddenly as contentious as any another race.

In Kansas, anti-abortion activists are seeking to recall a justice. In Illinois, business interests are campaigning against the chief justice after a case that removed a cap on malpractice liability, prompting him to run a television ad that opens with the declaration, “I am not a politician.” And a conservative group called Clear the Bench Colorado is citing a host of decisions in seeking to oust the full slate of justices on the ballot there, urging voters, “Be a citizen, not a subject.”

The merit selection system, which is used to pick supreme court justices in 16 states, including Colorado, Iowa and Kansas, was established to reduce politics’ influence on the composition of the judiciary, in part by avoiding the expensive and bitter campaigns seen in states where two candidates compete. (For each vacant post in Iowa, a committee nominates three candidates, one of whom is named by the governor. Judges stand unopposed for retention after their first year and then every eight years.)

“The system was not designed so that people could reject one vote or one case,” said Rachel P. Caufield, a Drake University professor who studies judicial selection. “It was designed so that people could get rid of unfit judges. It was meant as an extreme measure.” She added, “The system has worked well — until now.” 

In merit selection states, the notion that entire slates of judicial benches have to be thrown out is ridiculous.  The greater problem is that this represents again the Tea Party tenet of mob rule, where an angry democracy can make any changes they want to system of government under the name of "representation", and in turn those who can manipulate the mob control the country.

We've seen this time and time again where corporations buy every aspect of our election system, and now that the Citizens United decision has removed any checks on campaign finance, and of course Republicans will prevent any legislation doing so, businesses have free reign to buy as much political influence as they can afford using political advocacy groups.

Our system is broken, and until Citizens United is reversed or contained, we will forever be at mercy of mob rule whipped up by big business.

Recycled Elephant Dung

If you want to know why the Village and especially the Republicans hate Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, it's because unlike the rest of the Villagers, they call the GOP out on their elephant poop.  Case in point:  the GOP's "new" Pledge To America is the same old crap from the last 16 years.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Postcards From the Pledge

Sad, but true. As I keep saying, the Republicans think you're a moron and you'll fall for the same old song and dance that got us into this mess. That's your choice this fall in the voting booth: the Republicans of 1994-2008, or the Democrats, trying to fix years of problems from 2008-2010.

For their part, the Democrats are on the attack, led by President Obama's weekly address this morning:

The GOP's "Pledge to America," Obama said Saturday during his weekly radio address, promotes "the very same policies that led to the economic crisis in the first place."

"It is grounded in the same worn-out philosophy: cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires; cut the rules for Wall Street and the special interests; and cut the middle class loose to fend for itself," Obama said.

"That’s not a prescription for a better future. It’s an echo of a disastrous decade we can’t afford to relive." 

Smart.  The Pledge has mostly fallen on deaf ears on both sides of the line and for the same reason:  it's old, it's tired, it's been tried before, and it's failed.   Both sides admit that, otherwise you would have seen Obama elected and the Tea Party created in response.

StupidiNews, Weekend Edition!

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