Thursday, January 13, 2011

Last Call

Digby recaps why even after yesterday's speech, panned by both the GOP and by Dems, that Sarah Palin isn't going anywhere and may have actually galvanized her position among her faithful (emphasis mine):

...I think this is an interesting way to look at the state of American politics. You have an angry subset of Republicans who feel unfairly maligned by a society that's changing in ways they don't fully buy into. It's a strain in American political life that's always been around and perhaps it's because of the nature of America itself --- it's been a dynamic culture from the beginning with lots of immigrants and second chances and social mobility. And there have been sweeping social changes in the past few decades, more changes than a lot of people are able to cope with. This group is fairly represented by Palin, with her "sharp" and "forceful" call to fight for their beliefs and dissent from the consensus. She didn't make any friends among the elites of both parties yesterday, but I stand by my belief that she solidified herself in the leadership of the aggrieved Americans who cannot accept the legitimacy of their political opposition.

Obama, on the other hand, is by nature a mediator and a conciliator which is why he is effective as a president calling for national healing (and less successful at every day hand to hand political combat.) He's the embodiment of all the social changes that freak out the right and always presented himself as one who can transcend them. But they don't want the differences to be "transcended", they want them to disappear. On the other side, a whole lot of other people are desperate to see him to succeed at that and have placed their hopes in his skills to work it through. They embrace the change --- and hate the controversy.

In the long term the country will either adjust and go on as it has or turn into something that's not worth thinking about. The question we have to ask ourselves is, in this time of economic upheaval and insecurity for most Americans, how is this going to play out in the short term? I honestly don't know. I'm not sure anyone can "transcend" the politics of these times (and frankly, I'm not sure I want them to be transcended either. There are principles at stake.)

But whatever happens, I doubt this debate will ever truly end. This tension, which becomes more and less acute depending on the times, is a defining feature of our country. For better or worse, those two speeches were equally representative of America.

A point well taken.  America's permanently dynamic political debate is a feature, not a bug. The only constant is change, and both President Obama and Sarah Palin seem to instinctively understand that.  One wants to make sweeping changes to go forward, one wants to make sweeping changes to go back.

The same desire for change that put Obama in the White House could very well put Palin there too.  Keep that in mind as we move forward.

Or try to.

Hey, at least El Rushbo's employers figured out this was a bad idea.

Trillion Dollar Concern Trolling

JP Morgan head Jamie Dimon is terribly worried about US municipalities and counties going bankrupt because they don't get free money from the Fed like banks do.

The JPMorgan CEO said he expects to see more U.S. municipalities declare bankruptcy, Bloomberg News reports. His concerns echo those of Meredith Whitney, the analyst who has said the next major financial crisis will come from a wave of local government defaults, and those of famed investor Warren Buffett, who has called the municipal debt situation a "terrible problem."

"If you are an investor in municipals you should be very, very careful," Dimon said, according to Bloomberg.

His warning comes as local governments contend with painfully depreciated tax revenue, which in some cases threatens to ruin budgets. In the wake of the worst financial crisis since the Depression, cities and states have had to severely cut back their spending, even as the need for their services has grown. While official bankruptcy remains rare (Vallejo, California, is the most recent example), experts say there's trouble brewing.

Different cities have different problems, but one thing remains constant: there's not enough money coming in.  Often, revenue isn't enough to cover even the most basic of services.

I wonder if Dimon's volunteering to have his company pay more taxes to keep that from happening.  Somehow I doubt it.  Shame that banks are too big not to bail out but your local police department isn't...

High Noon On The House Floor

GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert wants firearms on the floor of Congress and is proposing legislation that would allow members of Congress to carry.

Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert says his office is drafting a measure to allow members of Congress to carry guns in the District of Columbia, including in the Capitol and on the House floor.

Gohmert says he and his colleagues need to be able to protect themselves, in light of the mass shooting in Arizona.

“It’d be a good thing for members of Congress who want to carry a weapon in the District,” he said. “I know friends that walk home from the Capitol. There’s no security for us,” he said, adding that the measure would deter people from attacking members. “There is some protection in having protection.”

He said there were times during the health care debate last year that he felt afraid, including when a stranger approached him on the street and started screaming at him. 

Funny, people screaming at you when you're a member of Congress would seem to be in the job description.  Hell, it's oftn other members of Congress doing the screaming.  Why guns would be needed on the floor of the House with the Capitol Police already providing protection, now that to me says that Gohmert wants to let people, specifically other lawmakers, know he's packing heat when he does his screaming.  That's a bridge too far, frankly and I don't agree with it.

Protecting yourself in DC is one thing.  But there's no reason for firearms on the floor of Congress.  Not for protection, anyway.  Now, intimidation on the other hand, well...

Blowing Smoke Up Your Dress

Texas has taken three swings now at getting an injunction against the EPA's new pollution rules on energy companies and greenhouse gases and they've struck out at the plate.

A federal court has shot down a bid by Texas to keep the Obama administration from regulating greenhouse gases in the Lone Star State.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled Wednesday that the Environmental Protection Agency can take over the permitting of carbon dioxide emissions in Texas, Politico reported.

It was the third time in two months that the request by Republican Gov. Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott was rejected in court.

In December, the appeals panel agreed to stay federal enforcement regulations temporarily. That halt was lifted Wednesday, with the judges stating in a one-page decision that state officials "have not satisfied the stringent standards required for a stay pending court review."

But, Texas will continue to refuse to implement the new standards pending more lawsuits.  Once again, the Supreme Court settled this question just a few years ago.  I'm not sure what Texas is trying to do, but right now they've got nothing and no real case.

We'll see what happens when the smoke clears.

Stupidnews! It's A Bad Day To Be Famous

Peter Fonda discovered a dead body.  Yep, that's right.  He stopped to check on a car parked beside the road, and called 911 when it was evident the man was dead. 

Brett Favre's sister was busted in Mississippi when a meth lab caught attention of police.  She has had legal trouble before, but this is going to go down badly.

Margaret Whiting, famous for  Moonlight In Vermont has passed away at age 86.  She was dramatic and loud, and as much a performer as a sweet voice, and held her own with Rosemary Clooney. 

Charlie Sheen has an infection. That's right, America's favorite man ho has finally gotten an infection.  But it's in his ear.  Therefore proving the universal law that no matter what, it's a good day to be Charlie Sheen.

Ted Williams Continues To Climb

Why do I continue to chronicle the journey of Ted Williams?  Because I think he's a real sign of what so many are going through right now.  Down on his luck, with a substance abuse problem that killed his career and separated him from his family, Ted's star is finally rising.  Those who know the road to recovery will understand the bumpy ride and false starts.  There is no smooth progression to cured.  Still, after having lost it all Ted is giving it a hell of a go, and I want to see him make it.

There was some sort of disagreement with his daughter, and police were called because they were yelling.  Williams was detained for minutes, as was his daughter, and police said there were no signs of physical contact.  Fair enough, a little yelling works sometimes. The police said the problem was "minor" and dismissed the spat.  Going through all of this under a microscope won't make it easy, but so far the family has held up under the intrusion.

After appearing on Dr. Phil, Ted has decided to enter rehab to fight his dependency and put his life back together again.  There is no guarantee of success, but with all my heart I hope this sticks and that all this good karma is not wasted.  Like so many people out there, there is a huge talent wrapped in a sad story.  I'll keep this up as long as they release updates.

Good luck, Ted.

The Old Line State's New Equality

Maryland Democrats say they have the votes in the General Assembly to put a same-sex marriage bill on Democratic Gov. Martin O' Malley's desk this year.

Maryland is poised to become the sixth state to recognize same-sex marriage as proponents say they believe they have enough support to pass such a measure in the upcoming legislative session.

The expansion of gay rights appears to have gained significant traction as Maryland's General Assembly begins its 90-day session Wednesday. Not only are Democrats optimistic about their chances of approving same-sex marriage, but a leading Republican, sensing momentum on the issue, has instead countered with a proposal to grant civil unions to gay couples.

Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley has publicly stated that he would sign a marriage bill into law. Maryland then would join Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C., in sanctioning same-sex marriages.

Maryland has been inching toward granting greater rights and protections for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Last year Democratic state Attorney General Doug Gansler offered a legal opinion recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.

"We've been marching in this direction for a while now," said Democratic state Delegate Heather Mizeur.

Excellent news, but not without a catch:  Opponents of the measure vow to force a referendum vote that would overturn the law, just as same-sex marriage was subject to a slow death in California.   That state's Prop 8 battle, headed for the Supreme Court, may have far-reaching implications for a number of states.

I'll keep an eye on Maryland's progress here.

If It's Thursday...

A big jump in jobless claims as the holiday adjustments end.

The number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits rose to 445,000 from an upwardly revised reading of 410,000 in the prior week, the Labor Department said on Thursday. It was the biggest one-week jump in about six months, confounding analyst forecasts for a small drop to 405,000.

A Labor Department official noted the rebound occurred following the holidays, which may have hindered reporting of new claims and created a backlog.

Continuing claims retreated sharply to 3.88 million from 4.13 million, a potentially encouraging sign. However, the total number of Americans on benefit rolls, including extended benefits under emergency government programs, jumped to 9.19 million from 8.77 million.

Not good news heading into 2011, especially that last number.  Still a long way to go.

Mending America's Broken Heart

I have to admit, last night's speech in Tuscon was the best Obama has given in his Presidential career.  This news about the Congresswoman got the biggest applause of the night:

But it was the last five minutes that had me wiping away a tear or three.

The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better in our private lives - to be better friends and neighbors, co-workers and parents.  And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let's remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy, but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud.  It should be because we want to live up to the example of public servants like John Roll and Gabby Giffords, who knew first and foremost that we are all Americans, and that we can question each other's ideas without questioning each other's love of country, and that our task, working together, is to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American dream to future generations.

I believe we can be better.  Those who died here, those who saved lives here - they help me believe.  We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us.  I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.

That's what I believe, in part because that's what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed.  Imagine: here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation's future.  She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful.  She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model.  She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.

I want us to live up to her expectations.  I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it.  All of us - we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations.

Spoken like a father of two girls about 9 years of age, and like a President of the United States.  As cynical and as jaded as I can be about politics, I am reminded that there are much greater things out there to believe in, and America is sure as hell one of them.  What a truly moving and powerful speech -- just what the country needed.

An America as good as Christina Taylor Green imagined it.  Amen to that.


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