Monday, January 9, 2012

Last Call

White House chief of staff Bill Daley is out, proving that as bad as Rahm supposedly was, this job will chew up and spit out anyone.

White House Chief of Staff William Daley will step down from his post at the end of the month, President Obama announced Monday.

Daley will be replaced by Jack Lew, head of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). 
Announcing the staff change, Obama thanked Daley for his service and said he didn't accept his resignation right away.

"In fact, I asked him to take a couple of days to make sure that he was sure about this. But in the end, the pull of the hometown we both love, a city that has been synonymous with the Daley family for generations, was too great," Obama said while standing in the State Dining Room beside Daley and Lew.

"Bill told me that he wanted to spend more time with his family, especially his grandchildren, and he felt it was the right decision," Obama said.

The departure comes two months after the White House announced that Pete Rouse, the presidents senior adviser, would be taking over the daily operational duties.

It was pretty clear that Daley was on the way out with Rouse getting the actual job of running the West Wing back in November.  We'll see how long Jack Lew lasts.  My guess is should the President be-relected, Lew will probably make way for a new face in January 2013.

Lew meanwhile will be invaluable for his budget expertise.  He'll be needed when the Republicans try to shut down the place before the election.  Perhaps with Lew's emphasis, the President will seek to cut through the GOP's ledger domain legerdemain and tell it straight on the road.

That's a good idea having a budget wonk at the helm when the number one issue for voters is jobs and the economy.

The Canyon Stays Grand Under The Plan

Today US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a plan to institute a 20-year ban on uranium mining on the land around the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  Predictably, Republicans and mining and energy lobbyists are furious.

Salazar, who twice imposed temporary bans on new uranium claims, said last year that uranium remains an important part of a comprehensive energy strategy. But he said the Grand Canyon is a national treasure that must be protected.
The Grand Canyon attracts more than 4 million visitors a year and generates an estimated $3.5 billion in economic activity, Salazar said. Millions of Americans living in cities such as Phoenix and Los Angeles rely on the Colorado River for clean drinking water.
"Like our ancestors, we do not know how future Americans will enjoy, experience and benefit from this place," Salazar said at a speech in June outlining plans to limit new mining claims near the site. "And that's one of the many reasons why wisdom, caution and science should guide our protection of the Grand Canyon."

It's unknown how long that ban will effectively last, considering the first millisecond an energy company-friendly Republican gets back into the White House, the Grand Canyon will have more than a few extra holes blasted in it.

Republican members of Arizona's congressional delegation have lambasted temporary bans imposed by Salazar in 2009 and again last year. They say a permanent ban on the filing of new mining claims would eliminate hundreds of jobs and unravel decades of responsible resource development. Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and other GOP lawmakers are backing legislation to prevent Salazar from moving forward with the 20-year ban.

Good luck getting that past this President.  Of course, Jeff Flake is waiting for one of the lovely Republican candidates we have now to end up in the Oval Office.  Does anyone think Mitt Romney would block uranium mining in America's most famous natural monument?  Hell, the rest of the Clown Car Kids would probably get rid of the Department of the Interior altogether.

How many jobs would be lost if the Colorado River was contaminated by uranium mining runoff?  How many lives?  Do you think any of the Republicans running for president care about the environment?

Thought so.

Get Better Soon, Doc

Dr. Stephen Hawking missed his 70th birthday event, but here's hoping he gets better soon.  The world need more people like him.

British scientist Stephen Hawking was forced to miss a scientific debate to mark his 70th birthday Sunday due to ill health but sent an upbeat message saying he was living at a “glorious time”.

As scientists and media gathered at Cambridge University for a symposium to mark Hawking’s birthday, vice-chancellor Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewic announced: “Stephen has been unwell and was only discharged from hospital on Friday.”

But in a pre-recorded message, the physicist urged participants to focus on his glittering career and the future of science rather than his struggles against illness.

“It has been a glorious time to be alive and doing research in theoretical physics,” he said.
“We must also continue to go into space for the future of humanity,” he argued. “I don’t think we will survive another thousand years without escaping beyond our fragile planet.”

Tell that to the Republican Party.  Please.

Paying It Forward: You're Doing It Right

Laurie Johnston was in pharmacy school and unsure if he was going to be able to finish.  He had taken a year off to work and build up funds to continue when a family friend gave him $200.  In 1949 that was quite a chunk of change.  She told Johnston to finish his schooling and "pay it back for someone else" down the road.

And boy, did he ever.

Johnston grew up in a time when luxuries were few, and admits he was greatly affected by growing up in the times of the Great Depression.  He obviously did not come from a wealthy family or he wouldn't have been struggling to pay for his school, but he has clear memories of his mother feeding migrant workers and packing them to-go meals.   Johnston says his mother, while not a wealthy woman, understood we have an obligation to help those trying to find work and better themselves.

Johnston finished school and decided to build a fund to keep his promise.  He saved $80,000 and then began to invest it.  He never dipped into the money, sustaining himself on his pharmacist wages.   He continued to grow the fund, and eventually it reached a flat million dollars.

His advice?  "Never buy what you want, just buy what you need."  Such simple advice, yet nearly every American could benefit from this principle.

Our older generation has been trying to tell us for years that we are fortunate and should be saving for the future.  For the last 40 years, what we consider normal is a royal standard of living for most of the world.  Some might say "you NEED television and you WANT cable," and some would remind them you need food, shelter and toiletries and everything else is icing on the cake. We could be more aware of our many blessings, which would allow us to better  appreciate our luxuries and take more pleasure in them.

One man will changes hundreds, if not thousands of lives from his donations.  He is educated, kind and honorable.  He didn't go without necessities, but by knowing the difference between what he had to have and what he could do without, he will provide luxuries and services to others, and for many years.  His lifetime of labor, his legacy, will be one that would have made his mother and generous friend very proud.  We need more people like him, and every single one of us can contribute.  It doesn't have to be money, but touching lives and doing good is something we all have the power to do.

This isn't a multimillionaire who donated a million dollars.  He's an average man of modest means who saved a lifetime to show his gratitude.  That's what makes him special.

Cross-posted at Angry Black Lady's site as well.

Yet Another Lesson We Can Learn From Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking was too ill to attend his 70th birthday party, but he still encouraged people to "look up at the stars" and seek answers about the universe.  Everyone knows who he is, and has some familiarity with his work.  But there is one more thing he has to teach us, and it will tell us as much about him as any book.

He should have been dead by 1965.

ALS is a devastating disease.  When he was diagnosed, Hawking admits it was difficult to continue to work for his doctorate because he wasn't sure he would live long enough to accomplish the goal.  He was depressed, as anyone would be, and considered giving up.  How different the world of physics would be if that had happened.  It's virtually unheard of for someone to survive ALS for so many years.  If he had decided to feel sorry for himself, would his body have given in?  Or would a lifetime of bitterness have consumed one of the world's smartest men?

Good thing we won't have to answer that question.  Hawking decided to work and do what he could while he could, and nearly fifty years later we have a legacy that has forever changed science and our understanding of the universe.

By the way, from a geeky perspective, I will never forget Hawking's birthday because it falls on the same day as my husband's.  70 years and holding relatively strong, may we be writing next year about his 71st.

Classless Warfare, Part 3

Charles Pierce makes this catch from the Clown Car Cavalcade Saturday night, in his usual inimitable style as Rick Santorum tries to rewrite yet another phrase out of the allowable political lexicon: "middle-class".

"Governor Romney uses a term I shy away from," Santorum said. "'Middle-class.' There are no "classes" in America. Middle-income, maybe. But we don't put people into 'classes.' We don't get into class warfare. That's their job."

I am telling you this as a true fact: I have never heard a politician say anything that stupid before in 30 years of watching politicians talk in public. I realize that talking about class in this country rather puts the lie to all that American Dream malarkey that raises all that money for y'all, and that Joe McCarthy made talking about class downright dangerous in the 1950's but, Jesus H. Christ on a package tour of the Balkans, when did using the word "class" become a liberal plot? When did it become... wait for it... politically incorrect? But it was the self-righteous fervor, the glistening brow and flashing eyes, with which Santorum delivered himself of this barking idiocy that made the sheer stupidity of it pale in comparison to the proud dickishness with which it was proclaimed.

There are no classes in America? 

At a time when income disparity is at its greatest level since God knows when? At a time when real wages have been stalled since half-past Reagan? At a time in which the richest 10 percent of the country controls two-thirds of our net worth? At the conclusion of three decades in which the change in income among American families has tilted so far toward the richest one-percent that the chart looks like fking K2?

There are no classes in America?


Yes sir.  By the way, Santorum's website?  Uses the term middle-class.  Uses the term liberally, I'd say.

Gods above and below, but I cannot wait until President Obama gets a crack at these fools.

Some Of Newt's Best Friends Are Black, You Know

I've talked about the difference between racism and assumption of privilege before, but every now and again somebody managed to do both at the same time, like Newt Gingrich.  And every now and again, people like Gingrich get called out on it.

At a town hall event meant to appeal to Latino voters at a Mexican restaurant in Manchester, an African-American man confronted Gingrich about recent comments he made that have drawn the ire of the NACCP and other civil rights leader. Gingrich controversially said last week, “I’m prepared, if the NAACP invites me, I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.”

Now, that was bad enough, but the reality is Gingrich's assumption that the majority of SNAP recipients are African-American males is also completely and totally wrongThe largest plurality are white children, as a matter of fact.  And only 8% of people on SNAP received additional federal welfare benefits, while 4% recieved additional state benefits.  That's it.

Today, someone called Newt on it, a black small business owner who took offense at Gingrich assuming all black people take food stamps.

LAMOTHE: My question to you is, do think blacks represent an American problem. And if you don’t think that, when you start using blacks in general as a stepping stone or a punching bag–
GINGRICH: I didn’t say that. I just want to say that frankly this makes me very irritated. The Democratic National Committee took totally out of context half of the sentence, OK? I mean clearly somebody who’s served with Colin Powell, who has served with Condoleezza Rice, I have a fairly good sense of the fact that African Americans have many contributions to America.

And yes, Newt went there with "How dare you!  Some of my best friends are black!"  Which never, ever works.  Just because you have a black co-worker at your lobbyist job doesn't mean you can't be a bigoted prick making idiotically false assumptions about minorities.  It becomes a hundred times worse when those false assumptions form the basis of your Presidential campaign.

Since Gingrich prides himself on running a "fact-based" campaign as he mentioned in Saturday's debate, it's all the more awful that Gingrich is happily playing the race card.  The logical conclusion is that he's running on taking away the safety net from all people by attacking black people, so that white people won't miss it, which is the real thrust of all this lovely bigotry.

It works like this:  Republicans want to eliminate as many social programs and services as they can in order to give more money to the wealthy.  In order to do this, they need to get the people to vote against their self-interests.  In order to do THAT, they need to stigmatize social programs and pretend that they're only used by a particular "bad" minority group, signalling that the candidate will work to only take those social programs away from those groups and not the "good" majority.

The joke is of course on them.  The most effective political marketing movement in the last 30 years has been making the middle-class vote against their own self-interests.  Wages have stagnated for a generation, and Republicans (and more than a few Democrats) have led the charge in convincing the country that the means to help rectify the massive income and wealth inequality in this country need to be completely eliminated in order to "fix" the problem.  It's like saying the best therapy for chronic heart disease is to stop spending money on that expensive medicine and doctor's visits and hospital stays, and getting rid of all three because really, those are costing you more money than it's worth.

And so it goes, the GOP scapegoat plan.  On social programs it's blacks.  On immigration it's Latinos.  On marriage and civil rights it's gays.  It's been working for years.  Now they don't even hide it anymore in the Age of Austerity.  We're fighting over the scraps from the lord's table.

Newt's just doing his part.


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