David Kirkpatrick

September 8, 2010

The latest on the White House proposed tax cuts and infrastructure spending

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:20 pm

Can Obama pull off these fiscal moves this year? Opinions are a mixed bag, but the quick answer is probably not.

From the link:

Tax experts and economists offered mixed reviews about the feasibility of the Obama administration’s attempt to pass additional tax cuts now with the legislative year winding down, even as the president declined Sept. 3 to specify what proposals his administration will advance.

On Aug. 30, the president announced that he will propose a series of targeted tax cuts and infrastructure investments in the coming days and weeks, some of which will be new.

“I will be addressing a broader package of ideas next week,” the president told reporters at the White House Sept. 3. “We are confident that we are moving in the right direction, but we want to keep this recovery moving stronger and accelerate the job growth that’s needed so desperately all across the country.”

August 31, 2010

Why is the “Obama is a Muslim” meme persistent?

Here comes the science …

The release:

Why Americans believe Obama is a Muslim

Published: Aug. 31, 2010

EAST LANSING, Mich. — There’s something beyond plain old ignorance that motivates Americans to believe President Obama is a Muslim, according to a first-of-its-kind study of smear campaigns led by a Michigan State University psychologist.

The research by Spee Kosloff and colleagues suggests people are most likely to accept such falsehoods, both consciously and unconsciously, when subtle clues remind them of ways in which Obama is different from them, whether because of race, social class or other ideological differences.

These judgments, Kosloff argues, are irrational. He also suggests they are fueled by an “irresponsible” media culture that allows political pundits and “talking heads” to perpetuate the lies.

“Careless or biased media outlets are largely responsible for the propagation of these falsehoods, which catch on like wildfire,” said Kosloff, visiting assistant professor of psychology. “And then social differences can motivate acceptance of these lies.”

A Pew Research Center poll in August 2010 found that 18 percent of Americans believe Obama is a Muslim – up from 11 percent in March 2009 – even though he’s a practicing Christian. Kosloff noted that the poll was conducted before Obama’s recent comments supporting the right for Muslims to build a mosque near New York’s Ground Zero.

Kosloff and colleagues launched their study prior to the 2008 U.S. presidential election, as the candidates were being bombarded with smear campaigns. It’s the first comprehensive experimental study of the psychological factors that motivate Americans to believe the lies. The findings are published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

In four separate experiments (three before the election and one after), the researchers looked at both conscious and unconscious acceptance of political smears by mostly white, non-Muslim college students. For the conscious trials, the participants were shown false blog reports arguing that Obama is a Muslim or a socialist or that John McCain is senile. The unconscious trials involved gauging how rapidly subjects could identify smear-relevant words such as “Muslim” or “turban” after Obama’s name was presented subliminally.

Among the results:

• On average, participants who supported McCain said there is a 56 percent likelihood Obama is a Muslim. But when they were asked to fill out a demographic card asking for their own race, the likelihood jumped to 77 percent. Kosloff said this shows that simply thinking about a social category that differentiated participants from Obama was enough to get them to believe the smear.

• Participants undecided about the candidates said there is a 43 percent chance McCain is senile – a number that increased to 73 percent when they simply listed their own age on a card.

• Undecided participants said there is a 25 percent chance Obama is a socialist – a number that jumped to 62 percent when they considered race. “Even though being a socialist has nothing to do with race,” Kosloff said, “irrationally they tied the two together.”

Kosloff said the increase in belief that Obama is Muslim likely reflects a growing disenchantment with his presidency – a sense that people feel Obama is not on their side.

“When people are unsatisfied with the president – whether it’s the way he’s handling the economy, health care or Afghanistan – our research suggests that this only fuels their readiness to accept untrue rumors,” Kosloff said.

“As his job rating goes down, suggesting that people feel like he’s not ideologically on their side, we see an increase in this irrational belief that he’s a Muslim,” he added. “Unfortunately, in America, many people dislike Muslims so they’ll label Obama as Muslim when they feel different from him.”

The study was done with researchers from the University of Arizona, the University of British Columbia and Leiden University in the Netherlands.

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Michigan State University has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for more than 150 years. MSU is known internationally as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact. Its 17 degree-granting colleges attract scholars worldwide who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving.

July 12, 2010

Diaper fetishist Senator calls for birther suits

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:46 pm

Not only did “family values” Republican David Vitter not resign after a scandal involving frequenting prostitutes to service an infantilism fetish, he’s now doubling down on challenging the voters in his district to reelect someone who is unfit to serve by supporting lawsuits claiming Obama is not a United States citizen.

The state of Hawaii cleared this matter up long, long ago, and really, don’t you think between Hillary Clinton in the primaries and John McCain in the general someone would have used this issue as a devastating image and legal hammer is there was anything — and I mean any tiny shred — that gave credence to the idea Obama couldn’t legally serve as president.

From the link:

Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter says he supports conservative organizations challenging President Barack Obama’s citizenship in court.

Vitter, who is running for re-election, made the comments at a town hall event on Sunday when a constituent asked what he would do about what the questioner said was Obama’s ”refusal to produce a valid birth certificate.”

May 7, 2010

Is Kagan the next SCOTUS judge?

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:44 pm

Yes, according to Mike Allen.

From today’s Playbook:

Look for President Obama to name his Supreme Court pick Monday, and look for it to be Solicitor General Elena Kagan, a former Harvard Law dean. The pick isn’t official, but top White House aides will be shocked if it’s otherwise. Kagan’s relative youth (50) is a huge asset for the lifetime post. And President Obama considers her to be a persuasive, fearless advocate who would serve as an intellectual counterweight to Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Scalia, and could lure swing Justice Kennedy into some coalitions The West Wing may leak the pick to AP’s Ben Feller on the later side Sunday, then confirm it for others for morning editions. For now, aides say POTUS hasn’t decided, to their knowledge. Kagan pic and bio

March 21, 2010

Health care reform is going to pass

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:35 pm

Love it, hate it or maybe just sick of hearing about it, this bill will pass today. Obama essentially staked his entire presidency on health care reform this past week, so there’s no shock this thing is going to become a law. Next stop Obama’s desk, and then on to SCOTUS?

Should have taken that $100 bet at Thanksgiving …

February 26, 2010

Fact-checking the health care summit

Shockingly (er, not really) neither side had a total grasp on the truth.

It’s worth hitting the link for the entire piece, but here’s the FactCheck.org summary:

  • Sen. Lamar Alexander said premiums will go up for “millions” under the Senate bill and president’s plan, while President Barack Obama said families buying the same coverage they have now would pay much less. Both were misleading. The Congressional Budget Office said premiums for those in the group market wouldn’t change significantly, while the average premium for those who buy their own coverage would go up.
  • Alexander also said “50 percent of doctors won’t see new [Medicaid] patients.” But a 2008 survey says only 28 percent refuse to take any new Medicaid patients.
  • Sen. Harry Reid cited a poll that said 58 percent would be “angry or disappointed” if health care overhaul doesn’t pass. True, but respondents in the poll were also split 43-43 on whether they supported the legislation that is currently being proposed.
  • Obama repeated an inflated claim we’ve covered before. He said insured families pay about $1,000 a year in their premiums to cover costs for the uninsured. That’s a disputed figure from an advocacy group. Other researchers put the figure at about $200.
  • Sen. Tom Coburn said “the government is responsible for 60 percent” of U.S. health spending. But that dubious figure includes lost tax revenue due to charitable contributions to hospitals and other questionable items. The real figure is about 47 percent.
  • Reid said “since 1981 reconciliation has been used 21 times. Most of it has been used by Republicans.” That’s true, but scholars say using it to pass health care legislation would be the most ambitious use to date of this filibuster-avoiding maneuver.
  • Rep. Charles Boustany said the main GOP-backed bill would reduce premium costs by “up to about 10 percent.” According to CBO, that’s true for the small group market, which accounts for only 15 percent of premiums. But premiums in the large group market would stay the same or go down by as much as 3 percent.

February 17, 2010

White House announces debt commission

Hopefully this group will be more than window dressing for a serious problem. I’m not too certain there are many decent short-term public debt fixes out there, but both the mid- and long-range fiscal outlooks need a basic road map at the very least.

Entitlement spending — Medicare, Social Security, etc. — combined with the ever growing black hole that it is the defense budget will bankrupt the United States before the middle of this century without an application of serious fiscal conservatism. This was the kicker from a link I blogged about yesterday, “At stake ultimately is the United States’ status as a first-class economy.” The subject in question there? The federal deficit.

From the first link:

President Obama will sign an executive order Thursday to set up a bipartisan fiscal commission to weigh proposals to rein in the soaring federal debt, according to a White House official.

The official, who requested anonymity because the President has not made the announcement yet, said the co-chairs of the commission will be Democrat Erskine Bowles, former White House chief of staff for Bill Clinton, and Alan Simpson, former Republican Senator from Wyoming. It’ll be officially titled the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

January 27, 2010

Obama’s State of the Union Address

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:13 pm

Didn’t catch the SOTU (late bit of work), but sounds like a solid, and sober, speech.

Sully and his underbloggers at the Daily Dish put together — as always — a great roundup of opinion from around the blogosphere.

Here’s one from the left:

538:

Obama is making a lot of arguments tonight that the WH should have been making for months now.

One from the neutral sidelines:

Ambinder:

Most remarkable: Secretary of Defense Bob Gates applauded Obama’s words [on DADT]. And Americans saw him applauding, thanks to the director’s cut-aways. Which means that, for the most part, the military is on notice: the policy is ending, and ending very soon. Said Obama: “This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. Because it’s the right thing to do.” One note: the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the chiefs didn’t applauded. But that’s the protocol. They don’t applaud by tradition.

And one from the right:

Mark Levin:

I have watched many, many State of the Union speeches.  This is the most partisan, least presidential of them all.  His rhetoric, his glances at the GOP side, and his almost mocking tone at times — not to mention his over-the-top dissembling about the deficit, among other things — will not, I predict, improve his position with the public.  Nor should it.

Update 1/28/10 — Here’s a link to the full text of the speech.

January 26, 2010

Obama’s domestic spending freeze announcement …

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:25 pm

… is getting a ton of play around the blogosphere today. There’s plenty of cries of capitulation from the right, there’s opining the move is a knee-jerk reaction to Brown winning in Massachusetts, and the Obama-leery left is fairly predictably apoplectic.

You can find a pretty good roundup of opinion on the announcement here at the Daily Dish.

Of all the various takes out there, this from Bruce Bartlett seems to strike closest to my thoughts:

More recently, economist Paul Krugman warned that the Fed’s talk of an early “exit strategy” from easy money sounds suspiciously like that which led it to tighten prematurely in 1936. He believes that the good economic news of recent months does not yet constitute proof that a sustainable recovery is underway and that the danger of a relapse this year is strong as stimulus spending wanes.

Nevertheless, the pressure to at least begin the process of normalization is overwhelming. The Fed has talked openly about new procedures to soak up the bank reserves it has created even as those reserves remain largely idle and unlent. And even Democrats and organizations affiliated with them are urging Obama to get the budget on a sustainable path as soon as possible. John Podesta and Michael Ettlinger of the liberal Center for American Progress recently argued that the primary budget (spending less interest on the debt) should be balanced as soon as 2014, with full balance by 2020.

I’m not terribly worried that Congress will reduce the deficit too quickly; too much of the budget is on automatic pilot or effectively off-limits. Entitlement programs like Medicare will continue to grow for years to come and there is no way that defense spending can be reined in as long as we continue to fight two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention the likelihood of new domestic security spending in the wake of an aborted terrorist attack on Christmas day. And it’s far more likely that Congress will appropriate new stimulus measures than cut back on those already enacted.

Small business tax credit still in play

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:09 pm

It may have died in Congress, but a tax credit for small businesses creating jobs is a good idea. There are pros and cons, but overall Main Street needs this. Companies need a little more financial flexibility, especially if they legitimately need to add employees, and people out there just need more jobs.

From the link:

President Barack Obama’s push to create jobs includes a new tax credit for small businesses that add employees, an idea that fell flat in Congress last year and continues to have skeptics this year.

The idea has appeal as the nation struggles with an unemployment rate topping 10 percent. But House Democrats left out Obama’s proposal when they passed a jobs bill in December because they didn’t know how to target the credit effectively. The Obama administration still hasn’t provided details on how the tax credit would work, and some tax experts question whether it would.

January 25, 2010

White House throwing the middle class a lifeline

Here’s some of the options on the table:

The initiatives were developed by the White House Task Force on Middle Class Families, led by Vice President Joe Biden. The proposals would:

* Require companies that do not offer retirement plans to enroll their employees in direct-deposit retirement accounts unless the workers opt out.

* Increase the “Savers Credit,” a tax credit for retirement savings, for families making up to $85,000.

* Change some of the rules for 401(k) employer-sponsored retirement savings accounts to make them more transparent.

* Increase the child tax credit rate to 35 percent of qualifying expenses from the current 20 percent for families making under $85,000 a year. Families making up to $115,000 would be eligible for some increase in the tax credit.

* Increase child care funding by $1.6 billion in 2011 to serve an additional 235,000 children.

* Boost government spending by $102.5 million for programs aimed at helping families who provide home care for an aging relative.

* Ease the burden for student loans by limiting a borrower’s payments to 10 percent of his or her income above a basic living allowance.

January 22, 2010

Independent voters not necessarily Tea Partiers

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:30 pm

According to a Fox News poll.

From the link:

A new Fox News survey shows that Americans remain deeply wary of the tea party movement, and strongly prefer Barack Obama to a hypothetical tea party candidate.  And it’s a result Fox News chose to bury in its reporting on the poll — choosing instead to highlight “anti-Obama” voter sentiment. The poll, released by Fox News yesterday, shows that if given the choice between re-electing Barack Obama and electing a member of the tea party movement, Americans prefer Barack Obama 48% to 23%, a margin of 25 points.

Fox’s survey, conducted just over a week ago, shows that independents are still uneasy about trusting a member of the tea party movement with a position of power. Indeed, among independents, Barack Obama enjoys a 17 point lead.

foxnews-teaparty-poll

Hit the link for head-to-head 2012 presidential race comparisons between Obama against Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich. Rommey does best among independents with Obama ahead 43 to 28 percent. Gingrich is next with 53 to 23 percent Obama, and predictably Palin is third with 56 to 24 percent Obama. She actually gets more independent support than Gingrich, but also turns off more than she attracts. Interestingly Palin does the same among Republicans — that is she pulls a little more support than Gingrich, but gives up the same number of GOPers to Obama.

January 7, 2010

Dems electoral road in 2010 gets a bit more tough …

… with yesterday’s announcements that Senators Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota aren’t going to defend their seats in November. That’s a lot of combined years of Congressional experience stepping back from the table. The Democrats are finding owning all of D.C. isn’t a walk in the park, and holding a governing coalition together is pretty tough.

Make no mistake, the elections are still quite a ways off and political winds blow notoriously fickle, but Obama’s first year in office has been tough on the Democrats. Blue Dogs are under attack both at home in the ballot box and from progressive purists in the blogosphere who are acting no less self-destructively than far-right GOPers who want to purge RINOs from the shrinking Republican tent.

If — and this possibility became a bit more probable with yesterday’s news — the Democrats suffer shockingly large defeats at the polls in November and (gasp!) actually lose control of the Senate, I wonder if the loony progressives who are hell-bent on battling a pragmatic and realistic president from their own party and appear to value ideology over governance will feel some measure of blame?

Probably not, and they’ll still be confused on why they’ll continue to be known as Defeatocrats.

December 2, 2009

Obama’s Af-Pak speech

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:56 pm

I don’t have too much of an immediate reaction other than to say it’s a good sign both political extremes are for the most part very unhappy with the plan.

Here’s the text of the speech:

Good evening. To the United States Corps of Cadets, to the men and women of our armed services, and to my fellow Americans: I want to speak to you tonight about our effort in Afghanistan–the nature of our commitment there, the scope of our interests, and the strategy that my Administration will pursue to bring this war to a successful conclusion. It is an honor for me to do so here–at West Point–where so many men and women have prepared to stand up for our security, and to represent what is finest about our country.

To address these issues, it is important to recall why America and our allies were compelled to fight a war in Afghanistan in the first place. We did not ask for this fight. On September 11, 2001, nineteen men hijacked four airplanes and used them to murder nearly 3,000 people. They struck at our military and economic nerve centers. They took the lives of innocent men, women, and children without regard to their faith or race or station. Were it not for the heroic actions of the passengers on board one of those flights, they could have also struck at one of the great symbols of our democracy in Washington, and killed many more.

(head below the fold for the rest … ) (more…)

October 16, 2009

Palin and the GOP

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:48 pm

I really don’t understand the ongoing appeal of Sarah Palin to the Republican Party.

The Daily Dish ran this year-long favorable/unfavorable poll of polls today:

Palin's favorables/unfavorables over the last year

Palin's favorables/unfavorables over the last year

Those numbers look decidedly bad. There’s a firm trend line at work. Of course it’s going to hit something of a Maginot Line at 20-25 percent favorables. She has that tiny rump locked up — and really it’s practically impossible for anybody or anything polled to dip below around 15 percent — so Palin fans can be pleased  the current trend lines will eventually level off.

The problem is there’s no reason to expect they will significantly reverse. Certainly not before the 2012 election cycle, and maybe not ever. She’s insanely damaged goods for all but the die-hard, blinker-wearing movement “conservative” faithful.

There is no political redemption for anyone carrying her baggage. Take away every other negative, and boy there are plenty to choose from, and the fact she fled her only major elected post before serving even one term is a killer. I’m discounting mayor of Wasilla and below as “major” elected posts Palin held before the Alaskan governorship.

The fact she’s even in any sort of running for the top of the GOP presidential ticket at this point ought to have the party in a state of panic. Obama may be turning a lot of independent voters off right now, but believe me he would easily outdraw Palin under just about any conceivable set of political and economic conditions the U.S. might be facing in about two and half years.

October 14, 2009

Congress and war power

A very sane proposal from the Cato Institute on returning the power to make war back to Congress and bringing back some semblance of the separation of power. The executive branch has co-opted war power, and the results have been not so stellar. The framers of the Constitution created the separation of power for a good reason and the recent power grab by the executive branch really exposes the sound reasoning behind that concept.

One of the reasons I voted for Obama is I thought he offered the best opportunity to get U.S. government back in balance after the Bush 43 administration. I didn’t see any of the GOP candidates making any substantial changes to Cheney’s rollback to the Nixon administration (and then some) and I certainly thought Clinton would have happily grabbed the full reins of an overly empowered White House.

From CATO Today in today’s inbox:

CATO HANDBOOK: RECLAIMING THE WAR POWER

No constitutional principle is more important than congressional control over the decision to go to war. In affairs of state, no more momentous decision can be made. For that reason, in a democratic republic, it is essential that that decision be made by the most broadly representative body: the legislature. In the Reclaiming the War Power chapter of the Cato Handbook for Policymakers, Gene Healy explains why Congress should:


– Cease trying to shirk its constitutional responsibilities in matters of war and peace,


– Insist that hostilities not be initiated by the executive branch unless and until Congress has authorized such action,


– Rediscover the power of the purse as a means of restricting the executive’s ability to wage unnecessary wars, and


– Reform the War Powers Resolution to make it an effective vehicle for restricting unilateral war making by the president.

October 10, 2009

Impeach Obama?

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:35 am

Obama hasn’t been in office for nine months and there is already a movement afoot pressing for impeachment? Really? This is very, very dumb and if it gets any publicity will only serve to further marginalize the political right — if that is even possible. Right now it’s heading toward that 15% number that pretty much any political poll will elicit and can be written off as a lunatic fringe.

Here’s the best bit from the link — the group pushing for impeachment has a very unique take on impeachment worthy behavior from POTUS:

The new effort might be described as part of Brown’s campaign to define impeachment down. On the homepage of the new site, Brown argues that the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” — the circumstances justifying impeachment, according to the constitution — doesn’t mean crimes in a legal sense. Rather, it refers simply to “bad behavior.”

Talking to TPMmuckraker, Brown elaborated on that view. Properly understood, he said, impeachment is “like a recall in California” — a political act. “It’s a process by which you remove an incompetent president.”

By that — perhaps low — standard, Brown argued, Obama more than qualifies. “He’s basically handed our foreign policy off to the United Nations. His economic policies are destroying the value of the dollar.”

“He’s in over his head,” Brown continued. “I am fearful for my country for the first time in my adult life.”

Good luck with that.

October 9, 2009

Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize

Filed under: et.al., Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:41 pm

The right is jumping all over this. Seems a lot like putting the cart before the horse to me, but this take by Ronald Krebs in Foreign Policy puts a bit more clarity in the selection.

From the link:

The Nobel Peace Prize’s aims are expressly political. The Nobel committee seeks to change the world through the prize’s very conferral, and, unlike its fellow prizes, the peace prize goes well beyond recognizing past accomplishments. As Francis Sejersted, the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee in the 1990s, once proudly admitted, “The prize … is not only for past achievement. … The committee also takes the possible positive effects of its choices into account [because] … Nobel wanted the prize to have political effects. Awarding a peace prize is, to put it bluntly, a political act.”

Update — A quote from the committee’s chairman:

While in recent decades the selection process has produced many winners better known for their suffering or their environmental zeal than for peacemaking, Mr. Jagland, a former Norwegian prime minister, said he intended to incorporate a more practical approach.

“It’s important for the committee to recognize people who are struggling and idealistic,” Mr. Jagland said in an interview, “but we cannot do that every year. We must from time to time go into the realm of realpolitik. It is always a mix of idealism and realpolitik that can change the world.”

(Hat tip: the Daily Dish)

September 9, 2009

The big moment from Obama’s Congressional health care speech?

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:31 pm

An amazing and massive unforced error from GOP Representative Joe Wilson.

Wilson’s apologized, but I’m going to guess it’s much too little, far too late for Wilson’s outburst (he yelled, “You lie,” at Obama during the early portion of the speech.) Republicans need to work hard to separate the party from the partisan nutjobs out there and public spectacles like this are a large step in the wrong direction.

August 6, 2009

Small business capital gains tax cut coming

Throwing a little more relief Main Street’s way. The jury’s still out on Obama’s overall stimulus plan, but it’s good to see small business is getting some consideration and airtime from the president.

From the link:

President Obama said Aug. 5 that his goals for boosting the economy over the long term still include cutting the capital gains tax to zero for small businesses, and making the research and development tax credit permanent.

In a speech at recreational vehicle producer Monaco Coach in Wakarusa, Ind., Obama said the R&D credit returns $2 to the economy for every $1 the federal government spends and it deserves to be a part of the permanent tax code.

Cutting the capital gains tax to zero for small businesses and start-up firms would also benefit the economy over the long run because small businesses produce 13 times more patents per employee than large companies, he says.

Both ideas were included in President Obama’s budget proposal in March.

July 25, 2009

Birthers, the latest GOP anchor

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:56 pm

Today has been a GOP threefer. I essentially stopped blogging on the continued fail of the Republican Party, but the three posts from today were on topics I couldn’t, in good conscience, avoid — Palin’s resignation, the news Dick Cheney unsuccessfully sought fully dictatorial powers for the executive branch and, here, the fact the retarded twig holding up what’s left of part of the GOP “tent” is getting major ink on the “birther issue.”

Right now is the perfect time to hammer the Democratic Party. It’s over confident, passing ridiculous legislation, pondering enormous changes with what will be lasting effects for the nation and the honeymoon is over for a still very popular president. Well placed intelligent opposition would hit its mark right now.

What’s in the news? The completely debunked idea Obama wasn’t born in Hawaii. If this is a positioning move for next year and 2012, the GOP is truly sunk. It may be the lunatic fringe has a bit too much internal power for the Republican Party to move forward as a governing organization.

Well, if nothing else the next four years or so ought to be pretty interesting. And probably full of Democratic legislation.

From the link:

Six months into his presidency, the charge that Barack Obama is — literally — un-American is gaining not losing steam. Yes, the Birther bump is growing.

Need some backstory? Allow The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder to explain: “Birthers, for the uninitiated, is a term used by the media to ridicule those who believe that the president’s Hawaiian birth certificate is fake and that because he was ostensibly born in Kenya, not the United States, he was never eligible to be president in the first place.”

To the extent that one can conclusively prove such things in our postmodern age, this claim has been extremely thoroughly debunked. The birther movement may be premised on a fictional belief, but it is savvy: birthers now wear the term “birther” as badge of honor, as if they were a persecuted minority — which, come to think of it, is one mechanism for solidarity in the face of evidence to the contrary.

Whether the idea has been debunked or or not is not something that seems to impact the birther movement.

July 17, 2009

Obama, Bush and warrantless wiretapping

I’m of two minds on this case. On one side I think the government has a legitimate interest in keeping the general public in the dark about elements of spycraft sausage-making. Flip that coin over and you have a double dose of privacy concerns and the government essentially arguing it can’t be held accountable by the very people who “own” the government in United States citizens.

Obama’s rapidly disillusioned supporters see the DoJ actions as a betrayal. I tend to see this as protecting entrenched interests of the executive branch. Some of these interests are part of the dark Bush 43 legacy.

Of course one reason I voted for Obama was for the White House to get out the cleaning fluids and scrub away the insidious creep of the government into privacy and civil liberties. Change? Maybe not so much. Hopefully only not so much just yet.

From the link:

Lawyers from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Electronic Frontier Foundation squared off in a San Francisco courtroom Wednesday over a warrantless wiretapping program instituted by the Bush administration. The EFF sued the government and officials who implemented the secret program in September in an effort to get the government to stop the practice of recording communications involving U.S. citizens without a federal warrant. The EFF argues that this warrantless wiretapping is illegal, but government lawyers say the lawsuit should be thrown out because it could lead to the disclosure of state secrets.

The judge in the case, Vaughn Walker of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, already heard most of these arguments during an ongoing 2006 suit, Hepting v. AT&T, that also sought to put an end to the program. The EFF brought this second suit, Jewel v. NSA, after Congress passed a law last year that protected telecommunications companies like AT&T from lawsuits over the wiretapping.

Click here to find out more! On Wednesday, DoJ lawyer Anthony Coppolino argued that federal laws allow people to sue government employees who leak information, but do not let them sue the government itself. Coppolino added that litigating such cases could put state secrets at risk by exposing details of the government’s anti-terrorist programs.

July 12, 2009

Is Dick Cheney sweating yet?

Filed under: et.al. — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:55 pm

He should be. If nothing else, Obama has shown a great propensity to allow circumstances to ferment to the point he is totally removed from the ultimate result. Cheney is nearing the end of long, slow walk.

From the link:

The Central Intelligence Agency withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney, the agency’s director, Leon E. Panetta, has told the Senate and House intelligence committees, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said Saturday.

The report that Mr. Cheney was behind the decision to conceal the still-unidentified program from Congress deepened the mystery surrounding it, suggesting that the Bush administration had put a high priority on the program and its secrecy.

Mr. Panetta, who ended the program when he first learned of its existence from subordinates on June 23, briefed the two intelligence committees about it in separate closed sessions the next day.

Efforts to reach Mr. Cheney through relatives and associates were unsuccessful.

July 10, 2009

Debating the stimulus

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:14 pm

I have a feeling this is a discussion that will continue through the 2010 election cycle and maybe even into the 2012 presidential race if the economy remains soft for that long.

Many people don’t realize presidents pretty much live and die by economic cycles, and these cycles are almost entirely outside control by the White House. Just by polling it’s clear Obama has ownership of the current horrible economy and the immediate fire-brigade his administration was forced to put into action. It’s worth noting, to keep things in perspective if nothing else, he was handed a flaming bag of dog poop from one of the worst eight years of economic oversight, spending, saving and planning all coming from a Bush administration that was supposed to be fiscally conservative.

From the link:

And so, stimulus proponents argue, the only remaining actor with the capacity to boost total spending significantly is government. If government fails to act, they warn, the economy is likely to languish for years to come.

Stimulus opponents see things differently. In a recent Forbes column, UCLA economist Lee Ohanian attributed their skepticism to their belief that “the higher taxes on incomes or expenditures that ultimately accompany higher spending depress economic activity.” According to this argument, if the government borrows money to stimulate spending now, people will realize that the resulting debt will necessitate higher taxes in the future. And that realization will cause them to curtail their own current spending further, thereby offsetting the stimulus.

July 7, 2009

Get ready for another stimulus package

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:03 pm

Bush threw some federal money at the economic downturn and Obama added a large stimulus package. Even as the ink was drying on Obama’s stimulus it was assumed another round of federal money would be necessary and expected, unfortunately that fact did not get reported on all that much. It’ll be interesting to see how the general public reacts to a second stimulus to try and goose this recession.

From the link:

The United States should be planning for a possible second round of fiscal stimulus to further prop up the economy after the $787 billion rescue package launched in February, an adviser to President Barack Obama said.”We should be planning on a contingency basis for a second round of stimulus,” Laura D’Andrea Tyson, a member of the panel advising President Barack Obama on tackling the economic crisis. said on Tuesday.

Addressing a seminar in Singapore, Tyson said she felt the first round of stimulus aimed to prop up the economy had been slightly smaller than she would have liked and that a possible second round should be directed at infrastructure investment.

“The stimulus is performing close to expectations but not in timing,” Tyson said, referring to the slow pace at which the first round of stimulus had been spent on the economy.

Tyson, who is a dean of the Haas School of Business at University of California, Berkeley and was also a White House economic adviser to former President Bill Clinton, said an additional factor affecting the stimulus was that the economy was in a far worse shape than the administration had estimated.

June 26, 2009

Cato on Iran’s green wave and Obama’s response

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:02 pm

The libertarian Cato Institute voices approval of Obama’s measured handling of the green wave revolution going on in Iran right now. The United States hand in this process must be very delicate. The despotic leadership in Iran would like nothing more than to blame “the great satan” America for the popular uprising (indeed they are attempting to do so daily along with trying to pin blame on the British as well).

The green wave is about the Iranian people becoming tired of the cheap and false lip service given to democracy by ruling mullahs. The stolen election ripped that falsehood away and exposed the existing Islamacist leadership as little more than cheap frightened thugs.

From today’s weekly dispatch:

Obama’s Cool Response to Iranian Politics Appropriate  
  As the voices of protest to the Iranian election grow louder, many have called upon President Obama to use bolder rhetoric when speaking about the elections in Iran. Last week, Charles Krauthammer and Paul Wolfowitz opined in The Washington Postthat Obama’s reaction has not been nearly enough. Cato foreign policy expert Christopher Preble disagrees, saying that Obama’s calculated reaction is appropriate:

The louder the neocons become in their braying for a free and fair counting of the election results, the less likely it is to occur. In their more candid moments, a few are willing to admit that they would prefer Ahmadinejad to Mousavi.

…It is possible to view President Obama as a more credible messenger, given that he opposed the Iraq war from the outset and has shown a willingness to reach out to the Iranian people. Perhaps a full-throated, morally self-righteous, public address in support of Mousavi’s supporters might have tipped the scales in the right direction.

It seems more likely, however, that Obama’s patient, measured public response to recent events is well suited to the circumstances. As the president said earlier this week, Americans are right to feel sympathy for the Iranian protesters, and we should all be free to voice our sentiments openly. But it is incumbent upon policymakers to pursue strategies that don’t backfire, or whose unintended consequences don’t dwarf the gains that we are trying to achieve. In many cases, the quiet, private back channel works well. And if we discover that there is no credible back channel to Iran available, similar to those employed in 1986 and 1991, then we’ll all know whom to blame.

Cato scholar Justin Logan says that the U.S. government should stay silent on Iran:

President Obama should keep quiet on the subject of Iran’s elections. At least two pernicious tendencies are on display in the Beltway discussion on the topic. First is the common Washington impulse to “do something!” without laying out clear objectives and tactics. What, after all, is President Obama or his administration supposed to do to “support protesters” in Iran in the first place? What would be the ultimate goal of such support? Most importantly, what is the mechanism by which the support is supposed to produce the desired outcome? That we are debating how America should intervene in Iran’s domestic politics indicates the sheer grandiosity of American foreign policy thought.

June 20, 2009

Revolution and politics

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:20 pm

I can’t shake the feeling that if the events in Iran were occurring under a United States led by the current GOP brand there would be immediate political spin how Republican foreign policy and pressure created the green wave revolution.

It’s a fair guess that the U.S. has almost nothing to do with what’s happening in Iran right now. There’s also a certain amount of evidence Obama’s new year’s address to the Iranian people and his Cairo speech did resonate among the people of Iran, and I’m pleased this administration is taking a very cautious and humble approach to what is playing out right now in the bloody streets of Tehran and other cities.

I also fully expect the Democrats to eventually make political hay out of the green wave if it were to overturn the current despotic Irani regime and look for, and probably get, some foreign policy and security bona fides.

The Irani people have suffered long enough suffering under what I’ve seen characterized (probably correctly) as a “Fascist Islamic Mafia” and deserve our support. They don’t need, and thankfully so far are not getting, our politics.

June 11, 2009

Obama won on message and not web 2.0

Filed under: Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:00 pm

For all the discussion on Obama’s campaign utilizing social media and how web 2.0 were game-changers in 2008, his social media director says Obama’s political message was the key component in his victory.

From the link:

Social media may be the flavor of the moment for corporate marketers but these tools won’t work for everyone, according to the man who led the social media component of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, saying it was Obama’s message — and not the medium — that carried the 2008 election.

“Message and messenger are key. This isn’t going to work for every organization or every start-up business if the message that you are selling isn’t resonating,” said Scott Goodstein, the CEO of Revolution Messaging and formerly the external online director at Obama for America, during a speech at the Ad:Tech Singapore conference on Wednesday.

Obama, who was elected president last year, used the Internet and social media — a broad term that encompasses social networking sites, blogs, video-sharing sites like YouTube, and message service Twitter — to spread his views on key topics and organize his supporters. But the candidate, not social media or the Internet, won the election, Goodstein said.

Click here to find out more! “It was an honor to work at the Obama campaign because at that point in American history we had the right candidate, the right message,” he said.

June 3, 2009

United Socialist States of America?

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:01 pm

Not so much.

Socialism chart

May 30, 2009

Sotomayor, race and the right

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 11:04 am

I guess attacking on race is either all those on the right who oppose Sotomayor have, or its all they know because the actual judicial record has no bearing on the argument.

The meme has become quite strong, however, and is being hammered by multiple GOPers at multiple media outlets so I guess the Republican Party is going to live, die or fade further in obscurity and irrelevance on opposing Obama’s first Supreme Court pick purely on an argument based on race.

Here’s Andrew Sullivan on the topic, first quoting Tim Goldstein:

In sum, in an eleven-year career on the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor has participated in roughly 100 panel decisions involving questions of race and has disagreed with her colleagues in those cases (a fair measure of whether she is an outlier) a total of 4 times.  Only one case (Gant) in that entire eleven years actually involved the question whether race discrimination may have occurred.  (In another case (Pappas) she dissented to favor a white bigot.)  She participated in two other panels rejecting district court rulings agreeing with race-based jury-selection claims.

Given that record, it seems absurd to say that Judge Sotomayor allows race to infect her decisionmaking.

Absurd would be the word. I don’t doubt she’s a liberal on these issues – guess who won the election – but I see no smoking racial gun here. Even a toy one.

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