February 6th, 2009


Gaza children remain in 'precarious state': UN

Gaza children remain in 'precarious state': UN

Children remain "in a precarious state of insecurity" following the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, where many witnessed "unspeakable violence," a top UN official said on Thursday.

"Despite the Gaza ceasefires, children continue to suffer and remain in a precarious state of insecurity", Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, said after a four-day visit to the Palestinian territories and Israel.

"In Gaza, where 56 percent of the population is below 18 years old, grave violations against children were committed such as killing and maiming, and denial of humanitarian access.

"During the recent hostilities, there were no safe spaces for children and the crossings out of Gaza were, and remain, virtually sealed," she said in a statement.

More than 1,300 Palestinians were killed in the 22-day offensive that ended on January 18.

"Many children have witnessed unspeakable violence against their family members and are severely distressed," the UN official said, adding that the extensive destruction of homes, hospitals, schools and infrastructure "also has a devastating impact on children."

Israel said the offensive was aimed at halting rocket attacks on southern Israel by the Hamas rulers of Gaza and other Palestinian militants.

"There is no doubt that children live in constant fear of missile attacks in southern Israel. The need for psycho-social support has increased recently," Coomaraswamy added.

"In both Gaza and southern Israel, children expressed anger and despair as a manifestation of their desire for accountability. It is imperative that independent and impartial investigations are conducted and justice is done," she said.

"The children want answers and the international community must deliver."
cookie monster
  • capthek

Am I crazy to think this is one of the least important things to prioritize?

The Caucus | A New York Times Blog

February 4, 2009, 6:32 pm

Former Chief of Staff to Obama: Put Your Jacket On

By Bernie Becker

At least one prominent former Bush official has the following message for President Obama: I don’t care if it’s warm enough to grow orchids in the Oval Office. Put your suit jacket on.

In an interview scheduled to run Wednesday night, Andrew H. Card Jr. told the syndicated news show Inside Edition that “there should be a dress code of respect” in the White House and that he wished Mr. Obama “would wear a suit coat and tie.”

Mr. Card, who was George W. Bush’s first chief of staff, becomes the first member of that famously buttoned-up administration to criticize the more relaxed Obama dress code.

According to Inside Edition’s Web site, Mr. Card also said:

“The Oval Office symbolizes…the Constitution, the hopes and dreams, and I’m going to say democracy. And when you have a dress code in the Supreme Court and a dress code on the floor of the Senate, floor of the House, I think it’s appropriate to have an expectation that there will be a dress code that respects the office of the President.”

Mr. Card went on to add that, while he would not criticize Mr. Obama for his appearance, “I do expect him to send the message that people who are going to be in the Oval Office should treat the office with the respect that it has earned over history.”

As the Times’ Sheryl Gay Stolberg reported last week, Mr. Obama and Mr. Bush have, among other distinctions, drastically different views on White House dress codes. Collapse )

(no subject)

On Stimulus, Democrats Beating GOP On Party Unity
Thursday, February 5, 2009

There have already been 13 distinct votes on various amendments and elements related to the stimulus package; these are roll call votes numbers 37 through 49 in the Senate's official record.

So far, Senate Democrats have voted in accordance with what we believe to be the administration's position 97.4 percent of the time -- or 98.1 percent of the time if the most common "Democratic" dissenter, Joe Lieberman, is excluded from the tally.

By contrast, the Republicans have voted against the administration's position an average of 89.2 percent of the time. That's fairly unified also, but the Democrats are nevertheless picking off an average of 4 Republican votes on each amendment, whereas the Republicans are getting an average of only 1 and 2 Democrats siding with them. That's a net swing of 2 or 3 votes in the Democrats' direction -- possibly enough to get them to 60 votes when the final bill comes up for passage.

A graphic detailing the voting thus far follows in the body of the post.

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  • cindel

GOP Opposes Pay Limits On Bailed-Out Bankers

Wall Street bankers, with their $18 billion in bonuses, private jets and gaudy conferences, are causing headaches for the GOP.

President Obama has proposed capping compensation for executives at banks that take taxpayer bailout money at $500,000. Republicans hate the idea -- a position puts them uncomfortably on the side of people currently about as popular as child-porn producers and subprime mortgage brokers.

Senate Minority Leader Jon Kyl (R-AZ) blamed the "tone deaf" bankers for creating the political environment that allows Obama to call for a cap.

"Because of their excesses, very bad things begin to happen, like the United States government telling a company what it can pay its employees. That's not a good thing in America," Kyl told the Huffington Post.

"What executives have done is troubling, but it's equally troubling to have government telling shareholders how much they can pay the executives," said Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL).

Sen. James Ihofe (R-OK) said that he is "one of the chief defenders of Obama on the Republican side" for the president's efforts to reach across the aisle. But, said Inhofe, "as I was listening to him make those statements I thought, is this still America? Do we really tell people how to run [a business], and who to pay and how much to pay?"

Democrats argue that banks that take government money must accept any rules the government decides to send it. Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and Rep. Barney Frank are both working on legislation that would complement Obama's attempt to get a handle on executive compensation.

It's not a novel concept, and it's one the GOP supports -- when applied to welfare recipients, at least. "We demand that welfare recipients do an honest day's work for their checks. And now, since President Obama laid down the law Wednesday, we demand that the guys who ran our banking system into the ground abide by our pay scales in return for our bailing them out," writes Harold Meyerson in a column Friday.

Read More

Oh, Tennessee, never change.

Remember the whole thing about the House of Representatives in Tennessee, which is 50 Republicans, 49 Democrats, having a vote for a speaker, and one Republican got all the Democrats to vote for him, so he won 50-49 and all the Republicans are STILL FLIPPING OUT ABOUT IT? (see the stories on the TN tag page)

Well I have found two articles, one from Sunday and one from today, with quotes at the end that totally bring the lulz.

Tennessee: Greatest show in the state
As charges openly fly in the state House over deception, sexual harassment, extortion and more, the outwardly prim-and-proper chamber in recent weeks has started to take on qualities more akin to a circus sideshow, observers say.

The 99-member House has been in tumult since Democrats, who lost their majority in November elections, successfully plotted behind the scenes with maverick Republican Kent Williams. The 49 Democrats joined with the Elizabethton lawmaker to elect him speaker Jan. 13 in a 50-49 victory over Majority Leader Jason Mumpower, R-Bristol.

“It’s certainly, from an entertainment point of view, pretty high on the scale,” said John Geer, Vanderbilt University political science professor. “There’s certainly some fallout from the consequences of Williams being chosen as speaker. I think people are (miffed) and a few of the gloves are being dropped.”
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When things are so ~traumatic~ there's only one thing to do...try to remove him from the party of course!

Ramsey says Speaker Williams should quit GOP

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said he recently told the new House speaker, Republican Kent Williams, that he should quit the GOP and become an independent instead of waiting to get booted by the state party.

“I sat down and talked with Kent Williams about this in my office, and to be honest, I think it'd be better for him if he was independent,” Lt. Gov. Ramsey, R-Blountville and Senate speaker, told Tennessee Press Association members and The Associated Press on Thursday. “I think it would be better if he made that choice instead of being kicked out of the party.”

House Minority Leader Gary Odom, D-Nashville, said Rep. Williams, of Elizabethon, is welcome to join Democrats if he likes.

“If the Republican Party wants to remove him, I would welcome him on my side of the aisle. I'd like the title of majority leader instead of just Democratic leader,” Rep. Odom told TPA members.
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cthulhu for president, why choose a lesser evil?
  • biichan


Hardware Store Offers Bush Job as Greeter

Many may be familiar with the Wal-Mart greeter; the kind smiling individual standing at the opening of one of those mega-stores, ready to say hello. But DFW residents who know their nuts and bolts also know Elliott's Hardware's greeting force, who're often the perfect sage to ask, "Where can I find a plunger?" as you walk into the store in pants wet up to your ankles.

Now Elliott's has their sights set on a very specific candidate for adding to their greeting group: Former President George W Bush.

In a letter posted in the Dallas Morning News (which we've posted here), Elliott's lists the job perks, including a flexible part-time schedule, ample parking for his security, and an employee discount for his "honey-do" project list.

Sounds like a joke, right? "We are offering the position to Mr. Bush in all sincerity," said Kyle Walters, Elliott's president and CEO. "We think it would be a great fit for him as he settles back into life in Dallas."



It scares me to think of Bush working in the same industry I do (ie in a hardware store.)
cthulhu for president, why choose a lesser evil?
  • biichan


Resignations at the RNC

A Republican source says newly elected Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has requested the resignations of the entire RNC staff and signaled a dramatic turnover at the party organization.

Some aides may be retained, though Republicans are under the impression that Steele will lead a large-scale changeover in the institution, which has about 100 staffers. Obama's new team at the Democratic National Committee also requested mass resignations.

Many, including communications staffers, have been told their last day is Feb. 15.

Some senior aides expected the changes and voluntarily submitted their resignations soon after Steele's election, and many have already found new jobs; some of the managers are now working on finding new jobs for their staffers, I'm told. One of those: Political director Rich Beeson is headed back to the phone vender FLS Connect, where he will resume his partnership.

A Steele aide didn't respond to a request for comment.

cthulhu for president, why choose a lesser evil?
  • biichan


Republican National Committee Quietly Scraps Plans For Big “Renewal” Think Tank

The Republican National Committee, under new chairman Michael Steele, has quietly killed an ambitious plan to create the Center for Republican Renewal, a big in-house RNC think tank intended to develop new policies and ideas in order to take the party in a new direction, a Republican official who was directly informed of the decision by RNC staff tells me.

The Center’s goal was to help the GOP reclaim the mantle of the “party of ideas,” as RNC officials glowingly announced in December, and the decision to scrap it has some Republicans, including allies of former RNC chair Mike Duncan, its creator, wondering how precisely the RNC intends to generate the new ideas necessary to change course and renew itself.

The decision to kill the Center leaves the RNC with “no policy office,” at least for the foreseeable future, according to the GOP official with direct knowledge of the decision. I tried to ask the RNC to respond to this claim, but RNC spokesperson Jon Thompson refused to answer repeated request for comment.

The Center’s original purpose was founded on the premise that the GOP had grown bereft of real ideas, was failing to “provide solutions to the kitchen table concerns” of Americans, and had grown addicted to “falling back on ideology alone,” according to an RNC memo last December announcing the Center’s creation. It included creating a big “board of advisers” stocked with major GOP current and former officials and party leaders who would develop ideas on how to change this.

The question now is what mechanism, if any, the RNC hopes to create to fulfill this task.

Separately, in more signs of tumult at the organization, Ben Smith reports that multiple staffers have been let go.

  • cindel

Latest Cuts To The Stim Package

I’ve just obtained an internal Senate committee memo detailing the latest cuts being eyed by the gang of Senators being led by Dem Ben Nelson and GOPer Susan Collins. Here is what’s being eyed in the bill right now:


Total Reductions: $80 billion


Head Start, Education for the Disadvantaged, School improvement, Child Nutrition, Firefighters, Transportation Security Administration, Coast Guard, Prisons, COPS Hiring, Violence Against Women, NASA, NSF, Western Area Power Administration, CDC, Food Stamps



Public Transit $3.4 billion, School Construction $60 billion



Defense operations and procurement, STAG Grants, Brownfields, Additional transportation funding


Nelson spokesperson Clay Westrope confirms the authenticity of the memo, adding that the figures obviously could change. But this is currently the general direction.

As you can see the amount being cut appears to have fallen, to a total of $80 billion, though Westrope says the actual number is closer to $100 billion. Also, it appears some of those cuts are being maintained even as defense funds appear to be getting added.

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Red vs. Blue: Why Necktie Colors Matters

In high-stakes politics and business, there are only two colors of ties: red and blue. Oh, sure, you might spot purple or yellow now and then, but those are clear statements of aloofness, be they calculated or careless.

Few world leaders or CEOs want to be seen as aloof.

But does it matter whether one wears red or blue? Yes, suggest several studies, including a new one out today in the journal Science. More on that in a moment. First, some color:

In President Obama's first 11 days on the job, he wore only red and blue ties, observed Daily News reporter Joe Dziemianowicz. "Obama represents something different in politics, but he dresses the same as everyone else," said Esquire senior fashion editor Wendell Brown. "Washington, D.C., is a strange place when it comes to style. All the emphasis is on fitting in."

At the inauguration in January, Obama and Joe Biden seemed to coordinate efforts: "For the inaugural festivities, both executives chose predictable dark gray suits, white dress shirts, enlivened by either baby blue or red necktie," wrote Lisa Irazarry of The Star-Ledger in New Jersey. "As Obama wore a blue necktie on Monday and Biden wore his blue Tuesday, maybe they prearranged not to duplicate each other alternating necktie colors."

(Former President George H.W. Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush both had on plum overcoats and purple scarves at the inauguration. They can be aloof now. Plus, purple is associated with royalty and we do tend to treat our former presidents as such.)

Where's all this come from?

The ties to red and blue go way back. Neckties are said to be descended from the cravat and used throughout most of history, at least the portion during which humans have been fully clothed. Blue was once associated with the blue blood of British nobility, while red represented the red blood of the Guards.

Red has long been associated with love. And there's some science to that, too. A study last year found red clothes on women makes men feel more amorous towards them. In sports, athletes wearing red are known to outperform their opponents, in part because referees cut the red-clad competitors some slack, researchers discovered.

Politicians, of course, love to gain advantages. Neckties are one way they try to do that.
As Washington Post columnist Tom Shales wrote of a televised Bush-Kerry presidential debate in 2004: "Bush wore his traditional blue necktie, though a darker shade than the usual robin's-egg hue, and Kerry wore the classic TV-red necktie; red ties supposedly lend color to the face of whoever wears them, and if there's anything the Massachusetts senator needs, it's color."

But wait, there's more.

Red and blue are also thought by psychologists to improve brain performance and receptivity to advertising. The new study in Science supports this idea. It also suggests nuances the president might want to know about, assuming one buys into the notion that presidential messages - delivered on television or on Capitol Hill - are essentially a form of advertising.

The study found that red is the most effective at enhancing our attention to detail, while blue is best at boosting our ability to think creatively.

"Previous research linked blue and red to enhanced cognitive performance, but disagreed on which provides the greatest boost," said study leader Juliet Zhu of the University of British Columbia. "It really depends on the nature of the task."

Zhu and colleagues tracked the performance of more than 600 people on cognitive tasks that required either creativity or attention to detail. Most experiments were conducted on computers with a screen that was red, blue or white.

Red boosted performance on detail-oriented tasks such as memory retrieval and proofreading up to 31 percent more than blue. For brainstorming and other creative tasks, blue cues prompted participants to produce twice as many creative outputs compare to red cues.

Why? Look around.

"Thanks to stop signs, emergency vehicles and teachers' red pens, we associate red with danger, mistakes and caution," Zhu said. "The avoidance motivation, or heightened state, that red activates makes us vigilant and thus helps us perform tasks where careful attention is required to produce a right or wrong answer."

And the value of blue?

"Through associations with the sky, the ocean and water, most people associate blue with openness, peace and tranquility," says Zhu, who conducted the research with UBC Ph.D. candidate Ravi Mehta. "The benign cues make people feel safe about being creative and exploratory. Not surprisingly it is people's favorite color."

Perhaps President Obama's daily choice of red vs. blue neckties should be made more thoughtfully than he realized.

Source: Yahoo!

Personally, I like a red tie.
team science

Too bad we still hate ourselves

Sorry for my spamming today, but this article just caught my eye:

Russia and China 'approval down'

Global attitudes towards Russia and China are worsening, a poll carried out for the BBC World Service suggests.


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"People are still looking to see if there are significant changes in US policies."

Germany once again fared best in the poll, with every country viewing it positively and 61% of people rating it favourably, up from 55% last year.


WTF?? How and when did that happen? I guess we managed, for once, to screw up less than the rest of the world. Or is this still the football World Cup effect?
Hey, let's strip the pope of his citizenship - that should send our ratings through the roof!

barack eye

Stimulus now closer to $780 Billion...a Senate deal is being sought.


Live via CNN:

Congress is currently in recess until 6:30, but it was announced that a deal was likely. The bill was over $900 billion after passing the house but has since been knocked down and is closer to $780 billion dollars. They are attempting to cut spending from the bill to please the few Republicans even willing to come on board, and to keep a few Democrats from walking away. The major concern seems to be that some of the spending is wasteful because it "doesn't create jobs", which is why close to $100 billion has been cut.

They're still awaiting word as to whether or not Democrats are going to vote and whether or not the deal will be finalized or whether or not they're going to keep debating this.

Will update when press confererence starts.

Watch now live at CNN: http://www.cnn.com/video/flashLive/live.html?stream=stream1&iref=lb100

C-SPAN Link: http://www.c-span.org/Watch/C-SPAN2_wm.aspx

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  • cindel

Senate Reaches Tentative Deal on $780b Stimulus Package

Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad tells reporters that a bipartisan group of Senators has come up with "a tentative proposal that will be presented to Senate Democrats at a 5:30 p.m. caucus meeting. Their draft cuts about $100 billion in spending from the bill.

Source: My TV (Watching Hardball and 1800 Penn Ave)

Via CNN: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has taken the list of cuts to the nearly $900 billion Senate bill to fellow Democrats, the sources said.

The Senate plans to reconvene at 6:30 p.m.

The news came after a key Republican senator dropped out of negotiations for the economic recovery bill Friday.

Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich concluded that his "philosophical" differences with the approach of Republican negotiators was too great, a Voinovich aide said. The senator said he could no longer support efforts at compromise or the final bill, the aide said.

Voinovich's departure left four Republican senators involved in the negotiations, and Democratic leaders will need at least two or three GOP votes to pass the bill.

Later, Voinovich issued a statement that said he was disappointed the negotiators had not been able to "construct a responsible bipartisan alternative to the Democratic stimulus plan."

"It's not over 'til it's over," Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, had said after an afternoon meeting with Sens. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, and Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska. "There are going to be continued discussions. I hope Sen. Voinovich will join into those discussions.

Nelson, one of the chief Democratic negotiators, said the group was "always hopeful that something can happen as soon as possible. I just don't think we know."

Democrats were wrestling over billions of dollars in potential cuts to education spending Friday as senators searched for a compromise to pass what is now a $900 billion economic recovery plan.


Thanks to cookie_nut: you can watch it live on CNN.com: http://www.cnn.com/video/flashLive/live.html?stream=stream1&iref=lb100

(no subject)

Axelrod Puzzled By Biden's Fuzzy Math

VP Biden continues to be the gift that keeps on giving. Here's a transcript from an interview Wolf Blitzer conducted with David Axelrod earlier this afternoon, with video below.

BLITZER: it was intriguing to hear what the Vice President Joe Biden said earlier today. I'll play this little clip for you because i'm anxious to get your response. Listen to what Joe Biden said.

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN (clip): if we do everything right, with absolutely certainty, we stand up there and we make really tough decisions, there's still a 30% chance we're going to get it wrong.

BLITZER: That's not very encouraging. A one out of three chance that even if you get everything you want, David -- the President gets everything he wants, it's still going to be wrong?

AXELROD: Well, I don't know - I don't know exactly about what that math was.

fleur de lis

"Goverment Spending > Tax Cuts," says the nonpartisan CBO.

February 4, 2009

Honorable Judd Gregg
Ranking Member
Committee on the Budget
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator:

At your request, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has conducted an
analysis of the macroeconomic impact of the Inouye-Baucus amendment in the
nature of a substitute to H.R. 1. CBO estimates that this Senate legislation would
raise output and lower unemployment for several years, with effects broadly
similar to those of H.R. 1 as introduced. In the longer run, the legislation would
result in a slight decrease in gross domestic product (GDP) compared with CBO’s
baseline economic forecast.

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"Including the effects of both crowding out of private investment (which would reduce output in the long run) and possibly productive government investment (which could increase output), CBO estimates that by 2019 the Senate legislation would reduce GDP by 0.1 percent to 0.3 percent on net. H.R. 1, as passed by the House, would have similar long-run effects. CBO has not estimated the macroeconomic effects of the stimulus proposals year by year beyond 2011."

Here's the thing: 0.1 to 0.3% of GDP, TEN YEARS FROM NOW, is a MINOR cost to stimulate employment and GDP growth from 2009 to 2011:


KBR gets huge contract despite electrocutions

KBR gets huge contract despite electrocutions

Defense contractor KBR Inc., which is under criminal investigation in the electrocution deaths of at least two U.S. soldiers in Iraq, has been awarded a $35 million contract by the Pentagon to build an electrical distribution center and other projects there.

The announcement of the new KBR contract comes just months after the Pentagon, in strongly worded correspondence obtained by The Associated Press, rejected the company's explanation of serious mistakes in Iraq and its proposed improvements. A senior Pentagon official, David J. Graff, cited the company's "continuing quality deficiencies" and said KBR executives were "not sufficiently in touch with the urgency or realities of what was actually occurring on the ground."

"Many within DOD (the Department of Defense) have lost or are losing all remaining confidence in KBR's ability to successfully and repeatedly perform the required electrical support services mission in Iraq," wrote Graff, commander of the Defense Contract Management Agency, in a Sept. 30 letter.
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So we are punishing their negligence by awarding them new contracts...

GM lobbies for $7-billion tax waiver news

GM lobbies for $7-billion tax waiver news

After having begged relentlessly for the past six months for a bailout, and receiving a $13.4 last month from former President George Bush, the world's largest automaker, General Motors is now lobbying with lawmakers to waive its upcoming $7-billion tax bill.

GM is reported to be lobbying with select Congress leaders to waive its tax liability of approx $7 billion, which it will incur as a result of its restructuring by offering equity in exchange of debt and VEBA healthcare obligations for union workers.
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