March 3rd, 2009

misc - microphone

(no subject)

‘Tidal wave’ of homeless students hits schools
School districts across U.S. struggling to pay for needs of uprooted kids

By Kari Huus
updated 6:20 a.m. CT, Mon., March. 2, 2009

OXNARD, Calif. - Nine-year-old Daniel Valdez is absorbed in “The Swiss Family Robinson,” the fictional story of a family shipwrecked on a tropical island. In real life, he and his family also are marooned, but there is little romance in their tale of survival in this seaside town northwest of Los Angeles.

Daniel, his mother and five brothers, ages 1 to 17, live in a garage without heat or running water in a modest, low-lying neighborhood that sits between celebrity-owned mansions in the hills and the Pacific Ocean. Each morning, they arise at 6:30, get dressed and then leave quietly; they return only after dark — a routine born out of the fear that detection could mean the loss of even this humble dwelling.

Daniel and his brothers have been sleeping in the garage for more than a year — members of what school officials and youth advocates say is a rapidly growing legion of homeless youth.

While the problem may be worse in economically stricken regions like Southern California, where foreclosures and job losses are taking a harsh toll on families, anecdotal evidence suggests it is a growing issue nationally and one with serious ramifications for both a future generation and the overburdened public school system.

Research shows that the turmoil of homelessness often hinders children’s ability to socialize and learn. Many are plagued by hunger, exhaustion, abuse and insecurity. They have a hard time performing at grade level and are about 50 percent less likely to graduate from high school than their peers.

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Warning: pretty long. Very sad and I was honestly surprised to hear how bad it is. It's good that the government has some laws in place to help homeless kids, but a two-year wait for emergency housing is just bullshit.

Report card on Texas abstinence-only sex ed: F

When In Texas: Just Say I Don't Know
Frederick Clarkson

The official seal of Texas features six flags to signify six national identities Texans have known. But a report just issued by the Austin-based Texas Freedom Network Education Fund suggests that a seventh flag may need to be added. They call Texas the "flagship state for the abstinence movement." But of course identity has consequences and the study Just Say Don't Know: Sexuality Education in Texas Public Schools reveals a flag of ignorance flapping smartly in the breeze over the state legislature that has made abstinence only the "preferred" method of teaching about human sexuality since 1995.

Noting that Texas has among the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country, the study also reports that the state spends "approximately $1 billion annually for the costs of teen childbearing." What's more, the report underscores authoritative data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found "young Texans to be "well above national averages on virtually every published statistic involving sexual risk-taking behaviors" and that this may be "one of the most pressing public health issues facing our state."

"Our classrooms are perpetuating a conspiracy of silence that robs young people of the reliable information they need to make responsible life decisions, " Dr. David Wiley, a health education professor at Texas State University-San Marcos and one of the co-authors of the report.

Just Say Don't Know is based on two years of research by Wiley and fellow health education professor Dr. Kelly Wilson which they describe as "the first, specific, in-depth examination of what is happening in classrooms, beyond the boardrooms where policy is established and companies where textbooks are developed." Their analysis is based on tens of thousands of pages of documents, curriculum materials, and district policies from nearly all of the state's more than 1,000 public school districts.

"We can now say with certainty the following about the state of sexuality education in this state," the authors declared. "Abstinence-only programs have a stranglehold on sexuality education in Texas public schools. An overwhelming majority of Texas school districts - more than 94 percent - do not give students any human sexuality instruction beyond abstinence. Additionally, just over 2 percent simply ignore sexuality education completely. What is left is a miniscule 4 percent of Texas school districts that teach any information about responsible pregnancy and STD prevention, including various contraceptive methods."

Wiley and Wilson stated that in their "professional opinion ... our schools are failing Texas families by turning out generations of sexually illiterate young people at a time of high rates of teen pregnancy and STDs."

Texas is the single largest recipient of federal funds for "abstinence only" sexuality education programs to the tune of $18 million dollars last year. Most states reject the funds because under federal rules, abstinence only means abstinence only. That, plus abstinence only programs don't work. But Texas remains "stubbornly committed" to abstinence only approaches.

Some school districts don't even bother with official abstinence programs and use religiously oriented programs produced by the religious right agency, Focus on the Family, or True Love Waits, produced by the Southern Baptist Convention. Some Catholic and protestant fundamentalist dominated school districts skip the subject altogether because it would be "too controversial."

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The source wraps its willy when it's feeling silly
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1 in every 31 Americans in correctional system

Cost of locking up Americans too high: Pew study
Mon Mar 2, 2:49 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – One in every 31 U.S. adults is in the corrections system, which includes jail, prison, probation and supervision, more than double the rate of a quarter century ago, according to a report released on Monday by the Pew Center on the States.

The study, which said the current rate compares to one in 77 in 1982, concluded that with declining resources, more emphasis should be put on community supervision, not jail or prison.

"Violent and career criminals need to be locked up, and for a long time. But our research shows that prisons are housing too many people who can be managed safely and held accountable in the community at far lower cost," said Adam Gelb, director of the Center's Public Safety Performance Project, which produced the report.

The United States has the highest incarceration rate and the biggest prison population of any country in the world, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Justice.

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Gee, Piyush, you think?

Jindal on Obama: I'm 'not nearly as good of a speaker'

  • Story Highlights
  • Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal talks with CNN's Larry King in prime-time exclusive
  • Jindal says he hopes people judge content of his speech, not just delivery
  • "I think Rush [Limbaugh] is a great leader for conservatives," Jindal says
  • Jindal: Republicans became captive to Washington politics, lost elections as result
(CNN) -- CNN's Larry King talked with Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal in a prime-time exclusive interview Monday night.
Jindal gave the Republican response after President Obama's address to Congress last week. Jindal received negative reviews after the speech, and Larry asked him how he felt about that. They also talked about the war of words in the Republican Party centered around Rush Limbaugh.

The following transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity:
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Coleman camp asks that election result be 'set aside'

Coleman camp asks that election result be 'set aside'
Request was made as Franken's lawyers prepare to make their case.

By PAT DOYLE and KEVIN DUCHSCHERE, Star Tribune staff writers

Last update: March 3, 2009 - 9:33 AM

For more than a month, Norm Coleman stressed flaws in Minnesota's election system.

And on Monday, Coleman lawyer Jim Langdon wrote the three-judge panel to suggest the problems are so serious they may not be able to declare a winner.

"Some courts have held that when the number of illegal votes exceeds the margin between the candidates -- and it cannot be determined for which candidate those illegal votes were cast -- the most appropriate remedy is to set aside the election," Langdon wrote in a letter to the court.

Coleman's team rested most of his case Monday in the U.S. Senate election trial after more testimony underscoring problems with the election system. Under questioning from the Republican's lawyers, Minnesota's elections director acknowledged inaccurate data in the registration system that could exclude otherwise qualified people from voting.

Now Al Franken's team will try to convince judges that things aren't so bad after all.

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Race re-emerges in Burris dispute

Race re-emerges in Burris dispute

Embattled Sen. Roland Burris is launching an aggressive effort to rebuild his reputation and position himself for a possible 2010 run — an effort that seems destined to put the question of race back at center stage.

Delmarie Cobb — just hired as Burris’ media and political consultant — told POLITICO that there’s been a coordinated effort to “weaken Roland and sully his good name” and that “race has something to do with” how the 71-year-old African-American has been treated by the media and by other Democrats.

The race card worked for Burris in January, when his supporters forced Democratic leaders to seat him in the Senate despite the fact that he was appointed by Rod Blagojevich, the Illinois governor who was subsequently removed from office amid charges that he’d tried to sell Barack Obama’s old Senate seat.
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GOP strategy: Shunning Bunning

GOP strategy: Shunning Bunning

Republicans have a new strategy for dealing with the wildly unpredictable Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.): keep their distance and hope he implodes.

That means little fundraising help from top Republicans in Washington, little to no engagement with the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a cold shoulder from Kentucky political strategists. And if you’re Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the NRSC chairman, no cross words about Bunning.

“The easiest way to get rid of him is not give him any money,” said one Washington-based Republican fundraiser.
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(no subject)

Military Suppressed Evidence Critical of Gay Ban, Says Author

Earlier today I posted that Rep. Ellen Tauscher would be introducing a bill to repeal "Don't Ask Don't Tell". I've learned that because of the snow storm that crippled the east coast last night and into today, she'll be formally introducing it on Tuesday.

Unfriendlyfire Tauscher made her announcement today at the Washington D.C. book launch of Nathaniel Frank's new book Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America. Frank, a Senior Research Fellow at the Palm Center at UC Santa Barbara, broke the story of the firing of gay Arabic linguists under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

Frank's book is a companion to an upcoming PBS film I recently mentioned called Ask Not which features many of the same soldiers talking about life under the ban. Frank has also launched a web campaign to buy a book for every member of Congress, which you can join on his website.

I asked Frank if I could share some of the findings in his book, which has been lauded by the Servicemember's Legal Defense Network (SLDN), with Towleroad readers, among them that evidence has repeatedly been concealed or suppressed by the military when it concluded there was no rationale for the gay ban.

Here are the book's main points, according to Frank:

 road In behind-the-scenes negotiations about the question of gay service, senior military officers who viewed the gay ban as a moral imperative consulted with military and civilian religious leaders on a dishonest strategy to claim the ban was necessary to preserve “unit cohesion” while minimizing the true religious and cultural basis of their opposition.

 road General Robert Alexander, the first head of the Military Working Group, a panel of generals and admirals that essentially wrote “don’t ask, don’t tell,” acknowledged that its members did not understand what “sexual orientation” meant, and “had to define in the first few sessions what we figured they were talking about.” Alexander admits that the MWG “thought they knew the results of what was going to happen” before they met, and that it was “going to be very difficult to get an objective, rational review” of the policy. “Passion leads and rationale follows,” he says, adding that his group “didn’t have any empirical data” about gay service and the MWG position was based on fear, politics and prejudice.

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NCIS - Kate - My Name Soft Blues

Pelosi tells House Repubs to STFD and STFU, also denies Burn Book existence

Pelosi To House GOP: Be Thankful For What You Have

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a message for House Republicans who think they weren't given enough time to debate or amend the stimulus package that moved through Congress over an eight-day period earlier this session: You could have had much less.

"To tell you the truth, I could have fast-tracked this much faster," Pelosi, a California Democrat, told a group of reporters and progressive writers at a breakfast gathering Tuesday.

Pelosi had been asked about an anonymous White House aide's suggestion that the administration didn't approve of the speed with which the Speaker handled the package.

"Let me get this straight," she said. "You're the president of the United States; you have a recovery package that you want done by the president's break; we get that done -- and we 'fast tracked it over the president's objections'? It couldn't be farther from the truth."

Pelosi also denied assertions that she has instructed the White House not to talk to her members without going through her first. She said she told the administration: "Talk to the members. Talk to the chairmen. Talk to the different caucuses. They have a lot of ideas."

She rejected the notion that she keeps a grudge list of folks who have crossed her, saying that every day is a new day. "They're saying I keep a list of members. It couldn't be farther from the truth. My commitment is to all of my members," she said. "I don't have any list."

Republican objections that they were not included and didn't approve of the process through which the stimulus was passed, said Pelosi, only mask ideological differences that they had with the bill. "We gave them the regular order," said Pelosi. "We were not going to go backward and adopt their economic failed policies and that's what they're upset about."

Thank you, HuffPo.

I don't think I have it in me to make commentary about this article that could make it any more awesome than it already is.
movies | Impish Fräulein2

"Biden’s Internet gaffe amusing but Stevens is the king".

Yeah, Joe Biden botched it [on 02/25/09].

When asked for the address of the website he’s overseeing while appearing on the CBS Early Show, he couldn’t recall it.

He made it worse when asking someone offstage for the "number" of the website.

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SOURCE: Christian Science Monitor

Sure, Joe is a lulzy fellow, but it appears people are trying a little too hard to turn into the next Bush. Not gonna happen. It might've been a "true" gaffe had he actually whipped out a telephone number, or something. Turns out he offered the actual URL moments later.

Personally, I care about Biden's web ineptitude as much I cared about McCain's. Which is to say, not at all. LOL. Plus as tensegritydan's macro clearly demonstrates, Collapse )
Drink up baby doll

Reid: Congressional Republicans Want Obama To Fail

Republicans want President Obama to fail -- at least that's how Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sees it. "It's very clear, they've made a decision they want President Obama to fail," the Nevada Democrat told reporters Tuesday.

Reid would not name names, but said "there's a significant number of Republicans out there who want the president to fail."

"I think it's very clear as a result of actions since Obama was elected that people want him to fail," Reid said. "Some have said so. Others have just acted accordingly."

Politico adds that Reid defended Obama, saying the president was right to pursue an ambitious agenda, and warned that he may soon call for weekend votes if Republicans try to filibuster legislation. The $410 billion omnibus spending bill is before the Senate this week; Republicans have called on Obama to veto the package.

Rush Limbaugh has drawn some heat from Republicans for saying he wants the president to fail. But most of those critics have soon recanted and praised the talk show host -- most recently Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele.


Really? Cause I couldn't tell at all.

  • bispo

Kaine: Rush Limbaugh Is "He Who Must Be Obeyed" In Republican Party

DNC chairman Tim Kaine just appeared on Fox News, and took the opportunity to dig in against Rush Limbaugh's "leadership role" in the Republican Party, and how this is endangering the country in a time of crisis.

See more at

Fox host Jon Scott brought up the recent Limbaugh-Steele flap, and asked Kaine: "Democrats are sort of enjoying this, aren't they?"

"Well you know, yeah -- in a way, yes," said Kaine. "But it's a lot at stake when somebody who is in a leadership role -- as Rush Limbaugh clearly is -- states that he wants for the president to fail, and he is followed in that by members of Congress voting against the Recovery Act. That's pretty dire, given our situation right now."

Kaine then went after Michael Steele's apology for having offended Rush, and Steele's having backed down from what Kaine said was a "courageous" comment. "You know, it left a lot of us wondering, who's really in charge? Kaine said. "It seems like Rush Limbaugh is kind of the He Who Must Be Obeyed these days in the Republican Party."

Finally, Kaine played up the national interest: "Again, we're in a time of national crisis. And the shouters aren't gonna get us through it. It's gonna be problem-solvers who will, and that's what we need from both parties right now."

cookie monster

Who wrote this crazyness? What a laughable blame strategy!

According to this article, although we were warned before Obama was elected that this crisis would be as bad as the great depression, it would be completely over now if it were not for Obama's actions so far. WTF? He was sworn in only a month ago! His policies have yet to actually go into effect! Why? Their economic analysis is "what goes down must come up" so the only thing they can see stopping a complete recovery is Obama? Um, am I missing any other mistakes here?

The Obama Economy

As the Dow keeps dropping, the President is running out of people to blame.

As 2009 opened, three weeks before Barack Obama took office, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 9034 on January 2, its highest level since the autumn panic. Yesterday the Dow fell another 4.24% to 6763, for an overall decline of 25% in two months and to its lowest level since 1997. The dismaying message here is that President Obama's policies have become part of the economy's problem.
Americans have welcomed the Obama era in the same spirit of hope the President campaigned on. But after five weeks in office, it's become clear that Mr. Obama's policies are slowing, if not stopping, what would otherwise be the normal process of economic recovery. From punishing business to squandering scarce national public resources, Team Obama is creating more uncertainty and less confidence -- and thus a longer period of recession or subpar growth.
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  • bispo

Don Rushbo says, 'You're Either With Rush, or You're Dead to Me'

In recent days, increasing numbers of conservative activists and commentators have followed Rush Limbaugh’s lead in rooting for President Obama to fail. Now, it seems the House Republican leadership is getting on the bandwagon.

On CNN this afternoon, Rick Sanchez asked Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) — the Chairman of the House Republican Caucus — if he agreed with Rush Limbaugh’s claim that “all Republicans want Barack Obama to fail.” Pence at first demurred, calling Sanchez’s question a “nice try.” “I know what Rush Limbaugh meant,” he said. But after listing off several caricatured aspects of Obama’s economic recovery plan, Pence said, “[Y]ou bet, we want those policies to fail”:

SANCHEZ: Did you hear what Rush Limbaugh said, “the dirty little secret is all Republicans want Barack Obama to fail?” Very direct question to you, Sir. Do you want Barack Obama to fail?

PENCE: Come on, Rick. Nice try. I know what Rush Limbaugh meant. … Everyone like me, Rush Limbaugh and others who believe in limited government, who believes in conservative values, wants the policies that this administration is bringing forward, higher taxes, massive increase in government spending, a huge increase in the role of government, in our daily lives, departure from traditional values. You bet, we want those policies to fail. Because, Rick, we know big government, increases in debt, the micromanagement of the economy out of Washington, DC is a policy that will fail.

Later, Sanchez asked Pence, “But if [Limbaugh] said something you disagreed with, would you call him out?” “I call them like I see them. Rush Limbaugh knows that.” Watch it:

Pence’s admission that he — and anyone “who believes in conservative values” — would like to see Obama’s policies fail is a direct contradiction to what House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) said on Sunday. “I don’t think anyone wants anything to fail right now,” Cantor told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

Cantor’s suggestion that Limbaugh was wrong, however, does not appear to have been heartfelt. When contacted today by Greg Sargent, Cantor’s office refused to comment on whether or not the congressman did, in fact, disagree with Limbaugh in hoping for Obama to fail.

Finally, it’s troubling that Pence claims to know what Limbaugh really “meant” when he said “I hope Obama fails.” After all, Limbaugh refused to tell Sargent whether or not it would be “a good thing for the country” if Obama’s economic recovery plan were to be a success. It seems that if Senate Republicans haven’t decided they want Obama to fail, House Republicans sure have.

  • bispo

GOP to Steele, You're Either With Rush, or You're Fired!

Apology to Rush Limbaugh aside, new Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is coming under fire from his own GOP troops to shut up and focus on his job of organizing the party and raising money, not fighting with his own political kind. Several Republican advisers to Congress and the previous Bush administration told Whispers that they are worried that the war of words is fracturing the party when it should be healing the division between conservatives and moderates in the wake of the 2008 election.

"What is amazing is that Steele was elected because of his communications skills, and it is those skills that are damaging the Republican Party. Before people begin to completely judge him as worthless, Steele needs to focus and knuckle down on building a strong foundation at RNC so we can begin rebuilding our majority," says a top GOP strategist who has worked for House and Senate Republican leaders. "If his implosion continues, RNC members are likely to call a special session to dump him for an effective chairman. There is not much patience for failure."

Others want Steele to re-evaluate his role in the party. Of concern: For no reason, he is dividing the GOP between conservatives who like Limbaugh and moderates who don't and jeopardizing future fundraising efforts, his key responsibility. "The general sentiment of the conference is that Steele needs to step back and get a handle on his role in the party," says an influential congressional aide. Namely, advisers want him to stay out of the media and focus instead on hiring his staff and revamping the RNC. "He needs to hire staff for the RNC, get the operations up and running, start raising money, and understand that his role is to win elections," says a senior party adviser. Officials are concerned that Steele either doesn't understand his responsibilities or has an inflated vision of his role. "At this point, it is as if he has a fundamental misunderstanding of the job description. An RNC chairman who attacks Republicans and insults conservative icons is about as counterproductive as any Democrat could hope for," says the adviser.

Skilled Immigrants are leaving the U.S In Record Numbers

By Ana Kasparian

The United States was always seen as a country of endless possibilities. The nation's strong belief in private property and capitalism reinforced the idea of the American dream. In effect, this has always captured the attention of immigrants throughout the world. After all, America is known as the land of opportunity, right?

Apparently not.

New studies show that the U.S is no longer the utopia of financial success for skilled immigrants. The downturns America faced during the Bush Administration have finally taken a toll on immigration. They want to go back home! In fact, skilled immigrants who are vital to America's economy are packing their bags and going back to countries like India and China where the economy still seems to be doing better than in the U.S. Vivek Wadwa writes that this can have substantial long-term effects on America's economic well being because these are the skilled immigrants who:

"have started 52% of Silicon Valley's technology companies and contributed to more than 25% of our global patents. They make up 24% of the U.S. science and engineering workforce holding bachelor's degrees and 47% of science and engineering workers who have PhDs. Immigrants have co-founded firms such as Google, Intel, eBay, and Yahoo! "

To be more specific, human resources directors in India and China mentioned that there was only a trickle of returnees ten years ago. However, there is a flood of them today with job applications from the U.S increasing TENFOLD.

Immigrants who return back to their native countries are said to be young and extremely educated. Most of them are in their 30s and have completed their college education in the U.S, majoring in subjects such as management, technology, and science.

I think this is going to add to the country's economic meltdown. How ironic would it be for the U.S government to start programs promoting immigration rather than making it near impossible to get a Visa? It may be ironic, but it will also be necessary. Immigrants make the U.S what it is today. It's not new that they are a vital part of our economy. But there has always been this negative connotation associated with the word immigrant. Maybe the country needs to go deeper into this economic hole for people to realize that immigrants make a gigantic contribution to the well-being of the U.S.

Bush Took Vacations While People Died In Iraq and Obama Enjoys Beer @ NBA Game During Recession

Wingnut talk radio listeners are peeved because President Obama was seen drinking a beer at an NBA game "while the economy tumbles."
One caller to WWL complained, "People are losing 5, 10, 20 thousand dollars a day in the stock market, and he's sitting there drinking a beer!" She also said, "It's insulting... there's a lot of people suffering." She insisted President Obama should not publicly have fun during a time of so much pain. [snip] [A]nother woman was upset about the courtside presidential beer. "The president is the president 24 hours a day. I don't think he should drink on the job."
Other callers supported Obama getting to relax, with one pointing out, "Well, we know he's got a designated driver." According to the host of the show, a president has never been filmed drinking at a sports event.

  • bispo

Gibbs to GOP: We Gotya, You Lose!!

Within 24 hours of calling Rush Limbaugh “incendiary” and “ugly,” RNC Chairman Michael Steele had bowed down before the radio host, declaring, “There was no attempt on my part to diminish [Limbaugh’s] voice or his leadership.” When Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about the episode today, Gibbs suggested Steele’s reply proved that Limbaugh is in fact the head of the Republican Party:
GIBBS: I was a little surprised at the speed in which Mr. Steele, the head of the RNC, apologized to the head of the Republican Party.
Watch it:
Yesterday, Gibbs suggested the media ask other Republicans whether they agreed with Limbaugh’s hope that President Obama fails. ThinkProgress asked a few at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference; view their replies here and here.
' jules


Paterson's Numbers In The Gutter -- Worse Than Spitzer During Scandal

The new Marist poll has some truly horrible news for David Paterson, saying that he could lose both primary and general elections in landslides.

In a primary against Andrew Cuomo, Paterson is behind by an amazing 62%-26% margin. In a general election match-up with Rudy Giuliani, Paterson gets crushed by 53%-38%, while Cuomo beats Rudy by 56%-39%.

The poll is a whole lot better for newly-appointed Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, though it's not great. Gillibrand edges former GOP Governor George Pataki 45%-41%, and is ahead of GOP Congressman Peter King 49%-28%. In a Democratic primary, Gillibrand is in a near-tie with pro-gun-control Congressman Carolyn McCarthy, with 36% for Gillibrand and 33% for McCarthy.

Here's a sign of just how awful Paterson's ratings are: His approval numbers are worse than Eliot Spitzer's were, when he was in the middle of the prostitution scandal that forced his resignation. Just before he resigned, Spitzer had a 30% excellent/good rating and 64% fair/poor in the Marist poll. By comparison, Paterson is at only 26%-71%.

Another person to feel sorry for here is former Congressman Rick Lazio (R), who ran against Hillary Clinton for the Senate in 2000 -- he actually manages to trail Paterson in a possible gubernatorial match-up by a 47%-35% margin.


speakin' of the devil, Spitzer wrote a good column about fixing the CEO pay problem a month or so ago
  • bispo

Obama's New Gay Rights Crusader

Alyssa Rosenberg is a staff correspondent at Government Executive and a regular contributor to National Journal.

President Obama has just made John Berry, the current director of the National Zoo, the highest-ranking openly gay appointee ever by tapping him to head the Office of Personnel Management (pending Congressional approval). As an assistant secretary at the Interior department under President Clinton, Berry fought to end a wide range of discriminatory policies, including background checks for gay and lesbian applicants for National Park Service law enforcement jobs, and worked to set up a grievance process for employees who were harassed because of their sexual orientation.

The Office of Personnel Management might not seem like a bully pulpit for a gay rights advocate like Berry. But, unlike workers at more than half of the Fortune 500 companies, the 1.8 million employees who fill the ranks of the federal government don't have domestic partnership benefits. Their partners can't participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, a plan that's been considered a potential model for health care reform. They can't benefit from retirement programs. And if gay federal employees move for work, their partners can't benefit from relocation programs.

Under President Bush, the Office of Personnel Management opposed Congressional efforts, led by Senator Joe Lieberman, to expand domestic partnership benefits to federal employees. Former deputy director Howard Weizmann even cited the 2007 Adam Sandler comedy, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, about two straight firefighters who pretend to be a gay couple to protect their pension benefits, as proof that gay federal employees might commit fraud to get partner benefits.

Berry can't make Congress act, but he could reverse OPM's opposition, removing a major hurdle to the bill's passage. It also helps that Berry is widely considered a management whiz. At Interior, he held town hall meetings for employees, and kicked off a range of popular work-life balance initiatives. He reorganized the National Zoo's management structure and put it on a more solid financial footing.

Berry has political savvy and allies, too. He was Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's legislative director for ten years, during which time he advised Hoyer on federal employee policy issues and played a key role in passing the legislation that underpins the federal pay system as it exists today. Hoyer, who confirmed his support for Berry today, could be an important ally for Berry on this issue, especially since Lieberman's bill to give federal employees domestic partner benefits died a quiet death in committee last year.

Berry's appointment may also be consolation for gay rights advocates who objected to Rick Warren's presence at Obama's inauguration and who are trying to be patient as the administration waits to take up issues like the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell and passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese praised Berry when rumors of his nomination first circulated in January. "The selection of John Berry to head the Office of Personnel Management is a meaningful step forward for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community," Solomonese said.  "In his new role, John will make critical decisions regarding the implementation of fair workplace policies for millions of federal workers."


Rich People Taking a Salary Cut to Avoid Taxes. They're Dumb.

Upper-Income Taxpayers Look for Ways to Sidestep Obama Tax-Hike Plan

President Barack Obama's tax proposal -- which promises to increase taxes for those families with incomes of $250,000 or more -- has some Americans brainstorming ways to decrease their pay, even if it's just by a dollar.

A 63-year-old attorney based in Lafayette, La., who asked not to be named, told that she plans to cut back on her business to get her annual income under the quarter million mark should the Obama tax plan be passed by Congress and become law.

So far, Obama's tax plan is being looked at skeptically by both Democrats and Republicans and therefore may not pass at all.

"We are going to try to figure out how to make our income $249,999.00," she said.

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' jules

Love is in the air, everywhere I look around.

My crush on Michelle Obama

I think I am developing a crush on America's first lady. Michelle Obama is more compelling than her husband. He's good, but she's utterly fascinating.

Mrs. Obama has blown away the stale air in a White House musty from eight years of the Bushes. It's like the sun came out and a fresh spring breeze began wafting through the open windows.

It's the people's house, and Michelle Obama totally gets it. So much so that she has taken to inviting people in from the streets to see her home. Nice touch -- one completely lacking in her recent predecessors.

Watch her when she visits a local school and you see the warmth and affection she instantly triggers in people. Kids are pretty much totally honest with very good BS-detectors. If they sense you're a phony, forget it. But around the first lady, they want to hug her and laugh with her and tell her stories.

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Bridal Illusions

Doormats for God

The Purpose-Driven Wife

Teaching women to submit to their husbands, for the love of Christ.

--by Kathryn Joyce

I first encounter "teacher and exhorter" Martha Peace at a Sunday-school hall on the campus of the First Baptist Church of Jonesboro, an 8,000-person megachurch in this verdant Atlanta suburb. Spacious enough to host its own congregation, the hall is flanked by embroidered banners bearing shields, birds, and crowns. The evening's emcee, Leanne, a peppy blonde with frosty blue eye shadow, says they represent the virtues of the nearly 120 women who came to see Peace speak as part of the church's "Women of Purpose" series. As daughters of the king of kings, Leanne explains, all Christian women wear crowns. But with that honor comes a mandate to apply their faith at home.

Peace is here to help. Over the past two decades, the 62-year-old Georgia native and former nurse has written five books on biblical womanhood, conservative Christianity's answer to the women's movement. Among them are The Excellent Wife, now a classic in this burgeoning niche, and Damsels in Distress, a set of biblical solutions to female problems ranging from pms to depression to "feminist tendencies." It's common for a young Christian wife to rebel against home life as her primary ministry, Peace writes in Becoming a Titus 2 Woman, which lays out the principles of her ministry model. It's the role of older women to help her understand her priorities.

The popularity of her audiotapes and books, translated into several languages and used as curriculum by Christian women's groups, has made Peace a celebrity in fundamentalist circles, with appearances at conferences and Bible meetings throughout the world. But she's just one among hundreds of professional Titus 2 mentors, older women who help younger ones—as outlined by Apostle Paul in Titus 2:5—"to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God."

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The best part

Good Spousekeeping

Martha Peace on how to be the wife God intended

On feminism: "Instead of dwelling on what I think I deserve, I should be thinking that I am to serve the Lord graciously, however He chooses."
On widowhood: "Younger widows are to remarry rather than have idle time to gossip."
On extramarital friendships: "Turn from wrong thinking about the other person to right thinking about God and your responsibility to honor and worship Him."
On pms: "Lord, forgive me for maligning You. Instead, use me for your glory however you choose. If the pms symptoms have to continue, they'll just have to continue."
On vanity: "Beauty is one of the ways the adulteress draws her prey...[but] it is all right to have some external adornment, because stripping oneself of all makeup and wearing only plain, drab clothing does not make a woman more pleasing to God."

The source promises to love, honor and obey

US plans for military intervention in Sri Lanka

By Wije Dias
4 March 2009

Sri Lanka's Sunday Times has revealed plans for a US-led military mission into the island's northern war zone in the guise of evacuating civilians trapped by intense fighting between the army and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

According to the newspaper, the task would be carried out by a Marine Expeditionary Brigade attached to the US Pacific Command (PACOM). The US Navy and Air Force would also be involved. The newspaper reported in its initial article on February 22 that a high-level PACOM team was in Colombo to pave the way for the operation. Collapse )
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Plouffe says, We Got Ya, GOP! 'Minority Leader Limbaugh'

The 2008 election sent many messages. At the top: Americans wanted to turn the page on the politics of division and partisan pettiness, and they wanted a government -- and country -- that would put the middle class first.

Watching the Republicans operate this past month, it would appear that they missed that unmistakable signal.

Instead, Rush Limbaugh has become their leader.

Limbaugh, of course, told his radio listeners that he's rooting for President Obama to fail -- and hoping the president's ideas for bolstering our economy fail with him. For many Americans, hungry for leadership and cooperation, this sounded like fingernails on a chalkboard. When Limbaugh reiterated the sentiment this weekend, hundreds of Republican conservatives cheered him on. But instead of rebuking the radio personality or charting their own course, Republican leaders in Washington are paralyzed with fear of crossing their leader. Less than 24 hours after committing the unforgivable sin of criticizing Limbaugh, RNC Chairman Michael Steele felt compelled to publicly apologize. He was not the first and will certainly not be the last.

Limbaugh's voice could be heard in the words of new Republican quarterback Eric Cantor, who says the GOP's strategy will be to "Just Say No" -- not for substantive or philosophical reasons but to advance Limbaugh's strategy for failure. Independent voters, those who find the ways of Washington particularly toxic, could be forgiven for wondering whether the Republican minority has any clue what is happening in our country.

Last week's Post-ABC News poll shows that voters trust President Obama on the economy by a remarkable 35 percentage points more than they trust Republicans in Congress -- the biggest advantage for a president on this question since George H.W. Bush basked in public approval of his handling of the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

The source of Obama's advantage is critical: independent voters, who give the president high marks on his handling of the economy and his job overall.

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Murasaki Shikibu

'Dog-whistle politics'

Blacks, whites hear Obama differently

On his pre-inaugural visit to Ben’s Chili Bowl, a landmark for Washington’s African-American community, President Barack Obama was asked by a cashier if he wanted his change back.

“Nah, we straight,” Obama replied.

The phrase was so subtle some listeners missed it. The reporter on pool duty quoted Obama as saying, “No, we’re straight.”

But many other listeners did not miss it. A video of the exchange became an Internet hit, and there was a clear moment of recognition among many blacks, who got a kick out of their Harvard-educated president sounding, as one commenter wrote on a hip-hop site, “mad cool.”

On matters of racial identity, many observers in the African-American community say he benefits from what's known as “dog-whistle politics." His language, mannerisms and symbols resonate deeply with his black supporters, even as the references largely sail over the heads of white audiences.

This is part of the reason that as a candidate, Obama won intense support among African-Americans while never being branded, in the fashion of a Jesse Jackson, as a candidate defined by race.

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The Rise and Fall of the GOP's First Black Chairman

The Rise and Fall of the GOP's First Black Chairman

Given Limbaugh’s history of racial controversy, and Steele’s historic position in the Republican Party, his apology to Rush is a huge blow to the effort to change the GOP’s image.

Former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele assumed the Republican National Committee’s chair a month ago with great fanfare. The first African American elected to the position, Steele triumphed over a candidate who once belonged to a whites-only country club, and another who had distributed a CD that included the song, “Barack, the Magic Negro.” Days after taking over the party’s moribund infrastructure, Steele promised an “off the hook” PR campaign to apply conservative principles to “urban-suburban hip-hop settings”—offering the GOP a much-needed image makeover for the dawning of the age of Obama.

Hip-hop legend Russell Simmons hailed Steele’s election in an open letter, assuring his friend, “The hip-hop community remains eager to hear the views of national leaders like you…” But Simmons added a warning: “Don't let those who are angry in your base guide your choices or let the people to the left of President Obama push your buttons.”
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Clearly the G.O.P. Does Not Have Balls of Steel When It Comes to Limbaugh

Keli Goff

Author, blogger and political commentator
Posted March 3, 2009 | 10:43 AM (EST)

I guess if you were to look up the word "naïve" in the dictionary you might see my picture. See I was one of the people who genuinely applauded Michael Steele's ascension to the head of the Republican National Committee. I had the opportunity to interview him for my book Party Crashing, about the evolving politics of African-American voters and found him to be not only gracious but incredibly forthright -- a quality that journalists (shockingly) don't always encounter in those in politics. But what I admired most about Steele was his willingness to be his own person. Whether you agree with him or not, you have to admit that it takes a strong individual to be willing to be in the ultimate minority, among minorities, and that is what someone who is both black and Republican is -- especially when they take decidedly non-conservative positions in support of affirmative action and in opposition to the death penalty. (Steele's independent streak earned him high profile black supporters, including mogul Russell Simmons and nearly 30% African-American support during his Senate run). During our conversation Steele even joked about the times when his own mother expressed loving consternation at his chosen political path. But something that she and others could be proud of was the fact that he was his own man.

At least that's what I thought until yesterday.
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Republican Fed Says Spend, Spend, Spend!

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Federal Reserve on Tuesday tacitly endorsed President Obama’s call for huge increases in spending and trillion-dollar deficits over the next couple of years, saying the economic crisis required aggressive action.

Though the chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, did not endorse any of Mr. Obama’s specific proposals, he echoed the president’s call for bold government action to address the economy’s immediate travails and pointedly refused to criticize his longer-term plans.

“All else equal, this is a development that all of us would have preferred to avoid,” Mr. Bernanke told the Senate Budget Committee, referring to record-breaking deficits expected this year and in the next two years. “But our economy and financial markets face extraordinary challenges, and a failure by policy makers to address these challenges in a timely way would likely be more costly in the end.”

Two officials on Mr. Obama’s economic team, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and Peter R. Orszag, the budget director, made similar arguments as they defended the new Obama budget and fielded Congressional Republicans’ criticism in separate appearances on Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Bernanke, a Republican who was appointed by President George W. Bush, provided Mr. Obama and Democratic lawmakers with crucial backing for the political battles ahead. His comments were reminiscent of the support that his predecessor, Alan Greenspan, gave to Mr. Bush’s call for tax cuts in 2001. Many lawmakers in both parties said Mr. Greenspan’s comments had helped override Democratic objections to Mr. Bush’s tax cuts.

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Afghan tech boom: Mullah embraces iPhone

Afghan tech boom: Mullah embraces iPhone

KABUL – Mullah Abdul Salaam Zaeef is a former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan. He spent almost four years in Guantanamo. He wears a black turban, has a thick beard — and is never without his Apple iPhone.

The ultra-conservative Taliban banned modern technology like the Internet and TV during its harsh 1996-2001 rule, but those items have boomed in Afghanistan since the regime's 2001 ouster, helping to bring the country into the 21st century.

Zaeef, who reconciled with the Afghan government after being released from U.S. custody, says he uses his iPhone to surf the Internet and find difficult locations, employing the built-in GPS. He even checks his bank account balance online.

"It's easy and modern and I love it," Zaeef said as he pinched and pulled his fingers across the iPhone's touch screen last week. "This is necessary in the world today. People want to progress."
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