Saturday, December 27, 2008

Barack the Magic Negro

Dear RNC Chairman Candidate Chip Saltsman,

"Satire" and "offensive" are not mutally exclusive categories.

I know you thought you all were being clever when you sent out a CD that contained a "Puff the Magic Dragon" parody called "Barack the Magic Negro". It would have been cleverer if the members of your party had a little more cred addressing racism, or not being horrible bigots generally (see Sarah Palin rallies, fall '08). Just sayin'.

Maybe you did mean it "satirically". Maybe the song wasn't meant to offend anyone, be disrespectful, or ignore the actual experiences of people of color in our country. I'm willing to work under that assumption.

But the point is, Chip, you don't get to decide whether something is hurtful. It might be funny, and in jest, but that doesn't rob it of its power to be damaging. When someone explains to you that they were hurt, sometimes you just need to humble yourself a little and apologize.

Happy Holidays,

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Recount Update: Minnesota Supreme Court Delivers Mixed Judgement

It's not the voting that's democracy, it's the counting.
-Tom Stoppard
quoted in Justice Paul H. Anderson's dissent

The Minnesota Supreme Court has responded to Norm Coleman's lawsuit trying to stop improperly rejected absentee ballots from being counted in the recount. The 3-2 decision declared that:

1. The counties are prohibited from sorting through or counting any rejected absentee ballots on their own, or under the recommendations of the state's Canvassing Board;

2. Instead, the two candidates, the Secretary of State, and the county auditors and canvassing boards should implement a process for identifying and counting wrongfully rejected absentee ballots. But -- and here's the kicker -- both of the candidates and the local elections officials must mutually agree that any given absentee ballot has been rejected in error. If such a consensus emerges about a particular ballot, it will be opened, counted, and the revised results will be forwarded to the state's Canvassing Board.

The New York Times reports that this is a boost to Al Franken (not to mention anyone else who believes legitimate votes ought to be counted):

In a boost for Al Franken, a former comedian and talk show host running as a Democrat for the Senate, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Thursday that counties could count additional absentee ballots, despite objections from the Republican incumbent, Norm Coleman.

The ruling, which requires the counties to submit amended vote counts to the state Canvassing Board by Dec. 31, means another delay for Minnesotans still waiting for a result in the tight election.

The two dissents object to the court rejecting the county canvassing boards' authority to correct "obvious" errors. Specifically Justices Page and Anderson dissented because they believe that the provisions of state law specifically allow county canvassing boards to correct obvious errors.

My questions:
1. Will the State Canvassing Board establish these guidelines tomorrow before they finish resolving Norm Coleman's challenged ballots?

2. What happens if the counts are not completed by Dec. 31st? Does the counting stop at that point?

3. Will the campaigns come to consensus in good faith? Or will they refuse to agree to open ballots in counties where they are vulnerable?

4. Who will win?

Nate Silver at 538 has amazing analysis at his blog (it brings in legal analysis, game theory, and more). If you have any time it's a must read.

Previous Recount Coverage:
Recount Update: Can Franken Pull It Off?
Canvassing Update 2

Canvassing Update
December 5th Update
December 4th Update
Dececember 3rd Update
December 1st Update
MPR Ballots
Star-Tribune Ballots

Mistake at the Strib (check out the subhed)

Here is snarky comment and more here. More snarky comment here and here.

from Lorika13 via MNspeak

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Union Hating pt 2; Anti-Union Ad Links Blago and SEIU

Remember what I said about groups trying to connect the Blagojevich scandal to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)? If not, you can read it all here. Relevant paragraph here:

Why this is silly: the SEIU does not need an Illinois Senator appointed as a favor to Obama. Obama has stated that he supports worker legislation, most controversially (and importantly for the Unions) the Employee Free Choice Act. Maybe the SEIU should have simply said, Blago you're nuts, but instead the official said he or she would "put a flag up." Clearly the SEIU is humouring the Governor. Gov. Blagojevich was already under investigation, proved a bad administrator, and seemed generally incompetent. Who would have hired him? Certainly, not a well connected Union whose candidate is moving into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The critiques of the SEIU are dumb attacks based solely on the fact that the union's name now appears in the headlines in connection with the governor of Illinois.

Now a group has come out with an ad again trying to make a link:

Unions are NOT taking away the secret ballot, rather they are trying to give employees an option that was taken away. The relevant section of the bill is here:

(6) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, whenever a petition shall have been filed by an employee or group of employees or any individual or labor organization acting in their behalf alleging that a majority of employees in a unit appropriate for the purposes of collective bargaining wish to be represented by an individual or labor organization for such purposes, the Board shall investigate the petition. If the Board finds that a majority of the employees in a unit appropriate for bargaining has signed valid authorizations designating the individual or labor organization specified in the petition as their bargaining representative and that no other individual or labor organization is currently certified or recognized as the exclusive representative of any of the employees in the unit, the Board shall not direct an election but shall certify the individual or labor organization as the representative described in subsection (a).

To summarize if a majority of employees take the proactive step of signing a card saying they wish to be unionized then that can take place of an election. Why is this necessary? Because employers use the elections to significantly delay the unionization process by moving election dates, and using voter intimidation to "change the minds" of employees who are in favor or unionization. As the process stands, all the power is in the hand of employees. As George Miller of California stated:

The current process for forming unions is badly broken and so skewed in favor of those who oppose unions, that workers must literally risk their jobs in order to form a union. Although it is illegal, one quarter of employers facing an organizing drive have been found to fire at least one worker who supports a union. In fact, employees who are active union supporters have a one-in-five chance of being fired for legal union activities. Sadly, many employers resort to spying, threats, intimidation, harassment and other illegal activity in their campaigns to oppose unions. The penalty for illegal activity, including firing workers for engaging in protected activity, is so weak that it does little to deter law breakers.

Even when employers don't break the law, the process itself stacks the deck against union supporters. The employer has all the power; they control the information workers can receive, can force workers to attend anti-union meetings during work hours, can force workers to meet with supervisors who deliver anti-union messages, and can even imply that the business will close if the union wins. Union supporters' access to employees, on the other hand, is heavily restricted.

The Employee Free Choice Act would add some fairness to the system…

Friday, December 12, 2008

Recount Update: Can Franken Pull it Off?

I have to admit, I was very skeptical of Al Franken's chances of winning, however those chances seem to continue improving.

As we reported earlier, the canvassing board recommended that mistakenly rejected ballots be counted, and that the 133 missing ballots from Minneapolis 3-1 be counted (net+46 Franken). The AP explains why counting the absentee ballots is significant to Franken:
"It's a boost to Democrat Al Franken, who has fought hard for their inclusion. Republican Sen. Norm Coleman leads Franken in unofficial tallies. The directions are voluntary because the state board's members say they don't have the power to force counties to do it. At least 630 absentees are known to have been erroneously rejected, but state officials say it could be more than 1,500."

The Pioneer Press reports that in blue leaning Duluth, as many as 40 percent of the absentee ballots were mistakenly rejected:
Franken also received unexpected good news when Deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbmann dropped a mini-bombshell, telling the board that in overwhelmingly Democratic Duluth — which has not officially tallied rejected absentees — about 40 percent of that city's 319 rejected absentee ballots were mistakenly rejected. Gelbmann said the city rejected the votes because either the voter or the witness did not date their signatures. He said he couldn't find any state law to support such a rejection.

Franken for the win? We'll see. As always, we'll keep you updated. The State Canvassing Board meets again on Tuesday to start the process of resolving challenged ballots. They are supposed to finish by the "19th at dusk" according to Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.

Previous Coverage:
Canvassing Update 2

Canvassing Update
December 5th Update
December 4th Update
Dececember 3rd Update
December 1st Update
MPR Ballots
Star-Tribune Ballots

Recount Update: State Canvassing Board Votes to Ask Counties to Correct Absentee Ballot Errors

The Minnesota Canvassing Board recommends that county canvassing boards reconvene and reconsider "allegedly" incorrectly rejected absentee ballots. Depending on whether they choose to do this or not, each side can go to court and sue if they think they have a case. It will be handled on a county by county basis, not a state wide directive.

Again, from the Polinaut live blog:
10:35 AM Motion passes asking county officials to separate properly and allegedly improperly rejected absentee ballots. Magnuson repeats that the canvassing board can't compel this action. Vote is unanimous.

10:27 AM Ramsey County District Court Judge Ed Cleary says he's inclined to include the improperly rejected absentee ballots. "We do not have authorities to make findings of fact or conclusions of law on the absentee ballots rejected for reasons...Those that have improperly been rejected are uncounted ballots... The bottom line is that I think we're disenfranchising voters that followed the law."

Magnuson suggests that the state courts may be a better place to consider this, since judges can issue orders and assess penalties to make these considerations happen, whereas the canvassing board cannot.

Gearin says she can't understand why a county wouldn't reconsider if the canvassing board asks. "If the local people, in the trenches, if they made a mistake, then that vote should be accepted."

Anderson weighs in and says he's inclined to go along with Cleary's suggestion to ask these ballots be reexamined and reconsidered by the canvassing board. He says there are some ballots rejected without any indication at all that they were in fact rejected. But he seems to be saying he thinks the courts ought to eventually weigh in.

Ritchie rephrases the motion. Cleary offers some clarification. County canvassing boards reconvene, separate rejected absentee ballots into properly and improperly rejected ballots.

10:20 AM Attorney General Lori Swanson says she believes the canvassing board has the authority to recommend local elections officials reconsider their wrongly rejected ballots and correct their vote totals. Ramsey County District Court Judge says some counties seem to have done that already and that the Canvassing Board will have to weigh in on this whether they like it or not.

Recount Update: State Canvassing Board Votes to Accept 133 Missing Ballots

The Minnesota Canvassing Board voted unanimously to include the 133 missing ballots from Minnesota 3-1 by using the election day tally. This adds a net of 46 votes to Franken's total.

From Polinaut's Liveblog:

10:08 AM Board votes unanimously to include the 133 missing ballots from Minneapolis in the official vote total.

10:07 AM Supreme Court Justice Eric Magnuson lauds elections officials, says there is no evidence to show the canvassing board should not accept the vote total results Reichert has offered and moves to do so.

10:05 AM"We believe there was 2,028 ballots fed into the counter machine that night," Reichert says. She says the roster shows 2,030 signed in, but that people do occasionally leave without actually voting.

10:00 AMReichert asks canvassing board to use election night totals, rather than hand recount with missing ballots. Attorney General Lori Swanson summarizes the legal situation. She says the canvassing board has the authority to use the election night returns, in her opinion.

9:56 AMAgenda moves to missing ballots from Minneapolis' Ward 3, precinct 1.

City election director Cindy Reichert takes to the witness table to talk about the missing ballots. "We thought as we went through the process... that they would come up," she said. They called the chief election judge at the polling place, but got no further indication of what happened.

A search went though spoiled ballot envelopes, ballot receipt envelopes, but found nothing. Search turned to an audit of the voting statistics, and a second search of the elections warehouse on Dec. 4.

"We determined definitively that the ballots were missing," says Reichert. The custodian at the polling reported he didn't find anything. Search expanded to City Hall, a van used to transport elections materials. Another warehouse search was conducted on Dec. 5.

Interesting Coincidence; "Coleman Renovation Coincides with Lawsuit"

Minnesota's Fox News 9 has a report that ties Coleman closer to the allegations of corruption from previously filed lawsuits.

According to their report:
ST. PAUL (FOX 9) -- The timing and cost of Sen. Norm Coleman's home renovation has again raised questions about allegations that an Edina, Minn. businessman funneled money to Norm Coleman's wife Laurie.

Two lawsuits allege that in spring of 2007, Edina businessman Nasser Kazeminy began a series of $25,000 payments to Coleman from Deep Marine Technology, a company he controlled in Texas, to Hays Companies, the Minnesota Insurance company where Laurie Coleman works.

While Coleman didn't agree to sit down for a interview, his campaign did agree to share billing records of the remodeling project. Original projections in 2006 estimated a cost of $328,000, but four months later, the construction cost was estimated at $414,000, over-budget by $86,000.

During that time is when, the lawsuit alleges, Kazeminy was trying to get money to Coleman.

According to the lawsuits, in March of 2007, Kazeminy said that "U.S. Senators don't make s---" and he was going to try to find a way to get money to Coleman.

"On the one level it could just be a coincidence, on the other level this could be one of the reasons he's getting that money from elsewhere, to try to make up for his, to be able to pay off a loan, pay off a line of credit," says Schultz.

What we know is this: the Senator had costly and over-budget renovations to his home at the same time a contributer was allegedly trying to funnel him money. But he's still criticized for walking away from reporters, while the questions aren't going away.

Interesting, right?

Every Vote Should Count

The Minnesota Canvassing Board is meeting right now to discuss whether the incorrectly rejected absentee ballots ought to be counted.

Votes mean people. Check out this video from the Franken campaign:

Will update as soon as their is a decision, livestreaming at the UPtake, at 9:30 right now.

Bush Makes Harming Endangered Animals Easier

Like the title says:

The Bush administration cleared the way Thursday for federal agencies to skip consultations with government scientists when embarking on projects that could impact endangered wildlife, the interior secretary said.

The final regulations to the Endangered Species Act take effect before President Bush leaves office in January, but wildlife conservation groups say undoing the damage could take months.

"The responsibility to initiate consultation will still lie with the federal agency undertaking the action," Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said, but if the agency in question can satisfy the requirement that no harm will come to an endangered species, then there is no need to consult with either the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Services.

The determination of "no harm" will rest with agency bureaucrats instead of scientists, but the agencies can still seek the input of the scientists on a voluntary basis, Kempthorne said.

Agencies can still seek out the input of the scientists? WOW! So benevolent. Awesome. 40 days...40 long days.

Sam Spiteri Gets To Keep Horse; Spirit of the Law More Important than Letter

For every good law (or zoning code), there's a good exception t0 that law. In this case, the question was "Should this kid get to keep his miniature pony, which he uses for therapy, despite neighbor complaints and zoning violations?"

Thankfully, the answer is yes.

The National Post reports:
A three-year-old disabled boy can keep his pony despite a neighbour’s complaints, Caledon’s committee of adjustment ruled today.

Committee members said the Spiteri family can keep the miniature pony, despite zoning rules prohibiting it, so long as they keep the pen clean.

Sam Spiteri has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, and uses the pony, Emily, as part of his therapy regime.

The dispute wound up before the committee after a neighbour complained about the smell coming from the family’s property, which also borders a cattle farm.

‘‘Pure joy right now,’’ said Antonia Spiteri, Sam’s mother, said today. ‘‘It’s been an extremely stressful last couple of months. Now I can focus my energy back where it belongs — back on Sam’s therapy.’’

Shame on the neighbor. You live near a cattle farm and you complain about the smell of a therapy pony? Please...
Via Boing Boing

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Union Hating

Republicans like to attack.

They seem to think that their current best targets are unions.

There are two prominent attacks on unions that need to be refuted:

1) The ludicrous figure that United Auto Workers earn 70 dollars an hour, and that union labor is the cause of Detroit problems.

2) The silly concept that the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) was trying to bribe Balgojevich or was party to the deal making going on.

The first concept is just factually wrong, while the second argument uses facts to arrive to an incorrect conclusion.

In the current discussions about problems with the big three automakers, the United Auto Workers have been attacked because of the benefits they have won for their workers.

Many people have falsely stated that one of these benefits is a wage of 70 dollars a day. As explains, the Heritage Foundation (a conservative think tank) made the claim workers "earn $75 an hour in wages and benefits – almost triple the earnings of the average private sector worker" and then said, "The vast majority of UAW workers in Detroit today still earn $75 an hour."

This was then repeated by Republicans and members of the media. For examples from Factcheck:
At a Nov. 19 House Financial Services Committee hearing on a possible bailout for the auto industry, Alabama Republican Rep. Spencer Bachus said, "Even with recent changes, the average hourly wage at General Motors is still $75 an hour. ..." Two of his GOP colleagues on the panel made similar statements. And in a Nov. 18 column in the New York Times, business reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin wrote, "At GM, as of 2007, the average worker was paid about $70 an hour, including health care and pension costs."
Unfortunately, this is also not true. According to the manufacturers, average autoworkers make $29 an hour. This, in fact, is less than some Toyota workers in the United States. The foreign companies with workers in the US pay very close to the UAW wages. The $70 an hour that is cited comes the costs that manufacturers incur from paying for the generations of retired workers that they are obligated to pay (a cost that is covered by governments at oversees factories). These companies created the middle class and were forced to take up the costs of pensions because the American government was unwilling to develop a national health care system.

The Senate failed to pass the $14 Billion bailout because the Republicans were unable to get enough concessions from the autoworkers. I say good for the autoworkers because if we are asking them to take further concessions we would essentially be asking them to take the hit for the development of the middle-class over the past 40 years. That's not fair.

Not only is the $70 figure misleading, it's silly that people are keying in on the cost of labor. Labor makes up 10% of the costs of producing a vehicle. Further, Americans are not complaining about the cost of a vehicle, rather they are complaining about bad design and fuel guzzling vehicles. Clearly, Republicans are using this as a Trojan horse to attack Unions.

The second point of contention is the theory being tossed around that SEIU officials, maybe the president of SEIU, considered making a deal with Blagojevich to get their preferred candidate in the Senate. The specific paragraph critics are pointing to is the following:
On November 12, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH spoke with SEIU Official, who was in Washington, D.C. Prior intercepted phone conversations indicate that approximately a week before this call, ROD BLAGOJEVICH met with SEIU Official to discuss the vacant Senate seat, and ROD BLAGOJEVICH understood that SEIU Official was an emissary to discuss Senate Candidate 1’s interest in the Senate seat. During the conversation with SEIU Official on November 12, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH informed SEIU Official that he had heard the President-elect wanted persons other than Senate Candidate 1 to be considered for the Senate seat. SEIU Official stated that he would find out if Senate Candidate 1 wanted SEIU Official to keep pushing her for Senator with ROD BLAGOJEVICH. ROD BLAGOJEVICH said that “one thing I’d be interested in” is a 501(c)(4) organization. ROD BLAGOJEVICH explained the 501(c)(4) idea to SEIU Official and said that the 501(c)(4)70 could help “our new Senator [Senate Candidate 1].” SEIU Official agreed to “put that flag up and see where it goes.”
Why this is silly: the SEIU does not need an Illinois Senator appointed as a favor to Obama. Obama has stated that he supports worker legislation, most controversially (and importantly for the Unions) the Employee Free Choice Act. Maybe the SEIU should have simply said, Blago you're nuts, but instead the official said he or she would "put a flag up." Clearly the SEIU is humouring the Governor. Gov. Blagojevich was already under investigation, proved a bad administrator, and seemed generally incompetent. Who would have hired him? Certainly, not a well connected Union whose candidate is moving into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The critiques of the SEIU are dumb attacks based solely on the fact that the union's name now appears in the headlines in connection with the governor of Illinois.

Unions help workers and provide protection for the American middle class, especially in this time of globalization and worker vulnerability. Don't let Republican big business representatives fool you by using bad facts and bad analysis.

By the way, Wall Street Bailout= 700 Billion Dollars; proposed Auto Bailout= 14 Billion. Do the math.

Senate Seat on Ebay

From the Illinois Policy Institute (click link to see picture)

Not sure if the Chris Dodd comment is necessary but whatever, somewhat entertaining all the same.

Blago's numbers, Bush can Goad

From the

The poll shows 70 percent of voters believing that Blagojevich should resign now, while only 25 percent should wait until he is proven guilty. A 73 percent majority support the impeachment of the governor – including a majority of Democrats – with 58 percent “strongly supporting” his impeachment. .

His approval rating, meanwhile, has tanked to seven percent. Among Democrats, only 13 percent approve of his performance.
The poll surveyed 600 registered voters in Illinois from December 9-10, and has a 4 percent margin of error.
Here's what shocking to me, 13% of Democrats and 7% of voters approve of Blogjevich's performance as Governor? Seriously? Are these the people who live under a rock? Did these people hear about what happened on Tuesday? Seriously, these people should be found and, and, and, have their voting rights revoked or something. There's one acceptable possiblity the poll's 4 percent margin of error kicks in, so actually only 3 percent of voters approve of Blagojevich's performance and of those 1 percent are his family, 1 percent are people who live under a rock, and 1 percent are people who thought approve means totally hate.

I'm imagining a meeting between Bush and Blago, where Bush takes advantage of the first time he's able to make fun of someone else's approval rating.

The Cabinet thus Far; 12/7 Update; 12/11 Update

For your information, I have set up a list of all the official cabinet appointments thus far (plus the director of the National Economic Council Director). I have also included the introductory paragraph(s) of their wikipedia entries and a link to their wikipedia page under their picture. Each position also has a link to their official web page.

Health and Human Services: Tom Daschle

Thomas Andrew Daschle (born December 9, 1947) is a former U.S. Senator and Senate Majority Leader from South Dakota. He is a member of the Democratic Party. He is President-elect Barack Obama's nominee to serve as the Secretary of Health and Human Services in Obama's Cabinet.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs: Eric Shinseki

Eric Ken Shinseki (born November 28, 1942) was the 34th Chief of Staff of the United States Army, serving from 1999 to 2003, and is President-elect Barack Obama's nominee to become the 7th United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs. He is the first Asian American in U.S. history to be a four-star general and the first to lead one of the five U.S. military services. During his tenure, Shinseki initiated an innovative but controversial plan to make the Army more strategically deployable and mobile in urban terrain by creating Stryker Interim-Force Brigade Combat Teams. He conceived a long term strategic plan for the Army dubbed Objective Force, which included a program he designed, Future Combat Systems.

Shinseki is famous for publicly clashing with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during the planning of the war in Iraq over what troop levels would be necessary once the Iraqi regime was defeated. Many believe General Shinseki correctly estimated that far more troops would be needed than in Rumsfeld's plan. Shinseki testified to the U.S. Senate Armed Services committee that "something in the order of several hundred thousand soldiers" would probably be required for postwar Iraq. Then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz publicly disagreed with his estimate, Wolfowitz insisting that General Shinseki was "wildly off the mark". Over time, it has become almost universally accepted in U.S. political circles that Shinseki was correct. General Shinseki retired as scheduled from the military in June 2003, just three months after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. After making his critical comments, Shinseki's influence on the Joint Chiefs of Staff was reported to have been significantly reduced.

Treasury Secretary
: Tim Geithner, President of the NY Federal Reserve Bank,

Timothy Franz Geithner [pronounced /ˈgaɪtnər/] (born August 18, 1961) is the 9th president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. In that role he also serves as Vice Chairman of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC). Geithner is President-elect Barack Obama's nominee to succeed Henry Paulson as United States Secretary of the Treasury.

Secretary of State
: Sen. Hillary Clinton,

Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton (born October 26, 1947) is the junior United States Senator from New York and President-elect Barack Obama's nominee for United States Secretary of State. She was a candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 2008 presidential election. She is married to Bill Clinton—the 42nd President of the United States—and was the First Lady of the United States from 1993 to 2001.

After moving to New York, Clinton was elected as senator for New York State in 2000. That election marked the first time an American First Lady had run for public office; Clinton is also the first female senator to represent New York. In the Senate, she initially supported the George W. Bush administration on some foreign policy issues, which included voting for the Iraq War Resolution. She has subsequently opposed the administration on its conduct of the war in Iraq, and has opposed it on most domestic issues. She was reelected by a wide margin in 2006. In the 2008 presidential nomination race, Clinton won more primaries and delegates than any other female candidate in American history, but after a long campaign, she narrowly lost to Senator Barack Obama, who became the party's presumptive nominee in June 2008, and Clinton endorsed and campaigned for him. She is the first First Lady to be subsequently appointed to the Cabinet in any Presidential administration.

Attorney General
: Eric Holder,

Eric Himpton Holder, Jr. (born January 21, 1951), is a former Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, United States Attorney and Deputy Attorney General of the United States. He is currently a senior legal advisor to President-elect Barack Obama, a position he also held in Obama's campaign. He was one of three members of Obama's vice-presidential selection committee.

On December 1, 2008, Obama announced that Holder would be his nominee for Attorney General in the incoming administration. If confirmed, he will be the first African-American Attorney General of the United States.

Secretary of Defense: Robert Gates, Sec. of Defense in Bush administration,

Robert Michael Gates (born September 25, 1943) is currently serving as the 22nd United States Secretary of Defense. He took office on December 18, 2006. Prior to this, Gates served for 26 years in the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Council, and under President George H. W. Bush as Director of Central Intelligence. Before he joined the CIA, he served with the United States Air Force (USAF). After leaving the CIA, Gates became president of Texas A&M University and was a member of several corporate boards. Gates also served as a member of the Iraq Study Group, the bipartisan commission co-chaired by James A. Baker III and Lee Hamilton, that has studied the Iraq War. He was also the first pick to serve as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security when it was created following the September 11, 2001 attacks, but he declined the appointment in order to remain President of Texas A&M University.

Gates accepted the nomination as Secretary of Defense position on November 8, 2006, replacing Donald Rumsfeld. He was confirmed with bipartisan support. In a 2007 profile written by former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, Time named Gates one of the year's most influential people. In 2008, Gates was named one of America's Best Leaders by U.S. News & World Report. President-elect Barack Obama has offered Gates the continued position as Defense Secretary under his administration, and Gates has accepted. Gates will be one of the few people to hold a Cabinet-level position under two Presidents of different parties.

Homeland Security Secretary: Gov. Janet Napolitano (Arizona),

Janet Napolitano (born November 29, 1957) is the current governor of the U.S. state of Arizona, and a member of the Democratic Party, originally elected in 2002 and re-elected in 2006. Napolitano was chair of two state Governors' associations and named by Time as one of the top five Governors in 2005.

She is President-elect Barack Obama's nominee for Secretary of Homeland Security.

National Security Adviser: Retired Marine Gen. James Jones,

General James Logan Jones Jr. (born December 19, 1943) is President-elect Barack Obama’s selection for national security adviser. He is the former supreme allied commander, Europe (SACEUR) (2003–06), and the commander of the United States European Command (COMUSEUCOM) (2003–06. He served as the 32nd commandant of the Marine Corps (July 1999–January 2003). Jones retired from the United States Marine Corps on February 1, 2007, after 40 years of service.

In 2007, Jones served as chairman of the Congressional Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq, which investigated the capabilities of the Iraqi police and armed forces. In November 2007, he was appointed by the U.S. secretary of state as special envoy for Middle East security.

He is currently chairman of the Atlantic Council of the United States.

Commerce Secretary: Gov. Bill Richardson (New Mexico),

William Blaine "Bill" Richardson III (born November 15, 1947) is a Democratic politician and the current Governor of New Mexico. Prior to being elected governor, Richardson served in the Clinton administration as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Energy Secretary. Richardson has also served as a U.S. Congressman, chairman of the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. On December 3, 2008, President-elect Barack Obama designated Richardson for appointment to the cabinet-level position of Commerce Secretary.

National Economic Council Director: Lawrence Summers, former treasury

Lawrence Henry "Larry" Summers (born November 30, 1954) is an American economist and member of President-elect Barack Obama's Transition Economic Advisory Board. On November 24, 2008 he was named the next head of the White House's National Economic Council.

Summers is the Charles W. Eliot University Professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. He is the 1993 recipient of the John Bates Clark Medal for his work in several fields of economics and was Secretary of the Treasury for the last year and a half of the Bill Clinton administration.

Summers also served as the 27th President of Harvard University from 2001 to 2006. In three instances during his time as Harvard president, Summers made remarks that touched on political "hot-button" controversies. Environmentalists, affirmative action advocates, and many women and those concerned with women's issues took offense and brought increasing pressure on Harvard, contributing to his resignation. Summers also proposed reforming undergraduate education and requested that professors take greater responsibility in teaching their undergraduate classes, as opposed to delegating to teaching fellows.

Office of Management and Budget Director: Peter Orszag, director of Congressional Budget Office,

Peter R. Orszag (born December 16, 1968) is an American economist and was until recently Director of the Congressional Budget Office. He is President-Elect Barack Obama's choice for Office of Management and Budget Director.

There are many positions left to fill, and since Obama plans to go on an extended vacation, there will be many announcements coming up (and many updates to this post).

Barack Hussein Obama will be inaugurated as Barack Hussein Obama

In case you missed it, on Jan. 20th Barack Hussein Obama will be inaugurated the 44th President of the United States as Barack Hussein Obama. He explains:
Mr. Obama noted that presidents traditionally take the oath of office using their full and proper names, and he would do the same. “I think the tradition is that they use all three names, and I will follow the tradition,” Mr. Obama said of the swearing-in ceremony. “I’m not trying to make a statement one way or another. I’ll do what everybody else does.”
Although it could also help his other goal of improving relationships with the Muslim world (while Obama is Christian, Hussein is a well-known Muslim name). As he told the Chicago Tribune:
“I think we’ve got a unique opportunity to reboot America’s image around the world and also in the Muslim world in particular,” Mr. Obama told the newspaper Tuesday. He also said he had an “unrelenting” desire to “create a relationship of mutual respect and partnership in countries and with peoples of good will who want their citizens and ours to prosper together.”

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mild Mannered Harry Reid

David passes on a great story about Harry Reid via Ezra Klein:

In July of 1978, a man named Jack Gordon, who was later married to LaToya Jackson, offered Reid twelve thousand dollars to approve two new, carnival-like gaming devices for casino use. Reid reported the attempted bribe to the F.B.I. and arranged a meeting with Gordon in his office. By agreement, F.B.I. agents burst in to arrest Gordon at the point where Reid asked, “Is this the money?” Although he was taking part in a sting, Reid was unable to control his temper; the videotape shows him getting up from his chair and saying, “You son of a bitch, you tried to bribe me!” and attempting to choke Gordon, before startled agents pulled him off. “I was so angry with him for thinking he could bribe me,” Reid said, explaining his theatrical outburst. Gordon was convicted in federal court in 1979 and sentenced to six months in prison.

This is Why Some Bloggers Are Hated

I guess this is why (the 12/10 9:46pmpost)many people don't bother engaging in discussion w/blogs. I mean this information is public...but also not relevant (although I guess if it's posted on FGO then it's relevant). blech.

Jesse Jackson Jr. Denies Offering Money to Blagojevich

Jesse Jackson Jr. who is "Candidate 5" in the charges filed against Gov. Rod Blagojevich, claims no attempt to make a deal with the governor, despite the fact that on tape the Governor said that candidate 5 could raise 50,000 now and 50,000 later. Based on this statement, and on his strong service to our country and his district I hope it's true. Worth watching.

Rahm's Inbox

Famous DC offers what Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel's inbox might look like.

It's priceless. If you don't get it, check out Rahm's wikipedia for some context.

Blago on Tape

This is from a press conference he gave (on a completely different issue) on Monday.

Go ahead and tape me he says, just give me a warning. Did he know this was coming? Notice he claimed that everything he does is lawful? Is he going to claim that he was just thinking of ideas and never actually tried to do anything? Does he know that conspiracy to corrupt is still a crime? So it goes.

FBI In Minnesota? Federal Investigation Tied to Colman

Remember how we told you two months ago about stories of Norm Colman supporter Nasser Kazeminy helping out the Senator by buying him suits and potentially funneling almost 100,000 dollars to his wife? If you don't just follow the links.

According to the Pioneer Press, the FBI remembers those allegations and has grown curious. Now, that they're done with the Gov. of Illinois they're investigating Nasser Kazeminy about his gifts to Minnesota's Senior Senator. I'm going to be mad if we go through the this recount simply to get an indicted senator.

From the PiPress:

Federal investigators are looking into allegations that a longtime friend and benefactor tried to steer money to U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, the Pioneer Press has learned.

Agents with the FBI have talked to or made efforts to talk to people in Texas familiar with the allegations, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Houston is where the first of two lawsuits was filed alleging Nasser Kazeminy, a Bloomington financier, tried to steer $100,000 to Coleman via his wife's Minneapolis employer. The second suit, filed in Delaware, alleges Kazeminy initially tried to get money directly to the senator.

Of course, let's not jump to conclusions.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Washington Monthly also SLAMS Pawlenty

In the previous discussion about a columnist slamming Governor Pawlenty, I mentioned that Gov. Pawlenty wrote a silly proposal for a balanced budget amendment. I argued that the proposal was dumb because it would disallow deficit spending under any circumstances.

The Washington Monthly thought even less of his article then I did and said the following:
I honestly don't know where to begin in responding to such an insane policy prescription. The first point, of course, is that trying to balance the budget in the midst of a financial crisis is the exact opposite of what every sane person realizes we need -- a government stimulus to help spur the economy. Why would Pawlenty recommend slashing hundreds of billions of dollars in government spending right now?

Second, that the Minnesota governor sees a similarity between an individual family's budget and that of the United States government suggests he has a child-like understanding of economic basics. As Publius recently explained: "The micro-considerations of an individual family or business has nothing much to do with what governments need to do to get the larger economy moving again. Even worse, it's often affirmatively harmful to adopt microeconomic solutions to macroeconomic problems."

If Pawlenty is a rising star in the Republican Party, the GOP's future is painfully bleak. This piece suggests Pawlenty looked back at the Great Depression, and became convinced that Hoover was right.

I've written about the first point, but the second point deserves some commentary and it can be said rather succinctly. Carleton College (like every school that teaches economics) offers two different "Introduction to Economics" courses. One course is MacroEconomics and the other is MicroEconomics. They are very different, in fact, the study of economics as a whole follows this division to a certain effect.

Point remains: Someone needs to Govern.

Rahm Tipped off Feds?

There is a hot rumor going around that the federal agents learned of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich attempts to sell off Barack Obama's Senate seat when Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel tipped them off. This was supposedly after Emmanuel was approached about possible favors for Blagojevich in exchange for selecting Obama's "favored" candidate. Possible favors could have included ambassadorships, or being appointed Secretary of the Health and Human Services Department.

Could this have been why Tom Daschle's name was leaked for that position so early? Was it a warning to Blagojevich?

I for one hope that Rahm Emmanuel did out Blago, it would show that while Rahm may be hard-nosed, he has very real principles and that he was not going to let Blagovich try and shake-down the president-elect. From what I hear, there was no love lost between Blago and most people in the Obama administration, so this could also have been a convenient way of getting rid of Blago. Either way, Illinois started to head in the right direction with the filing of these charges.


Marc Ambinder sounds pretty sure it wasn't Rahm. Check it out here.

America's Least Popular Governer Also a Criminal?

Three updates at bottom You can read the charges here.

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who in October clocked in an approval rate of 4%, has been arrested by federal agents and charged with various corruption charges.

Blagojevich is accused of a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy, including alleged attempts by the governor to try to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama in exchange for financial benefits for the governor and his wife. Blagojevich also is accused of obtaining campaign contributions in exchange for other official actions.
Apparently Blagojevich was even contemplating running for President?
Prosecutors also alleged Blagojevich expressed feeling "stuck" as a sitting governor and spent a large amount of time weighing whether he should appoint himself to the vacancy—possibly to avoid impeachment and help remake his image for a potential 2016 run for the presidency.

Who did this guy think he was? Federal Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said, "The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering."
Even Blagojevich's recently announced $1.8 billion plan for new interchanges and "green lanes" on the Illinois Tollway was subject to corruption, prosecutors alleged. The criminal complaint alleges Blagojevich expected an unnamed highway concrete contractor to raise a half-million dollars for his campaign fund in exchange for state money for the tollway project. "If they don't perform, [expletive] 'em," Blagojevich said, according to the complaint.

Blagojevich and Harris also allegedly conspired to demand the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members responsible for editorials critical of Blagojevich in exchange for state help with the sale of Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs baseball stadium owned by Tribune Co.
These charges if true are amazing. This is real old time, classic "Illinois" politics. But even more so, it shows that neither party is free from corrupt pols. Now that Democrats are in power, those who have been honored with the support of the people must take Gov. Blagojevich's case as an example of what goes wrong when you don't respect the people who elected you into office. The 2006 shift in power was largely driven by the Democrats excoriating the Republican party for a "culture of corruption." Democrats have been freed of William Jefferson, and now can hopefully get rid of Blagojevich, but if this becomes a pattern of behavior among elected Democrats, you can bet Republicans will capitalize on it. While Charlie Rangel is a great politician and has done much good during his time in office, his problems continue to further the culture of corruption narrative. Want proof that Republicans are looking to capitalize? Republican house leader John Boehner declared on Monday:
"In the two years ahead, House Republicans will demonstrate our commitment to reform by holding ourselves to the highest possible ethical standard...[and] presenting principled, superior solutions to the challenges facing our country."
I will go out on a limb and say that Republicans will not have the same issues that they had before 2006 for two significant reasons:

1) Most of the Republicans most corrupt politicians were ousted out of office by either federal arrest, resignation, or the ballot box.

2) Parties that have no power, usually are not high targets for those seeking to bribe. Democrats will be the people who are most tempted, the the ones who must most stay on their toes and avoid even the scent of corruption.

The arrest of Blagojevich prompts several questions:
  • Will Barack Obama and other prominent Illinois politicians call on Balgojevich to resign? While Blagojevich has not been proven guilty on any of these charges, the charges are pretty harsh, seem to come with hard evidence (wire taps).
  • If Blagojevich does not resign, who will he appoint to the Senate? Who would accept his appointment?
  • If Blagojevich does resign, who will Pat Quinn, his successo, appoint to the Senate. There is speculation that he, Quinn, was a candidate for the seat. Will he appoint himself? Unclear.
For the sake of the citizens of Illinois, I hope that Blagojevich does the right thing and leaves the public forum as soon as possible.

Great quote from Politico:
Blagojevich was caught on tape telling his Deputy Governor that unless he "received 'something real good" for the appointment of a top adviser to Barack Obama to fill the president-elect"s Senate seat he would appoint himself." According to the complaint, he said, "Unless I get something real good [for Senate candidate 1], s***, I"ll just send myself, you know what I"m saying," He added that a Senate seat: "is a f***ing valuable thing, you just don't give it away for nothing."
I might say that a Senate seat is SOOO valuable that it's priceless? That you give it to someone who deserves it? Not someone who buys it? According to Politico, Blagojevich is referring to Obama aid Valerie Jarrett. I just hope that Jarrett wasn't looking to buy it, it doesn't sound like she was.

Update #2:
From the indictment:
Later on November 10, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH and Advisor A discussed the open Senate seat. Among other things, ROD BLAGOJEVICH raised the issue of whether the President-elect could help get ROD BLAGOJEVICH's wife on "paid corporate boards right now." Advisor A responded that he "think[s] they could" and that a "President-elect. . . can do almost anything he sets his mind to." ROD BLAGOJEVICH states that he will appoint "[Senate Candidate 1] . . . but if they feel like they can do this and not fucking give me anything . . . then I'll fucking go [Senate Candidate 5]." (Senate Candidate 5 is publicly reported to be interested in the open Senate seat). ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that if his wife could get on some corporate boards and "picks up another 150 grand a year or whatever" it would help ROD BLAGOJEVICH get through the next several years as Governor.

In the words of Marc Ambinder:
Was Blagojevich really trying to shake down the president-elect for something of value in exchange for making his preferred Senate appointment? He has some serious stones.

Further, we learn from the indictment:
In a conversation with Harris [his chief of staff] on November 11, the charges state, Blagojevich said he knew that the President-elect wanted Senate Candidate 1 for the open seat but "they're not willing to give me anything except appreciation. [Expletive] them."

Update #3: IRONY ALERT
Just yesterday Blagojevich said:
"I don't believe there's any cloud that hangs over me. I think there's nothing but sunshine hanging over me," the governor said.

Bailout Agreement

It seems like the Democrats and Republicans are coming on an agreement about the possible bailout of the Big 3 automakers. Marc Ambinder provides this 13 page word document thats been circulating Capitol Hill detailing the possible terms of agreement.

Big points:
  • There will be a person in the federal government in charge of overseeing the program, he would not be a "czar"
  • Detroit automakers must drop lawsuits against 16 states for enforcement of Greenhouse Gas laws:
    The terms of any financial assistance under this Act shall prohibit the recipient eligible automobile manufacturer from participating in, pursuing, funding, or supporting in any way, lawsuits any legal challenge (existing or contemplated) challenging to State laws concerning greenhouse gas emission standards)
  • Money would come from a 2007 Energy Bill provision that set aside money for green technology initiatives.
For the full scoop either visit Ambinder or check out the document.

McCain's Unused Ad

John McCain said early on that Jeremiah Wright was off-limits. His campaign thought it was best to check, so they produced this ad (go to 1:13 for the ad):

Quick review:
Honestly, this is one of the more effective ads that the McCain campaign used. It is based on incorrect premises which undermine the entire Jeremiah Wright narrative, but it manages to tap into the technique used by the Obama campaign of sounding positive while pointing out the flaws in his opponent. While, I don't think it would have been a game changer by any means, it would have certainly been more effective than the various summer celebrity ads, and more effective than the entire Bill Ayres narrative. I would have been especially interesting in how the Obama campaign woudl have reacted. See Nate Silver's take here.

Star-Trib Columnist Coleman Slams T-Paw

I am not a big fan of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, I think that they have some columnists who simply blather, but yet, like a great athlete the Star-Trib comes through in the clutch. Today, Nick Coleman (no relation to the Senator) comes through and slams Gov. Pawlenty for abandoning ship when the state most needs help. Some of the better excerpts from his column "Avast, Cap'n Tim! The ship of state is sinking - why aren't ye at the wheel?" (which you can read here):

If the state of Minnesota were "Titanic," this would be the part in the movie where some of the rich passengers put dresses on and try to sneak into the lifeboats.

Someone should tell the captain.

Unfortunately, our "captain" isn't often at the helm. On an endless circuit of talk shows and national appearances aimed at puffing his profile for 2012, Gov. Tim Pawlenty leaves Thursday on a trip to Israel that will come in handy during foreign policy debates ("I've visited our friends in Israel") but may not do much for Minnesota's pork producers.

There are fifth-grade civics classes that spend more time at the State Capitol than T-Paw. Too bad. We need a full-time governor.

Of course, my emphasis. Coleman goes on to say:
Pawlenty still is a prisoner to the deceitful "no new tax" cult that has cut income taxes for the wealthy while raising fees and property taxes on everyone else. Even in the face of looming crisis, he can't stop sipping the Kool-Aid.

Does anyone still think that leading Minnesota involves protecting the privileged from paying their fair share? Minnesota might gain $1 billion in revenue if the wealthiest paid the same tax rate as the middle class. (Pawlenty underestimates the true amount.)

Republican legislators are making Mickey Mouse proposals to sell parts of government -- including the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. I suggest we sell legislators instead. Some of these geniuses might make good lawn ornaments.

He saves some rage for the state Dems:

And our wimpy Democrats, meanwhile, are calling for bipartisanship and talking about the importance of not being divisive. Are they kidding?

Let me go ahead and say I don't always agree with Nick Coleman, but he is completely right about both Pawlenty's absenteeism and false bipartisanship.

The state of Minnesota faces something close to a 6 billion dollar deficit, and yet Coleman tried to earn political points at the National Governors Association meeting with Barack Obama by critiquing Obama's plan of using federal funds to help state funds. He said:
“The states should substantially fix their own problems,” the Republican governor told a reporter in Philadelphia, where he and other governors met with President-elect Barack Obama.
As Coleman points out, the question that naturally arises is "Why isn't he fixing Minnesota's Problems?" Isn't he the leader of his state? He's too busy building up his résumé for a potential run in 2012. He doesn't realize that the best way to build that résumé is to actually govern the state, and moreover to govern the state successfully.

Lastly, his critique of Democrats is fair. While Minnesota nice is a good governing paradigm, that doesn't meant that Democrats (who control both houses) can use that as an excuse not to make thier own plans and try to govern. Pawlenty is out, Republicans are down, Democrats should not rub it in, and they are right to avoid creating a divise atmosphere in St. Paul, but that does not mean they cannot create their own plans. They have the votes to override Pawlenty in the Senate and they have shown an ability to bring Republicans along on good legislation.

Someone needs to govern. Minnesotans voted for Democrats, lets see them step up. The best way to stay in power is to prove that you can govern.

Update: Among other things, T-Paw has been spotted writing an editorial for Politico arguing for a Balanced-Budget Amendment which would prohibit the government from using deficit spending to improve our economy. When our economy is at the weakest, Pawlenty wants to take away another tool? Really? Especially a tool that's been proven to work? Read more on this and on how Pawlenty supported a plan that involved deficit spending a short while ago.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Bush Neighborhood Officially Integrated 8 Years Ago

Apparently, President Bush has become enamored with big city livin' and so has chosen to buy a home in bustlin' dallas, 2 hours and 19 minutes away from his ranch in Crawford (where spent nearly 500 days of his presidency or nearly a year and a half).

His new home is an exclusive neighborhood in the Preston Hollow neighborhood of Dallas, with neighbors like the owner of the Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars, as well as a smattering of lawyers and investment bankers. According to the Dallas News:
The house was purchased with a $3,074,000 loan issued by the Community National Bank in Midland – a note that must be paid in full by October 2012, according to documents signed by Mr. McCleskey.

Traditionally, such purchases also require a cash down payment of at least 10 percent and normally 20 percent, although it is unclear whether such a down payment was made in this case.
The house (which according to Google is the house above) is more than 8,500 square feet and sits on 1.1 acres (which might be considered almost humble for that neighborhood).

Most surprisingly the neighborhood, known as James Meaders Estates, had a paragraph in it's covenant that prohibited non-white non-servants from living in the neighborhood. Paragraph 11 of the covenant (which was removed in July of 2000) read:
11) Said property shall be used and occupied by white persons only except these covenants shall not prevent occupancy by domestic servants of a different race or nationality in the employ of a tenant.
I really hope that the delay is a reflection of the difficulty in changing covenants, or simply the fact that no one had reviewed that document since 1956. I doubt it. Either way, it reflects something very ugly about this neighborhood. I'd be willing to bet it hasn't changed much in 50 years (except for houses getting bigger). You can see the covenant here. There's a full article from raw story here.

Update: It may sound like I'm simply being biased against a southern neighborhood for sins of a by-gone age. If I am biased, it only comes from experience. I come from a town that did not allow African-Americans in town after sundown (a sundown town) until the 1970s and still deals with the legacy of segregation and other racial issues. Any town that ever had these rules has a legacy to deal with, a neighborhood that wrote it into their covenant and did not remove it until the year 2000 has some significant issues.

Othering President Obama

Salon's Alex Koppelman examines the bogus conspiracy theory that Barack Obama wasn't born in the U.S., and therefore cannot be President. As Pablo reported today, the Supreme Court has denied to hear this ridiculous case, but even if it did, and found that it was without a doubt baseless and juvenile, there would still be people out there who refuse to let it go.

By the same token, there are plenty of people out there who like to claim that Obama is not Black: either he is biracial (which is, by these analyses, categorically exclusive from Black) or he is "half-White," as White as he is Black.

These characterizations belie an American political maxim: Black men are not Presidents.

For those who pray over Drudge that Obama's birth certificate is false, Obama as a Black man is nonviable. But even for those supporters who emphasize his biraciality without acknowledging his self-identification, Obama as a Black man is nonviable. He might be "Black," but he's not "too Black"--all Black, or only Black.

The U.S. Census did not allow "biracial" or "multiracial" until the 2000 Census. Nuance in race and ethnicity has never been our country's strong point, try though we may to perpetuate the story of the "melting pot", and perhaps Obama has just proven too complicated for our reductive racial categories.

But there are plenty of people out there who just can't bring themselves to admit that a Black man is President--legitimately President, and legitimately Black.

UPDATE: Ta-Nehisi Coates examines a similar point.

SCOTUS won't review Obama's birth

The Supreme Court has denied cert. on the case about whether Barack Obama is qualified to be president (due to his place of birth). The AP announcement is here:
WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court has turned down an emergency appeal from a New Jersey man who says President-elect Barack Obama is ineligible to be president because he was a British subject at birth.

The court did not comment on its order Monday rejecting the call by Leo Donofrio of East Brunswick, N.J., to intervene in the presidential election. Donofrio says that since Obama had dual nationality at birth — his mother was American and his Kenyan father at the time was a British subject — he cannot possibly be a "natural born citizen," one of the requirements the Constitution lists for eligibility to be president.

This is somewhat disappointing because I was really hoping the court would review this simply so the world would be able to see how silly this whole discussion is. Alas, it will be left to simmer on the Internets.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Good Economic News...For North Dakota.

I feel like I owe everyone an apology. I have evidently joined the negative nancys of the liberal media in just reporting the negative news about our economy. Well, in order to balance out the news of the collapse of our economic news, I bring you some positive economic news.

Our neighbors to the west (North Dakota) are doing just fine. Basically, up to this point, North Dakota has not seen the economics that are dragging down the rest of the country. They are looking for more workers (they have more jobs then workers) and have a 1.2 billion dollar surplus (out of 7.7 Billion budget), while Minnesota deals with a 5.2 billion dollar deficit.

From the New York Times:

The number of new cars sold statewide was 27 percent higher this year than last, state records through November showed. North Dakota’s foreclosure rate was minuscule, among the lowest in the country. Many homes have still been gaining modestly in value, and, here in Fargo, construction workers can be found on any given day hammering away on a new downtown condominium complex, complete with a $540,000 penthouse (still unsold, but with a steady stream of lookers).

While dozens of states, including neighboring ones, have desperately begun raising fees, firing workers, shuttering tourist attractions and even abolishing holiday displays to overcome gaping deficits, lawmakers this week in Bismarck, the capital, were contemplating what to do with a $1.2 billion budget surplus.

A nifty graph:

But, getting back to reality, the NYT article also tells us the following:

In truth, economic analysts said North Dakota has already begun showing some of the painful ripples seen elsewhere. Some manufacturing companies here have lately made temporary job cuts as orders for products have dropped nationally. Shrinking 401(k)’s — “201(k)’s,” some here grump — are no bigger here than anywhere else. And, most of all, drops in oil prices and farm commodity prices are sure to sink local fortunes, experts said.

An economist at Moody’s recently warned that conditions in North Dakota had “slowed measurably in recent months, and the state is now at risk of being dragged into recession.” In an interview, Glenn Wingard, the economist, described North Dakota as “an outlier” up to now in a broad, national slump.

Guess, I won't be moving to North Dakota anytime soon.

Weekly Address from Your Leader (Obama's Youtube Message)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Bail Out Application

Down on your luck? Need a little help? Wouldn't be a surprise. Apply for a Government Bailout. Just fill out form EZ-Cash; and make sure you affix correct postage.

(Click to enlarge)

-From Vanity Fair

Recount Update 12/5

What we know as of this moment with 99.93% of the vote recounted (of course without challenges resolved):

Important numbers:
  • Coleman has an official lead of .03% of the vote.
  • Coleman has a lead of 687 votes.
  • More than 5,000 challenges left to resolve.
  • Franken claims a 4 vote lead.
  • Star-Tribune gives Colman a 251 lead.

Important facts:
  • Hand recount is done EXCEPT:
  • 133 votes still missing from Minneapolis 3-1 (Recount will officially remain open until December 16 in the hopes that these ballots are found).
  • Talking Points Memo reports that due to the missing ballots, the Secretary of State's office could opt to accept the election night results rather than the recount numbers, which would give Franken net 46 more votes.
  • Franken campaign continues to push for 500-1000 improperly rejected absentee ballots to be counted.
  • Canvasing Board will resolve each challenge on December 16.
  • The recount has cost both campaigns more than $4 million (combined).
Previous Recount Coverage:
December 4th Update
Dececember 3rd Update
December 1st Update
MPR Ballots
Star-Tribune Ballots

Oh Canada! The Canadian Party Crisis.

This blog is occasionally prone to cover Canadian politics. Ok, we mentioned Canada once. Anyway, they just shut down their legislature so they're interesting now.

After minority parties came together to oust conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, Harper decided that he could avoid the vote by having their parliament closed. How would he do this you ask? Apparently, by turning to the Canadian Governor General.

Didn't know that Canada had a Governor General did you? I didn't. You probably also didn't know that the Governor General had the power to suspend the Parliament? She does. Did you know that the current Governor General is named Michaëlle Jean? Yeah me neither. Or that she was appointed by the Queen (of the United Kingdom)[with the advice of the Prime Minister of Canada]? Unlike some, I did know that the Queen is not Helen Mirren.

(Mirren on left)

Getting back to our story, Stephen Harper convinced the Governor General to prorogue (close) Parliament until January 26. In other words, during the beginning of a world wide economic catastrophe (see previous economic posts), Canada has no national government.

In the words of Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union leader Dave Coles:

"For us, it's total chaos because there's no government to talk to. We may not have an industry left the way this is going." [speaking of the forestry industry]

Maybe Quebec will finally leave Canada? [This isn't funny to Canadians.]

Full coverage from Slate.

Want a Job? Tough, Economy Continues To Contract

Hey college seniors, looking for a job? Well, get in line.

From the New York Times:

Unemployment Rate Rises to 6.7%

New figures from the Labor Department show a much sharper
worsening of employment conditions than economists expected.
Some 533,000 nonfarm jobs were eliminated in November, the
most in one month since the mid-1970s, and figures for the
prior two months were revised upward by 199,000. The
unemployment rate rose two-tenths of a point to 6.7 percent
in November; it would have been even higher if large numbers
of discouraged workers had not given up looking for work.

Note that last line, this rate would have been even higher if people had not GIVEN UP looking for work.

If you have any doubt about this, talk to any Carleton seniors, employers are not hiring. Many employers have hiring freezes or are filling open positions at a much slower rate then they once would. There are fewer open positions because no one is leaving their jobs. Those who continue to hire (the government) have massively increased competition. This is not good.

I'm listening to a show about the working poor and unemployed in Boston. A food pantry and heating assistance organization's (ABCD) director is talking about how his clients used to be those who were elderly, and ill and/or disabled. Now his clients include all of those, plus working poor who can no longer afford food, heat, housing, and newly unemployed young professionals. Read and listen here.

Silver lining: Carleton College and a liberal arts education provides knowledge of how to do things not just what to do. In other words we are not trained as advertisers, or consultants, but we know how to write (often on a short deadline), we know how to take initiative, lead, work on teams. If you get hired, you're likely to be indispensable to your employer...right? Hire me?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Recount Update 12/4

What we know as of this moment with 98.88% of the vote recounted (of course without challenges resolved):

Important numbers:
  • Star-Tribune gives Coleman a lead of 251.
  • Coleman withdraws 650 challenges following Franken's lead (see yesterday's update).
  • Franken claims a 10 vote lead.
  • 32,704 votes left to count.
Important facts:
  • Minneapolis elections director Cindy Reichert late last night admitted to the Star Tribune that the ballots were missing, saying that her earlier theory (that the missing 133 ballots were simply run twice) "doesn't jibe with the numbers we have" and "wasn't valid speculation."
  • Franken campaign calls for an intensive search for those ballots. From Minnpost:
    With 133 votes from a Minneapolis precinct in student-heavy Dinkytown stll missing, the Al Franken campaign today reiterated its call for an "immediate and intensive search" for an envelope containing the ballots.
  • MN GOP sent out a press release attacking Franken's request for an intensive search with this headline: Franken Campaign Calls For Government Invasion Of A Church!
  • Franken campaign explains their methods:
    By our count, Al Franken leads Norm Coleman by 10 votes with roughly 56,000 ballots left to be hand counted. Many media outlets are calculating the margin by a different method, relying on raw data from the Secretary of State’s website to conclude that Coleman holds a lead of over 300 votes. However, that calculation assumes that every challenge will be upheld by the state canvassing board, whereas our calculation assumes that the original call by the impartial election judge will stand. So, if the judge calls it for Franken, we say it’s a Franken ballot. Likewise, if the judge calls it for Coleman, we treat it as a Coleman ballot - even if we have challenged it.
  • MN Canvassing Board will meet next friday (12/12) "to discuss possible options for dealing with mistakenly rejected absentee ballots being sorted by county and local election officials."
Previous Recount Coverage: