Monday, March 2, 2009

Moved to The Boojum Post

This project is continuing at The Boojum Post,

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

swamppolitics: Hillary Clinton: Changing of the guard

Clinton also made clear on Day One that she plans to take an expansive view of her new job. She won’t be talking to the wide world solely about diplomatic minutiae, but about all that she’s experienced as a celebrity senator, presidential candidate and first lady. [....]
She showed a wide spectrum of interests, including many with a distinctly Democratic flavor: climate change, clean energy, families, world poverty, the disabled, the advancement of women. In a 45-minute “town hall” meeting at the university, she ranged across such topics as the tough choices facing women, the need for healthy habits among the elderly, and of course, baseball.

NYT - Bailout Robbing Banks?

[This is an op-ed piece but contains useful info]

The Bailout Is Robbing the Banks

Published: February 17, 2009

MANY Americans are angry at banks for taking bailout money while still cutting back on lending. But the government is also to blame. For reasons that remain unclear, the Troubled Asset Relief Program has channeled aid to bank holding companies rather than banks. The Obama administration’s new Financial Stability Plan will have more influence on bank lending if it actually directs its support to banks.

Full article at:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bloomberg - Stock Market Woes

U.S. Stocks Slide to 3-Month Low on Recession Concern; GM Sinks
By Elizabeth Stanton

Feb. 17 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. stocks tumbled to a three-month low, extending a global slump, as a record contraction in New York manufacturing spurred concern the government’s stimulus package won’t be enough to curb the deepening recession.

Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. each lost 12 percent. Exxon Mobil Corp. was the biggest drag on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index as oil slid almost 7 percent. General Motors Corp., the largest U.S. carmaker, sank 13 percent as it took its case for more government support to the Treasury Department. Banks led declines in Europe and Asia on concern they may face ratings downgrades and more losses.

Full Article at:

Monday, February 16, 2009

CNN: Founder of Islamic TV station [confesses?] beheading wife

Muzzammil Hassan was charged with second-degree murder after police found the decapitated body of his wife, Aasiya Hassan, at the Bridges TV station in the Buffalo suburb of Orchard Park, said Andrew Benz, Orchard Park's police chief.
On Monday, [Police Chief] Benz told CNN that Hassan went directly to the police station after his wife's death Thursday and confessed to killing her. However, Benz on Tuesday denied that he'd said Hassan confessed.
He had two children, 4 and 6, with his wife. He had two other children, 17 and 18, from his previous marriage.

Wash Times: Obama to ease curbs on CEO pay

Wants late fix to stimulus plan

the caps inserted into the $787 billion Democrat-crafted stimulus Congress passed Friday are too restrictive and could be counterproductive, administration officials said on Sunday's political talk shows.
Login link for commenting is in the middle of this page, above the comments (6 so far). 

Sunday, February 15, 2009

IBD: Why a Commerce job goes unfilled

The decision to remove the 2010 Census from the Commerce Department and give it to White House political operatives was a strong vote of no confidence in Gregg. 

It wasn't the only signal. On the day Gregg quit, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs declared the Colombia free-trade agreement was dead, too. "I think the concerns that (President Obama) and others have are still valid around that trade agreement," Semana, a Colombian publication, quoted Gibbs as saying.

WSJ -Obama's Overheated Rhetoric is the Catastrophe

Obama's Rhetoric Is the Real 'Catastrophe'
In 1932, automobile production shriveled by 90%.


President Barack Obama has turned fearmongering into an art form. He has repeatedly raised the specter of another Great Depression. First, he did so to win votes in the November election. He has done so again recently to sway congressional votes for his stimulus package.

In his remarks, every gloomy statistic on the economy becomes a harbinger of doom. As he tells it, today's economy is the worst since the Great Depression. Without his Recovery and Reinvestment Act, he says, the economy will fall back into that abyss and may never recover.

Full article at:

Saturday, February 14, 2009

NWI: Senate Democrats pass stimulus bill

The legislation, among the costliest ever considered in Congress, provides billions of dollars to aid victims of the recession through unemployment benefits, food stamps, medical care, job retraining and more. Tens of billions are ticketed for the states to offset cuts they might otherwise have to make in aid to schools and local governments, and there is more than $48 billion for transportation projects such as road and bridge construction, mass transit and high-speed rail. [....]

In a bow to political reality, lawmakers included $70 billion to shelter upper middle-class and wealthier taxpayers from an income tax increase that would otherwise hit them, a provision that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said would do relatively little to create jobs.

Also included were funds for two of Obama's initiatives, the expansion of computerized information technology in the health care industry and billions to create so-called green jobs the administration says will begin reducing the country's dependence on foreign oil.

[ This is a little puffy toward Obama, but overall it gives a pretty good overview of the whole process of the bill's passage. ]

More at

Friday, February 13, 2009

Why This Recession Seems Worse Than ’70s and ’80s

If you think this recession is the worst since World War II, chances are you weren’t born or working during the downturns of the 1970s and ’80s, you’re listening to President Obama too much or you’re a white-collar worker in financial services.

If all three are true, you may even think we’re on the verge of another Great Depression.

At this point, the only thing that may be true is your age and employment status.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

FT: China to stick with US bonds

Mr Luo, speaking at the Global Association of Risk Management’s 10th Annual Risk Management Convention, said: “Except for US Treasuries, what can you hold?” he asked. “Gold? You don’t hold Japanese government bonds or UK bonds. US Treasuries are the safe haven. For everyone, including China, it is the only option.”

Mr Luo, whose English tends toward the colloquial, added: “We hate you guys. Once you start issuing $1 trillion-$2 trillion [$1,000bn-$2,000bn] . . .we know the dollar is going to depreciate, so we hate you guys but there is nothing much we can do.”

From an informative article at

CSM: Hillary Clinton’s climate-saving voyage

 While the most urgent issue is Beijing’s help to end a global recession, Mrs. Clinton’s more planet-saving goal is to enlist China to set curbs on its carbon emissions. Without that, President Obama may not be able to win enough Senate votes for a cap on US greenhouse gases. 

By the Monitor’s Editorial Board
from the February 13, 2009 edition

Pesek: Clinton will pull Rubin stunt on visit to China

[ An odd headline for what is actually a good article. ]

Clinton wants to pull a Robert Rubin on his old department. When Rubin was Bill Clinton’s Treasury secretary, he co-opted many of the state department’s traditional functions. With Asia, Mexico and Russia in crisis during his tenure, Rubin fused economic policy with diplomacy in unprecedented ways. [....]
The last thing the US needs is a trade war with its main creditor. That doesn’t mean Clinton’s visit to China will avoid hard feelings. Not with US diplomacy and economics becoming one.

From a long excellent article by William Pesek at

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Reuters: [ Obama press conference ratings ]

More than 49 million Americans watched President Barack Obama’s first White House news conference [....]

That figure was much lower than the 64.3 million Americans who watched President Bill Clinton’s 1993 post-inauguration news conference on the economy, Nielsen said.

The audience size also was lower than some of the election debates, including the record 70 million viewers who tuned their TV sets to the vice-presidential contest between Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Sarah Palin.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

UK Telegraph: Barack Obama fights to maintain a grip on the US political agenda

He has admitted “screwing up” key White House appointments and now faces possible defeat in the Senate over his economic stimulus bill. 

He was also condemned by High Court judges in Britain after it emerged his administration was standing by a threat to halt intelligence co-operation in a row over the alleged torture of a Guantanamo Bay detainee. [....]

After failing to secure a single Republican vote for the stimulus bill that passed in the House of Representatives, Mr Obama is now struggling to persuade Republicans over the Senate version. 

Democratic leaders, who enjoy a 58 to 41 majority in the Senate, have warned him that the $900 billion bill might not pass if it is not stripped of projects that would be unlikely to give a swift boost to the economy.

Financial Times -- Davos Appeals for Help

Why Davos Man is waiting for Obama to save him

By Martin Wolf
A hyperpower’s place is in the wrong. This is particularly true when, as last week at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, the hyperpower in question is barely represented, at least at the official level. But, truth to tell, the critics of the US – led by prime ministers Wen Jiabao of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia – had an easy story of incompetence and malfeasance to tell.

Yet, however easy it may be to blame the US for the current global economic woes, it is also to the US that the world looks for a solution...

Full Article at:

Washington Post - Entitlement Stumbles

Stumbling on Their Sense of Entitlement

John Thain spent $1.2 million to redecorate his office.
By Steven Pearlstein
Wednesday, February 4, 2009; Page D01

Tom Daschle still doesn't get it. John Thain never did. Barack Obama gets it sometimes, Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner not so much. Corporate executives think they get it but aren't even close. College presidents, governors and union leaders, for the most part, don't have a clue.
"It" is an understanding of how fundamentally the political and economic environment has been transformed with the bursting of the bubble economy and how that has jeopardized basic assumptions and expectations and the way we do what we do.

Tom Daschle's problem wasn't that he didn't pay his taxes...

Full Article at:

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Indian site Indopia: Despite challenges, Clinton pokes fun at herself and Bill

Washington , Feb 3 (AFP) Despite the daunting challenges she faces as the new US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton poked fun at herself and at her husband Bill Clinton during her swearing-in.

"I&aposm so grateful to him for a lifetime of all kinds of experiences,"said Clinton, pausing in the middle of her phrase before finishing it on a harder tone at an elite ceremony in the State Department.

Her joke drew hearty laughter from a group of diplomats, politicians and a leading comedian as well as her mother, daughterChelsea and the ex-president, his ruddy cheeks and white hair a match with his red-and-white-striped tie.

Monday, February 2, 2009

LAT: TARP probe delayed over paperwork rule

By Ralph Vartabedian January 31, 2009 -

The Obama administration has told special investigators in the Treasury Department to delay a comprehensive examination of how banks and other corporations are using $350 billion in federal bailout money because of possible 
conflicts with federal paperwork statutes. [....]

The OMB could have issued a rare emergency waiver of the law. [....]

Barofsky "should not have to jump through bureaucratic hoops in order to gather basic information that the government could have and should have required as a condition of the receipt of TARP funds in the first place," Grassley told OMB director Peter Orszag in a letter. Grassley also disputed whether the paperwork law applied to the investigation.,0,679610.story

Saturday, January 31, 2009


Gregg leading candidate for Secretary of Commerce

By Michael Kranish
Globe Staff
WASHINGTON -- Senator Judd Gregg moved closer today to being nominated Secretary of Commerce after an administration official said the New Hampshire Republican had become President Barack Obama’s “leading candidate” for the job.
The official, who was authorized to speak only on condition of anonymity, spoke from a prepared comment, furthering the perception that Obama could pick Gregg soon. The official declined to say whether Gregg had been offered the job or whether a final decision had been made. No announcement is expected until Monday at the earliest.
If past Cabinet nominations are a guide, Obama’s aides put out word about a leading candidate as part of the vetting process, in part to see if the report of a possible pick turns up any surprises and to gauge reaction. One reaction so far has come from Republicans who fear they would lose a seat to the opposition party...

Full article at:

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Hill - Surprise! CBC wants AA as Commerce Secty.

CBC wants African-American as Commerce secretary
By Mike Soraghan
Posted: 01/29/09 06:04 PM [ET]

The Congressional Black Caucus is lobbying President Barack Obama to pick African-American technology executive John Thompson to be his commerce secretary. Thompson is chairman and chief executive officer of Symantec Corp, the software security company best known for its Norton computer protection products. He is expected to step down in early April.
In a letter to Obama, the caucus members stressed that Thompson is the only African-American leading a major technology company...

Full Article at:

Thursday, January 29, 2009

WSJ: From Yachts to Textiles, Perks for Special Interests

WASHINGTON — The economic stimulus plan could include dozens of special-interest provisions pushed by lawmakers to help constituents such as the South Florida yacht-repair industry, Manhattan subway riders and California wine makers.
Many of the special-interest projects were included in a version of the stimulus plan that passed the House on Wednesday. In the Senate, lobbying groups from the agriculture to timber industries are working with home-state senators to add their pet items to the Senate version of the bill, which is set to be debated on the floor next week.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Chi Trib: SarahPAC

After catapulting to fame last year as Republican presidential candidate John McCain's running mate, Palin is widely believed to be eyeing a presidential bid in 2012. Aides said that SarahPAC will help serve as a vehicle for her political activities going forward.,0,6390407.story

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Possibly moving

We're testing a new name and address for continuing this project:

Straightforward News and Opinions

Any comments? 

NYT - Bonuses Are Obscene

Money for Nothing

Published: January 26, 2009

MERRILL LYNCH lost $27 billion last year, and yet still managed to rush through $4 billion worth of year-end bonuses in the days before it was taken over by Bank of America.
Because both companies have been the beneficiaries of the Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program, news of these bonuses was met with predictable uproar: Attorney General Andrew Cuomo of New York threatened to investigate; any elected official with access to a microphone joined in a chorus of “shame on you”; and around every water cooler and on every cable channel, pundits offered up scathing commentaries of Wall Street greed.

Merrill Lynch is not the only irresponsible institution out there. Despite a year of record losses, despite all the taxpayer money being injected into our financial institutions, bonuses for 2008 were, in some cases, down less than 50 percent from those the previous year...

Full Article at:

Monday, January 26, 2009

Officials: Family planning money may be dropped [from Stimulus]

Several Democrats said Monday night that Obama had spoken personally with Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., about removing the provision. Waxman is chairman of the committee with jurisdiction over Medicaid and a close ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

[ Vote may be today, Tuesday, Jan 27 ]

Sunday, January 25, 2009

partizane: That Sarah Palin Is Just Too Green

[ More than one good item here. ]

As I reported last fall (, right after Palin first took office as Governor, she threw her support behind the effort to create a state-level Climate Control Cabinet and under her governance Alaska became one of the first states to do so.  In this same vein, in January of 2008, she announced the appointment of an Energy Coordinator to activate a statewide energy plan, now approved by the state legislators, which would include earnings from a Renewable Energy Fund for implementing alternative projects, including hydro, wind, geothermal and biomass. 
 According to the Alaska Daily News, the Governor has just announced: 
"the most ambitious renewable energy goals in the nation" and has "called for 50 percent of Alaska's power to be generated by renewable resources by 2025."
[ Palin released in January 2009 ]"a guide listing alternative energy assets of every village in Alaska. Those resources can be developed to wean far-flung villages off electricity generated by burning diesel fuel..... The community guide is a primer on alternative energy sources as well as an inventory for projects. For example, the accompanying documentation shows that Scammon Bay, a mile from the Bering Sea in western Alaska, has the potential for a wind-diesel hybrid project, and that 700 miles to the northeast on the Yukon River, the village of Circle has potential for generating electricity with geothermal resources.      ......
Pat Lavin, an attorney for the National Wildlife Federation, has called Palin's announcement "a defining moment in Alaska's history."  ....

Palin energy adviser Steve Haagenson, who oversaw the village report, also unveiled the first 77 projects picked for grants from the $100 million Alaska Renewable Energy Fund.  They range from wind farms in the Aleutians, Kodiak and Delta Junction to a landfill gas recovery project in Anchorage.      .......

Joe Balash, Palin's aide on oil and gas, said there will be a continuing effort to find new power generation sources for the Railbelt, likely through a new corporation that can handle projects beyond the capability of individual utilities. Talks have been ongoing with utilities, he said, and legislation likely will be introduced in the 90-day 2009 session, which kicks off Tuesday." 

Quoted from



She’s unable to be in the Senate today.

by Larissa MacFarquhar
[ This article has some slant, which wavers elegantly. The whole is well worth reading. ]

[After getting a law degree, she ] interned for a summer at her mother’s lawyer’s firm, but then decided she didn’t want to practice.


At law school, she and Ellen Alderman decided [to] write a book together [....] They travelled around the country, interviewing people who had been involved in cases in which the principles of the Bill of Rights had been tested. The result, “In Our Defense: The Bill of Rights in Action,” was more pedagogical than analytical[....]  Alderman and Kennedy decided to write a similar book, “The Right to Privacy,” about privacy law. [....]

For the next six or seven years [....] basically she was a stay-at-home mother.
 (She declined to be interviewed for this article.) 

Friday, January 23, 2009

USA Today - Obama Press Spokesman Debuts

Obama spokesman encounters some bumps in first briefing
President Obama's press secretary, Robert Gibbs, fields questions Thursday at the White House for the first time.

By Mimi Hall, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Robert Gibbs clashed with reporters Thursday over anonymous sources and access to President Obama, just one day after Obama pledged "a new era of openness" in government.
At his first White House briefing before a crowd of reporters and camera crews, Gibbs deflected questions about why two senior officials who had earlier briefed the news media about Obama's Guantanamo Bay prison order would not allow their names to be used.
Gibbs also took heat for excluding TV cameras, photographers and a radio reporter from Obama's Wednesday night oath of office do-over with Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts...
Full article at:

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Politico --Seven Reasons for Skepticism

Seven reasons for healthy skepticism
By: Jim VandeHei and John F. Harris
January 21, 2009 05:22 AM EST

Even in a city of cynics, the Inauguration of a new president — and the infusion of new ideas, new personalities and new energy that comes with it — summons feelings of reverence. Barack Obama, especially, is the object of inaugural good feelings. He has assembled an impressive White House and Cabinet team. The country is clearly in his corner. With the economy gasping, and two wars dragging on sullenly, even many Republicans who ordinarily might enjoy seeing Obama fail now root for him to succeed. The stakes are simply too great.Amid all these high hopes, it may seem needlessly sour to point out why expectations must be kept in check. But it is also realistic.

Here are seven reasons to be skeptical of Obama’s chances — and the Washington establishment he now leads:...
Full Article at:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

TNR: Barack Obama's Speech: A Disappointing Hodgepodge

by John B. Judis

You can say, of course, that I am treating his speech as a political argument, and not as a piece of oratory, but the problem is that it existed in the netherworld between inspiring oratory and political argument. It had intimations of both, but lived up to the promise of neither. I suspect Obama chose this ambiguous course partly because of the difficulty of the occasion. Argument requires pros and cons, truth and falsity, truth-tellers and misleaders, but an inaugural speech is an instrument of national, and even international, unification. Thus, some who might have actually qualified as misleaders and villains (e.g. the greedy) make only a fleeting appearance, while scorn is heaped upon others (the “cynics… who question the scale of our ambition”) who are inventions of the moment rather than real adversaries. That’s certainly understandable, but it didn’t make for good oratory or argument.

Monday, January 19, 2009

ABC - On the Money Trail

On the Money Trail: Inauguration Perks Go To the Rich
VIP-seating at the "We Are One" Concert Among the Benefits for Big Donors

Jan. 19, 2009—

President-elect Barack Obama billed his inauguration an event "for all Americans." But in the nation's capital this long weekend, wealthy visitors are finding themselves a bit more equal -- and warmer -- than others. Most Americans here to see President-elect Obama make history crammed onto buses and trains, slept on floors and fought crowds and cold. But the wealthiest Americans coming to see the event are enjoying all the perks their money and power ever warranted. For CEOs and stars arriving by private jet, local airports have shut down entire runways to serve as parking lots for their planes. Officials are prepared to handle hundreds of private aircraft for the long weekend...

Full article at:

Sunday, January 18, 2009

WSJ - Mugging Bank of America

Mugging Bank of America
No good financial deed goes unpunished.

So much for being a good corporate citizen. Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis earned kudos last year for stepping into the breach when the mortgage market and Wall Street cratered. BofA's purchase of Countrywide Financial and its September agreement to buy Merrill Lynch offered a welcome dose of optimism and private capital amid the panic...

Full Article at:

Salon - Obama Sells out to Wall Street

Obama sells out to Wall Street
The president-elect's support of the bank bailout is payback to his wealthy Wall Street supporters.
By David Sirota

Jan. 17, 2009 |

The veto is the legislative equivalent of a nuclear warhead -- a rarely used instrument of devastating force that singularly vaporizes the votes of 535 elected representatives. So when a president-elect issues a veto threat before being sworn into office, it sets off a particularly big explosion because it is a deliberate agenda-setting edict about priorities for the next four years.

That's why every American who isn't a financial industry executive should be nervous...

Full Article at:

[ Albany paper ] Paterson ponders Clinton's successor

The finalists ...appear to include Caroline Kennedy, state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi and Reps. Steve Israel, D-Nassau County, and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-Hudson, Columbia County.

Paterson downplayed that the selection is between Kennedy and Cuomo, two scions of famous political families with the highest name recognition. In statewide polls this week, Cuomo pulled ahead of Kennedy as the top pick among voters.

"My job is not to pick the person who is popular today, it's the person who is going to be popular in 2010," Paterson said on WFAN-AM radio in New York City.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Newsday: Paterson to name Clinton successor after inauguration

Asked if she was disappointed in polls showing that voters strongly favor Cuomo and Kennedy, Maloney said, "Cuomo and Kennedy are very recognizable names from their family connections, the service of their fathers and others. Maloney is not a well-known name. My father was not a rich and famous person. I'm a hardworking woman." 

.... Cuomo faked radio static when asked on TALK 1300 AM if he was interested in the Senate job. "I'm sorry we have a bad connection," he said.,0,4279201.story

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Hill - Pelosi Riles Committee Chairmen

Panel chairmen fighting mad over snubs by Pelosi
By Jared Allen
Posted: 01/15/09 07:44 PM [ET]

Senior House Democrats have a message for their Speaker: We’re mad as hell, and we’re only taking it this one last time.

As congressional Democrats take the lead in responding to the sinking economy, subcommittee and even some full-committee chairmen — who normally wield significant influence in writing legislation — have been forced to wait on the sidelines as monumental bills are written in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) office.

That often leaves room for cursory input from lawmakers who have carved out expert niches for themselves...

Full Article at:

Wash. Post - Volcker Rides to the Rescue

Obama Adviser Urges More Rigorous Global Financial Regulation

Paul Volcker was the lead author on a report calling for a restructuring of the global financial system. (By Mark Lennihan -- Associated Press)

By Anthony Faiola
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 16, 2009; Page D01

NEW YORK, Jan. 15 -- A top economic adviser to the incoming Obama administration unveiled a plan Thursday to radically rethink the global financial system, including measures that would dramatically expand government control over banking and investment in the United States...

Full Article at:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Hill: Signs of Congressional Pique?

Leading The News
Obama irks panel heads with silence
By Alexander Bolton
Posted: 01/14/09 08:05 PM [ET]

President-elect Obama’s evident distrust in sharing with Congress sensitive information about the internal workings of his administration has begun to irk Democratic committee chairmen.
Obama and his top advisers took pride in running a leak-free campaign for president and since the election have kept tight controls on information...

Full Article at:

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

radionetherlands: Hillary Clinton sets out her ideas in Senate

To wield "smart power" in foreign policy
by Michael Blass 14-01-2009

Hillary Clinton has set out her ideas on the future shape of United States foreign policy. She said it would be draw on "principles and pragmatism, not rigid ideology", with decision-making based on "on facts and evidence, not emotions or prejudice". 
Ms Clinton said she planned to use a broad mix of diplomatic, political, military, legal and cultural tools in an approach to foreign relations she described as "smart power", stressing that the use of military force would be an option, though only as a last resort. 
Marking a major break with George W. Bush's policy, Mrs Clinton confirmed that the US would finally be throwing itself into the fight against global warming.

wsj: IMF Informed Geithner on Taxes

Senate Delays Treasury Nominee's Hearing Till Jan. 21

It’s possible some of Mr. Geithner’s problems stemmed from bad advice. In 2004, an accountant advised Mr. Geithner in writing that he did not owe employment taxes. An accountant who reviewed Mr. Geithner’s 2001 tax return also didn’t inform Mr. Geithner he owed taxes, according to an Obama aide familiar with the situation.
Tax professionals noted that even trained preparers sometimes miss the subtleties involved in taxation of employees of international organizations.The IRS in late 2006 launched a settlement initiative aimed at noncompliant employees of foreign embassies, as well as international organizations such as the IMF. At the time, the IRS said as many as half of affected employees were out of compliance with tax rules in one way or another.Much more at:

yahoo: Obama would spend bailout funds on housing crisis

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Summers and Rahm “did not represent they are in favor of industrial policy.” [....] In the House, Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., said Summers assured him that Obama would commit a significant portion of the bailout money to foreclosure relief. [....] One major provision would require that the new administration spend between $40 billion and $100 billion on reducing the number of foreclosures.“  [....] Summers this week submitted a three-page letter to congressional leaders as part of Obama’s request for the money that outlined the Obama economic team’s goals.

Politico: Signs of Reluctance on TARP Bailout

Obama presses Dems on bailout funds
By: Lisa Lerer and Victoria McGrane
January 13, 2009 04:18 PM EST

President-elect Barack Obama assured Senate Democrats that he would impose greater conditions over the second installment of the $700 billion economic fund in a Tuesday meeting on Capitol Hill. Obama met with Senate Democrats on Tuesday to shore up support for releasing the next $350 billion. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans a vote as early as Thursday, leaving little time to attach many specific conditions to the money...

Full Article at:

LAT: Retooling Obama’s campaign machine for the long haul

By Peter Wallsten

The vast network that helped elect Obama will be tapped to lobby lawmakers on behalf of the president, with an eye toward reelection. A service organization as a nonprofit arm is also considered. ....

The organization, known internally as “Barack Obama 2.0,” is being designed to sustain a grass-roots network of millions that was mobilized last year to elect Obama and now is widely considered the country’s most potent political machine.

[ From a much longer article. - MN ]

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

wsj: [ re questions about Geithner ]

Mr. Geithner employed a housekeeper whose immigration papers expired during her tenure with Mr. Geithner, currently president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The woman went on to get a green card to work legally in the country and federal immigration authorities didn’t press charges against her, these people said.

The second issue involved taxes due while Mr. Geithner worked for the International Monetary Fund between 2001 and 2004. As an employee, Mr. Geithner was technically considered self-employed and was required to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes for himself as both an employer and an employee.

More at:

Clinton Seeks Mix of Diplomacy, Defense


WASHINGTON — Sen. Hillary Clinton called for the use of “smart power” in her bid to become the next secretary of state, arguing Tuesday that the U.S. should engage hostile powers such as Iran and Syria and pursue partnerships with China and Russia. ....

On climate change, Sen. Clinton pointed to the upcoming U.N. Copenhagen Climate Conference as an opportunity to “lead abroad through participation.”
“We can lead at home,” Sen. Clinton said, “by pursuing an energy policy that reduces our carbon emissions while reducing our dependence on foreign oil and gas — which will benefit the fight against climate change and enhance our economy and security.”

Gallup: Senate Hearings Begin, Hillary Clinton's Image Soars

A new Gallup Poll finds 65% of Americans saying they have a favorable opinion of Hillary Clinton, the highest rating for her in almost 10 years. ....

Since late 1999, Hillary Clinton’s favorable ratings have been around 50%, ranging from a low of 44% in March 2001 to a high of 58% in February 2007. ....

Interestingly, she has made nearly equal gains among Republicans (+12 points), independents (+9), and Democrats (+13), though Democrats continue to view her much more positively than Republicans.

More at:

Monday, January 12, 2009

FT: World Awaits Clinton Doctrine.

Hillary Clinton is to break the Obama team’s near- silence on the fighting in Gaza next week when she sets out her thinking on the Middle East and beyond.

During the past 10 years, the prospective secretary of state has marked herself out as a dependable ally of Israel. Last year, at the annual conference of Aipac, the pro-Israel group, she said she rejected negotiating with Hamas while it refused to recognise Israel.
Now, with fighting raging in Gaza, the world will be keenly watching her confirmation hearing on Tuesday for insights into her stance towards the region. Since Israel launched its attack two weeks ago other countries have taken the lead in seeking a ceasefire, while Barack Obama, the president-elect who takes office on January 20, has limited himself to vague generalities on the conflict.

Financial Times - Obama and Gitmo

Obama pledges early focus on Middle East

By Daniel Dombey in Washington

Published: January 11 2009

President-elect Barack Obama on Sunday promised to focus on Middle East peace from the start of his administration and to treat Iran with “respect” as he set out his foreign policy thinking in greater detail than before. But, in remarks that may prove disappointing to some of his supporters, he also warned that it would be a “challenge” to close the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay within 100 days of taking office...

Full Article at:

Sunday, January 11, 2009

New Republic - Obama Stimulus Plan Not Enough

(A detailed and excellent discussion about the Stimulus Plan which includes sensible suggestions about investment in the American Economy - like High Speed Rail...)

Not Doing Enough

Why I worry that Obama doesn't realize just how bad things are.

John B. Judis, The New Republic Published: Friday, January 09, 2009

Does Barack Obama understand the seriousness of the economic crisis? Yesterday, he laid out his economic agenda, and it was filled with all sorts of important exhortations and proscriptions. He appropriately condemned the "anything goes" policies of the last administration. He declared that government is now the solution to our woes, not the problem. Still, I worry that the president elect is underestimating the problem he and the country faces...

Full Article at:

Newsweek - Obama's Cheney Dilemma

Obama’s Cheney Dilemma

Cheney pushed for expanded presidential powers. Now that he's leaving, what will come of his efforts? The new president won't have to wait long to tip his hand.
Stuart Taylor Jr. and Evan Thomas

From the magazine issue dated Jan 19, 2009

Dick Cheney, who will step down as vice president on Jan. 20, has been widely portrayed as a creature of the dark side, a monstrous figure who trampled on the Constitution to wage war against all foes, real and imagined. Barack Obama was elected partly to cleanse the temple of the Bush-Cheney stain, and in his campaign speeches he promised to reverse Cheney's efforts to seize power for the White House in the war on terror...

Full Article at:

Friday, January 9, 2009

Yahoo/AP: IL SC: Burris' appt already valid

CHICAGO – The Illinois Supreme Court says Secretary of State Jesse White doesn’t need to sign Roland Burris’ appointment to the U.S. Senate to make it valid.

The ruling says no Illinois official has to do anything further to validate the appointment made by Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Bloomberg: Obama, Clinton Plan to Retrieve Ex-Envoys, Keep Bush Official

By Viola Gienger and Indira A.R. Lakshmanan

Jan. 9 (Bloomberg) — President-elect Barack Obama and his designated secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, will pull veteran [Clintion administration] negotiators back into the ranks and keep at least two top Bush administration officials as they prepare to confront conflicts in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

Buffalo News: Paterson notes Kennedy's 'lack of elected experience'

"The notion that I have to take Caroline is not coming from me," Paterson said in an interview in his Capitol office with The Buffalo News. He said "gossip" has become a "greater force right now than my decision."

"[T]o the media, it's Caroline and the others. To me, it's there are 10 to 15 good candidates," said the governor [....]

"One thing that helps her is the tremendous attention that [the media gives] her works to her advantage. Maybe if [the media] didn't give her so much attention she wouldn't have it," Paterson said. He said certain people, such as Clinton, have an advantage "just because of who they are."

"So I would ask the question back, why [does the media] pay so much attention to her? She's just another person. So what? Her name is Kennedy? Why do you pay so much attention to her? I'm not reacting to what I think, I'm reacting to what I see," he said.

"But, on the other hand, her lack of elected experience does not help her, but the point is it's the combination of experiences I'll look at in terms of all the candidates, and also how balanced the ticket would look," Paterson added.

More on other candidates at the full story at:

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Washington Monthly -Failure Quantified

FAILURE QUANTIFIED.... MSNBC ran an interesting "Then and Now" feature yesterday, comparing the current state of various benchmarks to where they were when Bush took office (via Ezra). It's worth taking a look at, but it's only part of the picture. Some of the more notable numbers:

Then: 4.2% (Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 2001)
Now: 6.7% (Bureau of Labor Statistics, November 2008)

Then: 10,587 (close of Friday, Jan. 19, 2001)
Now: 9,015 (close of Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009)

Then: 115.7 (Conference Board, January 2001)
Now: 38.0, which is an all-time low (Conference Board, December 2008)

Then: 6.4 million (Census numbers for 2000)
Now: 7.6 million (Census numbers for 2007 -- most recent numbers available)

Then: 39.8 million (Census numbers for 2000)
Now: 45.7 million (Census numbers for 2007 -- most recent available)

Then: +236.2 billion (2000, Congressional Budget Office)
Now: -$1.2 trillion (projected figure for 2009, Congressional Budget Office)

Of course, some of the metrics, most notably the Dow, may look even worse when Bush officially leaves office. He still has 11 days.

But as painful as it is to see, as Ezra put it, "the good numbers go down and the bad numbers go up," I'd just add that the depressing statistics can capture only so much.

It's hard to quantify, for example, the devastating effects of Bush's foreign policy, his assaults on constitutional norms, his far-right judicial appointees, his environmental negligence, his politicization of the entire executive branch, etc.

The numbers, to be sure, are bleak. But I'm afraid Bush's failures exceed statistical evaluation.
—Steve Benen

NY Times - Economists Agree on Government Spending

January 8, 2009

A Crisis Trumps Constraint

WASHINGTON — As the ranking Democrat and then chairman of the House Budget Committee, Representative John M. Spratt Jr. of South Carolina accused President Bush for eight years of recklessly running up huge fiscal deficits.

But by noon on Wednesday, after listening for two hours as economists explained why it was crucial to run a large deficit — one that would triple the previous record and vault far above $1 trillion — Mr. Spratt looked shell-shocked...

Full Article at:

dailybeast: The Truth About Rick Warren's AIDS in Africa Work - GOOD INFO

Team Obama likes to cite Warren's work on AIDS in Africa to combat criticism about the controversial pastor. But how does burning condoms in the name of Jesus save lives?

[ A long, serious, well-researched, and very informative article. - tdo ]

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Hill - Democrats Set New Congress Rules

Democrats push through new rules package
By Molly K. Hooper
Posted: 01/06/09 08:29 PM [ET]

House Republicans Tuesday lost their fight to retain the minority’s ability to force potentially embarrassing floor votes when the lower chamber voted 242-181 to pass the rules package for the 111th Congress.

Most Democrats supported the power consolidating package with the exception of six members who crossed the aisle. Reps. Ed Pastor (Ariz.), Brian Baird (Wash.), Maxine Waters (Calif.), Lynn Woolsey (Calif.), Michael Michaud (Maine) and Walt Minnick (Idaho) opposed the rules changes...

Full Article at:

NY Times - New Voices in Congress

The New York Times

January 7, 2009
New Voices in Congress Will Change the Tone of the Democratic Majority

WASHINGTON -- From a former Nixon aide to a former head of Common Cause, a liberal government watchdog organization, the freshman House class of the 111th Congress represents a diverse but decidedly moderate group.

At age 66, the oldest two — Walt Minnick of Idaho, the Nixon aide who is now a Democrat, and Parker Griffith of Alabama – have birthdays about a month apart; the youngest, Aaron Schock of Illinois, is 27. Some have no government experience at all; others like Pete Olson – who returned Tom DeLay’s congressional seat to the Republicans this cycle – worked for the veteran Senator John Cornyn of Texas...

Full Article at:

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Wall Street Journal - SEC Can Prevent More Madoffs

* JANUARY 5, 2009

How the SEC Can Prevent More Madoffs
Bolster its risk-assessment and enforcement staff.


The Bernard Madoff affair is a scandal of epic proportions. It not only has devastated the prominent individuals and institutions who invested in his funds, but it has also further undermined whatever trust investors may have had after this year of bank failures, credit crises, and market meltdowns. The regulatory structure that has been in place for the past eight decades to keep our markets free and fair may no longer be appropriate...

Full article at:

CBS2 re Burris

Roland Burris was denied entry to the U.S. Senate Tuesday morning, when the Secretary of the Senate said his credentials were not in order. [snip]

Roosevelt University policy studies professor Paul Green said there is no reason why Burris should not be seated. “One doesn’t know what’s going on, because legally, (Burris is) absolutely correct, and there should not be any debate; there should not be any discussion. Secretary of State White really has no function in this; the statute is clear. The governor makes the selection,” Green said. “I don’t know how you bar somebody from a sovereign state who was legally appointed not to go to the U.S. Senate – which, by the way, is not known for being the home of many vestal virgins – and all of a sudden you have everyone shocked, outraged by this process.”

Well written article continues at:

Reuters: Russian gas disruption spreads across Europe

By Christian Lowe 

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia sharply cut gas flows to Europe via Ukraine on Tuesday in a dramatic worsening of a pricing dispute with Kiev that threatened to disrupt supplies as far west as Italy and Germany.


But most larger EU countries say they have large amounts of gas stockpiled after several mild winters, and have access to supplies from sources such as Norway and Algeria.

Long informative article at:

CBS - New Yorkers Sour on Kennedy

January 6, 2009
New Yorkers Sour On Caroline Kennedy
Posted by Brian Montopoli|

Here's some bad news for Caroline Kennedy, who hopes to be appointed to Hillary Clinton's Senate seat: A Public Policy Polling poll reported by WCBS finds that New Yorkers would rather see Governor David Patterson appoint Andrew Cuomo to the seat.

And the margin is wide: Fifty-eight percent prefer Cuomo in the seat, while just 27 percent want Kennedy.

A month ago, Kennedy led Cuomo by 20 percentage points among Democratic voters. Now she trails by that margin among Democrats.

In related news, Kennedy and at least five other contenders for the Senate seat have been asked to answer a 28-page questionnaire full of questions "about their finances, job history and any criminal record," according to the New York Times.

Because the questionnaires ask for private information – according to the New York Post, they include questions about the applicants' credit histories, medical information and personal debts – they will not be made public.

Kennedy has been criticized for not answering questions about her beliefs and finances. Her spokesman told the Times, "Caroline has consistently said that she will file any financial disclosure that the governor requests of her."

Friday, January 2, 2009

Chicago Sun-Times: Fierce Senate Opposition to Burris

Senate opposition fiercer than Burris thinks
Burris' trip to Washington on Monday sure to be a media circus

January 2, 2009
BY LYNN SWEET Sun-Times Columnist

WASHINGTON -- Roland Burris does not want to be in the face of the senators whose ranks he hopes to join, I am told. Yet Burris, appointed by the scandalized Gov. Blagojevich to replace President-elect Barack Obama, is expected here Monday. Burris' mere presence to try to claim the seat will, of course, be a spectacle.

He won't get into the chamber because the Senate Democratic leadership doesn't want anyone sent by Blagojevich, accused of trying to sell Obama's seat for a plum job or campaign cash...

Full Article at:,CST-NWS-sweet02.article#

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Hillbuzz: We don’t see how Harry Reid and Senate Democrats can prevent Roland Burris from becoming a Senator

[ Midstream News doesn't usually link to blogs and/or opinion. But this item has a very straight-up, non-slanted ... style anyway. - MN ]

Because of this scandal, most of you are hearing about Blagojevich for the very first time. Making millions off a book deal was never an option for him before, because no one knew who he was outside of Illinois. However, the notoriety he is gaining is making him an increasingly more interesting national figure.

From our perspective, doing as many bizarre and outrageous things as possible while exercising full authority as Governor is the best thing Blagojevich can do for his pocketbook. We think the Burris appointment is just the opening volley in what’s going to be an interesting few months from Blagojevich…it’s going to get positively Shakesperean from here on out.

McClatchy: Russia Faces Hard Times

McClatchy Washington Bureau

Posted on Wed, Dec. 31, 2008
Oil wealth gone, Russians brace for hard times
Tom Lasseter | McClatchy Newspapers

MOSCOW — The subway crowd brushed past Alla Semyonova, tromping through the now-gray slush of a December snowfall.
Semyonova held a black knit sweater for sale dangling from a wire hanger in her right hand (1,000 rubles, or about $33) and a blouse with gold flowers in her left hand (500 rubles)...

Full Article at:

WSJ - Big Chemistry Mulls Bankrupcy

LyondellBasell Industries, the world's third-largest independent chemical company, told lenders on Monday it is considering filing for bankruptcy protection amid plunging sales and a cash crunch, people familiar with the matter said.

LyondellBasell, which is based in the Netherlands and has large U.S. operations, has hired bankruptcy counsel and told lenders it is trying to line up as much as $2 billion in bankruptcy financing, these people say. A Chapter 11 filing may be imminent, they say.

The chemicals industry has been battered over the past year, first by high prices for oil and natural ...

Full Article at:

The Hill - Who Replaces Emanuel?

Trio emerges as favorites for Emanuel’s seat
By Mike Soraghan
Posted: 01/01/09 10:16 AM [ET]

Three top contenders have emerged for the seat of Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who is leaving Congress Friday.

By some counts, there are as many as 18 people who are at least considering a run, but State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley and former Transportation Security Administration official Justin Oberman appear to be the three leading candidates....

Full article at:

NYT: US Attorney Wants More Time to Indict Blagojevich

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has filed a motion seeking a 90-day extension to return of an indictment against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Federal prosecutors normally have 30 days to file an indictment against a defendant. That deadline would have been Jan. 7, and the extension would give prosecutors until April 7 instead. [....]

In the motion filed Wednesday, prosecutors ask for more time because ”multiple witnesses” have come forward in recent weeks and investigators have to review”thousands of intercepted phone calls.”

More at:

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

NYT: Republicans Seek Recovery Plan Details

By CARL HULSE - Published: December 29, 2008

In a coordinated effort, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the Republican leaders of the two chambers, called on Democrats to hold hearings on the emerging legislation and not schedule any votes on the bill until it had had at least a week of public review. [....]

Both he and Mr. Boehner were careful not to say they would oppose a measure that some economists have said is necessary to prevent an even deeper recession. 

More at

NY Times - Democrats Able To Block Burris?

Defiant Illinois Governor Names Pick for Obama Seat (December 31, 2008)
Man in the News: Roland W. Burris, a Low-Key Groundbreaker (December 31, 2008)

But that declaration has touched off questions of whether Democrats have the power to keep out Mr. Blagojevich’s pick, Roland Burris, a former state attorney general. It is likely that the issue will end up in court.

Democrats said they were confident of their standing under Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution, which says “each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own members.” On rare occasion, the Senate has denied seats to candidates whose election outcome was in doubt or who were caught up in corruption.

Full article at: