Saturday, January 24, 2009

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan

Closing Gitmo is an nice move. It's one of the campaign promises Barack Obama made and now must keep whether he wants to or not. Just where he'll disappear George Bush's pet terrorists is left to speculation. Freezing White House salaries? It's about time someone in government took responsibility and pulled their own belts a little tighter. And re-opening the crown of the Statue of Liberty? It's about damn time! Nothing defined the Bush Administration more than the closed and empty head of Lady Liberty.

Eric Holder's confirmation as Attorney General is a week late, but as soon as Holder promises Republicans that he won't come after them for their sins in the previous mis-administration he should be greenlighted.

But this "American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan" thing…

Are you fucking kidding me?

Let's set aside the fact that you're following George Bush's lead by throwing money at a problem and hoping it goes away. Let's set aside the fact that even the most conservative estimates are predicting the total cost to exceed two trillion dollars. (Trillion? Fuck, and here I sit wondering whether I should buy bread and cheese or pay the heating bill.)

Let's talk about timing.

Your own financial advisors and the Congressional Budget Office say that only one-third of that money can be spent by the end of 2010 meaning that the "immediate impact" of the plan should be felt somewhere around the start of the 2011 NFL season. Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag, former director of the CBO, says that the CBO has only analyzed forty percent of the plan but that seventy-five percent of the money will go directly into the economy in the first 18 months. that's good spin, kids! Do the math and you'll find that seventy-five percent of forty percent works out to just one-third of the proposed $800 billion.

I wonder which programs will get the money first: Medicaid ($87 billion), shiny new alternative energy government cars ($600 million), DTV conversion box coupons ($650 million), upgrading the National Computer Center for the Social Security Administration - anyone see Die Hard 4? ($400 million), Department of Defense research for "green" weapons systems ($350 million) (and that's just for research!), Census Bureau ($1 billion), and the list goes on.

Sure there's some great stuff in there like vocation training and work placement and medical and insurance compensation plans, but almost everything in this bill is geared to trickle down over the next three years. By that time we'll all be working second jobs at Wal•Mart just to pay off the enormous tax-debt created by this one bill. I'm all for "green" tech and nationwide broadband access, but this bill isn't the place for them.

Committee on Appropriations chairman Dave Obey warns us that without the passage of this bill unemployment could rise to twelve percent, but if the bill does pass it will only rise to eight or nine percent. And this is considered Recovery? Sure, in three years we'll be saving thirty percent on our light bill, but that's assuming we're still able to afford the rent. Good luck with that.

To read the bill for yourself, a PDF is available at

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Thank God That's Over With

Of course I refer to the interminable eight years of botched policies and mis-management from the George Bush administration. Also, the televised coverage of the Barack Obama inauguration which seemed to last almost as long.

I kept wondering if it was a costume event until I realized that the guy dressed like Mr Potter, the evil old wheelchair-bound spider from It's A Wonderful Life, was actually former vice-president Dick Cheney who is apparently being eaten inside-out by cancerous guilt. We reap what we sow, eh?

The Networks had something for everyone. FOX "News" had the always charming Sheppard Smith in-articulating events as they happened with great gusto. From not knowing which helicopter was which, or who rode in what limo, to completely missing the significance of the Yosemite Valley painting hanging in National Statuary Hall. (It's part of the Lincoln theme Shep. See, Lincoln signed the Yosemite Land Grant in order to protect the area. Obama is a big Lincoln fan. See the connection?)

FOX had discussion in great detail about what they referred to as "Obama's Financial Bailout Plan" and how it could make or break him. Interesting. Somehow they failed to remember that it was good ol' George Bush who crafted the 800 billion dollar bailout, the first half of which has disappeared into the pockets of his Wall Street cronies. Obama is simply the executor of the remainder of Bush's last great mistake. Nothing like blinders to help keep your spin on track, eh FOX?

ABC had some decent coverage with Charlie Gibson, (oh, sorry Charlie, it's Charles now since you no longer handle fluff pieces on GMA, right?) and Diane Sawyer taking turns doling out historical facts and trivial snippets. For the most part Gibson stuck to history and Sawyer handled the important things like dress designers and speculation on Michelle Obama's gift to Laura Bush. (It was a pen and journal set according to Gibson.) ABC also had incisive commentary by George Stephanopoulis on how George Bush kept in shape during his tenure as tyrant, only gaining a few pounds in the last eight years. Cool! News I needed to know!

And CBS had Katie Couric.

What really depressed me about the whole thing was that this was the most attended inaugural event in the history of the Presidency. Yeah, OK, I get it. We elected the nation's first black president. Well, half-black, anyway. So it's historical and one would expect a large turnout, but it made me realize that if Obama was white, no one would really give a damn. It would simply be another president taking the Oath of Office. Big deal, right? It made me realize how little the citizenry cares about politics in the first place. No wonder the country is in the shape it's in.

Fiscally, the events surrounding the inauguration cost an estimated 170 million dollars but don't worry kids, only a small part of that money came from your taxes. Most of it came from private donations made by Wall Street movers and shakers. You know, those guys that are currently getting bailed out by the Feds with your hard-earned… oops. Well, perhaps the Feds can recoup some of that with the DVD sales and rentals. As for the Street itself, it plunged over 330 points reportedly because Obama didn't mention anything about them in his first speech. Talk about needy! Hey, wait a minute… what the hell are you people doing trading on Inauguration Day anyway? Not only are you a bunch of whiny bums crying for government handouts, but you don't even bother to pay respect to the new president you're begging from? Classy, really classy.

Chief Justice John Roberts, a Bush appointee, made a minor faux pas as he garbled the Oath of Office. One wonders how many of the nut-jobs who claim Obama is not a citizen will now claim he's not actually president because he didn't take the "real" Oath of Office. Of course, that leads to speculation that Bush instructed his pet to mess it up intentionally, but surely that couldn't be, could it? No, of course not. Any plan like that would have to come from someone with a working brain and real power. Like Dick Cheney. My God, I love a good conspiracy theory! (Well, wonder no more! NBC's Brian Williams just made it official, the nut-jobs are already crying!

As for Obama, one of his first acts of office was to reach out to the Gulf Coast promising to honor the "broken promises" and insure we never again suffer through the "unconscionable ineptitude" of the former administration. (Oooh, burn!) This came in the form of a statement released on the White House website. He also issued orders to cease implementation of many of George Bush's 'Midnight Resoloutions.' You know, those sneaky little laws an outgoing president pushes through when he thinks no one's looking. According to reports, Georgie signed more of those than Billy Clinton, Ronnie Reagan and Daddy Bush combined. Nice try, Georgie, but apparently another failure to add to your scrapbook.

And speaking of the former administration, George and his lovely wife Laura jetted away to their ranch in Crawford, Texas, a place they have clearly missed in the last eight years. Counting vacations spent at Camp David and in Crawford, George and company only managed to get in about three years of rest. Out of eight. Talk about your cushy part-time jobs!

Well, I guess that's enough rambling for one day. Enjoy your retirement George, you certainly earned it. And to the new president, Barack Obama, congratulations! You have a difficult job ahead of you, unraveling the twisted knot of incompetence left behind by your predecessor. No pressure though!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Here We Go Again

Anyone remember Hurricane Katrina? Anyone remember how quickly New Orleans recovered? Thank the heavens we all learned our lessons so that will never happen again! Or did we? Hurricane Ike struck the Texas Gulf Coast on 9/13/08. For a look at the recovery process you can visit the Flickr stream of darlamw, a Galveston resident who has been documenting everything from the Ike's approach to it's aftermath. The similarities to parts of New Orleans are striking.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Help Holy Cross

The Holy Cross neighborhood in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward is still struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina. You can follow their progress at, a blog dealing with all aspects of the neighborhood from arts and culture, civic meetings, rebuilding and remediation, and business and politics. Stop by and visit if you're interested in how a community can work together to rise above adversity.