"Our Children and Grandchildren are not merely statistics towards which we can be indifferent" JFK

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

81% of Americans Would Throw Congress Overboard

Record-high 81% of Americans are
dissatisfied with the way the country
is being governed

16 days since returning from their August 8th to
September 5th "recess," Bipartisan Bickering continues
as they prep for their recess cocoon September 26th to
October 5th...oh, by the way, they will be on recess again from
 Ocotber 17th to Ocotber 23rd.
This is "representation" at a $174,000 annual salary...

By Lydia Saad
September 26, 2011

PRINCETON, NJ -- A record-high 81% of Americans are dissatisfied with the way the country is being governed, adding to negativity that has been building over the past 10 years.

Majorities of Democrats (65%) and Republicans (92%) are dissatisfied with the nation's governance. This perhaps reflects the shared political power arrangement in the nation's capital, with Democrats controlling the White House and U.S. Senate, and Republicans controlling the House of Representatives. Partisans on both sides can thus find fault with government without necessarily blaming their own party.

The findings are from Gallup's annual Governance survey, updated Sept. 8-11, 2011. The same poll shows record or near-record criticism of Congress, elected officials, government handling of domestic problems, the scope of government power, and government waste of tax dollars.

Key Findings:
  • 82% of Americans disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job.
  • 69% say they have little or no confidence in the legislative branch of government, an all-time high and up from 63% in 2010.
  • 57% have little or no confidence in the federal government to solve domestic problems, exceeding the previous high of 53% recorded in 2010 and well exceeding the 43% who have little or no confidence in the government to solve international problems.
  • 53% have little or no confidence in the men and women who seek or hold elected office.
  • Americans believe, on average, that the federal government wastes 51 cents of every tax dollar, similar to a year ago, but up significantly from 46 cents a decade ago and from an average 43 cents three decades ago.
  • 49% of Americans believe the federal government has become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens. In 2003, less than a third (30%) believed this.
Continue Reading and More Charts

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hilton Hotels Clarifies the $16 Muffins

It's okay America, DOJ Spent $121 MILLION During
1,832 Conferences in 2008 and 2009...it was a Buffet
at an average of $66,000 per conference...it's okay.

Washington Post
By Ed O'Keefe
Updated 9/23/11

Washington Post's original report on this subject quoted from the publicly released inspector general report that said conference organizers served 250 muffins costing a total of $4,200, or $16.80 per muffin at a Hilton-owned hotel. The report also repeatedly referred to “$16 muffins.”

In a statement issued Thursday night, Hilton Hotels — one of the hotel chains singled out in the inspector general report, defended and explained its pricing policies:

“Hilton has a long standing practice of working with government agencies to plan meetings and events that fall within their budgets. Usually provided by the agencies themselves, these budgets are reflective of the pricing structure of the destination, local taxes, gratuities and other fees. Hotel teams tailor these events to provide maximum value and ensure the best experience possible. Dining receipts are often abbreviated and do not reflect the full pre-contracted menu and service provided, as is the case with recent media reports of breakfast items approved for some government meetings. In Washington, the contracted breakfast included fresh fruit, coffee, juice, muffins, tax and gratuity, for an inclusive price of $16 per person. At each hotel, menu pricing structures are derived by a comprehensive review of the competitive local market. Additionally, hotels typically offer guest rooms at per diem rates established by the government.”

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dept. of Justice Munches on $16 Muffins While 22% of our Children Live the Life of Poverty

Oh the Disgusting and Pathetic Irony, Department of JUSTICE Spends $16 on Muffins While 22% of U.S. Children Live in Poverty. Do you think anyone in the DOJ thought about our children and grandchildren as they chowed down their muffin and sipped $8 coffee...did I mention pathetic?

By JoAnne Allen
September 21, 2011

"We found the Department (of Justice) spent $16 on each of the 250 muffins served at an August 2009 legal conference in Washington," said a DOJ Office of Inspector General report released on Tuesday.

The DOJ spent $121 million on conferences in fiscal 2008 and 2009, which exceeded its own spending limits and appeared to be extravagant and wasteful, according to the report that examined 10 conferences held during that period.

The review turned up the expensive muffins, which came from the Capital Hilton Hotel just blocks from the White House, as well as cookies and brownies that cost almost $10 each.

The department spent $32 per person on snacks of Cracker Jack, popcorn, and candy bars and coffee that cost $8.24 per cup at another conference, the report said.

The DOJ also spent nearly $600,000 for event planning services for five conferences, the document said.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said most of the gathering were held when there were no strict limits on food and beverage costs, adding the DOJ had taken steps since 2009 "to ensure that these problems do not occur again."

Word of the agency's extravagant spending drew a swift response from Capitol Hill.

Senator Chuck Grassley, the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee which has oversight of the Justice Department, said the report was a blueprint for the first cuts that should be made by the "super committee" searching for at least $1.2 trillion in savings.

"Sixteen dollar muffins and $600,000 for event planning services are what make Americans cynical about government and why they are demanding change," Grassley said in a statement. "People are outraged, and rightly so."

As the U.S. government grapples
to find ways to trim the bloated
federal deficit, a new report suggests
officials might start with cutting out
$16 muffins and $10 cookies.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

GM Throws Entry Level Workers a Bone...$16 per hour versus $14 (no more food stamps at $16)

Starting pay will increase to about $16
an hour from $14 and rise to about $19
an hour from a previous maximum of $16...

WOW...at $16 per hour, one only needs to
figure out how to work 562,500 hours in a
year to equal CEO Dan Akerson's $9 mil
compensation package. That's progress, as
before the raise, one needed to work
642,857 hours...If Mr. Akerson worked
24/7 for an entire year, his hourly rate
is $1,027.

By David Welch
September 17, 2011

General Motors will increase entry-level pay by $2 to $3 an hour as part of a tentative agreement on a new four-year contract with the United Auto Workers, said two people familiar with the accord.

Starting pay will increase to about $16 an hour from $14 and rise to about $19 an hour from a previous maximum of $16, said the people who asked not to be identified disclosing details before they have been presented to union members for ratification. UAW President Bob King had said getting those workers a middle-class lifestyle was his highest priority.

“This is a wage gain in an economy that is cratering in some places,” Harley Shaiken, a labor professor at the University of California at Berkeley, said in a telephone interview today. “It’s an important symbol.”

GM will also pay a record $5,000 signing bonus if a majority of the 48,500 hourly workers vote to ratify the accord, the people said. That would cost the Detroit-based automaker $242.5 million. The accord also includes new jobs and better profit-sharing, the union said. Ratification votes will probably be held within 10 days, GM said.

The new entry-level wage will get workers close to the average manufacturing wage in the U.S., Shaiken said. In August, it was $18.90 an hour, according to the Commerce Department.

Continue Reading

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ron Paul's (unofficial) Commercial (Greg Hunter)

USA Watchdog
By Greg Hunter
September 13, 2011

This is a take-off on a commercial produced last November by Citizens Against Government Waste. It was so controversial that major networks would not air it. In this version, Congressman Ron Paul is inserted. It is totally unofficial and not produced by the Paul campaign, but it is just as powerful as the original version. I thought this would be fun to watch in now that the second Republican debate is behind us.

Here’s part of the write-up on the original commercial: A new television ad about the U.S. national debt produced by Citizens Against Government Waste has been deemed “too controversial” by major networks including ABC, A and E and The History Channel and will not be shown on those channels. The commercial is a homage to a 1986 ad that was entitled “The Deficit Trials” that was also banned by the major networks. Apparently telling the truth about the national debt is a little too “hot” for the major networks to handle. But perhaps it is time to tell the American people the truth.”

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 Took Young Boy's Grandfather...and Friend (NPR)

Grandpas hold our tiny hands for just a little while
but our hearts forever

"I love you," Frankie said,
"and there's no other grandfather
I'd rather see than you."

Original Broadcast on 9/5/2008
Re-broadcast 9/11/11
Listen and Then Bear Hug Your Grandchildren

For Frankie DeVito, his grandfather was a favorite playmate and companion. But Bill Steckman, who worked in the World Trade Center, didn't come home after Sept. 11, 2001. Frankie, now 10, talks with his mother about that day — and how his grandfather remains with him.

"He always used to be in the garage fixing up things with cousin Mikey," Frankie told his mother, Diana.

"And he always promised to take me to work once — but that's not going to happen."

Asked about that day, Frankie said that he recalls seeing his mother upset. Something had happened to his grandfather, he was told. And the family was going to their grandparents' house.

"I remember that Mikey told me that planes crashed, and he wasn't coming back," Frankie said.

In the weeks that followed, being with the rest of his family made him feel better, Frankie said — and so did pretending his grandfather was with him in his room.

He can still feel that presence, he said.

"Being in certain places, when I'm at a happy time, just somewhere in my mind, he won't get out of there. He's just stuck in my mind. And that makes me a little sadder, where I am."

He still dreams of his grandfather, Frankie said — dreams in which the whole family is together again. And he knows what he would say to his grandfather if he could speak to him.

"I love you," Frankie said, "and there's no other grandfather I'd rather see than you."

Produced for Morning Edition by Vanara Taing with Lizzie Jacobs. The senior producer for StoryCorps is Michael Garofalo.

Too Rich, Too Poor, Too Bad (Esther Cepeda)

...let's start by agreeing that someone
can own a DVD player and
still go hungry at night.

Denver Post
By Esther J. Cepeda
September 11, 2011

Joblessness, the general economic malaise and a never-ending stream of depressing statistics — the number of people in poverty, the millions of dollars that corporate CEOs are being paid in bonuses or severance — have made 2011 the year when it became OK to hate both the rich and the poor.

Look at comment boards on news websites or social media networks: Accompanying reports predicting we're in for a long slog of continued economic doldrums are heated barbs personifying both the wealthy and the impoverished as greedy, entitled forces of evil that are ruining America.

It's not surprising, really — when people feel vulnerable, the natural response is to lash out.

"There have been other times when there were huge gulfs between the rich and the poor, such as during the Gilded Age, but I think the disparity between rich and poor now may be even worse," said Phil DeVol, a consultant with aha! Process Inc., a publishing and training company that educates organizations such as schools and municipalities about poverty and class issues.

"The rhetoric out there is probably worse than I've ever seen it, and there is a lack of reasonable middle-ground conversations. So when the talk-radio folks and the cable-TV programs and the institutes who churn out information create narratives, it creates extreme mental models."

Extreme, indeed. Though the national conversation has finally "pivoted" to job-creation efforts, it was only a few weeks ago that Warren Buffett​ was wagging his finger at "coddled" millionaires and billionaires to pay more taxes. And Congress will soon be back on its government-shrinking crusade, pointing to the undeserving poor — who need government-subsidized health care or food assistance but dare have access to an Xbox or air conditioning — as examples of how government largesse has run amok.

In July, the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, put out a white paper — "Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox: What Is Poverty in the United States Today?" — ostensibly aimed at ensuring that "exaggeration and misinformation" don't hamper the development of well-targeted, effective programs to reduce poverty.

"The actual standard of living among America's poor is far higher than the public imagines and . . . in fact, most of the persons whom the government defines as 'in poverty' are not poor in any ordinary sense of the term," the report reads. "The home of the typical poor family was not overcrowded and was in good repair. In fact, the typical poor American had more living space than the average European."

Do not believe, the report warns us, that the worst-case-poverty scenarios presented in the media reflect the average poor person's experience. Most poor people aren't destitute; they're better off than you'd think. Plus, those overblown official U.S. poverty numbers make us look bad geopolitically — the Chinese government uses these "misleading" Census Bureau poverty reports to condemn the U.S. government for human rights violations.

Give the authors credit for including in their analysis the fact that new poverty resulting from the Great Recession will be largely due to working-class families losing their jobs. Obviously, they wouldn't necessarily "dispose of their normal household conveniences in those circumstances." So if you've been out of work for two years and still have a roof over your head, and an air-conditioning unit, maybe you're not such a drag on society.

But implying that people who are not homeless, or close to it, are undeserving of support and certainly undeserving of sympathy is a sure recipe for bad policy.

As DeVol told me, figuring out how public and private entities will work together to help the poor in our new age of austerity will have to center on "coming together across class lines, developing working relationships with mutual respect, and making decisions about our future, together."

For that we need to drop the easy stereotypes and extend understanding across income brackets. Not all rich people are selfish robber barons any more than all poor people are a bottomless drain on society. But that's a tall order, so let's start by agreeing that someone can own a DVD player and still go hungry at night.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Obama Directs EPA to Hold Off On Air Quality Until After Election...Grandchildren thrown under the bus again...

Obama said he has asked the agency
to wait until 2013—you know,
after the next election—to improve the standard.

Mother Jones
By Kate Sheppard
September 2, 2011

On Friday, in a move that shocked enviros and public-health advocates, President Obama asked the Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw its proposal to tighten a key air-quality standard. The request, Obama said, is part of the administration's efforts to reduce "regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty."

The EPA has been at work on new rules on ozone pollution, better known as smog, since September 2009. The agency rolled out new, tougher draft standards in January 2010, only to have the release of the final rules repeatedly delayed. In a statement, Obama said he has asked the agency to wait until 2013—you know, after the next election—to improve the standard.

The decision to single out this rule is significant. Back in 2008, the Bush administration EPA issued smog rules that called for limits of 75 parts per billion, which were weaker than those that the agency's own scientists said was necessary to protect human health. Improving the standard has been a top priority for environmental and public-health experts, so when the EPA said in January 2010 that it was considering lowering the limit to between 60 and 70 parts per billion, those groups were cheering.

According to the American Lung Association, the weaker standard means that as many as 186 million Americans are currently breathing in unhealthy levels of smog. The EPA's own figures are even more shocking. If the Obama administration set the lower standard of 60 parts per billion, it would prevent 4,000 to 12,000 premature deaths a year by 2020. Even the higher standard of 70 parts per billion would save between 1,500 and 4,300 lives per year. Improved air quality would bring down the number of deaths and hospitalizations every year due to asthma, bronchitis, and other heart and lung conditions.

The EPA also noted that while compliance with the new rule would cost polluters between $19 billion and $90 billion a year by 2020, the benefits to human health will be worth between $13 billion and $100 billion every year.

EPA administrator Lisa Jackson issued a terse statement on Friday morning, citing other major improvements that the administration has made on clean air and promising to "revisit the ozone standard." And the White House circulated a blog post from Deputy Assistant for Energy and Climate Change Heather Zichal touting all the other things it has done on air quality.

But environmental and public-health groups are, as you might guess, flabbergasted at Obama's announcement. "This is a huge win for corporate polluters and huge loss for public health," said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, in a statement. The statements from pretty much every other group have expressed similar outrage.

The American Lung Association filed suit against the EPA following the weak Bush standards but dropped it after the Obama administration said it was going to reconsider. The group issued a statement on Friday signaling that it will revive the suit now that the Obama administration has signaled that it is not going to improve the standard, which is a violation of the Clean Air Act, the group says.

My two cents: I don't think it's a coincidence that the announcement came on day when the Labor Department released the worst jobs report in 11 months. The move certainly plays right into the "jobs vs. the environment" frame that the opponents of any and all regulations have constructed. Worse, though, is that it feeds the idea that it's perfectly okay for the administration to ignore the advice of agency scientists.

It's also not clear whom Obama thinks he's going to win over with this. I'm pretty sure this won't send the American Petroleum Institute or the Chamber of Commerce rushing to donate to his reelection bid, or make Republicans start saying nice things about him.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Jay Carney on Obama's Job Speech...The Economy Matters...The American People Matter...I Can Assure You He Will Be Done Before Kickoff

"The sideshows don't matter," Carney said.
"The economy matters.
The American people matter. Jobs matter."

Hey Jay, on behalf of all grandchildren, grandpa
wants to know just how much jobs for the next
generation matter compared to the
NFL season opener?
"I can assure all you football fans
that he will be completed before kick-off,"

USA Today
By David Jackson
September 1, 2011

We have a date for President Obama's speech on joblessness -- Thursday, Sept. 8.

What we don't have is a specific time -- though we know he will be done by 8:30 p.m., which happens to be the start time for the season-opening pro football game between the Green Bay Packers and the New Orleans Saints.

"I can assure all you football fans that he will be completed before kick-off," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Carney said Obama and aides are looking forward to speaking directly to Congress, and not rehashing the remarkable political flap that preceded the scheduling of the speech.

Obama initially asked to speak to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday. Some Republicans objected, noting their presidential candidates have a debate that same night; House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, suggested the president move the speech to Thursday, citing logistical concerns.

After talks between the White House and Boehner's office, Obama opted for Thursday.
"The sideshows don't matter," Carney said. "The economy matters. The American people matter. Jobs matter."

"It is irrelevant," Carney later said. "It really is."

It also didn't bother the president, Carney said.

"I spent a great deal of time with him this morning and it never came up," Carney said. "Honestly."

Carney said Obama wanted to speak to Congress about about as soon as lawmakers got back from August recess. "Wednesday seemed to be the best option," he said. "When that seemed to be a problem, Thursday was fine with us."

The White House has long been mindful that Thursday night also features the season opener for the National Football League, New Orleans at Green Bay.

When a reporter asked Carney if the speech will constitute a "pre-game show," the spokesman said: "It means he will have the opportunity to watch the game, like millions of other Americans."