Thursday, March 31, 2011

Elements of truth...

Rand Paul roasts...

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)...

At Wednesday night's Congressional Correspondents' Dinner, the Republican senator from Kentucky roasted some of his own.

"I was happy to see that Newt Gingrich has staked out a position on the war; a position or two, or maybe three," Paul said. "I don't know. He may have more war positions than he's had wives."

The son of GOP firebrand and Tea Party favorite Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), Rand The Younger not only BBQ'd the former speaker, he also let loose on the GOP's beloved media outlet, Fox News. In particular, he slammed the network's commentaries about President Barack Obama's decision to put U.S. military forces to work in Libya.

"There's a big debate going on over at Fox News. It's really messed up, I mean they don't know what to do," Paul said. "They just really can't decide over at Fox News. It's like, what do they love more, bombing the Middle East or bashing the president? It's like, I was over there and there was an anchor going -- they were pleading, they were pleading -- 'please, please, please, can't we do both? Can't we bomb the Middle East and bash the president at the same time? How are we going to make this work?'"

Regardless of which side of the aisle you sit on, ya gotta love this stuff...I guess unless you're Gingrich or Fox.

(huge h/t: LA Times "Top of the Ticket")

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The latest from Libya...

...because everything there is, um, under control.

Where we are now...

How low can you(r "No Fly" Zone) go? - Yes, there are U.S. forces on the ground in Libya.

So why is this man smiling?

So much for the "secret" - US backs secret Libya rebel aid

A real confidence builder - Libya Conference in London Falls.

Wait, I thought it was a "humanitarian mission" - Libya: Not a war, a "military action," says Obama spokesman Jay Carney

At the White House press briefing, Carney added the following:

--The U.S. is "assessing & reviewing options for all types of assistance that we could provide to the Libyan people."

--On providing US arms to Libyan rebels, Carney said "We’re not ruling it out or ruling it in."

--Carney also refused to comment on reports that Obama has authorized covert U.S. support for rebel forces in Libya.

White House spokesman Jay Carney...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Standing up to the religious bullies...

The face of courage and truth in Pakistan...

Pakistani actress Veena Malik, appearing on a television program out of Pakistan, confronts a Pakistani Muslim leader on his (and his colleagues') hypocrisy, lies, misdirections and stone age-thinking.

It's a shame that more men in Pakistan's male-dominated culture don't join her in telling the truth.

Like the recent video of a schoolboy in Australia who "schooled" his bully - a video that made worldwide news as it went viral on the web - here, too, the intended victim turns the tables on the jerk.

From The Telegraph UK: "On Pakistani television she is subjected to a lecture by Mufti Abdul Qavi, who tells her: 'No one in Pakistan can look at her pictures in the presence of their daughters,' among other things. Bear in mind that not only has she done nothing morally wrong, unless you include dressing in western clothes, but that this is not the same as being criticised by an Anglican or Catholic bishop; the allegation carries real menace in Pakistan. Watch as she reduces him to nothing. As she says: 'You are not allowed to set eyes on me in my present condition. You should be punished in public, because charity begins at home. Clerics may look at a woman once, but if they look at her a second time, they must be punished. You deserve to be punished.'"


She continues: “'Also if you want to do something for the glory of Islam…. [there is] bribery, robbery, theft and killing in the name of Islam. There are many things to talk about. Why Veena Malik? Because Veena Malik is a woman. Because I’m a soft target. Pakistan is infamous for many reasons other than Veena Malik.'

"Incredibly brave," the writer continues, "considering the political violence in that country, including the recent murders of Shahbaz Bhatti and Salman Taseer. There’s a lot of debate in the west about what feminism means – but I think there’s no doubt that Veena Malik is a feminist hero. If there was an award given for heroic women in repressive societies, she would certainly be a candidate. And contrary to what the Mufti says, she represents an extremely positive side of Pakistan that we in the West rarely get to see."

Agreed. If the so-called leaders of her nation "grew a pair," then the Veena Maliks of Pakistan would be what the world knows about that country...not, instead, the images many of us have of a nation beset with bombers, Taliban supporters, corruption, out-of-control clerics and an obsession with doing everything but addressing Pakistan's real problems.

God bless Veena Malik.

Friday, March 25, 2011

On the road to Damascus...

The face of freedom...

Syria, a long-time supporter of genocide, terrorism, torture and war, is now in the throes of honest-to-goodness revolution.

As bad as Gaddafi and some of the other tyrants in the Middle East are (or, past tense, were), the Assad family - especially père Assad (Hafez al-Assad) - puts most of them to shame when it comes to out-and-out evil.

Bashar al-Assad...

The dictators have really stood out from the motley crowd through their involvement in multinational terror activities, through the slaughter of countless numbers of their own people, or by trying to introduce nuclear weapons into the region.

But like most edifices built on rotten timbers, so to is the Assad dynasty/regime beginning to crumble. The current offense to humanity, President Bashar al-Assad, is now watching his inheritance shrink by the day.

"Boiling Syria" reads the photo cutline...

So it was no surprise today when the news came that al-Assad's troops were continuing their efforts to quell the uprising. The regional upheaval, which began in Tunisia and Egypt weeks ago, has spread to even the most oppressive countries in the region. But like most revolts against despots, the ultimate sacrifices are made for liberty and change.

As reported at The Belmont Club today, "Syria has opened fire on protesters as unrest spreads to Damascus and Aleppo. 'Hundreds took to the streets in the cities of Homs, Hama, Tel and Latakia and in towns surrounding Deraa, with smaller protests in the major cities of Damascus and Aleppo, which are more firmly under the watch of security forces. Troops reportedly opened fire in some cases.' In an ominous development, the BBC says Farsi-speaking armed units (read: Iranian Revolutionary Guard units) are being used to break up the protests by sniping at the demonstrators from rooftops."

Most experts feel that despite al-Assad's weakening grip on his countrymen, it is unlikely the people of Syria will gain a true measure of freedom. Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah, cannot afford to have this important part of their monster be cut away. If the Iranians are joining Syrian security forces to put down riots, Hezbollah and its tentacles won't be far away.

Syrian riot police corner protesters...

We can hope that Syria will follow other nations in the region and actively pursue another path, but given Iran's proximity, influence and do-or-die desire to keep al-Assad & Co. in its fold, that is unlikely to happen.


From late night chat show host Jimmy Fallon: "True story: President Obama got home yesterday and the door to the Oval Office was locked. Obama was like, 'Holy cow, is it 2012 already?'"

Thursday, March 24, 2011

How the other half - the elites - really live...

The president toasts some pretty special people...

Dear Readers:

Below is a breathtaking piece that ran on Monday, March 21, in The Oregonian. It was presented by staffer Steve Duin, who was provided with a letter Oregon's "first lady," Cylvia Hayes, wrote about her adventures in Washington, D.C. I'm also reprinting it - without permission, given that he didn't write Ms. Hayes' letter - in its entirety.

Keep in mind these are the people we elect to represent and serve us (and who bring their significant others along for the ride and document it for us). Ms. Hayes' "journal" gives us a rare glimpse into the world we cannot hope to understand...only pay for.

By Steve Duin, The Oregonian

Over the weekend, Cylvia Hayes -- Oregon's "first lady" -- sent out an e-mail to a large number of friends and associates, detailing her adventures in February at the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C.

It's pretty entertaining. I've edited it, but only briefly, for length:

I have finally made time to write up my experiences in Washington DC and the National Governors Association. The stories are below ...

The first significant event happened at the Airport, before we even left Oregon – I call it “airport whisking”. Once we checked our bags, John and I were escorted by the Dignitary Protection Unit (DPU) guards right around airport security. A TSA man looked at our passports and sent us on our way. No lines, no inspections, no taking off shoes and jackets, no pulling laptops out of their cases. I had already put all of my little gels and lotions into the customary plastic sandwich bag. As we whisked through, I sheepishly tucked them down into my attaché. Rookie mistake. Who knew? (I fear this one thing, this whisking through airports, may spoil me beyond anything else).

The NGA meeting took place mostly at the Marriot [sic] Hotel in downtown DC ... The first session was a plenary with all the Governors seated around a large square table and lots of press ... Dr. Michael Porter of the Harvard School of Business was the keynote. I had heard him before when he spoke to the Oregon Business Summit and declared that the rest of the nation was watching to see if Oregon was going to be able to really make sustainability the big economic opportunity many thought it could be. He had said that if he did so, it would be “epic” for our state and region ...

Just as the Q&A session started a fire alarm went off. Unbelievably, we were all told to evacuate the building. John and I got as far as the top of the escalator before the announcement was made that everything was fine and we could return. Now to get the full gist of this you have to picture all the elected officials and staff and hundreds of security guards. Each Governor has their DPU detail (some bring as many as ten!). On top of this there is a DC detail contingent and the hotel security. I believe there are several times more guards than dignitaries at this event. Later that day, one of our two DPU guys admitted they couldn’t find us when we came out during the fire alarm. John quipped, “Don’t worry about it -- our biggest danger was getting trampled by the hordes of security guys in dark suits.” Our DPU man grinned and I laughed out loud.

The first event of the Spouses Program was a bus trip to the Walter Reid Medical Center. We were all hustled onto a big, plush touring bus and then a motorcade led us away from the hotel. This was my very first motorcade and, as it turned out, was not quite what I expected. Shortly after we took off, the bus developed some sort of transmission problem and slowed to a lurching crawl. There we were, in all the puff of importance and urgency, with traffic lights being shut down and cars forced to stop to let us pass, in a vehicle that I literally could have outrun on foot! Certainly took the sense of self-importance down a peg – or two.

That afternoon, back at the hotel, we had our first actual spouses session. I had realized the night before that my name had not been listed in the Spouses Program packet and in the First Ladies and Assistants contact information directory, Oregon and New York had been listed as NA (No-Applicable) since we were unmarried partners or the governors of those two states. I had hoped Sarah Lee of New York would be there so that we could compare notes, but Governor Coumo did not attend. I had no idea how the First Ladies (and two First Gentlemen) would react to me.

As an ice-breaker they asked a “veteran” First Spouse to interview a newbie and vice versa and then introduce one another. Carla Markell, from Delaware, was seated beside me and she and I had already connected a bit during the Walter Reid event so we interviewed one another. She told me that her first instinct following her husband’s election was to get a job far and stay away from it all. But over the first few months she realized she could do a lot of good work in her role as First Lady, especially since it is an unpaid, volunteer position. When she interviewed me, among many other things, I told her about the NGA contact materials and that I considered NA to stand for “Nuptually Agnostic”. She laughed and made a note.

When she started to introduce me she said, “This is Cylvia Hayes, from Oregon, the uh, First … uh, Governor’s uh … Significant …uh, partner…” I jumped in and said, “I’m complicated and my title is evolving.” Everybody laughed. I realized at that moment that was probably the first unmarried partner ever to attend an NGA event in the First Lady role. She went on to mention my professional background and political involvement and then she whispered to me, “Can I tell them about the NA thing?” I said, “oh sure, why not?” (To myself I was thinking, “Uh oh. Some of these very prim and proper wives may not like this very much.”). She pointed to the First Spouses contact directory and announced that I interpreted NA to mean “Nuptually Agnostic”. The room roared in laughter. From that point forward nearly everyone was warm and welcoming to me.The entire spouses program was interesting and valuable. We learned about several of the initiatives veteran First Ladies (and Gentlemen) were working on. We met with foundations eager to fund projects that First Spouses were driving. (I am already in the pipeline working to get some of that money into Oregon).

Our visit to the State Department was terrific both for the program and the surrounds ... Marcee Craighall, the Director of Rooms of Diplomacy, told us of the endless protocol details that go into hosting foreign dignitaries. Careful attention is given to the colors the President, First Lady and staff wear, seating arrangements, dietary considerations, how to bring something from the visitors home nation into the gathering, and on and on. When she started talking about how we could use many of those same strategies when planning events at our Governors’ residences I had a moment of mild panic. I thought, “Good Lord, who has time for all of that? Do these other women do that? For Pete’s sake this part alone could be a full time job!” Then I calmed down and realized I didn’t have to go overboard but by incorporating a few of these techniques, I could make events at Mahonia Hall more effective and pleasant. I was further relieved to learn that the White House protocol team is available to help us with these issues ...

Of course, along with the tours, educational sessions, and motorcade escapades, there was the black-tie dinner at the White House. As you know from my previous post, I had hyped myself up pretty high for this event. I am delighted to report that it exceeded even those high expectations. I felt like a true fashionista in the long, silky gown. John was very handsome in his tuxedo (that’s right, no jeans for this affair J). He treated me like a princess and made sure that the entire evening was all about my experience. Very sweet.

We entered the White House East Wing, greeted by marines in formal dress uniforms. The Governors and First Ladies and Gentlemen mingled and sipped excellent champagne. We soaked up the beautiful artwork and furnishings in the elegant parlor rooms. Then we were moved into a receiving line to meet the President and First Lady. I had already met President Obama a couple of times so I was most interested in meeting Michelle. John and I were escorted in. The President smiled and took my hand in his hands and said “Very nice to see you again.” (how cool is that?). And then there was Michelle. That night she had her heels on and she was a good two inches taller than Barack. I mean she is of impressive stature. And even with all of that, she was just as warm and approachable as her husband. She took my hand and said, “You look so beautiful.” I said, “Thank you! I just want to say that you are doing yourself, and our nation, proud.” (That was probably a cheeky thing to say but giving her a high five and telling her to keep kicking butt seemed out of the question).

To my delight the Obamas have changed the rules and Governors and spouses now get to sit next to one another during dinner. I was intrigued that Governor Jindal was seated immediately to my right. I told him about my work in clean energy and my mission to the Gulf Coast to bear witness to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. To my surprise, he was genuinely interested in my work, and even appreciative of my interest in the Gulf Coast. We had a great conversation all through dinner about the spill, his frustrations with BP, the need to move beyond fossil fuel, and the difficulty of those issues in a place like Louisiana, where the economy is so dependent on oil extraction. To John’s left was Gene Sperling, economic advisor to the President. We had an interesting conversation about clean energy, climate change, health care costs and the growing crisis of Medicare and Medicaid entitlements. I had a great time – interesting conversation and a phenomenal meal comprised of many tasty small courses paired with lovely wines.

At that point, the evening had already been everything I’d hoped it would be and I had no idea there was more to come. The President stood and asked us all to move out of the dining room and toward the other end of the reception area. We were ushered into a lovely, intimate theater. Several musicians came in and started playing some jazzy, bluesy rock beats. Then, once we were all seated, the President stood and asked us to welcome Gladys Knight! She entered through the back of the room, walked right beside John’s chair, and joined the Pips on-stage. (I hadn’t even known they were the Pips). She put on an amazing performance. Several times I just looked around at the whole scene and said to myself, “Is this really my life? Really? Incredible.”

When we arrived back at the Marriot, it was late and I was bundled up in my black wool coat. But at the door, I told John I had to exercise the gown. He understood immediately and removed my coat and held out his arm. As we strolled through the lobby in tux and designer gown, shamelessly turning heads, knowing we had just dined with the President and First Lady, I reminded myself of Julia Roberts in the Pretty Woman hotel lobby scene (minus the part about being a prostitute of course J). A truly amazing, special evening.

Even now writing about these events, I find myself smiling and feeling very blessed. Thanks for being interested in these stories. We still haven’t received our photos from the White House or State Department but I have attached a couple of photos of the gown and the tuxedo-wearing Governor.

The guv and his lady...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A word of thanks... due.

"Moammar Gaddafi’s decision to voluntarily surrender his nuclear-weapons program made the US significantly safer as a direct result of the Iraq War. Had we not invaded Iraq in 2003 and captured Saddam Hussein in December of that year, Gaddafi would hardly have felt compelled to protect himself from similar American action at the time. We found out shortly afterward that Libya had succeeded in making weapons-grade plutonium, and oh by the way also had 44,000 pounds of mustard gas. In fact, Gaddafi’s rush to demonstrate his good citizenship only ended in 2007, when domestic opposition to Bush’s efforts in Iraq emboldened Gaddafi back into defiance." (h/t: Hot Air)

Biden calls for president's impeachment for military action without Congressional approval*

“Ladies and gentlemen, I drafted an outline of what I think the Constitutional limits [garbled] have on the President with the War Clause. I went to five leading scholars, Constitutional scholars, and they drafted a treatise for me that is being distributed to every Senator. And I want to make it clear, and I’ll make it clear to the President: that if he takes this nation to war in Iran, without Congressional approval, I will make it my business to impeach him.”

Back in 2007*, Vice President Joe Biden (then U.S. Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del) gave a couple speeches regarding the possible impeachment of George W. Bush -- if he conducted military strikes against Iran without Congressional approval.

Today, President Barack Obama is presiding over a conflict he not only didn't get Congressional approval for...heck, he didn't even give Capitol Hill a hint he was going to let loose the dogs of war on Libya's Muammar Ghadaffi (or however you spell his name). So where's Joe?

Here in his own words, Biden...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

You can't tell the players without a scorecard...

From David Letterman: "Lets see we've got a war going in Iraq. And a war in Afghanistan. Now a war over Libya. My God you need brackets to track this stuff."

(h/t: Andrew Malcolm, LA Times "Top of the Ticket," on Twitter - @latimestot; photo: ESPN.go)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Why is this man smiling?

Because this man (below), is making him look good...

According to The Hill, "Vice President Joe Biden, speaking at a fundraiser in Philadelphia Friday, compared Republicans in Congress to people who excuse rapists by blaming their victims.

 The vice president, known for speaking his mind and at times putting his foot in his mouth, said that Republicans who want to cut spending while at the same time cutting taxes for the wealthy are similar to rape apologists."

Yes, misspelling (or correctly spelling) the word, "potato," is much, much worse.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

They've left their minds, in San Francisco...

Spending money that isn't there...

If you think things are bad on the public employee pensions front for California, or even the U.S., check out what's happening in The City By The Bay.

To be honest, everyone - including SF's most "out there" boosters - admit the city is in the midst of a severe financial crisis. What most people aren't aware of is just how bad things have turned for "Baghdad By The Bay."

A story in The Bay Citizen lays it out for readers: "San Francisco's public-employee pension fund is in weaker shape than many people realize, according to an analysis by Professor Joe Nation released Tuesday. It is underfunded by some $6.8 billion, Nation's report finds. The city's pension fund is officially underfunded by $1.6 billion. Nation's study argues that the pension fund is relying on a 7.75 percent annual rate of return that is unrealistic over the long term. The study argues for 6.2 percent, which it says was the average rate of return in the capital markets from 1900 through 1999."

If you want a sneak peek at what is going to happen to California, check out San Francisco. If you want an advance look at what is going to happen to the U.S., keep an eye on California. And if you'd like a real-time view of what's ahead for everyone else, look at Greece.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

He "will not rest!"

"President main attraction at fourth party event this month"

That's the headline from CNN: "President Barack Obama headlines a Democratic party event Wednesday night, the second time this week and fourth time this month he's been the main attraction at a party gathering."

It's a good thing there aren't any crises right now for him to focus on. No big disasters, no wars, no economic problems...

It's a good thing he promised not to rest until all those things were fixed...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Whose rules?

Playing a little "footy"...

"This is a White House photo of an impromptu lesson on Australian-rules football given the American president by the visiting Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard. Hint: It has to do with the need to hold the ball in front and punch it forward with a clenched fist. No tackling practice in the Oval Office, however."

(h/t: LA Times "Top of the Ticket")

What the tsunami wave looked like here...

The still photo (above) and the video clip (below) show Friday's tsunami - from the Japan earthquake - rolling through San Francisco Bay and toward Emeryville.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Party on, Barry!

Despite the long war in Afghanistan; the faltering economy at home and abroad; the map-changing upheaval in the Middle East; and a disaster-beyond-imagination still unfolding in Japan, it's P-A-R-T-Y T-I-M-E for the prez.

According to the Associated Press, "President Barack Obama will speak at the 126th annual Gridiron Club dinner in Washington [tonight]. The white-tie event is an opportunity for journalists to poke fun at public figures and political themes of the day. This will be the first time Obama has appeared at the event. Last year, former President Bill Clinton stood in for the president who was preparing for a probable House vote on health care reform. Obama, however, did speak to the dinner via videotape. Vice President Joe Biden represented Obama in 2009."

But have no fear, even though the distractions and demands are many, the president has been working hard today.

On his golf game.

According to ABC News, "For the second week in a row, the most powerful man in the world stepped away from the White House to hit the golf course. Even as his administration and the U.S. military help Japan recover from a devastating earthquake, and as the world worries about Fukushima's nuclear reactor, the president could not resist taking advantage of the 48-degree weather in the Washington, D.C., area. The president left the White House Saturday afternoon for a short trip to Joint Andrews Base in Camp Springs, Md. With cloudy skies, it's not the best weather for golf, but Obama loves to spend his Saturdays on the greens. Last fall, Obama went golfing darn near every weekend. These are never quick "work on your swing" trips; usually the president plays 18 holes, as he did last week."

You stay focused, Mr. President...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

That's putting it mildly...

Here's to hoping someone in D.C. understands this sign...

(h/t: photo via Bill Weir)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

So much for public service...

I guess it has come to mean, "the public serves the so-called servants."

The Cato Institute, citing a Wall Street Journal article, is letting taxpayers know that it can pay - in some instances, quite handsomely - to "do the people's work."

"Departing members of the House of Representatives awarded millions of dollars in extra pay to aides as they closed down their offices, according to lawmakers' spending records," according to the WSJ article. "The 96 lawmakers paid their employees $6.7 million, or 31%, more in the fourth quarter of 2010 than they did, on average, in the first three quarters of the year....Because most of the departing members were Democrats, fourth-quarter salary increases in 2010 for Democratic staffers were the largest in the decade LegiStorm has been gathering such data." (Full disclosure: "Republican staffers enjoyed a similar boost when many of their employers left office at the end of 2006.")

Nice work...if you can get it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

She never gave up hope...

...he would come home.

Kathy Strong (left) and the soldier she never forgot...

More than four decades ago, a U.S. Army Green Beret - James Leslie Moreland - was declared "Missing In Action" (MIA) after his unit was overrun by communist fighters.

That was 1968 and the place was a little-remembered hotspot named Lang Vei. Moreland's comrades were injured and killed, but he was never found.

Family and friends hoped that he had escaped or -as time wore on - been captured by the North Vietnamese and was being held prisoner. When American Prisoners of War (POWs) were repatriated after the conflict, Moreland wasn't among them.

But he wasn't forgotten.

For 38 years, Kathy Strong (a former classmate and friend) - who was just a young girl when she received a POW bracelet with his name on it - kept his memory alive. Long after it had no longer been fashionable to wear the shiny, inscribed metallic wristband, Kathy wore hers.

And she wore it.

And wore it.

And still, to this day, wears it.

But that will soon come to an end.

Moreland's remains were recovered and are being returned to the U.S. for a proper military burial. And when the young soldier is laid to rest in his grave, Kathy will finally take the bracelet off and leave it with him in his final place on this Earth.

And just as the brave Army medic stood his ground, seeing his oath through til the end, Kathy Strong will stand true til the end. Just as he honored his soldier's promise, so will have Kathy Strong honored the promise to her soldier.

Watch the CBS News report below to learn more.

I wonder why...?

"White House memo notes shortage of applicants for contest to have Obama to speak at high school graduation"

According to CBS News, "The White House is ramping up an effort to promote a nationwide competition to decide which high school wins a commencement speech by President Obama. An internal White House memo indicates that the White House is facing a shortage of applications less than a week before the deadline."

The story continues: "The competition was extended from the February 25 deadline until Friday, March 11 after few schools met the original application deadline. CBS News has learned a White House Communications Office internal memo dated February 22 noted "a major issue with the Commencement Challenge."

The president's own high school graduation (1979)...

The memo goes on to say, "As of yesterday we had received 14 applications and the deadline is Friday." The memo also urged recipients to, "please keep the application number close hold."

CBS reported that, “officials were unable to explain the reason for the apparent lack of interest, beyond pointing to possible procrastination by school systems.”

Yes, I’m sure that’s it. Procrastination. Yes, that’s the reason.

On the upside, his TelePrompter has been invited to give commencement addresses at several universities this year...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

"Bring Bush! Make a no fly zone, bomb the planes!"

Funny, as the Libyan rebels battle forces loyal to Moamar Gaddafi, they're not asking for President Barack Obama's help.

Maybe it's because they know it would never come...

Senate Majority Leader Takes a Shot at the Other Whorehouses...

I guess Sen. Harry Reid (D-Vice) got tired of all the competition...

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Public Pensions Are Killing The Golden Goose/State...

California, like most of the other states, has a bevy of problems/issues making the possibility of economic recovery look dimmer and dimmer each day.

One thing that does separate California from the rest - besides its huge economy (about the eighth largest in the world) - is the dark and expanding cloud representing “unfunded liabilities.” These are currently estimated to be somewhere between $100 billion and $650 billion-plus. In other words, that’s money the state doesn’t have yet will be obligated to pay out. (And let’s not forget - unlike the federal government, states can’t print money they don’t have.)

Most of these unfunded liabilities are (state) public employee pensions and benefits, long-promised to hundreds of thousands of retirees and their survivors. Promised by law.

So what is a state like California to do?

Calls have been going out, near and far, for the governor and legislature to cut spending. But the truth is, the huge Democratic majority - and chief executive - are beholden to so many groups benefiting from entitlement programs and what can be considered “earmarks” of sorts, that any cutting that’s being done is best. (Governor Jerry Brown is pushing a tax increase on coming special ballot in June, which if passed will cement California’s claim as the most-taxed state in the nation. The money will help pay-down the annual debt - about $25 billion - but it won’t make a dent in the unfunded liabilities column.)

Reason has a new piece up, “Farewell, My Lovely: How public pensions killed progressive California,” which explains why all the planning, light-handed cutting and increased taxation aren’t the true solutions to the state’s fiscal woes.

“As 72-year-old Jerry Brown enters his second governorship, he has an agenda to match that power, with visions even greater than those that haunted his two-term administration of the 1970s and ’80s: building 20,000 megawatts of renewable power, laying a new high-speed rail network that will connect the state’s major cities, forging a statewide infrastructure for alternative energy, hiring thousands of green employees,” author Tim Cavanaugh, writes at Reason. “The new governor’s environmental agenda is ambitious, untenably expensive, and indelibly popular with voters and lawmakers. Yet when Brown looks out on Democrat-controlled California, he seems less like Caesar at the Rubicon than Wojciech Jaruzelski at the Gdansk Shipyard. Brown is champion of a workers’ party with monopoly control, yet all his plans are being derailed by a labor movement nobody can harness.”

And therein lies the problem.

If California ever has any hope of digging out of the mess it’s now in, everyone is going to have to feel the pinch...make sacrifices. Even groups the Democratic party is beholden to.
Especially the public employees unions.

Read the whole article here.

Bonus graphic: If you don't live in California, you can see (from the chart below) how your state's fiscal situation stacks-up against the Golden State's.