If you’re looking for a lot of information on the BP oil spill and what the government is doing, this site has its pluses and minuses. For instance, you can find the disposition of some U.S. Coast Guard assets and transcripts of media briefings. On the minus side, when you click the link for Oiled Wildlife, you’re taken to a page with no pictures or statistics of the devastation, but there is a phone number to call if you encounter an oiled bird or other animal. Even more manipulative than the dearth of information on oiled wildlife is the cute picture of a pristine, baby sea turtle on the homepage of this PR-driven site.
One way to kick someone’s ass over this tragedy would be to put the whole truth out there for the American people. Federal government fails with this site. It’s so benign it’s ludicrous.
This is kind of annoying – for it’s total lack of saying anything of any substance:
Readout of The President’s Meeting with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
President Obama and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia met today and discussed a wide range of issues including Middle East peace, the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, energy, Iran and other matters affecting the region. The President and the King also discussed the President’s upcoming speech to the Muslim world. The President and King pledged to remain in close contact in order to continue to make progress on these and other issues central to the US-Saudi relationship.
This came, “Immediate Release,” for God’s Sake! LMAO. How about if the White House just released the President’s public schedule each day. For the 30 minutes it took some young press aide to sweat over the drivel above and the layers of approval it probably went through, is it really worth it?
Exercises like the one above are not transparency.
The Obama Administration released the following fact sheet at 10 p.m. Sunday night regarding the path forward for GM and the government as 60% owner.
(Source: White House Press Office)
11:08 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Everybody, please be seated. We meet today at a transformational moment — a moment in history when our interconnected world presents us, at once, with great promise but also great peril.
Now, over the past four months my administration has taken decisive steps to seize the promise and confront these perils. We’re working to recover from a global recession while laying a new foundation for lasting prosperity. We’re strengthening our armed forces as they fight two wars, at the same time we’re renewing American leadership to confront unconventional challenges, from nuclear proliferation to terrorism, from climate change to pandemic disease. And we’re bringing to government — and to this White House — unprecedented transparency and accountability and new ways for Americans to participate in their democracy.
In February President Barack Obama directed the National Security Council and the Dept. of Homeland security to assess the nation’s stance in cyberspace with special attention to cybersecurity. The NSC and DHS have recommended:
- The establishment of a national cybersecurity official and office which would review laws and practices and provide leadership tying national, state and local efforts more closely together.
- National focus on a technologically advanced workforce – similar to the nation’s efforts at greater math and science proficiency during the 1960s.
- Calls for expanding the federal government’s own IT workforce and capabilities especially with regard to security and implementing best practices across the government enterprise.
- Expanded partnering among government, private sector and U.S. allies.
- Greater federal incident response focus and better communication and integration of incident response efforts across the federal enterprise.
- Harness the benefits of innovation to address cybersecurity concerns, including work with the private sector to define performance and security objectives for future infrastructure, linking research and development to infrastructure development and expanding coordination of government, industry, and academic research efforts.
- More focus on supply chain and TCOM security.
Fact Checking Obama Administration’s Report on Stimulus
For all of you who think traditional journalism is dead or would be happy to see it die, the Associated Press reminds us tonight what the watchdog is all about.
Vice President Joe Biden released a report today regarding progress made with funds from the recently enacted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – the stimulus bill. I looked at it. It’s pretty weak beer.
Here’s part of what the Associated Press wrote tonight:
But the effect of that spending is less clear. Many of the claims the White House is making are based on anecdotes selected to fit the Obama administration’s message. For instance, the report cites a newspaper article about workers being rehired at a factory in Chicago. That account is true, but is no more an accurate snapshot of the nation’s economy than a story, not cited in the report, about a Roanoke, Va., railcar factory closing. (Read More)
The Obama Administration report also says that 150,000 jobs have been saved or created. How could one even begin to get to a number like that so soon? The report doesn’t mention – but the AP does – that since February the nation has lost 1.3 million jobs.
President Obama is not well served by flooding the Internets and airwaves with pablum. Every time you turn around there’s another “.gov” site out there promising real information and transparency. What we get instead is messaging wrapped in slick graphics. Everything seems to be a mile wide but an inch deep.
I had high hopes for an information presidency, what we’ve gotten instead is the Ronald Reagan communications team with better technology.
There is a lot of good going on with this Administration. Creating bullshit, releasing it and then patting yourself on the back for being “transparent” is not in the category of good. It’s in the category of annoying.
I just noticed today that there was a big meeting at the White House with the big, evil insurers, organized labor, physicians, big pharma and more. They were all there to talk health care with President Obama’s advisers – and the public actually knows who was there representing what special interest.
My God, there are green shoots of transparency taking hold at 1600.
Remember the health care debacle of the Clinton Era? Hillary and Ira’s top secret health fest went nowhere. Or, how about Darth Cheney’s creation of a national energy non-policy in secret. I don’t think we know even now which oil companies were at the table for that one.
The White House Press Office has actually posted this list of participants, a piece of correspondence, and a “fact” sheet about the meeting.
Let’s hope this keeps up and spreads to the world of high finance and government bailouts.
From the Associated Press:
With the U.S. economy performing worse than hoped, revised White House figures point to deepening budget deficits, with the government borrowing 50 cents for every dollar it spends this year.
The deficit for the current budget year will rise by $89 billion to above $1.8 trillion — about four times the record set just last year. The unprecedented red ink flows from the deep recession, the Wall Street bailout, the cost of President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus bill, as well as a structural imbalance between what the government spends and what it takes in.
As the economy performs worse than expected, the deficit for the 2010 budget year beginning in October will worsen by $87 billion to $1.3 trillion, the White House says. The deterioration reflects lower tax revenues and higher costs for bank failures, unemployment benefits and food stamps.
For the current year, the government would borrow almost half the money it takes to run the government under the administration’s plan. In one of the few positive signs, the actual 2009 deficit is likely to be $250 billion less than predicted because Congress is unlikely to provide another $250 billion in financial bailout money.
MR. GIBBS: Here for the p.m. edition of the White House briefing.
Q Make this a habit.
MR. GIBBS: Yes — keep you guys busy.
The President has obviously concluded the meetings with President Karzai and President Zardari. And as promised, we’ll give a — get a readout from General Jones, the President’s National Security Advisor.
GENERAL JONES: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I’m pleased to be here to talk a little bit about the meetings that were held this afternoon that you’ve already heard quite a bit about. I’d just like to add a couple of points to those that have been already been made.
(Source: White House Press Office)
FACT SHEET: President Obama Highlights Vision for Clean Energy Economy
Underscores Urgent Need to Pass Comprehensive Legislation
WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Obama traveled to Newton, Iowa today to visit Trinity Structural Towers, the former Maytag appliance factory that now houses a green manufacturing facility, which produces towers for wind energy production and employs dozens of former Maytag employees. Marking Earth Day, President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to a comprehensive energy plan that lessens our dependence on foreign oil, creates jobs and helps win the race toward clean energy technology. With the depletion of the world’s oil reserves and the growing disruption of our climate, the development of clean, renewable sources of energy is the growth industry of the 21st century.
It took until the end of his remarks, but the president finally got to the issue that just about every American agrees on when it comes to taxes: They are way too complicated.
Today, President Barack Obama talked about the supposed tax cut for 95% of Americans. I’ve heard estimates that range the savings from between $7 to $17 per month for taxpayers. Obama calls this “broad and sweeping,” I don’t. Then the president talked about small business. Small businesses have actually gotten some tax relief under the president’s and Congressional action.
Then, there was discussion about tax credits for student borrowing and home buying. The problem with attainability of higher education for the dwindling American middle class is not a tax issue, although the $2,500 tax credit for each of four years your kid is in school will help. The problem is the explosion in tuition cost. In the early 1990s, my tuition at a respectable state school in Ohio was around $5,000 per year. That same state school is now $9,000 per year.
After extolling the virtue of the first-time home buyer $8,000 tax credit and “fiscal discipline,” the president got to the subject which enflames everyone from those who willingly pay their taxes to those who do everything in their power to avoid paying an extra red cent:
Finally, we need to simplify a monstrous tax code that is far too complicated for most Americans to understand, but just complicated enough for the insiders who know how to game the system. So I’ve already started by asking Paul Volcker and my Economic Recovery Board to do a thorough review of how to simplify our tax code, and to report back to me by the end of this year. It’s going to take time to undo the damage of years of carve-outs and loopholes. But I want every American to know that we will rewrite the tax code so that it puts your interests over any special interests. And we’ll make it easier, quicker and less expensive for you to file a return, so that April 15th is not a date that is approached with dread every year.
If the day ever comes when the tax code is re-written put “your interests over any special interests,” I’ll eat this text on a sheet of paper. Here’s what the Washington record is on special interests in just the last nine months or so:
- $700 billion TARP bailout for banks, insurance companies and brokers
- Companies in receivership to the U.S. government operating like they always have – exorbitant executive pay and millions in bonuses for failure
- Special lending facilities from the Federal Reserve to the bad actors in the U.S. financial services sector – which has kept them from taking the unholy beating from the “free market” which they deserve
- $800 billion stimulus package that we wouldn’t have needed but for the recklessness of the financial services sector and the ignorance of the politicians we pay to oversee it
- The PPIP which takes the risk out of toxic assets for the mega investors who can afford to buy them and places that risk on the taxpayer
- Recent talk of a second TARP-like bailout package for banks, insurers and brokerages
Those points just cover one special interest group – financial services – and just some of the big giveaways. The biggest giveaway has always been the U.S. tax code. What Washington politician is going to stand up which industry that has lined their campaign’s pockets? I’ll believe it when I see it.
I’m an average, middle class guy. I was surprised to find that 60% of Americans now pay a tax preparer of some sort to do their taxes. That’s insult to injury. Not only do you pay your tax, you’ve got to go out of pocket to pay the tax. My wife and I filed income tax returns with 4 separate authorities this year. That’s too many.
My final point is this. I don’t mind, for the most part, paying my taxes. I do mind having to operate in a system that costs me money and lots of time to do so. The real story about taxes in the U.S. is complexity. Complexity is what allows the well-heeled to avoid taxes and therefore costs the government revenue. Complexity is also unfair. If you can afford to hire the right lobbyist who has the ear of the right Congressman or Senator, voila! Loophole.
I’ve always accepted the Democratic dogma that a flat tax or consumption-based tax would be regressive. I’m beginning to rethink that position.
From the New York Times:
Some White House officials said that immigration would not take precedence over the health care and energy proposals that Mr. Obama has identified as priorities. But the timetable is consistent with pledges Mr. Obama made to Hispanic groups in last year’s campaign.
He said then that comprehensive immigration legislation, including a plan to make legal status possible for an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, would be a priority in his first year in office. Latino voters turned out strongly for Mr. Obama in the election.
I guess this is from the “Are You Kidding Me?” Department.
The New York Times is reporting tonight that the Obama Administration is trying to figure out how to securitize for the masses the steaming pile of poo known as Wall Street’s toxic assets. In other words, can the government get you to invest in a mutual fund-like vehicle which would buy the subprime mortgage bundles you’re already subsidizing with your tax dollars?
The Times, in it’s wonderfully-at-times understated way says the plan is fraught with risks, but might work like this:
The new funds, the thinking goes, would buy troubled mortgage securities from banks, enabling the lenders to make the new loans that are needed to rekindle the economy. Many of the loans that back these securities were made during the subprime era. If all goes well, the funds will eventually sell the investments at a profit.
But, as with any investment, there are risks. If, as some analysts suspect, the banks’ assets are worth even less than believed, the funds’ investors could suffer significant losses.
Does it seem to anyone else that we’re so stuck in a bad behavior pattern that our collective ingenuity has just taken a day off during this whole mess? The bastards that brought all of this upon the world need to be nationalized for a period of time sufficient to unwind their ridiculous schemes and taken public once again under an old-fashioned regulatory regime where bankers bank, insurers write insurance policies, and brokers provide market services. Instead, we’re trying so hard to bend over backwards to preserve big business and the investment class that first Bush and now Obama are looking ludicrous.
This could also be taken as a signal that there’s a reason these assets are called toxic: they’re not worth anyone owning at the end of the day.
Kal Penn of ‘House’ and ‘Harold and Kumar’ fame is going to work for President Barack Obama on Asian-American outreach. I say good for him, giving up the Hollywood bucks and serving his country.
From the Associated Press:
The White House has hired actor Kal Penn as a liaison between President Barack Obama’s administration and Asian constituents.
White House spokesman Shin Inouye said Tuesday that the actor who had a recurring role on Fox’s TV show “House” and has starred in several movies would join the staff as an associate director in the Office of Public Liaison. His role will be to connect Obama with the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities, as well as arts groups.
You can read an interview with Penn about his move here.
Great graphic from the New York Times. Go read the story, U.S. Moves to Overhaul Ailing Automakers.
Encouraging stance on the aid we give to Pakistan. It’s been well-documented that much of the billions which have been directed to Pakistan since 9/11 has disappeared down a rat hole. In a briefing today in Washington, President Obama’s point man on Afghan-Pak policy, Bruce Riedel, said that U.S. funds will be more closely monitored this time:
Q Thank you. The President mentioned the Kerry-Lugar bill, billions of dollars’ worth of aid to Pakistan. He also said that Pakistan won’t be given a blank check. So I’m wondering what restrictions does the administration want to see on that money specifically?
And also, how do you react to statements from some senators, such as Senator Levin, who have said that this strategy places too much dependence on the Pakistani government to deal with extremists, and perhaps gives too much of a reliance on them to help us make progress in Afghanistan?
MR. RIEDEL: I’m not going to comment on Senator Levin’s remarks. I’ll say this: For the last eight years, Pakistan received billions of dollars in support from the United States — much of it was unaccountable; much the Pakistanis don’t even know where it went.
As the President indicated in his speech, we’re going to make sure that there is rigorous oversight by an Inspector General’s office. And we’re going to work very, very intensively with our Pakistani partners, the democratically elected civilian leadership in Pakistan, to see that we’re moving in the right direction, in the same direction that we want to go.
(Source: White House Transcript)