Saturday, December 08, 2007

Homeland Insecurity (full text)

"Homeland Insecurity"

By Barack Obama

The Wall Street Journal

America is in a defining moment. This is the wealthiest nation in history. Yet many Americans feel that the dream so many generations fought for is slowly slipping away.

I've spoken with folks across this country who have worked all their lives to put their children through college, but now can't afford the rising tuition. I've spoken with many others who've done everything right, but fell into bankruptcy once they became sick, because they couldn't afford their skyrocketing medical bills. And since working Americans have to pay these rising costs with incomes that remain stagnant, many are falling deep into debt, unable to set anything aside for savings.

So at a time when many Americans have no margin for error, it's no surprise that the downturn in the housing market has done enormous harm. In the coming years, over two million Americans could face foreclosure.

The larger risk, however, is that what is happening in housing could spill over elsewhere. A number of firms borrowed huge sums to make investments tied to the housing market. They are now suffering big losses that could trigger a slowdown of the entire economy. We're already seeing some troubling signs. Consumer confidence is the lowest it's been in years. Pension funds are losing money, threatening retirement security. And banks are also losing money, resulting in a credit crunch. That means businesses have less money to invest and people can't get loans, which could lead to significant job losses in the months ahead.

This is a moment of challenge. But it's also a moment of opportunity which we must seize, to make sure our economic future is secure. That starts with addressing the source of our economic woes -- the crisis in the housing market. For most Americans, a home is not just a place to live; it's their most valuable possession -- so preventing a larger crisis in the housing market means providing greater economic security for middle-class families.

This week, President Bush outlined a limited agreement with lenders to ensure that some families don't face higher mortgage payments they can't afford. It is a start. But we need to do more. That's why, several months ago, I proposed tax breaks to help millions of homeowners make their payments, direct relief for the victims of mortgage fraud, and counseling so homeowners know what options are available to avoid foreclosure and refinance. And I have outlined a program to help make it easier for middle-class families, not speculators, to renegotiate or refinance their mortgages.

To prevent the current problems in the housing market from spreading, shaking confidence in other sectors of the economy, we need to put money in the pockets of middle-class Americans. In September, I proposed a middle-class tax cut that would offset the payroll tax that working Americans are already paying. It would give every working family a tax cut worth up to $1,000. It would also make retirement more secure by eliminating income taxes for any senior making less than $50,000 per year. And over the long term, I've called for an automatic workplace pension enrollment policy, which would include a federal government match for part of the savings of middle-class families so they can count on more savings when they retire.

But the test of judgment and leadership isn't just how you respond to problems; it's what you do to prevent them. That's why, last spring, I called for a summit on housing with representatives from the government and private sector similar to the one that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson attended earlier this week. I also introduced a bill that would treat those who commit mortgage fraud like the criminals they are -- a measure that might have prevented the current crisis from escalating. Three months ago, I asked lenders to show flexibility to Americans trying to sell or refinance their houses.

In the last several months, I've also proposed a number of steps to prevent another economic crisis. These include restoring market transparency by making sure there's adequate government oversight over the rating agencies, so we can avoid practices that can mislead investors. We also need to stop credit-card companies from engaging in deceptive practices that push middle-class Americans further into debt. In addition, we need to update our regulatory system to reflect a 21st-century marketplace where so much credit comes from nonbank lenders, rather than traditionally regulated banks. And as we reform our regulatory rules, let's do so with an eye toward the global economy in which we're operating.

It's going to take a new kind of leadership to strengthen our middle class and make sure America's economic future is secure -- leadership that can challenge the special interests, bring Republicans and Democrats together, and rally this nation around a common purpose. And that is exactly the kind of leadership I intend to offer as president of the United States.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Obama takes Progressive, Rationale Stance

During the YouTube debate there was a question about meeting with the leaders of current rogue nations, as defined by the Bush Administration.

In this biting video, an online editor splices together Obama's and Hillary's answers and the resulting fall out of Clinton referring to the Obama as "naive".

The video shows Clinton as not just a flip-flopper, but a hypocrite.

Either she has defined her own Senatorial statements as "naive", but in agreement with what Obama is not afraid to say.

Or she is in agreement with continuing the Bush administration's foreign policy, and because of her mercurial opinions on the subject, unable to provide leadership in international affairs.

Spend a few minutes and watch it all - you'll be glad you did (or if you support Clinton you'll be disheartened and feeling sold out by another weak-spined Democrat trying to sound tough for all the wrong reasons).

Prognosis Probable: Hillary will continue testing stances, sliding toward whatever stance her primary opponents are gaining ground with, settling into a milquetoast soundbite.

Prognosis Ludicrous: Clinton uses her Senate prerogative to travel to all the "rogue" nations in question. In an effort to attempt a October type surprise, husband Bill attains peace treaties with them all, but the cat slips out of the bag. With the aide of "heightened alerts", being accused of undermining fictitious, administration talks and conspiring with the enemy, Mitt Romney wins in a landslide. The rapture occurs with the conclusion of the Oath of Office.

Prognosis Progressive: Democrats nominate Barack Obama.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Conservatives usher in era of unprecedented obstructionism

This year, “Senate Republicans are threatening filibusters to block more legislation than ever before.” The pattern of obstructionism is demolishing previous records:

Nearly 1 in 6 roll-call votes in the Senate this year have been cloture votes. If this pace of blocking legislation continues, this 110th Congress will be on track to roughly triple the previous record number of cloture votes — 58 each in the two Congresses from 1999-2002, according to the Senate Historical Office.

McClatchy provides this statistical analysis:

Friday, June 22, 2007

Backing Obama, Without a Blessing

by David D. Kirkpatrick, NY Times

Supporters of Senator Barack Obama’s Democratic presidential primary campaign have formed one of the first independent organizations dedicated to supporting a 2008 presidential hopeful, overlooking their candidate’s past criticisms of the legal status of such groups.

Mr. Obama, Democrat of Illinois, is one of many senators who have criticized the groups — known as 527s, after a section of the tax code—because they allow donors to make unlimited contributions, sometimes without disclosure until after an election, thereby sidestepping campaign finance laws.

The new organization, Vote Hope 2008, was founded by Steve Phillips, a San Francisco lawyer who is the son-in-law of two of the biggest Democratic donors, the California bankers Herb and Marion Sandler. The Sandlers were among the biggest contributors to Democratic 527 groups during the 2004 election.

A spokesman for Mr. Obama said the senator did not approve. “Obama thinks that candidates should be accountable for the campaigns they run, the donations they receive and the money they spend,” the spokesman, Bill Burton, said. “It is our hope that anyone who supports Obama does so directly through his campaign.”

While short of repudiating Vote Hope, Mr. Obama’s public discouragement of such efforts could nonetheless come under some strain if he wins the Democratic nomination. Wealthy partisans on both sides of the general election are expected to pour millions of unlimited contributions into 527 groups just as they did in 2004, and Democrats could be at a big disadvantage if their supporters’ abstained.

Jenifer Ancona, a spokeswoman for Vote Hope, said the organization aimed to make up for the apparent absence of an Obama primary campaign in California, where the rival campaign of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has already begun organizing.

“We are responding his call to people to self-organize,” Ms. Ancona said.
The group’s web site,, features a photograph of Mr. Obama and a link to his campaign’s official site. “Bank it for Barack,” the Vote Hope site declares, urging voters to cast mail ballots for Mr. Obama even before the state’s February primary.

California has moved up its primary election to give it a larger role in the nominating process, and Ms. Ancona said the organization would focus on raising awareness of the race among voters unaccustomed to the new schedule or the state’s new importance, with focus on young voters and minority groups.

The organization’s web site includes a photograph of its founder, Mr. Phillips, with his wife, Susan Sandler. But her parents, the billionaire donors Herb and Marion Sandler, have not yet contributed, Ms. Ancona said.

Although Vote Hope 2008 is among the first 527 groups dedicated to supporting a primary candidate, conservatives have formed at least one other 527 group expressly to stop the nomination of Senator Clinton.

Editor's Note: The anti-Hillary 527 group is subtlety called "Stop Her Now".

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Bin Laden may have arranged family's US exit: FBI docs


Osama bin Laden may have chartered a plane that carried his family members and Saudi nationals out of the United States after the September 11, 2001 attacks, said FBI documents released Wednesday.

The papers, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, were made public by Judicial Watch, a Washington-based group that investigates government corruption.

One FBI document referred to a Ryan Air 727 airplane that departed Los Angeles International Airport on September 19, 2001, and was said to have carried Saudi nationals out of the United States.

"The plane was chartered either by the Saudi Arabian royal family or Osama bin Laden," according to the document, which was among 224 pages posted online.

Read more:

Link to the Documents.

Judicial Watch Release:

The document states: “ON 9/19/01, A 727 PLANE LEFT LAX, RYAN FLT #441 TO ORLANDO, FL W/ETA (estimated time of arrival) OF 4-5PM. THE PLANE WAS CHARTERED EITHER BY THE SAUDI ARABIAN ROYAL FAMILY OR OSAMA BIN LADEN…THE LA FBI SEARCHED THE PLANE LUGGAGE, OF WHICH NOTHING UNUSUAL WAS FOUND.” The plane was allowed to depart the United States after making four stops to pick up passengers, ultimately landing in Paris where all passengers disembarked on 9/20/01, according to the document.

Overall, the FBI’s most recent document production includes details of the six flights between 9/14 and 9/24 that evacuated Saudi royals and bin Laden family members. The documents also contain brief interview summaries and occasional notes from intelligence analysts concerning the cursory screening performed prior to the departures. According to the FBI documents, incredibly not a single Saudi national nor any of the bin Laden family members possessed any information of investigative value.

Moreover, the documents contain numerous errors and inconsistencies which call to question the thoroughness of the FBI’s investigation of the Saudi flights. For example, on one document, the FBI claims to have interviewed 20 of 23 passengers on the Ryan International Airlines flight (commonly referred to as the “Bin Laden Family Flight”). On another document, the FBI claims to have interviewed 15 of 22 passengers on the same flight.

“Eight days after the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, Osama bin Laden possibly charters a flight to whisk his family out of the country, and it’s not worth more than a luggage search and a few brief interviews?” asked Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Clearly these documents prove the FBI conducted a slapdash investigation of these Saudi flights. We’ll never know how many investigative leads were lost due to the FBI’s lack of diligence.”

I just printed this report for some reading material tonight.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Conservatives to Close Grade Schools

by Steve Benen @ Crooks and Liars

Jonah Goldberg offers a new talking point for the GOP: close public schools. [ed. note: Look for them to now be called "government" schools - sounds much more nefarious].

Here's a good question for you: Why have public schools at all?

OK, cue the marching music. We need public schools because blah blah blah and yada yada yada. We could say blah is common culture and yada is the government's interest in promoting the general welfare. Or that children are the future. And a mind is a terrible thing to waste. Because we can't leave any child behind.

The problem with all these bromides is that they leave out the simple fact that one of the surest ways to leave a kid "behind" is to hand him over to the government. Americans want universal education, just as they want universally safe food. But nobody believes that the government should run 90% of the restaurants, farms and supermarkets. Why should it run 90% of the schools — particularly when it gets terrible results?

Let's do all we can to share Goldberg's words of wisdom to American families from coast to coast — the right wants to shut down your local public school and privatize education. That ought to go over well.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer is exploring US Senate bid

We've held back on this, relegating it to speculation. But now, with the launch of the Website, we can kick into rumor, well intended wishing, or possibly calculated foray into the race.

We were tempted in the past to also mention one rumor from a very reliable source - Ford Bell endorses Nelson-Pallmeyer. We'll leak it out now.

The story goes like this - Having received a contribution call from Al Franken, Bell asked if Franken still supported troops in Iraq. This was a main point of contention between the two Blake School graduates. Just like in mid-2006, Franken said he still supported troops in Bush's Iraq War.

Bell refused to contribute to Franken.

The unconfirmed part is that Bell then sent an email to some of his biggest supporters from his 2006 US Senate run, telling them what happened, and that he was supporting Nelson-Pallmeyer. It is not known if Bell encouraged others to support JNP, if Bell has any role in the Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer Exploratory Committee or if JNP even knows of this support.

Having received an email to look at the Website from the site's email server, we can only assume that a) the new group has JNP's email list from his 2006 Congressional bid, b) the group has a list of DFL caucus attendees from 2006 or c) they have a DFL email list. Any are a good starting point for a candidate who was grossly underestimated in the 2006 endorsing convention for CD 5.

It will be interesting to see what carries over.

Some positives would include; his passionate speaking style (best speech at the CD 5 convention), his fanatical volunteers, his knowledge on the issues beyond the talking points, his faith (attended seminary and received a Master of Divinity degree), and his clean campaigning (only accepted a max of $100 in individual contributions).

The questions and negatives his campaign needs to address; his fanatical volunteers (less arts and projects, more voter contact), creating a resonating message beyond the progressive base, being considered a viable candidate statewide, raising funds for state-wide race (will he stick to $100 limit?).

Update: Posted yesterday on MPR: Polinaut - "DFLer Nelson-Pallmeyer eyes Senate race".

Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, the DFLer who originally challenged Rep. Martin Sabo last year before Sabo retired, is now thinking about a run for U.S. Senate.

Nelson-Pallmeyer says he's launching an exploratory campaign with listening sessions around the state.

“It is too early to anoint a candidate,” Nelson-Pallmeyer says in a release. “What we need is a state-wide conversation about pressing problems and practical solutions.”

He joins Peter Agre and Jim Cohen in the DFL-exploratory mode. Al Franken, Mike Ciresi, Bob Olson and Dick Franson are in the race already hoping to face off against Norm Coleman next year.