THE OTHER SHOE DROPS: Updates To Previous Posts
† The Blob, Um, “Stimulus” Bill:Rep. Betty Sutton, who has represented “a blue-collar swath” of OH that is “heavily dependent on the auto industry” since 2006, “led the effort to pass Cash for Clunkers” and “thought she scored a legislative coup when President Obama signed the Clunkers bill into law,” but now finds herself “a top target of Republicans, in part because of her support for the program” and is “trying to convince voters that the stimulus made a bad situation somewhat less bad.” The Washington Post asks, “How can nearly $1 trillion flush through the U.S. economy, with tangible results, and still leave voters dubious?”:
Polls have shown that many Americans view the stimulus as a bust. …
Some blame Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress for failing to set clear and realistic expectations.
The centerpiece of the stimulus effort, the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act approved in February 2009, included a sprawling array of policy initiatives. Obama got to deliver on campaign promises to invest in alternative energy and advance high-speed rail development. Liberals got their funding for Head Start and community food banks, and centrists got middle-class tax breaks. …
It proved difficult to keep track of all that spending, and the White House and Democratic leaders had a hard time showing how it was contributing to the recovery.
Sutton’s opponent, car dealer Tom Ganley (R) derides the Clunkers program even though he sold more than 800 cars because of it (“It created a 30-day surge in auto sales. After it ended, there was no business.”) and the stimulus as a whole (“It creates work and not jobs … as soon as that road's finished, the work's gone.”) For her part, Sutton “hopes that voters will look beyond the road projects that are putting people to work short term.”
† Why Muslim Women Wear Face-Covering Veils (third item): The 18-year old Afghan wife on the cover of the August 9th issue of Time magazine, whose nose and ears were cut off by her husband and brother-in-law as punishment for running away, is now in CA awaiting restorative cosmetic surgery,reports the Los Angeles Times:
Dr. Peter H. Grossman, co-director of the Grossman Burn Center in Sherman Oaks, said his wife, Rebecca, who heads the Calabasas-based Grossman Burn Foundation, saw Aisha on television and knew they could help her.
The foundation paid to bring Aisha to Los Angeles, found a host family for her to stay with and is funding her treatment, Grossman said. That could include a prosthetic nose or reconstruction of her nose and ears using bone, tissue and cartilage from the rest of her body, he said.
"What I'd love to be able to do with Aisha is to give her a permanent solution," said Grossman, who said he planned to meet with her in coming days.
Women for Afghan Women, a nonprofit group based in Fresh Meadows, N.Y., has been using Aisha's case to illustrate what is at stake for Afghan women if international forces leave the country. The group runs a shelter that cared for Aisha for nearly a year, according to a statement posted on their website by Executive Director Manizha Naderi.
† Those Who Can’t Teach, Cheat: A cheating scandal involving at least 13 of the 84 schools comprising the Atlanta public school system, has tarnished the 11-year tenure of Superintendent Beverly Hall, with some calling for her resignation, reports The New York Times:
The investigation centered on suspicions that answer forms on the state achievement test used to measure progress under the federal No Child Left Behind law had been tampered with by educators. The investigation found statistical indications of widespread cheating at 12 schools, isolated cheating at 13 schools and little to no evidence at the remaining 33 schools, but no smoking gun. It referred 109 educators for further investigation.
Throughout the crisis, Dr. Hall has responded with a cool professionalism rather than the outrage that some critics have demanded. Even as she has vowed to ferret out any dishonest educators and has removed the principals of the 12 schools, she has insisted that pervasive wrongdoing has yet to be proven. …
After the report came out, the 2010 achievement tests were given under intense scrutiny, and the results were not good. Scores dropped districtwide, particularly at the flagged schools. …
Dr. Hall shrugs at the notion that she has failed to take responsibility for the cheating problems. She has strengthened test security and requested future screenings for suspicious erasures.
† Updates To Previous Posts (second item, A To Z Approach On Illegal Immigration In AZ): Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) wants to amend the 14th Amendment to disallow the birthright citizenship to children of illegal immigrants, a proposal that has caused consternation amongst legislators on both sides of the aisle , especially since he “was the leading - and almost the only - Republican negotiating with Democrats to create an immigration overhaul bill, reports The New York Times:
The debate centers on the first sentence of what is known as the citizenship clause: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.” The amendment was adopted in 1868 to ensure the citizenship of the American-born children of freed slaves.
Opponents of birthright citizenship contend that illegal immigrants are not under United States jurisdiction, therefore their American-born children should not automatically be citizens. They say the amendment could not apply to those immigrants because there was no illegal immigration when it was adopted. …
But giving citizenship to everyone born in the United States has been the practice since the 1860s, and was upheld by the Supreme Court on the few occasions when it was tested there, immigration lawyers said. …
Mr. Graham’s proposal revived a popular misunderstanding: In the often heated debate over birthright citizenship, pundits refer to the problem of “anchor babies,” and talk show callers express frustration that pregnant women could cross the border from Mexico illegally, then rely on their American citizen newborns to put them immediately on a path to citizenship.
In fact, under immigration law American citizen children must wait until they are 21 years old to apply for legal residency for their parents. …
[S]ome Republicans worried that the issue could backfire. “This type of position may help you win a few elections,” said Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, a group that tries to draw Latinos to the Republican Party. “But you are damaging relations with the Latino community.”
What The Times neglects to mention is that “anchor” children are called that because under current immigration policies which emphasize family reunification, it is difficult – not to mention unpopular with immigration activists and libs - to deport parents of minor children and the anchor is connected to a chain of foreign-born relatives who can then migrate to the U.S.
† Updates To Previous Posts (ninth item, Only The Little People Pay Taxes): The New York Times predicts a class war between “retirees who were once state or municipal workers” whose “seemingly guaranteed and ever-escalating monthly pension benefits are breaking budgets nationwide” and taxpayers whose “401(k)s or individual retirement accounts have taken a real beating in recent years and are not guaranteed” Stoking their resentment further, “many of those people will be paying higher taxes or getting fewer state services as their states put more money aside to cover those pension checks”:
Consider what’s going on in Colorado - and what is likely to unfold in other states and municipalities around the country.
Earlier this year, in an act of rare political courage, a bipartisan coalition of state legislators passed a pension overhaul bill. Among other things, the bill reduced the raise that people who are already retired get in their pension checks each year.
This sort of thing just isn’t done. States have asked current workers to contribute more, tweaked the formula for future hires or banned them from the pension plan altogether. But this was apparently the first time that state legislators had forced current retirees to share the pain. …
But in Colorado, some retirees and those eligible to retire still want to live that dream. So they sued the state to keep all of the annual cost-of-living increases they thought they would be getting in perpetuity.
The state’s case turns, in part, on whether it is an “actuarial necessity” for the Legislature to make a change. To Meredith Williams, executive director of the Public Employees’ Retirement Association, the state’s pension fund, the answer is pretty simple. “If something didn’t change, we would have run out of money in the foreseeable future,” he said. “So no one would have been paid anything.” …
The average retiree in the fund stopped working at the sprightly age of 58 and deposits a check for $2,883 each month. Many of them also got a 3.5 percent annual raise, no matter what inflation was, until the rules changed this year.
Private sector retirees who want their own monthly $2,883 check for life, complete with inflation adjustments, would need an immediate fixed annuity if they don’t have a pension. A 58-year-old male shopping for one from an A-rated insurance company would have to hand over a minimum of $860,000, according to Craig Hemke of Buyapension.com. A woman would need at least $928,000, because of her longer life expectancy.
Who among aspiring retirees has a nest egg that size, let alone people with the same moderate earning history as many state employees? And who wants to pay to top off someone else’s pile of money via increased income taxes or a radical decline in state services?
What kind of services are being cut? In another article about the Great Recession forcing “state, county and city governments resort[ing] to major life-changing cuts in core services like education, transportation and public safety that, not too long ago, would have been unthinkable,” The Times reports that Colorado Springs, a “sprawling city of roughly 400,000 at the foot of Pike’s Peak,” has “stopped collecting trash in its parks, stopped watering many medians on its roads” and darkened “a third of its 24,512 streetlights this winter to save $1.2 million on electricity - while reducing the size of its police force [from 687 officers two years ago to 643]”:
“All the sociologists have said this for years: what matters to people isn’t really the number of reported crimes, it’s their perception of safety,” said the city’s police chief, Richard W. Myers. “And let’s say we don’t see any bump in crime - that would be a good thing. But people don’t feel as safe. They’re already telling us that, even if the numbers don’t bear that out. So do we have a problem? I think so.”
Chief Myers said he worried that if law-abiding citizens stopped going out at night or visiting parks, the city’s deserted open spaces could attract more criminals.
One of most influential policing concepts in recent years has been the “broken windows” theory, which holds that addressing minor crimes and signs of disorder can head off bigger problems down the road. …
To close a budget gap - the city’s voters, many of whom favor smaller government, turned down a property tax increase in November, and a taxpayer’s bill of rights makes it hard for city officials to raise taxes. …
Several recent studies have suggested that streetlights help reduce crime - something residents here say is obvious.
The public employee plaintiffs suing to force the state to keep raising their pension payouts 3.5 percent a year should sacrifice something to defuse the resentment their selfishness is causing. How about volunteering to have the streetlights in front of their homes switched off to offset the cost of their automatic cost-of-living pension increases?
† Updates To Previous Posts (ninth item, Is Obama Already A Lame Duck?): Remember that billboard featuring a smiling Bush 43 and the question "Miss me yet?" Well the Dems sure seem to, because they are unable to trumpet President Barack Hussein’s policy successes and are reduced to keep invoking President Bush’s tenure, reports The Washington Post:
In interviews, mailings and television ads, Democratic candidates are once again hauling out the specter of the former president to use as a foil. Nearly two years after he left office and virtually disappeared from public view, Bush - his image, his policies, his legacy - are being dragged back into the public arena.
The strategy could backfire for Democrats, who risk appearing desperate by blaming Bush instead of taking responsibility. Former Bush strategist Karl Rove called it a "deadly street to go down" for Democratic candidates who have "no next act" to promote.
But Democratic strategists, from the White House down, say invoking the ex-president helps clarify their message: Republicans would return the country to a time of failed economic policies. …
Bush left office as one of the most unpopular presidents in history. His approval rating sank to the mid-20s as he struggled to respond to the near collapse of the economy. Democrats believe that reminding voters about why they disliked Bush will translate into a boost in support.
There is even the hope circulating among some Democratic strategists that Bush's forthcoming memoir - due out days after the election - will leak to the press early, creating a flurry of Bush legacy stories in the run-up to the fall midterm elections. …
Republicans say the Democrats are attempting a rerun of their victories in 2006 and 2008 despite a very different political environment. And they predict that efforts to use Bush will fail for most of the Democrats this fall.
† Updates To Previous Posts (third item, Warning: Dining Out Is More Fattening Than You Think): Some of NYC’s “A List” restaurants do not merit an “A” in cleanliness under the Department of Health’s new inspection scheme, reports the New York Post:
On track to receive a B for dirty or unsafe kitchen conditions are: celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain's flagship brasserie, Les Halles; Upper West Side staple Shun Lee; Dylan Thomas' favorite pub, the White Horse Tavern; and Di Fara's Pizzeria, often hailed as the city's best slice.
The 540 Park Restaurant at the Regency Hotel and at the iconic McSorley's Old Ale House, Manhattan's oldest bar, are two of the more than 100 restaurants that racked up so many violation points last week that they currently qualify for a cold C for health violations. Eateries that earned a B or a C have one last chance to contest the grade before receiving their scarlet letter.
And lest you think an “A” means a restaurant’s kitchen and pantry are aseptically sterile, the presence of mice droppings is only a five-point violation (up to 13 points is an A; 14 to 27 points is a B; more than 27 points is a C).
† Updates To Previous Posts (last item, 10 Reasons Michelle Obama Should Be Proud – Really Proud – Of America): This latest installment in The Stiletto Blog’s ongoing series meant to help instill the necessary pride of country in Michelle Obama’s consciousness to enable her to serve as an unofficial ambassador focuses on a consortium of technology companies in Northern VA have volunteered to help Arlington Cemetery correct its shocking and shameful record-keeping deficiencies. The Washington Post reports:
The companies, all members of the Northern Virginia Technology Council, will meet with cemetery officials next week to create an assessment of the type of technology needed to create an automated system, a process that Warner said "should not be that big of a challenge."
[Mark] Warner (D-Va.) reached out to the tech council after the Army's inspector general released a report in June that found that poor record-keeping and mismanagement led to the mislabeling of dozens of graves. As a result, the cemetery's top two managers were forced to resign.
Warner, a former businessman who co-founded cellphone company Nextel (now Sprint Nextel), called the scandal a "disgrace" and was incredulous that the cemetery was still using an antiquated paper system. But he said that creating a digital system to handle the more than 330,000 burial records would be a relatively easy task.
Fifteen companies, including giants such as IBM, CACI, Booz Allen Hamilton and Microsoft, will help the cemetery, free of charge, to figure out what sort of system it needs, said Bobbie Kilberg, president of the tech council.