Democratic Led Congress Approved $787 Stimulus, Handing Obama A Major Victory

The U.S. Congress handed President Barack Obama a major legislative victory on Friday, with a $787 billion stimulus bill that aims to provide much needed emergency government spending and tax cuts to the nation in the grip of a severe recession.
he largest stimulus bill in history, has bounced back and forth between the House and Senate, contains thousands of pages of special provisions for just about everyone. President Bush’s stimulus package last summer was only $150 billion followed by $700 billion bailout of the financial sector of the economy, but neither one has been able to jump start the economy.

This time around, the nation is in an official recession which has spread into every sector of the economy. Obama’s didn’t have the luxury of the being able to focus on one sector of the economy, forcing his plan to be much more comprehensive.

But, addressing many sectors of the economy has also deluded the about of money that each industry, state, program and person will be getting. The end result is that we each get $5, which does not seem like its going to have much of an impact on the economy.

It was also interesting to learn that not a single House Republican voted for one of the biggest single spending bills in the nation's history and only three Republican senators backed it. This is a vote of no confidence. If our leaders don’t believe in the bill, then how can we? Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell complained the bill "is unlikely to have much stimulative effect."

The White House said it would take about a month for the money to start flowing. One of the primary concerns of economists is that the stimulus will come too late to do much good in 2009.

The next question is going to be, “How big is the next stimulus bill going to be?” if this one doesn’t work? And if it doesn’t, God help us.

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Apple iPhone Apps - Attack of the iClones: Microsoft Retail Store Edition

First they clone the handsets. Then they clone the App Store. Then they clone MobileMe. (Not to mention Windows 7’s “dock” block…) What’s left for Microsoft to clone? The Apple Retail Stores, of course. Enter: the Microsoft Store! We’ve already heard how Apple Stores are retail juggernauts, and are being re-focused to lure even more switchers, all [...]


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Obama's Census-ational Power Grab

After President Barack Obama nominated his second Commerce Secretary candidate in two weeks, his uber-liberal core constituency began screeching that his “big tent” was “bursting at the seams.” A grand jury investigation into state contracts for political donors had forced New Mexico governor Bill Richardson to drop out and Obama tapped New Hampshire Republican Sen. Judd Gregg. California Rep. Barbara Lee petulantly decried Gregg's complaints over Clinton Administration Census Bureau methods.

Gregg didn't refuse to fund the Census, as Lee wants the public to believe. He objected to Clinton administration attempts to “redraw their congressional districts” and reallocate federal grants to states with “statistical sampling” adjustments. The Supreme Court ruled against Census use of statistical sampling to reapportion the 435 House of Representative seats in the 1999 case Commerce Department v. U.S. House. Alas, the high court did not outlaw statistical samples methods to redistrict within states. But Lee got her way: Gregg too dropped out on February 12, citing his dissatisfaction with the administration's handling of the census and stimulus packages Thus, the “recurrent fantasy of Census critics on the Left” remains, to revise “population numbers more to their liking,” observes former Census chief Bruce Chapman (1981-1983). If successful, such a feat would redistribute power and funds for least a decade -- and could permanently damage America's political landscape and its carefully constructed internal balance of power.

Nevertheless, President Obama relaunched the notion into political play on February 5. The Census Census Bureau will report directly to his Chief of Staff for the 2010 decennial count. Wresting Census from Commerce Department to White House control threatens “reckless politicization of the Census Bureau.” It could project “the image of a Chicago-style partisan power play” -- and corrupt all fundamental data sustaining U.S. national statistics. Obama is a Daley-style Democrat, though, and Democratic party stalwarts since Jimmy Carter have broadly supported deploying the Census to their permanent political advantage. In 1978, President Carter ordered immigration enforcement officers not to arrest illegal aliens without executive branch approval, reports retired senior INS investigator Michael Cutler, who afterwards sarcastically labeled them “pre-citizens.” Angry immigration enforcement officers nationwide adopted Cutler's term to protest Carter's outrageous political maneuver.
Over law enforcement objections, Democrats have been monkeying with the Census ever since. Besides Obama, the chief culprits today are partisans like New York City Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a former ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Federalism and the Census, who want Obama to appoint former Census chief Kenneth Prewitt to head the 2010 Census. Prewitt advocated “statistical sampling” to reapportion House seats under Clinton, until the Supreme Court nixed it in 1999.

Then, as now, Democrats coveted statistical projection to enumerate for the census rather than counting individuals one by one. Opponents correctly recognize “the proposal as a violation of the Constitution, which calls for 'actual enumeration',” and an obvious ploy to bolster Democratic standing in congressional redistricting following the census, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In politics, though, pretense is everything.

As “one of our country's premier scientific agencies,” the Census Bureau “should be accorded the status of peers such as NASA, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation,” Maloney said last September, on introducing the “Restoring the Integrity of American Statistics Act of 2008” to make it independent in 2012. With backing from the census chiefs of the last seven presidents, from Richard M. Nixon to George W. Bush, Maloney heralded the bill as “a clear signal to Americans that the agency they depend upon for unbiased monthly economic data as well as the important decennial portrait of our nation is independent, fair, and protected from interference.” It went no where, although Maloney plans to reintroduce the bill this session.

Yet in February 2009, Maloney sings a different tune. “Obama won the election. Ultimately he's the boss anyway,” says a staff member, waving her true political colors. Therefore, the argument goes, it doesn't matter whether the Census Bureau reports to the White House or Commerce. And on Feb. 12, Maloney claimed that former Census chiefs' concerns over the Obama administration Census agency hijacking amount to a “page from Seinfeld...a show about nothing.”

Chapman and Charles Louis Kincannon (Census chief, 2002-2008) vociferously disagree. Science should be scientific. Statisticians almost universally reject adjusting numbers. It follows that having Census report to the White House---which has previously never been done---would turn statistical science “into something where speculation and guesswork could introduce egregious and prejudicial errors.”

It is bad enough that the Constitutional Census clause does not distinguish between citizens and non-citizens. The founding fathers would undoubtedly have cast it differently had they envisioned a time when illegal aliens would distort the rights of citizens to fair representation.

“Undocumented is synonymous with unauthorized and illegal,” observes Connecticut Data Center manager Orlando J. Rodriguez at the University of Connecticut. Illegal aliens, if counted, will “distort the relative voting power of all citizens nationwide,” thereby influencing “America's representative political system.” Excluding non-voters from congressional reapportionment would provide a much broader geographical dispersement of House seats, and fairer citizen and voter representation, he found in 2007 and subsequent studies. The converse is to allow illegal alien settlement to generate Congressional seats for southern border states at the expense of citizens and voters in northern and mid-western states.

Most disconcerting, however, is Democrats' “plain hope” to leverage illegal aliens via controversial sampling and computer modeling to “'adjust' the Census numbers in 2010,” and further distort citizens' relative voting power. Surely, Americans should not tolerate a political party redistributing power and funds away from citizens by riding roughshod over the Constitutional requirement for actual numeration.

“Let's see,” Chapman quips of Democratic concerns. Obama Commerce nominee Gregg “cannot be trusted, but the Democratic politicos in the West Wing can?”

By commandeering the Census Bureau, Obama may hope to orchestrate a silent political coup. If so, however, key House Democrats insist this amounts to “nothing.”


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Moderate American-Muslim TV Executive Charged With Beheading His Wife

Muzzammil Hassan started a cable TV network after 9/11 in New York state to prove to America that American Muslims are a moderate, peaceful people. Today he is charged with killing his wife, Aasiya, by beheading after she served him with divorce papers and a restraining order. Blogger Debbie Schlussel wonders why Hassan has only been charged with second-degree murder. "It's not that easy to behead someone, and it was likely planned in advance 'with malice aforethought,'" she writes. Schlussel notes that such killings are not rare among Muslims. Known as honor killings, they are typically directed by a male head of household against his spouse or other female family members for violating the honor of their family.

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Great Backyard Bird Count

I had too many other things going on yesterday to start my Great Backyard Bird Count, but today Mr. Johnson had to go into work for a few hours, so I made good use of that time by knitting on my Big Lena Sveater and watching birds from the dining room window. It was a beautiful morning, and I went out early and filled all the feeders with food and treats to optimize my birdwatching opportunities, and the birds didn't disappoint me! Here are some pictures from today that I hope you enjoy (don't forget, you can click on any of the pictures to enlarge them).

Mrs. Hairy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Crow (with a couple chunks of bread)

" didn't leave me any!!"

In addition to goldfinches, I also saw (and recorded) 1 Common Redpoll and 1 Pine Siskin

Dark-Eyed Junco

"Penny, wake up!! You're missing all the birdies!"

Bluejays were the first ones here this morning.

Red Rules! Cardinal and House Finch sharing the birdfeeder

Remember those giant mealworms? Chickadee loves 'em!

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!


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Blown Tire Puts Daytona in Chaos for Stewart-Haas Racing

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- It's pretty much the worse case scenario for the Stewart-Haas Racing debut.

Defending Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman's Chevrolet blew a tire in the final minutes of practice for Sunday's Daytona 500 and the wreck collected the car immediately behind him – his team owner, Tony Stewart.

"Don't get them (Goodyear) anywhere near me," said Stewart, who described his emotions as "ticked, not nice and not cordial" as his crew worked feverishly to prepare his car.

"It's frustrating because the gold and blue caused another deal. I'm so tired of talking about Goodyear. Apparently this is their marketing strategy to get publicity."

Both drivers will have to go to a back-up car for the biggest race of the year – for Newman, it's his third car of the week. Stewart had earned the fifth starting position for the 500 but now will have to join Newman in a back-up at the rear of the 43-car field.

Stewart returned to the track to get in a couple laps of practice, Newman's car wasn't ready.

"If it was a driver's mistake that's one thing," Stewart said, "but a manufacturer that's got the sole deal. ... they don't have any competition, they can't give us something to keep us from having problems like this?"

"I'm just amazed how much everybody kisses their butt right now."

This isn't hte first time Stewart has been disappointed with Goodyear. He's perhaps the garage's most vocal critic of NASCAR's sole tire supplier, and has often had good reason. Last year the tires were so dysfunctional at the series Indianapolis Motor Speedway race, officials had to throw caution flags every handful of laps for safety concerns.

Earlier Saturday, Goodyear recalled eight right side tires from eight Cup teams.

The force of the right rear tire failure yesterday essentially blew off the right rear side on Newman's No. 39 Chevy. The tire had less than a dozen laps of use.

"The car was handling well, everything was fine," Newman said. "It gave me about 100 yards of sign that it might do something.

"It's ridiculous the situation we have with these tires."

After examining the tire, Stu Grant, Goodyear's General Manager of Worldwide Racing, said the evidence clearly shows a puncture in the tire indicating that Newman's car ran over debris on the race track, versus a structural tire problem.

"The tire did no show excessive wear, it did not show any evidence of heat, blistering or abuse of any kind," Grant said. "What we did find was a clear puncture through the tread and both belts in one of the pieces we found."

Grant said he wasn't entirely surprised to hear Stewart's comments, especially in this situation.

"But we're focused on doing the best possible job we can at all levels of involvement in the sport," Grant said. "It can be frustrating for us to hear that criticism, but we also understand it's got to be extremely frustrating for him to experience what he did today.

"I do want to talk to Tony and I do plan to talk to Tony."


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