Are GOPers Deliberately Lying About the Stimulus?

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At the White House this week, the main narrative in the press room was this: Has President Barack Obama lost the message war over the $862 billion stimulus? Noting the one-year anniversary of the enactment of that legislation, reporters again and again asked press secretary Robert Gibbs some version of this question. What could the guy say? Especially when the answer is yes. He’s not going to concede the White House got its clock cleaned by the feckless congressional Republicans on this front — even though public opinion polls apparently show that there’s only person in the entire United States of America who believes the Recovery Act has created jobs. So Gibbs repeatedly said that it’s understandable that at a time of nearly 10 percent unemployment most Americans are skeptical that Obama’s stimulus package did much good — no matter that economists widely credit it for spurring part of the recent economic growth and that it’s darn obvious that the package did fund private sector projects that spawned jobs and that it prevented teachers, firefighters, cops, and others from being canned.

Still, Gibbs couldn’t escape the journos who were fixated on this political story and who wanted to squeeze an admission of defeat out of the White House.


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Phyllis Schlafly: No Women, Sarah Palin Included, Ready for White House

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At 85, Phyllis Schlafly has still got game.

The anti-feminist founder of the conservative Eagle Forum — who counts Barry Goldwater’s 1964 White House run and the 1982 death of the Equal Rights Amendment as exquisite victories and the “internationalist” presidencies of George Bush 41 and 43 as “not helpful to the Republican party” — hasn’t mellowed one whit.

That she made abundantly clear Thursday afternoon at the Conservative Political Action Committee conference in Washington.

Lord knows she still looks great, the poufy blonde hair perfectly lacquered, the fitted tweed jacket tricked out with her signature golden eagle brooch and tiny anti-abortion baby feet, her neck encircled by three stands of pearls and a chain from which dangled a cross of gold. (Also, for those into jewelry inventories, there were diamonds rings, a pair of gold flower earrings with pearl centers and probably a wristwatch, suggesting that however comfortable Schlafly is with an early 20th century notion of female comportment, she rejects the dicta of both Emily Post and Coco Chanel to remove at least one bauble before leaving home, or to limit the total to a brutally edited three.)

Preaching to the CPAC choir in her allotted seven minutes on the “Saving Freedom from the Enemies of our Values” panel, Schlafly warned about the futility of a Tea Party third party. Too expensive, too inefficient, and, in the end, pointless because every single one of those 435 House members and 100 Senators will end up aligning with the Republicans or Democrats. Although she’s thrilled that the GOP now has “the most conservative platform ever,” she insists she doesn’t want to “expel” anyone from its not-so-big tent. (If you want to actually hear her sneer, listen as she utters the phrase “Rockefeller Republican.”)

Too soon it was over, with too few Phyllisisms to take away. I needed some first-time face time with her, which turned out to be a nice round quarter hour with this champion of stay-at-home moms to whom feminist is a four-letter word. She herself has written or edited 20 books, earned a Washington University law degree, a Harvard master’s in political science, spawned a potent political empire, and developed a fierce conviction that chivalry, like manly men, must never be allowed to die. I’m certain that when she ascends to Heaven, if indeed that is where she’s headed, she’ll expect St. Peter not just to hold open the Pearly Gates, but also to help her off with her coat.

So, I asked Mrs. Schlafly — you don’t really think she’s ever called Ms. Schlafly? — when might this country elect a woman president?

“I don’t see it happening because I don’t see one coming up the line in either party,” she said. Democrat Hillary Clinton lost to Barack Obama because “people don’t want to elect a feminist because they are not likeable. You have to be likeable to be elected.” She paused a moment before musing that “the best route is probably being a governer,” never mind that at this moment, “the pickings among [women] governors are very slim.”

Ditto, apparently, among female ex-governors. “Sarah Palin is the total package. She’s got a cute husband. She’s got a lot of kids.”

But is she ready to be president? “I don’t think so.”


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Iraq War to Be Renamed

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The war in Iraq, currently known as Operation Iraqi Freedom, is getting a new name.

As of Sept. 1, the war will be called “Operation New Dawn,” ABC News reported Thursday.

The change will coincide with “the change of mission for U.S. forces in Iraq,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote in a memo this week to the Commander of Central Command, Gen. David Petraeus.

Sept. 1 is the date the Obama administration has scheduled to begin withdrawing U.S. combat troops.

The name change will send “a strong signal that Operation IRAQI FREEDOM has ended and our forces are operating under a new mission,” Gates wrote in the memo, which was also sent to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen.

“It also presents opportunities to synchronize strategic communication initiatives, reinforce our commitment to honor the Security Agreement, and recognize our evolving relationship with the Government of Iraq,” Gates wrote.

Read the memo here.


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Obama Swings West to Raise Cash for Sen. Michael Bennet, Other Dems

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President Obama defended stimulus spending and advocated for health care reform Thursday while attending a pair of Denver fundraisers for U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.

It’s the third February in a row that Obama’s visited the city. In 2008, he packed a University of Denver auditorium on a campaign stop. A year ago, he signed the stimulus bill in the Colorado capital.

In his remarks, Obama cited Republican criticism of the $787 billion spending bill aimed at rejuvenating the economy during the worst recession since the Great Depression.

“A lot of these guys, when it comes to the ribbon cutting for the projects, they show up. Hold up the check,” Obama said. “I’m not going to give ’em hell. I’m going to tell the truth and they’ll think it’s hell.”

The fundraiser at Denver’s Fillmore Auditorium, a popular music venue, drew about 3,000 people who paid between $25 and $100 per ticket. Obama then attended a $1,000 per-person reception at a downtown hotel, before flying to Las Vegas to attend a private fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee.


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‘A Wake-Up Call’ for Rural America

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Are America’s farms facing a crisis?

Addressing the USDA’s annual Outlook Forum — which looks at the year ahead in agriculture — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Thursday, “I want to express concern about the 2.2 million farmers and 50 million people who live in rural America.”
He noted that rural America has fewer college graduates and an average income $11,000 per-capita less than the national average.

Rural America is also older than urban or suburban communities; this year’s agricultural census puts the average age of farmers at 57. And as those farmers retire or move on to other jobs, who will replace them is an open question.

“These statistics on rural America are a wake-up call,” said Vilsack.

And rural America is facing more than educational and economic challenges.

A report issued Wednesday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute ranked U.S. counties in terms of healthiness, looking at factors such as lifespan, access to doctors, and environment.
When comparing the 50 healthiest and the 50 least healthy areas, researchers found that 84 percent of the counties ranked as least healthy were rural counties.
And despite being farm country, another factor impacting rural life may well be the accessibility to food.
“It’s difficult to address the economic or health issues of this country if (we don’t address that) in some rural and inner cities areas of this country, there are no grocery stores,” Vilsack said.
In response to the crisis, Vilsack touted efforts at expanding broadband access in rural areas, which has lagged behind suburban and urban areas, and also called for an extension of a tax credit on biodiesel, which was enacted in 2004 and expired at the end of last year.
But, he also noted that with fewer midsize farms operating and more farmers holding down second jobs, the most important factor may be in finding ways to encourage young people to take up farming.


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U.S. and Mexican Authorities Join Forces at Border

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Federal agents and Mexican officers have been sharing intelligence and working patrols together for the first time in a joint effort to crack down on drug smuggling and illegal immigration, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Mexican Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna signed a declaration Thursday in Mexico City that would expand the new partnership between the U.S. Border Patrol and Mexico’s federal police that began in recent months.

Officials said that eventually joint operations on both sides of the border could lead to the creation of a Mexican force serving as a counterpart to the Border Patrol, according to the Times.

A major goal of the partnership is to help Mexico fight violent drug cartels, which are often better funded and more heavily armed than Mexican police.

“We are planting a seed of binational cooperation that interests all of us,” Mexican federal police Cmdr. Armando Trevino said. “We are fighting a common enemy. We are going to work together like friends, like comrades, like brothers.”


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Austin Crash Pilot: ‘Nothing Changes Unless There is a Body Count’

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A small airplane that crashed Thursday into a building in Austin, Texas, housing the IRS was piloted by a man who left behind a manifesto describing a lifetime of frustration with the tax agency. The pilot was believed to have been killed and two people were injured.

Federal authorities identified the pilot as Joseph Andrew Stack, 53. The website Austinist reported that his residence, to which he allegedly set fire Thursday, was on Dapplegrey Lane in northern Austin. Stack owned the house and a PIPER P-28 Cherokee plane that was last registered in California in 1998.

A message on a Web site registered to Stack said the writer’s disillusionment with the American government had created “a storm raging in [his] head,” and that “desperate times call for desperate measures.”

The writer outlines his history of studying the U.S. tax code, his objections to various aspects of taxation, and the madness his feelings of powerlessness had driven him to. He rants against power of all sorts — government, corporate, clerical — and says Americans have been duped into believing that their system allows them to be free.

“I can say with a great degree of certainty that there has never been a politician cast a vote on any matter with the likes of me or my interests in mind. Nor, for that matter, are they the least bit interested in me or anything I have to say.”

In the message, the writer wonders why lawmakers are eager to bail out failing banks and auto corporations, but unwilling to reform America’s “joke” of a health care system. “Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of the GM executives, for scores of years) and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours?”

The message concludes with a justification of the suicide mission:

I know I’m hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand. It has always been a myth that people have stopped dying for their freedom in this country, and it isn’t limited to the blacks, and poor immigrants. I know there have been countless before me and there are sure to be as many after. But I also know that by not adding my body to the count, I insure nothing will change. I choose to not keep looking over my shoulder at “big brother” while he strips my carcass, I choose not to ignore what is going on all around me, I choose not to pretend that business as usual won’t continue; I have just had enough.

I can only hope that the numbers quickly get too big to be white washed and ignored that the American zombies wake up and revolt; it will take nothing less. I would only hope that by striking a nerve that stimulates the inevitable double standard, knee-jerk government reaction that results in more stupid draconian restrictions people wake up and begin to see the pompous political thugs and their mindless minions for what they are. Sadly, though I spent my entire life trying to believe it wasn’t so, but violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer. The cruel joke is that the really big chunks of s— at the top have known this all along and have been laughing, at and using this awareness against, fools like me all along.

I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different. I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.


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