Really, Would We Have Expected Anything Else From Sarah?

Books Palin

Sarah Palin’s book, Going Rouge is coming out. Look for it in the fiction section of your local book store. Considering how many of my posts on Sarah Palin are devoted to debunking the falsehoods she states, did anyone really expect to see any honesty in her book?

AP fact checks her book and provides some examples of the errors:

PALIN: Says she made frugality a point when traveling on state business as Alaska governor, asking ”only” for reasonably priced rooms and not ”often” going for the ”high-end, robe-and-slippers” hotels.

THE FACTS: Although travel records indicate she usually opted for less-pricey hotels while governor, Palin and daughter Bristol stayed five days and four nights at the $707.29-per-night Essex House luxury hotel (robes and slippers come standard) overlooking New York City’s Central Park for a five-hour women’s leadership conference in October 2007. With air fare, the cost to Alaska was well over $3,000. Event organizers said Palin asked if she could bring her daughter. The governor billed her state more than $20,000 for her children’s travel, including to events where they had not been invited, and in some cases later amended expense reports to specify that they had been on official business.

——

PALIN: Boasts that she ran her campaign for governor on small donations, mostly from first-time givers, and turned back large checks from big donors if her campaign perceived a conflict of interest.

THE FACTS: Of the roughly $1.3 million she raised for her primary and general election campaigns for governor, more than half came from people and political action committees giving at least $500, according to an AP analysis of her campaign finance reports. The maximum that individual donors could give was $1,000; $2,000 for a PAC.

Of the rest, about $76,000 came from Republican Party committees.

She accepted $1,000 each from a state senator and his wife in the weeks after the two Republican lawmakers’ offices were raided by the FBI as part of an investigation into a powerful Alaska oilfield services company. After AP reported those donations during the presidential campaign, she said she would give a comparative sum to charity after the general election in 2010, a date set by state election laws.

PALIN: Rails against taxpayer-financed bailouts, which she attributes to Obama. She recounts telling daughter Bristol that to succeed in business, ”you’ll have to be brave enough to fail.”

THE FACTS: Palin is blurring the lines between Obama’s stimulus plan — a $787 billion package of tax cuts, state aid, social programs and government contracts — and the federal bailout that Republican presidential candidate John McCain voted for and President George W. Bush signed.

Palin’s views on bailouts appeared to evolve as McCain’s vice presidential running mate. In September 2008, she said ”taxpayers cannot be looked to as the bailout, as the solution, to the problems on Wall Street.” A week later, she said ”ultimately what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy.”

During the vice presidential debate in October, Palin praised McCain for being ”instrumental in bringing folks together” to pass the $700 billion bailout. After that, she said ”it is a time of crisis and government did have to step in.”

——

PALIN: Says Ronald Reagan faced an even worse recession than the one that appears to be ending now, and ”showed us how to get out of one. If you want real job growth, cut capital gains taxes and slay the death tax once and for all.”

THE FACTS: The estate tax, which some call the death tax, was not repealed under Reagan and capital gains taxes are lower now than when Reagan was president.

Economists overwhelmingly say the current recession is far worse. The recession Reagan faced lasted for 16 months; this one is in its 23rd month. The recession of the early 1980s did not have a financial meltdown. Unemployment peaked at 10.8 percent, worse than the October 2009 high of 10.2 percent, but the jobless rate is still expected to climb.

——

PALIN: She says her team overseeing the development of a natural gas pipeline set up an open, competitive bidding process that allowed any company to compete for the right to build a 1,715-mile pipeline to bring natural gas from Alaska to the Lower 48.

THE FACTS: Palin characterized the pipeline deal the same way before an AP investigation found her team crafted terms that favored only a few independent pipeline companies and ultimately benefited a company with ties to her administration, TransCanada Corp. Despite promises and legal guidance not to talk directly with potential bidders during the process, Palin had meetings or phone calls with nearly every major candidate, including TransCanada.

PALIN: Criticizes an aide to her predecessor, Gov. Frank Murkowski, for a conflict of interest because the aide represented the state in negotiations over a gas pipeline and then left to work as a handsomely paid lobbyist for ExxonMobil. Palin asserts her administration ended all such arrangements, shoving a wedge in the revolving door between special interests and the state capital.

THE FACTS: Palin ignores her own ”revolving door” issue in office; the leader of her own pipeline team was a former lobbyist for a subsidiary of TransCanada, the company that ended up winning the rights to build the pipeline.

——

PALIN: Writes about a city councilman in Wasilla, Alaska, who owned a garbage truck company and tried to push through an ordinance requiring residents of new subdivisions to pay for trash removal instead of taking it to the dump for free — this to illustrate conflicts of interest she stood against as a public servant.

THE FACTS: As Wasilla mayor, Palin pressed for a special zoning exception so she could sell her family’s $327,000 house, then did not keep a promise to remove a potential fire hazard on the property.

She asked the city council to loosen rules for snow machine races when she and her husband owned a snow machine store, and cast a tie-breaking vote to exempt taxes on aircraft when her father-in-law owned one. But she stepped away from the table in 1997 when the council considered a grant for the Iron Dog snow machine race in which her husband competes.

——

PALIN: Says Obama has admitted that the climate change policy he seeks will cause people’s electricity bills to ”skyrocket.”

THE FACTS: She correctly quotes a comment attributed to Obama in January 2008, when he told San Francisco Chronicle editors that under his cap-and-trade climate proposal, ”electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket” as utilities are forced to retrofit coal burning power plants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Obama has argued since then that climate legislation can blunt the cost to consumers. Democratic legislation now before Congress calls for a variety of measures aimed at mitigating consumer costs. Several studies predict average household costs probably would be $100 to $145 a year.

——

PALIN: Welcomes last year’s Supreme Court decision deciding punitive damages for victims of the nation’s largest oil spill tragedy, the Exxon Valdez disaster, stating it had taken 20 years to achieve victory. As governor, she says, she’d had the state argue in favor of the victims, and she says the court’s ruling went ”in favor of the people.” Finally, she writes, Alaskans could recover some of their losses.

THE FACTS: That response is at odds with her reaction at the time to the ruling, which resolved the long-running case by reducing punitive damages for victims to $500 million from $2.5 billion. Environmentalists and plaintiffs’ lawyers decried the ruling as a slap at the victims and Palin herself said she was ”extremely disappointed.” She said the justices had gutted a jury decision favoring higher damage awards, the Anchorage Daily News reported. ”It’s tragic that so many Alaska fishermen and their families have had their lives put on hold waiting for this decision,” she said, noting many had died ”while waiting for justice.”

——

PALIN: Describing her resistance to federal stimulus money, Palin describes Alaska as a practical, libertarian haven of independent Americans who don’t want ”help” from government busybodies.

THE FACTS: Alaska is also one of the states most dependent on federal subsidies, receiving much more assistance from Washington than it pays in federal taxes. A study for the nonpartisan Tax Foundation found that in 2005, the state received $1.84 for every dollar it sent to Washington.

——

PALIN: Says she tried to talk about national security and energy independence in her interview with Vogue magazine but the interviewer wanted her to pivot from hydropower to high fashion.

THE FACTS are somewhat in dispute. Vogue contributing editor Rebecca Johnson said Palin did not go on about hydropower. ”She just kept talking about drilling for oil.”

——

PALIN: ”Was it ambition? I didn’t think so. Ambition drives; purpose beckons.” Throughout the book, Palin cites altruistic reasons for running for office, and for leaving early as Alaska governor.

THE FACTS: Few politicians own up to wanting high office for the power and prestige of it, and in this respect, Palin fits the conventional mold. But ”Going Rogue” has all the characteristics of a pre-campaign manifesto, the requisite autobiography of the future candidate.

I’m sure we will be hearing a lot from the people Palin wrote about. Former McCain strategist John Weaver describes her claims about the McCain campaign as “petty and pathetic.”

Obama and Unemployment

Republicans would love to blame Obama for the unemployment rate but this would also contradict their belief that the government cannot do much to affect the economy. Libertarian Megan McArdle is honest about this in defending Obama against an op-ed by Charles Blow which does blame him:

The president has very little control over employment in the economy.  The stimulus undoubtedly kept the economy from losing even more jobs than he did.  But the economy is undergoing a hell of a deep structural adjustment:  from debtors to savers, from housing-and-finance led growth to . . . well, if we knew that, the recession would already be over.  Those adjustments need to happen, because the previous situation was totally unsustainable.  But they definitionally imply higher unemployment and less consumer demand in the short run.

A third stimulus might lower the unemployment rate a little, at least from where it would otherwise be.  But it would not put us back at 5% unemployment, and it would have a lot of other costs, including further risking our AAA bond rating. Stimulus is at best an incredibly blunt instrument.  And it is made blunter by all of the procedural checks we’ve accumulated over decades of government growth, not to mention very powerful public sector unions.  FDR could tell his government to go out and hire people to paint hallways or build dams.  The current president needs Environmental Impact Statements, public review periods, and the okay of ACFSME.

The fact is, most of the time, the best the president can do is avoid making things much worse.  And though I have many disagreements with the specifics of Obama’s policies, I’d say that largely, he’s kept from making stuff worse, and eased the worst of the damage on hurting families.  We could be doing more with more generous unemployment benefits or other income assistance, less with atrocious auto bailouts.  But the economics of recession is truly a dismal science, and demanding that the president cure the recession is about as effective as expecting him to cure Hep C.

Blow is certainly right that Obama and Democrats will pay a price in 2010 and 2012 if the employment picture doesn’t dramatically improve.  Life is unfair that way.  But op-ed columnists should not pile on with fruitless demands for radically lower unemployment.

Unfortunately jobless recoveries have become the norm following the last few recessions. Unemployment remains high after last year’s economic turn down since many companies went under and are not around to hire even in an economy. Companies which have survived changed how they do business so that they do not require as many employees.

Book Provides More Stories About Palin

Scott Conroy and Shushannah Walshe followed Sarah Palin during the 2008 election campaign and have published their account in an upcoming book, Sarah from Alaska. CNN has described some of the items in the book, such as this report about Palin on election night:

According to a copy of the book obtained by CNN, Palin’s speechwriter Matthew Scully had prepared a brief speech for the then-Alaska governor to deliver while introducing McCain, before he gave his concession speech at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix. But after conferring in his suite with senior advisers Mark Salter, Rick Davis and Steve Schmidt, McCain nixed the idea of having Palin speak before him.

 

Schmidt then broke the news to Palin. But she told no one on her staff, the authors write, setting off a series of staff miscommunications that went unresolved until moments before McCain took the stage to concede the election.

Palin did not inform her adviser Jason Recher, who was planning out Palin’s movements that night, about Schmidt’s directive.

“I’m speaking,” Palin told him, according to the book. “I’ve got the remarks. Figure it out.”

Palin’s deputy chief of staff Chris Edwards, meanwhile, was also unaware that Palin had been told she was not to speak. Edwards, ready to load the speech into teleprompter, bumped into Schmidt, who told him McCain would be speaking alone. Edwards relayed Schmidt’s order to Palin, but she once again did not let on that Schmidt had already spoken to her.

The governor could not understand why she was not being allowed to speak. “This speech is great,” she said, according to the authors. “It’s all about how John McCain’s an American hero.”

The confusion continued until the final minutes before the concession speech, when Palin – still shuffling through her speech notes – gathered with McCain, family members and senior staff outside McCain’s villa at the resort.

Sensing uncertainty, Salter finally put his foot down. “You’re not speaking,” the longtime McCain adviser told Palin. “John has decided it’s unprecedented.”

Other incidents mentioned include how the McCain team used flash cards to bring Palin “up to speed on foreign affairs and major national issues.” This included a card to teach her that the Prime Minister of Great Britain is Gordon Brown. During the campaign she wanted to bring up Jeremiah Wright, believing it would help prevent the defeat which had become inevitable the day McCain chose Palin. Apparently Palin wanted very badly to win, on one occasion being quoted as saying, “I just don’t want to go back to Alaska.” Perhaps that foreshadowed her eventual resignation as governor.

November 3, 2009
Posted: November 3rd, 2009 08:03 AM ET
From

Palin was concerned about the cost of the wardrobe that was purchased for her during the campaign, according to the new book.

Palin was concerned about the cost of the wardrobe that was purchased for her during the campaign, according to the new book.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Tensions within John McCain’s presidential campaign boiled over on Election Night last November when Sarah Palin, McCain’s running mate, repeatedly ignored directions from senior staffers who told her she would not be delivering her own concession speech.

Those fresh details on the conflict between Palin and members of the McCain team come in a new book – “Sarah from Alaska” – by Scott Conroy and Shushannah Walshe, two members of the press corps that traveled with Palin during the 2008 presidential race. The pair spent much of the following year reporting on the campaign turmoil and the vice presidential nominee’s difficult return to Alaska after the election.

According to a copy of the book obtained by CNN, Palin’s speechwriter Matthew Scully had prepared a brief speech for the then-Alaska governor to deliver while introducing McCain, before he gave his concession speech at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix. But after conferring in his suite with senior advisers Mark Salter, Rick Davis and Steve Schmidt, McCain nixed the idea of having Palin speak before him.

Schmidt then broke the news to Palin. But she told no one on her staff, the authors write, setting off a series of staff miscommunications that went unresolved until moments before McCain took the stage to concede the election.

Palin did not inform her adviser Jason Recher, who was planning out Palin’s movements that night, about Schmidt’s directive.

“I’m speaking,” Palin told him, according to the book. “I’ve got the remarks. Figure it out.”

(more…)

How The Pentagon Met Their Recruiting Targets While Recruiting Less People

Earlier in the week the Pentagon bragged about meeting their recruitment goals for the year. I thought this was a little strange considering, no matter how much people feel about the world with Obama as opposed to Bush being in the White House, the same negative incentives to recruitment (i.e. Iraq and Afghanistan) are still present. I thought maybe it was a sign of desperation due to lack of jobs.  Fred Kaplan (via Andrew Sullivan) found the answer–they reduced their goals allowing them to meet their target despite a decrease in recruits:

According to the Pentagon’s report, the Army’s goal for fiscal year 2009 was to sign 65,000 new recruits. It actually signed 70,045—amounting to 8 percent more than the target.

But the picture is less bright than it seems. Though the Pentagon’s report doesn’t mention this fact, in each of the previous two years, the Army’s recruitment goal was 80,000—much higher than this year’s. The Army met those targets, but only by drastically lowering its standards—accepting more applicants who’d dropped out of high school or flunked the military’s aptitude test.

This year, the recruiters restored the old standards—a very good thing for troops’ morale and military effectiveness—but they signed up 10,000 fewer new soldiers.

It is, in other words, not the case that high unemployment or a new public spirit is leading more young men and women into the Army. It’s not the case that more young men and women are going into the Army at all.

In addition to reducing their recruiting goals they also reduced their retention goals.

I guess it is somewhat like reducing the goal of universal health care to less than one hundred percent coverage.

Economic Pragmatism vs. Conservative Religion

There are two responses to the column by David Brooks which I quoted from earlier. Many conservatives, having come off a campaign which was based upon distorting Obama’s words to make him appear much further to the left than he actually is on economic issues, must be delighted by the turn of events. Although Obama has actually been influenced by the economic views at the University of Chicago far more than many conservatives will admit, current events have led to Obama’s support of much more government spending than he would support under normal circumstances. There are views on this from both the left and right.

Greg Sargent writes in response to David Brooks:

My first reaction to this was to wonder: Why are Obama aides reacting so defensively to criticism from the right? Poll after poll after poll has shown that substantial majorities are comfortable with the Obama administration’s dramatic expansion of government’s role and support the scale of Obama’s ambitious agenda and the speed with which he’s enacting it. Conservatives will call Obama a wild-eyed radical nut-job no matter what he does.

And why the fear of offending Reagan’s ghost? A new poll yesterday found that by a sizable margin the public thinks Obama-nomics, not Reaganomics, is what the country needs right now.

On second thought, though, maybe what we’re seeing here is more of the Obama team’s efforts to redefine the moderate center. What Obama advisers are saying is that they’re undoing the radicalism of the Bush years.

Yes, the Obama team is attempting an expansion of government activism not seen since Lyndon Johnson. But they’re redefining this type of government action as not radical at all, as the sensible and even moderate course, given the circumstances. And they’re saying this because that’s really how they see it.

Andrew Sullivan once again breaks from the right wing in having a similar reality-based view of what Obama is doing, acknowledging the difference between what one might generally do based on principle as opposed to actions during a crisis:

Much of the reaction on the right and center-right to Obama’s budget has been a recourse to abstract principles. There’s nothing wrong with such principles – low taxes, balanced budgets, small and limited government. I share them. But no self-respecting conservative would ever defend such principles without considering the full context in which we now find ourselves.

To give a blindingly obvious example: to treat the stimulus package as just another expansion of government, a reckless lurch to the left, as Fox News has done, is absurd. As unemployment spikes, stocks crash, and deflation looms on the horizon, deficit spending means something else. It’s a pragmatic, not a liberal decision.

Now look at some less clear-cut contexts. The last thirty years have seen historically low tax rates for the successful. But they have also seen a sharp, globalization-fed increase in inequality.

If your goal is to keep a polity in one piece during an economic crisis, raising some taxes on those who have had a relatively low-tax couple of decades, is again pragmatically defensible. If I thought Obama’s goal was to redistribute for the sake of it, I’d be appalled. But that isn’t what he’s said and it isn’t what he believes. Ditto cap-and-trade. I don’t think it’s the best way to tackle climate change, but I do see it as a legitimate, practical response to climate change – not some expansion of government for its own sake. It’s also a real, if flawed, attempt to wean us off oil after a decade in which we learned the hard way what oil-fueled fanaticism can do to us. Again: this is about reacting to changes in the world. It seems to me to be within the conservative mindset to adjust to practical necessity and a changing world.

This is true even of healthcare. Even private sector enthusiasts like yours truly can see there’s a resilient problem here – of costs soaring, of de facto universal coverage without any of the economies of scale that a more coherent universal coverage would allow, of unaccountable private agencies rationing irrationally and unaccountably. I don’t think it’s radical or super-liberal to ask how we can tackle these questions – or to accept that the past couple of decades have not proven the superiority of the status quo.

I’m not sure what the answers to all these questions are. But I am sure that a good faith effort to tackle them is what we need. We have a new president who’s a liberal but open to suggestion and debate. I don’t believe going on and on about what a big liberal he is, and how we’re all about to turn into France, moves this debate constructively along. If the right wants to return as something more than a populist gabfest on radio and cable, we’d better join that debate. And even have a few constructive ideas.

The problem with the extremists dominating the conservative movement at present can be seen in Sullivan’s comment that, ” It seems to me to be within the conservative mindset to adjust to practical necessity and a changing world.” Unfortunately the conservative movement has become a religion. Policy decisions are made based upon whether they fit into their religious views, in this case on the economy, regardless of the actual circumstances and regardless of the facts.

As Rod Dreher also pointed out, the segment of the conservative movement which follows Rush Limbaugh has no room for changes based upon changing situations. Instead they believe, to quote Limbaugh, “Conservativism is what it is and it is forever.” No amount of evidence will change their mind because they do not want to change their religious beliefs. This leads to the view that they would rather have Obama fail, and have the economy worsen as opposed to risk being worshippers of false gods.

Bush Appointees Having Hard Time

Is it  because the economy is terrible or because nobody wants them? The Wall Street Journal report on the high unemployment rate among former Bush administration appointees:

The jobless rate is hanging high — for many of the roughly 3,000 political appointees who served President George W. Bush. Finding work has proved a far tougher task than those appointees expected.

“This is not a great time for anyone to be job hunting, including numerous former political appointees,” said Carlos M. Gutierrez, Mr. Bush’s commerce secretary. Previously chief executive of cereal maker Kellogg Co., he hopes to run a company again because “I have a lot of energy.”

Only 25% to 30% of ex-Bush officials seeking full-time jobs have succeeded, estimated Eric Vautour, a Washington recruiter at Russell Reynolds Associates Inc. That “is much, much worse” than when Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton left the White House, he said. At least half those presidents’ senior staffers landed employment within a month after the administration ended, Mr. Vautour recalled.

The Meaning of A Democratic Mandate

An op-ed by Douglas E. Schoen in The Wall Street Journal has hit a raw nerve in many liberal bloggers. He writes:

This election is not a mandate for Democratic policies. Rather, it is a wholesale rejection of the policies of George W. Bush, Republicans, and to a lesser extent, John McCain. But it is not, as poll after poll has shown, an embrace of the Democratic Congress, which has approval ratings that are actually lower than that of the president.

The American people are actually seeking a middle route: consensus, conciliation and a results-oriented approach to governance. We need consensus on how to best stimulate our economy, and how to get a deficit that is approaching $1 trillion under control. We have tough choices to make involving entitlement programs like Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.

We need consensus on how to provide unemployment relief, mortgage relief and most of all, health care for the 47 million people that are uninsured. And we need a bipartisan energy bill that combines domestic offshore drilling with an increased investment in alternative fuels.

There is some truth to this, along with perhaps a mistaken belief that the Democrats plan a course far more radical than I expect. I have had multiple recent posts, including the previous one, showing support for Obama coming from conservatives, independents, and libertarians. Votes for Obama do not necessarily mean total agreement with any specific liberal agenda, and it is true that rejection of failed Republican policies is driving much of Obama’s support.

A bipartisan approach which considers views from both the left and the right is what is needed, but this is exactly what Obama has been talking about all along. Despite the claims from the far right that Obama is a socialist or far left Democrat, Obama has repeatedly demonstrated moderation and a consideration of conservative views. Whether or not Obama apppoints as many republicans as Schoen recommends, he has signaled plans for an approach modeled after A Team of Rivals.

While Obama’s polices are definitely liberal, polls have repeatedly demonstrated that such polices are supported by a majority of voters, especially when often polarizing labels such as liberal and conservative are not included.  Schoen points out that Obama will not be able to accomplish everything he has spoken about, but Obama has also conceded this point.

Steve Benen is among many liberal bloggers who objected to Schoen’s op-ed. He writes:

I suspect Obama, given what we know of his style and temperament, would make good-faith efforts to encourage Republicans to support his policy goals. But Schoen’s advice seems misguided — if Obama wins, he should scale back on the agenda voters asked him to implement? He should water down his agenda, whether it has the votes to pass or not? He should put “conciliation” at the top of his priority list?

And what, pray tell, does a Democratic majority do if/when Republicans decide they don’t like Democratic ideas, don’t care about popular mandates or polls, and won’t work with Dems on issues that matter? Do Democrats, at that point, simply stop governing, waiting for a mysterious “consensus” to emerge?

This raises a point which goes beyond Schoen’s original op-ed. Who exactly do we include when seeking a consensus? If Republicans in Congress contribute constructively to pass legislation, their views should certainly be considered. Nobody would deny the value of bipartisan legislation when possible.

We have also seen periods in which Republicans obstruct for the sake of obstructionism, insisting that any and all Democratic policies must be stopped. In this case, no, the Democrats do not simply stop governing. This does not mean that they do not consider a wide range of views across the political spectrum. With many conservatives and libertarians backing Obama there are many avenues for considering other viewpoints. It is possible for Democrats to consider the viewpoints of those outside their party in crafting legislation even if the Congressional Republicans are not willing to work with them. The point here is not to please the opposition in Congress but to please the majority of people in the country. The lesson from the loss of Congress in 1994 should not be forgotten.

We are bound to see far more warnings along these lines to the Democrats assuming they do win. If they seek a radical far left agenda then they will be repudiated in two years. However reading further in Steve’s post there is no evidence of a desire to confiscate the wealth of the upper class, nationalize the means of production, or otherwise turn the United States into a Marxist Utopia. The desires from many on the left are far more reasonable:

I don’t doubt that there’s ample data showing Americans approving of the idea of policy makers working together. With that in mind, Schoen believes Americans are “seeking a middle route.” Here’s an alternative read: Americans are seeking policies that work. The nation tried it the conservative Republican way for a while, and it led to disaster and failure. Now the electorate seems open to the idea of a different direction.

The goal, however, is not “conciliation,” it’s effective government. As Yglesias concluded, “What Democrats need to do if they want to prosper in 2010 and 2012 is deliver the goods. In other words, return the economy to prosperity, avoid terrible foreign affairs calamities, etc.”

I suspect that a Democratic majority would wind up governing far more along these lines than along the lines being described in the scare stories coming from the right.

Big Brother and Joe the Plumber

This report is rather disturbing. Joe the Plumber might be wrong when he talks about taxes and wrong when he speaks out on foreign policy, but he does have the right to express his views. The Columbus Dispatch writes:

A state agency has revealed that its checks of computer systems for potential information on “Joe the Plumber” were more extensive than it first acknowledged.

Helen Jones-Kelley, director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, disclosed today that computer inquiries on Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher were not restricted to a child-support system.

The agency also checked Wurzelbacher in its computer systems to determine whether he was receiving welfare assistance or owed unemployment compensation taxes, she wrote.

Jones-Kelley made the revelations in a letter to Ohio Senate President Bill M. Harris, R-Ashland, who demanded answers on why state officials checked out Wurzelbacher.

Harris called the multiple records checks “questionable” and said he awaits more answers. “It’s kind of like Big Brother is looking in your pocket,” he said.

If state employees run checks on every person listed in newspaper stories as buying a business, “it must take a lot of people a lot of time to run these checks,” he said. “Where do you draw the line?”

The government certainly has an interest in denying welfare to those who do not qualify and to seek out people who are failing to pay child support, but there is also a strong interest in preserving freedom of expression. If a case worker were to see that someone they were actually sending welfare benefits to was mentioned in the newspapers as having substantial resources, I could see them questioning the situation. It is a different matter when a search is conducted on somebody simply because they make the news and there is absolutely no evidence presented that they are involved in any form of fraud related to the investigations.

Obama’s Father and Socialism

Some on the right have been trying to fabricate a case that Barack Obama is a socialist–which is quite far fetched considering that much of his economic advice comes from the University of Chicago. With that ridiculous argument not taking hold, some have turned to trying to prove that his father was a socialist. Some of them base this on an article written by Obama’s father.

There are two problems with this line of attack. First of all, his father’s economic views don’t necessarily have any bearing on Obama’s own economic views. The second problem is that an analysis of the paper cited by conservatives does not back up the claim that Obama’s father is a socialist. The Politico had an economist review the article, and his analysis is quite different from the arguments made by many conservatives:

…Kenya expert Raymond Omwami, an economist and UCLA visiting professor from the University of Helsinki who has also worked at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, said Obama senior could not be considered a socialist himself based solely on the material in his bylined piece.

Omwami points out that the elder Obama’s paper was primarily a harsh critique of the controversial 1965 government document known as Sessional Paper No. 10. Sessional Paper No. 10 rejected classic Karl Marx philosophies then embraced by the Soviet Union and some European countries, calling instead for a new type of socialism to be used specifically in Africa.

The government paper rejected materialism (i.e., “conspicuous consumerism”), outlined the nation’s goals to eradicate poverty, illiteracy and disease, and also laid out important decrees regarding land use for economic development. Obama senior’s response covers these issues, frequently focusing on the distribution of real estate to farmers. Since most Kenyans could not afford farmland in line with market forces established earlier by white British farmers, the elder Obama argued that strong development planning should better define common farming space to maximize productivity and should defer to tribal traditions instead of hastening individual land ownership.

In other words, Obama senior’s paper was not a cry for acceptance of radical politics but was instead a critique of a government policy by Kenya’s Ministry of Economic Planning and Development, which applied African socialism principles to the country’s ongoing political upheaval.

“The critics of this article are making a big mistake,” says Omwami, who at Politico’s request read the document and the associated Internet debate over the weekend. “They are assuming Obama senior is the one who came up with this concept of African socialism, but that’s totally wrong. Based on that, they’re imbuing in him the idea that he himself is a socialist, but he is not.”

Omwami says he would instead refer to the elder Obama as “a liberal person who believed in market forces but understood its limitations.” Sessional Paper No. 10 centered on the new control of Kenya’s resources, promoting a form of trickle-down economics in which financial aid would be consolidated in more populated areas with the hope that positive effects would eventually be felt by smaller villages.

Obama senior argued against this notion, and Omwami suggests history has proven him correct since most, if not all, small communities in Kenya have yet to benefit from monies that poured into larger cities since the nation’s independence four decades ago.

The elder Obama also looked ahead to what has become a shaping force across Africa — urbanization — arguing that the government’s efforts to lure citizens back to the land were futile.

“If these people come out in search of work, it is because they cannot make a living out of whatever land they have had,” he wrote.

In retrospect, it was one of several warnings in the paper that would prove true.

“If you understand the Kenyan context, you can clearly see in that paper that Obama senior was quite a sharp mind,” Omwami concluded. “He addresses economic growth and other areas of development, and his critique is that policymakers in Kenya were overemphasizing economic growth.

“We had high economic growth for years but never solved the problems of poverty, unemployment and unequal income distribution. And those problems are still there.”

Obama senior’s projections and critiques are so spot on, says Omwami, that he plans to assign the paper to his classes in the future.

Two Socially Liberal Republicans Accomplishing Goals Despite Washington Gridlock

The Republicans could (and probably will) do a lot worse than to follow the lead of this odd couple profiled by Time:

The Hollywood brute and the Wall Street mogul may look like the oddest couple since Twins, but there’s a reason Schwarzenegger calls Bloomberg his soul mate. They’re both self-confident, self-made men who rose to stardom from middle-class obscurity — Bloomberg in Medford, Mass., Schwarzenegger in Thal, Austria — through Tiger Woods-level determination and Donald Trump-level salesmanship. They’re both socially liberal Republicans who have flourished in Democratic political cultures; Schwarzenegger is even a member of the Kennedy clan, through his marriage to Maria Shriver.

While Washington has been in gridlock and “when President George W. Bush’s political adviser is a household name but his domestic policy adviser was unknown even in Washington until he was arrested for shoplifting,” mayors and governors are being forced to take action:

Look at global warming. Washington rejected the Kyoto Protocol, but more than 500 U.S. mayors have pledged to meet its emissions-reduction standards, none more aggressively than Bloomberg. His PlaNYC calls for a 30% cut in greenhouse gases by 2030. It will quadruple the city’s bike lanes, convert the city’s taxis to hybrids and impose a controversial congestion fee for driving into Manhattan. And Schwarzenegger signed the U.S.’s first cap on greenhouse gases, including unprecedented fuel-efficiency standards for California cars. (He’s already tricked out two of his five Hummers, one to run on biofuel and another on hydrogen.) The feds have done nothing on fuel efficiency in two decades, but 11 states will follow California’s lead if Bush grants a waiver. After signing a climate deal with Ontario — on the same day as his stem-cell deal — he said he had a message for Detroit: “Get off your butt!” He had a similar message for Washington. “Eventually, the Federal government is going to get on board,” he said. “If not, we’re going to sue.”

But they’re tackling not just the climate. Bloomberg is leading a national crackdown on illegal guns, along with America’s biggest affordable-housing program. He also enacted America’s most draconian smoking ban and the first big-city trans-fat ban. And he’s so concerned about Washington’s neglect of the working poor that he’s raised $50 million in private money, including some of his own millions, to fund a pilot workfare program. Meanwhile, after the Bush Administration rebuffed California’s appeals for help repairing the precarious levees that protect Sacramento, Schwarzenegger pushed through $42 billion worth of bonds to start rebuilding the state’s infrastructure. He’s also pushing a universal health-insurance plan and hopes to negotiate a deal with Democrats this summer. “All the great ideas are coming from state and local governments,” Schwarzenegger told Time. “We’re not going to wait for Big Daddy to take care of us.”

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