Thursday, February 26, 2009

Jindal the Louisiana loser

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is showing himself to be an ideological demagogue who is more interested in playing partisan politics with his state’s economic future than helping the residents of his state.

As if his pathetic Republican response to President Barack Obama’s address the other night wasn’t bad enough, Jindal has said that he will refuse some federal economic stimulus money – funds his state and its residents desperately need.

Worse yet, he is not the only Republican governor who is saying no to Obama’s big stimulus package. Joining Jindal are South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

So why are the governors of these relatively poor states refusing federal money? Well, even though they are denying it, they are all thinking of running for president in 2012. In fact, there are no higher-profile potential Republican contenders than Sarah Palin and Jindal.

In order to run for president as a Republican, you have to have the archconservative right wing of the GOP on your side (John McCain learned that a while back). And the Rush Limbaughs and Sean Hannitys of the world see Obama’s economic stimulus – regardless of how popular it is – as a political demon.

So Jindal had a choice to make – take the money to help his state OR refuse the money and help his own political ambition. What a surprise that he chose the latter.

But for Jindal, refusing the money wasn’t enough. He also has to go around lying about what exactly is in the economic stimulus bill. During his Republican response Tuesday night, for example, Jindal said the stimulus bill includes “$8 billion for high-speed rail projects, such as a magnetic levitation line from Las Vegas to Disneyland, and $140 million for something called ‘volcano monitoring.’”

First of all, there is nothing at all in the stimulus bill about any high-speed rail project, “magnetic levitation” or otherwise, from Las Vegas to Disneyland. Secondly, why is Jindal dissing what he calls “volcano monitoring”? He said, “Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, D.C.” Actually, the federal government should be monitoring volcanoes to prevent deaths and ensure that the government is ready to respond to a natural disaster. Does Jindal not remember Hurricane Katrina, a natural disaster that destroyed parts of New Orleans in his own backyard?

Oh wait, he does remember Hurricane Katrina. In his speech Tuesday, he said, “Today in Washington, some are promising that government will rescue us from the economic storms raging all around us. Those of us who lived through Hurricane Katrina, we have our doubts.” So Jindal is pointing to the disastrous response of fellow Republican George W. Bush as an example of why the federal government should just give up on keeping Americans safe.

Interestingly, while Jindal goes around damning the stimulus package and making a big deal about refusing funds, he is indeed silently taking some of the stimulus money. Funny that he’s not making an equally big deal about that.

To their credit, Republican Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Charlie Crist of Florida have said that they are willing to take whatever money Jindal and his ilk are refusing.

I say, give Crist and the Guvernator all of Jindal’s stimulus funds. Yes, Jindal’s state will be hurt by his dogmatic stupidity, but then hopefully Louisiana voters will wise up and throw him out of office as soon as possible.

Monday, February 23, 2009

FREAK OF THE WEEK: U.S. Sen. Roland Burris

This week, the FredBlog shines the freaklight on U.S. Sen. Roland Burris, the Illinois Democrat who is now changing his story about his connections to disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Previously, I had defended then-Gov. Blagojevich’s ability to lawfully appoint Burris at a time when Blogo was under political fire for allegedly trying to sell the senate seat vacated by Barack Obama. By all accounts, Burris was an upstanding choice – and even those who hated Blagojevich did not have anything negative to say about Burris.

This past week, all that changed.

A large part of the reason why Burris was palatable to the naysayers was Burris’ assurances that he had nothing to do with Blogo’s alleged corruption and pay-for-play scandal. In fact, during Blogo’s impeachment trial, Burris specifically said he never had any contact with the governor or his associates regarding anything questionable.

But now Burris is changing his story. Last weekend, Burris released an affidavit in which he admits that Blogo’s brother Robert asked Burris to raise money for Blogo’s reelection campaign before Burris’ Senate appointment – three times!

Worse yet, Burris then told reporters, “There was no change of any of our testimony.”

So let me get this straight. Then, the line was: No contact with Blogo associates. Now, the line is: Contact with Blogo’s brother and other Blogo aides. Um, Roland, you better rethink that “no change of any of our testimony” bit.

The Chicago Tribune has called this Burris’ “evolving narrative.”

Burris is also trying to convince us that the content of the affidavit is irrelevant since he released it of his own accord, and not at the insistence of federal prosecutors. Nice try, but no one’s buying that, either. Illinois prosecutors have launched a perjury inquiry, the Senate Ethics Committee has opened an investigation, and more and more people are calling for his resignation.

Pierre Salinger, a California Democrat, is famous for passing away in office in 1964 after serving only 148 days as a U.S. senator. And Rebecca Latimer Felton served only one day as a senator from Georgia in 1922. So Burris could yet make history as having one of the shortest terms in the U.S. Senate.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Canadian government lost on this battlefield

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the overriding sentiment was that we here in North America couldn’t let what happened change the way we live our lives. If we did, then the terrorists win. Sadly, that is exactly what happened in Quebec this week. Granted, the threats made by the militant Quebec separatists had not yet resulted in violence, but they were enough to make the Canadian government cower under its collective desks.

Here’s what happened. The federal government’s National Battlefields Commission (NBC) planned to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham by showcasing a battle reenactment. This is the battle at which the French lost to the English leading to the fall of New France and placing what is now Canada under English control. In other words, this battle is why the majority of Canadians speak English and not French, and it’s a subject that a minority in Quebec would rather forget and deny than commemorate.

The problem is that this minority is loud and potentially dangerous. And these militants not only threatened protests, but violence. As a result, the NBC retreated and cancelled the event.

André Juneau, the president of the NBC, told the Montreal Gazette that the decision was the fault of “separatists,” noting that the commission could not guarantee “the safety of the public [after] a cacophony of accusations and barely veiled threats.” He added to the Toronto Star, “They never said to us blood would be spilled, but there were significant threats.” One threat warned that tourists would “not forget their visit for a very long time.”

Not surprisingly, the militants are now wallowing in their victory. Patrick Bourgeois of the Réseau de Résistance du Québécois told the Star he sees this as a triumph “at the expense of the Canadian government.”

Sure, Juneau and the government may have saved themselves a headache, but they did the wrong thing for a number of reasons:

1.   Giving into terrorists only emboldens them and leads to more terrorism – and make no mistake, those who threatened violence at the planned reenactments are terrorists (their goal was to terrify people, and they succeeded).

2.   Cancelling the reenactment amounts to historical censorship. Even if you think this was an unfortunate and ugly time in Canadian history, it is dangerous to deny one’s history and scrub it clean of all the things you don’t like. As philosopher George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The best thing to do with history is to learn from it, not wash it and its lessons away.

3.   This is an attack on free speech and goes against the spirit of the Canadian constitution, which guarantees freedoms of thought, expression, belief, peaceful assembly, and association. This would seem to protect the reenactors from going ahead with their plans. The fact that the federal government couldn’t see this is a constitutional travesty.

4.   The planned event was a “commemoration,” not a “celebration.” Language militants certainly understand the power of language, so it’s no surprise that they tried to use language against the event itself. No matter how many times the reenactment was called a “commemoration” of a piece of Canadian history, the militants labeled it a “celebration” of French defeat. Propaganda is always the first weapon of terrorists.

5.   Cancelling the event was not something a majority of Quebeckers were lobbying for. In fact, some of the reenactors have ancestors who fought and died on the Plains of Abraham.

6.   On a more practical note, the reenactment was going to be a bigger summer moneymaker for Quebec City. Over 2,100 people reportedly planned to take part in the reenactment, many of them from the United States. So all these people and their families – as well as history buffs who were not taking part in the event – planned to come to Quebec, stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, and spend lots of money, even at a time of economic downturn.

     Those against the reenactment had every right to complain and to make their case publicly – even to protest the event. They also had a right not to attend the event, a decision that a number of Quebec politicians had already made. But no one has a right to make threats of violence – veiled or otherwise. And you would think the federal government would understand this.

Monday, February 16, 2009

FREAK OF THE WEEK: U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg

This week, the FredBlog shines the freaklight on U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg, the New Hampshire Republican who just couldn’t decide whether or not he wanted to be President Barack Obama’s commerce secretary.

At first, Gregg wanted the job. He knew Obama was looking to create a bipartisan cabinet, and so Gregg reached out to the president. As Obama told the Springfield (Ill.) Journal-Register, “Mr. Gregg approached us with interest and seemed enthusiastic.”

This was odd enough since, in 1995, Gregg voted to abolish the Department of Commerce. When that didn’t work, Gregg worked to block then-President Bill Clinton’s effort to increase funding for the department.

OK, so Gregg’s “interest and enthusiasm” was weird enough, but then Gregg insisted he would only take the job if he were given a guarantee that his seat would be filled by another Republican. You see, if Gregg were to become commerce secretary, he would have to give up his senate seat. Under normal circumstances, Gregg’s replacement would be chosen by his state’s current governor – Democrat John Lynch, who would be expected to appoint a fellow Democrat.

But Obama talked with Lynch, and they worked it out. Lynch agreed to appoint a Republican, just to satisfy Gregg’s condition.

Everything was set. Gregg talked up the need for bipartisanship as Obama would get more bipartisan cred for appointing Gregg. And the balance of power in the Senate would not be disturbed because Lynch agreed to appoint a Republican replacement. In fact, Lynch had already chosen New Hampshire’s next Republican senator.

So what did Gregg do? Pull out!

That’s right. Noting that he has too many policy disagreements with Obama – “irresolvable conflicts,” Gregg called them – he changed his mind.

First off, Gregg is a fiscal conservative, and he had to know from the get-go that he would be at odds with the Obama administration over economic matters. But secondly, after all of Gregg’s talk of bipartisanship, he withdrew over what amounted to partisan differences over issues including the stimulus package – which Gregg voted against.

He was a dope for wanting the job at the start. He was dopier for wanting his Senate seat to get special treatment. And he was the ultimate in dopiness for flip-flopping on bipartisanship and withdrawing his nomination.

As part of his withdrawal statement, Gregg said, “I will continue to represent the people of New Hampshire in the United States Senate.” Ain’t they lucky. 

Thursday, February 12, 2009

When is a bonus not a bonus? When it’s an award

Just when I thought Wall Street attitudes toward undeserved “corporate bonuses” couldn’t get any worse, someone comes along to prove that there is no bottom to the blind greed.

I was sickened enough when, last week, so many Wall Street types went on the cable news networks to defend such bonuses as necessary to ensure that all those multi-billionaire CEOs continue to do their jobs, even if some of these CEOs ran their companies into the ground. (Isn’t a multiple million-dollar salary enough to motivate you to do your job?)

The Barack Obama administration is right to limit corporate bonuses as a restriction on bailout packages. You want the people’s money to rescue your ailing company? The least you can do is NOT throw money at failed, and already rich, corporate bigwigs.

And if anything, the recently passed stimulus package doesn’t go far enough. As reported by the Associated Press, the stimulus bill penalizes companies that paid out executive bonuses of more than $100,000 after receiving bailout money last year. My vote would be to eliminate executive bonuses altogether. With the economy in meltdown, this is no time for half-measures.

Worse yet, there is nothing in the bill that address executive “awards,” which brings us to corporate America’s latest attempt to cheat the system.

The Huffington Post got a hold of a tape of a conference call among executives of soon-to-be-merged financial giants Morgan Stanley and Citigroup’s Smith Barney. During the call, Morgan Stanley co-president James Gorman blatantly reassures his cohorts that they have figured out a way around the “bonus” issue.

"There will be a retention award. Please do not call it a bonus," said Gorman, as quoted on the audiotape. "It is not a bonus. It is an award. And it recognizes the importance of keeping our team in place as we go through this integration." (

An award? The only award these guys should get is for excessive chutzpah!

Described on the tape as “very generous,” the awards “will be calculated based on performance numbers from 2008 instead of 2009, when the merger is expected to be completed. That decision virtually guarantees an increase in the size of the awards,” reports the Huffington Post.

As Gorman put it, “I think I can hear you clapping from here in New York. You should be clapping because frankly that is a very generous and thoughtful decision that we have made. We spent a lot of time kicking this around. We could easily have done it from the point of closing, which is obviously going to be somewhere in the latter half of this year or around the middle of the year. But we just decided ... that it was right thing to do, to give you that certainty that it would be based off '08. '09 is a very difficult year. ... So that degree of anxiety, which many, many of you have emailed me about ... is now off the table."

Since Morgan Stanley and Citigroup were given more than $60 billion in government bailout money, the only thing that should be off the table is any government bailout money. Aren’t these people paid enough to get them to stay put and do their jobs?

And if these companies can get away with this, it’s time to go back to the drawing board to make sure nothing that even resembles bonuses, awards, whatever you want to call them, is allowed.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


This week, the FredBlog shines the freaklight on Kris Mineau, the president of the archconservative, gay-obsessed, and supposedly “pro-family” Massachusetts Family Institute.

Last week came the sad news that long-time Boston couple Julie and Hillary Goodridge, one of the first same-sex couples to legally marry, is getting divorced. The Goodridges were on the forefront of the battle for marriage equality as the lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit that led to Massachusetts being the first U.S. state to allow same-sex couples to legally wed. In fact, the lawsuit – which was finally decided in 2003 – came to be known as Goodridge v. Department of Health, named for the then-happy couple.

But the couple is happy no more. The Boston Herald reports that Hillary and Julie are splitting up.

Regardless of one’s view of same-sex marriage, you wouldn’t think anyone would have the gall to kick someone (or some couple) when they’re down.

Well, leave it to the anti-gay forces – namely, Kris Mineau and his hate machine – to use someone else’s pain to score cheap political points.

This is what Mineau told the Herald upon hearing the news of the Goodridge split: “Divorce is a very painful issue, but I also can’t help but reflect on the pain this couple has caused on [Massachusetts] and the nation to redefine marriage. And now they’re getting divorced? It doesn’t make a lot of sense. Obviously, they don’t hold the institution in very high esteem.” (

So Mr. Mineau, if one is divorced, then you cannot possibly hold the institution of marriage in very high esteem? Tell that to all the divorced heterosexuals and see how well that goes over.

And I guess fighting tooth and nail for the right to marry, when the state keeps telling you no, doesn’t count for anything, either.

Rest assured, Mr. Mineau, most fair-minded and decent people do not hold you in very high esteem.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The real “travesty” of Obama's visit

I guess some Canadians just don’t have enough to be upset about, so they can afford to be angry that U.S. President Barack Obama will not be speaking to Parliament during his visit to Ottawa later this month.

It isn’t enough that Obama made sure that Canada would be his first foreign visit since assuming the presidency. But some are complaining that Obama is visiting at a time when Parliament won’t be in session. (Of course, this begs the question: Parliamentarians just went back into session, so why are they already getting time off? But that’s an issue for another day.)

Obama has already set up a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and will likely meet with Opposition Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff. Obama will also likely to hold some sort of press conference so that he can speak to the nation without the pomp and circumstance of speaking in the House of Commons.

Some are framing this as the Canadian government somehow slighting Obama, but published reports say the government may simply be accommodating Obama. As the Toronto Star put it, “There has been no indication Obama wants to address Parliament.” Obama reportedly wants his Feb. 19 visit to include as little pomp as possible.

But that hasn’t stopped the political hyperbole. Ken Sherman, vice chair of the Canadian chapter of Democrats Abroad, even called the current situation a “travesty.”

Really? A travesty? The real travesty in Canada-U.S. relations is the protectionist, anti-free-trade “buy American” provision in Obama’s U.S. stimulus plan, a measure that is poor diplomacy as well as bad economics. But you don’t hear people like Sherman screaming about that. In fact, most Canadians know little or nothing about this, which could decimate Canada’s already-struggling steel industry.

No, whether or not Obama speaks in Parliament, and putting all the blame on the Canadian government, is seemingly a higher priority for these folks. Canadians, after all, were dancing in the streets when Obama was elected, but why aren’t they protesting in the streets against Obama’s protectionist tendencies that could start a global trade war as well as severely curtail America’s attempt to repair its image around the world?

But that is seemingly of little matter, when the formality of a state visit is at stake.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


This week, the FredBlog shines the freaklight on Ted Haggard, the former pastor at a Colorado megachurch and former leader of the religious right, who just can’t stop talking about how he is a “heterosexual with issues.”

Haggard fell from grace in 2006 after male prostitute Mike Jones couldn’t take Haggard’s hypocrisy any longer. You see, while Haggard was preaching against homosexuality, he was secretly paying Jones for sex.

After that, you would think Haggard would simply skulk out of the spotlight and stay there. But no, Haggard is back with a vengeance. Last week, to promote a new HBO documentary about him, Haggard did more media interviews than Rod Blagojevich. And he couldn’t stop saying stupid things.

When asked by everyone from Oprah Winfrey to Larry “for the full hour” King if he is gay, straight, or bisexual, Haggard would only say that he is a “heterosexual with issues.” Honey, we all have issues. You are either gay or bisexual and you can’t accept it – THAT’S your issue!

He told Oprah, “Sexuality is complicated.” Yes it is. And with that kind of understanding, you would think Haggard would be more sympathetic to sexual minorities. But no – he still clings to his religion-fueled view that married heterosexuality is the ideal toward which we should all strive.

He told Larry that he never was the kind of preacher to single out homosexuality because “to say [homosexuality] is the exclusive bad sin is wrong.” So being gay is just one out of an entire smorgasbord of sins? Thanks Ted.

When Oprah asked Haggard how his former parishioners felt about welcoming him back to the flock, Haggard said, “They were effervescent.” Show me a heterosexual man who describes others as “effervescent.”

And he told both of them that he still thinks about having sex with men, but because of therapy, he is now able to control and resist those urges. Yeah, because if you are attracted to people of the same sex and you want to have sex with them, but you don’t do it, you’re not gay anymore.

Best of all, Haggard’s wife Gayle told Larry, “There are many facets of this story that have yet to be told.” Can’t wait for those extra facets.