Friday, October 16, 2009

Sarah Palin, John Edwards slide in polls, Gallup says

Sarah Palin and John Edwards, two of America’s best-known politicians, have both seen their favorability ratings slide in recent months, a new Gallup poll shows.

Mr. Edwards, a former Democratic presidential candidate, has suffered by far the biggest slide – the steepest descent Gallup has ever recorded for a prominent public figure. When Americans were polled about him in January 2008, 48 percent had a favorable view and 37 percent an unfavorable view. This month, Edwards’ favorability rating was only 21 percent, and his unfavorability rating had soared to 59 percent, Gallup found.

Edwards’ record decline

The plunge followed Edwards’ admission that he had an extramarital affair during his 2008 presidential campaign and made illegal payments to his mistress.

Sarah Palin’s favorability rating has also slid, but not to the Edwards level. She had a 53 percent favorability rating immediately after the 2008 Republican convention, writes Gallup’s Jeffrey Jones. By the campaign’s end, Ms. Palin’s favorability rating had dropped to 42 percent. Her current 40 percent rating “is the lowest for her since she became widely known after last year’s Republican convention,” Mr. Jones says. In July, Palin resigned as governor of Alaska with 18 months left in her term.

Partisan divide on Palin

Palin’s favorability rating varies widely by party. Democrats have an overwhelmingly negative option, with 72 percent viewing her unfavorably and only 14 percent favorably. Among Republicans, on the other hand, 69 percent have a favorable view and 25 percent an unfavorable one.

Because independents play a key role in elections, Palin needs to worry that those not affiliated with a party view her more negatively than positively. Among independents, 41 percent view Palin positively, 48 percent negatively.

The results come from a telephone survey of 1,013 adults conducted Oct. 1-4. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Runner-up: Jesse Jackson

While Edwards now holds the record for the steepest decline in standing with the public, others have suffered similar fates, Gallup says. The Rev. Jesse Jackson is the runner-up. His favorability rating dropped 24 percentage points from 1999 to 2000. His decline was the result of the disappearance of a bounce his ratings received after his successful diplomatic mission to Yugoslavia and Sierra Leone in the spring of 1999.


Linda Brown rode into the parking lot of a Columbus, Ohio Burlington Coat Factory store claiming to have won nearly 2 MM USD in a lottery. She told everyone who would listen to buy clothes and bring them to the register their purchases were on her. By the end of the day she was being driven in a different sort of car--a police cruiser.

You see Linda Brown didn't win the lottery. SHe had a credit card with a 5 M USD limit but that was quickly burnt up by the growing throng of shoppers. No problem Brown told the crowd she would just go to the bank and get the cash and they just needed to keep shopping. Well she didn't return and when the truth began to sink in the staff at the store feared the worst.

The time and effort of twenty five Columbus cops were needed to stop the now rabid consumers who couldn't shake their desire to get their "promised free stuff." I often think about what the collpase of anation like the US would be like. A stampede caused by a lottery winner joax needed to be stopped by cops who were there to "protect the merchandise." Hmmm, this makes me wonder is there ever going to be a time in US history as a real decline sets in that "the merchandise" becomes less important than Human Lives?

Gavlae Reudo Maxric
Copy Editor

Jon and Kate Plus 8 canceled

The sad saga of Jon and Kate Gosselin, their huge brood of kids and their messy divorce has finally been yanked from the TLC lineup.

The ordeal that began with the Gosselin’s fertility issues and ended with the Gosselin tots stuck in the middle as Kate cried and Jon romped with his plastic surgeon’s daughter in the South of France will no longer be a cash cow for the family of ten. The show was originally repackaged sans the disgraced and douchey dad of eight, as Kate Plus 8. Ratings tanked, and after Jon was slapped away from the TLC money teat, Jon had an “epiphany” after his public firing. He decided that if he couldn’t be on the show, his progeny couldn’t either.

As even fewer people would tune in for Kate, TLC just pulled the plug full stop. And as we’ve watched the family implode, the Gosselin’s marriage disintegrate and the kids witness their parents sniping at each other in the press and in person, what else is there to see? Kate says she relies on the show to support the legion Gosselings, and that her kids are bereft in the absence of film crews.

TLC plans to cobble together some remaining episodes from existing footage, but it looks like Kate’s on the road to being just another woman struggling with a whole mess of kids and an unemployed babydaddy.

Winger Madness: Obama Winning the Nobel Prize Proves that He's the Antichrist and the End is Near

by Meg White

When I first heard last Friday morning that President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize, my heart sank a little. Not that I wasn't proud; I was just scared of the reaction of the radical right.
Strangely enough, they're scared too, or at least professing to be. Turns out, receiving the Nobel Peace Prize is tantamount to being crowned the Antichrist. Take for example this response to the breaking news that Obama had been awarded the prize:

When I heard this morning about o's [sic] glorification, I was terrified that the Rapture had occurred and I had done something to miss it. No way in a normal world would anyone give the prize to 0bama based on his record to date... I mean something weird had to happen, right?

But, I got on here, you guys are all still here, so either we messed up somewhere along the way, or we're still waiting to be called home!

These comments come from a user named "Never alone" posting on the bulletin board for the Web site Rapture Ready, a resource for Christians who believe the end is near and that it will unfold as written in the Bible's Book of Revelation.

Back in August of 2008, I looked behind that infamous political ad called "The One" by the McCain campaign, with the help of religious scholar Bruce Wilson of Talk 2 Action. Wilson told me he worried the ad was evidence that eschatology (the study of the "end of times") and dispensational Christianity (a modern platform for explaining the existence of evil in an end-of-times narrative) are "becoming the idiom of politics."

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New York Times Co. Will Keep Boston Globe, But Worcester, Red Sox Stake Still On Block

New York Times Co. (NYSE: NYT) execs have said all along they might not sell the Boston Globe and today, the company announced just that, halting the months-long bidding process. The statement: “On October 14, 2009, The New York Times Company (the “Company”) announced that after careful consideration and analysis, it has terminated the process to explore the sale of The Boston Globe, and related businesses and they will remain within the Company. The Company continues to assess strategic alternatives for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, and is determined to reach a conclusion there quickly.” A possible bidding group for the Worcester paper emerged in recent days.

Chairman Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. and CEO Janet Robinson told employees of the decision via a memo (text below) after the market closed this afternoon. In it, they cited “significantly improved” finances: “All along, we explicitly recognized that a careful restructuring of the Globe was one possible route and, thanks to your hard work, that is precisely what has been done.” That restructuring included the labor negotiations that cut $20 million from union contracts, managed in part by threatening to close the paper if the demands weren’t met.

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Ibanez and Ruiz Power Phillies Past Dodgers

by Stephen Kersey

Thanks to three-run homers by both Raul Ibanez and Carlos Ruiz, the Philadelphia Phillies have taken a 1-0 lead in the NLCS. The Los Angeles Dodgers appeared to be rallying toward a win but they fell short and lost by a final count of 8-6.

After James Loney hit a solo shot in the second inning, the Phillies responded by putting up five runs in the fifth. Three of the runs came on the Ruiz homer, while Ryan Howard added a two-run double. The Dodgers were able to close the gap to 5-4 but then Ibanez authored his three-run blast in the eighth.

In the bottom of the ninth, Brad Lidge was able to pick up his third straight save in the postseason. He gave up a hit to begin the inning but then was able to induce a double play.

Cole Hamels, who was amazing last year in the playoffs, picked up the win despite a so-so effort. In 5.1 innings, he gave up eight hits and four earned runs. Clayton Kershaw got the loss after giving up five earned runs in 4.2 innings.

Game 2 will be played on Friday and will pit Pedro Martinez against Vicente Padilla.

Todd Willingham's Defense Lawyer Embarrasses Texas Justice System on National TV; Juror Has Doubts

Tonight on CNN AC360, Todd Willingham's trial lawyer David Martin, the person who was supposed to have vigorously defended his client, made an appearance on national TV arguing for his former client's guilt. Martin, appearing in a cowboy hat, drawled that the report submitted to the Texas Forensic Science Commission by Dr Craig Beyler was one of the "least objective reports" he has ever read. "This is supposed to be a scientific report?", said Martin.

Steve Mills of the Chicago Tribune, then said that the arson investigation methods used in 1991 were not based on science. "That is absurd" said Martin.

You have to see the shocking video of Martin's appearance. This shows why the Texas death penalty system can allow innocent people to be executed. Willingham did not have a chance with Martin as his lawyer. Anderson Cooper at one point said, "you sound like a sheriff", "you don't sound like a defense lawyer".

Martin said, "this is riduculous. This is absurd. The defense lawyer doesn't have to believe the client. This is an absurdity."

Also on tonight's AC 360, they reported on a juror from Willingham's trial that told them she now has doubts about Wilingham's guilt. The juror also says that she was allowed to be a juror even though her family was good friends with the fire investigator whose testimony helped convict Willingham. Her family's close relationship with Doug Fogg would have likely been grounds for overturning his conviction and getting Willingham a new trial if it had been raised before his execution.

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Polls: Corzine Up In One, Christie Ahead In Another

A new pair of polls in New Jersey show how much of a toss-up this gubernatorial race has become, with Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine narrowly leading in one and Republican candidate Chris Christie just barely leading in the other.

From the New York Times: Corzine 40%, Christie 37%, and independent Chris Daggett with 14%, with a margin of error of between 4% and 5% for likely voters.

From SurveyUSA: Christie 40%, Corzine 39%, Daggett 18%, with a ±4% margin of error. A week ago, SurveyUSA had Christie up by 43%-40%-14%.

The New York Times poll demonstrates how voters have come to view this race as a choice of the lesser of two evils: "But a majority of voters say they cannot relate personally to either Mr. Christie or Mr. Corzine, and neither man is considered likable: 46 percent of voters view Mr. Corzine unfavorably, 30 percent favorably, and 23 percent have no opinion. For Mr. Christie, 41 percent do not have an opinion, 37 percent view him unfavorably and 19 percent have a favorable opinion of him. Mr. Daggett, who lacks the money to advertise heavily, is unknown to most voters: nearly 8 in 10 have no opinion of him."

Louisiana JP Keith Bardwell Refuses To Marry Interracial Couple

Meet Keith Bardwell, a Louisiana justice of the peace who in an amazing act of time travel is making headlines because he refused to marry an interracial couple.

Bardwell, channeling 1949 claims that children from interracial couples are discriminated against, and that in his experience interracial marriages don’t last long anyway.

“I’m not a racist. I just don’t believe in mixing the races that way,” Keith Bardwell told AP. “I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else.”

Apparently though, somebody should think of the children! “There is a problem with both groups accepting a child from such a marriage. I think those children suffer and I won’t help put them through it.”

“But I’m not a racist…I try to treat everyone equally” he helpfully added.

Beth Humphrey, 30, and Terence McKay, 32, are considering filing a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Justice Department.

US industrial output rises again

US industrial production rose more than expected in September, growing for the third straight month, the latest official figures have shown.

Output across the country's factories, mines and other industrial facilities expanded 0.7% in September, said the data from the Federal Reserve.

This was higher than the 0.2% rise expected by analysts and followed an upwardly revised 1.2% in August.

The US industrial sector is recovering more quickly than the retail sector.

While industrial output continues to grow, recent official figures from the Commerce Department showed that September's US retail sales registered the biggest monthly fall so far this year.

The 1.5% decline in retail sales last month was driven by plummeting car sales following the end of the government's scrappage scheme.

Halliburton earnings down 61% in third quarter

Employee separation costs contributed to a 61 percent decline in third-quarter earnings at Halliburton Co., the company reported Friday.

The Houston-based oil services giant reported net income for the three months ended 30 Sept. 2009 of $262 million, or 29 cents a share. Excluding employee separation costs, net income was $281 million, or 31 cents a share.

In the same quarter last year, Halliburton (NYSE: HAL) reported net income of $672 million, or 74 cents a share.

Analysts polled by Thomson/First Call on average expected the company to have earnings per share of 26 cents.

Third quarter revenue was $3.6 billion, down from $4.8 billion in the same quarter last year, but up from $3.5 billion in the 2009 second quarter.

Third-quarter results also were negatively impacted by pricing pressures in North America, the company said.

“While I am pleased with our results, overall market dynamics remained difficult in North America in the third quarter,” Dave Lesar, Halliburton chairman, president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “However, Halliburton continued to benefit from its balanced global portfolio and broad offering of services. Total revenue increased 3 percent from the second quarter, representing our first sequential revenue increase since the fourth quarter of 2008.

“Given the current challenging environment, I believe we are in a strong position at this point,” he added.

Bank of America chief Ken Lewis ordered to pay back salary

• US pay tsar rules Ken Lewis will receive no pay this year
• Citigroup, General Motors and Chrysler also under scrutiny

Outgoing Bank of America chief executive Ken Lewis will get no pay this year, the US government's pay tsar has ruled.

Kenneth Feinberg, the US treasury department official who is scrutinising pay packages at bailed-out banks, said that Lewis – besieged by regulatory investigations and lambasted by shareholders – should get no salary or bonus for the year. Lewis agreed.

He will pay back about $1m (£612,000) he has received so far out of a $1.5m annual salary. But the ruling does not apply to his previously negotiated retirement package, estimated to be worth tens of millions of dollars.

"He will write a cheque to the company," a Bank of America spokesman said, adding that Lewis agreed to the proposal because he felt it was not in the bank's best interest "to get into a dispute with the paymaster".

Lewis, 62, announced last month that he would step down as chief executive and retire from the bank by the end of the year, ending a tumultuous 12 months in which Bank of America was accused of misleading shareholders about its acquisition of Merrill Lynch. He has worked at the North Carolina-based firm for 40 years.

Bank of America is due to release its third-quarter results later today.

Wall Street has been eagerly awaiting Feinberg's decisions about pay for 75 of the highest-earning executives at seven firms that got the most taxpayer money. Other companies under scrutiny include Citigroup, Wells Fargo, General Motors, Chrysler and Chrysler Financial.

"The government is proving they are serious about taking money back for poor performance," said Richard Bove of Rochdale Securities.

Bank of America's Merrill acquisition is being investigated by both the Securities and Exchange Commission and the New York attorney general. The AG's office is trying to determine whether the bank misled shareholders about $3.6bn in bonuses paid to Merrill employees and the investment bank's mortgage lending losses.

F-16 collision prompts search for missing pilot

WASHINGTON — Rescue teams from the US Coast Guard and Navy were searching Friday for a pilot who went missing after two F-16 fighter jets collided off South Carolina's coast, the Air Force said.

"As of right now the search is still going on. We haven't found him yet," spokesman Michael Cowley told AFP early Friday.

"The pilot of the missing F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft from the 20th Fighter Wing here has been identified as Captain Nicholas Giglio," a statement from Shaw Air Force Base said.

"His fighter apparently collided with another Shaw F-16 in mid-air over the Atlantic Ocean around 8:30 pm Thursday (0030 GMT Friday), about 40 miles east of Folly Beach."

The pilot of the other aircraft, Captain Lee Bryant, was able to fly his F-16 back to Charleston Air Force Base, Cowley told AFP.

"The pilot is being evaluated by a medical team. We can let you know that he was unharmed," he said.

No details about the condition of Bryant's jet were available.

The US Coast Guard deployed two sea vessels and a helicopter to try and locate Giglio and his jet.

A board of officers was set to investigate the incident.

The accident occurred as the single-pilot fighters were conducting a night training maneuvers over the Atlantic.

The jets involved in the collision are stationed at Shaw Air Force Base, where pilots routinely practice with night-vision equipment as part of their combat training.

Video: Baby makes miracle escape after train hits pram in Australia

A 6-month-old baby had a miracle escape after his pram rolled onto the tracks and into the path of an oncoming train at a railway station in Melbourne.

Security video footage released on Friday shows the baby's mother looking away for a moment as the pram suddenly rolls off the edge of a station platform and onto the tracks at Ashburton station.

The mother looks back and panics as she watches the oncoming train hit the pram, dragging it about 130 feet along the track as the desperate driver tried to stop the train.

Miraculously, the baby boy survived with only minor injuries, including a bump to his head.

"It appears that the baby was strapped into his pram, which has rolled forward onto the tracks and into the path of an oncoming train," said Jon Wright, a paramedic who treated the little boy at the scene of the accident.

"Fortunately the train was slowing as it pulled into the station. The pram was pushed along the tracks for about 30m.

"The baby received a bump to his head and was distressed when we arrived. Luckily he was strapped into his pram at the time, which probably saved his life," Mr Wright said.

Michael Ferwerda, the Victoria state police sergeant, called Thursday's incident a "lucky escape" and said people should be cautious in train stations.

Obama to promote community service on Friday

WASHINGTON — Fresh off a fundraiser in San Francisco, President Barack Obama heads to Houston to promote community service.

The president speaks Friday afternoon at a Points of Light forum on public service at Texas A&M University at an event hosted by former President George H.W. Bush.

The event honors the 20th anniversary of Bush's volunteer service movement, first mentioned in his 1989 inaugural address.

Obama returns home to Washington after the forum.

Debates, Tax Rates and Candidate Weights

By Richard A. Lee

Perhaps, it is apropos that tonight’s gubernatorial debate will not be available on live television. With the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies engaged in post-season play, baseball is likely to be a larger draw in the two media markets that dominate the Garden State.

But there’s more to this story. It’s not just the baseball post-season that is responsible for a lack of interest in the debate.

Political debates -- not just in New Jersey but all over -- have become too scripted and predictable. Candidates have their message points. We’ve heard them before and we’ll hear them again -- even if they bear little relation to the questions they are answering.

And the truth is the campaign debates to which we have become accustomed tell us little about a candidate’s ability to govern.

“I can't see the connection, I can't see it,” President George H. W. Bush lamented in an interview for a PBS project on debates. “I mean, you can have a good president that might not be the best in the top of his game in a staged debate. But maybe he can do it quietly, maybe he can do it without having a hair part and a make-up just right and a smile at the right time. Maybe he can do it with getting good people around you and giving them credit and trying to do a quiet and decent job for your country. And so I don't see the connection, frankly.”

Bush’s one-time debate rival President Bill Clinton made a somewhat similar observation in his PBS interview, although he did acknowledge that the debates provide some guidance for voters: “They don't test all the skills. They don't really show, you know, whether you're a good decision maker, although they show whether you can understand a situation in a hurry and respond to it, particularly if there's a surprise question or, you know, a surprise development in the kind of the chemistry of the players. They don't show whether you're good at putting together a team and, you know, carrying out a plan, but they do give people a feel for what kind of leader the debater would be, how much the person knows, and how they -- generally how they approach the whole idea of being president.”

Regardless of how well they serve the electorate, debates have had their share of dramatic moments, some of which were critical to the fates of the candidates involved – John Kennedy’s photogenic television appearance in contrast to Richard Nixon and his five o-clock shadow, Ronald Reagan’s ability to use a witty response to dismiss questions about his age, Michael Dukakis’ reply to a question about whether he would favor the death penalty if his wife was raped and murdered.

Will here be a game-changing moment this campaign season? It’s quite possible, but the odds of finding one will be much greater at the baseball contests in New York and Philadelphia.

A Familiar Ring

Some of the comments made by GOP gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie and Kim Guadagno, his lieutenant governor running mate, during New Jersey’s recent debates had a familiar ring. In response to questions about how they would tackle the fiscal issues confronting New Jersey, both promised to scrutinize the state budget in search of savings.

“We will get down to Trenton and we will get into that budget and we will work cooperatively with the Legislature and we will make sure we bring the budget down and we will cut it significantly,” Christie said at the first gubernatorial debate on October 1.

“When we get to Trenton in January, Chris and I, we are going to start with the bottom of the budget and work our way up,” Guadagno said during the lieutenant governor debate on October 8. “We’re going to send two former federal corruption prosecutors to Trenton. We’re going to turn the lights on and turn over every rock until we find every dollar of wasteful spending.”

I took a look back at some old news stories and I found some very similar sounding statements, among them:

"During these next months we will be setting forth individual cases of waste and mismanagement so that the citizens of the state of New Jersey will understand how government was or was not properly operated.”

"The goal today is to provide a critical, exhaustive review of all government services to determine where we can cut waste and mismanagement.”

These two statements were made by then-Governor James McGreevey a few days after he took office in 2002 and created the Budget Efficiency Savings Team, more commonly known by its acronym -- the BEST Commission. The 21-member panel, comprised of fiscal and management experts, was charged with identifying examples of waste and mismanagement in state government. As I recall, the commission did identify a few egregious examples – a building the state was leasing, but not using, and about $15 million to $20 million in savings that could be realized by negotiating better contracts and reducing state workers' use of toll-free phone lines.

Should the Christie-Guadagno ticket win in November, they may very well find some similar items. But in all likelihood, they also will discover the same thing the BEST Commission did in 2002: Those items will generate headlines, but they will not amount to a significant percentage of savings in a budget as large as New Jersey’s.

A Final Word on Weight

Finally, the issue of Chris Christie’s weight already has received much more attention than is warranted, but I would like to note that I made a few observations on this subject after the June primary when I offered a series of suggestions for the two winning candidates. The last item on my list for Christie was this:

“Start a physical fitness routine and tell the world about it. A candidate’s physique has nothing to do with his or her ability to govern, but we do live in a visual age and people do make comments on individuals’ appearances – especially when those individuals are in the public spotlight. Why not have some fun with it and get some added attention from the public and the press as you work to shed a few pounds before Election Day? It will help to humanize you at a time when many voters feel disconnected from their elected officials.”

Christie didn’t follow my suggestion – and it wasn’t the first time a candidate chose not to take my advice. If you’d like to see what else I suggested for him and Governor Corzine back in June – and how my suggestions jive with the paths the two candidates actually pursued -- the post is still online: The Race for Governor: A Few Suggestions for the Candidates.

Feel free to get your scorecards out, but you may have more fun keeping score at a baseball game instead.

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Richard A. Lee is Communications Director of the Hall Institute of Public Policy – New Jersey. A former journalist and Deputy Communications Director for the Governor, he also teaches courses in media and government at Rutgers University, where he is completing work on a Ph.D. in media studies.