Sunday, June 13, 2010

Obama Asks for $50 Billion in Additional Stimulus

By: David Dayen

In the clearest indication yet that the White House believes the economy needs more stimulus to keep the recovery going, President Barack Obama sent a letter to the Congressional leadership of both parties, begging that they add into upcoming bills measures to keep poor people on their health insurance and aid struggling state and local budgets.

In the long, four-page letter, Obama says that “we are at a critical juncture in our nation’s path to economic recovery,” and that more support must be given to the economy in upcoming bills before Congress. Specifically, Obama wants Congress to pass a $6-8 billion measure to extend the 65% subsidy for COBRA eligibles, so jobless Americans can keep the health insurance provided by their former employer. He wants $23 billion in FMAP funding to go to the states so they don’t have to cut back on their Medicaid rolls. Both of these measures were cut from the tax extenders/jobs package in the House, a concession to Blue Dogs nervous about short-term deficits.

In addition, Obama calls on Congressional leaders to include $25 billion for state education and public safety jobs for state and local governments in the war supplemental. The Senate passed that bill in late May without the state aid, and while House Appropriations Committee Chair David Obey has vowed to include it in his version of the bill, he has wavered in recent days, talking about cutting back the $25 billion to $10 billion. Finally, Obama touts the Home Star program of rebates for energy efficiency audits of commercial and residential buildings, and his $30 billion small business lending fund which he promoted in a speech this week. He does nod to some of his medium-term measures, like the budget freeze on discretionary spending, and the bank tax to pay for TARP losses, selling off federal property and expediting rescissions to the budget (a form of the line-item veto).

Here’s an excerpt from the letter, which should leave no doubt about the attitude in the White House, that the recovery is perilous without emergency measures:

I am concerned, however, that the lingering economic damage left by the financial crisis we inherited has left a mounting employment crisis at the state and local level that could set back the pace of our economic recovery. Because this recession has been deeper and more painful than any in 70 years, our state and local governments face a vicious cycle. The lost jobs and foreclosed homes caused by this financial crisis have led to a dramatic decline in revenues that has provoked major cutbacks in critical services at the very time our Nation’s families need them most. Already this year, we have lost 84,000 jobs in state and local governments, a loss that was cushioned by the substantial assistance provided in the Recovery Act. And while state and local governments have already taken difficult steps to balance their budgets, if additional action is not taken hundreds of thousands of jobs would be lost.

That’s about as clear as you can get. Obama only withholds the fact that the kind of assistance necessary to the crisis in state and local budgets was originally present in the Recovery Act, but Ben Nelson, Susan Collins and Arlen Specter deleted $100 billion from the final cost on a whim and to look moderate. Most of that money came from state and local governments, leaving those “moderates” directly responsible for that job loss.

Rather than lament this, the Administration at least recognizes the need for action. He notes that allowing hundreds of thousands more layoffs just adds more costs in automatic stabilizers like unemployment and job training, as well as lowered demand for goods that can no longer be afforded, and lower tax revenue as jobs vanish. “That is why the actual cost of saving state and local jobs is likely to be 20 to 40 percent below their budgetary cost,” Obama writes.

So far, the President has not been able to persuade lawmakers of the importance of more stimulus in the short term to just maintain, let alone further, economic recovery. But this is the strongest statement yet, clarifying what some Congressional aides have considered mixed signals on deficit reduction and job creation. Here, the President is affirmatively asking for over $50 billion dollars in new stimulus.

The next move would be in the Senate, where the tax extenders bill is on the floor. But Senate leadership has not rounded up 60 votes, and while they’ve re-inserted the FMAP funding, the COBRA subsidy has only been offered as an amendment.

Only in Government Can the Lender and Borrower be the Same

When I read this, I did a double take. From the New York Times:

Gov. David A. Paterson and legislative leaders have tentatively agreed to allow the state and municipalities to borrow nearly $6 billion to help them make their required annual payments to the state pension fund.

And, in classic budgetary sleight-of-hand, they will borrow the money to make the payments to the pension fund — from the same pension fund.

Of course this makes no sense. And of course it will come back to hurt New York State. For politicians, though, a problem postponed is someone else’s to deal with…and, thus, nothing to be concerned with.

That’s just like Lt. Drebin at the end of the clip (below): There’s nothing to see here (unless you’re a concerned taxpayer).

RIP Jimmy Dean 1928-2010

Long before he was known as the sausage king, Jimmy Dean was a famous country singer who had his own TV show. He passed away at his home south of Richmond, VA.

Born in 1928, Dean was raised in poverty in Plainview, Texas, and dropped out of high school after the ninth grade. But he went on to a successful entertainment career in the ’50s and ’60s.

In 1969, Dean went into the sausage business, starting the Jimmy Dean Meat Co. He sold the company to Sara Lee Corp. in 1984.

{Video} NJ Officer Taped Spraying Pepper Spray in Detained Black Man's Face

I am not quite sure what to make of the ruffled YouTube video that is now scouring the web out of Paterson, New Jersey. In the video, the woman filming, who mentions that her mother works in the sheriff's office, is taping a New Jersey police officer holding a black man to the ground. The man clearly has his hands behind his back and appears to be restrained.

As the woman videos the incident from a distance, the officer inexplicably grabs the man, turns him around and puts pepper spray into his eyes. He appears to do it twice.

Noticing the woman in the background and people watching, the officer picks the defendant up off the ground and approaches the group using quite a bit of profane language. He also mentions something about the whether or not the woman saw the crack on the ground around the defendant. The video is certainly disturbing, and better video resolution might have been helpful to determine what was going on. All the while, you could clearly see some disturbing actions in the video, which might likely be a case of very serious police brutality.

While we should leave it to the court of law to decide exactly what happened in this incident, here are some quick thoughts that went through my mind:

1) (The obvious one) For what reason did the officer feel the need to put pepper spray into the eyes of a suspect who'd already been detained? If he is lying on the ground with his hands secured behind his back, it makes no sense to spray something in his eyes. This kind of cruel and unusual punishment is not justified just because the person is accused of committing a crime.

2) Why does the officer feel that it is acceptable or necessary to tell innocent bystanders to "get the f*ck out of here," "unless you wanna go with him"? Sorry officer, but you must understand that your authority over the citizens of the community is not absolute. You have no right to use abusive and disrespectful language toward citizens, the same way they are not allowed to be disrespectful toward you. Secondly, the idea that the officer believes that he can threaten to take people to jail because they were observing and evaluating him conducting his duties is incredibly problematic.

3) How often does this happen in cases that go unreported? For every case in which someone happens to be standing around taping an incident, there are likely thousands of other cases we don't know about. If police officers wonder why the community has a difficult time trusting them, incidents like this are the reason why.

The bottom line is that part of the reason the relationship between police officers and the black community is so fractured (even worse so in Paterson, NJ) is because officers sometimes believe that it's O.K. to keep the entire community in a frightened police state. Officers, who are often unable to sort out the bad from the good, tear down the doors of innocent citizens in drug raids and don't even fix the damage that was done to the house (this happened to a friend of mine twice when she was a little girl). They stop black men and harass us without just cause for doing so. They sometimes even beat the heck out of 15-year old kids.

Now, the most egregious behavior doesn't happen in every precinct and is not committed by every officer. But this video is a reminder that there must be a new paradigm of police interaction with the community. Officers must understand that they are positioned to work with the community and not against it. While it appears that the young man in this video may have done something wrong, the idea of spraying him, cursing at citizens and threatening to take them to jail just for watching is absolutely unacceptable. There needs to be an investigation.

The video is below if you'd like to watch:

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and a Scholarship in Action Resident of the Institute for Black Public Policy.

Kim Kardashian: Disappoints in Bikini in Miami (Pictures)

Kim Kardashian was spotted in Miami, Florida soaking in water and enjoying in the sun in a bikini. Well Kim having a sunbath in bikini nothing new, however this time around she had covered her body with a piece of cloth when paparazzi tried to take few snaps of her hot body.

However as usual she was quite happy to oblige for the camera and she gave few snaps to ever hungry paparazzi for their cameras. Watch Kim Kardashian Miami Bikini Pictures below after the jump

NBA Finals Odds: Lakers at Celtics, Game 5

Both Kobe and Ray Allen have had some struggles in the Finals. (AP Images)

Well, despite Paul Pierce’s Game 2 proclamation that the Celtics “ain’t coming back to L.A.” the NBA Finals are assured of returning to the West Coast following Boston’s Game 4 victory to even the series at two. The question is whether the Lakers or Celtics are playing for a title when the series is back at the Staples Center for Game 6. Bodog’s NBA odds favor Boston by 2.5 points to take a 3-2 lead in Sunday’s Game 5.

Boston’s bench – mainly Glen Davis and Nate Robinson – was the difference in Game 4, as the Celtics reserves outscored their Laker counterparts 36-18. And Pierce, the 2008 Finals MVP against Los Angeles, finally showed back up after two subpar games with 19 points, six rebounds and five assists. Still, Boston needs to get Ray Allen going. He has missed 14 consecutive three-pointers, and while that didn’t cost Boston in Game 4 it will eventually (and obviously did in Game 3).

Meanwhile, the Lakers have to be concerned with Andrew Bynum, as Boston has dominated the boards when Bynum hasn’t been on the court. Bynum had his injured knee drained again after Game 4, when he was totally inconsequential with two points and three rebounds in 12 minutes. He says he will play tonight, but how effective he will be is another question. That extra day off between Games 4 and 5 should help. A big reason L.A’s bench was so dominated in Game 4 is that its best player, Lamar Odom, is basically playing as a starter with Bynum so limited. The Celtics also seem to have found a Kobe Bryant stopper, as Kobe is 5-of-19 from the field against defensive pest Tony Allen in the series. Bryant is averaging 28.3 points and 6.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists in the series. But he is just 3-for-12 combined in the fourth quarter of the past two games.

So how important is Game 5? In the 2-3-2 format, when teams with home-court advantage at the start of the series have a 3-2 lead in the Finals (i.e. the Lakers), they have taken the series all nine times. In NBA history, when the NBA Finals is tied at 2, the Game 5 winner goes on to win the series 76 percent of the time. Only two teams since 1985 have won Game 5 (when tied 2-2) and then lost the series.

Slovenia beats 10-man Algeria 1-0 in Group C of World Cup with Koren scoring lone goal

Slovenia beats 10-man Algeria 1-0 in World Cup

POLOKWANE, South Africa — Hey England and America, look who’s on top of your World Cup group. Little Slovenia!

Robert Koren scored a late goal Sunday to give Slovenia a 1-0 win over 10-man Algeria in the teams’ tournament opener, putting the World Cup’s smallest nation — population 2 million, about the size of Houston — ahead of the United States and England in Group C.

The Slovenian captain struck a long-range shot that Algeria goalkeeper Fawzi Chaouchi misjudged and allowed to bounce into the net off his arm in the 79th minute.

“I was just lucky to see it go in like that,” Koren said.

Algerian coach Rabah Saadane said the new World Cup ball was a challenge for goalkeepers.

“Everyone saw what happened with the ball, and what happened yesterday with England’s goalkeeper,” Saadane said. “You have to adjust to the flight of the ball.”

Algeria substitute Abdelkader Ghezzal was ejected seven minutes earlier, picking up a second yellow card for handling the ball inside the Slovenian penalty area.

It was the first World Cup victory for Slovenia. The Balkan country lost all three of its group matches in the 2002 tournament.

“It was a mental victory,” said Slovenian coach Matjaz Kek. “We wanted to win so much, so it’s great for our confidence to get that win.”

Both sides knew they were heading into a match in which a loss would be costly, with England and the United States — both higher ranked — left on the schedule. The Group C favorites tied 1-1 Saturday after a blunder by England goalkeeper Robert Green allowed Clint Dempsey’s shot to trickle into the net.

Algeria twice came close to scoring in the first half, when Nadir Belhadj’s 25-yard free kick forced Slovenia goalkeeper Samir Handanovic to stretch and push the ball over the crossbar, and when defender Rafik Halliche headed the ball just wide.

Algeria coach Rabah Saadane said Chaouchi apologized to the team for failing to track Koren’s shot. But the coach refused to criticize the goalkeeper.

“We must recover and prepare for an even more difficult match against England, which is the best of the group,” Saadane said. “It’s going to be very difficult now. We had a great opportunity today and we missed it.”

The players seemed nervous in the first half, frequently losing possession with inaccurate passes and crosses.

Slovenia’s only scoring chance before the break was Valter Birsa’s long-range attempt in the 43rd minute, tipped over the bar with a spectacular right-hand save by Chaouchi.

The match could have taken a different turn two minutes before Koren’s winner when Algeria’s Karim Ziani caught defender Marko Suler off-guard and pushed toward the Slovenian goal, but was cut off by Handanovic.

There was some commotion in the stands during the break when former France great Zinedine Zidane, who is of Algerian descent, was forced to climb to a higher section to get away from autograph-seeking fans who were pushed back briskly by security guards.

Algeria beat North African rival Egypt in a tense playoff to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986. Slovenia reached its second World Cup with an upset playoff victory over Russia.

Slovenia faces the U.S. next, while Algeria travels to Cape Town to take on England.

The game at the newly built Peter Mokaba Stadium was the first World Cup match played on a surface partly consisting of artificial grass. Similar turf is being used at some major stadiums in Europe.

“I do not agree with this turf,” Kek said. “It’s no excuse, it’s the same for Algeria as well. But it is a different game on this surface.”

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Ghana fails to convert chances vs. Serbia as Group D match stays scoreless at halftime

Serbia, Ghana 0-0 at halftime

PRETORIA, South Africa — Ghana had the lion’s share of chances in the first half against Serbia in the opening match of Group D at the World Cup, but couldn’t score.
Ghana attacked almost from the start, with Anthony Annan volleying wide after just two minutes.

In the fourth minute, Asamoah Gyan sent a free kick over the crossbar after Prince Tagoe was brought down by defender Nemanja Vidic.

In the 19th, captain John Mensah headed a free kick wide of the far post after Nikola Zigic received a yellow card for fouling Dede Ayew.
The best chance fell to Gyan, who failed to connect with Kevin-Prince Boateng’s floated cross.

Serbia had a couple of chances. Defender Aleksandar Kolarov came closest, but his free kick drifted wide.