Friday Cat Blogging - 13 February 2009

| Fri Feb. 13, 2009 2:33 PM EST
FRIDAY CATBLOGGING....Our next-door neighbor and I are doing our part to stimulate the economy.  Thanks to roots and trees and strong winds, our fence collapsed several weeks ago and we agreed to stimulate the local fencebuilding industry by getting it replaced.  Yesterday Inkblot took his first walk along our magnificent new construction project, and as you can see by his tail propped up behind him, he approves.  Who wouldn't?

As for Domino, I hauled her up onto the fence too, but she was less impressed.  She doesn't really like being that high off the ground.  So this week's picture is as ground level as you can get.  I know that I'm just begging for comments about how, um, rotund she is, but I say, bring 'em on.  Domino is deliriously happy with her body image and thinks that it just gives her more surface area to soak up the sunshine.  And she's right.  So go soak up some sun this weekend if you can.  Lincoln and Washington would approve.

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| Fri Feb. 13, 2009 2:06 PM EST
PORK....Here's the headline in today's Washington Post:

Despite Pledges, Package Has Some Pork

And the evidence?  $8 billion for high-speed rail, $2 billion for the lithium ion battery industry, $200 million for Filipino vets, and $100 million for small shipyards.  And if that all sounds oddly non-porcine to you, you're right:

None of the items in the sprawling $789 billion package are traditional earmarks — funding for a project inserted by a lawmaker bypassing the normal budgeting process — according to the White House and Democratic leaders....But many Republicans, anti-tax advocates and other critics argue that the final version of the bill is still larded with wasteful spending and dubious initiatives that will do little to create jobs or spur financial markets.

In other words, this isn't pork at all.  It's just normal spending — and after all, if you're going to have a stimulus bill you have to spend the money on something, don't you?  All this is, it turns out, is spending Republicans don't like.

So why does the Post collude with the GOP to pretend instead that this is pork, when their story admits just the opposite?  It is a mystery.

RSS Update

| Fri Feb. 13, 2009 1:32 PM EST
RSS UPDATE....Good news!  My RSS feed has been fixed.  Here's the URL:

This is feeding full posts, not just headlines. If you're still having problems with your reader (I use Google Reader and it's working fine), please let us know in comments.

I Can Hear You

| Fri Feb. 13, 2009 1:26 PM EST
I CAN HEAR YOU....Big Brother is not just watching you anymore, he's listening in too.  This is probably inevitable, but I still don't have to like it, do I?

World Press Photo winners announced

| Fri Feb. 13, 2009 1:09 PM EST
The World Press Photo winners were announced today! One of the most prestigious photojournalism awards, this year's top prize went to Anthony Suau, for his photograph of an armed police officer moving through a foreclosed house. He shot the photo in March 2008 for Time.

Anthony Suau for TimeAnthony Suau for Time

Quote of the Day - 02.13.09

| Fri Feb. 13, 2009 1:00 PM EST
QUOTE OF THE DAY....From Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, on Sarah Palin:

"She was our best fundraiser and organizer in the fall."

Indeed.  Which is why I can hardly wait for her to talk herself into running again in 2012.

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Obama Drops Family Planning From Stimulus

| Fri Feb. 13, 2009 12:55 PM EST
If you think it was hard to push out the $787 billion stimulus package, try birthing a child without health care or living with HPV. Though the package bodes well for environmentalists, in order to lure Republicans—none of whom have signed on yet—Obama stripped it of a handful of important provisions on women, STD prevention, and children's services.

Specifically, Obama cut $25 million to the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces and $150 million to the Violence Against Women Act at the suggestion of Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ben Nelson (D-NE). Also stripped from the stimulus package was a section that would allow states to cover family planning services—without first obtaining a government waiver, as is the current practice—for low-income women who are ineligible for Medicaid. A Congressional Budget Office report estimates that this bill would have saved the country $200 million over five years and $700 million over the next ten.

STDs were apparently another sore spot for Republicans, so Obama ended up taking out $335 million for STD prevention. According to the CDC, STDs cost the health care system $15.3 billion per year, and we're expected to spend $12.3 billion on HIV/AIDS-related care in 2009. You do the math.

Update: Three Republican Senators—Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania—supported the bill.

Why Gregg?

| Fri Feb. 13, 2009 12:46 PM EST
WHY GREGG?....I don't know what really happened to cause Judd Gregg to withdraw his nomination as Commerce Secretary.  It's absurd for him to say that he hadn't really thought through the consequences of the stimulus package, which was by far the biggest story in Washington at the time he was nominated, and he claims the census kerfuffle was trivial.  So what was it?

Who knows?  But I'm sort of curious about the other side of this nomination too.  What was Obama thinking?  It's one thing to nominate a moderate conservative like Ray LaHood, or pragmatists like Jim Jones and Robert Gates, but Gregg is a full-blown dyed-in-the-wool fiscal conservative.  He's not a crank, but he's not within light years of finding common ground with a liberal Democratic president either.

So why did Obama nominate him?  Does he just not care about the Commerce Department?  Or did he really think that somehow this could work out?  The more I think about it, the stranger it seems.

Banks Banned From Replacing Workers With Foreigners

| Fri Feb. 13, 2009 12:27 PM EST

When the stimulus package hits President Obama's desk, it will include a provision banning bailed-out banks from replacing laid-off American workers with skilled foreigners.

Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) proposed the ban, which would last two years. Their proposal came a few weeks after the Associated Press reported banks that had received $150 billion in bailout money requested work visas for nearly 22,000 foreign workers during the last six years, a move Sanders called "absurd."


| Fri Feb. 13, 2009 12:07 PM EST
Matthew Richardson and Nouriel Roubini argue in the Washington Post today that the U.S. banking system is insolvent to the tune of $400 billion, and nationalization is the only answer.  Here's their advice:

First, and this is by far the toughest step, determine which banks are insolvent. Geithner's stress test would be helpful here. The government should start with the big banks that have outside debt, and it must determine which are solvent and which aren't in one fell swoop to avoid panic. Otherwise, bringing down one big bank will start an immediate run on the equity and long-term debt of the others. It will be a rough ride, but the regulators must stay strong. Second, immediately nationalize insolvent institutions....Third, once an institution is taken over, separate its assets into good and bad ones....Fourth, merge all the remaining bad assets into one enterprise. ....Basically, we're all Swedes now. We have used all our bullets, and the boogeyman is still coming. Let's pull out the bazooka and be done with it.

I expect this to become a pretty mainstream opinion over the next few weeks, and once Geithner's stress testing is finished he's going to come under tremendous pressure to make the results public and do exactly what Richardson and Roubini suggest.  Pretty soon, even America's bankers will be capitalists, whether they like it or not.