Obama Brings Affirmative Action To His Economic Recovery Advisory Board

Would George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have sought economic advice from, say, James Galbraith, a well-known progressive economist (and Mother Jones contributor)?

That's a rhetorical question.

But look at the composition of Barack Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, which he unveiled on Friday morning. It's chaired by Paul Volcker, the former Fed chair, and includes, among others, Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of GE, Jim Owens, the CEO of Caterpillar, Penny Pritzker, a businesswoman and philanthropist who chaired Obama's campaign finance committee, Anna Burger, chair of Change to Win (a labor group), Richard Trumka, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, and Martin Feldstein of Harvard. Feldstein is a prominent conservative economist. He was resident Ronald Reagan's chief economic adviser and was a driving force behind George W. Bush's failed effort to partially privatize Social Security. (Imagine if that had gone through!) He also was a board member of AIG (whoops!). Talk about affirmative action.

A.Q. Khan Freed From House Arrest

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Just last week I described A.Q. Khan, Pakistani nuclear trafficker extraordinaire, as "secret wrapped inside a riddle inside an enigma." I wrote of how he recently stepped into the online world with a new personal website, despite being under house arrest in Islamabad for his role in smuggling nuclear bomb designs and production materials to Iran, Libya, and North Korea.

Well, it now looks like we'll be hearing a lot more from Khan. Today, a Pakistani court freed him from house arrest, enabling the 73-year old nuclear smuggler—at once a Pakistani national hero and international pariah—to move about freely within Pakistan's borders. Khan's wife told reporters that the Pakistani government has retained her husband's passport, suggesting that he will not be permitted to leave Pakistan, at least for now. (Then again, his sudden release is indicative of how quickly things can change.)

Bad News for Jobs, and Sanity

You may have heard the big news of the day: the unemployment rate has risen to 7.6 percent. That's a product of the American economy losing 598,000 jobs in January, the worst monthly jobs loss since 1974 (I know, the workforce has grown since then). That figure means the economy has lost 1.8 million jobs in the last three months and 3.6 million jobs in the year+ since December 2007.

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Good News for Health Care

A leading liberal Democrat in the Senate (Ted Kennedy) and a leading moderate Democrat in the Senate (Max Baucus) have written a joint letter to President Obama making it clear that they support attempting universal health care in the first year of Obama's presidency. "We must act now," they write.

This is great news. Text below.

Obama Gets Partisan

As partisan as he's able, anyway. Politico has video of POTUS rallying House Democrats in support of the stimulus package, and it's fun to watch if you've been waiting for Obama to take the gloves off. Some choice quotes:

"When you start hearing arguments, on the cable chatter, just understand a couple of things," he said. "No. 1, when they say, 'Well, why are we spending $800 billion [when] we've got this huge deficit?' — first of all, I found this deficit when I showed up, No. 1."
"I found this national debt, doubled, wrapped in a big bow waiting for me as I stepped into the Oval Office."
"What do you think a stimulus is?" Obama asked incredulously. "It’s spending — that's the whole point! Seriously."
More below, from CNN:

Honeybees!

HONEYBEES!....I'm back! Not really at a hundred percent or anything, but in good enough shape for blogging. And I have to say that my timing was pretty good: all I really missed was a fantastic amount of teeth gnashing (tooth gnashing?) over Barack Obama supposedly losing control of the stimulus bill. And I admit that my teeth were gnashing too for a while. But I have to say that with the benefit of thinking about this for a few hours rather than a few minutes, it's pretty obvious that people are overreacting. Yes, Republicans are acting like Republicans, and sure, Obama is going to end up making some compromises. But that's what he said he was willing to do all along. So really, what's the big deal? It's going to work out OK within the next few days, and I'll bet the Senate ends up adding about as much stuff as it takes out. So chill. But speaking of Republicans acting like Republicans, Michael Hiltzik has dredged up a good one. Apparently Neil Cavuto has been carrying on for the past week about an item in the stimulus bill he calls "honeybee insurance," and Mitch McConnell and David Vitter have joined in on the Senate floor to mock this disgraceful waste of taxpayer money. It's shocking! Now, you will be unsurprised to learn that the program in question isn't honeybee insurance at all, it's disaster insurance for all livestock producers. But that's not the best part. This is:

The provision simply continues a program enacted by Congress last year, overriding a veto by President Bush. In other words, the Senate voted on it twice in 2008 — once to enact and once to override. Connoisseurs of political comedy will see the punch line coming: McConnell and Vitter voted yea both times. So it turns out that McConnell isn't really against honeybees. He's only using them to pretend that he's got a principled objection to a stimulus plan aimed at pulling the country out of the most severe recession in decades.

Ladies and gentlemen, your Republican Party. Country first, as always.

Support Transparency in the Stimulus!

sunlight_stimulus.jpg As we near the passage of the Senate version of the stimulus bill, I want to take a second to make a plea for strong transparency measures. Here at Mother Jones, and certainly elsewhere on the left, we spent tons of time calling for increased public oversight of the Bush Administration's myriad contractors. The nation's business is being privatized, we'd say. We have a right to know whether these fat cat contractors are spending the taxpayers' money well!

Well, the stimulus bill is a contractor's dream. If you work in construction and you have a connection to someone in government — good heavens, get on the blower and start working your connect. The taxpayers, the ones funding the new projects that we all agree are necessary to jump start the economy, have a right to know how their money is being spent and whether jobs are being created as a result. Proper government oversight is a must under both parties.

Spending vs. Tax Cuts: Everything You Need to Know in One Chart

This is pretty excellent. It's a chart, created by Paul Rosenberg at Open Left, that combines data from Moody's Economy.com and Dean Baker's Center for Economic Policy and Research. It shows the return on investment for different stimulus options.

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Weighing the Climate Impact of the Stimulus Bill

Today Greenpeace released a report indicating that the House's $819 billion stimulus bill is a net environmental gain by a longshot. The bill's energy efficiency and conservation provisions alone could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 61 million metric tons annually, the equivalent of electricity use in 7.9 million American homes. Meanwhile, the worst-case-scenario for the bill's transportation provisions would reduce the overall carbon benefits by only 5 million tons annually. The report, which was written by the respected energy consulting firm ICF International, apparently didn't examine other provisions in the bill, but given that transportation is by far the biggest environmental white elephant, the overall package looks surprisingly eco-friendly. Ironically, the real downside won't kick in unless the stimulus succeeds in reviving the economy, causing consumption to rise. Yet if the bill starts rebuilding the economic system into something sustainable, we'll be better off than where we started.

Via the Associated Press, we learn that the Associated Press is coming after Shepard Fairey for using one of its photos as the basis of his (everyone say it with me!) iconic Obama "Hope" poster. A few weeks ago, a diligent photographer finally ID'd the poster's source image as a shot taken in 2006 by an AP freelancer. The AP is now crying copyright infringement and says it has "reached out to Mr. Fairey's attorney." (It's worth noting that when Reuters briefly thought the shot was theirs, they simply asked for credit.)