Sunday, November 30, 2008

Hillary It Is for Secretary of State

After a couple of weeks of rumours, negotiaions and press leaks, Hillary It Is for Secretary of State of the United States under Barack Obama. A deal was worked out this weekend with former President Bill Clinton over his post White House work and it helped clear the way for Hillary Rodham Clinton to join President-elect Barack Obama's national security team as secretary of state, reshaping a bitter rivalry into a strategic and diplomatic union.

Obama was to be joined by the New York senator at a Chicago news conference Monday, Democratic officials said, where he also planned to announce that Defense Secretary Robert Gates would remain in his job for a year or more and that retired Marine General James M. Jones would serve as national security adviser.

To make it possible for his wife to become the top US diplomat former President Clinton agreed to disclose the names of every contributor to his foundation since its inception in 1997 and all contributors going forward and to refuse donations from foreign governments to the Clinton Global Initiative, his annual charitable conference.

He also agreed to cease holding CGI meetings overseas as well as to volunteer to step away from daily management of the foundation while his wife is secretary of state. Bill Clinton will submit his speaking schedule to review by the State Department and White House counsel and submit any new sources of income to a similar ethical review.

Bill Clinton's business deals and global charitable endeavors had been expected to create problems for the former first lady's nomination. But in negotiations with the Obama transition team, the former president agreed to several measures designed to bring transparency to those activities.

"It's a big step," said Senator Lugar of Indiana, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who plans to vote to confirm Clinton.

The former president long had refused to disclose the identities of contributors to his foundation, saying many gave money on condition that they not be identified.
Lugar said there would still be "legitimate questions" raised about the former president's extensive international involvement. "I don't know how, given all of our ethics standards now, anyone quite measures up to this who has such cosmic ties, but ... hopefully, this team of rivals will work," Lugar said.

Obama's choice of Hillary Clinton was an extraordinary gesture of good will after a year in which the two rivals competed for the Democratic nomination in a long, bitter primary battle. They clashed repeatedly on foreign affairs. Obama criticized Clinton for her vote to authorize the Iraq war. Clinton said Obama lacked the experience to be president and she chided him for saying he would meet with leaders of nations such as Iran and Cuba without conditions.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Check out SaveBuckets for your Holiday Toy Ideas

With the Christmas season upon us everyone is trying to come up with those perfect gift ideas for friends and family. I have had wonderful luck with SaveBuckets as my online source for gifts for the children. Instead of fighting traffic and long lines, it is much easier to go online for your toy shopping. With the economy in tough times everyone is looking for cheap toys and affordable gifts.

Gifts for older children might be the latest Nintendo Wii console with fun games such as this years most popular game Wii Fit. Fun for the whole the family, not just the kids, and a great way to get exercise. Personally, I have had a blast playing tennis on the Wii system. There are many other items also available at SaveBuckets such as gifts for the Internet, Gadgets and Personal Interest items. Not only video games, but also electronics such as Ipods and other toys as well.

Another really popular game for the Christmas season on the Nintendo Wii is Mario Kart + the Wii Wheel. This game is a total blast and will give the kids hours of entertainment. So check out SaveBuckets for your online gift ideas this holiday season. You will be happily surprised.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Couldn't Have Said it any Better to the Big 3 Automakers

OK so everyone is familiar with the troubles with the Big 3 automakers here in the US. Their business woes have been in the news for weeks. The last couple of days the leaders of Ford, GM and Chrysler are on Capitol Hill asking for government aid in keeping their businesses aflot. Everyone has their own opinions on whether they should receive a taxpayer financed handout, myself included, but in watching the Congressional hearing this morning I thought the Senator from New York made a wonderful point when addressing the leaders of the Big 3.

He said "I think there is an irony in seeing private luxury jets flying into Washington DC and people coming off of them with tin cups in their hand saying that they are going to be trimming down and streamlining their businesses. It's almost like seeing the guy show up at the soup kitchen in a tophat and tuxedo. Kind of makes you a little bit suspicious as to whether or not we've seen the future. And it causes some of the Senators to think have we seen the future.

There's a message there. Couldn't ya'll have downgraded to first class or jetpooled to get here? I mean it would have at least sent a message that you get it. If you are going to streamline your companies, where does it start? It would seem to me that as the CEOs of these companies that you cant set the standard of what that future is going to look like. That you are really going to trim the fat. That you dont need all the luxuries and bells and whistles. Causes us to wonder."

I don't think anyone could have said it any better. There aren't any American taxpayers that want to finance private jets and luxury vacations.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Could Hilary Clinton be the next Secretary of State?

Multiple rumours abound that Hilary Clinton is the favorite to become the next Secretary of State of the United States in the new Barack Obama administration. Wouldn't that be a stretch after the two fought for the Democratic Presidential nomination just a few months ago? Kudos to Obama for moving forward and not looking backwards. He'll need to do more of this to move the country forward next year. It would be a refreshing thing to see in the petty world of US politics.

A Clinton selection as top US diplomat could mean a much more hawkish foreign policy than Obama advocated during his presidential campaign. On the campaign trail, Clinton was more reluctant than Obama to commit to a firm timetable for withdrawing American troops from Iraq.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sarah Palin Open to Future Runs at Office

Former Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin hinted in an interview Monday that she would be open for a run at higher office in 2012 if the correct opportunity presents itself. Even before the Republican loss in last week's election, there was talk of the 44 yr old Alaska governor running for president in 2012.

"Show me where the open door is. Even if it's cracked up a little bit, maybe I'll plow right on through that and maybe prematurely plow through it, but don't let me miss an open door," Sarah Palin said in an interview on Fox News' "On The Record" program. She did not specify which office she might be interested in seeking.

Sarah Palin, whose term as governor ends in two years, said she could not predict the future, but she did say how it would be "very exciting" to have an opportunity to serve in a greater capacity.

"If there is an open door in 2012 or later, and if it is something that is going to be good for my family, for my state, for my nation, an opportunity for me, then I'll plow through that door," Palin said.

As Republican John McCain's surprise pick in a hard fought campaign against Democrat Barack Obama, Palin attracted controversy but also a strong following in the Republican Party's conservative base.

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Thoughts from Around the World on the Barack Obama Election

I thought it would be interesting to grab some quotes and headlines from around the world on the election of Barack Obama.

Nelson Mandela of South Africa:
"Your victory has demonstrated that no person anywhere in the world should not dare to dream of wanting to change the world for a better place.

Nicolas Sarkozy of France:
"At a time when we have to confront immense challenges together, your election raises great hopes in France, Europe and in the rest of the world.

The Times of London - The New World
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany) - Barack Obama: In America Everything is Possible
The Sun (Britain) - One Giant Leap for Mankind
O Globo (Brazil) - Change Has Come
II Giornale (Italy) - The World has a new Emperor
Pravda (Russia) - A Change for the Better

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama Wins Historic Election in a Rout

Barack Obama rode a wave of voter discontent to a historic Election victory, promising change as the first African-Amercian US president but facing enormous challenges from a deep economic crisis and lingering wars overseas. Obama led Democrats to sweeping victories around the country that expanded majorities in both houses of Congress as Americans emphatically rejected President George W. Bush's leadership.

Newspaper headlines captured the momentous nature of the result. A New York Times banner headline said simply "OBAMA", while the Washington Post declared "Obama Makes History" and USA Today: "America makes history; Obama wins". The son of a black father from Kenya and white mother from Kansas, Obama was born at a time when black Americans were still battling segregationist policies in the South. His triumph over Republican rival John McCain on Tuesday is a milestone that could help the United States bury its long and often brutal history of racism.

"It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, at this defining moment, change has come to America," Obama, 47, told more than 200,000 ecstatic supporters gathered in Chicago's Grant Park to celebrate.

Raucous street celebrations erupted across the country, but Obama will have little or no time off to enjoy the victory. He was expected to start work on Wednesday on planning a course for his formal takeover on January 20 and putting together a team to tackle the huge challenges at home and abroad. Initial market reaction was muted. Analysts said Obama's victory had been largely priced in and concerns about the global economy were paramount.

The dollar rose against major currencies following its biggest one day slide in 13 years, but US stock index futures were down by between 1.3% and 1.6%. Obama won at least 349 Electoral College votes, based on results in state votes, far more than the 270 he needed. With results in from more than three quarters of US precincts, he led McCain by 52% to 47% in the popular vote.

He will face intense pressure to deliver on his campaign promises. He has vowed to restore American leadership in the world by working closely with foreign allies, to withdraw troops from Iraq in the first 16 months of his term and to bolster US troop levels in Afghanistan. But his immediate task will be tackling the financial crisis, the worst since the Great Depression. Obama has proposed another stimulus package that could cost about $175 billion and include funding for infrastructure and another round of rebate checks.

A first-term Illinois senator who will now be the 44th US President, Obama said he would work to ease the country's sharp political divisions and listen to those who voted against him.

"The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there," he said in Chicago.

McCain's hopes for a surprise win evaporated with losses in a string of key battleground states led by the big prizes of Ohio and Florida, the states that sent Democrats to defeat in the last two elections. McCain, a 72 yr old Arizona senator and former Vietnam War prisoner, called Obama to congratulate him and praised his inspirational and precedent-shattering campaign.

"I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him but offering our next president our goodwill," McCain said.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Winner Could be Known Early Tomorrow

Some of the earliest returns in tomorrow's US Presidential Election could give us major knowledge about the final outcome. The race between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain could become clear soon after the first polls begin to close at 6 pm in Indiana. Obama and McCain are locked in a surprisingly tight duel in Indiana, a Midwestern state that has voted Republican in every White House race since 1964. A breakthrough win for Obama, or even a neck and neck struggle, would be an encouraging sign of broad strength for the senator from neighboring Illinois.

But if McCain appears to be cruising to a relatively easy win in Indiana it could signal trouble for Obama, who is challenging McCain in about a dozen states won in 2004 by Republican President George W. Bush. The first public sign of Democrat John Kerry's loss in 2004 came from a worse than expected monster blowout in Indiana.

"If Obama wins Indiana, the election is over," Democratic consultant Doug Schoen said. "Even if it's close, within 2 or 3 points, it probably suggests a big Obama win nationally. If it's more than 4 points for McCain, it's going to be wait and see for a while."

The next round of tests is at 7 pm when voting ends in Georgia, parts of Florida and the battleground state of Virginia, another place where Democrats have not won a presidential vote since 1964 but have made gains in recent statewide races.

"If Obama wins Virginia by a decisive margin, it's a pretty strong suggestion he's going to win the election," Schoen said. "If McCain wins by more than a few points that could suggest movement toward him."

At 7:30pm, polls close in the states of Ohio and North Carolina and by 8pm , all polls in Florida will be closed. Florida's 27 electoral votes and Ohio's 20 electoral votes are two of the biggest prizes still up for grabs on Tuesday.

John McCain faces a perilous path to gaining the 270 electoral votes he needs to win. Essentially McCain has to carry all of those early battleground states to have a realistic chance. A loss in any would increase pressure on McCain to make up for the loss with an upset of Obama in Pennsylvania, which Democrats have taken in the past four presidential elections. Voting in Pennsylvania, which has 21 electoral votes, also ends at 8pm.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Democrats Looking to Claim the Victory

With Election Day almost upon us, Democrat Barack Obama appears within reach of becoming the nation's first black president as the epic campaign draws to a close against a backdrop of economic crisis and lingering war. Republican John McCain, the battle-scarred warrior, holds out hope for a Truman style upset.

Whoever wins, the country's 44th president will immediately confront some of the most difficult economic challenges since the Great Depression. In that effort, he'll almost surely be working with a stronger Democratic majority in Congress, as well as among governors and state legislatures nationwide. GOP incumbents at every level are endangered just eight years after President Bush's election ignited talk of lasting Republican Party dominance.

It's been an extraordinary campaign of shattered records, ceilings and assumptions. Indeed, a race for the ages. Democrat Obama has exuded confidence in the campaign's final days, reaching for a triumph of landslide proportions. "The die is being cast as we speak," says campaign manager David Plouffe.

Undeterred, Republican McCain vows to fight on, bidding for an upset reminiscent of Democrat Harry S. Truman's stunning defeat of Thomas E. Dewey in 1948. Looking back only to early this year, campaign manager Rick Davis says, "We are witnessing perhaps, I believe, one of the greatest comebacks since John McCain won the primary."

The odds for Republicans in 2008 have been long from the start: Voters often thwart the party that's been in power for two terms. And this year, larger factors are working against the GOP: the war in Iraq, now in its sixth year, and the crisis on Wall Street and in the larger economy. Voters deeply distrust government and crave a new direction.

Republicans are girding for widespread losses. "It's a fairly toxic atmosphere out there," said Nevada Sen. John Ensign, chairman of the Senate GOP's campaign effort. Added his House counterpart, Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole: "We haven't caught very many breaks."

Democrats are looking ahead to expanded power. "Things are looking very good," said Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the head of the House Democrats' campaign committee. New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, chairman of the Senate Democrats' effort, predicted: "We're going to pick up a large number of seats and that's going to make Democrats very happy."

The Democrats are looking to claim a 60 vote Senate majority that would allow the party to overcome Republican filibusters, and could pick up two dozen or more House seats. Democrats also hope to pad their slim majority of governorships and increase their ranks in what already is their strongest majority in state legislatures in more than a decade.

The implications are far-reaching: Governors and state legislators elected Tuesday to four year terms will help preside over the redrawing of legislative and congressional districts following the 2010 Census. The party in charge can redraw districts in its favor. Atop the ticket, Obama leads in national and key battleground state polling, though the race appears to be tightening as it plays out primarily in states that Bush won twice. Among the unknowns: the choices of one in seven likely voters who are undecided or could still change their minds; the impact of Obama's efforts to register and woo new voters, particularly blacks and young people; the effect of Obama's race on voters just four decades after the tumult of the Civil Rights movement.

"Right now, it's very clearly Obama's to lose, and I think his chances of doing so are pretty minimal," said Republican Dick Armey, the former House majority leader from Texas. He said the possibility of a McCain comeback is "getting down to slim-to-none."

An Obama victory would amount to a wholesale rejection of the status quo: voters taking a chance on a relative newcomer to the national stage, a 47-year-old first-term senator from Chicago, rather than stick with a seasoned veteran of the party in power. With strengthened Democratic majorities in Congress, he'd have to deal with the party's left flank while governing a country that's more conservative than liberal.

The Republican Party essentially would be in tatters, searching for both a leader and an identity. An Obama loss, or McCain comeback, would be a crushing disappointment for Democrats in a year tailor-made for the party. It would suggest McCain's experience trumped Obama's clarion call for change, and raise troubling questions about white Americans' willingness to vote for a black man. Blacks, in particular, might be furious and deeply suspicious of an almost sure thing that slipped away.