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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Internships! Get Em While They Last!


It may seem hard to believe what with the forecast that snow is going to hit us again next week, but pretty soon it will be SUMMER TIME!

Since you're probably a Smith student, that crushing feeling you're getting is the all-consuming pressure to find a summer internship.

But don't worry, there's still time to land the internship of your dreams, and you might even be able to skip the soul-crushing, heart-wrenching, Darwinian struggle that is internship searching because....

THE DEMS ARE HAVING THEIR INTERNSHIP PANEL!

That's right, the Smith Dems will be hosting their legendary (or at least semi-epic) summer internship panel this Monday, March 2 at 7 PM in CC 103/104. This is your chance to hear about opportunities and get the low-down on intern experiences from Real Smith Democrats Who Have Lived Them.

Don't miss out: Smith Dems Internship Panel, Monday, March 2, 7 PM, CC 103/104

Friday, February 27, 2009

Choice Has Come to America


When the Clinton administration left the White House, they took the "W" keys from their keyboards with them. When the Bush administration left office, they tried to carry our right to choose out the door. Thankfully, the Obama administration is doing its best to recover what was stolen from us.

In December, the Bush administration passed new, sweeping changes to the so-called "conscience" rules. The idea behind the conscience ruling is to protect people in the health care industry from providing services that go against their personal ethics, meaning mostly abortions and birth-control pills to women.

If you grew up in a city, you might not think this is such a big deal. If one pharmacist won't serve you, there's always another one around the corner. But for women in rural settings, "conscience" rules are a major problem. In states like Montana, a woman may drive for 80 miles just to find a pharmacy that will honor her legal prescription.

To make things worse, the new rules established by the Bush administration cover a broad category of health services. In fact, the rule is so vague that it could be used to deny all family-planning counseling services, blood transfusions, and end-of-life care.

Moment of Rant: When your doctor writes a prescription, you should be able to get it filled. Period. When you and your doctor decide on a course of action for your body, you should have the right to follow it. Period.

Thankfully, President Obama agrees with me, and that's why his team is working on rescinding the conscience rule. Sanity and choice are on their way back.
-JR

Isn't She Lovely?

Here's Michelle Obama's official White House portrait, all finished and ready for framing. I generally find oil paintings of contemporary figures to be a little weird-looking compared to their photographs, but of course this one is lovely. Oils clearly compliment the First Lady's bi-ceps.

Thanks to our friends at Jezebel and AP Images for posting the original portrait.

CORRECTION: This is actually a photograph portrait of the First Lady, not an oil painting. Kudos to our friends at the Daily Jolt for pointing out our mistake. Doesn't change the hotness, just the medium. Continue to enjoy.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

DC (finally) Gets the Vote!




In a big piece of news for those you "Damn Liberals" who plan to move to our nation's capitol after graduation, D.C. may very soon have a REAL congressional representative (right now the district is represented by Eleanor Holmes-Norton, who can speak in the House of Representatives, but can't actually vote and thus does not actually matter).

Quick history: The District of Columbia was created as a federal district with no congressional represenation on purpose. This was supposed to be neutral ground, where no member of congress had constituents. But just cause the people of DC didn't vote for congressmen, didn't mean that the Congress left them alone.

In fact, congress had direct control over the government of DC starting with the Organic Act of 1801. This wasn't so bad when DC was just a swamp with a couple of federal buildings, but it eventually became complicated for a real city to get an act of congress passed every time they needed to appropriate money for fire engines or side walks or something. With its usual speed and efficiency, congress fixed this beuracratic problem....172 years later. In 1973, the DC Home Rule Act was passed, granting DC its own mayor and city government.

Besides being very badly run by congress, DC has always gotten the shaft when it came to voting rights. Until 1961, DC residents could not vote for anything! In 1961, they were finally alotted 3 seats in the electoral college and were thus allowed to vote in Presidential elections.

Here's the real kicker: Despite not being able to vote and having no representation in Congress, DC residents still pay taxes. In fact, they pay a lot of taxes, both District and Federal taxes. Yet, they have no say in the decisions of the government that taxes them.

If this is all starting to sound eerily familiar to your AP US History class, you might be amused to know that like the original American Revolutionaries, people in DC have an official slogan: "No Taxation Without Representation". Seriously, it's even on their license plates.



But that is all about to change

Today, the Senate passed the DC voting rights act by a 61-37 vote margin. If it passes the House (and it almost certainly will) DC will get its very first congressional representative. A real one, with votes and power.

Why the long struggle to get this passed? Republicans have long been against DC getting representation because the district is as "blue" an area as they get. Why give the Democrats a gauranteed extra seat when Constitutionally, you don't have to? Even though this seat is in the House and does not effect the Dems' razor-thin majority in the Senate, political parties rarely cede power in any chamber willingly.

To sweeten the deal for Republicans, a seat will also be added in the House for Utah, a more solidly Republican state. BUT Utah was probably due to get an extra seat in the House in a couple of years anyway, because of its quickly growing population (Remember that House seats are apportioned based on population as calculated by the most recent Census, and all those Mormons be havin' lots of babies). So really this is still a big Democratic win. Yay!

Of course, it will almost certainly be challenged in court and the law may be struck down. But if it stands, DC will finally get some of the representation it deserves, and the Dems gain one more seat in their favor.

Kenneth the Page and other Republican Problems

After the President gives a State of the Union, the opposition party traditionally is alotted news time to respond. This is a big national stage that is often used to showcase rising stars in the party, and so it was when Bobby Jindal, Republican Governor of Louisiana, was selected to give the rebuttal to the President's speech.

Bobby Jindal is part of the new wave of Republican leaders who are trying to make the GOP more multi-cultural, more modern, and more electable, while still holding tight to its conservative roots. Michael Steele, new African-American head of the RNC, pledged to give the RNC a "hip-hop" makeover for example. Bobby Jindal's name has long been kickng around as a 2012 Presidential nominee for his youth, strong record (congressman and governor), southern credentials and, frankly, because he doesn't look like the long line of old white men the GOP has been pushing since its inception.

Unfortunately, the Jindal speech didn't go quite as planned. Of course the Democratic response was bound to be negative anyway, but even Republicans had trouble with this one. You can read the full sampling here at Bloomberg, but below are some choice quotes:

Jindal “seemed more like a high school student giving a valedictory speech than a potential future leader of the party,” wrote Philip Klein of the “American Spectator.”

“A lot of Republicans I am speaking with were expecting this would be like Obama’s moment in 2004” when he spoke at the Democratic National Convention and gained immediate national fame, said David Johnson, a Republican strategist who advised Bob Dole in 1988. “He bombed out.”

Said Brit Hume of Fox News: “The speech read a lot better than it sounded. This was not Bobby Jindal’s greatest oratorical moment.”

Or to quote Republican strategist David Brooks, it was just "insane"


About the only person still on Jindal's side is Rush Limbaugh, who warned GOP members in no uncertain terms to back off, or else. Check out the video here.

The most damning part about the whole thing might be the so-called "Kenneth the Page" comparison, which has sprung into a full fledged blogger phenomenon. Hilarious, and spot on, Kenneth the Page from 30 Rock has now become Bobby Jindal's alter ego and the living embodiement of what's frustrating the Republican party. They say that Jindal's speech reads better than his delivery appears, but then again, Nixon sounded better on the radio too.

Want to compare and contrast? Below you'll find both Kenneth and Bobby together.


When the President Speaks, You better Listen, Part II

All my favorite highlights from the speech were making the post kind of long, so I thought I'd start a new one to talk about the speech itself.

The delivery was excellent, as we have come to expect from this president. But more than being inspirational, the speech was very personal. Several commentators mentioned that it was similar to FDR's "Fireside Chats". Even in its most soaring moments, it felt like the President was addressing me, touching on every one of my concerns over the financial trouble and the future of the country and the stimulus and the bailout. He was frank, honest, up-front, and determined. And that was just what I needed him to be.

The purpose of the speech, with the big ceremony and the full attention of the media was of course to settle nerves in a jittery economy. As everyone who came to our talk with Roisin O'Sullivan knows, confidence is the big unknown variable in the recovery. Confident investors, spenders, and lenders can make the nation recover far faster than just government investment alone. So President Obama was trying to relax us, and focus us on the work ahead, and he did an excellent job.

CBS News' poll reactions show that Obama's approval rating jumped 17% after the speech, from 63% to 80% and CNN reported that 68% of the people watching the speech had a "very positive" reaction, and 24% had a "Somewhat positive" reaction (though note on the CNN poll that those numbers skew Democratic, as it's mostly Democrats who tune in to watch a Democratic preisdent speak).

Some of the things that got prominent play in the speech were things we had seen before. The assurance that 95% of Americans will not see a tax increase, the importance of re-starting lending and helping home-owners dealing with foreclosure, the pledge for tuition assistance for students who commit to serve their communities, the insistence on some form of post-high school training for workers (including college, community college, technical apprenticeships, whatever, just something!). But some of it was new.

The BIG NEW THING was his pledge on health care. Specifically the President insisted that Health care reform was going to happen, and it was going to happen right away. He also promised that he's going to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term. Big talk considering that the deficit for his new budget is going to be $1.75 trillion. But this is a president who has never shied away from big commitments.

With popularity on the rise the president had a good base to introduce
his budget and other programs that have rolled out on Wednesday and Thursday. The new budget redirects huge streams of spending toward's the President's priorities that he campaigned on: Healthcare, Education, and Energy (which was mentioned prominently in the speech), to be paid for through raising taxes on that top 5%, having surcharges for pollution and cutting so called "mandatory spending" things like Farm Subsidies (hint: this is a signal that we are no longer in the Iowa primaries).

The speech laid out some major commitments, the new budget carried through on them, but it remains to be seen how congress is going to react. With 80% approval ratings, it's easy to assume that many who would otherwise shy away from this kind of outlay may suddenly become supporters, but it's hard to know for sure what will happen.

We'll wait and see, and TDL, as always, will be there to cover it for you.
-JR

When the President Speaks, You Better Listen

On Tuesday, the only force in the nation powerful enough to subvert the schedule of "American Idol," the President himself, rose to address a joint meeting of congress.

Normally when this happens, we would call it a State of the Union Address, and this one had all the trappings of an SOU, as we mentioned in our post on Tuesday night. Supreme Court Justices, Joint Chiefs, the Cabinet, the First Lady and Honored Guests, all members of congress (some of which camped out as early s 8:30 in the morning to get a good seat close to the aisle and in view of the TV cameras), but it wasn't billed as a State of the Union. I imagine this is because the President is constitutionally obligated to give only one SOU per year, and this President is probably saving his SOU for later, when there's more good news to report.

By all accounts, the speech was a huge success. I certainly was blown away by it. You can read it for yourself here. Some of my favorite highlights were:

"The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don’t lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth."

"[W]e have lived through an era where too often, short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election. ...Well that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here."

"You should also know that the money you’ve deposited in banks across the country is safe; your insurance is secure; and you can rely on the continued operation of our financial system. That is not the source of concern...The concern is that if we do not re-start lending in this country, our recovery will be choked off before it even begins. "

"I know how unpopular it is to be seen as helping banks right now, especially when everyone is suffering in part from their bad decisions. I promise you – I get it. But I also know that in a time of crisis, we cannot afford to govern out of anger, or yield to the politics of the moment. My job – our job – is to solve the problem. Our job is to govern with a sense of responsibility."


"I reject the view that says our problems will simply take care of themselves; that says government has no role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity."

"I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training...And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country"

"To overcome extremism, we must also be vigilant in upholding the values our troops defend – because there is no force in the world more powerful than the example of America...because living our values doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us safer and it makes us stronger. And that is why I can stand here tonight and say without exception or equivocation that the United States of America does not torture."

"We are not quitters."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Presidential Address Tonight!

President Obama will be addressing a joint session of congress in about 1 minute! We'll have a more in depth discussion of it after the speech is over.

This is not the State of the Union address, but it is similar. The President will address both houses of congress, he will have special guests seated with the First Lady, and the whole cabinet will be there, the Supreme Court Justices (including Justice Ginsberg who is back from her cancer treatment and lookin' good). The only person who doesn't get to be there is the Attorney General who is in charge of running the country if something (God Forbid) happens to the entire government which is in the House chambers.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The State Dinner, because you have to have it!


I would like to pretend that I am above such things as reveling in the details of a state dinner. I should properly scoff and roll my eyes when china and flatware and which glassware, the Lincoln or the Kennedy? becomes the order of the day. But I don't. Because secretly, I love every mundane detail about this White House. I'm fascinated by each place setting and menu card. I want to pretend like I am there, listening to the Marine Band play.

It's been a fantasy of mine to attend a state dinner ever since I saw Michael Douglas waltz Anette Benning around the Blue Room in "The American President", and until I get to live out that fantasy for real, I'm going to live it vicariously through the press.

So here, for my fellow interested parties, are all the indulgent details of the Obama's formal dinner for the National Governor's Association. Go on, let yourself go.

You can find even more details here.

Highlights

  • The President Loves scallops!
  • The center-pieces include bronze gilded baskets purchased from France in 1817
  • They used the Woodrow Wilson China and the JFK Glass Service, and yes, Michelle plans to design her own china pattern so that years from now we will have state dinners with "The Obama China"

Where are all the Cool Kids at?

They're at the Smith Dems meeting, of course!

TONIGHT, CC 103/104, 7 PM, Smith Dems meetings are not to be missed! Come! Enjoy! Laugh! Cry! It's better than Cats!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Commencement Speaker!



The 2009 Commencement Speaker should be enough to make any Gov Major stand up and yell (in a good way)!

Tammy Baldwin, Congresswoman from the Wisconsin 2nd District will be the 2009 speaker! Okay, Meryl Streep would have been pretty dope too, but Tammy Baldwin is by far one of our most distinguished alums and it's exciting that she's going to speak to us.

Besides being a Congresswoman and a Smithie (as if that wasn't enough), Representative Baldwin is:

The first woman elected to Congress from Wisconsin

A major advocate for universal health care. She says she came to Congress to get universal health care for every American and she's not going to quit until it's done.

Openly gay (and the former chairwoman of Hillary Clinton's campaign LGBT steering committee and a member of President Obama's LGBT steering committee during the campaign).


I cannot stress how wonderful and brave and uncommon it is for a member of congress to be openly gay. What does Tammy say about coming out?

" What was most troubling was the thought that in order to live my life and my dreams, I’d have to make a choice between pursuing a career in public service, perhaps running for office, and living my life in an open and honest way.

Many of us feel we face this choice. At the age of 24, I decided I didn’t have to make that choice...I could do both. I could run for office and I could be honest and out. It was a terrifying thought. And it ended up being one of the most freeing things I have ever done."

Yeah, she's gonna be awesome.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Anatomy of a Stimulus

Last night's "What $800 Billion Buys" Stimulus Talk with Prof. Roisin O'Sullivan was great! We had terrific turn-out, good questions, and a really understandable, strong break-down from Professor O'Sullivan!

At Prof. O'Sullivan's suggestion we're posting a breakdown of programs in the stimulus. After all, that's what we learn in college, you can't understand anything until you break it down. You can look at a list of each individual program, as well as the total breakdown by category, by clicking through to this Wall Street Journal piece.

Looking Back - TDL Remembers Election Night

My 2008 Election Night Experience

I recall election night 2008 as a blur, a chaotic, emotional, wonderful blur. I remember as the results were coming in, screaming in the car with other Smith dems, realizing that we had done this. We illegally parked the van as we rushed back, sprinted in the campus center where a huge group of women were waiting for to congratulate us. The watch party in the campus center was filled with Smithies, a large majority decked out in their ‘Smithies for Obama’ t-shirts, watching the results on the big screen. When John McCain made his concession speech and then proceeded to Obama make his speech, tears began started rolling down people’s cheeks, including my own. Afterward we popped champagne and toasted to a better future and hope in our country, something many of us had not been optimistic about in a long time. We stood in the streets long into the night and cheered at cars that came by, many honking their horns in a show of support. Concerns of homework and sleep eluded us that night. When I finally did go to bed it was with such a sweet, fulfilling kind of exhaustion that lasted for weeks to come.
- AE

Big Day

Whoa. Today was a big day. HUGE.

First, the stimulus bill was signed into law (finally!) yay!


Second, we're awaiting the President's announcement on sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

Personally, I'm in favor of this. We created a mess in Afghanistan and then basically abandoned it to create a bigger mess in Iraq. Afghanistan touches too many countries that we depend on and its ability to house terrorrists is too great for us to keep ignoring the instability there. Not to mention that the Afghan people are seriously suffering because of our neglect and its going to get worse.

For more on Afghanistan, you can check out the most recent issue of the Middle East Bulletin, a progressive Middle East publication that I work for and happen to think is awesome.

What do hot peppers, the West Wing and Michelle Obama have in common?

They all featured in a special President's Day wellness quiz in the New York Times! I scored 3/8 (sad, but true) but learned and laughed in the process.

Do you know which 2008 presidential candidate swears by hot peppers as a diet plan? Or what illnesses real (and TV) Presidents have tried to to conceal from the public?

While it may no longer be President's Day (not that we noticed, sitting in class at Smith), this quiz is still worth checking out:

Take the Quiz Here

MME

Monday, February 16, 2009

Wait, no, really, what does $800 Billion buy?

Find out today! Tonight at 7 PM in CC 103/104 the Smith Dems are proud to present "What Can you Buy for $800 billion: Discussing the Stimulus" Featuring special guest Professor Roisin O'Sullivan.

To get you excited, check out this quick and dirty run-down of the stimulus bill from John Green, one of my favorite authors (he has written such books "Looking for Alaska" and "Paper Towns") who is not an economist, but is pretty smart.

To hear more about it from someone who IS an economist AND really smart, make sure to come to CC 103 tonight at 7!

Happy President's Day!

What? You forgot about President's day? That's easy to do since we don't celebrate President's Day here at Smith (I tell my friends that it's because we're too busy fighting the patriarchy). But in the rest of the world, this is the omni-holiday to honor Washington and Lincoln because it was just too much trouble to honor them seperately like we did before.

So for your President's Day enjoyment, here is a small treasury of videos about our boy George.


Awww that was touching.

But did you know that George Washington can also teach you important moral and mathematical lessons?


And the rest of the country, the part that celebrates President's Day, this is the song they sing:

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A New Birth of Sweetness


Why yes, that is a portrait of the 16th and 44th presidents made out of over 5, 000 cupcakes in the lobby of the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.

Still unbelieving? Read it here

What does $800 Billion buy?

The Stimulus package has officially passed it's final hurdle on the way to the President, thanks to Senator Sherrod Brown who flew to Washington from his mother's memorial service on a special plane arranged by the White House to cast the final vote in the Senate (the White House plane will return him to Ohio to attend his mother's funeral today).

BUT WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

To find out, come to the Smith Dems' exciting Monday Event "What Can You Buy with $800 Billion?" With Smith Econ Prof Roisin O'Sullivan.

7 PM Monday CC 103!

Roisin was our wonderful speaker at the fall's "What the Wall Street?" Panel and we are so excited for her return. This will be interesting, informative, and fun, a time to discuss what's going on and get the facts.

And to get you prepped, here's the exact moment that the country got some stimulus, courtesy of Senator Brown:

Friday, February 13, 2009

With Love

The Smith Dems express their heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims of the tragic crash of Continental Flight 3407 today. We hope that the recovery of the plane's black box recorders will shed some light on the cause of this tragedy.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Smith Dems Wonder if Sec. of Commerce Seat is Cursed as Second Nominee Drops Out

Republican Senator Judd Gregg, already doomed in life by having a double double-letter name, stepped down from consideration for Secretary of Commerce today. As the only Republican Cabinet nominee, Gregg represented one of President Obama's most clear demonstrations of bipartisanship in the transition process. However, these ideological differences seem to have proved fatal for the relationship. In his statement of withdrawal today, Gregg cited "irresolvable conflicts" between himself and the Obama administration.

Key factors in these "conflicts" centered around the details of the Obama-supported stimulus package and the Census, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Commerce. What is so dramatic about the Census, you ask? Apparently, Gregg has a record of supporting previous census-related legislation that results in the underrepresentation of minorities. The Census, which occurs once every ten years, provides important statistics used in all aspects of the government, meaning an inaccurate headcount for minorities could have pernicious and far-reaching implications.

In response to complaints on Gregg's census record, President Obama agreed to more strict White House regulation of the Census, which angered Republicans who felt this undermined Gregg. Words were exchanged from both sides of the aisle (some of my favorites were: "trust," "different set of views" and "politicization", which is just ungainly). And then, just like Gov. Richardson before him, Gregg withdrew himself from consideration.

So... is the seat cursed like the Defense Against the Dark Arts post in Harry Potter? (If so, did Voldemort do that too?!)

Who will be the next nominee? And how long will they last this time?

Stay tuned.

MME

Click here for more on the controversies around the Census

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

From the Desk of the President

Hello Smith Dems, Mara here! This is my first real blog post here (or anywhere for that matter…) Most of the other amazing contributions here are from our fabulous VP, Julia Reed!

I realized some amazing things happened in politics that we failed to discuss at our meeting because they technically occurred over break. I intend on rectifying this right now! Yay for the interwebz!

SO, upon taking office, President Obama reversed the Global Gag Rule. For those of you who may not have heard about it, the Global Gag Rule forbids any NGO that works outside of the country and receives federal funding from so much as using the word "abortion," let alone advocating for or performing one. Yes, friends, even to protect the life of the mother, NGOs such as the Red Cross are prevented, under the Gag Rule, from even saying "the a-word." The only exception? If they are speaking out against abortion. This policy has had devastating results in developing countries, where foreign NGOs are often the most medically advanced and affordable services provided and illegal abortions are even more lethal than in the United States. This lovely piece of legislation has a history of partisan presidential ping-pong; after being introduced in 1984 by President Reagan, it was repealed under Democratic President Clinton just to be reinstated by President Bush. On January 23rd, as one of the first major actions of his presidency, President Obama rescinded it. The Smith Dems rejoiced.

Furthermore, after being held up by an assured veto from FORMER President Bush (sorry, it still feels too good to resist), the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act passed congress and was the first bill signed into law by President Obama! The law, which helps to mandate equal pay for equal work for women, is an early sign that President Obama will be a strong advocate of women’s rights. Now that is the kind of friend the women’s movement has been waiting for!

Here's the story of the President and women’s rights in pictures (tip o' the hat to Prof. Carrie Baker for bringing this to my attention):

Bush signing the Partial Birth Abortion Ban of 2003

Obama Signing the Fair Pay Act of 2009:

Elections are only the beginning

There are days when I am grateful that I don't live in a parliamentary democracy.

Israel has just finished its parliamentary elections and the center-left Kadima (party of current PM Ehud Olmert and led by current Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni) party earned 1 more seat (28 in total) than the right-wing Likud party (led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu). In the American system, this would be an ugly, but decisive victory.

In the Parliamentary system, it's an ugly stalemate. Kadima needs 60 parliamentary seats to form a government, so it has to try to broker some coalition with the other parties. Livni tried to do this earlier this year, but was unsucessful, which is why elections were held to begin with. To make things worse, right-wing parties made greater gains than left-wing parties, so Likud is in a stronger bargaining position for building its governing coalition.

Both Kadima and Likud are claiming victory, for now. Though analysts suggest that because of their overall gains, the right-wing bloc, led by Likud, will be the ultimate government.

Why should you care? Primarily because the future of the Arab-Israeli conflict, a key national security concern for Israel and the United States (not to mention the Palestinians) may hinge on who wins out for the government of Israel. Kadima supports final-status negotiations and dismantling Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Likud mainly supports economic assistance to the Palestinians and is much more vague on settlements and the two-state solution.

So hang on, it's gonna be a rocky ride. Follow every twist and turn either through your local media, or through Ha'aretz, the excellent Israeli Newspaper. Link here.

Stimulus Watch: House and Senate Reach Deal!

The House and Senate have reached a compromise on the stimulus bill. Senate Majority Leader Reid says that the compromise bill costs less than the House Bill, but creates more jobs than the Senate bill, and we get it all at the low, low price of $789 Billion!

Now both houses have to vote on the bill again. If the Republican centrist Senators Collins, Snowe, and Specter keep voting with the Democrats, we'll have a stimulus law before too long.

What would you buy with that $800 billion? If you want to know more about what President Obama would buy, Come to the super special Smith Dems Stimulus Meeting next Monday.

Smith Econ professor Roisin O'Sullivan will be there to help walk you through the finer points of the stimulus. For those of you who attended "What the Wall Street?" discussion on the bailout, this is the same wonderful prof who led that.

Next Monday, 7 PM in CC 103.

A Little Mood Lightener

Most of the news today is really heavy stuff: suicide bombings, electoral struggles in Israel, and always the economy. To help you recover a little equanimity, here are some more photos from the Michelle Obama Vogue shoot.

More on the Vogue story can be found through our friends at Jezebel. Read More Here

Taliban Attackers Kill 20 in Government Building Attacks

Sad news this morning. Taliban attackers rather easily penetrated Kabul's defenses and killed 20 in suicide bomb attacks in the Afghan capitol. All of this on the eve of Richard Holbrooke (Obama's appointed Special Envoy to Afghanistan)'s first visit to Afghanistan.

If anything should remind us of the importance of Afghanistan, and the consequences of the Bush administration's neglect of Afghanistan, this sad event should.

Read More Here

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Rosa Sat

Blue Tube from Monday's Meeting. Not to be missed, extremely powerful.
"Rosa sat, so Martin could walk; Martin walked, so Barack could run; Barack ran, so that all our children could fly."

Michelle is on Vogue!


Our favorite first lady looks lovely on the cover of Vogue! And she has brains to boot!

More info, courtesy of our friends at Jezebel:

  • Inside the magazine, Obama wears a Narciso Rodriguez dress and holding an old-fashioned phone. ("She is not talking. She is either listening or on hold.") What does it mean???
  • Obama tells writer Andre Leon Talley that she is still trying to find a church for the family to attend and that she's focused on her girls.
  • Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour says, "Change was the clarion call of Barack Obama's election campaign, though I don't think any of us at Vogue initially realized that would include the difference that was going to be made by First Lady Michelle Obama's wardrobe."



Bailout Disappoints Wall Street, Wall Streeet Disappoints Us

I find it a little incredible that after reckless and stupid investment strategies on Wall Street helped shove us into this recession, making a huge bail out bill neccessary, Wall Street is continuing to punish us by hemorrhaging stocks because they didn't like the bailout presented by Treasury Secretary Geithner yesterday. These stock brokers have nerve. Follow the purple link in the text here to read that story

(note: All TDL links are now in purple, so whenever you see text the color of aubergine, it's clickable)

Meanwhile, the President is in Florida stumping for the stimulus bill. Just when he thought he was done campaigning.....

Still, I kind of like that this president is bringing the campaign to the people. Normally they just send their people to congress to pressure the congressfolks into doing what they want. This time, the President is counting on his supportive followers to do the pressuring.

Which reminds me, please, please, PLEASE remember to email your congressman/woman or senator and ask for their support on the bill. Also, try to remind them to keep in the spending provisions that help young college students like us, cause we can be pretty economically stimulating when we put our minds to it.

How do you write your congressman/woman or senator? By visiting this website, of course:
http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/

Monday, February 9, 2009

Monday Meeting Tonight!

Come one, come all! Smith Dems meeting TONIGHT at 7 PM in CC 103/104.

Fun! Thrills! Excitement!

See you there!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Stimulus needed today, economists agree

The stimulus bill has passed the Senate (yay!) but now it has to go back to the House for approval. Why the congressional ping-pong? The Senate version of the bill is different from the one the House passed a few weeks ago. The Senate version focuses on tax breaks (thanks to the demands of Republicans in the Senate) while the House version focuses on government spending.

Still, lawmakers are saying we will have a stimulus bill on the President's desk by the end of the week. Why the sudden rush? Unemployment figures were just put out and they are not good. 7.6% unemployment (the highest in 16 years) with hundreds of thousands of jobs lost this fall. For those of you who paid attention in intro Macro, you also know that that 7.6% unemployment doesn't even count the underemployed (people who had their hours reduced or people who work part-time who want to work full time). Furthermore, economists are now saying that some kind of stimulus plan, any kind of stimulus plan, is needed right away if we're going to stop the economy from sliding any further into trouble.

Scary? Yes. But remember that panic is your greatest enemy in a recession. Let's just hope that congress can act quickly and bring some small measure of relief this week.

Keep your eye on TDL for more Stimulus watch. For those of you that need a pick me-up and a refresher of this whole "Bill becomes a Law" process, a short Blue Tube is provided below. Enjoy!

Friday, February 6, 2009

True Confessions: You Don't Read Newspapers

While many Smithies are current events junkies, constantly tuned in to CNN or checking the NY Times headlines, there are many others (maybe you're one of them) who secretly don't read the news. They may nod along with their more up-to-date friends and pretend that they understand WTF a Bernie Madoff is, but in reality, the closest they get to a paper is their house recycling bin.

Well, don't be afraid any longer! If you're one of those people who really wants to keep up with the news, but isn't sure how, doesn't have the time, or doesn't feel like she has the back story to understand the headlines, the internet is here to save you.

TDL proudly presents: Fun and Painless Ways to Get the News! (click the titles to link to the websites)

1. The Daily Beast
Tag Line: Read this. Skip that.
Pro:
Trendy and fast. Very visual, great for the student who's short on time. The Daily Beast has a Cheat Sheet on the front page of the biggest stories and op-eds from across the internet, so you can quickly see what people are talking about. Mostly political stuff, but some entertainment and "fun" news as well. Also Check out the "Big Fat Story" section, which connects the dots on big issues.

Cons:
Like the HuffPo, Daily Beast contributors come from a wide background. Some are true experts, others are just bad writers with delusion of grandeur. So take their commentary pieces with a grain of salt.

2. Wonkette
Tag Line: The D.C. Gossip
Pro:
Really, really funny. For Dems with a sarcastic sense of humor, Wonkette is an easy way to get the news without falling asleep in the process.

Cons:
Only D.C. focused. This will help you keep up with what's going on in Congress, but won't tell you much about the Congo.

3. Feministing
Tag Line: Tag lines are for the patriarchy
Pro:
Classic blog for all things feminist. News, information, commentary on things relevant to women's lives and political aspirations. Great for the activist student who needs a quick source for new causes.

Cons (?):
Obvious and intentional lack of news on people of the male persuasion.

4. The Christian Science Monitor
Tag Line: Um, we like world peace?
Pro:
Nothing to do with Christian Scientists. The CSM is a great newspaper and not as overwhelming as the New York Times can be. Excellent coverage of world and national events

Cons:
News here is always interesting but sometimes obscure. The CSM tends to cover the important stories that other papers aren't hyping up, but that also means you might miss what's making news on CNN right now.

5. Jezebel
Tag Line: Celebrity, Sex, and Fashion for Women. Without Airbrushing
Pro:
Celebrity? Sex? Fashion? Think of it as your bridge between US magazine and the New York Times. Jezebel is great for the student who needs a little guilty pleasure with their news. Besides celebrity info, great fashion photos, Jezebel gives a no-B.S., feminist take on news of the day.

Cons:
You may spend more time looking at the Red Carpet photos than the news stories, but every news diet deserves a little wiggle room.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Smith Dems Meeting!

Ever wondered where all the die-hard Democrats hang out on campus? You will find them at the Smith Dems meetings on Monday at 7 PM in CC 103. Come join us for info on community service, speakers, discussion of the week in politics, fun "Blue Tube" (Dems-themed YouTube) and more!

We also sell merchandise at the meetings, including our famous "Smithies for Obama" T-shirts.

Remember: Smith Dems, Every Monday, 7 PM, CC 103.

Stimulus: Dems Press Ahead

"[Senate Republicans] cannot hold the President of the United States hostage."
-- Harry Reid

Yay, Harry! The Senate Dems are going to push forward with the stimulus bill despite opposition from Republicans. Obviously, I would like some Republicans to get on board with this bill, but the most important thing to me is getting it passed. The country needs some relief, or at least the feeling that relief is on the way. We can't afford to be bogged down in a long legislative mud-fight right now.
--JR

Ruth Bader Ginsberg has Cancer!

Justice Ginsberg, the only female justice on the Supreme Court (since our beloved though Republican appointed Sandra Day retired to care for her sick husband), has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and has been hospitalized.

The bad news is that pancreatic cancer is highly deadly.

The good news is that the cancer was caught early enough that her chances of survival are about as high as they can be. Also, she's survived colon cancer in the past, so we know she's a tough lady (plus anyone who can spend years working with Justice Scalia is a survivor in my book). The last time she had cancer she never even missed a day of work, receiving treatment during the Court's session.

The treatment for pancreatic cancer is apparently very intense however, so it's possible that after 15 years on the bench, she may retire from the highest court in the land. If that happens, I hope that President Obama will appoint a qualified female justice to carry on her legacy.

In the meantime though, we're pulling for you Ruth! All us Smith Dems are wishing you a big get well soon.

Where have the elections gone?

With U.S. election fever now over, all of you poll-junkies don't have to despair. Interesting and important elections are taking place all over the world.

If you're interested in the Israeli elections, Smith profs. Justin Cammy and Donna Divine will be explaining and predicting the outcome tonight at 7:30 in Seelye 106.

Another major Middle East election in progress is the Iraq elections. Current PM Nuri Al-Maliki's bloc is currently leading, go ahead and give this NYT article a look for more info.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Senate Does Not Have Enough Votes to Pass Stimulus

Trouble on Capitol Hill. The Senate leadership has confirmed that they don't have 60 votes needed to make the President's stimulus package filibuster-proof.

In my favorite West Wing Episode, Leo McGarry (Chief of Staff of my heart) warns his staffers that there are two things that you don't want the voters to know how're they're made: "Laws and sausages." Add stimulus packages to that list.

Dealmaking is part of politics, compromise is the name of the game. And while I love our Senate leadership (Harry Reid = Heart), as responsible young Democrats it's important that we keep track of what they're up to. To get the bill through the House, funding for low-income family planning was axed and to get the bill through the Senate more things are going to go.

In the next few days, pay particular attention to what Senator Snowe (whom Nate Silver calls the most powerful senator in America) and Senator Collins, both Maine Republican Moderates, are saying. The Washington Post has a list of the things that Collins has in her radar, including $400 million for HIV prevention.

I know all this stimulus stuff can be dense, but as taxpayers, citizens, and Democrats, we need to be aware of its twists and turns. So keep an eye on the news and if you get alarmed about a program that you hear may be cut, don't be afraid to call or write your Senator. The best way to change things is to get involved directly.
--JR

Daschle Withdraws from Cabinet Post, Smith Dems Are Confused

One of the things I like best about President Obama is that he surrounds himself with good, smart people. His advisors are (in this Dems opinion) members of the small Washington tribe of "people who actually know what they're talking about".

It was this ability to separate the real thinkers from the b.s.ers that convinced me during the campaign that despite his alleged "inexperience," he was a leader of singular vision and good judgement.

So....what's with the Tom Daschle thing? Senator Tom Daschle, an early supporter of the Obama for Preisdent campaign looked all set to become Health and Human Services Secretary. It's a major post, responsible for (among other things) establishing the new healthcare regime that was a hallmark of the President's campaign. Now it turns out that Daschle did not pay $128,000 worth of income tax for a car and driver given to him by a Democratic fundraiser. Now Daschle, realizing his impropriety, did pay his back taxes ($140,000) on January 2nd, and it was thought that his tax problems could be overcome. After all, he's not the first Obama nominee to face IRS problems and according to Daschle his tax oversight was an "honest mistake".

It turns out that the "honest mistake" was judged to be too big a problem after all, and Senator Daschle has withdrawn his name from consideration. This could mean a lot of things, besides the tax problem. Possibly another issue had surfaced that Daschle didn't want coming out in the confirmation hearing, so he chose to withdraw. Perhaps the tax issue was becoming too complicated and drawing attention from other things the White House wanted to focus on. At any rate, I'm surprised and a little confused that a White House known for its meticulous, well-thought-out style could allow such a gaffe to happen.

I have no doubt that Daschle would have made a great cabinet secretary. But paying taxes is required by law, and no one, especially members of the executive branch, should get a free pass on that. Democrats have to police themselves, and the White House has to vet as carefully as possible in these fragile early days of the presidency. Now is the time when we can make the biggest leaps forward in legislation and we cannot let a variety of scandals, even low-level tax scandals, pull us down.
-JR

We Witnessed History

The Smith Dems were so, so, so, so, SO proud to have been a part of Barack Obama's presidential campaign. We contacted tens of thousands of voters in person and via phone, we registered a large number of Smithies and best of all, WE WON!

So it's no surprise that many Smith Dems went to DC to watch our hard work pay off. The Obama inauguration was fun, exciting, sometimes frustrating (too many people, too little space), but mostly awesome.

Were you at the inauguration? If so, email us your pics and we'll put them on the blog!

To inspire you, here's some of my (Julia Reed, Smith Dems VP) pics....
This was how close I was to the podium, it's right behind those trees.
I was sporting some sweet Obama pins.
My mom and dad came all the way from Seattle just for the occasion.

At this point, everybody cried.




Five Most Powerful Women in American

Polling wunderkind Nate Silver has a fascinating post about the most powerful senators and they've all got something in common....they're women! Unfortunately (from a Smith Dems point of view) they're also all Republicans, but they became "most powerful senators" by voting with the Obama administration more times than any other senator, including some Democrats.

Who are these ladies of power? Senators Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski (who may soon face a challenge from Palin 2012), and Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Read all about Nate Silver's method and other political news at his awesome blog.

We, the Students....

Welcome to the That Damn Liberal! Blog, the official blog of the Smith College Democrats. Check back regularly for information on service activities, national and international news, and all things Democrat.