Ted Haggard Apologizes to Gay People

This is a start.

Listen To Rod Blagojevich Impeachment Tapes

Not since Richard Nixon  have tape recordings of a politician been so much in demand.  Illinois Rod Blagojevich  will be out of office within days, but his story will linger.

And here are the tapes to hear.  Also included are the transcripts.

Centrist Republicans Mount Coup In Texas Legislature

Not all the political action is taking place in Washington, D.C. 

The ramifications of the Democratic gains across the nation last November has made an impact even in Texas, there the ultra-conservative Speaker of the State’s House of Representatives was removed….not by the voters…….but by moderate Republicans.

There have been many voices raised within the GOP for years that favored a return to moderate policy making, and distancing from the conservative wedge-issue groups that polarize their party.  John Danforth has been one of the leading voices on the national stage to make such statements.  So it is refreshing to see that even in Texas this message for the future of the party has taken hold.

When the Republicans nearly lost their majority in the Texas House in November, a small group of moderates from the party joined with Democrats to oust the archconservative speaker, Thomas Craddick of Midland.

Even more surprising, the Republican rebels engineered the election of Joe Straus, a decidedly centrist politician from San Antonio, to the speaker’s office, making a junior lawmaker with not quite two terms under his belt one of the most powerful people in the state.

The rise of Mr. Straus, a fiscal conservative who has not toed the conservative line on issues like abortion and gay rights, was widely seen as a defeat for the socially conservative wing of the party.

Mr. Straus certainly cuts a different figure than past speakers. For starters, he is the first Jewish speaker since Texas became a state, in a political culture dominated by Christians. (David S. Kaufman, also a Jew, served as speaker in the Congress of the Republic of Texas from 1839 to 1841, before statehood.)

Mr. Straus also lacks the folksy drawl and down-home lingo of his immediate predecessors, Mr. Craddick and Pete Laney, a Democrat, both from West Texas.

A partner in a financial services firm, Mr. Straus comes off as a telegenic urbane man from Alamo Heights, an affluent city within San Antonio, what some folks here like to call “a country-club Republican.” He is a man of few words, friends and colleagues say.

“He’s thoughtful, a listener,” said Representative Dan Branch, a Dallas Republican who has known him since childhood. “Plays his cards close. A lot of people have underestimated him or counted his vote too quickly.”

For his part, Mr. Straus, 49, has said only that he wants to heal the partisan gashes in the House that opened under Mr. Craddick’s iron rule over the last six years.

The new speaker has not made it clear what his legislative priorities are, beyond balancing the budget. As he took over the reins on Jan. 13, he said: “We will create an atmosphere where everyone’s voice can and should be heard. A place where we respect each other’s points of view — Democrat and Republican, urban and rural, liberal and conservative.”

GOP Fuming Over Health Insurance Assistance For Unemployed

There are no surprises here.

At a time when jobs are being lost all over the nation, and the unemployed are wondering what will happen to them and their  families, it is the Republicans who are finding fault with programs in the stimulus bill that will provide for health coverage.   (Are we shocked?)

The idea that government should be an ally, and a bridge in times of national crisis seems lost on Republicans who care more about the wealthy and elite, than the workers who have lost their jobs.  I wonder what the GOP thinks should happen to a family that lost their health care due to a job loss, and then faces health care needs.  How does the GOP think that a COBRA payment can be paid when the family paycheck is no longer coming in?

Where do conservatives put their hearts and minds when entering the political arena and hoping to shape policy?

As I have stated before on this site I applaud the fact that the economic stimulus bill is being designed not to just meet the current needs of the economy, but also in addressing long-term problems that have needed a response for years.  It is a good thing that government again work with the understanding that we are capable of lifting up those in need.  That is what makes me proud to be an American, and of being a Democrat.  We never have to apologize for an activist government that is working for the betterment of us all. 

But the GOP is making a real stink about progress in health care in the nation, as it is contained in the stimulus bill.   TOUGH!  For too many decades we have watched as the rest of the world moved in a progressive direction to universal health coverage.  Though the plans underway in the stimulus bill do not create this goal, there is movement that should be greeted with enthusiasm.

I know it will be by those who need health care coverage in these frightful times, and from those of us who see universal coverage as needed national policy.

With little notice and no public hearings, House Democrats would create a temporary new entitlement allowing workers getting unemployment checks to qualify for Medicaid, the health program for low-income people. Spouses and children could also receive benefits, no matter how much money the family had.

In addition, the stimulus package would offer a hefty subsidy to help laid-off workers retain the same health plans they had from their former employers.

Altogether, the economic recovery bill would speed $127 billion over the next two and a half years to individuals and states for health care.

Of the $127 billion cost, the CBO  said, $87 billion would be used to increase the federal share of Medicaid, $29 billion would subsidize private insurance and $11 billion would finance Medicaid for unemployed workers who could not otherwise qualify.

Most of the aid is billed as temporary. But Republicans fear that states would get hooked on it, just as they might grow accustomed to a big increase in federal aid to education, also included in the bill.

Democrats said the current economic crisis did not allow time for public hearings on the legislation.

“This is as urgent as it gets,” said Representative Anna G. Eshoo, Democrat of California.

After the House Ways and Means Committee approved its piece of the economic recovery legislation last Thursday, Representative Pete Stark, Democrat of California, said, “We accomplished more today than in the last eight years.”

Congressional Democrats developed the package in close consultation with President Obama.   Health care provisions of the bill taking shape in the Senate are broadly similar to those in the House bill, though they may prove less expensive. Obama aides and advisers said the president would insist on health insurance assistance for the unemployed as part of a final bill, which he wants to sign by mid-February.

The legislation would allow states to provide Medicaid to an entirely new group: those who are receiving unemployment insurance benefits, their spouses and children under 19.

Medicaid is normally for low-income people, and for decades it has been financed jointly by the federal government and the states, with the federal share averaging 57 percent of costs.

The economic stimulus bill prevents states from enforcing a means test, saying, “No income or resources test shall be applied with respect to any category of individuals” who become eligible for Medicaid because they are receiving unemployment benefits. The federal government would pay 100 percent of the costs for people enrolled under this option through December 2010.

Republicans said this proposal would take a big step toward federalizing Medicaid. For their part, Democrats said the changes took a major step toward their goal of coverage for all Americans.

At the same time, the legislation would provide a huge measure of fiscal relief to state Medicaid programs, at a time when state revenues are declining and the number of Medicaid recipients is rising because of the recession.

The federal share of Medicaid spending now ranges from 50 percent in higher-income states like New York and Connecticut to more than 73 percent in poor states like Mississippi and West Virginia. Under the House bill, the federal share would be increased by at least 4.9 percentage points in every state, and by much more in states with large increases in unemployment.

The bill would also offer a lifeline to workers who have lost health insurance along with their jobs. In theory, such workers and their families can keep their group health benefits for 18 months under a federal law, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986, known as Cobra. But laid-off workers are often required to pay 102 percent of the full premium, including the employer’s share, so the cost now can be prohibitive.

Under the bill, the federal government would pay 65 percent of the premiums for a year. That subsidy would almost surely increase the number of laid-off workers choosing to continue coverage.

Video: George H.W. Bush And Bill Clinton In Funny Moment

This is great.

Ted Haggard, Wife On ‘Oprah’ Wednesday

There is no end to the story of former evangelist Ted Haggard’s double life.  Married and pretending to be straight while blasting his way onto the national stage with fire and brimstone sermons.  Sermons, it should be noted that included anti-gay rhetoric.  One of the problems was that while Ted Haggard was saying one thing behind the podium, he was doing just the opposite off stage.  The religious hypocrite is perhaps the worst thing to witness.

Back in November 2006 Ted Haggard first made his way onto this blog, and it appears he will be coming back for a few visits.

The latest news on the antics of Ted Haggard is yet more evidence that living a lie is not the path to take for anyone, including evangelists.

The scandal widened in recent days with disclosures that Haggard also admitted to an “inappropriate” relationship with a church volunteer, Grant Haas, who was 22 at the time.

Haas told KRDO in Colorado Springs that Haggard performed a sex act in front of him and sent him illicit text messages. He informed New Life Church shortly after the scandal broke, and the two parties reached a settlement in 2007 that included a confidentiality agreement. Haas went public as Haggard is heavily promoting an HBO documentary about his time in exile.

The whole sordid story is about to take yet another notch upwards as Ted Haggard and his wife appear on ‘Oprah’  Wednesday, January 28th, 2009.  And Ms. Haggard is to announce that she knew about his feelings for men for much of their 30-year marriage. 

Living a lie, I hope, is something that Oprah has strong words about, as this is a clear example of what many need to be steered away from.


Watch President Obama’s First TV Interview, Reaches Out To Muslim World

I hope not to come across as a partisan with this post.  Because the issue of our foreign policy in the Middle East should not be a Democratic or Republican one.  In my opinion there is a general way to proceed, and whoever takes the actions that I find correct will get my support. 

When President Obama gave his first television interview since taking office to a Middle Eastern station, and struck the appropriate tone with the Muslim world, there is only one way to respond.  With a sincere and heartfelt thanks.  

It has long been a problem, rightly or wrongly, that the Muslim world finds American foreign policy to be aimed at them in a negative way.  It has also been a long-held belief here on this blog that a better tone needed to be undertaken by America once George Bush left office. We needed to again commit ourselves to a global dialogue where we try to find out what others think and feel, and create foreign policy that reaches out instead of lashing out.

Speaking to the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya network, Mr Obama reiterated that the US would extend the hand of friendship to Iran if it “unclenched its fist”.

It comes as his Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, travels to the region, heralding a new burst of diplomacy.

He will meet Egypt’s leader to discuss the Gaza ceasefire and peace efforts.

Egypt has been mediating between Israel and the Palestinians, and between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah.

Mr Obama told Al-Arabiya that the US sometimes made mistakes and stressed that his administration would adopt a more open diplomatic approach.

“As I said in my inauguration speech, if countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us,” he said.

“It is very important for us to make sure that we are using all the tools of US power, including diplomacy, in our relationship with Iran.”

On Middle East peace, Mr Obama reiterated his administration’s support for Israel and its security but also suggested Israelis would have to make some tough choices.

“Ultimately we cannot tell either the Israelis or the Palestinians what is best for them. They are going to have to make some decisions,” he said.

“But I do believe the moment is ripe for both sides to realise that the path that they are on is one that is not going to result in prosperity and security for their people. And that instead, it’s time to return to the negotiating table.”

Asked about verbal attacks made on him in recent videos released by al-Qaeda, Mr Obama responded: “What that tells me is that their ideas are bankrupt.”

The BBC’s Justin Webb in Washington says that for most of the interview, Mr Obama appeared determined to be emollient and – as he put it repeatedly – respectful, stressing that the US would begin by listening rather than dictating.

Sarah Palin Clothes Put In Trash, Not Donated

Place this news story about Sarah Palin in the ‘not surprised’ pile.

Granted this story is not directly her fault, but anything associated with Sarah Palin is just a complete disaster.  Even discarded clothes that cost $150,000, and were supposed to be donated for less fortunate people to use, as if that is what  conservative Republicans always think about doing, has turned into a GOP embarrassment.

As you read this ask yourself this question……. why does it take months to donate clothes to charity?

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has returned her pricey campaign duds to the Republican National Committee, which apparently has placed them in trash bags at RNC headquarters, the conservative Web site  New Majority  is reporting.

Reports about Palin receiving $150,000 worth of clothes from the RNC for her vice-presidential bid created a big stink on the campaign trail, and everyone promised the clothes would go to charity.  Instead, they’re in the trash.

An RNC spokeswoman says the clothes eventually will be inventoried and “dispersed to charities.”

Hasn’t the RNC ever heard of renting stuff?  Or leasing stuff?  Or renting with the option to buy?  Either way, they would have saved some cash.

I just hope they didn’t buy retail.  Wholesale is the way to go.

Maybe the RNC will save the clothes — for Palin’s 2012 presidential bid.

Can you imagine a homeless person wearing one of the skirts Palin wore during the campaign?  No?  Can you imagine seeing one of those skirts on eBay?