Saturday, February 28, 2009

Pres. Obama's Weekly Address Feb. 28, 2009

Keeping Promises

In the Weekly Address this morning, President Obama explains how the budget he sent to Congress will fulfill the promises he made as a candidate. On fiscal responsibility, a fair tax code, a clean energy economy, real health care reform, and education, this budget sets out a new vision for our country.

But having put his priorities on paper and having stood behind them, the President recognizes that there are those who will fight against change every step of the way.


Ailing G.O.P. Risks Losing a Generation

New York Times
Published: February 28, 2009
Republicans have their work cut out for them. Americans identifying themselves as Democrats outnumber those who say they are Republicans by 10 percentage points, the largest gap in party identification in 24 years, according to a year-by-year averaged trends analysis of all national party identifications surveys conducted by The New York Times and CBS News from 1976 theough the end of 2009.

--- Click here for REST OF STORY AT THE NEW YORK TIMES!... ---

Fight Looms Over Voter Photo ID Bill In Texas Legislature

According to The Houston Chronicle Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, has alerted senators he plans to bring up the Voter photo ID bill before a special Senate committee on March 10 to obtain approval of the 16 senators required to bring it to the Senate floor for debate and a vote. The Voter photo ID bill could pass in the Senate, where Republicans hold a 19-12 majority, as soon as March 16.

If the bill passes in the Senate, as it likely will, the Texas House is the only opportunity left for Democrats to mount a fight to block the measure. But, it will be a tough fight!

With the Texas House made up of 74 Democrats and 76 Republicans, after the 2008 election, the Voter ID bill will face a tougher fight in the Texas House this year than it did in 2007 when it passed the House, but failed to pass the Senate. That said, Speaker of the House, Joe Straus (R), will likely allow the voter ID bill to go the House floor for debate and an eventual vote, given his comment to reporters on Friday, 16 January 2009, that he favors Voter Photo Identification:
Straus, who voted for the Voter ID House bill in 2007, stated he thinks another examination of whether photo IDs are needed to combat voter fraud is appropriate. He said he does not yet know whether there are sufficient votes in the House to pass a bill.
The Texas Senate on Wednesday, 14 January 2009, voted 18-13, along party lines, to exempt voter identification legislation from the longstanding “Two-Thirds” Rule. The two-thirds rule requires that 21 senators must support a measure before it can be brought to the floor for debate and a vote. The vote was to exempt any bill brought forward in the Texas Senate that would require voters to show a government-issued photo ID at the polls before being allowed to vote.

Under the change, voter ID legislation can be brought up for a vote on the Senate floor with the approval of only 16 senators, not the 21 required under the customary two-thirds rule. (This is the vote now scheduled for March 10.)Democrats could have blocked voter ID legislation under the usual two-thirds rule — as they did two years ago when debate over voter photo ID in the 2007 legislative session paralyzed the State Senate for weeks before the bill was finally rejected.

While Texas proponents of voter ID legislation argue that it's needed to combat voter fraud, there is no evidence that the type of fraud that these requirements address has occurred at any point since records have been kept.

Voter Fraud is the claim that large groups of people knowingly and willingly give false information to establish voter eligibility, and knowingly and willingly vote illegally or participate in a conspiracy to encourage illegal voting by others.

Any claim that voter fraud is rampant in Texas is false.

While there is no actual evidence of voter fraud, many studies, such as conducted by the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, find that U.S. citizens of Latino, Asian American and African American heritage are less likely to vote as a result of increasingly restrictive voter ID requirements.

Each of the groups listed in the Eagleton study tend to vote for Democratic candidates and are a growing percentage of Texas voters. The success of Democratic voter registration drives among these Texas groups in 2008 threatens to tip the balance of power away from the Republicans. As the tide of Democratic voters continues to grow across Texas, voter ID legislation would be an effective way for Republicans to hold back the tide.

The Voter ID bill introduced in the House during the 2007 legislative session (HB 218) passed by a vote of 76 to 69 when the House was made up of 69 Democrats and 81 Republicans. Two Republicans, who returned for the 81st legislative session, voted against HR 218 in 2007. The voter ID bill introduced in the Senate during the 2007 legislative session was successfully blocked from advancing in the Senate by Senate Democrats.

Straus, who is consider to be a somewhat more moderate conservative, took over the Speaker's Chair from hard right-winger Tom Craddick for the 2009 legislative session with the support of every Democrat in the Texas House. So far, Straus has not shown much appreciation to House Democrats for putting him in the Speaker's Chair and the he'll likely give no exception for the voter ID bill.

Locate your Collin County legislative district representatives in the House and Senate District here. Your Texas Legislative House and Senate District Numbers can be found on your Voter Registration Card. Check your voter registration card information online here.

TX Sen. Cornyn May Be Pushing Senate To 60 Dem Votes

Kentucky GOP Senator Jim Bunning is increasingly angry that the GOP senatorial committee has appearently recruited someone to run against him in the 2010 GOP primary. In a conference call with reporters this week, Bunning lashed out at Texas Senator John Cornyn, the Texan who is chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which recruits and supports Republicans to run for the Senate.

Senator Cornyn confirmed Monday, in an interview with The Washington Post, that some Republicans wanted Bunning to retire, but added that "as long as he says he is running I will be supportive of him." Bunning said in the conference call with reporters, "I don't believe anything John Cornyn says. . . I've had miscommunications with John Cornyn from, I guess, the first week of this current session of the Senate. He either doesn't understand English or he doesn't understand a direct 'I'm going to run,' which I said to him in the cloakroom of our chamber when he asked me."

In recent weeks, Senate Republican leaders have all but declared open war on Senator Bunning. Minority Leader (and fellow Kentucky senator) Mitch McConnell and others reportedly believe Bunning is likely to lose his reelection race in 2010, and so are trying to nudge him into retirement by sending signals that the party establishment will not back him. According to a story in the HuffingtonPost, Bunning reportedly has said privately that, "if he is hindered in raising money for his re-election campaign he is ready with a response that would be politically devastating for Senate Republicans: his [immediate] resignation."

The implication is that Bunning would allow Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, to appoint his replacement -- a move that could give Democrats the 60 votes they need to block Republican filibusters in the Senate.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Backlash On Gov. Perry's Rejection Of Federal Stimulus Money

As Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) continues to threaten to reject millions of dollars in federal stimulus money for increased unemployment insurance, there is growing anger among the unemployed over being handed conservative ideology rather than a stimulus generated job or an unemployment insurance check.

Gov. Perry joins with the Republican governors of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Alaska and Idaho in extending to unemployed workers conservative ideology that government has no role to help them rather than a helping hand.

From the NYTimes:
For people like Henry Kight, 59, of Austin, Tex., the possibility that the money might be turned down is a deeply personal issue.
Mr. Kight, who worked for more than three decades as an engineering technician, discovered in September that because of complex state rules, he was not eligible for unemployment insurance after losing a job at a major electronics manufacturer in Texas.

Mr. Kight and other unemployed workers said they were incensed to learn they were living in one of a handful of states — many of them among the poorest in the nation — that might not provide the expanded benefits. [Unemployment regulations in these states, involving such matters as the length of a person’s work history or reason for leaving a job often disqualify newly unemployed workers from receiving benefits.]

Currently, when considering a person’s work history, most states do not include wages earned in just the current or preceding quarter. Instead, they look to see what the person earned in the four quarters before that, which can often hurt low-wage workers, people facing a second or third successive layoff and people just entering or returning to the work force.

In Mr. Kight’s case, he was unemployed for the second half of 2007, after being downsized from an earlier job at a different electronics manufacturer. As a result, when he applied for unemployment benefits after the secon layoff, he did not have enough immediate work history to qualify.

“I have worked for so many years, a total of probably 30 years, contributing to the support system that helps people when they get in a tough spot like I’m in,” Mr. Kight said. “I haven’t needed it too much in the past, but I sure could use it right now.”

About 40 percent of applicants who are now disqualified from receiving benefits because they do not earn enough would qualify if states offered an alternative base period, according to the National Employment Law Project.

“It just seems unreasonable,” Mr. Kight said, “that when people probably need the help the most, that because of partisan activity, or partisan feelings, against the current new administration, that [Gov.] Perry is willing to sacrifice the lives of so many Texans that have been out of work in the last year.”

He was referring to Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, who has said he may decline the extra money rather than change state policy.

“I remain opposed to using these funds to expand existing government programs, burdening the state with ongoing expenditures long after the funding has dried up,” Mr. Perry wrote in a letter to Mr. Obama last week.
It is not clear why participating in the expanded unemployment insurance program would result in "ongoing expenditures." The recovery package will fund state unemployment for approximately three years, at which point Texas could — if it chose to do so — return to the more restrictive unemployment regulations. And, if the job stimulus successfully helps to put people back to work, then fewer workers will be unemployed and needing assistance.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Obama: It Begins With Energy

'Green News Report AT BRADBLOG' - February 26, 2009
With Brad Friedman & Desi Doyen...

Obama tells Congress, "It all begins with energy" ... Cool green innovations you may want to buy soon ... and flushing old-growth trees down the toilet --- literally!

Green960 (KKGN) in San Francisco and ActionPoint Online in Phoenix are running the 'GNR'. Is your favorite station? If not, tell them to pick it up for free! Contact us at for easy details!

Download MP3 (6 mins), or listen online here...
--- Click here for REST OF STORY AT BRADBLOG!... ---

Top News Of The Day


Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning (R) all but declared war on his own party's Senate campaign chairman, Texas Senator John Cornyn (R)


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Texas Gov. Perry: No Stimulus, Stem Cell Research Or Comprehensive Sex Ed In Texas

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) News Item One:
Texas Gov. Perry (R), who has taken every opportunity in recent weeks to slam President Obama's economic stimulus and recovery program, did so again Wednesday in remarks to several hundred Texas home builders gathered outside the Texas Capitol.

Gov. Perry’s opposition to the economic stimulus program isn’t shared by the Texas Association of Builders. According to a Dallas Morning News report, Scott Norman, the Association’s executive director, said he hopes Texas takes every dollar it can get. “From our industry, we need it to succeed,” Norman said. “We need the stock market to rebound. We need the credit markets to rebound. And we need people to get out there and drive our economy.”

Texas stands to get $17 billion from the just-passed federal stimulus package. It includes an $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers, although Norman said, “We wanted more. We were pushing for anything, obviously.”

Perry's likely Republican primary opponent next year, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, voted against and also stands opposed to President Obama's economic stimulus and recovery program.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) News Item Two:
Gov. Rick Perry, who strongly supports teaching only "abstinence" sex education in Texas schools, greeted several hundred anti-choice activists rallying outside the Capitol. Gov. Perry promised the group that he would prevent embryonic stem cell research in Texas and touted his record for passing more restrictions on stem cell science and research than any previous Texas governor. [Apparently, Gov. Perry does not think Texas needs the high tech science dollars flowing into Texas to replace the crumbling telecom industry that is rapidly disappearing from Texas' "silicon prairie" corridor.]

Gov. Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst are strongly pushing 2009 Tx legislative session legislation mandating that doctors require women seeking information about an abortion must view their own fetal ultrasound image and listen to the fetal heartbeat monitor.

Jim Dunnam, Tx House Democratic caucus chairman has observed that if Gov. Perry and other anti-abortion leaders would support broader sex education, such as provided for in the “Education Works!” 2009 Texas House and Senate legislation (HB741/SB515) – instead of strictly abstinence only – fewer abortions would be contemplated.

--- Click here for MORE ON THIS NEWS ITEM!... ---

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

New Report Sharply Criticizes Sex Education In Texas Schools

According to a report (PDF Full/Summary) released Wednesday by the Texas Freedom Network a majority of Texas schools use scare tactics and teach false information in their sex education classes. TFN's two-year study of education materials from 990 Texas school districts showed that about 94 percent of public schools use abstinence-only programs that usually pass moral judgments while giving inaccurate information on contraception and health screenings or ignoring the subjects altogether.

The report, written by David Wiley, professor of health education at Texas State University, and Kelly Wilson, assistant professor of health education at Texas State, concludes that school administrators' fear of controversy and retaliation from religious groups is a primary factor behind their reluctance to program accurate and more comprehensive sex education curricula. Wiley and Wilson analyzed curricula and district policies obtained from most of Texas’ 1,031 public school districts through requests under the Texas Public Information Act. Their report finds that most Texas students receive no instruction about human sexuality apart from the promotion of shaming and fear-based sexual abstinence instruction that often includes inaccurate or no information about contraception methods that prevent disease transmission and pregnancy.

Wiley and Wilson also found that many Texas public schools mix religious instruction and Bible study into sex education programs. "Hardly a page can be found that does not include multiple references to Bible verses, invocation of Christian principles, even attempts to proselytize students with the Christian plan of salvation," the report states about one program called "Wonderful Days" used by three districts in the Fort Worth area.

Kathy Miller's news conference
announcing the report
Kathy Miller, president of the Freedom Network’s Education Fund, said in a news conference announcing the report that "we must stop burying our heads in the sand about high teen birth and STD rates and make sure young people get the medically accurate information they need to protect their health. . ." Texas continues to have one of the nation's highest teen pregnancy rates despite receiving more federal abstinence funding than any other state. (Watch TFN's "Sex Ed...Texas Style" videos)

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS) a Texas teen gets pregnant every 10 minutes. Texas Medicaid paid for 173,226 deliveries in Texas last year, at an estimated total cost of $420 million. Approximately 10% of these deliveries were to teen mothers aged-13-17, at a cost of $41 million. To lower unplanned teen pregnancy rates, older children must be told more about sex than "just say no." It is a documented fact that comprehensive sex education and family planning programs do lower unplanned pregnancy rates among all age groups.

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, has called the federally funded abstinence-only program "an utter failure that has wasted more than $1.5 billion" over the past decade. Abstinence-only sex-education programs receive about $176 million each year in federal funding. "The United States is facing a teen-pregnancy health-care crisis, and the national policy of abstinence-only programs just isn't working. It is time for everyone who cares about teenagers to start focusing on the common-sense solutions that will help solve this problem," says Richards.

After falling steadily for more than a decade, the birth rate for American teenagers again started to increase in a sharp reversal as the Bush Administration and Republican controlled congresses increased federal funding and focused emphasis on abstinence-only sex education programs.

The teen birth rate rose by 3 percent between 2005 and 2006 among 15-to-19-year-old girls, after plummeting 34 percent between 1991 and 2005, according to National Center for Health Statistics. After the teen birth rate rose sharply between 1986 and 1991, hitting an all-time high of 61.8 births per 1,000 girls, a massive comprehensive sex education campaign countered that trend and teen pregnancies plummeted between the 1990s and 2005.

Like other critics, Cecile Richards notes that several major studies find no evidence that abstinence-only programs successfully deter teen sex and pregnancies. The most recent study, a large federal 2008 survey, again confirms previous studies in its finding that, "taking a pledge doesn't seem to make any difference at all in any sexual behavior, but it does seem to make a difference in condom use and other forms of birth control that is quite striking," according to Janet E. Rosenbaum of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Ms. Rosenbaum's report, that appears in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics, highlights that:
Teenagers who receive abstinence-only sex education and pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a large federal survey released last month.

More than half of youths became sexually active before marriage regardless of whether they had taken a "virginity pledge," but the percentage who practice precautions against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases was 10 points lower for those receiving abstinence-only education and making abstinence pledges.
Related Links:

Planned Parenthood of North Texas: Lobbying for Women's and Teens' Reproductive Health

By Linda Magid

Every ten minutes a teen in Texas becomes pregnant.
Texas has the highest teen birth and repeat birth rates in the U.S.
60% of teen mothers fail to graduate from high school.

These are only a few of the statistics Kelly Hart and Dawna Cornelieson of Planned Parenthood of North Texas (PPNT) shared with the members of Texas Democratic Women of Collin County (TDWCC) at their January 26 meeting. Kelly Hart, Director Public Affairs, and Dawna Cornelieson, Community Advocate, gave an eye-opening presentation on the demand for reproductive services for low income women and for comprehensive sex education in schools, and how the Texas State legislature is getting in the way.

Planned Parenthood of North Texas has teamed up with Texas Freedom Network to create “Education Works!” a coalition to support the passage of comprehensive sex education legislation in the 2009 Texas state legislative session now in progress. This legislation (HB741/SB515) sponsored by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) and Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) will:
…require schools to still discuss abstinence but also require information be included alongside about testing and prevention for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and complete, medically-accurate information about the health benefits and risks of contraception and condoms.

Additionally, this bill includes strategies to encourage young people to develop healthy communication with their parents and peers, and help build other living skills such as goal setting and responsible decision-making about sexuality.
Quoted from PPNT website
No Texas school district is required to offer a sex education course. If they choose to, they must emphasize abstinence over all forms of contraception. At this time, schools are not required to offer any information on contraception at all. Study after study has shown that abstinence-only education does not prevent teens from having sex.

“It is about time Texas wakes up to the reality that teens are having sex. But we need other organizations like parent organizations and medical organizations that work with teens and any group that cares about this issue to sign on to Education Works! and support this effort,” says Ms. Hart.

Following the Planned Parenthood of North Texas presentation given by Hart and Cornelieson to TDWCC members in January, the TDWCC members voted overwhelmingly to join the Education Works! initiative.

Ms. Hart also discussed a PPNT lobbying effort to change budgetary restrictions hampering the organization’s ability to serve Texas women. In 2003, certain State legislators wanted to keep Planned Parenthood from receiving state money. At first, these politicians successfully attached a rider to the budget stopping any provider who offered or worked with a provider offering abortions from receiving family planning funding. PP took the State to court and won.

In 2005, legislators attached a rider to the Texas budget to send Family Planning funds to Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQs). These clinics are typically located in the poor parts of Texas and serve people who do not qualify for Medicaid. While it might seem like the money is going to the right place, women are not benefiting from this change because 1) Texas as fewer FQs than family planning clinics so they serve a smaller community, and 2) FQ’s don’t generally perform family planning services. In fact, they typically send their patients with family planning needs to clinics like Planned Parenthood. So, the $10 million in women’s health funding given to these clinics doesn’t get used and is sent back to Austin, and women who need pap smears, breast exams, STI testing and contraception are not served.

In addition, women’s health centers across Texas have been forced to either shorten their hours or close completely. For example, a Planned Parenthood clinic in Austin severely reduced its hours in 2005 and will only serve certain women – the most “necessary” population. The clinic has yet to resume full business hours or services. Texas has 300 various family planning clinics in Texas but Planned Parenthood serves the highest number of patients. These other clinics, run by county health departments and community health departments, don’t have the money or staff to lobby their State representatives. And neither do low income women.

On March 12, PPNT holds a Legislative Day, bringing volunteers from North Texas to Austin to ask State representatives to support Education Works! bills. It costs $25 (scholarships are available). No experience is necessary, just a willingness to support this important bill.

Visit for more information.

Listen to a October 8, 2007 Texas Public Radio report by Terry Gildea that highlights a missed opportunity when the 2007 Texas legislative session failed to pass a bill similar to this year's Education Works! bill that could have provided more resources for teens and parents.

Related Posts:
Additional Reading Suggestions:

Linda Magid was Campaign Manager for Tom Daley, Democratic Candidate, District 3, 2008. Currently, Magid is Assistant Chair of a campaign development committee in Collin County.

President Obama’s Approval Rating Remains High

Several national polls conducted over the past few days show President Obama’s job approval rating remains high. The polls also find that the public believes Obama has made a good faith effort to work in a bipartisan manner to address America’s problems:
WaPo/ABC News: 73 percent say Obama is “trying to compromise with the Republican leaders in Congress” while just 34 percent believe Republican leaders are trying to compromise with Obama.

NYT/CBS News: 74 percent think Obama is “trying to work with Republicans in Congress” while just 31 percent think Republicans in Congress are trying to work with Obama.

Fox News/Opinion Dynamics: 68 percent believe that Obama “has sincerely tried to reach out to Republicans and be bipartisan” while only 33 percent believe Republicans have “sincerely tried to be helpful to Barack Obama and be bipartisan.”
As Greg Sargent points out, the New York Times/CBS News poll had a particularly interesting finding regarding bipartisanship. According to the poll, “a sizable majority wants Obama to pursue his policies with or without Republican support” while “a huge majority says that Republicans should emphasize working with Obama in a bipartisan way over pursuing their policy ideas.”

Monday, February 23, 2009

Pres. Obama To GOP Governors: No Time For Politics

According to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll a majority of people surveyed in both parties said Mr. Obama was striving to work in a bipartisan way, but most faulted Republicans for their political response to the president and believe he should continue to pursue his stated priorities rather than seek middle ground with GOP.

President Obama, responding to conservative Republican Governors' public criticism of the economic stimulus package, said the criticism has more to do with politics than policy.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry waged a weeks long aggressive campaign and co-wrote an op-ed piece with South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford opposing the stimulus bill. Last week Gov. Perry grudgingly informed the White House that he'll accept "some" stimulus money, but left the door open to not taking all of the money allocated to Texas.

Several southern conservative governors including Texas Gov. Perry (R), South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jinda (R) have made public statements that they are considering rejecting part of the money because they do not want to accept money that would fund social programs, like unemployment insurance to every unemployed worker, to which they are opposed.

Obama speech to governors 22nd February : no time for politics. Part 1

Obama speech to governors 22nd February : no time for politics. Part 2

Directing comments to those Republican governors, President Obama said, "I just want to make sure that we're having an honest debate. . . I don't want us to...get caught up in the same old stuff that prevents us from accomplishing something for the American people. . .If we agree on 90 percent of this stuff and are spending all our time on television arguing about one, two, three percent of the spending ... that starts sounding more like politics. . .There will be ample time for campaigns down the road."

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) also has a message for Republican governors hemming and hawing over whether to accept the stimulus money. "No one would dispute that these governors should be given the choice as to whether to accept the funds or not. But it should not be multiple choice. To protect the integrity of the recovery program, I urge the administration to issue implementation guidance clarifying that while any Governor may exercise his or her discretion to accept or reject the federal funds provided in the stimulus, no Governor should have the authority to arbitrarily adopt a select subset of the overall package," Schumer writes in a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Texas Wouldn't Be The Same Without The New Deal
Before you bash the idea of New Deal-style government spending, take a look around. Some Texans have been "agin" federal projects since 1933 and the beginning of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s original New Deal. Nothing wrong with watching pennies. But, if you want to see the New Deal in action, you don’t have to go very far. . .
Start at Dealey Plaza.

Those oak trees were planted with Washington money. The columns were sculpted with New Deal dollars.

Back before freeways were built, and before President John F. Kennedy’s motorcade made its fateful turn onto Elm Street, Dealey Plaza was known as the "Gateway to Dallas."

In today’s dollars, that project cost $1.5 million.

The Children’s Aquarium in Fair Park and the Museum of Nature & Science were New Deal projects. So was the lagoon — and the drainage system, built quickly before Dallas hosted 6 million visitors for the 1936 Texas Centennial state celebration and fair.

In Fort Worth, our parrots and Komodo dragons in the Fort Worth Zoo live in shelters built for monkeys and alligators during the New Deal. (The zoo didn’t make the cut for projects this go-round.)

Federal money helped build the Will Rogers Memorial Center and plant roses in the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. Same for its counterpart in East Texas, the Tyler Municipal Rose Garden.

The New Deal also built not one but two roads between Dallas and Fort Worth.

Texas 183 from Love Field to Fort Worth eventually became Airport Freeway, paving the way for our cities’ single greatest success, Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.

Spur 303 — Pioneer Parkway — still connects Oak Cliff with Grand Prairie, Arlington and Fort Worth.

Government money built Fort Worth’s art-deco high school football stadium, Farrington Field. The New Deal built the county hospital, the downtown municipal courts building, a now-gone library and college classrooms in Arlington.

College history professor J. Todd Moye mentioned a few of the projects Monday on the opinion page. He wrote: "Imagine for a moment what Fort Worth would look like had the government not made those investments." Yes.

Not only that, but imagine San Antonio without the River Walk.

Imagine Texas without the $350 million in federal projects — $5 billion in today’s dollars — delivered by the New Deal through the Works Progress Administration and the park-building Civilian Conservation Corps.

Imagine North Texas going through the 1930s without 250,000 working-class jobs.

Maybe those weren’t "real jobs." But they paid real money that Texans spent on real rent, real groceries and real clothes. And saved real jobs.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Obama Says Reinvestment Act Is Only The Start

In his weekly address, Obama said the Recovery and Reinvestment Act's package of federal spending and tax cuts is designed to revive the economy and save or create 3.5 million or more jobs, "is only a first step on the road to economic recovery. And we cannot fail to complete the journey." The economic rescue package will inject a sudden boost of cash into transportation, education, energy and health care, while aiming to help recession victims through tax cuts, extended unemployment benefits and short-term health insurance assistance, but it also will add to a rapidly growing national debt.

After focusing his first month on the economic mess he inherited, President Barack Obama now plans to roll out his own agenda on the budget, a national health care initiative and Social Security. On Thursday, Obama will send a budget request to Congress "that's sober in its assessments, honest in its accounting, and lays out in detail my strategy for investing in what we need, cutting what we don't and restoring fiscal discipline." In his weekly address, Obama emphasized that congress must do what's necessary to control the "exploding" national debt as part of his agenda.

Senator-Elect Al Franken Speaks on Air America Radio

Al Franken (D-Minn.) has started using the title “senator-elect,” despite the fact that a Minnesota court is currently hearing Norm Coleman's (R-Minn.) challenge to the November election recount. Since taking the lead in the recount, Franken has insisted that he is the rightful winner of the Minnesota Senate race. Franken gave his first national media interview since November to Air America's Mark Green Friday.

Listen to a segment of Franken's Air America interview.

At Dead In Its Tracks: An Anatomy of Norm Coleman's Failed Effort to Contest MN's U.S. Senate Election - Sanctions are now warranted against the former Republican Senator, according to the legal analysis of a veteran attorney and political science scholar... --- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

Friday, February 20, 2009

Lousiana Gov. Jindal Rejects $100 Million In Recovery Funding

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jinda (R)l announced his intention his intention to turn away nearly $100 million in federal aid for his state’s unemployed residents. The National Employment Law Project projected on Febuary 13 that the extension provided by the stimulus aid would continue unemployment benefits for 24,981 Louisiana residents.

Gov. Jindal justified his decision by claiming that extending unemployment benefits would result in tax increases for businesses.
This is essentially the same argument Texas Gov. Perry makes in leaving the door open to also turn away at least a portion of the federal stimulus money.
But it is not clear why participating in the expanded unemployment insurance program would result in tax increases for business. By Jindal’s own estimate, the recovery package would have funded his state’s unemployment expansion for three years, at which point the state could — if it chose to do so — phase out the program.

As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin suggested earlier today, perhaps Jindal’s presidential ambitions are “clouding” his judgement. “I think he’s been tapped as the up-and-coming Republican to petition a run for president the next time it goes around. So he has a certain vernacular, and a certain way he needs to talk right now,” Nagin said.

Continue Reading

Crisis may be worse than Depression: Volcker

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The global economy may be deteriorating even faster than it did during the Great Depression, Paul Volcker, a top adviser to President Barack Obama, said on Friday.

"I don't remember any time, maybe even in the Great Depression, when things went down quite so fast, quite so uniformly around the world," Volcker told a luncheon of economists and investors at Columbia University.

Continue Reading

Are Our Republican Representatives Making The Best Decisions For Texas?

The two Congressmen in the U.S. House of Representatives that represent Collin County residents, Sam Johnson (R) and Ralph Hall (R) and both Texas’ Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) and John Cornyn (R) voted against President Obama’s economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry too waged a weeks long aggressive campaign and co-wrote an op-ed piece with South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford opposing the stimulus bill. Several days after Pres. Obama signed the Reinvestment Act into law Gov. Perry grudgingly informed the White House that he'll accept the money, but left the door open to not taking all of the money allocated to Texas. Gov. Perry is considering rejecting part of the money because he, and presumably other Texas conservative Republicans, do not want to accept money that would fund social programs, like unemployment insurance, to which they are opposed.

Are our conservative Republican representatives in Washington DC and here in Texas really concerned about the best interests of our citizens, or are they playing politics as increasing numbers of Texans loose their jobs and their homes and the Texas economy sinks?

February is shaping up to be another brutal month of job losses pushing the number of laid-off workers receiving unemployment benefits to an all-time high of nearly 5 million, and new jobless claims to levels not seen since the early 1980s. A report released Thursday by the U.S. Labor Department shows that the number of people receiving regular unemployment benefits rose again by a record 170,000 pushing the number of unemployed workers to 4.99 million for the week ending Feb. 7. Continuing claims have hit record marks for the last the fourth straight week according to U.S. data.

Based on current trends, net job losses for February could exceed 700,000, a number that would surpass the 598,000 jobs lost in January, which had been the biggest total since 1974. That's after the U.S. economy lost 524,000 jobs in December, the 12th straight month of decline. Nearly 2.6 million jobs were lost in 2008, with 1.9 million destroyed in the last four months of 2008, the biggest job losses in any calendar year since 1945.

By December 2008 the unemployment rate rose to 7.2 percent, the highest since early 1993 — just after the last Pres. G.H.W. Bush left office. USA Today charts the 2008 U.S. job losses, which may look good compared to the chart we may see by December 2009.

The unemployment rate in the Dallas/Fort Worth metropolitan area jumped slightly in December, according to a new report from the Texas Workforce Commission. According to the report, the submarket of Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington saw its unemployment rate jump slightly from 5.7 percent in November to 5.8 percent in December. Another breakout of the Dallas-Plano-Irving submarket shows the unemployment rate jumping from 5.8 percent in November to 6 percent in December.

The worst U.S. housing slump since the Great Depression is draining home value as a record 19 million U.S. homes were foreclosed and stood empty at the end of 2008 and banks continue to seize homes faster than they can sell them. The share of empty U.S. homes that are for sale rose to 2.9 percent, the most since the year 1956.

In Collin County the 2008 foreclosure postings were up 18 percent from 2007 and overall more than 50,000 D-FW area homes were posted for foreclosure in 2008, a record and a 17 percent increase over 2007.

According to a new report from Foreclosure Listing Service (FLS) Inc., foreclosure postings filed for auction at North Texas' four primary counties — Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton — courthouses reached an all-time high during the first quarter of 2009. (Although the first quarter will technically end on March 31, foreclosure auction filings must be filed at the courthouse the previous month before the auctions take effect.)

FLS statistics show that 13,259 foreclosure auction postings will be filed at Dallas-Fort Worth area courthouses by the end of February in advance of the "first quarter 2009 foreclosure auction," a record high according to FLS. And, for the upcoming month of March alone, FLS data shows 4,276 foreclosure postings will likely be filed. Over the last year, quarterly posting activity in Collin County climbed 11 percent, according George Roddy Sr., president of Foreclosure Listing Service Inc. (click to go to an interactive foreclosure listing and map)

As foreclosure continue to increase North Texas pre-owned home sales plunged 27 percent in January – one of the sharpest percentage declines on record. January's total 3,399 sales of pre-owned single-family homes represents a 63 percent decline from the market peak in June 2007.

At the same time sales were falling, median prices were down 6 percent compared with January 2008, according to statistics released Wednesday by North Texas Real Estate Information Systems and Texas A&M University's Real Estate Center.

(Read President Bush's and the GOP's Blind Faith In Unregulated Markets And Unregulated Mortgage Lending Stoked The Economic Crisis in the NYTimes.)

Over the three months ending in December, the Texas Leading Index experienced its sharpest decline since its inception in January 1981 (Chart-1). All eight of the indicators gave negative signals, with the steepest drops coming from the increase in the Texas export-weighted value of the dollar and declines in the stock index of Texas-based companies. In addition, the Texas Business-Cycle Index was revised downward, indicating Texas likely entered a recession sometime in the second half of 2008.

Chart 1: Texas Leading Index signals recession

Texas employment growth was revised downward [1], showing a sharply negative turn in September, and then proceeded to fall further in both November and December (Chart-2).

In December the unemployment rate reached 6 percent, up 1.9 percentage points from its bottom in April 2008. Given the sharp fall in the Texas Leading Index and the negative outlook of Beige Book respondents, further increases in the unemployment rate are expected.

Chart 2: Texas job growth beginning to sink

In December, Beige Book contacts across a wide range of industries reported further weakening in economic activity. The majority of respondents now expect a recession through midyear, with some contacts not expecting a recovery until early 2010.

Texas exports have dropped over 17 percent from the high reached in July 2008 (Chart-3). Contributing to the decline was a sharp slowing of the world economy and an appreciation of the dollar against the currencies of primary trade partners. For example, the dollar appreciated significantly against the Mexican peso, which has a powerful impact on Texas exports, as Mexico is Texas’ largest export destination.

Chart 3: Texas exports drop sharply

The Texas housing market continues to weaken, although home inventories and rates of mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures suggest that markets are in better shape than the national average.

According to industry contacts, a growing concern in Texas is that commercial construction will drop sharply due to restrictive financing for the industry. While residential construction values have been in decline for some time now, nonresidential construction values are yet to show a significant drop off. This is due in part to the expansion of the Port Arthur refinery, which began in 2008. The public sector continued to add space, while private construction of hotels, stores, offices and restaurants began to decline in the closing months of 2008 (Chart-4).

Chart 4: Public sector contract values increasing,but private sector shows declines

Energy prices have stabilized at levels far below those seen in 2008, with oil prices fluctuating around $40 for the past month. The rig count has responded sharply—228 rigs have been removed from service since the end of November (Chart-5). Most of the decline has come from land-based natural gas rigs. Employment cutbacks are expected to hit the industry in 2009 as energy prices languish.

Chart 5: Drilling activity declines following rapid fall in energy prices

Of Texas’ major metros, Austin and Dallas have been hit the hardest in recent months, while Houston has fared the best (Chart-6). However, the decline in energy prices makes it likely that all major Texas metros will experience a recession in 2009.

Chart 6: Most major Texas metros weakening

One way to analyze the different metros’ exposure to the national downturn is by computing their job-share location quotients. The location quotient quantifies the relative concentration of a specific industry as compared with the concentration of that industry nationwide. A location quotient value greater than one represents a higher concentration in that industry than the nation as a whole, and values less than one imply a lower concentration. Dallas and Austin are more heavily concentrated in cyclically sensitive industries like information services and simultaneously less represented in the more cyclically stable industries like education and health services. Houston is heavily weighted in the energy sector, and much of its fate this year likely rests with energy prices.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hard-Right Republicans Forcing Moderates Right

Over the past several weeks, Republicans have bragged about their unity in opposing President Obama’s economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act, predicting that their obstruction would “give us a shot in the arm going forward.”

In reality Moderate Republicans likely signed up to oppose President Obama’s economic recovery bill because they are more worried about the threat from Hard-Right Republicans in the 2010 and 2012 election cycles than about potential fallout from the general electorate in opposing a popular president.

The Hard-Right House Republican Study Committee is taking names of those who do not tow the hard-right conservative line and are threatening the prospect of primary challenges according to an article in CQ Politics. (CQ Weekly has a must read piece on the Republican Study Committee, the caucus of the most rightward thinking members of the House.)

But Moderate Republicans may be in a no win situation judging from the mood of the general electorate as reported in a new Pew Research poll. The Pew poll shows nearly two-thirds of Americans (64%) approve of President Obama's job performance, while 56% approve of his handling of the economy, 52% of his handling of foreign policy, and 50% for the threat of terrorism.

Interesting: "There are sizable ideological differences among Republicans over Obama's early performance. A plurality of self-describe moderate and liberal Republicans (46%) approve of the way Obama is handling his job as president. By contrast, just 28% of hard-right conservative Republicans approves of Obama's job performance."

A new AP/GFK poll taken in the days just before the final House and Senate votes for Pres. Obama's stimulus bill shows that Americans overwhelmingly disapprove of Republican efforts to block Obama’s plan:
Congress’ approval is only 31%-59%, but additional questions show a much more complicated picture. The number for Congressional Democrats is at 49%-45%, while Republicans are at 33%-59%.
Only 30% say Obama hasn’t done enough to cooperate with Republicans in Congress — the GOP base vote, basically — while 62% say he’s doing the right amount and 6% say it’s been too much. Flipping it around, only 27% say Republicans have done enough to cooperate with Obama, with 64% saying not enough and 5% saying too much.
Meanwhile, people are increasingly confident that Obama is leading the country in the right direction. Since Obama’s election, there’s been a 23 percent rise in those saying the country is headed in the right direction. In October, only 17 percent of Americans felt that way, while 78 percent thought the country was headed in the wrong direction.

And, for proof positive that moderate Republicans being forced to vote with hard-right Republicans is not playing well back home:
Congressman Joseph "Anh"Cao, a Republican, who defeated William "Bill" Jefferson is facing a recall petition because of his vote against President Obama's stimulus package. The recall has been initiated by a group of ministers.

Cao had originally announced his intention to vote for the stimulus package, but House Republican Minority Whip Eric Cantor whipped him and other moderates into a solid 'No' vote. Without Cao's 'No' vote, Cantor could not have boasted about the GOP being "back in the saddle" by touting the GOP's big ZERO votes for the stimulus. The GOP's branding strategy is literally dependent on being the party of NO and, thanks to Cantor whipping Republicans into a unanimous NO vote, Cao may not even make it to 2010.

Papers have been filed with the Office of the Louisiana Secretary of State which started the process requiring sufficient signatures to force a recall election for the office held by Representative Cao.
The two Congressmen in the U.S. House that represent Collin County residents, Sam Johnson (R) and Ralph Hall (R) and both Texas’ Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) and John Cornyn (R) voted against the stimulus bill.

The bad news is stacking up for Moderate Republicans across the U.S. and in Texas.

A recent Gallup report on its survey of political party affiliation by voters at the state level shows only five states now have a statistically significant majority of voters who identify themselves as Republicans.

The same Gallup report also shows Texas as among the “most political balanced states” in party identification among all the former Republican strong hold states.

We see Moderate Republicans have good reason be worried.

And, adding all that to the Texas GOP survey of unhappy Texas Republicans conducted the respected Republican political research firm, Hill Research, and we see Moderate Republicans have good reason be very worried.

Gov. Perry Says Yes To Stimulus After Saying No

Gov. Rick Perry today accepted stimulus dollars after a weeks long aggressive campaign opposing the needed funds. Gov. Rick Perry, who co-wrote an op-ed piece with South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford about all the things that were wrong with the bill, informed the White House that he'll accept the money.

Perry is, however, leaving the door open to not taking all of it, as he doesn't want to accept money that would fund social programs to which he, and presumably other state Republicans, are opposed. Perry's spokeswoman said that they are studying the aid package "line by line to determine what is in the best interest of Texas taxpayers."

Texas House Democratic Leader and Chairman of the Select Committee on Federal Economic Stabilization Funding, Jim Dunnam, sent a memo to Gov. Perry explaining the importance and benefits of the infusion of federal money.
As you know, President Barack Obama will today sign into law H.R.1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, also known as the federal economic stimulus bill. The stimulus bill contains nearly $790 billion in tax cuts and key federal investments, including billions of dollars for infrastructure funding and incentives for job creation in Texas.


I respectfully request that you immediately take the appropriate action under the Act to certify both that Texas will request and use the funds provided for by the Act and that the funds will be used to create jobs and promote economic growth. Because of ongoing deadlines, we do not need to delay acceptance, as there is a great deal of work necessary. If you would prefer to have the Legislature make the acceptance of the funds by concurrent resolution, which is also provided for in the Act, I stand ready to assist in that option. And if this is the case, I would request you designate the Legislature's consideration of the Act an emergency item for this legislative session so we can move the resolution more rapidly through the process.
Rep. Dunnam copied Speaker of the Texas House Joe Straus and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to the letter as well. It is time to act and create and preserve Texas jobs and insulate our economy from further deterioration.

If the Governor take a pass on some of the money the Texas legislature can accept all of money for the state over the Governor's objections.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Perry Remains Opposed To Texas Accepting Federal Stimulus Money

Yesterday, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Denver, Colorado, where, after a tour of a solar installation project at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the President signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The Recovery and Reinvestment Act will pump money into infrastructure projects, health care, renewable energy development and conservation in all 50 states, with twin goals of short-term job production and longer-term economic viability.

The Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes an immediate tax break for 95 percent of Americans with a $2,500 tax credit for individuals working toward a college education and a $400 tax break for most individual workers and $800 for couples, including those who do not earn enough to pay income taxes.

The act provides financial incentives for people to start buying again, from first homes to new fuel efficient cars, and it provides help to poor people and laid-off workers, with increased unemployment benefits and food stamps, and subsides for health insurance. The bill also allocates $50 billion for energy efficiency initiatives and green jobs; expanding broadband services; preventing teacher layoffs; and, $8.4 billion to improve public transit and rail.

Part of this stimulus spending is entrusted to state governors and legislatures so they can avoid layoffs from their state level to local city government workforces and avoid deep spending cuts in essential programs, like road and bridge maintenance and unemployment aid.

The state of Texas is expected to receive approximately $17 billion of the economic stimulus money to aid the state in several areas including:
  • Health and human services: $5.8 billion
  • Education: $6.2 billion
  • Transportation: $2.8 billion
  • Labor: $1 billion to save 269,000 jobs and also fund unemployment programs in Texas
  • Criminal justice: $161 million
  • Housing and infrastructure: $957 million
  • Job creation and stop loss: 269,000 jobs over the course of the next 18 to 24 months
The two Congressmen in the U.S. House that represent Collin County residents, Sam Johnson (R) and Ralph Hall (R) and both Texas’ Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) and John Cornyn (R) voted against the stimulus bill on the grounds that it involves deficit spending by the government.

But, our Republican representatives in Washington were for deficit spending, when Republicans controlled congress, before they were against deficit spending, now that a Democratically controlled congress is attempting to save the nation from catastrophic economic collapse following Bush's Presidency. In 2006, when the Republicans still controlled Congress, they actively rejected any attempts Democrats made to control deficit spending. The New York Times reported on March 14, 2006,
"Senate Republicans on Tuesday narrowly defeated an effort to impose budget rules that would make it harder to increase spending or cut taxes, a move that critics said that showed Republicans were posturing in their calls for greater fiscal restraint. ... Republicans said the push to add the rules to the budget was a back-door effort to make it harder to extend President Bush's tax cuts. 'The practical effect of this is to raise taxes,' said Senator Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire and chairman of the Budget Committee."
And, as tax cuts along side hundreds of billions of dollars of war spending in Iraq pushed the nation ever deeper into long term deficits, our Republican representatives never spoke a word of concern about deficit spending.When Pres. George Bush "tax cut" the nation from an annual budget surplus of $300 billion, as Pres. Clinton left office, to an annual budget deficit of $1 trillion, as Pres. Bush left office, our Republican representatives in Washington fully supported and voted for Pres. Bush's deficit spending policies and legislation without complaint. Now our Republican representatives in Washington fuss about deficit spending? This smacks more of political expediency and posturing than principled government philosophy that we can believe in.

And, here at home in Texas, after Governor Rick Perry turned a $90 million surplus in the state's unemployment fund into a $447 million deficit by cutting the fund's replenishment business tax, Governor Perry is now saying that he may not accept the stimulus money allocated to Texas.
Of particular concern to Gov. Perry is the federal funding for the state's unemployment insurance because it is contingent on the state relaxing its narrow unemployment benefit limits so that more jobless people can qualify.
A memo to the Texas House Democratic Caucus highlights that Governor Perry is intent on sticking to the same failed tax cutting and deficit spending economic strategies of President Bush and our Republican representatives in Washington:
Rick Perry and the Unemployment Fund

Upon hearing the news that the Comptroller was predicting a $9.1 billion drop in [state] revenue, Governor Perry's reaction was to increase the shortfall by calling for more tax cuts. This is right in line with what he has done with the State's Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund.

A year ago, the Unemployment Fund had a surplus of $90 million. In a shortsighted and politically expedient move, Governor Perry halted collection of the replenishment tax. Nearly 12 months later, Governor Perry reinstated the replenishment tax. Now the Unemployment Fund faces a $447 million deficit.
The Houston Chronicle reports that Texas State Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, who heads the state House’s Select Committee on Federal Economic Stabilization Funding, said it’s hard to understand why Governor Perry is reluctant to use stimulus money.
“The governor every year comes in and wants half a billion dollars for the (state) enterprise fund to create jobs and stimulate economic growth and he’s going to say we don’t want $20 billion?” Dunnam said. “I find it difficult to understand.”
Governor Perry must certify that Texas will use the money to create jobs and promote economic growth in order for Texas to share of the economic stimulus money. If Perry declines to do so, however, the Legislature can accept the money on the state’s behalf by passing a concurrent resolution.

The following is a press release from the Texas Democratic Party:

Dear fellow Democrat,

I wanted to share with you this latest press release from your Texas Democratic Party.

In these tough economic times, Texans are trying to hold onto their jobs while coping with the skyrocketing cost of insurance, health care and college tuition.Now that President Obama has signed the economic recovery plan into law, Texas stands to receive much-needed assistance - unless Governor Rick Perry rejects these funds for the sake of his own partisan agenda.

Call Governor Rick Perry's office and demand that he fulfill the responsibilities entrusted to him by Texans and get to work on solving our state's problems rather than rejecting funds that will improve our infrastructure, create jobs and allow more parents the opportunity to send their kids to college.

Governor Perry's Austin Office: (800) 843-5789


Threats to Reject Stimulus Funds Ring Partisan

Austin, TX) - Texans have already seen Republican U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison and Republican Congressman Pete Sessions play politics instead of working to develop a bipartisan plan to rescue our economy. Now that the economic recovery plan has been signed into law by the President, Governor Rick Perry continues to put Texans in the crossfire of his partisanship by threatening to reject all or part of the benefits Texans would see from our federal tax dollars that would be used here under the plan.

"Governor Perry's obstructionist antics demonstrate he is more concerned with political recovery for the Republican Party than economic recovery for Texas," said Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie. "If the Governor's political agenda allows our tax dollars to be shipped off to other states, 'Ripoff Rick' will cost Texans an important investment in job creation, schools, health care and transportation."

"Years of failed Republican economic policy got us into this mess, and now Rick Perry is threatening to reject real solutions to cleaning up the mess he himself helped create. That's not leadership - that's reckless partisanship," continued Richie.

Gov. Perry's partisan antics are at odds with the new direction our country is taking - the recovery plan is being welcomed by an overwhelming majority of our nation's governors - both Democrats and Republicans. If Gov. Perry rejects Texas' share of the federal aid, our state could lose as much as $27 billion to invest in infrastructure - funds that could create or save an estimated 269,000 jobs.

"Apparently, Rick Perry would rather Texans sit in traffic on his toll roads than have the funding to build new roads," added Richie. "He should be ashamed of his threats to ship hard-working Texans' tax dollars off to other states - but perhaps he's hoping the 39% of voters who supported his reelection won't mind becoming casualties of his obstructionism."


Your friend and fellow Democrat,

Boyd L. Richie

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Obama Making His Own Afghanistan Strategy Decision

Updated Tuesday February 17, 2009 at 3:20 PM

This afternoon, the White House released a statement by President Obama announcing the deployment of additional troops to Afghanistan. Noting that the “situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan demands urgent attention and swift action,” Obama said that he “approved a request from Secretary Gates to deploy a Marine Expeditionary Brigade later this spring and an Army Stryker Brigade and the enabling forces necessary to support them later this summer.”

Originally posted on Monday, February 16, 2009 at 12:21 PM

President Obama is refusing to rush his decision to send more troops into combat before his own advisers have completed a review of Afghanistan strategy. Pres. Obama's strategy will likely result in far-reaching changes in how U.S. and NATO forces are deployed in the future. The request for an additional three Army combat brigades and Marine units, totaling over 10,000 troops from Gen. David McKiernan, the senior commander in Afghanistan and is supported by the Pentagon.

President Obama's methodical decision-making offers an early insight into how the new commander in chief will approach the war in Afghanistan and has surprised some Pentagon officials, who had repeatedly predicted that Obama would decide within days of taking office on additional forces, only to find the White House taking time to think through the strategy decision.

Listen to this article on Obama making his own Afghanistan strategy decision

Raw Story - The White House on Monday promised that President Barack Obama would "shortly" make a decision on whether to pour thousands more US troops into the Afghan war. Spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters aboard Air Force One, as Obama returned to Washington from a weekend in Chicago, that the decision was still expected soon. ". . .without getting into broad time lines, I don't think this is anything that involves weeks," Gibbs said.

PhotoWASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus said on Wednesday that negotiations with some members of the Taliban could provide a way to reduce violence in sections of Afghanistan gripped by an intensifying insurgency.