Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may not soon hear the end of a boo-boo made during her visit to Mexico. The Catholic News Agency reports Clinton’s stop at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe was marked by a pretty good-sized gaffe when the secretary failed to grasp the history of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Catholics believe the image was miraculously imprinted on the cloak of St. Juan Diego in 1531, but when Clinton saw it she asked who painted it. “God,” responded the basilica’s rector. A Mexican newspaper, El Manana, reports Clinton apparently didn’t get the explanation and asked a second time about the artist. And she got the same answer. A State Department declined comment, citing unfamiliarity with the story.
How big is Sen. Arlen Specter’s announcement he will oppose the Employee Free Choice Act, the biggest item on Big Labor’s wish list in Congress? Well, pretty big. The Pennsylvania Republican was the only GOP senator who voted for the act in the last session of Congress, so his opposition means Democrats will be one vote short of being able to advance the legislation to the Senate floor for an up-or-down vote.
The act would all but eliminate the secret ballot from the process used by workers to decide whether they want to be represented by a union. Under the bill a union would be certified once it got just over 50 percent of employees in a workplace to sign certification cards. The sign-up process is public, meaning an individual’s position on bringing in a union could be known by everyone else, creating the potential for peer pressure and other tactics.
Of course, Specter wouldn’t be Specter if he didn’t reserve the right to change his mind later, which he said he might do under different economic conditions and if some labor rules aren’t changed.
By the way, Specter likely will be challenged in next year’s GOP primary by former U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey, who almost beat him in 2004.
A conservative group puts Oklahoma in the top 15 of states in terms of “economic competitiveness.” The American Legislative Exchange Council favors states that aren’t trying to tax their way back into solvency. Utah was tapped as the best in this regard; New York is the worst. Oklahoma did well because of growth in gross domestic product and personal income between 1997 and 2007. The “Rich States, Poor States” report also favors states with right-to-work laws and a minimum wage that doesn’t exceed the federal floor rate. By these measures, Oklahoma ranks low among those who favor higher taxes, closed union shops and a state minimum wage. People and business leaders looking for a place to prosper, though, are put off by states such as New York and California. An example is Arthur B. Laffer, one of the study’s authors, who’s famous (or infamous if you don’t like him) for his supply-side economics position. He moved from California (ranked 43rd in the study) to Tennessee (ranked 9th).
We recently chided the Sierra Club for consuming so much conventional energy in trying to promote alternative energy. That effort doesn’t hold a patch to Greenpeace, a more radical environmental group, which has just come out with a “National Energy Scenario” report in conjunction with the European Renewable Energy Council. The report runs to 46 pages of tiny type, not to mention supporting materials sent to U.S. media affiliates. That’s a lot of paper and ink to talk about saving the environment in part through using less paper and ink. Of course we were comforted in knowing that the report and supporting materials were printed on recycled, chlorine-free paper using vegetable inks. No word on whether the presses were powered by humans working a treadmill rather than electricity generated by coal.
Come to think about it, there was a whistling-past-the-graveyard quality to much of President Barack Obama’s “60 Minutes” interview Sunday with CBS’ Steve Kroft. You know, the nervous kind of laughter where the laugher actually is trying to camouflage real concern about what lies beneath.
Kroft had Obama laughing about a number of economic-related items, including the shelf life of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who’s stepped in more potholes recently than a road worker. As Obama laughed off the notion Geithner was in some political trouble, Kroft, looking bewildered by the president’s mirth, asked him if he was “punch drunk.”
Maybe Obama’s not nervous. Maybe he should be. Yukking it up with Jay Leno last week and then adopting a what-me-worry? pose on “60 Minutes” seemed a little tone deaf to the public’s souring mood.
No surprise here that former President George W. Bush’s first public speech since leaving office would be full of grace and favor toward his successor. For someone who received a lot of personal vilification the last couple years of his term, Bush never got bitter. And apparently still isn’t.
Bush told an invitation-only crowd in Calgary, Alberta, he wants President Barack Obama to succeed, that the new president has enough critics and Obama “deserves my silence.” About 2,000 people paid $3,100 a table to hear Bush talk.
Certainly, the contrast between Bush and other former presidents is striking. Jimmy Carter, who arguably was one of the country’s worst presidents, has shown little restraint second-guessing everyone who followed him into the Oval Office. Bill Clinton has been more reserved but occasionally grants an interview in which he barely conceals his lofty opinion of himself or how much better things would be if he were still president.
For all his faults in office, Bush feels no need to pile on his successor. “I love my country a whole lot more than I love politics,” he said. “I think it is essential that (Obama) be helped in office.” Amen.
Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley’s spokesman insists Grassley didn’t mean AIG executives should actually kill themselves when the Republican said officials of the troubled insurance giant should take responsibility for the company’s problems by taking a Japanese approach: resignation and/or suicide. That’s a hard sell given the words Grassley used.
AIG’s executives are catching major flak for doling out bonuses even though the company has received billions of dollars in taxpayer money to avoid total collapse. AIG’s CEO says the bonuses were contractually obligated and the company had no choice but to pay them. President Barack Obama and members of Congress disagree and have been venting plenty of spleen over the deal.
“Maybe they ought to be removed,” Grassley said in a radio interview this week. “But I would suggest the first thing that would make me feel a little bit better toward them (is) if they’d follow the Japanese example and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say, I’m sorry, and then either do one of two things: resign or go commit suicide.”
Grassley won’t win any awards for political correctness, but he probably reflects the anger many Americans feel right now about AIG and other beneficiaries of their hard-earned tax dollars.
A number of U.S. banks are unhappy with the Treasury Department’s Trouble Asset Relief Program or TARP. In an interview with Bloomberg News, Wells Fargo’s Richard Kovacevich said the Obama administration’s insistence on adding new conditions to TARP recipients forced his bank to cut its dividend. Kovacevich called Treasury’s plan to give banks a stress test “asinine.”
Kovacevich told Bloomberg his bank took TARP money in October only because the government leaned on the country’s nine largest banks to do so. He said Wells Fargo would’ve been able to raise private capital if it hadn’t been pressured to take TARP funds.
Wells Fargo joins Bank of America, U.S. Bancorp and Goldman Sachs on a list of banks unhappy with new TARP rules that affect lending, foreclosures, executive pay and perks. Understanding the bankers’ beef with the government, seeing them return the TARP money wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for taxpayers.
Not for 20 years had the bell sounded. Not until last week, when a wife and two little girls said a final goodbye to a husband and father that the rest of us knew as a hero. Cpl. Christopher Dill was a 15-year-veteran of the Oklahoma City Fire Department and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corp. He died March 4 after collapsing while fighting at three-alarm apartment fire and was buried last week. The bell signaling a fallen firefighter sounded at his funeral for the first time since three firefighters died in 1989. All we can say is thank you to him and his family, and yet that hardly seems sufficient for a man who not once but twice took on jobs to protect others. Thank you, and God bless the loved ones left behind.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can’t walk in former President George W. Bush’s shoes, but he now knows what it’s like to dodge one. During a recent trip to the Iranian city of Urmia, Ahmadinejad had a shoe hurled his way in an incident reminiscent of the attack on Bush during a press conference in Iraq in December. The Urmia News Web site reported Ahmadinejad was traveling to an election rally when the shoe was thrown. Of course, in the Middle East throwing your shoe at someone is a high form of insult. No word on the identity or fate of the Urmia shoe-thrower. Meanwhile, Bush’s attacker, 30-year-old TV reporter Muntazer al-Zaidi, was sentenced to three years in jail by a court in Baghdad — obviously too late to deter Ahmadinejad’s assailant.