Next time, try throwing a shoe

The meltdowns seem to come in bunches.

Serena Williams busting her racket and threatening a judge at the U.S. Open. Kanye West crashing the stage at the MTV awards and wresting the microphone away from honoree Taylor Swift.

And perhaps most notably Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst at Barack Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress when he shouted, “You lie!” at the president.

The House GOP leadership arm-twisted Wilson into making an apology, but the obscure Republican backbencher seems to be enjoying his newfound notoriety so perhaps he will find it fortuitous that the same day the House voted to admonish him, Muntadhar al-Zeidi was released from an Iraqi jail.

Democrats pay for ducking health crisis

Some issues are a demagogue’s delight. And Democrats, thinking there really is safety in numbers, lemming-walked themselves into their opponents’ trap and are now paying a steep political price because they ducked two health insurance reforms they could have resolved with just a bit of political courage and populist common sense.

Duck One: They failed to see the clear need to put sensible limits on malpractice awards — because it is one reason doctors are unnecessarily propelling healthcare costs ever skyward. (And it is a bill we all ultimately pay.)

U.S. spends $75 billion a year on intel

Intelligence activities across the U.S. government and military cost a total of $75 billion a year, the nation’s top intelligence official said on Tuesday, disclosing an overall number long shrouded in secrecy.

Dennis Blair, the U.S. director of national intelligence, cited the figure as part of a four-year strategic blueprint for the sprawling, 200,000-person intelligence community.

In an unclassified version of the blueprint released by Blair’s office, intelligence agencies singled out as threats Iran’s nuclear program, North Korea’s “erratic behavior,” and insurgencies fueled by militant groups, though Blair cited gains against al Qaeda.

Rangel: Obama screwed up

A key House committee chairman says proposals President Barack Obama set out in his health care speech are causing problems for Democrats trying to finalize health legislation in the House.

Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel of New York says House Democrats would have to slash subsidies to the poor to get their bill to the $900 billion, 10-year price tag Obama specified.

Rangel also noted that the president didn’t mention the new income tax on the wealthy that House Democrats want to use to pay for their bill, favoring a different approach instead. The congressman said “the restrictions that the president has given in his speech as well as the proposed discussions in the Senate has caused us more problems.

Bernanke: Recession ‘is very likely over’

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Tuesday the worst recession since the 1930s is probably over, although he cautioned that pain — especially for the nearly 15 million unemployed Americans — will persist.

Bernanke said the economy likely is growing now, but he warned that won’t be sufficient to prevent the unemployment rate, now at a 26-year high of 9.7 percent, from rising.

“From a technical perspective, the recession is very likely over at this point,” Bernanke said in responding to questions at the Brookings Institution. “It’s still going to feel like a very weak economy for some time because many people will still find that their job security and their employment status is not what they wish it was.”

Panel recommends keeping color alert codes

After a 60-day review of the nation’s terror-alert system, a special task force is expected to recommend that the Obama administration keep color-coded alerts, but reduce the number of colors — or levels of risk.

There are currently five colors in the coded terrorism advisories, long derided by late night TV comics and portrayed by some Democrats as a tool for Bush administration political manipulation.

A bipartisan task force is expected to recommend reducing that to three colors, an official familiar with the review told The Associated Press. The official did not provide details of spoke on condition of anonymity because the results of the review have not publicly been released. The review period concludes Tuesday.

Yes, it is as bad as we think

090109outofbusiness_0.jpgNew Census data for 2008, the first full year of this recession, show just how bad our national economic stumble has been and add new urgency to policymakers’ efforts to protect the fragile recovery.

The national poverty rate — an income of $22,025 or less for a family of four — rose to 13.2 percent, up from 12.5 percent the year before and the highest level in 11 years. In 2007, the recession pushed 2.6 million more Americans into the ranks of the poor, bringing the total to 39.8 million.

Americans still bummed over the economy

One year after Wall Street teetered on the brink of collapse, seven out of 10 Americans lack confidence the federal government has taken safeguards to prevent another financial industry meltdown, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

Even more — 80 percent — rate the condition of the economy as poor and a majority worry about their own ability to make ends meet. The pessimistic outlook sets the stage for President Barack Obama as he attempts to portray the financial sector as increasingly confident and stable and presses Congress to act on new banking regulations.

Census Bureau dumps ACORN

The Census Bureau on Friday severed its ties with ACORN, a community organization that has been hit with Republican accusations of voter-registration fraud.

“We do not come to this decision lightly,” Census director Robert Groves wrote in a letter to ACORN, which was obtained by The Associated Press.

In splitting with ACORN, Groves sought to tamp down GOP concerns and negative publicity that the partnership will taint the 2010 head count.

“It is clear that ACORN’s affiliation with the 2010 census promotion has caused sufficient concern in the general public, has indeed become a distraction from our mission, and may even become a discouragement to public cooperation, negatively impacting 2010 census efforts,” Groves wrote.

Ways to fix the health care mess

President Obama went to the well of the House and the House welled up with discord.

Although his insistence on the moral imperative and economic necessity of overhauling the health care system was well received by Democrats, Republicans remain skeptical. (Most notably the boorish Joe Wilson of South Carolina who shouted that the president was lying about not subsidizing health care for illegal immigrants although he later apologized.)

Fact checkers say the president was correct about that point and about not setting up "death panels" to kill seniors as a way of cutting costs.

But the nation is now so polarized, too many people believe what they want to believe, no matter what the facts are, while demagogues hog the airwaves.