No question about it. The number of "czars" in government has proliferated under President Barack Obama and has provided a rallying point for his Republican opposition.
Conservatives say Obama has created as many as 40 czars and under that elastic definition President George W. Bush had as many as 36. Still, a less overheated count by The Washington Post lists 30 czars in the Obama administration, 12 of them preexisting, and eight of those requiring Senate confirmation, and 18 positions added by the new president.
"Czar," it turns out, is a flexible title. In some cases, it's simply shorthand. The "border czar" is a Department of Homeland Security assistant secretary with a really long title that includes responsibility for border affairs.
My dear readers, I am striving to be extra polite today because ill-mannered jerks appear to have taken over America and someone has to set a higher standard. In every field -- particularly politics -- rudeness rules.
I know what you are thinking: If I am the one to set the standards for politeness, we are all doomed. That is just the sort of discourteous thought that I seek to banish.
But how to restore good manners to America? The easiest way might be to bring back smoking as a fashionable pastime. Yes, it is a disgusting habit that can lead to horrible death, but on the upside, it has a sedative effect on users.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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."
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.
New 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.
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.