Latest Posts

Ethan Ris
  • Happy Birthday, Joe Biden!


    Joe Biden is 66 today. I expect that he's celebrating by doing all of his favorite things: riding on Amtrak, grinning like a maniac, inadvertently insulting his friends.

    However, Barack Obama apparently didn't get the memo about the exact date of the Vice President-Elect's special day, because he was celebrating yesterday. With cupcakes.

    Biden's birthday is Thursday, but Obama surprised his No. 2 after their weekly lunch Wednesday at the transition office in Chicago. According to staff, Obama presented Biden — a Delaware senator with decades of foreign policy experience — with a dozen cupcakes decorated with candles and teased, "You're 12 years old!"

    Staff reported that Biden, ever astute in the art of politics, laughed at the his boss's joke. He responded: "Maybe in dog years!"

    Obama led the rest of the staff in song, then handed over some Chicago-themed gifts: a White Sox cap, a Bears cap and a bucket of Garrett's popcorn, a hometown favorite.

    So, really what Biden got was a reminder of what he has to look forward to for the next four years… a boss who forgets when his birthday is, makes lame jokes at his expense, gives him gifts that he's just going to take back anyway, and meets with him exactly once a week for an awkward lunch.

    And no pinata.

    (photo via CNN)


    Tags: Barack Obama, Illinois, Joe Biden
  • Wealthy Freshman Congressmen Challenge Capitol Hill's Old Money


    For those of you worried that the ascendant Democrats would usher in a new era of ordinary Americans governing in Washington, you have nothing to fear! There are plenty of new out-of-touch plutocrats set to take office.

    Roll Call reports that many incoming legislators more than easily qualify for Barack Obama's socialist tax hike, including…

    * New Virginia Senator Mark Warner, who founded Nextel and is worth $91 million

    * New Wyoming Representative Cynthia Lummis, who apparently owns $17 million worth of cattle

    * New Idaho Senator Jim Risch, who is taking Larry Craig's seat and is worth $20 million (most of which will be spent on industrial-strength disinfectant for that seat)

    In case you were wondering, none of these freshman lawmakers will even come close to topping the reigning king of Washington wealth.

    What, you really don't know who that is? John Kerry, of course! He's worth at a minimum $231 million, and that doesn't include anything held solely in Theresa Heinz-Kerry's name.

    It also doesn't include the millions he spent on advertising in the Chicago media market promoting himself as a candidate for Secretary of State.


    Tags: House of Representatives, Idaho, Illinois, John Kerry, Larry Craig, Mark Warner, Massachusetts, Obama Administration, Senate, Virginia, Wyoming
  • Chuck Hagel Unloads on GOP

    Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska has always been known as one of Washington's biggest moderates. He frequently reaches across the aisle and works with Democrats, and he even refused to endorse John McCain in this year's presidential race (his wife endorsed Barack Obama).

    Now, after not running for reelection, he has only two months left of his Senate career. And he apparently intends to use it bashing his own party

    Appearing at a forum at the Johns Hopkins School of Advances International Studies, the outgoing Nebraska Republican leveled harsh criticism at his own party, the lack of intellectual curiosity among some of his colleagues, the Bush administration's handling of nearly every aspect of governance and — perhaps most bitingly — the conservative radio voices that often dictate the GOP agenda.

    "We are educated by the great entertainers like Rush Limbaugh," said Hagel, sarcastically referencing the talk radio host who once called him "Senator Betrayus." "You know, I wish Rush Limbaugh and others like that would run for office. They have so much to contribute and so much leadership and they have an answer for everything. And they would be elected overwhelmingly," he offered. "[The truth is] they try to rip everyone down and make fools of everybody but they don't have any answers."

    Hagel is free to speak as he likes — he has nothing to gain or lose as he rides off into the sunset of retirement. I bet he can't wait to go back to Nebraska and live out the rest of his days in total obscurity.

    Unless… What's that, Mr. Obama? Did you say that you're looking for some Republicans to serve in your Cabinet?

    Well, I guess Chuck Hagel could maybe be persuaded to stay…


    Tags: Barack Obama, Chuck Hagel, John McCain, Rush Limbaugh, Senate
  • Voter Disenfranchisement Alive and Well in Ohio

    In all the excitement about the ongoing Al Franken/Norm Coleman slugfest in Minnesota and the Mark Begich/Ted Stevens foofaraw in Alaska, political junkies have overlooked another electoral nailbiter.

    In Ohio's 15th Congressional District, Republican Steve Stivers currently leads Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy by a razor-thin 149 votes.  That's fewer people than were in line in front of me on the morning of November 4th!  (When I was waiting to buy scratch tickets.)

    A recount is looming, but in the meantime there is a dispute between the two sides over more than 1,000 uncounted provisional ballots.  Republicans contend that the voters who cast those blatantly broke the law and invalidated their ballots by failing to both sign and print their names at the polling place.  So they're suing to block those votes from being counted.  On the other side are the Democrats, who have this crazy notion that people's votes should count even if they didn't follow every single arcane rule on the books.

    Even more infuriating is the fact that the only part of the 15th District where the sign-and-print requirement was in effect was Franklin County, which includes the city of Columbus and is strongly Democratic.

    Oh yeah, and Stivers' people initially tried to file the lawsuit with the Ohio Supreme Court, which is entirely made up of Republicans.

    Hooray for democracy!


    Tags: House of Representatives, Mary Jo Kilroy, Ohio
  • Sarah Palin to Earn $7 Million for Ghostwritten Book

    So she didn't get to "get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes," and she didn't get to pay any diplomatic visits to our NAFTA trading partners, England and Guam.

    At least she gets to go home with the lovely consolation prize of a $7 million book deal

    After she spent the last few weeks talking to just about any camera put in front of her, it should come as no surprise that former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin is moving closer to inking a book deal.

    Just how much could the Alaska governor make from putting pen to paper? About $7 million, according to some estimates.

    Sound like a lot? Not necessarily, says one literary insider.

    "Bill Clinton made more than $10 million when he signed his deal in 2001 and that was the most for a former president," says the source. "Sarah brings something different to the table — there is so much curiosity surrounding her and her life. If they move fast and get this thing on shelves, then a $7 million advance could be worth it."

    Right. Bill Clinton was the incredibly influential two-term leader of the free world. And Palin was… a national disgrace. That's about 7/10 as good.

    The inevitable speculation is now arising about who will ghostwrite the book for Palin. It will take a skilled writer to capture her unique voice but not simply devolve into incoherent baby babble.

    In the meantime, Palin can put down a deposit on a helicopter and some high-powered rifles.


    Tags: Alaska, Bill Clinton, Sarah Palin