Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Last Call

This is a pretty cool story about giving back to the community.  Panera Bread has an interesting new business model:
The national bakery and restaurant chain launched a new nonprofit store here this week that has the same menu as its other 1,400 locations. But the prices are a little different — there aren't any. Customers are told to donate what they want for a meal, whether it's the full suggested price, a penny or $100.

The new store in the upscale St. Louis suburb of Clayton is the first of what will Panera hopes will be many around the country. Ronald Shaich, Panera's CEO until last week, was on hand at the new bakery Monday to explain the system to customers.

The pilot restaurant is run by a nonprofit foundation. If it can sustain itself financially, Panera will expand the model around the country within months. It all depends on whether customers will abide by the motto that hangs above the deli counter: "Take what you need, leave your fair share."

Panera hopes to open a similar location in every community where it operates. Other nonprofits have opened community kitchens, where customers set the price, and the idea has spread among food enthusiasts and philanthropists. But Panera brings new scale to the idea — its community restaurants will use the company's distribution system and have access to its national food suppliers.
Not sure how that's going to work, but it's an interesting experiment nonetheless.  I don't think it's going to last very long however.

Hate To Say I Told You So

But I've said a number of times that financial reform legislation was not going to pass, and now the bill is all but dead.
After months of negotiation and debate, far-reaching legislation to overhaul the rules of Wall Street failed a key test vote in the Senate on Wednesday, casting a shadow over Democratic efforts to push the effort forward.

The measure aims to stop bailouts, shine a light on complex financial products and strengthen consumer protection.

The vote was 57 to 42. Under Senate rules, Democrats needed 60 votes to move ahead to a final vote.
Three Democrats voted against the legislation, including Maria Cantwell of Washington and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.

"After thirty years of giving in to the wishes of Wall Street lobbyists, Congress needs to finally enact tough reforms to prevent Wall Street from driving our economy into the ditch again," Feingold said in a statement. "As the bill stands, it fails that test."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., also cast a "no" vote at the end, which under Senate rules allows him to bring the measure up for another vote.

Earlier, Reid had said he wanted a final vote by the end of the week. But now the next steps are unclear.
It also means 38 of the 41 Republicans blocked the bill, as usual.  And this is straight into useful idiots territory:  Democrats Russ Feingold made good on his promise to filibuster legislation that wasn't tough enough, and so did Maria Cantwell.

At this point, the bill is pretty much dead.  So now, we have no reform.  That's not going to help the Democrats in November.

[UPDATE] BooMan has slightly more optimism than I do.  He points out that Cantwell and Feingold can be flipped, and the 60th vote would then be Reid himself.  This means that the bill has to get better now, not worse.

We'll see.

Specifically Not Feelin' Randy

So Arcadian asks in the comments:
"The overwhelming evidence is that the Republicans will easily retake the House and come very close to retaking the Senate. Do you really think Jack Conway, Joe Sestak, or Bill Halter have any chance in November?"
As far as Jack Conway is concerned, the answer is I believe he has a very good chance of beating Rand Paul, and here's why:
The likely Rand Paul victory in the Kentucky Republican primary today should give Democrats a very good chance of winning in the fall because supporters of Trey Grayson, Paul's main opponent, really don't like him.

Some primaries play out in such a way that party loyalists view several of the candidates favorably and just choose the one they like best. That was very much the case with the recent Democratic contest in North Carolina. But in Kentucky we find that Paul's supporters hate Grayson, and that even more Grayson's supporters hate Paul.

53% of likely Grayson voters for today have an unfavorable opinion of Paul to only 23% with a positive opinion of him. More importantly though just 40% of Grayson voters say they'll support Paul in the general election if he wins the Republican nomination with 43% explicitly saying they will not.
That right there spells serious problems for Paul if that many Grayson supporters will not vote for Paul.  Going by the primary percentages, that means of the 35% of the GOP vote that Grayson got, only 40% of that plan to vote for Paul.  That means as much as 21% of the KY GOP may not vote for Paul at all this fall, and at least 15% will not.  They're going to stay home or worse, vote for Conway.  Depending on how that carries out, that could cripple Paul in November.

Conway could win easily.  There are a significant number of Republicans in Kentucky who want nothing to do with Rand Paul.  You're going to see something of a backlash by more moderate voters against Teapublican candidates like Paul.  They've been quiet up until now.  No longer.

Also, there's this
After winning Kentucky’s Republican primary Tuesday night, Bowling Green ophthalmologist Rand Paul refused to take the call of congratulations from opponent Trey Grayson, according to Grayson’s campaign manager Nate Hodson.

Hodson did not elaborate, except to say “it happened.”

“This is truly a classless act in politics,” said Marc Wilson, a Republican lobbyist and friend of Trey Grayson.
There's the unique factor in this race that Rand Paul is a complete asshole.  So while Sestak and especially Halter have uphill battles, so does Rand Paul.


Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

The oil is loose in the Gulf Loop Current, and BP is sandbagging on just how bad this is going to get.
Toby Odone, a BP spokesman, said the company is sharing the data with "legitimate interested parties," which include government agencies and the private companies assisting in the cleanup. When asked whether the information can be released publicly, he responded, "Why would one do it? Any parties with a legitimate interest can have access to it."

Joseph T. Hughes Jr., the director of the worker education training program for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, said he didn't think "anyone has seen much of that data at all."

"The hard part about it is that in a normal response, when the government is doing this, there might be more transparency on the data," Hughes said. "In this case, when you have BP making the decisions and collecting the data it's harder to have that transparency."

Unlike the response to other past national disasters such as Hurricane Katrina where the government was in charge, BP has been designated as the "responsible party" under federal law and is overseeing much of the response to the spill. The government is acting more as an adviser.

So far, the government has been slow to press BP to release its data and permit others to evaluate the extent of the crisis.
Gee, could the slow leak of information have anything to do with this?

Just sayin'.

Before Zee Germans Get Here, Part 2

At this point, Germany's short-selling ban is being greeted with terror in some circles, and laughter in others.
Germany has failed to persuade other nations to follow its prohibition on naked short-selling and speculation on European government bonds, limiting the effect of the rules.

A Europe-wide ban on the practices is “doubtful,” Eddy Wymeersch, Europe’s top market regulator, said in a telephone interview today. European Union Financial Services Commissioner Michel Barnier said the rules would have been “more efficient” if they were coordinated with the EU.

In an effort to calm the region’s financial markets German regulator BaFin issued a ban that took effect at midnight and lasts until March 31, 2011. The move caused stocks around the world to drop and the euro traded near a four-year low against the dollar.

“Unless you have the U.K., United States and rest of Europe on board, then it’s a waste of time,” David Buik, a market analyst at inter-dealer broker BGC Partners in London, said in a telephone interview today. “You’re asking people to look for trouble. It’s so ham fisted it’s laughable.” 
And that's true, people will just cash out their chips and go to other casinos if they can't play "So You Think The Euro Will Epic Fail".  In this case, the other casinos are the UK and US.  Germany picked up its ball and went home, so anyone still left with German debt on their hands is in real, real trouble.

The euro meanwhile is at $1.22 and falling.  If it hits $1.16, things are going to get real ugly.

Super Tuesday: Spilt Milk, Crying

The usual suspects are crowing about Rand-mentum and are completely dismissing Jack Conway as irrelevant to the race (which is a mistake).  But the most amusing winger yawp comes from K-Lo, backtracking completely on the significance of PA-12.
How exactly is it a level playing field when the Democrats have a statewide U.S. Senate primary happening at the same time? There was no comparative factor getting Republicans motivated to interrupt their busy lives to vote. That's not soreloserdom blogging, it's just attention to reality. The Democrats were more motivated in this race. This ain't the end of a trend. It's just another special election, in a Democratic district, and on a big Democratic primary day. And a Democrat won. Disappointing. But not paradigm-smashing shocking. And not devastating.
And it doesn't matter that the Dems won handily because it doesn't fit your own spin, dear.  We know.

The biggest gaffe however has to be Sean Trende's call yesterday that 2010 is Anti-Liberal or Anti-Democrat, not Anti-Incumbent.
The historical record provides no support for 2010 being a generalized anti-incumbent year; the elections to date this cycle in major statewide races certainly don’t support this scenario either.  The real question is whether moderate or conservative Democrats who oppose the Beltway Democratic agenda will be given cover from angry voters, or whether the electorate will thoroughly clean house this fall.  That’s where the difference between a bad Democratic year and a debacle of historic proportions can be found.
Might want to do some revisions there, ace.

Super Tuesday: The Morning After

Making the rounds of this morning's primary coverage, most Village outlets are calling it what it is:  Incumbent candidates are in real trouble, at least according to the newspapers.  FOX too seemed rather forward:

NY Times: Specter's defeat signals a wave against incumbents
"In Kentucky, Rand Paul, the most visible symbol of the Tea Party movement, easily won the Republican Senate primary and delivered a significant blow to the Republican establishment. His 24-point victory over Trey Grayson, who was supported by the most powerful Republican on Capitol Hill, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, underscored the anti-Washington sentiment echoing across the country. "

WaPo:  Anti-incumbent fever rattles establishment
"On a busy primary election night that put the political establishments of both parties on the defensive, Specter fell to two-term Rep. Joe Sestak. Elected five times to the Senate as a Republican, Specter had the support of President Obama and the political leadership of his state, but he ran into rank-and-file resistance inside his new party and became the third member of Congress to lose his own party's support in the past two weeks."

LA Times:  Voters in primaries shake things up for both major parties
"Delivering a powerful message of discontent, voters Tuesday swept out veteran Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania, nominated a "tea party" movement founder for a Senate seat in Kentucky and forced Sen. Blanche Lincoln into a runoff for the Democratic nomination in Arkansas."

WSJ:  Primary voters rebuke parties
"In all three, voters showed they were ready to sever ties with candidates too closely identified with Washington and its political leaders. "

FOX News:  Electorate Roars at Washington, Hands Setbacks to Establishment Candidates
"One by one, the incumbents or establishment-backed candidates in Tuesday's slate of high-stake contests fell or fell short."
(More coverage after the jump...)


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