Monday, June 7, 2010

Last Call

Oh, there's one more primary race to watch tomorrow...California GOP Sec. of State contest.

Guess who's running?


Orly? Ya Rly.

Let's hope California says "No wai!"

Or maybe...she'll win. How great would that be for bloggers everywhere?

More Primary Impetus

Tomorrow sees big primaries in California, Nevada, South Carolina, Virginia, Iowa, and the runoff for the Democratic primary in Arkansas.

The four races I'm watching on Eric Kleefield's list:
AR-SEN (D): One of the biggest races tomorrow is the Democratic Senate primary runoff between incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. Lincoln has been aggressively targeted for defeat by organized labor and liberal activists, due to her opposition to the public option during the health care debates. (She did vote for the final bill that was signed into law, and which did not include a public option.) The TPM Poll Average gives Halter a lead of 49.7%-44.9%, but there is also an important caveat: Research 2000 has been the only pollster to publicly release numbers on this race during the runoff period, so we are dependent on only one source of data.

If Lincoln loses, following the defeats of Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) and Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), then 2010 will be the first time since 1980 that three Senators would have lost their nominations within a single cycle -- and there are still two more primary challengers, Republican J.D. Hayworth in Arizona and Democrat Andrew Romanoff in Colorado, who have plausible chances of winning.
I have to like Halter's chances here.  Even with the Big Dog in Blanche's corner, Halter I think can prevail.  Having said that, either Democrat will have an uphill battle in November
CA-SEN (R): Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is the establishment-backed favorite to take on Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, but before she can get to the general election she must first face off against the socially-liberal former Rep. Tom Campbell and Tea Party-backed state Rep. Chuck DeVore. Fiorina lagged behind Campbell for much of the race, but late heavy campaign spending by Fiorina -- and late financial troubles for Campbell's campaign -- have put her ahead. The TPM Poll Average has Fiorina 36.9%, Campbell 23.9%, and DeVore 16.2%.
My goodness, Chuck DeVore's famed "Demon Sheep" ad made him a laughingstock almost instantly.  But if Barbara B. is running against Carlyfornia, my money's on Boxer by a hefty amount.
NV-SEN (R): Three Republicans have been fighting a heated primary race to take on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The Tea Party favorite, ex-state Rep. Sharron Angle, has emerged as the new frontrunner thanks in large part to the many, many gaffes of the establishment-backed former state GOP chair Sue Lowden of "Chickens For Checkups" infamy. The new Mason-Dixon poll gives Angle 32%, former UNLV basketball player Danny Tarkanian 24%, and Lowden 23%.
Lowden's not dead yet, but Zandar Rule #4 applies here for Nevada:  Just because you're mad at Harry Reid doesn't magically make any of these Three Stooges in the Republican primary competent.
SC-GOV (R): Four Republicans are competing to succeed term-limited and scandal-plagued GOP Gov. Mark Sanford. The most notable story recently has been the attacks on the frontrunner, state Rep. Nikki Haley, which have involved accusations of marital infidelity and even racial slurs. The last few weeks have been rough, but she still seems to be on her way to a first-place finish headed into a runoff -- the new survey from Public Policy Polling (D) has Haley at 43%, Rep. Gresham Barrett at 23%, state Attorney General Henry McMaster 16%, and Lt. Gov. André Bauer at 12%.
Say what you want about Nikky Haley's sex life, South Carolina Republicans love their Adulterers-In-Chief.  The fact of the matter is Gresham Barrett, Henry McMaster, and Andre Bauer have run horrific campaigns, and Haley is frankly smarter than all three of them combined...and it showed to the voters.

We'll see what happens tomorrow.  If you're in any of these places and eligible for any of these primaries, get out and vote, no matter which party you belong to.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

If BP is:

A) Planning on capturing 20,000 barrels of oil a day from Old Faithful down there, and

B)  They haven't closed all the vents yet and there's still more oil leaking into the Gulf,

...then doesn't this mean that the estimates of 5,000 barrels a day were, you know, complete bullshit from the beginning, and the reality is there's multiple times that figure in oil gushing out of that hole now?

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

Daniel Larison asks (in an excellent article that you should read):
Why has there been a “strong reaction” to the raid on the aid flotilla? It isn’t because Turkey is “moving decisively away from its longtime partnership with the United States,” and it isn’t even because the AKP government is bent on undermining the relationship with Israel. There has been a strong reaction because eight Turkish citizens were killed on a Turkish-flagged civilian ship in international waters by the armed forces of its ostensible ally while on a basically peaceful aid mission. Name me a government that would not have a strong reaction to such an episode.
Unfortunately the answer is "The United States of America" who apparently doesn't give an official damn that one of its citizens was killed and has a bloodthirsty Congress waiting to see the survivors convicted as terrorists for daring to challenge Israel. I had no idea that failure to support Israel's self-destructive decisions being a federal crime was in fact the 28th Amendment to the US Constitution, but you learn something new every day.

Like I said, Larison's always a good read, but that question set me off. And technically, I guess wanting to prosecute the survivors is a "strong reaction". Larison's right, but it's still a moronic reaction on our parts.

Goldman Sachs The FCIC

Anyone actually surprised by Goldman Sachs refusing to cooperate with the government's Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission?  If so, I understand solar-powered flashlights are looking really attractive as investment vehicles.
Referring to its conduct as "abysmal," "unacceptable," "egregious," and "disturbing," the panel created to probe the causes of the financial crisis slapped Goldman Sachs with a subpoena on Friday for its "very deliberate effort to run out the clock" in failing to turn over key documents and make company executives available for interviews with federal investigators.

The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission turned to the subpoena after "multiple requests" and "months" of stalling by Wall Street's most profitable firm to turn over requested information.

The panel's vice chairman, former Rep. Bill Thomas, said during a conference call with reporters on Monday that the months-long delay appeared to resemble "an agreed upon strategy." The panel's chairman, former California state treasurer Phil Angelides, reminded reporters that the panel has been tasked by Congress to investigate the roots of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, adding that the investigative panel wouldn't allow Goldman to continue its "especially egregious" tactic of delaying the release of key documents.

"We're not going to allow the American people to be played for chumps here," Angelides said.
Too late by several years there, Ace.  Enjoy your consolation prize where Goldman is still making chumps out of the American people, not to mention billions of dollars in pure profit and pure chutzpah...enough to literally bury the FCIC under hundreds of millions of documents and say "If you can prove what we did at all, then we deserve to be forced to pay up.  Good luck with enough crap that you'll never get through it.  We win."

And they do win.  They always win. Best line from Phil there?
"I suspect they're spending more on their lawyers than we have in our budget," Angelides said of Goldman.
No shit, Sherlock.  Hell, I expect each lawyer is getting more money than your budget individually.  You think a subpoena will do anything to these guys?  You're stupid and high.  They invented this game, and now you get to watch every move you make already countered by the best defense billions can buy, while Congress gave you guys...eight million, which is approximately how much Ben Franklin toilet paper Goldman goes through in an hour.

Good luck there, guys.  You can do it!

The Old Obama Climate Fold-O-Rama?

Apparently those reports that the Democrats were trying to attach climate legislation to a bill reforming offshore drilling and scorch the GOP on the optics of opposing cleaning up the spill and holding BP accountable? Those reports where Harry Reid specifically said the reason he was doing that because he didn't trust the GOP to play fair on either issue?

Yeah, Donks just threw that hand on the table and walked away from the pot.
In the latest blow to the prospects of climate and energy legislation, the third ranking Democrat in the Senate suggested today that Dems will start small, instead of bringing a comprehensive bill to the floor.

Appearing on MSNBC this morning, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) confirmed that Majority Leader Harry Reid will move an energy-only bill next month, based on a template authored by Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, and predicted that Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) will have a chance to offer their much farther-reaching climate change legislation as an amendment to the base package.

"Kerry has a proposal that has pretty broad support," Schumer said. "He's going, in my opinion, going to get a chance to offer it in the form of an amendment."
So as what little environmental protections were in Kerry-Lieberman die screaming as the GOP kills the agenda, killed the bill before it got a change to be voted on, and will now kill the even weaker amendment that remains, the Dems can say "Well we tried!" on climate change legislation and will expect progressives to do...what again?

Oh yes, shut their dirty f'ckin hippie mouths.

Where's the White House on this, you ask? K-Drum reminds us that the White House is still holding the EPA hole card, that is unless Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski doesn't murder the EPA's authorization to regulate greenhouse gases on Thursday.

It's going to be a bumpy ride if regulation goes down that path, because all of that EPA stuff vanishes the millisecond a GOP President gets back into power.

We'll see.

Good News, Bad News

The good news?  Commercial real estate might be -- might be -- turning around.  The bad news?  The initial rate of empty office space was much worse than we thought.  The problem is "shadow inventory" in commercial office space:  empty cubicles from downsized employees whose jobs aren't coming back.  And there's a lot of it out there.
First, there's all that shadow inventory CoStar tracked, which if you add it all up equals 420 million square feet of empty desks across America. That's nearly the size of all the office space in New York City, according to Florance, and then there's the issue of still-low rents.

"The last two years’ rapid increases in the office vacancy rate have moderated substantially," agrees Sam Chandan, chief economist at Real Capital Analytics. "Still, we should not expect a sustained and consistent improvement in occupancy until office-using employment reverses deep losses. Even in that case, lease rollovers in the office sector will remain dilutive to property cash — i.e. new leases are being signed at lower rates than the leases that are expiring — for some time yet."

In other words, it ain't over 'til it's over.

Commercial mortgage debt is still in deep trouble, when you consider properties bought at the top of the market in 2007.

There will still be big losses there, but perhaps this turn in the office sector is a preliminary sign of recovery in other sectors as well.

It all comes back to jobs.
The unemployment rate has a direct effect on commercial real estate.  Commercial real estate in turn has a direct effect on the bottom line of businesses.  That in turn causes businesses to look towards cutting costs by reducing hours and personnel...raising the unemployment rate.  It's a nasty circle that's going to require effort of will and more importantly effort of Congress to break.

Even More Austerity Hysteria

Want to know what's in store should the deficit hawks win out in the Obama administration and bow to a GOP Congress in 2011?

Take a sneak peek at UK's new PM, David Cameron.
While Mr. Cameron risks alarming investors by highlighting the scale of the U.K.'s debt problem, he is convinced that only by confronting British voters with the harsh truth of the nation's financial problems can he win support for the tough spending cuts that are to come.

"This is fraught with danger. This is a very, very difficult thing we are trying to do," he said. But he added that the government "must take the whole country with us."

"The effects of these decisions will stay with us for years, if not decades to come," Mr. Cameron said. "We must go about the urgent task of cutting our deficit in way that is open and fair."
. here's your harsh truth: the UK's deficit to GDP ratio is about 11%, where we are now. Cameron's plan is to completely revoers course and massively cut spending from all walks of British life. And so facing unemployment and a wobbling economy, the UK chooses to take the Neo-Hoover austerity route, all but guaranteeing serious and lasting pain that will sink the UK into years of stagnation and suffering.

The deficit hawks here are making the reverse argument from when Bush was in office. Then, it was "We need this multi-trillion quantitative easing package or we're going to collapse." Now the argument 2 years later is that we have to reverse course, cut taxes and then cut spending even more or we're doomed. The usual suspects are warning of armageddon if we let the Bush tax cuts for the rich expire and all indications are that the Democrats are falling for it.

The results will be politically disastrous as a demoralized Democratic base basically hands over the reins of power to the people who will make the cuts as painful as possible for everyone except themselves, gauranteeing we drive ourselves into a full blown depression.

And Obama will be blamed for it.

Couldn't Have Happened To A More Deserving Guy

I missed this story on Friday, but I'm glad I found it today.  Seems our old friend Gonzo is in a spot of financial trouble in addition to his ongoing legal problems.
Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told Main Justice in an interview yesterday that he's looking for donations to cover his extensive legal bills -- and that he still hasn't found a book publisher.

"We need to do a better effort raising additional money, and so we're going to try to do that as soon as the last investigation [ends]," the ex-attorney general said. "That investigation has been out there going on forever. I'm not sure what's going on there, but we're waiting for that to be completed."

Once it's over, Gonzales said, "that will again raise some interest in raising additional money."
As for the book....

Gonzales -- under whose tenure the Justice Department often appeared to take its orders from the White House political office -- says he's finished about 12 chapters of what he thinks will be a 20-chapter book. He hasn't found a publisher yet. (He also didn't have a publisher when we checked in in December...of 2008).

"Given all the decisions that I was a part of, the decisions I witnessed, and the decisions I made, I think it will be something that will be of interest and I hope it will be a useful contribution to the historic record of the Bush legacy," Gonzales told Main Justice.
Oh I'm sure America is just fascinated in what Gonzo here has to say in his book. So much so that...pretty much nobody wants to publish his book (not even the winger press, apparently.)  He's been shopping his book now for 18 months plus and still nobody wants to touch the guy's story.  In a world where Newtie and Moose Lady get book advances, seems nobody's willing to take a chance on Gonzo's story here.

Given what he helped do to our country as AG, that's just a crying shame, isn't it?

We've Been Here Before

An interesting set of polling data on the popularity of Arizona's "papers, please" law shows something very intriguing.
Supporters of the measure are even more likely than its opponents to favor a comprehensive immigration overhaul, a new survey conducted by Lake Research Partners and Public Opinion Strategies found Friday.

A whopping eighty-four percent of Arizona law backers said they support reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants – higher than the seventy-eight percent of overall national voters in favor of such a program.

Despite its high-profile controversies and legal challenges, voters said they favor the state's measure by a massive 60 to 23 percent margin – 45 percent "strongly" support it. Numerous national polls have shown similar findings.

But this popularity appears not to be a referendum on the specifics of the measure. Instead, the study finds that public support has been driven largely by growing hunger for action on immigration and intensifying frustration with Congress’s inability to fix what is widely perceived as a broken system.

Of the Arizona measure’s backers, 52 percent said their support comes from the fact that "[t]he state took action because the federal government has failed to solve the problem," the poll found. Only 28 percent liked it because it will "reduce illegal immigration"; 12 percent because it’ll “reduce crime."

Given the choice, respondents overwhelmingly said immigration should be dealt with at the federal – rather than the state – level, but chose state action over the status quo.
In other words a "path to citizenship" as part of comprehensive immigration reform that allows illegal citizens to become citizens is overwhelmingly popular, and extremely popular among supporters of Arizona's immigration law.

It's the same path that Bush proposed in 2005 and Democrats proposed earlier this year, but in 2005 as the wingnut fringe of the GOP declared the path a non-starter, it became the excuse needed to not take any federal action on immigration.  Indeed, who could forget the calls of "Shamnesty!" from Malkinvania as the wingers turned on President Bush and scuttled the bill?

The real finding however is that more than half the people who support the bill are mainly doing so because it's better than the non-existent federal plan to deal with immigration. In other words, a majority of the supporters of Arizona's state law want to see a comprehensive national immigration law put into place.

But with the July 4th recessing looming and campaign season about to get underway in earnest, there appears to be no plans by either party to try to create a national immigration law.  This is an opportunity being blown big time for the Dems to lead the way on immigration reform, especially given the GOP failure on the plan five years ago.

Real immigration reform would be a winner for the Dems right now, which is why the GOP wants nothing to do with a national plan but continues to attack President Obama for...not having a national plan.  The unfortunate news is passing immigration reform isn't going to get any easier politically in 2011 when a new, almost certainly less Obama-friendly Congress meets in January.


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