Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Last Call

Some primary results at this hour:
  • Nikki Haley is getting 48, 49% of the vote, meaning she'll need a runoff against Gresham Barrett.
  • Things are almost dead even in AR between Blanche Lincoln and Bill Halter with less than 30% reporting, may be a long night there.
Nevada and California results won't come in until early tomorrow morning, so I'll check on those tomorrow.  One more note from SC,  GOP Rep. Bob Inglis of SC-4 is looking to have been forced into a runoff with a Te Party candidate...and the Teapublican apparently is kicking Inglis's ass to the point where Inglis almost lost flat out.  Inglis got 26% of the vote.  The only reason he didn't get Hoffmaned outright tonight was because Trey Gowdy was held to 42% in a five way race.

Bob there is in real trouble.

[UPDATE] AP is calling AR's Dem runoff for Senate for Blanche Lincoln.  I wonder how long it will take for her derivatives regulation language to die.  My guess is that it's quietly removed before the end of the week, and certainly before the final vote.

Could I Maybe Interest You In A Slighty Used Private Mercenary Company?

I understand there's one on the market now for the right price.
The security firm formerly known as Blackwater is looking for new ownership, announcing Monday it is pursuing a sale of the company that became renowned and reviled for its involvement with the U.S. government in Iraq and elsewhere.

The Moyock, N.C.-based company now called Xe Services announced its decision in a brief statement that gave few details.

"Xe's new management team has made significant changes and improvements to the company over the last 15 months, which have enabled the company to better serve the U.S. government and other customers, and will deliver additional value to a purchaser," the statement said.

Owner and founder Erik Prince said selling the company is a difficult decision, but constant criticsm of Xe helped him make up his mind.

"Performance doesn't matter in Washington, just politics," Prince said in a further statement.
Kind of hard to be a PMC when all your operations come with extra baggage to weigh down your shooters, you see.  But don't feel too bad for Prince.  He has a lot of money and will have even more once he sells his little gun club here, and I'm sure the new owners will be nice and bloodthirsty too...

America Is Bee Pee'd Off, Part 2

This story out of the Scranton, PA Times-Tribune shows that BP is hurting at more than just  the macro public relations level.
Mohamed Ahmed stopped selling BP gasoline at his convenience store on Birney Avenue in Moosic in December, but never got around to removing the BP sign and green and yellow flower logo.

After the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the outrage from customers, he's made removing any BP association from his store a priority, as are several other area retailers.

Though none of the retailers said they had canceled supply contracts with BP because of the spill, the BP logo is being wiped from the roadside landscape as filling stations and convenience store operators apparently attempt to cover up any association with the company.

Mr. Ahmed covered up the large BP sign with black tarp. He put duct tape and office paper over BP logos on the pumps.

So many people, including loyal customers, complained bitterly about BP that Mr. Ahmed said he keeps his most recent gas purchase receipts to show he is now buying from Shell and Sunoco. He keeps the receipts near the register and shows them to customers to defuse tense situations. "People are very much pissed off about this," he said. "A lot of people." 
There's at least four BP stations around here on the I-71/75 exits heading into Cincy from the NKY.  It's not gotten this bad yet with them, but I'm sure it will be.  I know I refuse to stop there anymore.  Somehow, I doubt I'm the only one around here.

How Angry Will Society Allow Obama To Be?

Expanding on earlier today, I came up with this.

A lot of folks are saying that they want Obama to be more angry about the oil spill in the Gulf.  In fact, Aimai here made an outstanding argument as to why Obama needed to absolutely show some real passion, because in a visceral, gut way people are influenced by feelings.  If only to get control of the narrative on the subject, Obama needed to appeal to those Americans most moved by such responses. 

But other than Aimai's advice for Obama to "hire that job out" (which I agree with by the way -- Aimai suggested Michelle Obama) very few people are exploring the reasons why he hasn't already gotten pissed off other than "politics".  The real answer, as the WaPo's Jonathan Capeheart reminds us, is societal, not political.
Americans expect their presidents to be cool, calm and collected in a crisis. But we have to recognize that Obama already has this manner (or skill) mastered because it attaches to any black professional, especially those in positions of authority.

"Blacks at that level have to operate like that," Rev. Al Sharpton told me, "Whether you're Colin Powell, Clarence Thomas or Dick Parsons." That was an intriguing slate to ponder. Powell, Thomas and Parsons are three very different men. And yet the way they operate in their respective professions is very similar. "You grew up in the time when Sidney Poitier was the prototype of how you operate in a white world," Sharpton said, "cool and smooth."

"You and I are held to a somewhat different standard in the way we comport ourselves in professional environments," a black Democratic strategist with close ties to the business community said. "We are oftentimes held hostage to the myth of the 'angry black man' in ways that constrain us."

"As a black man, as a big black man, I know there are certain ways I can behave," an African American executive told me last week. "We don't have the luxury of making certain kinds of mistakes that would have us viewed as unintelligent.... You're carrying this burden of not having the luxury of messing up."

"You can't show anger, otherwise you are judged a certain way," said one prominent friend who would only speak about this on background. "It's already a societal thing where people find black men dangerous. So you can't be angry.... You learn early on there are certain lines you do not cross." Think about it. There's no African American version of, say, Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff with a widely known and celebrated reputation for F-bombs and confrontation.
And as a big black man myself, I can tell you from personal experience that this is how the world works.  You don't show anger.  You never show anger, and hiding that anger is a societal defense mechanism that young black men acquire through either examples from others or finding out the hard way themselves.  You're going to provoke an often irrational and dangerous response if you do.  Fair or unfair, that's how the game is played.

A good friend of mine told me a story last month about a black man who came up towards a woman on the street.  She crossed the street to avoid him.  The man was speaking loudly, and ran towards the woman.  The woman panicked.  She pulled out some pepper spray and blasted the guy.  She was an older white woman, he was a black man in his twenties.  That kind of thing happens.  She was alone.  He was much larger than she was.  Perfectly acceptable thing in society, her reaction.  I can understand it completely and I wouldn't blame her.

He was just returning her cell phone she had dropped a hundred feet back.  He was running to catch up with her.  My friend, herself a white woman, said "And if I was in her situation, I would have done the same thing."  It happens.  Hell, it happens regardless of race sometimes.

So you keep it cool.  Yes, many of us remember when Obama spoke with both passion and eloquence about the subject of race in January 2008.  Many of us, myself included, would like to see Obama speak with the same fiery passion about the BP oil disaster, about immigration reform, about climate legislation, about a lot of things.  But I understand exactly why he remains calm and logical about things.  "Why isn't he more animated, more angry?" people ask.

The reason is that after 43 POTUS, the rules are a little different for number 44.  Pretending otherwise is just a silly exercise.  And when America finally gets a female President, the rules will be a little different for her as well.

So no, Obama's not going to pick up a Louisville Slugger and go to town on Tony Hayward's forehead with it.  It's because there's a very, very good chance that the anger Obama displays will backfire terribly.

Aimai's still correct.  Somebody in the administration needs to be the bad cop here if Obama can't.  But it can't be Obama that does the anger.

He has to stay cool.

Oiling Up The Government Wheels

Greg Sargent asks a pressing question today that directly has to do with nearly all aspects of domestic politics and it's an argument we've had around here on a number of occasions in the comments:  has the oil spill hurt Obama's position that government is a force for good?
So what does the public want? For the Federal government to bring its boot down on BP's neck. An astonishing 64% say it should bring criminal charges against the company, and 51% strongly favor this.

There's good and bad news here for Obama. The bad news: People are not convinced that the government is doing all it can to deal with the Gulf crisis, whether through a White House failure to communicate or because the White House's response has in fact been lacking.

The good news, though, is that people continue to want a very aggressive Federal response. In other words, if there's only so much the government can do to control the spill itself, the public continues to want decisive action.
Sargent's theory is that people want the government to take strong and immediate action and that the government can be a force for change and reform, but they currently do not believe it is being used as such right now, especially in relation to the oil spill.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans want BP to face criminal charges for this, not just civil ones.  They want to see the people responsible go to jail, much like Bernie Madoff.  That is, as Sargent points out, a very good sign that Americans don't see the government prosecuting BP as unfair or an abuse of government power.  Americans may not be thrilled with government, but they hate corporate scumbags even more.

Having said that, a lot of the blame for BP and for Obama on this is irrational, as the root cause of all this mess is the fact that we needed to drill for oil offshore in the first place.  I've seen the argument in comments that drilling in shallower water would make it easier to resolve spills like this.  That's possible.  But that's not the root cause either.

That root cause is the fact we consume so much oil in this country.  If we didn't need so much oil, we wouldn't have to drill for it a mile under the ocean and risk destroying, oh, thousands of miles of coastline and putting millions out of work and costing tens of billions in damage.  It's the answer nobody's really talking about and that's unfortunate.

Obama has helped to address some of that with higher mileage standards on vehicles and promoting some green power initiatives, but we need a hell of a lot more.  And that is something government can do for good.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

To sum up the last seven weeks:

Village:  "Why isn't Obama angry enough about the oil spill?"

Obama:  "I don't work like that."

Village:  "Obama needs to be angry.  We want a president who feels our frustration and anger.  Obama is a robot."

Obama:  "After sixteen years of Clinton feeling our pain and Bush swaggering like a cowboy, it's nice to have a logical president."

Village:  "We are angry that Obama isn't angry!  We demand that Obama feels our pain and swaggers like a cowboy."

Obama:  "You know, you Village guys attacked me when I showed passion during the campaign.  You said I came across as an angry black man and America wasn't going to like that.  You said I needed to be a uniter, not a divider.  So now I'm showing how cool and collected I am."

Village: "But Obama's PRESIDENT now.  It's different.  We want angry Daddy!"

Obama:  "Fine. I need to know whose ass to kick then."


Obama:  "...dammit."

Obama Says Drill Baby Drill

What, you didn't actually think that six-month moratorium thing was going to last, did you?
Facing an angry tsunami from oil companies, oil company employees and oil company servicers in the Gulf Coast, the Obama Administration is set to quickly reopen drilling sites in the Gulf.

The Administration will release new safety requirements in the wake of a massive BP oil spill. After a rig blew up and sunk in April, a drillhole created by BP began leaking tens of thousands of barrels of oil into the sea off the coast of Louisiana.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the oil industry claims "each deepwater rig employs 180 to 280 workers, with each of those jobs supporting another four industry workers, for a total potential loss of more than 40,000 jobs. The moratorium 'will result in crippling job losses and significant economic impacts for the Gulf region.'"

The Journal adds:

The oil industry is awaiting new safety regulations from the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service, which canceled some offshore drilling permits last week and has had others on hold since early May. Administration officials say new rules for shallow water oil and gas drilling could be released as soon as Tuesday.
And there you are.  Gotta get those new shallow-water drilling regs out so that people can make new wells.  Why, I'm sure the new regulations will include all sorts of brand-new strict safety measures for wells that will be even closer to shore than the one currently spewing hundreds of thousands of gallons of crap into the Gulf to make sure people aren't hurt and our environment isn't in danger.

It's not like the new regs will be the old regs with the words "please" attached to them, and it's not like pressure from the energy industry is forcing these regs be put out rather than taking the time to make the safest drilling possible in the wake of a man-made catastrophe that was caused by energy companies ignoring the existing regs.

Nope.  I'm sure everything will be fine.

News Flash: Liberals Don't Think Like Conservatives

That should be the title of Daniel Klein's piece in this morning's WSJ, but instead it's how liberals are incredibly stupid and "flunk Econ 101" for not hewing to various conservative economics principles.  Here's an example of how "liberals" fail at economics:
Consider one of the economic propositions in the December 2008 poll: "Restrictions on housing development make housing less affordable." People were asked if they: 1) strongly agree; 2) somewhat agree; 3) somewhat disagree; 4) strongly disagree; 5) are not sure. 
Do you agree or disagree with this basic conservative statement:  restriction increases cost?  There's a clever way to get around a right or wrong answer.
Basic economics acknowledges that whatever redeeming features a restriction may have, it increases the cost of production and exchange, making goods and services less affordable. There may be exceptions to the general case, but they would be atypical.

Therefore, we counted as incorrect responses of "somewhat disagree" and "strongly disagree." This treatment gives leeway for those who think the question is ambiguous or half right and half wrong. They would likely answer "not sure," which we do not count as incorrect.
Now that's funny.  I myself would have answered "not sure" as there are no guarantees that restriction of housing development will raise the cost of housing.  Look at our own broken housing market these days.  What if there's a glut of houses on the market already?  Restricting more housing may not affect the price at all, or in the short term it may lower as people get more desperate to sell now.  Maybe that's a larger factor determining price.  If the conservative answer was correct, "Restrictions make housing less affordable" then why did the real estate market crash as we built more and more houses and the price kept rising in 2005 and 2006?  Wouldn't the opposite, "Less restrictions make more affordable housing" be true?  That wasn't the case in many parts of the country.

Also, what constitutes "Affordable"?  Housing only gets "affordable" if people can afford to live in the house, correct?  Restricting development reduces supply but it doesn't always change the price.  Reducing supply doesn't raise the price if demand for the product lowers as well, or the price of the item is non-elastic, which is to say "No matter what, a new iPhone 4 32GB model is going to be $299 no matter what the demand or the supply is this summer."

Finally,what constitutes a restriction?  "Zoning laws mean houses can't be built with in-ground pools in this development."  Does that make the houses in the area more or less affordable?  "Houses cannot be more than two floors tall."  Same thing.  Depends on the restriction.

The test didn't ask if that was the correct answer, it asked if you agreed with it.  Since the "correct answers" are all basic conservative economic theory, then yes, liberals would be the most likely to give the wrong answers.

Keep in mind however that these guys counted "not sure" as "not an incorrect (unenlightened) answer".
In this case, percentage of conservatives answering incorrectly was 22.3%, very conservatives 17.6% and libertarians 15.7%. But the percentage of progressive/very liberals answering incorrectly was 67.6% and liberals 60.1%. The pattern was not an anomaly.
The test proceeds like this, where the "correct" answers are all conservative economy theory tropes, and the "unenlightened" answers all are the opposite of the conservative ones.  Liberals and progressives did badly on such a test.  In fact, the basic definition of conservatism in economics is that you believe economics follows such basic rules.  Orthodoxy, in other words.  Liberalism in economics means you believe that economics doesn't follow these basic rules, that systems are more complex, and that there are human factors involved...maybe even irrationality.

So yes, liberals tanked on this test.  Badly.

Surprise.  Liberals don't agree with conservative economic theory.


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