Sunday, November 28, 2010

Last Call

The 2012 field may have just gotten a bit more crowded.

John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Sunday he's "considering" a run.
"Yes, I am considering it," Bolton told conservative radio show host Aaron Klein's on WABC in New York. "If I did run, and I haven't made a decision, I have never run for office one way or the other, so it would be a pretty big decision to do it."

Bolton, who serves as a Fox News commentator, said he's concerned that the national discourse does not include talk of foreign policy.

"I'm very concerned about the direction of national security policy," Bolton said. "I'm concerned that we hardly talk about it at national-level debates in the mainstream media."

That's because we have much larger national problems right now with our economy.  Perhaps Bolton's Mustache will handle the domestic policy.  To his credit, Bolton can find Iraq and Iran on a world map, but he would have to be immediately considered to be the candidate most likely to get us into a third war with Iran within milliseconds after taking office.

I would have to wonder if any of the WikiLeaks cables have anything to do with Bolton.  Certainly at least some of the documents would have to involve our one-time UN Ambassador.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

White House on TSA patdowns

"Our goal must to be maximize protection and security and minimize inconvenience and invasiveness.  It's not an easy task."

White House on WikiLeaks diplomatic cable leaks:

"These cables could compromise private discussions with foreign governments and opposition leaders, and when the substance of private conversations is printed on the front pages of newspapers across the world, it can deeply impact not only U.S. foreign policy interests, but those of our allies and friends around the world."

Our privacy doesn't matter so much so you shouldn't expect it.  White House's privacy?  How dare anyone disrespect that?

Wheelin', Dealin', and Leakin'

The NY Times has launched its WikiLeaks "Cablegate" story, and there's quite a bit of international silliness going on that reads more like high school than high diplomacy.  It's the kind of stuff you'd expect:  the US throwing its weight around with Germany on human rights, various strongmen dictators acting like spoiled brats, an odd friendship between Russia's Putin and Italy's Berlusconi, Syria selling weapons to Hezbollah, China trying to hack everybody, corruption in Afghanistan's government, and this little piece of well-timed face-palmage:

Gaming out an eventual collapse of North Korea: American and South Korean officials have discussed the prospects for a unified Korea, should the North’s economic troubles and political transition lead the state to implode. The South Koreans even considered commercial inducements to China, according to the American ambassador to Seoul. She told Washington in February that South Korean officials believe that the right business deals would “help salve” China’s “concerns about living with a reunified Korea” that is in a “benign alliance” with the United States. 

Hey, there's even stuff in there about pre-revolution Tehran in '79 and Noriega before the US invasion of Panama in '89.  Best part so far that needs to end up in a James Bond film:

In a 2006 account, a wide-eyed American diplomat describes the lavish wedding of a well-connected couple in Dagestan, in Russia’s Caucasus, where one guest is the strongman who runs the war-ravaged Russian republic of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov.

The diplomat tells of drunken guests throwing $100 bills at child dancers, and nighttime water-scooter jaunts on the Caspian Sea.

“The dancers probably picked upwards of USD 5000 off the cobblestones,” the diplomat wrote. The host later tells him that Ramzan Kadyrov “had brought the happy couple ‘a five-kilo lump of gold’ as his wedding present.” 

Beats an envelope of cash and a bread machine.

Turning The Other Cheek

So glad we could show as a country that we are above the attempted barbarism of Islamic extremism by not resorting to petty revenge and recriminating violence, and that the terrorists have failed to win because we refuse to give into their escalating spiral of fear and anger.

Oh wait.  What the hell am I talking about.  Of course we're a bunch of violent idiots.

Arson caused a fire at an Islamic center on Sunday that was the occasional place of worship for a Somali-born teen who two days ago was arrested on charges of plotting a terror attack in Portland, authorities said.

Carla Pusateri, a fire prevention officer for the Corvallis Fire Department, said the fire at the Salman Al-Farisi Islamic Center was set early Sunday morning. She says "quite a bit of evidence" was left at the scene, which led her to believe the fire was intentionally set.

No injuries have been reported.

The Islamic center was frequented by Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a 19-year-old held on charges of plotting to carry out a terror attack at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland on Friday.

Yosof Wanly, imam at the center, said 80 percent of the center's office was burned, but the worship areas were untouched.

Wanly said he has been advised by friends to take his family out of their home, and is debating whether to do so.

I know, I know, it's all an AQ plot to make us look like a bunch of frothing, rabid nutjobs because nobody would ever plan to take out their anger on the entire Muslim community in Oregon or elsewhere in the US, right?  They torched the center on purpose, it was a George Soros false flag operation to hurt the Tea Party, yadda yadda.

God this stuff makes my head hurt.

A Stimulating Debate

The CBO's latest numbers on the stimulus are out, and the fact it is worked:

ABC News reports that the Congressional Budget Office this week released its latest report on the effects of the Recovery Act and found that it “raised the GDP, lowered unemployment, and increased the number of people with jobs.” According to the report, CBO estimates that the Recovery Act’s policies in the third quarter of the calendar year 2010 had the following effects (emphasis added):
– They raised real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) by between 1.4 percent and 4.1 percent,
– Lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.8 percentage points and 2.0 percentage points,
– Increased the number of people employed by between 1.4 million and 3.6 million, and,
– Increased the number of full-time-equivalent jobs by 2.0 million to 5.2 million compared with what would have occurred otherwise (see Table 1). (Increases in FTE jobs include shifts from part-time to full-time work or overtime and are thus generally larger than increases in the number of employed workers).
But I know, I know, CBO numbers don't count unless there's a Republican in the White House because it might produce figures that don't support the Republican narrative of reality.  The reality is however that the stimulus is wearing off and winding down as we head into 2011, and the GOP is more than happy to make sure nothing further is done and to blame Obama once the economy gets worse next year (as it most certainly will.)

They're counting on you buying the argument that we can't have any additional water to put out the fire now because it might hurt crops later.

Shop Till The Numbers Drop

Preliminary Black Friday spending numbers are in, and they're virtually no improvement over last year.

Preliminary reports of Black Friday sales are starting to come in. The verdict so far: The crowds were bigger and people walked away with arms full of goodies, but shoppers spent only modestly more this year.

With shoppers scooping up discounted items, total sales rose a slight 0.3% over last year to $10.7 billion, while customer traffic increased 2.2%, according to ShopperTrak, which records sales and customer traffic at more than 70,000 stores and malls.

That's about the same annual sales increase in Black Friday sales as stores saw in 2009.

Stores may have cannibalized some Black Friday sales by prodding shoppers with doorbuster-like deals weeks in advance, said ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin.

Indeed, in the first two weeks of November, sales were up 6.1% and 6.2%, according to ShopperTrak.
"Retailers were very conscious of driving traffic early in November, and in doing so some might have thinned Black Friday spending a bit," Martin said in a statement.

So monthly numbers were up, especially for the first two weeks of November.  But Black Friday numbers went nowhere.  People are expecting great deals outside of the day after Thanksgiving, and retailers are providing them, extending deals to early November and even Thanksgiving Day itself.  Those numbers aren't very encouraging.  What it means is that there's heavy pressure on retailers to lower prices because people aren't buying otherwise, and that shoppers are expecting retailers to discount further.

Not a good sign for economic recovery.

Correlation Does Not Equal Causation

Texas House Republican Lamar Smith takes to the Washington Post to argue that because Democrats didn't quite capture the same level of the Latino vote as they did in 2006 and 2008, that Latinos are now solidly in the R column come election time.

What about the much-trumpeted victories of Reid, Boxer, Gov.-elect Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)? Their Republican opponents lost not because they underperformed among Hispanic voters but because they underperformed among white voters. National exit polls reported by CNN indicated that Republican U.S. House candidates received 60 percent of the white vote overall. But Fiorina and Angle won only 52 percent of the white vote, Ken Buck in Colorado won only 51 percent and California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman won only 50 percent of the white vote. Had each received 60 percent of the white vote, they all would have won.

There was a story in the 2010 midterms that many in the media missed. Dalmia found that "one of the hugely under-reported stories of this election is that Republicans fielded far more minority candidates than Democrats - and they won by touting a restrictionist agenda, proof positive that skin color - and even immigration status - are not always correlated with [illegal] immigration views."

Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, one of the most trusted commentators on Spanish-language television, concluded that "the United States moved to the right, and Latino politicians did so too - among them, a new generation of Hispanic Republicans who support policies that are essentially opposed to the undocumented immigrants in this country." 

And yes, Latino voters did slide towards the right in 2010, along with nearly every other group, by a few percentage points.  But not even Jennifer Rubin is buying Rep. Smith's theory.

But we should add a couple of caveats. First, Smith notes that Gov. Jan Brewer got 28 percent of the vote, a good result, he suggests, since in 2006 the GOP candidate got 26 percent. Umm … I don’t think barely exceeding the vote totals for 2006, a wipe-out year for the Republicans, should be the goal for the GOP. (Moreover, the percentage of voters who are Hispanic has been increasing in each election, so Republicans will need to do better with each election if they are to retain that share of the general electorate.) And while Rick Perry got 38 percent of the Hispanic vote, he got 55 percent of the overall electorate, suggesting that a huge gap still remains in the GOP’s appeal to Hispanics.

Second, Smith ignores the real issues: tone, rhetoric, and position on legal immigration. Marco Rubio believes in border control, but his life story is built around the immigrant experience, and he eschews inflammatory language that has plagued Republicans like Tom Tancredo. As Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell pointed out to me a few years ago, if the Republicans want to continue to make progress among Hispanic voters, they need to object to the “illegal” part, not the “immigration” part, of the equation.

Now both Smith and Rubin declare that the small rightward slide has to be a product of Republican policies on immigration.  What hasn't occurred to either one of them is that Occam's Razor suggests the far more likely causation for the rightward shift is that some Latino voters that backed the Dems in 2006 and especially 2008 stayed home in 2010 and did not vote at all because the Democrats failed to deliver on comprehensive national immigration legislation.

The Democrats did deliver on a number of things over the last two years.  But even I freely admit Obama over-promised and underperformed, and even then it was the Senate that became the graveyard of so much legislation that got through the House, shepherded by the wildly effective Nancy Pelosi.  She did her job.  She passed legislation in the House.  Literally hundreds of House bills will die in the Senate in six weeks.  Maybe a handful of them will be passed in lame duck.

But Pelosi failed to get immigration reform even through the House during the 111th Congress.  Rep Luis Gutierrez's bill was dead by July, and the DREAM Act that would give immigrants a path to citizenship by serving our country in the military is being tied up by Republicans.  The DREAM Act does have a shot and passing it would go a long way towards reversing the slide of Latino voters to the Republican party, which is exactly why it's being tied up by Republicans.

They know that if they can kill it in the lame duck, it will never pass with a Republican-controlled House.  Democrats are asking Latino voters to take the long view to stick with them, but it's increasingly difficult to do that when Republicans at the state level are making things worse for Latinos in the absence of a national immigration bill...oh, and there's the economy where Latino and African-American minorities in general are facing far higher unemployment rates than the national average.  Surely that is contributing to the slide towards the GOP as well.

Unless the Dems can deliver on the DREAM Act in the lame duck, Smith is right that the slide will continue towards the Republicans, despite not actually naming the reason why.
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