Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Last Call

Looks like Mitt Romney's brilliant strategy of "lay low until everyone else in the GOP Clown Car self-destructs" isn't working too well in South Carolina as Governor Goodhair pulls ahead.

The fact that Perry is now dominating in South Carolina, a conservative state, is probably not news to campaign watchers. The PPP survey shows him with 36 percent of the potential vote, followed by Romney with 16 and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) at 13, the second poll in five days to show Perry with a big lead. But the crosstabs show that Romney, the presumed "moderate" candidate (or at least more moderate), cannot even defend his own turf in the middle of the GOP electorate in a conservative state. He faces an implacable right wing of the party, which is fully in Perry's column, and moderate sect that is willing to support Perry despite his more strident views.

OK see, here's the thing:  what Republican moderates?  Can you really consider anyone flocking to Rick Perry's banner a moderate at this point?  Can you consider a Republican in South Carolina to be a moderate at this point, even?  Let's take a look at the PPP poll a little more closely.

Only 25% of SC Republicans believe in global warming and 61% said no.  Even more staggering, only 32% believe in evolution while again a majority, 57%, say they don't believe in it.  Of the Republicans who do believe in global warming, some 51% have a favorable view of Rick Perry.  Of those who believe in evolution, 60% have a favorable view of Rick Perry.  They aren't bothered in the least by the fact Perry has publicly denied either exists.  So again I say, what moderates?

And when it comes to those voters who like the Tea Party, Perry dominates, one of many examples in the data showing he's sewing up the conservative vote in the early going. South Carolina GOP voters like the Tea Party at 71 percent clip, against only 13 percent who don't, so it's an enormous cross section of voters in the primary. Perry is viewed favorably by those who like the Tea Party (73 - 9) and spilts fairly evenly with those who don't (42 - 46), thus locking up his base. But Romney actually has higher unfavorable ratings among voters who also see the Tea Party negatively, 40 percent, than he does of those GOP voters who actually like the conservative movement, 33 percent. Perry then builds an insurmountable lead among the large sample of Tea Party supporters, of which he is the first choice of 41 percent, versus Romney's take of 27 percent of the Tea Party haters. Even among those who aren't fans of the Tea Party, Perry manages to come in second, with 16 percent.

If 71% of South Carolina Republicans like the Tea Party, they're not moderates in any way shape or form.  Rick Perry is doing well precisely because he is an anti-science, anti-choice knuckle-dragger, and that plays in the Palmetto State, period.

Anyone who expected Mitt Romney to do well in South Carolina needs their head examined.

But He Has A Blimp

Hey America?  Can we stop pretending that Ron Paul is anything other than a Republican anti-science conservative who likes pot and hates central bankers?

Yes, Ron Paul doesn't believe in evolution. Yggy:

As I’ve been saying, a lot of progressives seem to be slightly confused as to who Ron Paul is. They think he’s like that one rich uncle you have, shares a lot of your basic values but hates paying taxes and seems to take a dim view of poor people. The reality is that Paul is much closer to Pat Buchanan, a socially conservative nationalist whose idea of nationalist foreign policy is to withdraw troops from South Korea and deploy them to the Mexican border. Given what a strong force nationalism is in American life, I do wish that we had more nationalist isolationism and less nationalist enthusiasm for global contrast. But Paul’s view is that the quest to ban abortion is “the most important issue of our age,” his signature economic policy idea (“End the Fed!”) is a crank slogan that has nothing to do with free market economics, etc. Fortunately, in Paultopia there won’t be any public schools, federal funding of scientific research, etc., so it probably doesn’t matter what he believes in evolution.

And please don't get me started on Ron Paul's views on civil rights, either.  He's exactly like his son Rand in a number of respects.  Compassionless Conservatives, you can call them.  The only difference between Ron Paul and the rest of the GOP Clown Car field is that Paul has been playing the firebagger game for a far longer period of time.

Go Big Or Go Home

There are two schools of thought on what President Obama should do for his jobs program announcement next month:  One, that he should announce a major new jobs initiative to help the millions of long-term unemployed and dare the GOP to block it (and they will and nobody will receive any help at all), or two, that he should announce a smaller program though the aegis of the executive branch.  The GOP will attack the President anyway and call the measure a failure, but some people will get some help.

Eugene Robinson at the Washington Post is all about Option One here.

Obama and his advisers know very well that this is the wrong time to cut government spending. They know that using federal money to seed big new initiatives — to upgrade the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, jump-start the “clean” energy industry, retrain the unemployed so they can compete in tomorrow’s job market — would give the economy a much-needed boost. They know, too, that federal action to buoy the housing market would help revive consumer spending, thus giving corporations a reason to invest the estimated $1 trillion they’re sitting on.

Such ambitious proposals would demonstrate that the president is willing to think big — that he is not willing to accept the Republican narrative of massive retrenchment and, by implication, inevitable decline.

So Obama should go big, not small, with his jobs plan. It is hard to overstate how apprehensive most Americans are about the future. Boldness from the president may or may not get the nation’s mojo working again. Timidity surely won’t.

On one hand, Robinson has a real point.  Pushing the Overton Window to the left is long, long overdue. Reframing the argument as President Obama's decisive, strong plan to create American jobs through a major public works initiative would help combat the conservative rhetoric that all government jobs are theft bordering on immorality.   It would also draw a huge, stark contrast between the Democrats and Republicans heading into 2012.  But Republicans would kill the measure instantly, and therein lies the problem.

Republican leaders in the House of Representatives would immediately declare any such ambitious program dead on arrival. The president should welcome their opposition — and campaign vigorously against it. He can offer voters a choice between a pinched, miserly vision of the country’s prospects on the one hand and an optimistic, expansive view on the other. He needs to demand what’s right, not what the other side is willing to give.

We know Obama can be rational, realistic and eminently reasonable. Right now, he needs to be anything but. 

And here's where I disagree with Robinson.  A plan doomed from the beginning will help with the battle of rhetoric, but it will not help the tens of millions out of work right now put food on the table.  Like it or not, the President's job is to steward the country, not tilt at windmills.  In a perfect world, President Obama dropping a new Public Works Administration proposal would be the right thing to do.  But if the plan is destined to fail immediately, and for the President to spend political capital defending it, how does that help people who are out of work now and need help now in order to help their families?

But couldn't the President do both, then?  Immediately enact executive branch measures through the departments of Labor and Commerce to help the country and push for a new PWA?  That I think would be much more effective in the short and long term.  A combination of both approaches is what is needed, because if there's anything Robinson and I agree on, it's that any jobs proposal taken before Congress will be blocked by the Republicans, period, end of line.

In that respect, anything that President Obama does propose to put forth in front of Capitol Hill must be a doozy, Robinson is right on that.

We'll see what happens.

Debate Is A Good Thing

After two wars, the Arab Spring, and the death of Osama bin Laden, is it finally time to end the war on terror?

Four days before the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, a group of homeland security and terrorism experts will tackle this very question in a live Oxford-style debate in New York City. CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen and Homeland Security expert Juliette Kayyem will argue for the motion that "It is time to end the war on terror." Former Deputy Homeland Security Adviser Richard Falkenrath and former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden will argue against the motion.
I voted yes, and see that I am with the majority (at the time of writing, 82% said yes, it is time to end the war on terror).  However, I am willing to listen to what the other side has to say.  A good reason may come to light, or a laundry list of things that we should have in check before ending the war.  My reasons include lack of faith in our government (I think the Patriot Act and other actions have been allowed only because of the war on terror), realization that thanks to the diligence of our protectors we have so far been safe from many attacks, and suspicious that a catchphrase has taken over common sense.  I am glad to see debates like this give us a chance to listen and take in new information.  Regardless of which side wins, this is a major victory for people who dream of reform.  It starts here, with debates like this.

What say you?  I am curious what you all have to say about this.

The Apology Of The Year

I have a warped sense of humor, this is a fact.  But I was not the only one laughing when Andy Levy apologized to Chris Brown for their Twitter war.

Seriously, I agreed with everything he said here.  He beat the crap out of her, not just a single slap or a melodramatic arm grab.  He beat her.  Then he tried to deny it.  Then he just shut up.  Why the hell is this punk still on our radar at all?  Because he's a modestly talented ass, and we have yet to see him get his due.  He claims momentary lapse of judgement, a one-time step off the righteous path.  Bullshit.  That type of behavior doesn't leap to the surface, it simmers over time.  One semi-public incident couldn't be covered up, so he has been forced to answer for his actions.  Was Levy's response in poor taste?  You betcha.  Was Brown's sin more offensive?  No contest.  Which incidentally, is his stance on the whole beating the hell out of a 110 lb. woman.

150 Years Later, Things Haven't Changed Much

The Department of Justice would apparently like to have a word with GOP Gov. Nikki Haley about the state's new Voter ID law.

On Friday, the state Senate's Democratic caucus filed an official objection to the law with the Justice Department.

"This is just wrong," said state Sen. Gerald Malloy. "With all the problems we have in this state relating to the economy, and we end up having a partisan bill that would disenfranchise poor and primarily African-American voters -- this is not where we want our state to go."

Haley has insisted the law isn't meant to discriminate against any group and that showing a photo ID at the polls is common sense.

"If you can show a picture to buy Sudafed, if you can show a picture to get on an airplane, you should be able to show a picture to make sure that we do what is incredibly inherent in our freedoms and that is the ability to vote," Haley said.

That's a talking point that Democrats have been pushing back against in recent months.

"You wanna know something? Getting a video from Blockbuster is not a constitutional right. Getting liquor from the liquor store is not a constitutional right," Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) said at at news conference on Capitol Hill in July.

And there's what Democrats across the country need to be responding with.  Voting is a right under the Constitution, and Voter ID laws are designed by conservatives to put barriers in front of that right for certain groups, based on time and money constraints.  The laws were passed to make voting more difficult and to reduce the number of people who have their vote count, period.

It doesn't get any simpler than that.  We should be making voting easier to accomplish, so that more people can exercise their right to vote, not less.  But Republicans do not believe that, and that's all you really need to know about the truth behind these laws.

Voting really is the most sacred duty a citizen can perform in our country, and doing so should be as painless as possible, not made more difficult in order to restrict it to the "right" people.

What Irene Left Behind

Rain, and lots of it.  The state of Vermont has been particularly hard hit by flash-flooding along the state's many tributaries off Lake Champlain and Gov. Peter Shumlin says more damage is all but certain.

"It's just devastating," Gov. Peter Shumlin said Monday. "Whole communities under water, businesses, homes, obviously roads and bridges, rail transportation infrastructure. We've lost farmers' crops," he said. "We're tough folks up here but Irene ... really hit us hard."

Hundreds of people remained trapped Monday in communities cut off by raging floodwaters that washed out or otherwise damaged 263 roads and bridges, Shumlin said. Exactly how many were stranded remained unclear, he said.

"It's hard for us to know, frankly, because it's hard for us to get into the communities we need to get to," he said.

Highlighting the transportation problems, the Vermont National Guard had to travel through neighboring Massachusetts to get rescue crews to the small, cut-off town of Wilmington, the governor said.

With many of the state's bridges and roads damaged, getting help to where it is needed is the problem.  Even worse, nearly half the state's cell phone towers are offline right now.  Here's hoping things get better soon.

Turn On The Lights, Watch The Roaches Scatter Part 76

If you thought Bank of America was out of the woods after their deal with Warren Buffet for $5 billion, it seems the financial giant is still in need of liquid capital as it has sold its stake in China's Construction Bank for another $8.3 billion.

A group of investors is buying 13.1 billion CCB shares from Bank of America, with the deal expected to close in the third quarter. The U.S. bank declined to name the investors but two sources said Singapore state fund Temasek was among the buyers.

Bank of America needs to boost capital by some $50 billion in the coming years to meet new global rules, according to multiple analyst estimates.

CCB is the second-largest bank by market value in the world, and Bank of America's ties with the Chinese bank are seen as an important source of future growth, particularly as economic growth in the United States is likely to be tepid for now.

Bank of America's willingness to sell part of its CCB investment as soon as it was contractually able to shows how far it must go to meet new capital requirements, analysts said.

"Bank of America's decision to sell that stake is wrong strategically in the long run, but they need money," said Josef Schuster, founder of Chicago-based IPO research and investment house IPOX Schuster.

It looks very much like the company's stock price is still a major concern, trading at just uder $12 a share in June to fall off a cliff and hit the $6 mark...a 50% drop, mind you, last week.  It's up above $8 as a result of this deal and the deal with Buffett, but that may not last.

The larger concern of course is the fact the bank was sued by AIG for $10 billion earlier this month for foreclosure fraud.  That opened the floodgates and Bank of America has been struggling ever since, rapidly trying to come up with fresh capital in any way possible.

The even bigger concern is that the bank is leveraged to the hilt anyway, so the change in stock price has all but floored it.  And the Fed doesn't seem particularly eager to help out very much.

And the largest concern?  The bank's settlement with states is now being objected to by the FDIC.  The company now has a sword of Damocles the size of tens of billions hanging over it, because if you think AIG is the only company that will file suit after the settlement deal collapses, well you've not been paying attention to the other 75 posts in the Fraudclosuregate series here.

Hell of a ride shaping up here.


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