Sunday, November 6, 2011

Last Call

If you actually thought o'l Boss Hogg down in Mississippi was really going to vote against the state's odious and rabidly unconstitutional "personhood" amendment on Tuesday's ballot in the state, then you haven't been paying attention to the GOP for the last decade.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour offered his support Friday for an amendment to the state constitution that would define life as beginning at the moment of conception, saying he cast his absentee ballot for the measure despite struggling with its implications.

"I have some concerns about it," he said in a statement issued Friday, a day after casting his ballot. "But I think all in all, I believe life begins at conception, so I think the right thing to do was to vote for it."

On Wednesday, Barbour, a Republican, said that he was still undecided and that the measure was "too ambiguous."

Initiative 26 would define personhood as "every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof."

Though the text of the amendment is simple, the implications if it passes couldn't be more complex. If approved by Mississippi voters on Tuesday, it would make it impossible to get an abortion and hamper the ability to get some forms of birth control.

Of course he grudgingly supports ignoring Roe v. Wade and decades of judicial precedent, not to mention removing the right for women to determine their own bodies.  The only problem he has with the measure is that it's not law already.  Part of the problem is that Initiative 26 takes the oxygen out of the room for discussing Initiative 27, which would immediately disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters in the state.

Mississippi lawmakers argued about voter ID for more than 15 years before Republican Sen. Joey Fillingane of Sumrall started the petition drive that put Initiative 27 on the ballot. Supporters say requiring ID would protect the integrity of elections. Opponents say there's been little proof that people are trying to vote under others' names, and that requiring ID be a way to intimidate older black voters who were once subject to Jim Crow laws.

The National Conference of State Legislatures says 30 states require all voters to show ID at the polls, many of them in the Deep South. Fourteen of the 30 require photo ID.

Nsombi Lambright, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, said that in poor, rural areas, many people might lack any form of government-issued photo ID. She also worries a voter ID law would be applied unevenly, and perhaps unfairly, by poll workers who might not be well trained.

"Voter ID is one of those unnecessary barriers to the voting booth," Lambright said. "We believe it's going to represent a strong deterrent for communities of color, for the elderly and for poor folks to go to the ballot box."

Don't get me wrong, Initiative 26 is awful.  But it's a smokescreen to get Initiative 27 passed with a minimum of fanfare, and yet another red state will be able to throw up economic and social barriers to voting.  That's just as big an issue in the Magnolia State and across the US.

They Said He Had To Go To Rehab, I Said No, No, No

The reconstructive surgery on the Bush 43 presidency continues as McClatchy's Jim Rosen would like you to know that Dubya is the "forgotten man" behind the Arab Spring (according to Huckleberry Hound and the AEI, at least.)

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a military lawyer who's served active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, thinks that's a premature judgment pending the outcome of fast-moving events that may take a decade or longer to play out in the Middle East.

"President Bush deserves credit for creating a spirit that even in the Middle East, where grudges are held forever, things can change and Islamic governments can accommodate the rule of law, tolerance, democracy and other concepts we take for granted," Graham said.

Daniele Pletka, a foreign policy expert at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, said the replacement of repressive regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan with democratic governments, however fragile, is a historic triumph for Bush.

"Of course he should be getting credit because he socialized the world to the notion that somehow democracy was possible in the Arab world," she said. "This was an almost ridiculous notion before his presidency. And we shouldn't discount the liberation of 50 million Muslims who'd lived under oppressive Afghan and Iraqi rule."

Granted, Rosen does put a number of very valid reasons as to why Bush continues to be ignored in the article.  But at best, it's "Earth is flat, views differ" journalism at its finest.  The real tell is while the notion in the article involves whether or not Dubya should get credit, President Obama isn't mentioned at all in the piece.

Kind of telling if you ask me.

It's Not That They're Crooks, It's The Fact All This Is Legal

Some 30 major US corporations have not paid taxes in 3 years.  They made $160 billion collectively.  You paid more taxes than they did.  All of that is 100% legal.  And they gained $10 billion collectively in tax credits.  Not only did they make plenty of money, as a US taxpayer, you gave them more money.

One of the driving forces behind the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests is the fact that corporations have not been paying their fair share in taxes. A new report from Citizens for Tax Justice will no nothing to alleviate the protesters’ frustration.

CTJ looked at 280 companies, all of them members of the Fortune 500, and found that “while the federal corporate tax code ostensibly requires big corporations to pay a 35 percent corporate income tax rate, on average, the 280 corporations in our study paid only about half that amount.” And those who paid even half the statutory corporate tax rate paid far more than many of their competitors.

Here's the list:

Boeing, GE, Wells Fargo, even Mattel. Not a dime in taxes. But we gave $10 billion to these "job creators" over the last three years.  Republicans want to make this arrangement permanent.  GE alone got nearly $5 billion in tax credit over three years and made $10 billion on top of that.  Well Fargo got over half a billion in tax credit on top of the near $50 billion they made in the last three years.

But we don't dare tax the "job creators".  If we did why we might have an unemployment rate of 9 percent or something.

Follow Up: Restaurant That Banned Kids Sees Growth

We posted about a restaurant that banned kids under six.  Some parents were outraged, some people said it was great for a business to exercise choice.  As always, the logical response was more moderate.  It does make sense that kids not be allowed in every single eatery in the world, and those who prefer a kid-free environment should have somewhere to go.  That restaurant has made a successful go of it, increasing revenue by 20% since the rule went into effect.

MONROEVILLE, Pa. -- In July, McDain's Restaurant started a ban on children younger than 6. The story quickly spread from Monroeville and went viral on the Internet, being featured on CNN and Yahoo!

Four months later, owner Mike Vuick told Channel 4 Action News that he has seen a 20 percent increase in business at his eatery on Broadway Boulevard.

"People came from as far away as Detroit, Columbus, D.C., identifying themselves as people to congratulate me on the move," Vuick said.

Released By Mistake, Inmate Turns Himself In

Luis Lopez fled a crime scene where he hit two cars while intoxicated.  Because he fled, his sentence was more serious and he went to jail for a year.  He went through the legal process and was serving his punishment so he could get on to the next chapter in his life.  And then he was released unexpectedly.

OCALA, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Luis Lopez has spent the last three months at the Marion County Jail. He was arrested last August for his second DUI, driving with a suspended license, hitting two cars then leaving the scene.

He pleaded guilty on all counts and was just sentenced this week to a year in jail, followed by a year probation; but then, the most bizarre thing happened.

"I was released from jail," said Lopez. "For some reason, I just listened to what they had to say."

At first, Lopez, 37, questioned the guards, but after they assured him they had the paperwork from the courts ordering his release, he followed their orders and walked out of jail.

Citing his desire to stay on the right side of the law, he consulted with his lawyer just to make sure, and got the devastating news: it was a mistake.  He had to go back.  Lopez immediately turned himself in and will complete his sentence.  He showed great composure and proactively did the right things to make sure this didn't backfire and create an even worse situation.  I feel for the guy, just because it has to be hard to have that moment of joy taken away so quickly.  I admire him for doing the right thing despite the obvious temptation to just go and stay off the radar.

Running The Numbers Wrong, Part 2

On Thursday I pointed out the weird subjective holes in Nate Silver's usually solid objective logic where he declared President Obama's re-election chances to be 50-50 at best, and basically doomed even against Rick Perry unless the economy picks back up.

I'm glad to see I wasn't the only one who noted that particular incongruity in Silver's work as Jon Chait picked up on that later on Thursday in NY Mag as he points out Bush 43 was in the same approval ratings boat in 2004 and still won (barely and because of seriously messy voting problems in Ohio, but that's another story) after attacking John Kerry.

If that’s correct then Obama has a chance to have his approval rating rise simply by drawing a sharp contrast against the Republican nominee. In other words, incumbent approval rating isn't something that's independent of the opposing candidate. Voters may shape their view of the incumbent by making a comparison.

I don’t want to overstate this. It may be wrong. (Or, as a great man once put it, "I don't have the facts to back this up.") But I think that we have to be a little cautious about interpreting the importance of Obama’s mediocre approval ratings in the face of a polarized electorate and a still-discredited opposition party.

In turn, Steve Benen took Silver to task as well as he finds Chait's number were indeed correct.

And why did Bush’s support grow from the mid-40s to the low-50s? Chait argued, persuasively, that voters starting seeing the president “within the context of a partisan choice,” and decided they liked him more after taking a look at the wealthy Massachusetts challenger with an awkward personality and who was often accused of flip-flopping.


Republican-leaning voters who weren’t sold on Bush — weak economy, awful job growth, etc. — became more inclined to support him after evaluating the alternative. Could that happen again with Democratic-leaning voters and Obama? Of course it can. As Chait put it, the president “has a chance to have his approval rating rise simply by drawing a sharp contrast against the Republican nominee. In other words, incumbent approval rating isn’t something that’s independent of the opposing candidate. Voters may shape their view of the incumbent by making a comparison.”

If Republicans were a popular party with a popular agenda, this would be a very different story. Likewise, if Obama were a poor campaigner facing a charismatic GOP frontrunner, I’d have a different set of expectations. But I’ve seen a lot of Obama political obituaries, and at this point, none of them have proven persuasive to me.

Michael Stickings over at The Reaction also disputes Silver's supposition.

Simply put, "Obama: Yes or No" is much different than "Obama or Romney/Perry." In the latter case, that is, in the election, the president will have an enormous advantage given the unpopularity of the Republican Party and its extremism and the lack of strong appeal of the Republican candidate to any constituency outside a certain part of the GOP -- for Perry, the right-wing base; for Romney, the somewhat more moderate but still deeply conservative establishment.
As well, Obama is an outstanding campaigner. He will draw sharp distinctions between himself and his Republican challenger, shaping the election's dominant narratives, and will likely energize voters much as he did in '08 -- perhaps not to that degree, but I suspect more than his detractors expect. He's got appeal that no one on the Republican side can even approach.
And that's the basic issue there.  An incumbent's approval ratings aren't equivalent to re-election polling of the incumbent against specific candidates.  Nate did everything to draw the correlation between the two but in order to bridge the gap, he filled the blanks in with some really silly Village "conventional wisdom" that liberals are disillusioned with the President enough that they will turn the White House over to the Republicans.

There are plenty of people who aren't happy with all of President Obama's policies.  I'm one of them, specifically he's dropped the ball on some economic and a lot of civil liberties issues in order to triage the country for the first two years, and I accept that.  I'm still going to vote for him over any of the specific Republicans in the race right now based on policy.  I suspect a whole hell of a lot of other people are out there in my situation as well.

More importantly, as more people begin to see the list of the President's accomplishments despite the GOP saying "Hell no you can't" to everything, they are starting to come around.  Hell, watch five minutes of any of the GOP debates and you'd want to vote for Obama too.

Greek Fire, Part 44

And Greek PM George Papandraeou is out as a new Greek transitional government will be formed.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou will resign after the makeup of the nation's new coalition government is decided, officials said Sunday.

Sunday's Cabinet meeting will be the last with Papandreou as prime minister, a government spokesman said in a statement. The meeting will focus on issues relating to Monday's Euro group meeting, at which Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos will represent Greece, the statement said.

A spokesman for Papandreou's Socialist PASOK party said the prime minister will resign after the government is announced.

Venizelos is likely to remain in his post as finance minister in a new government, sources told Greek television. Candidates for the prime minister's job include Petros Moliviatis and Loukas Papaimos, according to Greek television.

The new government will have a life of four months, according to Greek television, citing sources, and elections will be held in early spring.

Papandreou won the no confidence vote on Saturday, but he's stepping down because opposition leader Antonis Samaras insisted that he did in exchange for winning the no confidence vote (which is kind of odd, because if Papandreou lost, the same process would have happened.)  I guess it was done in order to take the markets by surprise, maybe?

Either way things just got even more strange in Europe.  Batten down the hatches.  Monday's going to be crazy.
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