Archive for January, 2010

No quibbles, it’s a big win for the GOP

I’ve got an airport run to make this morning, and won’t have time to write an extensive piece on last night’s election results. So let me reiterate what I wrote earlier:

The impact of the Brown victory will be significant, and I don’t blame Republicans in the least for their giddiness over this race. Democrats have tried to downplay the significance of the loss by arguing that Massachusetts often elects Republicans statewide, and that Coakley ran a poor campaign, becoming the Bill Buckner of Mass. politics.

While all of that is true, none of it really matters. What matters is who gets the W, and who gets the L. The GOP now holds the seat long held by Ted Kennedy; and it has regained its 41st Senate vote. Again, a big night for the GOP.

More later…

Continue reading No quibbles, it’s a big win for the GOP »

Votes have been cast in Bay State, and the winner is ….

The polls closed at 8 p.m. Let the bewailing and/or celebrating begin.

I’d say Brown wins by five points or more.

Also that the Dems find some way to get the health-care reform bill to Obama to sign.

Continue reading Votes have been cast in Bay State, and the winner is …. »

In Atlanta briefing, Petraeus offers a tour of his world

It’s a bottom-line question in a business where the bottom line is all that matters:

“Are we winning?”

In an Atlanta appearance Tuesday, Gen. David Petraeus said that in this kind of war, it’s hard to know and the answer varies from place to place.

In Pakistan, al Qaida’s capacity to launch attacks has been diminished in part because of actions taken by the Pakistani military, Petraeus said at a luncheon sponsored jointly by the Atlanta Press Club and the Commerce Club. In Iraq, violence is down by 90 percent compared to levels in 2007. In Yemen, long-festering problems are now spreading beyond that country’s borders. And in Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has proved a boon to U.S. diplomatic efforts in the region. His rhetoric and behavior have scared his neighbors into much closer cooperation with the United States, Petraeus said.

“We would all like to see diplomacy resolve the concerns with Iran’s nuclear program,” the general said, adding grimly that “we’re still …

Continue reading In Atlanta briefing, Petraeus offers a tour of his world »

Dems plot ways to enact health care bill with 59 Senate votes

According to House Republican Leader John Boehner, failure to pass the health-care reform plan means “the end of the Obama agenda.”

And the key to stopping health-care reform, he argues, is winning the Senate race in Massachusetts.

“I have no doubt that the people of Massachusetts are looking at this race as a way to send Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama a message to stop this spending,” Boehner said. “We can continue to put pressure on them, exploit those differences and bring this bill down.”

Over at FiveThirtyEight.com, Nate Silver predicts that the Republicans will achieve the first part of that goal today.

“The FiveThirtyEight Senate Forecasting Model, which correctly predicted the outcome of all 35 Senate races in 2008, now regards Republican Scott Brown as a 74 percent favorite to win the Senate seat in Massachusetts on the basis of new polling from ARG, Research 2000 and InsiderAdvantage which show worsening numbers for Brown’s opponent, Martha Coakley,” …

Continue reading Dems plot ways to enact health care bill with 59 Senate votes »

At Ga. Legislature, wisdom and justice sacrificed for obsession

Last year, with the economy collapsing and state tax revenue already in free fall, Georgia legislators paused on their way out the door to pass a major last-minute tax cut.

Fully implemented, the 50 percent reduction in capital-gains tax would have cost the state $400 million a year. Gov. Sonny Perdue wisely vetoed the measure, pointing out the impact it would have on an already ravaged state treasury.

At the time, I thought that tax cut was the very height of legislative foolishness. I now confess to being foolishly, completely wrong. Legislative foolishness works much like housing prices, I fear, spiraling higher and higher until the day it brings everything crashing down around it.

This year, the problems with the budget are even more severe than in 2009. The healthy reserves that once cushioned spending cuts have been exhausted. After sustaining $3 billion in cuts from a budget already recognized nationally as lean and efficient, another $1.5 billion in cuts or tax hikes …

Continue reading At Ga. Legislature, wisdom and justice sacrificed for obsession »

Obama’s performance in the polls parallels that of Reagan … so far

40.44
I’ve written before about the parallels between the polling performance of Barack Obama and that of Ronald Reagan, who also took office at a time of economic difficulty. The chart at left (H/t Washington Monthly) lays it out graphically.

Dan Balz, writing in the Washington Post, echoes the point as well:

Around the White House these days, the president’s advisers draw analogies with Reagan to paint a hopeful portrait of Obama’s weakened standing. Reagan, they note, had approval ratings around 50 percent at the end of his first year in office and ended up winning a landslide reelection victory in 1984. What they don’t say so vocally is that Reagan’s approval dipped into the 40s in the fall of 1982, and that his party suffered substantial losses in Congress that November

Obama has long shown an interest in Reagan’s presidency. During Obama’s campaign, he got under the skin of former President Bill Clinton when he characterized Reagan’s presidency as one that “changed the …

Continue reading Obama’s performance in the polls parallels that of Reagan … so far »

On King Day, a return to the mountaintop

Atlanta’s most famous native son, now and forever, delivered his last words in public on April 3, 1968 in Memphis, TN. The next morning, James Earl Ray watched King emerge from his hotel room, caught Martin Luther King Jr. in the sights of his rifle and pulled the trigger.

Listening to this, watching this, and maybe most of all seeing the look in King’s eyes that night, it’s hard to shake the conclusion that King knew that bullet was coming, that he understood that the events leading to his death had already been set into motion and that all he could do was to let them play out.

King was flawed, as all of us are flawed. But unlike most of us, he had also been granted both a sacred mission and the skills with which to achieve it, not least of which was raw, basic courage. As this clip demonstrates, he also had the wisdom to take the promises of America seriously, to challenge his country to live up to what it claimed to believe. That challenge remains, and will always …

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The Battle of Massachusetts critical to Obama, Dems

Politics is often all about symbolism, and the symbolic impact to the Democrats of losing Ted Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts, and with it perhaps the health-care reform effort that Kennedy sought for so long, would be substantial.

As a sign of its importance, President Obama will travel to Massachusetts Sunday to campaign in person for Democrat Martha Coakley. Given what’s at stake for his presidency, and his debt to Kennedy, he really had no choice but to commit to the battle.

I don’t blame Republicans in the least for their giddiness over this race. Democrats have tried to downplay the significance of a possible loss by arguing that Massachusetts often elects Republicans statewide, and that Coakley has run a poor campaign, all of which is true and none of which really matters.

from the Washington Post:

BOSTON — Shaken by polls showing Republican Scott Brown surging in the Senate race that could decide the fate of President Obama’s agenda, Democrats on Friday scrambled to …

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Some travelin’ music with a message for Haiti tonight

I can’t claim to know much about Haitian music, but I’ve long been aware of one of the island’s most famous bands, Boukman Eksperyans. Wikipedia informs us that “the band derives its name from Dutty Boukman, a vodou priest who led a religious ceremony in 1791 that is widely considered the start of the Haitian Revolution. The other half of the band’s name, “Eksperyans”, is the Kreyòl word for “experience”, and was inspired by the band’s appreciation of the music of Jimi Hendrix.”

By the way, that’s the very religious ceremony cited by Pat Robertson as the “pact with the devil” that dooms Haiti to this day. (The historical Boukman was known in English as Book Man, because he could read.)

The song above is apparently a protest song dating back to 1990 that brought Boukman Eksperyans to prominence in Haiti. As Wiki explains it, “the song included the refrain “My heart doesn’t leap, I’m not afraid”. This song was a protest against the living conditions under the post-Duvalier …

Continue reading Some travelin’ music with a message for Haiti tonight »

… in which Mark Twain tries to explain the Middle East

sam clements

Samuel Clements, better known as Mark Twain

Last night I was reading some Mark Twain short stories and ran across “Tom Sawyer Abroad,” which picks up the tale at the close of Twain’s masterpiece, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.”

Young Tom has returned to Hannibal, Mo. and, as is Tom’s way, has begun to get a little bored and footloose. So he calls his buddies Jim and Huck Finn together and announces that he has decided on a new adventure: He’s going on a crusade.

Huck, who tells the story, is a mite confused. What’s a crusade? he asks Tom.

Mr. Twain can take it from here:

“A crusade is a war to recover the Holy Land from the paynim.”

“Which Holy Land?”

“Why, THE Holy Land — there ain’t but one.”

“What do WE want of it?”

“Why, can’t you understand? It’s in the hands of the paynim, and it’s our duty to take it away from them.”

“How did we come to let them git hold of it?”

“We didn’t come to let them git hold of it. They always had it.”

“Why, Tom, then it must belong to them, …

Continue reading … in which Mark Twain tries to explain the Middle East »