Archive for March, 2010

‘Repeal and replace’ already being repealed, replaced

from Associated Press:

“Top Republicans are increasingly worried that GOP candidates this fall might be burned by a fire that’s roaring through the conservative base: demand for the repeal of President Barack Obama’s new health care law.

It’s fine to criticize the health law and the way Democrats pushed it through Congress without a single GOP vote, these party leaders say. But focusing on its outright repeal carries two big risks.

Repeal is politically and legally unlikely, and grass-roots activists may feel disillusioned by a failed crusade. More important, say strategists from both parties, a fiercely repeal-the-bill stance might prove far less popular in a general election than in a conservative-dominated GOP primary, especially in states such as Illinois and California….”

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who chairs the committee responsible for electing GOP senators this fall, said in an interview, “The focus really should be on the misplaced priorities of the administration” …

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Is U.S. ‘a mirror image of Rome as it tipped into chaos’?

Mark Fisher, writing this week for BusinessWeek and Bloomberg News, warns that “the U.S. today is a mirror image of the Roman Empire as it tipped into chaos. Whether we blame our bloated government, a greedy elite or a lethargic population, the similarities between the two foreshadow a gruesome future.”

It’s a familiar and often popular defeatist trope. Ever since 18th century historian Edward Gibbon wrote his famous “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” every succeeding empire — and by many definitions the United States is exactly that — has looked nervously to the Roman example. The narrative arc of Gibbon’s story — Rome fell as its people grew soft and weak — lends itself to those who want to see a similar arc in their own time and place.

Fisher, for example, claims that just as the Romans allowed themselves to be distracted by bread and circuses, “Americans have become less productive while relying more on social safety net programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social …

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Even Karl Rove, wrong as he is, has a right to be heard

I am not exactly a fan of Karl Rove, but I’m even less a fan of this kind of confrontational “street theater.” This incident illustrates exactly why. Rove was in effect denied the right to speak by those who decided on their own to silence him, and that is unacceptable behavior.

Local CBS reporter Dave Bryan, who filed the above video report, also described what happened in a post to his station’s website.

About 100 fans came out to hear Karl Rove at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills Monday night to discuss his book “Courage and Consequences: My Life As a Conservative In The Fight,” — but the fight wasn’t contained to his book.

Anti-war protesters came out, some rushing the stage, to call Rove a “war criminal” and worse….

One woman, the co-founder of the anti-war group Code Pink, approached him with handcuffs and said she was there to make a citizen’s arrest. Jodie Evans charged him with “outing a CIA agent…you lied to take us to war…” and “totally ruining the country.”

…. …

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Ga. Senate endorses bizarre anti-black conspiracy plot

Last week, the Georgia Senate gave sanction to a bizarre, destructive and racially condescending conspiracy theory. By a 33-14 vote, it approved a bill that purports to outlaw the attempted genocide of black Americans through abortion.

Under the bill’s language, a health care provider could be convicted of a felony and sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for performing an abortion “with the intent to prevent an unborn child from being born based upon the race, color, or gender of the unborn child or the race or color of either parent of that unborn child.”

The bill is inspired by a claim that abortion providers are engaged in a conspiracy to reduce the number of black children born in this country. As Georgia Right to Life has argued in billboards and other outlets, “black children are an endangered species” that need the protection of law against a campaign to eradicate them.

As proof of that campaign’s existence, Georgia Right to Life cites the fact that more than twice as …

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Economy in a holding pattern, awaiting job-creation boost

The economy may move in cycles, but the timing of those cycles is naturally the subject of intense interest and speculation. That’s particularly true in the most severe recession to hit this country since the Great Depression, with millions of Americans out of work for long stretches of time.

The folks at the Atlanta Federal Reserve recently posted these two charts that together explain pretty clearly exactly where we find ourselves. (The data driving the charts date to January, but nothing in the numbers since then would change much.)

The first charts the number of layoffs and firings over the last decade (areas in gray are recessions.) The spike in the current recession is both higher and more sustained than in the recession at the start of the century, but in recent months it has fallen dramatically to somewhat normal levels.
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The second illustration charts the collapse in hiring as the recession hits. It starts to fall off a cliff in early 2008, and it continues to plummet …

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Has Michael Steele just run out of lives as RNC chair?

NOTE: Two updates below:

I wonder whether this will finally be enough to force the Republicans to dump their embarrassment of a party chairman.

The Daily Caller writes about Michael Steele’s free-wheeling ways with party money, focusing on his use of private jets to ferry him about the country and his rather hefty hotel bills.

“According to federal disclosure records, the RNC spent $17,514 on private aircraft in the month of February alone (as well as $12,691 on limousines during the same period). There are no readily identifiable private plane expenses for Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine in the DNC’s last three months of filings.

The RNC explains that Steele charters jets only when commercial service is unavailable, or when his tight schedule requires it. “Anytime the chairman has taken any private travel has been a either to a route that doesn’t exist or because of connections and multiple travel to where he just wasn’t able to do so,” Heye said. Yet …

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Ga.’s response to bank crisis exposes limits to federalism

Georgia politicians can sometimes talk a good game.

They complain a lot about federal interference and unfunded mandates from Washington (even as they more quietly accept billions in federal stimulus money). They talk about the Tenth Amendment and states’ rights and state sovereignty. Last week, the Georgia Senate approved a bill making it illegal for any state employee to implement any part of the federal health-reform law without a prior vote of approval by the Legislature.

Meanwhile, two more Georgia banks were ordered closed on Friday, raising the state’s total for 2010 to seven. Since Jan. 1, 2009, 32 Georgia banks have been closed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, easily the highest total in the nation.

This week’s victims were Unity National Bank of Cartersville, which was closed at a cost to the FDIC of $67.2 million, and McIntosh Commercial Bank of Carrollton, shuttered at a cost of 123.3 million. Like many of the closed banks, McIntosh was a …

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A little travelin’ music from down Texas way

We went to see Jeff Bridges in the movie “Crazy Heart” a few weeks ago, and it was excellent. And all the time I was watching it, I was thinking of the late Townes Van Zandt. The Bridges’ character, known as Bad Blake, had a lot of Townes in him, as did his music.

But of course, since this was Hollywood, Bad Blake by the end became Good Blake and survived his sins and excesses. Townes did not.

The truth is, Townes was a great picker and songwriter but not that great a singer. At best he could often make a virtue of his limitations. So here’s an interesting version of his most famous song, performed by a couple of other pickers who also reap virtue from their limitations.

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OK, I admit it. I was wrong about Obama.

Back in May, I noted that Barack Obama was setting up a high-risk test of will and strength with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the issue of settlements. It was, I wrote, a test that Obama dared not lose so early in his presidency.

As Secretary of State Clinton described it at the time, Obama “wants to see a stop to settlements — not some settlements, not outposts, not ‘natural growth’ exceptions. We think it is in the best interests [of the peace process] that settlement expansion cease. That is our position. That is what we have communicated very clearly. … And we intend to press that point.”

But settlements continued, with little U.S. response. By November, in a piece headlined “Obama failed to back up tough talk in Middle East,” I wrote that the president had lost that test of wills:

“Israel under Benjamin Netanyahu in effect called Obama’s bluff, blithely ignoring the American pressure and continuing to expand settlements. Obama has been powerless to …

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On health-care reform, money talks, bull-oney walks

The passage of health-care reform marks the transition of the United States from a capitalist to a socialist economy, and is destined to hasten the financial collapse of this once proud and great nation.

Or so the rhetoric on the right would describe it. It is “Armageddon” and will “ruin our country,” as House Minority Leader John Boehner has claimed.

Yet as we all know, talk is cheap. What is the verdict of those with real skin in the game, those who have invested vast amounts of money in the previously capitalistic system and are about to see those fortunes, along with economic liberty, snatched away from them by government? These are the people most sensitive to change, the students of the game who will suddenly shift billions of dollars from one place to another in response to the slightest hint of change in the economic winds.

How have they responded to the onslaught of Armageddon and the abandonment of capitalist principles?

Yawn.

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Last Friday, the Dow closed at 10,741. …

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