Archive for April, 2011

Ky. congressman has well-lubed operation


I know it’s not cold hard cash stashed in a freezer, but still … the amount of money involved is a little mind-boggling.

From Politico:

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), the new chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, has funneled more than $236 million in federal funds since 2000 to a web of nonprofit groups he created back home in the Bluegrass State, according to a new report by an ethics watchdog group.

Another group of private firms linked to Rogers and the nonprofit companies received another $227 million in federal loans, grants and contracts during the same period, a three-month investigation by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) found.

Rogers’ family members, current and former aides, donors and business associates have benefited personally from the congressman’s largesse with federal dollars, according to the report. For instance, Rogers’ son, John, worked for one Kentucky company – Senture – that received a $4 million contract …

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The ’situational conservatives’ in the Georgia GOP

Georgia Republicans like to tout themselves as true economic conservatives.

They’re not. Not by a long shot.

The core of economic conservatism, also known as laissez faire economics, is faith in a free market. That school of thought holds that if the laws of supply and demand are given free rein, they will distribute goods and services as efficiently and productively as possible.

Under such a theory, government is forbidden from intervening or picking winners; it can’t play favorites. Its role is to create a level playing field upon which individuals and businesses alike can compete, with the most efficient and productive reaping the biggest rewards.

Georgia Republicans do honor that approach in some ways. To individuals in need of help, they preach a sternly libertarian philosophy of “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.” They distrust government programs to aid the unemployed or provide health care to those unable to afford it, and in some cases they seek to …

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King & Spalding withdraws as counsel in gay-marriage case

Earlier this month, Paul Clement, a high-powered Washington partner in the Atlanta-based law firm King & Spalding, agreed to represent House Speaker John Boehner and the House of Representatives in their effort to defend the constitutionality of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act.

But King & Spalding, it seems, has had second thoughts. The law firm’s chairman, Robert Hays, announced today that the firm had made a mistake in accepting the case, explaining that the decision had not been properly vetted before the announcement.

In response, Clement resigned, effective immediately. (His resignation letter can be found here.) He did so “out of the firmly held belief that a representation should not be abandoned because the client’s legal position is extremely unpopular in some quarters,” and said that he will continue to handle the case at another firm.

I can’t comment on the internal vetting process that occurred or didn’t occur at King & Spalding before Clement, who served as …

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Gas soars; voters whine; oil profits boom; politicians pander

From the Wall Street Journal (subsc. req.):

Booming crude-oil prices and improved refining profits are poised to put a firecracker under Big Oil’s first-quarter earnings and set the stage for a year that could come close to rivaling the industry’s record year in 2008.

First-quarter crude prices averaged about $100 a barrel, or about 20% higher than a year ago, pushed upward by oil-supply concerns due to political unrest in the Arab World and a recovering global economy. That spike is expected to lift earnings by about 50% at Exxon Mobil Corp., and about 33% each at Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips, compared with a year earlier….

“Major oil companies are firing on all cylinders,” says Fadel Gheit, an analyst with Oppenheimer & Co. “Their first-quarter earnings are going to be much, much better than a year ago.”

If oil prices continue to climb, they could at least rival 2008. That year, U.S. producers reported astronomic profits as crude hit $147 a barrel for a time. Exxon that …

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Travelin’ to Graceland, Graceland, Graceland Tennessee

Once they’ve made a name and career for themselves, novelists, musicians, actors, painters and other creatives face a common challenge: Now what? Do you keep doing what you’ve done, what made you famous, or do you bust out of that niche and try something fresh and new?

Twenty-five years ago, a semi-washed-up pop star by the name of Paul Simon decided to try to something new, infusing his work with exotic influences from South Africa and Louisiana and Mexico. In “Graceland,” Simon produced one of those rare albums in which musicianship and creativity were rewarded with popularity. It was a fresh work of art by a mature professional, plus it made your feet twitch and your heart jump.

In its Silver Anniversary year, here’s the title cut:

– Jay Bookman

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Birtherism: The monster that ate the GOP

Top Republican leaders have begun a belated effort to squash the birther theory that threatens to define their party as a bunch of lunatics, at least among those many Americans who don’t share the obsessions of the GOP base.

But I have no sympathy, because they brought this on themselves.

As far back as the 2008 campaign, the core of the Republican marketing strategy has been to discredit Barack Obama by depicting him as the much-feared “other” — an unAmerican, even anti-American, Muslim, anti-colonial socialist Kenyan, etc. The notion never really penetrated the general population, but among much of the GOP base it has grown into an article of faith, as much a sign of Republican fealty as a no-tax pledge and the adoration of Ronald Reagan. From its humble beginnings in the fertile imaginations of Orly Taitz and others, it has become the GOP’s Frankenstein, a monstrous creation that they no longer control and in fact now fear.

It has, for example, given them a nightmare …

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Atlanta school board gets the message … right?

By signing Senate Bill 79, Gov. Nathan Deal has given himself authority to suspend school board members in any district that has lost or is in serious danger of losing its accreditation.

Say, for example, a certain embattled school board in a certain capital city with a certain investigation underway involving alleged cheating by teachers and administrators?

Yup, that very one.

Deal says he hopes never to have to use that authority, and there’s no reason to doubt his sincerity. Stripping duly elected public officials of the power given them by voters ought to be a last resort, and as a rule, governors don’t like to get involved in school board politics. For those and other reasons, the legislation is a purely symbolic statement of state concern about the way the Atlanta School Board has conducted itself.

But if necessary, it could become something more. The new law, if approved by the U.S. Justice Department, would also allow Deal to appoint temporary board members to carry …

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Why does GOP want to protect tax cheats?

Riddle me this, Batman:

If it’s pointed out that a family of four making $40,000 a year pays no federal income taxes, many conservatives tend to get upset that the family isn’t paying their fair share like the rest of us.

On the other hand, if it’s pointed out that a multi-millionaire or billionaire pays no federal income tax, the reaction is to applaud his or her accountant for successfully cheating the government.

If a corporation is reported to have avoided paying corporate taxes, the reaction is again applause, under the thesis that corporations shouldn’t have to pay taxes anyway.

But if that corporation in question is General Electric, its ability to pay little or no taxes is cited as an outrageous scandal that must be addressed and investigated. (By the way, the company just announced a 77 percent increase in first quarter profits.)

And of course, as part of its demands to end the budget standoff earlier this month, the GOP demanded and got $600 million in cuts from the …

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The Newtster gives some love to the Donald

How many ex-wives do each of us have?

How many ex-wives do each of us have?

“If my choice was Barack Obama or Donald Trump, I would have zero hesitation saying that Donald Trump is dramatically less dangerous to America’s future than Barack Obama, and I’d be happy to campaign for him.”

– Newt Gingrich

Maybe they could be running mates.

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GOP threatens to do real damage to country

110228_eric_cantor_ap_328From Politico:

“One day after being named to a presidential task force to negotiate deficit reduction, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor fired off a stark warning to Democrats that the GOP “will not grant their request for a debt limit increase” without major spending cuts or budget process reforms.

The Virginia Republican’s missive is a clear escalation in the long-running Washington spending war, with no less than the full faith and credit of the United States hanging in the balance….

People close to Cantor say that he hopes to make clear that small concessions from Democrats, including President Barack Obama, will not be enough to deliver the GOP on a debt increase.”

Great. Take the national economy hostage, stick a loaded pistol to its temple and threaten to pull the trigger unless you get your way. This is what we’ve come to. This is “leadership” and “statesmanship” in the modern American era. Cantor and his colleagues are trying to convince us that they really are …

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