Archive for August, 2011

Tom Graves and Chip Rogers: American heroes

Geniuses walk among us here in Georgia. Yes, true financial visionaries.

I’m speaking — as if you didn’t know — of Tom Graves, a freshman congressman from North Georgia, and Chip Rogers, the state Senate majority leader. Through their personal financial dealings, the two leaders have pioneered a strategy that on the national level has the potential to rescue the United States from its debt problems.

All it requires is a little imagination. That, and utter shamelessness.

The story begins as so many stories begin these days: Graves and Rogers suffered a financial setback. A few years ago, they borrowed $2.2 million from a North Georgia bank to invest in a motel in Calhoun, and signed personal guarantees for the loan. But the project never panned out. Faced with the reality that they would be unable to repay the money they had borrowed, our heroes turned to the type of American innovation that has made this country great and may yet be its salvation.

Truly, it was genius. …

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Romney: Higher taxes on wealthy = ‘attacking people for success’

At an appearance at the Iowa State Fair today, Mitt Romney was asked whether he would support raising the income cap on Social Security taxes (currently set at $106,800) as a way to help make the system fiscally sound.

Romney responded:

“You know, there was a time in this country that we didn’t celebrate attacking people based on their success and when we didn’t go after people because they were successful.”

It’s an interesting response, one that distills what is likely to be one of the major themes of the 2012 campaign, both presidential and congressional. And it’s also interesting how Romney chose to frame it.

The question itself didn’t “celebrate attacking people based on their success,” but the former Massachusetts governor quickly twisted it into that shape. Later in his response in what became a heated exchange, Romney claimed that 50 percent of Americans don’t pay federal income taxes.

I have to wonder: Is that a case of attacking people based on their lack of …

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Romney the only Republican even conceivable as president

Mitt Romney is the only person in the GOP presidential race — and I include Rick Perry in that number — who is qualified by experience, intelligence and character to serve as president of the United States.

(OK, Tim Pawlenty might once have been a feasible choice, but his campaign appears to have wrecked on the shoals of his own shallow personality. And Jon Huntsman is such an obvious RINO that he might as well be sporting a big horn in the middle of his forehead.)

Every other candidate in the race is fatally, seriously flawed, and is actually inconceivable as president. Bachmann? Cain? Gingrich? Paul?

Now, in the eyes of many Republicans, the fact that people like me find a Romney nomination even tolerable is itself a fatal flaw in the former Massachusetts governor. Part of the continuing appeal of Sarah Palin, for example, is the reaction she draws from liberals. The more she’s criticized by the left, the more popular she becomes on the right. The modern GOP is in the mood …

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S&P protesting scrutiny of its ratings work

Well isn’t that interesting?

From Reuters:

Standard & Poor’s, whose unprecedented downgrade of U.S. debt triggered a worldwide stocks sell-off, is pushing back against a U.S. government proposal that would require credit raters to disclose “significant errors” in how they calculate their ratings….

“If the [SEC] were to define the term ’significant error’ … we believe it would effectively be substituting its judgment” for the credit-rating agencies, S&P President Deven Sharma said in the letter.

He said S&P’s own error correction policy “has proven to be effective and, where errors have occurred, our practice of reacting swiftly and transparently has benefited the market.”

Barbara Roper, director of investor protection for the Consumer Federation of America, said that policy has proven inadequate.

“What was their correction policy on their Enron rating? What was their correction policy on their Lehman rating? What was their correction policy on their Bear Stearns rating? They …

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Ga. congressman attacks agency for protecting US jobs

Writing in the Washington Post, Dana Milbank notes that U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, a freshman Republican from Georgia, has introduced his first bill, legislation that would abolish the Legal Services Corporation, which provides legal assistance to those too poor to pay attorney fees.

“Scott introduced the bill abolishing Legal Services exactly three days after it became public that Legal Services had won a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission determination that Georgia’s Hamilton Growers “engages in a pattern or practice of regularly denying work hours and assigning less favorable assignments to U.S. workers, in favor of H2-A guestworkers.” Hamilton also “engages in a pattern or practice of discharging U.S. workers and replacing them with H-2A guestworkers,” the EEOC determined.

Just to make things clear, Legal Services attorneys won a battle to protect American jobs for American workers in Scott’s congressional district. Hamilton Growers, the EEOC found, had …

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Recalls in Wisconsin, Rick Perry’s White House run, etc.

A wrapup of the world of politics:

In Wisconsin, voters in six state Senate districts are going to the polls today to decide whether to recall their Republican legislators, each of whom took active roles in passing controversial anti-labor legislation early this year.

If three or more of the seats turn Democratic, the GOP would lose control of the state Senate, Republican Gov.  Scott Walker would be rebuked and could face possible recall himself, and Democrats around the country would see the populist-themed campaigns as a template for the 2012 elections.

If not, not.

Polls close at 8 p.m. Central, 9 Eastern, but the races are expected to be tight so we might not know the outcome until early morning.

In Iowa, Republicans are gearing up for the Ames Straw Poll on Saturday, an early test of strength in the race for the GOP presidential nomination. One person not on the ballot is Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who this week has made it as clear as he can — short of a formal declaration …

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Bodies of 30 service personnel coming home to final rest

A Chinook helicopter is framed between the flags of the United States and Afghanistan near Kabul.

A Chinook helicopter is framed between the flags of the United States and Afghanistan near Kabul.

While we’re debating politics as if it were a life-or-death proposition, it’s important that we try to keep things in perspective.

Politics is NOT life or death. THIS is life or death:

The remains of 30 American troops who died Saturday in the combat downing of a helicopter in Afghanistan will arrive Tuesday at Dover Air Force Base.

Top military and political leaders were expected to attend a ceremony for the soldiers killed in the worst single-day loss in a decade of fighting there.

Some family members of those killed in the downing of the twin-rotor, CH-47 Chinook helicopter were expected to be on hand when the first aircraft bearing remains arrives, but the base was scheduled to be closed to cameras and news organizations.

President Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen and other top military and defense officials will …

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Tea Party organizing to block transportation tax

Since the state Legislature approved letting citizens vote on a one-penny regional transportation tax next year, the concept has been opposed by members of the Georgia tea party movement.

Tea party officials say they distrust a regional tax and regional system, fearing it might displace local government. They also oppose using the tax to build transit projects that won’t support themselves entirely through the fare box, which in effect means they oppose all transit systems anywhere in the region. But most of all, as tea party coordinator Debbie Dooley acknowledges, the group intends to fight the regional tax “as a matter of principle,” because it is a tax.

“We’re going to do a lot of the same things we did to defeat the trauma care tax,” Dooley said. “We’re going to use social media to get the word out, and we’re going to raise money to run radio ads. We spent no money on the trauma-care tax.”

I understand the role they’re trying to play. It is healthy and necessary to …

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S&P finally realized the GOP really IS that crazy

Even as the Dow continues to fall, I get the sense that Republicans view last week’s downgrade by Standard & Poor’s as some sort of vindication, as an “I told you so” moment.

For example, conservative D.C. lobbyist John Feehery, writing in The Hill, can barely contain his sense of schaudenfreude at what he calls “the Obama Downgrade”:

“This 30-second ad takes less than 30 seconds to create. A picture of the president hanging out with his Democratic colleagues fades in and then out. A screenshot fades in: “The first president to ever lose America’s triple-A credit rating. Had enough?”

Again, though, S&P has done more than just issue a downgrade. It has explained in some detail what has changed in Washington that has forced it to change its rating.

What changed?

“…the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges to a degree more than we envisioned when we …

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Record highs add to evidence of heating planet

In a stable climate, the number of newly established record-high temperatures should be roughly equivalent to the number of newly established record-low temperatures.

We do not have a stable climate.

As the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) explains:

“Almost 9,000 daily records were broken or tied last month, including 2,755 highest maximum temperatures and 6,171 highest minimum temperatures (i.e., nighttime records).”

And it just wasn’t in some places across the country. It was almost everywhere. In fact, as NOAA points out, if you plot the locations of those July record highs, you get a rough approximation of the entire continental United States.heat

Within the right-wing echo chamber, the accepted line is that global warming has somehow been discredited. That’s what they keep telling each other, but it is a “fact” only within the fantasy-based Info-Sphere that they have created for themselves.

Outside in the real world, where truth is constructed through …

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