Archive for December, 2011

House GOP has manuevered itself into a dead end

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“You’ve always been crazy, this is just the first chance you’ve had to express yourself.”
– Louise to Thelma

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Even the folks on the Wall Street Journal editorial board understand that the House GOP is acting suicidal, noting that the squabble with Senate Republicans has turned into a “circular firing squad” and that “the political rout will only get worse” unless they concede the standoff with President Obama.

Here’s their final paragraph:

“At this stage, Republicans would do best to cut their losses and find a way to extend the payroll holiday quickly. Then go home and return in January with a united House-Senate strategy that forces Democrats to make specific policy choices that highlight the differences between the parties on spending, taxes and regulation. Wisconsin freshman Senator Ron Johnson has been floating a useful agenda for such a strategy. The alternative is more chaotic retreat and the return of all-Democratic rule.”

But Thelma and Louise, …

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As GOP throws a tantrum in DC, Obama’s fortunes rise

The second major poll is as many days reports significant improvement in President Obama’s job-approval rating.

Here’s the first, released Monday by Washington Post/ABC News:

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Source: Washington Post/ABC News

Here’s the second, showing quite similar movement, from CNN:

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Source: CNN

And why the change? Some numbers from CNN explain:

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Source: CNN

Meanwhile, congressional Republicans continue to throw childish tantrums in Washington over extending the tax break for working Americans, and GOP presidential candidates continue to pitch woo at their party’s more extreme elements.

They can’t hep it, they just cain’t hep it.

– Jay Bookman

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Gingrich’s anti-judicial tirade is an attack on liberty

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No vision, focus or direction in state transportation plans

State transportation officials have pulled the plug on the $1 billion “express lane” project on I-75 and I-575, thanks in part to behind-the-scenes pressure from Gov. Nathan Deal.

Reportedly, the “public-private partnership” envisioned to finance the deal was becoming less and less of a true partnership. The taxpayer subsidy demanded by investors in the project had grown from $300 million to $450 million or more, while still leaving control, operation and profits in private hands.

If that’s indeed the case, the cancellation was wise. But what now? The abandonment of the I-75 project ought to be an alarm bell alerting taxpayers to a deeper, more troubling problem. This is the second time that a toll project in that corridor has been proposed to private contractors and then withdrawn. As AJC reporter Ariel Hart points out, Georgia has now invested more than $50 million in that effort with nothing to show for it.

Why? Because transportation planning in this state continues to …

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‘ … and when my mind is wandering, there I will go.’

I found myself stuck in Atlanta traffic earlier this week, crawling down the interstate along with thousands of other frustrated people. To add to my boundless joy, just about every radio station on the dial was playing Christmas songs interspersed with Christmas advertising, which gets old pretty quickly. (It was also odd to be driving around with the convertible roof down in the middle of December. Nice. But odd.)

Anyway, I looked over at the passenger seat and saw a CD that had been left there by one of our daughters. I popped it in, and immediately knew that the rest of the trip would go much better, regardless of traffic. I ended up hearing all of the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper” album before I got home, and enjoyed every minute of it.

In fact, I was reminded that in this age of digital music and I-Tunes, you can sometimes forget the cumulative power of a carefully crafted album in which the songs resonate with each other, both musically and thematically. Each of the songs on …

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Fannie, Freddie execs next targets for SEC

Good news of aggressive enforcement action by the SEC, as reported by Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Securities and Exchange Commission has brought civil fraud charges against six former top executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, saying they misled the government and taxpayers about risky subprime mortgages the mortgage giants held during the housing bust.

Those charged include the agencies’ two former CEOs, Fannie’s Daniel Mudd and Freddie’s Richard Syron. They are the highest-profile individuals to be charged in connection with the 2008 financial crisis….

According to the lawsuit, Fannie told investors in 2007 that it had roughly $4.8 billion worth of subprime loans on its books. The SEC says that Fannie actually had about $43 billion worth of products targeted to borrowers with weak credit.

Freddie said about 11% of its single-family loans were subprime in 2007. The SEC says it was closer to about 18%.

“Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac executives told the world that …

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This will make your holiday brighter: CEO pay up 36.5%

GMI Ratings, a corporate governance watchdog, has released the results of its latest survey of CEO pay for fiscal 2010. It found that CEO compensation for companies in the S&P 500 rose by a median of 36.5 percent. Three of the 10 highest paid CEOs work in the health-care industry, including the top two.

According to the GMI survey, the best-compensated CEO in the country in 2010 was John Hammergren at McKesson, the world’s largest health-care company, with a total compensation package of $145 million. Under Hammergren’s contract, he will also collect $469 million as severance. Quite a “reward for performance” system there, when your “penalty” for getting fired is almost half a billion dollars.

Here are the Top Ten:

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“The 36.5 percent increase in realized compensation is particularly notable when it’s put in context of the modest growth of the economy in 2010 and general public company performance last year,” according to Paul Hodgson, chief communications officer and senior …

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GOP candidates tout war-happy, shoot-first approach

I didn’t watch all of last night’s GOP debate, but I did see an extended section on foreign policy. It was a horror show in which the candidates competed to show their disdain for and disinterest in the rest of the world, as well as their avid eagerness to use military power to solve problems. They seemed to think that those two traits ought to define America’s approach to the rest of the world, and the audience loved them for it.

Ron Paul was the only one who demonstrated a lick of sense or restraint.

Rick Perry, for example, repeated a refrain from the previous debate by insisting that President Obama had just two options after a U.S. spy plane drone was brought down over Iran and captured: Go into Iran and take it back, or or send missiles to destroy it on the ground, as if the Iranians have it sitting out on some airfield with red arrows helpfully pointing toward it.

The foolishness of that approach is self-evident, but I expect no better from the half-informed cowboy …

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Weekly jobless numbers add to optimism

From Reuters:

“The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits fell to a 3-1/2-year low last week and factory activity in parts of the Northeast gained speed in December, suggesting a further strengthening of the economic recovery.

While other data on Thursday showed industrial output shrank for the first time in seven months in November, much of the decline came from auto production, which analysts said was held back by temporary supply disruptions.

“It looks like we have just hit a clear patch on the road to recovery, where things are going to speed up a little bit,” said Mark Vitner, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina.

According to the Labor Department, initial claims for unemployment last week were 366,000, the lowest since May of 2008, before the economy began its cliffdive. (The number is seasonally adjusted to account for the normal holiday hiring.)

According to the Wall Street Journal:

” … surveys of large and small …

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‘Empty suit with broken zipper’ under attack in Iowa

Newt Gingrich has become the target of an all-out advertising and media blitz in Iowa, launched by fellow candidates and others determined that he will not become the party nominee.

Ron Paul is using his money to savage the former speaker. (”Pointing out people’s positions is not negative,” Paul says.) A pastor backing Michele Bachmann is calling Gingrich “a very fine, empty suit with a broken zipper,” dismissing him as “a glib, wordy cheater.” Mitt Romney says Gingrich is “zany,” and has released an ad that closes with the question “With friends like Newt, who needs the left?”

Restore Our Future, a pro-Romney PAC, is also running the following ad:

It’s apparently having a serious impact. A new Rasmussen poll now puts Romney ahead in Iowa with 23 percent of the vote, with Gingrich second at 20 percent and Paul at 18 percent. Public Policy Polling also reports a tight three-man race, with Gingrich (22 percent) falling quickly, with Paul (21 percent) and Romney (16 percent) …

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