Archive for February, 2012

With ‘friend’ like Cagle, ethics bill needs no enemies

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle claims to support ethics-reform legislation. And maybe he does. As spokesman Ben Fry noted last week, when Cagle served as a state senator he voted in favor of legislation that would have set a limit of $50 on gifts from lobbyists. Unfortunately, the bill failed.

Now, as lieutenant governor, Cagle is in position to really make a difference on the issue. Yet rather than champion reform, Cagle last week struck what will probably be a fatal blow to a Senate ethics-reform package, including a provision that would put a $100 limit on the value of gifts that lobbyists may shower on legislators.

The bill in question, sponsored by state Sen. Josh McKoon and several other Republican senators, ordinarily would have been referred to the Senate Ethics Committee for hearings, amendments and votes. The Ethics Committee exists in part to perform that very function.

Instead, however, Cagle assigned the bill to the Senate Rules Committee. According to Fry, Cagle sent the …

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Rick Santorum and the Terri Schiavo disaster

I recall two times in my life when I was awestruck and appalled by what seemed to be grotesque political overreaching.

The first was President Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” caper, in which he pranced around the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln in his flight suit, celebrating a victory that to this day has not been won.

The second, and far more egregious, was the Terri Schiavo affair, in which Congress attempted to directly intervene in a family dispute in Florida involving a clearly brain-dead woman. Republicans in Washington DC became so overwrought in that case, so certain of their laymen’s ability to diagnose Schiavo’s medical condition from afar, so wrapped up in their own sanctimony, that they tried to subpoena the Florida judge handling the case to testify in Congress and even passed “emergency legislation” ordering the federal judiciary to intervene to “save” Schiavo.

The crowning moment came, you may recall, when President Bush broke off his vacation in Texas to fly …

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A federal energy subsidy 15 times bigger than Solyndra

The $535 million federal loan guarantee granted to Solyndra, a California-based solar-power company that later went bankrupt, has become a symbol to conservative Republicans of federal overreach into areas it doesn’t belong.

Their argument, in short form, is that government should not try to pick winners and losers, including in energy generation, and that it should leave such decisions to the free market, which is vastly wiser in allocating capital. If private investors aren’t willing to fund such projects, the thinking goes, then the projects in question should not be built.


I can respect the principles behind that argument, even if I don’t agree with them fully. What I cannot understand is why those same principles do not lead conservatives to protest the $8.3 billion federal loan guarantees granted to build two new nuclear power units at Plant Vogtle near Augusta. (Last week, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission voted to approve final construction licenses for the two …

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GOP retreat on payroll tax not a good sign

In one sense, the complete surrender of House Republicans on a 10-month payroll-tax reduction was welcome news. It probably means that at a fragile point in this economic recovery, we won’t have a $100 billion tax increase on working people, the people whose purchasing power will be needed most to drive the economy in future months.

But in another sense, the announcement was a microcosm of Washington’s larger failure. Because Republicans and Democrats could not come to an agreement as to how to offset the tax reduction, that $100 billion will simply be added to the nation’s growing debt.

Once again, Republicans insisted that the tax cut be “paid for” through spending cuts alone, while Democrats insisted that it be offset by a combination of spending cuts and higher taxes on more affluent Americans.

Once again, no agreement was possible. So rather than take the political hit for blocking a deal and endangering the economy, House Republican leadership capitulated entirely. …

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A peek inside the presidential poll data

A new poll from Pew adds to the list of pollsters reporting good news for President Obama. It shows Obama leading Mitt Romney by eight points, 52-44, and Rick Santorum by 10 points.

But here are a few nuggets I found particularly interesting:

– Obama has a 21-point lead over both Romney and Santorum among women. The margin is 59-38 percent. Among men, Obama actually trails by five against Romney and three against Santorum. That’s a 26-point swing between men and women, and I don’t recall ever seeing a gender gap that large.

– In November, Romney had a 12-point lead in the Pew poll among independents. Today, Obama has a nine-point lead among that same group. That’s probably a function of the improving economy, and also testifies to the damage being done to Romney in the GOP primary. Republicans can hope that

  • when
  • if Romney seals the nomination, that may begin to change again, but we’ll see.

    – I think a lot of Georgia readers are a little stunned at the level of support showing …

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    Santorum’s still slim chances get a little fatter


    Sure, Rick Santorum is now leading in at least one national poll of Republican voters. Big whoop. So was Herman Cain at one point. In fact, as Nate Silver points out, Santorum becomes the 11th person to lead in at least one national poll for the 2012 presidential nomination. So I still have a hard time making myself believe that Santorum has a chance of either stopping Mitt Romney or becoming the party’s nominee himself.

    But there’s a variety of reasons to begin to wonder:

    – The poll that puts Santorum up nationally among Republicans — Public Policy Polling — also reports that Romney’s favorable/unfavorable numbers are down to 44/43 percent. Remember, that’s among usual GOP primary voters. It is hard to believe that the frontrunner for a party’s nomination could have negatives that high among his own party’s base.

    – Another poll, this one by ARG, puts Santorum (33%) up by six points over Romney (27%) in Mitt’s native state of Michigan, where they hold the primary two weeks …

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    Surprise! Wall Street casts its lot with the GOP

    Politico reminds us all where the banksters are putting their cash these days ….

    Wall Street — the target of Occupy protests nationwide — has swung firmly back to the GOP in 2012 after supporting then-Sen. Barack Obama over Sen. John McCain in the 2008 campaign. Obama outraised McCain on Wall Street by nearly 2 to 1, $15.7 million to $9.2 million.

    Despite a large overall fundraising advantage, Obama has raised just $5.1 million from the finance, insurance and real estate sectors so far this cycle compared with $12.4 million for Mitt Romney’s campaign, according to Sheila Krumholz, executive director of (the Center for Responsive Politics).

    “The financial industry overall, cycle after cycle, is always a No. 1 source of campaign funds. It is even more so in 2012. It is head and shoulders above any other industry,” Krumholz said. “And Romney has a large lead, which is extraordinary given that Obama has such a large lead in total receipts.”

    …. The gap for Romney, a …

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    Behind the scenes in the Clint Eastwood ad

    James Stewart, writing in the New York Times, has an interesting piece detailing how Chrysler executives and dealers were blindsided by accusations that the now-infamous Clint Eastwood ad was politically motivated.

    Before the Super Bowl, the ad had been previewed by Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne for some 700 Chrysler dealers at their annual meeting in Las Vegas. The lights went down, the two-minute ad played on large screens in the conference hall, and after it ended, Marchionne told the crowd, ““Nothing more needs to be said.”

    I’ll let Mr. Stewart pick up the story there:

    “Overcome by emotion, he bowed his head and turned his back to the audience, according to those present, and there was a moment of stunned silence. It was the first time anyone had seen the video outside a closely guarded circle. Then the dealers rose and started applauding, an ovation that went on for several minutes.

    Mr. Marchionne “cried, and then he left the room,” recalled David Kelleher, …

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    Rock and roll is truly ‘world music’

    As Rolling Stone magazine describes Low Cut Connie, “Imagine what indie rock might sound like were it invented in Alabama in the late Fifties.” It’s an apt portrayal, since both of its founders have such southern roots.

    Of course, in the case of piano player Adam Weiner, those roots are in southern New Jersey, and for guitarist Dan Finnermore it’s the southern half of the United Kingdom — Birmingham, to be more exact. But hey, rock and roll is one of the American South’s great contributions to the world, right?

    – Jay Bookman

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    Arguing for Obama, Justice Antonin Scalia


    I’ve been reading Justice Antonin Scalia’s decision in “Employment Division v. Smith,” a 1990 case in which the Supreme Court pretty much settled the question of whether the federal government can require or outlaw actions that might bump up against religious beliefs. The decision makes it clear that the Catholic bishops have no legal or constitutional basis for their complaint.

    Scalia, himself a devout and very conservative Catholic, wrote in the majority decision:

    “We have never held that an individual’s religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the State is free to regulate. On the contrary, the record of more than a century of our free exercise jurisprudence contradicts that proposition.

    Scalia traces Supreme Court rulings on the issue back to an 1879 decision that upheld federal laws against polygamy. A member of the Mormon Church had argued that because his faith required men to marry multiple wives, polygamy was …

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