Archive for July, 2012

American history, as told through the two Romneys

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The political debate continues to be dominated by questions involving GOP nominee Mitt Romney and his financial history, more particularly his refusal to release any tax information other than his 2010 return and an estimate of his 2011 taxes.

The decision to withhold the information has begun to perplex even conservative pundits such as William Kristol (”It’s crazy”) to George Will (”He must have calculated that there are higher costs in releasing them).” In many cases, unflattering comparisons are being drawn between Romney and his father, George, who as a candidate for the GOP nomination in 1968 began the modern practice of tax disclosure by releasing 12 years of his returns.

While that debate rages, I thought it might be interesting to study what we know of the two Romneys not for what it might tell us about their character, openness, etc., but about the time and place in which each man lived.

Take a look at the thumbnail financial descriptions posted on the right. The …

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Ga. leaders are reaping what they have sown

Georgia’s business community, led by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, recognizes that being 49th in the nation in per capita spending on transportation is not a formula for long-term profitability, not in a state so dependent on the efficient movement of goods and people.

That’s why they’ve thrown their full weight behind passage of regional TSPLOSTs around the state. They’ve contributed millions of dollars to fund TV advertising and, using future campaign funds as leverage, have strong-armed normally anti-tax politicians into publicly backing the tax increase. Some have also launched in-house campaigns to rally their own employees to vote in favor of the measure.

Their biggest obstacle, however, is not the Tea Party or the Sierra Club or the state chapter of the NAACP, all of which have come out against TSPLOST passage. Their biggest obstacle is themselves.

Why do I say that? Because in an effort to keep their own tax burdens as low as possible, Georgia business leaders have …

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Let’s play “One of these things is not like the other’!

How can all these things be true at the same time in the same universe?

– The biggest banks in the world are revealed to have manipulated the critically important LIBOR rate for years for their own financial benefit.

– JP Morgan Chase is belatedly discovered to have lost $5.8 billion — up from the original $2 billion estimate — in risky derivatives trading that it supposedly did not dabble in. The trades were allegedly hidden both from regulators and from top executives.

– Jon Corzine and MF Global announce that they have lost $40 billion — including $1.6 billion of clients’ money that by law should never have been put at risk. The money may never be recovered.

– Russell Wasendorf, founder of PFGBest, is arrested for fraud for having lost more than $200 million in clients’ money that again by law should never have been put at risk. Again, the money may never be recovered.

– The financial system is overregulated.

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An apropos glide into a potentially stormy weekend

Got home from an evening meeting last night to find my girl watching the 1943 classic black musical “Stormy Weather,” starring Lena Horne and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. Once I started watching, I was hooked.

The movie was fascinating on many levels, not least as an historic artifact of racial attitudes at the time, documenting how black performers were both confined by stereotypes and caricatures while also finding ways to defy them.

But what really blew me away was the quantity and quality of musical and dance talent showcased in the movie, from Cab Calloway (doing an early moonwalk) to the Nicholas Brothers dance duo to a hilarious homage to the black vaudeville comedy duo Miller & Lyles, which ranks up there with anything done by Abbott & Costello.

I mean, when you’ve got all-time jazz greats such as Illinois Jacquet and Coleman Hawkins as uncredited background players, you’re talking talent.

Anyway, enough socio-historic babble. It’s Friday, and almost quitting time. …

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Condi Rice for Mitt’s veep? You mean THIS Condi Rice?

Condi Rice for vice president?

Personally, I think it’s a great idea, but only if Joe Biden decides that he doesn’t want a second term.

Yeah, that's the ticket.

Yeah, that’s the ticket.

But wait … Drudge is reporting that she’s now a frontrunner for the Republican veep pick?

Hmmm. That would be interesting. She is obviously qualified for the position, and her selection would shake up the campaign in ways that no other potential candidate could match.

On the other hand:

She has described President Bush’s decision to withdraw from the Kyoto Treaty on climate change as a “self-inflicted wound,” and while she doesn’t support implementing Kyoto in its present form, she believes the United States must lead international action on that problem.

Rice has also discussed what she calls her “mildly pro-choice” views, defends Roe v. Wade and “can’t imagine why one would take these decisions out of the hands of the family.” She believes it “appropriate” to consider race in college admissions, says affirmative …

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Romney endorsed by The Man Who Isn’t There

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What does it tell you about all involved that Mitt Romney is willing to be photographed with and publicly embrace the birther nutball egomanic Donald Trump, but wants no photographic evidence of any relationship with former Vice President Dick Cheney?


From the Washington Post:

WILSON, Wyo. — Here was one of the biggest endorsements of Mitt Romney’s political career, an embrace from a man who has served five presidents and who said he has strong feelings about what the country needs in a commander in chief.

“Looking back and reflecting on that, I think there’s only one man to be president of the United States who meets those requirements, and that’s Governor Mitt Romney,” Richard B. Cheney said here Thursday.

But on the evening when the divisive former vice president opened his home at the foot of Wyoming’s majestic Teton Range to host a $4 million fundraiser for the presumptive Republican nominee, Romney’s campaign labored to avoid any photos or videos of the two men …

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Internal report on Sandusky scandal harsh, damning

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As a graduate of Penn State University, and as a sports fan who has taken pride in my alma mater’s football success and how it was achieved, I confess that the newly released investigative report on the Jerry Sandusky scandal comes across as harsh. (Text available here.)

Unfortunately, it also comes across as utterly truthful and damning. It allows for no excuses and no claim of extenuating circumstances. It relates a tale of badly twisted institutional and personal priorities in which protecting reputations became more important than protecting helpless children. In a larger sense, it also testifies to the remarkable human capability to rationalize behavior that in any other context you would immediately recognize as wrong.

AJC sportswriter Dave O’Brien wrapped up the report’s verdict on Coach Joe Paterno in a tweet, quoting Voltaire: “Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.” I think that’s exactly right. In Paterno’s case, the good he did not do is a lot.

Jerry Sandusky

Jerry …

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Telling friend from foe, and foe from annoyance

Two contrasting quotes from yesterday’s news cycle, then three observations:

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“… overall my sense is that what (Hugo) Chavez has done over the last several years has not had a serious national security impact on us. We have to be vigilant. My main concern when it comes to Venezuela is having the Venezuelan people have a voice in their affairs, and that you end up ultimately having fair and free elections, which we don’t always see.”

– President Obama

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“This is a stunning and shocking comment by the president. It is disturbing to see him downplaying the threat posed to U.S. interests by a regime that openly wishes us ill. Hugo Chavez has provided safe haven to drug kingpins, encouraged regional terrorist organizations that threaten our allies like Colombia, has strengthened military ties with Iran and helped it evade sanctions, and has allowed a Hezbollah presence within his country’s borders.”

– Mitt Romney

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My conclusions?

1.) It takes disturbingly …

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The Curious Case of the Silent Watchdog

To borrow from the great Sherlock Holmes, it is the curious case of a watchdog that should have barked, but for some reason hasn’t.

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As many of you know, on July 1 the process of renewing your Georgia driver’s license became much more complicated and time-consuming, requiring among other things an official copy of your birth certificate, an official Social Security card and, if you’re a married woman, a copy of your marriage license to justify use of your married name rather than your birth name.

Digging up all that material can be a real chore — personally, I haven’t seen my Social Security card in years if not decades. And once you’ve gathered it all, you then have to run the gauntlet at the overwhelmed Department of Driver Services, where waits of four or five hours have become common. People are getting angry about the situation, and for good reason.

But here’s the thing: The changes aren’t Georgia’s idea, and in fact have been forced upon the state by new federal …

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House GOP stabbing ObamaCare voodoo doll one more time

It’s no surprise that House Republicans have gotten very good at this “repeal” thing, given the practice they’ve had at it. When they vote yet again today to kill ObamaCare, by some counts it will be the 31st time they have voted to repeal all or part of that much-reviled piece of legislation.

However, they’re not so good about keeping the second half of their 2010 campaign pledge, the part about “replacing” ObamaCare with a conservative alternative that accomplishes many of the same goals.

“Why is it so hard?” Matt Miller asks in a fine piece in today’s Washington Post. “Because Obamacare WAS the Republican alternative. It was the conservative-designed mandate and subsidy approach…. Only in America could a Democratic president pass Mitt Romney’s health plan and fund it partly through John McCain’s best idea from the last campaign (taxing some employer-provided plans) and be branded a ’socialist’.”

As I noted in the blog post earlier this morning, I’m always leery of pundits …

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