Archive for July, 2012

The Democratic battle plan against Mitt Romney

For some reason, I’ve never been a fan of opinion columnists trying to tell candidates how they ought to run their campaigns. Writing that “if Candidate A wants to get elected, (s)he needs to do X and Y and stop doing Z” is like a sportswriter trying to tell Chipper Jones how to hit a curveball.

However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t find political strategy interesting. Take, for example, this statement by Geoff Garin, lead pollster with the pro-Obama SuperPAC Priorities USA Action, explaining why the group is running negative ads in swing states focusing on Mitt Romney’s years at Bain Capital:

“First, it goes to the heart of his primary rationale for being better on the economy. Second, once people have learned that Romney was willing to fire workers and terminate health and pension benefits while taking tens of millions out of companies, they are much more ready to understand that Romney would indeed cut Social Security and Medicare to give tax breaks to rich people like …

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A celebration of heresy, conservative style

Let’s hear it for heretics.

Bob Inglis, a former Republican congressman from South Carolina, is one of them. He lost in a GOP primary in 2010 largely because he acknowledged that manmade climate change is real.

Bob Inglis

Bob Inglis

“For many conservatives, it became the marker that you had crossed to Satan’s side — that you had left God and gone to Satan’s side on climate change,” Inglis said after his defeat.

Today, Inglis announced creation of an “Energy and Enterprise Initiative” to promote conservative answers to climate change.

“Conservatives have the answer to our energy and climate challenge,” Inglis said. “It’s about correcting market distortions and setting the economics right. We need to stop retreating in denial and start stepping forward in the competition of ideas.”

(If only he could cite some evidence to back up his claims that climate change is real. You know, like the warmest June on record in the continental United States, or the warmest 12 months …

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A (somewhat) brief dissection of the LIBOR scandal


In the end, that’s what the banking industry is founded upon: Trust. You give total strangers a lot of money — whatever “a lot of money” means to you — and you trust that they will be honest and competent stewards of whatever wealth you have accumulated.

But that trust is disappearing.

As banks have gotten deeper and deeper into high-risk ventures, as a banking culture of restraint and prudence has disappeared, replaced by a cowboy ethos, trust in the judgment and integrity of the banking industry as a whole has eroded badly, and for good cause. The LIBOR scandal now making its way onto the front pages of newspapers here in the United States and in Europe will only accelerate that process.

The story may seem complicated at first, but it isn’t. LIBOR stands for London InterBank Offered Rate, and is based upon the average rate that big banks charge each other for loans. The process of establishing the LIBOR rate is simple: Major banks submit the latest interest rates they …

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Romney needs an answer to financial questions

President Obama and his fellow Democrats have begun to raise a ruckus about Mitt Romney’s Swiss bank account and his multi-million-dollar holdings in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, all of which are known as tax havens. Romney’s mysterious $100 million tax-sheltered retirement account, which contains far more money than such accounts typically can accumulate, has also come under scrutiny.

In response, the Romney campaign has tried to suggest that its candidate’s extensive offshore holdings and other financial records are somehow off limits for discussion in a campaign to be president of the United States, although it has had a hard time explaining why that should be:

“The Obama campaign’s latest unfounded character assault on Mitt Romney is unseemly and disgusting,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said over the weekend, calling Obama “a typical politician willing to use false and dishonest attacks to save his job after failing to do his job.”

That’s not exactly a rebuttal or …

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A test of morality on a Florida beach

Why can’t you run a government like a business? Why is a corporation NOT a person?

To both questions, I would offer the same two-word answer: Tomas Lopez.

While the name may not be familiar, his story probably is. Last week, Lopez was fired from his $8.25-an-hour job as a beach lifeguard in Hallandale, Fla., because he left his guard station to help save a drowning swimmer in a nearby “unprotected” swimming area. (The rescued swimmer was later hospitalized in intensive care but is expected to make a full recovery.)

“We have liability issues and can’t go out of the protected area,” company supervisor Susan Ellis said in explaining the decision to fire Lopez. In addition, the company fired two of his fellow lifeguards who had said that they too would have rescued the struggling swimmer.

“They sat me down and told me that my answer will determine if I get to keep my job or not,” 20-year-old Travis Madrid told the Florida Sun-Sentinel. “When I told him I would do the same thing, …

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To get you “started” on tonight’s journey …

I guess it’s no surprise that someone with a deep affection for the relatively obscure movie “That Thing You Do,” not to mention a nom de blogue of “stands for decibels,” would have a deep appreciation for music, particularly music of a particular era. From what little we know of him from his postings, he is also a fan of Rachel Maddow and Eric Blair, and one of the calmer voices on an often cacophonous blog.

He is also tonight’s guest host. Ladies and gentlemen, sfd:

“I’d been thinking about some pretext to recommend a tune by a band whose song “Start!” is one that’s somewhat familiar to American ears, and while it may not be my absolute favorite ever-ever by the Jam, I gave it another listen last night and heard some elements I hadn’t previously considered.

For starters, it’s not necessarily specific to the “start” of any particular kind of relationship–it might be about connecting with a potential lover, or a friend, of maybe just a fan. (Given that I was as big a fan as …

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Ga. GOP asked to approve extremist proposal

When they go to the polls later this month, Georgia Republican voters will be asked their opinion on when human life begins, and what government must do to protect that life once it begins.

The question reads:

“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide that the paramount right to life is vested in each innocent human being from his or her earliest biological beginning without regard to age, race, sex, health, function, or condition of dependency?”

The proposal, which is part of a national campaign, is called the “personhood amendment.” Resolutions proposing to write the amendment into the state constitution were introduced in both the state House and Senate last session, with the Senate version enjoying the sponsorship of Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers and Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams, among others.

Similar legislation has been introduced in Congress by U.S. Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia. Among the 64 co-sponsors of the Sanctity of Human Life …

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June jobs report: 80,000 new workers added


Not good, not terrible, and no surprises. Politically and economically, a continuation of the status quo, with little impact on current trajectories.

From the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

“Nonfarm payroll employment continued to edge up in June (+80,000), and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 8.2 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Professional and business services added jobs, and employment in other major industries changed little over the month…

In the second quarter, employment growth averaged 75,000 per month, compared with an average monthly gain of 226,000 for the first quarter of the year. Slower job growth in the second quarter occurred in most major industries.

Professional and business services added 47,000 jobs in June, with temporary help services accounting for 25,000 of the increase. Employment also rose in management and technical consulting services (+9,000) and in computer systems design and related services (+7,000). Employment …

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George Orwell explains the Romney campaign


Mitt Romney reversed course yet again Wednesday, announcing that yes, the financial penalty used to enforce ObamaCare must be considered a tax. As a consequence of that redefinition, “the American people know that President Obama has broken the pledge he made; he said he wouldn’t raise taxes on middle-income Americans,” Romney told CBS News.

On the other hand, Romney insisted, the almost identical financial penalty that is used to enforce Romney’s almost identical health-insurance program in Massachusetts was somehow NOT a tax increase because … well, just because.

How could that be?

I have no earthly idea. Perhaps the only way to understand Romney’s claim is to note that it comes from the same mind that harshly criticized President Obama’s plan to rescue the Detroit automakers, yet later swooped in to announce that “I’ll take a lot of credit” for the success of the plan that he had claimed to hate.

That bizarre argument in turn becomes more comprehensible if you recall …

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On eve of its birthday, America loses an icon

As we slide out of a Tuesday and prepare to celebrate the Fourth of July, that quintessential American holiday, we also say goodbye to a quintessential American in Andy Griffith. The 86-year-old actor and national icon died today at his home in North Carolina, the state of his birth and the inspiration for much of his career.

As Andy Taylor, the wise and kindly sheriff of Mayberry, Griffith and his cast captured something about small-town America that even back in the ’60s had begun to fade, a fact that made audiences treasure it all more. TV at the time was dominated by cornpone comedies such as “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Petticoat Junction,” “Green Acres” and “Hee Haw,” but Griffith’s show treated its characters and the community they shared with a respect that other shows never even tried to attain.

Anybody who ever watched more than two or three episodes, for example, will smile at the following exchange among Sheriff Andy, his hapless and overeager deputy Barney Fife and …

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