Archive for July, 2010

T.H.R.O. poster is an ancestor, and warning, for tea party


That angry message in bold typeface; the glaring face of a retiree named Jack Gargan; his Jeffersonian list of grievances against Congress — it was all so familiar as I unrolled the poster, a relic from my childhood and the tea party’s ancestry.

Twenty years ago, Gargan used a series of newspaper ads to start a grassroots movement: T.H.R.O., or Throw the Hypocritical Rascals Out. I remember the bumper sticker on my dad’s Buick LeSabre, the related parody from Fox 97’s Shower Stall Singers: “(Those Congress Checks Are Bouncing Like a) Red Rubber Ball.”

I came across a poster print of the ad while helping my parents move houses recently. Reading the list of indictments Gargan made against Washington, I could only reflect that the tea party came into being because so little has changed:

I’M APPALLED,” he wrote, “that Congress continues to hock the future of our children and grandchildren. Our …

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Gates: Young Americans need to get off the couch

Good for Robert Gates (from The Wall Street Journal):

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a former Eagle Scout, addressed the Boy Scout jamboree being held at Virginia’s Fort A.P. Hill. — and struck a decidedly cranky tone.

In his Wednesday speech, Gates said that young Americans are “increasingly physically unfit,” and cast doubts their character, too. Quoting Walter Lippman, Gates said he sees daily “the disaster of the character of men” and “the catastrophe of the soul.”

But, he was quick to add, not among Boy Scouts.

“At a time when many American young people are turning into couch potatoes, and too often much worse, scouting continues to challenge boys and young men, preparing you for leadership,” Gates said.

Gates praised scouting for pushing young people into the wilderness to learn both about nature and self reliance. He also said the Boy Scout’s great contribution was encouraging public service. “The scouting movement shows dramatically that service, …

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Economy slows; cue the cries for more ’stimulus’

The economy slowed down in the second quarter, growing at an annualized rate of 2.4 percent after hitting 3.7 percent in the first quarter (January to March) and 5 percent in the final three months of 2009.

Feel stimulated yet?

We’ve heard a lot about the vaunted “Keynesian multiplier.” We keep seeing reports telling us the economy is soooooo much better off because of the stimulus spending, based on some economists’ faith in their own modeling of the multiplier.

This is the economic version of the willing suspension of disbelief: Disregard what you see around you in the world, and accept the notion that the Obama-Pelosi-Reid spending binge has been working — because the same models that predicted success for the stimulus beforehand now proclaim the stimulus a success after the fact. And, what’s more, that it’s worked so well we need to do it again.

Here’s the question that ought to be on everyone’s minds in light of today’s economic data: If the multiplier really multiplies, …

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Corey lawsuit opens a window into more sketchy airport deals

You win some, you lose some. And then sometimes you learn you’ve been losing a lot more, for a lot longer, than you ever realized.

Atlanta taxpayers lost almost $3 million Monday when a federal jury found that the city in 2002 illegally steered an airport advertising contract to Clear Channel and a friend of former Mayor Maynard Jackson, Barbara Fouch. Those damages — plus some $11 million from Clear Channel and $3 million more from Fouch — were awarded to businessman Billy Corey, who also bid on the contract.

But most damning was the information that came out about the city’s poor oversight of airport contracts generally — a problem that may have cost Atlantans tens of millions of dollars over the years.

The fundamental problem with the airport advertising contract was that, once granted to Fouch and her partners in 1980, it was not opened for bidding again until 2002.

Favoritism wasn’t on display just when Clear Channel and Fouch — who, as a black woman, qualified as …

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Primary challenge for Obama?

The issue keeps changing, but this notion keeps popping up on the left — this time via Huffington Post:

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell predicted on Tuesday that if the president escalates America’s military involvement in Afghanistan he could very well face a primary challenger in 2012.

In an overlooked “Morning Joe” segment on Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Democrat offered his distinct brand of eccentric, conversation-driving political foresight. He couched his statement about the possibility of a primary challenge by stressing that if Obama sticks to his current plans for Afghanistan — a reduced military presence beginning in July of 2011 — there would not be political insurrection within the party.

But Rendell clearly opened up the conversation as to how much capital Obama is working with when it comes to foreign wars. And for perhaps the first time in the course of the Afghanistan debate, the specter was raised that Democrats will really take the president to task for a …

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How many millions Atlanta favoritism will cost us, answered

I asked the question earlier this month; yesterday, we got the answer:

A federal jury on Monday awarded $17.5 million in damages to an Atlanta businessman who claimed the City of Atlanta and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport illegally steered a lucrative indoor advertising contract to a competitor with deep political connections.

The verdict, which came after nearly eight hours of deliberations, called for Billy Corey and his company, Corey Airport Services, to receive $8.5 million in compensatory damages, to be paid in thirds by the city, Clear Channel Outdoor Inc. and businesswoman Barbara Fouch.

The jury also awarded Corey $9 million in punitive damages. Clear Channel was ordered to pay $8.5 million and Fouch $500,000.

The verdict was an embarrassment for Hartsfield-Jackson and City Hall that recalled the political maneuvering and outright corruption that came to symbolize the operation of the airport during the 1980s and 1990s.

The city said it will appeal Monday’s …

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BP, Congress and accountability

So, Tony Hayward is on the way out at BP. It was inevitable, given the magnitude of the Gulf oil spill and the tin ear Hayward displayed along the way.

But, as The Wall Street Journal editorializes today (subscription required):

Contrast that with the political realm, where Barney Frank and Chris Dodd had their power increased by the panic that ended up electing more Democrats. Their punishment for protecting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for years was to be able to rewrite the rules for all of American finance. That’s some business model. At least Mr. Dodd has faced the rough justice of being run out of one more re-election campaign thanks to his sweetheart mortgage from Countrywide Financial.

Regarding the Gulf oil spill, Mr. Obama’s Interior Secretary has removed one bureaucrat (whom he had earlier appointed) but that’s about it. Our point is that it is certainly fair for Mr. Hayward to take the fall, and the timing is right given that the leak now seems on its way to being …

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Shirley Sherrod and the right’s new weapon

Soon, we will forget about Shirley Sherrod. But not the fallout from her smearing.

Sherrod might go back to USDA. She may give more speeches. But, while she has handled herself with aplomb, one could hardly blame her if she’s ready to step out of the Klieg lights.

As for us, we’ll promise not to rush to judgment next time, and to finally have that National Conversation about race. Maybe the president will even convene a Race Summit. Maybe, having already hosted last summer’s Beer Summit to atone for another hasty racial conclusion, he’ll seek the learning end of this Teachable Moment.

But one thing has changed.

Our politics increasingly resembles a cold civil war, and the Sherrod story was like the right’s first successful A-bomb test. Accusations of racism have long been the left’s, and only the left’s, most explosive weapon. No more.

I don’t make this observation with admiration or pride. I understand that this could turn out badly.

It’s not as if the right …

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Bush DOJ officials cleared in firing of U.S. attorneys

Here’s something that, curiously, didn’t get much media play this week — certainly not in proportion to the attention the accusations got. From Politico:

The Justice Department said Wednesday that it did not intend to charge former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales or any other members of the Bush administration for their role in the firings of nine U.S. attorneys.

In a letter sent to House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.), Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich said that Attorney General Eric Holder has accepted the recommendation of special counsel Nora Dannehy “that criminal prosecution is not warranted.”

The letter did note that Gonzales made “inaccurate and misleading” statements and that his chief of staff made “misleading” statements about the firings, which critics, including Conyers, charged were politically motivated — but said Justice had found “insufficient evidence” to press any charges.

Rep. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat and …

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Rangel faces charges of breaking congressional rules

Via McClatchy, not the kind of news that will help Democrats’ case in November:

WASHINGTON — Embattled Rep. Charles Rangel, the former chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, committed an undisclosed ethics violation, a House investigatory subcommittee determined Thursday.

Congressional officials knowledgeable with the ethics process said the exact nature of the violation — or violations — won’t be publicly revealed until Rangel goes before an eight-person adjudicatory subcommittee of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct next Thursday to state his case.

The formation of subcommittee, which will consist of four Democrats and four Republicans, is rare. The last time one was convened was in 2002 to handle the case of former Rep. James Traficant, D-Ohio, who was under investigation in connection with bribery, racketeering and tax evasion convictions.

Traficant was expelled from Congress, served seven years in prison and unsuccessfully tried to get …

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