Tuesday, June 28, 2011

GOP dangerious game of chicken

Several years ago blogger Duncan Black (aka Atrios) began calling Washington DC 'the Village'. By this, he meant that Right, Left, Democrat, Republican, journalist, consultant, pol, staffer whatever, all those that reveled in being a Washington insider belonged to the same big " clique and suffered from a kind of group think that insulates them from understanding how the rest of the country feels about the major issues and Washington itself. Fellow Villagers are often the sources for Village journalist perpetuating their misconceptions about much of what they write about and this is why the Washington insiders are always the last to see societal changes and are nearly always surprised by them. Case in point, Hillary will be the Democratic nominee and win the general in 2008 and only those who don't know any better believe [insert snicker here]Obama will be able to compete with the Clinton 'machine'.

We are seeing Village tunnel vision in the debt ceiling. Villagers reassure each other that in the end the GOP will make a deal because they have to make a deal and it is only rational that they make a deal, yada, yada, yada. It appears that on a daily basis the Villagers are reassuring each other that they are right on this one, as they are on all things -- Like President Hillary Clinton or that Bush would not invade Iraq if he didn't know the location of the WMD.

But listen to what Boehner and McConnell are actually saying. Since last Friday when Cantor walked out of debt talks, Boehner has told anyone who is listening that no revenue increases by either tax hikes or removing loopholes will pass the House. Boehner has drawn a hard line in the sand, that will make it very embarrassing for him to walk back and without appearing to have caved.

And Boehner's comments are mild compared to Mitch McConnell. McConnell is insisting on deep Medicare cuts (that get the GOP off the hook on gutting Medicare) and no new revenue. He could not be more clear.

The Villager assures themselves that it's all just negotiation posturing but no one points out where the wiggle room is in GOP comments to allow them to compromise on revenues without losing face.

It seems perfectly clear to me that the GOP plan is to literally refuse to move on the debt ceiling on the belief that the Democrats will capitulate to all their demands rather than risk a default. In other words, we can be Dr. Srangelove because the Democrats will save the day and in doing so appear weak an impotent by completely cave to GOP demands.

So what am I missing?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Remarkable Story Gay Marriage in New York

The NY Times has a great piece today telling the remarkable story of how Democratic Gov Andrew Cuomo won passage of a gay marriage bill in the GOP controlled NY Senate.

Cuomo knew to win enough Republican votes for passage he would have to follow the money.
In the 35th-floor conference room of a Manhattan high-rise, two of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s most trusted advisers held a secret meeting a few weeks ago with a group of super-rich Republican donors.

Over tuna and turkey sandwiches, the advisers explained that New York’s Democratic governor was determined to legalize same-sex marriage and would deliver every possible Senate vote from his own party.

Would the donors win over the deciding Senate Republicans? It sounded improbable: top Republican moneymen helping a Democratic rival with one of his biggest legislative goals.

But the donors in the room — the billionaire Paul Singer, whose son is gay, joined by the hedge fund managers Cliff Asness and Daniel Loeb — had the influence and the money to insulate nervous senators from conservative backlash if they supported the marriage measure. And they were inclined to see the issue as one of personal freedom, consistent with their more libertarian views.

Within days, the wealthy Republicans sent back word: They were on board. Each of them cut six-figure checks to the lobbying campaign that eventually totaled more than $1 million.
The GOP's long term problem is that you cannot build a lasting majority with anger, bitterness and sometimes just outright hate. Americans have never gone for this, and that is even more important today with younger voters perhaps permanently alienated from the GOP and it's religious fundamentalism. Fortunately for Republicans the Democratic opposition is so often impotent and ineffective.

It is feats like this -- passing gay marriage through a GOP controlled senate -- that make politicians legendary.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

N. Carolina Gov vetoed GOP Voter ID bill

Gov Beverly Perdue (D) today vetoed North Carolina House Bill 351 requiring picture IDs for voting.

Her veto statement:
The right to choose our leaders is among the most precious freedoms we have – both as Americans and North Carolinians. North Carolinians who are eligible to vote have a constitutionally guaranteed right to cast their ballots, and no one should put up obstacles to citizens exercising that right.

We must always be vigilant in protecting the integrity of our elections. But requiring every voter to present a government-issued photo ID is not the way to do it. This bill, as written, will unnecessarily and unfairly disenfranchise many eligible and legitimate voters. The legislature should pass a less extreme bill that allows for other forms of identification, such as those permitted under federal law.

There was a time in North Carolina history when the right to vote was enjoyed only by some citizens rather than by all. That time is past, and we should not revisit it.

Therefore, I veto this bill.

Some in St Louis carry guns openly to affirm rights

A picture really is worth a thousand words. From today's Post-Dispatch

Boehner still wants tax hikes off the table

Eric Cantor has broken off talks with Biden apparently over taxes and called for Speaker Boehner to step in (take the fall?).

Asked about the apparent impasse at a presser today, the Speaker said,"I understand his frustration, I understand why he did what he did, but I think those talks could continue if they're willing to take the tax hikes off the table."

I realize this sound extreme or even a little flaky coming from me, and I don't say this lightly, but I honestly don't believe I could support Barack Obama's re-election if tax hikes were taken off the table. I rather just sit the election out than support any further dithering on tax hikes. At some point a hard stand has to be taken, and clearly that point is now. It's past time for leadership.

Could you?

Southwest Airline pilot rant uncensored

This is the uncensored Southwest Pilot hate filled rant. Most revealing about Southwest Airlines Corporate culture is that this pilot is back on the job at full pay after a short suspension.

Had the rant been anti-Semitic or racist would this pilot still have a job? How about a tirade about Christianity?

Please call Southwest's communications department at (214) 792-4847 and ask them to provide a list of groups for which their employees can make on-the-job bigoted rants and a list of what groups are off limits.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Mitt Romney's Weirdness


You would think a two one term Governor who was running for President for the second time would have retail politics down cold, but apparently nothing could be further from the truth.

Romney is just an odd duck. The Atlantic's Josh Green was on the trail with Mitt when he told a group of unemployed Floridian's that he was also unemployed.
Having a guy worth between $190 million and $250 million (according to campaign disclosures) joke about his unemployment status with people who lack not only jobs but also Romney's means, seems rather cruel. But I'm certain Romney mean nothing by it, and I doubt he even realized what he'd done.

To spend time with Romney on the campaign trail (which I did earlier this week) is to be struck and the growing disparity between the formal candidate--the guy who debates and gives speeches, and who has noticeably improved in this regard since the last time he ran for president--and the informal one, whose awkwardness is a thing to behold.
Josh point's to Dana Milbank's "devastating (and accurate) column" on Romney's weirdness in the Tuesday WaPo, who provides a lot of other examples.

Josh sees the MSM starting to pick up on Romney's extreme awkwardness with everyday Americans and writing about it. Romney has a real chance of unseating Obama, but it will never happen if he becomes a running joke.

Gov Nixon vetoed Missouri's voter ID bill

In an attempt to disenfranchise the poor, elderly and disabled, the Republican led Missouri legislature passed a bill requiring all voters present a government issued photo ID before being allowed to vote. In doing so, there was no evidence of significant vote fraud to justify the bill.

In a letter accompanying his veto (pdf) Gov Nixon said,
This new mandate would disproportionately impact senior citizens and persons with disabilities, among others, who are qualified to vote and have been lawfully voting since becoming elible to do so, but are less likely to have a driver's license or government-issued photo ID. Disenfranchising certain classes of persons is not acceptable.
The GOP has launched a nationwide campaign starting in the Bush years to require all voters to show state issued photo IDs before being able to vote. Under current law any evidence that a voter resides at the registration address, including the government issued voter card mailed to each voter prior to an election, a utility bill or bank statement is sufficient. The fact is that many poor voters, the elderly and disabled tend to vote for Democrats and this is intended to stop them from voting.

The Ohio voter ID law even goes after students attending Ohio's Universities by requiring they show a photo ID issued by the State of Ohio and an ID issued by state colleges does not count as presumably those are all fraudulent. It's outrageous and exists for the sole purpose of preventing a Democrat from winning Ohio.

Smokers need not apply

SSM hospitals in St. Louis have announced that they are starting a tobacco free hiring policy effective July 1.

Citing a CDC study finding that smokers cost companies an additional $3400 annually in increased medical costs and lost productivity,
Job applicants at the seven SSM hospitals in the St. Louis area will be asked whether they have used tobacco in the last six months. Anyone who answers yes will be eliminated from the hiring process.

"As an organization that provides health care, we want to encourage our employees to take better care of themselves and set good examples for our patients," said SSM spokesman Chris Sutton.

Cost-cutting is a side benefit of the new policy, Sutton said, because "healthier employees does mean lower health care costs."
This reflects the dramatic social change that has occurred in the last 20 years on smoking.

This all started in 1988 when Ronald Reagan signed the Federal Aviation Act into law, with the Durban amendment banning smoking on all domestic flights of two hours or less. Smokers squealed like stuck pigs but just a year later a national survey showed that 98% of all non-smokers and a surprising 58% of smokers approved the ban. At this same time more and more work places were going smoke free and then entire states when California went smoke free in 1995.

How much longer can Missouri hold out? Missouri is only one of eleven states that currently do not have a smoking ban in some form. The others are Alabama, Alaska, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, SC, Texas, West Virgina and Wyoming. Embarrassing company if you ask me.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Goodbye Anthony, We're gonna miss you

Bush WH used CIA to target critical professor

The NYTimes reports that on at least two separate occasions unnamed officials from the Bush White House asked the CIA to dig up dirt on Michigan professor Juan Cole who authors the blog "Informed Comment" that was very critical of the Bushies. This is of course a violation of Federal laws enacted after Water Gate when the Nixon Administration used the CIA and FBI as arms of the RNC to attack domestic critics.

The NYTimes received a tip that the CIA had been enlisted by the Bush WH to dig up information on Professor Cole. The Times went to retired CIA officer Glenn Carle who is the primary source for the Times article.

The CIA has admitted that they were requested by the WH to provide information of Professor Cole but it was in the context of asking why he was invited to a CIA sponsored conferences, and denied Nixonesque enemies research .

Despite these denials, Carle offered a detailed account of the Bushies attempts "to get" Professor Cole.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Why Colby Rasmus Should Never be Traded


Dan Moore writing at STLMag.com makes the case for keeping Colby.

Tony has a problem with Colby and as a result makes Colby is miserable. TLR is a dick to those he doesn't like and he has no patience for young players who aren't tough has nails. Colby is immature and plays a role in bringing these problems on himself. Tony, and many fans would love to trade Colby for a veteran pitcher or center fielder or whatever. But here's the thing: Colby makes $443K this year and forget Albert, if you want to have Hollidays and Carpenters and Wainwrights on your team and you're not the Yankees you have to have Colbys and Jays and Greenes and Craigs.

Here's how Moore puts it,
But before you suggest the Cardinals trade him for Heath Bell or whoever the latest veteran of note is ahead of the trade deadline, remember this: Whatever you're convinced Colby Rasmus can't do, it would be impossible for the Cardinals to find a center fielder capable of his production at any price, let alone from a player who hasn't reached free agency.

Worried about Rasmus's strikeouts? His on-base percentage is still .359, good for third on the team behind Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday. Worried about his effort? His six triples are second in the National League, and in 2010 he was worth an estimated seven runs just from the extra bases he took on unsuspecting outfielders.

Rasmus will always make awkward and underwhelming plays in the outfield, and he'll always strike out too much, but when it comes time to measure his actual value that's so much window-dressing around the runs he creates for the Cardinals and the salary at which he does it. Trading him for Heath Bell would make the Cardinals worse and more expensive, and all in the name of games that are briefly and subjectively less frustrating to watch.
TLR has become a dinosaur in the post steroid era, still trying to make up for poor fielding with home runs. TLR prefers aging overpaid veterans, who invariable roll into September out of gas. Just look at the Cardinals teams the last 10 years and compare their regular season record with their playoff record. Look at Cincinnati last year.

Baseball is changing back to a style that doesn't rely on home runs so much as manufactured runs 1 and 2 at at time -- what we in Saint Louis call 'Whitey Ball'. If Colby played for anyone else he'd steal 40 bases a year.

So before you jump on the TLR bandwagon to run Colby out of town, remember that if this season isn't Tony's last in St Louis, next season will be and the next coach might be willing to actually invest some coaching effort and patience in Colby to turn him into the 40/40 player he could be with a little TLC.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

USB Regrets it's flight to the suburbs



The NYTimes,
Fifteen years ago, New York City’s reputation as an international financial center was called into question when the giant Swiss bank UBS moved its North American headquarters to the Connecticut suburbs, where it built the largest trading floor in the world.

Now, though, UBS is having buyer’s remorse. It turns out that a suburban location has become a liability in recruiting the best and brightest young bankers, who want to live in Manhattan or Brooklyn, not in Stamford, Conn., which is about 35 miles northeast of Midtown. The firm has also discovered that it would be better to be closer to major clients in the city.

As a result, UBS is seriously considering a reverse migration that would bring its investment banking division and up to 2,000 bankers and traders back to Wall Street and a new skyscraper at the rebuilt World Trade Center,...
Let's see? Manhattan or Connecticut? which would I prefer? Who picks Wonder Bread when they can have an artisan whole grain? Of course young bankers want to live in Manhattan. Have you ever been to Stamford?

The Economist puts Defense Spending in Context


Simply put, the US spends more on the military than the next 17 countries compained, all of whom, with a couple of exceptions, are NATO allies. The DoD estimates that China will spend approximately $119B next year on their military in contrast to the U.S which will spend more than 7 times that amount.

You will know a Republican is courageous about the budget when they propose taking on Military spending. Ryan didn't even try, preferring to end health care for the elderly instead.

And beware of those desperate to make China out to be a new military threat. Given the money we owe them, making war against the U.S would be economic suicide. And the Chinese have no intention of committing economic suicide.

Republicans are always fighting the last war. In this case, it's World War II.

Focus Group

I was contacted to participate in a focus group discussing "various business and legal issues" affecting the St Louis area.

The problem is that this focus group is taking place on three consecutive weekdays from 7AM to 6PM. Who has that kind of time?

The methodology of the group excludes the broad demographic of the gainfully employed leaving only the retired and unemployed, which of course skews the data collected. Perhaps the target audience they are researching is the elderly and unemployed than I guess they will do fine, but it just seems like a odd way to do this.

Before I would have been 'qualified' to participate in the focus group, I had to answer a series of screening questions. Since there was no way I was sitting through three 11 hour days of research, did declined the questions.

By the way, the study pays $500 if you set through all 33 hours.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Ezra has crystalized my thoughts perfectly.

I'm very frustrated that Obama has ceded leadership to the GOP on the debt issue and also health care. Obama should have barnstormed the nation selling health care reform as something we can't afford not to do.

Ezra,
For the record, I don’t agree with the policies the GOP is pushing under the guise of deficit reduction, but I think they’re right to see an opportunity for reform rather than a math problem that needs to be solved. A world in which we stop taxing work so heavily and begin taxing carbon is much preferable to a world in which we just jack up taxes on work. A world where we’re saving money through a strong public option is a lot better than a world in which we’re saving money by reducing health-care benefits. It’s better to save money through reforms that make the state work better than to simply make it do less and tax more.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Wisconsin GOP becoming despirate

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the WI GOP intends to run fake Democrats as spoilers in the up-coming recall elections.
The season of dirty political tricks is now officially under way.

In letters obtained by No Quarter, local Republican Party officials are encouraging their GOP colleagues to collect enough signatures to get a fake Democratic candidate on the ballot in each of two upcoming recall elections.

The spoiler Democrats, who are identified by name in the letters, would run in the Democratic primaries for the seats now held by Republican Sens. Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac and Luther Olsen of Ripon.

Both of the fake Democrats have a history of giving almost exclusively to major Republicans.

"We need to make sure Democrat challengers face primaries to allow our Republicans time to mount a campaign," Dan Feyen, chairman of the 6th Congressional District Republican Party, wrote in the letter to "fellow conservatives" on Friday.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Oberhofer

As I tweeted earlier, Jason and I were having breakfast at The Mud House where we met the members of Oberhofer and had a conversation with them while they were waiting for their food to go.

They played a free show last night at the Old Post Office Plaza and were headed to a show tonight in Chicago at Lincoln Hall.

Here's Oberhofef performing o0O0o0O0o

Is it just me?

One is an International terrorist leader, the other a relief pitcher for the San Francisco Giants. Can you tell which is which?







And Another one Bites the Dust

Ilyas Kashmiri speaks at a press conference in Islamabad, Pakistan on July 11, 2001. (Photo: Saeed Khan, AFP / Getty Images)

It is being reported that one of Al Qaeda's top operational leaders, Ilyas Kashmiri, was killed yesterday along with his entourage by Hellfire rockets from a U.S. Drone.
A local journalist says he has been told by Taliban sources in the area that Kashmiri and up to nine other men were drinking tea in an apple orchard yesterday where the missiles struck, killing them all. His militant group, the Harkatul-Jihad al-Islami, which is also known as the 313 Brigade, quickly acknowledged his death. A man named Abu Hanzala who claims to be a member of Kashmiri’s terror outfit sent out a fax today confirming that Kashmiri was “martyred” last night (11:15 local time) in a drone attack. “God willing, the Pharaoh of our times, America, will soon see our strong avenging response. Our enemy is only America.” Two years ago he was also reported to have been killed in a Predator strike, but he surfaced soon afterward, disproving the reports. But clearly not this time.
American sources are being cautious because they have not been able to confirm the death. And it was falsely reported two years ago that he was killed in a drone attack.

If true, this is a really big deal. Kashmiri was a major commando leader who was instrumental in the planning of the Mumbai attacks as was reported to be planning similar attacks in the US and Europe. One of Kashmiri's targets was said to be the Chairman of Lockheed Martin who, ironically, manufactures the drones that are the scourge of global terrorist networks.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Taking on the GOPs Christian hypocracy

Finally a Christian group has risen to take on the GOPs exploitation of Christianity by calling out their faith.

American Values Network hopes to run this spot in Paul Ryan's district,

You can support their efforts by making a donation here.