Thursday, December 20, 2012

Boehner never had the votes to make a deal

Speaker John Boehner

I've been saying, and tweeting, for weeks that I never believed Boehner had the votes to make a deal, any deal, with Obama.  A deal with Obama is just something the Republican caucus is not interested in making.

Boehner has been posturing and whining for 6 weeks hoping that President Obama would capitulate and hand Boehner a victory.  Boehner needed Obama to give up the raising of any tax rate.  When it was clear to Boehner this wasn't happening, he then threw a 'hail Mary' he called Plan B.  How he could possibly create this dramatic showdown without the votes for Plan B, is mind boggling.

David Kurtz has a very smart take tonight,
It is easy to overreact to these things in the moment, to overread them. But Speaker Boehner just put it all on the line. The entire nation was watching, and he was exposed. He knows it. His conference knows it. Anyone left in Washington who had doubts about this speaker’s clout now knows it, too. In a parliamentary system, he would resign and his party would elect a new leader. We don’t do it that way here … usually. But it’s hard to see how Speaker Boehner continues from here — or why he would want to.
It IS easy to over-read these things in the moment, but why would John Boehner want to stand for Speaker of the 113th Congress after such a humiliating defeat?

What exactly would Boehner be the Speaker of?

Washington Media Village literally can't see elephant in front of their eyes

Since the passing of David Broder, perhaps nobody better personifies the out of touch media bubble than Jennifer Rubin.

Today, Jennifer reassured,
In all likelihood, the majority of House Republicans will vote for Plan B, showing the proper consideration (none) for the unrealistic brand of politics that gave the GOP characters such as Todd Akin and Christine O’Donnell. The more that conservative GOP elected officials establish their independence from these third-party cranks, the more likely it is that conservative goals can actually be furthered. To govern and to influence the process is to deal and cajole and compromise. The House speaker and most GOP House members get that. And the vast majority of the House Republicans have nothing to fear from the Heritage Action Network if they do their job and listen to their constituents.
Jennifer is far from alone. Duncan Black calls the insider media bubble in DC "The Village". Village reporters have spent so much time in DC that they no longer recognize reality. They believe, for instance, against all obvious information to the contrary, that House Republicans are secretly very sophisticated and reasonable and are just pretending to be extreme.  Of course the secretly sophisticated House Republicans would make an eleventh hour amazing deal to transform the Nation's budget and deficit.  They dismiss us on the outside looking in, because we don't have their access to what is really going on. 

David Brooks delusional fantasy for a mega 'Grand Bargain' is a perfect example and Brooks himself, is the ultimate Villager. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Never Again: Debt Ceilings are no longer negotiable

Josh Marshall looks at Obama's new policy of refusing to negotiate debt ceiling increases,
The President has been very clear: he’s not going to get into another hostage negotiation over the debt ceiling....And I think he’s going to stick to that. But there’s a passion and energy behind it that’s made me think (not surprisingly) the President feels guilty about what he allowed to happen back in 2011.  I don’t want to overstate ‘guilt’. Maybe that’s too strong a word — but that he made a mistake, that he shouldn’t have let it happen and possibly set a really bad precedent in enabling extremist behavior.
I don't think there is any question about it, although I would not say 'guilt' so much as 'regret'. An acknowledgement that he made a very big mistake in negotiating the debt ceiling increase. Obama knows he needs to fix it or history will recall his precedent of negotiating very badly, and rightly so. Obama fucked-up big time.

President Obama's Achilles Heel is his arrogance which periodically gets him in trouble. Remember the first Romney debate? Obama refused to take Romney seriously and it nearly cost him his re-election. Obama also refused to take House Republicans seriously and it cost the country dearly.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Gun laws passed today will be for generations yet to be born

Here are some sobering gun statistics courtesy of The Huffington Post.

270 to 300 million guns are owned by 70 to 80 million Americans.  I'm one of them.

45 million Americans own handguns.  I'm one of them.

96 percent of the Gun Lobby's $3 million in donations in 2012 went to Republicans.  Without Republican buy in, Democrats are only tilting at wind mills.  If you want serious gun control legislation, call your Republican politicians and tell them so. Republican Senators and members of Congress could not possibly care less what the Presidents wants.  You, on the other hand, can influence them.

87 percent of children killed in the 23 wealthiest countries are our children -- American children.

Passing more restrictive gun laws will not solve our gun problem over night.  It will take many generations after we pass these gun laws to reduce 300 million guns floating around this country to a much more reasonable level.  And I define 'reasonable' as only having guns related to hunting and sport shooting.   Republicans and NRA Democrats like to use this fact as a justification for doing nothing -- make the perfect the enemy of the good.   This is dishonest and we need to call it as much.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  We can make this step now.

Gun buyback programs in big cities can do a lot to reduce guns available for random violence, but only if we seriously limit the market for new tactical guns. 

As I said above, I'm a gun owner.  I inherited several hand guns with my father passed.  I immediately traded all but 1, for a Remington 870 Wingmaster. I also inherited 1 shotgun.  When I was younger, I used to hunt but haven't in many years.   The handgun I kept was a collectable.  It occurred to me this weekend that it was time to dispose of the collectable handgun, but I have no idea how to do so without making our problem worse.  I see no harm in people owning shotguns and bolt action rifles used for hunting.

By the way, I have close to zero hope anything positive will come from the Newtown Connecticut  tragedy.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Debt Ceiling has nothing to do with controlling Federal spending

Republicans are being dishonest about the debt ceiling fight, and the liberally biased media is letting them do so, either out of cowardice or ignorance -- probably both.

Congress controls spending and taxing.  The President and Executive branch can only spend money that Congress has authorized.  Congress determines the extent to which the government will run surpluses or deficits by controlling the mix to taxes to spending.  Like any legislative process, the President plays a role.  The President is required by law to submit to Congress a budget with recommendations for spending and taxation, and can veto any budget bill with which he might disagree.  None of this has anything to do with the debt ceiling.

When the Treasury doesn't have sufficient funds to pay all the bills authorized by Congress, it borrows money to cover those costs.

Independent of the budgeting process, Congress, starting in 1939, imposes a debt ceiling as we know it today.

Here is the important part: debt ceiling or not, the President and Treasury can only pay bills authorized by Congress.   By refusing to raise the debt ceiling, Congress isn't raining in an out of control President, they are refusing to pay bills they have already authorized.

Refusing to raise the debt ceiling is the equivalent of you or I deciding to rein in our personal spending by refusing to pay our credit card bill. 

Here is an example.  Congress authorized the purchase of 32 F-35 fighter aircraft from Lockheed Martin in FY 2012 at a cost of several billion dollars.  In reliance on the Congressional authorization and the DoD order, Lockheed Martin shelled out the cost to manufacture these very expensive aircraft.  But if Congress doesn't allow the Treasury to borrow money, Treasury can't pay Lockheed Martin for doing what Congress ask them to do.

If Congress doesn't increase the debt ceiling, Treasury also can't pay interest on Treasury debt that Congress allowed by previous debt ceilings.

The action of House Republicans who want to hold the credit rating of the United States hostage to force their will on all Americans is outrageous and irresponsible.  The U.S dollar is current the international reserve currency which does benefit out economy by bringing lots of foreign money to our shores.  If House Republicans blow this, the economy will suffer for generations.

If Congress wants to rein in Federal spending, all they have to do is actually stop spending.   Don't buy 2500 outrageously priced f-35 fighters would be a great start.

Adjusting 1993 OBRA tax rates for inflation, ctd

Earlier I commented on simply adjusting the 1993 Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act tax rates (these are the so-called Clinton tax rates) for inflation and otherwise letting the Bush tax cuts expire.

I freely admit that not only do I have no tax expertise, I'm pretty ignorant on the whole subject. 

Following that earlier post, I spoke to an actual tax accountant and he confirmed that if the Bush tax cuts expired, tax rates would automatically go back to those of 1993 adjusted for inflation to 2012 or 2013 dollars. I've also learned that indexing tax rates to inflation was one of Ronald Reagan's actions in reforming the tax code.

So, if we cross the fiscal cliff and the House simply refuses to yield, tax rates for tax year 2013 (married filing jointly) would look approximately like this:

$0 to $59,000: 15%
$59,001 to $143,000: 28%
$143,001 to $224,000: 31%
$224,001 to $400,000: 36%
$400,000 + : 39.6%

I say approximately because I used the inflation calculator from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but I have no idea how the IRS would actually index the rates.

And remember, these tax rates apply to Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)  which is your net income after all deductions.  Remember also that our tax system is progressive such that your actual tax paid may be calculated on multiple tax rates.  The first $59,000 dollar of AGI would be taxed at 15%, the next $84,000 of AGI would be taxed at 28%, etc.   People who should no better often assume that if you had $143,001 of AGI that all income would be taxed at 31% and that is simply not the case.

Finally, as I've said before, crossing the fiscal cliff provides a great opportunity to really get our fiscal house in order.  If not now, when could we ever get back to more sensible tax rates AND cut $1 trillion dollars from the defense budget? 

Friday, December 07, 2012

Ann Coulter takes Sean Hannity to school on the fiscal cliff

A great argument between Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity. Coulter, to Hannity's surprise, advises Republicans to make a strategic retreat on taxes to move forward while Hannity is demanding the political equivalent of Pickett's Charge.

It get's good at the 2 minute mark. I promise, you will enjoy.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Excellent Les Miserables wedding flash mob

This is awesome.

Melissa Knowles reports,
The video begins as Danish couple Suzanne and Sune Vibæk Svanekier are delighted when their guests stand to sing 'One More Day.' Members of the wedding party stand one by one and add their voices to the song. Although this is not one of the musical's more romantic pieces, it was chosen because the wedding took place at the Worker's Museum of Copenhagen, a nod to the working class in singing 'One More Day.' The performance peaks when the group gets up to sing in unison. For the big finish, guests are showered with confetti, and the singers are given a standing ovation.
This only works out well if you and your entire wedding party are gifted musical theater singers.

Forget the 14th Amendment, It's a market issue, stupid!

Well, I was really liking my earlier post highlighting what I believed to be the President's power to sell bonds without Congress consent.

Josh Marshall has blown a hole in my theory the size of Texas. Of course he's right, and I feel a little silly.
The White House has made it equally clear that the President and his advisors do not believe there’s a constitutional rabbit he can pull out of his hat to sidestep the whole issue. In other words, no ‘14th Amendment’ solution in which the President just blows through the debt ceiling and continues to sell bonds. They don’t believe the President has the power. And they also believe it’s not viable in market terms since, remember, .... It’s a market auction. You need people to buy this paper that John Boehner and company will be saying is illegitimate. 
I should have thought of this. I'm feeling really foolish right now.

I still believe the President has the 14th Amendment power to sell bonds to service current debt, but that is moot if there is no market to buy them, and/or the sale does even more damage to the full faith and credit of the United States.

The face of gay marriage in Washington State

Meryl Schenker shares with us the face of gay marriage in Washington. She writes,
One month after Washington State voters approved the state's marriage equality law in Ref. 74, same-sex couples get marriage licenses for the first time on December 6th, 2012. At around 1:30am, Larry Duncan, 56, left, and Randy Shepherd, 48, from North Bend, Wash. got their marriage license. The two plan to wed on December 9th, the first day it is possible for them to wed in Washington State. They have been together for 11 years.
The world is changing and I could not be more delighted.

Does the 14th Amendment forbid a default, Ctd.

UPDATE: Before you invest the time read this post, go here first.  While the below is a solid legal defense, the market makes moot Constitutional remedies.

I raised this issue last time the debt ceiling was up.

President Obama is insisting he will no longer negotiate over debt ceiling increases "because we have got to break this habit before it starts."

Of course he's right.  Last time we were facing a debt ceiling crisis, I asked if Obama's negotiation over the debt ceiling had done permanent damage to the Presidency.  The glee with which Republicans in both houses of Congress speak of endless future fights on the debt ceiling suggest that Obama had indeed damaged the Presidency.  When Gingrich tried this ploy with Clinton, Clinton refused to bargain and in the eleventh hour, Gingrich capitulated and moved on to what he thought would be more productive threats: shutting down the government.

Back to Obama's silver bullet.   Section 4 of the 14th Amendment,
Section. 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.
Weed out the Civil War specific language, for the sake of clarity, and you have this:

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law,...shall not be questioned.

There are 2 issues here: 1, the repayment of all outstanding debts of the United States, and 2, issuing new debt to pay for current government spending authorized by Congress but for which the Treasury does not have sufficient funds to pay without issuing more debt.

I'm taking up the second matter first, because it's the most complicated.  Reasonable people can disagree about whether §4 allows the Treasury to borrow to fund ongoing spending already authorized by Congress when the Treasury has insufficient funds from income (taxes, etc) to pay the bills.  For example, Congress authorized the purchase of 32 F-35 fighter aircraft from by Lockheed Martin in FY 2012.  In reliance on the Congressional authorization and the DoD order, Lockheed Martin shelled out the cost to manufacture these very expensive aircraft.  Is this a "public debt..., authorized by law" as defined by §4? Lockheed Martin certainly thinks so, and most of their closest and dearest friends in Congress think not. 

The first category is much more straightforward.  This category is all Treasury securities/ U.S. debt issued to citizens, foreigners, investors and the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds, etc.  There is no question that all debts issued by the Treasury up to the debt ceiling have been "authorized by law".  Congress has never question the legality of this debt.  By the plain language of §4, the repayment of this debt cannot "be questioned", not by Congress or the President.

In short, Congress lacks the power to compel the default of all U.S Treasury debt they have previously authorized.

Will Obama play this card?  I think he is obligated at least as to category one.  If I were him, at 9PM Eastern Time on the day the debt ceiling expires, with no action by Congress, I would go on national TV from the East Room and announce that pursuant to Section 4, of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, the Secretary of the Treasury and the Treasurer of the United States have been directed to use all means necessary including the issuance of new securities to honor the debts of the United States.

I suppose Congressional Republicans could file suit in Federal Court seeking an order compeling the United States to default on it's debt, but I'm willing to wager they will not.

They can alway impeach the President ("high crimes and misdemeanors means what they say it means"), but again, I'm willing to wager recent history would prevail upon them to decide against that action as well.

In short, if Obama chooses this fight to defang the Congressional debt ceiling, I don't see how Congressional Republicans win. All monied Republican constituencies are going to side with getting paid, leaving only the hard-core ideological Right.

What do you think?

P.S.  If I were Pres and forced to operate the government only on current income, the first expense I cut would be Congressional salaries, but that's just me.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Adjusting OBRA 1993 tax rates for inflation

The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 raised income tax rates on those with the top 1.2% of income earners.  These are the so-called Clinton rates currently being discussed.

President Obama and most of the Country wants to restore the top individual income tax rate under the 1993 OBRA while retaining the so-called Bush tax cuts for everyone else.

If the House of Representatives does nothing, the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 expire at midnight, December 31, 2012, and we return to the 1993 rates.  

OBRA imposed an income tax rate of 39.6% on household adjusted gross income or taxable income (much less than actual income) above $250,000.   But the OBRA adjusted the top income amount for inflation such that the income threshold for the top rate rose every year starting in 1995*.

Obviously, $250,000 in 1993 was much more income than it is in 2013.   In fact, using the Bureau of Labor Statistics Inflation calculator, $250k in 1993 is equivalent to $400k today.

Adjusting the 1993 income threshold to 2013 dollars seems like an easy concession that everyone could agree on.  This is essentially what Warren Buffett suggested (among other things) in his November 25th NY Times OP/ED. Buffett said the threshold should be $500k and that works for me too.  The issue is tax fairness and fairness requires we compare apples to apples. 

Personally, I'd favor a return to all the tax rates of 1993 adjusted for inflation to 2012 dollars.  If we did this, the tax rates on adjusted gross income (married filing jointly) would look like this:

$0 to $59,000: 15%
$59,001 to $143,000: 28%
$143,001 to $224,000: 31%
$224,001 to $400,000: 36%
$400,000 + : 39.6%

If the House passes the Senate bill extending all Bush tax cuts except the top rate, the tax rates would look like this:

$0 to $17,000: 10%
$17,001 to $69,000: 15%
$69,001 to $139,350: 25%
$139,351 to $212,300: 28%
$212,301 to $250,000: 33%
$250,000+ : 39.6%

*Here is a question for which I could not find an answer.  We know that on December 31, all the Bush tax cuts expire and rates revert to the 1993 OBRA.  When I looked at tax tables, I saw that the tax rates from year to year from 1995 to 2001were adjusted for inflation.  So, if we revert to 1993 OBRA, why wouldn't all the rates including the top rate automatically be adjusted for inflation, as they were in 2001, and apparently would have if the Bush tax cuts were never passed? 

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

David Brooks 'Truly Grand Bargain' is delusional

I respect David Brooks. I think he's a bight guy who is considerably brighter than me. But I think today's column is naive and delusional.

Brooks seems blind to just how far the Republican party has sank, and in particular, the Republican House.

Brooks proposes a temporary fix now, with Republicans relenting on tax rates going up on top earners and some cuts in entitlements (nothing on defense) to buy time and kick the can down the road for a truly grand bargain,
But the big [Republican] demand would be this: That on March 15, 2013, both parties would introduce leader-endorsed tax and entitlement reform bills in Congress that would bring the debt down to 60 percent of G.D.P. by 2024 and 40 percent by 2037, as scored by the Congressional Budget Office. Those bills would work their way through the normal legislative process, as the Constitution intended. If a Grand Bargain is not reached by Dec. 15, 2013, then there would be automatic defense and entitlement cuts and automatic tax increases.
Brooks clearly has no idea how bad things are among the Republican party.  The Republican party that Brooks wants to hammer out this bargain no longer exists.  Boehner would have no ability to comply with this.  The core of House Republicans have no desire to do anything to raise money and improve the Federal Government.  They want to destroy the Federal Government for the most part, except the most basic of functions and the DoD.

But even if this weren't true, who among the House GOP has the public policy chops to pull this off?  The House Republican caucus is made up of hard core ideologues, not pubic policy wonks.  This should be clear by Paul Ryan, who's budget math relies on magic and he's considered their genius.

Don't get me wrong, the Democrats aren't exactly a prize, but they at least believe in public policy.

I really don't mean to be hyperbolic but this is so naive it's embarrassing.  Isn't it clear that the House doesn't want any deal with Democrats? They want unconditional surrender.

I've just accepted the fact that we are going off the cliff, and I think it's for the best.  We might dip back into a recession, but it won't be long, because there are trillions on the sidelines waiting to be invested when the markets see certainty.  And how else can we ever hope to really cut back our military defense?

The House Republicans 'plan' is endless debt ceiling crises to literally hold the nation hostage until there is no Federal government to speak of.  They're mad.

Memo to Jennifer Rubin: Admitting the problem is the first step to recovery

Shameless Romney shill Jennifer Rubin advises the GOP not to pay attention to Jim DeMint and all the "usual right-wing screechers" who have no real accomplishments to to point too and spend their time attacking other Republicans. She call's them the 'no' crowd.

While I think Rubin's advice to Republicans is sound, I have to take issue with this:
The joke here is that the mainstream media love the loony express. The engineers on the train to nowhere are useful props for liberals to convince the public that this is what conservatism is. The mainstream media parade the loonies around as the talking heads for the right, as if they represented a majority or even plurality of the party.

It wasn't the MSM or a liberal cabal that threw Bob Bennett under the bus for Mike Lee or Dick Luger for Richard Murdoch. It was Republican primary voters.

It wasn't the MSM or a liberal cabal that nominated Todd Akin or Ted Cruz. It was Republican primary voters.

It wasn't the MSM or a liberal cabal that brought us Sharon 'chickens for medical care' Angle. The Club for Growth and Republican primary voters who chose Sharon over here closest rival by 14 points.  All the MSM did was cover the Republican Senate nominee who was taking on the Majority Leader.

I could go on, and on, and on,.....

You cannot solve a problem until you admit you have one.

Jennifer, the Republican party has a problem. The 'Loony Train' (Jennifer's term, not mine, but great turn of phrase) is running the show.

Admitting the problem is the first step to recovery.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The popular vote

Is still being counted. Media reports on popular vote total are often inaccurate because lazy reporters just look to election night numbers.

Dave Wasserman from the Cook Political Report is tracking and updating the popular vote totals as states report their final official numbers.

Dave's 2012 National Popular Vote Tracker is here. Knock yourself out with the data.

By the way, the current vote spread is well over 4 million votes and growing. Romney's percentage is regressing slowly to 47%.   This is important because the spread now overwhelms all third-party votes.

TPM's Reaping the Whirlwind postings

TPM's Josh Marshall has been posting reader emails he's received since the election under a "Reaping the Whirlwind" title.

These emails relate in very personal terms how much this election has meant to Americans who fall into the "other" category just as  Barack Obama does.

TPM reader JR is an Indian-American born and raised in Iowa to parents who immigrated from India. JR was inspired to write in response to reader KE. Here is a portion of 'JR's email.
When I was a small child in Ames, Iowa, in my immigrant family, neighborhood teenagers assaulted our home regularly, pelting fruit and whatever else at our house. Several times my dad had the police come and lecture this group of kids. It was all about race, and these kids’ parents did nothing. So when Mitt Romney in a Michigan stump speech snarks that no one asked him for his birth certificate, and his GOP allies defend the racism as “just a joke,” when so many GOP federal and state electeds endorse or tacitly condone questioning of Obama’s citizenry and engage in other dog whistle racism, these are always personal attacks equally on me…if Obama is not an American and does not legitimately belong, then they’re saying the same about me. I imagine I’m not alone, that people of color across the board see what I see, and the election results confirm this. It’s striking to me, and IMO underreported, that Obama clearly lost great amounts of white support in Florida and indeed his 37% in the exit poll with Florida whites has always been disastrous…and yet he wins the state with an absolute majority. It’s striking to me that the national exit poll has not only people of color increasing to 28% of the total, but also that it has both Hispanics and Asians giving over 70% to Obama. These things tell me that people of color across the board see what I see, an appalling racism and xenophobia in the Republican Party that is enraging. Sadly, the early signs of the post-election period show only continued GOP hostility, even more bitterness and resentment than before.
It's easy to get caught up in emotion immediately following an election, but the election of 2012 was a watershed in American history.

Doubters could and do write off 2008 as a vote against Bush and his party more than a vote for Obama.  The same cannot be said of 2012. A majority of Americans chose Barack Obama over a white man (perhaps the whitest man in America) and this was possible, as JR points out in his email, by an overwhelming turnout of non-white Americans.  I realize this sounds dramatic, but we are forever changed.

The Republican party has enormous problems going forward and in listening to them and watching them posture, it's clear that many (but not all) have no idea.  Romney proved there is no future in this country for a White Christianist party hostile to science and reason.

Romney ran to be the President of White Christianist America and won that election handily, which got him exactly nothing.  He will be watching President Obama's second inaugural address from the warm comfort of one of his many homes.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Warren Buffett wants A Minimum Tax for the Wealthy

This is something I've been thinking a good deal about recently. I've been picking the brains of friends about taxation rates with an eye toward bring equity to Federal taxation. It occurred to me that a minimum tax on the income of the very wealthy was probably the easiest and cleanest way to do this. I was thinking of 30% for all income (from any source) above $1 million, but I will go along with Warren.

Warren begins by outlining the incredible and growing disparity of income between the very wealthy and working people, and then offers an equitable solution, to wit,
...we need Congress, right now, to enact a minimum tax on high incomes. I would suggest 30 percent of taxable income between $1 million and $10 million, and 35 percent on amounts above that. A plain and simple rule like that will block the efforts of lobbyists, lawyers and contribution-hungry legislators to keep the ultrarich paying rates well below those incurred by people with income just a tiny fraction of ours. Only a minimum tax on very high incomes will prevent the stated tax rate from being eviscerated by these warriors for the wealthy.

Above all, we should not postpone these changes in the name of “reforming” the tax code. True, changes are badly needed. We need to get rid of arrangements like “carried interest” that enable income from labor to be magically converted into capital gains. And it’s sickening that a Cayman Islands mail drop can be central to tax maneuvering by wealthy individuals and corporations.

But the reform of such complexities should not promote delay in our correcting simple and expensive inequities. We can’t let those who want to protect the privileged get away with insisting that we do nothing until we can do everything.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Battles remain, but the war is over and we have won -- David Simon says so

Andrew did me the considerable favor of pointing me to the blog of David Simon (creator of HBO's The Wire, Treme, etc).  It will become a regular read for me.

On the night Barack Obama was reelected, I realized that we had won the war.  The America represented by the current Republican Party is dead forever.  That doesn't mean there won't be setbacks -- if we're lucky and work hard, 2014 will only be a minor setback -- but there is no going back.  America is forever changed.

Since November 6th, I've struggled to capture in words how I felt.  I've sat down to write a half dozen times but just could not put into words, the significance of this election.

No need to struggle any further, David Simon has captured my feelings perfectly
Hard times are still to come for all of us. Rear guard actions will be fought at every political crossroad. But make no mistake: Change is a motherfucker when you run from it. And right now, the conservative movement in America is fleeing from dramatic change that is certain and immutable. A man of color is president for the second time, and this happened despite a struggling economic climate and a national spirit of general discontent. He has been returned to office over the specific objections of the mass of white men. He has instead been re-elected by women, by people of color, by homosexuals, by people of varying religions or no religion whatsoever. Behold the New Jerusalem. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a white man, of course. There’s nothing wrong with being anything. That’s the point.

This election marks a moment in which the racial and social hierarchy of America is upended forever. No longer will it mean more politically to be a white male than to be anything else. Evolve, or don’t. Swallow your resentments, or don’t. But the votes are going to be counted, more of them with each election. Arizona will soon be in play. And in a few cycles, even Texas. And those wishing to hold national office in these United States will find it increasingly useless to argue for normal, to attempt to play one minority against the next, to turn pluralities against the feared “other” of gays, or blacks, or immigrants, or, incredibly in this election cycle, our very wives and lovers and daughters, fellow citizens who demand to control their own bodies.
Please, please, please read the the entire essay which isn't long.

I'm a middle aged white guy who will likely fall into the category of those who will see their top marginal tax rate rise.  But none of that matters to me so long as I get to live in an America that is a multicultural melting pot that prospers while celebrating everyone's differences and provides a basic safety net for all that includes adequate health care and a guarantee that those who have worked their entire life can't die in poverty. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Watching a mother die where all abortions are illegal

A candlelit vigil outside University Hospital Galway in Ireland on Nov. 15, held in memory of Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar, who died at the hospital. Photo: Cathal Mcnaughton/Reuters
The Republican party opposes abortion for any reason, including rape, incest and even to save a mother's life.

Ireland, a "Catholic nation," is a Republican dream. At the insistence of celibit men, Abortion in Ireland is illegal in all instances including where necessary to save the life of the mother.

And they will most assuredly watch a mother die, rather than allow her to safely terminate a fail pregnancy.
Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old dentist who lived near Galway, Ireland, was 17 weeks pregnant when she was informed, on complaining of severe back pain, that she was having a miscarriage. Despite repeated requests for an abortion, she was told that Ireland is a Catholic country, said her husband, Praveen Halappanavar, and that it would be illegal to terminate a pregnancy while the fetus’s heart was still beating. A few days later, Dr. Halappanavar died of septicemia on Oct. 28 at the University Hospital Galway.
God's will?

This is the America Republicans promise us. Take it in and behold.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Barack Obama, General Slayer?

One of Andrew's astute readers has a very interesting take on Obama's handling of his Generals.
As Tom Ricks points out, quite compellingly, in the first chapters of his new book, The Generals, what we have witnessed since Vietnam is a slow, steady, deconstruction of accountability mechanisms for the military that reached its high point under Bush. Now one of the distinguishing features of Obama is his subtle, skillful reversal of these precedents - in a way which was at once non-confrontational and beneath the radar of political Washington. The Petraeus case is an excellent example - he was denied the post he most cherished (chair of the JCS) and instead given CIA. But he was required to set aside his uniform and give up his entourage of 50 (amazing!) who followed him in his final appointments. He was denied "special" access to the White House and the president while he ran CENTCOM and Afghanistan. He and other generals were told to treat the chain of command seriously.

Obama also has become the biggest general slayer since Harry S. Truman. He fired Stanley McChrystal and now David Petraeus, the man who flogged rumors about his own suitability for high political office. I don't see anything remotely Machiavellian about this. It was all rigorously application of good governance principles and rules of command authority. But the result we are now coasting towards is an unwinding of the distortions introduced by Bush and a restoration of America's historic notions of civilian-military relations - under which the generals are to be kept firmly out of politics and clearly accountable to elected civilian authority.
Much of this was possible because Obama kept Robert Gates on as Defense Secretary for the first 3 years or so of his administration. Gates was a Secretary of uncommon stature, as firm as he was intelligent and the Generals feared him. I really don't get the sense that Leon Panetta has Gates gravitas.

Obama, by the way, doesn't get enough credit for his truly impressive leadership which always shines in moments of crises.  Hurricane Sandy was just another example, and Republican Governor Chris Christie will attest.

The GOP's media cocoon

SNL's Fox and Friends
Jonathan Martin has an excellent article at Politico taking a long look at the problem with the Right's media cocoon.  Lots of good quotes from the Right's leading thinkers.

It was a jaw dropping moment for me when Romney was embarrassed in the third debate because he had erroneously believed right-wing propaganda that Pres Obama had not called the attack at Benghazi an act of terrorism.   I expect ignorance from my right-wing neighbor who gets most of his news from e-mail forwards and the rest from Fox.   I found it stunning to realize that Romney and those in his inner circle where equally ignorant of reality.  Then we had election night and all the talk of a "shell shocked" Romney and Ryan.  This really doesn't not speak well of the intelligence of all involved. 

I think the GOP is at least 4 more years away from again becoming a reality based party.  The only question in my mind is to what extent Democrats will squander this moment. 

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The vindication of Don Ward: Demographics don't work for the GOP

I have suffered mightily my friends, mostly for things I've gotten completely wrong.  But on this score, I was a God damn visionary. 

I've been saying for more than 10 years that the GOP we all know is not long for this world.  The changing demographics of America don't work for the Republican party as it currently exists.  I've had Republican friends literally laugh out loud at me when I would try to explain to them that the white America they embrace is quickly changing.

First Read this morning,
What happened last night was a demographic time bomb that had been ticking and that blew up in GOP faces. As the Obama campaign had assumed more than a year ago, the white portion of the electorate dropped to 72%, and the president won just 39% of that vote. But he carried a whopping 93% of black voters (representing 13% of the electorate), 71% of Latinos (representing 10%), and also 73% of Asians (3%). What’s more, despite all the predictions that youth turnout would be down, voters 18-29 made up 19% of last night’s voting population -- up from 18% four years ago -- and President Obama took 60% from that group.

Obama’s demographic edge creates this dilemma for the Republican Party: It can no longer rely on white voters to win national elections anymore, especially in presidential cycles. Indeed, according to the exit poll, 89% of all votes Mitt Romney won last night came from whites (compared with 56% for Obama). So the Republicans are maximizing their share with white voters; they just aren’t getting the rest. And come 2016, the white portion of the electorate will probably drop another couple of points to 70%.
Politico's Jonathan Martin cuts to the chase,
Battling a wheezing economy and a deeply motivated opposition, Obama still managed to retain much of his 2008 map because of the GOP’s deficiencies with the voters who are changing the political face of once conservative-leaning Virginia, Florida, Colorado and Nevada. Republicans face a crisis: the country is growing less white and their coalition has become more white in recent years. In 2004, George W. Bush won [about 40 percent] of Hispanics. Four years later, John McCain, the author of an immigration reform bill, took 31 percent of Hispanics. And this year, Romney captured only 27 percent of Hispanics.
And barring a seismic shift in the Republican Party, it's only going to get worse.  50,000 Latinos turn 18 every month!

10 years from now Florida will be behind the Blue Wall and Texas and Arizona will be swing states.

But I do believe the Republican Party will change.  After all, their hateful white man base is dying at an alarming rate 

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The Democratic electoral advantage: The Blue Wall

Democrats come into presidential elections with a lock on 242 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.  This is an advantage they didn't have even 20 years ago.

Ron Brownstein calls this advantage "The Blue Wall"
If Obama wins Ohio, the only realistic way for Romney to win is to crack what I've called the "blue wall" -- the 18 states that have voted Democratic in each of the past five presidential elections. Here's why: the blue-wall states, which include the 11 states from Maryland to Maine (except New Hampshire); the three West Coast states plus Hawaii; and Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin in the Upper Midwest, offer a combined 242 Electoral College votes (including the District of Columbia). If Obama holds that 242, adds the five votes from New Mexico (that both sides assume he will), the six from Nevada (which appear increasingly solid in his corner) and Ohio's 18, that gives him 271, regardless of what happens in any other swing state.
This advantage exists, by the way, as a result of GOP extremism in reproductive rights.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Ohio Reality Check

Ohio is not a toss-up.

Nate Silver against the World

or at least the pundit glass.

Nate has grown tired of pundits who don't understand the math and probabilities and who, Nate believes, continue to mischaracterize the state of the Presidential race.  Nate took particular exception to Joe Scarborough who was taking aim at Nate when he said, "Anybody that thinks that this race is anything but a tossup right now is such an ideologue ... they're jokes."

Dashiell Bennett from The Atlantic Wire,
Silver has spent the week firing back, criticizing political pundits for not understanding how odds and probability work and aggressively defending his method against critics. As the week has progressed, his model has only shown Obama's chances of winning increasing, which has not coincidentally increased Silver's confidence in the outcome. (As of this morning, Five Thirty Eight gives Obama a 79 percent chance of winning, with a final Electoral College total over 300.)
It's important to remember a couple things. There is an entire industry that lives on claiming this race is a toss up, and they aren't going to let any mathematical model put them out of business. The tight polls give them plenty to talk about.

Joe Scarborough is a partisan. That's not a criticism, that is a fact. I like Joe and often watch Morning Joe, but he's a Republican too his core and he's going to push the 'Romney can win this' meme until the votes are counted.

As for me?  My money is on Nate. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Character and leadership of Obama

Andrew has published an email from a Dish reader that perfectly captures my feelings about President Obama (frustration and admiration), his character and leadership.

The reader is responding to that moment in the debate when Obama looked Mitt Romney in the eye and called his politicization of the Benghazi attack and murders as "offensive".   Here is the video from the debate and below is the readers response.  Forgive the long quote but it's important and I want it here for my own future reference.

Andrew's reader:
I keep coming back to a moment I think was the most important of the debate, and in some ways, Obama's whole presidency. When he called Romney's accusations of politicizing Libya "offensive," I pumped my fist in the air, thrilled. Then, when I found myself going back to that moment again and again, I wondered why it was so powerful.

Yes, the language was probably planned and practiced, yes it was partly political theater, but it reinforced something about this leader that I think many of us feel, even if we're not always aware of it. For all the complaints we have about Obama, especially in the conduct of domestic policy, one thing he demonstrates to me, and it's the reason I revere him more than Bill Clinton, is that he makes careful, patient, principled -- and practical -- decisions, waits patiently for them to bear fruit, and when they do, he trusts the public to analyze and understand what he's accomplished on their own. Libya, tellingly, happens to be high on the list.

There was no crowing about the delicately coordinated bombing campaign (and the covert actions on the ground which helped it succeed) that brought down a tyrant. No "Mission Accomplished" banners, no bold predictions about the future of a remade Middle East thanks to our military efforts. But Obama got results. For less than a thousandth of the cost of Iraq, and with no lives lost until September 11th, Obama gave us a democratically elected Arab ally, an ally whose people -- not their leaders, their people -- are so grateful for what America did and how we did it, that after the death of our Ambassador they poured into the streets in outrage, and attacked the Islamic militias responsible.

No the story's not over. But name another Arab country where you've seen anything remotely similar. What political hay does Obama make out of all this? Very little. Then or since. (To my great frustration, frankly.) After the ambassador dies, Obama's language is full of firmness, but also restraint and moderation, and zero politics. Mitt Romney's language? The opposite. Obama trusts us to use our eyes and give credit where it's due.

His anger in that moment, theatrical or not, was about something deeper. At least it was for me. There must be something horribly galling to our president about being called out for an absurdly minor offense (if it even was one) in the context of a huge foreign policy triumph. It should be galling to us too. We fail to appreciate this president's exceptional character at our own peril.
Bill Clinton, who hasn't been this popular since Newt Gingrich impeached him, is getting a lot of attention. No one could work a town hall like Bill and his policy mind is as sharp as anyone who ever occupied the White House. But in the afterglow of the Clinton years it's easy to forget how very political he could be in his decision making, which always had his own political survival as the top priority as he triangulated from none near death experience to another. This is where Obama is different, often times to my considerable frustration. Obama is maddeningly patient and both arrogant (neither Clinton suffers from a lack of arrogance as well) and at the same time understated.  I think Andrew's reader captures this perfectly.  

Obama is a leader first, and politician second -- an accusation no one would ever throw at Bill Clinton  And this doesn't mean he hasn't made plenty of policy decisions for political purposes, but when he does it, I'm often surprised.  That the decision would be political was a given with Bill Clinton, the surprise was his selling it and coming out the winner nearly every time.

The President is not entitled to special deference in a political debate

Since last night I've heard several people on both sides -- including Romney Campaign spokesman Joe Scarborough --  claim Mitt Romney was out of line for not showing "deference to the office" of President.

Utter nonsense.  Barack Obama is President of the United States, not a king.

The participants in any debate should behave in a courteous, polite and dignified way that shows respect for their opponents. 

Yes, Romney was a huge dick last night.  Romney's behavior was boorish and rude and disrespectful, but it would be no less so if he were debating Herman Cain. 

What makes Romney's behavior particularly reprehensible and boorish is the fact that the negotiated agreement between the campaigns on the rules for this debate included a prohibition against asking each other direct questions.

Romney violated this rule almost immediately and why did he do this?  Simple, the rules don't apply to him.  Mitt Romney is privileged and bound by no rules that he prefers to break any time it suits him.  Of course the Obama campaign will not object, because to do so makes them look like wimps. 

The President of the United States is a public servant, answerable to the American people. After the first 4 years, if the President wishes to continue for 4 more years, he must stand for re-election and the public is free to fire him.

The Bush administration hide behind this 'deference to the office' canard to question the patriotism of anyone who criticized Bush, and to deflect all criticism of his policies, many of which were completely disastrous.

Certainly, the President is entitled to deference in delicate matters of foreign policy (like when say, an embassy is attacked and diplomats murdered) and military matter, but even then he's not above criticism and oversight.   And when running for re-election, the President is not entitled to any more deference on the campaign trail than his opponent.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Is a Whole Foods Coming to the Central West End?

Official rendering of City Walk at Euclid and West Pine
It's been rumored for many months, maybe even a year, that Whole Foods was coming to the Central West End.

By city standards, the vacant lot at Euclid and West Pine is enormous.   During the boom it was sited for a 30 story condo/apartment tower that went bust with the economy.  The old Soviet style medical arts building on the site sat empty for a few years when it was finally knocked down creating the CWE mosquito hatchery that scandalously occupied the site for a couple years before finally being filed in. (scandalous because if an unconnected person owned that lot they would have been relentlessly fined until the hole was filed in which would have taken weeks and not years).

Finally, Tim Bryant reports in the Saturday Post-Dispatch that it's official, site owner Mills Property has announced a deal to develop upscale apartments and has a letter of intent from Whole Foods to lease the 30,000 square foot ground floor.

The deal includes a commitment from Mills to improve the streetscape from Forest Park Parkway to Lindell.  Why Barnes-Jewish/Washington U wasn't pressed to upgrade the streetscape when they metastasized northward across Forest Park Parkway to build a large parking garage and office tower that will never, ever, appear on the property tax rolls even as it sucks up city services is another matter.

An anonymous independent source to The Ward Report has spoken to a Whole Foods employee transferred to Saint Louis from Chicago to advance the new store and study and learn the neighborhood to tailor the store to the unique nature and needs of the CWE.

The neighborhood Casandras will appear at all public hearings and everywhere else seeking attention to their opposition to this and all projects in the neighborhood, but they are well known to the development community inside and outside of City Hall who have learned to ignore them and go about building a better city.

As a committed homeowner of the CWE, I could not be more happy about this development, even though I won't actually believe it's true until there is a signed lease from Whole Foods.   This will do wonders for the living quality and property value of this neighborhood and the city.

Thank you Mills for finally coming through.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bryce Harper is an egotestical douche bag badly in need of veteran leadership

The Nationals suffer from a lack of real veteran leadership in their clubhouse and there is no better example of this than young Bryce Harper who is becoming a major league douche bag.

After game two, Baseball Hall of Fame writer Rick Hummel asked Bryce a perfectly reasonable question, “Have you found yourself to be overanxious, trying to do [too much] in your first couple games?” This didn't sit well with His Holiness Brycecakes who responded:

Then last night, after looking foolish on his final strikeout of the game, Brycecakes grabbed his crouch and sneered at Cardinal pitcher Jason Mott.

So far, Bryce Harper has not responded to our request for comment.

Note: This post was updated with new video of Harper popping off to Rick Hummel. The old video source seems to have expired.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Martha Raddatz and the VP Debate

On the whole, I think Martha did a very good job and certainly better than Jim Lehrer.  I hope we see her again in 4 years.

Josh Barro disagrees, and he has some valid points.
And the last 20 minutes of the debate were given over to silly questions: an abortion question (fine) framed not around policy but the candidates’ religious views (silly); an "is this campaign too negative" question that predictably led to each candidate repeating their own negative attacks; and a "what makes you unique?" question that Paul Ryan couldn’t seem to believe he was being asked. This is time that could have been spent discussing other issues that have thus far been neglected in the debates: immigration, monetary policy, housing policy, unwinding the fiscal cliff.
The last 20 minutes were just awful and I actually think Barro is too kind. I think the religious views of candidates has no place in the nationally televised debates.  Our government is designed to be free from religion and asking such nonsense questions only indulges the uninformed and childish beliefs of those who think the US is a "Christian nation" which is most assuredly not.  'Campaign negativity' or 'too expensive' questions are meaningless fluff to sooth stupid people.  This is not to say a good question about Citizen's United wouldn't have been great.  As for negative campaigns, nothing in modern American history rivals John Adams campaign against his Vice President, Thomas Jefferson.

Mental Health Break

A bad lip synch recap of the first presidential debate.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Will Romney veto anti-abortion bills?

Mitt Romney told the DesMoins Register that abortion legislation isn’t part of his agenda.
“There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda,” the GOP presidential candidate told The Des Moines Register’s editorial board during a meeting today before his campaign rally at a Van Meter farm.
But then the President doesn't really set the legislative agenda making such attempted reassurances meaningless.

The obvious follow-up questions involve vetos, a power the President does have.

If the House passes a bill to redefine rape as they did in 2011 when Romney's Vice President, Paul Ryan, joined Todd Akin to pass a bill to distinguish Todd Akin's "forcible" or "legitimate" from all those other "so called rapes" of women who really wanted it and only cried rape later, will President Mitt Romney veto that bill?

Will Mitt Romney veto an so called Human Life bills or any bills with broad sweeping language intended to criminalize abortion while pretending to do something else?

Who will be asking Romney these questions? 

Saturday, October 06, 2012

St Louis Symphony Orchestra cheers on the Cardinals

We in Saint Louis are blessed with a storied and historic baseball team and a world class symphony orchestra.

Last year the symphony cheered on the Cards who went on to win the World Series from a more than improbably wild card birth and game 6 of the World Series that had to be the most amazing baseball game ever played. 

Here's hoping lighting strikes twice.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame - STL Symphony from St. Louis Symphony on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Romney's debate performance was great but his numbers still don't add up

Three takeaways from last night's debate in Denver:

1.  Romney's performance was great.  Better than anyone expected and better than any Republican hoped.

2.  Obama's performance was abysmal.  Worse than anyone expected and worse than any Republican hoped.

3.  Romney's numbers still don't add up, and simply repeating something doesn't make it true.

Romney's plan of cutting every tax rate by 20% and paying for it by eliminating loopholes  on top earners can only blow a hole in the deficiet the size of the Grand Canyon.

This is not new.  The Tax Policy Center looked at Romney's proposal and even when making all assumptions most favorable to Romney -- including economic growth -- the policy only remains revenue neutral when all tax deductions are stripped from working class families. (A pdf of their report is here).  I discuss the report here.

This chart, taken from the TPC report, explains the impact.

You may click on the image to enlarge it for easier viewing.

Bottom line: Romney's plan only remains revenue neutral when families earning less than $200,000 pay more in income taxes as a result of the lost deductions.  A handy side effect for the wealthy and very wealthy, i.e. Romney, will pay significantly less because the reduced rate more than offsets the loss of the deductions.

In the end, Congress will not remove the deductions from the working class, and like every Repubican tax cut from Ronald Reagan's through G.W. Bush, we will blow an additional  trillion dollar hole in the deficit, in this case, a $5TRILLION DOLLAR HOLE.  

Did Romney's refusal to acknowledge this truth, and Obama's impotent attempt to call him out on this lie turn the campaign around?  Well. we are about to find out, but my advice to Republicans is, don't hold you breath.

In 2004 John Kerry dominated the debates with Bush who often looked confused and uninformed, and Bush won reelection.

UPDATE: In last night's debate, Romney said "5 other studies" contra the Tax Policy Center's analysis and agree with him.  That's not true.  The Washington Post, Salon, and Politifact all say this claim is false because these so-called studies are not studies at all, but articles written from conservative hacks that simply deny the math. One was a WSJ article from Martin Feldstein, an economist and an adviser to the Romney campaign; one was from Harvey Rosen, an economist at the Griswold Center for Economic Policy Studies at Princeton University; one was by Matt Jensen, an economist with the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank; and two were WSJ editorials,” Politifact explains.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Republicans did this to themselves, David Brooks edition

I try to always read David Brooks because he's thoughtful.

Brooks takes a look at The Conservative Mind,
It’s not so much that today’s Republican politicians reject traditional, one-nation conservatism. They don’t even know it exists. There are few people on the conservative side who’d be willing to raise taxes on the affluent to fund mobility programs for the working class. There are very few willing to use government to actively intervene in chaotic neighborhoods, even when 40 percent of American kids are born out of wedlock. There are very few Republicans who protest against a House Republican budget proposal that cuts domestic discretionary spending to absurdly low levels.

The results have been unfortunate. Since they no longer speak in the language of social order, Republicans have very little to offer the less educated half of this country. Republicans have very little to say to Hispanic voters, who often come from cultures that place high value on communal solidarity.

Some people blame bad campaign managers for Romney’s underperforming campaign, but the problem is deeper. Conservatism has lost the balance between economic and traditional conservatism. The Republican Party has abandoned half of its intellectual ammunition. It appeals to people as potential business owners, but not as parents, neighbors and citizens.
It's not just the GOP 'has very little to offer' the less affluent, or Hispanics, but they are openly hostile to them in an angry and bitter way.

Romney is losing the Catholic vote

For a couple generations after the New Deal, Catholic voters overwhelmingly favored Democrats. As Republicans began pushing social issues and the Church began pushing abortion politics above all else, Republicans started chipping away at this bloc of voters.

The current GOPs right-wing swing is costing them, again, with Catholic voters.  Andrew provides analysis and details.  In short, Obama is even with white Catholics (a block he lost in 2008) and wins the block with overwhelming Latin support.

Mark Lilla looks at The Great Disconnect between us and Republicans

In a clever and entertaining book review, Mark Lilla struggles to understand Republicans problem with Obama, and in doing so explains to Republicans why Obama is winning,
Whenever conservatives talk to me about Barack Obama, I always feel quite certain that they mean something else. But what exactly? The anger, the suspicion, the freestyle fantasizing have no perceptible object in the space-time continuum that centrist Democrats like me inhabit. What are we missing? Seen from our perspective, the country elected a moderate and cautious straight shooter committed to getting things right and giving the United States its self-­respect back after the Bush-Cheney years. Unlike the crybabies at MSNBC and Harper’s Magazine, we never bought into the campaign’s hollow “hope and change” rhetoric, so aren’t crushed that, well, life got in the way. At most we hoped for a sensible health care program to end the scandal of America’s uninsured, and were relieved that Obama proposed no other grand schemes of Nixonian scale. We liked him for his political liberalism and instinctual conservatism. And we still like him.

Rove's American Crossroads says Obama want's to dismantle the American Economy

But Rove never really explains why or what's in it for Obama. We left to conclude Obama just hates us. All of us, and our children. And he really hates our grandmother because he wanted to kill her but she's still alive.

As I said before, Republicans have done this to themselves.

Republican party did this to themselves, ctd.

Republican President Ronald Reagan and Tory Prime Minister Margret Thatcher were like two sides of the same coin.

Now compare Tory Prime Minister David Cameron to Mitt Romney and Republican Party.  I can't think of a better illustration how completely intellectually bankrupt and radicalized the Republican Party has become in the last 20 years.

If Mitt Romney had modeled himself after David Cameron and ran a campaign based upon intellectual vigor, core competence and fiscal conservatism sans the religious fanatics, supply-side and neo-con foreign policy fantasists, he'd have a 20 point lead in the polls with the GOP having no choice but to follow him or be left out.  Romney wouldn't have to endlessly pander to the lunatic base because he wouldn't need them. 

How much better would we all sleep at night knowing that David Cameron were the worst we could do? 

Imagine being able to have a national debate about the most efficient and effective ways to deal with climate change?

Image having a national debate about an effective and comprehensive energy policy that could go beyond simply building taxpayer funded refineries and pipelines through national parks and wasn't interrupted with screams of 'drill baby drill'.

Imagine a national conversation on effective and economically efficient environmental policies that takes as a given that poisoning our air and water is not conducive to our long term survival.

Business and Industry would be at the table because they wouldn't have a choice -- participate or watch the policy be made without your impute. 

We had a national conversation about welfare reform in the 1990s and Republicans won.  It's time for more, but we can't move on until the extremist that now control the Republican Party are defeated once and of all.

Republicans have done this to themselves

The Romney campaign is in serious trouble and Republicans are starting to freak out in very public ways.  Andrew Sullivan did a little run down last night.

Many in the Republican establishment are already starting to dumb all their problems on Romney and those who "forced" him (Erick Erickson here) on the GOP.  As if Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, or Herman Cain were perfectly acceptable choices any one of whom would be currently cleaning Obama's clock.

Last week Kevin Drum confronted these Republican revisionists by reminding them that Mitt Romney was by a wide margin agreed to be their best candidate seeking the nomination,
He was, without much question, the most electable of the primary bunch and the toughest opponent for Barack Obama. He was disciplined, well-funded, and had a moderate background that appealed to independents. He was, in short, the very best the Republicans had to offer in the year 2012.This was not a fantasy, either. It was an accurate assessment. Romney was the best they had. The very best.

Let that sink in for a bit.
The Republican party has done this to themselves by allowing a take over of their party by Southern political extremists and fostering an intellectual closed loop that filters out all facts that don't support their position.

If you want one person to blame, blame Karl Rove.  It actually started with Newt Gingrich, but Rove took it nationwide.  With a page from his mentor's playbook, Rove has been the biggest Republican figure of the last 12 years who made a conscious choice not run on issues and to demonize and ridicule opponents so that voters found them unacceptable. 

The Republican party has spent the last 12 years denying science, demonizing their opponents as people who "hate" America, want to "destroy" America and/or "destroy" our American way of life.  Democrats are Godless traitors who want to turn the country into a communist or Muslim state and kill grandma for using too much health care but give free health care to all non-whites all of whom are in this country illegally.

A steady and endless diet of hate-mongering, environmental denialism and anti-intellectualism has driven young voters, college educated voters, moderate conservative voters and non-white voters from the party leaving only an angry, bitter and uneducated white base who honestly believe the very survival of America is at stake in every election and who demand extreme positions from their candidates which in turn makes them unelectable outside of carefully gerrymandered congressional districts.  

The fear of Sharia law is a perfect example.   The Republican legislature and Governor of Oklahoma have passed a law banning Sharia law while Republican legislatures in Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, S Carolina, Tennessee and Utah (notice a pattern?) have proposed Sharia bans pending.  They are fringe figures you say?  Speaker Newt Gingrich (one of the GOP luminaries who would be killing Obama right now)  has demanded a Federal ban of Sharia, "I believe Shariah is a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it.”

Karl Rove loves to call himself 'the architect' and this is what he has spent the last 12 years building.  A radicalized GOP that doesn't understand that they are on the wrong side of the real issues mainstream voters care about.

Paul Ryan's acceptance speech at the GOP Convention is a perfect example of a party intellectually barren.  Ryan has spent his entire adult life in an ideological cocoon where 'facts' are simply made up out of whole cloth and any dissent is beat into silence.  Then Ryan gives his first national speech containing one lie after another and is stunned when a national media confronts him for the first time in his political life with reality.  

Just like 2008, the Republican party is already learning the wrong lessons from this election cycle setting the groundwork for yet another defeat in 2016.

It was all fun and games when this angry mob was attacking Democrats --when American hero and civil rights legend John Lewis was spit on by tea party protesters as they screamed 'nigger' at him.

Now this angry mob is turning on the GOP and here we are.  

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Romney completely humiliates himself in Vandalia Ohio

Romney suffers utter humiliation in Vandalia, Ohio at a September 25, 2012 rally with Paul Ryan.

Joe Scarborough feels like Fredo in the fishing boat.

In 30 plus years of being a political junkie, I've never seen a candidate humiliate himself like this. I'm sincerely starting to feel sorry for Mitt Romney and have to keep reminding myself that he has done this to himself.

God forbid he should be his own man, and tell Republican extremist to piss up a rope.

To set the scene, As Romney begins to speak, the crowd is chanting "Ryan! Ryan! Ryan!"

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Absent something cataclysmic, the Romney campaign is over

Of course Barack Obama can lose in November, but if you are being honest, you have to admit that Romney winning this election at this point has become very hard to imagine.

Undecided and independent voters have been breaking for Obama for 3 weeks giving him an ever growing lead in every swing state.  Last Friday we looked at the status of the swing states and the Obama trend continues.  A WaPo poll released today gives Obama an 8 point lead in Ohio. 

Think about this:  Romney has NEVER led in a head to head versus Obama in Virgina, Ohio, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin or Colorado and in every one of these states Obama's lead is growing.  Romney has been trailing Obama in Florida since May with Obama's lead widening.  North Carolina is certainly competitive for Romney but he's not leading and the trend is Obama.

Bad economic numbers aren't new and are already built into Obama's poll numbers. The fact is that the voters know Obama well at this point, and have decided they would prefer him, warts and all, to Romney.  And with every move Romney makes, voters seem only more convinced to stay with Obama .   This is pretty typical for presidential re-election campaigns. 

Hope's spring is eternal.  I know because I've backed my share of losers.  Romney dead-enders look to the debates for a glimmer of hope, but who are they kidding?  Neither candidate is an especially strong debater, and neither is going to score a knock-out blow against the other.   It's just not happening.  Debates just don't move voters.  As I mentioned here before, Mondale beat Reagan up pretty good in the 1984 debates (one memorable moment here) and come election day, Reagan unleashed a beating the likes of which I don't think any of us will every see again in our lifetimes. George Bush certainly didn't perform well in 2004 debates but in the end, it didn't matter.

And Romney won't find any quarter in getting more specific because the fact is that none of his positions have majority support among voters:  Not tax cuts for top earners, not war with Iran, not increased defense spending, not privatizing Medicare or Social Security.  That Romney's numbers don't add up is something talking heads mention nearly every time they discuss Romney policy.  Republicans have been pushing these issues for the last 10 years and despite getting no traction with independent voters, they keep coming back for more.  Even repealing the Affordable Care Act is a misfire because Republicans keep misreading the public's mood.  The ACA is not the most popular bill to come out of Congress, but many of it's key provisions are popular and a substantial number of those who oppose the act do so because it doesn't go far enough. 

So let's be honest, and admit Romney doesn't have a path to victory barring some sort of improbable cataclysmic event.  

So what do groups like Crossroads do?  They have to either go nuclear with an all out brutally ugly non-stop assault on Obama in hopes of turning Ohio, Florida, Virgina, Colorado, etc. or giving up on Romney and move all assets to encircling Obama with a Republican House and Senate.  

As the name implies, going nuclear is a very high risk bet because if it doesn't work, the down side could be losing House seats you would otherwise win and making the GOP brand so toxic that they lose an entire generation of voters.  Republicans hate Obama, but no one else does and at least Karl Rove knows this.

Bailing on Romney to concentrate fire on the House and Senate seems the smarter move.  And bailing on Romney doesn't necessarily mean cutting him off completely, but rather just spending the bare minimum in his support so as to answer critics that you have not given up.

Feel free to tell me why I'm full of it and outline Romney's path to victory.  What am I missing? 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Obama Biden has some fun with Romney out of context

Obama Biden has a new web ad having some fun with the Romney campaign that likes to quote the President out of context.

Peggy Noonan doubles down and hit's Romney with a second barrel

If you are a Republican, don't piss off Peggy Noonan.  Not only will she compare you unfavorably to Ronald Reagan (did you know Noonan used to work for Reagan?) she might use her column to brutally bludgeon you day after day.

In Noonah's Sept 18 WSJ column she called the Romney campaign "incompetent" and called for an intervention.   This column got a lot of play, but it was on a day with a lot of conservative writers were piling on.   Here was the crux on Noonan's column,
It’s time to admit the Romney campaign is an incompetent one. It’s not big, it’s not brave, it’s not thoughtfully tackling great issues. It’s always been too small for the moment. All the activists, party supporters and big donors should be pushing for change. People want to focus on who at the top is least constructive and most responsible. Fine, but Mitt Romney is no puppet: He chooses who to listen to. An intervention is in order. “Mitt, this isn’t working.”
Noonan didn't pull any punches and proceeded to outline Romney's incompetence item by item for the benefit of anyone who might not have been paying attention.  Some might of thought this was just some tough love, but it now appears that Noonan has no love for Romney.

In her Friday column, Noonan comes back for a second pound of flesh, evidently out of fear that her earlier column was too subtle.
It is true that a good debate, especially a good first one, can invigorate a candidate and lead to increased confidence, which can prompt good decisions and sensible statements. There is more than a month between the first debate and the voting: That's enough time for a healthy spiral to begin.

But: The Romney campaign has to get turned around. This week I called it incompetent, but only because I was being polite. I really meant "rolling calamity." A lot of people weighed in, in I suppose expected ways: "Glad you said this," "Mad you said this." But, some surprises. No one that I know of defended the campaign or argued "you're missing some of its quiet excellence."
I've followed, supported and volunteered (at very low levels) for my share of losing campaigns, and I've done the same for some winning campaigns. I'm 3 for 7.

When a campaign is winning, everything seems to go their way and the gaffe's melt away if they are ever actually noticed. Winning begets winning. If things start breaking your way, you can even stand in front of a large crowd in St Charles MO with all the media present and out of pure ignorance and stupidity yell into a microphone that the fools you are running against are so dumb they think Social Security is a Federal program and no one will even notice.  And if the other side dares to mention the remark and suggest that it might call into question the candidate, everyone will rush to brush it off as just a minor misstatement.

The same in true for losing too. When a campaign gets the Loser stink, it seems that nothing can turn the tide. The press notices every little thing, and one dumb comment begets a second, and a third and then suddenly the campaign falls into a panic and a seeming bright and articulate candidate with a heretofore promising political career starts to look like a buffoon.  The losing snowballs and then not even a debate performance that would have shamed Socrates is enough to get everyone to stop smirking at the candidate.    

Peggy Noonan thinks Romney has the Loser stink.

Romney Campaign has money problems

It has been noticed that Romney is being badly outspent in the swing states which raised obvious questions since Romney has been reporting $100M+ fundraising all summer.

Well, it turns out, they have been cooking the books a little. Nick Confessore reports in today's NY Times,
Much of the more than $300 million the campaign reported raising this summer is earmarked for the Republican National Committee, state Republican organizations and Congressional races, limiting the money Mr. Romney’s own campaign has to spend....the campaign’s cash flow became so slow over the summer that it was forced to borrow $20 million to carry it through the [RNC Convention], when his formal nomination freed up tens of millions of dollars for the general election. Yet at the same time Romney aides worked hard to project the image of a fund-raising machine far outpacing the president’s.
Romney aides released informal dollar figures that lumped several pools of money — some available for his use, others not — into a single figure, providing a perception greater than reality: $106 million in June and $101 million in July, far more than Mr. Obama and the Democrats. Yet those figures obscured the fact that most of the money Mr. Romney was raising was reserved for those other political entities like the Republican National Committee.
I'm really surprised by this. I've always assumed Romney could always turn to fellow LDS members to provide enough small donations to prevent him from having any money issues.

Apparently not.

Have you seen the tea party ad running on TV now making a desperate call to 'fellow patriots'  to raise emergency money for Romney.