Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Charles Koch has proven global warming is man made

This is kind of a funny story.

Charles Koch, one half of the infamous Koch brothers, along with his brother David, are avowed global warming deniers.

Dr Richard Muller is a famous Berkeley physicist who has been a very vocal critic of global warming science and a self-described global warming skeptic. For instance, of Al Gore's book, An Inconvenient Truth, Dr. Mueller said, "80 percent or 90 percent of what's in Inconvenient Truth is wrong or exaggerated or cherry picked."

Like many physicists, Muller is a prickly academic who believes no science is valid that he hasn't personally verified. Think Dr. Sheldon Cooper.

So, when Dr. Muller suggested that all the science previously done was flawed by questionable methodology and cherry picked data, and that he would like to study the matter, Charles Koch jumped on the chance to fund the study (along with money from others including Bill Gates) and the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project was born.

From the perspective of Charles Koch, it's all been downhill from there. 

Last November, Dr. Mueller appeared before the House Energy Committee and reported that he had confirmed that global warming was real.  His previous concerns about global warming science proved to be unfounded.  "This means that the list of potential biases had not unduly influenced the results that had been published by prior groups" Mueller reported.

Maybe Mueller isn't the only qualified scientist in the world after all.

This in and of itself, is shattering news to the Koch brothers and folks like George Will who have always insisted that even the notion of the earth warming was nonsense.  The good news in November -- from the perspective of the Koch brothers -- was that Mueller was still uncertain about the role humans played in the warming of the earth.

At least as of this weekend,  Mueller is no longer uncertain about the cause of global warming.
"Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.”

The Berkeley project’s research has shown, Muller says, “that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by 2½ degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of 1½ degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.”

He calls his current stance “a total turnaround.”
I wonder what the Koch brothers call it?

But it gets even better. Dr. Mueller is about to release a new book, "The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic" that would not have even been possible if not for the generous funding of the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation.

Thank you Mr. Koch.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Romney's London comments simply reflect Romney's values

Fred Kaplan doesn't think anyone, least of all self-appointed Romney apologist--in--chief Charles Krauthammer, should be surprised by Romney's London antics.  This is who Romney is, and his comments reflect his world view.

How Romney should have behaved in London may be obvious to Krauthammer, but it was not at all obvious to Romney,
The thing that Krauthammer doesn’t get is that Romney is not the sort of businessman—that his brand of capitalism is not the sort of enterprise—that requires even the most elementary understanding of diplomacy, courtesy, or sensitivity to other people’s values, lives, or perceptions.

The American capitalists-turned-statesmen of an earlier generation—Douglas Dillon, Averell Harriman, Robert Lovett, John McCloy, Dean Acheson, Paul Nitze—took risks, built institutions, helped rebuild postwar Europe, befriended their foreign counterparts: in short, they cultivated an internationalist sensibility at their core. Whatever you think of their politics or Cold War policies generally (and there is much to criticize), financiers formed an American political elite in that era because finance (through the Marshall Plan, the World Bank, the IMF, and so forth) was so often the vehicle of American expansionism.

By contrast, private-equity firms, such as Bain Capital, where Romney made his fortune, tend to view their client companies as cash cows, susceptible to cookie-cutter formulas from which the firms’ partners reap lavish fees, almost regardless of the outcome. Their ends and means breed an insularity, a sense of entitlement, a disposition to view all the world’s entities through a single prism and to appraise them along a single scale.
Rick Perry called Romney's business practices Vulture Capitalism, but I prefer Vampire Capitalism.

Vampire Capitalism

Americans have long revered the great capitalist throughout our history.  Men who built huge personal fortunes while also building huge businesses that employed hundreds of thousands people.  Men like Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, William Durant, the Rockefellers,  the Vanderbilts.  George Romney -- Mitt's father -- pictured here on the 1959 cover of Time Magazine -- deserves a mention amoung these men.  The elder Romney made his fortune turning around American Motors and saving hundreds of thousands of jobs in the process.

Don't get me wrong, these men had plenty of critics including contemporaries who called them robber barons and questioned their labor and environmental practices.  They fought against fair labor practices, and had many, many flaws.  But they also built the industrial base that created the largest middle class in the world, sent millions of Americans to college, won two world wars and created the largest economy in the world -- a title we continue to enjoy to this day.

Mitt Romney has certainly made a real fortune that will support his family for generations to come.  And there is no suggestion that he made even 1 penny illegally.

The difference between Mitt Romney and father, is that Mitt's fortune was made not by building companies but from just the opposite.  Tex Gov Rick Perry called it vulture capitalism, but I prefer vampire capitalism.  Romney made his fortune sucking the life blood out of companies to pay himself and his investors huge rewards while leaving the company for dead.

Anthony Gardner at Bloomberg took a look at Romney, Bain and the companies they loaded with debt, drained of equity and profits, some of which ended up in bankruptcy even as he and his investors made off with hundreds of millions in profits.

Gardner called Romney and Bain's practices "casino capitalism".  They bought companies with very little of their own money and a lot of borrowed money -- called leverage -- that became the responsibility of the acquired company to pay back.  Leveraged buyouts are not an uncommon business practice.  We in St Louis watched InBev buy Anheuser-Busch with $52B in debt that was immediately saddled on A-B to pay back and it was we in St Louis who felt the cuts at A-B necessary to make those debt payments.
Thanks to leverage, 10 of roughly 67 major deals by Bain Capital during Romney’s watch produced about 70 percent of the firm’s profits. Four of those 10 deals, as well as others, later wound up in bankruptcy. It’s worth examining some of them to understand Romney’s investment style at Bain Capital.

In 1986, in one of its earliest deals, Bain Capital acquired Accuride Corp., a manufacturer of aluminum truck wheels. The purchase was 97.5 percent financed by debt, a high level of leverage under any circumstances. It was especially burdensome for a company that was exposed to aluminum-price volatility and cyclical automotive production

Forty-to-one leverage is casino capitalism that hugely magnifies gains and losses. Bain Capital wisely chose to flip the company fast: After 18 months, it sold Accuride, converting its $2.6 million sliver of equity into a $61 million capital gain. That deal, which yielded a 1,123 percent annualized return, was critical to Bain Capital’s early success and led the firm to keep maximizing the use of leverage.
Gardner looks at other Bain acquisitions, none of which did the acquired company or it's employees and their families any good.

As Gardner points out, it's very clear that Mitt Romney made lots of money for him and his investors,
What’s less clear is how his skills are relevant to the job of overseeing the U.S. economy, strengthening competitiveness and looking out for the welfare of the general public, especially the middle class.
It's perfectly clear that Romney had no intention or interest in building a competitive global economy or protecting the interest of middle class America. Romney's goal is to make permanent the laws and institutional advantages that have allowed him to suck the life blood out of American businesses for personal fortune.

The Capitalist of the past -- for all their flaws -- were able to do both.

Obama's Modernized 21st Century War on terror goes to Africa

President Obama understands the modern world and America's enemies.

Whereas the Bush administration with 20th century tunnel vision was obsessed with the role of Sovereign countries, Obama understands that the enemy we face today are non-state terrorist organizations. After all, it wasn't Iraq or Afghanistan or Iran that planned and executed the attacks of September 11, or the bombing of the USS Cole, the London Subway bombings etc. These attacks were all carried out by transnational terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda. Unfortunately for all of us, either out of stubbornness or just ignorance, Romney seems to suffer from Bush's affliction with his Iran obsession.

The Los Angeles Times reports this morning that Obama's modern warfare model has moved into Africa.
Like CIA drone strikes in Pakistan and Somalia, and the overthrow of Moammar Kadafi's regime in Libya, the U.S. backing of African troops in Somalia is an example of how, after a decade of ground combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Obama administration is trying to achieve U.S. military goals with minimal risk of American deaths and scant public debate. The U.S. can underwrite the war in Somalia for a relative pittance — the cost over four years has been less than $700 million, a tenth of what the military spends in Afghanistan in a month — but the price tag is growing. … The U.S. is supplying the African forces with surveillance drones, ammunition, small arms, armored personnel carriers, night-vision goggles, communications gear, medical equipment and other sophisticated aid and training.
I remain mystified as to why conservative seem completely incapable of understanding the nature of our enemy and acting accordingly.

God help all of us if Romney wins and realizes his dream of war with Iran.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Romney Goes to London for a glorified photo op

And in less than 24 hours from his arrival he is being mocked by the Lord Mayor of London before a crowd of 60,000 people.

If you plan to run a campaign premised upon your superior competency, you need to actually be competent.

Jeff Bezos steps up for marriage equality

Shopping at large discount retailers has become a political act.  I've long refused to shop at Walmart or Sam's Club for many, many reasons regarding treatment and pay of their employees, business practices, etc.

 Several years ago now a progressive activist friend told me I had to start boycotting Kmart for reasons I can't even recall.  I reminded him that he can't expect middle class Americans to boycott everyone.  People need a discount retailer and if Walmart is out, then people need Kmart to buy all the non-grocery crap we need to buy to maintain our daily lives .  Fortunately for me, I couldn't think of any nearby Kmart stores, so it didn't matter.  And besides, I still had Target.

I loved shopping at Target for my non-grocery crap .  Then Target donated $150k to a reactionary political fund - MN  Forward - that was actively opposing marriage equality in Minnesota.  An immediate boycott was launched and Target was out.  I haven't been back since.

I already shopped at Amazon for books not available at Left Bank Books, several small Canon cameras, the occasional CD, etc. I knew Amazon sold lots of stuff so I started searching to see if I could buy my Target crap from Amazon. Sure enough, Amazon sold pretty much everything I would buy at Target, and often in inexpensive large quantities like Sams or Costco.  I joined Amazon Prime and haven't looked back.  I buy everything I can from Amazon --30 pound bags of dog food, cases of canned soup, OTC meds, shampoo -- pretty much anything you would buy from Target or Walgreens - all delivered to my door by complimentary second day shipping.

Now, my Amazon love has been vindicated.  Jeff Besoz and his wife MacKenzie have made a $2.5M donation in support of a marriage equality referendum in Washington State.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Romney's shaking down London Bankers while in town

I find this a little shocking, but I guess I shouldn't.

While in London, Romney's shaking down London bankers, including $1M from Barclay's execs while Barclay's is embroiled in the middle of an International banking scandal. Romney is attending a $50k to $75k a head fundraiser tonight at a secret Mayfair London location.

Several members of Parliament find this all a little shocking too.  11 MPs have signed a motion in Parliament demanding Barclay's and it's directors stop raising money for an American presidential contender and start working on digging their bank out of scandal. 

Don't these MPs realize that is exactly what these bank executes are doing tonight?  Well, not so much out of scandal as out of accountability.  It's the American way.

From this London shakedown, Romney head to Isreal where he will also be raising million from Israeli's who want to see him POTUS.

Jeb Bush wants Rubio for VEEP

It shouldn't surprise anyone that Jeb Bush, in an interview with the AP, is pushing Marco Rubio for VEEP. Jeb thinks Rubio is ready and was pushing him in a recent meeting with Romney.

Of course Jeb's pushing of Rubio is also self serving. Both Jeb and Rubio have their eye on the White House in 2016, and getting him out of the way now, would clear a path for Jeb in 2016 and prevent the two from fighting over FL voters.

If Rubio were to accept the VEEP and lose, he could get a black eye from the fight and be tarred with the stink of a loser.

And despite media attention, Rubio is widely seen as a flawed national candidate because of his financially plagued past.

If Rubio wins, being VEEP could end his presidential ambitions. Despite popular belief, only one VEEP in the last 100 years has been elected POTUS from the Vice President's residence (GHW Bush).

And finally, all of this is probably just academic. ABC News is insisting Rubio isn't even being vetted (even as Romney says he is). Rubio himself is insisting he will not take the job if offered and seems to really mean it -- He's running for President.

It won't be Rubio.  Romney's VEEP will be Rob Portman running on the whitest ticket since Ford / Rockefeller.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Senate passes bill to limit Bush tax cuts

This really is an historic vote.  All Democrats have to do now, to win the tax extension fight, is not surrender, ...and win in November.

The key to understanding this tax fight is the so-called Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 were passed with an expiration date of 2010. Republicans feared that if the tax cuts were permanent, Americans would baulk when they saw the CBO forecasted mulitple trillion dollar cost and impact on the deficit.

In December, 2010, Obama reached a deal with the GOP to extend the cuts to the end of 2012, at which time the expire.

This expiration puts Obama and Democrats in a position to dictate terms. A GOP filibuster in the Senate and/or House inaction will result in ALL the tax cuts will expire.

This expiration coupled with Democrats standing firm led Mitch McConnell to relent after months of filibustering to allow an up or down vote on both parties proposals.  I think McConnell earnestly believed that if forced to vote, Democratic defections would pass permanent cuts.

This afternoon, the Democratic plan passed the Senate by a 51 - 48 vote after the permanent extension failed 54-45.

Of course the House for now will refuse to even vote on the Senate bill, instead passing their own bill to make permanent the Bush tax cuts. But, again, Obama and the Democrats hold all the cards.  The House GOP can huff and puff and threaten a plague on all Democrats, and ALL the Bush tax cuts will expire this December.

By the way, it would suit me fine, if all the Bush era tax cuts expired.

Assuming Democrats hold firm, the House won't even consider compromise until the eve of the expiration in December.

If Romney wins in November, the GOP will simply look to pass retroactive extension sometime after January 20th.  Senate Democrats could filibuster, but in the face of a Romney win, history says they will capitulate.

But if Obama wins re-election?  We will see political hysterics in the House of Representative unlike anything seen since Succession.  All those ultraconservative Republicans will collectively explode vitriol and fury as they come to terms with the reality that if they don't accept Democratic terms (i.e. the Senate bill passed today), ALL the tax cuts expire.

I guarantee, they will introduce Articles of Impeachment against Obama.

All the Democrats have to do to win is not surrender.  Sadly, that's a tall order.

Our Obamacare refund

A provision of the Affordable Care Act requires that insurance companies spend at least 80% of premiums received on health care services, such as doctors, hospital bills and activities to improve health care quality. No more than 20% of premiums may be spent on administrative costs such as salaries, sales and advertising. This is referred to as the medical loss ratio standard or, more commonly, the 80/20 Rule. This ratio is calculated on a state-by-state basis. In Missouri, our insurer did not meet the 80/20 standard for 2011, and spent only 75.8% of premium dollars on health care and related activities. This means that everyone who participated in the company health plan received a refund of 4.2% of premium dollars paid in 2011.

Thank you Obamacare!

Republicans have vowed to repeal the ACA in it's entirety so that no insurance company will ever be held accountable for the premiums they charge their insureds, i.e all of us who are lucky enough to have health insurance.

Romney's Gold

Pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA has a new 60 second ad attacking Romney's foreign bank accounts.

Too much snark negatively impact its credibility IMHO. What do you think?

I prefer ads that are serious, pointed, direct that quickly get to the heart of the matter and sufficiently factual to withstand fact-checking.

Hitting Romney on his multiple millions of dollars of shore to avoid the taxes the rest of us pay should be like shooting fish in a barrel.  Obvious tag line: Job creator?  How many American jobs does your tens of millions of dollars in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands create?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Pennsylvania's poll tax

A coalition of civil rights groups that have sued in Pennsylvania state court to block Pennsylvania's controversial voter ID law.  The trial will start tomorrow.  It's expected to take 5 to 7 days to try. This case is separate and apart from the recently announced DOJ investigation of the same law.

PA state election officials report that 758,000 registered voters - 9.2% of the state's 8.2M voters - do not have the required photo ID cards from the PA DOT.  The vast majority of those disenfranchised are in Philly and Pittsburgh and are also non-white.

In preparing for the trial, the plaintiffs have obtained significant admissions from the PA state officials defending the law (PDF).

Particularly damning, is the admission by the state that PA state government "not aware of any incidents of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania and do not have direct personal knowledge of in person voter fraud elsewhere".

This my friends is a poll tax, pure and simple.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Is Romney stealing Hillary's move to work us over on his taxes?

Romney is digging in on his refusal to release more tax returns.  My guess is that unless or until his support in key swing states starts to crater, he's not budging.

And I think 2009 is the issue.  If Romney's 2008 and 2009 tax returns looked just like his 2010 return, we would have already seen them.  But he can't release more returns and just skip 2009, so no more tax returns. 

Earlier, I wondered if Romney's problem was availing himself of amnesty in 2009 for money hidden in a Swiss bank account.  We know from his 2010 returns that he closed a Swiss bank account in 2009.  We also know that in 2009 the IRS offered amnesty to all people who had fraudulently shelter money in Swiss bank accounts, and many wealthy Americans scrambled to avail themselves of this amnesty.   It could be just a coincidence that Romney closed his Swiss account in 2009 and has nothing to do with his current refusal to release that tax return.  But I've learned from following politics that where there is smoke, there is often fire.

But it's also possible that Romney is employing Hillary's Razor (my term) to play us like a violin -- in his case, a Stradivarius?

Sadly, many of the few who actually read this blog can remember the 1990s when the Clintons were under literally constant investigation with subpoenas being endlessly issued.  Anyway, the Clinton response was always the same, and it was Hillary who was always credited with this move.  They fought nearly every subpoena or request for records either from the White House or Arkansas tooth and nail.  They never gave in willingly.  And every time they fought the request, Republicans would work themselves into a near sexual frenzy delirious with the belief that they finally had the Clintons nailed and that upon release of whatever documents they currently wanted (billing records from the Rose Law Firm, a brochure from the White Water land development, etc),  the Clinton White House and the vast International crime syndicate they headed from the Little Rock Governor's mansion was going to come crashing down, and everyone would see what these Republicans had always known -- that Bill and Hillary Clinton were histories greatest monsters.  And every time the documents were finally released there was nothing in them.  Every time Hillary sliced and diced Republican rivals who would walk away furious and whimpering and embarrassed. 

Is Mitt Romney using Hillary's Razor to slice us up on the eve of the election?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

It's not. But it can be - Opening rant from The Newsroom

I know I'm late to this. The Newsroom debuted while I was on vacation but I finally caught up with it last night.

Aaron Sorkin is the brains behind this show and the principle writer. He's a hero to political nerds like me because of West Wing which he also wrote (along with A Few Good Men, the American President -- you can see the pattern). His writing is great because he's incredibly smart.

The opening rant in HBO's The Newsroom is Sorkin at his best. This is powerful because the rant is accurate. The United States is no longer the best country in the world. We have fallen into a state of disrepair and no one can say so. Jeff Daniels accurate and frank rant can only be said in a work of fiction. Why? Because those who profit from the rotting of the U.S will shout down anyone who publicly calls them out with chants of "USA USA USA" and accusations of treason. How long would Brian Williams last if he had made such an outburst? Even without the gratuitous attacks on Barbi and her generation?

The only thing Sorkin got wrong (aside from the verbal assault on Barbi and her generation) was the United States ranking on infant mortality. The Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook ranks the US as 46th in infant mortality (Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate than the US). There are 177 countries with higher rates of infant mortality (which is where the confusion lies). USA USA USA.

"We sure used to be...The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore."

It's true.  So what are we going to do about it?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Is Romney's Swiss bank account the issue?

The pressure continues to build for Romney to release more tax returns. It's hard to imagine Romney riding this out without more disclosures. At some point, the Tea Party folks are going to join in the pushing.

Tax lawyer and author Daniel Shaviro speculates on a number of issues that may be weighing on Romney, but one especially caught my attention,
3) It's been hard to understand what benefit he thought he was getting from the Swiss bank account, and there was an IRS amnesty program in 2009 for fraudulent nondisclosure of offshore income. If he had to come clean in 2009, this might be embarrassing, especially given that there was an iron fist inside the IRS leniency offer (i.e., if you held out, they might get you without any amnesty).
Embarrassing indeed.

It's hard for me to believe that a man that has been planning a presidential run for at least 20 years would fraudulently hide income in a Swiss Bank account. Think what you want about Mitt Romney, but he's nobody's fool.  On the other hand, it has only been in the last 5 or so years that Switzerland started to yield to outside pressure to cooperate with tax fraud investigations, and until this time it was widely believed that money could safely be stashed away in Swiss bank accounts without ever being found out. And Romney did close out the Swiss account in 2009, after his first formal run for POTUS

If I had to wager, I would not put any money on Romney having availed himself of IRS amnesty in closing out his Swiss account but it is food for thought.

I think the more likely reason(s) for Romney's reticence are years in which he paid little or no taxes based upon loss generating scams and very aggressive tax sheltering which Shaviro discusses in the above post.  It's pretty clear at this point that Romney has a tin ear when it comes to political appearance of his income tax practices but it's quit another matter to knowingly hide off shore earnings from the IRS.

Obama's and Romney's schedule today: Compare and contrast

"[T]he President will depart the White House en route San Antonio ... In the afternoon, the President will deliver remarks at a campaign event at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. ... Later in the afternoon, the President will deliver remarks at a campaign event at a private residence. ... The President will then depart San Antonio, Texas, en route Austin ... In the evening, the President will deliver remarks at a campaign event at Austin Music Hall. ... The President will then deliver remarks at a campaign event at a private residence." --Back at the White House at 1:20 a.m.
 MITT ROMNEY'S DAY: At 1:20 p.m., speaks at a Victory rally at Horizontal Wireline Services in Irwin, Pa.
Am I the only one who finds this revealing? Is it just a off day for Mitt?

This was taken from Mike Allen's Politico Playbook.

Obama's latest ad wants Romney's tax returns

It's not much of an apology which should push Mitt and his surrogates closers to tears.  This ad is now airing in Pennsylvania.

Daily Show's Bain takedown

Once again Jon Stewart and the Daily Show cut to the core of the issue. In 2 parts

It's about Romney's Competence

James Fallows quotes a reader who thinks the Obama campaign has missed the most important point,
I haven't heard anyone in the media make the point why Romney's poor response to the Bain capital issue is so damning: In effect, Romney is saying that he should get a pass for what Bain did in his "absence" because he wasn't running the company at the time (even though he was technically still its CEO), and/or that he should get a pass for telling the SEC that he was CEO of the company for three years while he had passed off those duties to others because he didn't actually exercise control.

The Obama campaign mistakenly focused on whether that makes him a liar or a criminal. In my opinion, the more damning conclusion comes from accepting Romney's story at face value. If he can't deal with two big issues at the same time, and [won't] take responsibility for what is done on his behalf (by those he chose to act on his behalf--because he was the sole owner of the company), how can he possibly be competent to be President of the United States?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Romney's tragic response

Romney responds to Obama's devastating anti-Romney ad with perhaps the lamest ad ever.

You decide.

UPDATE: As if it were not bad enough for the Romney campaign, it seems they did not get the necessary permissions for this ad and it has now been pulled due to copyright claims. And this man wants to run the country?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The truth board meeting minutes can set Mitt free

Why doesn't the Romney campaign simply release the Bain Capital board meeting minutes from 1999 through 2002 to establish that Romney had no knowledge or involvement in Bain activities after his Olympic departure?

It should be simple enough to redact any propitiatory content, especially given the passage of time.

The answer is obvious.  The minutes will confirm what the Obama campaign is saying: Romney attended every board meeting, was not only aware of, but approved of Bain's pioneering investments in outsourcing American jobs overseas and the looting of KB Toys and GS Technologies, among other crimes against the American economy.

The truth shall set you free, so release the board minutes Mitt.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Now THAT is a negitive ad!

This is gut punch and Mitt's is going to squeal like a stuck pig.

Per TPM, this ad will run in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

The last line is pitch perfect, and hit's the point I was trying to make earlier in this post.

How much money will the Obama campaign raise off this ad?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The end of retail as we know it?

Commending us to read Slate colleague Farhad Manjoo's piece on the implications of Amazon's growing investment in same day delivery, Matt Yglesias observes,
I think people tend to overstate the level of real resource misallocation involved in the 2002-2005 house-building boom. By now America is already underhoused by historical standards. But commercial real estate is another matter. The current downturn will end, and CRE construction will returm to some extent, but I don't think the business of building shopping centers will ever come back. Retrofitting existing ones as health care facilities, by contrast, should be a booming business.
As an Amazon Prime(tm) member (annual fee of $79) I receive "free" two day shipping on pretty much everything Amazon sells. I hate shopping and buy everything I can on Amazon including everything you would buy at a Target/Walgreens, but also large bags of dog food and dog treats, non-perishable grocery items (canned soup by the case), consumer electronics (I've bought 3 TVs on Prime(tm)) and anything else I need or want that Amazon will ship two day.  The convenience of having all of this delivered to my door is impossible to overstate.  I can't think of any reason why everyone isn't doing this.

The Dark Knight & 60's Robin

Very funny and worth the time.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

How many American jobs has Romney's off shore investiments created?

Vanity Fair has a lengthy piece out that has raised new questions about Mitt Romney's wealth including substantial sums in off shore accounts (at least $30M in just one Cayman Islands fund, in addition to an undisclosed sum in a Bermuda company and at least one former Swiss bank account) that could total $100 million or more dollars. 

There is no question but that this article has put the Romney campaign on the defensive again.  Romney has tried to push back with various defenses ranging from accusations of  'class warfare' to repeated assertions that he and his wife have always paid all taxes required by law.   On this latter issue, there is no evidence that the Romneys have not paid all lawful taxes owed, but their secrecy and failure to embrace real financial disclosure also makes it impossible for anyone to know if the Romneys are telling the truth. 

Mitt Romney may or may not be the richest man to ever run for president, but certainly many very wealthy people have run for president before him (George Washington, both Roosevelts, Hoover, JFK, both Bushs and by the time Hillary ran, the Clintons were loaded too) and none of them had the incredibly complicated and structured financial portfolio of Mitt and Ann Romney.  Newt Gingrich, as quoted in Vanity Fair, cut to the chase, “I don’t know of any American president who has had a Swiss bank account.”

With so many issues raised by Vanity Fair the press reports have often been confusing making it hard cut to the heart of the matter.

The Romneys finances are incredibly complicated because they are designed to avoid paying Federal income taxes and it has worked like a charm with the Romneys paying less than 15% in income taxes (13.9% to be exact)

Republicans justify and defend these absurdly low tax rates on the super-rich by insisting they are the job creators.

Exactly how many American jobs are created by the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars the Romneys have stashed in the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg and Bermuda? I want someone to ask Mitt this question directly! 

If all those millions are not creating American jobs then why should he and Ann receive such generous tax breaks?

Friday, July 06, 2012

I remember when Judge Posner was an intellectual hero of the GOP

and reviled/feared by Democrats because of his intellectual power. Judge Posner's name used to always come up when discussing Supreme Court appointments.

But over the last 10 years or so, Judge Posner has become increasingly disillusioned with a GOP taken over by the lunatic fringe.

Following the Roberts' opinion sustaining the Affordable Care Act, Judge Posner gave an interview to NPR defending the Chief Justice and expressing further frustration with the current Republican Party.

On 'right-wingers' blasting Roberts,
"Because if you put [yourself] in his position ... what's he supposed to think? That he finds his allies to be a bunch of crackpots? Does that help the conservative movement? I mean, what would you do if you were Roberts? All the sudden you find out that the people you thought were your friends have turned against you, they despise you, they mistreat you, they leak to the press. What do you do? Do you become more conservative? Or do you say, 'What am I doing with this crowd of lunatics?' Right? Maybe you have to re-examine your position."

Thursday, July 05, 2012

The Wall Street Journal takes a swing at Mitt

Mitt, they just don't like you.

It's hard enough being the GOP nominee in this election cycle with the dumbest of the dumb running the Republican party, but to also have the WSJ taking swings at you, must make it close to impossible to run a campaign.
In a stroke, the Romney campaign contradicted Republicans throughout the country who had used the Chief Justice's opinion to declare accurately that Mr. Obama had raised taxes on the middle class. Three-quarters of those who will pay the mandate tax will make less than $120,000 a year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The Romney high command has muddied the tax issue in a way that will help Mr. Obama's claims that he is merely taxing rich folks like Mr. Romney. And it has made it that much harder for Republicans to again turn ObamaCare into the winning issue it was in 2010.

Why make such an unforced error? Because it fits with Mr. Romney's fear of being labeled a flip-flopper, as if that is worse than confusing voters about the tax and health-care issues. Mr. Romney favored the individual mandate as part of his reform in Massachusetts, and as we've said from the beginning of his candidacy his failure to admit that mistake makes him less able to carry the anti-ObamaCare case to voters.
This isn't Romney's fault. If the GOP want's to run on 'Obamacare' they have chosen the most flawed candidate possible. But having chosen Mitt Romney -- the author of Obamacare -- it is the GOP and not the Romney campaign who made the error. Surely they all knew when jumping on the 'tax' canard that they were backing their own candidate into a corner.  What the hell did they think the Romney campaign would say?