.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Cracker Squire


My Photo
Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Treating the Pill as Abortion. McCain: "No comment."

From The Wall Street Journal:

The Bush Administration has ignited a furor with a proposed definition of pregnancy that has the effect of classifying some of the most widely used methods of contraception as abortion.

A draft regulation, still being revised and debated, treats most birth-control pills and intrauterine devices as abortion because they can work by preventing fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. The regulation considers that destroying "the life of a human being."

The draft regulation, circulating within the Department of Health and Human Services, would have no immediate effect on the legality of the pill or the IUD if implemented because abortion is legal. But opponents fear it would undercut dozens of state laws designed to promote easy access to these methods of birth control, used by more than 12 million women a year.

Dozens of Congressional Democrats -- including presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama -- have signed letters of protest blistering the proposal. His Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, declined to comment.

Once McCain's treasury secretary to be Phil Gramm's "mental recession" continues: Filings for new claims for unemployment up to 5-year high.

From The Wall Street Journal:

[T]he number of U.S. workers filing new claims for unemployment benefits jumped to a five-year high last week, a government report showed, a worrying sign for the economy as households struggle with rising inflation and declining home values.

Roles Are Set, as Are the Perils

McCain vs. Obama could turn out to be whiny vs. haughty.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Presidential rivals Barack Obama and John McCain both appear to be seizing the roles in which they have been cast: Sen. Obama as front-runner and Sen. McCain as underdog. The approach carries perils for both men.

Democratic Sen. Obama, who has taken to openly musing about the likelihood that he will be elected, risks coming off as arrogant and presumptuous. His Republican rival, who proclaims himself to be running behind at every stop and relentlessly attacks his opponent, risks coming off as negative and whiny.

Sen. McCain enjoys the underdog role, and arguably is at his strongest when he's behind. He ran as the underdog in the GOP primary almost until the end.

Analysts said the danger to Sen. McCain's approach, such as with his new ad, is it can be seen as whining about Sen. Obama's successes rather than promoting Sen. McCain's own. And it remains unclear if it will stoke voter concerns about Sen. Obama or reinforce his front-runner status.

This week, Sen. Obama told House Democrats that he had become a symbol for the world's hopes for America, a comment Republicans seized on.

Sen. Obama's chief message strategist, Robert Gibbs, said, "There's a fine line between being confident and arrogant. We haven't been on the national scene for a long time so Barack Obama has to convince people he can do the job."

Republican strategist Glen Bolger said candidates must tread carefully to look presidential without coming off as presumptuous. "His campaign has made the strategic decision that they have to make voters believe the candidate has already won," Mr. Bolger said. "The risk in that is that there is a fair amount of hubris."

Decline Seen in Numbers of People Here Illegally

From The New York Times:

The number of illegal immigrants in the country has dropped by as much as 1.3 million in the past year, an 11 percent decline since a historic peak last August, an immigration research group in Washington said in a report released Wednesday.

The report . . . found “strong indications” that stepped-up enforcement by immigration authorities had played a major role in the decline.

The report . . . added to a growing body of studies indicating that the population of illegal immigrants in the United States is dropping significantly.

The study’s methods and conclusions were questioned by other demographers and economists, who said the decline might be less than the center reported and was more likely the result of the weak economy, especially in low-wage construction and manufacturing where illegal immigrants are generally employed.

The Center for Immigration Studies is a policy advocacy group that favors reduced immigration and opposes legislation to give legal status to illegal immigrants. The study supports the center’s contention that border enforcement and a crackdown on unauthorized workers and their employers would lead many illegal immigrants to leave the United States without being deported.

“The evidence presented here suggests that it has been possible to cut the illegal population by inducing a large number of people to leave the country,” the study said.

Federal immigration officials praised the results. “It reinforces what we always thought, that comprehensive enforcement is a critical part of the reduction,” said Kelly A. Nantel, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Republican strategist: The use of Ms. Hilton in Mr. McCain’s commercial was “absurd and juvenile.”

From The New York Times:

Mr. McCain’s campaign is now under the leadership of members of President Bush’s re-election campaign, including Steve Schmidt, the czar of the Bush war room that relentlessly painted his opponent, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, as effete, elite, and equivocal through a daily blitz of sound bites and Web videos that were carefully coordinated with Mr. Bush’s television advertisements.

The run of attacks against Mr. Obama over the last couple of weeks have been strikingly reminiscent of that drive, including the Bush team’s tactics of seeking to make campaigns referendums on its opponents — not a choice between two candidates — and attacking the opponent’s perceived strengths head-on. Central to the latest McCain drive is an attempt to use against Mr. Obama the huge crowds and excitement he has drawn, including on his foreign trip last week, by promoting a view of him as more interested in attention and adulation than in solving the problems facing American families.

Mr. McCain’s more focused assault comes after one of his worst weeks of the general election campaign, when he seemed to fumble for a consistent, overarching critique of Mr. Obama, who winged around the Middle East and Europe.

The intensity of the recent drive — which has included some assertions from the McCain campaign that have been widely dismissed as misleading — has surprised even some allies of Mr. McCain, who has frequently spoken about the need for civility in politics. The sentiment seeped onto television on Wednesday with Andrea Tantaros, a Republican strategist, saying on MSNBC that the use of Ms. Hilton in Mr. McCain’s commercial was “absurd and juvenile,” and that he should spend more time promoting his own agenda.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

McCain & Company's ad on Obama's celebrity status is both silly and ineffectual. In truth, a bit sad and pitiful effort from McCain.

The YouTube link.

U.S. Tries Different Tack To Bring In Fugitive Aliens

From The Wall Street Journal:

The Department of Homeland Security is due to announce today a new strategy to deal with illegal immigration: self-deportation.

The pilot program, christened "Operation Scheduled Departure," will offer illegal immigrants – primarily those who have ignored or eluded final deportation orders -- a window of opportunity to voluntarily surrender to U.S. authorities. Those who participate in the program can count on cooperation from the government to enable them to close out their affairs prior to leaving.

The U.S. is home to more than 550,000 so-called fugitive aliens, immigrants who have received final orders to quit the country but have not done so. The majority of them do not have a criminal record, and they are the targets of the pilot program.

President Obama Continues Hectic Victory Tour -- A Word to the Wise . . . .

Dana Milbank writes in The Washington Post:

Barack Obama has long been his party's presumptive nominee. Now he's becoming its presumptuous nominee.

Fresh from his presidential-style world tour, during which foreign leaders and American generals lined up to show him affection, Obama settled down to some presidential-style business in Washington yesterday. He ordered up a teleconference with the (current president's) Treasury secretary, granted an audience to the Pakistani prime minister and had his staff arrange for the chairman of the Federal Reserve to give him a briefing. Then, he went up to Capitol Hill to be adored by House Democrats in a presidential-style pep rally.

Along the way, he traveled in a bubble more insulating than the actual president's. Traffic was shut down for him as he zoomed about town in a long, presidential-style motorcade, while the public and most of the press were kept in the dark about his activities, which included a fundraiser at the Mayflower where donors paid $10,000 or more to have photos taken with him.

[His Capitol Hill meeting was] his adoration session with lawmakers in the Cannon Caucus Room, where even committee chairmen arrived early, as if for the State of the Union. Capitol Police cleared the halls -- just as they do for the actual president. The Secret Service hustled him in through a side door -- just as they do for the actual president.

Inside, according to a witness, he told the House members, "This is the moment . . . that the world is waiting for," adding: "I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions."

As he marches toward Inauguration Day (Election Day is but a milestone on that path), Obama's biggest challenger may not be Republican John McCain but rather his own hubris.

The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder reported last week that Obama has directed his staff to begin planning for his transition to the White House, causing Republicans to howl about premature drape measuring. Obama was even feeling confident enough to give British Prime Minister Gordon Brown some management advice over the weekend. "If what you're trying to do is micromanage and solve everything, then you end up being a dilettante," he advised the prime minister, portraying his relative inexperience much as President Bush did in 2000.

One source of the confidence is the polling, which shows him with a big lead over McCain. But polls are fickle allies . . . . Another reason for Obama's confidence -- the press -- is also an unfaithful partner. [T]here are signs that the Obama campaign's arrogance has begun to anger reporters.

In the latest issue of the New Republic, Gabriel Sherman found reporters complaining that Obama's campaign was "acting like the Prom Queen" and being more secretive than Bush. The magazine quoted the New York Times' Adam Nagourney's reaction to the Obama campaign's memo attacking one of his stories: "I've never had an experience like this, with this campaign or others." Then came Obama's overseas trip and the campaign's selection of which news organizations could come aboard. Among those excluded: the New Yorker magazine, which had just published a satirical cover about Obama that offended the campaign.

Even Bush hasn't tried that. But then again, Obama has been outdoing the president in ruffles and flourishes lately. As Bush held quiet signing ceremonies in the White House yesterday morning, Obama was involved in a more visible display of executive authority a block away, when he met with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani at the Willard. A full block of F Street was shut down for the prime minister and the would-be president, and some 40 security and motorcade vehicles filled the street.

Later, Obama's aides issued an official-sounding statement, borrowing the language of White House communiques: "I had a productive and wide-ranging discussion. . . . I look forward to working with the democratically elected government of Pakistan."

It had been a long day of acting presidential, but Obama wasn't done. After a few hours huddling with advisers over his vice presidential choice, Obama made his way to the pep rally on the Hill. Moments after he entered the meeting with lawmakers, there was an extended cheer, followed by another, and another.

"I think this can be an incredible election," Obama said later. "I look forward to collaborating with everybody here to win the election."

Win the election? Didn't he do that already?

A Washington Post headline reads: "McCain Charge Against Obama Lacks Evidence"

This story is going to be interesting as it unfolds. The Washington Post has a lengthly article on the details that begins:

For four days, Sen. John McCain and his allies have accused Sen. Barack Obama of snubbing wounded soldiers by canceling a visit to a military hospital because he could not take reporters with him, despite no evidence that the charge is true.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Mideast; Europe; now this. The guy is on a roll: Obama to Sit With Bernanke.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Obama was scheduled to meet with Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke on Tuesday. The two are expected to discuss the current credit crisis and the Democratic candidate's strategies to enforce tougher oversight of financial institutions if elected president.

McCain administration treasury secretary to be Phil Gramm's "mental recession" continues: Bennigan's and Steak & Ale close doors & file for Chapter 7.

The Wall Street Journal reports that restaurant chains Bennigan's and Steak & Ale closed their doors and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection, shuttering more than 300 locations and letting go of thousands of employees. It is one of the U.S.'s largest restaurant bankruptcy filings and eliminates two sit-down chains that have been part of the casual-dining landscape for decades.

Georgia third-best state for favorable business climate.

The Atlanta Business Chronicle reports:

The business climate in Georgia is surpassed only by Texas and North Carolina [because of the three factors of] a strong labor market, low operating costs and a pro-business climate.

McCain administration treasury secretary to be Phil Gramm's "mental recession" continues: Record deficit

From The Wall Street Journal Online:

The U.S. budget deficit for fiscal 2009 is expected to reach about $490 billion, confirming the negative impact of the economic slowdown on the nation's finances. The figure would represent a record in dollar terms, though not as a percentage of U.S. economic output.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Virginia Jails to Report Foreign Inmates - New Law Targets Illegal Immigrants

From The Washington Post:

A year after Prince William County launched a crackdown on illegal immigrants, Virginia has implemented a law that requires something similar for every jurisdiction in the state. Jail officials are now required to notify federal authorities of all foreign-born inmates regardless of their immigration status. [See 7-10-08 post entitled "Hispanic Population in Decline in Virginia County Following Enforcement of Illegal Immigrant Policy."]

The little-noticed law went into effect July 1 and aims to make every corner of the state as unwelcoming as Prince William for illegal immigrants charged with crimes.

"With our new law, these people who are here illegally should be afraid of living anywhere in Virginia right now," said Del. David B. Albo (R-Fairfax), who helped write the law and chairs the state's crime commission. "If you're here illegally, it's not any scarier to live in Prince William than in any other county."

Prince William and about 60 other jurisdictions nationwide had previously joined in a separate partnership with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to identify immigrants who have committed crimes. But now, under the Virginia law, officials across the state have begun routinely filing similar reports to the same federal authorities that Prince William does.

Banks have replaced a disastrously indiscriminate willingness to hand out money with an equally arbitrary aversion to lend even to healthy companies.

From The New York Times:

Banks struggling to recover from multibillion-dollar losses on real estate are curtailing loans to American businesses, depriving even healthy companies of money for expansion and hiring.

The scarcity of credit has intensified the strains on the economy by withholding capital from many companies, just as joblessness grows and consumers pull back from spending in the face of high gas prices, plummeting home values and mounting debt.

Companies that rely on credit are now delaying and canceling expansion plans as they struggle to secure finance.

The Federal Reserve has been lowering interest rates aggressively to make money flow more loosely and to spur economic activity.

The financial system is not going along: As banks hold on to their dollars, mortgage rates are climbing. So are borrowing costs for corporations.

Some suggest that the banks, spooked by enormous losses, have replaced a disastrously indiscriminate willingness to hand out money with an equally arbitrary aversion to lend — even on industries that continue to grow.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

On Obama in Berlin: Many American children have never before seen huge crowds turn out abroad to wave American flags instead of burn them.

Frank Rich writes in The New York Times:

The growing Obama clout derives not from national polls, where his lead is modest. Nor is it a gift from the press, which still gives free passes to its old bus mate John McCain. It was laughable to watch journalists stamp their feet last week to try to push Mr. Obama into saying he was “wrong” about the surge. More than five years and 4,100 American fatalities later, they’re still not demanding that Mr. McCain admit he was wrong when he assured us that our adventure in Iraq would be fast, produce little American “bloodletting” and “be paid for by the Iraqis.”

This election remains about the present and the future, where Iraq’s $10 billion a month drain on American pocketbooks and military readiness is just one moving part in a matrix of national crises stretching from the gas pump to Pakistan.

What was most striking about the Obama speech in Berlin was not anything he said so much as the alternative reality it fostered: many American children have never before seen huge crowds turn out abroad to wave American flags instead of burn them.

The election remains Mr. Obama’s to lose, and he could lose it, whether through unexpected events, his own vanity or a vice-presidential misfire. But what we’ve learned this month is that America, our allies and most likely the next Congress are moving toward Mr. Obama’s post-Iraq vision of the future, whether he reaches the White House or not. That’s some small comfort as we contemplate the strange alternative offered by the Republicans: a candidate so oblivious to our nation’s big challenges ahead that he is doubling down in his campaign against both Mr. Maliki and Mr. Obama to be elected commander in chief of the surge.

Bush and McCain Seem to Diverge in Foreign Policy -- McCain on Friday: Idea of a 16-month withdrawal is “a pretty good timetable.”

From The New York Times:

President Bush and Senator John McCain have long been in agreement on major elements of American foreign policy, particularly in their approach to the “axis of evil” countries of Iran and North Korea, and their commitment to staying the course in Iraq.

But now the administration’s agreement to consider a “time horizon” for troop withdrawals from Iraq has moved it, at least in the public perception, in the direction of the policies of Senator Barack Obama. That has thrown Mr. McCain on the political defensive in his opposition to a timed withdrawal, Republicans in the party’s foreign party establishment say.

On Friday Mr. McCain went so far as to say that the idea of a 16-month withdrawal, which Mr. Obama supports, was “a pretty good timetable,” although he included the caveat that it had to be based on conditions on the ground.

Republicans also say the administration’s decision to authorize high-level talks with Iran and North Korea has undercut Mr. McCain’s skepticism about engagement with those countries, leaving the perception that he is more conservative than Mr. Bush on the issue.

Essentially, as the administration has taken a more pragmatic approach to foreign policy, the decision of Mr. McCain to adhere to his more hawkish positions illustrates the continuing influence of neoconservatives on his thinking even as they are losing clout within the administration.

[Some] Republicans — the so-called foreign policy pragmatists, many of whom have come to view the Iraq war as a mistake — say the administration’s policy shifts highlight the more confrontational nature of Mr. McCain’s foreign policy, particularly in his approach toward Russia and his embrace on Friday of the Dalai Lama, whom the Chinese regard as the fomenter of a rebellion in Tibet. They say the meeting will only antagonize China before the Summer Olympics, and at a moment when the United States is seeking its cooperation on economic issues and negotiations with North Korea.

Obama, Vague on Issues, Pleases Crowd in Europe

From The New York Times:

[T]he response of many Europeans to [Senator Barack Obama's] potential presidency has been gratifying — emotional, responsive, replete with the sense of hope he seeks to engender about a more flexible, less ideological America.

European governments and politicians are not so sure.

[H]e was vague on crucial issues of trade, defense and foreign policy that currently divide Washington from Europe and are likely to continue to do so even if he becomes president — issues ranging from Russia, Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan to new refueling tankers and chlorinated chickens, the focus of an 11-year European ban on American poultry imports.

Europeans admire Mr. Obama’s political skills, and welcome his apparent readiness to respect opposing points of view. For many here, that raises the prospect of a sharp break with the policies of the Bush administration, especially in its first term, when the United States chose to ignore the Geneva Conventions at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, rejected the Kyoto accord on global warming and invaded Iraq, starting a war that some of America’s European allies opposed.

Europeans are wary about Mr. Obama’s call for more European money for defense and more soldiers for the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan. They worry that he will not alter what they see as President Bush’s unbending bias in favor of Israel.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Voter Unease With Obama Lingers Despite His Lead -- Campaign 2008 bears some striking similarities to the 1980 campaign

From The Wall Street Journal:

The campaign's unusual dynamic appears to be the result of an anxious nation now sizing up an unconventional candidate who presents himself as the agent for change, which voters say they want. The contest thus parallels in some ways the 1980 race, when voters seemed ready for a change away from Jimmy Carter and the Democrats, but weren't persuaded until late in the race that they could be comfortable with a former actor and unabashed conservative, Ronald Reagan, as commander in chief.

"Obama is going to be the point person in this election," says pollster Peter Hart, a Democrat who conducts the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll along with Republican Neil Newhouse. "Voters want to answer a simple question: Is Barack Obama safe?"

"This is not Obama's race to lose. It's his to win," says Mr. Newhouse, the Republican pollster. "Voters have a sense they know what they're going to get if they elect John McCain, but an uncertainty about Barack Obama that they are trying to sort through."

Campaign 2008 bears some striking similarities to the 1980 campaign, when -- as now -- the resident of the White House was unpopular and his party was suffering. The question was whether the opposition party had nominated a candidate who would be seen as safe or too far out of the mainstream.

In 1980, President Carter was standing for re-election himself, while in 2008 President George W. Bush, is attempting to pass the baton to Sen. McCain. But the questions about the opposing party's candidate, Mr. Reagan, were similar to those now posed about Sen. Obama. Mr. Reagan, a former California governor who had spent no time serving in Washington, was seen as light on experience and lacking in foreign-policy gravitas. Some in the political establishment considered his strong conservative philosophy and anti-Soviet rhetoric to be too extreme for mainstream America.

The doubts about Mr. Reagan lingered until he acquitted himself well in a single nationally televised debate against Mr. Carter, just one week before the election. Ultimately, Mr. Reagan won going away.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Oil Survey Says Arctic Has Riches -- Again I say, the rules of the game have changed. I say let's drill.

From The New York Times:

The Arctic may contain as much as a fifth of the world’s yet to-be-discovered oil and natural gas reserves, the United States Geological Survey said Wednesday as it unveiled the largest-ever survey of petroleum resources north of the Arctic Circle.

Oil companies have long suspected that the Arctic contained substantial energy resources, and have been spending billions recently to get their hands on tracts for exploration. As melting ice caps have opened up prospects that were once considered too harsh to explore, a race has begun among Arctic nations, including the United States, Russia, and Canada, for control of these resources.

The geological agency’s survey largely vindicates the rising interest. It suggests that most of the yet-to-be found resources are not under the North Pole but much closer to shore, in regions that are not subject to territorial dispute.

The assessment, which took four years, found that the Arctic may hold as much as 90 billion barrels of undiscovered oil reserves, and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. This would amount to 13 percent of the world’s total undiscovered oil and about 30 percent of the undiscovered natural gas.

At today’s consumption rate of 86 million barrels a day, the potential oil in the Arctic could meet global demand for almost three years. The Arctic’s potential natural gas resources are three times bigger. That equals Russia’s proven gas reserves, which is the world’s largest.

The world currently holds 1.24 trillion barrels of proven oil reserves and 6,263 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves.

Two regions stand out. A third of the yet-to-be discovered oil, or about 30 billion barrels, is off the coast of Alaska. The findings also confirmed the pivotal role of Russia. Nearly two-thirds of the yet-to-be found natural gas resources are in two Russian provinces, the West Siberian Basin and the East Barents Basin, which straddles the territorial waters of Russia and Norway.

Unlike much of the continental shelf off the lower 48 states, the Alaskan coast is generally open to oil exploration. This year, oil companies spent $2.6 billion to acquire leases on government-controlled offshore tracts.

Even as production declines on Alaska’s North Slope, many people believe Alaska could see a revival as oil companies move offshore.

To the Victor Goes the Spoils -- Obama becomes issue in U.S. Senate campaign between Jones and Martin

Jim Tharpe writes in the AJC:

U.S. Senate candidate Vernon Jones has blasted his Democratic opponent for failing to vote for Barack Obama in the February primary.

Jones, CEO of DeKalb County, raised the issue for the first time Monday, then again Wednesday. Jim Martin initially skirted the subject when asked about it directly at a Wednesday news conference.

"That is the one thing that is kind of private," Martin said at his news conference, called to announce two Fulton County officials were backing his candidacy. "A lot of things are private. It is public that I made a contribution to John Edwards."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The "mental recession" continues . . . .

From The Wall Street Journal Online:

A report released Wednesday projects that the cumulative fiscal-year 2009 budget shortfall for U.S. states will more than triple to $40.3 billion as the economic slump cuts into tax revenue. "Lackluster" collections already took a toll on states' fiscal 2008 budgets, leaving states with a cumulative budget shortfall of almost $13 billion as of last July, said the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures. States whose tax bases are tied to natural resources are doing fairly well. But, overall, the report said, "There is no evidence to suggest that state revenue performance has turned around. In fact, most signs are to the contrary. Many states have reduced their revenue forecasts, some many times."

McCain is fussing about media that he called his "base" & irony of his criticism of Obama going to Iraq after months of calling on him to do just that

From The Wall Street Journal:

John McCain used to jokingly call the media "my base." Now, he and his aides are becoming increasingly frustrated with what they see as a growing press infatuation with his rival, Barack Obama.

That agitation has grown more intense this week, with the attention paid to Sen. Obama's weeklong trip to Europe and the Middle East. Sen. McCain made a similar trip in March but didn't have traveling press -- and received very little attention. The Republican candidate's trip to Colombia in early July included the media but attracted scant outside interest.

Media executives defend their coverage, arguing that Sen. McCain has made it as far as he has in part because of the access he gave the media in the primary season, and the resulting coverage.

"It used to be the stories were 'everyone was in love with McCain -- he's on his bus, he schmoozes the reporters, they all give him a break,'" said Paul Friedman, senior vice president for news coverage at CBS. "That's the irony. These guys are now crying foul, and they've had the advantage of terrific relationships with the press."

Sen. McCain's criticism comes after months of calls for his opponent to visit Iraq, including a countdown on the Republican National Committee's Web site ticking off the more than 900 days since the Illinois senator visited the war zone.

The guy is smooth, very smooth: Obama Shifts the Foreign Policy Debate -- Candidate Moves Focus From Iraq To Broader Issues

From The Washington Post:

Sen. Barack Obama, on his first and likely only overseas trip as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has remade the campaign's foreign policy playing field, neatly sidestepping Republican charges that he has been naive and wrong on Iraq and moving to a broader, post-Iraq focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In essence, Obama has declared the war in Iraq all but over. "There is security progress," he said during yesterday's news conference in Amman, Jordan. "Now we need a political solution." While a diminished U.S. force under his presidency would continue to protect U.S. personnel, target terrorists and provide training, he said, it would be up to Baghdad to consolidate the victory by "setting up a government that is working for the people."

Two days spent in Afghanistan and two days in Iraq, Obama said, reinforced his belief that it is time for the United States to move on. Calling the situation in Afghanistan "perilous and urgent," he said both U.S. military and Afghan government officials agree that "we must act now to reverse a deteriorating situation."

Obama's analysis has been buttressed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other Iraqi leaders who, to the dismay of the White House and Sen. John McCain, his Republican opponent, have publicly agreed with his call for completing a U.S. combat withdrawal from Iraq in 2010.

[T]he Iraqi government's newly stated position on troop withdrawals has put the McCain campaign -- and many congressional Republicans who have been on record opposing timelines -- in a difficult position.

In the Democratic primary campaign, Obama frequently noted that he had opposed the Iraq war before it began and criticized McCain's support of the 2003 invasion. But yesterday he largely ignored the question of whether he was against last year's troop buildup, except to say that "we don't know what would have happened" if his plan to begin a phased withdrawal last year had been implemented.

Although the White House has tended to describe the "surge" as the decisive factor in the sharp decline in violence in Iraq, others -- including many in the U.S. intelligence community and the military -- have said the drop was the combined result of a Shiite militia cease-fire and the rejection of al-Qaeda-allied insurgents by Sunni tribal leaders, as well as the deployment of more than 30,000 additional U.S. troops.

Obama referred to a withdrawal timeline as something now largely agreed upon by both the U.S. and Iraqi governments, saying he welcomes "the growing consensus."

[Omama called Afghanistan] the "central front in the war against terrorism."

[He said there is a] "need to refocus attention on Afghanistan and to go after the Taliban, including putting more troops on the ground, and to put more pressure on Pakistan to deal with the safe havens of terrorists."

The Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, in an interview last night with PBS's "NewsHour," said he shares Obama's assessment that the situation in Afghanistan is "precarious and urgent." The 10,000 additional troops needed there, he said, would not be available "in any significant manner" unless there are withdrawals from Iraq.

For now, he said, "my priorities . . . given to me by the commander in chief are: Focus on Iraq first. It's been that way for some time. Focus on Afghanistan second."

Uprising Against the Ethanol Mandate -- When you find yourself in a hole, you have to quit digging, and we are in a hole.

From The New York Times:

The ethanol industry, until recently a golden child that got favorable treatment from Washington, is facing a critical decision on its future.

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is asking the Environmental Protection Agency to temporarily waive regulations requiring the oil industry to blend ever-increasing amounts of ethanol into gasoline. A decision is expected in the next few weeks.

Mr. Perry says the billions of bushels of corn being used to produce all that mandated ethanol would be better suited as livestock feed than as fuel.

Feed prices have soared in the last two years as fuel has begun competing with food for cropland.

“When you find yourself in a hole, you have to quit digging,” Mr. Perry said in an interview. “And we are in a hole.”

His request for an emergency waiver cutting the ethanol mandate to 4.5 billion gallons, from the 9 billion gallons required this year and the 10.5 billion required in 2009, is backed by a coalition of food, livestock and environmental groups.

Farmers and ethanol and other biofuel producers are lobbying to keep the existing mandates.

O.K. Industries, a poultry company in Arkansas upset about rising feed costs, said this was the first year since the company was founded during the Great Depression that it could not afford to give its employees a wage increase.

An agency spokesman said the E.P.A. can approve the request, deny it or take a middle path. The deadline is Thursday, but the agency says it needs more time to review public comments and formulate a decision.

The agency’s authority derives from a 2005 energy law that sets some of the most important ethanol quotas. The law says states can petition the agency for a reduction in the ethanol mandates on the grounds of severe harm to the economy or environment. Decisions must be made after consultation with the secretaries of energy and agriculture.

Ethanol is under siege from other quarters. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas, has introduced legislation calling for a freeze of the mandate at the current level, saying it “is clearly causing unintended consequences on food prices.” The measure is co-sponsored by 11 other Republican senators, including John McCain, the presumptive presidential nominee.

The Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, testified last week that “it would be helpful” to remove a 51-cent-a-gallon tariff on imported Brazilian ethanol. If Brazilian ethanol enters the United States market, domestic producers argue, the industry will suffer.

In a new report, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is critical of biofuels, saying further development will raise food prices while doing little for energy security.

But the attempts to undercut ethanol are proving divisive. Mr. Perry said he hoped the other 49 governors would join him, but was able to cite only one that had: Gov. M. Jodi Rell of Connecticut. (A spokesman for Mrs. Rell declined to offer a full-fledged endorsement of Mr. Perry’s initiative, saying she supported a modification of the mandate but had not made any specific proposals.)

In ethanol’s home ground of the Midwest, where much of the corn is grown and the additive is made, Mr. Perry’s petition was opposed by 12 governors. Senator Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa, accused the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the group leading the public relations fight against ethanol, of “treasonous” acts.

Corn growers and ethanol producers believe they are being made scapegoats for failed economic and energy policies. Corn futures have already dropped sharply from the record highs set a month ago. Midwest weather has been favorable in recent weeks, raising expectations for the size and quality of the crop.

A cut in the mandate might be the beginning of a slippery slope that could mark the end for ethanol, said Lee Reeve, one of the pioneers of the industry. His Garden City, Kan., plant has been in operation since 1982. “If this goes through, I guarantee you that by next Thursday there would be arguments about how we should get rid of the mandate entirely,” he said. “And where are you going to find the oil to replace eight or nine billion gallons of ethanol?”

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

"Mental recession" in Georgia is no fun and may get worse.

Dick Pettys in InsiderAdvantage Georgia has a good report on state's economy and shortfall in revenues.

He notes that Sen. Jack Hill, R-Reidsville, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has raised the question of whether a special session might be needed if it is determined that the nearly two dozen tax-cutting bills approved by the Legislature this year while things looked somewhat rosier might need to be adjusted to take effect at a later date. According to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, the state will take a tax hit of as much as $165 million from the cumulative effect of those measures.

This morning I heard from a department head the 3.5 percent in reductions the governor has ordered state agencies to find is tough, but Pettys reports that Sen. Hill says this 3.5% may not be sufficient.

But hey, don't worry, it all just part of the country's "mental recession."

Thanks responsible Muslims: Despite the prominent role of U.S. in ending the ethnic cleaning of Muslims by ending the Bosnian war, who suffered 9/11?

Today's headlines are about the arrest of Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader who led the siege of Sarajevo and is accused of genocide for the 1995 massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica that was part of the Serbian and Bosnian Serb campaigns to push Muslims and ethnic Croats out of Bosnia.

The following quote from today's The Wall Street Journal Online about the Bosnian war and the ethnic cleaning of Muslims and Croats during Yugoslavia's bloody breakup in the 1990s notes one of the real ironies of the Bosnian war. We were the good guys, but what thanks do we get. Ultimately, 9/ll.

[T]he ideological and paramilitary campaign against Muslims led by Messrs. [Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader who led the siege of Sarajevo and is accused of genocide for the 1995 massacre of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica], [Slobodan] Milosevic [, the former president of Serbia, was put on trial for war crimes in 2002 but died before a verdict was reached,] and [Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serbs' paramilitary commander who is still at large,] fueled a sense of outrage in the Islamic world that helped Mr. bin Laden -- despite the prominent role played by the U.S. in ending the Bosnian war. In the 1990s, counterterrorism officials were able to track the movement of veterans of the Afghan fight against the Soviet Union to Bosnia, Chechnya, Algeria and elsewhere, in what would eventually emerge as the international ideological constituency for al Qaeda. And yet, it was historical outrage -- at perceived age-old injustices against the Serbs -- that Mr. Karadzic employed to justify the war crimes committed in Bosnia.

I have to admit having had real reservations about America getting into this Eastern European conflict, regardless of how bad and atrocious it was as we were reminded each night during the evening news. The reason was personal knowledge of how the Serbs and Croats hate each other. It is inbred; is has been there for centuries and will be there for centuries to come.

This no doubt contributed to the nearly 3 1/2 year wait before the U.S. under President Clinton's leadership and Europe decided to intervene.

Their hatred for each other is not unlike that of the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds in Iraq, and was a big part of why Dick Cheney (prior to become Vice President and a neoconservative in his Bush II days) said during the mid-1990s that it would have been a mistake to have gone to Baghdad while he was part of the Bush I team, and also accurately predicted what would follow if we had and later did. Private citizen Cheney then said:

[T]he history of this region of the world and our own intelligence convinced us that as bad as Suddam was, his not being there would probably be worse. Without question the whole area could be rendered less stable, and just as surely civil war between the Shiites, Sunni and the Kurds would erupt, with more fighting and bloodshed than the liberation of Kuwait had involved.

The above quote is from 8-14-07 post, and if you have not seen it, you are missing something. It includes the YouTube link to Mr. Cheney saying in 1994 that having gone to Baghdad would have created a quagmire.

Maybe the capture of Karadzic and his being turned over to the International Criminal Court in the Hague will help Serbia put its past behind it. Maybe peace will come in Iraq and contribute to there being stability in the Middle East. I hope so on both counts.

Monday, July 21, 2008

"Gut feeling" & "fire in belly" are in, Part II -- Charles Bullock: Unions are weak in Georgia, and endorsing Knight was risky & showed that weakness.

A 7-9-08 post entitled "My, my . . . Experience out, gut feeling in," noted The Macon Telegraph's rationale of relying on its gut feeling in deciding whom to endorse for the U.S. Senate in the Democratic primary, and that post quoted from the Telegraph as follows:

[W]hile [Jim Martin's] name recognition and experience may lead him to the nomination, we have to go with our gut feeling and try a different path.

Gut feeling, why not? The Georgia AFL-CIO endorsed Rand Knight for reasons such as the fire in his belly, being young and the union thinking it was only fair that it should give him a chance, even though Jim Martin is "a really good friend."

Oh well . . . .

Now that Martin came is a close second, the union has thrown its support behind him for the runoff. I say forget it; you blew it on round one.

Travis Fain writes in The Macon Telegraph:

Rand Knight turned a lot of heads when he picked up endorsements from three well-known unions in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary.

But it didn't translate into many votes July 15 for the relative unknown. Despite backing from the Georgia Association of Educators, the National Education Association and the Georgia AFL-CIO, Knight polled a disappointing 5.2 percent. It landed him in fourth place.

Charles Bullock, a University of Georgia political science professor, said unions have "never been the healthiest in Georgia." Endorsing Knight was risky, because it showed that weakness, he said.

"When they flex their muscles, they're the 98-pound weakling on the beach," Bullock said.

Political opposition from big business, labor and immigrant and civil rights interests has diluted immigration law for two decades

From The Washington Post:

A three-year-old enforcement campaign against employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants is increasingly resulting in arrests and criminal convictions, using evidence gathered by phone taps, undercover agents and prisoners who agree to serve as government witnesses.

But the crackdown's relatively high costs and limited results are also fueling criticism. In an economy with more than 6 million companies and 8 million unauthorized workers, the corporate enforcement effort is still dwarfed by the high-profile raids that have sentenced thousands of illegal immigrants to prison time and deportation.

Raids against Swift packinghouses in six states in December 2006 highlight the administration's strategy to seek criminal indictments and felony convictions against corporate violators. An earlier approach that relied on administrative fines and forfeitures was increasingly dismissed by executives as a cost of doing business.

In March, the White House attempted to jump-start a campaign to notify 140,000 employers about workers' use of suspicious Social Security numbers, seeking to force businesses to resolve questions or fire workers within 90 days.

If companies do not respond to "no-match" letters, ICE could use that failure as evidence of illegal hiring. But the plan remains stalled by a federal lawsuit filed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the AFL-CIO and the American Civil Liberties Union, which allege that it will disrupt businesses and discriminate against legal U.S. workers.

Also in dispute is another effort to expand use of a voluntary online system that checks whether new hires are eligible to work in the United States. The Bush administration on June 9 ordered 60,000 federal contractors to use the government's E-Verify system, which checks workers' information against Social Security and immigration-status databases.

Still, 12 years after Congress mandated that such a tool be piloted in 1996, the change will enroll about 2 percent of U.S. companies.

Frustrated by the stalemate, Arizona, Missouri and South Carolina since January have passed laws or have begun requiring businesses to use E-Verify under certain conditions. But Illinois has gone the opposite direction, barring companies from participating until the government proves that E-Verify is 99 percent error-free.
The conflicting moves show how opposition has frustrated enforcement of the ban on hiring illegal immigrants. In 1986, Congress required law enforcement agencies to show that an employer knowingly violated the law, but provided few tools, agents or dollars to do so.

Under the law, employers need only to verify that a new hire present at least one "facially valid" form of identification. The overhaul simply created a huge fake-ID industry, while granting unscrupulous employers a ready defense since the government had no system to validate a document's authenticity. At the same time, employers face discrimination complaints if they unduly scrutinize new hires.

Few expect the situation to change soon with this fall's elections looming. Some GOP congressional campaigns are talking tough, but the party is wary of further alienating its traditional business base. Democrats in turn rely on labor and immigrant support, leading the House to propose a $40 billion DHS budget bill that would require ICE to prioritize $800 million in enforcement funding next year to deporting illegal immigrants with criminal records, not workers.

Many states will introduce new voting technologies in November -- I still am happy with the touch-screen paperless ones we use in Georgia.

From The New York Times:

At least 11 states will use new voting equipment as the nation shifts away from touch-screen machines and to the paper ballots of optical scanners, which will be used by more than 55 percent of voters.

About half of all voters will use machines unlike the ones they used in the last presidential election, experts say, and more than half of the states will use new statewide databases to verify voter registration.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The upcoming ouster attempt promises to bring a more cooperative tone to the 180-member Georgia House & more on this coup by Dick Pettys.

From the AP:

House Speaker Glenn Richardson opened the last two legislative sessions with calls for unity and ended them with scathing attacks against leaders of his own Republican Party.

Now a group of frustrated Republicans led by state Rep. David Ralston are challenging the House leader, launching an ouster attempt that promises to bring a more cooperative tone to the 180-member chamber.

'The people of Georgia are wanting us to work together and get some things done,' said Ralston, an attorney from Blue Ridge. 'With the current climate we have, that's going to be extremely tough to do. I think we have an opportunity to do that.'

Dick Pettys writes in InsiderAdvantage Georgia:

As coup attempts go, this one got off to a bit of a ragged start last week. Ralston and his band of rebels lost any hope of springing a surprise after word got back to the Speaker’s office of what was afoot, and then, instead of Ralston announcing his plans with a big splash, word of the effort began dribbling out to the public through reports on this site, some of the political blogs and elsewhere.

That’s one problem inherent in organizing any coup: you can never know for sure who will keep your plans a secret until they are ready to be announced and who will spill the beans.

Another problem is this: in any organization, whether political, social or religious, there always will be a certain percentage of members unhappy with the current leadership. But trying to determine who’s just talking a big game behind the scenes and who will really put their heads on the chopping block is a dicey thing. Hence the phrase: “lie factor.”

Too, an attack against the Speaker really isn’t just an attack on one man but rather the entire power structure he has put in place, including the committee chairs. So as the campaign starts off, the odds are stacked against the rebels.

On the other hand, for those who aren’t part of the power structure or aren’t yet where they want to be, throwing support behind a rebellion at the right time could pay big dividends - if it succeeds.

Ralston told Insider last week that if he loses [in the caucus in November], he won’t attempt to take the fight to the full Legislature in January (when all lawmakers, including Democrats, vote to elect a Speaker). Trying to forge a bipartisan coalition isn’t in the cards, he said.

(1) Iran Nuclear Talks End in Deadlock; and (2) President Bush Accelerates a Shift Toward Centrist Foreign Policies.

From The New York Times:

International talks on Iran’s nuclear ambitions ended in deadlock on Saturday, despite the Bush administration’s decision to reverse policy and send a senior American official to the table for the first time.

The presence of William J. Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs, was one of the most important encounters between Iran and the United States since relations were severed nearly three decades ago. And it was part of a rare show of unity among the six negotiating partners — the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China — who pressed Iran to accept compromise.

TIME reports:

Iranian state radio is quoting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying the latest round of talks between Iran and world powers are "a step ahead."

From The Washington Post:

With his moves last week involving Iraq, Iran and North Korea, President Bush accelerated a shift toward centrist foreign policies, a change that has cheered Democrats, angered some Republicans and roiled the presidential campaign.

Bush sent his first high-level emissary to sit in on nuclear talks with Iran, which ended without agreement Saturday. Also in the past two days, the president agreed for the first time to set a "time horizon" for withdrawing troops from Iraq, and authorized Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to join North Korean diplomats at six-party talks about ending that country's nuclear weapons program.

The maneuvers underscore how much the Bush administration has changed since 2002, when the president proclaimed Iraq, Iran and North Korea to be an "axis of evil." Now Bush is pushing forward with diplomatic gestures toward Iran and North Korea while breaking with a long-held position on troop withdrawals in the interest of harmony with the Iraqi government.

Many Democrats view the developments as evidence that Bush is moving closer to military and diplomatic policies that their party's presumptive presidential nominee, Sen. Barack Obama, has long advocated. The steps could also help the likely GOP nominee, Sen. John McCain, some analysts said, since he can now voice support for pulling out U.S. troops without appearing disloyal to Bush.

At the same time, Bush's moves have agitated conservatives, including some former administration officials, who believe that he has abandoned principles set forth during his first term to embrace a more accommodating posture pushed by Rice and her supporters.

John R. Bolton, a former United Nations ambassador for Bush who has become one of his most vocal conservative critics, likened the developments to breaches in a dam that is about to burst. "Once the collapse begins, adversaries have a real opportunity to gain advantage," he said Saturday. "In terms of the Bush presidency, this many reversals this close to the end destroys credibility. . . . It appears there is no depth to which this administration will not sink in its last days."

[See 7-16-08 post, noting "John Bolton said the Bush administration meeting with Iran "'is like the Obama administration coming six months early.'"]

Obama says something Mr. Carter seems to have trouble remembering: "We have one president at a time.”

From The New York Times:

“I’m more interested in listening than doing a lot of talking,” Mr. Obama told reporters before leaving Washington for a trip cloaked in secrecy because of security concerns. “And I think it is very important to recognize that I’m going over there as a U.S. senator. We have one president at a time.”

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Speaker's plan for swapping property taxes for an enhanced state sales tax might have been a fiscal disaster this year if it had been in place.

James Salzer writes in the AJC's Political Insider:

The original plan proposed by House Speaker Glenn Richardson last year - swapping property taxes for an enhanced state sales tax - might have been a fiscal disaster this year if it had been in place, according to critics of the plan.

Sales tax collections were down 8.6 percent during the final quarter of fiscal 2008 compared with the same period in 2007. Sales taxes are currently the second most important source of revenue for the state, just below income taxes. With the economy slowing, sales have fallen faster than income.

That is exactly the scenario that critics of Richardson’s plan warned of.

Mexican drug cartels are moving large amounts of cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana into the country through Georgia.

From the AJC:

A recent increase in drug-related kidnappings in Gwinnett County has put a spotlight on drug violence in Georgia, federal agents say.

Mexican drug cartels are moving large amounts of cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana into the country for distribution up the East Coast, said Rodney Benson, the special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Atlanta. Drug-related kidnappings have increased in the past 90 days, he said. Gwinnett is a center of Mexican drug cartel activity in the area because of easy transportation on I-85 and a large Hispanic population where traffickers can try to blend in, said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia David Nahmias.

What great news: Historic Macy's building on Peachtree, formerly Davison's, to become shops and restaurants in $30 million redo. Please do it right!

From the AJC:

New details emerged Friday about the planned redevelopment of the former Macy's building downtown, including the investors' total commitment —- about $30 million.

More than 20 investors calling themselves the 180 Peachtree Retail Group want to turn the first three floors of the historic building into shops and restaurants.

The plan includes opening a prepared-foods marketplace on the third floor, under the guidance of a soon-to-be-named noted local chef, said Robert Patterson, managing partner of the investment group.

"It's going to feel much more like a Faneuil Hall Market Place [in Boston] with boutiques and restaurants," Patterson said.

The building's arched windows will become lighted openings [THIS PART CONCERNS ME A BIT] fronting a wall of glass set back about 25 feet, Patterson said. A grand hallway will be lined with retail.

Patterson said a recent study showed downtown needs about 1 million square feet of additional retail to serve office workers, students, residents and visitors.

The yet-to-be-named retail center could open in late summer or early fall of 2009, Patterson said.

The top five floors of the eight-story building will remain office space owned by the Peachtree Carnegie limited partnership.

I have a suggestion for a name for the building. Davison's.

The End of White Flight -- For the First Time in Decades, Cities' Black Populations Lose Ground

From The Wall Street Journal:

Decades of white flight transformed America's cities. That era is drawing to a close.

In Washington, a historically black church is trying to attract white members to survive. Atlanta's next mayoral race is expected to feature the first competitive white candidate since the 1980s. San Francisco has lost so many African-Americans that Mayor Gavin Newsom created an "African-American Out-Migration Task Force and Advisory Committee" to help retain black residents.

For much of the 20th century, the proportion of whites shrank in most U.S. cities. In recent years the decline has slowed considerably -- and in some significant cases has reversed. Between 2000 and 2006, eight of the 50 largest cities, including Boston, Seattle and San Francisco, saw the proportion of whites increase, according to Census figures. The previous decade, only three cities saw increases.

The changing racial mix is stirring up quarrels over class and culture. Beloved institutions in traditionally black communities -- minority-owned restaurants, book stores -- are losing the customers who supported them for decades. As neighborhoods grow more multicultural, conflicts over home prices, taxes and education are opening a new chapter in American race relations.

Part of the demographic shift is simple math: So many whites had abandoned cities over the past half-century, there weren't as many left to lose. Whites make up 66% of the general U.S. population, but only about 40% of large cities. Sooner or later, the pendulum was bound to swing back, and that appears to be starting.

Demographic readjustments can take decades to play out. But if current trends continue, Washington and Atlanta (both with black majorities) will in the next decade see African-Americans fall below 50% for the first time in about a half-century.

Meantime, in San Francisco, African-American deaths now outnumber births.

There are myriad factors driving the change. In recent years, minority middle-class families, particularly African-Americans, have been moving to the suburbs in greater numbers. At the same time, Hispanic immigrants (who poured into cities from the 1970s through the 1990s) are now increasingly bypassing cities for suburbs and rural areas, seeking jobs on farms and in meat-packing plants.

Cities have spent a decade tidying up parks and converting decaying factories into retail and living space. That has attracted young professionals and empty-nesters, many of them white.

Today, cities are refashioning themselves as trendy centers devoid of suburban ills like strip malls and long commutes. In Atlanta, which has among the longest commute times of any U.S. city, the white population rose by 26,000 between 2000 and 2006, while the black population decreased by 8,900. Overall the white proportion has increased to 35% in 2006 from 31% in 2000.

In other cities, whites are still leaving, but more blacks are moving out. Boston lost about 6,000 black residents between 2000 and 2006, but only about 3,000 whites. In 2006, whites accounted for 50.2% of the city's population, up from 49.5% in 2000. That's the first increase in roughly a century.

Washington -- where African-Americans have been in the majority for a half-century -- has lost about 80,000 black residents between 1990 and 2006. Whites had been leaving, too, but recently they've started coming back. Between 2000 and 2006, Washington gained 24,000 whites and lost 21,000 blacks. Whites are now 32% of the population, up from 28% in 2000.

In San Francisco, the African-American population has fallen by a third, or about 30,000 people, since 1990, largely due to surging housing costs and redevelopment that destroyed some public housing.

McCain knows something no one else does, saying: “Every intelligence agency in the world believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”

From The New York Times:

[W]hen Mr. McCain’s positions on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the possibility of conflict with Iran, were questioned, he responded by attacking Mr. Obama and seeking to justify his support for the Iraq war, which Mr. Obama says was unnecessary and fought on false pretenses.

“Every intelligence agency in the world believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” Mr. McCain replied, adding that the Hussein government had also violated human rights.

Gramm, after saying we are in "a mental recession" & had become "a nation of whiners," resigns, blaming his resignation on the Democrats. Go figure.

From The New York Times:

Former Senator Phil Gramm resigned late Friday as a co-chairman of Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign . . . .

“It is clear to me that Democrats want to attack me rather than debate Senator McCain on important economic issues facing the country,” Mr. Gramm said in a statement issued by the campaign. “That kind of distraction hurts not only Senator McCain’s ability to present concrete programs to deal with the country’s problems, it hurts the country.”

Mr. Gramm, a multimillionaire banker, has been under fire since last week, when he dismissed concerns about the troubled economy by referring to “a mental recession.” He also said the United States had become “a nation of whiners,” a remark providing fodder for Democrats to portray Republicans as out of touch with the concerns of ordinary Americans.

Since the start of his campaign, but particularly since the onset of the most recent economic turmoil, Mr. McCain has been struggling to convince voters of his ability to manage the economy, an area he has acknowledged in the past as a weakness. Mr. Gramm, in addition to being a close friend, helped design his economic program and, until last week’s gaffe, was being mentioned as a possible treasury secretary in a McCain administration.

Democrats quickly criticized Mr. Gramm’s blaming them Friday for his resignation. “The question for John McCain isn’t whether Phil Gramm will continue as chairman of his campaign, but whether he will continue to keep the economic plan that Gramm authored and that represents a continuation of the polices that have failed American families for the last eight years,” said Hari Sevugan, a spokesman for the campaign of Senator Barack Obama.

Is this the GOP ticket? The way things appear now with McCain and Romney, guess who the GOP nominee in 2012 is likely to be . . . .

The New York Times has an article that about while it seemed unlikely months ago, Mitt Romney is now seen as a top contender to be John McCain’s running mate. I never would have predicted it for a number of reasons, their not seeming to like each other not necessarily being one of the reasons.

Bush, in Shift and Concession, Accepts Idea of Iraq Timeline

From The New York Times:

President Bush agreed to “a general time horizon” for withdrawing American troops in Iraq, the White House announced Friday, in a concession that reflected both progress in stabilizing Iraq and the depth of political opposition to an open-ended military presence in Iraq and at home.

Mr. Bush, who has long derided timetables for troop withdrawals as dangerous, agreed to at least a notional one as part of the administration’s efforts to negotiate the terms for an American military presence in Iraq after a United Nations mandate expires at the end of the year.

The agreement, announced in coordinated statements released Friday by the White House and Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s government, reflected a significant shift in the war in Iraq. More than five years after the conflict began with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the American military presence now depends significantly, if not completely, on Iraqi acquiescence.

The announcement could alter the American political debate over the war in Iraq and how best to end it now that even Mr. Bush is willing to speak of an end to the American presence.

The Washington Post notes:

The decision . . . marks the culmination of a gradual but significant shift for the president, who has adamantly fought -- and even ridiculed -- efforts by congressional Democrats to impose what he described as artificial timetables for withdrawing U.S. forces.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Warming Is Major Threat To Humans, EPA Warns Just Days After The Agency Declined To Regulate The Pollutants Blamed For Warming.

From The Washington Post:

Climate change will pose "substantial" threats to human health in the coming decades, the Environmental Protection Agency said yesterday -- issuing its warnings about heat waves, hurricanes and pathogens just days after the agency declined to regulate the pollutants blamed for warming.

The strong warnings highlighted the contorted position that the EPA has staked out on climate change. Last week, the agency decided not to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, at least not until after President Bush's term ends.

L. Peterson: "Jones sounded almost as much like a Republican as the one he's seeking to replace." -- I ask. How, just because he mentioned Miller?

This post is not intended to be pro Vernon Jones at all, just to note that I question the below sentence penned by my friend Larry Peterson in the Savannah Morning News, someone with whom I am usually on the same page. Larry, writing about Vernon's campaign visit to Savannah on Thursday, writes:

Vernon Jones sounded almost as much like a Republican Thursday as the one he's seeking to replace.

Then Larry notes what Vernon said in Savannah:

"I am a conservative Democrat, along the lines of Sam Nunn, Zell Miller and Richard Russell," Jones told reporters at Savannah City Hall on Thursday.

He noted the Democrats have lost most major statewide elections in Georgia in recent years.

"The problem," he said, "is that the Democratic statewide candidates have been too liberal for Georgia. They have been out of touch with the mainstream. ... They went back to the same losing playbook."

In contrast, Jones said, he can "bring back the Reagan Democrats" into his party's fold.

He said he'd do so by being "fiscally responsible" and "strong on defense," supporting faith-based initiatives and cracking down on illegal immigrants.

I don't see what Larry hears in the above that makes Vernon a moderate Democrat rather than a Republican. It can't be just the reference to Zell Miller, not when he mentions in the same breath the great Democrats Sam Nunn -- possible Obama Vice Presidential running mate and a person who in his 23 years in the Senate became known as the nation’s foremost authority on national defense -- and Richard Russell, considered by some Washington insiders to be second only to the president in power and influence.

And apparently the same message was given in Macon earlier in the day (and will be Vernon's stump speech on the campaign) according to the reporting by my friend Travis Fain of the Macon Telegraph who writes:

Jones planned to visit Columbus, Macon, Albany, Savannah and Augusta on Thursday. He spoke from the steps of City Hall in Macon, describing himself as a conservative Democrat in the mold of former U.S. Sens. Sam Nunn and Richard Russell.

Jones said Democrats have pursued a "losing strategy" in Georgia that hasn't been "in touch with mainstream Georgia." Instead, Jones is offering a platform of fiscal responsibility, support of faith-based initiatives and a move toward energy independence, he said.

And reporting on Vernon's visit to Columbus on the same day, Larry Gierer writes in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer:

If Vernon Jones wins the Georgia Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate, how, he was asked, will he bring down the incumbent, Republican Saxby Chambliss in the Nov. 4 election?

"His record will bring him down," replied Jones, who faces former state lawmaker Jim Martin in a runoff Aug. 5.

Thursday morning in Columbus, Jones called Chambliss a "me-too" senator, going along with whatever President Bush wants.

"Chambliss supported the war and never questioned the president," Jones said. "In six years, what has he done about oil prices?"

Jones said serious immigration reform is needed and not the "amnesty" program that Bush and Chambliss supported.

"I'm the only fiscal conservative running," said Jones, comparing himself to former Georgia senators Sam Nunn and Zell Miller.

Asked about the war, Jones said that this country "must shift the responsibility of Iraq to the Iraqi people and their government." While he wants U.S. soldiers to have the proper tools and resources, he believes in diplomatic solutions to get U.S. soldiers "out of harm's way."

He said he is OK with offshore drilling but only after no oil is found on the "63 million acres," that already have been permitted for drilling.

On the issue of immigration reform, Jones has said during the campaign he believes in securing borders and enforcing the law as well as streamlining the legal citizenship process. He said Thursday he wasn't against immigrants who do things legally.

This might be a moderate message, to some even conversative. But to me it is not necessarily Republican.

Talks Signal Mideast Shift -- U.S., Israel & some of their European allies see their policy of isolation has failed.

From The New York Times:

After years of escalating tensions and bloodshed, the talk in the Middle East is suddenly about talking. The shift is still relatively subtle, but hints of a new approach in the waning months of the Bush administration are fueling hopes of at least short-term stability for the first time since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Much is happening, adding up not to any great diplomatic breakthrough, but to a distinct change in direction. Syria is being welcomed out of isolation by Europe and is holding indirect talks with Israel. Lebanon has formed a new government. Israel has cut deals with Hamas (a cease-fire) and Hezbollah (a prisoner exchange).

On Wednesday, the United States agreed to send a high-ranking diplomat to attend talks with Iran over its nuclear program, and was considering establishing a diplomatic presence in Tehran for the first time since the 1979 revolution and hostage crisis.

The United States, Israel and some of their European allies have begun to recognize that their policy of trying to defeat their enemies by isolating and vilifying them has failed.

The West’s opponents — Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas — also appear to recognize that the cost of ratcheting up tensions may be too high. Syria and Iran are suffering serious economic problems and could benefit from better relations with the United States and Europe.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Martin vs. Jones on August 5.

Well, I called the primary correctly: Vernon first, Martin second, and the impact of the unusual endorsements for Knight insignificant.

Aaron Gould Sheinin has been on fire lately filling in for Jim Galloway in the AJC's Political Insider, and had a good post yesterday on Cardwell's endorsement of Martin.

Today Aaron has an article in the AJC that discusses Vernon's 40% vs. 34% edge over Martin in the primary, and notes the following about the August 5 runoff:

Turnout in runoffs is historically dismal.

And historically, the top vote getter in a primary wins the runoff 70 percent of the time, said University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock, who has authored a book about runoff elections.

Besides the two rules of turnout being low and the first-place finisher usually prevailing in runoffs, Aaron could have added a third: blacks historically have not returned to the polls in runoffs as heavily as whites.

My take. Throw out the usual rules for runoffs other than the one that turnout will indeed be light. For the other two rules, although this runoff has a black candidate in Vernon, he got what he was going to get in the primary. I think Martin will prevail on August 5.

Capitol Buzzing With Rumors Of Challenge To Richardson

Dick Pettys writes in InsiderAdvantage Georgia:

The defeat on Tuesday of Rep. Jeff Lewis, a powerful committee chairman, has the Capitol buzzing about potential opposition from within his own party to Speaker Glenn Richardson. Sources say at least one legislator is sounding out fellow House members about mounting a challenge.

Lewis lost to a challenger who had made Richardson an issue in the race, saying he would never vote to re-elect the Paulding County lawmaker to the top House post. Lewis, for his part, tried to fend off the attack by attempting to distance himself from the Speaker, declaring he would like to have an option when House Republicans caucus to elect a new Speaker.

Richardson has wielded the gavel for four years as the first Republican to do so since Reconstruction. A predecessor, the late Speaker Tom Murphy, a Democrat, twice faced inter-party challenges and twice beat them.

Car Buyers Downsize, but Spend Big on Options

From The New York Times:

Consumers used to buy small cars for a simple reason: they were cheap. A decade ago, many budget-minded shoppers turned down even options like air-conditioning, power windows and compact disc players to keep the price low.

Now people of all income levels are buying small cars to pinch pennies at the gas pump, but they are not scrimping on creature comforts. Instead, they are spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on options, like heated leather seats and high-end entertainment systems, usually found in luxury cars.

House Democrats are pushing for the gov't to accelerate its process for selling leases to explore for oil in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid faced more pressure to ease a congressional ban on expanded offshore drilling for oil, as both Republicans and Democrats sought to show they are responding to high energy prices in an election year.

With several polls showing a rise in public support for more drilling offshore, Republicans are hammering away at the issue, starting with seeking to open long-closed areas on the outer continental shelf, where the government says an estimated 18 billion barrels of oil and several trillion cubic feet of natural gas lie undiscovered.

President George W. Bush Monday lifted a decades-old presidential moratorium on drilling on the outer continental shelf. The act was largely symbolic, but it put more pressure on Congress to lift its own moratorium on offshore exploration, which expires at the end of September.

A bipartisan group of 10 Senators -- five from each side of the aisle -- is working to develop energy legislation that could gain enough political momentum to pass.

Meanwhile, House Democrats are pushing for the government to accelerate its process for selling leases to explore for oil in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D., N.M.) said he would support opening up more areas for exploration, but he suggested existing areas not under the moratorium that aren't being explored should be a priority, including the millions of acres off Alaska's southwest shores that aren't closed under the moratorium but which haven't been offered by the government. Mr. Bingaman believes that, besides the Gulf of Mexico, the area off southwest Alaska offers some of the best drilling prospects in the outer continental shelf.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Franchisee Fined in Illegal-Immigrant Crackdown

From The Wall Street Journal:

In a coup for the government's crackdown on employers of illegal immigrants, a large McDonald's franchisee pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to supplying illegal workers with false identification and agreed to pay a $1 million fine.

The case, which follows a worksite raid last year that swept up 58 immigrant workers at 11 McDonald's outlets in Reno, Nev., is the first conviction involving a franchisee of a major restaurant chain.

Since Congress failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform, the Bush Administration has made worksite enforcement a top priority by conducting raids at companies believed to employ illegal immigrants. In fiscal 2007, arrests for administrative immigration violations at factories and plants jumped to more than 4,000 people, a tenfold increase over 2002. Between Oct. 2007 to July 11, 2008, ICE has made more than 3,500 arrests.

In a sign of the widening crackdown, immigration cases have flooded the federal courts. In April, immigration cases constituted 58% of all federal prosecutions, according to an analysis released Wednesday . . . .

Well I'll be dern -- President Bush has authorized the most significant U.S. diplomatic contact with Iran since the Islamic Revolution. -- SEE UPDATE

From The New York Times:

President Bush has authorized the most significant American diplomatic contact with Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, sending the State Department’s third-ranking official to Geneva for a meeting this weekend on Iran’s nuclear program, administration officials said Tuesday.

The decision appeared to bend, if not exactly break, the administration’s insistence that it would not negotiate with Iran over its nuclear programs unless it first suspended uranium enrichment, as demanded by three resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.

Still, after months of accusations and counteraccusations from the United States and Iran, the meeting raised the prospect of an intensified diplomatic push to resolve concerns over Iranian nuclear activity, not unlike the lengthy and painstaking talks that resulted in a deal last month with North Korea.

UPDATE: I heard tonight on the evening news that John Bolton said the Bush administration meeting with Iran "is like the Obama administration coming six months early."

We recall that is Bolton served in several Republican presidential administrations and also served as the interim Permanent U.S. Representative to the United Nations on a recess appointment, and resigned when his recess appointment would have ended.

I think it is safe to conclude that Mr. Bolton was not happy about Mr. Bush's change in what he has said forever and a day. But I am all for it; like North Korea where he finally changed what he had said for a long time, it might work.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Amazing, truly amazing: Friends and family of a teacher bonus program's leaders are suspected of receiving more than $1 million.

The AJC has a story about administrators of a teaching program who are accused of fraud and misspending more than $1 million. According to the story, a state audit found that some of $1.2 million allocated for a program to provide Georgia teachers with bonuses if they mentored other teachers instead went to friends and family members of the people in charge of the program.

Bush Acts on Drilling, Challenging Democrats -- I say let 'em drill.

From The New York Times:

President Bush lifted nearly two decades of executive orders banning drilling for oil and natural gas off the country’s shoreline on Monday while challenging Congress to open up more areas for exploration to address soaring energy prices.

Democrats in Congress, joined by environmentalists, criticized the step and ridiculed it as ineffectual, while most Republicans and industry representatives applauded it as long overdue.

The lifting of the moratorium — first announced by Mr. Bush’s father, President George Bush, in 1990 and extended by President Bill Clinton — will have no real impact because a Congressional moratorium on drilling enacted in 1981 and renewed annually remains in force. And there appeared to be no consensus for lifting it in tandem with Mr. Bush’s action.

Rather than signaling a change in the country’s policy, the president’s decision appeared only to harden well-established positions, intensifying an already contentious issue in the middle of an election year.

Since 1982, the ban on offshore oil and gas leases on the outer continental shelf — vast areas 3 to 200 miles offshore — has been renewed by Republican and Democratic presidents and Democratic and Republican Congresses.

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, faces an increasing uneasiness among his colleagues, who have signaled receptiveness to allowing more drilling.

A bipartisan group of senators is trying to develop a compromise energy plan, and the leaders of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee have scheduled a workshop for Thursday where lawmakers and other experts will offer ideas on how to respond to the climb in oil prices.

See also The Wall Street Journal that notes:

A Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. analyst said in a report there is a lot of offshore crude that can be produced relatively quickly. The problem: It is located off California, where politicians have built careers opposing new drilling.

The Minerals Management Service said that of the estimated 18 billion barrels of oil in off-limits coastal areas, almost 10 billion are off the coast of California.

"California could actually start producing new oil within a year if the moratorium were lifted," the Sanford C. Bernstein report said, because the oil is under shallow water, has been explored and drilling platforms have been there since before the moratoria.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Lieberman has reached the point of no return, & needs to go ahead & switch from being an "Democrat" to a Republican.

From The New York Times:

“I think most people in his caucus expected Joe’s views on national security, but I think the extent of his embrace of McCain has surprised some people,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, one of Mr. Lieberman’s closest friends in the Senate. “That’s taking an extra step.”

Democrats complain that he has gone even further with his ramped-up attacks on Mr. Obama. “The fact that the spokesperson for Hamas would say they would welcome the election of Senator Obama really does raise the question, Why?” Mr. Lieberman said recently on CNN. A few days later on Fox News he called Mr. Obama “naïve” in his views on Iran.

In his office on Wednesday, Mr. Lieberman spoke of what he called Mr. Obama’s “remarkable change of position” on a variety of issues.

“Senator Obama has really moved,” Mr. Lieberman said. “Since he clinched the nomination a month ago, in my opinion he has altered and nuanced more big positions more quickly than I can remember any other presidential nominees.”

This line of criticism was consistent with Republican attacks last week against Mr. Obama. When asked if he received “talking points” from the McCain campaign or the Republican National Committee, Mr. Lieberman replied, “I usually don’t.”

[T]he question that seemed to stump him was whether he would speak at the Republican convention. His face took on a slightly pained expression. If he does speak, “I would not go to speak to attack Barack Obama,” he said. “I would go to say why I’m supporting John McCain.”

He would not, in other words, give a speech in the recent tradition of Zell Miller, the former Democratic senator from Georgia who endorsed President Bush in 2004 and derided John Kerry, the Democratic nominee, in a scathing keynote address at the Republican convention.

What is clear is that Mr. Lieberman will not be attending the Democratic convention for the first time since he started going in 1976, the year Jimmy Carter was nominated in New York.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hispanics have large populations in swing states.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Hispanics make up only 9% of the eligible electorate nationwide, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, part of the Pew Research Center. But they account for 37% of the electorate in New Mexico, 14% in Florida and 12% each in Colorado and Nevada.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

In New Mexico Hispanics make up 40% of the population and 30% of the voting population.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Many Hispanics [in the fastest-growing states] . . . can't vote because they are too young or aren't citizens. Others don't vote even though they're eligible to do so. If past patterns hold, in 2008 only 19 out of 100 Hispanics will vote, compared with 40 blacks out of 100 and 52 whites . . . .

Voter participation remains low in states that have only recently started adding large numbers of immigrants, including Georgia and North Carolina. But it's rising in states where the immigrant populations are long-established. In New Mexico, for example, Hispanics make up 40% of the population and 30% of the voting population.

U.S. Consumers Trade Down As Economic Angst Grows

From The Wall Street Journal:

Spurred by economic worries, American shoppers have quickly decided that cheaper is better. They are trading down to store brands from fancy labels, to small cars from SUVs, and to deep-discounters from full-service stores.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which last year returned to its discount roots to try to reverse weakening sales, Thursday reported its best monthly sales gain in four years; it benefited from bargain-hunters seeking deals on the most basic stuff.

Discount stores overall saw sales jump nearly 6% last month, while those of full-price department stores declined. Consumers' use of discount coupons is starting to rebound after a 15-year slide. In June, the lowly Toyota Corolla became the best-selling vehicle in America, a spot held for more than two decades by the beefier (and pricier) Ford F-150 pickup.

Trading down is a common consumer reaction to economic ills. But this time around, the change has come unusually fast and may be touching on the broadest array of goods since the recession of the early 1980s. The combination of historically high fuel prices and soaring food costs, combined with falling housing and stock values and tightening credit, are severely damping the spending habits on which the U.S. economy has long thrived.

The about-face in consumer behavior could bring striking changes to the marketplace, as retailers revamp everything from the size of their stores to the way they stock their shelves, and may force manufacturers to trim niche products in favor of more reliably selling basics.

The shift challenges a 20-year embrace of ever-pricier exotic foods and a widening array of luxury goods. In the 1980s, Americans warmed to designer labels, Egyptian cottons, and shopping as a form of entertainment.

Now, consumers are pessimistic that their ability to spend will improve any time soon. Two-thirds of Americans expect the current slump to last for several years . . . .

One retail trend already under way may mesh well with the change in consumer habits. Retailers known for their "big boxes" -- Safeway Inc., Tesco PLC and Wal-Mart -- have or will soon introduce small 10,000- to 15,000-square-foot stores that fit into neighborhoods and contain just a few thousand products.

A typical 50,000-square-foot grocery store sells 20,000 items. But most homes buy fewer than 1,000 items a year. Stores that can correctly pinpoint customers' choices will earn higher returns on these smaller spaces.

[S]aving money is replacing conspicuous consumption as the object of awe. Linda Butler, a Portland, Ore., homemaker who has used coupons for decades, says that in the past six months she has often been approached in the checkout lanes by other shoppers seeking shopping advice. The 51-year-old homemaker routinely cuts a $150 grocery bill down to a $40 outlay through intensive use of coupons.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Again I say enough is enough is enough. Let's focus our resources on winning elections rather than lost causes.

I did a 7-5-08 post entitled "In a new suit Democrats seek voter ID injunction. I say enough, enough. Let's focus our resources on winning elections rather than lost causes."

The post read:

I think the time has come and gone for the state Democratic Party to continue filing suits such as that filed Thursday asking the courts for a temporary order to stop the state from requiring photo identification of potential voters in the July 15 primary (as reported by the AJC).

We tried; we lost; it is time to move on.

Today the AJC's Political Insider reports:

Fulton County Superior Court Tom Campbell has denied the state Democratic party’s request to block the state’s Voter ID law.

No more please. No motions for reconsideration. No appeal. Let's move on.

Gramm remark adds to McCain's difficulty addressing the economy -- McCain now has his own "bitter" comment.

From The Washington Post:

McCain was already running into a stiff headwind because of an ailing economy, and his task only became tougher after former senator Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) suggested that the United States has "become a nation of whiners."

Gramm, who has helped shape McCain's presidential campaign and is a close friend of the candidate, expressed no regret on Thursday for the comments he made in an interview with the Washington Times, saying: "I'm not going to retract any of it. Every word I said was true." But the McCain campaign quickly shifted into damage-control mode, distancing the candidate from his friend's assessment.

Gramm "does not speak for me. I speak for me. I strongly disagree," McCain said during a press availability here, which took place at the same time Gramm was wrapping up a discussion with the Wall Street Journal editorial board about the candidate's economic program.

Since saying last winter that economic policy is not his strong suit -- a comment that won him a pummeling from his primary-election opponents -- McCain has struggled to show voters that he understands their pain as they grapple with six months of steadily declining payrolls, a shaky market on Wall Street, soaring energy and food costs, rising home foreclosures and stagnant economic growth. But his missteps on economic policy still threaten to drown out his message.

McCain was roundly criticized in June for saying that the fundamentals of the U.S. economy remain strong. His campaign announced a week-long focus on jobs and the economy while he was in Mexico talking about free trade. On Monday, the senator from Arizona appeared to call the system that has financed Social Security since its inception "a disgrace." And Gramm's "mental recession" comment hung over him all day Thursday in Michigan.

Obama said: "This comes after Senator McCain recently admitted his energy proposal for the gas-tax holiday will have mainly 'psychological benefits.' " He added: "Now I want all of you to know that America already has one Dr. Phil, we don't need another. When it comes to the economy, we need somebody who can actually solve the economy."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

If the Viagra vs. birth control question gets legs, McCain is going to be hurt by it even more than by Gramm's insensitive comments about the economy.

It is not just the substance of the response, or lack thereof, but the contrast with what we have come to expect from Sen. Obama.

The question to McCain and some background can be heard at this YouTube link.

The stir about Gramm is reported as follows by The Wall Street Journal:

Former Sen. Phil Gramm -- friend, adviser and national co-chairman of John McCain's presidential campaign -- undercut one of the senator's central economic messages with comments minimizing problems in the economy.

Sen. Gramm said many of the U.S. economic problems are psychological. "You've heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession," he told The Washington Times in an interview published Thursday.

"We have sort of become a nation of whiners," he said.

Sen. McCain rejected the comments. "America is in great difficulty and we are experiencing enormous economic challenges as well as others. Phil Gramm does not speak for me. I speak for me. So, I strongly disagree."

In a 6-29-08 post I described former Sen. Gramm as McCain's would-be Treasury secretary and as McCain's economics adviser.

Those descriptions were accurate when written, but as of today Gramm is toast in the McCain camp (even though he authored the McCain campaign's economic platform and he and McCain's frienship goes way, way back).

Howard Fineman article in Newsweek notes:

At a time of $4-a-gallon gasoline (or more), of falling home prices in most American cities, of skyrocketing food costs and steadily rising unemployment rates, dismissing worried American voters as whining, depressed basket cases is, well, insane.

This ad is very effective, one of many to come -- some pro and some con -- in this political campaign in the evolving world with the Internet.

Hispanic Population in Decline in Virginia County Following Enforcement of Illegal Immigrant Policy

From The Washington Post:

[O]ne year ago . . . Prince William County supervisors launched their crackdown on illegal immigration, . . . [and as a result] Hispanic immigrants are leaving Prince William.

County jail officials have turned over 757 illegal immigrant inmates to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in the past year through an agreement that county supervisors approved as part of the crackdown.

Police have referred more than 300 additional suspects to the immigration and customs branch since March, when the county's patrol officers began screening for residency status.

Catching illegal immigrants has made Prince William safer, said Corey A. Stewart (R-At-Large), chairman of the board of county supervisors said. Stewart also said the county's policies have led to "a plummeting of the crime rate." Police statistics show that the county's crime rate has been declining since 2004, even as the population increased.

More importantly, Stewart said, Prince William has become a model for other jurisdictions hoping to act against illegal immigration. "We've started a wildfire in terms of other localities and states adopting similar tactics," said Stewart, who discussed the county's immigration enforcement success Tuesday with the House Republican Policy Committee on Capitol Hill.