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Cracker Squire


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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.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hang in there Attorney General Eric Holder & President Obama: Government Refuses Release of Surveillance Document

From The Wall Street Journal:

The Obama administration insists it has no obligation to provide access to a top secret document in a wiretapping case, setting up a showdown next week with the judge who ordered it released.

Justice Department lawyers, in a response Friday with the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, also argued that Judge Vaughn Walker had no cause to penalize the government over its refusal to turn over the document.

Mr. Walker on May 22 threatened to punish the administration for withholding the document, which he ordered given to lawyers suing the government over its warrantless wiretapping program.

The judge has ordered department lawyers to appear before his court Wednesday to make the case why he should not award damages to the now-defunct Oregon chapter of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation. That group is challenging the wiretapping program.

In its response, the department said that in this case "disclosure of classified information -- even under protective order -- would create intolerable risks to national security."

The filing said President Barack Obama has authorized access to classified information on a "need-to-know" basis and argued that the government "cannot be sanctioned for its determination that plaintiffs do not have a need to know classified information."

The Al-Haramain case has been a focal point for civil liberties groups questioning the legality of the warrantless wiretapping program . . . .

The Bush administration inadvertently turned over the top secret document to Al-Haramain lawyers, who claimed it proved illegal wiretapping by the National Security Agency.

The document was returned to the government, and the lawyers have argued they need the document back to prove their case.

The Treasury Department in 2004 designated the charity as an organization that supports terrorism.

After complaints from UAW, Congress and others, GM and government reverse GM's restructuring plan and GM agrees to make subcompact cars in the U.S.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

As part of the pact, the auto maker agreed to make subcompact cars in the U.S., rather than China or South Korea. GM announced plans Friday to built such vehicles at a to-be-determined idled plant, said people familiar with the plan.

A 5-18-09 post entitled "The story covered in an earlier post noting GM to build more cars overseas did not get much press. Look for this to change," quoted from a 5-9-09 post that noted in part:

The U.S. government is pouring billions into General Motors in hopes of reviving the domestic economy, but when the automaker completes its restructuring plan, many of the company's new jobs will be filled by workers overseas.

As a result, the long-simmering argument over U.S. manufacturers expanding production overseas -- normally arising between unions and private companies -- is about to engage the Obama administration.

The administration has aroused similar complaints by shepherding a merger between Chrysler and Italian automaker Fiat. But it has extracted a promise from Fiat that it will build small cars in the United States.

The complaints about GM's operations portend a potentially larger argument, a political dispute led in part by the United Auto Workers.

While paying a U.S. autoworker with benefits costs about $54 an hour, a South Korean worker earns about $22 an hour, a Mexican worker earns less than $10 an hour and some Chinese workers can earn as little as $3 an hour, industry sources said.

Why would the U.S. spend our taxpayer dollars to expand production overseas. As explained in the 5-18-09 post:

The Obama administration, for better or for worse, has determined that if it insisted that GM preserve American jobs by shifting production to the United States from abroad, many times more in federal aid than the $16.3 billion in loans now anticipated would be required, and this is just not going to happen.

This is not commentary; it is just reporting. Under the revised restruturing plan the jobs will be here rather than in other countries which of course is good if they remain because the public is buying the product. But as a result of this change we are also upping the required amount of federal aid by billions of our tax dollars. Is this for better or for worse? This is your call. But of course the real answer is it depends; it depends on whether GM can perform differently now freed if its legacy costs, unneeded dealerships and excess capacity than it has in the past. Bottom line: it depends on whether it works.

The Obama administration says that if the company's restructuring succeeds, we could begin to see some payback within 5 years.

A couple of days ago The Wall Street Journal reported this about what is being now called "Government Motors," a company whose market share peaked in 1963 at 52% and fell to 19.2% in the first four months of 2009:

The Obama administration plans to usher General Motors Corp. into bankruptcy court Monday and push through a restructuring that will cost taxpayers billions of dollars more than previously envisioned, turning what once was one of the most profitable companies in the world into a government ward.

As part of the revised plan, the U.S. would provide GM with at least $30 billion in financing to carry it through and out of bankruptcy, on top of the $20 billion in loans the government already has given the company. It also agreed to turn the loans into a controlling ownership stake in GM of up to 72.5% -- a big bet that could cost taxpayers dearly if the car maker fails to recover.

The restructuring plan envisions GM breaking even at total U.S. sales of 10 million a year. So far this year, Americans are on pace to buy only 9.5 million new cars and trucks. The levels of recent years -- when new-car sales peaked at more than 17 million in 2000 -- likely won't return without a strong economic rebound.

If sales did return to such heights, the cutting of GM's labor costs, halving of its brands, winnowing of its dealership network and closure of several factories could push the auto maker into the black.

And it is just as disturbing to me that the breakeven point is 10 million cars a year given GM's current market share. Consider the following from today's New York Times in an article entitled "Industry Fears U.S. May Quit New Car Habit":

For all the drastic cuts and financial overhauls that are meant to secure a future for General Motors and Chrysler, their prospects in coming years will be determined more by the answer to a simple question: Can American drivers live without that new-car smell?

In recent years Americans appeared to be hooked on it and took advantage of home equity loans, easy credit and cheap short-term lease deals to send new-car sales to levels of more than 17 million a year.

Now the market has collapsed by 46 percent to below 10 million, as people are making do with the cars they have, leaving the industry to debate — and worry — about what the new normal will be once the recession ends.

Some say the downturn is temporary and that sales will spring back in a few years. Others believe Americans will rethink whether they need so many cars, particularly new ones.

The Treasury Department’s advisers, who initially expected auto sales to pick up late next year, now foresee no jump in demand this year or in 2010. And even five years out, they expect annual sales to be about 15 million, still well below the peaks of this decade.

If sales do not recover, the Treasury will have to provide more financial support for G.M. and for Chrysler, which has received about $10 billion in federal aid, before they can stand on their own and the government can divest its shares.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Guantánamo Closing Hands Republicans a Wedge Issue (hopefully the correct U.S. House and last week's 90-to-6 vote in U.S. Senate vote diffused)

From The New York Times:

Senate Democrats, who last week broke with their president to join a 90-to-6 vote against funds to close Guantánamo, faulted the White House for failing to provide political cover by reassuring the public that he had a clear plan the for the prisoners. The Democrats left open the possibility of authorizing the money later this year, once Mr. Obama provides a detailed plan.

Mr. Obama has pledged to press ahead, saying he is doing his best to correct the mistakes the last administration made with the prison. But Republicans have now beaten the Democrats twice on this issue in the last two years with overwhelming votes against transferring detainees to the United States.

Several Republican lawmakers in both chambers taunted California Democrats like Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House speaker, and Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, a leading Guantánamo critic, by proposing that the prisoners should be sent to the prison Alcatraz.

Tom Crawford reports on what he has been hearing with regard to a possible Barnes-Thurmond ticket.

Tom Crawford of Capitol Impact wrote earlier in the week that:

[I]t looks like Roy Barnes won't be making the big announcement on June 1 - he has a trial that starts on that date, so it may be another week or two before he tells whether he will run for governor or not.

The trial is expected to last only one day, so maybe we will be hearing something sooner.

Mr. Crawford also reports that -- subject to the caveat "accuracy not guaranteed" -- he is hearing:

If Barnes announces he's running for governor, Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond will supposedly wait two weeks and then announce that he is running for lieutenant governor. It would be a key part of Barnes' strategy to put a unified slate of Democratic candidates on the ballot.

G.O.P. Eyes Tough Task: Winning Reid’s Seat

From The New York Times:

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, has emerged as a tempting target for Republicans as he prepares for re-election next year: unpopular at home, identified with partisan battles in Washington and shadowed by the memory of the election defeat suffered by the last Democrat who held his job, Tom Daschle of South Dakota.

(1) Obama Says Judge Regrets Wording. I hope she does. (2) Conservatives say her race-based approach to the law is grounds for her not be a Justice.

I hope any regrets, if from the Judge, or not "just words."

From The Washington Post:

President Obama said yesterday that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor regrets her choice of words in a 2001 speech in which she said a "wise Latina" judge would often make better decisions than a white male.

And from The New York Times:

The selection of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court has opened a new battle in the fight over affirmative action and other race-conscious remedies for patterns of inequality, with each side invoking the election of the first black president in support of its cause.

Judge Sotomayor, whose parents moved to New York from Puerto Rico, has championed the importance of considering race and ethnicity in admissions, hiring and even judicial selection at almost every stage of her career — as a student activist at Princeton and at Yale Law School, as a board member of left-leaning Hispanic advocacy groups and as a federal judge arguing for diversity on the bench.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Here's to hoping the store bought senator is toast soon -- Burris Offered to Write Check To Governor Before Appointment

A 2-22-09 post entitled "The once cocky liar is not so cocky now. He is toast in a week. Illinois governor calls for Burris to resign & White House suggests as much" called it wrong. He survives. But here's to hoping the winning-bid senator does not last too long.

From The Washington Post:

Sen. Roland W. Burris (D-Ill.) can be heard on an FBI audio recording promising to make a campaign contribution to then-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) at the same time he was pressing the governor for a Senate appointment.

The recording, secretly made by the FBI and released Tuesday by a Chicago federal judge as part of a Senate ethics investigation, contradicts a Jan. 5 Burris affidavit in which he said under oath that he had not discussed the Senate seat with Blagojevich or any of his representatives.

During the Nov. 13 conversation, Burris told the governor's brother, Rob Blagojevich, that he was willing to join a fundraising event and would send a personal check.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

This should cause a day of national mourning: Toys R Us Acquires FAO Schwarz, Flagship Fifth Avenue Store

(I have been in Texas on business.)

From Bloomberg.com:

Toys “R” Us Inc., the largest U.S. toy-store chain, acquired FAO Schwarz to take over the retailer’s flagship Fifth Avenue store in New York and increase its market share.

Toys “R” Us plans to continue operating FAO Schwarz’s two retail stores in New York and Las Vegas under the same name, along with the company’s Web site and catalog businesses . . . .

The deal combines two retailers that have faced increased competition from the Internet and discount chains during the recession.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Hello! My man President Obama figures it out. Forget Europe on this topic (but not on undoing damage done by cowboy diplomacy) and look after USA.

From Bloomberg.com:

President Barack Obama said one of the “biggest problems” in shutting down the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, may be how to deal with terror suspects who pose too great a threat to be released.

“It’s a messy situation. It’s not easy,” Obama told C- SPAN in an interview. “We’ve got a lot of people there who we should have tried early, but we didn’t. In some cases, evidence against them has been compromised. They may be dangerous, in which case we can’t release them, so finding how to deal with that I think is going to be one of our biggest problems.”

Friday, May 22, 2009

A huge Barnes lead in an InsiderAdvantage Georgia poll

The ajc's Political Insider reports:

InsiderAdvantage just posted, behind its screen, a poll in the Democratic race for governor done in partnership with WSB-TV, showing former incumbent Roy Barnes with a 38 percent lead, and all the announced candidates — Thurbert Baker, DuBose Porter, and David Poythress — scratching at 3 percent or less.

Undecides were more than 50 percent.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

You reap what you sow Mr. Obama, just as I have been saying for 3 weeks: Fund Managers Burned by Obama Now Say They Are Wary

From Bloomberg.com:

Hedge fund manager George Schultze says he may avoid lending to any more unionized companies after being burned by President Barack Obama in Chrysler LLC’s bankruptcy.

Obama put Chrysler under court protection on April 30 after lenders balked at a proposal giving them about 29 cents on the dollar for their $6.9 billion in debt. The investors said the president’s plan favored a union retiree medical fund whose claims ranked behind them for repayment. It was offered a 55 percent equity stake in the automaker.

Pacific Investment Management Co. [this is PIMCO, and it along with Barclay, are heavy players}, Barclays Capital and Fridson Investment Advisors have joined Schultze Asset Management LLC in saying lenders may be unwilling to back unionized companies with underfunded pension and medical obligations, such as airlines and auto-industry suppliers, because Chrysler’s creditors failed to block Obama’s move. The reluctance may put additional pressure on borrowers seeking capital in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

“Lenders will have to figure out how to price this risk,” Schultze, 39, said in a telephone interview from his office in Purchase, New York. “The obvious one is: Don’t lend to a company with big legacy liabilities or demand a much higher rate of interest because you may be leapfrogged in a bankruptcy.”

‘Rights Were Trashed’

Jack Welch, former chief executive officer of General Electric Co., criticized how the government handled Chrysler’s bankruptcy, saying unions were favored at the expense of creditors.

“I didn’t like the terms,” Welch, 73, said in an interview yesterday at the Boston Convention Center. “The creditors’ rights were trashed and the unions got 55 percent of the company.”

A U.S. Treasury spokesperson said the Chrysler bankruptcy “was handled strictly as a commercial transaction, with all parties treated fairly throughout the process.”

The struggle between creditors and labor has also reached Hartmarx Corp., the 122-year-old clothing maker in Chicago that made the suit Obama wore to his inauguration. Unions are gaining government support in a fight against Wells Fargo & Co., the bankrupt company’s lender.

General Motors Corp., which accepted $15.4 billion in U.S. taxpayer aid, is also giving unions preferential treatment over bondholders in its restructuring, even though their claims rank equally. The biggest owners of GM debt include San Mateo, California-based Franklin Resources Inc. and Capital Research & Management Co. of Los Angeles, regulatory filings show.

Detroit-based GM on April 27 asked the investors to swap $27 billion in debt for a 10 percent stake in the reorganized automaker, while offering a retiree health-care fund $10 billion in cash and as much as a 39 percent stake for $20 billion in unsecured claims.

“It’s terrible precedent,” said Schultze. “The sad thing is it impacts the manufacturing sector and the companies that have legacy liabilities directly. It will be nearly impossible, or much more expensive, to get secured financing for these type of companies.”

Offer Rejected

Unions spent $52 million to help elect Obama, which includes $5 million from the United Auto Workers, according to OpenSecrets.org, a Washington-based organization that tracks campaign spending. Roger Kerson, a spokesman for the UAW in Detroit, declined to comment.

A committee of GM bondholders rejected the offer and asked Obama’s auto task force on April 30 for 58 percent of the company’s equity. Their proposal hasn’t been adopted and bankruptcy is “probable,” Fritz Henderson, GM’s chief executive officer, said in a Bloomberg Television interview last week.

$4.2 Billion

While debt prices haven’t yet reflected the shunning of unionized companies by investors, steel and automakers and airlines will face higher borrowing costs when they attempt to raise funds, Schultze said.

Fort Worth, Texas-based AMR Corp. employs about 90,000 and 67 percent are represented by unions. AMR had about $4.2 billion in underfunded pension obligations as of year-end, according to Fitch Ratings.

‘Justifiably Concerned’

“Creditors are justifiably concerned” about what precedent the auto bailouts are setting, said Mark Kiesel, global head of corporate bond portfolios at Pimco in Newport Beach, California. Pimco managed $747 billion as of Dec. 31.

“When you get these companies that have legacy costs, that’s something you have to factor in when evaluating credit risk,” Kiesel said. “Any investor is going to price in increasing political risk in considering where to put their money.”

The government’s “grassroots trend” signals “an increasing uncertainty of cash flows from financial assets” and risk premiums will increase as a result, Gross wrote.

“People are starting to think ‘This is a very activist administration, even more than we counted on,’” said Martin Fridson, CEO of money manager Fridson Investment Advisors in New York. “If it comes down to the interest of creditors or labor unions, the administration is going to override what you thought you could do.”

Democrats do something middle America will like: Democrats in Senate Block Money to Close Guantánamo

From The New York Times:

In an abrupt shift, Senate Democratic leaders said they would not provide the $80 million that President Obama requested to close the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The move escalates pressure on the president, who on Thursday is scheduled to outline his plans for the 240 terrorism suspects still held there.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

U.S. to Expand Immigration Checks to All Local Jails -- Obama Administration's Enforcement Push Could Lead to Sharp Increase in Deportation Cases

From The Washington Post:

The Obama administration is expanding a program initiated by President George W. Bush aimed at checking the immigration status of virtually every person booked into local jails. In four years, the measure could result in a tenfold increase in illegal immigrants who have been convicted of crimes and identified for deportation, current and former U.S. officials said.

By matching inmates' fingerprints to federal immigration databases, authorities hope to pinpoint deportable illegal immigrants before they are released from custody. Inmates in federal and state prisons already are screened. But authorities generally lack the time and staff to do the same at local jails, which house up to twice as many illegal immigrants at any time and where inmates come and go more quickly.

The effort is likely to significantly reshape immigration enforcement, current and former executive branch officials said. It comes as the Obama administration and Democratic leaders in Congress vow to crack down on illegal immigrants who commit crimes, rather than those who otherwise abide by the law.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has made it "very clear" that her top priority is deporting illegal immigrants who have committed crimes, said David J. Venturella, program director at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Under the new program, the immigration checks will be automatic: Fingerprints currently being run through the FBI's criminal history database also will be matched against immigration databases maintained by the Department of Homeland Security. The effort would not catch people who have never been fingerprinted by U.S. authorities.

Critics say that deporting the worst criminal illegal immigrants, by itself, does not go far enough because it would not fully address the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already in the United States or deter further illegal immigration.

"If the Obama administration abandons immigration enforcement in all but the most serious criminal cases, then they will create a de facto amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants and will encourage even more illegal immigration," said Rep. Lamar Smith (Tex.), the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.

He said the Obama administration should complete construction of a border fence, enforce laws against hiring illegal workers and deport illegal immigrants before they commit crimes.

Amnesty International and immigrant advocates warn that the change could lead to immigration checks in other arenas and the "criminalization" of illegal immigration.

Tom Barry, an analyst for the Center for International Policy, a nonprofit research and policy institute in Washington, said the initiative could sweep up foreign-born U.S. residents who have served time for offenses but were not deported.

By checking all people who are booked, supporters say, the program avoids racial profiling. It also could stem what some see as overzealous efforts by some local authorities who, through a $60 million-a-year ICE training program, have stepped up their pursuit of illegal immigrants through measures such as neighborhood sweeps and traffic stops.

"The administration should reassert the primacy of the federal government's role in enforcing immigration law," said Donald Kerwin, vice president for programs at the Migration Policy Institute, a think tank in Washington. He said, however, that such action should be coupled with efforts to find lawyers for immigrants in deportation proceedings. Unlike in criminal courts, the immigration court system does not provide public defenders.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The story covered in an earlier post noting GM to build more cars overseas did not get much press. Look for this to change.

A5-8-09 post entitled "Who said life was simple: Under Restructuring, GM To Build More Cars Overseas" didn't get much press, but it did elicit this comment on this blog:

I personally will not buy one of the GM autos if they are allowed to do this. As a matter of fact, I will not allow one to be parked in front of my house. The people who have paid them with their tax dollars should demand that the monies be returned if this goes forward. This money was given to GM to save American jobs, not to lose them.

The post noted:

The U.S. government is pouring billions into General Motors in hopes of reviving the domestic economy, but when the automaker completes its restructuring plan, many of the company's new jobs will be filled by workers overseas.

According to an outline the company has been sharing privately with Washington legislators, the number of cars that GM sells in the United States and builds in Mexico, China and South Korea will roughly double.

As a result, the long-simmering argument over U.S. manufacturers expanding production overseas -- normally arising between unions and private companies -- is about to engage the Obama administration.

[Former labor secretary Robert B. Reich asks:] "If GM is going to do more of its production overseas, then why exactly are we saving GM?"

The administration has aroused similar complaints by shepherding a merger between Chrysler and Italian automaker Fiat. But it has extracted a promise from Fiat that it will build small cars in the United States.

The complaints about GM's operations portend a potentially larger argument, a political dispute led in part by the United Auto Workers.

While paying a U.S. autoworker with benefits costs about $54 an hour, a South Korean worker earns about $22 an hour, a Mexican worker earns less than $10 an hour and some Chinese workers can earn as little as $3 an hour, industry sources said.

"If you are shutting down plants in this country, U.S. tax dollars should not go for building plants in other countries," said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) . . . .

So what does the U.A.W. think about General Motors negotiating a reorganization that could increase vehicle imports from its plants in Mexico and Asia while closing factories and cutting the work force in the United States. Last Friday it sent a letter to each member of Congress raising cain, saying that to qualify for more government assistance, GM should be required “to maintain the maximum number of jobs in the United States.”

Forget it U.A.W. Shouldn't you be happy that you are going walk away with 55% ownership of Chrysler (throuh its VEBA) and the current GM proposal is for you to own 39% of GM.

And you helped bring these companies to where they are, and the lenders who took collateral to finance them and keep them going are getting the shaft.

The Obama administration, for better or for worse, has determined that if it insisted that GM preserve American jobs by shifting production to the United States from abroad, many times more in federal aid than the $16.3 billion in loans now anticipated would be required, and this is just not going to happen.

Sorry U.A.W. As noted above, life is not simple; life might be seem fair.

Personally, I was opposed to TARP and don't like much of what has been done since the fall of 2008 with respect to bailouts. But you A.I.W. are coming out of the demise of these two American icons intact, something perhaps undeserved, but most definitely something you should appreciate. You have no standing to complain.

See story at CNBC.com.

As Detroit Crumbles, China Emerges as Auto Epicenter

From The Washington Post:

America's auto titans are dismantling their global empires. But across the Pacific, it's as if the global economic forces that have pummeled Detroit never struck. Chinese auto sales are up, and this year China is projected to displace Japan as the world's largest car producer.

U.S. becoming more diverse -- Latinos, African Americans, Asians & others account for 1/3 of the U.S. population. Hispanics are fastest-growing group.

From CNNMoney.com:

The nation is becoming even more diverse: More than one third of its population belongs to a minority group, and Hispanics are the fastest-growing segment.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported Thursday that the minority population reached an estimated 104.6 million - or 34% of the nation's total population - on July 1, 2008, compared to 31% when the Census was taken in 2000. Nearly one in six residents, or 46.9 million people, are Hispanic, the agency reported.

Even more telling for the future: 44% of children under age 18 and 47% of children under the age of five are now from minority families.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Karen Handel video; not wild about the voice, but other than that, pretty effective ad.

This video was delivered before Karen Handel’s speech at the GOP Convention. Perdue's infamous 2002 campaign ad that depicted then Gov. Roy Barnes as a rat named "King Roy" resurfaces (permission given by whom I wonder).

My previous post touched on Oxendine's antics with state cars and sirens. Tom Crawford knocks it out of the ballpark.

Tom Crawford is now blogging on Blog for Democracy 's poli.

In his introduction Tom writes:

[In this blogging forum we'll] stick to a reality-based view of the world, for the most part, but we'll also add a little whimsy and sarcasm while we're at it.

One thing missing from much of the online commentary on Georgia politics is humor. There is a lot to laugh about in a state where the congressional delegation includes a guy who called for the public posting of the Ten Commandments, then could only name three of them during an interview with Stephen Colbert. Not to mention another congressman who collapsed in a Georgetown bar and had to be carried out by the Capitol Hill police. We're a state that once had three people claiming to be governor at the same time - while today, some would argue that we have zero governors.

In one of his early posts Tom writes about one of my favorites with a post entitled "Ox, we yearn for thee." It reads:

There is one group of business executives who are watching Georgia's race for governor very closely: the people who run America's Big Three (soon to be Big One?) automobile manufacturers.

General Motors, Ford and Chrysler have a huge stake in the outcome of this race because it could determine whether or not they have a future market for the cars they build.

I would guess that they're hoping for a victory by Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine. The reason? Oxendine has a proven track record of crashing and totaling state-provided vehicles. If he were to be elected governor, the demand for fleet vehicles for state government would probably increase exponentially as he turns himself loose on Georgia's highways.

As one auto industry executive confided, "Every time he gets behind the wheel of a Crown Victoria, our profit margins go up another two points."

The election of the Ox, in short, would generate an astounding growth in demand for American-manufactured vehicles. No wonder the Big Three is paying such close attention.

Oxendine has a long and interesting history when it comes to the state vehicles he has driven and purchased.

Shortly after he was first elected insurance commissioner, Oxendine ran off the road and crashed into some trees in Gwinnett County in March 1996. Cost of damage to the state car: more than $17,000. He told police he had swerved to avoid a deer, lost control of the vehicle, and slammed into the trees. (Personally, I think it was a conspiracy by the Karen Handel campaign and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to set up Oxendine, especially when you consider that the deer was later spotted on the grassy knoll in Dallas.)

Oxendine had his next state-purchased Crown Victoria equipped with flashing blue lights and a siren (Oxendine is also the state fire marshal and often drives to the site of arson investigations). On one fateful day in 2000, the Ox had the lights flashing and was trying to weave through traffic on Interstate 285 when he crashed into a pickup truck. The truck cost nearly $7,000 to repair and the Crown Victoria was totaled at a cost to the state of $18,000.

He told police he had been en route to a hazardous materials call in his office building near the Capitol, but investigators for the law department and the GBI questioned whether there was such an emergency call. Attorney General Thurbert Baker said the accident was "suspect." Based on phone records and interviews with Oxendine's staff, investigators said the accident was probably caused by Oxendine leaving home late for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and using his lights and siren to "circumvent the traffic."

Investigators also contended that Oxendine had used his emergency equipment on several occasions to get around traffic and avoid being late to social functions, including one dinner engagement with his son.

These "repeated misuses" of emergency equipment prompted Baker to recommend that Oxendine's emergency equipment privileges be revoked.

"Every time you flip on that blue light, you can potentially create a situation of danger out there on the highway," Baker said, adding that with Oxendine "there clearly seems to be a pattern of abuse."

Oxendine subsequently removed the blue lights and sirens from two of his cars and requested that his permits be "deactivated."

In 2003, the Journal-Constitution -- obviously continuing its conspiracy with Karen Handel -- reported that Oxendine spent $25,322 on a new Crown Victoria, including $6,363 for extras like leather seats, a CD player and a "pursuit suspension" package, after purchasing officials told him not to buy the vehicle because of the state's budget problems.

After reviewing that vehicle purchase, the state inspector general's office issued a blistering report that stated: "Commissioner Oxendine's actions were in blatant disregard for established authority. When informed that he would not be allowed to purchase his automobile, his response was, in general, 'Try and stop me.' ''

Oxendine eventually reimbursed the state for the vehicle and issued this statement: "I have stated publicly my disagreement with the report's findings of fact and conclusions. Although this office is not bound by the opinion of the Office of Inspector General, I have decided to purchase this vehicle personally and donate it to the Georgia Department of Insurance to finally resolve this matter and demonstrate this office's commitment to fiscal responsibility."

Can Oxendine save the American auto industry? If the past is any guide, yes he can. Single-handedly.

From the Cracker Squire Archives, circa 2004: I confess that the man is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't as far as I am concerned - Oxendine

I did a 8-29-04 post entitled "I confess that the man is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't as far as I am concerned -- Commissioner of Insurance John Oxendine" that read in part:

You know the type -- it matters not what he or she does, you always suspect a rat, an ulterior motive, etc.

Well, I readily confess that this is my immediate thought and reaction to anything I read or hear about what John Oxendine has said or done.

Friday I read in an insurance industry publication Insurance Journal: "Ga. Commissioner Fines Loan Company $400,000." Then in the weekend edition of one of our local papers I find the same article.

Just another press release from the Commissioner's office -- hardly? In this one the Commissioner is claiming to have actually done something that his job description requires him to do.

My cynical reaction -- what a dumb loan company. Doesn't it know that even though "cuff link Carl" Sanders beat "they ate my bar-b-que Marvin Griffin" decades ago, the same rules still prevail in certain departments in state government?

And even if that Georgia gubernatorial race -- being in 1962 and that represented good's triumph over evil for me when I was 13 -- was before this loan company's time, didn't its officers see The Godfather? You pay up one way or the other.

Well, I checked out the poor company, and you are not going to believe what I found out. According to Cathy with a "C" Cox's records, the company -- Covington Credit of Georgia Inc. -- has made no contributions to his majesty. Not directly; not toward his state car with its leather seats and upgraded CD player and a premium cassette player and police package; nothing. What was the company thinking.

Now if the company was overcharging, put it to 'em, shut it down, make it hurt, whatever it takes. $400,000, if that won't do it, make it $4,000.000. If you are regulated under the Georgia Industrial Loan Act, you are already loaning funds to those least likely to be able to repay.

Well, although it was no surprise to learn that Covington Credit of Georgia, Inc. -- being a company that the Commissioner regulates and one that he fined -- had made no contribution to his majesty, I did find a couple of items of interest.

The first item of interest: Even though we are two years away from the Commissioner's re-election or his trying to move up the ladder to Lt. Gov. or some other office, he still needs the assistance of some heavy duty "campaign" advice, to the tune of paying $17,000 in January of 2004 to McLaughlin & Associates of New York for "campaign consulting."

Maybe Oxedine was paying this New York outfit to advise him that under Georgia law his office is not bound by the opinion of the Office of Inspector General (yes, this is one of the Governor's arms).

You remember the opinion and report: Georgia Insurance Commissioner Oxendine blatantly disregarded a state ban on automobile purchases and should repay taxpayers for the car with luxury upgrades that he bought, according to this report by the state's Inspector General.

Continuing, it said that if Oxendine does not repay the state the $25,689 he spent to purchase a 2003 Ford Crown Victoria with leather seats and six-disc CD player, the state Attorney General's office should consider forcing him to comply, Inspector General James Sehorn wrote in this report.

"Commissioner Oxendine's actions were in blatant disregard for established authority," this report stated. "When informed that he would not be allowed to purchase his automobile, his response was, in general, 'Try and stop me.'"

The second item of interest: What or who is "Oxendine Working for Georgia" at 1498 Buford Hwy, Sugar Hill, GA 30518-0000, which was good for a $5,000 expenditure in May 2004 as a "contribution" from Oxendine's campaign fund?

Were these payments indirectly relieving some of the Commissioner's financial pain for getting right when he succumbed to public pressure and undid what he would not even then concede was wrong anyway? Probably not; both probably as legitimate as they can be.

But this guy needs to clean up his public perception so that people who by nature are not cynical and who are trusting -- yes, I am talking about myself -- will not doubt what he says because he is the one saying it. Maybe the $17,000 campaign expenditure was for a course on being diplomatic and making a good public impression, and I just haven't been able to notice the results.

Oxendine's press release in my hard copy of The Douglas Enterprise reports that as Insurance Commissioner, Oxendine is responsible for regulating companies that make consumer loans of $3,000 or less under the Georgia Industrial Loan Act., and concludes: "Such companies . . . are regularly examined by Oxendine's office."

Maybe they are, but his saying it does not convince me that they are. As I noted early in this post, I just don't have a good comfort level with this guy, whether I should or shouldn't.

James Salzer and Cameron McWhirter are at it again on the Oxendine shake down, Part II

A 5-11-09 post was entitled "Good job AJC' s Cameron McWhirter; make that great job AJC's Cameron McWhirter -- Oxendine returns contributions."

These contributions were the subject of a 5-10-09 post entitled "Oxendine comments on his shake down of Alabama insurance companies: 'I don’t want you to think we had the intent of doing anything inappropriate.'"

James Salzer and Cameron McWhirter report on how this shake down has been going on for years in today's ajc:

Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine has sustained his 14-year political career substantially on contributions from people who for work for companies his office regulates, records show.

Of the $6.6 million his campaigns collected from 1998 to 2008, at least $2.6 million came from employees and owners of insurance and small-loan businesses, according to a review of state reports by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

That’s at least 40 percent of what Oxendine, a leading candidate for governor in 2010, has raised. And it’s a conservative figure.

It does not include law firms working in the industries he regulates who have been major contributors. And during much of the past decade, Oxendine’s campaign did not disclose the occupations and the employers of many donors, making that information hard to track.

Oxendine said the contributions don’t influence how he does his job. And he said he hasn’t put pressure on insurance executives, agents, actuaries and others to contribute to his campaigns.

“What we’ve always done is strictly comply with the law and we’ve made every attempt to do so,” Oxendine said.

Lawmakers, political opponents and others have questioned whether taking such donations has compromised Oxendine’s ability to fairly regulate insurance in Georgia.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Wouldn't it be sweet: Cuba's Undersea Oil Could Help Thaw Trade With U.S.

From The Washington Post:

Deep in the Gulf of Mexico, an end to the 1962 U.S. trade embargo against Cuba may be lying untapped, buried under layers of rock, seawater and bitter relations.

Oil, up to 20 billion barrels of it, sits off Cuba's northwest coast in territorial waters, according to the Cuban government -- enough to turn the island into the Qatar of the Caribbean. At a minimum, estimates by the U.S. Geological Survey place Cuba's potential deep-water reserves at 4.6 billion barrels of oil and 9.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, stores that would rank the island among the region's top producers.

Drilling operations by foreign companies in Cuban waters are still in the exploratory stage, and significant obstacles -- technological and political -- stand between a U.S.-Cuba rapprochement eased by oil. But as the Obama administration gestures toward improved relations with the Castro government, the national security, energy and economic benefits of Cuban crude may make it a powerful incentive for change.

With her credibility seriously challenged, doesn't House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reazlize that the more she stirs it, the more it stinks.

Time to move on Ms. Pelosi, cut your losses, go into damage control, and all of that stuff.

The New York Times reports today:

As for the speaker, she no doubt faces a difficult period. But few think the sharp focus on the interrogation matter is a serious threat to the authority of Ms. Pelosi, a powerful figure who weathered previous Republican assaults with hardly a scratch.

“It is an embarrassment,” said Ross K. Baker, an expert on Congress at Rutgers University, “and clearly nobody wants to be embarrassed, particularly a speaker of the House. But other than that, there is nothing here that threatens her job.”

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away: Falling Gas Prices Deny Russia a Lever of Power

From The New York Times:

As energy markets shrink, the same tactics that the Kremlin used to build Gazprom, the giant energy company, into a fearsome economic and political power that could restore Russian influence in the world are now backfiring, slashing both its profits and its influence.

Throughout his eight years as president of Russia, Vladimir V. Putin pursued the strategic goal of dominating natural gas supplies to Europe and the pipelines that deliver them. His success was underscored in January, when for the second time in three years a pricing dispute with Ukraine disrupted the flow of natural gas, leaving hundreds of thousands in Eastern Europe shivering in the deep winter cold.

But in his zeal to monopolize gas supplies, Mr. Putin, who is now Russia’s prime minister, committed Gazprom to long-term contracts with Central Asian countries for gas at a cost far in excess of current world prices. Now that the world economic crisis has sharply curtailed demand for gas, Gazprom is saddled with a glut of expensive Central Asian supplies that it is forced to sell at a loss.

In a painful twist, the company also finds itself forced to close its own wells in Russia, which produce gas for a fraction of the cost of that from Central Asia, in order to balance its supplies with declining world demand. In effect, a strategy that made business and political sense in a time of high and seemingly ever rising prices is threatening to create years of losses and declining influence, if energy prices fail to rebound.

Last week, the European Union signed an agreement with Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and Egypt that could revive the long delayed Nabucco pipeline, which is intended to break Russia’s monopoly on Caspian Basin energy supplies. That was quite a turnabout for Azerbaijan, which after the war in Georgia last summer had offered to sell Gazprom its entire future output of gas from an offshore development.

Friday, May 15, 2009

By the fall of 2008, the face of the Republican Party had become Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber. Conservative intellectuals had no party.

From the AJC's Political Insider:

By the fall of 2008, the face of the Republican Party had become Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber. Conservative intellectuals had no party.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Solution for Obama: "Unlike my predecessor who can recall nothing he would have done differently, I made a mistake. Guantanamo will not be shuttered."

This article in The Wall Street Journal (that is informational and does not hint at the title to this post) is about how the administration's internal deliberations on how to deal with Guantanamo detainees are continuing, as the White House wrestles with how to fulfill the president's promise to shutter the controversial prison.

Medicare hospital insurance trust fund may be depleted by 2017 & Social Security reserves gone by 2037. Alarm Sounded On Social Security & Medicare.

This is course is very serious, and the matters cannot be put off for future administrations to address. The President recognizes this. I hope Congress will also.

See stories in The New York Times and The Washington Post.

The truth, the whole truth & nothing but the truth if you feel like sharing it with we owners -- Officials Knew of AIG Bonuses Months Before Firestorm

From The Washington Post:

As American International Group chief executive Edward M. Liddy returns to Washington to face Congress today, new details are emerging about how long federal officials were aware of the company's recent bonus payments to its executives and of how inflammatory the payments could be.

The furor over the bonus payments at AIG -- the crippled insurance giant that is benefiting from a government bailout of more than $180 billion -- disappeared from public view as quickly as it erupted in mid-March.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ouch! -- Barnes: No decision yet; party ‘can do better’ than other three

From the AJC's Gold Dome Live:

Former Gov. Roy Barnes said Tuesday that he has yet to decide whether to run again in 2010, but said he believes the Democratic field is lacking.

As for the three announced Democratic candidates - House Minority Leader DuBose Porter (D-Dublin), Attorney General Thurbert Baker and Adjutant Gen. David Poythress - Barnes was pleasant but biting.

“Any of the ones who are Democrats, and most of the ones who are Republicans, are honorable folks,” he said. “I have nothing but highest praise for folks who will put themselves out. I know what it’s like to deal with the press and lack of privacy.”

And now for the bite …

“There’s a verse in the Old Testament that says people perish where there is no vision,” Barnes said. “I’m looking for vision and in that category I haven’t seen it yet. It’s not that they’re not good folks, it’s that we can do better.

Porter didn’t seem to believe himself lacking in vision.

“When I hit the floor as governor, I will have a package for transportation that I will work everyday for,” he said. “We haven’t had that.”

He said he would work to bring the state up the national rankings in education and fight to get Atlanta “out of gridlock.”

He’ll fight for that, he said, whether Barnes is in the race or not.

“The problems he had before are still there,” Porter said. “I’ve supported education, teachers, smaller classrooms. The problems he had before are still there. That doesn’t change what we do in our race.”

Those problems, as Porter put it, would refer to the anger that erupted between teachers and Barnes in his initial term as governor and would appear to be one Porter is prepared to exploit.

Baker and Poythress were less inclined to directly criticize Barnes.

“I’m looking forward to debating the issues and debating the future of Georgia regardless of who’s in the race,” Baker said. “I have to focus on what I can do to move Georgia forward. We’re going to engage that debate, it doesn’t matter who’s in the race. We’re going to run hard and we’re going to win.”

Poythress stressed his belief that he has the experience, the leadership, the record and, yes, the vision, to win next year.

But, at least he was willing to admit that should Barnes get in the race, everything changes.

“Roy Barnes has served this state ably,” Poythress said. “If he gets in this race he will be a very serious contender.”

It will not, however, change his plans.

Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner 2009, and hopefully I will see you next year.

On February 27, 2009, Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, which has been in Chapter 11 since last December, filed a motion with a United States Bankruptcy Court in Texas seeking approval to mothball the poultry processing plant and related facilities located here in Douglas and Coffee County. Such related facilities consist of a feed mill, a hatchery and several poultry houses.

Pilgrim’s employment and economic impact on this area of Georgia is staggering. Until it began idling its operations here in late February of this year, growers for Pilgrim’s had 8 pullet farms with 26 pullet houses; 19 hatching egg farms with 44 hatching egg houses; and 129 broiler grow-out farms with 598 broiler houses in the Coffee County area.

Pilgrim’s employment reached 1,284 in 2008, with its payroll and benefits totaled $34,036,568. Its contributions to the economy of Douglas and Coffee County and surrounding areas were $106,424,705 in payroll and grower payments in 2008.

As a result of an objection I filed on March 17 to the idling of such facilities on behalf of the Douglas-Coffee County Economic Authority, the City of Douglas, Coffee County and the local growers, and the Court’s subsequent finding that such idling would be financially catastrophic for the Douglas and Coffee County communities, the Court has directed Pilgrim’s to work toward selling rather than mothballing such poultry facilities.

The reason for sharing the foregoing it let my Democratic friends and readers know that but for this matter that I have been on almost full time since March 6, I would have been at the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner tonight. Friday of this week is a big day on the Pilgrim's matter, and there is no way I could have gotten away. In fact, I just got home a few minutes ago.

I missed seeing so many of you and the many hugs, and hope to see you next year.

This is disburbing news: Advanta Shuts Down Credit-Card Lending Amid Surging Charge-Offs

From Bloomberg.com:

Advanta Corp., the issuer of credit cards for small businesses, will halt new lending for its 1 million customers next month as the recession causes a surge in loan defaults.

“This is a Hail Mary pass: They’re hoping they can stay alive barely until the environment changes,” said David Robertson, president of the Nilson Report, the Carpinteria, California-based industry newsletter.

Advanta was the 11th-biggest U.S. credit-card issuer at the end of 2008 with about $5 billion in outstanding balances, and the only major lender focused on small business borrowers, Robertson said.

The company’s announcement yesterday is “a big sign that the credit-card industry has problems that are going to be around for several years,” said the Nilson Report’s Robertson.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Last week the governor signed legislation freezing property assessment hikes

From the AJC's Gold Dome Live:

Legislation Gov. Sonny Perdue signed into law on Wednesday makes sure of that. House Bill 233, sponsored by Rep. Ed Lindsey (R-Atlanta), prevents local governments from increasing the assessments used to calculate property taxes for three years, ending with the 2012 tax year.

Of course, assessments may be lowered, a distinction that is important as counties deal with the effects of another new law that requires assessors to consider foreclosures and other distressed properties when setting property values. That has led to thousands of homes seeing assessed values fall.

Good job AJC' s Cameron McWhirter; make that great job AJC's Cameron McWhirter. -- Oxendine returns contributions

From the AJC's Gold Dome Live:

Republican gubernatorial candidate John Oxendine said Monday he has returned contributions that came from a series of political action committees tied to a Rome-based insurance company.

The allegations [questionning the propriety of the contributions] first came to light last week through the reporting of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution [by Cameron McWhirter]. The paper asked Oxendine about the more than $100,000 in contributions on at least two occasions before publishings its findings on Sunday.

Oxendine has not disputed the allegations in the article, but has lashed out at the AJC and accused the paper of biased reporting.

Thank you Governor. Thank you very much. Wise up Handel and Oxendine. -- Gov. Perdue vetoes GOP's irresponsible capital gains tax cut.

From the AJC's Political Insider in a post entitled "Sonny Perdue’s veto of capital gains tax cut enters the Republican race to replace him":

Gov. Sonny Perdue’s veto of a capital gains tax cut passed by the Legislature has officially become an issue in the 2010 Republican race for governor this evening.

Earlier today, Secretary of State Karen Handel declared herself “disappointed” in the governor’s decision, and said she would have signed H.B. 481.

Yet she also said she understood the governor’s hesitation. ”I do share some of his concerns about the timing and lack of immediate relief it will offer,” Handel said.

But state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine said late this evening tha he had no such concerns — and urged an override of the governor’s’ veto by the Legislature when it re-convenes in January.

Sen. Eric Johnson (R-Savannah) — who voted for the measure in the Senate — as a gubernatorial hopeful, declined to second-guess the governor.

In his explanation for the veto, Perdue said the state could not afford the $340 million a year in revenue the legislation would cost.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Oxendine comments on his shake down of Alabama insurance companies: “I don’t want you to think we had the intent of doing anything inappropriate.”

See the story in the AJC, including another comment from the shake downer:

Asked if he was concerned about legal ramifications, Oxendine said the law specifies that donors, not recipients, of illegal donations are punished under the law.

And Jim Galloway of the AJC's Political Insider notes that Oxendine, upon being called to task for the contributions, sent the following email to his supporters:

At Team Oxendine, we wear this hit piece as a badge of honor. Georgia Republicans know perfectly well a candidate is not a serious front-runner until they have been attacked and smeared by the AJC.

Geez Team Oxendine, spare us please.

Take a hike Darth Vader & Rush. Colin Powell, you are truly a great American. We so appreciate your speaking out for what is right. God Bless You Sir!

From the AJC:

For months, Powell has urged the [Republican] party to turn away from the acid-tongued Limbaugh. "I think what Rush does as an entertainer diminishes the party and intrudes or inserts into our public life a kind of nastiness that we would be better to do without," Powell said.

"Colin Powell is just another liberal," Limbaugh retorted. "What Colin Powell needs to do is close the loop and become a Democrat." Limbaugh said Powell is "just mad at me because I'm the one person in the country that had the guts to explain his endorsement of Obama. It was purely and solely based on race." Both Powell and Obama are black.

Please secretary of state candidate Gary Horlacher, no more self-serving goody-goddy affidavits unless you tell it all brother, tell it all . . .

I did a 1-3-08 post that read:

I met Dale Cardwell on August 4, 2007, at the State Committee Meeting that was held in conjunction with the Georgia Association of Democratic County Chairs (GADCC) annual dinner to award the Richard B. Russell Public Service Award.

I requested to be removed from his e-mail list on December 31, 2007, when he informed the recipients of his mailing that he would be spending his time 320 feet in the air on the Corey Tower until further notice.

Bill Shipp's column this week recounts how Gary Horlacher, an Atlanta attorney and Democratic campaign strategist, began his campaign for secretary of state a couple of weeks ago.

He had, according to himself, taken a lie-detector exam and passed with "a score twice the minimum passing score," which Mr. Shipp with tongue-in-cheek observes, must mean "Gary was lying very little."

Before sharing how it gets even worse, and knowing that it is not good to discuss religion and politics in polite company which my readers most assuredly are, the following words of the Master and Greatest Teacher of all times come to mind from Matthew 7:1: "Judge not, that ye not be judged."

After announcing his polygraph exam results, he shares that he swore in an affidavit (redundant talk for a lawyer I know, such as two twins) that:

"During my marriage of over 31 years to Teresa, I have never engaged in any type of sexual activity with another person."

Didn't Mr. Clinton say about the same thing, but here Gary is covering all bases by lawyerly saying "in any type" with any other person.

And then another:

"I have never used any illegal drugs." Again thinking about Mr. Clinton, does Gary need to define "used" to include not inhaling.

And the following is what Mr. Shipp describes as "the capper":

"Throughout my career, both in the private sector and in public service, I have never engaged in any illegal or unethical activity, whether for quid-pro-quo payment to myself or others, or to further the interest of a client or business."

Mr. Shipp in his column notes:

One mean-spirited reporter noted that despite his goody-goody affidavit, Horlacher was arrested for DUI in 1999, a charge that caused him to resign his brief tenure as former Gov. Roy Barnes' press secretary. The charge was reduced later to reckless driving, and Horlacher went on to aid Shirley Franklin in her 2001 election as Atlanta mayor.

Is driving under the influence or recklessly legal activity?

Unlike Dale Cardwell, I am not writing Gary Horlacher off from my consideration of him as secretary of state. But unless he is going to tell it all brother, tell it all, I hope in the future he lets the record speak for itself rather than taking an holier than thou attitude and playing games with the electorate.

And speaking about the record, it was tongue-in-cheek even more forcefully that Mr. Shipp described the "you're not going to get away with that" reporter as being "mean-spirited." He knew it was one of this blog's favorites, the one and only Tom Crawford of Capitol Impact who first called Gary's hand by reporting in Political Notes on April 29:

One question not on that list [of questions Gary submitted to the polygraph examiner] concerns Horlacher’s work with Roy Barnes in 1998 and 1999. He was Barnes’ press secretary in the new administration but resigned from the job after being arrested on a DUI charge (the charge was subsequently reduced to reckless driving).

I started to say it a week or so ago, but I will say it now. I do not think that Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Today The Washington Post has an article entitled "Supreme Court Prospect Has Unlikely Ally - Friendship With Thomas May Complicate Chances for Left-Leaning Georgia Judge."

The subject of the story, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas's friendship with Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Sears, has nothing to do with my reasons for thinking that, despite her gender and race, Chief Justice Sears is not likely to be nominated by President Obama to replace retiring U.S. Supreme Justice David Souter.

A couple of passages from the article follow:

Four years ago, Thomas was about the only conservative celebrating her rise to chief justice along with Atlanta's cadre of civil rights veterans, and it made for some discomfort. The Rev. Joseph Lowery, the longtime leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, quickly called Sears to congratulate her but also let her know that he would not attend her swearing-in because Thomas would be there.

"I was a little disappointed," Lowery said.

State Rep. Tyrone Brooks, president of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, also begged off. "I would have been a hypocrite to go up there, skin and grin, smile and shake hands," he said. His deep disdain for Thomas trumped pride in Sears's accomplishment. "[I] don't think we have any black people on the Supreme Court. It's not just the pigmentation of skin. It is philosophy, and even though Justice Thomas has our skin, he really does not vote the way African Americans would have him vote."

I think these gentlemen should have attended the swearing-in, regardless of who else was there and regardless of what they thought about such person's views.

Jefferson said journalism is essential to a functioning democracy. Whatever shape journalism ultimately takes, in the end we will get what we pay for.

Frank Rich has penned a true classic and keeper in today's New York Times on the history and changing landscape of journalism and entertainment in America as technology has evolved, from vaudeville to the Internet.

As a sample of the feel for his entire column, visit this link he has in his article.

I am not surprised to learn that Nielsen reports that more than 60 percent of Twitter users end up abandoning the service after a single month.

From Nielsen Online:

Twitter has grown exponentially in the past few months with no small thanks to celebrity exposure. People are signing up in droves, and Twitter’s unique audience is up over 100 percent in March. But despite the hockey-stick growth chart, Twitter faces an uphill battle in making sure these flocks of new users are enticed to return to the nest.

Currently, more than 60 percent of U.S. Twitter users fail to return the following month, or in other words, Twitter’s audience retention rate, or the percentage of a given month’s users who come back the following month, is currently about 40 percent.

Twitter is still something of a fledgling, and surely some other sites that eventually lived up to Twitter-like hype suffered from poor retention in the early days. Compare it to the two heavily-touted behemoths of social networking when they were just starting out. Doing so below, we found that even when Facebook and MySpace were emerging networks like Twitter is now, their retention rates were twice as high. When they went through their explosive growth phases, that retention only went up, and both sit at nearly 70 percent today.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

The Rothschild family that financed the Suez Canal and Wellington’s victory at Waterloo lost $ -0- with the crook Madoff.

From Bloomsberg.com:

[I]n Geneva where at least eight banks had about 10 billion Swiss francs ($8.8 billion) with Madoff, who pleaded guilty in March to masterminding a $65 billion Ponzi scheme [, Rothschild had no investments with Madoff].

“Madoff has become a filter for everyone’s perception of whether banks were doing their job,” said Leslie Gaines-Ross, chief reputation strategist at the Weber Shandwick consulting firm in New York and author of “Corporate Reputation: 12 Steps to Safeguarding and Recovering Reputation,” (John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2008). “Rothschild is one of the few that is still admired and holds true to its reputation.”

Baron Benjamin, head of the Geneva arm of the Rothschild family that financed the Suez Canal and Wellington’s victory at Waterloo, is betting that heritage will help his firm grow. Rothschild had no investments with Madoff.

Most distressing if accurate: House-Price Drops Leave about 20% of U.S. Homeowners Underwater on Their Mortgages

From The Wall Street Journal:

The downturn in home prices has left about 20% of U.S. homeowners owing more on a mortgage than their homes are worth, according to one new study, signaling additional challenges to the Obama administration's efforts to stabilize the housing market.

The increase in the number of such "underwater" borrowers comes amid signs that falling prices are making homes more affordable for first-time buyers and others who have been shut out of the housing market. But falling prices also make it more difficult for homeowners who get into financial trouble to refinance or sell their homes, and for others to take advantage of lower interest rates.

For instance, fewer will qualify to take advantage of a key component of the Obama administration's plan to stabilize the housing market. Under the plan, announced in February, as many as five million homeowners whose loans are owned or guaranteed by government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can refinance their mortgages, but only if the mortgage loan is a maximum of 105% of the home's value.

Government officials are considering an increase in that limit.

Borrowers who owe far more than their home is worth may also be less likely to participate in another part of the government's housing plan, which provides incentives for mortgage companies to modify loans to make payments more affordable.

There are some recent indications that the housing market could be beginning to stabilize.

Just how many borrowers are underwater is a matter of some dispute, with the answer depending in part on assumptions regarding home values and mortgage debt outstanding.

Better late than never: Work Under Way on ‘Virtual Fence’

From The New York Times:

After three years of delays and false starts, construction began this week on a “virtual fence” aimed at stopping illegal immigration and smuggling along the border with Mexico.

The first phase of the $6.7 billion project — a network of towers rigged with cameras, sensors and communications equipment — will cover about 23 miles south of Tucson, in the busiest area for illegal crossing.

Within five years, officials said Friday, the fence is expected to extend along the entire 2,000-mile border except for some 200 miles in the area of Big Bend National Park in Texas, a stretch that is to be addressed later.

Planning for the virtual fence began in 2003 as part of the Secure Border Initiative, which also included the deployment of thousands of new border agents and the construction of hundreds of miles of physical walls.

The technology piece of the plan, however, was bogged down by Congressional inquiries into hundreds of millions of dollars in spending on the development of a prototype and conflicts over environmental assessments.

Mark Borkowski, the Customs and Border Protection official heading the project, said the problems had now been resolved sufficiently to begin building a block of the fence that could be in operation by year’s end.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Sorry it had to end this way. What a great shot!

The photo released by the White House from the New York City flyover.

Who said life was simple: Under Restructuring, GM To Build More Cars Overseas

From The Washington Post:

The U.S. government is pouring billions into General Motors in hopes of reviving the domestic economy, but when the automaker completes its restructuring plan, many of the company's new jobs will be filled by workers overseas.

According to an outline the company has been sharing privately with Washington legislators, the number of cars that GM sells in the United States and builds in Mexico, China and South Korea will roughly double.

As a result, the long-simmering argument over U.S. manufacturers expanding production overseas -- normally arising between unions and private companies -- is about to engage the Obama administration.

[Former labor secretary Robert B. Reich asks:] "If GM is going to do more of its production overseas, then why exactly are we saving GM?"

The administration has aroused similar complaints by shepherding a merger between Chrysler and Italian automaker Fiat. But it has extracted a promise from Fiat that it will build small cars in the United States.

The complaints about GM's operations portend a potentially larger argument, a political dispute led in part by the United Auto Workers.

While paying a U.S. autoworker with benefits costs about $54 an hour, a South Korean worker earns about $22 an hour, a Mexican worker earns less than $10 an hour and some Chinese workers can earn as little as $3 an hour, industry sources said.

"If you are shutting down plants in this country, U.S. tax dollars should not go for building plants in other countries," said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) . . . .

Good move: Lawmakers Balk at Holding Guantanamo Detainees in U.S.

From The Washington Post:

Worried that some former Guantanamo Bay detainees may end up on U.S. soil, congressional Republicans and Democrats are sharply questioning President Obama's plans for closing the military prison in Cuba.

The Democratic-led House Appropriations Committee yesterday passed a bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while stripping the more than $50 million that administration officials had requested for closing the prison and starting the relocation of its 240 prisoners.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Tom Crawford on the race for governor. I agree with everything in this post.

Tom Crawford of Capitol Impact writes:

[T]he strongest two candidates in the Republican Party stable will not be running in this campaign.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston are sitting it out for different reasons (Cagle has back problems that required surgery, while Kingston’s friend Eric Johnson decided to run for governor). Kingston would have been an attractive candidate to the hardcore Republican base that still likes George W. Bush and wants to say a big loud “no” to anything proposed by Barack Obama. Cagle would have run strongly among the more moderate Republicans and could have brought in swing voters as well.

Their absence from the race means a weaker candidate could emerge with the Republican nomination. That’s not such good news for the GOP, but it provides some encouragement to the underdog Democratic Party.

If Barnes gets in, the race for the Democratic nomination is essentially over. Attorney General Thurbert Baker can be a nuisance by drawing off black votes in the primary, but Baker did not help himself by working so hard to keep black youth Genarlow Wilson in prison, a legal stance that angered African-American community leaders.

House Minority Leader DuBose Porter of Dublin would have a better chance running for lieutenant governor, thereby clearing out the Democratic gubernatorial primary for Barnes. David Poythress has a commendable record of public service over the years, but with Barnes in the race he becomes basically a vanity candidate.

U.S. government has already contributed or promised $12 billion to keep Chrysler going, which is equal to $314,000 per U.S. employee of Chrysler.

The judge overseeing the bankruptcy of Chrysler on Tuesday took a significant step toward allowing the sale of most of the automaker to Fiat, approving the bidding procedures advocated by the company and backed by the Obama administration.

Chrysler and the government together successfully argued to the Court that a speedy sale was the only way to protect tens of thousands of jobs.

As we recall, Chrysler received $4 billion in government funds through the Troubled Assets Relief Program ("TARP") in December courtesy of the Bush administration, even though the TARP funds were intended for something entirely different.

According to The Wall Street Journal, counting this $4 billion, the U.S. government has already contributed or promised $12 billion to keep Chrysler going -- or, crudely put, about $314,000 per U.S. employee of the car maker.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

He'll sign it. This is as close as he'll get to what he wanted. I wish he wouldn't. -- The AJC headline "Perdue hints he’ll sign transportation bill"

From the AJC:

Gov. Sonny Perdue hinted Monday he is likely to sign into law a plan making major changes to the state Department of Transportation.

Perdue did not directly say whether he would sign or veto the bill, but he called Senate Bill 200 a “step in the right direction regarding statewide planning.”

The bill is radically different from the one that he, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker Glenn Richardson (R-Hiram) unveiled early in the 2009 legislative session. That bill essentially gutted DOT and turned the agency’s board into little more than a paving contractor, while giving most of the agency’s power to a state transportation authority.

What ultimately passed, however, preserves the current structure, although it creates a new director of planning whose power is outside the DOT board. It also gives the General Assembly great power to approve funding for individual projects.

Perdue has until next week to sign or veto SB 200 and all outstanding bills from the recent session.

Monday, May 04, 2009

This guy can't be serious: Jackson says NAACP must help save auto industry, and to do so, "It's time for a righteous rebellion, civil disobedience."

From the AJC:

The NAACP has fought for a century to bring equal and civil rights to blacks, but the Rev. Jesse Jackson believes the organization's current battle is to help the troubled U.S. economy and struggling domestic auto industry.

"We must now save the entire industry from itself," Jackson said as part of the keynote address Sunday night at the Detroit NAACP's 54th Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner at Cobo Center.

"We cannot have joy while Chrysler is in bankruptcy and GM is in line. There is a sense of joy because it's high noon in our politics, but it's midnight in our economy."

"Detroit is not just your city," Jackson later told the crowd during his speech. "It is the soul of industrial America.

"We must fight back to save GM, Ford and Chrysler. That's our lifeline."

Chrysler, the nation's third-largest automaker behind General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Thursday after months of surviving on government loans. All three car companies have laid off thousands of workers and closed a number of factories in the Detroit area and across the country.

Detroit has mirrored their failures. The city's poverty and unemployment are among the highest in the country, as is its home foreclosure rate.

The city's population is more than 80 percent black. Detroit's black residential base began swelling decades ago as blacks from the south moved north to find jobs in manufacturing and in the auto industry, still the lifeblood of the city.

Those jobs must be saved, Jackson said in his 25-minute speech.

"The cause of the workers is a moral cause," he said. "It's time for a righteous rebellion, civil disobedience."

Jackson also criticized federal bailouts to banks, who in turn gave million-dollar bonuses to executives while urban neighborhoods continue to suffer and jobs are being lost. [What in the world does this have to do with the price of groceries?]

This is probably just to pressure the unions at this point, but I sure regret it is this bad: N.Y. Times to File Notice It Will Close Boston Globe

From The Washington Post:

The New York Times Co. said last night that it is notifying federal authorities of its plans to shut down the Boston Globe, raising the possibility that New England's most storied newspaper could cease to exist within weeks.

After down-to-the-wire negotiations did not produce millions of dollars in union concessions, the Times Co. said that it will file today a required 60-day notice of the planned shutdown under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification law.

The move could amount to a negotiating ploy to extract further concessions from the Globe's unions, since the notice does not require the Times Co. to close the paper after 60 days. The deadline, however, would put the unions under fierce pressure to produce additional savings, and the Boston Newspaper Guild promptly called the step a "bullying" tactic by the company.

Some industry observers have expressed skepticism that Times Co. Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. would want his legacy to include the shuttering of the Globe, which his company bought in 1993.

But the Times Co. itself is under strong financial pressure. It recently mortgaged its new Manhattan headquarters, borrowed $250 million from a Mexican billionaire at 14 percent interest, laid off 100 newsroom staffers and cut salaries by 5 percent.

The paper's circulation dropped 14 percent in the most recent six-month period. The Globe is expected to lose $85 million this year, the company says.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Great job by Jim Galloway entitled "On crime and Thurbert Baker’s relationship with the African-American community."

I have known someone would be doing such a piece since my friend Thurbert Baker announced over a month ago. Who better to frame the issues than Jim Galloway.

From the AJC's Political Insider:

By every number, Attorney General Thurbert Baker should already have the edge in the 2010 Democratic race for governor.

He’s put 12 years into his current job as the state’s top lawyer. He’s survived three statewide elections.

Nearly 50 percent of the voters in Democratic primaries are now African-American, as is Baker. A centrist philosophy that emphasizes opposition to both crime and taxes should — at least on paper — allow Baker to build biracial and bipartisan support.

But with his formal candidacy more than a month old, Georgia’s attorney general finds himself in the curious position of having to justify himself.

There is, of course, the shadow of former Gov. Roy Barnes, who may or may not attempt a comeback. But the coolness that should worry Baker comes from within the African-American community.

Some black leaders have balked at the causes Baker has defended. They include Republican-generated legislation to require photo ID at the ballot box — which many African-Americans regarded as a voter-suppression effort.

More volatile was the case of Genarlow Wilson, who was sentenced to a mandatory 10 years in prison for consensual sex with a 15-year-old girl — an act that occurred when the young black man was 17. At one point, Baker’s office appealed a judge’s ruling that ordered Wilson’s release.

Wilson was freed in 2007, but many African-Americans saw the incident as another example of a criminal system unfairly focused on the imprisonment of black men.

“My job is to enforce the laws of the state of Georgia, as passed by the General Assembly,” Baker said. The vast majority of Georgians — whether black or white — understand that he’s not allowed to pick and choose his agenda, the attorney general said.

Baker acknowledges the need to improve both education and the economy. The startling increase in home mortgage foreclosures has yet to be addressed in Georgia, the attorney general pointed out in an interview.

As a commuter from Stone Mountain, Baker said he shares the cost that families pay for metro Atlanta’s traffic congestion. But when asked if he would support a sales tax to raise more cash for rail and road-building, as has been discussed in the last two sessions of the Legislature, the attorney general said no.

“The last thing we want to do is add to the burden of taxpayers,” he said.

Yet when Baker first announced for governor, the issue at the top of his agenda was not education, the economy or transportation. It was crime. “I don’t think that ever gets too far away from people’s minds,” he said.

Baker is a strong defender of capital punishment, though he thinks the state has been only penny-wise in its refusal to fund a system that offers defendants an adequate legal defense.

The attorney general also lists on his resume the role he played — as Gov. Zell Miller’s floor leader in the House — in passage of the state’s tough “two strikes and you’re out” law, which hands out life sentences to repeat criminals.

It is fair to say that, within certain segments of the African-American community, neither the death penalty nor mandatory sentences generate great popularity.

Last Thursday, Baker made time for lunch with state Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur), chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus. This week, Baker is scheduled to break bread with the Rev. Joseph Lowery, the venerated civil rights leader.

In last year’s Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate, Jones and Lowery helped steer black votes away from DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones, who is African-American, and toward Jim Martin, a white Atlanta attorney. Vernon Jones lost the primary in a runoff.

Emanuel Jones, who was deeply involved in the Wilson case, said he left his lunch with Baker “with mixed feelings.”

“I think the attorney general is banking on the African-American community supporting him because he’s an African-American. And I told him, don’t take that for granted,” the senator said. “You have to think of the civil rights community as a big part of our constituency, and I think there’s a big concern in the civil rights community.”

Baker has agreed to a discussion session with African-American state lawmakers later this month. The same courtesy will be offered to two other Democratic candidates currently in the race, House Minority Leader DuBose Porter and former state labor commissioner David Poythress.

Emanuel Jones said Baker hasn’t been ruled out. But neither has he been ruled in.

“We’re going to support the candidate that we feel has the best chance of winning in November. We’re not talking about a primary election. We’ve got to look past that,” the Decatur senator said.

Oh no, not again. Déjà vu?

It's been some five years since, after serving less than two years in the U.S. House of Representatives after beating Cynthia McKinney, Denise Majette shocked her 4th Congressional District constituents and the state Democratic Party leadership when she announced that God had told her to run for the U.S. Senate.

Today in the Savannah Morning News Larry Peterson reveals, according to the headline, "How Eric Johnson decided to run for governor." Part of Larry's story is as follows:

Moreover, he wanted his decision to reflect God's will.

"I'm a man of faith," he said, "so I wanted to make sure I followed the path he laid before me."

Saturday, May 02, 2009

A great post by Middle Georgia's (part of the Other Georgia) Travis Fain on the AJC's treasurer Mike Luckovich.

Travis has 3 keepers on his Lucid Idiocy (politics) in which he refers to Mike Luckovich as the current Lewis Gizzard. I have only posted one of the three selections Travis has on his post. Go to the previous link to enjoy what is Travis's to share.

Even though a longtime fan of Mike Luckovich, I don't know if I am ready to start talking about him and Lewis Grizzard in the same sentence (I have many of Gizzard's columns saved on my computer and have hardcopies of most if not all of his books). And this is not intended to denigrate Mike Luckovich in the least. It is just that Lewis Grizzard . . . .

Great post Travis!

Wise move: Senate Rejects Mortgage 'Cramdowns' by Judges

From The New York Times:

President Barack Obama lost his first big legislative fight Thursday when the Senate failed to pass a measure that would allow bankruptcy-court judges to reduce the value of some mortgages.

Small banks and credit unions had opposed letting judges reduce a mortgage to reflect a home's market value -- known as a "cramdown" -- despite weeks of wooing by Democrats. Some opponents said they wanted to signal to Mr. Obama their dwindling tolerance for what they described as continued government intervention in private business, particularly businesses that didn't precipitate the nation's mortgage crisis. The measure failed a vote that would have moved it forward by 45-51.

Big banks, including Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co. were early supporters of a Senate compromise [read big recipients of TARP funds who were somewhat pressured to take this position even though it was not in their best interest]even as big-bank lobbying groups opposed it. Community bankers and two major credit-union groups also declined to support the measure, saying it would give too much power to judges.

I just do not like this: Although unions usually dread bankruptcy, for the U.A.W. Chrysler's filing could turn out to be the Cadillac of bankruptcies.

From The New York Times:

Labor unions usually dread bankruptcy, and for good reason. Their pay, benefits and pensions typically suffer significant cuts, as airline and steel workers can attest.

But for the United Automobile Workers union, Chrysler’s Chapter 11 case, which began in New York on Friday, could turn out to be — if the company survives and thrives — the Cadillac of bankruptcies.

The U.A.W., for example, has received upfront protection from the Treasury Department for its pension plan and the fund that will take over responsibility for retiree medical benefits.

Moreover, that fund, called the voluntary employee beneficiary association, or VEBA, will control 55 percent of the equity in the new Chrysler once it emerges from bankruptcy, and hold a seat on the Chrysler board. [If, Sid needs to add, everything goes according to the administration's plan, which it well may not.]

[T]he U.A.W. is also no ordinary union. Even though its membership at the Detroit automakers has shrunk to a quarter of its size in 1990, it still maintains tremendous influence in Washington, partly because of its heavy political contributions.

Because the union agreed to negotiate, it was made a partner, with the government and Fiat, in developing the plan to restructure the company.

In contrast, other companies often use bankruptcy as a way to gain leverage over labor, so that they can lower their costs. Workers at Bethlehem Steel, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and US Airways lost all or most of their traditional pension benefits when those employers sought bankruptcy protection in this decade, though some of the shortfall was covered by the federal government. Retiree health care coverage was also cut.

From a Wall Street Journal editorial:

President Obama's broadside against bankers [Thursday] illustrates better than any argument ever could that bankruptcy court, and not the political arena, is where Chrysler belongs. Yesterday's filing isn't the end of the U.S. auto industry, or even necessarily of Chrysler, and it offers the best chance to protect all parties under the rule of law.

"I don't stand with those who held out when everyone else is making sacrifices," Mr. Obama nonetheless declared, blaming what he called "a small group of speculators" for the car maker's Chapter 11 filing. To hear the President tell it, you'd never know that Chrysler had borrowed, and since frittered away, the $6.9 billion that it owes to those "speculators." The Administration had only offered $2 billion to those secured creditors as part of its proposed restructuring for the car maker. So it's hardly a surprise that many lenders would rather take their chances in bankruptcy court.

Chrysler's finances can now be restructured in a less political atmosphere in the New York courtroom of federal Judge Arthur Gonzalez. This is how the Chrysler collapse should have been worked out last December, when the auto maker first went looking for taxpayer cash. Treasury could have saved the $4 billion it lent the car maker at that time [and which Sid adds the government is forgiving, believe it or not], to which we can now add another $8 billion that Mr. Obama promised yesterday to keep the company going.

It's especially rich for Mr. Obama to blast the creditors for seeking "an unjustified taxpayer-funded bailout" while offering the UAW a 55% majority stake in Chrysler. He also praised the large banks that hold most of the Chrysler debt and supported the government plan. But of course J.P. Morgan and the other big banks are also recipients of billions of dollars in taxpayer cash and have a strong interest in playing nice with their creditor, Uncle Sam Obama.

The Chrysler creditors at least represent teachers, pensioners and retirees, among others. The Administration is advancing its own social and political agenda through its ever-deeper entanglement with Chrysler and General Motors. That explains why the government is giving 55% of the new Chrysler to the UAW's retiree-benefit trust, a junior creditor, while those ahead of the trust in line get a mere 30 cents on the dollar.

A senior Treasury official described the decision to give majority ownership to the union's health-care trust as simple pragmatism -- that keeping the union happy is essential to the long-term health of the car maker. A skeptic might respond that this is precisely the kind of political-business calculation that helped to drive Detroit's auto makers into this ditch.

Meanwhile, over at Detroit's other ward of the state, General Motors, [t]he GM drama will play out in the coming weeks before an end-of-May deadline, and it may also end up in bankruptcy court if Treasury doesn't make a better offer to creditors. That would be painful, but an independent judiciary is also the place where the rule of law and sound financial judgment can best prevail. That will ultimately serve taxpayers best as well.

Well I'll be dern: Toyoto Falls Behind Ford.

Ford Motor's vehicle sales fell 32% last month, but the healthiest of Detroit's auto makers outsold Toyota in the U.S. for the first time in at least a year. It is possible that Ford’s decision not to take billions of dollars in federal aid may have improved its image.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Every major auto maker reported dramatic declines from year-earlier levels. Toyota Motor Co., with a 42% slide, fell behind Ford Motor Co. in the monthly tally for the first time since early 2008, even as Ford's sales fell 32%. GM sales dropped 33% and Chrysler registered a 48% decline. Honda Motor Co. saw its U.S. sales drop 25% and Nissan Motor Co. was off 38%.

Yes; Go USA!!: U.S. May Revive Guantánamo Military Courts (“The more they look at it, the more commissions don’t look as bad as they did on Jan. 20.”)

From The New York Times:

The Obama administration is moving toward reviving the military commission system for prosecuting Guantánamo detainees, which was a target of critics during the Bush administration, including Mr. Obama himself.

Obama administration officials — and Mr. Obama himself — have said in the past that they were not ruling out prosecutions in the military commission system. But senior officials have emphasized that they prefer to prosecute terrorism suspects in existing American courts. When President Obama suspended Guantánamo cases after his inauguration on Jan. 20, many participants said the military commission system appeared dead.

But in recent days a variety of officials involved in the deliberations say that after administration lawyers examined many of the cases, the mood shifted toward using military commissions to prosecute some detainees, perhaps including those charged with coordinating the Sept. 11 attacks.

“The more they look at it,” said one official, “the more commissions don’t look as bad as they did on Jan. 20.”