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Cracker Squire

THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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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.

Monday, May 31, 2010

From the Cracker Squire Archives -- As we pause to remember . . . .

From a 5-28-2005 post entitled "As we pause to remember . . . .":

Winston Churchill’s famous quotation, “Never have so many owed so much to so few,” referred to the performance and sacrifice of the pilots of the Royal Air Force in the air war that came to be known as the Battle of Britain. It was not a melodramatic overstatement, for had the tireless, courageous and outnumbered Hurricane and Spitfire pilots not persuaded Hitler’s Luftwaffe that continued air assaults would mean continued unacceptable losses, a Nazi invasion of England would surely have ensued.

Churchill’s observation of his countrymen’s debt to those who died in the Battle of Britain is equally applicable to all of those from every country and in every war who have died defending the lives and freedom of others—families, friends, future generations, fellow countrymen, strangers and foreigners they never met, will never meet.

From the gathering on the green at Lexington to those in every armored vehicle, aircraft, vessel or on foot patrol today in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, Americans are part of that few to whom so many owe so very much—their lives, their liberty and the luxury of living in a land where people can live, worship, work, pursue their dreams, choose their leaders and speak their minds freely and without fear. The debt is unfathomable; the “many” immeasurable; but the “few” are finite and identifiable. They should be remembered, individually and collectively. Their names are found on crosses and stars of David in military cemeteries, on gravestones and markers in family plots, on bronze plaques in churches and public buildings, on monuments in parks, in worn packets of yellowed letters, inscribed on old Bibles, on crumbling pages of newsprint, in histories and anecdotes; their faces are seen in dusty frames on pianos, on courthouse walls, in boxes and envelopes of fading snapshots, on statues and monuments; and both are found indelible imprinted in the hearts of mothers, fathers, grandparents, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, husbands, wives, sweethearts, teachers, students, friends, former playmates and generations who came later and live because they died.

It is a monumental debt that we owe, not to be forgotten. Remember them today. Speak their names. See their faces. Hear their voices. Read their letters. Hug those they knew. Remember what they did. Let them live on in our hearts.

By Sam Griffin
The (Bainbridge) Post-Searchlight
May 27, 2005

The first will be last, and the last first: New York to Lead States in Extra Medicare Payments (go figure)

From The New York Times:

Members of Congress from Iowa, Minnesota, Washington and Wisconsin secured extra money in the new health care law to reward low-cost hospitals in their states, which they said had long been underpaid by Medicare.

But it now turns out that New York will get more of the money than any other state, and some of the chief proponents of the bonus payments will not receive any.

The Obama administration recently disclosed how it planned to distribute the money, $400 million over the next two years, and the result was not exactly what Congress or hospital lobbyists had expected.

An analysis of the data by The New York Times shows that New York hospitals are in line to receive nearly 12 percent of the money ($46.3 million), which is more than hospitals in any other state.

I wish I understood this mind-set and the thinking behind this adamant insistence that from 'the beginning, the government has been in charge.'


Carol M. Browner, President Obama’s climate change and energy policy adviser, said, “it’s important for people to understand that from the beginning, the government has been in charge.”

From The New York Times:

The Obama administration scrambled to respond on Sunday after the failure of the latest effort to kill the gushing oil well in the Gulf of Mexico.

“We are prepared for the worst,” said Carol M. Browner, President Obama’s climate change and energy policy adviser. “We have been prepared from the beginning.”

“This is obviously a difficult situation,” Ms. Browner said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, “but it’s important for people to understand that from the beginning, the government has been in charge.”

A recent report confirms what we already knew: Bailout Missed Main Street

From The Wall Street Journal:

Government funding to U.S. banks has done little to ease the credit crunch for small businesses—and the situation doesn't seem to be improving, according to a new report . . . released Thursday by the Congressional Oversight Panel, a group set up to oversee funds allocated by the federal government's Troubled Asset Relief Program.

"Big banks pulled back on everyone, but they pulled back harder on small businesses," said Elizabeth Warren, chairwoman of the oversight panel, in a discussion with reporters.

The U.S. Treasury Department's TARP programs, launched during the depths of the financial meltdown, didn't improve access to credit, the report claims.

"Treasury never required banks to lend their new money," said Ms. Warren.

"Banks are lending less and less. What we hoped was 2009 was a trough, but lending is not springing back," Ms. Warren said.

As small businesses continue to be blocked off from credit access, other segments appear to be having better luck. "Large businesses are borrowing more than small businesses," said Ms. Warren. "We run the risk of tilting the playing field in favor of large businesses and away from small businesses. Without theses small businesses, there will be no meaningful economic recovery."

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Peggy Noonan: The original sin is that as soon as the oil rig accident happened Obama tried to maintain distance between the gusher & his presidency.


President Obama promised on Thursday to hold BP accountable in the catastrophic Gulf of Mexico oil spill and said his administration would do everything necessary to protect and restore the coast.

Peggy Noonan writes in The Wall Street Journal (her unabridged column follows):

I don't see how the president's position and popularity can survive the oil spill. This is his third political disaster in his first 18 months in office. And they were all, as they say, unforced errors, meaning they were shaped by the president's political judgment and instincts.

There was the tearing and unnecessary war over his health-care proposal and its cost. There was his day-to-day indifference to the views and hopes of the majority of voters regarding illegal immigration. And now the past almost 40 days of dodging and dithering in the face of an environmental calamity. I don't see how you politically survive this.

The president, in my view, continues to govern in a way that suggests he is chronically detached from the central and immediate concerns of his countrymen. This is a terrible thing to see in a political figure, and a startling thing in one who won so handily and shrewdly in 2008. But he has not, almost from the day he was inaugurated, been in sync with the center. The heart of the country is thinking each day about A, B and C, and he is thinking about X, Y and Z. They're in one reality, he's in another.

The American people have spent at least two years worrying that high government spending would, in the end, undo the republic. They saw the dollars gushing night and day, and worried that while everything looked the same on the surface, our position was eroding. They have worried about a border that is in some places functionally and of course illegally open, that it too is gushing night and day with problems that states, cities and towns there cannot solve.

And now we have a videotape metaphor for all the public's fears: that clip we see every day, on every news show, of the well gushing black oil into the Gulf of Mexico and toward our shore. You actually don't get deadlier as a metaphor for the moment than that, the monster that lives deep beneath the sea.

In his news conference Thursday, President Obama made his position no better. He attempted to act out passionate engagement through the use of heightened language—"catastrophe," etc.—but repeatedly took refuge in factual minutiae. His staff probably thought this demonstrated his command of even the most obscure facts. Instead it made him seem like someone who won't see the big picture. The unspoken mantra in his head must have been, "I will not be defensive, I will not give them a resentful soundbite." But his strategic problem was that he'd already lost the battle. If the well was plugged tomorrow, the damage will already have been done.

The original sin in my view is that as soon as the oil rig accident happened the president tried to maintain distance between the gusher and his presidency. He wanted people to associate the disaster with BP and not him. When your most creative thoughts in the middle of a disaster revolve around protecting your position, you are summoning trouble. When you try to dodge ownership of a problem, when you try to hide from responsibility, life will give you ownership and responsibility the hard way. In any case, the strategy was always a little mad. Americans would never think an international petroleum company based in London would worry as much about American shores and wildlife as, say, Americans would. They were never going to blame only BP, or trust it.

I wonder if the president knows what a disaster this is not only for him but for his political assumptions. His philosophy is that it is appropriate for the federal government to occupy a more burly, significant and powerful place in America—confronting its problems of need, injustice, inequality. But in a way, and inevitably, this is always boiled down to a promise: "Trust us here in Washington, we will prove worthy of your trust." Then the oil spill came and government could not do the job, could not meet the need, in fact seemed faraway and incapable: "We pay so much for the government and it can't cap an undersea oil well!"

This is what happened with Katrina, and Katrina did at least two big things politically. The first was draw together everything people didn't like about the Bush administration, everything it didn't like about two wars and high spending and illegal immigration, and brought those strands into a heavy knot that just sat there, soggily, and came to symbolize Bushism. The second was illustrate that even though the federal government in our time has continually taken on new missions and responsibilities, the more it took on, the less it seemed capable of performing even its most essential jobs. Conservatives got this point—they know it without being told—but liberals and progressives did not. They thought Katrina was the result only of George W. Bush's incompetence and conservatives' failure to "believe in government." But Mr. Obama was supposed to be competent.

Remarkable too is the way both BP and the government, 40 days in, continue to act shocked, shocked that an accident like this could have happened. If you're drilling for oil in the deep sea, of course something terrible can happen, so you have a plan on what to do when it does.

How could there not have been a plan? How could it all be so ad hoc, so inadequate, so embarrassing? We're plugging it now with tires, mud and golf balls?

What continues to fascinate me is Mr. Obama's standing with Democrats. They don't love him. Half the party voted for Hillary Clinton, and her people have never fully reconciled themselves to him. But he is what they have. They are invested in him. In time—after the 2010 elections go badly—they are going to start to peel off. The political operative James Carville, the most vocal and influential of the president's Gulf critics, signaled to Democrats this week that they can start to peel off. He did it through the passion of his denunciations.

The disaster in the Gulf may well spell the political end of the president and his administration, and that is no cause for joy. It's not good to have a president in this position—weakened, polarizing and lacking broad public support—less than halfway through his term. That it is his fault is no comfort. It is not good for the stability of the world, or its safety, that the leader of "the indispensable nation" be so weakened. I never until the past 10 years understood the almost moral imperative that an American president maintain a high standing in the eyes of his countrymen.

Mr. Obama himself, when running for president, made much of Bush administration distraction and detachment during Katrina. Now the Republican Party will, understandably, go to town on Mr. Obama's having gone before this week only once to the gulf, and the fund-raiser in San Francisco that seemed to take precedence, and the EPA chief who decided to cancel a New York fund-raiser only after the press reported that she planned to attend.

But Republicans should beware, and even mute their mischief. We're in the middle of an actual disaster. When they win back the presidency, they'll probably get the big California earthquake. And they'll probably blow it. Because, ironically enough, of a hard core of truth within their own philosophy: When you ask a government far away in Washington to handle everything, it will handle nothing well.

(1) President Clinton: Unions want to make Sen. Lincoln 'a poster child for what happens when a Democrat crosses them;' & (2) the Former President.


Bill Clinton remains engaged in American politics, providing fresh fodder for the long debate of whether he truly changed his party.

From The Washington Post:

[On Friday Bill Clinton was] live, on stage, in Arkansas in a full-throated defense of embattled Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D), . . . a longtime ally from the former president's home state. Her battle is in many ways Clinton's, as well. It is a fight over differences and grievances within the Democratic Party that have festered for years.

Lincoln comes out of the once-ascendant centrist wing of the Democratic Party and from the Democratic Leadership Council that was Clinton's vehicle for remaking his party en route to the White House in 1992. Her opponents represent the progressive forces that gained significant power inside the party after Clinton left office. She has been targeted for defeat by labor unions, who, as Clinton put it Friday, want to make her "a poster child for what happens when a Democrat crosses them." Her opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act is one of her alleged sins. She also has drawn the ire of progressive groups, who objected to her willingness to turn against the public option during the health-care debate.

There has been a long debate over whether Clinton truly changed his party. To win the presidency the first time, he had to convince voters that the Democrats had learned some important lessons from their wilderness years in the 1980s -- that they were "new Democrats," as he often said.

One change was to acknowledge the excesses of the Great Society, to admit that government couldn't solve all problems and that market-based solutions were often more effective. Another was to make the Democrats appear less dominated by culturally liberal ideas and organizations, as a way to start winning back some of the Reagan Democrats who had left the party in the 1980s.

In office, Clinton signed a controversial welfare reform bill over the objections of many liberals (but with the support of then staffer Rahm Emanuel). He entered into negotiations with Newt Gingrich and congressional Republicans to balance the budget. He embraced small-bore policies like school uniforms in his 1996 reelection, which frustrated Democrats who wanted him and their party to be more ambitious at a time of rising economic prosperity.

He remade his party well enough to win the White House twice for the first time since former president Franklin D. Roosevelt did it. By the time he left office in 2001, there was a consensus among Democrats around the ideas and strategies he had promoted, despite the controversy over his personal life.

That consensus has generally held up. The battle for the Democratic nomination in 2008 between Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton was grounded far less in major policy disputes -- though they tried to exaggerate some of their differences -- than in personalities and leadership styles.

Their biggest difference was over the Iraq war, which Obama opposed and Hillary Clinton supported, though by the time of the primaries in 2008 their policy prescriptions were nearly identical.

But Clintonism did come in for criticism. Former Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean, during his 2004 presidential campaign, was often disdainful of Bill Clinton's triangulating* tactics, angering the former president. Progressive groups such as MoveOn went after his wife over the war but shared Dean's confrontational leanings.

Clinton remained immensely popular inside the party, but not all of his policies did. The biggest shift came in the area of trade policy. As a candidate and as president, Clinton tangled with organized labor trade by pushing the North American Free Trade Agreement. After he left office, and as the impact of global economics fell more heavily on workers, many Democrats moved closer to the unions' position on trade. Even Hillary Clinton sounded a tougher line on trade than her husband had while in office.

More significantly, the energy within the party shifted from the centrists and the Democratic Leadership Council to the left and the grassroots. Centrists argued that was because their ideas had been assimilated into the party permanently. Those on the left said the times demanded something different, substantively and stylistically. They demanded confrontation when George W. Bush was president and have helped perpetuate permanent warfare with the Republicans during Obama's presidency.

Clinton has not shrunk from some of these fights. He urged passage of comprehensive health care at a time when some in his party were wavering. But he knows the limits of that style of politics. His impassioned defense of Lincoln on Friday was grounded in his argument that the extremes in both parties are too dominant, which he said the voters abhor.

"Voting against Lincoln would only make the problem worse," he said, according to a report from the Arkansas News Bureau. He added, "If you want to make Washington more like it is, vote against Blanche Lincoln. Vote for this 'poster child' strategy. It will send the message to the Republicans and the Democrats: 'Back off in your corners, stop talking to each other.' "

The former president remains one of the shrewdest strategists in the Democratic Party, and he knows where elections are won and lost. He is still fighting to preserve the legacy of his presidency and the style of politics he brought to the party almost two decades ago.
_______________

* For those who may have forgotten, Mr. Clinton's comeback strategy after Republicans took control of Congress in 1994 was known as "triangulation," which strategy had Mr. Clinton taking the center against both conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats in Congress. The strategy helped restore Mr. Clinton's popularity and win his reelection.

Frank Rich: Obama’s Katrina? Maybe Worse (Obama’s news conference on Thursday was at least three weeks overdue.)

Frank Rich writes in The New York Times:

For Barack Obama’s knee-jerk foes, of course it was his Katrina. But for the rest of us, there’s the nagging fear that the largest oil spill in our history could yet prove worse if it drags on much longer. It might not only wreck the ecology of a region but capsize the principal mission of the Obama presidency.

The Obama administration has been engaged with the oil spill from the start — however haltingly and inarticulately at times. It was way too trusting of BP but was never AWOL. For all the second-guessing, it’s still not clear what else the president might have done to make a definitive, as opposed to cosmetic, difference in plugging the hole: yell louder at BP, send in troops and tankers, or, as James Carville would have it, assume the role of Big Daddy? The spill is not a Tennessee Williams play, its setting notwithstanding, and it’s hard to see what more drama would add, particularly since No Drama Obama’s considerable talents do not include credible play-acting.

Obama was elected as a progressive antidote to this discredited brand of governance. Of all the president’s stated goals, none may be more sweeping than his desire to prove that government is not always a hapless and intrusive bureaucratic assault on taxpayers’ patience and pocketbooks, but a potential force for good.

He returned to this theme with particular eloquence in his University of Michigan commencement speech 10 days after the Deepwater Horizon blowout. He reminded his audience that under both parties the federal government helped build public high schools, the transcontinental railroad and the interstate highway system, engineered the New Deal and Medicare — and imposed safety and environmental standards on the oil industry. Quoting Lincoln, Obama said that “the role of government is to do for the people what they cannot do better for themselves.”

We expect him to deliver on this core conviction. But the impact on “the people” of his signature governmental project so far, health care reform, remains provisional and abstract. Like it or not, a pipe gushing poison into an ocean is a visceral crisis demanding visible, immediate action.

Obama’s news conference on Thursday — explaining in detail the government’s response, its mistakes and its precise relationship to BP — was at least three weeks overdue. It was also his first full news conference in 10 months. Obama’s recurrent tardiness in defining exactly what he wants done on a given issue — a lapse also evident in the protracted rollout of the White House’s specific health care priorities — remains baffling, as does his recent avoidance of news conferences. Such diffidence does not convey a J.F.K.-redux in charge of a neo-New Frontier activist government.

Long before Obama took office, the public was plenty skeptical that government could do anything right. Eight years of epic Bush ineptitude and waste only added to Washington’s odor. Now Obama is stuck between a rock and a Tea Party. His credibility as a champion of reformed, competent government is held hostage by video from the gulf. And this in an election year when the very idea of a viable federal government is under angrier assault than at any time since the Gingrich revolution and militia mobilization of 1994-5 and arguably since the birth of the modern conservative movement in the 1960s.

It’s the crunch moment for government to make its case — as Obama belatedly started to do on Thursday. But words are no match for results. As long as the stain washes up on shore, the hole in BP’s pipe will serve the right as a gaping hole in the president’s argument for expanded government supervision of, for starters, Big Oil and big banks. It’s not just the gulf that could suffer for decades to come.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Finally, and here's to hoping it stays this way -- Currently in Vogue: Ringing the Deficit Alarm

From The New York Times:

Deficits finally matter.

After years of citing national security, social necessity and economic crisis as sufficient justification to pass costly legislation without paying for it, members of Congress are getting cold feet about continually adding to the national vat of red ink.

[L]awmakers say they appear to have reached a turning point when it comes to routine deficit spending. The new attitude could reshape the way Congress does its fiscal business the rest of this year and into the future, and potentially constrain President Obama and Democrats as they pursue their agenda.

Democrats are already ducking demands that they produce a budget for 2011, well aware that it would be very difficult to balance the conflicting interests of liberal lawmakers pushing for more spending and the centrists and fiscal conservatives who want cuts.

The reasons for the new deficit sensibilities are both substantive and politically driven. A growing number of House and Senate members see both the annual deficits and the accumulated federal debt — hovering now at the $13 trillion threshold — as time bombs for future generations, the unexploded remnants of a lavish spending spree engaged in by both parties over the past decade.

At the same time, Republicans have stirred up their core voters and made inroads with independents by accusing Democrats of profligacy since they took charge. The success of the attacks has not been lost on Democrats, who are hearing it regularly from their constituents back home. Republicans, who share blame for the deficits the government ran when they were in power and in particular for the increase in the national debt from the tax cuts and spending increases they passed under former President George W. Bush, are also under pressure to show they have changed their ways as well if they hope to win over the Tea Party set.

It adds up to serious new reluctance to be free with federal dollars.

Republicans are eager to blame Democrats. But Democrats note that it was Republicans who initially chose not to pay for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, initiated a series of major tax cuts and started a new Medicare drug benefit that ran up the deficit before Democrats ever took the wheel.

“The people who set the fire are now the ones calling the fire department,” said Representative Richard E. Neal, Democrat of Massachusetts.

In any event, the deficit alarm has been sounded and lawmakers are responding. Whether it is too late for them remains to be seen.

No good deed goes unpunished: A Potential Obama Ally Becomes an Outspoken Foe on Immigration


Representative Luis V. Gutierrez, facing camera, and other House members denounced an Arizona law at a news conference.

From The New York Times:

Representative Luis V. Gutierrez was all set to be a friend of the Obama administration, a point man for the White House among Latinos. A nine-term Democrat, he had cut his political teeth in the wards of Chicago, just as Barack Obama did, and the two knew each other from their parallel early careers in Illinois.

But instead of a favorite ally, Mr. Gutierrez has become a noisy, needling outsider — and not just in the halls of Congress. Saying he was fed up with the president not leading an overhaul of immigration laws, Mr. Gutierrez was arrested along with more than 30 other protesters on May 1 after a sit-in in front of the White House.

Mr. Gutierrez’s frustration was only deepened by the president’s announcement this week that he would send up to 1,200 more National Guard troops to the border with Mexico, a move Mr. Gutierrez called “sound-bite driven politics.”

In recent months Mr. Gutierrez has emerged as a national leader of Latinos and immigrants favoring the overhaul, who up to now have largely been organized into local community groups with no iconic faces.

“What began as a legislative campaign is transforming into a social movement,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a group here that lobbies for an overhaul bill that includes legalization. “Luis is the closest thing we have to an Al Sharpton figure who has instant credibility with the community he speaks for.”

Allies say Mr. Gutierrez’s tenacity and his following among Latinos have helped keep the immigration overhaul alive in Washington at a time when many administration officials wish it would go away, at least for now. But even some of Mr. Gutierrez’s friends say that his sometimes intemperate broadsides and showy tactics have irritated the White House and won him no friends among Republicans, some of whom would have to sign on to any overhaul bill for it to pass.

Latinos comprise 75 percent of his Chicago district. Most are of Mexican origin. His support there has given him confidence to take on people in high places. He has a history of friction with Rahm Emanuel, another Chicagoan and Mr. Obama’s chief of staff, which dates back to when Mr. Emanuel was a Democratic leader in the House.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Please heed Mr. Gates' recommendations: Congress pursues F-35 engine that Defense Secretary Robert Gates doesn't want

From The Washington Post:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates's campaign to rein in defense spending was rebuked Thursday by the House, which approved an aircraft engine the Pentagon does not want despite the threat of a presidential veto.

As the House voted on a $568 billion defense bill, lawmakers tangled over a comparatively minor item: $485 million to pay for a second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a plane projected to be the centerpiece of U.S. airpower in the coming decades.

Gates has opposed the extra engine for years, saying it is unnecessary and a waste of money. But Congress has argued that funding a second engine model for the F-35 would keep defense contractors on their toes by forcing them to compete.

Gates has repeatedly threatened to advise President Obama to veto the entire defense bill if Congress pursues the second engine. The House approved the project anyway, overcoming an attempt by opponents to strip it from the bill. That attempt failed by a vote of 231 to 193, with both parties divided on the issue.

For the first time in a decade, Republican candidates for Congress are raising more than Democrats from small donors.

From The Washington Post:

For the first time in a decade, Republican candidates for Congress are raising more than Democrats from small donors.

The trend is another sign that Republicans have turned their political momentum into money. Reports covering the first quarter had shown that GOP candidates were closing the gap or exceeding Democrats in key races and that corporations have started to shift behind the party.

The giving also fits a pattern in which small contributors loyal to the opposition are more motivated to give while their party is out of power. The last time Republicans received more small donations than Democrats was during the 1998 midterms, when Democrat Bill Clinton held the presidency.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Yes!! -- Obama to Send Up to 1,200 Troops to Border

From The New York Times:

President Obama will send up to 1,200 National Guard troops to the Southwest border and seek increased spending on law enforcement there to combat drug smuggling after demands from Republican and Democratic lawmakers that border security be tightened.

From 2006 to 2008, President George W. Bush made a larger deployment of Guard troops under a program called Operation Jump Start. At its peak, 6,000 Guard troops at the border helped build roads and fences in addition to backing up law enforcement officers.

Those Guard troops contributed to the arrest of more than 162,000 illegal immigrants, the rescue of 100 people stranded in the desert and the seizure of $69,000 in cash and 305,000 pounds of illicit drugs.

The soldiers will not directly make arrests of border crossers and smugglers, something they are not trained to do.

In his meeting with lawmakers on Tuesday, Mr. Obama said improving border security alone would not reduce illegal immigration and reiterated that a reworking of the immigration system could not be achieved without more Republican support.
_______________

But improving border security sure won't hurt Mr. President.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Carol Porter, try this response when asked again: It should be a woman's choice, & definitely not mine unless it happened to be me or a family member.


Carol Porter, a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor.

Jim Galloway of the AJC's Political Insider reports that when asked if she’s pro-life or pro-choice, Carol Porter picks none-of-the-above.

Mr. Galloway writes:

As the weekend broke, Democratic candidate for governor DuBose Porter let it be known that he should be considered “pro-life” when it comes to the issue of abortion.

But the House minority leader from Dublin is only one half of a political couple on the July 20 primary ballot. There remained the question of how the husband’s point of view would reflect on Carol Porter, a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor.

On Monday morning, we asked the Carol Porter campaign whether she supported a woman’s right to an abortion.

On Tuesday, a long explanation, penned by the candidate herself, arrived via e-mail. The brief essay said many things, and even came with a footnote. But it did not answer the question.

And in a phone conversation, Carol Porter declared that hers was not just a temporary evasion.

“I’m sorry, I’m not getting labeled on it. It’s a difficult issue for everybody in this state,” the Democratic candidate said.

Likewise, she declined to say what she thought about embryonic stem cell research – a large issue at UGA.


Carol, below is a suggested response for you to use in future interviews when asked about your views on abortion (this ties in some with your answers to Jim). It is imperative that you get a basic position out there that does not include nuancing or your women voters might stay home in November. Try this:

"I used to find it inappropriate -- given all of the issues out there -- that being pro-life was a litmus test for the GOP. But now we are close to pro-choice being a litmus test for our party.

"I am pro-choice not because I am a Democrat, but because I think it should be a woman's choice, and definitely not mine unless it happened to be me or a family member."

And then if you want to say more, you can use President Clinton's "safe, legal and rare" comment by saying:

"But what if someone has religious convictions different from me; do we not have room in the party for such person?

"As we reach out to fellow religious voters, we should quit arguing the legality of abortion, and rather shift the theme to abortion should be 'safe, legal and rare.'

"And just as we want to see fewer abortions, we want our children to learn good values -- at home, in school, at Sunday school and at church with their parents.

"Good values, health care, jobs and sex education can reduce the number of abortion procedures, and who can be opposed to that."


(The above comes from a post of mine that reflected my being male and a husband and a father that noted: "I am pro-choice not because I am a Democrat, but because I think it should be a woman's choice, and definitely not mine unless it happened to be my wife or daughter."

The post is a 7-24-05 post entitled "Gov. Howard Dean on Meet the Press last Dec.: 'I have long believed that we ought to make a home for pro-life Democrats.'")

Monday, May 24, 2010

Cuts to Child Care Subsidy Thwart More Job Seekers

The New York Times has an article that examines how state cuts in child care are forcing many low-income parents to forgo work, and threaten to undo the progress of welfare changes enacted in 1996. The articles notes:

Despite a substantial increase in federal support for subsidized child care, which has enabled some states to stave off cuts, others have trimmed support, and most have failed to keep pace with rising demand, according to poverty experts and federal officials.

That has left swelling numbers of low-income families struggling to reconcile the demands of work and parenting, just as they confront one of the toughest job markets in decades.

The cuts to subsidized child care challenge the central tenet of the welfare overhaul adopted in 1996, which imposed a five-year lifetime limit on cash assistance. Under the change, low-income parents were forced to give up welfare checks and instead seek paychecks, while being promised support — not least, subsidized child care — that would enable them to work.

Now, in this moment of painful budget cuts, with Arizona and more than a dozen other states placing children eligible for subsidized child care on waiting lists, only two kinds of families are reliably securing aid: those under the supervision of child protective services — which looks after abuse and neglect cases — and those receiving cash assistance.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

David Ignatius: How debt imperils national security. Gates: 'We can't have a strong military if we have a weak economy.'

David Ignatius writes in The Washington Post:

Several months ago, a group of logistics officers at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces developed a national security strategy as a class exercise. Their No. 1 recommendation for maintaining U.S. global leadership was "restore fiscal responsibility."

That's a small illustration of what's becoming a consensus among national security experts inside and outside the Obama administration: To play an effective role in the world, the United States must rebuild its economic strength at home. After a decade of war and financial crisis, America has run up debts that pose a national security problem, not just an economic one.

Europe these days is a halfway house for debtors. NATO members in Europe were mostly failing to meet their defense-spending commitments even before the financial crisis that hit Greece, Spain, Portugal and other nations. They will be even less likely to share burdens now that they have to fund a trillion-dollar bailout for eurozone weaklings.

The national security implications of the debt crisis were highlighted a month ago in a briefing prepared for a senior Pentagon official: "Of the world's top 25 debtor nations, the number that are U.S. allies: 19."

The mismatch between America's desire to share burdens and other nations' reluctance to accept them is emerging in research by the National Intelligence Council and the European Union. The aim of their joint study was to forecast what the world will look like in 2025. The U.S.-European team interviewed officials in China, Japan, Brazil, South Africa, India, Russia and the United Arab Emirates. They found concern in these rising nations about the problems that lie ahead but not a will to solve them.

One of the strongest voices arguing for fiscal responsibility as a national security issue has been Defense Secretary Bob Gates. He gave a landmark speech in Kansas on May 8, invoking President Dwight Eisenhower's warnings about the dangers of an imbalanced military-industrial state.

"Eisenhower was wary of seeing his beloved republic turn into a muscle-bound, garrison state -- militarily strong, but economically stagnant and strategically insolvent," Gates said. He warned that America was in a "parlous fiscal condition" and that the "gusher" of military spending that followed Sept. 11, 2001, must be capped. "We can't have a strong military if we have a weak economy," Gates told reporters who covered the Kansas speech.

On Thursday the defense secretary reiterated his pitch that Congress must stop shoveling money at the military, telling Pentagon reporters: "The defense budget process should no longer be characterized by 'business as usual' within this building -- or outside of it."

Let's return to the class exercise of the military and civilian logisticians who were asked to prepare a national security strategy. . . . . "Credibility abroad begins with credibility at home." In a multipolar world, they said, the "U.S. cannot be the sole guarantor of international security."

What's interesting about this focus on domestic economic security is that it probably would be endorsed by Republicans and Democrats, Tea Party conservatives and antiwar liberals. In a country that doesn't agree on much, it could be a unifying theme.

Payback time (no free lunch, etc.) -- Europeans Fear Crisis Threatens Liberal Benefits

From The New York Times:

Across Western Europe, the “lifestyle superpower,” the assumptions and gains of a lifetime are suddenly in doubt. The deficit crisis that threatens the euro has also undermined the sustainability of the European standard of social welfare, built by left-leaning governments since the end of World War II.

Europeans have boasted about their social model, with its generous vacations and early retirements, its national health care systems and extensive welfare benefits, contrasting it with the comparative harshness of American capitalism.

Europeans have benefited from low military spending, protected by NATO and the American nuclear umbrella. They have also translated higher taxes into a cradle-to-grave safety net. “The Europe that protects” is a slogan of the European Union.

But all over Europe governments with big budgets, falling tax revenues and aging populations are experiencing rising deficits, with more bad news ahead.

With low growth, low birthrates and longer life expectancies, Europe can no longer afford its comfortable lifestyle, at least not without a period of austerity and significant changes. The countries are trying to reassure investors by cutting salaries, raising legal retirement ages, increasing work hours and reducing health benefits and pensions.

“We’re now in rescue mode,” said Carl Bildt, Sweden’s foreign minister. “But we need to transition to the reform mode very soon. The ‘reform deficit’ is the real problem,” he said, pointing to the need for structural change.

The reaction so far to government efforts to cut spending has been pessimism and anger, with an understanding that the current system is unsustainable.

Changes have now become urgent. Europe’s population is aging quickly as birthrates decline. Unemployment has risen as traditional industries have shifted to Asia. And the region lacks competitiveness in world markets.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

After Explaining a Provocative Remark, Paul Makes Another -- His campaign cancels his scheduled appearance on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” program.

From The New York Times:

Rand Paul, the newly nominated Republican candidate for Senate from Kentucky, touched off more controversy on Friday by calling the Obama administration “un-American” for taking a tough stance with BP over the company’s handling of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

A day after he was forced to explain remarks he had made suggesting he was not fully supportive of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, Mr. Paul set off yet another round of Twitter, cable television and e-mail chatter by lambasting President Obama and his aides for insisting that BP be held accountable — and pay — for the oil spill cleanup and damage.

By Friday afternoon, Mr. Paul’s campaign had canceled his scheduled appearance on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” program.
_______________

UPDATED: From an article in The Wall Street Journal entitled "Paul Remarks Have Deep Roots":

Republican candidate Rand Paul's controversial remarks on the 1964 Civil Rights Act unsettled GOP leaders this week, but they reflect deeply held iconoclastic beliefs held by some in his party, and many in the tea-party movement, that the U.S. government shook its constitutional moorings more than 70 years ago.

Mr. Paul and his supporters rushed to emphasize that his remarks did not reflect racism but a sincerely held, libertarian belief that the federal government, starting in the Roosevelt era, gained powers that set the stage for decades of improper intrusions on private businesses.

In tea-party circles, Mr. Paul's views are not unusual. They fit into a "Constitutionalist" view under which the federal government has no right to dictate the behavior of private enterprises. On the stump, especially among tea-party supporters, Mr. Paul says "big government" didn't start with President Obama, Lyndon Johnson's Great Society of the 1960s or the advance of central governance sparked by World War II and the economic boom that followed.

He traces it to 1937, when the Supreme Court, under heated pressure from President Franklin Roosevelt, upheld a state minimum-wage law on a 5-4 vote, ushering in the legal justification for government intervention in private markets.

Until the case, West Coast Hotel v. Parrish, the Supreme Court had sharply limited government action that impinged on the private sector, infuriating Mr. Roosevelt so much that he threatened to expand the court and stack it with his own appointees.

"It didn't start last year. I think it started back in 1936 or 1937, and I point really to a couple of key constitutional cases… that all had to do with the commerce clause," Mr. Paul said in an interview before Tuesday's election, in which he defeated a Republican establishment candidate, hand-picked by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R, Ky.).

Last week, Mr. Paul encouraged a tea-party gathering in Louisville to look at the origins of "unconstitutional government." He told the crowd there of Wickard v. Filburn, a favorite reference on the stump, in which the Supreme Court rejected the claims of farmer Roscoe Filburn that wheat he grew for his own use was beyond the reach of federal regulation. The 1942 ruling upheld federal laws limiting wheat production, saying Mr. Filburn's crop affected interstate commerce. Even if he fed his wheat to his own livestock, the court reasoned, he was implicitly affecting wheat prices. If he had bought the wheat on the market, he would subtly have raised the national price of the crop.

"I'm not for having a civil war or anything like that, but I am for challenging federal authority over the states, through the courts, to see if we can get some better rulings," he said.

But to Democrats, some Republicans and even some libertarians, Mr. Paul's arguments seem detached from the social fabric that has bound the U.S. together since 1937. The federal government puts limits on pollutants from corporations, monitors the safety of toys and other products and ensures a safe food supply—much of which Mr. Paul's philosophy could put in question.

A growing body of polls suggest many voters support the Arizona law.

From The New York Times:

Arizona’s new measure, which requires that the police check the documents of anyone they stop or detain whom they suspect of being in the country illegally, has forced politicians far and wide to take a stance.

The decision on whether to support or oppose the law can have almost immediate political consequences. The latest evidence may be Meg Whitman’s declining fortunes.

For months, Ms. Whitman, the former chief executive of eBay, enjoyed a substantial lead over her principal rival for the Republican nomination for governor of California, Steve Poizner. But in recent weeks, she has seen her advantage slip significantly, in no small part because Mr. Poizner has hammered her on her opposition to the Arizona law.

Finding herself increasingly on the defensive on the issue, Ms. Whitman even proclaims in a new advertisement: “I’m 100 percent against amnesty for illegal immigrants. Period.”

Nonetheless, a poll released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California showed her advantage falling 23 percentage points since March, down to 38 percent versus 29 for Mr. Poizner.

In Florida . . . for instance, Attorney General Bill McCollum, who is running for governor, now says he approves of the law, though he called it “far out” two weeks ago; Marco Rubio, the state’s Republican Senate nominee, has also shifted his stance.

Friday, May 21, 2010

David Brooks: The Story of an Angry Voter -- This accurately describes how many Americans presently feel.

David Brooks writes a keeper in The New York Times:

Let’s imagine a character named Ben. A couple of decades ago, Ben went to high school.
wasn’t easy. His parents were splitting up. His friends would cut class to smoke weed. His sister got pregnant. But Ben worked hard and graduated with decent grades and then studied at East Stroudsburg University and the University of Phoenix.

That wasn’t easy either. Ben would like to have majored in history, but he needed a skill so he studied hotel management. Others spent their college years partying, but Ben worked hard. After graduation, he got a job with a hotel chain. A few years later, he got a different job and then a different one.

He didn’t have lifetime security or a fabulous salary, but Ben worked. He filled in for the night manager, hired staff and cleaned up the breakfast area when that needed doing.

In other words, in school, he labored when others didn’t. At work, he sacrificed when others didn’t. He bought a house he could afford when others didn’t.

This wasn’t a robotic suburban life. It was a satisfying, moral way of living. Ben lived according to an ethos of what you might call “earned success.” Arthur Brooks has a good description of this ethos in his new book “The Battle.” As Brooks (no relation) observes, the key to happiness is not being rich; it’s doing something arduous and creating something of value and then being able to reflect on the fruits of your labor.

For Ben, right and wrong is contained in the relationship between effort and reward. If people do not work but get rewarded, that’s wrong. If people work and do not get rewarded, that’s wrong. But Ben believed that America is fundamentally a just society. He loved his country because people who work hard can usually overcome whatever unfairness is thrust in their way.

But when Ben looked at Washington, he saw a political system that undermined the relationship between effort and reward. People in Washington spent money they didn’t have. They just borrowed it from the Chinese. People in Washington taxed those with responsible homes to bail out people who’d bought homes they couldn’t afford.

People in Congress were caught up in a spoils system in which money was taken from those who worked and given to those with connections. Money was taken from those who produced and used to bail out the reckless, who were supposedly too big to fail.

This was an affront to the core values of Ben’s life.

Once there was a group in the political center that would have understood Ben’s outrage. Moderates like Abraham Lincoln believed in the free labor ideology. Their entire governing system was built around encouraging labor and rewarding labor.

But these days, the political center is a feckless shell. It has no governing philosophy. Its paragons seem from the outside opportunistic, like Arlen Specter, or caught in some wishy-washy middle, like Blanche Lincoln. The right and left have organized, but the center hasn’t bothered to. The right and left have media outlets and think tanks, but the centrists are content to complain about polarization and go home. By their genteel passivity, moderates have ceded power to the extremes.

So when Ben looked around for leaders who might understand his outrage, he only found them among the ideological hard-liners. In Arkansas, he saw a MoveOn candidate, Bill Halter, crusading against the bailouts and the spoils culture. On the right, he saw the Tea Party candidate Rand Paul crusading against runaway spending and debt.

Ben wasn’t naturally an extremist sort of guy. He didn’t live his life for politics or go in for the over-the-top stuff he heard on talk radio. But he did have some sense that the American work ethic was being threatened by debt and decadence.

It was going to take spit and vinegar to turn things around. So he voted for one of the outsiders. This is not time for a tinkerer, he figured. It’s time for a demolition man.

In a few years’ time, Ben is going to be disappointed again. He’s going to find that the outsiders he sent to Washington just screamed at each other at ever higher decibels. He’s going to find that he and voters like him unwittingly created a political culture in which compromise is impermissible, in which institutions are decimated by lone-wolf narcissists who have no interest in or talent for crafting legislation. Nothing will get done.

In a few years’ time, Ben is going to look for something else. It will be interesting to see if, by that time, any moderates have had the foresight and energy to revive and define the free labor tradition — a tradition that uses government to encourage work, to reward work, and to uphold the values at the core of Ben’s life.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow interview with U.S. Senate nominee Rand Paul of Kentucky

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


(Courtesy of Jim Galloway's Political Insider.)

And did you hear where he had his celebration party? According to Morning Joe, also on MSNBC, at a private country club.

The White House can't be keeping distance from people who have walked the plank for them.

From an article in The Washington Post:

White House officials say that as the fall elections near, the president will step up his appearances in the districts where he is popular.

That kind of promise is particularly important to endangered lawmakers such as Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), who said he was dismayed in the final days before Pennsylvania's Democratic Senate primary to see that the White House was unwilling to pull out the stops for the candidate it endorsed, Sen. Arlen Specter.

"Let me get this straight: If you think I can't win, you're not going to spend political capital on me, even though I spill buckets of blood for you?" Connolly said. "The White House can't be [keeping] distance from people who have walked the plank for them, even when they might lose. Loyalty matters in this business."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Georgians Want Jessica Colotl Deported

InsiderAdvantage Georgia reports that most Georgia voters who know about the the unfolding story of Kennesaw State University student Jessica Colotl want the illegal alien deported to her native Mexico, according to a new poll conducted by InsiderAdvantage for Atlanta’s WSB-TV/Channel 2.

Little-known Club for Growth group causing headaches for GOP

Dan Eggen writes in The Washington Post:

If you want to know how Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) was driven from office, look beyond the Democratic primary he lost Tuesday. Instead, consider the role played by a little-known conservative group called the Club for Growth.

Specter bolted from the GOP last year to avoid an intraparty challenge from the group's former president, Pat Toomey, who secured the Republican nomination Tuesday and will face Democrat Joe Sestak in November. The group also helped organize the GOP uprising in Utah earlier this month that toppled three-term Sen. Robert F. Bennett (R), and was part of a conservative coalition that forced Florida Gov. Charlie Crist out of the GOP as well.

The organization, which is based in Washington but has strong ties to Wall Street, is fast becoming a thorn in the side of the Republican Party, exercising influence out of proportion to its relatively modest size. The group's political action committee has endorsed 11 candidates so far and is likely to weigh in on a dozen more races by November with both endorsements and financial support, organizers said.

Its goal is to capitalize on the Republican-dominated "tea party" movement that has coalesced in opposition to President Obama's health-care overhaul, the Wall Street bailouts and other fiscal concerns, according to group leaders

But the decade-old group is causing major headaches for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other Republican leaders, who are attempting to navigate between the demands of the energized tea party movement and a desire to attract more independent and moderate voters in November. The defeat of Bennett, regularly rated as one of the Senate's most conservative members, particularly rankled GOP leaders.

Although the organization hopes to benefit from populist discontent, its roots are decidedly elite. The organization grew out of the Political Club for Growth, founded by investment banker Dick Gilder, who hosted private fundraising salons at his Manhattan brokerage firm in the 1980s and 1990s for GOP stalwarts such as Newt Gingrich and Steve Forbes. That group gave way in 1999 to the Washington-based organization headed by conservative economist Stephen Moore, who has since left to join the Wall Street Journal editorial board. Gilder sits on the group's board of directors.

Over the past decade, the Club for Growth has gained a reputation for targeting centrist Republicans, like Specter and Crist, for being insufficiently conservative on fiscal issues. In the case of Bennett, the group objected to his vote in favor of the Wall Street bailout in 2008 -- a move backed by then-President Bush -- and his work with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on an alternate health-care overhaul plan.

Starting in January, the organization focused on Utah's arcane system of caucuses and a convention for GOP nominees, using e-mail lists, Facebook and other Internet tools to notify and enlist ultra-conservative supporters. By packing the March caucuses with newcomers hostile to Bennett, the Club for Growth ensured Bennett's resounding defeat at the state nominating convention on May 8.

The cost of the effort was just $177,000 -- a mere fraction of the $2 million or more commonly required to topple an incumbent U.S. senator. "We took out Bennett for about as much as a senator's annual salary," said Club for Growth spokesman Mike Connolly.

Bennett, who boasted endorsements from the National Rifle Association and GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney, has said he is weighing a write-in campaign for the seat. Bennett said in an interview Friday that he and Specter had "shared our mutual dislike for the Club for Growth."

Tracy Jackson-Mark Souder's anti-abortion video


In this video, Tracy Jackson, part-time staffer to Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.), interviews the congressman on issues of the day as part of a series. Souder has announced his intention to resign after rumors of an affair with Jackson surfaced. He has admitted to infidelity but did not name Jackson.

Dana Milbank writes in The Washington Post:

When was it, exactly, that the Republican revolution merged with the sexual revolution?

With each passing year, the class notes for the famous House Republicans Class of '94 get more lurid. The latest entry was submitted Tuesday morning by Rep. Mark Souder (Ind.).

"I sinned against God, my wife and my family by having a mutual relationship with a part-time member of my staff," he announced in a resignation statement.

And it wasn't just any part-time staffer, according to sources in Souder's office. Five months ago, Tracy Jackson was his, er, "co-host" in a video the pair produced for his congressional Web site. The topic: abstinence education.

"You were one of the only voices in the room speaking in defense of abstinence education," Jackson, posing as interviewer, tells her alleged paramour in the video. "You've been a longtime advocate for abstinence education."

Democrats queasy about deficit spending

From The Washington Post:

With voters up in arms over the mounting federal debt, congressional Democrats are growing increasingly queasy about adding to the nation's tab, with some arguing that additional spending to prop up the economy and help the unemployed should be paid for or abandoned.

"This is getting to be Judgment Day on the spending issue," Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said Tuesday. "I've come to the conclusion that voters are saying now that just throwing money at various kinds of issues -- virtually all of which are deserving -- isn't good enough."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

You can take this to the bank: Regardless of the big 3 races tomorow, if Kanjorski loses, Democrats are facing a threat from their own base in Nov.


Rep. Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania

From The Wall Street Journal:

NANTICOKE, Pa. — Democratic leaders have long expected a challenging election year, with polls showing an energized Republican base and rising voter anxiety over President Barack Obama's agenda. Now, the Democratic Party also faces a brewing rebellion among the white, working-class voters within its ranks—people it needs to form a national governing majority.

Lloyd Briggs said he is "fed up" with Washington over the Wall Street bailouts. Peggy Cendarski frets that the Democrats' "unfair" health-care overhaul will punish those who already have good insurance coverage.

These and other Democratic voters in this blue-collar town said they are ready for a change in Washington. Some are open to backing Democratic challengers to lawmakers the party has supported for many years, and some said they may leave the party entirely come November.

In the economically hard-hit neighborhoods here, near Scranton, Democratic voters on Tuesday will decide whether to keep 13-term Rep. Paul Kanjorski on the ballot in November or replace him with Corey O'Brien, a 36-year-old waging an anti-Washington campaign from an RV. Mr. O'Brien, a Lackawanna County commissioner, said he has a better chance of keeping the district in Democratic hands because Mr. Kanjorski, a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, is so closely tied to the Wall Street bailouts.

"The Democratic Party better wake up, or we're going to get blown out in November," Mr. O'Brien said. "The only way we can win is by putting in new faces, fresh faces."

Mr. Kanjorski and his supporters say he, like lawmakers in both parties, was working to save the economy from collapse and had few options when the Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program was passed. Supporters point to his record of helping the district, including saving the local veterans hospital from closure. "He's been a true friend of the area, and it'd be a shame if we lost him because of the situation that we're faced with in this economy," said Tom Leighton, mayor of Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Already this month, Democratic voters have rejected one longtime incumbent, West Virginia Rep. Alan Mollohan, in a party primary. On Tuesday, Democratic voters in Arkansas and Pennsylvania will render judgment on two Senate incumbents, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

Democratic strategists said their party faces great peril if it is unable to find candidates this year who can shore up the connection with white, blue-collar voters who are trending toward the GOP. Mr. Obama won election in 2008 thanks largely to highly energized minority voters and liberal whites, but white voters like these in northeastern Pennsylvania were crucial to building a majority.

Mr. Kanjorski, 73, narrowly won re-election in 2008 after his Republican opponent, Lou Barletta, accused him of improper behavior in directing federal money to a firm owned by the congressman's relatives. Mr. Barletta is running again, and GOP strategists consider Mr. Kanjorski vulnerable. But with more than $1 million in the bank as of March 31, Mr. Kanjorski's campaign chest dwarfs that of both Mr. O'Brien and Mr. Barletta.

No reliable public polling is available to test the congressman's true vulnerability. Kanjorski spokesman Ed Mitchell acknowledged that "it's a tough atmosphere out there," given voters' anger at incumbents. "We're fighting uphill against that," he said. Mr. Mitchell said the issue regarding the family firm had been fully aired in the last election and that Mr. Kanjorski was never investigated for wrongdoing.

Mr. O'Brien spent much of Friday walking the streets of Nanticoke, a small town of mostly Polish descendants that is also Mr. Kanjorski's hometown. Many voters he found were receptive to his campaign.

"Everything's a mess," said Chester Prushinski, 63, a retired postal worker, who was working in his garden. "We had to bail out the banks? It doesn't make any sense."

Mr. Prushinski, a Democrat, said he voted for Republican John McCain in the presidential race in 2008 but also voted for Mr. Kanjorski. When it comes to supporting his congressman this year, he said, "I'm on the fence."

Ms. Cendarski, a 70-year-old retiree, shook her head when asked about Messrs. Kanjorski and Specter. "I voted for Paul for years, but now I'm not too happy with him," she said. "It just seems he's not working for the people anymore."

Hurlow Rowlands Sr., whose family owns a local trucking business, said he would vote for GOP candidates this fall if Democrats on Tuesday fail to pick the challengers he wants for Congress—Mr. O'Brien for the House seat and Rep. Joe Sestak for the Senate seat held by Mr. Specter.

He, too, expressed frustration with the government's decision to bail out Wall Street, and with the investment banks' large bonuses to their executives.

"I want the people who are going to do the right thing, rather than just a particular party," said Mr. Rowlands, 60.

There is no sign that Democratic voter anger has spurred anything resembling the tea-party movement, which is marshalling opposition to a number of candidates backed by the Republican establishment across the U.S. But surveys do show anger brewing among Democrats at their own party leaders.

More than a third of Democrats, for example, feel their own party members in Congress are "more concerned about the interests of large corporations" than those of average Americans, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released last week.

As a group, blue-collar voters have moved into the Republican column, the poll showed. At this point in the 2006 midterm-election campaign, blue-collar voters had wanted Democrats to control Congress. Now, they favor GOP control, the poll found.

Keith Frederick, Mr. Mollohan's pollster, said he had tried to sound the alarm within the campaign that the landscape was changing under the party's feet.

"It is no surprise that West Virginia voters [in Mr. Mollohan's district] are anti-Washington," he wrote in an internal campaign memo in March, "but even Democratic Primary voters show high levels of anger and frustration."

Most striking, Mr. Frederick said in an interview, was that voters no longer placed a value on seniority and their local representative's ability to bring home federally funded projects. The typical voter felt that Mr. Mollohan "had been there a long time, and my life isn't any better, so why should he have this good job?"
_______________

UPDATED: Kanjorski won easily. He is a good, smart man.

Illegal Immigrant Students Protest at McCain Office

From The New York Times:

In an escalation of protest tactics, five immigrants dressed in caps and gowns held a sit-in on Monday at the Tucson offices of Senator John McCain, calling on him to sponsor legislation to open a path to legal status for young illegal immigrants.

Four of the protesters, including three who are in the country illegally, were arrested Monday evening on misdemeanor trespassing charges. The three were expected to face deportation proceedings.
It was the first time students have directly risked deportation in an effort to prompt Congress to take up a bill that would benefit illegal immigrant youths.

Mr. McCain, a Republican, has in years past repeatedly sponsored a bill that would offer legalization for illegal immigrant students who were brought to the United States as children by their parents, known to its supporters as the Dream Act. But this year he has not.

A Generation Gap Over Immigration

From The New York Times:

Forget sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll; immigration is a new generational fault line.

In the wake of the new Arizona law allowing the police to detain people they suspect of entering the country illegally, young people are largely displaying vehement opposition . . . .

Meanwhile, baby boomers, despite a youth of “live and let live,” are siding with older Americans and supporting the Arizona law.

Monday, May 17, 2010

This AP story will not be well received tomorrow or in Nov. for the Democrats -- Treasury takes $1.6 billion loss on Chrysler loan

From the AJC:

The Treasury Department said Monday it will lose $1.6 billion on a loan made to Chrysler in early 2009.

Taxpayer losses from bailing out Chrysler and General Motors are expected to rise as high as $34 billion, congressional auditors have said.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated in March that the government's $85 billion bailout of the automakers would cost taxpayers $34 billion.

Forget about that Republican past, I am the well-connected statesman who has delivered for Pennsylvania (whatever my party) and I’ll keep doing so.


From The New York Times:

There has been nothing subtle about Mr. Specter’s message in his “Delivering for Pennsylvania” tour leading up to Tuesday’s primary: Forget about that Republican past, I am the well-connected statesman who has delivered for Pennsylvania (whatever my party) and I’ll keep doing so.

Only a month ago, Mr. Specter, 80, was considered a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination. He only switched to the Democratic Party a year ago, but he has the backing of President Obama, Gov. Edward G. Rendell, local union leaders and much of the black clergy.

But he has been wounded by an upstart challenger’s blitz of television advertisements calling Mr. Specter an opportunist and questioning the depth of his newfound liberalism. Pollsters say the race is too close to call and may depend on turnout: a larger number of African-American and other primary voters is likely to favor Mr. Specter.

In Three Turbulent Primaries, Measures of Voter Discontent


From The New York Times:

Establishment Republicans — including Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, former Vice President Dick Cheney and the Chamber of Commerce — have united in opposition to Mr. Paul, but optimism was diminishing that their candidate, Trey Grayson, could prevail.

The discontent among voters has not discriminated by party in this turbulent political year. In Pennsylvania and Arkansas on Sunday, Democratic Senators Arlen Specter and Blanche Lincoln waged last-minute fights ahead of potentially career-ending primaries for each of them on Tuesday, hoping the value of seniority would counter powerful anti-incumbent challenges.

The outcome in these three states will provide lessons that will help frame the debate for the remaining six months of the midterm election season, with Democrats fighting to hold their control of the House and Senate.

Both parties will study the results for evidence of the Tea Party movement’s ability to translate passion into votes. They will gauge the degree to which President Obama, who is backing Mr. Specter and Mrs. Lincoln, is a political liability or benefit to his party. And they will look to see what messages, if any, assuage voter anger and anxiety as politics hurtles toward the fall, the economy still in the shadow of the recession.

In the Middle in Arkansas, and Hit From Both Sides


From The New York Times:

Time was, being a moderate Democrat in Arkansas was a safe bet. After all, this is the state that produced Bill Clinton, master of the midstream.

But Senator Blanche Lincoln is discovering that, with the overheated political passions battering incumbents this year, being in the middle only gets you hit from both sides.

Republicans and conservative Democrats have excoriated Mrs. Lincoln for supporting President Obama’s health care overhaul, which is often portrayed around here as a socialist plot. Meanwhile, liberal Democrats have hammered her for opposing a government-run insurance option, cap-and-trade climate legislation and a law that would have made it easier for workers to unionize.

Mrs. Lincoln has also often reminded voters that she has achieved an influential post as the chairwoman of the Agriculture Committee in a state where farms drive a quarter of the economy.

Yes!! -- F-16s respond to flight near Mexican border in Arizona

From the AJC:

The North American Aerospace Defense Command says two F-16 fighter planes intercepted an ultralight aircraft near the U.S.-Mexico border in southwestern Arizona.

The plane crossed from Mexico into Arizona just after 6 a.m. Sunday. NORAD dispatched two F-16s from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson and they shadowed the ultralight for about 30 minutes until it flew back into Mexico.

Ultralight aircraft are sometimes used to carry drugs and other contraband across the border.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ga. college applications question citizen status -- Jessica Colotl and Cobb County go national.


Jessica Colotl speaking Friday at a news conference in Atlanta after being released on bail.

Laura Diamond writes in the AJC:

Illegal immigrants who want to attend one of Georgia's public colleges have to lie on the application to get admitted.

The form used by the 35 institutions that make up the University System of Georgia asks prospective students to disclose their citizen status. They have just three options:

-- U.S. citizen;

-- Nonresident alien: A person who is not a citizen or national of the U.S. and who is in this country on a visa or temporary basis and does not have the right to remain indefinitely;

-- Permanent resident: A non-citizen living in the U.S. under legally recognized and lawfully recorded permanent residence status as an immigrant.

Many Georgians are asking questions about how many illegal immigrants are attending the state's public colleges because of the case involving Jessica Colotl, an undocumented student at Kennesaw State University who has been arrested.

Georgia's current admission rules were developed after the state passed a sweeping immigration law in 2006. That law, which went into effect in July 2007, directed the Board of Regents to assure that universities aren't giving illegal immigrants benefits prohibited under federal law.

The board's attorney concluded that lower in-state tuition constituted a benefit barred for illegal immigrants, even if they graduated from a Georgia high school. He also said college presidents should stop granting in-state tuition waivers to high-achieving students who lacked legal residency.

_______________

Mark Davis and Helena Oliveriero write in the AJC an article entitled "New face on an old debate -- Colotl case spotlights illegal immigration saga in Cobb County";

John Millsaps, a spokesman for the Board of Regents, said the state’s universities are not in the business of checking students’ immigration status. Universities would have to check on the residency status of 300,000-plus students, or run the risk of racial profiling, he said. As a result, the universities don’t know how many students may be illegal.

“What do we need to know about a student?” Millsaps asked. “We need to know whether to charge them in-state or out-of-state tuition.”

In 2007, the Board of Regents changed policy so illegal immigrants at Georgia public universities could not receive in-state tuition. Illegal immigrants are charged at the higher, out-of-state rate.

Colotl, of Duluth, had enrolled a year earlier as a Georgia student, so KSU charged her in-state tuition.

“Now that we’re aware of her out-of-state status, she will pay out-of-state tuition,” Millsaps said. The tuition for in-state KSU students next fall is $2,298; for out-of-staters, $8,286.

The Legislature four years ago passed a bill that ended state-paid benefits to illegal immigrants in several areas. It allowed the Board of Regents to develop its own policy toward illegal immigrants.

_______________

Jim Galloway in the AJC's Political Insider pens a post entitled "The unauthorized alien and a Republican meat grinder":

Three candidates — former state Sen. Eric Johnson, state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine and former Secretary of State Karen Handel — say they’d like to see people like Colotl expelled from all state universities.

In 2005, five Republican state senators — including Chip Rogers, now Senate majority leader, and Casey Cagle, now lieutenant governor — introduced SB 171, a bill to bar undocumented students from all state universities under any circumstances.

It was withdrawn. The next year, the Republican-controlled Legislature passed SB 529, which — until Arizona passed its measure this year — was called the nation’s toughest state-sponsored attempt to curb illegal immigration.

The legislation shut off state-paid benefits to illegal immigrants in a number of areas. But the bill permitted the Board of Regents, which oversees the University System of Georgia, to develop its own policy toward undocumented students, as long as it complied “with all federal law” governing restrictions on “public benefits."
That last phrase is important.

[B]y permitting the regents to adhere to federal guidelines, the Republican-controlled Legislature authorized a loophole.

Pell Grants, the HOPE scholarship, even in-state tuition are considered a “public benefit,” and illegal immigrants are barred from receiving them. But admission to a university is not. This is the regents’ formal policy.

SB 529 demanded that businesses and other entities receiving public contracts verify that employees and other recipients of public funds are indeed citizens. But the Board of Regents was exempted from the requirement.

Since 2007, state universities have required students to provide a Social Security number, or, if they aren’t citizens, proof of legal residency.

But the University System isn’t required to make sure that the information submitted is correct. “I think the intent was that there’d be significant resources involved in trying to do that for 302,000 students every semester,” Board of Regents spokesman John Millsaps said.

Colotl, the young woman who started this hoopla, can rest assured that, in a meat grinder of a primary, an undocumented college student satisfies very few appetites. Larger game is required and will be sought.

“Washington politicians like Nathan Deal have failed to protect our borders, and state politicians like Eric Johnson exempted the Board of Regents from laws requiring proof of legal status to receive state services,” Handel said.

It’s a point the two candidates would dispute. But let the grinding begin.

_______________

And finally, from an article in The New York Times entitled "Student’s Arrest Tests Immigration Policy":

The [Colotl] case has become a flash point in the national debate over whether federal immigration laws should be enforced by local and state officials. And like Arizona’s tough new immigration law, it has highlighted a rift between the federal government and local politicians over how illegal immigrants should be detected and prosecuted.

Democrats are increasingly worried that even voters who are committed to the party will turn on them in the fall. -- 'I want change.'


For 36 years, John P. Murtha served Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District.

From The New York Times:

Sam Boyd has been a Democrat his entire adult life, just like many here in this mostly rural, economically impoverished southwestern corner of the state, where the party’s roots run as deep as the coal underfoot.

But in Tuesday’s closely watched special election to succeed the late Representative John P. Murtha in the state’s 12th Congressional District, Mr. Boyd, 65, is leaning toward casting his vote for the Republican candidate, Tim Burns, a millionaire former software entrepreneur who got involved in politics through the Tea Party movement.

“I’m for Burns for the reason I was for Obama,” said Mr. Boyd, a retired general contractor who served as an unpaid campaign liaison for Mr. Murtha in his county. “I want change.”

Whether or not Mr. Burns pulls off a victory over his Democratic opponent, Mark Critz, in what polls suggest is a competitive race, voters like Mr. Boyd embody the nightmare scenario for Democrats nationally: that even committed Democrats will turn on their party.

Mr. Boyd’s path to discontent since then traces the bumpy legislative path in Washington, from the auto bailouts to the stimulus plan to the passage of the health care overhaul.

Mr. Boyd, who first joined his local Young Democrats club as a 14-year-old, says he now regrets voting for Mr. Obama, even though he hastened to add that he still found the president personally appealing.

It is the growing deficit that riles him the most, he said. Rumors of a potential second stimulus package last year caused him to sink into a depression for several days. With four grandchildren, he said he was worried for their future.

Side by Side, but Divided Over Immigration -- Arizona (30% Hispanic) & New Mexico (45% Hispanic)

From The New York Times:

As the Arizona Legislature steamed ahead with the most stringent immigration enforcement bill in the country this year, [New Mexico's] House of Representatives was unanimously passing a resolution recognizing the economic benefits of illegal immigrants.

They may sit side by side on the border, they may share historical ties to Mexico; they may have once even been part of the same territory, but Arizona and New Mexico have grown up like distant siblings.

Why the difference?

First, New Mexico (population two million) has the highest percentage of Hispanics of any state — 45 percent, compared with 30 percent in Arizona (population 6.5 million) . . . . The New Mexico Legislature is 44 percent Hispanic, a contrast to the 16 percent in Arizona . . . .

The flow of drugs and illegal immigrants over the sparsely populated, remote border [in New Mexico], moreover, pales compared with that in Arizona, whose border, dotted with towns and roads facilitating trafficking, registers the highest number of drug seizures and arrests of illegal crossers of any state.

The estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants in Arizona, whose population explosion of the past few decades has been a magnet for low-wage work, is more than eight times that of the estimated 55,000 here in Albuquerque, where the economy turns more on government, military and high-skill jobs.

New Mexico’s patience could be tested, and some fear that the Arizona law will push more illegal immigrants into the state, though they typically go where the most jobs are found.

We’re in favor of Medicare, Social Security, good schools, wide highways, a strong military — and low taxes.

From The New York Times:

It’s easy to look at the protesters and the politicians in Greece — and at the other European countries with huge debts — and wonder why they don’t get it. They have been enjoying more generous government benefits than they can afford. No mass rally and no bailout fund will change that. Only benefit cuts or tax increases can.

Yet in the back of your mind comes a nagging question: how different, really, is the United States?

The numbers on our federal debt are becoming frighteningly familiar. The debt is projected to equal 140 percent of gross domestic product within two decades. Add in the budget troubles of state governments, and the true shortfall grows even larger. Greece’s debt, by comparison, equals about 115 percent of its G.D.P. today.

The United States will probably not face the same kind of crisis as Greece, for all sorts of reasons. But the basic problem is the same. Both countries have a bigger government than they’re paying for. And politicians, spendthrift as some may be, are not the main source of the problem.

We, the people, are.

We have not figured out the kind of government we want. We’re in favor of Medicare, Social Security, good schools, wide highways, a strong military — and low taxes. Dealing with this disconnect will be the central economic issue of the next decade, in Europe, Japan and this country.

We’re in favor of Medicare, Social Security, good schools, wide highways, a strong military — and low taxes. Dealing with this disconnect will be the central economic issue of the next decade, in Europe, Japan and this country.

For Greece and possibly other European countries, change will come from the outside. The countries lending the money for the Greek bailout — chiefly Germany — are demanding big cuts to the welfare state. Greek citizens will soon have a harder time retiring in their 40s.

Here in the United States, we’re likely to have the chance to solve our problems before our lenders demand it. Those lenders continue see the American economy as a safe haven, thanks to our history of strong economic growth and political flexibility.

[T]he main issue isn’t the near-term deficit — the one created by the recession, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Bush tax cuts and the Obama stimulus. The main issue is the long-term deficit.

As societies become richer, citizens tend to want better schools, better medical care and other government services. This country is following that pattern, but without paying the necessary taxes. That combination has us on a course to Greece-like debt.

As a rough estimate, the government will need to find spending cuts and tax increases equal to 7 to 10 percent of G.D.P. The longer we wait, the bigger the cuts will need to be (because of the accumulating interest costs).

This is why fixing the budget through spending cuts alone, as Congressional Republicans say they favor, would be so hard. Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin has a plan for doing so, and it includes big cuts to Social Security and the end of Medicare for anyone now under 55 years old. Other Republicans have generally refused to endorse the Ryan plan. Until that changes or until the party becomes open to new taxes, its deficit strategy will remain unclear.

Democrats have more of a strategy — raising taxes on the rich and using health reform to reduce the growth of Medicare spending — but it is not nearly sufficient.

What would be? A plan that included a little bit of everything, and then some: say, raising the retirement age; reducing the huge deductions for mortgage interest and health insurance; closing corporate tax loopholes; cutting pensions of some public workers, as Republican governors favor; scrapping wasteful military and space projects; doing more to hold down Medicare spending growth.

Much of this may be unpleasant. But by no means will it doom us to reduced living standards or even slow economic growth. We can still afford to spend more on Medicare — even more per person — than we do today, and more on education, the military and other areas, too. We just can’t afford the unrealistic promises that the government has made. We need to make choices.

“It’s not a matter of whether we have the resources to solve our problems,” as Alan Krueger, the chief economist at the Treasury Department, says. “It’s a matter of political will.”

For now at least, our elected officials are hardly the only ones who lack that will.

With Obama, Regulations Are Back in Fashion

From The New York Times:

Over the last year, the Obama administration has pressed forward on hundreds of new mandates, while also stepping up enforcement of rules by increasing the ranks of inspectors and imposing higher fines for violations.

A new age of regulation is well under way in Washington, a fact somewhat obscured by the high-profile debates over the health care overhaul and financial oversight system and by fresh calls for greater federal vigilance spurred by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the deaths of coal miners in West Virginia.

The push for some of the measures began at the end of the Bush administration, a tacit acknowledgment that its deregulatory agenda had gone too far.

Still, the new aggressiveness reflects the new cops on the beat, and the contrast with the Bush administration is an intentionally sharp one. While the Bush administration mostly favored voluntary compliance by industry, senior Obama administration officials argue that carefully crafted regulation can be a positive force.

[C]omplaints from industry leaders are intensifying. Manufacturers, home builders, toymakers and others say that Washington has been overzealous about imposing new requirements, and they warn of serious consequences for businesses and consumers.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Budget office estimates health-care law could cost more than $1 trillion

From The Washington Post:

President Obama's new health-care law could potentially add at least $115 billion more to government health care spending over the next 10 years, if Congress approves all the additional spending called for in the legislation, congressional budget referees said Tuesday.

That would push the 10-year cost of the overhaul above $1 trillion -- an unofficial limit the Obama administration set early on.

The Congressional Budget Office said the added spending includes $10 billion to $20 billion in administrative costs to federal agencies carrying out the law, as well as $34 billion for community health centers and $39 billion for Native American health care.

The costs were not in earlier estimates by the budget office, although Republican lawmakers argued that they should have been.

Congressional estimators also said they hadn't had enough time to run the numbers. Costs could go higher, because the legislation authorizes several programs without setting specific funding levels.

The health-care law provides coverage to more than 30 million people who are now uninsured, offering tax credits to help purchase health insurance through competitive markets that open for business in 2014.

'Republicans ran us under financially, and the Democrats are worse,' citing frustration with the Democrats' health-care overhaul & stimulus package.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Republicans have solidified support among voters who had drifted from the party in recent elections, putting the GOP in position for a strong comeback in November's mid-term campaign, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

The findings suggest that public opinion has hardened in advance of the 2010 elections, making it tougher for Democrats to translate their legislative successes, or a tentatively improving U.S. economy, into gains among voters.

Republicans have reassembled their coalition by reconnecting with independents, seniors, blue-collar voters, suburban women and small town and rural voters—all of whom had moved away from the party in the 2006 elections, in which Republicans lost control of the House. Those voter groups now favor GOP control of Congress.

A big shift is evident among independents, who at this point in the 2006 campaign favored Democratic control of Congress rather than Republican control, 40% to 24%. In this poll, independents favored the GOP, 38% to 30%.

Suburban women favored Democratic control four years ago by a 24-point margin. In the latest survey, they narrowly favored Republicans winning the House. A similar turnaround was seen among voters 65 and older.

The new survey gives incumbents of either party little reason for comfort. Only about one in five respondents approved of the job Congress is doing.

People in the survey felt overwhelmingly negative toward both political parties.

Nearly one-third of respondents said they "almost never" trust the government in Washington to do what is right—about triple the number who felt that way when the question was asked in October.

Of those who want to see Republicans control the House, less than one-third said that was because they support the GOP and its candidates.

Rather, nearly two-thirds said they were motivated by opposition to Mr. Obama and Democratic policies.

"Republicans ran us under financially, and the Democrats are worse," said poll respondent William Lina, 80, of Alden, N.Y., who is a registered Democrat but plans to vote a straight Republican ticket in November.

He cited frustration with the Democrats' health-care overhaul and the economic stimulus program.

The voters who said they were most interested in the November elections favor Republican control of Congress by a 20-point margin, with 56% backing the GOP and 36% backing Democrats—the highest gap all year on that question.

Mr. Obama's approval rating in the survey has remained stable, with 50% approving of his job performance, compared with 48% in March.

Some 44% called the health plan a bad idea, compared to 38% who saw it as a good idea.

The poll also showed sharp divisions among voters on the subject of illegal immigration.

Among all adults, support is high for the new Arizona law that makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally and requires law enforcement officers to question people if they have reasonable suspicions about their immigration status.

Some 64% said they strongly or somewhat supported the law, compared with 34% who strongly or somewhat opposed it.