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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, August 30, 2010

American Concerns Over Karzai Deepen - State Dep't Information About Ouster of Afghan Prosecutor as Tensions Grow Over Anticorruption Effort

From The Wall Street Journal:

Renewed tension with Afghan President Hamid Karzai—this time over the ouster of a graft-fighting prosecutor—is adding to doubts within the Obama administration and the U.S. military about their ability to show progress fighting corruption and improving governance, ahead of a White House review of war strategy in December.

The abrupt dismissal last week of Fazel Ahmed Faqiryar, Afghanistan's deputy attorney general, caught U.S. officials off guard, and the State Department said it was seeking information from the Afghan government about his status.

With many U.S. policy makers on vacation and Congress in recess, officials acknowledged it would take time for Washington to formulate a fuller response. They have limited room to maneuver because Washington is wary of igniting a full-blown confrontation with Mr. Karzai, whom some see as an increasingly shaky part of the administration's war strategy.

Rising U.S. casualties, including the deaths of seven U.S. troops in weekend attacks in Afghanistan's southern and eastern regions, have fueled opposition to the war at home ahead of November congressional elections, particularly within President Barack Obama's Democratic Party.

U.S. officials said the flare-up over Mr. Faqiryar shows the difficulty of managing relations with Mr. Karzai, who they say has become increasingly confrontational, in public and private, especially when he feels pressure to combat corruption in his administration.

Some U.S. military officials point to what they see as a worrying trend: Their ability to expand security isn't being matched in many places by progress on governance, undercutting a counterinsurgency strategy that hinges on boosting Kabul's legitimacy among the Afghan people.

Mr. Karzai has laid blame for much of the corruption in Afghanistan on the U.S. and its allies, which he says have been pouring billions of aid into the country with little oversight.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Take this America, and more to come: Graft-Fighting Prosecutor Fired in Afghanistan

From The New York Times:

One of the country’s most senior prosecutors said Saturday that President Hamid Karzai fired him last week after he repeatedly refused to block corruption investigations at the highest levels of Mr. Karzai’s government.

Fazel Ahmed Faqiryar, the former deputy attorney general, said investigations of more than two dozen senior Afghan officials — including cabinet ministers, ambassadors and provincial governors — were being held up or blocked outright by Mr. Karzai, Attorney General Mohammed Ishaq Aloko and others.

Mr. Faqiryar’s account of the troubles plaguing the anticorruption investigations, which Mr. Karzai’s office disputed, has been largely corroborated in interviews with five Western officials familiar with the cases. They say Mr. Karzai and others in his government have repeatedly thwarted prosecutions against senior Afghan government figures.

An American official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that Afghan prosecutors had prepared several cases against officials suspected of corruption, but that Mr. Karzai was “stalling and stalling and stalling.”

Friday, August 27, 2010

News very timely, as in just in time for midterm elections: Immigration Agency Ends Some Deportations

From The New York Times:

Immigration enforcement officials have started to cancel the deportations of thousands of immigrants they have detained, a policy they said would pare huge case backlogs in the immigration courts.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fine; now let's move on. Ousted Agriculture Dep't official Shirley Sherrod declines to rejoin the dep't she tells Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack

Story in The Washington Post.

'Let George Do It' George T. Smith, former Georgia Supreme Court justice, lieutenant governor and speaker, dies at 93



Photos and below text from the ajc's Political Insider, and the ajc.

Former Georgia Supreme Court Justice George T. Smith -- who also served as lieutenant governor and speaker of the state House of Representatives -- was remembered Tuesday as a jurist who never forgot his childhood growing up poor on a farm in southwest Georgia.

“He was a legend in Georgia because of his compassion for what he called the ‘po devils,’” said Jerry Landers, Smith’s longtime friend and former law partner. “He always represented folks who needed representation. He had a compassion for folks who needed a lawyer but otherwise couldn’t afford one.”

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Political Party for Mild-Mannered Is Off to a Slow Start -- Whigs Try to Tap the Angry Middle

From The Wall Street Journal:

This year, an anti-Washington mood is opening doors to novice candidates from right and left who speak to the ire coursing through the electorate. The Modern Whigs, a start-up party with a venerable name, are trying to tap an even more elusive force: the angry moderate.

Sparking a grass-roots uprising in the center has been a frustrating task. "A moderate person tends not to be the kind of person who gets out there and marches at a rally," says party Vice Chairman Andrew Evans, a 30-year-old college student from Greenville, N.C. "They see people further to the right and further to the left making a huge ruckus. They think they don't want to be like that."

The Modern Whig Party was the brainchild of soldiers tired of the bickering that filled chow-hall TV screens on bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of them, Capt. Mike Lebowitz, a Washington lawyer then serving with the 101st Airborne Division, emailed his buddies and began talking up the idea of a party that would be fiscally conservative, socially liberal and generally mild-mannered. They picked the Whig name because of its ties to the Founding Fathers, William Henry Harrison and the early career of Abraham Lincoln.

In 2008, the party predicted that 2009 would see a handful of candidates for local and state offices and that 2010 would bring its first congressional bids. Reality has been harsher. "We…are not delusional in believing that people will flock to our party," the California Modern Whigs admit on their website.

Nationwide, Whigs point to just two members in political office, both in unpaid, local positions.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

What a surprise. Thanks Uncle Sam: Credit-Card Rates Climb -- Levels Hit Nine-Year High as New Rules Limiting Penalty Fees Help Fuel Rise

From The Wall Street Journal:

Interest rates continue to tumble for the U.S. Treasury, companies and home buyers alike. But for a large portion of 381 million U.S. credit-card accounts, borrowing rates have been moving only one way: up.

And average rates are likely to climb further in the near future.

The sponsor of the Card Act, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), said that despite the rising rates, the law benefits consumers because it eliminates unwelcome surprises and provides them with a clear picture of the costs they will face.

Damn crying shame Atlanta! My father loves the Varsity; I love the Varsity; my kids love the Varsity; & thank goodness, my grandkids love the Varsity.



Joe Bailey, 65, who has worked for the Varsity for 40 years, serves up a order on the last day of business for the Varsity Jr. in Atlanta on Sunday, Aug. 22, 2010. Bailey, who will continue to work for the Varsity at other locations, said "historically this had been the busiest day I have ever seen. I don't want this place to close." (Photos and text from the ajc.)

From the 8-6-10 issue of the ajc entitled "Lindbergh Varsity Jr. shutting down after 45 years":

A zoning dispute with the city led to Friday's announcement, which stunned employees and customers alike. The restaurant, at Lindbergh and Cheshire Bridge Road, will close Aug. 23 . . . .

Varsity Vice-President John Browne called the decision to close the 45-year-old Lindbergh diner "absolutely one of the toughest we ever made." A makeover had been planned for years, but the Varsity and the City of Atlanta clashed over how many driveways in and out of the restaurant would be allowed. Currently there's three, but the city would approve only one for a rezoned Varsity Jr.

"From a traffic flow perspective, it makes it very difficult," Browne said.

City of Atlanta Planning Director Charletta Wilson-Jacks told 11 Alive that new municipal regulations limit the number and size of driveways from the street.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What is going on in (and I hope remains) one of America's great cities: Five years after Katrina, New Orleans sees higher percentage of Hispanics

From The Washington Post:

Five years after Hurricane Katrina, the rebuilding of the Big Easy has created a new community of Latino immigrants in this famously insular city, redrawing racial lines in a town long defined by black and white.

The change began just weeks after one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history, which decimated homes, upended lives and drove a chunk of New Orleans's black population to Baton Rouge, Houston and other places.

Although the overall number of Latinos isn't huge, the population continues to grow and has had an outsize impact on the culture of this proudly eccentric city and on how people here view their home town. More than three-quarters of the 1.1 million residents in the New Orleans area were born in the state, compared with just 30 percent of residents in the Washington region. Many locals still point to long-defunct businesses as landmarks. Recipes at some beloved restaurants haven't changed in 40 years.

The emergence of Latinos in the emotionally and politically charged aftermath of the storm sparked outcries from displaced residents who felt their jobs and their status in the city were being challenged. In one infamous news conference, Mayor C. Ray Nagin pledged to return New Orleans to a "chocolate city" after previously asking what he could do to keep the city from being "overrun by Mexican workers." A documentary released last week by Latino performance artist Jose Torres-Tama titled "From Chocolate City to Enchilada Village" is reigniting the controversy on local talk radio.

According to census data analyzed by the New Orleans data center, the percentage of Hispanics in the New Orleans area jumped from 4.4 percent in 2000 to 6.6 percent last year. Advocacy groups put the figure at closer to 10 percent or more as many workers, fearful of interacting with the government, avoid being counted. The percentage of blacks fell from 37.1 percent to 34.5 percent, with the decline more pronounced in the city, where African Americans have long been the majority.

Before Katrina, the growth of Hispanics in the nation's major cities had largely bypassed New Orleans. The area never saw the dramatic housing and construction bubble that attracted immigrants to other cities, said Steve Striffler, a professor of Latin American studies at the University of New Orleans.

David Ignatius, a wise man, writes: A president in need of a political spark (Obama's second-term masterstroke: Vice President Hillary Rodham Clinton)

David Ignatius writes in The Washington Post:

Last January, President Obama made a tellingly unpolitical comment to ABC's Diane Sawyer: "I'd rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president."

Obama was talking to Sawyer about his pet project of health-care legislation, which already was politically dicey. He explained his approach to governing in the most idealistic terms: "You know, there's a tendency in Washington to think that our job description of elected officials is to get reelected. That's not our job description. Our job description is to solve problems and to help people."

I turn back to these comments because the country is still struggling with Obama's views on the right of Muslims to build a mosque near Ground Zero. Intervening on this issue was a classic dumb move, politically. Hillary Clinton, say, would have known instantly that the correct answer is to leave this complex issue to the elected officials of New York City. The White House had taken this position until Obama decided, on principle, that he must speak out for tolerance.

[W]e truly have a leader who keeps doing the wise thing on policy (assuming you agree with him) but the dumb thing on politics.

Politicians often like to brag about how they aren't really political animals but public servants. It's almost a political cliche, to accompany a craven decision with the statement: "I'm not doing this to win votes, but because it's the right thing to do."

But Obama is different. He truly doesn't seem to relish politics, in the raw, mix-it-up sense. Most of all, he isn't needy for public attention in the way our most neurotic and gifted politicians have been -- walking outpatients such as Richard Nixon or Lyndon Johnson or Bill Clinton. He doesn't like red-hot; he likes cool and deliberative.

Maybe Obama, the anti-politician, really doesn't care if he gets reelected, so long as he's doing what he thinks is right. Somehow, I can't imagine this breakthrough president stepping aside to write law-review articles. But to stand a chance in 2012, he's going to need someone to light a fire under him, someone who can play politics fiercely -- and also can bring in some new voters.

Surely it's obvious that I am describing Obama's second-term masterstroke: Vice President Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Friday, August 20, 2010

On Midterm Stump, Clinton Is Defender in Chief (A decade after he was banished from the campaign trail by Al Gore)

From The New York Times:

“It is my professional opinion that he has done a much better job than he has gotten credit for so far. And all elections are about the future, so what is the alternative?”

A coast-to-coast campaign swing by Mr. Obama this week, his biggest plunge into the midterm election season to date, drew considerable attention as he raised money for Democrats in five states over three days. But in a series of less noticed trips to every corner of the country, it is Mr. Clinton who has stepped into the role of defending all Democrats — Mr. Obama included.

Few people may have more credibility paying a compliment to Mr. Obama than Mr. Clinton. Tense exchanges between the two men were an unforgettable element of the 2008 presidential race, which by all accounts Mr. Clinton took far longer to get over than Hillary Rodham Clinton did.

The former president has become one of the party’s best salesmen. He has long been in demand to raise money for Democratic candidates, but now there is a more pressing need: raising the spirits of Democratic voters, dispensing wisdom as he works to put the party’s political challenges into a broader context.

A decade after he was banished from the campaign trail — seen at the time as a liability to Vice President Al Gore’s presidential ambitions — Mr. Clinton is now the most sought-after Democrat, logging 29 stops so far this year with more to come in the fall. He has been embraced by Democrats wherever he goes, even as several candidates have run the other way when Mr. Obama has arrived in their state.

There is one word . . . that Mr. Clinton does not say: Bush.

Some Democrats have started mentioning former President George W. Bush with such frequency that you might think he had been written into the party’s platform. But Mr. Clinton spoke of the opposition in generic terms, focusing on Republicans in Congress. (Not only has Mr. Clinton joined with Mr. Bush in raising money for rebuilding in Haiti, he also has become a close friend of Mr. Bush’s father.)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Afghan quagmire, which cost 14,000 Russian lives, resonates as painfully in Russian as the Vietnam War does in the United States.

From The New York Times:

Twenty years after the last Russian soldier walked out of Afghanistan, Moscow is gingerly pushing its way back into the country with business deals and diplomacy, and promises of closer ties to come.

Russia is eager to cooperate on economic matters in part by reviving Soviet-era public works, its president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, said Wednesday during a summit meeting with the leaders of Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan, the second such four-way meeting organized by Russia in the past year.

In fact, Russia has already begun a broad push into Afghan deal-making, negotiating to refurbish more than 140 Soviet-era installations, like hydroelectric stations, bridges, wells and irrigation systems, in deals that could be worth more than $1 billion. A Russian helicopter company, Vertikal-T, has contracts with NATO and the Afghan government to fly Mi-26 heavy-lift helicopters throughout the country.

The Kremlin is also looking to blunt Islamic extremism in Central Asia, which poses a threat to Russia’s security, particularly in the Caucasus, and to exploit opportunities in the promising Afghan mining and energy industries.

The Kremlin’s return to Afghanistan comes with the support of the Obama administration, which in retooling its war strategy has asked Afghanistan’s neighbors — including Russia, whose forces the United States helped oust — to carry a greater share of the burden of stabilizing the country.

“There is every reason to note significant progress in relations between our countries,” Mr. Medvedev said to his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, at the meeting, held at Mr. Medvedev’s summer residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, according to Russian news agencies. “Russia is prepared to develop ties with its Afghan partners.”

The Kremlin is proceeding cautiously, however, as the Afghan quagmire, which cost 14,000 Russian lives, resonates as painfully here as the Vietnam War does in the United States.

While Mr. Medvedev hosted the meeting, he was actually more in the salesman’s role than the buyer’s. The Russian economy, dragged down by low prices for oil and other commodities and savaged by the financial crisis, shrank by 8 percent last year and is expected to grow by only 4 percent this year.

Studies by American geologists have indicated that Afghanistan is ripe for a potentially profitable mining boom, and others are already piling in.

Recently, the Kremlin has sharply criticized the United States for tolerating poppy cultivation, because much of the Afghan opium crop is finding its way to Russia and contributing to rising rates of heroin addiction.

As Blagojevich and Prosecutors Fight to Standstill, Democrats Lose

From The Wall Street Journal:

The hung jury in Rod Blagojevich's corruption trial could be seen as a win for either the prosecution or the defense. The only clear losers were Democrats, who face the prospect of another trial in the middle of a tough election season.

A second trial will continue to draw national attention to a political culture rife with back-room deals and shady characters. And Mr. Blagojevich's conviction on a single count of lying to federal agents ensures Republicans will be able to run pictures of a felon standing next to any number of Democratic candidates the former governor has posed alongside over the years.

"It's very bad news for the Democrats," said Dick Simpson, a political scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "From Alaska to Arkansas, the Republicans will use this to say not only are Democrats big spenders but look how corrupt they are."

Back Secretary of Defense Robert Gates: Pentagon Cost-Saving Drive Comes Under Fire

From The Wall Street Journal:

Lawmakers worried about potential job losses in their districts have rallied against the closure of a military command in Virginia, presenting Secretary of Defense Robert Gates with a big test of his sweeping effort to hold down military spending.

Earlier this month, Mr. Gates announced he would cut payments to outside contractors by 10% a year for the next three years, saying the Pentagon bureaucracy had "grown over-reliant on contractors and grown accustomed to operating with little consideration to cost."

Mr. Gates also outlined plans to eliminate a major military command, the Norfolk, Va., Joint Forces Command, an organization created in 1999 to encourage co-operation and training among the various services.

The proposals represent a bet by the Defense Secretary that by holding down costs he can free up funds for troops overseas and stave off potentially deeper cuts by Congress, which is increasingly focused on federal spending and the deficit. The moves announced earlier this month are part of a broader effort to realize $100 billion in cost savings over the next five years.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tom Friedman: Really Unusually Uncertain

Tom Friedman writes in The New York Times:

Over the past few weeks I’ve had a chance to speak with senior economic policy makers in America and Germany and I think I’ve figured out where we are. It’s like this: things are getting better, except where they aren’t. The bailouts are working, except where they’re not. Things will slowly get better, unless they slowly get worse. We should know soon, unless we don’t.

It is no wonder that businesses are reluctant to hire with such “unusual uncertainty,” as Fed chief Ben Bernanke put it. One reason it is so unusual is that we are not just trying to recover from a financial crisis triggered by crazy mortgage lending. We’re also having to deal with three huge structural problems that built up over several decades and have reached a point of criticality at the same time.

And as Mohamed El-Erian, the C.E.O. of Pimco, has been repeating, “Structural problems need structural solutions.” There are no quick fixes. In America and Europe, we are going to need some big structural fixes to get back on a sustained growth path — changes that will require a level of political consensus and sacrifice that has been sorely lacking in most countries up to now.

The first big structural problem is America’s. We’ve just ended more than a decade of debt-fueled growth during which we borrowed money from China to give ourselves a tax cut and more entitlements but did nothing to curtail spending or make long-term investments in new growth engines. Now our government owes more than ever and has more future obligations than ever — like expanded Medicare prescription drug benefits, expanded health care, an expanded war in Afghanistan and expanded Social Security payments (because the baby boomers are about to retire) — and less real growth to pay for it all.

America will probably need some added stimulus to kick start employment, but any stimulus right now must be in growth-enabling investments that will yield more than their costs, or they just increase debt. That means investments in skill building and infrastructure plus tax incentives for starting new businesses and export promotion. To get a stimulus through Congress it must be paired with spending cuts and/or tax increases timed for when the economy improves.

Second, America’s solvency inflection point is coinciding with a technological one. Thanks to Internet diffusion, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and the shift from laptops and desktops to hand-held iPads and iPhones, technology is destroying older, less skilled jobs that paid a decent wage at a faster pace than ever while spinning off more new skilled jobs that pay a decent wage but require more education than ever.

There is only one way to deal with this challenge: more innovation to stimulate new industries and jobs that can pay workers $40 an hour, coupled with a huge initiative to train more Americans to win these jobs over their global competitors. There is no other way.

But the global economy needs a healthy Europe as well, and the third structural challenge we face is that the European Union, a huge market, is facing what the former U.S. ambassador to Germany, John Kornblum, calls its first “existential crisis.” For the first time, he noted, the E.U. “saw the possibility of collapse.” Germany has made clear that if the eurozone is to continue, it will be on the German work ethic not the Greek one. Will its euro-partners be able to raise their games? Uncertain.

Keeping up with Germany won’t be easy. A decade ago Germany was the “sick man of Europe.” No more. The Germans pulled together. Labor gave up wage hikes and allowed businesses to improve competitiveness and worker flexibility, while the government subsidized firms to keep skilled workers on the job in the downturn. Germany is now on the rise, but also not free of structural challenges. Its growth depends on exports to China and it is the biggest financier of Greece. Still, “Germany is no longer the country with the oldest students and youngest retirees,” said Kornblum.

By contrast, America’s two big parties still cling to their core religious beliefs as if nothing has changed. Republicans try to undermine the president at every turn and offer their nostrum of tax-cuts-will-solve-everything — without ever specifying what services they’ll give up to pay for them. Mr. Obama gave us expanded health care before expanding the economic pie to sustain it.

You still don’t sense our politicians are saying, “Wait a minute; stop everything; we have got to work together.” Don’t these people have 401k plans of their own and kids worried about jobs?

The president needs to take America’s labor, business and Congressional leadership up to Camp David and not come back without a grand bargain for taxes, trade promotion, energy, stimulus and budget cutting that offers the market some certainty that we are moving together — not just on a bailout but on an economic rebirth for the 21st century. “Fat chance,” you say. Well then, I say get ready for a long phase of stubborn unemployment and anemic growth.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Obama's defense of Islamic center has left many Dem. candidates & strategists concerned about the impact this might have on their midterm campaigns.

From The Washington Post:

Obama's defense of a proposed Islamic center has left many Democratic candidates & strategists concerned about the impact the issue might have on their midterm election campaigns.

"How can this possibly be helpful when feelings are still so raw on the issue?" asked a senior Democratic political operative who is working on multiple congressional races. "It's best to say nothing and let the process and appeals unfold." Added another seasoned Democratic consultant: Obama "is right on substance but wrong on politics, and right now we need to focus on politics."

In Denmark, in June the government cut into its benefits system, the world’s most generous, by limiting unemployment payments to 2 years instead of 4.

From The New York Times:

How long is too long to be paid to go without a job?

As extended unemployment swells almost everywhere across the advanced industrial world, that question is turning into a lightning rod for governments.

For years, Denmark was held out as a model to countries with high unemployment and as a progressive touchstone to liberals in the United States. The Danes, despite their lavish social welfare state, managed to keep joblessness remarkably low.

But now Denmark, which allows employers to hire and fire at will while relying on an elaborate system of training, subsidies for those between jobs and aggressive measures to press the unemployed into available openings, is facing its own strains. As a result, it is beginning to tighten up.

Struggling to keep its budget under control after the financial crisis, the government in June cut into its benefits system, the world’s most generous, by limiting unemployment payments to two years instead of four. Having found that recipients either get work right away or take any job as their checks run out, officials are also redoubling longstanding efforts to move Danes more quickly out of the safety net.

In the United States, where the Senate passed an unemployment insurance extension last month only after a long battle, the debate over how to treat persistent joblessness has mounted as well.

It pits those who argue that decent benefits are necessary to support workers and their families when companies are doing little hiring against those who contend that longer benefits periods discourage job-seeking.

Voters Back Tough Steps to Reduce Budget Deficit

From The Wall Street Journal:

Frustrated voters, fixing on the $1.5 trillion federal deficit as a symbol of Washington's paralysis, appear increasingly willing to take drastic steps to address the red ink.

With the November midterm elections looming, voters appear ahead of Washington in grappling with the tough choices to come, according to national polling and a focus group commissioned by The Wall Street Journal in the bellwether city of Richmond.

That is a source of political peril for both Democratic and Republican parties, which are trying to talk about the deficit without addressing the specifics of how they would tackle it. Leaders on both sides of the aisle worry about being attacked if they produce a package of painful spending cuts or tax increases. And to reinforce lawmakers' anxiety, voters remain divided about what ought to be done.

For meaningful deficit reduction to happen, Republicans and Democrats likely would have to work together to slash spending or raise taxes. Instead, Republicans are attacking Democrats for planning to allow some Bush-era tax cuts to lapse. Democrats are accusing Republicans of plotting the privatization of Social Security. And neither party has convinced Americans it is serious about the problem.

At $1.47 trillion, the federal deficit this fiscal year exceeds all defense and nondefense spending at Congress's discretion by $110 million. In other words, lawmakers could eliminate the entire military, all federal education, agricultural, housing programs, federal prisons, the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Coast Guard and border patrol, and the nation would still be in the red.

Half of the current deficit stems from falling tax revenues and rising spending on programs associated with the recession, such as unemployment insurance and food stamps, along with temporary measures such as the stimulus and the Wall Street bailout. The administration projects the deficit—now at 10% of the economy—will fall to 3.4% of the gross domestic product by 2014 as these programs end and the economy recovers.

But then long-term demographic problems kick in, which in some ways dwarf the short-term deficit spike. With the baby boom generation retiring, the deficit will begin rising again because of rising Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid spending. The accumulated debt held by the public will exceed 77% of the economy within a decade, not including the debt the government owes itself for raiding Social Security taxes for decades.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Some Democratic candidates distance themselves from Obama

From The Washington Post:

Fight or flight?

That is the question Democratic incumbents and challengers in this fall's elections are asking themselves when it comes to dealing with President Obama. Is the best course to distance oneself from a president whose job-approval rating has sunk below 50 percent and whose appeal to independents has gone missing? Or to embrace him and his policies -- the majority of which remain quite popular with the Democratic base that will be essential to any victories that the party claims this fall?

Powerful forces are lining up on both sides of that strategic divide.

One senior Democratic consultant suggested that the distance candidates are seeking to put between themselves and Obama is reflective of the ascendance of economic issues in voters' minds. "Barack Obama's economic policy of spending our way out of recession is seen as a failure at best and harmful at worst," the source said. "That should tell candidates in competitive jurisdictions all they need to know about running with the president."

Obama himself has long argued behind closed doors that Democratic incumbents are stuck with him in good times and in bad; that is, voters simply will not differentiate between the Democratic president and their Democratic member of Congress in the vast majority of districts across the country.

By embracing the president and his policies, the argument goes, the Democratic base will be fired up. And, in midterm elections, base intensity isn't everything -- it's the only thing.

But Tom Davis, a former congressman from Virginia and one of the Republican Party's leading strategists, noted that although Democrats need the "Obama turnout model in urban and minority areas," the president is "radioactive" in the "South, border and mountain states." That push and pull creates a "dilemma" for Democrats on the ballot this fall, Davis said.

Martin Frost, a longtime Texas Democratic congressman who, like Davis, spent much of his time in Washington focused on campaigns, said that while "candidates in the South and Midwest will need to put some distance between themselves and Obama," the president can still help his party avoid disaster this fall.

"Obama's best contribution to the campaign will be to raise money for the party committees, as he did in Texas" recently, Frost said. "He can raise big money even in red states, and he shouldn't be offended when Democrats like Bill White and Chet Edwards don't show up for a photo," he said, referring to the party's candidate for Texas governor and a congressman from the state, respectively.

Democrats nationally -- Where they have been and where they are headed into midterm elections

From The Washington Post:

The Democrats passed the stimulus package. They passed health-care and Wall Street overhauls and revamped the financing system for higher education. Their other main priorities, on immigration and energy, appear to be headed nowhere.

So, what will they do next?

House Democratic leaders issued lawmakers three sets of talking points that included one package of new legislation, a collection of modest bills designed to revive the manufacturing sector. Senate Democrats have not exactly jumped to embrace those proposals, instead suggesting that between now and Election Day a more detailed agenda might be forthcoming.

It's a far cry from the heady days of early 2009, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) began trumpeting the "four pillars" of what was the most ambitious Capitol Hill agenda since President Lyndon B. Johnson's "Great Society" of the 1960s. With Obama's sweeping 2008 victory and the largest congressional majorities in three decades, Democrats passed the $862 billion stimulus in less than a month before moving on to health care and other major issues.

The problem for Democrats is that voters have given them virtually no credit for these ambitious projects. The 111th Congress has the lowest average approval rating (19 percent) of any Congress heading into a midterm election since Gallup started tracking the measure in 1974. On key agenda items, Obama receives failing grades, with 38 percent of voters approving of his handling of the economy and 40 percent approving of his health-care approach, according to Gallup.

Some endangered Democrats are thankful that there is no broad national agenda to answer for, preferring to run on local issues.

Most Democrats want to focus the rest of this year and next on the economy, setting aside other issues, such as immigration reform, until job creation rebounds.

But Democrats find themselves in a box. Soaring annual deficits have made it fiscally and politically treacherous to propose another huge stimulus, leaving limited options for job creation.

Obama and some Democrats also want to end the Bush-era tax cuts for the top 2 percent of income earners, which would save more than $600 billion over 10 years. But some senior Democrats, led by the Budget Committee chairman, Sen. Kent Conrad (N.D.), argue against raising any taxes while the economy is teetering on the brink of a double-dip recession. And the Democrats' plan to extend the middle-class portion of those tax cuts would increase deficits by around $3 trillion over the next decade.

There's one clear area of unity: attacking Republicans. If the three sets of talking points issued to House Democrats are any measure, the majority expects to run a fall campaign that is about two-thirds negative and one-third positive.

One talking point carried a theme of "we can't go back," a reference to the Bush White House's stewardship of the economy, and another dealt with "protecting Social Security."

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I'm in shock; I can't believe the GOP would do such a thing: GOP Pounces on Obama’s Mosque Remarks

From The Wall Street Journal:

Republicans on Sunday seized on President Barack Obama’s weekend comments on the controversy over building a mosque near Ground Zero, folding it into their election-year narrative that Washington is out of touch with the rest of the country.

“The administration, and the president himself, seems to be disconnected from the mainstream of America,” Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) said on Fox News Sunday.

To the extent that the president’s comments show he’s not listening to Americans, it will become an election issue, said Cornyn, who also heads the Republicans’ campaign committee in the Senate.

As noted yesterday & often, this Administration is tone-deaf: On mosque, Obama backtracks from his endorsement, then clarifies & denies backtracking.

David Axelrod got him elected. Together they will be responsible for getting many Democrats unelected in November. I am sometimes left to wonder if either cares.

I am right because I say I am right. It's my way or the highway, and the consequences and what America thinks be damned.

From The New York Times:

Faced with withering Republican criticism of his defense of the right of Muslims to build a community center and mosque near ground zero, President Obama quickly recalibrated his remarks on Saturday, a sign that he has waded into even more treacherous political waters than the White House had at first realized.

In brief comments during a family trip to the Gulf of Mexico, Mr. Obama said he was not endorsing the New York project, but simply trying to uphold the broader principle that government should “treat everybody equally,” regardless of religion.

“I was not commenting, and I will not comment, on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there,” Mr. Obama said. “I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That’s what our country is about.”

But Mr. Obama’s attempt to clarify his remarks, less than 24 hours after his initial comments at a White House iftar, a Ramadan sunset dinner, pushed the president even deeper into the thorny debate about Islam, national identity and what it means to be an American — a move that is riskier for him than for his predecessors.

From the moment he took the oath of office, using his entire name, Barack Hussein Obama, as he swore to protect and defend the Constitution, Mr. Obama has personified the hopes of many Americans about tolerance and inclusion. He has devoted himself to reaching out to the Muslim world, vowing, as he did in Cairo last year, “a new beginning.”

[T]he criticism was so intense that the White House ultimately issued an elaboration on the president’s clarification, insisting that the president was “not backing off in any way” from the comments he made Friday night.

White House aides say Mr. Obama was well aware of the risks. “He understands the politics of it,” David Axelrod, his senior adviser, said in an interview.


The Washington Post has an article entitled "Obama: Backing Muslims' right to build NYC mosque is not an endorsement" that summarizes the President's clarification as follows and notes:

One day after President Obama defended the freedom of Muslims to build an Islamic complex near New York's Ground Zero, he offered a less forceful version of that position on Saturday: Yes, Muslims have that right, Obama said -- but that doesn't mean he believes it is the right thing for them to do.

Obama's remarks . . . unsettled many of his fellow Democrats, who would have preferred that he not embroil himself, and them, in a controversy that the White House had previously deemed to be a local matter. It is also one that could distract from their efforts to spend the August recess focusing on the economy.

"It's going to play poorly for many Democrats and will be used as a political club by those Republicans willing to exploit it," said one senior Democratic aide on Capitol Hill, where the president's party is worried that it could lose control of one and possibly both houses of Congress this fall. The aide asked for anonymity to speak freely.

White House officials said the president's comments Saturday were not at odds with what he had said the night before -- and they insisted they should not be seen as Obama backing down because of political pressure. He was merely clarifying his position, they said. Yet Obama had left the distinction between principle and prudence unstated in his declaration Friday night that "Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances."

As with Obama's decision to pursue an overhaul of the health-care system and to go to court to block Arizona's new immigration law, this was a fight the president could have sidestepped -- but one, his advisers say, that speaks to his larger principles.

However, to his critics it suggests a disregard for the wishes of the public. "It feels very Bush-esque," said Matthew Dowd, who was a top political adviser to former President George W. Bush until they parted ways over the Iraq war. Dowd said Republicans will exploit the controversy to ask, "Does this guy listen, or does he think he's too smart for all of us?"

This Time, Voter Anger Is No Surprise to Democrats

From The New York Times:

A year ago, dozens of protesters gathered outside the district office of Representative Ike Skelton, a Democrat who has represented a wide stretch of western Missouri since 1976. The anger they directed at health care legislation — and by extension most Congressional Democrats — left the party in a state of near panic.

It may, in retrospect, have been the best thing that could have happened to Mr. Skelton and his colleagues.

In the arsenal of advantages that Republicans hold as they seek to win control of Congress this year, one thing is missing: the element of surprise. Unlike 1994, when Republicans shocked Democrats by capturing dozens of seats held by complacent incumbents, there will be no sneak attacks this year. Democrats have sensed trouble for more than a year, with the unrest from town-hall-style meetings last August providing indisputable evidence for any disbelievers.

The result has been to goad many Democrats into better preparation: more fund-raising, earlier advertising, lots of time on the campaign trail.

In the last two elections, Democrats picked up 55 seats in the House, earning a majority that party leaders know will now narrow. The question is not whether Republicans will win seats in November, but rather how many. Democrats believe that their fortunes would be far worse if the voter discontent had stayed at bay until this August.

In 1994, when Republicans swept control of Congress, it was not until a few weeks before the election — and in some cases on Election Day itself — that some veteran Democrats knew they were truly at risk.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

My solution to the illegal Cuban immigrant costing Douglas County $400,000: Take him to one of the birthday parties sponsored by Cynthia Tucker.


Today we read in the ajc about an illegal immigrant from Cuba who racked up an extensive criminal record, whose last arrest was for cocaine trafficking, and on whose behalf Douglas County so far has spent $400,000 in medical bills.

So what is the solution? No one in the metro seems to know.

I suggest someone contact Cynthia Tucker and see if adults are welcome to one of her birthday parties held in honor of the children of illegal immigrants, and let her take it from there.

In an August 13, 2010 column entitled "The US needs those babies born to illegal moms," she writes:

With sinking birth rates and longer lifespans, much of the industrialized world grows grayer every day. Throughout Western Europe, demographers worry about a population too old to work and pay the bills. Already, the Japanese, who have never cottoned to “outsiders,” are struggling to care for a citizenry with a significant share of seniors.

But, as several economists have noted, the United States has an advantage: We’re still having babies. Some of them, it turns out, are born to women without papers. Rather than changing the law and kicking them out, we ought to be celebrating them with birthday parties.


Whether the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution should to be changed is subject to legitimate debate. But this comment by Ms. Tucker about celebrating birthdays is one of the damnest things I have ever read, regardless of one's views on the illegal immigration situation and any possible solution.

Go right ahead Ms. Tucker and plan the birthday parties, and while at it, besides completely opening up the southern border, why don't you rent a flotilla and head for Haiti and Pakistan and bring the boats back full with those you deem able to help care and pay for our citizenry.

Some interesting numbers and a good article and analysis on the Barnes and Deal race

Aaron Gould Sheinin reports the following in the ajc:

Much has been made of the fact that 680,000 voters cast ballots in the GOP primary, compared with only 395,000 in the Democratic contest, despite there being seven candidates running on each side. But Barnes actually took more votes on July 20 than Deal: 259,000 to 156,000. Deal, however, took 291,000 votes in the runoff.

Barnes has spent much of his time since the primary in South Georgia, where Sonny Perdue swamped him in his failed 2002 bid for re-election. The only counties Barnes lost in the primary were Laurens and Johnson, both southeast of Macon.

Deal can count on his former congressional district in North Georgia, as well as northern Atlanta exurbs such as Cherokee County, to deliver him a pile of votes. Barnes can count on DeKalb, Fulton, Clayton and a good bit of Cobb to drive his totals.

Deal, too, will work communities at the southern end of the state. He, arguably, has more work to do there. In the primary, he captured only a handful of counties in Middle and South Georgia. In the head-to-head runoff, he improved but still lost nearly every border county below I-20 to Karen Handel.

Party support and strength

This could be Barnes’ biggest liability. In the eight years since Barnes lost the governor’s office in 2002, the state has only grown more conservative, more Republican. It’s an obvious advantage for Deal. Barnes must hope that the gains Democrats made in voter registration in 2008 have been followed up by building the infrastructure needed to motivate those voters and get them to the polls. Georgia voters, however, seem even more upset with national Democrats than those in other red states. Republicans will continue to tie Barnes to President Barack Obama and other top Democrats. Barnes will continue to avoid discussing parties. As long as he keeps the polls close, he should be able to count on financial help from the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Governors Association.

For Deal, this could be his greatest asset. It’s not quite enough to simply have an “R” next to his name, but it’s a major advantage. The Republican Governors Association will likely play a big role, as the RGA executive director, Nick Ayers, is a former Perdue aide. Georgia’s GOP suffered a brutal primary and runoff campaign. If it truly unites behind Deal, it will be difficult to beat. If hard feelings persist, however, Deal will have to work that much harder.

Liabilities

Barnes began his campaign by acknowledging his shortcomings as governor. He didn’t listen enough, particularly to teachers, he said. He apologized then and again on the campaign trail. But his fight with teachers during his original term has continued to be used against him. Will teachers, a consistently reliable Democratic bloc, come back to him? Then, of course, there’s the fact that he’s a Democrat running in a Republican state. (See above).

Deal’s greatest stumbling block will be over ethics. He has been dogged by allegations, first reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, that Deal used his office and staff to influence state leaders to protect a state program that earned him thousands of dollars a year. The AJC’s report led to more negative news for Deal, as well as a scathing congressional ethics report, and the newspaper last month reported that a federal grand jury had subpoenaed a state official for testimony and documents related to the case. Deal has also been criticized by some for questioning Obama’s nationality.

An Unwritten Rule of Politics: Domestic Vacations

From The New York Times:

Forget the lush beaches of Bora Bora or the Campari-soaked cafes along the Côte d’Azur. And don’t even think about Rome or Paris. Astute Washington politicians have long known that when it comes to politically palatable summer vacations, it is best not to cross any oceans. Or even seas.

Michelle Obama violated one of this city’s most sacrosanct unwritten rules when she went to Spain — during a recession, no less — with her daughter and a few friends. Even during good economic times, top government officials tend to stick to the red, white and blue.

Two interesting bits from an article in the NYT entitled 'Obama Signs Border Bill to Increase Surveillance.'

There are two things of interest I found in an article from The New York Times about the $600 million bill on Friday Obama signed yesterday to pay for 1,500 new border agents, additional unmanned surveillance drones and new Border Patrol stations along the southwest border.

First:

Under a proposal by Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, the new resources will be paid for by steep increases on visa fees for high-tech workers brought to the United States by Indian companies who bring in thousands of temporary employees each year.

And second, the following I did but I now don't, but let me think about what I think about it, OK:

Senator McCain, campaigning in Arizona, also clarified his position on another immigration controversy, telling The Associated Press that he did not favor a change to the Constitution to revoke the right to citizenship for American-born children of illegal immigrants.

Asked if he would support changing the 14th Amendment, Mr. McCain said: “No. I mean, first of all we’d have to have hearings, we’d have to find out what the argument would be, but I certainly don’t at this time.”

Obama continues to inflict damage & insure debacle in November 2010 -- Obama Strongly Backs Islam Center Near 9/11 Site

An 8-1-10 post notes:

The New York Times has an article in Sunday's edition entitled "To Help Democrats in the Fall, Obama May Stay Away."

A 7-20-10 post is entitled:

"Is there any wonder U.S. House Democrats are upset with the Obama administration: White House is focused on 2012 versus 2010."

A 7-12-10 post is entitled:

"They've got that right: Democratic governors tell White House that suit against Arizona's law could cost a vulnerable Dem. Party in fall elections."

An 8-8-10 post is entitled in part:

"This administration, since taking office, has been & remains tone-deaf."

At the present time, not only do Democratic candidates need Obama to agree to stay away, but for Obama (and Axelrod) to please, please refrain from upsetting the Republic and inflicting damage on the Party and insuring that November will be the debacle that he is setting it up to be.

In this case, all he had to do was follow through on what he had said last week about this being a local matter and say nothing. But no, he had to take the focus off Michelle and her trip to Spain, the November elections and fellow Democrats be damned.

And from today's issue of The New York Times:

President Obama delivered a strong defense on Friday night of a proposed Muslim community center and mosque near ground zero in Manhattan . . . .

After weeks of avoiding the high-profile battle over the center — his press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said last week that the president did not want to “get involved in local decision-making” — Mr. Obama stepped squarely into the thorny debate.

Aides to Mr. Obama say privately that he has always felt strongly about the proposed community center and mosque, but the White House did not want to weigh in until local authorities made a decision on the proposal, planned for two blocks from the site of the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center.


[Spare us please. Then why the comment last week about this being a local issue.]

And from today's issue of The Washington Post:

The president's statement puts him once again at the center of a cultural clash just as his party enters the final stretch of a difficult congressional campaign. Polls suggest that most Americans disagree with his position; a recent CNN poll found 68 percent opposed to building a mosque near the Sept. 11 site.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Runoff analysis: Deal took rural areas, Handel won urban locations -- GOP governor's vote shows clear split between rural, urban voters

I do not know Ashley Fielding, but here we have one good reporter as evidenced by the following from the Gainesville Times:

The results from Tuesday's runoff election between Nathan Deal and Karen Handel show a clear divide between rural and urban Georgians.

And in the rare occasion that the metro Atlanta vote didn't trump all, rural Georgia won an election for Deal.

Deal won the most votes in 102 of Georgia's 159 counties and tied with Handel in one county, Charlton County, where voters split 149 to 149 over the two Republican hopefuls.

The support of what were mostly rural areas gave Deal 50.2 percent of the vote, a narrow majority that affords him another three months on the campaign trail to face former Gov. Roy Barnes, a Democrat, and John Monds, a Libertarian.

It's a big move for a candidate who consistently polled in third place leading up to July's primary election, and ended that election some 11 percentage points behind Handel, Georgia's former secretary of state.

Handel, who on Tuesday earned the most votes in Georgia's urban areas, lost steam in rural Georgia, where voters who went to the polls in July mostly supported losing candidates such as former state Sen. Eric Johnson and Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine.

One political scientist attributes the loss to "a strategic error" in Handel's primary campaign and perhaps the unwillingness of some rural Georgians to have a female governor.

"(Handel) lumped all three of her major opponents together," said Charles Bullock, a political scientist at the University of Georgia. "... A kind of theme of her campaign was ‘these other three guys have all got ethical problems. I'm the one honest person in this race.'"

In a race stacked with candidates and sure to end in a runoff, the strategy left Handel standing alone when she needed support from other candidates' areas to win the second leg of the race.

"Usually ... a candidate who knows there's going to be a runoff will try to make their pitch so that they will have an entree to one or more of the serious candidates who gets eliminated, or at least to their supporters," Bullock said. "It seems to me Handel needlessly antagonized supporters of Oxendine and Eric Johnson."

When all the votes were counted for the runoff, Deal carried all but a few of the counties where Johnson and Oxendine garnered the most votes in July's primary.

For months, those watching the race said support from metro Atlanta would be imperative for any successful statewide candidate.

Even in metro areas, where Handel performed best, Deal closed in on Handel's original primary lead.

Deal won the most votes in Gwinnett County Tuesday, taking the lead from Handel who had almost 38 percent of the vote there in July when seven candidates were on the Republican ticket.

Deal also gained ground in Forsyth County, a 9th District county in the reach of metro Atlanta where Handel prevailed in July. On Tuesday, Deal narrowed Handel's lead in Forsyth from 981 to 277 votes.

Handel did manage to take Catoosa County out from under Deal's 9th District comfort zone on Tuesday, winning some 95 more votes than the former congressman. Aside from metro Atlanta, Handel found the most support in counties around Columbus, Macon, Augusta, Savannah and Valdosta.

And while she did carry a few rural counties such as Brooks and Early counties, Deal's support in rural Georgia was overwhelming.

Gender may have played a role, Bullock said.

"To the extent that there are folks out there who don't think women belong in politics or would be troubled by having a woman governor, they're probably more likely found in a rural than a more cosmopolitan area," Bullock said. "If you live in an urban area, you're fairly used to seeing women in a whole variety of roles, whether it's the president of the Rotary club or the manager of this or whatever. You're used to seeing that."

Whether Deal will stay successful in rural Georgia will depend on the impact of Barnes' recent campaigning in the southern reaches of the state and the ability for the Republican Party to reunite before November, Bullock said.

"This is not such a red state that if the Republicans were to go into November badly divided that you necessarily win," said Bullock. "Maybe there wouldn't be many Republicans or supporters of these candidates who would vote for Roy Barnes. But if they were really alienated from Nathan Deal and his campaign, they might just skip over that contest."

Progress in the making (although the question is, and here's to hoping it will, will it last): Spending Posts Now a Liability for Lawmakers

From The New York Times:

Membership on the Appropriations Committee used to be a first-class ticket to Congressional success, guaranteeing lucky lawmakers the ability to campaign on the federal money they had lavished on the folks back home. But the era of the appropriator appears to be on the wane.

In a treacherous political environment where cutting spending is the more potent message and earmarks can count as a black mark, serving on the House or Senate committee that doles out federal dollars can bring more punishment than prestige.

Of six Congressional incumbents defeated in preliminary contests so far this year, four were veteran members of the appropriations panel who found themselves on the defensive.

“You know the world is in a different place when bringing home the bacon is no longer a good thing,” said Jennifer Duffy, senior editor at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

It is a striking turn of events for members of a committee considered so elite that its subcommittee chairmen were known universally as Cardinals. A common saying on Capitol Hill was that there are actually three parties in Congress — Republicans, Democrats and Appropriators.

Lawmakers and others say the voter unease over earmarks and federal spending began showing itself in the 2006 and 2008 elections when veteran appropriators began being voted out and the now infamous Alaskan “bridge to nowhere” bloomed into a national symbol of earmarking excess.

Now, analysts say, the tradition of earmarking and serving on a committee that practically defines the term “insider” fits perfectly into one of the most powerful narratives working against incumbent lawmakers this election cycle.

Grim Voter Mood Turns Grimmer -- Pessimism Rises on Economy and War; Bad Reviews for Both Democrats and GOP

From The Wall Street Journal:

Americans are growing more pessimistic about the economy and the war in Afghanistan, and are losing faith that Democrats have better solutions than Republicans, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

Underpinning the gloom: Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe the economy has yet to hit bottom, a sharply higher percentage than the 53% who felt that way in January.

The sour national mood appears all-encompassing and is dragging down ratings for the GOP too, suggesting voters above all are disenchanted with the political establishment in Washington. Just 24% express positive feelings about the Republican Party, a new low in the 21-year history of the Journal's survey. Democrats are only slightly more popular, but also near an all-time low.

On the Afghanistan war, which had been an area of strength for the president since he revamped his military strategy, 68% of Americans now feel less confident the war will come to a successful conclusion. Just 44% approve of the president's job on Afghanistan, down from a majority who approved in March, the last time the poll addressed the topic.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The New York Times Notes: Tight Race Set to Follow Rough Runoff in Georgia

From The New York Times:

Polls before the primary predicted a close race in the general election between Mr. Barnes and either Mr. Deal or Ms. Handel. Political experts believe Mr. Deal has a slight advantage in the solidly conservative Southern state, especially in an election year that is expected to be tough for Democrats.

The Republican runoff was contentious, with Mr. Deal’s campaign accusing Ms. Handel of being insufficiently conservative on same-sex marriage and abortion and Ms. Handel calling Mr. Deal a “corrupt relic of Washington” and chiding him to “put on his big-boy pants.”

The race drew endorsements from several possible 2012 presidential candidates, with Sarah Palin campaigning for Ms. Handel and Mr. Deal receiving endorsements from Mike Huckabee, the former presidential candidate and Arkansas governor, and Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House.

The impact of Ms. Palin’s endorsement was unclear. While her support has lifted the campaigns of other conservative women — including Nikki Haley, who is running for governor in South Carolina, and Sharron Angle, running for the Senate in Nevada — it did not provide the same assistance to Ms. Handel.

“This certainly takes some of the luster out of the Palin endorsements generally,” said Charles S. Bullock III, a political scientist at the University of Georgia.

Mr. Deal faces continued scrutiny over an Office of Congressional Ethics report in March that he had supported a Georgia program that generated hundreds of thousands of dollars for his family’s auto salvage business.

Wake up America. Wake up Congress. Please care Obama. -- Illegal Immigrants Estimated to Account for 1 in 12 U.S. Births

From The Wall Street Journal:

One in 12 babies born in the U.S. in 2008 were offspring of illegal immigrants, according to a new study, an estimate that could inflame the debate over birthright citizenship.

Undocumented immigrants make up slightly more than 4% of the U.S. adult population. However, their babies represented twice that share, or 8%, of all births on U.S. soil in 2008, according to the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center's report.

In total, about 11 million undocumented immigrants live in the U.S. Latinos account for 75% of undocumented U.S. immigrants and about 85% of the births among that population.

Amid a heated national debate over illegal immigration, some Republican politicians have been calling for changes to the Constitution's 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to "all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof," in order to deny citizenship to children born in the U.S. to unlawful residents.

Late last month, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham announced his support for reconsidering automatic U.S. citizenship for babies born to undocumented immigrants. He said the status quo enticed people to enter the country illegally and have children to qualify for U.S. benefits.

Under U.S. law, children have to wait until they reach the age of 21 before they can petition for permanent legal residency for their parents.

Legislation to amend birthright citizenship stalled when it was introduced in the past decade in the House. It would require a vote of two-thirds of the House and Senate, and would have to be ratified by three-fourths of state legislatures.

Proponents of amending the 14th Amendment, which was enacted in 1868, say it was intended to guarantee citizenship to freed slaves after the Civil War, not the offspring of illegal immigrants. Their proposals are expected to appeal to conservative Republican voters as immigration emerges as a central issue in November's elections.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

You gotta love it (Slater; read all about 'us'): Coffee, tea or flee? JetBlue attendant's exit strategy serves crummy job right (UPDATED AT BEGINNING)



UPDATE: ALL OF THE FACTS ARE IN. VERDICT: SLATER IS A REAL TURKEY.

From The Washington Post:

Steven Slater.

Rock. On.

The JetBlue flight attendant whose splendiferous wig-out on Monday involved an escape via an emergency exit slide has become a folk hero to his fellow stewards of the sky.

Also, to everyone.

"I've had that fantasy," says Sara Keagle, a flight attendant for 18 years. "He lived my fantasy. He is the Thelma and Louise of flight attendants."

It is a fantasy born of dealing with passengers who refuse to sit down, refuse to power down, refuse to simmer down. They want it their way, and they want it right now, and they want to waddle onto the aircraft with six carry-ons the size of freaking Stonehenge and pretend that it's all going to fit under the seat.

Uh-uh. We are going to put a stop to that nonsense, and we are going to call that stop The Slater.

The incident in question happened at the end of a Monday flight from Pittsburgh to New York, and the essential reported details are this: Slater got into a dispute with a passenger when the passenger ignored instructions involving an overhead luggage compartment. At one point, the passenger's luggage struck Slater on the head. Slater then got on the intercom, unleashed a mighty tirade ("I'm done! I quit!" according to one passenger's blogged account), deployed the plane's exit chute and slid onto the tarmac -- but not before stopping at the beverage cart to grab a beer.

He drove home, where he was arrested on charges of reckless endangerment and criminal mischief -- charges that could result in up to seven years in prison. He was suspended from duty on Tuesday and arraigned in a Queens courtroom, where a judge set $2,500 bail. His lawyer told the judge that Slater had been stressed over his ailing mother.

But Tuesday afternoon at Reagan National Airport, flight attendants were walking a little taller, smiling the secret smile of the righteously vindicated.

"Every single one of my friends said, 'Good for him!' " whispered an attendant wearing an American Airlines uniform who, like some others interviewed, declined to give her name, citing airline regulations and fear of losing her job. She has dealt with the cellphone arguments. The passenger bickering. She has pulled out the final threat: Do I need to call the captain? "You put on a smile and you treat them like children," says the former schoolteacher. Don't make her turn this plane around.

"Passengers can all be divided into four types," says another no-nonsense attendant who has whittled the chaos of airline travel into logical precision. The four types are:

A: All About Me

B: Business

C: Casual

D: Deer in Headlights

"A and D are the ones you have to look out for," the woman says. A's are obvious -- they're the ones who are demanding bottled water and a free snack box before the wheels go up. But never underestimate a D. Your typical D passenger, the spacey novice, is the one who is going to open the overhead bin and gently spread his overcoat down the length of the whole compartment. The D will not hear the sighs of annoyance from the other passengers, because the D will have already unwrapped his smelly sandwich and plugged his headphones into your seat's jack.

Incorrect, Passenger D. That move is incorrect.

Bobby Laurie, a San Francisco-based attendant reached via telephone, has dealt with more A's and D's than he cares to remember in his five years on the job, including one colossal A who swept his first-class meal onto Laurie's pants when he "didn't like the looks" of the dinner option. This is why, when Laurie speaks of Slater, his voice gets tremulous and overcome with glee.

"He took a stand for not only flight attendants but everyone" who has ever hated a job, says Laurie. "You always hold back. You always bite your tongue. You never actually say it. But he said it! He said it!"

Slater is reminiscent of Tuesday's other Internet darling, the administrative assistant who quit her job by sending a series of photographed messages written on a white board to everyone at her firm. The messages revealed that her boss, in addition to referring to her as a "Hot Piece of [expletive]," also dedicated nearly 20 hours a week to playing Farmville. (People are already speculating that it's a fake, but the joy it prompted was definitely real.)

In a way, the only unique aspect of Slater's amazing exit fantasy is the flight vocabulary -- the slide, the beverage cart, the overhead bins. Every other part of his Buh-Bye looks like the one we all dream of at our own cruddy jobs.

"I worked in the past for a legacy airline that had" never treated its employees particularly well, says Laurie. He consoled himself by planning his escape and how he would leave it all behind. "My last day on the job I was going to slide to freedom. Hit that slide and ride it alllll the way to freedom."

Hit that slide. Soon the phrase will become this generation's "blow this popsicle stand"; someone will create an entry on UrbanDictionary.com.

Oh wait. Someone just did. "Hit the slide: To quit one's job in a truly stunning fashion."
_______________

I don't believe Mr. Slater is going to looking at any jail time (to say the least), although The Wall Street Journal reports:

Prosecutors have charged Mr. Slater with trespassing, criminal mischief and reckless endangerment, saying his activation of the emergency chute could have been dangerous had there been anyone below on the tarmac. He could face up to seven years in prison if convicted.

A strategy question has been on my mind for the past several days, and it might be a topic of second-guessing in the days to come.

Did Karen Handel not play up the endorsement by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer enough? For some, a Brewer endorsement may have been worth more than a Palin endorsement, or at the least, may have sealed a vote for Handel.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Dick Pettys reminds us that in 2006 Cox & Taylor also engaged in a brutal nomination battle that left a divided party going into the general election.

Dick Pettys reminds us in InsiderAdvantage Georgia:

Democrats must have been rather amused watching the gubernatorial runoff candidates trash each other, as their own candidates did in the Democratic primary just four years ago when Cathy Cox and Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor were locked in a brutal nomination battle. There was no runoff that year – Taylor won the nomination in the primary. But the campaign sent a divided party forward into the general campaign and Taylor lost. Could the same fate befall Republicans this year?

Tom Crawford on the pros and cons of the Palin endorsement.

Tom Crawford writes:

Palin [is] the most popular figure in her party . . . .

Obama is very unpopular in Georgia among moderate and conservative white voters whose support Barnes is trying to get. To have any hopes of hanging on to the votes of Georgia-style independents, Barnes can’t afford to be seen anywhere near Obama.

There is growing evidence that Palin, the former governor of Alaska, has that same kind of polarizing influence on independent voters who are not diehard members of her own party.

A recent Gallup poll found . . . that while Palin enjoyed a 76 percent favorable rating among Republicans, her approval numbers dropped dramatically when independents were added to the mix.

This would suggest that while Palin’s endorsement helps Handel among Republicans voting in her party primary, it might not be such a good thing in a general election where a candidate needs to draw support from independent voters in the middle.

Deal does not have the endorsement of Palin in the runoff, but he does have the support of most Republican legislators in the General Assembly. Legislators tend to have a wide network of supporters in their districts, so it can be very helpful to have those networks getting the word out to vote for a particular candidate in an upcoming election.

That was the case in the 1982 Democratic primary, where Congressman Bo Ginn was the early favorite to win. A lawmaker from Bartow County named Joe Frank Harris had House Speaker Tom Murphy and dozens of legislators beating the bushes for him—and it worked. Harris won the Democratic nomination over Ginn.

The upcoming runoff and general elections could well hinge on all of these trends. Can a bunch of Georgia legislators overcome the star power of a Republican celebrity like Sarah Palin?

With 2012 in Mind, Parties Focus on Governorships: At stake is which party benefits from redrawing of Congressional and state legislative districts.

From The New York Times:

For all the talk of midterm elections and control of Congress, the political parties are obsessing this year more than ever over the nation’s 37 races for governor.

At stake is far more than local policy making in a few state capitals. The new crop of governors will play a major role in deciding which party benefits from the pivotal redrawing next year of Congressional and state legislative districts, a once-in-a-decade occurrence.

At stake is far more than local policy making in a few state capitals. The new crop of governors will play a major role in deciding which party benefits from the pivotal redrawing next year of Congressional and state legislative districts, a once-in-a-decade occurrence.

Gates is tough: Pentagon Plans Steps to Reduce Budget and Jobs

From The New York Times:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Monday that he would close a military command, restrict the use of outside contractors and reduce the number of generals and admirals across the armed forces as part of a broad effort to rein in Pentagon spending.

Mr. Gates did not place a dollar figure on the total savings from the cutbacks, some of which are likely to be challenged by members of Congress intent on retaining jobs in their states and districts. But they appear to be Mr. Gates’s most concrete proposals to cut current spending as he tries to fend off calls from many Democrats for even deeper budget reductions, and they reflect his strategy of first trying to squeeze money out of the vast Pentagon bureaucracy.

Monday, August 09, 2010

No disrespect at all to my female readers, but without question, Palin is hot merchandise. The endorsements have indeed made this an 'epic' battle.


Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speaks during a rally today for GOP runoff for governor candidate Karen Handel.


Nikki Haley at the South Carolina State House in May with Sarah Palin, who endorsed her gubernatorial bid.

In Georgia, Candidates Tack Right (in a race in which red-meat conservative issues like gay marriage and abortion have taken center stage)

From The Wall Street Journal:

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is expected in Georgia Monday to stump for her candidate in the state's hotly disputed GOP gubernatorial primary on Tuesday—a race in which red-meat conservative issues like gay marriage and abortion have taken center stage.

Ms. Palin is working, to the surprise of some in the GOP, to elect former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, a relatively centrist Republican from metro Atlanta who is opposed by the state's most influential anti-abortion group and who local gay activists once considered an ally.

Ms. Handel, who recent polls show leading former U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal by five points, rocketed to the front of the GOP primary after Ms. Palin endorsed her a month ago. Ms. Palin called her a "pro-life, pro-Constitutionalist with a can-do attitude." Ms. Handel also has the support of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Mr. Deal, an 18-year congressman from the foothills of north Georgia, has strong support from Republican legislators, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and rural voters in his old congressional district. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee—who won the Georgia Republican presidential primary in 2008—visited the state Sunday to campaign for Mr. Deal.

The race underscores the challenge facing many Republican candidates and organizers this year as they attempt to maintain the sometimes unwieldy partnership of fiscal and social conservatives that has often been the foundation of the party's power in recent years. With social and anti-tax conservatives energized by tea party groups and popular leaders such as Ms. Palin and Mr. Huckabee, some candidates have tacked hard to the right, but not without the risk of alienating more moderate GOP voters and independents who may be critical in the November general election.

Whoever wins the Georgia runoff will face former Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes, who lost the office in 2002 but has polled strongly against all Republicans in recent months. He won the Democratic primary in July by a wide margin.

The more things change the more they stay the same. In Harlem, Rangel faces Powell: The next generation

From The Washington Post:

Forty years ago, a Harlem political legend named Adam Clayton Powell Jr. refused to step down from his House seat in the face of an ethics scandal. Rather than allowing Powell to retire on his own time, an ambitious New York assemblyman took on the incumbent -- and won.

Now the onetime assemblyman, Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), finds himself charged with 13 violations of ethics rules of the House of Representatives. He is being challenged by a state assemblyman named Adam Clayton Powell IV, the youngest son of the man Rangel vanquished in 1970.

Rangel is considered a favorite here, even in a year in which voters are increasingly turning against incumbents, and even as he faces critics who have seized on the various allegations against him.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Although Gov. Perdue says harsh tone of the GOP contest is not all that bad, we recall the 2006 debacle with Mark T. Cathy C. & that it wasn't pretty.


Shannon McCaffrey writes in the ajc:

Karen Handel said Sunday night she would endorse Nathan Deal — the man she has blasted as "a corrupt relic of Washington" — if he won the Republican nomination for governor.

Deal refused to reciprocate as Georgia's bruising three-week GOP runoff for governor hurtled into the homestretch.


I read this after I read Jim Galloway's post in the ajc's Political Insider entitled "After the vote, it’s up to Sonny Perdue to piece things back together."

I thought when I read his post, and I think even more now after the forum sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club and aired statewide by Georgia Public Broadcasting, "After the vote, it’s up to Sonny Perdue to try to piece things back together."

Although the governor says Republicans shouldn’t be bothered by the harsh tone of the contest, our Party recalls 2006 with Mark Taylor and Cathy Cox, and that after the primary it wasn't a pretty scene just as was the case before the primary vote.

Message to visitors to Atlanta: The Travelodge Atlanta Airport is a safer place to stay because of this brave soul - Hotel clerk kills would-be robber

From the ajc:

An airport hotel clerk killed a would-be robber Sunday afternoon during an exchange of gunfire that also left the clerk wounded, Atlanta police said.

The incident happened about 1 p.m. at the Travelodge Atlanta Airport.

Maj. Keith Meadows said the clerk was shot in the abdomen and rushed to Grady Memorial Hospital, where he is in stable condition.

A gunman "attempted to rob the establishment and during the course of that robbery, we believe the clerk pulled his handgun and at that point they exchanged gunfire," Meadows said. "It seems the would-be robber was struck once in the head and killed on scene."
_______________

The story has been UPDATED. Heck, I liked the first version better. Journalists will sometimes tell you: Never let the facts mess up a good story.

In difficult midterm election, Democrats back to bashing George W. Bush

From The Washington Post:

As they brace for difficult fall elections, dispirited Democrats hoping to get back some of that 2008 magic are turning to the president for inspiration.

President Bush, that is.

In interviews, mailings and television ads, Democratic candidates are again hauling out the specter of the former president to use as a foil. Nearly two years after he left office and virtually disappeared from public view, Bush -- his image, his policies, his legacy -- are being dragged back into the public arena.

The strategy could backfire for Democrats, who risk appearing desperate by blaming Bush instead of taking responsibility.

But Democratic strategists, from the White House down, say invoking the ex-president helps clarify their message: Republicans would return the country to a time of failed economic policies.

Bush left office as one of the most unpopular presidents in history. His approval rating sank to the mid-20s as he struggled to respond to the near-collapse of the economy. Democrats think reminding voters about why they disliked Bush will translate into a boost in support.

Peggy Noonan warns: America Is at Risk of Boiling Over -- And out-of-touch leaders don't see the need to cool things off.

Peggy Noonan writes in The Wall Street Journal:

It is, obviously, self-referential to quote yourself, but I do it to make a point. I wrote the following on New Year's day, 1994. America 16 years ago was a relatively content nation, though full of political sparks: 10 months later the Republicans would take the House for the first time in 40 years. But beneath all the action was, I thought, a coming unease. Something inside was telling us we were living through "not the placid dawn of a peaceful age but the illusory calm before stern storms."

The temperature in the world was very high. "At home certain trends—crime, cultural tension, some cultural Balkanization—will, we fear, continue; some will worsen. In my darker moments I have a bad hunch. The fraying of the bonds that keep us together, the strangeness and anomie of our popular culture, the increase in walled communities . . . the rising radicalism of the politically correct . . . the increased demand of all levels of government for the money of the people, the spotty success with which we are communicating to the young America's reason for being and founding beliefs, the growth of cities where English is becoming the second language . . . these things may well come together at some point in our lifetimes and produce something painful indeed. I can imagine, for instance, in the year 2020 or so, a movement in some states to break away from the union. Which would bring about, of course, a drama of Lincolnian darkness. . . . You will know that things have reached a bad pass when Newsweek and Time, if they still exist 15 years from now, do cover stories on a surprising, and disturbing trend: aging baby boomers leaving America, taking what savings they have to live the rest of their lives in places like Africa and Ireland."

The biggest political change in my lifetime is that Americans no longer assume that their children will have it better than they did. This is a huge break with the past, with assumptions and traditions that shaped us.

Parents now fear something has stopped. . . . But they look around, follow the political stories and debates, and deep down they think their children will live in a more limited country, that jobs won't be made at a great enough pace, that taxes—too many people in the cart, not enough pulling it—will dishearten them, that the effects of 30 years of a low, sad culture will leave the whole country messed up.

But do our political leaders have any sense of what people are feeling deep down? They don't act as if they do. I think their detachment from how normal people think is more dangerous and disturbing than it has been in the past. I started noticing in the 1980s the growing gulf between the country's thought leaders, as they're called—the political and media class, the universities—and those living what for lack of a better word we'll call normal lives on the ground in America. The two groups were agitated by different things, concerned about different things, had different focuses, different world views.

But I've never seen the gap wider than it is now. I think it is a chasm. In Washington they don't seem to be looking around and thinking, Hmmm, this nation is in trouble, it needs help. They're thinking something else. I'm not sure they understand the American Dream itself needs a boost, needs encouragement and protection. They don't seem to know or have a sense of the mood of the country.

And so they make their moves, manipulate this issue and that, and keep things at a high boil. And this at a time when people are already in about as much hot water as they can take.

To take just one example from the past 10 days, the federal government continues its standoff with the state of Arizona over how to handle illegal immigration. The point of view of our thought leaders is, in general, that borders that are essentially open are good, or not so bad. The point of view of those on the ground who are anxious about our nation's future, however, is different, more like: "We live in a welfare state and we've just expanded health care. Unemployment's up. Could we sort of calm down, stop illegal immigration, and absorb what we've got?" No is, in essence, the answer.

An irony here is that if we stopped the illegal flow and removed the sense of emergency it generates, comprehensive reform would, in time, follow. Because we're not going to send the estimated 10 million to 15 million illegals already here back. We're not going to put sobbing children on a million buses. That would not be in our nature. (Do our leaders even know what's in our nature?) As years passed, those here would be absorbed, and everyone in the country would come to see the benefit of integrating them fully into the tax system. So it's ironic that our leaders don't do what in the end would get them what they say they want, which is comprehensive reform.

When the adults of a great nation feel long-term pessimism, it only makes matters worse when those in authority take actions that reveal their detachment from the concerns—even from the essential nature—of their fellow citizens. And it makes those citizens feel powerless.

Inner pessimism and powerlessness: That is a dangerous combination.

This administration, since taking office, has been & remains tone-deaf. (Me, my children & my g'children are going to have to pay for these bailouts.)

Today Tom Rich's column in The New York Times about Obama and the Democrats entitled "How to Lose an Election Without Really Trying" notes in part:

Repeated boasts of a resurgent auto industry (where the work force is 30 percent smaller than prerecession) won’t persuade anyone, and neither will repeated assurances that legislation passed months ago will kick in over the long haul. Some 16.5 percent of America’s workers are now either unemployed and trying to find a job, involuntarily working part time, or have stopped looking for work altogether. That figure doesn’t even include the many Americans who’ve had to settle for jobs for which they are overqualified.

[The Democrats] are doomed to fall short if they don’t address the cancer in the American heart — joblessness. This requires stunning emergency action right now, August recess be damned. Instead we get the Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, offering the thin statistical gruel that job growth has returned “at an earlier stage of this recovery than in the last two recoveries.”

The tragically tone-deaf Geithner is on his latest happy-days-are-almost-here-again tour.


The Washington Post has an article about Virginia's largely rural 5th Congressional District as being a good place to see what Democrats across the country are up against in 2010. It notes in part:

The crowds that have been showing up for Democratic Rep. Tom Perriello's town halls have been smaller and more polite than the angry throngs he saw during last August's raucous congressional recess.

Catcalls about socialism and death panels have given way to substantive and pointed questions -- about the intricacies of the new health-care law and financial regulations, finding alternative energy sources, and that most perennial of Virginia problems, traffic.

Most of all, people want to talk about the economy.

With polls consistently showing that dissatisfaction with Washington is at or near record levels, another word for what voters are feeling right now might be "frustration," or "despair," or "disgust." Ask Donald Burroughs which best describes his feeling about elected officials these days and he says, "All of it."

"They bail out these lending institutions. They bail out those auto manufacturers," he said. "Where's my bailout? Me and my children and my grandchildren are going to have to pay for these bailouts."

"People are really smart," said Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg. "They know the economic collapse happened before Obama. They hold lots of people responsible, and they're realistic enough to know you can't change things overnight. People are more angry at Washington being broken, and the wrong people being helped."

Peter Hart, another Democratic pollster, agreed. "All they see is they're being left out of the process," he said.

Strategists in both parties know that once the campaign season enters its final stretch on Labor Day, it will be difficult to change the course of the election. So Democratic House leaders sent their members home for August with pocket cards of talking points headlined "WE CAN'T GO BACK" and a list of weekly messages to push.

"We want the power of all of our voices to convey these messages, so we ask you to plan public events and media interactions in your district around weekly themes -- if they work for you," the leaders wrote in a memo to their troops.

Last week was "Make It in America" week, to be followed by "Protecting Social Security Week," "Consumer Protection Week," "Small Business Week" and "Troops & Veterans Week." The week of Sept. 6 will bring a reprise of "Make It in America" week.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac losing political support as U.S. reshapes housing finance system

From The Washington Post:

For several decades, whenever a question of housing policy came up in Washington, two companies dominated. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac marshaled armies of lobbyists, deep political connections and millions of dollars in contributions to get their way.

But now Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, titans of the mortgage finance industry, are wards of the state, bailed out by Washington to the tune of $160 billion and banned from political activity. As the Obama administration and Congress prepare to take up overhauling the $12 trillion U.S. mortgage market, new interests are shaping the debate like never before.

Among those influencing many Democrats are affordable housing advocates and liberal think tanks that want the government to do less to foster homeownership and more to support rental housing for low-income people. Those influencing Republicans favor sharply reducing all federal support for housing.

Friday, August 06, 2010

The thought occurs to me (& I don't have a dog in this fight): Is Mike Huckabee's endorsement of Deal mostly a pro-Deal or an anti-Palin (2012) move?

From The Savannah Morning News:

University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock said Huckabee can help Deal, but not nearly as much as Palin helps Handel.

"No one else in the GOP has her cache," Bullock said. "How much Huckabee helps depends on how well Deal gets the word out."