Sunday, November 27, 2011
++David Frum, writing for the National Post in Canada, said that there are only two candidates worth supporting in the Republican race--Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman. The rest of the article is devoted to what a hash Newt made of his House speakership and how he is notoriously disorganized. Frum puzzled me with his assertion that Romney had the expansive worldview needed for a President and knew all about the national debt and how the European crisis will impact us. I have no idea what he's talking about since none of that has come through in the last 11--count them 11--debates.
++Up with Chris Hayes blasted CNN for allowing David Addington to ask questions at the Republican Foreign Policy debate. Hayes is right of course but it gets difficult to make the case anymore if none of the advocates for torture were ever prosecuted or legally sanctioned. I am afraid I agree with George Washington's Jonathan Turley, who slammed the Obama Administration for not pursuing the case against the torture lawyers. The problem is that the torture issue now becomes less a matter of illegality and crimes against humanity than a difference of political opinion. If a Republican is elected in 2012, then torture would be restored if we go by the statements of the candidates.
++Paul Krugman writes today in the New York Times a sort of defense of President Obama and an argument why liberals should not abandon him. Krugman cites his differences with President Obama--the size of the stimulus package and underestimating how long the United States would take to recover from the Great Recession.
++The Recall Scott Walker campaign has passed the half-way mark for signatures. The Walker counter-attack are strange ads chastising voters for spending money on these silly recall campaigns.
++The pink panty sherriff in Arizona, Mr. anti-immigrant, has endorsed Rick Perry. I guess this is meant to counter Perry's loss of support from conservatives for his position on in-state tuition for the children of undocumented immigrants.
++The conservative website Red State has posted two articles about why Mitt Romney is unelectable. The interesting take of this is that it is not because of his fli-flopping but because of his association with Bain Capital. The idea is that Occupy Wall Street has changed the debate in the country and that Romney is the poster-child of the 1% and also the abuses of the recent past practices on Wall Street. They suggested the Obama campaign should just run the ads Ted Kennedy did against Romney during their Senate campaign.
Off to work. More Later.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Abraham Lincoln is seen positively by 91% of Americans compared to only 2% with an unfavorable rating.
Jesus Christ has a 90% favorable rating with only 3% seeing him in an unfavorable light. With Republicans, Jesus is at a 96 to 0 spread, the first in PPP polling of any sort.
The highest rating was for --yourself. Americans were asked whether they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of themselves. 93% gave themselves positive and only 1% negative.
George Washington ranks at 86% with 3% unfavorable. But African-Americans only ranked him at 64% favorable because he was a slave-holder.
Mother Teresa, not withstanding Christopher Hitchens' reservations, has a 83 to 5 spread.
74% rate Martin Luther King Jr. favorably with a 10% unfavorably rating. He's 95% favorable and 3% not among African-Americans. Only 69% to 11% among whites.
67% rate positively Santa Claus with 13% negatively. Among Republicans, Santa gets 75% against 61% for Democrats.
Mohatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela both have a 64% favorability rating but with 26-27% of voters not knowing who they are. 78% of Democrats give Mandela high favorably ratings compared to 46% for Republicans.
62% of Americans see Steve Jobs favorably with just 10% negative. PPP found that Steve Jobs was the least polarizing figure along party lines--62% for Democrats and 61% of Republicans and Independents.
++The Republican foreign policy debate neglected to talk about the implications of Europe's economic crisis on the United States, the slowdown on the Chinese economy, anything remotely related to real issues in Latin America and the implications of the degradation of Al Qaeda by the Obama Administration. Instead, the general sense of the debate is that all the candidates, with the exception of Ron Paul, want to invade Iran or allow Israel to bomb the nuclear sites. Poor Jon Huntsman wanted to sound sensible and probably turned in his best performance. The canidates wanted to toughen the Patriotic Act, which has perpetually suspended key legal guarantees for Americans, and endorsed racial/religious profiling for terrorists, even though the latest Al Qaeda bomber was a Dominican. For reasons no one could understand Romney was worried about Hamas and Hezbollah in Latin America.
++But the only thing that got the press attention was Newt Gingrich claiming that as the party of the family, the GOP could not summarily deport people who have been in the United States illegally for 25 years and separate them from their family. This caused a flap among the conservatives, who now want to embrace the disgraced Speaker of the House as their non-Mitt. Immediately after the debate, Newt counted with a twitter that linked to candidate Romney in 2008 saying the same thing. Romney had claimed on stage he was against amnesty and that immigrants needed to wait in line. Later Romney was asked what would he do with illegals and he didn't have an answer except that he would not grant amnesty. By week's end, Newt said he was against amnesty and that he would have local communities decide on illegals with a structure resembling the World War II draft boards.
++One great moment was Mitt Romney saying,"My first name is Mitt." It isn't. It is Willard.
++The man who organized Mike Huckabee's 2008 campaign in 2008, Bob Vander Plaat's called for an emergency, private meeting of the religious right to agree to support one candidate to prevent Mitt Romney from becoming the nominee. They have narrowed it down to Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Vander Plaat's has forgiven Newt his serial adulteries and made him available for support. The idea is that the religious right has to be pragmatic and accept that some candidates' are flawed both personally and ideologically. The meeting was supposed to bet on the canidate who can last through the primaries against Romney.
++Sarah Palin seems inclined to back Newt Gingrich for the nomination. Rumors have it that Todd Palin favors the Newt and he has sway over his wife. But almost as if on cue, Sarah Palin fans are running ads for her in Iowa.
++An FYI--I've calculated the debt from all the Republican candidates and Paul Ryan and they run from $6 trillion to $11 more trillion over a ten year span. Now think about the House Republicans voting for the Balanced Budget Amendment, which didn't get the 60% vote. None of the Republican budget plans could meet the requirements of the Amendment. Yet all the House Republicans voted for the Ryan Plan. Paul Ryan had the good sense not to vote for the Balanced Budget Amendment. He said he didn't think it went far enough. But he knew his own plan violated it.
++It's that time of year when the punditocracy advocates a Third Party candidate. Gary Johnson , the libertarian Republican who was trying to run as the GOP candidate, says he is open to running on the libertarian ticket. Ed Koch wants Mayor Bloomberg to run but the mayor says the city has him tied up at the moment. In a replay of 2000, one should expect the Republicans to fund another Ralph Nader run. Despite arguments that a Third Party would appeal to Americans frustrated with our political system, the difficulties of a Third Party actually getting on ballots in 50 states is insurmontable.
++So what's a pundit to do? Well, if you are Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen, ersatz Democratic pollsters, you urge President Obama to step aside and let Hillary run. The profound reasoning of this is that Obama would win with slightly over 50% of the vote and therefore would not be effective in a second term. Now as I remember Bill Clinton never received 50% of the popular vote and no one suggested he step aside. Also, George W may or may not have won in 2000 but he still invaded Iraq and passed by one vote the tax cuts for the wealthy. The fake Hillary crowd are getting a bit old but Fox News, where Dough Schoen is resident pollster, loves it.
++Another tale being circulated is that President Obama failed in his leadershp because the Super Committee failed. What Beltway commentators don't tell you is that the Republicans told him to stay away and that Obama has offered on four different occasions grand bargains, which would have reduced the debt by $4+ trillion. As it is, he will have cut the debt this year $2.5 trillion. For an examination of how Obama did behave on debt issues and why the failure of leadership is nonsense, read Jon Chait's piece on New York magazine.
++The Rasmussen polls, which are good for gauging Republican sentiment, shows that Obama has a six point national lead over Mitt Romney. Truth in packaging this is the largest poll gap between the two men I've seen. But a deeper point is that Mitt still can't get above 23% among Republican pollsters. Even Nate the Great Silver says that this gap between Republican primary voters and the establishment will set political scientists back to the drawingboards to figure out how presidential candidates are chosen.
++Chris Cillia writing in the Washington Post attacks the notion that Obama is losing support among his base. He writes that Democratic pollsters are noting that Obama starts the election with 44% of the electorate solid for him, saying that solid a base is unheard of.
++Talking Points Memo has an excellent article on the Obama campaign's different strategies to reach 270 votes in the electoral college. Remember it is 270 that is the magic number, not 50%.
Monday, November 21, 2011
Let them be. We have seen in vivid color, mostly orange, the gratuitous and sadistic pepper spraying of non-violent demonstrators by police who now look like sci-fi versions of the military. The photos of the Lost and Found where the Wall Street Occupers' gear was stored showed dozens of laptops wantonly smashed and stomped upon by NYPD. Elderly women have been tear-gassed despite their non-violence.
Through it all the Occupy Movement has kept a good sense of humor, something which ultimately defeats an adversary. I especially loved the Batman Sign flashed on a skyscraper in New York and the Drum Circle created to beat 24/7 outside of Mayor Bloomberg's townhouse. When police banned tents in California the Occupy crowd floated them with balloons in their air. I could do without the Vendetta masks. But the human microphone technique used when New York prohibited electronic sound systems was ingenious. In Nashville there are having square dances.
The Occupy Movement took the notion of Tahir Square in Egypt and replicated it many times over and applied the idea to everything from parks to foreclosed homes to abandoned buildings. As the Digital Generation, they are clearly into horizontal organization and not about to create a hierarchy. Whether that type of new model can generate further precise political actions who knows. An older generation talks about fostering more lasting coalitions but I tend to disagree.
I think the Occupy Movement bears living witness to how screwed up our social priorities are and how the game is so rigged that by only standing outside of it can the full scale of the control of the 1% be realized. So far they have bamboozled the media and only infuriated the Right. Karl Rove is launching ad after ad at Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts as if she is to blame for any excesses by the Occupy people. Forbes to its credit wrote a piece decrying the police brutality and emphasizing the movement's inerently non-violent nature. Yes, grouplets like the Black Box tried to encourage the movement to engage in violence and how much of that was police infiltration?
I think they have shifted the political debate in this country. I know they terrify the Professional Right, which would like to replay the days of the 1960s counter-culture and claim that all the organizers are radical leftists. I received many e-mails suggesting that the CPSA, the Communist Party, was a major player. CPUSA hasn't been a major player since the late 1950s and even then it had dwindled in number. Then the funder has to be the Biggest Boogeyman, George Soros, a man in his mid-80s who could dream of such a thing. Then, of course, it was the fault of Barack Obama who will use these people violently if he doesn't win re-election. It's wonderful to see what people project on the Occupy Movement. And generating those reactions seems to be part of the point. No we don't care about any of that stuff. No,. we don't care whether Obama is re-elected or not. No, we don't care whether the media represents us accurately.
I don't necessary agree with this but I appreciate how it heightens their effectiveness. You could attribute Paul Ryan of Vouchercare fame's distribution of an accurate chart showing the distrubution of wealth in the country to their impact. The former staffers for John Boehner offered an $850,000 lobbying contract to help the banking industry discover who the leaders and funders of the movement are and how to develop techniques to tar any congress person who expresses sympathy for them. This lobbying firm expressed concerns that this movement would affect policy for decades to come and that they are having an effect on how people perceive the current situation.
Some of the reactions have been lulus. Newt Gingrich told an audience of the Christian Right that the Occupy Movement should get a job and take a bath first, like something out of Archie Bunker. In fact, Jesus freaks are joining the movement in California. And the best was Rudy Guiliani, whose views were made known in NewsMax . Speaking in China--yes, China, Rudy told the audience he would have broken the Occupy Wall Street crowd up in one day. Rudy was speaking in a country which only days before admitted they have killed protestors at Tinnamen Square at a new rally. Rudy told his audience that this people are not America and that they shouldn't influence them about the United States.
My reaction was that the most negative impressions of America now come from the republican dominated House which condemns the President of the United States on a daily basis. That is feeding the enemies of the country and portraying us as weak, not the Occupy Movement.
I am amused at all the talk about what do they want? I mean who could they petition about their blanket indictment of the current economic scene? What kind of regress do people suggest? Isn't that the point of this--that the whole situation is so muddled and confused and frustrating that there is no Congress or President who can make this right?
The Professional Right are outraged that Occupy is focusing on the banks, wall street and the very wealthy and not their favorite target--the Government. Occupy doesn't have that antagonism against government and in fact thinks government should prevent the abuses of the banks and the Wall Street institutions. This runs counter to the Tea Bag frame, which has dominated our public discussion since the 2010 elections.
Yesterday Peggy Noonan wrote a column in the Wall Street Journal, which didn't make sense but she discussed how Republicans were always aware of the abuses of government power and that's why they resisted anything President Obama proposes. But Occupy has turned that on its head and demonstrated that freedom can just as easily be threatened by private sector abuse, which has long-standing social consequences.
I enjoyed Occupy because I always tell democratic movements abroad to "occupy" any spaces in the political system, where the governing authority is not. I love that this is taken literally. The other aspect is my personal belief that our society can only advance through energy, human energy that comes behind an idea. We saw President Obama's 2008 campaign and how it energized people about the possibility of a better tomorrow. The Tea Party was a negative energy, an energy of reaction that had no flow. Occupy has flow and has moved the debate forward even if that was not their intention.
I also think Occupy has some unintended consequences for the participants. By establishing informal relationships a generation has created links that generate a whole lot of possibilities. We have already seen books and music as well as emphasis on projects in abandoned urban wildernesses like Detroit. Participants have a menu to choose from. They don't have to be all into high finance and the abuse by banks but other relevant issues that basically are ignored now by my generation.
My peers have trouble with a Movement that just is. Does one have any expectations? Does it succeed or fail? No one expected it at the beginning so why do we project our own frames on it? If it disappeared tomorrow, it would have articulated what millions of Americans have been thinking quietly for a few years. If it moves on, I am sure it will take many local and national forms which no of us expect. Have at it, guys.
The criticism of Occupy ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous. Baby Boomers weigh in with sage advice, although our successes are negligible in my mind. But when it comes to crime, drug overdoses,disease, sanitation, and rumors of rape and murder, let's keep a perspective. In its totality, Occupy may at any given moment consist of a medium to large American city. Even if all the rumors were true--and they are not--Occupy has a better record of behavior than the medium sized city does over the same period of time.
While my teabagger friends brag how well-behaved and disciplined they were, they never enacted such a sustained national effort for two months out of doors and away from the conveniences of their own homes in bad weather facing local police forces that have over-reacted.
To me Occupy is a considerable achievement in terms of political organization. Clearly, it has inspired thousands of other actions throughout Europe, for instance. One Baby Boomer likened it to the revolutions of 1968 through Central Europe, France, Italy and elsewhere. I don't think it fits into that frame but the point is taken. It will be studied, analyzed and perhaps give way to new forms of political mobilization in the United States.
And to all my readers, have a Happy Thanksgiving. I am off to Occupy Cleveland.
++Yet that hasn't stop the cycle of the blame game. John Kerry and Pat Murray were first off the block on the Sunday talks shows. Mitt Romney blamed President Obama for not doing anything. Romney, whose credibility is being damaged every day, either doesn't know or refuses to recall that on this one the Republicans explicitly asked President Obama to stay away. John Boehner, who had been offered several grand bargains by the President before the creation of the Special Committee, took the opportunity to blame him anyway. Michael Gerson weighed in blaming President Obama and Robert Samuelson also piled on that for some reason the President had to do Congress' work. Marc Thiessen wrote that it was all so pathetic that the Committee couldn't even get the $1.5 trillion by law, let alone a grand bargain.
++Ezra Kelin and others reminded everyone that President Obama already agreed to $2.8 billion in cuts and that the real problem with the Supercommittee failing was that there were two components that would stimulate the economy in the package, which would add 1.5% to the GDP. Without these added components and Europe plunging into recession this would increase the possibility of a double dip recession. That's why, according to Klein, the market plunged today.
++No one knows whether this will lead to a further downgrading in the country's credit rating but the last one didn't effect the purchases of bonds.
++Mitt Romney has tried to finesse his way out of the report that his staff took all the hard drives when he left the governor's mansion in Massachusetts by blaming the current governor, who is a supporter of Barack Obama, as trying to smear him. But today he told a nespaper in New Hampshire that he made sure that any political opposition--he was running for the GOP nomination even then--would not be able to use them against him. Seems reasonable but it is also illegal.
++What's interesting about Romney now is that he is running for President solely on his employment record at Bain Capital and not on his public political record. The December edition of the Atlantic has an article "Can Romney Inc. Run America? The article analyzes what Mitt Romney did there and concludes that contrary to his self-promotion as a businessman, he really was a glorified consultant. The article then analyzes whether these consultants actually make good businessmen--sometimes yes and sometimes no. Then it asks whether such a person really could run something as large as the United States Government. Several of the things that Romney promises to do immediately simply can not be done--like repeal Dodd-Franks, repeal Obama's Healthcare Act and put China on the Treasury List for manipulating their currency. And since he can't do these things, then why would anyone believe anything else he says?
++Two articles today, one in the Washington Times and another in Politico finally raised the issue this blog has mentioned from time to time. The GOP contest is not likely to be a quick Knockout for the simple reason that the rules have changed and the way delegates are divided up in a proportional manner simply delays the day any candidate will achieve the winning number of delegates.
++The blog Reaction writes that it is by no means a certainty that Mitt Romney will win this thing. While almost all insiders say it is Romney's for the taking,Reaction points out that Newt now is statistically tied with Romney in New Hampshire, the absolute must win state for Romney. If Romney can't win convincingly in the state, then he immediately faces South Carolina and Florida where the Republican base is more conservative and religiously based.
++In the race against President Obama, Mitt Romney is ahead beyond the margin of error in Michigan. Remember he openly advocated the auto industry go bankrupt. But his father was a very popular governor of the state and he grew up there. But there is something else here. I read on occasion at the Dailykos a blogger named the Muskogen Critic, who occasionally reports on the return of manufacturing to the Midwest. His recent post talked about two new solar battery plants opening in Michigan , two wind energy plants and a new car plant. These are the result of President Obama and the previous Democratic governor's policies. But they are being heralded by Governor Snyder, the conservative Republican and backer of Romney. So Romney's position in Michigan may not be a mistake because when it comes to President Obama no good deed goes unpunished.
++David Frum, George W's former speechwriter, asks why have the Republicans gone mad in the new New York Magazine.
++Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Dish decides to talk about why the Republicans are at fault on the debt deal and why he's backing President Obama for a second term.
++ On the debt deal, the Republicans are scrambling in the Senate to prevent the cuts in the defense budget, which they proposed as their triggers. Some wiseacres are commenting that they aren't serious about the debt anyway. It's nice to know that today is the tenth anniversary of Dick Cheney saying "Deficits Don't Matter".
++Who would have thought that a tax break that passed the Senate by one vote, the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy would actually become the burning issue of the 2012 campaign? As Ezra Klein points out, if they did expire the debt would improve by over $7 trillion.
Now Patti Smith returns with Woolgathering, a memoir of her early childhood and days at cafes in Greenwich Village. First written as a 3X4 book for Hanuman Books twenty years ago, she expanded its journal-like entries for this edition. She says that everything in the book is true and hopes that "in some measure it will fill the reader with a vague and curious joy." And it does. She describes memories of her days in rural southern New Jersey trapsing about the woods with her dog and days of creative dreaming as a child.
Only 76 pages, it is a rich delight. Let me quote from the Note to the reader:
"In 1991 I lived on the outskirts of Detroit with my husband and two children in an old stone house set by a canal that emptied into Lake Saint Clair. Ivy and morning glory climbed the deteriorating walls. A profusion of grapevines and wild roses draped the balcony, where doves nested in their tangles. ..Our unruly patch boasted an abundance of wildflowers, lilacs, two ancient willows, and a single pear tree...I would sit for hours, when my chores were done and the children at school,beneath the willows, lost in thought. That was the atmosphere of my life as I began to compose Woolgathering."
It is really worth a read.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
At best, President Obama will end his first term restoring the old economy in a solid, but tattered form. Our GDP has returned to what it was before the Recession and we are still, while no one will say it, the richest country on earth, even with our debt. Are there systemic problems, sure. How do you return to the previous level of wealth, yet have 9% unemployed and the continued tragedies of the housing market? In part the Occupy Wall Street Movement is a reaction to the very visible and obvious problems of our economic system.
Yet, there are other indicators that keep creeping into the picture that contradict the negativity of pundits and the whole Washington crowd. All I have been hearing for the last three years are the woes and cries of the wealthy, who have actually gained approximately 45% in their net worth from the day Obama took office. I understand the deep insecurities of the wealthy as the Pew poll indicated, but problems of self esteem are different from the needs of every day life. I agree it must be sorry when you have terrible taste in art and fashion and architecture and have to hire people to tell you about taste. But ,puh-leese, let's talk about the country at large for a minute.
The DOJ is negotiating with Americans a tax holiday for the repatriation of their overseas profits. I don't particularly like it but there is some reason to think that corporations are beginning to re-shore their operations after nearly twenty years of investing overseas. While the evidence is still anecdotal, corporations are saying that the raise in wages in China and other places and the transportation costs now make the United States more inviting. Despite the propaganda Mitt Romney and other Republicans spew, the IMF has found the United States the third most business-friendly country from a tax point of view. I grant you we should eliminate the loopholes and flatten the tax but major corporations in large part do not pay federal taxes.
The figures for our manufacturing continue to improve, bringing us up to the 1992 levels before the rapid slide through the 2000s. American worker productivity continues to rise and compare favorably with other developed countries. In fact, European companies with operations in the States worry about American's obsessive work habits and refusal to take time off. In part, I would suggest this is from fear of being laid off as American companies did in the past decade.
Evans-Pritchard wrote the article in the Daily Telegraph I quoted saying that the United States would be energy self-sufficient in five years. I talked to my friends in the oil industry in Texas and they thought it would be shorter than that. They briefed me on all the new finds around the country and said that the Tar Sands from Canada would be icing on the cake. Basically, by the end of Obama's first-term, we will be at 80%.
Which brings me to our Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who spent his week being grilled by Republicans over the Solyandra deal. When we are energy efficient, thank this man, who has hastened the development of both alternative energy and carbon-based energy sources. Today, in the United States there are more working rigs for oil and natural gas than at any time since people counted. We are now the number 1 producer of natural gas in the world. At the same time, Secretary Chu and President Obama have hastened the development of cost-efficient solar energy and escalated wind power plants. For example, Iowa now gets 25% of its energy from wind. And you can see this throughout the country if you travel by road.
Energy Secretary Chu has also been at the vanguard of real "clean" coal, a process that he began in partnership with China. As someone once quipped, we are the saudi Arabia of coal--and wind, and solar. Google has heavily invested in geothermal exploration, which will take about 15 years to totally come on line.
What we have is a mix of old energy sources,revamped old energy sources and alternative sources that will all be working together in a short time frame. This isn't the dreams of an old writer for Omni magazine. They are here.
President Obama's effort to save the auto industry has many beneficial off-shoots in terms of American manufacturing. During the last administration, there were initial experiments to revive our steel-making capacity. These were modestly successful and now might get a lift from the increase demand for cars from Detroit.
President Obama likes to emphasize that the United States has the best universities and colleges in the world and continues to attract great talent ,which oftens stays here. I have doubts about his educational reform projects but am inclined to support his massive effort to support community colleges and re-training of workers. If we don't cripple our educational system by all these cuts mandated by state governments, we can actually meet the challenges of the future.
Once upon a time, both parties believed that immigrants were good for this country. The momentary rash of nativism will have to give way to a more reasonable form of immigration reform. States such as Alabama and Georgia have lost hundreds of millions of dollars because their draconian laws hurt the agricultural sector.
As I have written many times, there is nothing wrong with Social Security that can't be fixed with a tweak. The problem we face is the constant rising cost of healthcare--both to the individual but also to the government. We are simply paying too much of our current GDP for healthcare compared to other developing countries.
The other problem we face is the desparate need to modernize our infrastructure so that it meets the requirements of the 21st Century. That's why I support the idea of the infrastrucrture bank, which also would attract foreign capital.
I also do not believe the GOP's strategy of suffocating the economy until everyone screams is going to pay off. It may politically for their short term interests this coming year. But there is too much pent up demand with American corporations sitting on $2 trillion. I think Warren Buffett got this right--he's investing heavily right now because he knows we are about to take off.
That's also why the Republicans are scrambling to win the White House because they know once the recovery starts roaring in 2014, they can claim credit and cruise for awhile.
So I don't really have much concern about China. I am not so sure they will equal our economy in the time frame people predict. Every Chinese worker supports 4 or 5 other members of their family and China has not experienced the pressures to stabilize a growing middle class. their own debt problem is enormous and the environment issues are catastrophic. And they are set for a recession.
With our energy independence, we can begin to ween ourselves away from the Middle East and engage that region in more creative ways than just military force.
The real issue for me is what kind of society do we want to become. The old economy is not viable for the long-term. That is the Finance, Insurance, Real Estate --FIRE economy. The proponents of the Service Economy have vanished. We will have a strong mix of everything. So what do we want for each other? What do we really believe is the common good?
We can make bad decisions. I see the prospects of that every day. People running to capture some mythical past. If we make the wrong decisions, then we open America up for the Final Looting. But the foundation is being laid for the continuation of a vibrant ,prosperous society. But we have to recover from the hangover of the past 10 years.
++While Mitt Romney is campaigning on being tough on China, President Obama quietly planted a flag in the region which China isn't ignoring. An observer called Obama's moves in Asia "cold and clever" as he said, "We're here to stay. This is a region of huge strategic importance to us."
++Besides nailing the largest aircraft sale for Boeing from Indonesia and negotiating a Pacific Free Trade Agreement, President Obama chilled the Chinese heart by saying,"And it's appropriate then for us to make sure that not only our alliance but security architecture of the region is updated for the 21st Century, and this initiative is going to allow us to do that."
++Meanwhile Hillary Clinton signed a new military pact with the Phillippines to bolster our naval forces, not something China who is bwent on creating a blue water navy wants to see.
++While in the region, the Secretary of State visited Burma in the first visit of a Secretary of State in 50 years and a sign that the United States is supporting the first signs of the country opening.
++The President was the first American President to actually attend the meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations. Afterwards he had a private meeting with the Chinese leader.
++Apparently not one for declinism, President Obama said, " The economy in this area is going to be the engine for world economic growth for some time to come. The lines of commerce and trade are constantly expanding."
++In his weekend video address to the nation, President Obama stressed how his policies will double American exports by the year 2014 and he said we are on the way to achieving that goal. In fact, one of the few signs our economy is recovering is the slow expansion of manufacturing and last month's export figures, which are the highest in history.
++Meanwhile back in the States, the special debt commission looks like it will surrender tomorrow. Ezra Klein writes in the Washington Post how this is a great thing because if the Bush tax cuts expire and a whole lot of things expire then it cuts the deficit by $7.1 trillion. Of course, it might actually lead to a down-grading of our credit rating. But since Standards and Poors' jumped the gun on France, they aren't too credible.
++President Obama issued his Thanksgiving proclamation and it will infuriate conservatives. Isn't it great to have a President whose ancestors were actually at the first Thanksgiving? Obama's mistake was that he opens by mentioning the Indian tribes involved and how the Indians taught the Pilgrims how to survive in their bleak colony and how they invited the Pilgrims to the first Thanksgiving. The Christian Rght's view of our Pilgrims is that they were the new Israelites who came to the promised land and vanquished their enemies--who naturally were Indian tribes.
++ While the President was gallivanting in Asia, Newt Gingrich told Iowa audiences that the Left was attempting to "drive out of existence" traditional religions. Like my previous post, he pin-points this campaign to the mid-1960s, the end of Newt's golden era. He claims that the Left is imposing intolerance for those who hold traditional values--like fidelity in marriage. This is a popular line among the social conservatives but it runs right into reality. There are over 1,500 Christian radio stations operating 24/7 in the States, even more than right-wing political shows. The vast majority of them are fundamentalist. Religious institutions now receive hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government for everything from health care to anti-drug programs. And the Catholic Church through their Bishops is now trying to stop birth control being covered by health insurance plans. But newt says this attempt is a "moral threat to our civilization".
++Willard Romney finds himself tied with Newt in New Hampshire. If he loses there, he is toast. Willard is having a tough time explaining how all his staff bought their hard drives when he was governor for $60 and managed to take all the records of his time as governor with him. He blames Governor Deval as being an instrument of Obama to smear him. Mitt is getting testy. He was purposely excluded from the social conservative debate because the Religious Right wants a Christian.
++Herman Cain is still cooking. He says that if the Supreme Court rules against DOMA--the Defense of Marriage Act. He will over-rule it as President. Interesting idea but one shared by Newt Gingrich that he would ignore all Supreme Court rulings he disagrees with.
++Republican Senators are raising issues about whether Elaine Kagan should recuse herself from the health care bill because she cheered its passing. No mention was made of Tony Scalia and Clarence Thomas attending as guest of honor a dinner paid for by the lawyers arguing against the healthcare bill. Surprisingly, I heard Judge Stevens say that this doesn't matter.
++The United States is imposing more economic sanctions on Iran for the disclosure that it is working to developing nuclear weapons. These sanctions will be aimed at certain sections of their oil industry, particularly investment.
++An Hispanic man plotted to kill President Obama because he thought Obama was the anti-Christ. The right-wing news media tried to link him to the Occupy Wall Street movement because D.C. police searched their encampment. But alas he has no such relationship but you will never know it. Now Andrew Breibart is circulating a report that someone at Occupy San Diego requested a minute for silence for the arrested man. But how does that jibe with the assertions that President Obama is behind OWS.
++OWS or the 99 Movement has positively freaked out Washington. Even Paul Ryan this week produced a chart showing the increasing inequitity in wealth distribution in the country. Chris Hayes on his new show disclosed a memo from John Boehner's lobbying friends how to combat OWS because they fear an alliance with the tea party and that would affect policy for decades to come. For just $860,000 you can get their services. They will outline who the OWS leaders are and where they get their funding and suggest it is that Devil George Soros. When the OWS has leaders maybe they should just tell them.
++Newt suggested the OWS crowd get a job but take a bath first. For conservatives, the OWS is just another 60-style movement peopled by hippies and dope smokers. But Mayor Bloomberg, who is turning green at the gills, protests that the unions have coopted it. Bloomberg thought by cracking down on Zuccotti Park he would have ended the problem. Instead all the protestors marched up 5th Avenue en masse, took over the Brooklyn Bridge and surrounded the New York Stock Exchange. The most fun news is that OWS is creating a Drum Circle around Bloomberg's town house.
++Even Forbes magazine printed an article decrying the ham-fisted tactics of the police all over the country. The demonstrations have now moved to campuses because of the random pepper-spraying of students at the University of California. In D.C. , the Occupy movement has taken over abandoned buildings in protest of the lack of facilities of the homeless.
++Congress was spooked by the 60 Minutes piece on insider-trading by members of Congress. Members of Congress use information not available to the public in making stock trades. After the show, even Senator Brown of Massachusetts introduced a law to prohibit this by both members and staff. It is interesting to observe that a similar bill has been introduced every Congress since the 1990s and never gotten more than a handful of sponsors. Now it is generating considerable bipartisan support.
++He may be Mayor of Chicago but Rahm Emmanuel is hitting the huskings for President Obama's re-election. He gave a barn-burner of a speech to Iowa democrats at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner. He spent hs time contrasting the character and steadiness of President Obama to Romney's lack of consistency but his staunch defense of the wealthy. Emmanuel actually surprised me in the speech when he mentioned his work with President Clinton and reminded the audience that there had been no Republican votes for Clinton's economic plans that generated the boom in the 1990s. If you have a chance, try to google it. It was a powerful speech when few people in the Democratic party are staying on message.
++I had to sit through several speeches condemning President Obama on his policy on Syria and Iran yesterday. It seems Republicans--all of these served with W--can't get over the line "leading from behind". They even attacked Obama over Libya, say that he's not the President to deal with Syria and that he has totally failed with Iran. You would think these people might give it a rest. Except for attacking Iran, Obama has actually done what all these people have been saying. In fact Obama did it a year ahead of when these people suggested it. David Ignatius, writing in the Washington Post, suggested that for some reason Republicans have a tough time understanding that covert action means just that--covert, hidden, not seen. One of the speakers attacked President Obama for ending the war in Iraq. What did Rumsfeld say about dead-enders?
++ We can expect next week that the blame game will begin on the debt talks. As Kurt Vonnegut said, "So it Goes".
As I've written before, American exceptionalism was a concept brought to you by Karl Marx. Karl Marx raised the question before the Socialist International in the mid-19th century why America had no powrful tradition of socialism. The question was not abut whether we were better than other countries or not. But why after the European Revolutions in 1848, America seemed pretty immune.
American exceptionalism became a doctrine with Ronald Reagan who described America as " a City on the Hill". And it became theologized by George W. Bush, who said America " was chosen by God and commissioned by history to be a model to the world." I even heard Howard Dean yesterday talk about ways in which America was exceptional because of its founding documents. So the idea is bipartisan.
Charles Blow in Saturday's "New York Times" wrote an op-ed titled "Decline of American Exceptionalism". Blow bases his column on the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project, which asked Americans if they agreed that ,even though we aren't perfect, ur culture is superior. Only 49% agreed. This was down from the 60% registered in 2002, the first time the question was asked.
What is so interesting about the study is the gap between those 50 and older and the younger generation. 60% of those over 50 believe America is superior, while only 37% of young people. What Blow points out is that our young people are less enthusiastic than their counterparts in Germany, Spain,and Britain. The exception is France.
What I found interesting in the multi-national study is that people withouit college degrees here and in Europe feel their cultures are superior at a far greater rate than those with college degrees. This might explain the natural appeal to nationalism by politicians trying to get the vote of the uneducated.
Another interesting fact is that Germany has roughly higher scores on saying they are superior to the United States. And these scores reveal very little slippage between generational groups. However, their college educated population rates Germany superior only with 25%.
Blow cites other polls about the pessimism of Americans. A Time Magazine/SRBI poll conducted last month showed that 71% of Americans believed that our position in the world has been on the decline for the last few years. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll this month believe that the United States has started a longer-term decline where the U.S. is no longer the leading country in the world."
The conclusion by Blow is that we have to invest in the country in order to maintain its greatness and bring it back from decline. It's a nice pep talk and I agree with his points. But it seems to me that we have to re-think our own role in the world as other countries economically develop. There is a ruinous nostalgia for a unipolar world, which only happened for a few short years. But you will not hear that in this year's elections. Instead, you will hear alot of rhetoric about restoring our power in the world.
So what age of America does the Right prefer? Yesterday's Thanksgiving Family Forum for all the GOP candidates that were Christian was all doom and gloom. Newt Gingrich blamed all--yes, all--of problems on secularism. I tried to figure out when America was not secular. In fact, I guess we concede the Middle Ages as non-secular. But from Newt's description, the day we became secular was in 1963 when the Supreme Court ruled against prayer in school. If we walk back to when "In God We Trust" was made the motto of the United States by Eisenhower. This means Newt's golden age was the Eisenhower' era from about 1954-1963.
This seems fair enough. This would be the time when Baby Boomers were young. Newt's view is also held by Hillary Clinton who during the campaign often referred to this period for other more economic reasons. Others can choose this period because it is the only period in the life of a Baby Boomer that the United States was not in a shooting war.
Yesterday I received an e-mail pretending to be a profound piece of political thought that blamed all of America's woes on "progressives" even Joe McCarthy's excesses. The writer is a "conservative" Republican so he skated over Theodore Roosevelt and put the blame for our woes on Woodrow Wilson, who used the powers of the goverment to jail thousands of dissidents. What the author didn't mention was who these dissidents were--labor organizers, conscientious objectors to World War I, Communists, anarchists, socialists like Eugene V. Debs and Norman Thomas. This might have colored the readers' interpretation of the Palmer Period when the United States had its first Red Scare. The writer also mentions a very, very obscure official in the FDR administration who hung a photo of Mussolini on his wall. As for Joe McCarthy, he grew up and was a politician in Wisconsin which has a progressive tradition so his excesses are treated as symptoms of the influence his environment had over him.
Since this article is being widely circulated, what is the ideal age for this. From what I can interpret, the real Golden Age of America was the Gilded Age of the 1890s, which the progressive movement was a reaction to. You can hear this is the words about "wealth creators", "producers" and "job creators" we hear today in conservative rhetoric. Karl Rove modelled his career after Boss Hanna of this period.
But if this is true why don't these people protest our FIRE economy--Finance, Insurance and Real Estate. Whatever you say about the robber barrons, they were industrialists, manufacturers, people who built railroads. In other words, they actually invested in infrastructure, which the Right now oppose.
Then we get to the Tea Party Nation. No one has mentioned that the teabaggers ideal--anything before Barack Obama, of course--was America before it had a constitution. The Founders are worshipped for their role in the American Revolution, not for their role in creating a system of government. The implications of this are in Rick Perry's ideas which chronically fly in the face of the established constitution. The same applies to the bizarre resurgence of secessionism as an ideal. Remember John Winthrop's sermon about America as a "City on the Hill" was about America pre-constitution and pre-Revolution. It was a sermon addressed to a Pilgrim theocracy, which is the ideal of the faux Christian Right.
Grover Norquist's ideal is a libertarian one, as Jack Abramoff's book makes clear. For Grover, the ideal America would be the one without income taxes. So this means it would be pre-Abraham Lincoln, who instituted the income tax to pay for the Civil War. It would be an America where only property owners could vote and slavery would exist.
My response these days to these e-mails is believe whatever makes you happy, feel secure and superior to anyone else. It seems to come down to I got mine, you can't have anything.
What I found interesting in yesterday's debate was that someone actually asked New Gingrich what his idea of the common good was. A writer said that Gingrich, now a Catholic, had to be aware of Catholic doctrines about the common good and social justice. But Newt deftly tossed the question aside to discuss the Founders view of liberty, which indeed did not include hedonism as Newt said. But he left this giant question--the question that haunts conservatives--hanging.
When I was growing up the hero of the conservatives was Whittaker Chambers, the book editor at Time Magazine. Chambers argued that the United States had already lost the Cold War and Western civilization was lost. People like David Horowitz still say we lost the Cold War.
I just wish the Right would have a meeting to agree on their ideal age in America. This has gotten too confusing.
Friday, November 18, 2011
++The Newt is in a tie with Willard in New Hampshire. The teabaggers like Newt and New Hampshire voters enjoy Newt beating up on the media. If Romney should lose New Hampshire, where he once had a commanding lead with a large percentage, his campaign is toast.
++Ron Paul is climbing in Iowa as is Newt. But observers note that the Love Revolution tends to attract committed followers, who can brave snow and sleet to vote for their man. A Ron Paul victory in Iowa would cap off his quixotic career.
++Rick Perry has been grasping for new hooks to get back in the race. First, he challenged Nancy Pelosi to a debate on his plans to change Washington. When that failed, he tried to go all birther and start bad-mouthing President Obama for not having worked for anything. Maybe, it's all because Perry's fund-raising has dried up. This quarter he is barely breaking $5 million, one-third the amount of the previous quarter.
++Michelle Bachmann said she met a 7ft tall doctor who told her that Medicare would be rationed under Obamacare. She told Fox News that so far she hasn't made any gaffes.
++The House is going to vote for the first time since 1995 on a Balanced Budget Amendment. A veteran economist from the Reagan and Bush administrations, Bruce Barlett called this the worst of worst ideas. David Dreier, California Republican, spoke out against the amendment on the House floor. Economists say that if this were ever adopted you would have an immediately doubling of unemployment and that's the good thing.
++Yesterday the House voted to make Pizza a vegetable. Let's just leave it right there.
++Speaker Boehner said that none of the savings from ending the Iraq war could be turned into any job-creating programs.
++But the Speaker thinks a bill for more drilling of oil would create jobs. I spoke with some Texas oil people today and they report that the whole oil and gas industry is having a problem now with a shortage of rigs because domestic exploration and production is booming. So I'm not sure whether the Tan Man understands this.
++We will probably end the year without any serious job bill being introduced in the House.
++Oh, wait, they did pass a tax credit for businesses who will hire Iraqi veterans.
++Right now Republican pollsters are reporting a 15 pt difference between Republicans and Democrats on enthusiasm for the 2012 elections. A 5pt difference is usually considered a wash. But such a difference if it continues would be bad news for the Democrats, who are looking to take back the House and retain the Presidency.
++Republicans expected to reverse the current Senate margin to 53-47 in their favor but party in-fighting at the state level has jeopardized many of what looked like certain gains. Democrats are talking like they will eeck out the Senate. But with Republican filibusters ,who could tell?
++The Special Committee has until Monday night to reach a deal on the debt. At that time, they have to submit it to the CBO for their scoring. But E.J. Dionne and others have argued that a failure would probably the best thing for debt reduction. The Bush tax cuts would expire and that alone would save $7 trillion over 10 years. Basically all that would be left on the table would be entitlement reform and that is an excellent topic for a political campaign. The Don't Do Anything school is picking up momentum. Even the defense hawks who are concerned about the $500 billion in defense cuts know that these will never happen. So people here are saying let it fail.
++Occupy Wall Street celebrated its two month anniversary last month with a protest at the New YorkStock exchange and a march up 5th Avenue. It's clear that Mayor Bloomberg is losing his cool as he said that the unions have now coopted the movement.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
And what is the Cuban for delicious? A blogger posted a comment how awful was Cain saying this as you could see all the food in his mouth on screen. She questioned whether any other candidate ever was caught like this.
Rick Perry challenged Nancy Pelosi to a debate. About what isn't clear. But Perry wants to get back in the race so he picked on the number one Democratic name for conservative fund-raising as his target. Perplexed Nancy Pelosi e-mailed the Perry campaign that she would be out of town campaigning on the dates mentioned.
Swinging and missing on this, Perry then decided to go after Obama again. This time Perry said that Obama has never had to work at anything in his life. I can only intuit that this is the latest version about the "community organizer", professor,etc. with a dollop of Obama was an affirmative action child as opposed to Willard Romney who was a white privileged child. I guess there are still people who love that type of attack on the President but he also raises issues about what Republicans believe is real work. Certainly community organizer isn't, certainly being a teacher isn't, and certainly being a writer isn't. Perry also added the old refrain which I receive every day in my e-mails that Obama is a Socialist.
Meanwhile the great Socialist is in Australia establishing a military base at Darwin as a counter presence to China's emerging power in that region. Michelle Bachmann, who really is on the Intelligence Committee of the House, expressed surprise and alarm about this development. I guess she thinks Obama is going to attack white people.
Meanwhile the failed trip of Obama to Indonesia last year apparently paid off. Boeing just signed their largest deal in history with the Indonesia Airlines. What should trouble people interested in foreign policy was the total absence in the Republican debate of this whole region, which is becoming the economic powerhouse of the world. Instead, I received an e-mail this morning complaining that Obama during the Asian Summit referred to Hawaii as being in Asia. Which I thought it was. The same conservative didn't mention the Pacific Free Trade Pact, which if W had negotiated it would have received cheers.
Newton Leroy McPherson appeared on Fox to refute allegations that he lobbied for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Well, not only did he do that but Think Progress printed the whole list of corporate interests Newt lobbied for --everything from ethanol to oil subsidies. Jack Abramoff in his return called Newt "corrupt" , even emphasizing it when the moderator suggested that was too strong a word.
Corrupt-maybe but Willard Romney was accused yesterday of being a liar by the man who wrote the Massachusetts health care law, the signature achievement of Romney's political career. He said that the Affordable Health Care Act of President Obama's was the "same f**king bill".
Willard attacked President Obama for not being transparent but then it was discovered that there are no records left in Massachusetts from Romney's days as Governor. Massachusetts has a law that protects such records but it seems all of Romney's staff bought their hard drives for $69 each when they left office. Amazingly all of them needed hard drives when they left.
The majority of GOP voters have confidence that Newt can handle nuclear weapons better than Willard.
Willard seems to have a big ceiling problem. The latest polls still show that even with the rise and fall of other canidates Willard still averages about 23%, which he has since he entered the race a year ago. A GOP polllster believes this is deceptive because Willard comes up about 20% as the second choice and he said if you throw this together with a few factors you could get Willard up to 45%.
Political pundits worry that the fact Republicans really, really don't want Romney will dampen the enthusiasm of the base. Look Newt is polling almost two to one against Romney in California. Frankly, I don't think that's a problem because their drive will be fuled by hate for Barack Obama, "The One", "The Magic Negro", the Socialist, the Kenyan Muslim. That will animate the Republican base. The hope is that the bland, inoffensive Romney will attract the mythical independent voter, who doesn't want to live another four years with Republican obstructionism of the Black Man.
By the way as we head to Thanksgiving, do you think the media will cover what Barack Obama's Pilgrim ancestor did at Plymouth Rock on Thanksgiving? Did you ever know his ancestor was a Pilgrim?
Now let's pause. You are a major political party in the United States and your demographic base formerly was the white senior citizens,the wealthy, the surbuban professional,military personnel and veterans,firefighters, the police , some white blue collar workers and a smidgin of Hispanics.
So the newly elected Republican governors in Wisconsin, Ohio,Florida and Pennsylvania and Maine make it a point to go after collective bargaining and cut the salaries of police and firefighters, while providing tax cuts for the very wealthy. You can include teachers in this because Republicans used to have a million teachers. So that part of your base is gone, maybe for good.
Your presidential candidates and the Republican governors in Arizona, Georgia, Alabama,South Carolina and elsewhere pass restructive immigration laws or support them in debates. Even with President Obama deporting record numbers of Hispanics, they still support him in the high 60s and many Republican Hispanic leaders have defected from the party. So right them off.
So the so-called suburban professional, which Bill Keller of the New York Times,is a potential base for Mitt Romney. Well,Romney and all the candidates as well as state Republicans and House Republicans have been vociferously and militantly against anything remoting resembling women's rights and reprodutice rights that you might have to write off half that sector. Now, you are proposing eliminating the mortgage deduction, which for many suburban professionals is their largest tax deduction and has allowed them to live in larger homes. OK, you for it.
The congressional Republicans are against Obama's job creation bill, which is supported by over 60% of the American people. So, you oppose infrastructure projects which your formerly blue collar workers support. Why do you think they will support you again? Even the Weekly Standard wrote a piece the other day how Republicans are losing the blue collar vote, which Reagan secured for them.
So now President Obama withdraws from Iraq, eliminates bin Laden, topple Qaddafi for $1 billion, and basically has proven to be much more effective on national security than George W. Bush. This is your core advantage--national security. But your candidates say that you can't have military actions against Iran because there are mountains, all of them have 5 separate positions on Libya,all of them want to stay forever in Iraq and Romney is itching for a conflict with China. As Ken Duberstein, Reagan's former Chief of Staff, said yesterday, the debates are now reality shows and at some point Republicans actually have to show they can govern. The national security card is slipping, sliding away from the Republicans.
So you are left with the white wealthy and senior citizens. Senior citizens Republicans momentarily took away from the Democrats with Medicare Part D. Senior citizens vote more regularly than any other group. So all Republican candidates except for Romney want to privatize Social Security, calling it a Ponzi scheme. Now almost all Republicans led by Paul Ryan want to privatize Medicare and replace it with vouchercare, which will bankrupt the last American not bankrupt. So, I would humbly suggest a slight drop-off in seniors voting for Republicans.
So we are left with the super wealthy--the middle-class went by-by. So here you have to gauge whether the wealthy are more interested in immediate tax relief after a decade of accumulation of greater wealthy or could they be more interested in voting for someone sane. At some point, even the wealthy who are concerned about the national debt have to ask themselves why are all the economic programs offered by the congressional Republicans and all Republican candidates going to vastly increase, not decrease the national debt. Not every wealthy person is ignorant of how a modern political economy works. But for now, you sort of keep the super wealthy.
Now we know how you keep away the people who are not your base. Voter suppression efforts in over a dozen states run by the new Republicans will suppress African-Americans, Hispanics, and students. The Wisconsin Voter ID law could prevent 400, 000 students from voting in the next presidential election. That would give Wisconsin to the Republicans. But something odd is happening in that Voter ID laws may actually be suppressing more senior citizens than thought.
So now you're waging war against your own base.
So Republicans are setting up a dynamic where they are left with Generation X Gordan Geckos as their core base.
You really have to be confident that the entire country despises President Obama so much and people actually believe the propaganda he is a socialist or you must know something the rest of us don't. We'll see.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
His 13 Keys to the White House predicts every winner and you can't go wrong. Basically, there are 13 Keys, which are phrased for true or false answers, that gauge the performance and strength of the incumbent presidential party. When five or fewer keys are "false" or turn against the party holding the White House, that party wins the presidential election. When six or more are false the challenging party wins.
Lichtman now says that the Democrats now have only three or four keys against them for 2012, two to three short of the fatal six. He claims that these keys give a better balance to predicting the election than those who have emphasized the economy has the single driver of the results.
The three keys Obama has lost are the Mandate key, with the 2010 mid-term results; the Incumbent Charisma/Hero key because he hasn't regained the magic of his campaign; and the Long-term Economy Key. He may lose the Short-Term Economy Key if there is a double-dip recession in 2012. But even with the loss of that key, he would still would have to lose two keys to lose.
He believes that the circumstances are unlikely to shift the verdict of the keys during the next 12 months. He believes the Republicans will not find their Ronald Reagan and a credible Third Party will not emerge. He believes a major disaster abroad seems unlikely. Here I am doubtful, but let's hope. And I don't know whether a Supreme Court ruling against Healthcare then negates the key on Policy Change.
Still sometimes it's good to remind yourself that the noise machine isn't the determining factor of the elections.
So today news breaks that Newt received $1.6 million from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for activities that translated into English would be considered lobbying. This is the same Newt who, while receiving their largesse, called for Congress to investigate all politicians recieving funds from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He called on President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Chris Dodd and Barney Frank to return the campaign donations from this troubled mortage lender.
While he is a Beltway outsider with parking privileges at the House, Newt said that this fee for advice on Congress showed he was an expert on the ways of Washington, which can--now--be considered a good thing for the presidential race.
Newt has always been modest. He blames the faltering beginnings of his campaign on the fact that standard consultants,all of whom fled the campaign because he was too busy selling books, didn't treat him like Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher, the two people he most resembles. Ross Douhout actually picks this up in referring to Newt as a "futuristic conservative" who think of the bigger picture beyond today's mundane realities. Ross does admit that Newt's messianic tendencies can be off-putting.
Dana Milbank, writing in the Washington Post, says the boomlet can't last long because the Newt out of office has taken positions on issues all over the place. He points to his meetings with Hillary Clinton on healthcare and his support for the individual mandate. His "green" period when he wrote a book "Contract with Earth". His statements about climate change and his embrace of cap and trade. Newt has appeared with Al Sharpton to back President Obama's education program. Almost the same opinion has been expressed by conservatives in the Washington Examiner, who warn conservatives that Newt is no conservative.
Again I come down to the same position I have had on Herman Cain. Newt has all of $400k in the bank . How will this get him through the primaries?
But now we actually have to consider Newt's positions. We will have to hear his multiple positions on Libya. His belief that Barack Obama is some Third Worlder with an intent to make America a socialist secular country. And his views on American exceptionalism and how President Obama abandons all American allies and apologizes for America. I'm sure he will take up Romney's nonsense that President Obama called Americans lazy. He actually said that we had been lazy in not attracting foreign investment in the United States. But that doesn't matter.
So gone are the little scandals about Newt's Tiffany account or how he bought Calista's compliance for the presidential run with a Mediterranean cruise. Now we have to hear the down and dirty of Newt,Inc., which he uses for his credentials as a businessman.
Oh, spare us!
The most intriguing winnings are those from Hong Kong. I receive a letter sent from Hong Kong on nice stationary. The "Christian, family man" informs me that one "Robert Colm" has died after years living as an expatriate in Hong Kong and he has left me, a long lost relative $50 million. Now the Chinese man informs me that he has excellent investment opportunities that if I sweeten the pot with some money of my own could multiply the inheritance manyfold. Another $15 million I won in a Hong Kong lottery,the notice of which also was printed on the same stationary as the nice "Christian, family man"'s.
Before my luck went West to Asia, I won another $15 million in a phone call from a Jamaican. The woman explained in her Caribbean lilt in great detail about how I won the money and how I had to send as "insurance" for the check several hundred dollars to Kingston, Jamaica to a man's name.
This was welcomed news since I had my share of Nigerian callers and even one from a call center in India. The most convincing callers were the white middle-aged males, who sounded like stock brokers. Maybe they were. All of them asked for "insurance "money before the check could be delivered.
When I beat one caller to the punch about how much the insurance fee was, he backed off and said that I was to meet him at the Federal Reserve Building in New York City where they had the check. I agreed and said I would take the train up to the city to get the money. He scrambled and then insisted on knowing when my reservation was. I told him I would phone him back and got the number. Needless to say he never responded.
So now I have two Mercedes, have won 14 cruises, vacations in Las Vegas, Mexico, Kiawah Island and buckets of cash. At this rate I would be as wealthy as Willard Romney in another month.
Thanksgiving came early this year. Just send me the "insurance fee".
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Having appeared on 60 Minutes and other television shows, the notorious lobbyist who inspired the movie Casino Jack starring Kevin Spacey talked the language of reform.
I actually bought his book because I wanted to see whether he would write about his days in the Republican College Students' associations and how he developed the early relationships with Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist, his co-conspirators. I have to admit I was surprised at how good the book is. It's a Bonfire of the Vanities of a Generation X'er, who rises and falls and crashes and burns. If you ever have to write a memoir after you have been brought down in a massive scandal, this book should serve as the model. Abramoff never backs away from his conservative politics and even the tactics he employed in various political fights. At the same time, he details how he bought congressmen--once bragging he owned 100--with bribes and gifts.
His book details the role of lobbyists in our political system and how he created strategies which would actually ensure his clients won , even if it was at the expense of the public good. It's all well and good that Washington now looks back at Abramoff as the most evil lobbyist who ever worked Washington but dozens of our congress people who took cash from him still serve and others have become lobbyists themselves.
Born in Atlantic City, New Jersey his father was the chairman of Arnold Palmer's Miniature Golf courses. Who knew that existed? Arnie actually taught him to play golf. Later when the family was living in Hollywood, the great Sugar Ray Robinson, who did charity work with his father,made the call to the Admissions Director at Brandeis to get him admission since he was on the waiting list and time was moving on.
At Brandeis, he joined and took over the College Republicans ,eventually heading the group nation-wide. He joined up with Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed and developed new conservative politics basec on the Leninist techniques they saw in the radical Left. The take no prisoners philosophy we see today and is called over-reach is a result of their early 1980s actions and gaining a commitment from the Republican party to secure more training facilities and courses for organizers and candidates. By the time Abramoff reached his heyday as a lobbyist in the early 1990s, congress with the Gingrich Revolution was filled with people trained during this period and who were more committed to conservative ideology than the party establishment.
None of this Abramoff disowns. He recounts how his three amigos along with Jack Wheeler staged a conference of anti-Communist guerrilla groups in Angola with Jonas Savimbi and his UNITA forces. I remember this vividly because I knew Savimbi from the mid-1970s and he called me to travel into Jamba, his provisional capital of Free Angola, to get me to brief him on who these people were who just left him. And throughout the 1980s, this would be the practice after every time he encountered them in Washington. His most trusted aides would call me and relay the advice given to Savimbi by Grover Norquist and want me to head it off at the past.
Abramoff soon got burned out and decided to make his film Red Scropion, which entailed film-making in Africa. His chapters on this are amusing since they mirror some of my own experiences with trying to deal with logistics of film-making in Africa--the endless postponements, the agreements, then the backing out. Abramoff meets with Sidney Pollack about the problems he faced making Out of Africa in Kenya. Sidney told him to bail out of Africa and film it in Mexico. Abramoff didn't and his film was made and only did well with distribution deals in non-English countries.
By the time of the 1990s, he came back to Washington and was offered a lobbyist job. Here his descriptions are apt. At first he was appalled that Washington lobbyists really didn't work hard for their clients and could care less whether they produced results. I've pondered for years this phenomenon as African state after African state forked over millions to lobbyists and never got anything from them. Well, Jack decided that he would be different and he signed up with Bill Gates' father's lobbyist firm.
The tales spins out from there of an overly ambitious, driven young man starting to earn big bucks by affecting how countries and companies could protect their markets by sheparding crowds of congressmen and their staffs to places like the Marianas Islands. He was so successful at it that he eventually changed firms and secured an office near Lafayette Park overlooking the White House.
One of the things that eventually caught up with him was his dealings with native American nations. Here, Abramoff is unapologetic about his role in securing casino gambling rights for tribes around the country and what this did to their standard of living. As someone interested in indian affairs, these chapters were riveting , even though I have no interest in casino gambling. Congressmen and people like Governor Don Seigelman of Alabama became casualties of Abramoff's maneuvers. He used Ralph Reed, siphoning funds to non-profit organizations, to organize anti-gambling Christians to oppose casinos for rivals to Abramoff's tribes. Throw in the mix that Abramoff's Indian business rubbed other Indian lobbyists the wrong way and you have combustible jet fuel.
While managing all these accounts, Abramoff's mania was unchecked. He invested millions into creating D.C.'s only and finest Kosher restaurant. He provided millions to create a Jewish High school in Maryland. All the while clients started stiffing him on fees and his partners were getting nervous about all their debts.
During this time the media had hundreds of stories about this Whiz-Kid lobbyist and naturally reaction set in. As he details in the book, congressmen would come into his restaurant stiff him for the bill and walk away with envelopes stuffed with money. He was ecumenical about whom he would purchase. Democrats like Chris Dodd and Harry Reid and Nighthorse Campbell joined the Ney, DeLay, Senator McCain and other Republicans.
Then the Washington Post started investigating and rivals on the Hill started making pubic complaints. And soon his tribes changed leadership and didn't renew his contracts, leaving his firm out in the cold. Soon complaints were being heard from the Indian tribes about being ripped off. This all culminated in the infamous Senate hearings where Senators read his mocking e-mails about his clients and he was forced to plead the 5th. The irony was that every one of the Senators at the public hearing had received buckets of money from him for their re-election campaigns.
Finally he was nailed and indicted for several felonies. His company fired him and the whole house of cards collapsed. He was sentenced to prison and only got out in 2010.
His book warns against false reforms of our system because everyone knows how to get around the reforms. He argues that no one receiving federal funds such as defense contractors should be allowed to lobby, anyone who served in congress or on a congressional staff should not be allowed to lobby and he even goes so far as recommending that no congressperson should be allowed to vote on any federal funding in his or her own district. In the book he supports the Tea Part movement and also argues for term limitations. In his television interviews he expresses sympathy for the Occupy Wall Street movement because he argues the system is corrupt and he was one of those involved in the corruption.
The book is "Capitol Punishment: The Hard truth About Washington Corruption from America's Most Notorious Lobbyist", just pubished by WND books.
What's so interesting is that Abramoff publishes his lobbying fees from the 1990s and early 2000s in his book and compared to today's salaries he looks like a piker. The Philadelphia Inquirer quipped that compared to what's happening now in D.C. Abramoff now seems like Mahatma Gandhi.
And think of the intense lobbying against the health reform bill, the Wall Street reform bill and almost any of the reforms proposed by President Obama. The sums of money now being spent on lobbying is astronomical and the eventual price paid by Americans is enormous. Just in tax concessions alone,America loses $1.5 trillion in revenues a year. These were hammered out by lobbyists working with congressional staffs. If you read the list of the whole profits by oil companies and the top American companies, look no further than actions in Washington as the cause.
His story would be even more stereotypical if he had fueled his mania with cocaine. But it's a story of an Orthodox Jewish man who seemed not to have a moral compass or know any boundaries. Even his charitable giving was excessive and almost bankrupted him.
His compatriot Ralph Reed has recovered. According to Abramoff, Reed was a boozer and saw a congressman in his cups fondling a female staffer outside a restaurant and figured that was his future if he didn't clean up. Now Reed hosts all the Republican hopefuls at his Freedom and Faith Coalition, a new version of the old Christian Coalition. Reed never went to jail.
And Grover Norquist continues tying Republicans up with his pledge not to raise taxes. As Abramoff describes Grover, he's a libertarian within the GOP and believes in privatizing defense. Now Grover is on the hotseat as America tries to overcome a generation of spree spending and tax cuts.