Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Thurston and Lovey are at it again

ABC News has two stories today that show how insensitive Gov. and Mrs. Romney (Thurston and Lovey) are to people's concerns.

The day started with the Romney campaign off-shoring a party for top donors by holding it on a foreign-registered yacht.

Gov. Mitt Romney's campaign toasted its top donors Wednesday aboard a 150-foot yacht flying the flag of the Cayman Islands.

The floating party, hosted by a Florida developer on his yacht "Cracker Bay," was one of a dozen exclusive events meant to nurture those who have raised more than $1 million for Romney's bid.

"I think it's ironic they do this aboard a yacht that doesn't even pay its taxes," said a woman who lives aboard a much smaller boat moored at the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina. 
Later, keenly identifying the big obstacle to Hispanic economic and social progress, Mrs. Romney told Hispanics that they need to "get past some of their biases." Really.

Among her other condescending remarks, Mrs. Romney praised the Puerto Rican Governor and First Lady, saying what they "are doing on that little island is quite remarkable" and "I had the most rocking time in Puerto Rico at a political rally than I’ve ever had in my entire life...You people really know how to party."

Sticking with the diminutives, she also offered that her trip to Puerto Rico let her "peak into a culture and a vibrancy and energy, a passion that I saw from that little island that really what represents the best in America."

Friday, August 24, 2012

Outrage over Gov. Romney's birther joke

The Obama campaign is beside itself with indignation that Gov. Romney dared to make a joke today about birth certificates, harrumphing
...Governor Romney’s decision to directly enlist himself in the birther movement should give pause to any rational voter across America.
Pause, indeed. Gov. Romney's comments are beyond the pale. The President's U.S. nationality has been firmly established, and jokes about the President's origins have no place--no place whatsoever--in our political discourse.

As it turns out, the joke was captured on video, so everyone can see how mean-spirited and divisive it was.

Oops, I meant this mean-spirited and divisive joke.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

4-year-old struck by bullet in Raleigh

The News-Observer reports on another innocent victim of gun violence.
A 4-year-old child was hit by a bullet fired outside his house in East Raleigh last night, according to police.

The boy was shot on Melvid Court, off Peyton Street near Poe Elementary School, around 11:30 p.m., police said. The bullet was intended to hit someone else, police said, and no arrests have been made.
The NRA and other gun apologists are sure to appear shortly to explain how this wouldn't have happened if the 4-year-old had been "packing."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Republicans' phony, bogus, and artificial outrage

The list of Republicans pompously bellowing for Missouri Rep. Todd Akin to withdraw from his state's U.S. senate race keeps growing and growing, with NC Senator Richard Burr joining the list.

You can tell that these Republicans are really, really serious because they don't just use one adjective to condemn Rep. Akins remarks, but three!

Sen. Brown: "I found Todd Akin’s comments about women and rape outrageous, inappropriate, and wrong."

Gov. Romney: "Congressman’s Akin comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong."

Sen. Cornyn: "Congressman Akin's statements were wrong, offensive, and indefensible."

Sen. Burr: "Congressman Akin’s comments about rape were outrageous, offensive, and, simply put, wrong."

In the weird math of Republican politics, three adjectives appear to equal one category-5 shit-storm.

The Republicans seem to be saying that Rep. Akin, by his remarks, is unfit, unsuited, and ill-equipped for public office (hey, I can read a thesaurus too).

However, if they are actually concerned with Rep. Akin's fitness to serve, why aren't any of them calling on him to immediately resign his House seat?

BTW, double bonus points for phony outrage go to Sen. Claire McCaskill for her complaint that national Republicans were trying to "dictate" to Missouri's primary voters.

Read more here:

Monday, August 20, 2012

Another disarming gun story

Another story to file in the "guns make us safer" drawer. The News-Observer reports
A gun dealer shot himself in the hand just before a gun show in northern Charlotte Sunday morning.

Police haven’t released the name of the man, but said he was a dealer at the Dixie Gun & Knife Classic, which was held this weekend at the Metrolina Expo on Statesville Road.

“He was taking the gun out to display it and pulled the trigger and it went off,” said Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Capt. William Boger.
I'm sure the unnamed gun dealer is just as competent in running background checks and completing ATF paperwork.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Did Rep. Ryan use inside information to dump bank stocks? The answer is no

Matthew Yglesias cites the Richmonder blog's accusation about Rep. Ryan's inside trading during the early days of the financial crisis.

From the Richmonder
Ryan attended a closed meeting with congressional leaders, Bush's Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on September 18, 2008. The purpose of the meeting was to disclose the coming economic meltdown and beg Congress to pass legislation to help collapsing banks.

Instead of doing anything to help, Ryan left the meeting and on that very same day Paul Ryan sold shares of stock he owned in several troubled banks and reinvested the proceeds in Goldman Sachs, a bank that the meeting had disclosed was not in trouble. 
As Yglesias writes, "it's about as clear an example of a public official trying to use his office to obtain personal benefits as you're likely to find."

The Business Insider investigates further. Although the transactions are reported to have occurred on the same day as the Paulson/Bernanke meeting, they may have happened just prior to the meeting.The Business Insider was also not able to obtain confirmation of who attended the meeting.

Given the miraculous timing of the transactions, it seems the Rep. Ryan has some 'splaining to do.

Update (5:16): Yglesias has walked back his story, saying the Richmonder doesn't "have the goods" to make its case. He cites Brad DeLong's analysis of all of Rep. Ryan's trades in 2008 which include numerous other instances of trading bank stocks.

Also, Rep. Ryan's office has offered an explanation that indicates that the timing was a coincidence.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Y'all skidaddle or I'll shoot my roommate again

In a novel home protection strategy, a local man shot his roommate to ward off burglars.

The News and Record reports
Alamance Regional Medical Center treated a 19-year-old man shot during a burglary early Saturday, police said.

James Jenkins of North St. John Street told Burlington police officers that he had been shot during a burglary at his home.

One of two men also in the home at the time of the burglary said he gained control of a firearm and shot at the suspects. According to his report, the rounds inadvertently struck Jenkins. The suspects then fled.
The story is a grim reminder of the dangers of firearms--and of firing into your roommate's arm.

Gov. Romney believes others' tax returns are relevant but not his

Former Mass. governor Mitt Romney thought that "several years" of income tax returns were necessary for him to properly vet his vice presidential candidates but says that one year (and another to follow at some undetermined date) are enough for the public to vet him.
The Caucus reports
A top aide to Mitt Romney said that the campaign had obtained “several years” of income tax returns from potential running mates – suggesting that Representative Paul D. Ryan had produced tax returns for a greater number of years than Mr. Romney has in his run for the White House.

Mitt Romney has repeatedly refused to disclose tax returns for any years but 2010 and 2011, stirring criticism that he is shielding his finances from public view.

But on Saturday, the Romney adviser who oversaw the vice-presidential search, Beth Myers, said that she had requested “several years” of returns from Mr. Ryan. When pressed on precisely how many she had received, she declined to elaborate.
If hypocrisy were an Olympic event, Gov. Romney would get the gold.

In Paul Ryan, a token of Romney's extreme

Kudos to former Mass. governor Mitt Romney on his bold, inspired choice of Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan as his running mate. Rep. Ryan brings a host of qualities to “Team Romney” that are sure to appeal to voters.

Some of that appeal will come from selecting a leader in the majority party of the least popular Congress, well, ever. This would be the same Republican House "leadership" that has staged 33 go-nowhere votes to rescind the health-care law that is almost a mirror image of Gov. Romney’s own health plan. It would also be the same Congress that trashed the country’s credit rating by nearly causing a debt default and that has left scores of necessary bills pending because of its dysfunction.

Voters will also appreciate Rep. Ryan’s fondness for Ayn Rand and his frequent criticism of the “takers” in society. Rep. Ryan, who benefited from government assistance as a youth, attended a publicly-funded university for his schooling, has drawn almost every penny of his salary as an adult from government coffers and refuses to eliminate oil company subsidies that benefit his family, is a paragon of Rand’s principles. As an added plus, voters, especially “values voters,” will especially like Rand’s atheism and open adultery.

Rep. Ryan also brings scads of credibility to Gov. Romney’s claims to be a deficit hawk. What with his proposal to increase defense spending AND cut tax rates for the wealthy and with his earlier votes to create the massively expensive Medicare drug plan, to enact the Bush tax cuts, and to support two incredibly costly wars. Rep. Ryan is so concerned about the deficit that his plan would close it by the middle of the century—talk about a futurist.

Oh, and speaking of that tax proposal, which would lower Gov. Romney’s already meager tax payments from 13.9% to 0.8% of his income, will help to take the focus off Gov. Romney’s tax shenanigans. It's not quite the zero tax rate that Gov. Romney described in criticizing the plan when Newt Gingrich espoused it in the primaries, but it's awfully close.

Rep. Ryan’s proposal to convert Medicare into a voucher program and then slowly shift the medical cost burden from the government to the elderly is also sure to be a hit. Evidence of the proposal’s popularity can be seen the assurances that Rep. Ryan has to give that no one under 55 will be affected by it. As they say, the best things are worth waiting for.

You almost get tingles from the popularity boost that will follow.

Friday, August 10, 2012

“You f---ing Americans. Who are you to tell us, the rest of the world, that we‟re not going to deal with Iranians.”

“You f---ing Americans. Who are you to tell us, the rest of the world, that we‟re not going to deal with Iranians.” -- Standard Chartered Bank's Group Executive Director in response to an internal warning about the bank's scheme for hiding transactions on behalf of Iranian clients.

On August 6, New York state's banking superintendent, Benjamin Lawsky, filed an order that could strip Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) of its license to conduct business in New York. The order contained explosive allegations that SCB systematically covered up 60,000 Iranian transactions worth upwards of $250 billion by falsifying business records and financial instruments and by cooking its books.

According to the order, the transactions in question occurred from 2001-2010, but the general scheme to cover up Iranian transactions was initiated immediately after the transactions were prohibited in 1995.

The alleged corruption is staggering. Through these transactions, SCB enabled the Iranian regime and may have helped it to "finance terrorist groups, including Hezbollah, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad." Further, by covering up the transactions, SCB kept bank regulators in the dark about its actual risks. It appears that SCB has concealed transactions for other regimes as well.

More staggering still, SCB's procedures have been under investigation for some time by the New York Fed, the Justice Department, and the Manhatten District Attorney. If Lawsky hadn't acted, it's likely that the case would have been quietly settled, as a string of other illegal transactions cases have--if there had been any action at all.

For his trouble, Lawsky appears to have drawn the ire of other banking regulators, especially in the U.K., for not following the club rules and for making the charges public.

Those regulators seem over-concerned with protecting rogue banks instead of having those banks follow the law.

Thank goodness an actual regulator appears to be on the job.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Mitt Romney: Tax Cheat

Arrived back from France to find this CNN report on Mr. Romney's anything-to-make-a-profit approach to business.
In his key role as chairman of the Marriott board's audit committee, Romney approved the firm's reporting of fictional tax losses exceeding $70 million generated by its Son of Boss transaction. His endorsement of this stratagem provides insight into Romney's professional ethics and attitude toward tax compliance obligations.

Like other prepackaged corporate tax shelters of that era, Marriott's Son of Boss transaction was an entirely artificial transaction, bearing no relationship to its business. Its sole purpose was to create a gigantic tax loss out of thin air without any economic risk, cost or loss -- other than the fee Marriott paid the promoter.

The Son of Boss transaction was vulnerable to attack on at least two grounds.

First, the transaction's promoters and consumers relied on a strained technical statutory analysis. Second, the Son of Boss deal violated the fundamental tax principle that the tax law ignores transactions unless they have a motivating business purpose and a substantial nontax economic effect.