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July 20, 2012

mitt romney and the fifth amendment

For a moment it seemed that Ann was the Romney most likely to accidentally throw the campaign into reverse over the tax return issue, with her Let'em Eat Cake moment, but no, after a day to think about it, Mitt's the one.

While it's fun to surmise what detail might be in the unreleased tax returns (more off-shore accounts? a year of zero taxes?), what's most telling (and hopefully damaging) is the attitude of Romney, the refusal to comply with what is otherwise a reasonable requirement of a national campaign.  To paraphrase, his reasoning is that his tax returns are not what he wants the election to be about, and he would rather the campaign be about the failures of the Obama administration, so he is "not enthusiastic" about revealing whatever it is that might be damaging.  But elections are not about the candidate's preferences and enthusiasms.  Romney approaches everything with the privilege and entitlement of, well, a multi-millionaire.

I guess what I'm saying, and this is no surprise to anyone, is that Mitt Romney is just a terrible retail politician.  He's stiff, awkward and handles human interaction like it's the most terrible thing he has to withstand and can't they hold the election already already.

And every time he gets asked about the tax returns, or his time at Bain, he says some other petulant, offended thing that makes journalists all the more happy to ask the question again down the road.  About the only way he could be more self-incriminating in these responses would be if he were to actually plead the Fifth.  He is not adroit.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:24 AM

July 19, 2012

peter schiff: like red dawn, but with bankers

I didn't start reading business journalism, at all, until some time in the past five or six years.  I know it was pre-Great Recession, so it wasn't a direct response to fiscal calamity.  Something just caught my eye, and since then, even though I am a total stoopid when it comes to matters of business and finance, I'm starting to think that the secret history of the world is not one of politics or governments but rather of business and finance.  That hunch is not refined enough to even be a premise, but it's what keeps me wading through writing about markets that is well over my head.

And as an unexpected plus, sometimes you come across something that's actually funny!  Usually the place you find this is Business Insider, which is notorious for finding new exciting ways to attract your eyeballs.  Like this story, which is an example of both BI's tabloid sensibility and unintended hilarity, which is titled "PETER SCHIFF: Our Children May Have To Lead A Violent Revolution To Bring Back Capitalism."  It's awesome:

My biggest worry is that capitalism and the free markets will get the blame when it really hits the fan. When we get the real crash and everything implodes, and it’s really Armageddon style collapse, my fear (again) is that capitalism and free markets take the blame for problems that were created by government.

You imagine that a career in business or finance or whatever is peopled by sober serious people, driven, drawn to doing something for which there is a tangible and remunerative reward.  Schiff himself, he's a broker and strategist, and a commentator as well.  But apparently he has the free time to be chock full of crazy.

This extremist urge to frame every issue as some sort of eschatological event is fascinating.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:47 AM

July 18, 2012

i assume that kevin kookogey is his real name

The quote following is from a TPM story on how Kentucky county chapters of the Republican Party are turning on their governor, Bill Haslam, also Republican, for, among other things, hiring a Muslim:
It is not like this has never happened before. The Muslim Brotherhood is following the blueprint of the Communists, who infiltrated the highest levels of government and society in the 1950’s. Shariah, however, is an even greater threat, because it has cloaked itself under the auspices of a religion, thus confusing the uninformed.

Those man-in-the-streets will say anything just to get in the paper, right?  But no that's not any old man in the street, but Kevin Kookogey, the chairman of the Williamson County GOP.

I'd known that in the more Tea Party precincts of the Republican there was the firmly-held, vastly-paranoiac belief that the Mooslims were coming to get it and burgle our daughters.  I get it.  Enough hours listening to Michael Savage and your brain's liable to start running out your ear.  Islam is the new boogyman, so everyone boogie down.

But not only that.  The revisionist history is so revisionist is that the McCarthyist Red Scare is held by some to be the McCarthyist Triumph Over The Reds, no matter the evidence to the contrary, and not in lunch counters and on porches, but in GOP executive offices.  I mean, I'm aware of the efforts to rehabilitate the reputation of (that mendacious drunkard) Joe McCarthy, but conflating that with mistaking the made-up Commie Threat as having actually happened is another thing entirely.

Hey now: That's crazy.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:22 AM

July 17, 2012

crony capitalism and such

So I guess yesterday's Romney conversation-changer was supposed to be some orchestrated attack of the administration concerning "crony capitalism."  The conversation was obviously in need of changing because, when it comes to the election, the only topic at all has been, "When was he Bain and what did he do?" for nearly a solid week.   And the textbook says, get off the ropes!  Be aggressive!  Romney and his surrogates tried yesterday to talk loudly of the success of those associated with the administration, and even assert some criminality to it.  (A breakdown of the charges are summarized by TPM here.)

The reaction of the president and his reps?  Unfazed.  I would've been tempted to point out that a charge of cronyism coming from a candidate that refuses to identify his bundlers is not at charge to be taken seriously, but "unfazed" works just as well, and the more that Romney emphasizes anything about business execs, the longer he's tarred with the Bain Capital tag.

Did I say a couple weeks ago that the campaign was boring?  It got less boring.  And the unspoken truth of this thing is that Barack Obama is really good at campaigning.  It's fun to watch.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:59 AM

July 16, 2012

judicial correctional services deserves more judgment like this

I noted this phenomenon of actual for-profit debtor's prisons being run in America in the news that one of the companies responsible for this Judicial Correctional Services Inc., got totally reamed by a county judge in Shelby County, AL:
When viewed in a light most favorable to Defendants, their testimony concerning the City's court system could reasonably be characterized as the operation of a debtors prison. The court notes that these generally fell into disfavor by the early 1800's, though the practice appears to have remained common place in Harpersville. From a fair reading of the defendants' testimony one might ascertain that a more apt description of the Harpersville Municipal Court practices is that of a judicially sanctioned extortion racket. Most distressing is that these abuses have been perpetrated by what is supposed to be a court of law. Disgraceful.

For full background read this long feature on the practice, but basically JCS offers to buy up the misdemeanors with delinquent fees and throw them into jail for non-payment.  They also privatize parolee services, and for all these services they provide, they load up on fees which are charged not to the municipality but to the parolee/person charged with the misdemeanor.  And if the person is detained for delinquency, they are then charged with further fees for the privilege of being in a debtor's prison.

I'm overjoyed by the judgement, and hopefully it's the first of many.  This is the clearest example of why privatization is not a universal cure-all I've seen in, well, days. What would happen is that JCS would

Posted by mrbrent at 4:16 PM

July 15, 2012

apologizing

I cannot wait for the year or two it will take for the behind-the-scenes tell-alls of the 2012 presidential elections.

Because, as you know, Mitt Romney's grand push-back strategy against charges that he ran Bain Capital during the period that Bain invested in some companies making big bank off of out-sourcing American jobs overseas was to go on all the TV newses and demand an apology.

And I cannot think of many strategies that are less presidential than demanding an apology.  Really.  You think that Joe Swing-Voter was sitting in front of the telly on Friday thinking to himself, "Man, that guy sure demands an apology real good.  What this country really needs is a leader with brittle feelings, a leader who meets opprobrium head-first, with quivering lip and welling tears.  After all, wasn't it Lincoln who demanded an apology from the Confederacy, and FDR who demanded an apology from Hitler?  Hell, even George Bush demanded an apology from Saddam Hussein, like, insistently.

So, yeah, I just want to read the tell-all so I can find out who the genius is who's the author of that bit of rocket science.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:34 PM