Lazy Saturday Reads: Two Republican Candidates in Trouble

 Rick Perry readsGood Afternoon!!

Poor Rick Perry. He just can’t seem to catch a break. First there was his indictment on two felony charges. Then he had to face the further indignity that being indicted on felony charges means he can no longer swagger around with a concealed weapon on his person. According to the Washington Times,

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s indictment on felony corruption charges means he can no longer carry a concealed weapon under state law.

Federal law also prohibits him from being able to buy more guns or ammunition, as long as the indictment is pending, Reuters reported.

I wonder if he knows that? Because when he was in New Hampshire last week, he told voter he didn’t understand the charges against him. From ABC News last Friday, Aug. 22:

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – Texas Gov. Rick Perry returned to New Hampshire Friday for the first time since 2012, as he tries to rehab his political image after a failed presidential bid.

Speaking to a group of business leaders here, Perry tried to focus on substance, talking about issues like economic development and the border crisis, but his recent indictment on two felony charges was hard to ignore.

Asked about his indictment during a question-and-answer session with business leaders, Perry was a little unclear when explaining what felony charges were issued against him.

“I’ve been indicted by that same body now for I think two counts, one of bribery, which I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t really understand the details here,” Perry said of the grand jury that indicted him.

A grand jury indicted Perry last week on two felony counts – abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public official – over a 2013 veto threat.

Texas Governor Perry

At The Wire, Arit John has a funny post in which he describes Perry’s confusion as just one step in the grief process over the indictment, Rick Perry Enters the Final Stage of Indictment Grief: Confusion.

Maybe Rick Perry should have read up on his indictment charges before he started using them as a campaign talking point. During a speech last week, the Texas governor said he was being indicted for bribery, which isn’t actually true.

“I’ve been indicted by that same body now for I think two counts, one of bribery, which I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t really understand the details here,” he said,according to the Houston Chronicle. But Perry is actually being indicted for abuse of power and coercing a public official, after he threatened to veto District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg’s budget if she refused to resign after her drunk driving conviction.

This is another oops moment for Perry, but it also signaled his transition into the 5th and, likely for him, final stage of indictment related grief: confusion. After grinning mugshot denial, angry ads “setting the record straight,” bargaining over who should pay the lawyers and depression over a loss of Second Amendment privileges, all that’s left for Perry is to be slightly unsure of what, exactly, people are accusing him of doing.

Read the details at the link.

Rick Perry gun3

Then there are the embarrassing stories about how Perry hasn’t paid the National Guard troops that he sent to guard the Texas-Mexico border. From Gawker:

When Texas Gov. Rick Perry sent National Guard soldiers to the Mexico border to much fanfare earlier this summer, he couldn’t say how long they’d be there. It turns out he also couldn’t pay them: At least 50 soldiers haven’t seen a paycheck and are getting sustenance and vehicle fuel from a local food bank.

Via KGBT News, the sudden call-up took those weekend warriors away from their day jobs and deposited them in the Rio Grande valley, but the service hasn’t covered their losses yet….

Perry—who’s busy being indicted for criminal abuse of power—and the National Guard didn’t respond to reporter queries earlier this week, but the pay lag could be related to the governor’s refusal to fund the mobilization he ordered, and his insistence that the federal government cover it. (In the meantime, Perry was supposedly attempting to finance the deployment “by diverting $38 million in public safety funds earmarked for emergency radio infrastructure,” the L.A. Times has reported.)

Yesterday afternoon, the Austin Statement reported that unnamed “National Guard officials” were claiming the stories about hungry troops were exaggerated, but it sounds like they may be just trying to clean up Perry’s mess.

The Guard said it had identified 50 service members who, because of their early August start date, weren’t going to be paid until Sept. 5.

None of those 50 troops have notified leaders that they had used the food bank, officials said.

According to the Guard, troops receive one meal while on duty, plus a $32 per diem food reimbursement that is included in their paychecks.

According to Omar Ramirez, Food Bank RGV’s manager of communications and advocacy, the food bank made extra preparations after being contacted by someone from the Texas National Guard Support Foundation, but that he wasn’t aware of any troops being served.

“Maybe they come in and they just don’t tell us they’re National Guard,” he said.

OK, but if the $32 dollars is included in their paychecks, then that means the troops have to front the money for two meals a day until Sept. 5, right? Read the rest at the link.

CoatHangerPerryW480_zpsc5ed0bd9

Finally, yesterday Perry learned that his latest anti-abortion bill–the one that Wendy Davis filibustered–has been struck down by a federal judge. From AP:

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel sided with clinics that sued over one of the most disputed measures of a sweeping anti-abortion bill signed by Republican Gov. Rick Perry in 2013. The ruling stops new restrictions that would have left seven abortion facilities in Texas come Monday. There are currently 19 abortion providers in the state, according to groups challenging the law.

“The overall effect of the provisions is to create an impermissible obstacle as applied to all women seeking a previability abortion,” Yeakel wrote in his 21-page ruling.

The trial in Texas was the latest battle over tough new abortion restrictions sweeping across the U.S.

The law would have required clinics “to meet the building, equipment and staffing standards of hospital-style surgery centers,” according to The New York Times.

Adopted as part of a sweeping anti-abortion measure last year, the rule would have forced the closing of more than a dozen of Texas’ remaining abortion clinics because they were unable to afford to renovate or to open new facilities that met the standards for such things as hallway width, ceiling height, advanced ventilation equipment, staffing and even parking spaces.

The closings would have left Texas, the second-biggest state by population and by size, with seven or eight abortion clinics, all in major cities like Houston and Dallas. Women in El Paso in West Texas and in the Rio Grande Valley in the south would have lived more than 150 miles — a distance ruled constitutional by a federal appeals court — from the closest clinic in the state, in San Antonio.

Fortunately for Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, her opponent Greg Abbott plans to appeal the decision.

Mitch McDonnell at Morris' Deli in Louisville, KY

Mitch McDonnell at Morris’ Deli in Louisville, KY

Mitch McConnell is also experiencing some difficulties in his Senate reelection campaign in Kentucky. He has been in a close race with Democratic challenger Allison Lundergan Grimes–they’ve been running neck-and-neck for a long time now. And recently McConnell has had a couple of setbacks. First there was the secretly recorded audiotape released by The Undercurrent Youtube channel, of McConnell’s remarks at a “meeting for millionaire and billionaire donors hosted by the Koch brothers,” in which he promised to continue blocking Obama proposals and emphasized his opposition to raising the minimum wage. The contents of the tape were first reported in The Nation.

Last week, in an interview with Politico, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) outlined his plan to shut down President Obama’s legislative agenda by placing riders on appropriations bills. Should Republicans take control of the Senate in the 2014 elections, McConnell intends to pass spending bills that “have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy.”

What McConnell didn’t tell Politico was that two months ago, he made the same promise to a secret strategy conference of conservative millionaire and billionaire donors hosted by the Koch brothers. The Nation and The Undercurrent obtained an audio recording of McConnell’s remarks to the gathering, called “American Courage: Our Commitment to a Free Society.” In the question-and-answer period following his June 15 session titled “Free Speech: Defending First Amendment Rights,” McConnell says:

“So in the House and Senate, we own the budget. So what does that mean? That means that we can pass the spending bill. And I assure you that in the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what’s called placing riders in the bill. No money can be spent to do this or to do that. We’re going to go after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board [inaudible]. All across the federal government, we’re going to go after it.”

Mitch McConnell gun

The article notes that the McConnell campaign has received $41,800 from Koch Industries in addition to outside groups who get funding from the Kochs.

“And we’re not going to be debating all these gosh darn proposals. That’s all we do in the Senate is vote on things like raising the minimum wage [inaudible]—cost the country 500,000 new jobs; extending unemployment—that’s a great message for retirees; uh, the student loan package the other day, that’s just going to make things worse, uh. These people believe in all the wrong things.”

In late April, Senate Republicans, led by McConnell, successfully filibustered a bill to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, a widely popular measure that would increase wages for at least 16.5 million Americans. Earlier in the year, McConnell also led a filibuster of a three-month extension of unemployment insurance to some 1.7 million Americans. At one point in the negotiations, he offered a deal to extend unemployment only if Democrats agreed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, even though the ACA does not add to the federal deficit.

More from The New York Times:

The [Undercurrent] channel released audio of three other Republicans in tough Senate races — Representative Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Representative Cory Gardner of Colorado and Joni Ernst, a state senator in Iowa — all of whom praised Charles G. and David H. Koch and the millions of dollars they have provided to help Republican candidates….

Republicans said the recordings were insignificant. Josh Holmes, a senior McConnell campaign aide, said the senator was in no way suggesting a strategy to shut down the government unless Mr. Obama capitulates.

Nonetheless, the audio recordings are likely to become fodder for the campaigns in Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa and Kentucky. Democrats, most notably Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, have tried to demonize contributions by the Koch brothers as corruptive to the political system.

In Arkansas, especially, the audio could touch a nerve. Mr. Cotton, a freshman House member, skipped a popular political event in his state, the Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival, to attend the Koch brothers’ meeting in California. According to the audio, he was repaid with praise for his willingness to hew to the most conservative line, even if it meant voting against legislation popular in his state.

o-MITCH-MCCONNELL-JESSE-BENTON-facebook

Then yesterday, McConnell’s campaign manager Jesse Benton was forced to resign because of a scandal involving his work for the Ron Paul campaign in Iowa in 2012. From CBS News:

Benton’s resignation, effective Saturday, comes barely two months before Kentucky voters choose between McConnell, a five-term incumbent and the top-ranking Senate Republican, and Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes.

In Iowa this week, former state Sen. Kent Sorenson pleaded guilty to federal charges stemming from his switch of support from one Republican presidential candidate to another before the 2012 Iowa caucuses. He received thousands of dollars in “under the table payments” before switching loyalties from candidate Michele Bachmann, whose Iowa campaign he headed, to candidate Ron Paul, then lied to federal investigators about the money, the Justice Department said.

Prosecutors refused to say which campaign paid Sorenson. A representative for Bachmann didn’t immediately return voice and email messages seeking comment Friday. A phone message for Paul also wasn’t immediately returned.

Benton, a tea party insider, worked as a top aide to Paul. On Friday he said that he has been the target of “inaccurate press accounts and unsubstantiated media rumors” about his role in past campaigns that are “politically motivated, unfair and, most importantly, untrue.”

Benton had been hired to help McConnell appeal to Tea Party extremists in Kentucky. Is it possible McConnell misjudged his constituents? I sincerely hope so.

So I’ve ended up focusing this post on just two struggling Republicans–but there are plenty of others I could write about. I don’t think we should give up on Democrats holding the Senate yet. I know there is plenty of other news, but I thought I’d shift the focus to electoral politics today. What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a great Labor Day weekend!!

 

 


Tuesday Reads: Liberals, Libertarians, and Concern Trolls

Matisse-Woman-Reading-with-Tea1

Good Morning!!

Between the Red Sox being in the World Series and having to have a root canal on Saturday, I’ve been a little bit disconnected from politics. The Sox won again last night in St. Louis, and they’ll be coming back home to Fenway Park leading the series 3 games to 2; so they could end it tomorrow night. If this post is a little late, my aching jaw and baseball are the reasons why.

We’ve been talking a lot about libertarians lately, because so-called progressives have been aligning with those Ayn Rand fans since libertarian Edward Snowden began leaking top secret documents about the NSA and libertarian Glenn Greenwald began lecturing the world about what a great hero Snowden is for defecting to Russia and revealing the most secret counterintelligence methods of the U.S. and U.K.

The latest shameful episode was Saturday’s “Stop Watching Us” rally in Washington, at which supposedly “progressive” groups joined with anti-woman right-wingers like Justin Amash and neo-confederates like Ron and Rand Paul to protest the NSA doing its job of collecting foreign intelligence.

Before the rally took place, Tom Watson wrote a heartfelt column warning “progressives” that libertarians don’t make good bedfellows. Watson wrote that while he dislikes mass surveillance,

I cannot support this coalition or the rally. It is fatally compromised by the prominent leadership and participation of the Libertarian Party and other libertarian student groups; their hardcore ideology stands in direct opposition to almost everything I believe in as a social democrat.

The Libertarian Party itself — inaccurately described by Stop Watching Us as a “public advocacy organization” — is a right-wing political party that opposes all gun control lawsand public healthcaresupported the government shutdowndismisses public education,opposes organized labor, favors the end of Social Security as we know it, and argues in its formal political manifesto that “we should eliminate the entire social welfare system” while supporting “unrestricted competition among banks and depository institutions of all types.”

Yet my progressive friends would take the stage with the representatives of this political movement? Why? The loss is much greater than the gain. Organizers trade their own good names and reputations to stand alongside — and convey legitimacy to — a party that opposes communitarian participation in liberal society, and rejects the very role of government itself. And their own argument for privacy is weakened by the pollution of an ideology that uses its few positive civil liberties positions as a predator uses candy with a child.

This is an abandonment of core principles, in my view, out of anger over Edward Snowden’s still-recent revelations about the National Security Agency and its spying activity, particularly domestic access to telephone and online networks and metadata. It represents trading long-held beliefs in social and economic justice for a current hot-button issue that — while clearly of concern to all Americans — doesn’t come close to trumping a host of other issues areas that require “the long game” of electoral politics and organizing. Going “all in” with the libertarian purists is a fatal and unnecessary compromise; reform is clearly needed, but the presence of anti-government laissez-faire wingers at the beating heart of the privacy movement will surely sour the very political actors that movement desperately needs to make actual — and not symbolic, link bait — progress in its fight.

But it was to no avail. Watson was attacked for his argument that the anti-surveillance fever is distracting from other important issues. People like Greenwald and Snowden couldn’t possibly care less about alleviating poverty, protecting women’s rights or the right to vote. They’d have no problem with Social Security and Medicare being eliminated, and as for voting, they’re anti-government anyway. Glenn Greenwald–whom some uninformed people believe is a “progressive,” saves his worst attacks for Democrats and in the past has supported Ron Paul and Gary Johnson for president. To Greenwald, sacrificing the entire legacy of FDR and the civil rights and women’s movements is no big deal. Here’s how he characterized the values of liberals who reject Ron Paul in 2011:

Yes, I’m willing to continue to have Muslim children slaughtered by covert drones and cluster bombs, and America’s minorities imprisoned by the hundreds of thousands for no good reason, and the CIA able to run rampant with no checks or transparency, and privacy eroded further by the unchecked Surveillance State, and American citizens targeted by the President for assassination with no due process, and whistleblowers threatened with life imprisonment for “espionage,” and the Fed able to dole out trillions to bankers in secret, and a substantially higher risk of war with Iran (fought by the U.S. or by Israel with U.S. support) in exchange for less severe cuts to Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs, the preservation of the Education and Energy Departments, more stringent environmental regulations, broader health care coverage, defense of reproductive rights for women, stronger enforcement of civil rights for America’s minorities, a President with no associations with racist views in a newsletter, and a more progressive Supreme Court.

Of course, Greenwald is admitting that he’d sacrifice the social safety net and the rights of millions of Americans in a hopeless effort to defeat the military-industrial complex and its technologies. If you can stand to read the whole piece, you’ll also learn that Greenwald thinks Matt Stoller is a “brilliant” writer. Greenwald is a libertarian purist, with no understanding of how politics actually works. This is the pied piper that many “progressives” are following these days.

I guess I’m getting a little carried away here, so I’ll stop ranting and offer some pertinent links.

Read the rest of this entry »


Saturday Morning Open Thread: Libertarians Are Not Our Friends

color-rand-paul-ron-web

Good Morning!!

Sorry I’m posting this so late today. I’ve been pondering some issues that have been troubling me for a long time, and I keep getting stuck about how to write about them.

I’m beginning to see the libertarian influence on so-called “progressives” as a very serious problem for the future of our country. Here’s a somewhat incoherent beginning to a discussion of this problem. I’m putting this out there in the hope that I’ll get some feedback from you that will help me sort this out. So here goes…

Partial transcript:

“I’m a big admirer of Ron Paul and Rand Paul for their very principled positions in the U.S. Congress on a number of issues. They have been the strongest supporters of the fight against the U.S. attacks on Wikileaks and on me in the U.S. Congress. Similarly, they have been the strongest opponents of drone warfare and extrajudicial executions.

And so, that’s quite an interesting phenomenon in the United States. The position of the libertarian Republican–or a better description [right?]–coming from a principle of nonviolence, the American libertarian, that produces interesting results.

So, nonviolence, not going to invade a foreign country. Nonviolence, don’t force people at the barrel of a gun to serve in the U.S. Army [?? The U.S. doesn’t have a draft]. Nonviolence, don’t extort taxes from people to the Federal government, with a [policeman?]….

Similarly, other acts of nonviolence in relation to abortion that they hold. I think that some of these positions that are held by Ron Paul…I can see how they come from the same underlying libertarian principle. I think the world is often more complex. By taking a laid out principle but sometimes simplistic position, you end up undermining the principle. In the short term, visions of the principle are one thing, visions of the principle…it’s quite hard to know [inaudible].

A few comments…

It’s not clear to me whether Assange supports the Paul’s position on abortion, but clearly it’s a side issue for him–not nearly as important as the Paul’s support of Wikileaks and Assange himself, since he later said that both political parties have been compromised and the only hope for the future comes from the libertarian portion of the Republican Party. HuffPo:

He then put forth an argument against both established political parties in Washington, claiming that nearly all Democrats had been “co-opted” by President Barack Obama’s administration, while Republicans were almost entirely “in bed with the war industry.”

The current libertarian strain of political thought in the Republican Party was the “the only hope” for American electoral politics, Assange concluded.

Assange sees federal taxes as “extortion.” I assume that includes the payroll taxes that support Social Security and Medicare. He never mentions social programs at all; as a libertarian he probably opposes them. This is in line with other libertarians who are leading the fight against the U.S. government keeping any secrets whatsoever, e.g., Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden, Conor Frierdersdorf, and David Sirota (I’ll have more about this in a later post).

Not only does Assange not know that the U.S. doesn’t have a military draft, he’s pretty mixed up about recent U.S. history. In praising right wing racist news aggregator Matt Drudge, Assange said, via Raw Story:

“Matt Drudge is a news media innovator. And he took off about eight years ago in response to the Monica Lewinsky scandal.”

(Eight years ago was 2005, the first year of George W. Bush’s second term, when President Bill Clinton had been out of office for five years and the Lewinsky scandal and subsequent failed impeachment attempt were a matter of history.)

Assange claimed that Drudge made his name by “publishing information that the establishment media would not. It is as a result of the self-censorship of the establishment press in the United States that gave Matt Drudge such a platform and so of course he should be applauded for breaking a lot of that censorship.”

Assange says he supports non-violence. I’d like to point out that in U.S. history, one of the leading advocates of nonviolence and civil disobedience was a man named Martin Luther King. Fifty years ago King led a “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” But Assange favors the Pauls’ notion of “nonviolence.” (Assange doesn’t appear to know that Ron and Rand Paul are the recipients of vast corporate donations from the defense industry.) I wonder if Assange knows that Ron and Rand Paul oppose Civil Rights laws? I wonder if he cares?

Julian Assange–along with Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald–is currently the idol of the “emoprogs” who have become so distracted by the NSA leaks story that they don’t even notice that Republicans have a very good chance of retaking the Senate next year. These supposed “leftists” have forgotten all about jobs, protecting social programs, women’s rights, civil rights, economic inequality, and our crumbling infrastructure in order to follow a handful of privileged, young white male libertarian pied pipers who are focused only on their own personal “liberties.”


Another Piece of the Snowden-NSA Leaks Puzzle Falls into Place

64 Gigabyte thumb drive

64 Gigabyte thumb drive

Another piece of the puzzle fell into place this morning when Ken Dilanian of the LA Times broke the news that Edward Snowden somehow managed to save stolen data on a thumb drive and walk out of the NSA facility in Hawaii with it.

Former National Security Agency contract employee Edward Snowden used a computer thumb drive to smuggle highly classified documents out of an NSA facility in Hawaii, using a portable digital device supposedly barred inside the cyber spying agency, U.S. officials said.

Investigators “know how many documents he downloaded and what server he took them from,” said one official who would not be named while speaking about the ongoing investigation.

Snowden worked as a system administrator, a technical job that gave him wide access to NSA computer networks and presumably a keen understanding of how those networks are monitored for unauthorized downloads.

On Tuesday the Guardian reported that Snowden arrived at Hong Kong airport carrying four laptops. From the article:

As he pulled a small black suitcase and carried a selection of laptop bags over his shoulders, no one would have paid much attention to Ed Snowden as he arrived at Hong Kong International Airport. But Snowden was not your average tourist or businessman. In all, he was carrying four computers that enabled him to gain access to some of the US government’s most highly-classified secrets.

This led a number of security experts to wonder if Snowden had absconded with four NSA computers, which would have been an incredible security failure for the agency. It’s not clear why the Guardian focused on these computers as carrying the stolen classified secrets, but the Guardian’s reporting on this story has so far been flawed by misinformation–perhaps because of a lack of understanding of the relevant technology.

Back to the LA Times article:

Officials said they still don’t know how Snowden got access to an order marked “Top Secret” from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or a highly-classified directive from President Obama authorizing a military target list for cyber attacks. Neither document would be widely shared, or normally available to a low-level NSA employee.

A larger number of NSA employees and contractors might have access to a PowerPoint slide show on PRISM, which uses online data from nine U.S. Internet and technology companies. Snowden said he provided the slides to the Washington Post and The Guardian.

There is another disturbing aspect to Snowden’s actions that is still mysterious. When did he decide to steal the data and when did he begin copying the classified documents? We know that Snowden first contacted journalist and film-maker Laura Poitras in January 2013, and he contacted Glenn Greenwald in February.

But Snowden did not begin working for Booz Allen Hamilton as an NSA contractor until either late March; because when Booz Allen fired him on June 10, they stated that Snowden had worked for them for less than 3 months. This strongly suggests that Snowden deliberately too the job with Booz Allen in order to steal government secrets.

In March of 2012, Snowden was apparently working for Dell, because there is a record of his donating $250 to Ron Paul’s campaign as a Dell employee living at an address in Maryland. When he gave an additional $250 to Paul in May 2012, he gave an address in Waipahu, Hawaii and listed his occupation as “Senior Advisor,” with no employer noted. So what was Snowden doing between May 2012 and March 2012 when he went to work as an NSA contractor for Booz Allen?

I guess we’ll find out eventually. Stay tuned.

This is an open thread.


Monday Reads

Good Morning!

Well, TS/Hurricane Isaac is drenching Florida and headed towards the North Gulf.  The weather forecasters appear to be confused by its signals because their models have yet to indicate a consistent target.  It appears to be Bay St Louis at the moment.  Anyway, it’s a wide enough system that New Orleans is in the warning band and folks around here are nervous.  It will make landfall 7 years to the day that Hurricane Katrina changed everything here.  Folks have run a lot of gas stations out of gas and markets out of the usual hurricane supplies like ice, batteries, and strawberry poptarts (ugh!). I think the media is hoping they get a story out of us, frankly.  The mayor is asking us to shelter in place.  However, the weather channel sent us Jim Cantore.  That’s never a good sign. Hopefully, he’ll head towards Mobile some time on Tuesday.

Hurricane Katrina made landfall near New Orleans on Aug 29, 2005.  It is estimated that the total economic impact in Louisiana and Mississippi exceeded $110 billion, earning the title of the most expensive hurricane ever in US history.

As Katrina moved through the heart of the Gulf of Mexico offshore oil and natural gas production area, it negatively impacted nearly 20% of US oil production. Hurricane Katrina, followed by Hurricane Rita in September, destroyed 113 offshore oil and gas platforms and damaged 457 oil and gas pipelines. Oil, gasoline, and natural gas futures prices on the NYMEX soared as damage assessments were reported.

The hurricane damage inflicted by Katrina caused oil prices to increase from the mid-$60s per barrel to over $70/bbl and gasoline prices at the pump rocketed to near $5 a gallon in some areas of the US. The US government released oil from its stockpile in the Strategic Petroleum Reserves (SPR) to offset price rises. In the natural gas market, prices were trading in the $9 to $10/MMBtu range at the time, but spiked to over $15/MMBtu as the full extent of the damage became apparent.

Additionally, the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) was closed on August 27, 2005, reducing production by over 400,000 barrels per day.  LOOP handles 13% of the nation’s foreign oil, about 1.2 million barrels a day, and connects by pipeline to 50% of the U.S. refining capability. The port was undamaged by the storm and resumed operation within hours of electricity coming back online.

Gulf of Mexico oil production was reduced by about 1.4 million barrels per day as a result of Hurricane Katrina, equivalent to about 91% of daily Gulf of Mexico oil production. Additionally, over 8 billion cubic feet (Bcf) per day of natural gas production was shut in, equivalent to 83% of daily Gulf of Mexico natural gas production.

Seven years later as what will be Hurricane Isaac bears down on the Gulf Coast, the Gulf of Mexico currently accounts for about 23% of oil production and 7% of natural gas output according to the US Department of Energy. Furthermore, roughly 30% of natural gas processing plant capacity and 44% of US refining capacity is located along the US Gulf Coast.

According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEMRE), 8.6% of the Gulf’s daily oil output and 1.6% of daily natural gas production was shut down as a result of Isaac approaching the Gulf of Mexico. Closing prices as of Friday, Aug 24, 2012 of NYMEX October WTI futures settled at $96.15/bbl, while September natural gas settled at $2.70/MMBtu.

When it comes to offshore oil and gas rig infrastructure in 2012 versus 2005, the biggest difference is that the rigs placed into the Gulf of Mexico in the last several years have been hardened to resist Category 4 or 5 hurricanes. However, up until now, other than Hurricane’s Gustav and Ike in 2008, there has been no real test of the endurance of newer ‘hurricane resistant’ infrastructure that has replaced much of the aging platforms in 2005.  Isaac may very well be the storm to test the fortitude of the newer offshore hardware.

It could also stir up all the BP muck on the bottom of the Gulf.

I’ve been reading through the Gawker documents and have really been struck by the amount of management fees and legal fees that Romney appears to tolerate just to avoid paying federal income taxes.  It actually seems a bit sick or compulsive or obsessive to me.  Some tax attorneys have suggested that some of his tricks are actually illegal or at least highly questionable.  I have no idea since I just know the finance end of these deals.  The legal and tax implications of these thing are not my bailiwick.  It just seems like if you’re that rich and your time is that valuable that it could be spent on more useful activities than finding aggressive tax dodges.  I wonder if the savings actually justified all the fees.  But then, I discovered that the partners actually finagled the fees to avoid taxes.

 The documents reveal another tactic used by Bain and other buyout firms to achieve the lower rate for other compensation as well, a practice known as management-fee conversions or fee waivers.

Here’s more examples from the Buzzfeed link.

Bain Capital Fund VII LP disclosed in a 2009 report that the general partner in the fund had in the past waived management fees and converted those fees into an interest in the fund called a “priority profit share.” That had the effect of turning fees that would be taxed at ordinary income rates, as high as 35 percent, into capital gains, taxed at a rate of 15 percent.

By deferring the receipt of that cash they get a second benefit by deferring the tax. While the partners are well- positioned to know what investments may be winners, the waiver is irrevocable, meaning the fees disappear if the deals don’t generate profit.

“The documents confirm that Bain Capital converted some of its management fees into carried interest; there’s no reason they would do this other than to convert high-tax ordinary income into low-taxed capital gain,” said Victor Fleischer, a tax law professor at the University of Colorado. “It’s a strategy that is aggressive, and, while common in the industry, is difficult to justify as an appropriate reporting of tax obligation.”

According to the financial disclosure form Romney filed in June, Ann Romney’s blind trust owns more than $1 million in the Bain Capital Fund VII, and between $100,000 and $250,000 in the co-investment fund. The Romneys received between $200,000 and $2 million in income from those two funds in 2011. The documents published by Gawker don’t show whether the Romneys benefited from the fee waivers.

The documents also show how deeply embedded Bain has become in the offshore tax-haven world, with funds organized in the Cayman Islands. Private-equity firms organize funds in tax havens to prevent foreign investors — and non-taxable U.S. investors, like university endowments — from getting hit with U.S. income tax bills from the profits generated by their underlying portfolio companies. That provides an economic benefit to the funds and to the private-equity managers because it means that, by avoiding U.S. tax, the investors have more to invest.

What does it say about a person that seems to be obsessed with making sure they search every nook, crack, and cranny for a way to avoid paying money to their own government.  You know, the one they actually are running to lead?

Ron Paul isn’t playing nice with Mittens.  He’s not “wholeheartedly endorsing him” and it appears that “the Romney Campaign Radically Changes GOP Nominating Process After Ron Paul Takeovers”.

Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, led by top Romney lawyer Ben Ginsberg, forced through a major change the GOP nominating process on Friday in response to Ron Paul supporters’ efforts to win delegates to the Republican National Committee..

The Republican National Convention Committee voted 56-40 to make it impossible for supporters of one presidential candidate to override the will of voters at a state convention, as Ron Paul supporters did in Iowa and Nevada.

The purpose of the change, Ginsberg said, was “to correct what we saw as a damaging flaw in the presidential election process in 2012.”

The rule forces statewide presidential primaries or caucuses to determine the ultimate allocation of delegates, preventing takeovers like Paul executed in Iowa by eliminating unbound delegates in statewide contests. States would be allowed to decide whether to give all their delegates to the winner of the primary or caucus, or distribute them proportionally according to the results.

“Iowa will have to change the way they do it,” said a GOP official.

A second component of the amendment would require delegates to be approved by presidential candidates, lessening the chances of technically pledged delegates voting for a different candidate.

The original amendment would have removed the carve-out for Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada, but Ginsberg later clarified that was an error, after sparking a panic among early states.

Virginia delegate Morton Blackwell objected that the rule would have a “damaging effect on our presidential candidate Mitt Romney.”

“There are very large numbers of people who supported other candidates, in particular Ron Paul, who will see this as an attack on their behavior,” he said, warning that they could vote for the Libertarian party.

I guess the new way to get elected is to make sure the rules let you win.  No wonder Ron Paul is acting so pissy.

“Today I was very excited call from the RNC,” Paul said “They said they changed their mind. They’re going to give me a whole hour and I can say whatever I want – tomorrow night!” (Tomorrow being Monday, the day that the RNC has no events due to Tropical Storm Isaac).

“Just kidding,” Paul concluded.

Paul directly referenced the rules change that may keep similarly insurgent delegates from succeeding in future elections. He seemed stung by the disappointments, after the concerted effort his campaign made to compromise with the Romney campaign and to keep their delegates under control.

The RNC “learned how to bend rules, break rules, and now they want to rewrite the rules,” Paul said.

“That’s what we have to stop.”

He also nodded to the view, common among Paul supporters, that votes had been miscounted or improperly counted in primary states.

“Ultimately numbers do count,” he said. “And numbers do count even when they don’t count all the votes as well. Because we do have the numbers!”

Paul may be angry that after years of effort and a number of compromises, the insiders are not letting him in. But he’s also now able to talk about the lists of topics he cares about without a second thought; it no longer matters if the Romney people think he’s too far out. He took full advantage on Sunday, filling his 67 minutes with a laundry list of historical references, bits of his stump speech, and nostalgic philosophizing.

Paul also wandered into territory that makes it clear why the Romney campaign, known for trying to control the message as much as possible, would be wary of having him speak unscripted.

Bradley Manning, Paul said, “is in the military so there are probably some debates on exactly how and what to do, but let me tell you: Bradley Manning didn’t kill anybody, Bradley Manning hasn’t caused the death of anybody, and what he has exposed, he is the equivalent to Daniel Ellsberg, who told us the truth about Vietnam.”

And: “I’m afraid that if we took a poll across the country and said ‘Should we try Assange for treason?’ that most Americans would say oh yes he’s a bad guy, he’s telling us all these secrets. But guess what, he’s an Australian citizen.”

What’s on your reading and Blogging list today?  And, if I disappear some time on Tuesday or Wednesday, UPS me a boat please.


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!! Let’s get right to the news. Yesterday wasn’t a big political news day here in the U.S. The President appeared on The View and talked about gay marriage and the Kardashians. He also pandered to young women at Barnard.

The Obama campaign released a new ad highlighting Mitt Romney’s career as a corporate “vampire” at Bain Capital.

The Obama campaign ad focuses on Bain Capital’s misadventures with GST steel of Kansas City and features former steelworkers describing what they saw between the time Bain bought the firm in 1993 and filed to put it in bankruptcy in 2001. (Romney left Bain in 1999).

“It was like a vampire. They came in and sucked the life out of us,” says one of the men. “What Bain Capital did was not capitalism, it was bad management,” says David Foster, lead negotiator for workers at GST Steel. Former steelworker Joe Soptic accuses Bain of cutting corners on safety, saying “it was like working in the sweatshops of the ’30s,” and that watching the plant close was “like watching an old friend bleed to death.”

The campaign also set up a new website to provide information about “Romney economics.”

Ron Paul announced that he won’t compete in any of the remaining primaries, but he still plans to compete with Mitt Romney for delegates to the Republican convention.

Ron Paul, the congressman from Texas and a favorite of tea partyers, effectively ended his presidential campaign Monday but urged his fervent supporters to continue working at the state party level to cause havoc for presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

In an email to supporters, Paul urged his libertarian-leaning backers to remain involved in politics and champion his causes despite the apparent end of his presidential aspirations. Paul has found success in wrecking the selection process for delegates to the party’s late-summer nominating convention in Tampa, Fla., and trumpeted that he has delayed Romney’s expected nomination….

Paul’s supporters have proved successful in winning state GOP conventions in places such as Maine and Nevada. His supporters in Iowa and Nevada were chosen to lead the state central parties.

Over the weekend, Paul’s supporters managed to boo Mitt Romney’s son Josh off the stage at the Arizona state Republican convention.

Hundreds of state GOP members were gathered at Grand Canyon University to elect delegates for the national convention in July in Tampa, Fla., which is expected to select Mitt Romney as the official Republican nominee to challenge President Obama.

“We cannot afford four more years of President Obama,” said Josh Romney, the third of Mitt Romney’s five sons. “We need someone to step in there and turn things around.”

But Josh Romney had to stop repeatedly as people booed and yelled for Paul, who has continued campaigning in the Republican primary.

What is Ron Paul up to? At HuffPo, Stewart J. Lawrence suggests that Paul may be trying to set up his son Rand Paul to become Romney’s vice presidential choice. Or perhaps he just wants a speaking role at the Convention and input into the party platform. In any case, Romney may have to deal with Ron Paul at some point.

So it was a pretty quiet day in the U.S., but not in Europe, where Greece is teetering on the brink of destruction and threatening to pull all of the Eurozone down with it. From the Washington Post: Greek deadlock heightens fears of full European economic crisis.

Political deadlock in Greece rattled world markets Monday, reviving fears that the fractious Mediterranean country could spurn an international bailout, abandon the common European currency and risk a fresh round of world economic turmoil.

European stock indexes fell, with Greece’s market now at a 20-year low, while the euro currency continued a recent decline against the dollar. U.S. stocks also fell.

Coming only days before the leaders of the world’s Group of Eight industrialized nations meet at Camp David, the standoff in Greece over its political direction has thrust Europe’s troubles to the top of the agenda. A downturn in Europe could stagger a fragile recovery in the United States and undermine growth around the world.

Some headlines from The Independent UK:

World braces itself for Greek euro exit.

Financial markets were plunged into fresh turmoil after Greece’s political parties failed once again to agree to form a unity government, and European policymakers warned that Greece’s aid payments would be cut off unless Athens quickly produced an administration prepared to deliver far-reaching economic reforms and budget cuts.

Without those funds from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, Greece could run out of cash to meet its national debt interest payments as early as next month. The country would then have no option but to default. Most analysts expect that a default would be a prelude to Greek exit from the single currency altogether.

Panic and violence in the streets as protesters turn against politicians.

Southern Europe is preparing for a summer of discontent as protesters of all ages, and from across the political spectrum, plan demonstrations against greater austerity measures and against those policymakers who say there is no alternative to cuts.

Up to 50,000 “Indignant Ones” gathered in Madrid’s Puerta de Sol area on Saturday, many more than expected, to demonstrate against the Spanish government’s austerity measures. But, as indignant as they might have been, there were fewer on the streets for what was billed as an even bigger rally on Sunday, despite a message of support from the US rocker Bruce Springsteen.

A public holiday in Madrid today is likely to draw another protest, and one group almost certain to be there is the yayoflautas, a collection of people in their sixties and seventies, and who were involved in anti-Franco protests. The group has staged sit-ins in banks, radio stations, hospitals and even the reception area of a ratings agency.


Angela Merkel’s party humiliated by shock election defeat

Angela Merkel’s ruling conservatives suffered a humiliating defeat in key elections in Germany’s most populous state yesterday when voters rejected her party’s austerity policies and handed a resounding victory to her pro-growth Social Democratic Party opponents.

Ms Merkel’s Christian Democrats were shell-shocked by the devastating result they returned in the poll in North Rhine Westphalia, which has a total population of 18 million. Exit polls showed that they secured a mere 25.5 per cent of the vote – their worst performance ever in the state….

By contrast, the pro-growth Social Democrats and their candidate Hannelore Kraft, 50, romped home with 38 per cent of the vote. They were expected to form a so-called Red-Green coalition with the environmentalist Greens who won around 12 per cent of the vote. The two parties secured enough seats to obtain an absolute majority in the state parliament.

U.S. politicians should be paying attention. Austerity is not a long-term winning policy.

In miscellaneous news, Gizmodo reports that the Kodak company had a nuclear reactor in its basement for many years.

Kodak may be going under, but apparently they could have started their own nuclear war if they wanted, just six years ago. Down in a basement in Rochester, NY, they had a nuclear reactor loaded with 3.5 pounds of enriched uranium—the same kind they use in atomic warheads….

Kodak officials now admit that they never made any public announcement about it. In fact, nobody in the city—officials, police or firemen—or in the state of New York or anywhere else knew about it until it was recently leaked by an ex-employee. Its existence and whereabouts were purposely kept vague and only a few engineers and Federal employees really knew about the project.

The company had a legitimate purpose for having the reactor and radioactive material:

Kodak’s purpose for the reactor wasn’t sinister: they used it to check materials for impurities as well as neutron radiography testing. The reactor, a Californium Neutron Flux multiplier (CFX) was acquired in 1974 and loaded with three and a half pounds of enriched uranium plates placed around a californium-252 core.

But still it’s amazing they were able to get away with the reactor and especially the secrecy. The reactor was dismantled in 2006.

Why would a mafia boss be buried in a Roman basilica? Especially when he was suspected of abducting a 15-year-old girl, the daughter of a Vatican employee.

Forensic teams and marble workers have pried open a mobster’s tomb in the basilica Sant’Apollinare in Rome, searching for clues that might help to solve one of Italy’s greatest mysteries.

Fifteen-year-old Emanuela Orlandi, the daughter of a Vatican bank functionary, disappeared in 1983 on her way to a music lesson. Her body has never been found, and the truth about what happened to her has puzzled investigators for nearly 30 years. One of the most prominent conspiracy theories was that Orlandi’s remains would be found in the crypt where the notorious Roman mafioso Enrico “Renatino” De Pedis was eventually laid to rest after he was shot dead in a Rome square in 1990.

On Monday, his tomb was finally opened. His body was there, inside a three-layer sarcophagus, well preserved and wearing a dark blue suit and black tie. Police took fingerprints and confirmed his identity. But also, tucked inside a niche of the ancient crypt – a burial place since before Napoleonic times – were dozens of boxes containing unidentified human bones.

Dozens of boxes of bones?! This should be an interesting story to follow.

Finally, I’d like to call your attention to a profile of Mitt Romney’s top adviser Eric Fernstrom, published in GQ Magazine. It’s long, but well worth reading. Here’s a brief preview:

Fehrnstrom calls himself a “utility player,” and in the press he’s typically identified as a “Romney spokesman” or a “Romney strategist.” But that doesn’t begin to do justice to his place in the high command. Fehrnstrom has been with Romney for a decade, longer than any other political adviser on his 2012 campaign. “Anytime I’ve got questions or I’ve got a doubt, I know I can go to Eric and I’m getting feedback from someone who’s inside Mitt’s brain,” Romney’s senior adviser Kevin Madden told me. Or as Peter Flaherty, another senior Romney adviser, puts it: “Eric has a deeper shelf of institutional knowledge of Mitt Romney than anyone I know whose last name is not Romney.”

Fehrnstrom’s first job for Romney was running the press shop during his successful 2002 run for Massachusetts governor. But his role quickly expanded, and as Romney’s national profile grew, so did his trusted aide’s. (So much so that when Scott Brown was looking for someone to help him win Ted Kennedy’s old Massachusetts Senate seat in 2010, he hired Fehrnstrom, who remains Brown’s top strategist.) Over the course of his decade with Romney, Madden says, Fehrnstrom has become “a Tom Hagen figure. He’s consigliere to the governor.”

But with two slight differences. Whereas Hagen was always trying to cool off the hotheaded Sonny Corleone and keep the peace, Fehrnstrom, 50, is both the wise man and the hothead. He wears the uniform of the modern political consultant—iPad tucked in the crook of his arm, open-collared shirt, rectangular-framed glasses—but his fleshy face and thick New England accent betray a rougher core. And far from reining in Romney, he performs the opposite service for his client: Fehrnstrom toughens him up. “Eric gives Mitt a capability that Mitt doesn’t have,” says Ben Coes, Romney’s campaign manager in 2002. “It’s a streetwise savvy; it’s an on-the-ground Boston-smarts mentality; it’s a back-alley-politics, survival-of-the-fittest point of view. Mitt is not a knife fighter. Eric is a knife fighter.” The best political operatives are the ones who provide their clients with a tangible quality the candidate himself lacks. If Karl Rove was Bush’s brain, then Fehrnstrom is Romney’s balls.

That’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?