Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tuesday morning quick hits

Sen. Ensign: GOP Majority Would Be ‘Fairly Miraculous’
John Ensign has one of the worst jobs in Washington - he is head of the National Republican Senate Committee and therefore the person charged with defending the 23 Republican Class II Senate seats up for reelection in November. While over on the House side, Boehner is insisting the republicans are in the catbirds seat and gonna take back the majority, Ensign is not delusional, saying that his best-case scenario would be a three-seat loss on Election Day. “That would be a terrific night for us, absolutely,” he said. “I don’t want to slip below the four-seat loss. That’s kind of where we’ve set our absolute worst goal is to be down to 45 seats.” Ensign identified the 10 most competitive races in the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Alaska, Oregon, Colorado, New Mexico, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Virginia. Only one of those contested seats - Louisiana - is held by a Democrat. Two — Virginia and New Mexico — are heavily favored at this point to flip to Democratic control. Asked if the NRSC was mulling walking away from these two races to focus resources elsewhere, Ensign was non-committal, but added, “You don’t waste money on races that don’t need it or you can’t win.” Wow. I never thought I would see the day that the NRSC would write off Virginia in June. Ensign doesn't have Kansas on that list, but Pat Roberts isn't assured of retaining his seat - Jim Slattery has narrowed the gap to single digits, and the incumbent is stuck at 50% - Kansans are more than a little miffed at him for abdicating his responsibility and drinking the neocon koolaid when he was chair of the intel committee.

China's turn to chide
Before bu$h drove the economy into the ground, the Chinese were obligated to sit at the table and get their asses chewed by American emissaries about their mismanagement of their economy. Now, the shoe is on the other foot. Senior Chinese officials are suddenly loudly and publicly rebuking the Americans on their handling of the economy and defending their own more assertive style of economic regulation. Chinese officials are especially irked by the blatant hypocrisy of Americans telling them what to do, while the American falters. China, on the other hand, has maintained its feverish growth. Some Chinese officials are advocating for a Chinese style of economic management that they say serves developing economies better than the American model, in much the same way they argue that they are in no hurry to copy American-style multiparty democracy. In the last six weeks alone, a senior banking regulator blamed Washington’s “warped conception” of market regulation for the subprime mortgage crisis that is rattling the world economy; the Chinese envoy to the World Trade Organization called on the United States to halt the dollar’s unchecked depreciation before the slide further worsens soaring oil and food prices; and Chinese agencies denounced a federal committee charged with vetting foreign investments in the United States, saying the Americans were showing “hostility” and a “discriminatory attitude,” not least toward the Chinese.

As southern towns lose population, economic woes grow
Rural towns in the Carolinas and Georgia, and especially in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas, are hollowing out. "It is the poorest region in the country, poorer than the Appalachian region and poorer than the Mississippi Delta region," says Joseph Whorton, a senior fellow at University of Georgia's Fanning Institute. "This is a great place to live, and a lot of people would like to stay here but they can't because there aren't any jobs," says Lovell Burrell, 47, a disabled heavy equipment operator. "All my brothers and sisters, everybody I went to school with, has left here to find work." Those who study the region say its problems stem from a history of racial inequity and a post-World War II economic development strategy of recruiting low-paying industry jobs from the North. The problems are magnified by its rural nature, a lack of employment and other economic opportunities, and by dual school systems of private academies for whites and underperforming public schools for blacks. "The cost of poverty, the cost of impoverishment, these have accumulated over generations," says Ron Wimberley, a sociology professor at North Carolina State University who has studied the region for 18 years.

Detroit looks to European divisions for small car innovations
Struggling to adapt to a SUV-as-pariah reality and unable to quickly retool to develop their own fuel-efficient models blindsided-by-reality big auto, is looking to their European divisions, where smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles have for years been far more prevalent than in the US.

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