Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Archives: June 2002

Sunday | June 30, 2002
Ashcroft, angel of death

The trend nationwide is against the death penalty. The Supreme Court is sounding a retreat, turning a harsh eye on capital punishment, while states across the nation are looking to follow Illinois lead with a moratorium.

So, what is Ashcroft's obsession with death? Since taking office, Ashcroft has overruled his prosecutors 12 times, ordering them to seek the death penalty when they had recommended otherwise. In one case, prosecutors had reached a tentative plea bargain before being ordered by Ashcroft to rescind the offer and seek the defendant's death.

    | 08:31 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Other priorities

In what is shaping up to be an interesting administration leak, anonymous officials say that the pre-9-11 Bush Administration didn't have terrorism on its radar screen. Despite intense focus on the problem by the Clinton Administration, Bush's National Security Council discussed terrorism in only two if its first 100 meetings.

So, while the Bushies were interested in restarting the Cold War with North Korea and China, terrorism was barely an afterthought. Missile defense was important. Al Queda was ignored. Restarting nuclear testing was a priority. Securing our airports was not.

Lucky for the administration, the 4th of July weekend is coming up, giving it ample opportunities to sound the terrorism alarm bell.

    | 08:11 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Friday | June 28, 2002
Changing URLs

Sorry for the lack of posts. I spent the past 24 hours mired in techno-limbo. I moved the site over to a new domain http://www.dailykos.com. What should've been an easy transfer became a nightmare of epic porportions as all my archives and page templates disappeared. After hours of detective work, it turned out my database had become corrupted in the process. I tried a million things, and when things looked bleakest, suddenly everything worked. I have no clue what I did, but I'm not going to complain too much.

Anyway, the old fishyshark.com domain will autoforward to the new dailykos.com. Fishyshark was meant to house my own personal site, not the serious political commentary I ended up doing with Daily Kos. The new URL better reflects the content and tone of my site. If you have linked to me, I would appreciate it if you updated your link. I know it's a pain, but I will find a way to repay you.

And finally, I will never have to explain what a 'fishyshark' is!

    | 01:27 PM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post

Thursday | June 27, 2002
More on the Pledge

Much of the arguments against the court decision invalidating "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance can be broken down to: 1) How can you ban the pledge, especially during war?, and 2) there is no separation between church and state. Just look at the Declaration of Independence!

First of, the appeal court's decision did not ban the pledge. It simply requires that the words "under God" be ommitted. Those words weren't even in the original version of the pledge, and were simply added by Eisenhower in a politically motivated move. The Pledge is no less effective in declaring allegiance to the flag without those words.

As for the Declaration of Independence, it is not a legal document or law. It was an appeal to revolution from the colonial rebels. As such, it was ladden with emotional appeals to (at the time) radical notions of human rights. Most of the framers of the delcaration were not Christian, they were Deists. But they framed the declaration with religiosity in order to rally the people around their cause. Once the nation was established, neither the Articles of Confederation nor the Constitution included similar appeals to God. There was no need for it. Those documents were now legal frameworks for the nation, and that framework included language ensuring that the government couldn't establish an official religion nor apply religious litmus tests. Jefferson's subsequent writings simply clarified the clause that he himself had authored (just as courts today will look to the intent of the legislature in interpreting law).

So what the Declaration of Independence says about the "creator" is irrelevant as a matter of law. This decision was the right decision, if coming at an inopportune time. Nothing in this decision prohibits anyone from pledging allegiance to the flag, nor from otherwise being patriotic and loving the nation.

But if this decision leads to a Constitutional Amendment officially erasing the wall between church and state, then it would truly be tragic.

    | 08:23 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Wednesday | June 26, 2002
Pledge is unconstitutional

Update: Well, I wrote the below immediately after the decision was announced. I didn't forsee that politicians from both sides of the aisle would be calling for a Constitutional amendment. And, Sen. Daschle has asked lawmakers to get to work early Thursday to recite the pledge. How quaint. And it will all be captured by CNN and beamed back to approving constituents nationwide.

It is clear to see that hundreds of years of church/state jurisprudence is to be wiped out in one fell swoop by people upset that the Pledge of Allegiance eliminate the two words "under God." It's sickening.

I think the best hope is that the Supremes grant cert and reverse. There may still be momentum for the amendment (a la flag burning amendment), but it won't be as dangerous as the current hysteria gripping the Hill.


The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional. At least in the territory covered by the 9th (AK, AZ, CA, HI, ID, MT, NV, OR, and WA). I will have to read the decision before commenting further, but this is a huge victory for those who believe in the separation of church and state.

Then again, the 9th is the most overturned appeals court in the nation, and easily its most liberal. If the supremes take the case they will likely squash it. And, I get nervous about cases like this before elections. They tend to motivate the GOP's right wing while providing ample fodder for fund-raising appeals. And Bush will get to show once again what a fan of Jesus he is. Ugh.

    | 12:20 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Economy in a free fall

Does anybody still think the market won't become an issue in November? Not only does it makes attacks on 'privatization' of social security more salient, but it touches on anyone with a stock portfolio or 401(k). That may be one major reason that men are increasingly identifying with the Democratic Party, defying recent trends.

Of course, the latest bombshell to hit Wall Street was the restatement of WorldCom's earnings. The markets have tumbled, and as I write this, the Dow has dropped just below the 9,000 mark. There is zero public confidence in Wall Street or its leaders. And, this anger, distrust, and distaste should be easy to transfer to corporate America's biggest boosters -- the Republican Party. In fact, some early reports note that WorldCom has donated over $1 million to the GOP. That would be par for the course.

Democrats aren't letting this opportunity pass. There is a clear distinction between rabidly pro-business Republicans and the more pragmatic Dems, and the House Dems are using that distinction to hammer their opponents. In vote after vote, Democrats are highlighting corporate America's most indefensible tacticts -- for example, incorporating overseas to avoid paying taxes. And woe to Republicans who vote against these measures:

"[Republican] Representative Gekas took sides in the fight between ordinary Americans and corrupt corporate practices," declared DCCC spokeswoman Kim Rubey. "At a time when our country is fighting a war, these companies are planting their flags overseas for a quick buck."
Democrats are calling it "economic patriotism".

Rove and company are expecting to receive a boost in November from an improving economy. That is increasingly less likely to happen. Home sales are down. Consumer sentiment is pessimistic. GOP-tied companies are being exposed for corrupt business practices. Economic 'malaise' and war weariness infects the public. The country may default on its financial obligations thanks to skyrocketing deficits and a ballooning debt. Promises that tax cuts would avert the economic downturn haven't panned out.

The economy speaks directly to every single voter. pollster John Zogby says the economy could be the "sleeper issue". I don't think I need to go out on a ledge to predict the economy will be THE issue. There is little difference between the GOP and Dems on the war. What differentiates them will be the economy. And the way things are going, I doubt Karl Rove is getting much sleep these days.

    | 08:30 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Tuesday | June 25, 2002
Blame where blame is due

Bush is pleading for Congress to raise the debt limit. Predictably, Bush argues that if we don't raise the debt limit, the terrorists have won.

Actually, he said raising the debt limit was essential "as we fight for freedom" against terrorists. Jeez...

The debt limit battle is a thorny one for the GOP. Voters and the party's fiscally conservative wing don't generally like deficits. So, looking for political cover, Republicans blamed the war, they blamed the recession, they probably blamed Bill Clinton, and then tried to hide the debt limit increase deep inside a terrorism-related bill.

House Democrats killed that chickenshit effort. They are demanding a stand-alone bill that would put a glaring spotlight on the nation's GOP-led return to massive deficits and ballooning debts. Oh, and also a debate on taxes and the raiding of social security to help balance the budget.

House Republicans want none of that. The tax cuts are sacrosant. If that's what they believe, good for them. But they should then proudly and openly vote to raise the debt limit.

The debt celing should be lifted, but not without making it painfully clear where the blame should lie. Force the GOP to pass the debt limit increase on an open, high-profile party-line vote.

    | 05:28 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Romney gets to stay

As expected, Mitt Romney will be allowed to stay in the MA governor's race. In a misguided bit of political maneuvering, MA dems tried to force Romney off the ballot invoking a never-used residency requirement. The gambit failed, as the state's election board unanimously ruled for Romney.

The Dems effort took the spotlight away from Romney's own lies about the matter and transformed him into a victim of dirty campaign tactics. Even the state's all-Democratic congressional delegation attacked their state party's efforts as misguided.

Despite the inept mishandling of the matter, Romney has taken a major hit. A a June 6 poll, taken right after the controversy first arose, showed him trailing Democratic front-runner Shannon O'Brien by 9 points.

    | 02:07 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Maine Senate race tightening

The National Journal's Charlie Cook reports this week that the Maine senate race is tightening up. While Republicans claim that Sen. Collins is safely ahead, Dem candidate Pingree's own polling shows her closing ground, down 45-33. That is far better than the 56-20 numbers polled in March.

Pingree is focusing her campaign on popular health care issues, especially the outrageous drug costs in the US (especially in comparison to drug costs in neighboring Canada). And the state has traditionally been hostile ground to the GOP (Gore and Nader collectively beat Bush by 11 percentage points in 2000). Thus, election observers definitely expect the race to tighten considerably in the coming months, especially as Pingree's name recognition increases.

The GOP claims their internal polls show Collins safely ahead, and question the veracity of the Dems poll. However, unlike Pingree's camp, the GOP has refused to release their latest internal poll to the press. That is always suspicious. Campaigns will happily share their polling data with the press if it shows their candidate in a favorable light.

Even Karl Rove expects the Maine race to be a battle. In his famously exposed PowerPoint presentation, Rove lists Maine's Senate seat as a "possible D pickup".

Collins shouldn't be underestimated. A true example of the endangered New England moderate Republican, she is actually to the left of nominal Democrats like Zel Miller of GA. Thus, she can avoid much of the hostility Maine voters might harbor against the national GOP.

Yet the health care issues resonate in Maine, and if Pingree can tie Collins to the GOP/Drug Co. love embrace, it should be an interesting race indeed.

    | 10:24 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Monday | June 24, 2002
Death Penalty and the Supremes, Part II

The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in Ring v. Arizona that judges cannot impose the death penalty in capital murder trials. The court ruled that the Constitution vests that responsibility on the jury.

This decision doesn't have the wide ranging consequences that last week's Atkins v. Virginia had on the future of the death penalty. It merely decided a procedural question, clarifying the constitutional roles of judges and juries in capital murder trials. But, it does mean that the death sentences of 150 inmates in five states have been overturned, and the decision could ultimately affect 800 inmates on death row, or 1/5 of the national total.

More importantly, the court has decided to hear an appeal in the case of Abu-Ali Abdur'Rahman.

It will be interesting to see how the Supremes approach the issue, and how narrow or broad a ruling they will issue. But this case has everything you might want in a capital crimes appeal -- the defendant is black, he is certifiably mentally disturbed, he was convicted based on the testimony of a single snitch, no physical evidence tied him to the murder, the prosecution withheld evidence of Abdur'Rahman's mental illness, and his lawyer was the epiteme of incopetent -- presenting no witnesses and failing to contest the prosecution's theory of the case.

Heck, eight of the jurors that sentenced Abdur'Rahman to death have signed affidavits expressing outrage at the trial, and the way they were lied to.

A federal judge ruled that Abdur'Rahman had received inadequate assistance of counsel, but was reversed by the Circuit Court of Appeals.

An optimist would view this case as a perfect chance for the Supreme Court to kill the death penalty outright. That is highly unlikely, of course. Instead, we can hope that the court's renewed interest in the death penalty, and new hostility to the way it has been carried out by the states, will lead to increased restrictions in its implementation.

    | 09:51 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Friday | June 21, 2002
Significance of Atkins v. Virginia

The Supreme Court's historic 6-3 decision prohibiting the execution of mentally retarded murderers may well signal the beginning of the end of the death penalty. With Justice Sandra Day O’Connor now firmly in the anti-capital punishment camp (a 180-degree position shift), Atkins v. Virginia continues the present day, nationwide, multi-front assault against the death penalty.

The court’s far-right Conservatives are livid, not because mentally disabled individuals can now avoid the death penalty, but because they fear for the very existence of capital punishment. This fear runs so deep that the dissenters did away with the formality of writing “I respectfully dissent”, opting instead for the terse “I dissent”. In the pedantic world of Supreme Court jurisprudence, this is the equivalent of “up yours!”

So what exactly is this decision all about?

The central tent of this decision is the 8th Amendment, which bars “cruel and unusual punishment”. According to Supreme Court precedent, “[Cruel and unusual punishments are] modes of punishment that are inconsistent with modern standards of decency, as evinced by objective indicia, the most important of which is legislation enacted by the country’s legislatures.”

Chief Justice William Rehnquist makes much hay of this, reminding us that legislation is the "clearest and most reliable objective evidence of contemporary values." Fair enough.

The majority looks at the states, and declares that there’s a national consensus against executing the mentally retarded. This sets off the court’s right wing, which can’t believe the majority is so blinded by bias. Or as Justice Antonin Scalia writes, “Seldom has an opinion of this Court rested so obviously upon nothing but the personal views of its members.”

In his dissent, Rehnquist writes:

The Court pronounces the punishment cruel and unusual primarily because 18 States recently have passed laws limiting the death eligibility of certain defendants based on mental retardation alone, despite the fact that the laws of 19 other States besides Virginia continue to leave the question of proper punishment to the individuated consideration of sentencing judges or juries...
Scalia writes:
That bare number of States alone–18–should be enough to convince any reasonable person that no “national consensus” exists. How is it possible that agreement among 47% of the death penalty jurisdictions amounts to “consensus”?
What the dissent so disingenuously ignores is that in addition to the 18 states mentioned above, 13 other states bar the execution of the mentally disabled -- those that bar capital punishment altogether. Clearly, the sentiments of those 13 states have to be considered in any analysis of a “national consensus”. That means that 31 of the country’s 50 states prohibit the execution of the mentally retarded. Not quite the 18/19 (47 percent) split the dissent evokes.

But wait, there's more! When the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988, Congress (which arguably is the clearest arbiter of national standards of decency) specifically exempted mentally retarded defendants. To be exact: "[A] sentence of death shall not be carried out upon a person who is mentally retarded." And when Congress expanded the scope of the death penalty in 1994, it once again specifically exempted the mentally retarded (and that was in the no-holds-barred years of Newt Gingrich's Contract With America).

Neither dissent mentions the federal laws. Nor the fact that two capital punishment states (New Jersey and New Hampshire) haven't bothered to use it in decades. Nor that Illinois has issued a moratorium on all executions.

Thus, we have 31 states AND the United States all exempting the execution of the mentally retarded, plus three states that ignore their capital punishment powers. That provides ample legal support for the majority’s contention that there is a national consensus against executing the mentally retarded.

So, perhaps sensing that dissenting on these grounds was weak, both dissenters then spend considerable efforts attacking an obscure footnote at the back of the majority opinion, which states:

Additional evidence makes it clear that this legislative judgment reflects a much broader social and professional consensus. For example, several organizations with germane expertise have adopted official positions opposing the imposition of the death penalty upon a mentally retarded offender … In addition, representatives of widely diverse religious communities in the United States, reflecting Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist traditions, have filed an amicus curiae brief explaining that even though their views about the death penalty differ, they all “share a conviction that the execution of persons with mental retardation cannot be morally justified.” … Moreover, within the world community, the imposition of the death penalty for crimes committed by mentally retarded offenders is overwhelmingly disapproved … Finally, polling data shows a widespread consensus among Americans, even those who support the death penalty, that executing the mentally retarded is wrong … Although these factors are by no means dispositive, their consistency with the legislative evidence lends further support to our conclusion that there is a consensus among those who have addressed the issue.
This footnote is buried toward the end of the majority opinion, but to hear the dissent, the bulk of the majority’s opinion is predicated on this footnote. Rehnquist blasts any mention of international opinion: “I fail to see, however, how the views of other countries regarding the punishment of their citizens provide any support for the Court’s ultimate determination.” Rehnquist is equally disdainful on polls, demanding the majority analyze each poll for scientific and statistical validity.

Yet even he has to admit that the majority opinion is NOT based on those polls, or international opinion, or religious consensus. So why spend time attacking a minor footnote? Because that footnote is subversive, taking judicial notice of the increasing forces arrayed against the death penalty – from churches, to the public, and even to (gasp!) international opinion. That footnote gives aid and comfort to the opponents of capital punishment, and sets the stage for the next battle in this war.

The fight ahead is still long and hard. But a 6-3 Supreme Court decision is nothing short of a rout, and the legal foundation has been set for future victories, notwithstanding the hysterical shrieks from the dissent.

    | 12:36 PM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post

Thursday | June 20, 2002
Bush's numbers still falling

The drop this week isn't monumental -- 1 point -- but Bush's 68 percent approval rating this week is still significant. Bush's handlers were shocked at Bush's 7-8 point drop last week, and had him rush out a proposal for a Department of Homeland Security (backstabbing Ridge and congressional Republicans that had fought Dem efforts to create such a department). The proposal was supposed to shore up Bush's numbers. Instead, the first poll released in the interim has Bush's numbers still dropping (albeit not as dramatically as last week's big plunge).

The poll also suggests that while people are optimistic the economy will improve, they do recognize it is currently in the gutter:

Thinking about the economy in the country as a whole, how would you rate our national economy? Would you say it is in excellent shape, good shape, only fair shape or poor shape?
Excellent shape ......... 1%
Good shape .......... 29
Only fair shape .......... 50
Poor shape .......... 20
Don't know/refused .......... 1
Thinking back over the past year, would you say that our nation's economy has gotten better, gotten worse over the past year or has it stayed the same?
Gotten better .......... 14%
Gotten worse .......... 48
Stayed the same .......... 37
Don't know/refused .......... 1
The big question, of course, is who will be blamed for the bad economy. The poll indicates that only 16 percent of people blame Bush, with 57 percent saying he has been irrelevant to the economy. It will be interesting to see if those numbers hold up in the face of increasingly emboldened Dems and skeptical press (witness the 'trifecta' controversy). The Bushies will continue to blame the war, but that may lose traction as more 9-11 revelations come to the fore, and as the public becomes increasingly skeptical of Bush's motives.

    | 05:17 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Rolling back the death penalty

The US Supreme Court has ruled that executing mentally retarded murderers is unconstitutional. This decision is significant. There is palpable momentum nationwide against the death penalty, and this latest rollback is symptomatic of shifting public sentiment. In 1989, only two death penalty states outlawed execution of the mentally disabled. Now, 18 states prohibit it. Indeed, Justice Stevens, writing for the majority, pointed to this nationwide shift as evidence bolstering the courts 6-3 decision.

The dissenters made up the court's far right-wing cabal: Rehnquist, Thomas, and Scalia. And they are pissed. Get this -- instead of saying the traditional "I respectfully dissent", Rehnquist wrote the terse "I dissent." Whew! In the pedantic world of Supreme Court jurisprudence, that is a definitive "Up Yours!"

I was happy to see normally conservative O'Connor side with the majority. A former staunch supporter of the death penalty, she recently (and publicly) reconsidered her position. She is now the swing vote on similar cases, and this could bode well for opponents of the death penalty. I was a bit surprised to see Kennedy vote with the majority. I'll have to look into it a bit, but if I recall correctly, the center-right jurist has also been a solid supporter of the death penalty.

Regardless, with O'Connor now joining the court's liberal wing, it seems that the death penalty now faces fire both at the state (Illinois and others) and federal levels.

    | 08:23 AM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post

Wednesday | June 19, 2002
Sludge is now good for fish

Just when I think the Bush Administration can't shock me anymore, they gleefully prove me wrong. You see, according to an internal EPA report, dumping toxic sludge into the Potomac River is good for fish. The sludge is dumped into the river in violation of the Endangered Species Act and Clear Water Act. The Washington Times notes:

The document says it is not a "ridiculous possibility" that a discharge "actually protects the fish in that they are not inclined to bite (and get eaten by humans) but they go ahead with their upstream movement and egg laying."
The Bush administration is a blatant enemy of environmental regulation, but the extremes they will travel to justify their polluting is bizarre. California Rep. George Radanovich, a Republican, was flabbergasted:
To suggest that toxic sludge is good for fish because it prevents them from being caught by man is like suggesting that we club baby seals to death to prevent them from being eaten by sharks. It's ludicrous. This is one of the most frightening examples of bureaucratic ineptitude and backward logic I have ever seen.

    | 11:52 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Nickelodeon Ethics

Maureen Dowd is an American gem. This latest piece by Dowd is perhaps the funniest thing I've read in weeks. Poking fun at White House attempts to brand Shrub the "philosopher-president", Dowd notes:

Who would have guessed that a man responsible for immortal locutions like last week's gem about immigration -- "We need to know who's coming in and why they're not going out" -- was in fact relying upon the Tusculan Disputations and the Nicomachean Ethics? Surely no close reader of Emily Dickinson's verse had ever before detected its implications for public policy.
Bush is most effective when playing the "who would you rather have a beer with?" card. No one wants to have a beer with a philosopher. Or talk about Nichomachean Ethics.

    | 11:31 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Simon's futile quest

In an interesting bit of strategery, the Republican candidate for governor in California has launched a Spanish-language ad campaign. In fact, it is Simon's first ads of the campaign, which makes his decision to launch in Spanish first quite interesting.

Now, the Latino community has always been very socially conservative (thanks to the strong influence of the Catholic church). Thus, it is not inconcievable for Republicans to make gains with the Latino electorate.

However, it is difficult to express in words just how villified the GOP is with California Latinos. After enduring a steady stream of anti-immigrant GOP-backed initiatives, it is all but impossible for a Republican candidate to attract any significant Latino support. Indeed, that is one reason for the state GOP's slide into irrelevance.

And Simon is not a new, immigrant-friendly type of Republican. Just check out the following statements of support for anti-immigrant measures, and the subsequent monumental flip-flop:

In his primary campaign as he sought to appeal to conservative Republicans, Simon made controversial statements regarding Proposition 187, the anti-illegal immigration measure handily approved by state voters in 1994. In a radio interview, he told KRLA Los Angeles radio host Terry Anderson that he opposed Proposition 187, though he said "I support the concept" of the measure, which in part was designed to cut off health care assistance, social services and education to millions of undocumented immigrants in California.

Simon also said that if elected he would reconsider submitting Proposition 187 to appeals courts and would "absolutely" consider placing National Guard at the borders and closing down sites where illegal immigrants get work.

But Russo said Tuesday that Simon said he doesn't support such measures and would not open 187 for legal challenge if elected governor.

    | 08:13 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Tuesday | June 18, 2002
Trade war blowback

Bush's efforts to secure his electoral standing in PA and WV by imposing tariffs on imported steel have hit a roadblock. Immediately after Mr. Free Trade announced his hypocritical tariffs, the European Union and Japan struck back swiftly. The EU espcially showed sharp political acumen by threatening retaliatory tariffs on goods from politically sensitive states, such as Florida orange juice. At the same time, the administration has faced fierce criticism from domestic steel users (such as car manufacturers) who warn of layoffs and higher prices for their products.

Thus, the Bush administration is backpedalling furiously, stalling the EU sanctions by granting 61 exemptions to the tariffs back in early June, and another 46 yesterday. The EU has taken a 'wait and see' attitude on the exemptions before deciding whether to impose their retaliatory tariffs.

It'll be interesting to note public reaction to the exemptions in PA and WV, which were the intended beneficiaries (alongside Bush) of the protective tariffs. By all accounts, it looks as though Bush will have to gut the tariffs, rendering them completely impotent. That could play as a Bush betrayal of PA's and WV's struggling steel industries. Not good electoral policy.

But if he does nothing, he must then contend with punitive tariffs against key states, as well as resist a concerted counterattack by steel consuming industries in key midwestern states such as Illinois, Michigan and Ohio.

Isn't it delicious when transparantly political decisions backfire disastrously?

    | 08:37 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Monday | June 17, 2002
Shooting down "intelligent design"

This is a must-read rebuttal to all those wingnuts trying to inject religion into our public school science classes. Scientific American's Editor in Chief writes "15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense".

    | 01:34 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Latino voters and the GOP

References to this poll have made the rounds in DC. In essence, the poll shows growing support for Bush amongst registered Latino voters. Republicans have seized on the fact that if the 2000 election were held today, Bush would draw 44 percent of the Latino vote (which is 9 points more than the 35 percent he drew in 2000).

However, the poll doesn't really indicate a mass migration of Latino support to the GOP, and recent events (such as the CIA-backed coup attempt in Venezuela) may already render some of the poll results invalid.

In short, I draw attention to the following questions:

Who is better at improving relations with Latin America, Bush or congressional Democrats?
Bush 53%
Democrats 30%
This question is a non-sequitor. Congress does not make foreign policy. Anyone with a passing knowledge of the Constitution would have to answer 'Bush', whether s/he agreed with the president or not.

Yet despite the silly question, Bush is barely above 50 percent. A great deal of that 50 percent most likely comes from Mexican-Americans who witness Bush's infatuation with their country, and the Cuban Americans who approve of Bush's irrationally hard line against Castro.

Given the dominant position of those two groups in the US, I would argue that Bush's numbers should've been in the 70's, alongside Bush's approval rating in this poll. Why are they lower?

In large part, there is some concern in the Latino community that Bush's Latin American interests do not extend past Mexico or Cuba. And when he does look further south, it's not for benevolent reasons. Bush took a huge hit over his unsuccessful coup attempt in Venezuela. A large percentage of the US Latino population (including yours truly) have had first-hand experience of US meddling in Latin America, from coups throughout the hemisphere to the support of murderous regimes and rebel groups. Bush's Venezuela action shook many of us deeply, and that anger made its rounds throughout the US Spanish-language media.

If the congressional election in your district were held today, would you vote to elect the Democrat or the Republican?
Democrat 53%
Republican 23%
Despite Bush's popularity among Latinos, Congressional Republicans are polling at less than a quarter. That indicates that Bush has zero coattails. Latino support for Bush is Latino support for the human being called Bush. Not his party, not his agenda.

And, the GOP continues to put forth an ugly front against Latinos, as witnessed by the Texas GOP state convention last week. (This is particularly significant because Texas Latinos are more inclined to support Bush than any other non-Cuban Latino constituency in the US.)

Finally, the poll suffers from one last major flaw -- it doesn't address the effect of the economy. As the economic recovery fizzles, Latinos (and other minorities) are disproportionately affected, and economic distress breeds increased anti-immigrant sentiments. And, just as anti-immigrant initiatives killed the California GOP, it may well do the same in Texas, the Southwest, and the industrialized Midwest. Bush has little sway among his party's anti-immigrant wing.

So, should the Democrats dismiss this poll altogether? Obviously not. The Democrats cannot continue to presume Latino support. If nothing else, Bush's popularity may depress Latino voter turnout. Nothing motivates people to the polls more than fear, and Bush is effectively putting a happy face on the GOP within the Latino community.

    | 11:48 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Ashcroft Death Watch, Part III

Ashcroft has increasingly found himself in the crosshairs of right-wing pundits and administration officials. Here's the latest installment:

Underlying much of the grumbling over Ashcroft's profile are questions about his motives. His elevated stature has kept alive speculation that Ashcroft, a former senator, governor, state attorney general and presidential hopeful, might be weighing another run for political office.

His aides have repeatedly dismissed speculation that Ashcroft is aiming for the presidency or vice presidency, or that he would like to recapture the Senate seat he lost in 2000 to the widow of Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan, who was killed in a plane crash shortly before the election.

But perhaps the most interesting part of the story is this quote:
In the Bush administration's war on terrorism, Ashcroft has served as the de facto minister of fear, issuing dire warnings of terrorist threats and announcing stringent new security measures with whirlwind frequency.
This is a news story in the Washington Post, not an opinion piece. The fact that Ashcroft is referred to as a "minister of fear" is significant. Not only does it indicate the media has completely turned against him, but that the Bush administration is no longer providing protection. He is on his own, and will flap in the wind until forced to announce his retirement to "spend more time with his family".

    | 08:41 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

US gives go-ahead to Chinese missile buildup

The US' long-standing efforts to reduce nuclear proliferation in the world has ground to a halt thanks to the Bush administration's obsession with the missile defense shield. (login: dailykos | password: dailykos)

Not only are commentators arguing the missile shield would encourage nuclear powers to expand their arsenals to overwhelm the new defenses, but the US is actually encouraging China to do so.

Foreign policy guru Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del) ripped the new policy:

"This is absolutely absurd. It shows that these guys will go to any length to build a national missile defense, even one they can't define. Their headlong, headstrong, irrational and theological desire to build a missile defense sends the wrong message to the Chinese and to the whole world."
If, as expected, the Chinese expand their arsenal, India will be forced to keep pace. As India boosts its arsenal, its arch-enemy Pakistan wouldn't be far behind. Russia would most likely be forced to redeploy some of those missiles put in mothballs by the latest 'treaty' Putin and Bush signed.

And, as the entire region went nuclear, there would be even more impetus for the local "rogue states" to built their own nuclear fleets.

Administration officials argue that China is modernizing its missile fleet anyway, so it's no big deal. But it is a big deal. Not only is the US going to give China the green light to build up their arsenal, but it has also signaled a desire to start nuclear testing once again, violating the signed but never-ratified Nuclear Test Ban Treaty -- giving China the diplomatic cover it needs to design, test and build even more advanced nuclear weapons.

We have gone from half a century of efforts to limit the number of nuclear-capable states, and the numbers of nuclear warheads, to a policy that would essentially defeat the entire point of a nuclear missile shield.

There are no pretensions that a nuclear missile shield could stop a full-scale assault. Indeed, every test thus far conducted indicates that the shield couldn't even stop a single warhead with full counter-measures built in. Yet, instead of working to reduce the number of warheads (thus the chances of accidental launch, or of a warhead falling into the hands of terrorists), the US has sanctioned a brand new arms race.

    | 08:11 AM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post

Sunday | June 16, 2002
Mass Dems push Romney issue

Just what exactly are MA Democrats trying to do? Just days ago, it seemed as though the stars were shinning on them, with GOP gubernatorial candidate on the defensive about his residency. Romney lies were being exposed daily, and a poll showed Romney's lead in the general election vanishing.

So the smart thing would've been to let Romney twist in the wind, spending the next few months off-message trying to rationalize his lies away. Instead, the state Democratic party challenged Romney's residency, transforming him from a shifty lier to a victim (remembe Clinton and Starr?). The MA all-Democrat congressional delegation quickly voiced its disapproval of the state party's tactics, while Shannon O'Brien, the Democratic frontrunner in the campaign, has denied any role at all in the challenge.

The spinsters in the party initially argued they were merely trying to force Romney to release his tax returns. However, that strategy was dealt a blow Friday when a judge ruled Romney didn't have to release his tax returns to prove residency. Yet, the party continues to press its challenge, making it appear petty, scared, and desperate.

    | 09:20 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Friday | June 14, 2002
Graduates protesting Bush threatened with arrest

This is scary. Graduating students at Ohio State were threatened with arrest and expulsion if a planned mass protest of Bush (giving the commencement address) took place. This account is from a student who was led out of the graduation hall after participating in the protest. (The Secret Service ordered her to leave or face arrest for 'disorderly conduct'.) This is truly sickening...

    | 07:10 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

MyDD has posted a good analysis of the Rove/Mehlman PowerPoint presentation.

Most interesting is the conclusion that Rove's analysis assumes a Gore/Edwards presidential ticket in 2004: Rove has CT likely leaning toward Bush (wishful thinking, even with Lieberman off the ticket), while the two strong GOP states of NC and TN listed as tossups.

However, if Rove is indeed predicting an Edwards candidacy, he's going to have to place a lot more of the South in the 'toss-up' category.

    | 12:51 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Rove's electoral analysis exposed

The White House is in full damage-control mode after its 'confidential' analysis of the 2002 and 2004 elections ended up in the hands of a Democratic staffer. The PowerPoint presentation, stored on a diskette, was found in a park by the staffer, who then made sure it got wide dissemination. (The link points to a .pdf file.)

There is enough material in that presentation to blog for a week. However, two items that immediately caught my eye. The report claims that

  • "[There is] no evidence that [the] economy has affected the President's rating"; and
  • "Americans optimistic about economic future."
That might've been the case late last year, or even earlier this year. But the economy is not in good shape, and the threat of perpetual war, growing deficits, ballooning debt, and steady stream of corporate scandals is effectively killing any early recovery. Indeed, thanks to Bush's minor league handling of the economy, the stock market is back to post 9-11 levels (9-27, to be exact). The consumer sentiment index has also fallen sharply, giving investors new worries. Especially since consumer spending has almost single handedly (along with home sales) propped up the economy. One economist called the consumer sentiment index report "awful." Another said, "Consumers now expect the slowdown to result in significantly less favorable economic conditions during the year ahead."

So much for Rove and co.'s consumer optimism. Much of the presentation's rosier projections assume an improving economy. The fact that the opposite is happening can only mean more problems for Bush and his party.

    | 08:02 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Thursday | June 13, 2002
Why we won't invade Iraq this summer

An article in Slate argues that the US won't invade Iraq this summer because NBC suits (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) are too hot for the summer. Having served in the Army during the Gulf War (though my unit didn't deploy), I am well acquainted with the NBC suit. Simply put, I couldn't stand to wear it more than ten minutes at a time, and that was in the much milder German summer. The NBC suit is in desperate need of upgrading.

But that's not the reason we won't invade this summer. Modern warfighting tacticts dictate a prolonged air campaign before the insertion of any ground troops. Thus, the US could launch its air assault in the summer, have it last through fall, and invade in early winter.

No, the reason the US won't invade Iraq is because the Middle East is already in flames. There is ZERO international support for a war. The US would be unable to use its bases in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait. Bahrain might allow the use of its bases, but it has no airfields of note, just naval facilities. The nearest usable base is in faraway Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. Turkey has bases, but will not go along with an invasion. Even the UK will have to sit this one out, lest Blair's government collapses.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff are already on record against the War. Yet momentum for war, stalled a few weeks ago, is slowly building again. The National Review, Paul Wolfowitz and Veep Cheney, are all putting pressure on Bush to 'act'.

But whether the US acts or not ultimately rests on diplomatic and logistical issues, not whether it's too hot inside a soldiers NBC gear.

    | 10:47 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

The right turns on Ashcroft

I blogged yesterday on Ashcroft's increasingly tenuous position within the administration. I thought it interesting that the right was starting to pile on Ashcroft. The latest installment is Robert Novak's "Ashcroft puts a big scare in White House".

[A]fter 16 months in office following a brutal confirmation process and nine months of fighting terrorism, Ashcroft seeks the spotlight as if he were still a senator contemplating a presidential run.

    | 12:06 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Veep choices in 2004

I know I'm really jumping the gun, but I think the Dems vice presidential nominee might be key to the party's electoral chances in 2004. Simply put, I think it's high time the Democrats chose a non-white minority or woman to the ticket.

If Ed Rendell captures the governor's office in PA, he'll be hot property given PA's electoral importance. Southern governors Jim Hodges (SC) and Roy Barnes (GA) will merit consideration (especially if a non-Southerner captures the presidential nomination). Also for geographic reasons, a couple of midwesterners will make the short list -- Iowa's Vilsack? Daschle? Feingold? Vilsack might be the most viable of the lot, assuming he is reelected. Some might consider CA's Gray Davis, but he's damaged goods and if we don't like him here in California, his national chances are moot.

But, while regional considerations might make some sense, it's time for the party to acknowledge one simple fact -- the Democrats would be history without the support of women and minorities. It is definitely time for the national ticket to look like the voters supporting it. With that in mind, here are some possibilities (in no particular order):

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend: She is currently facing strong primary opposition in her bid to be Maryland's next governor. However, if she wins, she would be a strong veep candidate. She is a brilliant campaigner and sports that legendary name. On the negative side, she hails from a small, solidly Democratic state. And, she is still relatively green as a politician.

Sens. Mary Landrieu (LA) and Blanche Lincoln (AR): They are both women. They are Southerners. Conservative as Democrats can be. Either one would provide great balance for any of the non-Southern candiates (Daschle, Kerry, Dean, Gephardt, Lieberman, etc.).

Gary Locke: The two-term Asian governor of WA would do wonders to break the color barrier on a presidential ticket. Unfortunately, WA is fairly Democratic, and Asians are not a sufficiently large voting bloc outside the West Coast to inspire much attention.

Bill Richardson: I have always said Richardson would be the perfect candidate -- a genuine Latino, but light-skinned with a non-threatening name. He would be a stronger candidate with a couple of gubernational campaigns under his belt (he'll win his first guv campaign in NM this Fall), and he did suffer some fallout from the Wen Ho Lee fiasco while running the Department of Energy. He is also fairly liberal, so he wouldn't provide ideological balance under any ticket except perhaps Lieberman or Edwards.

Ron Kirk: First he needs to win a tough campaign for Senate in TX. But if he did, he would instantly become a national star. There are currently no African-Americans serving in the Senate, which would make him the highest-ranking black elected official in the nation. He is also a true Southern Democrat, to the right of the national party. And he is from Texas, which would provide delicious drama to the campaign. Then again, would the Democrats want to threaten their hold on the Senate by surrendering that seat (especially if a Republican sits in the governor's mansion)? Lots of "ifs" with Kirk, but an intriguing possibility.

As for Hillary Clinton, it's still too early for her. I would love to see her run either for president or as a veep candidate, but not after she has served two terms in the Senate. Diane Feinstein might also be a strong candidate, but brings no regional benefits to the table since California is safely Democratic.

    | 10:21 AM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post

Wednesday | June 12, 2002
Ashcroft as the Fall Guy

It's been subtle, but it seems as though Ashcroft is slowly being set up to take the blame for 9-11. In a series of strategic leaks, rumors, innuendo, and information gleaned from the 9-11 hearings on Capitol Hill, it seems Ashcroft's position at the head of Justice is increasingly tenous. As of now, we know that the pre-9-11 Ashcroft:

  • did not fly commercial airliners starting July 2001 because of credible threats of terrorist hijackings;
  • killed an FBI request for an additional $58 million in anti-terrorist funds;
  • submitted budget increases for 68 programs, none related to terrorism;
  • ignored FBI Director Freeh's efforts to focus more on terrorism, preferring to focus on his pet obsessions: drugs, porn, guns, and naked statues;
  • turned down a request to assign hundreds of agents to the counter-terrorism beat;
  • sent a memorandum to his department heads listing his top seven priorities. The list didn't include terrorism;
  • has seen his FBI admit to ignoring warning signs that might've prevented the 9-11 attacks;

The voices against Ashcroft are steadily rising, not from the predictable left, but also on the right and from within the administration itself. Conservative columnists (and former Nixon speechwriter) William Safire recently wrote, "To fabricate an alibi for his nonfeasance, and to cover up his department's embarrassing cut of the counterterrorism budget last year, Attorney General John Ashcroft ... has gutted guidelines put in place a generation ago to prevent the abuse of police power by the federal government." Nonfeasance? Ouch.

And now, the administration is openly expressing its disapproval of Ashcroft's triumphant announcement of Padilla's arrest. There's no doubt in my mind that the Padilla announcement was coordinated by Karl Rove in his attempt to keep the American public scared and divert attention from the 9-11 and Enron hearings and other political ills afflicting the administration. However, now that the Padilla arrest has been exposed for the sham that it is, someone has to take the blame.

And isn't it funny that it's Ashcroft taking the hit? It seems clear that the Bush Administration will have to offer a sacrificial lamb to cleanse Dubya of any taint of responsibility for 9-11. And, that sacrificial lamb has to be someone with heft. Mueller just won't cut it. Ashcroft, on the other hand, fits the bill perfectly.

    | 10:54 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

No charges against Padilla

Once upon a time, security agencies needed things like "charges," or "probable cause" to arrest and detain someone. Thanks to the WOT, that's no longer necessary. Case in point: The alleged "dirty bomb" suspect that had the press in titters the last two days. While headlines trumpeted a victorious blow against terror, the government's case against gangbanger Jose Padilla was nothing more than vapor. The latest in this bizarre saga? Rumsfeld now admits that the US is not going to arrest Padilla. They just want to 'question him'.

Yet at the same time, in violation of everything this country and its Constitution stand for, he is being held "indefinitely". This is getting really scary.

The one compelling element of the story is that Padilla picked up $10k in Zurich. However, Brittish intelligence agencies say that Padilla was merele a courrier. The Independent reported:

Despite claims by the Attorney General, John Ashcroft, that the FBI had disrupted a plan to launch a radioactive attack against Washington, other officials conceded yesterday that there was no evidence that any such plot had progressed beyond the most basic stages.

British security sources, who believe Mr Muhajir might have been acting as a courier, said the Americans investigated Mr Muhajir's activities and tried to find a terrorist network he may have been involved with inside the US. The highly publicised announcement of the arrest only came after the failure to find anything more incriminating.

    | 08:09 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Tuesday | June 11, 2002
Gangbanger of Doom

The must-visit Media Whores Online has the following post today:

CBS News is now reporting utter chaos has overtaken the White House efforts to scare the American public and to protect its own political rump with the alleged Jose Padilla "dirty bomb" plot.


CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart reports some U.S. officials now admit they're not sure what Padilla's plans were when he returned to the U.S. last month.

MWO also includes a link to the actual article, but the story doesn't include the information mentioned above, apparently edited out. Interesting...

In any case, as I mentioned yesterday, this arrest of a small-time gangbanger is hardly the triumph over terror the administration would have us believe. It's designed to take pressure off Bush, the 9-11 hearings, Enron, and every other ill currently plaguing the administration. And the press and public lap it up. Unbelievable...

    | 10:23 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Edward's NC quandry

NC Sen. John Edwards is perhaps the hungriest of the Dems positioning themselves for a 2004 presidential run. I don't mean he's a favorite, it's just really, really, really obvious he wants to be president.

Thus, it'll be really interesting to see how he handles the 2002 senate campaign in his state. He has been silent thus far. That is good politics. The NC primary campaign is still in full swing, and he doesn't want to alienate anyone by endorsing a candidate this early in the game (especially since one of the low-tier candidates is African-American, the other a woman).

However, it will be interesting to see what happens after the primaries. It would be in Edward's inmense interest to have a Democrat win the seat. For one, the press and pundits would shower Edwards with some of the credit for beating a powerful and popular Liddy Dole. Also, Edward wouldn't have to share the NC with a nationally recognized figure such as Dole. And finally, you can bet that if Dole wins the seat, the GOP will trot her out any time Republicans want to bash on Edwards.

Thus, it would make sense for Edwards to invest heavily in beating Dole. On the other hand, if Dole wins (as is generally accepted), Edwards will shoulder a great deal of the blame, wounding him in the eyes of donors and the press. As a result, he might consider sitting out the race and distancing himself from the result.

    | 10:08 AM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post

It wasn't "The Little Caterpillar"

Last week, Bush surprised people by rejecting a report issued by the EPA admitting global warming was a scientific certainty. When asked about the report, Bush dismissively said "I read the report put out by the bureaucracy." I was shocked. What, Bush read a 268-page report? That would require some sort of adult attention span!

Well, Ari Fleischer finally admitted that Dubya lied: "Whenever presidents say they read it, you can read that to be he was briefed." That may be the case with Shrub and Reagan, but competent presidents do their own reading.

Of course had President Gore made this lie, it would be all over Fox news for weeks...

    | 07:43 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Monday | June 10, 2002
Mixed messages

The Bush Administration announced that US intelligence and law enforcement agencies thwarted a "dirty bomb" attack on the US. However, I'm confused. President Bush said:

I can tell you that we have a man detained who is a threat to the country, and that thanks to the vigilance of our intelligence-gathering and law enforcement, he is now off the streets, where he should be.

The defense department's resident hawk, Paul Wolfowitz, said:

He did indicate some knowledge of the Washington, D.C., area but I want to emphasize again it was not an actual plan.

So, not only does Bush not mention anything about a dirty bomb plot, but Wolfowitz actually stresses that there is no plan. So, at best we have someone, who perhaps consorted with known terrorist, that has "some knowledge" of the DC area. If he truly is a threat, then bravo. But given the known facts, does his capture really merit the victorious headlines today?

Yahoo (AP): "U.S. Says It Thwarts Al Qaeda Dirty Bomb Attack"

Washington Post: "U.S. Citizen Detained In 'Dirty Bomb' Plot"

New York Times: " U.S. Arrests American Accused of Planning 'Dirty Bomb' Attack"

And so on. So, while the headlines trumpet the disruption of the bomb plan, Wolfowitz says "I want to emphasize again it was not an actual plan."

What gives? How can the US arrest someone from planning an attack when there is no actual plan? Just another attempt by the Bush Administration to divert attention from explosive hearings on Capitol Hill?

    | 12:49 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Falwell loses fight against parody site

An Illinois resident won a David and Goliath battle against Rev. Falwell and his lawyer minions. Fallwell, who has trademarked his name, demanded that the parody site JerryFalwell.com surrender its domain name. While Falwell's lawyers originally threatened a lawsuit, they took the issue to the World Intellectual Property Organization, which mediates such disputes.

In a surprising 2-1 vote, WIPO shot down Fallwell's claims. Not only was the ruling a great victory for the First Amendment right to parody public figures, but a somewhat surprising ruling for WIPO, which is usually rabidly pro-Trademark owner.

    | 11:44 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Texas GOP's suicidal dance

It will not happen this election cycle, but within ten years, Texas will become the next California -- reliably (if more conservatively) Democratic.

Demographic trends all favor the Dems, with the state's exploding Latino population voting 66-75 percent for Democrats. Pres. Bush recognized this, and has made outreach efforts to Latinos and other minorities a priority. However, Texas wingnuts are doing everything possible to accelerate the state's transition to a Democratic bastion.

At the Texas' GOP convention, delegates defining the party's platform have voted to:

  • End bilingual education programs
  • harsher laws against immigrants
  • Harsher abortion laws
  • The posting of the ten commandments on government property

In addition, they have declared the US a "Christian Nation", while dinosaur Sen. Phil Gramm mocks the multicultural Democratic ticket: "Democrats believe that they can divide Texas based on race. That's their dream and that's their vision. And this election is about rejecting that dream and that vision once and for all."

So in essence, Gramm and the wingnuts (who cheered him heartily) are essentially fighting to reject the vision of a multicultural ticket. They are fighting for an all-Anglo ticket. That'll sell well with the very Latinos Bush is trying to court.

But most significantly, the wingnuts are trying hard to withhold state party funds to candidates who don't jive with the party platform. In effect destroying the moderate element of the state GOP.

Trends are already threatening GOP hegemony in Texas. While redistricting has been kind to them, and will probably help them take over the state's legislative bodies, their state-wide candidates are in a fight for their lives (enter Karen Hughes' Texas homecoming). While the more Latino-friendly policies of Dubya gave Republicans hope they would be able to contain their losses, the state party is doing its best to alienate not only Latinos, but moderate Anglos as well. And, if the wingnuts succeed in withholding campaign funds to moderate Republicans, we won't have to wait 10 years for Democrats to become competitive in the state once again.

    | 10:51 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Saving brother Jeb, the heck with CA

I wrote a few weeks back that the Bush Administration would find a convoluted way to distinguish Florida's oil leases with California's. You see, Pres. Bush had offered to use federal dollars to buy oil leases in the Everglades and offshore FL. A real triumph for environmentalists, right? True, but an even bigger triumph for brother Jeb's reelection chances. Predictably (to all but Dubya, Rove, and gang), California immediately demanded similar treatment. But as we all know, there isn't a Bush running for anything in California.

Well, when I wrote "convoluted way", I had no idea it would be this bad:

[Interior Secretary Gale] Norton reasoned that California does not oppose coastal drilling because there are 77 active state and federal leases off the coast where more than 260 new wells have been drilled since 1990. California not only approved the wells, but is profiting from the royalties, she noted.

By contrast, no gas or oil had come from the Florida leases, she wrote.

The California drilling is on leases dating back 50 years or more. And, California is currently in court trying to revoke those leases and purge its coast of the dirty and ugly oil wells. Not only are state Democrats fighting to end the leases, but so is the GOP gubernatorial candidate. Does this support Norton's assertion that "Florida opposes coastal drilling and California does not"? Hardly.

    | 10:41 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Sunday | June 09, 2002
White House's view of 2002 Senate races

The White House political director views the following Senate races as competitive:
On the Democratic side, Kenneth Mehlman claims Minnesota, South Dakota, Missouri, Iowa and Georgia are weak. He also claims Montana, Louisiana and New Jersey might be in play. (Maybe NJ, but not MT or LA.)

On the Republican side, the GOP is sweating Arkansas and New Hampshire, while Maine, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Colorado and Oregon might also be endangered.

I didn't think North Carolina or Tennessee were remotely competitive for the Dems at this time. But the fact that the White House included them in their analysis could be significant. At the very least it forces Republicans to mobilize resources for campaigns in two states that should've been safe GOP seats. The fact that that they also have to defend Texas and Colorado makes things that much more difficult for Republicans.

    | 11:48 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Saturday | June 08, 2002
Bush's downward spiral

Two polls released yesterday confirm that Bush's sky-high popularity has a short shelf life. I had argued that barring any new terrorist attack, Bush would continue to drop 2-3 points a month before stabilizing in the high 50s. However, the "trifecta" of Enron investigations, 9-11 investigations, and the Halliburton-influenced stock market collapse last week together helped chip seven points off Bush's approval ratings in one week.

Gallup has Bush's approval ratings at 70 percent. Republicans still approve of Bush at a clip of 96 percent, but Democrats and Independents are abandoning the president in droves. However, even that 96 percent from Republicans is a soft number, given the electoral beating Bush's handpicked candidates have suffered in recent Republican primary elections.

Everyone's favorite fair and unbiased source of news has Bush's favorability rating at 69 percent, down eight points from a week ago. What's especially telling about Fox's poll is the question: "How confident are you in the United State's ability to handle the problem of terrorism?". Only 54 percent of respondents said they were "absolutely confident" or "pretty confident" the US would win. Those numbers have to be terrifying to a presidency built entirely on the War on Terror.

The more the Bush Administration shrugs its shoulders at problems confronting the nation ("the US will get hit with another terrorist attack", "Colorado will become a desert thanks to global warming," "people losing their life pensions and jobs because of corporate greed is the beauty of capitalism," etc.), the more Bush's poll numbers will bleed.

And fair or not (and it really isn't fair), it's easy to contrast the Clinton years with the Bush years. Peace and prosperity versus perpetual war, recession, corporate excesses and greed, constant fear of terrorist attacks, massive defecits and ballooning debts. And Karen Hughes has left the building. Bush is in trouble.

    | 09:47 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

From Media Whores Online:

Plummets 7 points in one week!
Now stands at 4 points lower than President Clinton's the day after "impeachment"

    | 09:11 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

WOT is a quagmire

I find it amusing that last fall, as the US was gearing up its campaign against the Taliban and Al Queda, the media establishment was tripping all over itself trying to claim the War on Terror had become a quagmire. It hadn't. Indeed, it's amazing what the Clinton military was able to accomplish in such a short period of time and against a foe so remote from any established US airbases.

However, now that the war has become a quagmire, no one is talking about it.

The US and its allies now face hundreds of Al Queda cells, disgruntled Taliban, petty warlords, and hostile terrain and weather. Despite boastful claims that the Taliban and Al Queda had been routed, it turns out they were just scattered all over Afghanistan and Pakistan. The US and Brits mount massive military offensives and net nothing more than a "weapons cache". God knows there are enough weapons in that country to arm every man, woman, and child ten times over. The Afghan operation is looking more and more like an occupation, which will only further inflame local passions against the Westerners on its soil.

Furthermore, the administration claims that the US is just as vulnerable as ever to another massive terrorist attack, betraying assertions that Al Queda was routed. And while the US couldn't shut up about Bin Laden post 9-11, that name is now verboten within the Bush Administration. Indeed, recent news reports show a determined effort to completely shift public attention away from Bin Laden. Smacks to me as an attempt to divert attention from the US's complete failure to apprehend him.

All the while, the US is committing troops to the Philipines, Georgia (former Soviet republic, not the peach state), and Colombia. And while US casualties have been light, lives aren't the only way to measure a quagmire. It can be measured by the expense of maintaining large number of forces deployed all over the globe, by the hit on morale of our forces in the field, by the emnity breeding overseas at our military adventurism, by the malaise hanging over our country as people grow weary of war talk, by the utter and complete lack of palpable military victories to rally the nation and lift spirits, and by the increasing body count of innocent civilians caught in the crossfire or killed as a result of "regrettable accidents".

    | 09:09 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

MA Democrats sic lawyers on Romney

This is a surprise: the Massachusetts Democratic Party has filed a legal challenge to Mitt Romney's candidacy. I would have expected the state's Dems to be more subtle than this. Instead, the challenge smacks of desperation. I would have rather they at least wait a while and seen how the latest revelations affected Romney's standing in the polls. Romney's tortured explanations and outright lies could have easily damaged the candidate. Instead, he will probably garner sympathy.

The Democrats' action is especially surpirsing considering that state law isn't clear on whether they will prevail or not. MA has historically defined "residency" rather loosely. And the state's newspapers have penned editorials urging a liberal interpretation of Romney's residency status. In the best of circumstances, the Dems chances of success are iffy.

If Romney is knocked off on this "technicality", they might as well hand the keys to the governor's mansion to the eventual Democratic nominee. But at what price? A tainted victory a-la Pres. Bush?

    | 01:32 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Friday | June 07, 2002
A look at vulnerable Dem Senate seats

Republicans claim confidence that they can retake the Senate in the Fall. However, barring any unforseen disasters, it's hard to see how this could happen.

The three legitimately vulnerable Democratic seats are Missouri, South Dakota, and Minnesotta. Republicans want to add Iowa and Georgia to the mix, but that's nothing but wishful thinking. The Republicans face tough challenges in Arkansas, New Hampshire, Oregon, Colorado, Maine, and yes, even Texas.

Iowa: The GOP claims Iowa is in play, but this week's GOP primary has made nominee Ganske "damaged goods" in the eyes of many analysts. Indeed, two major lessons can be taken from the primary: 1) Ganske faces strong dissatisfaction amongst Iowa's conservative Republicans, and 2) Pres. Bush has no cotails amongst the "party base" (religious conservatives) in Iowa. Bush had his fingerprints all over Ganske, yet that support did not translate into a decisive victory for Ganske. Democratic Sen. Harkin has a 15-point lead in the latest polls. While this race may tighting, it won't be as competitive as Republicans hope.

Georgia: There hasn't been any polling in this race for the last four months. The last poll, done for Democratic Sen. Cleland back in February, gave Cleland a 14-point lead over GOP challenger Chambliss. I'm not sure why Republicans think this race is competitive (probably Bush's strong showing in GA in 2000), but I haven't seen anything to see this as anything more than a "likely" Cleland victory.

As for Missouri, South Dakota, and Minnesotta, anything I might say has already been said better by MyDD. In short, Sen. Johnson in South Dakota is the most endangered Democrat in the Senate, down 46-42 in the latest poll. Sen. Carnahan (up 50-44 in the latest poll) is a bit better off, but still vulnerable. Wellstone, already facing a strong challenge (up only 42-40), now faces the wildcard of a Green Party candidacy. The Greens may have played a stronger role in Wellstone's downfall, but the candidate they fielded is sort of a joke. More on the MN race as new developments play out.

I'll take a look at some of the endangered Republicans soon. Again, MyDD offers great analysis on the races. I'll simply add whatever I can to his analysis.

    | 10:03 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Romney admits he lied about MA residency

Well, well. Republican Mitt Romney finally admitted why he wouldn't release his income tax forms. Turns out the Massachusetts gubernatorial hopeful outright lied just days ago when he claimed he was always a MA resident. In fact, he filed as a part-year resident in 1999, and as a non-resident in 2000.

This is a major problem for the front-runner, since MA law requires governors to have MA resident for the 7 continuous years prior to the election. In short, it doesn't look like he can stay in the race.

Romney was fully exposed when he refused to release his tax returns two days ago, something all other candidates had done, even with the financial data redacted. Romney's campaign staffer told the Boston Globe that Romney had filed as a MA resident, but that they were going to have to take the spokesperson's "word for it". Talk about loss of credibility.

The MA Democratic Party says it's 50-50 whether they will challenge Romney's candidacy. Doing so might make the Dems look afraid and petty. It seems Romney is doing a fine job of digging himself a hole with his lies and obfuscations. The Dems should either let the status quo stand (making a political issue of Romney's candidacy, not legal), or have someone unaffiliated with the Democratic Party make the challenge.

    | 09:35 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Thursday | June 06, 2002
Upgrading site

As you can see, I have been busy today updating the look of the site. I was originally most interested in getting my content up, and making sure I had the energy and time to keep it updated. Having succeeded with step #1, I set out to actually make the site look nice. IMHO, I think I succeeded. Regular updates will resume Friday.

Also, my archives aren't working, nor is the "link" in this post's footer. That is a problem with my blogging software that is currently being fixed (supposedly).

    | 11:17 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Wednesday | June 05, 2002
Romney's legitimacy in MA guv campaign questioned

The Massachusetts gubernatorial campaign is getting interesting. Republican Mit Romney, he of Salt Lake City Olympics fame, has had the edge in Bay State polls the past few months. However, his Utah tax records state he is a resident of Utah, not MA. MA law requires candidates to have been residents of the state for the seven continuous years preceding the election.

That's not so much a problem, since Massachusetts law interprets "residency" loosely. Indeed, he can claim residency by simply saying he intended to return.

What is interesting is the issue of Romney's 2001 MA tax return. He has refused to release that return, unlike every other candidate in the race. It was previously assumed he did not want to reveal financial issues. However, this residency issue now casts new light on Romney's refusals. You see, the return requires you to select between Resident, Non-Resident, or Part-Year Resident. Is that what he is afraid to release? Further adding fuel to the theory: Romney refused to release a redacted copy of the report to the Boston Globe showing only the residency question.

If nothing else, this controversy should knock Romney off message, forcing him to defend his residency at every turn of the campaign.

    | 09:46 AM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post

Tuesday | June 04, 2002
Historic Latino-Latino NM guv campaign on tap?

Primary voters in several states head to the polls today. There is one race of particular interest to me: the GOP gubernatorial primary in New Mexico. The winner between State Rep. John Sanchez and Lt.Gov. Walter Bradley will earn the right to get crushed by former US rep, UN ambassador, and energy secretary Bill Richardson.

The GOP is salivating over a Sanchez victory, as it desperately wants to appear Latino-friendly not only in NM, but in the rest of the country. If Bradley wins, the Republicans will field an all-Anglo ticket in the only state in the union that is currently majority-Hispanic. If Sanchez wins, expect him to become a national rising star, as Republicans love to trot out their minorities every chance they get to show how "inclusive" they are.

And Sanchez would be a great prop in Bush's efforts to woo Latino voters.

Richardson is Mexican-American, and has a stellar reputation with Latinos nationwide. Indeed, he was mentioned once or twice as a potential veep candidate for Gore before the Wen Ho Lee fiasco tarred Richardson's reputation. He would have been the perfect trailblazer for a Latino on a national ticket -- he has an Anglo name and is light skinned. Very unthreatening. As is, assuming he wins, a Governor Richardson will be a clear force to be reckoned with in national political circles for the next decade to come.

    | 11:02 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Monday | June 03, 2002
Cheney's mismanagement of Halliburton being exposed

The stock market is plunging on news that Alcoa's CEO is under investigation for tax fraud. Investors are starting to realize that CEOs and their accounting firms have been cooking their books for a while, and the market is taking a beating as a result. One of those crooked CEOs appears to be none other than our good Veep Dick Cheney. His mismanagement of Halliburton looks to go way past $100 million in improperly reporter revenues.

Yup, cooking up the books with $100 million is pretty bad, and is the source of a newly opened SEC investigation. But, what may REALLY get Cheney in trouble is his acquisition, as Halliburton CEO, of Dresser Industries.

Dresser Industries, a company with strong Bush family ties, was bailed out from a sea of asbestos-related tort claims when Cheney's Halliburton acquired the company. As a result, Cheney saddled Halliburton with billions of dollars in potential tort claims and essentially drove its stock price to the ground. Oh, and he also fired 10,000 employees after the acquisition of Dresser. Funny how he claimed during his debate with Lieberman that "''I've been out in the private sector building a business, hiring people, creating jobs.''

These revelations all but ensure that Cheney will face a shareholder's lawsuit and be forced to testify in public. And as in the Enron case, expect the press to trot out some of those 10,000 people who lost their jobs, contrasting it with the $18.5 million windfall Cheney received when he left the company. This is the Bush Administration's "compassionate conservatism": layoffs, stock market crashes, perpetual war, massive deficits, and, oh yeah, tax cuts for the rich.

    | 12:37 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Bush's history speech

This is the end result of Bush's disastrous trip to Europe. From Germany's The Daily News, the headline reads: "Bush's Historic Speech." He is an international joke. (AP Photo)

    | 08:04 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Sunday | June 02, 2002
Halliburton could land Cheney in court

Speaking of delicious ironies, here's another entry for that file. It looks like Clinton v. Jones might haunt the Republicans. You remember Clinton, right? That's the Supreme Court decision that forced Pres. Clinton to testify under oath and in public in Paula Jones' sexual harrassment case against him.

Well, now we learn that Veep Cheney's Halliburton was engaged in financial shenanigans, improperly reporting over $100 million in profits while he was the company's CEO. All under the watchful eye of Arthur Andersen.

Halliburton's stock price has plummeted over the last year, and took another dive on this latest news. As is wont to happen in these cases, shareholders get together and sue the crap out of the company's officers. And if Halliburton investors follow the rule, it looks like Cheney will have to testify in open court, under oath.

    | 10:01 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Dems chances in Nov. better than pundits admit

I don't think I have read a more flawed political analysis of the 2002 elections than this piece by the SF Chronicle's bureau chief. He argues that the GOP is poised for gains in November. Below is a point by point rebuttal of his arguments:

Republican governors preside over six of the seven largest states (California is the exception) and have just drawn new legislative boundaries that will last for the rest of the decade.
The seven largest states are California, Texas, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illiniois. It's true that only California has a Democratic governnor, but redistring efforts in those states haven't been the GOP landslide that was expected (other than in PA). In large part, the author makes the amateurish mistake of assuming that the governor has final say over redistricting efforts. In reality, redistricting is a process pitting all three branches of state government with oversight from the US Justice Department and the federal courts.

But aside from that, it is uncertain why the author attaches such significance to the redistricting efforts of the biggest states. What matters is the overall effects of redistricting, and on this count, the GOP only has a two-seat advantage, with another 6 districts competitive for both parties.

President Bush, even as his numbers fall back to earth, remains the most popular president of modern times. The top drawing mavericks on the fund- raising circuit -- former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and U.S. Sen. John McCain -- are both on the Republican team.
Democrats had attained parity with Republicans in soft money donations -- now banned by the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law (unless the courts decide otherwise). Republicans have the edge on hard money donations, true, but Democrats can counter with stronger grass roots support from unions. In any case, Republicans have always massively outspent their Democrat counterparts. Indeed, Bush spent $66 million more than Gore ($186 million to Gore's $120 million), and still managed to lose the popular vote. Truth is, Republicans can only remain competitive by buying elections. In a battle of messages, the Democrats win hands down.

As for the president's popularity, it's been dropping at a pace of 2-3 points a month. The latest 9-11 revelations, as well as Enron's resurgance, can only chip Bush's lead at a faster clip. Finally, Bush's popularity was at, what, 176 percent in November 2001, less than two months after 9-11. Yet the Democrats staged a near-sweep of races in that off-year election, including the two gubernatorial contests in Virginia and NJ (both previously held by Republicans). The Dems captured over a dozen mayorships from the GOP in some of the nation's largest cities (including LA, San Antonio and El Paso), as well as two state legislatures (NJ and WA). The Dems did not lose a single office they controlled. Indeed, the only race of national import Republicans were able to win was the NYC mayor's office. Then there was the embarrassing loss of Bush's handpicked gubernatorial candiate in California, Richard Riordian. It is clear that Bush's popularity gives no traction to other candidates.

The field of Democrats lining up to challenge Bush in 2004 appears so unlikely to prevail that the Washington Monthly and the New Republic both published essays this month on why McCain ought to switch parties and become the Democratic nominee.
This statement clearly ignores recent political history. Bush the Elder had a commanding lead in the polls two years prior to his reelection battle. GHWB seemed so unbeatable that pundits annointed him his second term, pointing to the lackluster field of Democratic hopefuls (none hailing from the Dems "A" list). We all know what Clinton was able to accomplish.

But aside from that, the Democrat field is shaping up to be a who's who of the best Democrats have to offer. Lieberman remains popular (if mistrusted by Democrat activists), NC Sen. John Edward is the second coming of Bill Clinton, Senate Majority Leader Daschle is solid, so much so that intense GOP efforts to demonize him have failed miserably (unlike Dem efforts against Newt Gingrich), MA Sen. John Kerry is a Vietnam War hero and marquee name in Democratic Party circles. Heck, even VT Gov. Dean is an effective campaigner and powerful voice for the party's left wing. As for McCain, he's evolved into a true RINO (Republican in name only). A McCain party switch would inflict a grevious wound on the GOP.

Political handicappers expect the GOP to retain, if not expand, its House majority, defying a historical trend dating back to the Civil War in which the president's party in all but two elections has lost seats in the House and Senate in nonpresidential election years.
This is perhaps the craziest of all statements in this SF Chronicle piece. As this Business Week article notes, early Republican confidence is starting to erode. The latest Gallup poll shows that on a generic congressional ballot, voters prefer Democrats to Republicans 50-43 percent. Democrats also maintain huge leads in domestic issues such as health care. Republicans hold strong leads on foreign affairs and national security. Again, the latest 9-11 revelations, as well as the fatalistic "we're going to get hit again, and there's nothing we can do about it" warnings, can only damange the GOP on those categories.
The Democrats only need six pickups to retake control of the House. I'm predicting 12 house pickups by the Dems, as well as three Senate seats. The Democrats are going to massacre Republicans in governorships.
More Americans identify themselves as Republicans than Democrats, albeit by a tiny margin, for the first time in polling history.
This poll was released months ago (January, I believe). As the latest version of the same poll shows, Democrats are reestablishing their historical lead over Republicans. The brief assension of the GOP was based entirely on 9-11. As the administration's handling of the crisis takes a beating, so will their poll numbers.

    | 08:54 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

Pandering to big steel could be costly

Delicious irony. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Bush's decision to increase steel tariffs is having unintended benefits:

"Less than three months after the Bush administration suggested its stiff new tariffs on steel imports would have only a limited impact on prices, the levies are sending waves of pain through America's manufacturing sector -- including steep price increases, supply shortages and layoff threats."

"'The Bush administration just assumed that people could eat this -- that it would be no big deal,' says Charles Blum, a consultant who advises U.S. middlemen who buy and sell steel domestically. 'But it has become a big deal very fast..."

"The tariff decision unleashed a barrage of withering international criticism and reprisal threats, but it now appears that President Bush also may pay a domestic political price. Anger is spreading across the Industrial Belt as manufacturers complain that the president's bid to help one industry is hurting hundreds of companies that employ far more workers."

And Bush will face more pain. The European Union is on the verge of placing retaliatory tariffs on American goods from politically sensitive states, including such products as Florida orange juice. Those tariffs will place an unwanted spotlight on Bush's anti-trade, politically transparent moves.

    | 11:47 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post

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