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

Archives: July 2002

Wednesday | July 31, 2002
Can Kansas go Dem?

A Mason-Dixon poll shows that Democrat Kathleen Sebelius leads all three of her potential rivals by double digits. It would be highly unusual for reliably GOP Kansas to go Dem, but Sebelius has an unheard-of unfavorable rating of only 4 percent. Whether she can hold those numbers after the GOP primary remains to be seen.

Sebelius 46
Knight 34

Sebelius 49
Shallenburger 33

Sebelius 44
Kerr 32

In the GOP primary:

Knight 32
Shallenburger 27
Kerr 18

    | 02:00 PM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

US PR blitz

There is no doubt that the US has taken an image hit abroad -- what with the Bush Administration's unilateralist tendencies, opposition to just about every bilateral treaty on the books. Then there's the constant belligerance, beating of the war drums, one-sided "peacemaking" in the Middle East, attempted overthrow of democratically elected governments (Venezuela), ridiculous vendettas (Hussein and Castro), simple-minded rhetoric ('axis of evil'), support for undemocratic governments (Egypt, Saudi Arabia), etc., etc. I could go on, but you get the point.

So, how to fix this problem? If you're an enlightened leader, you could work within the framework of international institutions (such as the UN) to work together with other nations, pooling resources in the pursuit of the common good. The US could be a true mediator in international conflicts, maintaining more than a sembleance of neutrality.

Here's a crazy idea -- the next time a treaty banning torture makes its way through the UN, the US shouldn't try to derail it.

Heck, endorsing peace might do the trick.

But the Bush Administration can't be bothered by all that. So it created its own internal Public Relations agency to handle the task.

One think tank report concluded that:

Around the world, from Western Europe to the Far East, many see the United States as arrogant, hypocritical, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, and contemptuous of others.
True, true. Truer words were never said. But PR isn't going to fix this problem. The US under Bush is arrogant, hypocritical, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, and contemptuous of others. And no amount of press releases or propaganda broadcasts can ever cover that up.

    | 09:10 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

CT gov race tightening

Connecticut Gov. John Rowland, previously thought unbeatable, is seeing his lofty lead in the race erode. The sinking economy, which has hammered nearly every sitting governor, is taking its toll on Rowland, who has seen his lead shring from 28 points in late May to 17 points today.

Rowland is still above the critical 50 percent line, so he's still the probably winner of the race. However, poll results indicate this may become far more competitive by the time November rolls around. Bush's approval ratings in the state have plunged to 59 percent, while Rowland's approval ratings have dropped to 1996 levels. Also, the number of Connecticut residents who approve of “the way things are going in Connecticut today" is dipping.

If Republicans face competitive races in places like CT, a state with a popular GOP governor, their prospects in November may be far worse than hoped.

    | 08:58 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Survey USA -- cheap polls for TV

The SF CBS affiliate breathlessly reported last night that Bill Simon had pulled ahead of Davis in the CA governor's race. This new "lead" was about 1/2 a percentage point, well within the margin of error. But the real story is not the poll results, which run counter to every respectable non-partisan poll taken thus far, but the veracity of the polling company itself -- Survey USA.

The Toricelli campaign offered this devastating critique of the poll and its methodology (computerized response audience polling):

Social scientists have been sharply critical of CRAP polls for several justifiable reasons. One problem is the identity of the respondent. Your five year old can punch the keys on the telephone and voice her opinion, or your favorite uncle from Tulsa who happens to be around when the phone rings can have his say as well. Who really knows who’s on the other end of the phone? Real survey researchers call the practice the uncontrolled selection of respondents, and it can be a real source of error. It’s tantamount to standing on the street corner and haphazardly asking questions of anyone who happens by…
A quick Google search indicates that Survey USA targets its services mostly to low-budget local television news stations, and even promises same-day turnaround on polls (which should automatically ring alarm bells). The results bear witness -- poll predictions were 21 points off in the Texas senate primary, and 19 points off the California guvernatorial primary.

(I got the Toricelli link from MyDD's excellent critique of a Survey USA poll for the Texas governor's race.)

    | 08:42 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Tuesday | July 30, 2002
Contract the Yankees

As baseball teeters on the edge of yet another work stoppage, someone has finally come up with a workable solution: contract the Yankees. This is brilliant, considering the Yanks are the root of all of baseball's problems and evils.

    | 02:54 PM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Democrats getting feisty

Top Democrats took their turns bashing Bush at the podium at the DLC's annual conference. Among the highlights:

  • Gore refused to attend after he was denied a keynote-type speaking slot. As if he deserves anything after condemning us to four years of Bush...

  • Lieberman is still taking about faith and being pro-business. Conason writes:
    Lieberman offered a rather safe, somewhat clichéd homily about cracking down on corporate crime while remaining "pro-business," and ended with an appeal to faith. He evidently believes that if the corporate crooks had prayed more they would have stolen less. For some reason he finds such displays of piety irresistible.
    Sounds good. If people want someone who will appeal to god and Wall Street, they have plenty of options on the Republican side.

  • Lieberman also whined (off-podium) that Gore lost because he abandoned his centrist roots. This may be the start of the end of Lieberman's "I won't run if Gore runs" promise.

  • Kerry, a decorated war veteran, piled on Bush's handling of the Afghan war and warned against an Iraq invasion. This is an interesting tactic -- while Kerry is essentially right, people are still under the illusion that the war has been a resounding success. It might be difficult to dissuade the public of that notion, and could backfire. Or it might be a resounding success -- draft-dodging Republicans certainly cannot accuse Kerry of being disloyal. And the public needs to hear what Kerry has to say.

  • Edwards and Gephardt will speak today. Edwards, particularly, is looking to boost his '04 chances by garnering the support of the centrist DLC. Thus, many expect him to deliver the speech of his life.

  • Gov. Dean's absence is curious. He is the only presidential aspirant, other than Gore, absent from the convention. Yet his message of fiscal conservatism and social liberalism would appeal strongly to DLC-types.

    | 08:18 AM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Monday | July 29, 2002
Maryland Guv race competitive

Republicans are licking their chops, hoping to win the governor's race in overwhelmingly Democratic Maryland. The Republican candidate, Robert Ehrlich, has made inroads with black voters by nominating an African American running mate, while the state's poor economy is affecting Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

It's early in the race, and it's hard to see how Townsend can lose this race. But it confirms that nothing can be taken for granted this election cycle. There will be more competitive races nationwide than most election observers predicted.

    | 02:13 PM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

"Inside out" in Iraq

If you want proof the US military opposes any invasion of Iraq, simply watch as it leaks every possible war plan to the NY Times. The latest is the "Inside Out" plan, that would have the US simply take and occupy Baghdad and a few key cities, and then wait for a leaderless Iraq to collapse. The goal would be a quick and decisive victory, appeasing recalcitrant allies wary of a long, drawn-out conflict.

Would it work? Probably. Unlike many real pundits, I don't think the US would have any trouble defeating Iraq. I don't think the US would have any trouble defeating anyone. The question has always been should the US become a belligerent, threatening, offensive, first-strike nation -- the type of nation it accuses Iraq of being. And does the US want to take the diplomatic hit, creating resentment and anger in our allies and creating new future enemies and terrorist groups. (Remember, Al Queda rose from the ashes of the Gulf War.)

Of all strategies discussed, this "Inside Out" seems to be the riskiest, highest-casualty of all. The plan advocates a quick strike on Iraq's major cities. Since none (other than Basra) are adjacent the Gulf or international borders, that would mean an airborne assault -- an inherently dangerous military maneuver. There have been few successful airborne assaults in the history of warfare. The Nazis invaded Crete from the air, and then swore off the tactic after taking horrific casualties. US forces made some relatively small scale airborne landings during D-Day with mixed results.

Since then, the US hasn't attempted the tactic. It's easy to see why -- broken ankles and other injuries plague even the most controlled training exercises. Jumpers can get spread out over large distances, forcing dangerous regroups in the dark of night. And lumbering transport planes (or helicopters, in the case of the 101st Air Assault Division) are easy targets for anti-aircraft fire. Take down one C-130, and you suddenly need body bags for 92 paratroopers and five crew members.

Any and all such problems are compounded when dropping paratroopers in an urban center. Watch Black Hawk Down for a primer on urban warfare. True, superior US firepower will kill a lot more Iraqis than Americans, but the cost for both sides would be horrific. And Iraq has learned its lesson well -- it won't try to stop the US in the open desert. You can bet his troops are prepared for grueling house to house urban combat.

Finally, it is difficult to resupply troops dropped in the middle of hostile territory. Airdrops are inadequate for the long-term operations of a large fighting force. Apparently the hope is that the Iraqi government quickly collapses, but that is neither a certainty, nor would it even guarantee the cessation of hostilities (e.g. lawless Somalia). Air dropped troops are extremely poorly equipped. Not only do they have a small and finite amount of ammunition, but they also lack much of the heavy weaponry they would need for extended operations. Food and water would be in scarce supply. They would enjoy air superiority, but that advantage is actually lessened in an urban core, where buildings provide hostile forces with ample cover and where the fog of war increases the likelihood of friendly fire incidents.

Again, I believe the US would eventually succeed, but at what cost? The number of dead would be horrific, the enmity the US would breed amongst ally and foe alike is hard to imagine. The US would transform itself from an agent for world peace to the world's most belligerent state.

If the US had ample justification for an attack, and war was inevitable, the best strategy would be to land marine and airborne troops in Basra, capture the region's oil fields, and starve Hussein of his oil revenues. Then bomb his infrastructure until the nation submits. But there is no current justification, other than some vague and self-destructive vendetta against Hussein. The military wants none of a Iraq invasion, and the world community is still presenting a united front against the US. As such, the administration should heed the Pentagon's wishes and maintain the status quo.

    | 08:24 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Friday | July 26, 2002
Cheney above the law

I'll let this Judicial Watch press release speak for itself:

Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes public corruption, today reported that security staff at The White House threatened a process server with arrest over his attempt to serve Vice President Cheney with a complaint filed against him by Judicial Watch on behalf of shareholders of Halliburton. It is a crime to interfere with service of process.

According to an affidavit of due diligence filed in the case, the process server attempted to serve the complaint on the Vice President at The White House and was told by a security officer that he would not accept the “papers” for the Vice President. According to the process server’s sworn statement, the security officer said that “if I dropped them [the federal court summons and complaint], he would arrest me.” The attempted service was made on July 22, 2002.

No lawyer for Vice President Cheney has contacted Judicial Watch to accept service on the Vice President’s behalf.

“We have served many a lawsuit on Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Hillary Clinton when they were in The White House. The Clinton White House accepted the papers. Never before have our process servers been threatened with arrest. If this Bush-Cheney White House is serious about corporate corruption and responsibility, it would not allow the Vice President to improperly hide behind White House security to evade service of process in the Halliburton securities fraud litigation, and it would not threaten the process server with arrest,” stated Judicial Watch Chairman and General Counsel Larry Klayman.

    | 04:50 PM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Demographics favor dems

It's not even close. All the major demographic shifts in the United States favor the Democrats. As the following two stories note (via MyDD), Republicans face virtual extinction.

First is Dick Morris, who simplifies matters a great deal:

House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt’s (D-Mo.) expected endorsement of earned amnesty for illegal immigrants underscores the most fundamental fact of American politics today — the Republican Party is running out of white people.
True, ethnic minorities are almost exclusively Democratic constituencies (two exceptions: Cuban Americans and Vietnamese). And their rising numbers will turn the West, Southwest and Florida into reliably Democratic states within the next ten years or so. Morris is usually smarter, but he's playing an idiot in this case -- arguing that the GOP can reverse the trend by naming a black to the top of the ticket. He's shocked (shocked!) that the Condi Rice and Powell appointments haven't done more to endear the GOP to blacks. It'll obviously take much more than symbolic gestures, or the token minority. It'll take real shifts in ideology.

But as I've said, Morris simplifies. There are many demographic trends indicating the arrival of Democratic dominance in national politics. In an excerpt of their forthcoming book, authors John Judis and Ruy Teixeira isolate the following demographic trends:

  • In the 50 most populous counties, Gore bested Bush 54-42 percent.

  • While Bush enjoys an advantage in rural areas, those areas are shrinking as a percentage of the nation's population (a 17 percent decline in the past 40 years).

  • While Bush won a decisive majority of those who attend church regularly, their numbers are shrinking. In 1972, 18 percent of Americans never attended church. The number was 30 percent in 1998. Non-church goers represented 27 percent of voters in 2000, and they vote overwhelmingly Democratic.

  • Women support for the Dems is increasing rapidly, accelerated by the emergence of the working woman and modern feminism. Nearly 60 percent of women voted Dem in 1990.

  • Women likely to support Dems are also the fastest growing group of women -- single working women. These women backed Gore 67-29. They currently make up 30 percent of all women. College-educated women backed Gore 57-39. Those women most likely to back Bush -- homemakers and those living in rural counties -- are shrinking as a percentage of all women.

  • Democrats can count on 75 percent of the minority vote in national elections. And we are growing rapidly -- 10 percent of the electorate in 1970, 20 percent in 2000, and if trends continue, 25 percent in 2010.

  • Highly skilled, educated professionals back Democrats 52-40. In the 1950s, this group comprised 7 percent of the US population, today it is 15 percent. These Democrats are socially liberal, economically moderate. In other words, the so-called New Democrats. (Incidentally, this group really scares the GOP because unlike other traditional Democratic constituencies, they have $$$$).

  • Post-industrial regions of the country have become increasingly Democratic (Gore beat Bush 53-44 in these regions) -- places like the California Bay Area, Chicago and Boston metro areas, and parts of Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida. And while these regions boast high percentages of core Dem constituencies, such as professionals and minorities, they also deliver majority votes from white working class voters.

  • Those post-industrial regions are some of the fastest growing in the country. They comprise 44 percent of the national vote, and have grown 22 percent between 1990 and 2000.
These trends are not just hypothetical. They have born fruit the past three election cycles.

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 the 2002 elections, 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). They captured every single big city mayor's office in supposedly Republican Ohio. The Dems did not lose a single office they controlled. Indeed, the only race of national import won by the GOP was the NYC mayor's office, and the GOP candidate was a turncoat Dem.

If it was just the minority vote, the Dems wouldn't be poised to take the Maine governorship. And the entire Northeast wouldn't be reliably Democratic (or REALLY liberal GOP). The trends are real, and they are ALL working against the GOP. How they react to the challenge will be interesting, but regardless, it will have to consist of far more than a vice-president Powell.

    | 04:36 PM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Thursday | July 25, 2002
Why can't they shut up?

Yesterday, not a single administration official opened their mouths, and the markets responded with a near-record climb.

Well, instead of learning their little lesson, Paul O'Neill clumsily tried to "calm troubled investors". And while there are still a few hours of trading left as of this writing, the Dow is taking another beating. So the administration's streak remains unbroken -- every time they talk about the economy, the markets tank.

Of course, it may all be coincidence, as Bush's spin team has been arguing. But regardless, it serves to further cement the perception that this is Bush's economy, and that the ineptness of his economic team is only making matters worse. In politics, perception is often reality.

There's lots of good material in O'Neil's speech for economists like MaxSpeak or Brad DeLong to chew on. I'll leave the analysis up to them. But it is interesting to me that O'Neil seems to be blaming the European labor movement and Japan for the world's economic troubles. And while the US economy teeters on the edge of a double-dip recession, O'Neil is trying to impose solutions on others:

[O'Neil]added that the Bush administration was considering "what else we might do to urge the Prime Minister (Koizumi) and his cabinet to take further action" to stimulate activity in the Japanese economy, still the largest one by far in Asia.

    | 12:15 PM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

House Dems push 9-11 commission

Even though the issue looked dead, pushed to the background by the nation's worsening economic situation, House Democrats won their bid to create an independent 9-11 commission.

    | 09:50 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Can't have it both ways

Ari Fleischer is upset that the media wants to blame Bush for the economic malaise gripping the nation:

"People are in the mood right now to cover only one side of the story," Mr. Fleischer said, blaming the media for suggesting that Mr. Bush was in political peril.
Funny. During the past year, the Administration has:
  • squawked anytime someone tried to criticize the president's handling of the war;

  • fought the release of documents from Cheney's energy task force;

  • refused to release files pertaining to the SEC investigation in Bush insider trading;

  • refused to release presidential records from Reagan's administration as mandated by law; and

  • kept reporters, lawyers, and the constitution, away from detainees branded as "enemy combatants".
And up until now, the press has covered one side of the story -- the administration's. Anything else was considered akin to treason. No longer. The administration's free ride is over. Now that the press is doing its job, it's time for Ari to stop crying about the news coverage and start earning his salary.

    | 09:27 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

GOP sweats coming elections

Everyone's favorite Prince of Darkness has joined the chorus, lamenting the Catch-22 Republicans face -- they must "do something" to assuage jittery voters, even if it might make matters worse. Thus, Republicans must repudiate one of their core beliefs and call for greater regulation of the business community.

Additionally, there's growing resignation amongst Republicans that the WOT will not lead to electoral success. Not only did Democrats stand tight with the president while he waged his "war", but voter attention is now firmly focused on the economy. Notice how the Lindh plea caused nary a ripple? More important things are afoot. Like basic economic survival. And recent polls have confirmed the shifting national mood. As Novak put it:

[Republicans are saying] "It's the economy, stupid!''--a message to the White House that preoccupation with the war against terrorism is no longer viable for the 2002 elections.
And the NY Times has this gem:
[Recent] White House moves are part of a strategy, albeit a defensive one, to contain fallout from the accounting scandals and the volatile stock market they have helped produce. The maneuvering appears to reflect a deepening anxiety within the White House and the Republican Party that candidates seeking election in November could be in peril in the wake of accusations that the party is too close to big business.

Some Republican incumbents are accusing the White House of reacting too slowly and too tepidly. And they complain that Mr. O'Neill has been missing in action as a public voice to reassure investors.

"There is a strain, no question about it, between House Republicans and the White House," said a Republican campaign consultant. "The strain is caused by a sneaking suspicion that he's worried about '04 and they're worried about '02."

    | 09:13 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Wednesday | July 24, 2002
Sweet justice

This story has made my day. Two Salvadoran generals must pay $54.6 million to three victims tortured by troops under their command.

The money is not the issue, since there is no illusion that the generals have the money, or will not flee the US to avoid payment. But it does shine a spotlight on the abuses wrought by the US-backed and trained Salvadoran armed forces in the 80s.

I am intimately acquainted with people like the general in this case. My extended family in El Salvador is well-connected and mildy wealthy. They run in the same circles as the Salvadoran elite responsible for much of the pain and suffering the nation has endured. I'm not wealthy. I vehemetly oppose ARENA, the right-wing party currently running the nation. And I am a Democrat. Since I do not love ARENA, Republicans, and Ronald Reagan (as all good Salvadoran elites must), I am thus branded the family communist. I wear the label, however inaccurate, with pride.

That's the way things work in places like El Salvador. You are either extreme right-wing, or you are a communist. Black and White. The wealthy dominate the economy, preventing the economic advancement of the lower classes. Family connections and a prominant last name guarantee economic success. The ruling elite take care of their own, funneling government funds to their friends and family.

Bush and Cheney would fit right in.

I don't personally know the aforementioned generals, but I do know their kind. If the verdict bankrupts them, then great. If it forces them to leave their undoubtedly posh settings in Miami, even better. Let them, and the Pinochets, and all the other human rights abusers face the wrath of the law. They deserve no less.

(Alterman adds his $.02 here.)

    | 02:25 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

A more rational Cuba policy

Bush has yet to veto a bill in his presidency. He may finally have a reason to do so. The US House, in a convincing bipartisan vote, inflicted a significant blow to the Cuban embargo. Specifically, the House voted to lift travel restrictions, remove hurdles to the sale of food and medicine, and lift caps on money Cuban-Americans can send to family members in Cuba.

A Senate committee has already voted to lift the travel restrictions, and the full Senate should follow shortly. However, Bush cannot allow the bill to become law, lest he damage his and his brother's electoral chances in Florida.

But Bush, as well as the Cuban exile community, are fighting a losing battle. The restrictions may not be lifted this year, but the writing is on the wall.

Non-Florida Democrats are already strong proponents of ending the embargo. And farm state Republicans have been at the forefront of the issue in the last few years. Indeed, while it has received scant media notice, North Dakota governor John Hoeven, a Republican, is currently in Cuba on a trade mission. GOP Gov Ryan of Illinois made two trips the past two years. Others are sure to follow.

The cracks on the embargo are widening, which explains the increased shrillness of embargo supporters such as Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:

The Castro dictatorship, a totalitarian regime long known to be a safe haven for terrorists and a nerve center for international espionage, is a continuing and growing threat to our national security that we cannot afford to underestimate.
Ros-Lehtinen and the Cuban American National Foundation have been crying 'wolf' for 40 years. Their bluff has finally been called.

    | 12:54 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Another blow to multilateralism

Is there a treaty, any treaty the Bush Administration might support? The US is now moving to block enforcement of the international convention on torture. The US fears unannnounced inspections of captured terrorists or state prisons. And that would somehow be bad, though only god knows why. So, as a result, Bush is siding with torturers. Brilliant.

    | 12:29 AM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Tuesday | July 23, 2002
Much ado about nothing

The blogosphere has erupted over a possible Enron/Robert Rubin connenction. (Rubin was Clinton's guy at Treasury.) The jist of the story is that Citigroup helped facilitate Andersen's and Enron's frauds. A month (or more) later, Rubin joined Citigroup as Chairman of its Executive Committee.

Somehow, this is suddenly going to turn the corporate governance issue on its head, implicating Democrats as well as Republicans.

Huh? This misses several points.

  1. No one knows who Robert Rubin is. Heck, there are Americans who don't know who the Secretary of State is, or the Speaker of the House. Tell them Rubin was involved in the Enron fiasco (of which there is no evidence), and all you would get is a blank stare and a disinterested shrug.

  2. Bush's and the GOP's political troubles have little to do with Enron. Or Harken. Or Halliburton. Or WorldCom. Or any of the other crooked companies driving down the stock market. The GOP faces pressure from the collective weight of the scandals. Any single company, on its own, doesn't merit a blip on the political radar screen. When dozens of companies fess up to corrupt business practices, dragging down the markets as a result -- then it's a political liability. Republicans have been the proud part of business for years. Now they reap what they sowed.

  3. Fair or not, the president gets blame or credit for the economy (notwithstanding GOP efforts to claim credit for the 90's boom). People are losing their savings, their retirement funds, their jobs. Who are they going to blame? Some guy Rubin no one ever heard of before, or the president who callously dismisses their pain:
'I believe people have taken a step back and asked, 'What's important in life?' You know, the bottom line and this corporate America stuff, is that important? Or is serving your neighbor, loving your neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself.
(Of course, if the GOP takes credit for the 90's boom, how can it now blame Clinton for the current scandals and economic collapse?)
Anywan, if the right hopes to tar Dems with the same sleaze dripping from their own, they will have to work a lot harder than this.

For more on this issue:

National Review Online: Joe Lieberman’s Cover-Up. Where is Robert Rubin?

Andrew Sullivan: What did Rubin know?

Counterspincentral: here and here

Ted Barlow

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

Dems making gains in the South

Republican dominance in the South is ending, as Democrats field competitive candidates in nearly all Southern races.

Of course, many Southern Democrats are to the right of Northern Republicans like Lincoln Chafee of RI, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Having a conservative wing in the party lends it centrist credentials in races across the country, and provides for a more balanced ideology. It is harder to tar Sen. Max Cleland as too liberal for Georgia so long as conservative Dem Zell Miller endorses him. This is a point lost on many progressive intent on following Republicans down the slope of ideological purity.

One of the GOP's biggest weaknesses the past few years has been its purging of liberal members (like Vermont Sen. Jeffords). Thus, the party is seen by many as a reactionary right-wing apparatus. That may be welcome to the party's wingnuts, but it's not helpful to the party's overall chances of success. California is exhibit A: Riordian would be all over Gov. Davis at this point, but state Republicans opted for the right-wing ideologue Simon.

However, as frustrating as conservative dems can be, it doesn't look as if Democrats will fall into the same trap. Those that demand ideological purity have already left the party.

They are called Greens.

    | 08:49 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

GOP Pollsters sound the alarm

Things are looking increasingly bleak for Republican candidates, a major GOP polling firm is warning. The problems are threefold:

  1. Voters who feel the economy is on the wrong track vote in disproportionate number compared to those who are satisfied. Recent polls have consistently pegged the "wrong track" number at over 50 percent;

  2. Seniors, who also make up a disproportionate percentage of voters in midterm elections, also believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. And seniors are more likely to punish the GOP for raiding social security and opposing prescription drug coverage; and

  3. Women are most concerned with the economy, HMO reform, and prescription drug coverage -- all issues that favor the Democrats.

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

Monday | July 22, 2002
Malaise, thy name is Bush

The press has replaced fawning 'War on Terror' stories with 'Bush's War on the Economy' stories. For example:

President Bush, who marked his 18th month in office this weekend, is off to the worst start of any president in the last 75 years.

At least, that is, as measured by the performance of the Standard & Poor's index of 500 stocks.

With the plunge in stock prices over the last nine weeks, the S.& P. 500 has now fallen 36.9 percent since Mr. Bush was sworn in on Jan. 20, 2001. That is the worst record for any president, as measured by the S.& P., which dates back to 1927, and is nearly twice as bad as the record compiled over the first 18 months of Herbert Hoover's administration.

Honestly, I am tired of writing about the economy. There's a desire to gloat at Bush's ineptness, to laugh at his self-induced predicament, and to gleefully anticipate the political bounty his actions will reap for Dems. Yet, it's hard to be happy when real people are losing their jobs, their retirement funds, and their savings.

And this is what's interesting about shifting public sentiment. Despite all the negative news, the corporate scandals, Harken, and Halliburton, the president's approval numbers are still diminishing at a slow, steady pace (now in the mid-60s). There is no dramatic outbreak of anger. No sudden 10-15 point drops. It's all been a steady drip, drip, drip.

Which should worry Bush's political advisors even more.

A sudden drop in Bush's approval ratings would indicate an outburst of anger -- an emotional reaction to the steady stream of negative news. But as all emotional reactions, are wont to do, they would fade. A sudden drop one week could be followed by an equally dramatic rise the next.

But the slow erosion marks a different dynamic. People are making deliberate, informed decisions on their views. They want to like the president, and they approve of the way he handled 9-11. But little by little, they are submitting to the inevitable fact that the president is incapable of stemming the nation's economic problems. And just as people are reluctantly abandoning the president, they will be just as slow to embrace him again.

No one expects Bush to fix the market. No one expected Bush to fix the collapsed twin towers, either. But just as Bush reassured the nation following 9-11 and acted decisively, they expect similar assurances anew.

Yet the president is politically paralyzed, boxed into a myriad of Catch-22s. His credibility is tarnished from his own association with Harken. Cheney is hanging out with Ashcroft in their joint "undisclosed location". And Paul "People care about what I do?" O'Neil loses credibility by the minute.

Bold action in this instance, a la 9-11, would dictate tough choices -- cancelling phased-in tax cuts, busting the budget deficit with stimulative spending, advocating true corporate reform. But, alas, while Bush had no problem boldly sending Americans to possible death in Afghanistan, he has no intention of laying down his political life for the good of this country. Nor even enduring a bump or bruise.

Cancelling future tax cuts would enrage his party's tax hawks. Busting the deficit would enrage the GOP and Dem fiscal hawks. True corporate reform would enrage the GOP's primary donor base. So he is reduced to lame (and mocked) attempts to talk up the economy, afraid of offending the smallest constituency.

Bush's impotence, especially contrasted with 9-11, is dramatically obvious to everyone. His ability to control the national debate has completely abandoned him. Last week, the nightly news led with stock market news, even as the Lindh plea was announced. Bush's speeches on Homeland Security have been all but ignored, what with WorldCom dominating center stage. Bush has been a one-trick pony, and the terror schtick is wearing thin.

Drip, drip, drip.

    | 10:47 PM | Link | Comments (4) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Site updates

I have started to add user-definable style sheets to the site (see the left column). That means visitors will be able to select the "look and feel" of the site they like best.

The most practical of these style sheets is "Big Fonts", which allows visitors to view the site using a larger font size. So if your eyesight is fading, I've got you covered. I've also added the genesis of a third style "Gray". It's got some work left on it, but I wanted to show off this cool feature as quickly as I could. I will finish up "Gray" within the next couple of days, and periodically add new styles as the mood strikes.

Anyway, I spent the last week helping a fellow blogger migrate to MovableType and improve the look and functionality of her site. It was a pretty fun experience, and I am willing to offer such help to anyone that needs it. I will volunteer my services to my colleagues on the left side of the political spectrum. If you are a centrist or rightist, I can also help set-up or improve your site. But given your unshakable belief in capitalism and the free market, I would have to charge you a modest fee.

    | 11:30 AM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Oklahoma Senate seat in play

Further evidence that the Republicans are in serious trouble in the 2002 elections. Sen. Inhofe is only 7 points ahead in the lates poll. That despite the fact that his likely Democratic challenger is somewhat of a sleaze, having faced 20 indictments tied to the financing of his successful gubernatorial campaign in 1990.

The challenger, David Walters, has received little media coverage or financial support, but that may change if he can stay close to Inhofe. Any time the GOP has to play defense in a supposedly safe seat (such as OK or TX), that's less money they can pour into vulnerable Dem states (such as MN, MO, or SD). And a strong Democratic challenge for the Senate seat could also help the Democrats retake Watts soon-to-be-vacated House seat.

    | 09:02 AM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Unconnecting the dots

The Bush Administration is desperate to untangle any possible links between Bush and the stock market crash of 2002. As part of those efforts, Bush's PR team complained to news networks that ran split screens of Bush's corporate responsibility speech with the Dow's collapsing ticker.

Former Republican National Committee head and Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes was appropriately contrite. He vowed to refrain from any such displays of "fair and balanced" reporting in the future.

CNN's Lou Dobbs was quicker to pin the blame on the Bush Administration:

[U]ltimately the responsibility is theirs. I really think the White House should have been more sensitive to the fact that that's precisely the way news editors and many viewers react when the president speaks during market hours.
Incidentally, while I write this the Dow is down nearly 200 and significantly below the 8,000 mark. Watch as administration efforts to disassociate themselves from the carnage further intensify.

    | 08:48 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

California to the rescue

After watching Congress and the president fight against higher fuel efficiency standards, California has taken matters into its own hands. Exploiting a legal loophole that allows the state to set its own emission standards, California will now require automakers to decrease the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by their fleets, including their - gasp! -- SUVs.

California is the only state allowed to set its own standards, the product of a 1960s-era law designed to help control LA's smog. And once California raises its standards, it effectively amounts to a nationwide edict.

Automakers are threatening lawsuits, or a voter initiative. Both would be a PR disaster, and would end in ultimate failure. Just as an industry-backed advertising blitz failed to derail the California law.

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

Friday | July 19, 2002
Bush still wants to "privatize" social security

Woa! Is the president reading his party's own focus group reports? Apparently, Bush is still promoting the partial privatization of social security:

The plunging stock market and recent corporate implosions won't stop the White House from driving ahead with plans to overhaul Social Security to allow personal investment accounts.

President Bush's views haven't changed, spokesman Ari Fleischer said Wednesday.

"The president believes that is the right long-term policy," Fleischer said. "He thinks it's good for young people if they want to pursue this on a voluntary basis."

Funny that Fleischer would still be talking about this. Didn't Bush and Rove read the leaked GOP focus group report I blogged yesterday? Most relevant:
  • Democrat attempt to label GOP position on Social Security as favoring "privatization" presents serious threat. GOP, Members, and candidates must fight back against this label.
Republicans say "personal investment funds", Democrats say "privatization". Guess which term has greater traction with the general public? It's the same as the Republican's use of "death tax" -- it's not entirely accurate, but there's political virtue in simplicity.

Congressional Republicans have been warned they are vulnerable on the issue. The report even underlines the word "serious" in "serious threat". So we know the authors are serious when the say "serious". Seriously.

But Rove didn't get the memo. And Bush didn't read it (it had more than three sentences and no pictures of caterpillars). So, GOP candidates must now explain why their president wants to "privatize" social security as the markets tank and the social security trust fund is spent on other things. Brilliant. Welcome to the post-Karen Hughes White House.

    | 12:01 AM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Thursday | July 18, 2002
Simon's incompetence

The conservative Washington Times is shredding Bill Simon's campaign efforts. The Republican Simon is running for California governor against unpopular incumbent Gray Davis, and making a fine mess of it.

It may be difficult for those of you who don't live in California to comprehend just how disliked Davis is. Yet, thanks to the efforts of the state's conservative wingnuts (who rejected a more electable and moderate candidate), a majority of the state's voters are poised to hold their nose and hand Davis a second term. And to think that Davis was once considered presidential material.

Anyway, the Times isn't thrilled with the peformance of its chosen candidate, and let's rip:

What can we say about Bill Simon, the Republican gubernatorial candidate in California? He makes every mistake, and then some. In November, we can write a postmortem on why Mr. Simon lost to Gov. Gray Davis. Or we can go public now, hoping someone will fix the mess.

    | 02:13 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Bush, investigator extraordinaire

After a thorough investigation, personally sifting through thousands of documents and hundreds of interviews, drawing upon his extensive business acumen and legal expertise, President Bush has found Cheney innocent of any corporate misdeeds. Of course, Bush still has no clue why he filed SEC forms months late, and doesn't remember approving sham transactions as a Harken director, but so long as he's boss, Cheney is one of the "good guys". Got that, Harvey?

    | 01:50 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

No offshore drilling in CA

If it's good enough for Florida, it's good enough for California. The House passed a budget amendment prohibiting the use of federal funds to drill for oil off the coast of California.

Bush opposes the amendment. But it's hard for him to demand oil drilling off the coast of California, while at the same time bestowing brother Jeb with a ban.

    | 01:26 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Perry gets support of Texas car dealers

This story is viewed as a positive for Texas Democrat Tony Sanchez, currently running for governor. In short, reliably Republican car dealers have abandoned Texas Guv Perry and swung their financial support to Sanchez. This is apparently significant because the dealers have one of the largest PACs in the state.

Does Sanchez really need that kind of support? Car dealers are not the most beloved people. In fact, they are usually downright sleazy. And, they are supporting Sanchez because the governor vetoed anti-consumer bills that would've benefited the industry (including raising the fees they could charge car buyers).

Sanchez scored a coup when Texas doctors defected from the dark side to support his campaign. But I wouldn't go around bragging about the car dealers. Especially when they offer quotes like this:

"I have been a lifelong conservative Republican," said Mr. Reynolds, managing partner of Prestige Ford in Garland and a former national chairman of the Ford Dealer Council. "I have waved the flag for the Republican Party. But the sense I get is Tony Sanchez is so much more pro-business than Rick Perry that I've got to go with him."
Brilliant. That ought to go well with Enron/Halliburton/Harken in the background...

    | 01:11 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Wednesday | July 17, 2002
Social Security: the GOP's boogeyman

Josh Marshall has given us lefty political junkies a gift from heaven: an issues analysis (PDF) done for the National Republican Congressional Committee. Not as nice as Rove's PPT presentation, but still nice. In short, Social Security presents the GOP with a big problem. Let me quote some of the report's conclusions/strategic recommendations:

  • Successful implementation of inoculation and response strategy serves only to limit erosion -- not going to get any sort of clear "win".

  • Democrat attempt to label GOP position on Social Security as favoring "privatization" presents serious threat. GOP, Members, and candidates must fight back against this label.

  • Electorate "attention span" on debate about SS is very deep. They will react to all information provided, and won't grow tired or tune out of the debate.

  • AARP is a dangerous adversary in this debate. They have greater credibility than any other entity on this issue and are not viewed as partisan.

  • No effective direct rebuttal to attack on spending Social Security trust funds on other things. Response must refocus on commitment to making sure all Social Security trust funds are spent on Social Security benefits.
This document is a veritable roadmap to GOP weaknesses on social security. As the first bullet point notes, if Republicans do everything right, and faithfully obey the report's recommendations, the best they can hope to do is minimize the damage. Even in their best case scenario, they acknowledge they are taking a hit ("erosion").

Update: Josh has now posted the entire report.

    | 04:20 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Conservatives ganging up on Bush

Sure, there are Coulter-type conservatives that will blindly defend Bush to the end of their days. But, there has been clear and growing unease amongst many intellectual conservatives, displaying a laudable lack of hypocrisy.

Two examples today:

The Weekly Standard's Christopher Caldwell writes:

For decades now, the "small government" Republican Party has been slamming the corrupt conduct of, say, trial lawyers who just suck money out of the economy and put it in their pockets in the name of the ideal of "representing the little guy." When they talk this way, I’m all ears. But, Jesus, this [corporate corruption] is what they have to offer in its place?
Caldwell then speculates on the mysterious buyer of Bush's Harken shares, guessing it might be Saudis with ties to the Bin Laden family.

The National Review's Byron York rehashes one of his 1999 articles examining Bush's business record in great detail:

Far more than tales of youthful drinking and carousing, the record of Bush's rise to wealth reveals how he became what he is today. It's a complicated tale of family connections, hard work, and sweet deals, topped off by a taxpayer-subsidized baseball bonanza that may leave some Republicans feeling queasy about how their candidate got rich.
The article takes a critical look at Bush's business dealings, even if it does use the words "Bush" and "hard work" in the same sentence.

These writers are critical, in large part, because they think Bush is harming the conservative cause. Bush has boosted the size of government, his crony capitalistic ways is harming the case for unregulated capitalism, etc. But some of that criticism is principled outrage at Bush's lack of character. These writers gave Clinton hell, and are now admirably reluctant to give Bush a pass.

    | 12:31 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

From the right: Wag the dog. Please!

I hate to say this about anyone, but NY Post columnist John Podhoretz is an asshole. To what do we owe this ad hominem attack? In his latest column, Podhoretz urges the president to invade Iraq in order to boost his numbers and improve GOP chances in November.

You're in some domestic political trouble, Mr. President. You need to change the subject. You have the biggest subject-changer of all at your disposal. Use it.
Even if Iraq is unable to kill a single soldier or airman, Americans will still die. Fatal accidents are common in the military, and such accidents are obviously more common when waging war (just ask the Canadians).

For this columnist to callously condemn Americans to certain death in order to boost the president's political fortunes is nothing short of barbaric. Podhoretz claims he is being practical, Machiavellian. No he's not. He's being a coward. It's easy enough to send others to their death. But I don't see Ann Coulter, the editorial board of the National Review, Robert Novak or Podhoretz volunteering to serve in the vanguard of any such invasion.

Realistically speaking, Podhoretz's suggestions don't have a chance in hell in passing. As I've argued before, any such invasion is currently politically and logistically impossible. However, the column does betray two things:

  1. The right is panicking about the corporate scandals and their effect on the mid-term and 2004 elections; and

  2. there is nothing "compassionate" about an ideology that would trade lives for political gain.

    | 11:44 AM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Tuesday | July 16, 2002
How long will Lindh serve?

Talk Left: Lindh's Sentence: 20 Years or Up to 20 Years?

    | 02:22 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

'Investor class' fleeing GOP

Conservative icon John O'Sullivan (former editor of the National Review), is warning that the investor class may turn away from GOP. An October 2000 Zogby poll had the "investor class" choosing Bush over Gore by a 10-point margin, offsetting a clear 18-point advantage for Gore amongst non-investors. The recent economic troubles and corporate scandals now threatens GOP dominance over investors.

O'Sullivan ressurects a prediction he made back in October 2000, and argues it is now coming true:

At the time I suggested two possible consequences in the magazine National Review. First, if stocks fell, there would be a general drift in the investor class away from risk and toward security--a drift likely to take them in a Democratic direction and away from such political projects as the partial privatization of Social Security. Second, the investors themselves might well become hostile to the party most associated with persuading them to put their money into falling stocks. That is why Lady Thatcher fell from power in Britain in 1990. Homeowners blamed her for the sharp deflationary fall in the value of their principal investment, which her government had successfully urged them to purchase.

    | 08:55 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Cuban embargo under assault

The US House of Representatives, that GOP-led bastion of conservative activism, is once again pushing legislation that would ease the US embargo on Cuba.

While a bunch of measures will be debated, the one given the greatest likelihood of success is the elimination of the travel ban. It passed easily last year, and should do so again this year.

Bush has threatened to veto any bill easing sanctions on Cuba. He and his brother Jeb need the Cuban-American exile vote in Florida. Why else would Bush allow trade with communist nations like China and Vietnam and not Cuba?

Interestingly enough, not a single administration official would defend the embargo on the record. Why is that? Probably because the Bush Administration is on the wrong of the issue. As the majority of congressional Republicans now know, the embargo is intellectually bankrupt. It has failed, and it is time to admit defeat and pursue more enlightened policies.

    | 08:24 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

More on new Zogby poll

Bush approval ratings according to Zogby's latest poll:

February: 74% positive, 24% negative
May: 70% positive, 30% negative
June: 69% positive, 28% negative
July: 62% positive; 38% negative

51% are less likely to invest in the markets. Those less likely to invest are Americans earning $35,000-50,000 a year, 55-69 year-olds and Moderates. Zogby also notes:

Two out of three likely voters tell us that they have an IRA or a 401k. One look at their quarterly report and there goes confidence in the economy and the government. We are looking at a very close election with the Congressional Generic still tied at 34%, but this issue is THE issue.
No kidding. The working poor don't have 401(k)s or stock portfolios, but they already vote Democrat. The super-rich will obviously still vote Republican, as they have enough wealth to tide them over. It's the middle class, with a large percentage of their retirement funds tied up in the market that should turn on Republicans with a vengeance.

    | 08:01 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Can they fix Wall Street?

From Newsweek:

A 51-percent majority of Americans think that President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney’s former business background makes them better able to deal with the corporate scandals and help them develop policies to reduce corporate wrongdoing. But 38 percent say their pasts make them less likely to support the kinds of policies needed to deal with the scandals and reduce corporate wrongdoing.
Isn't arguing that Bush and Cheney's business background qualifies them to fix the mess on Wall Street kind of like saying Clinton's, ahem, "experiences" qualifies him to promote abstinence?

    | 08:00 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

More on Lindh

Yesterday I suggested that Lindh was railroaded into a plea agreement, even though the government's case was falling apart. A provision in the plea agreement seems to support my theory:

The agreement says that for the rest of his life the government may immediately and unilaterally capture and detain Mr. Lindh as an "enemy combatant" should it determine that he has engaged in any of a score of crimes of terrorism. The government has said that such detentions, which are military rather than criminal, are beyond the power of the courts to second-guess.

Legal experts said the reference to enemy combatant status in the plea agreement, along with the government's recent decisions to detain Yasser Esam Hamdi and Jose Padilla as combatants without filing charges against them, suggests that the government now prefers detentions to trials.

As the article makes clear, the US no longer wants to deal with the hassles of criminal trials, what with those pesky constitutional rights and all. There was nothing to prevent the government, seeing its case falling apart and ripped to shreds both internally and in the media, from telling Lindh and his lawyers: "Plead or we will relabel you an 'enemy combatant'." It's obvious the issue arose, since the government included language to that effect in the plea.

TalkLeft has some good commentary on the Lindh case. The person behind TalkLeft is a criminal defense lawyer, and I am eagerly awaiting more of her analysis on the plea agreement.

    | 07:48 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Monday | July 15, 2002
War on whales

The Bush Administration has given the Navy permission to use a low-frequency sonar that wreaks havoc on marine mammals.

Environmentalists' fears are partly based on the Navy's deployment of a powerful mid-range sonar in March 2000 during a submarine detection exercise in the deep water canyons of the Bahamas.

At least 16 whales and two dolphins beached themselves on the islands of Abaco, Grand Bahama and North Eleuthera within hours. Eight whales died. Scientists found hemorrhaging around the brain and ear bones, injuries consistent with exposure to loud sounds.

Twelve Cuvier beaked whales beached themselves in Greece during NATO ( news - web sites) exercises in 1996 using the low-frequency sonar, but the whales decomposed before scientists could investigate.

    | 11:43 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Bush numbers plummet

Zogby will release a poll tomorrow showing a 7 percent slide in Bush's approval numbers. (Thanks to Nathan Newman for the link.)

In the poll, Bush is at 62 percent -- quite a mortal number. And given the market's performance these past two weeks, more polls will start showing similar results.

And I'm willing to bet that the Zogby poll, and others like it, will continue to show a public unperturbed by Harken. The Harken stuff, in a vacuum, is not really a big deal politically (witness how the press and public shrugged off the story during every single one of Bush's campaigns). But as I have argued before, it does a great job of linking Bush to the current economic malaise.

Bush promised economic growth if elected. Didn't happen. He promised economic recovery if his tax cuts were passed. Didn't deliver. He promised to get tough with corporate hoodlums. We saw how the markets have reacted.

And with public opinion of CEOs and Directors in the dumps, we then learned that Bush was once one of them. So in one month, Bush is down from the mid-80s to the low 60s. His numbers will bottom out in the mid-to-low-50s. The only question is how long it will take to get there. Either way, it spells disaster for the GOP in the 2002 elections, who won't be able to count on their party's leader to give them a boost.

    | 05:36 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Something fishy about Lindh plea

John Walker Lindh, the American Taliban, has pleaded guilty to two of the government's ten counts as part of a plea agreement (link is PDF). The two counts are "Supplying Services to the Taliban" and "Carrying an Explosive During the Commission of a Felony".

lindh1.jpgThe charges carry a sentence of 20 years (of which he'll serve 17 assuming good behavious), and, among other things, requires Lindh to put "to rest his claims of mistreatment by the United States Military." Lindh further acknowledges that "he was not intentionally mistreated by the U.S. military." Interesting how the government insisted this be part of the plea agreement. See picture on right, keeping in mind that the worst pictures have not been released to the public or were ordered destroyed by the US military.

There are several fishy aspects about this plea. First of all, why would the defense plead out before the judge ruled on the admissibility of Lindh's "confession"? Second, why would Lindh cop to a criminal act of supporting the Taliban, when the US government was, at the same time, sending tens of millions of dollars to that very same Taliban regime? If Lindh is guilty of supporting the Taliban, so is Bush, Powell, and the entire state department.

The defense doesn't seem to be able to speak openly about the plea. It's almost as if Lindh was threatened with the same treatment Jose Padilla is getting -- the "enemy combatant" label. Could the US, seeing its case against Lindh fall apart, have threatened to strip Lindh of his attorney and incarcerate him indefinitely as an "enemy combatant"? There is definitely more to this case than currently meets the eye.

    | 11:33 AM | Link | Comments (3) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Markets slide, political repercussions

As we see the markets shrug off Bush's lame defense of the economy and undergo its sixth day of relentless pummeling, articles like this one bear watching.

An increasing number of Americans have a stake in the stock market via stocks, mutual funds, and 401(k)s, and market performace, like never before, now has direct political repercussions. The fact that the current crash (yeah, I consider a near-10 percent drop in a week a "crash") can be directly linked to Bush's half-assed "reform" proposals further highlights the link. And there are real electoral dangers, considering that 70 percent of voters in 2000 were also investors.

Despite GOP efforts to blame Clinton for the crisis, it's clear that the public identifies Republicans with Big Business. And, so long as the markets maintain their downward spiral, they have the most to lose.

    | 09:03 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Saturday | July 13, 2002
Open Gov't: 1, Cheney secrecy: 0

In a follow up to his oral ruling a few weeks back, a federal judge eviscerated Cheney and his efforts to keep the energy task force records secret.

The ruling, by U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, was issued Thursday night and follows an oral ruling Sullivan made on May 23. The opinion called "troubling" the administration's argument that the two groups should not be allowed to sue for documents and information about the task force under the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

Sullivan wrote that by the Bush administration's logic, "Any action by Congress or the judiciary that intrudes on the president's ability to recommend legislation to Congress or get advice from Cabinet members in any way would necessarily violate the Constitution."

"Such a ruling would eviscerate the understanding of checks and balances between the three branches of government on which our constitutional order depends," the opinion said. "The fact that the government may want to advocate a new theory of executive authority and the separation of powers is its prerogative. It cannot, however, cloak what is tantamount to an aggrandizement of executive power with the legitimacy of precedent where none exists."

The judge's order was in response to a motion to dismiss, and allows the suit to move forward. Judicial Watch, which has filed one of the lawsuits and has become Cheney's biggest nemesis, will seek to depose Cheney as part of its discovery process.

    | 10:27 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

High hypocrisy

Check out this bizarre quote in an otherwise bolierplate article:

There is a political temptation to oppose free trade because it is "easy to mollify constituencies with protectionist rhetoric," the president said. The tariffs he imposed on some imported steel, however, were necessary to help the American steel industry "get on its feet."

    | 10:16 AM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Fox guarding the henhouse

Bush appointed Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson to head his "corporate SWAT team" task force. But, like Bush himself, Thompson carries plenty of baggage.

Turns out that Thompson was a director at Providian Financial Corp. at a time when the company engaged in massive consumer and securities fraud. I say "massive" because the company paid more than $400 million to settle the charges. The company is also facing a class-action suit by employees alleging Enron-style shenanigans.

Of course, Thompson's spokesperson claims his boss was ignorant of any wrongdoing, and then "personally took the lead in making the company do the right thing." Yeah. Once the fraud was exposed by investigators. Directors have a fiduciary duty to a company's investors. If Thompson didn't know about Providian's frauds, then he was negligent in his responsibilities. If he did know, then he was a party to the fraud. Neither option inspires much confidence in his ability to, as he said, pursue corporate criminals with “with vigor and an aggressive manner.”

    | 10:13 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

The bad news presidency

The last few months have offered nothing but a steady stream of bad news, and no end to the negativity is in sight. Friday was no different.

For starters, the White House is conceding a $165 billion deficit. The White House budget chief claims "no one saw this coming." But of course, everyone did see this coming. The economy was slowing, and it logically followed that tax revenues would drop. But Bush and congressional Republicans argued that the cure-all was a massive tax cut. In fact, early last year, when selling his tax cut proposal Bush argued that:

An immediate tax cut would give the economy a timely second wind.
So what happened? Not only did we have no 'second wind', but we're back to massive deficits. Of course, the White House avoids mentioning tax cuts when listing factors for the massive deficit.

But perhaps the most interesting aspect about the deficit announcement is the war it unleashed between Congress and the White House, each blaming the other side for the deficits. Mitchell Daniels, the WH budget director, blamed Congress for lacking fiscal discipline. Both parties unleashed on Daniels:

In a rare personal attack from the Senate floor, Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) lambasted Daniels by name, likening him to a "little Caesar" and complaining that the appropriations process was being "maimed by someone who was not elected by the people of this country."

The committee's ranking Republican, Ted Stevens (Alaska), was equally blunt. "The [White House] bean counters are looking in the wrong jar," he said. "It's time for us to have it out."

Democrats are predictably (and justifiably) turning the deficit into a campaign issue. Congressional Republicans, already feeling vulnerable heading into November, don't want Bush to place the burden of blame on their shoulders.

And Republicans have much to sweat, considering the current economic and scandal environment. The Dow ended its worst week since September, losing 7.4 percent of its value. The markets were hammered by the near-daily corporate scandals, loss of confidence in the markets by investors, loss of confidence in Bush's ability to push needed reforms, loss of consumer confidence, and the new deficit numbers. The consumer confidence numbers are especially worrying. Consumer spending and the home market have collectively kept the economy afloat. Indications are that the home market is already softening. If consumer spending eases as well, it could wreak havoc on the economy.

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

Friday | July 12, 2002
Dems take aim against deregulation

The always excellent Nathan Newman has unearthed this gem of a report on GOP's deregulation efforts throughout the 90's. Written by the Democratic Party, the report offers a comprehensive look at the GOP's relentless crusade against all business regulations. And, as Nathan writes:

[I]t shows the political will of the Dems to move from single issue criticism of the financial debacles to a full-out assault on deregulation across the board-- from rightwing assaults on the environment to corporate tax giveaways.

    | 07:54 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Thursday | July 11, 2002
What goes around, comes around

It was only a matter of time. TalkLeft points us to two obscure media reports on the fate of an American journalist in Liberia. He is being held as an "unlawful combatant", accused of aiding a "terrorist organization". He is, much like Padilla in the US, being held incommunicado. The US government has issued a mild statement, but can do little more.

The Bush Administration fears that the UN War Crimes Court could open the US up to frivolous, politically motivated lawsuits. But who needs the UN court, when US actions give foreign governments all the justification they need to violate the rights of Americans?

    | 11:06 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

It's the economy, stupid

Republican leaders have told their congressional colleagues that on the issue of corporate governance, they can't expect Bush to bail them out. Bush is looking out for #1, the rest be damned.

So, congressional Republicans are introducing toothless "corporate governance" bills and blaming the scandals on Clinton's, er... cigar. They issue talking points about "moving forward" and how Harken was a long time ago, blah, blah, blah.

But what everyone seems to be forgetting is that the GOP's biggest threat is NOT from Harken itself. Or Enron. Or Halliburton. Or whatever company joins that list tomorrow. Voters expect Republicans to be corrupt business people. Just like they expect Democrats to have sex. Harken shouldn't be a big surprise to the electorate.

The GOP's threat comes from the struggling economy and an administration unable to do anything about it. Last year's tax cuts weren't the panacea Bush promised. And the markets have been taking a beating, bleeding trillions of dollars from the economy.

And everyone knows who the villains are -- the CEOs and corporate directors who propagated a fraud on investors. The investors have fled the markets, voting with their money. A low stock price all but guarantees that companies will not make new capital investments as they hoard cash and protect whatever profits they can eke out. Less spending means more pain for the economy -- more layoffs, fewer new hires, lower pay raises, etc. 401(k)'s are losing their values, erasing the hard-earned nest eggs of many workers. And if the housing market is impacted, look out. Real trouble.

Harken/Halliburton/Enron is nothing more than a symbol of everything that is wrong with corporate America, and by direct extension, the economy. And, voters can't expect these problems to be solved by Bush, Pitt, and the Republicans in Congress, defenders of the unregulated capitalist system.

The lower the Dow drops (and it closed lower today, again), the bigger the pain on the economy, and the more seats the Democrats will pick up.

    | 02:57 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Cheney LOVES Arthur Andersen

Cheney lauded Arthur Andersen in a promotion video, which the BBC helpfully provides here. In that video, Cheney makes the increasingly infamous quote:

I get good advice, if you will, from their people, based upon how we are doing business and how we are operating, over and above the normal, by-the-books auditing arrangement.
As we all know now, there was definitely more going on at Andersen than "by-the-books auditing".

    | 11:42 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Iraq invasion off the table

I wrote earlier this week that chances of a US invasion of Iraq were limited at best. The logisitics of such an invasion were nearly impossible given the non-existent international support for such an operation. And every time US planners floated an idea, such as using Jordan as a launching pad, the country in question would fire back a fierce denial.

So it is no surprise that US war planners are now "raising the bar" for an Iraq invasion:

A full-scale U.S. invasion of Iraq will require significant provocation by Saddam Hussein's regime -- such as invading a neighbor, fielding a nuclear weapon or attacking its minority population, top Bush administration officials have concluded.

Senior officials at the Pentagon ( news - web sites), State Department and other agencies say President Bush ( news - web sites)'s national security team has agreed that the most dramatic option for toppling Saddam -- a large-scale invasion -- would be politically difficult at home and abroad without justification beyond Iraq's current friction with Washington over the suspected development of weapons of mass destruction.

Still, all is not well. The Bushies, obsessed with taking out Saddam, have ordered the CIA to continue investigating possible links between Iraq and 9-11. To date, no such links have been found, and it begs the question whether the administration will manufacture a link to bolster their war efforts. In addition, if a link to 9-11 is a legitimate pretext for an invasion, we should be marching on Riyadh at this very moment, with Yemen in the on-deck circle.

The GOP's right-wing, led by the shrill folks at National Review, will not take kindly to this news. Fleischer will rush out a statement claiming that "all options are still on the table." But reality has finally sunk in on the administration. The state department and the Pentagon have made their case, and for now, the good guys have come out ahead.

    | 07:54 AM | Link | Comments (4) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Wednesday | July 10, 2002
Bush got sweet deal on loans

In his sad little speech Tuesday, Bush "challenged" corporations to prohibit low-cost loans to directors. Well, with Bush it's 'been there, done that'. Turns out Bush received $180,375 in low-cost loans from Harken when he was a director. Bush didn't have to pay the principal for 8 years, and was charged only 5 percent annual interest.

So now we have insider trading, improper (though not illegal) loans, and approval of sham transactions. And though Bush claims (falsely) that the SEC fully vetted his actions and cleared him, the White House is refusing to release either SEC documents on the investigation, or corporate documents from Bush's Harken tenure (such as corporate minutes).

Thank God for the subpoena-issuing powers of committee chairmen, huh? Time for the Dems in the Senate to get cracking!

As for the markets, it's anyone's guess when the current downward spiral will end. The markets have taken a 600-point hit through Wednesday this week. So much for Republicans being good for the markets. In fact, Bush's presidency has yielded the sharpest market declines since Richard Nixon (another Republican!).

Republicans are trying to blame Clinton, of course. But Clinton wasn't president when Harken engaged in Bush-sanctioned shenanigans, and the argument is getting little respect outside of Dittohead territory.

    | 11:35 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Don't count out Johnson in SD

SD Senator Johnson has been long considered the most endangered Democratic incumbent in the Senate. Yet after lagging for months, he appears to have caught Republican challenger Thune, the state's only House member.

While the race is devoid of any recent independent polls, the Johnson campaign is lauding an internal poll showing Johnson edging ahead of Thune. TalkingPointsMemo has a good analysis of the new poll numbers and other factors influencing the race. In short, after laggin behind for months, Johnson is now in a statistical dead heat with Thune. And despite Bush's bold efforts to bolster Thune, South Dakotans seem to be more influenced by Sen. Majority Leader (and South Dakotan) Daschle.

Johnson's poll numbers show him leading 49-47. Again, a statistical tie. Thune's people claim Johnson is in trouble because he's an incumbant under that magical 50 percent mark. However, in this race, BOTH candidates are statewide incumbants, so that rule doesn't apply (or applies equally to both candidates, take your pick). Thune's people claim their internal polling shows Thune still ahead, but they refuse to release their polls. And in politics, you trumpet good news, hide bad news. I'm guessing Thune's people are lying.

That's one poll on the right-hand margin I'll be happy to update.

    | 12:53 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Latinos will not go GOP

Recognizing the importance of the Latino vote, both parties are going all out to court that constituency for the mid-term November elections.

Bush is not hated by Latinos. Yet Republicans delude themselves if they think there is genuine support for him within that community. Remember, his intense courtship of Latinos in Texas netted him only about 38 percent of that vote in his last gubernatorial campaign. His current poll numbers with Latinos stem from one factor -- Bush's handling of the WOT. Not only do Americans, in general support the war (and Latinos are no different), but there is intense pressure within the Latino (and other immigrant communities) to be as "American" as possible. Saying they support the president is one way to insulate themselves from 9-11-induced xenophobia.

While the Washington Post story quoted GOPers claiming Bush would help attract Latino support, this story from The Hill had a more honest assessment from a GOPAC spokesman:

We recognize that the president is hugely popular among Hispanics. That kind of cracks the door open, but it’s not transferable in any way. Not up and down the ballot.
Truth is, Latinos (outside of Miami's Cuban community) do not trust the GOP. On every issue save one, Democrats are on the same wavelength as the Latino community. The exception is abortion, which heavily Roman Catholic Latinos oppose. But as a poor immigrant community, Latinos find more salience in issues such as immigration, education, preservation of their culture, and economic security (such as the minimum wage).

But Republicans have been using symbolism to woo Latinos. Republicans can brag about their Cinco de Mayo booths, yet such efforts fail to address the simple fact that Republican policy is diametrically opposed to the interests of the Latino community.

Indeed, Republicans can't even field Latino candidates in Latino districts. GOPAC's "Engaging Hispanic Voters" initiative makes this point clear:

The initiative will focus on helping Latino candidates with their fundraising and campaign operations. In addition, GOPAC will train non-Latino candidates who want to run in predominantly Latino districts.
Running Anglo candidates in Latino districts will not endear Latinos to the GOP, and, in fact, will simply reinforce the negative stereotypes Latinos harbor against Republicans. But then again, Republicans have been unable to recruit a significant number of Latino candidates, so instead, they offer Spanish for beginners.

I am Latino. Partisan, to be sure, but still plugged into my community. And from my vantage point, deep in the barrio, things are not looking good for Republicans.

    | 11:29 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Dow continues downward spiral

As I write this, the Dow is hovering just above the 9,000 mark, further reinforcing the notion that Bush's speech was a disaster. Meant to reassure investors, Bush accomplished the exact opposite. Investors saw his calls for industry self-regulation as inadequate, and punished the markets (and Bush by extension) as a result.

Bush's insistance that the crisis was caused by a few crooked CEOs bellies the fact that the whole system is corrupt, and in need of serious reform. Rove must be beside himself right now. This isn't a matter of spin. You can't laud a speech, and claim the reforms will be successful, if the target audience repudiates you in such dramatic fashion.

And, as the Dow declines, companies will be more reluctant to spend on capital improvements or higher and larger payrolls, further entrenching the current recession. All roads to economic recovery start at Wall Street, and with a weakening housing market, and the Dow in the 8,000s, things could get nasty for the GOP.

Judicial Watch, the big thorn on the Clinton Administration's side, has probably become an even bigger thorn on the Bush Administration's side. They announced an accounting fraud lawsuit against Halliburton and Cheney. From a legal standpoint, this isn't that big of a deal. I count over 20 such lawsuits filed thus far. They will all get consolidated, including Judicial Watch's effort. However, the filing is significant because Judicial Watch gets media attention. Those other lawsuits were filed in near anonymity, while Judicial Watch's gets top-of-the-fold attention.

But the biggest treat this morning was Maureen Dowd's latest column. She just gets better and better:

Can a Bush — born on third base but thinking he hit a triple — ever really understand the problems of the guys in the bleachers?

    | 08:40 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

All-Star Game

I love baseball above almost all else. I umpire youth and amateur leagues in my free time. I watch about a dozen games a week on TV thanks to the miracle of DirecTV. I see the Oakland A's at least once a week when they are in town. And I try to plan trips to my native Chicago around Cubs games.

I could rant about the problems facing baseball: economic inequities, diluted talent pool, contraction, steroid use, etc. But despite my passionate love for the game, I realize there are more important things in the world (like the pillaging of our country by Bush and Co.), and that's what I prefer to write about.

But today, it seems everyone is outraged today at the All-Star game's 7-7 tie. Why the big deal? It was a great game, and the simple fact was that both teams ran out of players. Sure, the position players could play on, but the pitchers are a different story. Pitchers are mortal, and the more they pitch, the longer they have to rest before returning to the mound. And in two days, REAL baseball will resume. That's where Garcia and the rest of the All-Star pitchers need to push their arms, in the pennant race. Not in a glorified exhibition game.

    | 08:19 AM | Link | Comments (3) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Tuesday | July 09, 2002
Bush's whimpy speech

In a stunning display of toothless bluster, Bush announced all manners of outrage at corporate America, and then proposed little more than voluntary industry standards to stem the tide of corporate scandals rocking Wall Street and the US economy.

Check out these hard-hitting proposals:

– Enhance the ability of the Securities and Exchange Commission to freeze improper payments to corporate executives while a company is under investigation.

– Persuade publicly traded companies to prevent corporate officers from receiving loans from their own companies.

– Ask stock markets to require that a majority of a company's directors – and all members of the company's audit, nominating and compensation committees – have no material relationship with the company so that they are truly independent.

Ask? Persuade? What is this, a negotiation? So Bush proposed increasing some criminal penalties. Big deal.

We currently face the biggest economic crisis in decades. Investors are abandoning the market in droves. No one has faith in public companies, their financial filings, or their officers and directors. Capitalism is under assault. Call the big guns. Heck, call THE Big Gun.

So Bush fired his volley, and the effect? One big collective whooshing sound as investors sucked their money from the markets as quickly as they could hit the "SELL" button. To the tune of 178 points in the Dow, and nearly 25 points in the Nasdaq. That's the Dow's biggest one-day decline in five weeks, and we're talking five weeks of nothing but declines. We're at 5-year lows here.

Why the drop? Because Bush and his GOP pals refuse to reform the structure of the system itself. And that's where the real problems are.

Bush is laboring under the impression that these scandals are the result of a few bad apples. Increase a few criminal penalties, ask Wall Street to play fair, and all should be okay, right?

The media might still be too timid. Voters may not understand the complexities of a business scandal. But investors can smell a scam when they see one. And today, they voted with their money.

    | 03:21 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Iraq invasion not imminent

Bush is still threatening to take out Saddam Hussein. However, there are no indications, other than a "wag the dog" effort to get Harken out of the news, that an invasion of Iraq is that imminent.

Quite simply, if news reports are to be believed, the logistics of any such invasion are currently impossible.

One scenario, leaked to the New York Times, would have the US invade Iraq from three sides. The land invasion would come from Kuwait, with air strikes from Turkey and Qatar. Qatar is apparently supportive of US plans. However, both Kuwait and Turkey have publicly come out against an Iraq invasion. And, further Arab support will be non-existent while the Palestinian/Israeli conflict continues. Interestingly enough, the plan leaked to the NY Times acknowledges one bit of real politik -- Saudi Arabia cannot be counted on to provide either staging areas for ground troops or any air bases.

Some commentators have suggested an Afghanistan-type campaign, coupling US air power and special forces with local insurgents. The Kurds in the north and Shiites in the south come to mind. However, the Shiites were abandoned by Bush I after the Gulf War, and are not likely to face annihilation again. The Kurds have zero interest in getting drawn into a war with Iraq (here also). Not only do they enjoy a de facto nation, complete with their own currency, secured by the no-fly zone, but they have long memories of past US betrayals. Bitter relations between Turkey and the Kurds further complicates the situation in northern Iraq, making acquiescence by either country less than a forgone conclusion. Another report has the US attacking from Jordan, but that seems unlikely. Not only does Jordan have strong ties to Iraq (one of the few nations to back Iraq during the Gulf War), but Jordan-based US troops would still have to cross Kurd territory, something the Kurds have vowed not to allow.

Europeans are particularly opposed to any US invasion. The continent, already seething from US unilateralism in a wide range of areas, is adamant about any Iraqi invasion. Russia and France have already announced strong opposition to any US move. Notably, France provided ground troops and air power during the Gulf War. Russia was outspoken against the 1990 war against Iraq, so their current position is not a surprise. The fact that France, Germany, and the rest of mainland Europe has effectively joined in that opposition is significant.

As for Britian, this report says it has committed 30,000 troops to a US invasion. However, PM Tony Blair has faced strong opposition within his own party on the issue, and may face a revolt if he sides openly with Bush. This reality seems to have cooled recent British support for war.

Back at home, news reports earlier this year indicated that the joint chiefs of staff were leery of an Iraq invasion, reluctant to overextend US forces in an ill-conceived and unnecessary campaign. While the Congressional leadership, other than the clueless Gephardt, is reluctant to invade Iraq. Republicans Henry Hyde, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, and Trent Lott all have urged Bush to focus on other pressing needs (such as the Palestinian/Israeli conflict). Other congressional leaders support action if Iraq is developing weapons of mass destruction, but haven't seen evidence of that yet.

So when will the US enter Iraq, guns blazing? The last credible word on the matter, beyond Bush's amateurish bluster, was a report in the Washington Post that the Pentagon's uniformed leadership had talked its civilian (political) leadership into postponing any invasion until at least early next year. Given the depleted state of the military's ammo stockpile, and the geopolitical situation in the Middle East, this timeline is still most realistic.

Even money says there won't be any invasion. The obstacles are many, with few nations willing to help shoulder the burden. And a deteriorating political and economic situation at home will make the difficult even more so. Sure, there is a chance of some "wag the dog" action, but with the press finally giving Bush heat, he will have little leeway to take the nation to war.

    | 12:00 AM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Monday | July 08, 2002
Time to exhume the body?

While the president's men have hit the airwaves in defense of Bush's Harken dealings, this article obliterates their arguments. I mean, it grinds those arguments into the mud and then spits on them. A must-read.

    | 11:16 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Eve of the speech

I will have plenty to say on Bush's corporate responsibility speech tomorrow. However, this story on the eve of the speech has some real gems.

For starters, we finally, we have a skeptical White House corps.

"All I can tell you is that in the corporate world, sometimes things aren't exactly black and white when it comes to accounting procedures," Bush said in defending Harken. The company announced larger losses after the SEC determined that it had counted future income prematurely; Harken had sold a subsidiary, Aloha Petroleum, in 1989 through a seller-financed loan that it declared as a cash gain, masking huge losses.

Bush, who appeared irritated by the questioning, glared at reporters in the White House briefing room when he heard titters after that answer. "There was an honest difference of opinion as to how to account for a complicated transaction," he said. "And you're going to find that in different corporations. Sometimes the rules aren't as specific as -- as one would expect, and therefore the accountants and the auditors make a decision."

"Titters"? The press was laughing at Bush's lame excuses. In Bush's world, selling a company's subsidiary to itself, then claiming the sale price as profit, is not clearly wrong.

No wonder the press laughed in his face.

So now he is irritated. Rove and his cohorts better do some serious work with Bush. Because if he's irritated on day 1 of the scandal, what's going to happen after he hears the same questions week after week after week? The press smells blood. And the more he shows irritation, the more the press will, er, press (pun definitely not intended!).

What else? Bush also says some of the current corporate scandals may be "victims of honest disagreements". Just like his insider trading was just an honest disagreement, as was booking profits from a sham sale.

Yet, he then waxes poetic about restoring investor confidence:

I'm very worried about a country that has -- could conceivably lose confidence in the free enterprise system [...] I also understand how tender the free enterprise system can be. If people lose confidence in the system, it'd be hard to attract capital into markets, and that's one reason I've reacted so steadily against what I have seen.
The reason people are losing faith in the system is that CEO sharks, like Bush himself, don't see anything wrong with crooked transactions. They think those transactions are accounting disagreements, not the lies and deception they truly are. So he can blame Democrats, he can claim 'honest disagreements', and he can pretend that only a handful of CEOs are to blame. But that won't restore market confidence for one reason -- investors know it's all a lie.

One final thing. Will someone please explain to me how can a free enterprise system be 'tender'?

    | 10:44 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Republicans gain Yucca votes

Bush has ensured that Nevada's electoral votes in 2004 will go to the Demcrats. Completing his utter betrayal of Nevadans, Bush convinced Utah's two senators to back the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste plan. He did so by promising to prevent any nuclear waste from being stored in their state.

Of course, Bush promised Nevadans that he would base any Yuca decision on sound science, and then promptly and summarily approved the plan without bothering to deal with nitpicky things such as, well, sound science.

The vote will probably happen tomorrow, and neither side is claiming victory or defeat.

    | 10:15 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Ashcroft at an 'undisclosed location'?

Boy. When the Bushies muzzle someone, they mean business. One little politically motivated announcement of a three-week old arrest, and next thing you know, he's been exiled to Siberia.

If only we were so lucky. I'm a big fan of seeing my enemies out in the open. That's why I oppose all forms of censorship -- let the bigots and subversives play in the open where I can keep my eye on them.

I can't imagine what evil scheme Ashcroft is hatching in some dark dungeon, but whatever it is, it terrifies me.

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

Bush's speech

I'm eagerly awaiting Bush's "corporate responsiblity" speech tomorrow. I'm sure Rove regrets scheduling that speech now. The Harken revelations last week came at an opportune time for the administration -- during a long holiday weekend when no one was paying attention to the news. Now, Bush's previously scheduled, high-profile speech tomorrow will bring all those new allegations back to the fore.

So let Bush call for criminal penalties against corporate abusers. Regardless what he says, it will come out reeking of hypocrisy, lest he singles out Army Secretary White (Enron), Veep Cheney (Halliburton), or even himself (Harken).

Drug giant Merck is the latest victim to phony accounting practices, having booked $14 billion in non-existent revenues over the past three years. The market is, of course, taking a dive.

The markets will not recover so long as they are exposed to scandal after scandal. And without the markets aboard, the country cannot stage the full-scale economic recovery Bush's team was counting on for the mid-term elections. 401(K)s are still getting hammered, and the Bush Administration was complicit in the activities that have led to so much wealth loss.

Now Bush is desperate to shed his pro-business image and distance himself from the Wall Street scandals that are plaguing the economy. This after bragging about being the country's first MBA president, and after promising to run the country like a business.

This should be fun.

    | 08:18 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Moratorium over

Check out this great column from Canada's National Post. The writer argues that the moratorium on Bush bashing has ended, thanks to the politization of the war by Bush and Co.

    | 07:56 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Friday | July 05, 2002
Kirk gives Bush Texas-sized problem

There are few uncontroverted truths in the world. One of those is, there are 24 hours in a day. In Bush's world, after you subtract nap time, and beauty sleep time, and excercise time, and playing with the dog time, and watching baseball time, and eating pretzel time, you are left with about 6 good hours a day. Try to give him more time, and he turns into a raging lunatic (witness his press conference performance in France).

Why do I bring this up? Because it highlights one of the major problems the Republicans face in retaking the Senate. The GOP must defend 20 seats to the Dems 15. The GOP threatens in roughly four states, while the Dems have strong chances in at least seven. Simply put, the GOP's faces uphill chances to retake the Senate, and they need as much of Bush's help as they can get.

Now, it is widely expected that Bush will spend plenty of time campaigning in the Fall. But his time is limited, what with governing the free world and all (not to mention the naps and everything else I mentioned above). So, news last week that the Texas Senate race is a free-for-all was most unwelcome news for the Bushies.

The last few independent and Democrat surveys have all shown Democratic challenger, former Dallas mayor, and African-American wunderkind, leading Republican Cornyn. The latest, a University of Houston poll, has Kirk up 36-28 (with a third undecided). Another mid-June poll had Kirk up 46-42. A poll taken in lat May, had Kirk up 43-39.

There are obvious differences in methodology (the latest poll clearly only counted solid support for either candidate in its numbers, not "slight leans"). However, they all point to the same thing -- the Republicans are poised to lose a Senate seat from the president's own state. And regardless of the outcome, the GOP loses. Why?

Two things are now certain to happen. Bush will spend a lot of time in Texas, and a flood of party money will fill Cornyn's coffers. Indeed, expect a disproportionate amount of time and money to flow into Texas as Bush frantically tries to avoid an embarassing Texas loss. So, even if Cornyn eventually wins, that's time and money that could've been spent in MO, NH, MN, TN, or IA. Not to mention that the national press has latched on to this story, further emphasizing the appearance that Bush is weak. (The press gave Al Gore the same treatment when polls in TN suggested he would lose his home state.)

The irony is that it seems that Cornyn's problem isn't lack of money or the president's time. It's that voters like the affable and charismatic Kirk. And despite the Texas GOP's efforts to make this campaign about race, it looks like Kirk is getting strong support from whites in conservative northern Texas, as well as from blacks and Latinos. It seems the more voters get to see of Cornyn, the less they like him.

The GOP also faces a problem in Texas' gubernatorial campaign. In that race, Latino candidate Tony Sanchez is slowly creeping into striking range of Gov. Rick Perry. That U of Houston poll has Perry up 43-32, with a quarter undecided. The fact that an incumbent is under 50 percent is always trouble. And, it's definite progress for Sanchez, who was down 20 points early in June.

This poses a dilemma from Bush, Rove and Co. Losing Bush's old governor's seat to a Democrat would be a huge prestige blow for Bush. But, his efforts to woe Latino voters could take a serious hit if he openly campaigned against a Latino candidate. Thus, it looks like Perry is on his own for now. Still, if Sanchez can continue to close the gap, it might force Bush into another one of his lose-lose situations. More time and money may have to be sunk into what should've been a safe seat, while at the same time offending Latino voters.

Should be interesting.

    | 09:42 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Wednesday | July 03, 2002
Confidence in Bush waning

This poll by the American Research Group has some interesting findings, most of which spell trouble for Bush. Note that this poll was taken before the latest business scandals erupted (June 27-30).

  • Bush's approval rating is still high, 67 percent, but still showing a decline.
  • 47 percent of respondents rate the economy 'Bad', 'Very Bad', or 'Terrible'. Only 42 percent rate the economy 'Good' or 'Very Good'. Not a single respondent rated the economy 'Excellent'.
  • 61 percent said the economy is getting worse. Only 5 percent thought so in May, and 14 percent in June, a 47-point shift in just a month.
  • 51 percent approve of the way Bush is handling the econony. 38 percent disapprove. This is a 19-point drop since May.
  • When asked to describe their feelings toward the Bush presidency, respondents answered thusly: Angry, 5 percent; Worried, 27 percent; Confused, 14 percent; Hopeful, 38 percent; Happy, 15 percent.
So, while 67 percent approve of Bush's job, only 53 percent feel happy or hopeful about his presidency. I'm not sure how to reconcile that, only that the 14 percent who are confused are, in effect, really confused.

Oh, and this poll tells us that Hillary is the country's ideal First Lady.

    | 01:42 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Corporate scandals reach Bush

Paul Krugman's latest column has ignited a political firestorm that may well inform the outcome of the 2002 elections.

Krugman chronicles the story of Harken Energy, which is like a 'mini-me' version of Enron. Back in the mid-80's, Bush ran a failing energy company called Spectrum 7. Despite being a money-losing venture, the company was bought by Harken Energy for $2 million. Harken's CEO admitted he bought Spectrum 7 only to get Bush on his company's board of directors.

Harken was also losing money, but hid its loses by including profits from the sale of a subsidiary, Aloha Petroleum. Who bought Aloha? Harken insiders who financed the purchase through a loan from, who else, Harken. The SEC ruled the transaction was illegal, and forced Harken to restate its profits.

But here's the kicker:

[L]ong before that ruling -- though only a few weeks before bad news that could not be concealed caused Harken's shares to tumble -- Mr. Bush sold off two-thirds of his stake, for $848,000. Just for the record, that's about four times bigger than the sale that has Martha Stewart in hot water. Oddly, though the law requires prompt disclosure of insider sales, he neglected to inform the S.E.C. about this transaction until 34 weeks had passed. An internal S.E.C. memorandum concluded that he had broken the law, but no charges were filed. This, everyone insists, had nothing to do with the fact that his father was president.
Ironically, the Harken Energy story was first reported back in early March by the Wall Street Journal. The Center for Public Integrity ran a more in-depth analysis of the deals, along with a great timeline in early April. But it was Krugman's column, in context of the Enron and WorldCom debacles, that finally attracted media notice.

And Bush has taken the bait. Check out this lead from a story in today's Washington Post: "President Bush defended in a snappish tone Tuesday his own business experience with a corporation accused of fishy accounting."

Refusing to address the issue in depth, Bush merely said (in his snappish tone): "Everything I do is fully disclosed; it's been fully vetted. Any other questions?" Bush's short temper betrays his fear. The media is starting to sniff something big, and yes, there will be other questions.

The media doesn't have too dig deeply. It's all in the public record. As Media Whores Online has pointed out in its in-depth look at the issue (a must-read), The SEC reported that Bush violated SEC rules at least four times (link is a PDF). Yet the SEC was apparently ordered to back off Dubya after his father became president of the US.

The Associated Press has already picked up on the CPI report and discrepencies in the administration's spin. While Bush previously said government regulators "lost" his insider trading paperwork, propaganda mouthpiece Ari Fleischer now blames it on a "clerical error" by Harken lawyers. The article also has this gem:

Bush filed Form 4s late on four occasions, according to an internal Securities and Exchange Commission finding that was reported by a nonpartisan watchdog group, the Center for Public Integrity. Those sales involved stock worth more than $1 million.

On the largest sale, Bush sold his stock for $4 a share, just before the company filed a quarterly report revealing it had lost $23 million during the period. By the end of the year, the memo says, it was trading at around $1.

The Democrats smell blood, and the Republicans are running scared. Bush's famous sense of humor has deserted him. And, he can't claim he was snappy from jet lag (as he did when snapping at a US reporter in France). While Bush expresses outrage over corporate evildoers, it turns out that he and Cheney have both fed from that trough.

So now we have Ari saying, "If there are any bad players in our free-enterprise system, they will be held accountable by this administration and by the government."

Hopefully Democrats will take Fleischer at his word and begin investigating Bush and Cheney's corporate evildoings.

    | 09:54 AM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Halliburton gets free pass

The US government announced a list of 86 companies fined for trading with nations on the US' "enemies list". The list includes nations such as Iran, Iraq, Cuba and North Korea.

Among the businesses fined were Ikea, for purchasing rugs made in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, and the LA Dodgers, for signing two Cuban players. Yet, there was one company conspicously missing from the list.


While Cheney was in charge of the company, Halliburton opened an office in Tehran (which, in case the Treasury Department doesn't realize it, happens to be in Iran). In addition, Cheney's Halliburton also signed two oil contracts with Iraq worth $73 million.

Phew! That's some havy duty trading with "enemy" nations. Yet Halliburton seems to have gotten a free pass. But never fear, because the next time Ikea, a Swedish company, tries to purchase 150 rugs from Taliban-controlled areas, the US government will be there to halt such heinous acts! (Never mind that at the same time Ikea bought those 150 rugs, the Bush administration had given the Taliban a $43 million gift...)

Anyway, remember that unbiased and comprehensive probe of Halliburton promised by the SEC? Well, turns out that after one month of investigating, the SEC still hasn't contacted Cheney.

Why am I not surprised?

    | 07:58 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Tuesday | July 02, 2002
Trifecta source finally found

It's been a quiet day in the news world today as the nation prepares for its upcoming holiday weekend. I considered blogging about the tragic bombing of an Afghan wedding party, but I don't have the energy. The discussion would lead to the US' dissing of the International Criminal Court, and then to the US' dissing of basically every treaty it has ever signed. And then to the contempt in which most of the world currently holds the US. Sigh. Who has that energy? All I can think about is vacation. Lots of baseball games. Fireworks. Vegan burgers. Nice, happy thoughts...

But then the mystery of the Trifecta was finally solved, and this I had to blog! First some background:

Many media outlets and the blogosphere have been talking for weeks about Bush's tasteless trifecta joke. You know the one. Bush claims that during the campaign he promised not to deficit spend unless the country faced a recession, war, or foreign crisis. Then, to great public approval, he hits his punch line, how he hit "the trifecta!"

People laugh, and great fun is had all around. It’s so funny to make light of people losing their jobs and dying in distant lands. So hilarious!

But the really funny part was that Bush was blatantly lying. He never made the trifecta comment during his campaign. In fact, he persistently claimed that the country would continue to enjoy surpluses despite his tax cut, and that his "trillion dollar" contingency fund would take care of any emergencies. Yet, even after reporters pointed out he was lying, Bush kept making his "joke". Funny.

I never blogged any of this since others were doing it far more effectively (like Spinsanity). But today, the source of the Trifecta comments was finally found.

It was Al Gore.

Now that's funny.

    | 02:59 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Monday | July 01, 2002
Halliburton under fire

The SEC is investigating Veep Cheney's Halliburton. And the agency, headed by a former lobbyist for the accounting industry promises to be aggressive. Right. Don't believe it. During the Clinton years, SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt led industry efforts to open loopholes in corporate oversight laws, and his kid-glove treatment of the Enron debacle inspires nothing in the way of confidence.

In effect, Bush is ordering Pitt to look "aggressive" as the GOP attempts to deflect political heat for the near-daily scandals rocking Wall Street (and Main Street in the form of shrinking portfolios and 401(k)s).

As I've said before, all the action will happen in the class action suits. So far, I count 19 suits filed in the past month alone. Most of these will be consolidated into a single suit, so the number filed is irrelevant. What is relevant is that Cheney will be forced to testify once this case goes to trial. He will pull every trick, every delaying tactic, to avoid testifying in open court, but thanks to Clinton v. Jones, he'll fail. The only question will be whether he can push off any such testimony until after the 2004 elections.

For some background on the Cheney/Halliburton saga, check out this post. And this one.

    | 02:45 PM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Ann Coulter's Slander watch

I don't have the fortitude to read Ann Coulter's latest diatribe against the evil scourge of the liberal media. Thankfully, this brave blogger has dedicated significant time to exposing some of the book's most outrageous, er, slanderous passages.

Incidentally, I finally saw the clip of Katie Couric tearing Coulter a new one. It's here if you're interested (make sure to scroll down to get to the video link). It's a real catfight. I especially love the fake smiles both women wear throughout the interview.

    | 12:14 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

More on US v. Quinones

Here's the PDF of the judges opinion in US v. Quinones. (Thanks TalkLeft!)

It's a surprisingly lucid opinion, and most of its arguments are extremely persuasive. These two passages get to the core of the judge's decision (citations omitted):

If protection of innocent people from state-sponsored execution is a protected liberty, and if such protected liberty includes the right of an innocent person not to be deprived, by execution, of the opportunity to demonstrate his innocence, then Congress may not override such liberty absent a far more clear and compelling need than any presented here.


Regarding the DNA testing that has exonerated at least 12 death row inmates since 1993 ... the Government argues that, since such testing is now available prior to trial in many cases, its effect, going forward, will actually be to reduce the risk of mistaken convictions. This completely misses the point. What DNA testing has proved, beyond cavil, is the remarkable degree of fallibility in the basic fact-finding processes on which we rely in criminal cases. In each of the 12 cases of DNA-exoneration of death row inmates referenced in Quinones, the defendant had been found guilty by a unanimous jury that concluded there was proof of his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; and in each of the 12 cases the conviction had been affirmed on appeal, and collateral challenges rejected, by numerous courts that had carefully scrutinized the evidence and the manner of conviction. Yet, for all this alleged “due process,” the result, in each and every one of these cases, was the conviction of an innocent person who, because of the death penalty, would shortly have been executed (some came within days of being so) were it not for the fortuitous development of a new scientific technique that happened to be applicable to their particular cases.

This is powerful stuff. The judge doesn't even bother addressing any claims based on the 8th Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Instead, the argument is as follows:
  1. It is unconstitutional to execute innocent people;

  2. Innocent people get convicted of murder, and are sentenced to death;

  3. Proper due process must give the innocent the opportunity to prove their innocence (even after conviction);

  4. It's impossible to assert due process rights after being executed; therefore

  5. The federal death penalty is unconstitutional.
Note that this case applies only to the federal death penalty, not the states. However, the due process arguments made here apply equally to all levels of government, and if adopted by the Supreme Court would effectively end Capital Punishment.

    | 10:48 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Watts to retire

One of the GOP's worst nightmares came true, as Rep. Watts said he won't run for reelection. Watts is the only black Republican in Congress, and the GOP's favorite prop when discussing racially sensitive issues. It's extremely difficult to appeal to non-Anglo voters when your entire cadre of federally elected officials is white.

The GOP must also defend what should've been a safe seat against an expected strong challenge from Democrats. And, with Dick Armey also retiring, it opens up the Republicans to this sort of smart ass sniping from Democrats: "House Republican leaders must know something that the rest of the caucus doesn't, that their chances for holding the majority are slipping away faster than the sand in an hourglass."

    | 08:55 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Judge: death penalty is unconstitutional

A federal district court judge has ruled the federal death penalty is unconstitutional. Next up is the the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers NY, CT, and VT.

While this news story is short on detail, it seems the judge used the Due Process clause to invalidate capital punishment (as opposed to the prohibition on "cruel and unusual punishment"). This is the first time I've seen that argument made, and it should be interesting to see if it sticks as it moves up the appeals courts.

    | 08:49 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Pledge judge speaks out

Selected bits from a legal newspaper's interview of Judge Alfred Goodwina, the author of the opinion eliminating the words "under God" from the Pledge:

"I never had much confidence in the attention span of elected officials for any kind of deep thinking about important issues. When they pop off after what I call a bumper strip headline, they almost always give a superficial response."


"I'm a little disappointed in our chief executive [Pres. Bush] -- who nobody ever accused of being a deep thinker -- for popping off."


"That was just damage control," Goodwin said about his Thursday order staying the decision in Newdow v. U.S. Congress, even though the case is automatically stayed anyway.

He said that was done for the benefit of the media, who don't understand the intricacies of court rules -- especially TV reporters.

"Their attention span can't handle anything more than a haiku of about four lines. The worse thing about it was that some people said we were caving under pressure."


He also noted that some of the criticism is being fueled by what he called "this wrap-yourself-in-the-flag frenzy."


He added that he wasn't impressed with the media's interpretations of the ruling.

"I wasn't too surprised. I did work for newspapers … so I know how they work."


"The Wall Street Journal gave [the ruling] about a half-inch, which is what it deserved.

    | 08:34 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

Being a subversive Atheist

I remember saying the Pledge of Allegiance while in grade school. We would all stand up, hands over our hearts, and say the words in a monotone drone. I would recite the words out of habit, without any real introspection or understanding of what they meant.

Kind of like when I prayed. If I was ordered to say 10 Hail Marys, I would simply say the words to the prayer 10 times. I might as well have been counting to 100 for all the meaning I assigned the words. There was no emotion and definitely no sincerity.

And I don't think I am alone. That's why I find the furor over the pledge somewhat interesting. It's not as though the pledge is an essential social element binding our nation together. It's a chore half-asleep schoolchildren have to perform, and they do so with little gusto.

MaxSpeak takes this argument further, arguing quite effectively that atheists would do more to advance their cause by leaving the pledge alone:

While the fellow bringing suit in re: the pledge has a perfect right to go on the way he does without social sanction, a more strategic and devious approach to the matter from an atheist perspective would be to leave the pledge just the way it is. The best way to leach all meaning from religious doctrine is to boil it down to vacuous slogans, then institutionalize these cliches in the spheres of civil proceedings and popular culture.

    | 08:10 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)

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