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Archives: September 2002

Monday | September 30, 2002
Taking Forrester's advice

From Joe Conason's journal, via Eschaton:

Just four days ago, Republican senatorial candidate Douglas Forrester demanded that Bob Torricelli step down. "Mr. Torricelli has disgraced himself and New Jersey," he said. "The people of New Jersey deserve better. I reiterate my call for Mr. Torricelli to resign his office and apologize to the people of New Jersey." But before Torricelli decided to follow his rival's advice, Forrester's friends began whining.

"This is a cynical attempt by party bosses to manipulate democracy," cried the executive director of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee. In other words, they've suddenly realized that the Torch's resignation would allow Gov. Jim McGreevey to name a new Democratic senator -- who would probably beat Forrester in a special election. Some people are just never satisfied.

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


10 1/2 reasons to root for the A's

oak.gifSo I've blown my meager funds for A's playoff tickets, ready to sell my kidney if I must to attend every single one of their inevitable World Series appearance.

If your team is in the playoffs, then the best of luck to your team (sorry Yankees fans, your team excepted). But, if you haven't chosen a team to root for, may I suggest the Oakland Athletics? Here are the reasons why.

    | 05:21 PM | Link | Comments (3) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Wyoming governor's race: sleeper upset pick

I elicited some surprise when I wrote Saturday that Wyoming might elect a Democratic governor. That race is my sleeper upset pick.

The issue in WY is not "liberals v. conservatives", it's ranchers v. coal bed methane interests. For a quick look at the coal bed methane issue, check out this NYT editorial. A friend's father is a GOP county commissioner in WY -- a real, hard-core, anti-regulation, life-long Republican. However, he has aligned himself with the ranchers, and as a result, will be voting Democrat (for the first time in his life) in the governor's race. As the op/ed notes:

The sheer invasiveness of methane development has created unusual alliances, alienating not only environmentalists but also bedrock Republican ranchers of the sort the White House takes for granted. The ranchers who do not own the mineral rights under their property have discovered they can't say no when the drillers come knocking at their door.
How invasive is coal bed methane mining?
For starters, to free the gas, huge quantities of water must be pumped from the coal seam. At the surface, the gas is collected in compressor stations that roar like jet engines 24 hours a day, then piped away. The water is dumped in streams and ditches. In a semi-arid region like the Powder River Basin, extra water might seem like a boon, except for two things. The high salt content renders much of the water unfit for irrigation. And the pumping depletes underground aquifers, threatening the agricultural future of the region.

There are other costs. Environmentalists say that in Wyoming alone, the plan would require 17,000 miles of new roads, 20,000 miles of pipeline, 200 large compressors and nearly 5,000 containment pits for the water. The 12,000 wells already developed in the basin have left scars on the landscape. One can only imagine the damage from 77,000 new wells.

Suddenly, rabidly anti-government ranchers, forced to endure jet-engine turbines churning in their front yards, have found that government regulation has its place. The issue has turned state politics inside out, and has even garnered Freudenthal the endorsement of a former state Republican Party chairman and national delegate.

Wyoming's energy industry has had historical free rein in the state. It has now seemingly overreached with the CBM issue, and it may cost the GOP the governorship.

Update: I took down the Wyoming Network Poll -- it's an Internet poll. Freudenthal should take it down from his website. The last poll on this race, from mid-August, had Freudenthal (D) trailing 32 to 27 with a surprising number of undecideds.

    | 03:29 PM | Link | Comments (5) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


NJ Dems have GOP boxed in

It's official. Toricelli is out. This is starting to look increasingly like a brilliant tactical move by the NJ dems. Here's how it works:

1) Toricelli announces he will serve out his term, but kill his reelection effort.

2) The Democratic Party names a succesor, then requests a ballot change. Even though the law required such a change by September 16, the Democratic State Attorney General grants a waiver.

3) The state GOP can't win on Forrester's strength alone. His entire election strategy was based on "I'm not Toricelli". So, the state GOP files suit to prevent the ballot change.

4) If the GOP loses, then the election proceeds with the Democrats' chances greatly improved.

5) If the GOP wins, then Toricelli resigns his Senate seat, now within the 30-day window, and by law, there's no election. Toricelli's replacement (a Democrat!) serves two years before a special election in 2004.

At this point, the state GOP may have to suck it up and allow the ballot change, lest they maneouver the Dems into cancelling the elections outright.

Of course, there are Constitutional issues, and the NJ law is of dubious legality. However, the litigation necessary to resolve such issues would extend well past the election. If Forrester sought and was granted a temporary injunction to postpone the election until the issue was resolved, that would also play into Dems hands -- they would then have the statutory time necessary to change the ballot wording (48 days before an election). And, the extra time would give the Dem candidate even more time to raise name recognition and hammer home the fact that the Torch was no longer on the ballot.

As a Latino, I'm pushing hard for Menendez. I'm not sure if one has ever served in the Senate, and the historical symbolism would play into the Dems hands. But regardless, keeping the seat Democratic is priority number one. And, it looks as though the Democrats have pulled a rabbit out of the hat and ensured it will happen.

    | 02:59 PM | Link | Comments (25) | Email this post | Trackback (1)


Toricelli calling it quits?

Toricelli may quit his race. He'll announce his decision later today. But the fact this leaked would indicate he will decide to quit. It'd be stupid to hold a press conference to announce "Yup. I'm still running."

What does this mean?

If Torricelli resigned his seat, New Jersey's Democratic Gov. James McGreevey could appoint his replacement. While the deadline for being listed on the New Jersey ballot passed earlier this month, that deadline might be waived, although it could take a court ruling, a Democratic source said.

Speculation on a possible replacement for Torricelli jumped immediately from Democratic Reps. Robert Menendez or Frank Pallone Jr., or former Sen. Frank Lautenberg.

Expect the GOP fight the ballot issue tooth and nail, and I wouldn't blame them. It's obviously in their best interest to have Toricelli's sullied name all over that ballot, not Lautenberg or Menendez (both of whom would be great alternatives). If the courts must decide, hopefully they will do so quickly.

Update: Check out this paragraph:

Under state law, if a candidate resigns his office or dies with more than 30 days to the election, the governor can appoint a new candidate. If it happens with less than 30 days before the election, the race can be canceled and the governor can set a new date for a special election.
It seems hard to believe, but it appears that if a candidate resigns office with less than 30 days left before the election, the governor can appoint a new candidate, cancel the election, and reschedule two years down the road. The relevant statute, written in convoluted legalese, says:
NJ State Law.19:3-26. Vacancies in United States senate; election to fill; temporary appointment by governor

If a vacancy shall happen in the representation of this state in the United States senate, it shall be filled at the general election next succeeding the happening thereof, unless such vacancy shall happen within thirty days next preceding such election, in which case it shall be filled by election at the second succeeding general election, unless the governor of this state shall deem it advisable to call a special election therefor, which he is authorized hereby to do. The governor of this state may make a temporary appointment of a senator of the United States from this state whenever a vacancy shall occur by reason of any cause other than the expiration of the term; and such appointee shall serve as such senator until a special election or general election shall have been held pursuant to law and the board of state canvassers can deliver to his successor a certificate of election. [Emphasis mine]

If the law does, indeed, allow the governor (who is a Democrat) to appoint a successor and postpone the election for two years, it would be a huge victory for the Democratics. They would save their most vulnerable seat and free up money to spend on other competitive races.

It could also piss off a lot of people and paint the Democratic Party as "undemocratic". Ironic, I know, considering what happened in Florida, but still, it's hard to ignore any potential backlash. My heart says, "if the GOP can steal the presidency, then the Dems can legally take a Senate seat", but my brain worries about the backlash.

Holy crap is this getting interesting!

    | 09:45 AM | Link | Comments (11) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Did Ryan try to execute innocent man?

In Illinois, the Dem candidates for governor and attorney general have dropped all vague innuendo to flat out accuse GOP candidates Jim Ryan (guv) and Joe Birkett (AG) of trying to execute an innocent man.This article offers the most comprehensive look at the issue to date.

The Attack:

Blagojevich and other Jim Ryan opponents over the years have charged that Ryan tried to put an innocent man to death--twice.

Six years after Rolando Cruz has been found not guilty, Jim Ryan will not apologize, will not say he believes Cruz to be innocent and will not sign a petition asking the governor to pardon Cruz.

[...]

Nearly seven years after Rolando Cruz was acquitted of the rape and murder of Jeanine Nicarico, and 17 years after Brian Dugan confessed to the crime and gave details only the killer could know, Joe Birkett still has not charged Dugan. Birkett's critics say that's because charging Dugan would mean admitting he was wrong about Cruz.

Ryan's Response:
Over the years, Ryan rarely departs from a few stock answers on the Cruz case that he repeats over and over again:

"I made my decision based on the totality of the evidence," he says, or "I did what I thought was right based on the evidence I knew at the time" or "Some of the evidence changed after I became attorney general."

Then the article takes a comprehensive look at the facts of the case, the trials, the prosecutors and the fallout to the candidates. To get an idea of just how bad Ryan's case was, check out this:
No physical evidence or eyewitnesses linked the three suspects to the crime. Prosecutors found a North Carolina anthropologist who testified Buckley's boot matched a print on the Nicaricos' front door. The FBI later discredited the North Carolina expert's opinion.

At the heart of the prosecution's case was a "vision statement" two DuPage County sheriff's police detectives said Cruz gave them about two months after the murder. It was purportedly about a dream Cruz had about a murdered girl. Detectives said it contained details that only Jeanine's killer could know, but they never filed a report on the statement, nor did they question Cruz about it in later interviews. Ryan's prosecutors did not tell defense lawyers about it until days before the trial.

After a seven-week trial, Cruz and Hernandez were convicted in February 1985. The jury deadlocked on Buckley, and he was not retried after the bootprint evidence fell apart.

But about eight months after Cruz and Hernandez were convicted, sex offender Brian Dugan confessed to prosecutors that he and he alone killed Jeanine. He was not an unlikely candidate. Dugan, then 27, was in the La Salle County Jail negotiating a plea bargain for the June 2, 1985, abduction, rape and murder of another girl, 7-year-old Melissa Ackerman of Somonauk.

The evidence that Dugan also killed Jeanine went beyond his confession. He easily pointed out the Nicarico house to a State Police investigator trying to verify his story. He knew details about the inside of the home and the medical tape and towel used to blindfold the girl. Time sheets showed he missed work the day of the murder. A witness placed him in the Nicaricos' neighborhood that day.

Dugan led police to the area near the nature trail where Jeanine's body was found. Two tollway workers described seeing a white male driving a car similar to Dugan's green Plymouth Volare--right down to a missing hubcap--near the trail that day. A farmhand told police he remembered seeing a shoe or boot in a field where Dugan said he threw his boots after the crime. Dugan knew the child had been sodomized. And unlike Cruz, Hernandez and Buckley, Dugan had a history of attacking women and girls.

Veteran State Police investigator Ed Cisowski became convinced that Dugan was telling the truth. But Cisowski claims he got little help from Ryan's assistants, Robert Kilander or Patrick King.

"When I asked for a copy of the case report, Kilander told me, 'No, Jim Ryan doesn't like to be second-guessed,'" Cisowski testified.

Thus Jim Ryan, candidate for governor of the great state of Illinois, almost put an innocent man to death because he "didn't like to be second-guessed." Just brilliant. Eventually, Cruz' "vision statement" was proved to be a fabrication by a sheriff deputy.
Ryan forged ahead and prosecuted the two again. And in a series of retrials and reversals by higher courts, his assistants tried to keep Dugan's confession away from jurors, limit how much jurors heard about Dugan and ultimately revised their theory of the crime to suggest Dugan, Cruz and Hernandez were in it together--even though they never charged Dugan with the crime.

In September 1995, nearly a year after Ryan had moved on to statewide office, DNA tests on sperm found in Jeanine's body determined that Cruz could not have raped her. But Dugan was a potential match. Later that year, Judge Ronald Mehling acquitted Cruz after sheriff's police Lt. James Montesano admitted that two detectives below him could not have told him about the "vision statement" back in May 1983, as he had earlier testified.

If you want to read more, check out my previous post on the issue.

As usual, the prolific TalkLeft has more - MUCH MORE - here.

    | 08:44 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (1)


Sunday | September 29, 2002
Yummy poll goodness update

Thanks to Political Wire, MyDD and his message boards, and my own intreprid sleuthing, I bring the following poll updates:

The embattled governor of Iowa, Tom Vilsack (D), suddenly looks far less embattled. A Des Moines Register poll shows Vilsack with a solid 18 point lead. This follows Saturday's news, from the same paper, that Sen. Harkin was opening up his lead against his GOP challenger 54-34. That poll was conducted prior to last week's wiretapping "scandal". However, Harkin's campaign manager resigned over the tape, and the whole issue should blow over. Harkin may see some erosion of support, but with his commanding lead, it should provide Gangske small comfort.

In South Dakota, the Senate race remains in a statistical tie, with Johnson carrying a narrow 44-43 lead. This will remain one of the nation's tighest, and may come down in large part to strong Dem efforts to register Native Americans to vote. Check out MyDD's excellent analysis of the SD race.

Over in Montana, Democrat Senator Max Baucus remains solidly in command despite GOP efforts to make a competitive race. The Mason-Dixon poll, in addition to giving Baucus a 54-35 lead, also shows that challenger Taylor has high negatives. This one's in the bag (and has been for months).

Another Mason-Dixon poll, this time in New Mexico's governor's race, shows that Dem Bill Richardson has a good 46-38 lead over his Republican challenger John Sanchez. This is Sanchez' best showing in any poll (including partisan ones released by his campaign). However, Richardson is attracting 12 percent of the Republican vote, which, the article tells us, will be Sanchez' kiss of death.

In Florida's guv race, the latest Survey USA poll (not the most accurate) shows Bush with a razor-thin 49-48 lead. Check out the list of previous poll results. While McBride's numbers have fluctuated about 10 points, all recent polls have Bush at either 48 or 49 points. This one will go down to the wire, through a recount, and to the courts.

In Mass., Democrat Shannon O'Brien is riding her popularity among women to a 43 to 36 percent lead in that state's governor's race. While in Hawaii, the GOP may not have a lock on the governor's mansion. After a summer of large deficits, the Dem candidate, Mazie Hirono, is within eight points of Lingle, the GOP frontrunner (39-47).

The poll results this year have been surprisingly similar to those in the Lingle-Cayetano matchup in 1998. Then, Lingle started the summer with a 20-point lead, and saw that collapse by November.

That race was characterized by a dramatic shift in "union households," where one or more people belongs to a union, and among voters between the ages of 18 and 35.

Many people in those groups switched from Lingle to Cayetano in the final months of the campaign.

The latest poll shows a similar pattern this year, with Hirono gaining support among members of union households and younger voters in the past four months, at Lingle's expense.

Finally, here's some good news for the three Republicans that visit this site (you know who you are!): Democratic Sen. Robert Toricelli is in a free fall, and now trails GOP challenger Douglas Forrester 47-34. This poll contradicts a slew of earlier polls showing a much closer race, but the results are perfectly reasonable considering Toricelli's considerable ethical problems. This will probably be the GOP's lone bright spot in a bleak (for them) November. But this race is not in the bag -- the abortion issue may yet swing this race back in Toricelli's favor.

    | 10:33 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Saturday | September 28, 2002
Governor races outlook

As of now, the governor's situation looks like this:

gov_now.gif

Lots of Republicans. Very few Democrats. It's been ironic that Democrats have done well in some of the most conservative states -- the deep south and Indiana. The biggest reason? Pro-gun Democrats. The GOP did well in the midwest and northwest thanks to that endangered species -- the moderate Republican. RINOism is driving them to extinction, thus improving the Democratic Party's chances. And, of course, the GOP dominates the mountain states. That won't change anytime soon.

If the elections were held today, and said elections were decided by the last reported poll, the map would look like this:

gov_polls_today.gif

Okay, Alaska is a stretch. But you get the idea. The Dems would take over the high-population states of Illinois, Michigan, Rhode Island, and Penn, while snagging Wisconsin, Maine, NM, Arizona, Tennessee, Kansas and Mass. They would lose Alabama, New Hampshire and Hawaii. I'll take that trade.

The Midwest is becoming a solid Democratic bloc, and if the Democratic Party spent some money in Ohio, that state could swing our way as well. Alas, the Dem candidate, while competitive in the polls, will not have enough money to air a single television ad. It's truly a shame.

Now, here's the best case, or, better yet, the "pipe dream" scenario:

gov_pipe-dream.gif

Texas and Florida will come down to Get Out The Vote efforts. Dem pickups are quite possible, and would horrify (and embarrass) the White House to no end. New York would be the other huge pickup. In a two-way contest, Gov. Pataki would have no trouble fending off McCall's challenge. However, Pataki faces a vicious attack on his right flank -- a billionaire with a $100 million anti-Pataki budget. By comparison, the "major party" McCall hopes to have around $6 million to play with.

I am convinced Alabama will stay Democratic, despite Gov. Siegelman's ethical problems. Heck, the NRA endorsed him, and his poll numbers are not as bad as they should be. He'll suvive. Wyoming is an interesting call, but the state is wracked by civil war between ranching interests and coal bed methane interests. Democrats have aligned themselves with ranchers, while the GOP with energy. It's shaping up to be a real dogfight and traditional partisan lines have blurred.

The nation would have to experience a political "perfect storm" to make this last map a reality, but hey, it's nice to dream.

    | 09:05 AM | Link | Comments (6) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Friday | September 27, 2002
Stupid DNC tricks

I received an URGENT message from the Democratic National Committee today:

Subect: Help Gray Davis today -- deadline fast approaching!

Dear XXX,

Democrats urgently need your help!

Polls show Democrats and Republicans neck and neck, but the GOP is planning a multimillion dollar infusion of special interest cash to try and steal this election.

Republicans have targeted Gray Davis for defeat in California and will stop at nothing to win!

Is this really the most effective fundraising appeal the DNC could write? Not only is Gray Davis exhibit A in what's wrong with our political system today, but he's also flush with cash. If his $60 million can't defeat Simon's $6 million in a Democratic trending state, then Davis deserves to lose. What's next, a "save Toricelli" fundraising appeal?

    | 12:48 PM | Link | Comments (7) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Padilla's lawyers attack detention

One of Osama Bin Laden's greatest successes has been to spur the Bush Administration into curtailing those very freedoms he supposedly "hates". Front and center is Jose Padilla, a gang-banger and apparently unsavory character. Yet, despite administration assertions that he's a terrorist, they continue to hold him sans charges or lawyers.

Talkleft brings us the latest updates on the case, and slams the administration for its ad hoc approach to justice (and, by extension, the Constitution):

The Administration's treatment of suspects since September 11 has no consistency. They make up the rules as they go along. Padilla and Yaser Hamdi are citizens who are detained without rights as "enemy combatants." John Walker Lindh, the Buffalo Six, the Detroit Four, James Ujaama, Zacarias Moussaoui and accused "shoe-bomber" Richard Reid have been processed in the federal criminal courts and are receiving the due process and other rights required by our system of justice.

We fail to see any rational distinction between Padilla and Hamdi and the others. We commend the Government for charging the others in federal courts, and think it should reconsider its unjust and unequal treatment of Padilla and Hamdi.

    | 12:26 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


More creationism nonsense

Eschaton directs our attention to Cobb County in suburban Atlanta, where the nation's second largest school district, has ok'd the teaching of creationism. My favorite part of the article is the high school junior genius savant who single-handedly disproves generations of scientific research in an apparently groundbreaking term paper:

"I had to do a term paper about evolution and there were just things that I could disprove or have alternate reasons for," Gray told The Associated Press. "I want my brother and sister to be given the option and not told it's the absolute truth."
Now Cobb County faces the same ridicule that Kansas' did several years ago, leading to the electoral defeat of the pro-creationism forces on the Kansas Board of Education with more enlightened members.

But, in case anyone needs arguments to combat the spread of creationism and its latest variety, "intelligent design", check out Scientific American's excellent 15 Answers to Creationism Nonsense.

When Charles Darwin introduced the theory of evolution through natural selection 143 years ago, the scientists of the day argued over it fiercely, but the massing evidence from paleontology, genetics, zoology, molecular biology and other fields gradually established evolution's truth beyond reasonable doubt. Today that battle has been won everywhere--except in the public imagination.

    | 08:55 AM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Smith backers push write-in campaign

Supporters of NH Sen. Bob Smith have started to raise money for a write-in campaign. Smith has endorsed Sununu, who defeated him in his state's primary election, but some of his supporters refuse to admit defeat.

The effort shouldn't garner many votes. However, this race will be so close, that even a minute number of Smith votes could throw the election to the Democrats' Shaheen.

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


Thursday | September 26, 2002
Pie in Gangske's face

This is a good story:

On Monday, all hell broke loose in Iowa's tight Senate race, when the transcript of a Gangske strategy session was leaked to the press. Gangkse, the GOP challenger to Dem Sen. Tom Harkin, was caught bragging about how he would trash Harkin, but do so with a "smile on my face".

Gagske's campaign went on the immediate offensive, blaming Harkin's camp of a Watergate-style criminal act. The GOP demanded a criminal investigation, while the Democrats denied any involvement.

Tuesday, the Dems were caught in a bit of a bind, as Harkin's campaign admitted leaking the embarrassing transcript to the press. The Dems still insisted they had nothing to do with the taping, but things still looked bad for Harkin -- his camp had been caught in a lie. The story was making national news, and Gagske had new ammunition in the tightly contested race.

"A partial apology from one member of a conspiracy is not enough," the Ganske campaign declared in a statement issued late Monday night. "This was not a social faux pas. It is an apparent criminal felony."

Then yesterday, we got the punchline: the meeting was openly taped by a major GOP donor who had been invited to the meeting. From the (as yet unidentified) donor's statement:

In August, I received an invitation to attend what turned out to be a Ganske Fund Raising Event featuring Ken Mehlman as a speaker. I attended the event specifically to hear Mr. Mehlman. I knew that he was a senior political adviser to the President and I was very interested in hearing what he had to say. I had no idea that Congressman Ganske would be present. I assume I received the invitation because of my relationship with the Greater Des Moines Partnership. The mailing label was identical to those I receive from the Partnership. I have previously been a contributor to Congressman Ganske's campaign.

I was openly present and participating in the event. Rather than take notes of the presentation and discussions, I chose to tape-record them. Congressman Ganske arrived late and in his speech stated that, as for Senator Harkin; "You've never seen a campaign where anyone will attack him like we're going to attack him, with a smile on our face...." I was incensed by Congressman Ganske's attitude and provided the tape to a Harkin staffer.

So, the only conspiracy here was that a GOP donor, invited to the event, and openly taping the event, was so DISGUSTED BY GANGSKE that he kicked a transcript of the tape over to the Harkin campaign. How about that?

Update: The story keeps getting more curious. It turns out that the taper has ties to the Democrats after all. But, he was invited to the meeting, and if the meeting was openly taped, then Gangske's people still have nothing to complain about. And, it also turns out that rather than being a closed-door meeting of his closest supporters, Gangske's campaign had also invited some independents and Democrats. If one of their invitee's openly taped the meeting, then that's their problem. Of course, the message of the meeting ("we're going to attack with a smile on our face") seems to have been lost in all the craziness.

    | 10:48 AM | Link | Comments (3) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


US built Iraq's bioweapon program

How does the US know that Iraq has biological weapons? Easy. Because we sent them the equipment and anthrax spores to build them. None other than our cuddly Prince of Darkness, Bob Novak, takes Rumsfeld to task for lying at a Congressional hearing.

In 1985 (five years after the Iraq-Iran war started) and succeeding years, said the report, ''pathogenic (meaning ''disease producing''), toxigenic (meaning ''poisonous'') and other biological research materials were exported to Iraq, pursuant to application and licensing by the U.S. Department of Commerce.'' It added: ''These exported biological materials were not attenuated or weakened and were capable of reproduction.''

The report then details 70 shipments (including anthrax bacillus) from the United States to Iraqi government agencies over three years, concluding, ''It was later learned that these microorganisms exported by the United States were identical to those the United Nations inspectors found and recovered from the Iraqi biological warfare program.''

As Novak points out, this by itself is not an argument for or against war. But isn't it ironic that our two greaters "enemies", Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, were both products of GOP foreign policy?

So GOP policies are not only bad for the pocketbook, but, looking at our "enemies" roster, clearly also bad for our national security.

    | 09:41 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Jeb losing ground

A new poll shows McBride gaining against Gov. Jeb in Florida's hotly contested governor's race. The poll gives Bush a 49-43 percent lead, marking an increasingly closer race.

In addition to giving the McBride camp a morale boost, the good results in the non-partisan poll will clearly help McBride raise campaign funds against the well-funded Bush.

[Pollster Brad] Coker said the Bush-McBride debate Friday night, the first of three televised meetings planned before the Nov. 5 election, will be important for both candidates in swaying the 7 percent of undecided voters in such a tight race.

"Any major gaffe or miscue can knock any candidate's campaign into a tailspin," Coker said. "I think they're both anxious to get into a debate - Bush, to stop this momentum surge on McBride's part, and McBride, to get people focused on the campaign."

    | 08:40 AM | Link | Comments (3) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Britain trying to restraing US

The UK delegation at the UN is trying to prevent the US from introducing a UN Security Council resolution all but guaranteed to fail. The US wants a resolution that warns Iraq that any "failure" would result in military action. France and Russia view that language (correctly) as a naked attempt to seek justification for war.

Bush: "The UN delegation asked for Pepsi. They got Coke. This Iraqi failure cannot stand. Send in the bombs!"

Diplomats at UN headquarters in New York warned that an overly aggressive draft resolution could quickly doom all hope of seeing a return of the arms inspectors to Iraq. Such an outcome would have unprecedented diplomatic consequences and leave the US free to pursue war, giving Mr Blair an agonising dilemma over whether to join military action.

"The most crucial task is to get something that all five countries can agree on," one British source said last night. Britain hopes that agreement with the US can be reached by the weekend. A possible compromise is a text that makes it clear to Iraq that war will be the consequence of not co-operating over inspections but which does not seem to give America a pretext at the first sign of trouble. "In no way can it contain triggers that would allow one member state to rush off to war," one Western diplomat warned.

    | 08:35 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Wednesday | September 25, 2002
Cheney's jet-setting lifestyle

Cheney wants Congress to shift White House funds to his travel budget, as he has used up his allotted $436,000. Keep in mind that this tax-payer-funded travel is almost exclusively for fundraisers:

Most of the vice president's travel since January has involved fundraising events for Republican candidates. The party or candidate pays part of the cost of political trips, but travel by the vice president involves staff, security and other trappings covered by the taxpayer. Today, Cheney is in Memphis to attend a luncheon for GOP Senate candidate Lamar Alexander and in Dallas for a dinner for congressional candidate Jeb Hensarling.
Cheney's people shrug off the criticism, noting that no new money is being requested. However, that's not the point. Check out this piece:
President Bush will look for new ways to restrain growth of domestic programs -- including education spending he considers wasteful -- as he struggles to pay for an indefinite war on terror with falling tax revenue, officials said yesterday.
So, while the vice-president demands more than half a million dollars to travel to fundraisers, his boss' administration is looking to to cut education funding. Brilliant.

    | 06:55 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Daschle: stop politicizing Iraq

Daschle, unedited, on the floor of the U.S. Senate:

And then I listen to reports of the vice president, the vice president comes to fund-raisers, as he did just recently in Kansas. The headline written in the paper the next day about the speech he gave to that fund-raiser was, "Cheney Talks About War: Electing Taft Would Aid War effort."

And then we find a diskette discovered in Lafayette Park, a computer diskette that was lost somewhere between a Republican strategy meeting in the White House and the White House. Advice was given by Karl Rove, and the quote in the disk was "focus on war."

I guess right from the beginning, I felt, well, first it was pollsters, then it was White House staff, and then it was the vice president, and all along I was asked, are you concerned about whether or not this war is politicized, and my answer on every occasion was yes. And then the follow-up question is, is the White House politicizing the war? And I said without question, I can't bring myself to believe that it is. I can't believe any president or any administration would politicize the war.

But then I read in the paper this morning. Now, even the president. The president is quoted in The Washington Post this morning as saying that Democratic--the Democratic-controlled Senate is not interested in the security of the American people. Not interested in the security of the American people? You tell Senator Inoue he is not interested in the security of the American people. You tell those who fought in Vietnam and in World War II they are not interested in the security of the American people. That is outrageous--outrageous.

The president ought to apologize to Senator Inoue and every veteran who fought in every war who is a Democrat in the United States Senate. He ought to apologize to the American people. That is wrong. We ought not politicize this war. We ought not to politicize the rhetoric about war in life and death.

I was in Normandy just last year. I've been in national cemeteries all over this country, and I have never seen anything but stars, the Star of David, and crosses on those markers. I have never seen Republican and Democrat.

This has got to end, Mr. President. We've got get on with the business of our country. We've got to rise to a higher level. Our founding fathers would be embarrassed by what they are seeing going on right now. We've got to do better than this. Our standard of deportment ought to be better. Those who died gave their lives for better than what we are giving now.

So, Mr. President, it's not too late it end this politicization. It's not too late to forget the pollsters, forget the campaign fund-raisers, forget making accusations about how interested in national security Democrats are, and let's get this job done right, let's rise to the occasion. That's what American people are expecting. And we ought to give them no less.

I yield the floor.

    | 11:37 AM | Link | Comments (8) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


McCall and Golisano moving up

The latest Quinnipiac poll on the NY governor's race shows Pataki's competition chipping away at this lead. The university's previous poll, July 2, had the following results:

Pataki 53
McCall 26
Golisano 7
The last poll on this race, from two weeks ago showed these results:
Pataki 48
McCall 32
Golisano 11
Now, the most recent Q-poll has encouraging news for McCall:
Pataki 46
McCall 35
Golisano 13
And note that Pataki has yet to face the coming ad barrages from both McCall and Golisano (mostly Golisano). However, the press release makes this curious comment:
In a theoretical matchup of just Pataki and McCall, without Golisano, Pataki wins 52 – 36 percent, showing Golisano is drawing support equally from both candidates.

“The pundits said Golisano would hurt Pataki, but both Pataki and McCall lose about the same when the Rochester billionaire is in the mix,” Carroll said.

Excuse me? Without Golisano, Pataki gains six points, while McCall gains one. The rest of Golisano voters apparently move into the "undecided" column. But, if they would consider voting for the right-wing Golisano in the first place, its doubtful they would break McCall's way.

In any case, this race is still Pataki's to lose, he has strong support among independents (which in NY probably trend Democratic) and his 62 percent favorability ratings are somewhat daunting. The big question, ultimately, will be whether vicious Golisano attack on Pataki's right flank can strip enough votes to hand McCall the election. In that regard, the latest numbers are encouraging.

(Another thanks to Political Wire.)

    | 08:49 AM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Like father, like son

It's official, Bush has given up on the economy. Like his father, Jr. doesn't want to think about the barren economic wasteland he has created. So like an ostrich, he puts his head down the proverbial hole and pretends the only thing that matters is war, war, war.

Bush no longer volunteers to talk about the economy, preferring to politicize the war. If asked, his stock response is "make the tax cuts permanent" (which won't be an issue for another ten years). Oh, and he blames Clinton. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill thinks everything looks peachy: "the latest indicators look good."

But things are not peachy. Pollster Zogby gives Dems the advantage, even if everyone is currently talking about Iraq:

There is some reason for Democratic optimism. Independent pollster John Zogby said that when voters -- 66 percent of whom have retirement accounts -- get their quarterly statements in October, "that thrusts the conversation right back to the economy." Democratic pollster Mark Mellman said Bush may be creating a "long-term disadvantage" by dropping his visibility on domestic issues in voters' eyes.
Zogby is too kind. Bush is not just "lowering his visibility", he's ignoring the mess his policies have created. And blaming Clinton won't spare him when economic indicators show the economy in a double-dip "Dubya" recession. This one is all his, baby. He ignores his mess at his own -- and his party's -- peril.

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


Iraq says "come in!" Bush says "Stop stalling!"

This is truly bizarre:

Some allies say Iraq's pledge to open its weapons sites to U.N. inspectors solves the problem. Iraq renewed that pledge Tuesday.

"The U.N. weapons inspectors would have unfettered access and (can go) wherever they want to go," presidential adviser Amir al-Saadi said in Baghdad.

But the White House says Iraq is just stalling until its missiles are ready.

What part of the Iraqi pledge is stalling? Jeez. At least pretend to let inspectors poke around Iraq for a while before manufacturing a "crisis" that "justifies" an invasion. As far as I can tell, Iraq has given nothing but assurances that it will abide by the existing resolutions, and that weapons inspectors can go anywhere they want. If I'm wrong, set me straight.

    | 08:12 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Polls lie

I had been meaning to post about this for some time, but Dick Morris beat me to it: polling sucks. In short, the number of hangups and opt-outs are providing pollsters with skewed demographic data. In some states, up to 30 percent of households are off-limits to pollsters.

In addition to Morris' arguments, there are also problems with poll questions (who would answer "no" to the question, "Do you support President Bush's efforts to ensure the national security of the United States?") and even methodology. For example, many polls try to pinpoint "likely voters" by identifying those who have voted in the previous three elections. However, that approach cannot measure the effects of Get Out The Vote efforts in poor communities, or new immigrant voters in states like Texas, California, New Mexico and Arizona. Or new, younger voters.

Which ultimately means that polls are becoming increasingly inaccurate.

I've never taken polls as accurate measures of a race's final outcome. They are useful in other ways -- to gauge momentum, to get a feel of who is the frontrunner, to measure the effects of debates, speeches, gaffes, etc.

So, whenever you look at the "Poll Watch" on the right column of the homepage, just remember, the numbers are all foma: they are lies.

(Thanks Political Wire.)

    | 07:57 AM | Link | Comments (3) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Tuesday | September 24, 2002
Economy forcing itself back into news

Much to the GOP's chagrin, the economy is muscling its way into the news. The catalyst isn't the Dems coordinated campaign to shine the spotlight on the economy, but, once again, a collapsing stock market.

As of this writing, the Dow is down another 142 points, and is hovering just above the 7700 mark. These last few September weeks are particularly important, as the next batch of 401(k) statements will be mailed out at month's end.

In short, the markets are responding to weak corporate news and the fourth consecutive monthly decline in consumer confidence. Currently, the economy is almost exclusively propped up by consumer spending, and any hint of a slowdown sends shivers through the markets.

The September consumer confidence report showed that people are pulling back a little on their plans to buy big-ticket items, such as new cars, washing machines and vacations.

Only 25.8 percent of consumers planned to buy a major appliance in the next six months, down sharply from 31.3 percent in August, now at its lowest level since October 1997.

The percentage of consumers planning to buy an automobile fell to the lowest level since June 2001, to 6.8 percent from 7.4 percent. Those planning to buy a new home tumbled to the lowest since last November, at 3.3 percent from 4.5 percent.

"These results continue to fan concerns that resilient consumers will finally began to pull back," said Jade Zelnik, chief economist at Greenwich Capital Markets.

Given the economy is almost certainly in double-dip "Dubya" recession, not even Iraq will be able to keep these horror stories at bay. Another example today:
Reversing some of the social gains of the late 1990s, poverty rates and income inequality both rose last year while the typical household's income went down, the government reported today, largely reflecting the effects of the economic recession.

In its annual report on income and poverty, the Census Bureau said that 1.3 million Americans slipped below the government's official poverty line last year, the first increase since 1993. As a result, 11.7 percent of the population is in poverty, up from 11.3 percent in 2000.

And then there's this kicker that surely elicited a few congratulatory pats in the back at the White House:
In terms of class breakdown, only households with incomes above $150,000 were able to post gains, with the greatest losses in percentage terms occurring at the bottom of the income ladder, the report showed.

    | 10:26 AM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Sigh...

bush_reading.jpg

(This image has been spreading like wildfire, so I don't know the original source. I found it first at Eschaton.)

Update: Allright. It's a fake.

    | 10:10 AM | Link | Comments (5) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


NRA endorses Alabama Dem

In a shock to the Alabama GOP, NRA head Charlton Heston has endorsed embattled Democratic governor Don Siegelman's reelection bid.

What's funny is that Heston was in Alabama on the state GOP's dime, campaigning for GOP candidates (including sharing the stage with GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Riley), when he struck his deal with Siegelman. Republicans are foaming at the mouth (as happens when conservative groups back a Democrat):

Heston's Republican hosts accused Siegelman of taking advantage of their guest. State GOP Chairman Marty Connors told reporters that the endorsement was "suspect" and represented "a gross manipulation of Mr. Heston."

Riley campaign spokesman David Azbell said, "You have got to wonder if people are acting in Mr. Heston's best interests."

NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam responded yesterday that such comments were "in poor taste" and noted that the organization's political retention policy requires it to endorse any incumbent, such as Siegelman, who gets an A rating on its annual scorecard.

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


Monday | September 23, 2002
Senate races to watch

It is safe to say, with 6 weeks (or so) remaining before the November elections that control of the Senate will hinge on races in Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Texas and South Dakota. There have been dueling polls in these races, and the numbers on the right side of this page can shift almost daily.

Of these races, Arkansas is perhaps the best pickup opportunity for Dems, with Strickland in Colorado gaining some recent momentum. Texas has faded recently as an unanswered barrage of negative ads from the Cornyn camp have eroded some of Kirk's support. Kirk needs to go back on the air soon to regain some of his flagging momentum.

New Hampshire has been fading, as the anti-governor mood sweeping the nation (which WILL decimate the GOP) takes its toll on Shaheen's candidacy. However, Shaheen has pulled off more improbable wins in the past (such as being elected governor of GOP-leaning NH), so she can't be counted out.

On the Dem side, New Jersey is a huge trouble given Toricelli's ethical problems. Despite lagging in most recent polls, the numbers show weak support for his opponent (Forrester). It's an "anyone but the Torch" mood. Toricelli can still win if he paints Forrester as too extreme for NJ, and manages to make the charges stick. If the election hinges on which candidate voters like better, the Torch is toast.

While initially weak in SD, IA, and MN, those incumbent Democrats all seem to have turned the corner and have slight (if tenuous) leads. Wellstone in MN may face some problems with the upcoming Iraq war resolution, but that remains to be seen. Carnahan has surged recently after doing the best to imitate a punching bag. It turns out she does have fight in her. Iowa's Harkin seems to be extending his lead against GOP challenger Gangske.

Note that MO is particularly important, as it is a special election. If Carnahan loses, Talent would be seated immediately and give the GOP a Senate majority for a lame-duck-post election session.

That leaves Oregon, which has remained under the radar thanks to the utter lack of polling on the race. However, many commentators from both the left and right have pointed to OR as the sleeper upset of the race.

Dems hoped to make North Carolina and Tennessee competitive. They should content themselves by watching the GOP spend valuable resources to guarantee victories in those states. The unexpected could happen, and I pray it does, but I won't be holding my breath. Another targeted senator, Maine's Susan Collins, has by all measures moved into the "safe" column despite an inevitable blowout victory by the Democrat's gubernatorial candidate.

Dems might be making South Carolina competitive -- it's a race that bears watching on the periphery until further polling emerges.

GOP efforts to make races out of Montana, Louisiana and Georgia have been equally fruitless, making this essentially a 10-state race.

    | 03:34 PM | Link | Comments (5) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Longest bear market in 60 years

Anyone thinks that war will dominate voter decisions is truly deceiving him or herself. The nation has now entered the longest bear market in 60 years. The NASDAQ has regressed to 1996 levels.

And, things appear to be getting worse as the nation seems headed into the Dubya Recession (a double-dipper):

Profit warnings are bucking a trend that began late last year, when more companies offered positive outlooks and fewer offered negative ones, according to research firm Thomson First Call. The ratio between those differing outlooks kept improving into the second quarter of 2002, but the trend is starting to reverse.

"All we've seen are disappointments or guidance lower," said Keith Gertsen, head of Nasdaq trading for Deutsche Bank. "That, coupled with a lack of visibility, drags on the market."

The depths of economic ineptitude shown by the current administration boggles the mind, and there is zero effort to try and improve things. The GOP hopes to use the Iraq war to differentiate itself from Dems, but no weak Democrat (save perhaps Wellstone) will vote against a war resolution. It will not be an effective wedge issue.

(Just remember that Democrats wrestled away two GOP governerships less than two months after 9-11).

Health care concerns will be important to reliable senior voters. Economic concerns will be important to everyone else, especially after 401(k) quarterly statements are mailed out at the end of September.

    | 02:52 PM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Simon still a loser

Despite much fanfare to the contrary, Simon's California campaign continues to be mired in ineptitude. A week ago, Simon's campaign claimed it had been reenergized after a judge threw out a jury's fraud verdict against one of his family businesses. Davis barely batted an eye as he shifted his negative ads to other Simon corporate abuses (and there are plenty on the record). Still, Simon expected GOP donors to jump back into the race, making him competitive against the sleazy Davis. However, that hasn't happened:

Simon's campaign headquarters is split into hostile camps. Major GOP donors remain deeply skeptical of the candidate and his campaign team. Perhaps most significant, Simon has shown little sign of expanding his support beyond the roughly 33% of the California electorate that comprises the rock-ribbed Republican base--and he has made little effort to do so.
In the week following the verdict decision, Simon managed to raise only $270K, including about $100K from the state GOP and Simon's apparently very rich finance director. That total bought him exactly one day of statewide television ads.

During the same period, Davis collected $650K.

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


McCall in Pataki's crosshairs

Carl McCall's David v. Goliath battle has gotten the attention of his opponent -- NY Gov. Pataki. After ignoring his Democratic opponent in 1998, Pataki clearly feels threatened and has gone all out to squash McCall before he gets too much momentum.

The big question now is whether McCall has the political skills to parry with Pataki. He already has a huge disadvantage in money, but can glean some hope from the Democrats' 5-3 advantage in NY voter registration. Still, McCall definitely faces an uphill task -- the latest poll in the race had McCall trailing by 16 points, and Pataki hasn't even launched his inevitable blitz of negative campaign ads.

However, the wildcard continues to be Golisano -- the billionaire conservative with an axe to grind and up to $100 million to spend -- all of it directed at Pataki. That last poll had him at 11 percent, all of it likely taken from Pataki. And, if Golisano's ad blitz can drive Pataki's negatives up, it may well depressed GOP turnout enough to give McCall the victory. Not very likely, but within the realm of possibilities.

    | 08:14 AM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Sunday | September 22, 2002
Difficulties of urban warfare

Military planners continue to shudder at the thought of a street-to-street battle in Baghdad.

The US is working on new small-unit tactics to counter the urban defender's natural advantages, but those new tactics are still not ready for primetime:

The Marines put some of their ideas to the test in a recent exercise on a shuttered Air Force base in southern California. In it, a battalion of 1,100 troops, backed by tanks and helicopters, tried to capture base housing from a simulated enemy force, played by 200 eager reservists. A hundred "extras" were hired from a temp agency to play civilian refugees.

In taking the city, about 100 of the attackers were killed — about 10 percent losses, a huge number compared with recent American military deaths in single battles. Several helicopters also went down before the Marines captured the town, and more were killed as the defending forces began using truck bombs and other guerrilla activities, Sullivan said.

And remember that in an urban center, US air power means little. It is difficult to call in air strikes on roving bands of urban defenders. Helicopter gunships are vulnerable to rocket propelled grenades. And as Grozny taught us, defenders can just as easily fire from behind rubble as from standing buildings.

Once again, given the weakness of Bush's case against Hussein, are we really willing to risk hundreds, if not thousands, of US casualties?

Current plans seem to range from 50,000 to 250,000 invading troops. Of those, the vast majority are support troops, so say, 10,000 to 50,000 actually participate in a Baghdad assault. At 10 percent casualty rates, that could mean up to 5,000 US dead. And that's assuming no use of WMD.

    | 11:13 AM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Saturday | September 21, 2002
The true cost of Gulf War I

Alert reader KS pointed me to this sobering piece about veterans of the first Gulf War.

To wit, the first Gulf War was a cakewalk, right? The cost to coalition forces was the following:

  • 213 coalition combat deaths, including 148 Americans;

  • 145 American deaths in non-combat circumstances. Note that waging war is dangerous business, and deaths will occur even without enemy action.

  • 467 Americans were wounded.

  • 159,000 Gulf War vets are receiving disability payments from the government -- suffering from the still mysterious "Gulf War Syndrome".
Regarding that last bullet point, I should quote directly from the article:
[11 years after the Gulf War,] the human toll has soared. More than 159,000 American Gulf War veterans are receiving disability payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Thousands suffer from memory loss, dizziness, blurred vision, speech difficulties, nerve disorders, muscle weakness. Many have chronic skin disorders, including rashes. They have reported incidences of cancers in themselves and birth defects in their children, though U.S. government studies deny they are related to the war.

Research has failed to pinpoint the cause of the soldiers' disabilities, but the potential sources were many. Thousands of troops may have been exposed to chemical weapons launched by Saddam on SCUD missiles or dispersed into the atmosphere when the U.S. bombed Iraqi munitions plants and destroyed stockpiles. Others were exposed to radiation on the battlefield with the use of armor-piercing depleted uranium ammunition by U.S. forces.

Thousands of troops also had received batteries of shots that included anthrax vaccinations now the subject of controversy and an experimental anti-nerve gas pill, pyridostigmine bromide.

"We're now 11-plus years after the last Gulf War," Robinson said, "and I get calls every day from veterans who can't work anymore because they're so ill, their families are falling apart, they're losing their homes and they can't get access to the VA. Is that what we want with this next generation?"

So, the "easy" victory in the Gulf War "only" cost us 300 Americans dead. That was so lucky!

Except to the 300 who died and their families, or to the 159,000 who continue to suffer from Gulf War Syndrome...

And don't think Gulf War II will be easier -- everything points to a much tougher, much more costly campaign. You'll have troops fighting invaders in their own country, not Kuwait, while using tactics that give them better survival chances against American forces. You'll have a Somalia scenario, with Iraqi soldiers and irregulars holed up in urban centers, forcing US troops to engage in hand-to-hand combat, negating American technological advantages. You'll have a desperate Hussein, knowing his game is up, willing to use his arsenal of WMD, both against Israel and against invading US forces.

And we'll have a new generation of shattered families -- casualties will be much higher, as will the long-term effects on soldiers and their families.

Setting aside the war's cost to treasure, are we truly prepared to pay this human cost?

    | 09:45 AM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Friday | September 20, 2002
MA Guv race tightening

Mitt Romney's pre-primary leads over his Democratic rivals has been erased, as Dem nominee Shannon O'Brien has taken a small (statistically insignificant) lead in Massachusett's gubernatorial race.

The poll, commissioned by the Boston Herald (conservative foil to the more liberal Boston Globe), shows O'Brien with a 45-42 lead. The big question is whether O'Brien's surge is related to a post-primary election bounce, or whether it represents real and hardening support for her candidacy.

One bit of good news is this:

Predictably, the poll shows O'Brien and Romney are strong within their parties - Romney winning 86 percent to 7 percent among Republicans and O'Brien winning 76 to 13 percent among Democrats.
According to those numbers, 11 percent of democrats are undecided compared to only 7 percent of Republicans. Given the large lead Dems enjoy in voter registration in the state, this could indicate a larger percentage of undecideds could break her way.

And O'Brien's campaign may be bolstered by a steady stream of negative economic news, such as a seven-year high in the state's unemployment rate. Such news is commonplace throughout the union, endangering a majority of governors and incumbent parties running this fall.

    | 11:35 AM | Link | Comments (3) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Townsend's MD campaign in trouble

A couple of months ago I wrote of Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend glowingly, and even mentioned her as a possible veep choice for 2004. Just a few months later, the luster is off as Townsend struggles in her Guv campaign in a solidly Democratic state.

Thus, the state's top Dems gathered to "rescue" Townsend's candidacy. (Just that word, "rescue", is an embarrassment to Townsend's campaign...)

The party wise men determined Townsend's campaign had three problems -- 1) Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley tepid support, 2) weak campaign leadership by a man with no statewide experience, and 3) state democrats that were "apologizing" for Townsend's candidacy. And then there's Townsend's gaffes, including this dangerous one:

[Baltimore Democrat and influential chairman of the House Appropriations Committee Howard P.] Rawlings said a Townsend primary-day performance captured on television news video - she stood silently and looked at her aides as a poll worker tried to prevent her from voting in view of gathered media members - was evidence of a candidate in trouble.

"I cannot believe she did not feel outraged about that," Rawlings said. "Her public persona on that showed weakness. No one wants someone weak running the state. ... Once I saw that, I said there are problems there. I just can't believe the woman doesn't have passion."

The party elders hope the meeting herald a new Townsend effort -- with state democrats firmly behind the candidate, and a new campaign team poised to bring more professionalism to the campaign. They better hope so. A glance at the Poll Watch on the right column shows that Townsend is in real trouble.

(Thanks Political Wire.)

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


Florida Democrats united

One of the benefits of a rancor-free primary is that the three Democratic candidates can step on a podium, raise their arms together, and not be dogged by the scent of hypocrisy. These three seem to genuinely like each other, and made sure to keep their guns trained on Bush during their tight primary battle.

Despite what could have been a divisive primary election, Florida Democrats are working together more than any time in years and may be poised for their strongest run at the Governor's Office in nearly a decade.

mcBride_unity.jpg"It's the most unified I've ever seen the Democrats," said Lance de Haven-Smith, a veteran political scientist at Florida State University.

"The only time in the 20th century that they've lost a governor's race, aside from a special case in 1998, it was because of a meltdown in the Democratic Party itself. They almost have to fight among themselves to lose."

At the unity rally, all three candidates took turns praising the others. And the key? Not one of them said anything during the primary campaign that can be used as fodder by the Bush campaign.

    | 08:24 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (1)


Illinois the next California?

Roll Call columnist Stuart Rothenberg argues that Illinois will join California as a Democratic Party stronghold. The coming Democratic tidalwave in the state is particularly surprising given the recent GOP dominance in the state, exemplified by a 26-year run of GOP governors. Yet, Dems are poised to sweep the vast majority of statewide races (with the possible exception of state treasurer), retake control of the state's legislature, and even notch an improbable win in the incumbent v. incumbent House race between Phelps (D) and Shimkus (R).

Some commentators in Illinois have argued that GOP senator Fitzgerald is welcoming the coming GOP slaughter -- it would make him the big fish in the state party. However, the situation in Illinois has gotten out of hand. Fitzgerald can no longer see this as a convenient way to eliminate political foes -- he has to start worrying about his waning chances in 2004.

    | 07:55 AM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (1)


Thursday | September 19, 2002
A disappointing failure

Iraq says:

Our country is ready to receive any scientific experts, accompanied by politicians you choose to represent any one of your countries, to tell us which places and scientific installations they would wish to see.
Ari Fleischer responds:
The Iraqi statement as a "disappointing failure in every respect."
True. The Iraqi statement is a disappointment to an administration which has staked its entire presidency on an Iraq invasion. It's a disappointment to administration efforts to paint Iraq as uncooperative. It's a disappointment to Neocons who want to reshape the region to better suit US interests.

Iraq capitulates to US demands, and ITS A DISAPPOINTING FAILURE in EVERY aspect?????? Aaaargh!!!!

So despite Iraq's complete acquiescence to the inspections issue, Bush's war plans continue unimpeded. He has proposed Congress pass the following resolution authorizing him to wage war:

The president is authorized to use all means that he determines to be appropriate, including force, in order to enforce the United Nations Security Council resolutions, defend the national security interests of the United States against the threat posed by Iraq, and restore international peace and security in the region.
I don't have the time or energy to critique the proposed resolution right now, but suffice it to say, its final version should require the US to seek UN Security Council authorization. A resolution allowing a unilateral and unprovoked declaration of war against a distant nation would be reprehensible.

After 9-11, the case for war was so compelling, so self-evident, that the US had little trouble rallying world support for the attack. If the evidence against Iraq is just as strong, then the US should be able to muster the security council votes. If the evidence is lacking, then so is any justification for war.

    | 02:32 PM | Link | Comments (4) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


McBride's uninspiring running mate

McBride down in Florida had a chance to select an exciting running mate -- either a Latino, African American or woman. Instead, he chose a graying state senator and former bank executive. MyDD applauds the choice, arguing Tom Rossin will help garner the critical senior vote. I'm not so optimistic. Not only has McBride surrendered the positive media coverage a more dynamic choice would've garnered, but chosing an ex business executive in today's anti-corporate climate is puzzling.

Jeb has already seized on Rossin's bussiness past:

[A Bush campaign] press release quoted a 1993 Miami Daily Business Review article that claimed that Rossin -- as president of Flagler Bank -- presided over a merger that resulted ''in over 150 working people being fired'' while Rossin and other managers ``took home big bonuses.''

The press release claimed that Rossin received $338,000 from the bank's deferred-compensation plan and a bonus of $137,000.

''McBride has tried to sell himself as a candidate of the working people, but his record and the choice of his running mate prove differently,'' said Bush spokesman Todd Harris.

Rossin and McBride have shrugged off the charges, and there's no way to tell of they have legs, but Rossin's choice will provide Jeb with a whole new line of attacks against the challengers.

On the plus side, Rossin hails from South Florida, where McBride got slaughtered by Reno. But whether Rossin can help motivate minority voters remains to be seen.

    | 07:36 AM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (1)


Wednesday | September 18, 2002
FAA and FBI should've known

This is some pretty amazing stuff:

A U.S. congressional hearing was told on Wednesday that three years before the Sept. 11 attacks intelligence agencies had information about a group that planned to fly an explosive-laden plane from a foreign country into the World Trade Center.

The information obtained in August 1998 about the group of "unidentified Arabs" was passed to the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration, but "the FAA found the plot highly unlikely given the state of that foreign country's aviation program," said Eleanor Hill, staff director of the joint Sept. 11 inquiry of the House and Senate intelligence committees.

    | 04:21 PM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


USPS unveils Cesar Chavez stamp

chavez_stamp.jpg

I am convinced that the truest act of courage, the strongest act of manliness, is to sacrifice ourselves for others in a totally non-violent struggle for justice. To be [human] is to suffer for others. God help us to be human.
The US Postal Service has unveiled a Cesar Chavez stamp. Few have heard of Chavez, the founder of the United Farm Workers of America. Fewer still understand the reverence many Latinos (including me) hold for him. He is my hero, the personification of such concepts as "justice", "sacrifice" and "dignity". The ideal to which I aspire, a true national hero (one of only two Mexican Americans to have received the Presidential Medal of Freedom -- the nation's highest civilian honor). You can read more here or at the UFW website.
Non-violence is not inaction. It is not discussion. It is not for the timid or weak … Non-violence is hard work. It is the willingness to sacrifice. It is the patience to win.

    | 03:43 PM | Link | Comments (8) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Someone else said it better than I

This post by Max Sawicky is so good I'm going to quote it wholesale:

George Bush, August 15, 2002:

. . . But in that particular bill they added $5 billion I didn't ask for. . . . So the message is clear: in order to make sure we don't put a drag on our economic security measures, or economic growth, we've got to be fiscally sound in Washington, D.C., fiscally responsible with the people's money. (Applause.)

From today's New York Times:

In an interview with The Journal, Mr. Lindsey dismissed the economic consequences of spending what he estimated might be 1 percent to 2 percent of the national gross domestic product on a war [i.e., $200 billion -- mbs], and said that it would not seriously affect interest rates or add a great deal to the $3.6 trillion federal debt. As a one-time war cost over one year, the estimated expenditure, Mr. Lindsey said, was "nothing."

Of course, Max neglects to mention how the $5 billion security bill had such nefarious pork items as aid for veterans and firefighters...

    | 10:05 AM | Link | Comments (3) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


More evidence Christian Coalition in decline

The Christian Coalition, a vociferous opponent of the recently passed campaign finance reform law, has dropped out of the lawsuit challenging it.

The coalition has had well-documented money problems, and couldn't keep pace with mounting legal costs. In addition, it was reluctant to comply with discovery requests that might force it to reveal sensitive information (such as campaign strategies).

The fact that the coalition can't afford to fight a law that infringes upon its operations is quite telling. It is but a shell of its once mighty self.

    | 09:44 AM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Shifting focus away from Iraq

As of this post, the Dow is barely hovering above the 8,000 mark. While Iraq may be dominating the news at this point, the story only has 2-3 weeks of life, leaving the country with a full month to mull the nation's economic chaos.

In addition to the flagging stock market, inflation is ticking up (including a nearly 5 percent increase in medical costs this year), fewer laid off workers are starting their own companies (a factor helping the US rise out of previous recessions), and more corporate abuses are unveiled. And Democrats are ready to pounce:

Democrats will focus relentlessly on the economy for the next six weeks with a barrage of speeches, news conferences and attention-getters tied to unemployment numbers and 401(k) statements. They have a detailed action plan designed to wrest control of the fall agenda from President Bush, who is putting possible war with Iraq front and center.
And there's another potential "October surprise": Congress' open hearings on 9-11. Even Republicans on the Senate panel are promising explosive revelations. In just the first day of hearings, we got the following:
The July 2001 briefing for senior government officials said that based on a review of intelligence information over five months "we believe that (bin Laden) will launch a significant terrorist attack against U.S. and/or Israeli interests in the coming weeks."

"The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties against U.S. facilities or interests. Attack preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning," it said.

Among other intelligence reports mentioned by Hill:

_In September 1998, the intelligence community obtained information that Osama bin Laden's "next operation could possibly involve flying an aircraft loaded with explosives into a U.S. airport and detonating it."

_In the fall of 1998, intelligence agencies received information about a bin Laden plot involving aircraft in New York and Washington areas.

_Between May and July, 2001, the National Security agency reported at least 33 communications indicating a possible, imminent terrorist attack.

Kind of puts to rest Condi Rice's post-9-11 lies about how "we never could've forseen terrorists using planes as missiles". And then there's this little gem:
Both Shelby [R] and Graham [D] have complained that the Bush administration has not been cooperating with their investigation.

[...]

Committee members say they have become frustrated by delays, blamed on both the difficulties of declassifying information for public hearings and what they see as lack of cooperation by the administration.

9-11 revelations could easily supplant Iraq as the latest media frenzy, providing weeks of anti-administration revelations and a potential reprise of last Spring's "Bush Knew" bombshell.

    | 09:05 AM | Link | Comments (5) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Tuesday | September 17, 2002
Where does Rove go from here?

The current theme in political circles is as follows: If Iraq dominates the political discourse in November, the GOP will hold their own; if domestic issues dominate, then the Dems will have a great election night. I'm not ready to concede that theme (witness major Dem pickups last November, in the wake of 9-11). However, assuming it's true, did the Iraq "crisis" peak too soon?

It's clear that the administration timed Bush's "tough stance" on Iraq to coincide with the upcoming November elections. Under this hypothetical timeline, the policy was announced in September, allowing a congressional debate to play out leading into the November elections. In addition, Hussein would be slow to back down in the face of an aggressive US, allowing Bush to gradually ratchet up the pressure and dominate news cycles while doing so.

In other words, all Iraq, all the time, until the first week of November. But, Iraq didn't play along. It almost immediately agreed to the resumption of UN inspections, and the world body is already engaged in logistical discussions with Iraq to get inspectors back in ASAP. Stunned US officials have been clearly caught off guard, and suddenly look panicked as they grasp at any excuse to maintain its war footing.

"My gates are open," says Saddam.

"No they're not," answers Bush, suspiciously.

"Yes they are, come in, come in!", says Saddam, with a smile and inviting wave.

"Liar!" screams Bush.

UN weapons inspectors walk past Bush, taking a quizzical glance in his direction. They enter Iraq unimpeded.

"That's it!", growls Bush, blood flowing to his head, "Your delaying tactics are no longer accepted. Send in the bombs!"

From a campaign standpoint, Iraq is a dead issue. Bush could've declared victory and embraced Iraq's offer with a variation of Reagan's "trust but verify". Instead, the UN (and even Democrats) can take credit for averting war, while the nation and its press turn their attention back to Enron, 401(k)s, ballooning deficits and rising unemployment.

    | 03:42 PM | Link | Comments (8) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Iraq, UN call Bush's bluff

There's was some debate yesterday whether the administration was playing "good cop, bad cop" in order to force Iraq to readmit weapons inspectors. That is, if enough administration types threatened war, then Iraq would be forced by the intense pressure to back down and allow inspections to resume.

I had a problem with the theory, in no small part because of the authenticity of the war lust in the hawkish wing of the administration (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Perle), and Bush isn't smart enough to manipulate those men for the benefit of some grander scheme.

Well, the Bushies have ended that debate today, rejecting Iraq's unconditional acquiescence to the resumption of inspections and pushing for war authorization both domestically and at the UN:

"It is even more important now for the Congress and the United Nations to act," a senior White House official said.
Why is it even more important now? Bush has "won". Iraq is reopening its borders to inspectors. Without conditions. Instead, the US is pressuring the UN Security Council to draft a resolution that would give the US legal authority to attack Iraq if Saddam hinders the work of the inspectors.

The problem with crafting a resolution that allows for imminent use of force to enforce the inspections regime is that Bush would fabricate a confrontation between the weapons inspectors and Hussein, then use that confrontation as pretext for the invasion he so desperately wants.

Indeed, what happens if the inspectors find nothing? There would be two possibilities -- 1) Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction left, or 2) They are doing a great job of hiding them. Number 2 is a curious options, since Bush claims he has satellite picture proof of such weapons. If that "proof" ends up being bunk, then what? Do you think Bush will call it a day, certify Iraq free of WMD, and head home? Hell no. He'll claim Iraq is hiding those weapons and rev up the war drums.

That's why France is backing a two-pronged approach -- one resolution calling for inspections, and a second resolution if the inspections fail. This allows the world community to prevent the US from manufacturing a confrontation with Iraq -- a smart move on their part.

The UN and Iraq have called Bush's bluff. All the war talk by Cheney and co. won't get the world, including the UK, from giving the US free reign to prosecute war against Iraq. Bush is boxed in. He needs to declare victory and move on.

    | 09:07 AM | Link | Comments (6) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Monday | September 16, 2002
Iraq to allow inspectors with NO CONDITIONS

This changes everything. Kofi Annan:

I can confirm to you that I have received a letter from the Iraqi authorities conveying their decision to allow the return of the inspectors without conditions.

    | 04:13 PM | Link | Comments (4) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Saddam poised to allow inspections

Word is Hussein is about to announce he will allow inspections to resume. If the rumors pan out, I wouldn't doubt a condition-laden acceptance by Hussein. Such as -- we allow inspectors, you stop the no-fly zone. If Saddam has that sort of "negotiating ploy" in mind, he might as well not bother.

But, if he offers inspections in exchange for assurances that the inspectors won't be cover for CIA operatives (perhaps by including a large non-US contingent), then I think that would be reasonable. As would be promises that inspections would head off efforts at "regime change".

Realistically, Hussein is in no position to make demands. So he will have to cave or risk ouster by invading US forces. But if he does cave, the US will lose its strongest case for war and we may yet avert bloodshed.

As I mentioned yesterday, Bush would still be able to declare victory, arguing inspections were his intended goal all along. It's a lie that I would be willing to accept if it prevents war. Let the National Review and Richard Perle go ballistic. This is the best possible outcome for all parties involved -- Iraq's WMD programs are disrupted while a full-scale invasion is avoided.

Josh Marshall tackles this very same point, though more eloquently than me:

Certain conservative webloggers who happen to be former editors of the New Republic are crowing about how President Bush's assertive stand on Iraq is making former opponents into allies: the Saudis, the French, the Egyptians, et.al. Actually, this line of reasoning -- this interpretation of recent events -- is pretty widespread. But it could scarcely be more foolish.

The opposition of more or less all of these countries was explicitly tied to the president's eagerness to sidestep the UN Security Council and his indifference to the return of inspectors. Has the president bent these countries to his will? Or did they bend him to theirs?

Again, Bush's supporters will revise history (a la social security "privatization") by insisting Bush's "leadership" achieved the desired outcome. Who cares? Unlike the president and his neocon allies, I am not willing to risk the lives of our soldiers and Iraqis to score political points. Peace trumps war. That'll be one lie I can definitely live with.

    | 02:56 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Things looking up in FL

Continuing today's inadvertant Florida theme, the post-primary gubernatorial situation seems to be breaking the Dems way. First and foremost, McBride won, offering the Dems the strongest candidate vs. Jeb.

Second of all, Reno appears ready to concede, promising to forgo a legal challenge of her razor thin loss. Furthermore, Reno has promised to launch a crusade against Jeb on the botched elections issue, which should motivate the Democratic base while allowing McBride to focus on other issues.

Finally, both McBride and Reno ran a laudable primary campaign, refusing to go negative on each other and saving their ammunition for Bush. The botched election tested their congeniality, but they seem to have pulled through with only minor damage. Reno's willingness to concede after election results are certified tomorrow, as well as her decision to campaign against Bush on the elections issue, can't be praised enough (especially after losing a race she arguably could've won in a clean election). Thus, the candidates (and their supporters) are spared the oftentimes contentious "unity" efforts following negative primary campaigns.

Now the focus turns on McBride's choice for Lt. Gov. The names bandied about are former USF president Betty Castor, former EPA head Carol Browner, former candidate Daryl Jones, and Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Panelas.

Jones has announced he would refuse to run with McBride (though he could always change his mind). McBride received a significant amount of support in South Florida, which would shore up McBride in his weakest region. Panelas seems to be off the list, however, since many of the election troubles have been pinned on his lapel. I still think naming a popular Latino and (moderate) Cuban-American to the ticket would be a boon to McBride.

But, I ultimately believe that McBride would best be served by Castor. In addition to being a woman (which would generate a great deal of positive press and help solidify the already strong support among women), she also has impeccable education bona fides. Education is shaping up to be one of the campaign's marquee issues, and Bush has been caught on the wrong side of a debate over smaller class sizes. Castor could help drive that issue home.

    | 02:36 PM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


South Florida's wretched TV news

My wife, a Cuban-American, is from Miami. That's about the only good thing I can say about the region. It's hot, it's run by wingnut Cuban-Americans, they have the lowest attendance in major league baseball, votes in poor neighborhoods aren't counted, and people are uneducated and rude (though beautiful!). So, anytime somone wants to add to the list of "What Sucks About South Florida", I'm game:

Friday's coverage [of the three medical student "terrorists"] was the source of a staggering amount of misinformation. Among the inaccurate reports:
  • Several stations reported that a woman in Georgia told police three Middle Easterners were coming to Miami to blow something up. (That's not what she said.)

  • Several also said cops spotted the men after they roared past a tollbooth on I-75. (One car rolled by at a normal rate of speed; the other stopped and paid the tolls for both.)

  • The cops used explosives to detonate a suspicious knapsack found in one car. (They didn't.) Channel 7 reported that explosive ''triggers'' were found in one of the cars. (There were no ''triggers'' or anything else to do with explosives.)

  • Channel 7 also reported that cops were searching for a third car. (They weren't.)
It was a wretched performance -- worse yet, a wretched performance that dragged on for eight hours, terrorizing South Florida and smearing the daylights out of three medical students who can be counted on to contribute heavily to the next edition of the travel guide
What Sucks About South Florida.

[...]

The worst parody of journalism Friday was actually on CNN, where the high-paid-low-rated anchor Paula Zahn speculated, without a jot or tittle of evidence, that the three men were coming to Florida to blow up the Turkey Point nuclear reactor. Now you know why CNN promotes her sex appeal rather than her news judgment.

    | 08:55 AM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Cubans hate playing by the same rules

Miami's Cuban community is outraged at the fate of nine would-be Cuban defectors being held by the INS in Buffalo. The Cubans, attending a conference in Canada, crossed the border expecting to be welcomed with open arms. However, the local INS office has detained them until an immigration judge can rule on their asylum claims.

Immigrants from any other nation in the world would undergo similar treatment. Such treatment is often barbaric and unecessary (such as sharing jail space with violent criminals). However, the Cuban-American community or their representatives in Congress had never deigned to fight the nation's harsh immigration laws. They are the beneficiaries of the "dry foot" doctrine -- if Cubans enter US soil, they automatically receive asylum. No other immigrants receive such preferential treatment. That's one reason the Latino community abandoned Miami Cubans during the Elian Gonzales fiasco. Cubans have always played by different rules, and damn the rest.

But now some of their own are being subjected to the nation's immigration laws, and they are outraged!

The laws are there to protect those who have a well-founded fear, and [the defectors] have established a credible fear. The law says release them.
Actually, the law says a judge decides whether the defectors have established a well-rounded fear of persecution, not the Cuban-American wingnuts in Miami.

If Cuban-Americans don't like the treatment their people are receiving in Buffalo, the should petition Congress to change the laws applying to ALL immigrants. Anything less is self-interested hypocrisy.

    | 08:28 AM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Noelle: more than hypocrisy

Much has been written and said about Jeb Bush's hypocritical drug stance -- pushing tough mandatory sentences for drug offenses while his crack-addicted daughter gets a free pass.

Well, there's more than hypocrisy at play, and the Orlando Police and Orange County State Attorney's Office are conducting a serious investigation. The question? Why is the drug treatment center where Noelle is staying trying to cover up her rampant drug use?

This whole mess started when police received the following call:

One of the women here was caught buying crack cocaine tonight. And a lot of the women are upset because she's been caught about five times.

[...]

She does this all the time and she gets out of it because she's the governor's daughter. But we're sick of it here 'cause we have to do what's right, but she gets treated like some kind of princess.

An employee at the center had written a statement describing the incident, including the finding of crack on Noelle. However, a supervisor ordered the employee to tear up the report and stop cooperating with investigators. The police were perplexed:
We've never had a sworn statement ripped up by a witness in front of an officer.
What's more, center employees have given contradictory information to police on how such matters are handled. Some said they normally turned such cases over to the police, while others said they handled them in-house.

Given the sudden lack of cooperation by the center's staff, the state attorney's office has issued subpoenas to compel the employees to testify.

    | 08:12 AM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Harris wins lawsuit

Unsurprisingly, Kathleen Harris has defeated a legal challenge to her candidacy.

Based upon the undisputed facts of this case and applying well-established legal precedent, this court finds that Harris did not comply with the mandatory resignation requires of (the law). However, her non-compliance was statutorily forgiven. ... She has qualified for the primary election and shall not be removed as a candidate for the election to the 13th congressional seat.
Judges are generally loathe to intrude upon political disputes, lest they be seen as intefering with the will of the people. I know, I know, there's the Supreme Court and the Gore v. Bush battle, but there's a reason that Gore v. Bush was so shocking and outrageous a decision -- judges got needlessly involved in a political dispute. The judge in the Harris case ruled correctly.

Of course, Democrats are now making noise about picking up the legal fight against Harris. It has been argued by some that there's no parallel between Florida and the challenge against Mitt Romney in Massachusetts (which backfired disastrously on the Democrats). I am persuaded by the argument. The Democrats have zero chance to defeat Harris in the general election, so why not cause a little mischief? Harris has only enforced Florida election rules when they suited her, and brazenly ignored them when they did not. Why not try to hold her to her own standards?

    | 07:49 AM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Sunday | September 15, 2002
A change in policy?

A US congressman on a fact-finding tour of Iraq announced Iraq may allow inspectors back in provided the US drop demands for "regime change". Makes sense. US policy has seemed to be "We'll invade you whether you allow inspectors or not." Therefore, Iraq has no incentive to allow a UN inspection team that would undoubtedly include CIA spies (as has previously been the case).

But has US policy shifted? Many argue Bush' UN speech gave both the US and Iraq a way out by suggesting weapons inspectors would head off US military action. The tactic is a good one -- it mobilizes intense diplomatic pressure on Iraq from an international community desperate to avoid war. If Iraq balks (as the administration so clearly hopes), then the US has the pretext it has been desperately seeking for an invasion. If Iraq relents, then Bush declares victory, arguing that reintroducing weapons inspectors had been his goal all along. A blatant lie, but who would call him on it? Other than the hawkish National Review, no one.

Indeed, it seems as though Bush would benefit more by avoiding war. By getting weapons inspectors back in, his spinmeisters can argue it was his "decisive" leadership (rather than irresponsible war mongering) that forced Iraq to back down. And, he looks wise for avoiding a costly war.

Now, if the administration can realize the benefits of peace, and get Cheney to shut up, they may actually have a chance to pull it off.

    | 04:28 PM | Link | Comments (6) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Friday | September 13, 2002
Kirk holding on to Republican support

In the heavily Republican Dallas-Ft. Worth area, Kirk is getting 45 percent support vs. Cornyn's 50 percent. If Cornyn hopes to be the next senator from the Great State of Texas, he's going to have to do better. The area's local Republican operation is panicking:

There are a few people who have sort of lost sight of the difference between Ron Kirk and John Cornyn. They just have to make the distinction between a nonpartisan situation and a partisan situation.
The quote above is from the chair of the Dallas County Republican Party. And he seems to be saying that Dallas residents are too stupid to realize that Kirk and Cornyn are different people. And then he seems to imply that a vote for Cornyn would somehow be a "nonpartisan situation".

In any case, Kirk seems to have earned earnest and solid support from many local Republicans:

"You're voting for a person," said [Republican David] Biegler, former president and chief executive of the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce. "You're not voting for George Bush's agenda, or against it."

    | 09:05 AM | Link | Comments (11) | Email this post | Trackback (1)


Thursday | September 12, 2002
US decries Russian "unilateralism"

File this under "almost too ironic for words":

The United States said on Thursday it would not support Russian President Vladimir Putin if he carried out his threat to attack Chechen rebel bases in Georgia and slammed him for suggesting he might.

"The United States strongly supports Georgia's territorial integrity and would oppose any unilateral military action by Russia inside Georgia," a State Department spokesman told Reuters.

"We take strong exception to statements yesterday by President Putin threatening unilateral action against Chechen targets on Georgian territory if Georgia does not capture and hand over Chechen fighters," he added.

With some creative editing, this is how the Russians might respond:
Russia said on Thursday it would not support US President George Bush if he carried out his threat to attack Iraq and slammed him for suggesting he might.

"Russia strongly supports Iraq's territorial integrity and would oppose any unilateral military action by the US inside Iraq," a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman told Reuters.

"We take strong exception to statements yesterday by President Bush threatening unilateral action against Iraqi targets if Iraq does not allow weapons inspectors back in," he added.

With its belligerance toward Iraq, the US has surrendered any high moral ground it may have held. Indeed, Russia is engaged in its own war against "terror", and if Georgia harbors said terrorists, doesn't the "Bush Doctrine" give Russia a right to unilaterally invade Georgia to root them out? Ditto Pakistan and India. Or Colombia and Venezuela.

    | 02:17 PM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (1)


GOP group yanks ad

Talk about GOP incompetence:

Republicans yanked a radio ad Thursday that was aimed at black voters in Kansas and Missouri comparing Social Security benefits to slavery reparations — except paid to whites by blacks.

It was the latest skirmish in a multistate war over Social Security ads pegged to November's congressional elections.

The commercial was paid for by a Republican interest group and aired in the Kansas City area on an urban contemporary station whose listeners are predominantly black. GOPAC, which is headed by Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, said the ad was a mistake and withdrew it Thursday after calls from reporters.

"You've heard about reparations, you know, where whites compensate blacks for enslaving us," the ad says. "Well guess what we've got now. Reverse reparations." The commercial says blacks earn thousands of dollars less in retirement benefits than whites because they have shorter life spans.

"So the next time some Democrat says he won't touch Social Security, ask why he thinks blacks owe reparations to whites," the ad says.

This is how the geniuses in the GOP woo the black vote?

In an ironic twist, the guy behind this media buy -- Richard Nadler -- has been in the news before. You might remember this little incident:

Nadler was criticized in 2000 for an ad that featured a woman saying she had put her son in a private school because drugs and violence at his public school were "a bit more diversity than he could handle." The ad urged voters to support Republicans, but leading GOP candidates denounced it.

Update: New blogger Mark Kleiman does a follow-up post, examining the premise (with an assist from economist Max Sawicky) that whites live longer than African-Americans.

    | 02:10 PM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Pataki to have a rough two months

NY governor Pataki isn't exactly endangered. All recent polls show him with a comfortable lead in NY's governor's race. Yet, for the first time, he will face a vicious challenge to his right. Pataki lost his bid for the Independence Party nod, and will have to contend with Tom Golisano -- an obscenely wealthy conservative with an axe to grind.

Some reports have indicated Golisano plans to spend up to $100 million in his campaign against Pataki. While Golisano's chances of winning are next to nil, this relentless barrage of ads against Pataki can only serve to drive up his negatives, making him an easier target for Dem challenger Carl McCall:

Even if Mr. Golisano does not see himself as a spoiler, Mr. McCall does. His aides say privately that they expect Mr. Golisano's advertisements to take pressure off Mr. McCall to broadcast negative commercials about Mr. Pataki — a two-way advantage to Mr. McCall, who two weeks ago had just $2.5 million left to spend on his own ads.
Update:Matthew Yglesias makes this excellent point:
... isn't it at least possible that massive attacks on Pataki from the right will help him with the moderate democrats his campaign needs to attract to win in liberal-leaning New York by dispelling fears that his centrism is only a ploy?
Yeah, it is possible. I hadn't considered this possibility, but it reinforces my reluctance to consider Pataki "endangered".

    | 08:28 AM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (2)


Toricelli laggin in NJ

Two new polls show NH Sen. Toricelli trailing his GOP challenger, Douglas Forrester. A Quinnipiac poll puts Toricelli's deficit at 4 points (48-44), while a Star Ledger poll has Toricelli ahead by one point -- 41-40, but trailing amongst "likely" voters 44-39. That's a consistent 4-5 point deficit.

The sleazy Toricelli is clearly this cycle's most endangered Democrat. His chances for victory will depend on how well he paints Forrester as too conservative for his Democrat-leaning state. In one of those tidbits that may be either good news or bad:

Nearly half of Forrester's supporters, 49 percent, said they are actually anti-Torricelli voters.
Thus, it's clear Forrester's support has nothing to do with his candidacy or ideology, but a backlash against Toricelli's ethical problems. Whether he can "mea culpa" his way back into those voters' good graces remains to be seen.

(Via Political Wire)

    | 08:19 AM | Link | Comments (5) | Email this post | Trackback (1)


Wednesday | September 11, 2002
McBride declared winner by Miami Herald

Florida's bizarro electoral system might have produced yet another tainted victor. The Miami Herald has decided McBride has the numbers on his side. However, Reno's camp is considering a legal challenge.

Reno's campaign advisers were divided on the subject of a court challenge, with lawyer Joe Geller and others said to be pushing for a court fight based on rampant voting irregularities in South Florida that the campaign believes turned many black voters away on Tuesday.

Other Reno strategists argued privately Wednesday that a protracted legal battle would tear apart the Democratic Party and only suck away legitimacy from McBride should he be the nominee.

Ironically, had Bush cleaned up the state's electoral mess, he might've been the beneficiary of the Dem primary. It has been clear Bush fears facing McBride, who would clearly make a more formidable opponent than Reno. Yet yesterday's election problems seem to have legitimately hurt Reno's chances. The final count will show McBride's margin of victory between 2,000 and 11,000 votes out of almost 1.5 million votes. A clean election may have given Reno enough votes to overcome McBride's margin of victory.

It appears Jeb is about to receive his Karmic due.

    | 09:40 PM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (1)


Putting the horse before the cart

A reader pointed me to today's USA Today, which details how the administration concluded war with Iraq was necessary. It's a sobering piece, and includes this gem of a paragraph:

The White House still has not requested that the CIA and other intelligence agencies produce a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, a formal document that would compile all the intelligence data into a single analysis. An intelligence official says that's because the White House doesn't want to detail the uncertainties that persist about Iraq's arsenal and Saddam's intentions. A senior administration official says such an assessment simply wasn't seen as helpful.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, calls that ''stunning.''

So, while the Bushies claim they have "no doubt" Saddam has nukes, they refuse to commission a National Intelligence Estimate for fear the evidence may prove them wrong!

The administration has long-betrayed its lack of rationale, failing to provide anything resembling evidence of the alleged Iraqi threat. As the USA Today story makes clear, Bush has never needed a reason to commit the nation to war -- it's been an article of faith that Hussein must go. Damn be the reasons.

Iraq supports terrorism? No evidence exists. This argument has run its course, and even the administration seems to have abandoned it.

Iraq has weapons of mass destruction? Join the line. About a dozen nations have such weapons these days. Only the US has deigned to use them, and that was when it was the sole nuclear power. The threat of annihilation through retaliation has checked any subsequent use of such weapons.

Iraq will give weapons of mass destruction to terrorists? Would the secular Hussein give such weapons to religious fundamentalists? Doubtful. Terrorists are more likely to receive such weapons from Pakistan's intelligence agency -- which has deep ties to the Taliban and Al Queda.

I can go on, but ultimately, it doesn't matter. As the article note, the Bush Administration doesn't need a reason to invade Iraq. It just knows. Thus, we are left with two bulwarks against invasion: the US Congress (which shouldn't be discounted -- it's been surprisingly critical of Bush's plans), and the UN.

I still maintain logistical problems make an Iraq invasion exceedingly difficult. And the domestic and international political situations aren't doing Bush any favors.

War is by no means assured.

    | 09:27 PM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


I'm back

Was released from jury duty. Had a great dinner with friends. A ton of wonderful people wrote to wish me the best. The A's are currently beating the Halos. So good things did happen today. I'm not happy that I am no longer 30 (I'm now "in my 30s" -- emphasis on the plural), but what can I do? Things could be worse.

I could be 40.

Now, if I only knew what I want to be when I grow up...

But I am a year wiser, thus this blog should reflect a marked improvement in quality, right? So enough about me. I don't particularly care for blogs that read like diaries. Back to juicy, partisan, GOP-bashing, news and views. We are about to take our country back from the wingnuts. Let's get back to business.

    | 09:00 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Jury duty today

On a housekeeping note, I won't do much blogging today. Not because it's 9-11 (and also, believe it or not, my 31st birthday), but because I'm stuck with jury duty.

As if the day wasn't already miserable enough...

Update: As many people pointed out, including the inestimable diva herself, Mad Kane also suffers from Badly Timed Birthday Syndrome. Also, this Onion piece is supposed to be funny, and it really, really is.

    | 12:03 AM | Link | Comments (16) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Tuesday | September 10, 2002
Split results

Well, looks like we got good news, and not so good news. On the plus side, McBride appears headed to victory as of this writing. If current projections hold, and McBride gets the win, Dems will have a legitimate chance to take out Jeb.

Also good news, Miami-Dade voters appeared to have upheld a law protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination. Funny how the homophobic groups behind the repeal campaign argue that the law is "unecessary", yet have gone through immense trouble and expense to repeal it. Assuming the defeat holds up after all ballots are counted, it looks as though the homophobes will challenge the results in court, alleging that the day's widespread voter irregularities cost them the campaign.

On a more disappointing note, Sununu beat Sen. Smith up in New Hampshire, offering Dem nominee Jean Shaheen a stronger challenge in the key battleground race.

    | 11:19 PM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


CT governor's race tightening

The sputtering economy has made virtually every governor's race a nailbiter. The latest race to become competitive is Connecticut's. As is in Ohio, the Democratic challenger is facing a supposedly popular incumbent Republican, has little money, and virtually no name recognition. Yet Dem challenger William Curry has erased a 31-point deficit and is now within 9 points of Gov. Rowland.

In Connecticut, given Mr. Curry's comparative lack of funds and name recognition -- Mr. Rowland's $3.6 million campaign war chest is five times larger, and nearly one-fifth of recently polled voters said they still do not know who Mr. Curry is -- eyebrows are arching at the speed with which the aggressive challenger has closed to within single digits of a powerful two-term incumbent.
Rowland has also agreed to debate Curry four times -- an odd strategy when facing an opponent with low name ID. The debates will only help raise Curry's profile.

    | 08:03 AM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (1)


If you live in Florida, vote McBride!

'Nuff said.

    | 07:53 AM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (1)


Yummy poll goodness

MyDD reports the GOP barrage of negative ads against Kirk have failed, as Kirk maintains a 38-33 percent lead, with about a third of respondents undecided. Competing polls in Texas have shown Kirk and Cornyn alternating the lead, always about 3-5 points between them. The reason is methodology -- some polls assume black turnout at around 8 percent, other polls assume a larger black turnout -- around 12 percent. Poll models with larger black turnout obviously favor Kirk. So who's right? We'll find out election day.

In South Dakota, GOP senatorial candidate Thune is starting to fade. Sen. Johnson only has a 4-point lead in the latest poll, but had trailed for much of the summer. And Thune has been getting hammered for failing to deliver drought aid to the state from Bush. MyDD also notes that polling in the state has failed to take the heavily Democratic Native American vote.

And, to wrap up this plagarizing post (my Frontline email from the DSCC didn't arrive this week), Dem challenger is within 9 points of Maine Sen. Collins after trailing badly most of the summer. The governor's race in Maine will be a blowout, with the Democratic candidate slaughtering the rest of the field. The governor's race may be worth a few points to Pingree, but she still has a great deal of catching up to do.

    | 07:49 AM | Link | Comments (8) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Monday | September 09, 2002
World does not back "regime change"

While the White House is trumpeting greater international support for US action in Iraq, that's not really the case. The world, except for Blair's UK, oppose the US notion of "regime change". Nothing has changed in that regard.

However, in a bid to stave off military action, many in the world community are urging for the reintroduction of weapons inspectors into Iraq -- thus defusing one of Bush's strongest rationales for war (something the hardcore hawks, like Cheney and Perle, dread).

    | 04:20 PM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Will the UN back war?

Matthew Yglesias chimes in with an excellent critique of my assertion that the UN will not back war.

Yglesias argues that of the five permanent members, the UK will back the US (a given), as will France and Russia, while China will abstain.

China might abstain, as they have historically done in similar situations. However, they have been high-profile in their pursuit of a diplomatic solution:

Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan has said: "The Iraq question should be resolved within the framework of the UN by diplomatic and political means... Resorting to force or threatening to resort to force will not solve the problem; on the contrary it leads to more tensions and troubles."
Russia has just signed a massive trade deal with Iraq, and is adamant about finding a political resolution:
"Political and diplomatic potential for a settlement of the Iraq situation has by no means yet been exhausted. We believe that diplomatic methods alone will provide a solution," Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov has said.
France is France, and will straddle the fence as long as it can. It has been trying to give Iraq an out:
French President Jacques Chirac has proposed a two-stage plan that could lead to UN authorisation of military force against Iraq.

Stage one would be a resolution giving Baghdad three weeks to readmit arms inspectors. If the inspectors were not let in, the French president suggested, there could be another resolution backing the use of force.

France's tactic is clearly to delay any attack as long as possible to 1) give Iraq a chance to save its own hide, and 2) see if cooler heads will prevail in the US.

(All quotes above from this BBC page.)

In any case, the UN Security Council is more than just the 5 permanent members. I list the full council below, and how I predict they would vote:

  • Mauritius (No -- strong ties with war opponents India, S. Africa)
  • Mexico (Yes -- maybe)
  • Norway (No)
  • Russia (No)
  • Singapore (Undecided)
  • Syria (No. Arab nation)
  • United Kingdom (Yes)
  • United States (Yes)
  • Bulgaria (??)
  • Cameroon (No. Large Muslim population)
  • China (No or abstain)
  • Colombia (Yes -- needs US aid)
  • Guinea (No. Muslim nation)
  • Ireland (??)
  • France (??)
So here alone, we have six or seven probable "No" votes in the council. Even if Russia and China abstain, the "No" forces could still realistically defeat a war resolution.

Update: Political Wire reports:The Wall Street Journal says "Bush is confident he can win a vote in Congress, but is less sure of convincing the U.N."I don't have web access to the WSJ, nor do I have a copy of today's edition lying around. But, based on that one sentence alone, it seems Bush doesn't think he can ram his war plans through the Security Council. Can anyone elaborate?

    | 01:04 PM | Link | Comments (6) | Email this post | Trackback (2)


Abandoning the gun issue

As the GOP surged in the 80's and early 90's, it had a real chance to force a true and lasting national political realignment. However, its fanatical adherence to social issues, particularly abortion, halted its growth and eventually provided the foundation for the Democratic Party counterattack that rolled back much of the GOP's gains. Even know, as Democrats surge around the nation, the GOP's right-wing social conservatives refuse to compromise, electing wingnuts in primaries and dooming the party to evisceration come November.

Abortion is one of the few issues that can single-handedly decide elections. Pro-Choice single-issue voters provided a bulwark against GOP hegemony. And, guns could be the bulwark against Democratic dominance.

I grew up in war-torn El Salvador, and also served in the US Army, so I have had first-hand experience with weapons of all calibers and types, as well as repercussions of their use. I have no love for guns, and will never own one. I am also a vegan animal rights supporter, and have no respect for hunters and other "outdoor sportsmen".

Yet, in politics we have to pick our battles in order to accomplish a greater good. The NRA has won this battle. It's time to capitulate and fight on other fronts.

This old Christian Science Monitor article summarized the dilemma as such:

Driving this shift is a realization among Democrats that they must do better in rural areas if they are to win control of Congress this fall, or the White House in 2004. Indeed, this year's battle for Congress could come down to a handful of rural districts in the Rocky Mountain West and the South. Democrats' top targets include seats in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Georgia – areas where hunting is a way of life, and gun control is anathema.

[...]

The shift in tone can be traced to the aftermath of the 2000 election, and the pervasive belief that the issue cost Al Gore the presidency. Exit polls from 2000 showed that among gun owners, George W. Bush beat Mr. Gore by 61 to 39 percent. More significant, while 59 percent of union households went for Mr. Gore overall, those homes were just as likely to choose Bush if they contained guns.

The gun issue should be relegated to local politics. True, to be effective, this issue must be nationalized -- gun control in NY is useless if guns can be simply trucked in from Virginia, or Texas -- but it's a necessary compromise in order to bolster the full Dem agenda nationwide.

On the flip side, E.J. Dionne effectively argues that gun control is a winner issue in urban and suburban areas -- which are growing rapidly as a percentage of the electorate. Yet rural voters will continue to be a sizeable and motivated constituency -- ready to vote to protect their "right" to own the weapons of their choice. Gun control, despite all the Columbines in the world, will not have that "single-issue" effect on suburban voters (though that might change in a generation or two).

The country's new wave of southern Democrats are all pro-gun, and in a closely watched election last November, a Democrat captured the governorship in Virginia -- one of the nation's most reliably GOP states -- by specifically campaigning on his pro-gun bona fides. Now Dean and Edwards are proudly touting their pro-gun records as they launch nascent presidential bids.

National Democrats should encourage this trend, boosting their candidates' chances in the South and Mountain states, while keeping an eye on 2004.

True, the gun issue might be a foil for other social issues, as Kevin of Lean Left noted in the comments section of a previous post. Yet, by seeking NRA support, or dancing to Hank Williams, or sponsoring a NASCAR car, or by plucking a banjo, Democrats can effectively remove the gun issue from the table, exposing what's left -- hostility to racial tolerance, multiculturalism, and gay rights. If a Republican wants to run on those issues, all the power to him. If he wins, then his constituents are truly hicks, in the most negative connotation of the word.

But not all southerners are hicks. I know plenty of non-racist, non-homophobic, rodeo loving southerners who will happily vote for a Democrat -- but only if s/he is pro-gun. We need these people aboard if the Dems are to grow beyond their New England and West Coast strongholds and make inroads into the nation's many red states.

    | 11:42 AM | Link | Comments (4) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Harkin wins support of GOP group

This is old news, by blogosphere standards (from Friday's Washington Post), but what the heck.

The Iowa Farm Bureau, a normally reliable GOP PAC, has endorsed Dem Sen. Harkin (IA) in his race against strong GOP challenger Rep. Gangske. Harkin is the only Democratic candidate to get the Farm Bureau's nod in any of the state's major races. Gangske's campaign was shocked:

Ganske's campaign released a statement that called the bureau's decision "puzzling," saying Harkin has a "far inferior" voting record on farm issues. Since the beginning of the 104th Congress, Ganske said, he has voted with the American Farm Bureau's position an average of 84 percent of the time, compared to Harkin's 57 percent.

"In its final decision, the PAC Committee apparently chose not only to ignore the Farm Bureau's own rating system, but to ignore the concerns of their membership as well," Ganske's campaign said.

This so-called rating system seems to have been "must have a '(R)' attached to name". And as for the 'inferior voting record', Harkin was a major force behind May's (monstrous, pork-ladden) Farm Bill. Gangske voted against it, incurring the Farm Bureau's wrath. That massive bill clearly trumped any other of interest to the Farm Bureau.

This is a close race, and this endorsement will help Harkin innoculate himself against charges he is too liberal for Iowa.

On the flip sided, the Farm Bureau endorsed gubernatorial candidate Gross over Dem. Gov. Vilsack in the even tighter governor's race. However, Vilsack has never received the Farm Bureau's endorsement, so there's no surprise there. The Farm Bureau has also endorsed every single GOP candidate in the state's crucial congressional races (though one Dem candidate got a co-endorsement). Again, no surprise there. The surprise is the Harkin endorsement, and coming from a reliably GOP group, is a serious blow to Gangske's campaign.

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


Arizona dems making races competitive

In a rarity for a state long-dominanted by the GOP, Democrats are well-positioned to win the state's governorship and two new congressional seats.

Dem gubernatorial candidate Janet Napolitano leads GOPer Matt Salmon in the latest polls. The state is suffering a massive budget crisis after years of unchallenged GOP control of the governorship and state legislature.

As for the two new congressional districts, one is safely Democrat, while the other is marginally Dem, and while competitive, leans slightly Dem.

    | 07:47 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Edwards targeting rural conservatives

Dem presidential hopeful, Sen. John Edwards (NC), is bucking recent political trends by "targeting rural conservative voters.

Aiming to buck a 20-year trend, Edwards -- a Democrat -- is courting the conservative rural voters who are some of the Republican Party's most reliable voters. The effort could make some traditional Democrats a bit squeamish, however, because it embraces gun ownership rights and trumpets cultural passions such as NASCAR that might be viewed by some as unsophisticated.
Guns are a loser national issue for Democrats, and they should abandon it in all but the most local races. As for NASCAR, who gives a damn?

Democratic Virginia governor Mark Warner won his race, just weeks after 9-11 in a solid conservative state, by using similar tactics. And the key is gun ownership.

[N]o issue resonates among these voters more than the issue of gun ownership rights.

Among the Democrats most actively vying for their party's nomination to challenge President Bush in 2004, Edwards has one of the most pro-gun stances.

This statement is not really accurate, as Dean had a solid pro-gun record as Vermont governor. Still, Dean's Vermont roots may scare off southern voters unable to overlook negative New England stereotypes. It'll be interesting to see how this issue shakes out.

(Via Political Wire.)

    | 07:35 AM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Saturday | September 07, 2002
A look at Montana's Senate race

Dwight Meredith, over at the PLA blog, takes an in-depth look at the Montana Senate race. He notes the race should be closer than out-of-date polls have indicated, but should remain safely Democrat.

    | 12:33 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Still no word on Harris suit

While a decision was expected last week, it looks like a judge will wait until after Tuesday's Florida primary to decide whether Kathleen Harris can stay on the ballot.

Lawyers representing Harris and fellow Republican candidate John Hill speculated Friday that Judge Kevin Davey would wait to rule on Hill's lawsuit until after the election is over.

Hill's lawsuit says that Harris did not properly qualify for the ballot since Harris did not turn in a resign-to-run letter when she qualified on July 15. On Aug. 1, after learning of her mistake, Harris sent a letter to Gov. Jeb Bush saying that she had resigned as of July 15. The lawsuit also maintains Harris did not sign the proper oath required of all Florida candidates.

Waiting until after the election would give both parties ample time to file appeals before the November general election. Had the judge ruled before the primaries, the losing party would've been unable to appeal.

And the judge is probably hoping Harris loses, rendering a decision moot and sparing him from a great deal of inevitable grief, regardless of how he rules.

    | 10:39 AM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


No one knows how Iraq will affect elections

Lots of people have opinions about lots of things. But asked whether the Iraq talk will help the GOP electoral chances, no one seems to know. What little concensus this article appears to find is this:

Iraq helps the GOP, the economy helps Dems.

The economy trumps Iraq.

    | 10:34 AM | Link | Comments (3) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Senate war resolution not guaranteed

Wishy-washy California moderate Dianne Feinstein is the latest senator to argue against war:

America has never been an aggressor nation unless attacked, as we were at Pearl Harbor and on Sept. 11, or our interests and our allies were attacked. We have never initiated a major invasion against another nation-state, which leads to the question of whether a pre-emptive war is the morally right, legally right, or the politically right way for the United States to proceed.
I'm starting a "War Watch" list on the left-hand column of this site. A couple of caveats: Note that I write "lean", since positions may shift in the coming weeks. Also, for my tally, a vote against war means a vote against a unilateral invasion of Iraq without U.N. backing. There's no way the US gets UN backing, thus if the Senate insists on international authorization before any invasion, that position effectively is a "no" vote on war.

    | 10:11 AM | Link | Comments (9) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Friday | September 06, 2002
'Chickenhawk' goes mainstream

Terry Neal's latest piece in the Washington Post examines the whole "chickenhawk" debate, and how the term and the chickenhawk arguments are being aired in mainstream publications.

For months, liberal Web sites and blogs have been buzzing about "chickenhawks" in the Bush administration and among his supporters in Congress. The term, in this instance anyway, refers to hawkish politicians who push war but never actually served in one.

[...]

Relegated to the fringes of the political debate for most of the year, this topic — fueled by escalating talk of war with Iraq — has picked up steam in recent weeks, with Newsweek, among others, examining the fissure within the GOP under the headline, "Hawks, Doves and Dubya."

The issue was not picked up by the mainstream press until some prominent GOP politicos began commenting on it.

As Instapundit would say, advantage blogosphere.

    | 12:51 PM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Romney a "CPA"?

Bear Left's Tim Francis-Wright has found a silver lining in that disastrous lawsuit against Mitt Romney by the Massachusetts Democratic Party:

Mitt Romney has started airing ads in which he promises to "audit the Big Dig" (such a good idea, three Republican regimes in Massachusetts have already done it, of course). Particularly interesting is his promise in the ad to "personally inspect" the spending in question.

Finally, a chance for the Democrats to use the fruits of their depositions earlier this year. Can we really trust Romney's idea of inspection when he (1) failed to notice a $50,000 property tax break on his Utah house; or (2) failed to realize that he filed a non-resident tax return?

Just a bit more background -- the "Big Dig" is the nation's largest public works project, a laudable effort to replace the unsightly Boston leg of I-93 with an underground tunnel under the city. The project has been extensively mismanaged, and cost overruns have been in the billions. But as Francis-Wright notes, the notion of Romney personally poring over financial statements spanning tens of billions of dollars is ridiculous, especially when he couldn't keep his own house in order.

    | 11:45 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


War vote as campaign issue?

Both Daschle and Lott are discussing an Iraq debate timeline that could push off any final vote past the November election. Bush is crying foul, but his Iraq obsession already reeks of politics. Pushing for a pre-election vote would only confirm the worst assumptions about Bush's motives. It's in his interest, and in the interest of the nation, to hold a vote when politics are not a primary concern.

We've been hearing from Bush about how "patient" he is -- he repeats that mantra in every speech. So how can one explain this:

White House officials have said that their patience with Congress would not extend much past the current session. With no guarantee that members would return for a lame-duck, post-election session, officials said they expected a resolution of support before adjournment.
There's no evidence Hussein is about to do anything untoward against the US or its neighbors, so why the hurry? Yeah, yeah, they want to make the war an election issue, but why be so brazen and open about it?

And there is still no indication that war is the cure-all for the GOP's electoral troubles. The GOP is crowing about Toricelli's problems, and predicting they will regain the Senate, but across the country, it's clearly the Republicans who are on the defensive. And, the Democrats have home-field advantage:

In some ways, Republicans and Democrats are in surprising agreement about what issues voters are considering. "When we ask people what issues they are remembering in the campaign, the No. 1 issue they are saying is corporate abuse," said Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster. "And the second issue is prescription drugs."
The war could be an issue, but it's not clear it will trump economic concerns, and it's not clear that voters will even want war. And, it'll be hard to blast Dems for opposing the war so long as prominant and well-liked, well-respected Republicans lead the charge against Bush's war plans.

    | 08:20 AM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Thursday | September 05, 2002
A war resolution all of Congress can support

The administration briefed some members of Congresss on the Iraqi situation, but apparantly offered no new information. Many are speculating the administration is cornering Democrats into a tight space -- forcing them to take a stand on Gulf War II on the eve of the November elections.

But that makes several assumptions:

  1. The public wants war. As we have seen, support for war has been soft among the public, and has experienced a steady decline as opposing arguments get aired in the press (down 13 percent in the last two weeks alone). The numbers are particularly bad when considering unilateral invasion of Iraq without allied support. (Here's an old post on the subject.) There is no guarantee that voting against war would be a political liability.

  2. Republicans will back Bush. Republicans have led the charge against Bush's war plans, including Hagel, Lugar, and the biggest shocker of them all, Armey. Perhaps Rove could line up all the ducks and present a unified front, but that seems doubtful at this time. That is, unless Bush can manufacture evidence that Al Queda is somehow linked to Hussein.

  3. A split vote on the resolution supports Bush's war plans. If there's one lesson the nation has learned the past few decades, it's to avoid war without the full support of the nation. If Bush can only muster 55-65 votes in the Senate, it will reflect poorly on his war efforts. The US public and Congress have shown a willingness to strongly support a just war (like Afghanistan), thus lack of complete support for an Iraq invasion would be a blow to Bush's efforts.
In any case, here's a resolution that everyone can support, and will ensure we don't go to war:
We, the Congress of the United States, authorize force to effect 'Regime Change' in Iraq, provided the following conditions are met:
  1. The Administration certifies that Iraq is manufacturing weapons of mass destruction, and provides evidence of such;

  2. The Administration, working alongside the U.N. Security Council, makes a bona fide and concerted effort to reintroduce UN weapons inspectors back into Iraq, in accordance to previous Security Council resolutions; and

  3. The Administration secures new authorization to effect 'regime change' from the U.N. Security Council.
You know they'll never be able to get Security Council authorization. Oh, we can have lots of fun with this resolution -- we can add requirements that the US have binding commitments from other nations for Iraq's rebuilding, or requirements that the US enter battle alongside a broad international coalition of more than just UK.

Such a resolution would give the administration power to attack Iraq, provided they follow some legitimate, common sense steps. It would ensure that the US plays nice with the world community, and within bounds of international law. And would check the US from becoming the belligerant, arrogant, obnoxious bully into which Bush has turned us.

    | 08:33 AM | Link | Comments (1) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Wednesday | September 04, 2002
Spy court travails

Apparently feeding from Ashcroft's talking points, Time Magazine assails a recent ruling by the previously secret "Spy Court" (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ):

The court ruled that the Justice Department and FBI could not take advantage of several key liberalizations of FISA included in the U.S.A. Patriot Act, passed after the Sept. 11 attacks. Attorney General John Ashcroft wanted criminal prosecutors and counterintelligence agents to share information in a coordinated manner, and Congress agreed by legalizing such information sharing in the act; but the court now insists that Justice continue to observe the pre-Sept. 11 FISA restrictions. As a result, the Administration says its war on terrorism hangs in the balance. As the FISA law stands, an FBI intelligence squad and criminal squad, both assigned to watch potential terrorists, cannot freely talk to each other. If the intelligence squad finds out through a wiretap that a bomb is about to be set off, it cannot instantly tip off a criminal squad, so the would-be villains can be rounded up. Also, the "spitting on the sidewalk" strategy is undermined; evidence produced by FISA wiretaps cannot be used to support an arrest for a mundane crime like credit-card fraud. Ashcroft and his aides regard the situation as silly and dangerous.
Aside from the fact that Ashcroft finds the entire U.S. Constitution "silly and dangerous", Time's take on the issue is effectively and comprehensively rebutted by TalkLeft. In short, despite what Time might think, Congress crafted language to explicitly prevent the secret court from issuing surveillance warrants for "mundane" criminal acts (which require a higher standard of proof before judges can grant them).
Along comes the draft of the Patriot Act. Ashcroft initially requested that the requirement that intelligence gathering be the primary purpose of the application be reduced to simply "a purpose" from "the primary purpose."

Congress balked and a compromise was worked out. The final Patriot Act language (which is now law) requires FISA court warrants be issued only for applications that allege intelligence gathering is a "significant purpose" of the request.

Ashcroft, unhappy with the Patriot Act's language, then tried an end-run against Congressional intent by declaring that law enforcement purposes (rather than counter-intelligence or counter-terrorism) can be a primary purpose of a Spy Court surveillance request.

As Time would have it, the Spy Court is suddenly a bastion of liberal, pro-terrorist judges attempting to subvert Ashcroft's heroic efforts to secure the Homeland against foreign aggression. But as TalkLeft notes, the Spy Court has approved 13,000 surveillance requests since its inception, and turned down just one.

Fact is, the court has made a ruling consistent with Congressional intent, and the administration is furious. They are appealing the case (the first appeal in the court's history), but due to the court's bizarre nature, the appeals court will hear one argument -- that of Ashcroft's Justice Department. No other groups are allowed to argue or even submit amicus briefs.

This is indeed a complex issue, but one with sweeping ramifications for our freedoms. And the whole process will be conducted behind close doors, with no participation from interested parties beyond the Justice Department.

Depressing. No wonder I'm looking forward to baseball tonight.

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


Off to watch A's make baseball history

Okay. I'm supposed to be getting work done. But all I can do is count the hours -- seven left -- before I can take my seat behind 1st base at the Oakland Coliseum and watch the A's try to win their 20th straight. As even this Yankee fan has to admit, the A's are way past cool. The third lowest payroll in baseball set to beat an ages-old Yankee record. They win tonight, and they will have broken the American League record for consecutive victories.

Being a long-suffering Cubs fan, it's nice to be blessed with a home-town team that actually wins. It's karmic payback for years of endless Cubbie losses, and I wouldn't trade this for the world. So for one night, I'll pretend I have the money for the expensive seats I bought, pretend that this nation isn't being led by an inarticulate boffoon stricken with war lust, pretend I have a safe job, as well as the other 50,000+ fans at the game. And I'll get lost in the moment --

A ball, a bat and a glove.

    | 12:29 PM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Compounding the GOP's troubles

As if Republicans don't already have enough troubles, they face an ideologically focused assault from the far-right wing Club for Growth.

Rather than wield its significant resources against Democrats, the Club for Growth targets moderate Republicans in conservative House districts, hoping to elect more dogmatic candidates.

"If there is any single role that Club for Growth plays, it is to hold Republicans accountable for votes that betray the Republican agenda," said [Club for Growth President Stephen] Moore, who hopes to discover and nurture the next generation of Ronald Reagans. "We think we play an important role in disciplining the party."

[...]

"We have a lot of members who are more driven by ideology than party," Moore said during an interview in his office, rented from a Washington law firm. "We think we are starting to change the culture of the party."

This quest for ideological purity will be one of the key reasons Democrats will do well in November. Not only will voters be more likely to vote for a moderate Democrat over a Club For Growth-sponsored wingnut, but Republicans are wasting their money fighting each other:
In response, a moderate Republican group, the Republican Main Street Partnership, has jumped into the race to defend Gilchrest, spending at least $100,000 on a week of television ads and a get-out-the-vote drive on election day.

The group's executive director, Sarah Chamberlain Resnick, said the effort is an answer to Club for Growth's attacks on Republican moderates like Gilchrest and New Jersey Rep. Marge Roukema, who barely survived a primary challenge by a club candidate in 2000 and avoided another this year by retiring.

"It's unfortunate that they keep going after moderate Republicans," Resnick said. "We thought it was time to stop them."

Each dollar these groups spend fighting themselves is one less dollar targeted against a Democratic candidate. And, so long as the GOP's wingnuts deliver candidates like California's Bill Simon and Iowa's Gangske, it will ease the inevitable return of Democratic majorities throughout the land.

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


TRO's Senate outlook

In 2000, Democratic candidate Maria Cantwell shocked the DC establishment and contradicted all pre-election polls by defeating GOP incumbent Slade Gordon in the Washington Senate race. The race was a squeaker, but symptomatic of the increasing Democratic bent of the nation's entire West Coast.

The National Review's political reporter, John Miller, worries that Oregon may follow Washington's lead:

This could be the sleeper race of the year for Democrats -- they're hoping for another surprise in the Northwest, repeating the razor-thin, upset victory over GOP Sen. Slade Gorton of Washington two years ago. Smith is the favorite, but his reelection numbers have not been impressive. Definitely worth watching.
The Oregon race is just one of 12 analyzed in the piece, which is surprisingly pessimistic given the right-wing, cheer-Republicans-at-all-costs bent of the publication. Miller shatters GOP illusions of picking up Senate seats in Iowa ("state ... has trended Democrat in recent elections") and Georgia ("unseating [Cleland] would be a major upset"). And, despite all the pre-election hype and uncompetitive poll numbers, Miller rates the North Carolina race as competitive ("[Dole's] campaign has succeeded so far by avoiding mistakes, but the generally right-leaning voters of North Carolina have shown a tendency in recent years to cast ballots for Democrats").

Missing from the list are Louisiana and Montana, which the GOP desperately wanted to make competitive. But Miller does ignore Arkansas, the most vulnerable GOP-held seat in the Senate today. Probably an oversight.

Want more rankings? MyDD has excellent Senate rankings, and he even calls for an Democratic upset victory in South Carolina. Business Week has its own Senate race analysis, and at some point, I'm sure ABC News will update their hopelessly out of date Senate rankings.

    | 08:26 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Tuesday | September 03, 2002
Off-topic

Lest I be accused of being a humorless liberal, take a look at these following Amazon.com reviews (make sure you read down to the reviews!).

    | 03:16 PM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


McBride up in FL, Smith up in NH

Two bits of good news:

1) Dem primary candidate McBride is riding some serious momentum to possible victory over Janet Reno. Hopelessly behind in the polls just weeks ago, McBride is now in a statistical dead heat with Reno, and has received the endorsements of every major Florida newspaper. And, as he rises in the polls, fundraisers have started to pour dollars into his campaign coffers.

McBride is far more competitive against Jeb than Reno, who motivates the right-wing and Cuban-American vote like no one short of Bill Clinton himself. A poll today showed McBride leading Jeb 49-46. However, take the poll with a grain of sand -- it's a Survey USA poll (which are not to be trusted).

Update: This more reliable (though partisan) poll has McBride and Jeb statistically tied, with Bush up 48-47 percent. In that same poll, Bush leads Reno by 16 points, 55-39.

2) Up in NH, Sen. Smith has pulled even with his primary challenger John Sununu. Sununu had led in the race for months, but appeals to Smith's seniority and experience seem to be turning the tide. A Smith victory would improve the chances of a Dem pickup. In the poll, Dem candidate Jeanne Shaheen led Smith 42-39, while Sununu led Shaheen 44-43.

    | 11:19 AM | Link | Comments (0) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Term limits hurts governance

A news analysis in the LA Times confirms some of the worst fears about term limits.

This is an opinion piece, so term-limit advocates undoubtedly have their own spin on the matter. However, it seems clear that term limits in California have ushered in an era of amateur legislators, so inexperienced they depend on career staffers and special interest lobbyists to help guide their decisions.

In addition, legislators are in office so short a time that they do not get a chance to establish relationships with their colleagues on the other side of the aisle, fostering a more partisan atmosphere.

When all actions are tallied, the production of the session that ended Sunday shortly past midnight likely will match that of recent years. There were bills on vital issues ranging from school construction and renewable energy to water delivery, recycling and mass transit. But to Capitol veterans, the scene seemed haphazard, rushed, increasingly partisan and perhaps overly influenced by special interests.

"Everybody here is on a learning curve," said Assemblyman Bill Leonard (R-San Bernardino), serving out his 24th and final year in the Legislature.

    | 08:54 AM | Link | Comments (9) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Trib delivers bad news to GOP

As a new Tribune/WGN poll proves, the GOP is about to lose Illinois -- one of the nation's largest and most centrist states. And when I write "lose", I don't mean a particular race. It appears the GOP has so alienated Illinois voters that the once-reliable swing state may be a solid Dem for the foreseable future.

GOP gubernatorial candidate Jim Ryan trails his Democratic adversary, Rod Blagojevich, by 17 points. Freshman Senator Dick Durbin is cruising to an easy reelection victory. Other polls have suggested the Dems will sweep every statewide office on the ballot.

Bush's approval ratings are down to 59 percent in the state, while a majority disapprove of his handling of the economy. Bush lost big in Illinois in 2000, and there's no indication he will be able to turn things around for 2004.

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


That's one lazy president!

The country is in recession, at war, and facing deep deficits. Yet Bush has spent 42 percent of his time on vacation!

    | 08:14 AM | Link | Comments (2) | Email this post | Trackback (0)


Sunday | September 01, 2002
Surprise! Ohio governor's race in play

An independent poll by the Columbus Post Dispatch confirms the GOP's worst fears -- even safe governor seats, held by popular incumbents, are in danger from the rising Democratic tide.

GOP Gov. Taft has money, he has a "storied" name, he governs in a fairly Republican state, and he faces a candidate with next to zero dollars. Yet, he leads only 47-39 percent. The question thus becomes, can the state Democratic Party's superior GOTV (get out the vote) efforts overcome Taft's 20-fold lead in campaign cash? It already appears as though Dem candidate Hagan won't even be able to air any ads:

GOP statewide and legislative candidates have huge campaign-money advantages over Democratic opponents; Taft has at least 20 times as much campaign cash as Hagan. In a state where millions of dollars are needed for TV ads to reach 7 million voters in eight media markets, Hagan could become the second Democratic candidate in the past three gubernatorial elections to air no television spots.
On the other hand, Ohio's finances are in shambles, and the electorate seems to be in a "anyone but Taft" mood.
"It's not going to be the dull, easy walk that a lot of people think it might be,'' said Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican.

"This is the worst political environment Republicans have faced in 20 years,'' lamented Brett Buerck, chief of staff for majority Ohio House Republicans.

Melting 401(k)s, corporate scandal and greed, baby boomers' angst about Social Security, years of impending federal deficits, dissension over the wisdom of attacking Iraq -- these national issues are conspiring against Republicans as polls show a majority of Americans fearing the nation is on the wrong track.

Ultimately, the race will probably hinge on which party has the best GOTV efforts:
Both parties -- for different reasons -- are worried about their supporters turning out for the election. Democrats are concerned that an absence of TV advertising, particularly in the governor's race, could dampen enthusiasm among the faithful. Republicans fear that the poor economy and corporate scandals will depress the turnout of their voters.

[...]

For all the state party's weaknesses, Democrats were surprisingly adept in the 2000 presidential election's grass-roots "ground game,'' said John Green, political-science professor at the University of Akron, nudging Al Gore within 3.6 percentage points of a victory.

What's amazing about that 3.6 percent figure is that Gore's campaign wrote off Ohio early in the campaign season, figuring it was completely out of reach. Yet he came close to winning the state without having spent any money or time in the state (one of his campaign's costlier miscalculations). If that GOTV effort turns out for Democratic candidates, Ohio may provide one of the biggest surprises this coming election.

(Story courtesy of the MyDD message boards.)

    | 03:09 PM | Link | Comments (6) | Email this post | Trackback (0)




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