Tuesday, November 23, 2004

More fun with the dollar. From the Financial Times today:
The US dollar fell to a fresh low against the euro on Tuesday, breaching the $1.31 barrier for the first time.

The cataylst was a hint from the Russian central bank that it plans to step up its policy of switching its foreign exchange reserves into euros, at the expense of the dollar…

…More importantly, the Russian comments highlighted the prospect of Asian central banks with larger reserves following suit. China has an estimated 80 per cent of its $515bn of reserves in dollars, while Middle Eastern central banks were rumoured to be selling dollars and buying sterling on Tuesday.

…The greenback also fell 0.6 per cent to a fresh eight-year low of SFr1.1564 against the Swiss franc, 0.7 per cent to a nine-month low of A$0.7877 against the Australian dollar, 0.7 per cent to a four-month low of $1.8726 against sterling and 0.9 per cent to a seven-month low of Rbs28.49 against the rouble itself.

Atrios has a report that Morgan Stanley's chief economist Stephen Roach has been privately warning of an economic meltdown.
His prediction: America has no better than a 10 percent chance of avoiding economic ``armageddon.''

Press were not allowed into the meetings. But the Herald has obtained a copy of Roach's presentation. A stunned source who was at one meeting said, ``it struck me how extreme he was - much more, it seemed to me, than in public.''

Roach sees a 30 percent chance of a slump soon and a 60 percent chance that ``we'll muddle through for a while and delay the eventual armageddon.''
The long and short term results of a collapse in the dollar vary depending on who you talk to, but this much is certain, it would be a rough ride. Investors across the globe will lose money as the dollar loses value, foreign banks and other investors will be less likely to let us borrow money and essential imports like oil will jump in price.

For an administration that has no intentions of trying to wean our dependance on oil, even the slightest, which choses to fund the government through heavy borrowing, and which is paying little or no attention to the analysts and experts across the globe who are trying to warn them that their policies are driving this decline; this will be a nasty wake-up call.

The reality of the situation combined with the inexplicable refusal to re-evaluate its policies means that this administration may just drive us into the ground while claiming everything is pie in the sky.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Tom Shales has a great piece in the Washington Post about FCC Chairman Michael Powell's "indecency" crusade. An excerpt:
The madness reached its appalling apotheosis on Veterans Day: Sixty-five of ABC's 220 owned or affiliated stations declined to air the universally praised Steven Spielberg film "Saving Private Ryan," about American heroes of World War II, because the verboten F-word is spoken several times, and the FCC now fines stations sometimes astronomical amounts if even a few people file complaints over what they have heard.

This means Spielberg's acclaimed Holocaust film, "Schindler's List," cannot be shown again on a broadcast network because it, too, contains unpleasant language and, of course, graphic violence. See, it's about the Nazis, and they tended to be a little pushy. But realism is no defense, artistic excellence is no defense, even a consensus that the program in question constitutes a public service is no defense. (By contractual agreement, Spielberg's films must be shown without deletions or alterations.)
The whole article is worth reading.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Breaking open the "Investor Class" myth( via Matthew Yglesias). I think many people know this in general, but it's nice to put some numbers to the fact that the tax cuts aimed at the "investor class" will benefit the most wealthy among us. The argument is that there are more and more middle-class families with investments and that eliminating income tax on corporate dividends will benefit them and help the ranks of the invested grow.

This quick rundown by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities breaks down who receives income from corporate dividends and how much. It's pretty easy to see who will benefit the most, and its not the middle-class investor.

It's worth some time to read through some of the Center's Reports. It doesn't take long to start seeing some light through the administration's fiscal rhetoric.
AchPundit asks a good question, one that seems to be left behind in some of the process coverage of the DeLay debacle.
DeLay and the others deserve their day in court, but trying to dismiss this as politically motivated is nothing more than ignoring his many ethical lapses in the past.

If DeLay is never indicted, then this was unnecessary, though telling act. If he is, why do Republicans want him as their Leader?

This whole debate stinks of the worst sort of corruption, that of the corrupting influence of power. This isn't about money, although it is certainly one of the tools of the trade, but its importance is its ability to wield power. Those who control the money can control the future of the local politicians trying to make it in state and local elections (the Democratic anger at the discovery that Kerry has $15 million in unspent funds in the bank and made no effort to use it to help down-ticket races is a perfect example).

DeLay is one of the most powerful politicians in memory, not for his power or his ability to write essential legislation, but for his ability to wield his power. Something he does often and with little concern for the mess he makes. His control over the party machine, his expertise in reworking house rules for his advantage and his power over the purse give him almost unchecked reign.

The evidence of this is the rather timid nature in which House Republicans who have objected to the rules change have stated their opposition. Josh Marshall has been documenting some of the ways in which House Republicans have "stood up" to DeLay. Who's talking and who's not(scroll up). Some have announced their opposition, some say they will only respond to questions from constituents, many have simply tried not to answer the phone or have been "indisposed" since before the vote.

The Republicans know this looks bad. There is almost no way they can spin this as being an attempt to avoid, "criminalizing politics," as Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) has claimed. The vote was taken in secret so as to give the members denyability. Fortunately thanks to Josh Marshall and others, this is very thin cover. There have been numerous claims that the rules change is hypocrisy at its finest. It was put in place to try and shame the Democrats in the mid-90's who had such corrupt House Leaders as Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-Il). Now, with the potential of a DeLay indictment (no one knows if it will happen or not, but the fact that the Republicans would make such a change may indicate that something is coming down the pike) the Republicans have abandoned their own moral high ground.

Which brings us back to our original point, if he is indicted and he maintains his leadership position, what does that say about the Republicans? It makes one wonder if this obviously self-preservationist move may cause DeLay to lose support. Certainly he has enormous power, but at what point does he simply become a liability? The corrupt politician meme is hard to battle when your leadership is under indictment.

Voters often expect a certain amount of self-serving from their politicians, even accusations of corruption and illegal activities are sometimes overlooked for one reason or another. Two famous examples were Gov. Huey "The Kingfish of Louisiana" Long and Massachusetts politician James Curley who was re-elected while in jail for fraud. Recently Marion Barry, former mayor of the District of Columbia was elected to the D.C. district council even after being indicted for possession of crack cocaine. Many of these politicians were colorful characters who, although corrupt, provided something to the voters that they were unable to get otherwise. They were tolerated if not sometimes celebrated.

Yet the kind of hubris and shamelessness exhibited by DeLay and some of his former aides and associates is verging on the incredible. Two of DeLay's former aides were recently indicted for, in essence, bribery. They managed to help close some Indian casinos and then approached the tribe involved offering to try and get their casinos re-opened for the low price of $4 million bucks. That is a shakedown.

DeLay himself has received several ethics admonishments in the House for his actions in the redistricting effort in Texas, which is also the focus of the DA's investigation.

For a party that ran on a platform of moral values, a consistent pattern of corruption and hubris is not likely to fly well for long. There are numerous good Republicans serving in Congress at the moment. Moderate Republicans who are working to help their constituents, not simply establish a permanent majority, whatever the cost. These Republicans need to stand up and denounce the actions of the few among the leadership who will, if unchecked, run their party into the ground.
The Stakeholder has a good rundown on the case against Tom DeLay in Texas. It seems that there are some pretty hard-and-fast laws in Texas when it comes to corporate contributions in state elections; they can't. DeLay's problems stem from the fact that he spent a good deal of time and effort to find ways around the law. The question on everyone's mind is will DeLay be indicted personally. The PAC that he founded got into trouble for laundering money through the RNC, there were several DeLay associates indicted in those cases. DeLay himself was involved in pressuring out-of-state companies to donate to campaigns one case in which he received an admonishment from the ethics committee.

This all leads up to the recent decision to change the Republican's own leadership rules so that DeLay can continue to serve even if he is indicted.

The whole mess is even further complicated by the fact that DeLay's cronies in Texas may attempt to go after the prosecutor investigating the situation, Ron Earl, through redistricting and other structural techniques.

When these guys play, they play for keeps.
Just when I start saying good things about the National Review, Ramesh Ponnuru has to write something like this on their blog.
TAX REFORM [Ramesh Ponnuru]
I'd been hearing, even before the election, that the administration was looking at getting rid of the deduction for state and local taxes as part of its tax-reform package. I'm all for the policy: Why should low-tax states subsidize high-tax ones? Why should the federal government encourage states to have high taxes? But didn't tax reformers get their heads handed to them over this precise issue in 1985-86? Of course, there were more New York Republicans then to worry about.

The administration is also apparently looking at taxing employer-provided health insurance. Again, a good policy: that tax break has done a lot of damage to health-care markets over the years. And anyone who wants to get rid of the alternative minimum tax without swelling the deficit has to look at taxing health insurance: It's one of the few tax breaks that can generate the necessary funds. But again, there are obvious political risks here.
Posted at 11:40 AM

As to the first point of who subsidizes who, there seems to be plenty of evidence that in general the Blue States receive less money from the Federal Government than they give, while the Red States tend to receive more than they give. TaxProfBlog gives a good rundown of the Tax Foundation's report on this subject.
The report shows that of the 32 states (and the District of Columbia) that are "winners" -- receiving more in federal spending than they pay in federal taxes -- 76% are Red States that voted for George Bush in 2000. Indeed, 17 of the 20 (85%) states receiving the most federal spending per dollar of federal taxes paid are Red States. Here are the Top 10 states that feed at the federal trough (with Red States highlighted in bold):
States Receiving Most in Federal Spending Per Dollar of Federal Taxes Paid:
1. D.C. ($6.17)
2. North Dakota ($2.03)
3. New Mexico ($1.89)
4. Mississippi ($1.84)
5. Alaska ($1.82)
6. West Virginia ($1.74)
7. Montana ($1.64)
8. Alabama ($1.61)
9. South Dakota ($1.59)
10. Arkansas ($1.53)

In contrast, of the 16 states that are "losers" -- receiving less in federal spending than they pay in federal taxes -- 69% are Blue States that voted for Al Gore in 2000. Indeed, 11 of the 14 (79%) of the states receiving the least federal spending per dollar of federal taxes paid are Blue States. Here are the Top 10 states that supply feed for the federal trough (with Blue States highlighted in bold):
States Receiving Least in Federal Spending Per Dollar of Federal Taxes Paid:
1. New Jersey ($0.62)
2. Connecticut ($0.64)
3. New Hampshire ($0.68)
4. Nevada ($0.73)
5. Illinois ($0.77)
6. Minnesota ($0.77)
7. Colorado ($0.79)
8. Massachusetts ($0.79)
9. California ($0.81)
10. New York ($0.81)

As for his assertion that the employer health care tax break is screwing up the market, I can't make much of that. However, I can tell you, if that goes, so does millions of workers' health care.
Laura Rozen over at War and Piece has a copy of the Goss memo to the CIA.

The paragraph that has raised eyebrows:
I want everyone in our workforce to know - I seek to encourage and expect the best from everyone in CIA. Our country demands it, our President needs it, and this institution deserves it. I also intend to clarify beyond doubt the rules of the road. We support the Administration and its policies in our work. As Agency employees we do not identify with, support, or champion opposition to the Administration or its policies. We provide the intelligence as we see it - and let the facts alone speak to the policymaker.

Goss has asserted that the statement was taken out of context. Yet the context of the paragraph makes it pretty clear. Read the whole memo and it becomes even more clear that the intention was exactly what critics have said, no dissent will be tolerated.

While I can understand the desire to want to cut down on possible leaks and controlling media access to agents, the statement sounds like they plan on only presenting information that will support the administrations decision. Picking an outcome and then finding facts to back it up is an awful way to run an intelligence operation. It's how this whole mess in Iraq got started. It'll be quick, we'll be welcomed and we'll install our guy Chalabi who will be accepted because he's an Iraqi. That worked out well didn't it.

In fact, it was the dissenting voices in the CIA who will most likely feel the brunt of the coming changes. Those who said, correctly, that the administration's expectations for the post-war period were completely wrong and things will go sideways pretty quickly. It is this crew of "realists" rather than "supporters" that did most of the leaking. Not to harm anyone, but to exhibit that whatever is going on at the top of the chain and in the White House, we told you Iraq would devolve the way it has and you ignored us.

It's a bit of payback, but it is also a cry for help. They need help to escape the politicization that has occurred under Bush. The appointment of Goss and the signals he has given illustrate that they can only expect more of the same.
I think this statement from Rep John Dingell (D-MI) sums up the DeLay Bill situation very nicely (via Josh Marshall):
"These folks talk about values and decency, but then think it’s okay to change the rules once it appears one of their own may have broken them. This amounts to a work release program for the ethically challenged. We should all remember that a decade ago, Mr. DeLay helped to create this rule. Republicans said at the time they were the party of reform and good government. Now they’ve become the party of moribund hubris."

I especially like that "moribund hubris" line.

Marshall also has been doing a rundown of the Republicans who voted against this rule change. While they still support the party, they do deserve a pat on the back for not being complete cads.

Josh also does a good job of playing out the possible scenario that would develop if DeLay were indicted and convicted. If the Republican party is already willing to take this step, can letting a convicted criminal serve be far behind? This all depends on the possible indictment of course, but given this latest step, do they know something's coming down the pike?

Check it out over at Talking Points Memo.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Economist Brad Delong posted an excerpt from an article he and Steven Cohen are working on for the Atlantic Monthly.
Steve Cohen and I are thrashing about, trying to write a piece about corporate welfare capitalism and the future of social insurance for the Atlantic Monthly. We are treading in the footsteps of Peter Gosselin of the LA Times and Jacob Hacker:

In the opening the article hits on something I have been talking about for a while now. This fascination with the post-WWII period and the fetishization that goes along with it. This is most often found in Republican and/or aged circles. The belief that the period was a perfect period of growth, stability and exemplar of the true American values. Often this is combined with a belief that if people would just stop complaining and get a job we could return to that idillic period.

DeLong's piece highlights something that needs to be repeated in order to burst this modern mythology
This post-World-War-II period stands as a reference point in our collective memory of our economic history as one of rapid growth and shared prosperity. It lingers in our national memory, and remains an important source of confidence in the unity of our culture and the awesome power of our economy. But although it serves as a baseline for our economic expectations, our sense of "the way things ought to be," in reality the post-war era was in all likelihood an aberration, a period marked by a confluence of events never before seen in our history, and unlikely to be seen again
Its not that we shouldn't strive for the ideal that many see in that period, but that is must be seen honestly for what it was, a lucky break. What should also be acknowledged were the cultural and social upheavals underway at the time. It is often believed that the civil rights movement was a late-60's phenomenon, but it had been underway for generations and the 50's were no exception.
In 1954, the Supreme Court unanimously rules in Brown v. Board of Education that public school segregation violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment and in 1955 orders that desegregation proceed "with all deliberate speed." The murder of Emmett Till in Mississippi in 1955 receives prominent coverage in the press. In December 1955, the year-long Montgomery bus boycott begins; its eventual success demonstrates the potential of nonviolent mass action and brings the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to national attention.

Resistance to school desegregation in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957 causes President Eisenhower to dispatch more than 1,000 paratroopers to enforce a federal court order as an estimated 200 reporters cover the events. Congress passes the first federal civil rights act since Reconstruction, but only after it is weakened by Southern opposition. In 1959, a television documentary on the Nation of Islam brings Malcolm X to wider public attention.
And these are just the civil rights highlights. (From The Library of America's: Reporting Civil Rights.)

In order to move forward we must learn from, not mythologize our past. DeLong and Cohen's piece seems to try and do just that by examining the role of corporate welfare and social insurance through the years. I look forward to reading it.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Yet more strange electoral math from the "liberal media" via Nick Confessore at Tapped and Josh Marshall atTalking Points Memo.

Yet again, those on the right are asserting that without a large block of its base, the Democratic party would prove no threat to Bush. So, in other words, if you have fewer members you...have fewer members? How these inane lines of thought get out are baffling to me. Even more so is the fact that this is another line that we will find repeated by the Republican pundits. Inevitably, Brooks will pick it up as more proof that the Dems need to look away from the cities and expand into the surrounding area. Despite the fact that the statement makes as much sense as saying, "without rural voters, Kerry would have crushed Bush."

Wait for it.
Certainly the CIA as well as other intelligence agencies needed some overhaull, but a gutting of the CIA using loyalty to the President as the bar should raise serious questions by even the most partisan of people.
WASHINGTON -- The White House has ordered the new CIA director, Porter Goss, to purge the agency of officers believed to have been disloyal to President George W. Bush or of leaking damaging information to the media about the conduct of the Iraq war and the hunt for Osama bin Laden, according to knowledgeable sources.

"The agency is being purged on instructions from the White House," said a former senior CIA official who maintains close ties to both the agency and to the White House. "Goss was given instructions ... to get rid of those soft leakers and liberal Democrats. The CIA is looked on by the White House as a hotbed of liberals and people who have been obstructing the president's agenda."

To most observers this move is at the same time unsurprising as it is unbelievable. With the appointment of Porter Goss the accelerated politicization of the CIA was expected, but such a wide-spread housecleaning is hard to believe.

This move clearly illustrates what critics of the administration's governing style have been saying for years. Rather than forcing its policies to stand up to criticism and examination in order to isolate and fix problems, the administration simply wants loyal members to sign off on its plans. The style reflects repeated conservative criticism of university professors and scientists. Those two groups constantly submit their ideas and analysis to knowledgeable peers in their field for criticism. If their work does not stand up to criticism, it doesn't get published. Put out too much bad work, you lose your job. Its a constantly self-inspecting system (it's far from perfect, of course, bad work does get out on a regular basis, but there is a system in place that in the majority of cases assures that the work that does go out has passed some "reality-based" tests.). Such evaluation systems are kryptonite to this White House.

This is of an especially critical nature due to the fact that we are tinkering with the essential intelligence gathering field. If the gatherers are afraid to push pass along bad news due to fear of retribution from superiors because the analysis does not reflect the politically accepted world-view than the situation will become very bad, very quickly.

The military and intelligence community has been fighting to remove this sort of interference from its systems since the dark days of Vietnam, it is not a period I believe they would want to return to.
Changing the rules of the road. As the Republicans gain more and more control in the Senate, expect new rule changes to come into effect. The recent push has been to try and eliminate the filibuster, or at the least vilify its use as an impediment to Democracy. Yet at the same time the Republicans in the Senate are happy to change the rules to their advantage, thus denying the Democrats any other procedural methods to counter the Republican's agenda.

Don't let anyone tell you different, the Senate is not a zero-sum institution. Just because you control +%50 of the Senate does not mean you manage it as if you own it. The Congress is meant to be a place where policy can be discussed and the states and the people can have a voice in how the government goes about its business. Under the Republicans it has become a place to punish those who disagree with them. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Penn) found this after he publicly voiced opposition to strong anti-Roe judicial nominees. Sen. Specter has been no friend to liberals, but has been consistently pro-choice. He has since been in full apology mode in order to try and maintain the possibility of Chairman.

From AP/CNN via Josh Marshall:
Sen. Arlen Specter must prove to his Republican colleagues that he is the right man to head the Senate Judiciary Committee in the next Congress, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Sunday.

Frist, R-Tennessee, would not say if he backed Specter, R-Pennsylvania, for the job. Specter will make his case to GOP colleagues this week when Congress returns for a postelection session.

This is what the Republicans do to their own.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

The recent debate over the effect of the religious right on the GOP and the administration has started me wondering about the possibility of a split in the Republican party. The question centers around whether the GOP will go back to its modern corporate-sponsored roots, or if it will begin to give more voice to the christian right who believe that they won the election for Bush. The christian right, led by folks like James Dobson, certainly feels they are owed. They no longer want to be merely foot-soldiers, but king makers.

Yet as Kevin Drum pointed out the other day, the "values"-oriented campaign themes have taken a back seat to what seem to be the administration's priorities. The first few topics President Bush has focused on have been social security reform, tax cuts and oil. These are all topics of greatest interest to the fiscally-oriented Republicans. If the President has a "mandate" and intends on spending his political capital, are these the issues the christian right was expecting him to be focusing on? I have my doubts. As an article on Daily Kos points out, the President is already encountering resistance in the legislature to some of his plans. In this case its immigration reform. It involves a moderate program (in relation to the conservative no-tolerance position) that seeks to allow guest workers in from Mexico, a program conservatives hate.

Former GOP consultant Arthur Finkelstein believed the Bush campaign strategy split the country on cultural and religious lines and invested the christian right with an importance and value that exceeds their actual influence. He believes the Republicans have saddled themselves with a group that could potentially be the decisive faction in upcoming elections. The christian right certainly believes they are the decisive players for the future.

It's going to take some time to figure out how much of an influence they do have as new appointments are made, legislative committees are reshuffled and the legislative session starts back up. One case that may serve as an early guide is the replacement of John Ashcroft with Alberto Gonzales. Ashcroft was a friend to the christian right, while many conservatives oppose Gonzales for being soft on abortion rights. Gonzales, however, is a long-time associate of the Bush family and has been very helpful as the White House Chief Consul in furthering the administration's foreign policy objectives (Gonzales was the author of the controversial memos stating how the administration could avoid adhering to the Geneva Conventions, this over the outrage and protest of the military. A group that will be most affected by any changes in international war law). The debate over Gonzales has already begun.

The current debate has led me to wonder about the possibility of a split in the Republican Party. The christian right is very vocal and tend to vote as a group. An administration that does not sufficiently kowtow to their wishes, may find themselves on the sharp end of their ideology as Sen. Specter (R-Penn) found out last week. Sen. Specter, who is in line to be Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, publicly warned (unwisely) President Bush not to push on any anti-choice judges. The christian right's retribution was fast and furious. James Dobson, of the christian right group Focus on the Family, said on ABC's This Week that Sen. Specter needs to be "derailed." The hits came fast and furious and Specter has since publicly groveled for absolution. Even if he survives and is named Chairman, its doubtful he will cause much trouble for the administration.

Sen. Specter has been no friend to Democrats and is hardly much of a moderate, yet even he received the lash for stepping out of line, and into the sights of the newly-emboldened christian right. If this pattern continues, the moderate Republicans may quickly lose their patience with the christian right. The President himself may soon come under fire from them as well. A vocal, motivated and substantial fraction of a party may not tolerate not being pushed to the side for long.

The surprising enthusiasm for Judge Roy Moore (who has become a sort of christian-right folk hero) early in the year may indicate that the christian right may not wait for the party to come around. Judge Moore became a hero to the christian right when he refused to remove, as ordered by a federal judge, the 2.6 ton ten commandments monument he had installed in the atrium of the Alabama Supreme Court. The monument was soon removed by the state, as was Judge Moore. However, it was a federal ruling that finally removed the monument, thus confirming for the christian right that the federal judiciary was godless and cementing Moore's credentials with them. Moore openly intimated he was thinking of challenging Bush, and there were plenty of christians lining up to support him.

The Republicans will ignore the will of the christian right at their peril. The newfound influence of the christian right may not, as Finkelstein thought, elevate them to king-makers, but may actually split the Republicans into two camps, fighting it out for control of the party.
According to a report on Political Wire, the L.A. Times is reporting that the Born Again vote constituted %53 of the voters this election, thus providing Bush with the much-needed votes to win.

Now I have heard back and forth on the issue as to the weight of the born-again, evangelical, christian right vote. I even mentioned in my previous post that there was evidence that they didn't have as great an influence as the conventional wisdom and media would lead us to believe.

I think at this point I am going to say that it really doesn't matter. The christian right/born-again vote had a substantial impact, perhaps critically, perhaps not.

Regardless, as I pointed out in my last post, they feel they are owed big time and are going to make themselves heard.
There was an interesting article in the New York Times today. In it, Arthur Finkelstein, a long-time GOP consultant who is a veteran political knife-fighter, states that the Bush campaign strategy of relying upon the Christian right to secure victory split the country and may have created long-term problems for the Republican party.
"The political center has disappeared, and the Republican Party has become the party of the Christian right more so than in any other period in modern history."
"Bush's strategy secures the power of the American Christian right not only for this term," Mr. Finkelstein said in the interview. "In fact, it secures its ability to choose the next Republican president."
Finkelstein's concern centers around the fact that this election became a referendum on the religious and cultural nature of the country.

Now if a operative like Finkelstein, who has worked for such moderate characters as Sen. Jesse Helms and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, is concerned about the effect that Rove's strategy will have on the country, what does that say about this administration? James Dobson, head of the very conservative group Focus on the Family, has already intimated that he believes he and the other leading members of the Christian right will be calling the shots. Dobson recently said of Dem Sen. Patrick Lahey of Vermont
“Patrick Leahy is a ‘God’s people’ hater,” Dobson said.
“I don’t know if he hates God, but he hates God’s people.”

When George Stephanopolous asked Dobson on ABC's This Week if he felt he owed Sen. Lahey an apology for such a harsh criticism, Dobson emphatically said no, he didn't.

These are the characters who believe that they have the President's ear. They believe that they won the election for him (despite growing evidence that they turnout and participation was basically unchanged from 2000), and they intend to extract more than one pound of flesh from this administration.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

There is an excellent rundown at Daily Kos on the most likely replacement for Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales. He is currently the White House chief consul. The administration's lawyer that is. He is also the one who signed off on the White House's attempts to circumvent, and now to eliminate U.S. adherence to the Geneva Convention.

Update: Oh, I forgot to mention that he was also the general counsel for Enron. He also testified before the grand jury in the Valerie Plame investigation. (Lest we forget, the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald is still hunting down all the odds and ends over who exposed Plame as a CIA "operative". An investigation that is finding fingerprints in the White House.)
"The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved."

Attorney General John Ashcroft
November 9, 2004.

A man was beaten just outside his University City apartment by a group of five men who believed he was from the Middle East, San Diego police said Thursday.

The victim was trying to park when the assailants, all white men, threw a beer bottle and shattered his car window just after 11 p.m. Wednesday, Sgt. Rich Nemetz said.

The assailants then knocked down the victim as he got out of his car, kicking him, yelling racial slurs and telling him to go back to Iraq, Nemetz said. The victim is of Portuguese descent.

The men took the victim's shoes and fled in a black SUV, threatening to return and kill him, Nemetz said.

November 4, 2004
There is an excellent piece in this month's Washington Monthly titled, "Bernard Lewis Revisited", by Michael Hirsh. It's a post-Iraq invasion look at the role historian Bernard Lewis' vision of Islam, the Middle East and democracy played in the foreign policy views of the Bush administration.

Lewis is a historian who has since his early years at the University of London been fascinated by and done a great deal of compelling work on the history of the Middle East. I have been trying to read his bestselling book, "What Went Wrong" for awhile now. Its a short book on the history of Islam and the Middle East and how it led to modern-day Islamic extremism. Most of the criticism of Lewis in Hirsh's piece I found in just the portion of the book I have read. Lewis views most of the modern muslim world through the prism of medieval history. The book itself reads as an endorsement for the top-down imposition of democracy approach that has been adopted by the Bush administration.

For those who have read Lewis, or wish to better understand the intellectual and historical underpinnings for the administrations' foreign policy positions in the Middle East, Hirsh's piece is an excellent starter.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Over at the Bull Moose Blog, the Moose has a bit of fun with recent revelations that the political leadership of the christian right may want to re-read the parable of the rich man and the camel.
But, Pastor Moose, asks the faint-hearted to shield their eyes because this vile tale gets worse! Allegedly, Mr. Reed, that righteous paragon of purity, benefited from the proceeds of sin according to the Post,

Later, Abramoff brought in Reed, who was paid $4.2 million from 2001 to 2003 to mobilize Christians to oppose the plans of those threatening Abramoff's Indian gaming clients.

Now, that is what the Moose calls a faith based program. As Brother Elmer Gantry preached,
"...You think, uh, religion is for suckers and easy marks and molly-coddlers, eh?"
Mr. Reed would be none other than Christian Coalition wonderboy Ralph Reed. And as it turns out, one of the main players in this operation is Jack Abramoff, a former spokesman for Rep. Tom DeLay. It seems that DeLay's parters have been turning up all over the place in rather difficult situations.
I just came across an interesting piece by Laura Rozen's friend Dave Meyer. It's a quick look at the Catholic-Fundamentalist relationship in this past election season.
The apparent reconciliation between conservative evangelicals and conservative Catholics probably bears significant similarities to the reconciliation with conservative Jews. We'll work with them 'til Armageddon, but they're still bound for the lake of fire, which would have to freeze over before I'd vote for 'em.

The overlap between these two groups has caused me to scratch my head a few times. I was raised Catholic and understand the problems many Catholics had with Kerry, most of which was due to abortion. Yet given the history of the relationship between Catholics and non-Catholic christians in this country, the amount of coordination was surprising. Catholics (especially Irish-Catholics like myself) tend to have fairly long memories.
It appears that the recent worries about the falling dollar may be assuaged a bit thanks to our European allies. The European Union in fact. The Financial Times published a story today indicating that European politicians are attempting to verbally help the dollar/Euro exchange. The dollar has been steadily falling against the Euro, and indications that China may be seeking to move away from the dollar also raised fears for the dollar.

The European's move is certainly not philanthropic, "This coincided with the first indications that the strength of the euro, which has risen from $1.224 on October 13 to a peak of $1.296 on Monday, is starting to hurt the eurozone," but it will be beneficial to the dollar. More good news comes in the end of the article which reports on the Bank of Japan buying dollars, "in a smoothing operation."

Brad DeLong spent a little time looking at the situation with the dollar; possible implications of a falling dollar and possible fixes. I hope he is heartened by the news.

The world market is worried about an unstable dollar, much of which is driven by recent economic policies of the Bush administration. Certainly through cooperation any major problems can be avoided, but with a clear policy of ignoring the effects of enormous and growing deficits, the administration may not find much good will left.

Monday, November 08, 2004

A positive note to keep in mind. At the local level Democrats are picking up. The Dems even picked up in North Carolina.
This is coming after several years of Democrats losing ground in the state houses. Most of the Democratic loses were in the South, in states that are years away from giving Democrats any kind of hope.

Republicans now control 20 state Legislatures. Democrats have 19, and 10 are split, with Democrats holding one chamber and Republicans the other.

Before Tuesday's vote, the GOP held 21 and the Democrats 17, with 11 split. The Nebraska Legislature, which has only one chamber, is nonpartisan.

The Presidential race is always a zero-sum game. A 51-48 victory is not a mandate, and the Democrats are picking up on the ground including demographics that were once safely Republican.

The sky is not falling and its time for the Democrats to become a true opposition party and to show the voters how they are going to make things better, rather than just tell them everything is just fine.
Also, something else to keep in mind in terms of the Red state/Blue state divide, the cultural divide, et. al. Some cartographers at the University of Michigan put together a cartogram of the recent election. A cartogram is a map that is weighed to reflect some factor or other. In this case it's population.

While folks on the Bush side point to the Red swaths on the map as proof they are winning the country, when you base it on actual population you get some different results. In fact the map is pretty well balanced, as should be expected in a 51-48 election. The mandate talk should cool down a bit as this becomes more widely recognized.
What should help demonstrate this concept even better is the multi-color map near the bottom of the page. The authors decided to look at percentages of voters across the counties and create a map using red, blue and purple. The result is, "only a rather small area is taken up by true red counties, the rest being mostly shades of purple with patches of blue in the urban areas. "
There have been several pieces written in the past few days that may cause some, like myself, to take it down a notch. I was certainly ready to chalk up the Bush victory to the anti-gay marriage and "moral majority" folks. Yet even as I was saying it I had a feeling it couldn't be everything. With the economy in shaky condition, and a badly-managed, major war afoot in Iraq, the threat of gay marriage could not have been the turning point, the lynch-pin. Certainly it provided a major GOTV topic for Bush's religious supporters, and may have even helped turn a few wavering folks, but it didn't win the election for Bush.

Several others around the web have gone through the polling data so far and it seems that the easy answer was not completely correct. As Kevin Drum discovers over at Political Animal, terrorism and Bush's projected image of the economy may have made the major points.

A few other folks that come to a similar conclusion: Slate's Paul Freedman, The Time's David Brooks (kind of, he's also pushing the out-of-tough-liberal line), Matthew Yglesias over at Tapped. These are just a few going around.

The "values" points may not have been the silver bullet, but it may have been the final straw.

Update: The folks over at Donkey Rising (analyst extraordinaire Ruy Teixeira's blog) have come to similar conclusions, via Laura Rozen's War and Piece.
An analysis of the results of last week's election indicates that the presence of gay marriage referenda on the ballot had no effect on the outcome of the presidential election at the state level.

There was a very strong correlation between President Bush's share of the vote in 2000 and his share of the vote in 2004 across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The president consistently ran a few percentage points ahead of his showing in 2000, but he did not improve on his 2000 performance any more in states with gay marriage referenda than in other states. In 11 states with gay marriage referenda on the ballot, the president increased his share of the vote from an average of 55.4 percent in 2000 to an average of 58.0 percent in 2004--an improvement of 2.6 percentage points. However, in the rest of the country the president increased his share of the vote from an average of 48.1 percent in 2000 to an average of 51.0 percent in 2004--an improvement of 2.9 percentage points.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Well, just a little over 14 hours till the polls open on the East Coast and the largest GOTV machine ever gets moving. I just got back from early voting at the St. Louis City Board of Elections. I am going to be driving people to the polls in the county all day tomorrow and I was concerned I wouldn't be able to get to the polls first thing in the morning (I work until 2 am tonight).

There is cautious optimism in the left-leaning circles. The polls are next to meaningless, but Josh Marshall among others is arguing that they are showing a trend towards Kerry. Several other commentators have come to the same conclusions.

Indeed Iowa, which has been frustratingly hard to call in recent months, is showing some trending towards Kerry. In fact it is showing changes in Bush supporters voting for Kerry

The reports of Republican shenanigans are continuing across the country. In West Virginia, Wisconson, Alabama, South Carolina, and Ohio.

In the polls, this race is as close as it could be. However, I have an inkling that this election will not be good news for Bush. In fact, I think the race will not be as close as people believe it will be. I base this only on my gut, from reading analysis from people far better at it than I and the fact that there is a GOTV effort like nothing this country has ever seen.

I will be out driving tomorrow. Do whatever you can to get your friends and family to the polls. For the pro-Kerry folks out there, don't be nervous, but don't back off for a second.