Saturday, July 08, 2006

Giuliani Running for President

According to Novak.

CQ does a good job of outlining the problems of Giuliani winning the primary. Ed suggests that McCain would probably beat Giuliani in a primary. Of course, this assumes that primary voters want an 'electable' candidate, rather than someone they like and feel comfortable with (in which case George Allen is frequently mentioned as a frontrunner).

But I am starting to think that regardless of Giuliani's obvious problems on gay rights, gun control, and abortion, that he may be more likely to secure the Republican nomination than would be McCain - so much do so many rock-ribbed conservatives not care for McCain on free speech, immigration, and the 11th commandment.

I think that to primary voters, McCain feels like a loose-cannoned crusader. You never know what issue will become the most important to him at a given moment, and what actions he may take on it. He swings from being with conservatives on spending to against them on free speech; with them on abortion to against them on immigration. They will never really trust him.

Strangely enough, I suspect that most conservative Republicans will regard Giuliani as more of a 'straight talker.'

North Korea Threatens Nuclear War

Why does China put up with this?

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More Men and Women Opting Not to Work

The Washington Post carries a story about a new study that shows that participation by women in the labor force peaked a few years ago and is now on the decline. Commentators have talked about how more women are now choosing to stay home and care for kids again. But the article makes clear that that's not accurate. Rather, people's perception of the story seems skewed skewed by the mindset that men and women ought to behave the same.

First off, the chart accompanying the article shows that male labor force participation has been on the decline since 1948 - albeit it started at a much higher rate than the participation of women.

Second, the article note that:

Contrary to popular theory, Labor Department data do not show a rising proportion of women dropping out of the workforce to spend time with their families. Indeed, the participation rate has fallen since 2000 for both women with children and women without children.

While nonworking women are still much more likely than men to cite "home responsibilities" as their reason for not holding or seeking a job, that's actually less true now than it was in the past. The share of women aged 25 to 54, considered to be in their "prime" working years, who gave that reason for not seeking employment has shrunk for more than a decade. The share of men citing that reason has edged up over the same period, according to a Labor Department analysis of census survey figures from 1990 to 2003.

The female participation rate peaked below the men's, though, because women still take out more time to care for children and other relatives, analysts say and the data show.

So this study bears great news, as I see it. More men and women are able to afford not to work. In fact, there's not much negative news in this story, as far as I can tell. There's this sad datum:

Among nonworking adults aged 25 to 54, a growing share of women said they were not holding or seeking a job because of disability or illness, according to the survey data. A shrinking share of comparable men cited those reasons.

And there's the ant at the picnic:

Some analysts say the labor force participation rate also reflects the lingering effects of the last economic downturn and that it would have rebounded by now if job growth were stronger. The fact that so many people remain out of the workforce reflects "weak labor demand rather than choice," said Jared Bernstein, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank focused on labor issues.

Ah yes, if only the unemployment rate were to drop from 4.6% to 2.5%, lots more people would be working! And the only cost would be the worst inflation since Jimmy Carter!

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Most Moving Forward in Mexico

Mexico City's El Universal reports this morning that Felipe Calderon has received calls of congratulations from the United States, Spain, and Canada. Other governments have extended congratulations as well.

It looks like AMLO is one of few who can't read the handwriting on the wall. Even the leader of the PRD contingent in the Congress says Calderon 'no es el presidente electo de México hasta que el Tribunal lo ratifique y estamos seguros de que los magistrados revisarán las impugnaciones que le darán el triunfo a López Obrador.' This translates loosely as 'Calderon isn't the President-elect of Mexico until the judicial tribunal ratifies it and we are sure that the magistrates will review the complaints that AMLO refers to them.' If I were AMLO, I would have been looking for a stronger vote of confidence.

AMLO's team says that they are not looking to anull the results of the election, and that AMLO is not willing to accept the invitation of Calderon to meet. The campaign spokesman is rather dismissive on this point, asking 'why do they want to invite AMLO to work with them if he's a danger to Mexico?'

Madrazo on the other hand, will meet with Calderon. But given the response of his party to the spanking he just led them to, he may be planning on begging Calderon for a job.

In a clear demonstration that things are moving forward, the lead headline on El Universal is 'Legislative Pacts will Be Complicated,' noting that the legislature will be divided into three roughly equal party blocs. The PAN will hold 206 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 52 in the Senate. The PRD will have 160 in the Chamber and 36 in the Senate. The PRI was saved by the seats it added through proportional representation, so it will have 121 in the Chamber, and 39 in the Senate - a significant improvement from the picture painted by El Universal a few days ago.

This will be very interesting to watch. I think that Felipe Calderon will make every effort to work with the PRI - which will be looking for some way to establish relevancy, and is at this point somewhat fractured. I suspect he will have more success with the PRI than with the PRD, given that the PRD will soon be thinking about the midterms in 2009 and the next Presidential election in 2012.

And get ready for the demonstrations in Mexico City today on behalf of AMLO, which should be quie a spectacle, given that Mexico City is his base, and that he was succeeded as Mayor by his hand-picked successor. Everything will be set for a show that makes it look like Mexico is torn. But when you watch AMLO and his fans screaming for justice, remember the words of Macbeth.

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Colleagues May Press Ney to Step Down

It won't take an indictment to do it, either. Ney is an underdog, in what would otherwise be a safe GOP seat. With Republicans now looking likely to lose DeLay's seat, there will be pressure for Ney to step down, regardless of whether he's indicted.

Roll Call has said that Ney must withdraw by August 19 to be replaced by another Republican on the ballot:

Republicans may press Ney to step down if indicted
Sources on Capitol Hill say GOP pressure will grow for Rep. Robert Ney to step down if he is indicted before the November congressional elections.

Ney, an Ohio Republican, insists he will push on regardless of what action the Justice Department might take in its investigation of his ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. But Republican staffers on the hill worry that the GOP cannot afford to lose Ney's seat in eastern Ohio as Democrats press to take control of the House.

The Justice Department has stepped up its investigation of Ney, who aided Abramoff and accepted campaign donations, a golfing trip to Scotland, and other favors from the lobbyist. Last week, Roll Call newspaper reported that one of his aides had been subpoenaed by a grand jury, and other aides are also likely to be subpoenaed...


Waiting for Ney
Bob Ney 'What If'

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Tom DeLay's New Campaign Poster

Forgive the terrible photoshop - it's my first try. But you get the idea.

Editor's Note: This works for the 'Carnahan Strategy,' as well!

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Mexico Prepares for a Rough Stretch

It looks like AMLO is committed to creating as much disruption as possible between now and the time that Felipe Calderon is officially certified as the President-elect of Mexico. Mary Anastasia O'Grady of the Wall Street Journal (subscription required), confirms what Mark in Mexico stated the other day about AMLO's surprising lead through much of the vote count:

I didn't see any reason for Mr. Calderón to be lying about this and independent observers confirmed it too. But at 9 on Wednesday evening, with 81% of the country's polling stations reporting, Mr. López Obrador had a lead of two percentage points and my phone started to ring. Mexicans were beginning to wonder about the preliminary count on Sunday that showed the PAN victorious. The only places I found total calm were at the PAN campaign headquarters and among electoral wonks who assured me that Sunday tallies would hold and that time would prove the Calderón victory.

The problem, as it finally emerged, was in the flow of polling-station reports. What we had seen late on Wednesday evening were reports from this city and other PRD strongholds. Tally sheets from polling stations in heavily pro-PAN states were being held back.

It now seems that these delays, which were later confirmed, were not an accident. While it is true that many of the pro-PAN states lie to the west of the country, two hours behind the capital, even that doesn't account for the enormous distortions in reporting into the wee hours of Thursday. For example, at 1:30 a.m., when most states had either closed their books or reported more than 90% of polling station results, the heavily Panista states of Nuevo Leon, Guanajato, Baja California and Sonora still had less than 90% of their polling stations reporting. Word went out that PRD polling station officials in these states were dragging their feet in signing off on the tally sheets. The clear objective was to give Mexicans the impression that AMLO had secured a victory, only to have it pulled from him in the dark of the night.

She also notes that AMLO is getting ready to unleash mob activism, in the hopes of having the election annulled:
Mexico now has a president-elect. But AMLO, who came in second in both the Sunday count and the Wednesday recount, says that he will not accept the results. In a press conference yesterday, he announced that a "manipulation" of the results is "evident" and accused the independent Federal Electoral Institute of working in cahoots with Mr. Calderón. That speech, it seems clear, was not meant for the ears of election officials or even the electoral court but for his followers. AMLO appears intent on persuading them, as is his stock in trade, that they have once again been cheated by the system.

...Another concern is whether the PRD will gin up a violent reaction to this defeat. Mob disturbances have been an AMLO staple for most of his career. And while this time it could cost him dearly in this conservative nation, he may also see it as his last chance to salvage his hope to wear the presidential sash. Six years from now, the presidential aspirations of both the son of the legendary Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, who is a well-respected governor of Michoacan and the newly elected mayor of this city, could make another AMLO candidacy for the PRD a long shot.

Should Mr. López Obrador decide to put all his money on the slim chance he can prevail, his infamous modus operandi of mob activism during his early career in the southern state of Tabasco and later as the mayor of this city may give guidance about what Mexicans are in for. Indeed, he seems to have been training for this mission for some time.

Calderon is handling this situation well, so far. He has consistently called for adherence to the law, and he has said several times that he would welcome AMLO into his cabinet, probably to a social welfare position. Today it's reported that he's asked for a meeting with AMLO, to talk about how to move the country forward. He's asked the other parties to recommend their programs, so that he can go forward with a program 'that won't be my program but Mexico's program - a program of coalition government.' In return, he's asked for support from the other parties, so he'll have a Congressional majority to 'go forward with the reforms that Mexico needs.'

He also says that he has not yet spoken with President Fox, to forestall accusations of a conspiracy.

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Americans Driving Faster, Safer

A good read from the Wall Street Journal. Key paragraphs:

We now have 10 years of evidence proving that the only "assault" was on the sanctity of the truth. The nearby table shows that the death, injury and crash rates have fallen sharply since 1995. Per mile traveled, there were about 5,000 fewer deaths and almost one million fewer injuries in 2005 than in the mid-1990s. This is all the more remarkable given that a dozen years ago Americans lacked today's distraction of driving while also talking on their cell phones.

Of the 31 states that have raised their speed limits to more than 70 mph, 29 saw a decline in the death and injury rate and only two--the Dakotas--have seen fatalities increase. Two studies, by the National Motorists Association and by the Cato Institute, have compared crash data in states that raised their speed limits with those that didn't and found no increase in deaths in the higher speed states.

Jim Baxter, president of the National Motorists Association, says that by the early 1990s "compliance with the 55 mph law was only about 5%--in other words, about 95% of drivers were exceeding the speed limit." Now motorists can coast at these faster speeds without being on the constant lookout for radar guns, speed traps and state troopers. Americans have also arrived at their destinations sooner, worth an estimated $30 billion a year in time saved, according to the Cato study.

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Can't Make it to Pamplona?

Head to Dewey Beach, Delaware this weekend, for the 9th annual Running of the Bull.

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Reuters Downplays the Chavez Threat

With the increased focus on North Korea's missile program and the upcoming visit of Hugo Chavez to that country to (allegedly) discuss arms-for-oil, I thought I'd share a little more about Hugo Chavez. And you know what? Reuters doesn't want you to worry:

Iran and Venezuela team up as anti-U.S. "odd couple"
[That's right - like Felix and Oscar - Editor]
Fri Jul 7, 2006 11:03 AM ET
By Christian Oliver

TEHRAN (Reuters) - To deserve a statue in central Tehran, you normally need to be an 11th-century Persian poet. However, Venezuela's 19th-century independence leader Simon Bolivar surveys passers-by in Goftogou Park.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, wearing the chequered headscarf of the Basij volunteer Islamic militia, stressed the cordiality of Tehran-Caracas relations when he unveiled the statue of his hero on an icy November day in 2004.

Right-wing Venezuelan and U.S. media have attacked Chavez's growing ties with Tehran. In their most fanciful conspiracy theory, Iran is planning to ship nuclear warheads to Venezuela in a re-run of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

So don't worry, folks. Chavez and nuclear weapons is a fanciful conspiracy theory!

In 2003, U.S. concerns that Arab money-launderers on the Venezuelan island of Margarita could help terrorists mushroomed into unsubstantiated charges that Iranian-backed Hizbollah fighters had set up training camps there.

Venezuelan officials have robustly denied such sinister dimensions to the Tehran-Caracas axis. So how do these two anti-U.S. governments benefit from closer ties?

Chavez backing Iranian terrorists? Unsubstantiated!

At first glance, Chavez and his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seem to be like-minded partners: two ex-military OPEC price hawks who are lavishing their petrodollars on the poor majority long neglected by their countries' rich elites.

Iran is increasingly courting the 114-nation Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) for leverage in a dispute over its atomic work, arguing that it is only the United States and Western European countries that reckon Tehran is seeking nuclear missiles.

"It would be terribly useful for Iran to get NAM on its side as that makes the Europeans very nervous," said Patrick Clawson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

NAM stalwart Venezuela was one of only three countries to vote against referring Iran to the U.N. Security Council at the International Atomic Energy Agency meeting in February.

Officials and analysts say this was a symbolic act in a vote the United States and its allies were always going to win. Deep down, they argue, there are clear limits to how close Caracas and Tehran can afford to become.

"What is a vote in the agency? Nothing. The Venezuelans know the real red line with Iran is arms. They both say they will repel any U.S. attack but they cannot join up on weapons," said a Latin American ambassador in Tehran.

The envoy said Caracas knows not to push its chief oil customer, the United States, too far, mentioning how quickly Defence Minister Orlando Maniglia cooled speculation in May that Venezuela could sell its old F-16 jet-fighters to Iran.

The United States slapped arms sanctions on Venezuela in May, partly because of Chavez's relations with Iran which Washington accuses of bankrolling terrorism. Venezuela is looking primarily to Russia for its weapons.

'Officials and analysts' say Iran and Venezuela know they can't cooperate that closely. So once again, don't worry!


Iran and Venezuela, the world's nos. 4 and 5 oil exporters, forged their friendship in the 1960s as founder members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

"I would say OPEC is at the heart of the relationship. There is a downward pressure on prices and the Iranians and Venezuelans are nervous," Clawson said.

Venezuela and Iran, which both have big reserves but have experienced difficulties exploiting them, view world oil markets as oversupplied by about one million barrels per day.

Iran is also investing in Venezuela. Iran Khodro, the Middle East's biggest car manufacturer, is planning to build its Samand model there and oil firm Petropars has signed a deal to measure and certify oil reserves in the Orinoco Belt.

Iranian firms are producing tractors and cement in the Caribbean state. Iran's Industry Ministry says $1 billion (540 million pounds) has been invested so far in Venezuelan projects.

Beyond the economics, Chavez and Ahmadinejad look like strange bedfellows.

"All they seem to have in common is a visceral hatred of the United States," said Ali Ansari, Iran expert at Scotland's St Andrews University. "There is no real emotional tie, if Chavez were a Muslim that would make life a lot easier.

"Ahmadinejad's sphere is the Muslim world."

Not accepting Israel's right to exist is an ideological crux of Iranian foreign policy. Venezuela has diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.

Iran's foreign policy priorities are traditionally Islamic and Ahmadinejad's populism is ideologically a world apart from Chavez's.

Chavez has focused spending on his support base in the shanty towns. In Iran, budget increases have often gone to shadowy religious foundations.

"Ahmadinejad has the populist rhetoric, but there is no plan. Where are the new irrigation systems, roads and railways? The oil money is a sort of patronage," Ansari said.

When asked how Chavistas, with their sense of being elected by the people, can ally themselves closely with a country where candidates are selected by the clerical high guard, a senior Venezuelan official said: "Relations are not spotless".

"We believe the relationship is important because of the need for a counter-weight to North American imperialism. But we also sincerely believe in a strong European Union, a strong Russia and a strong China," he added.

Do you feel all reassured? No? Well, what if you knew that Chavez was just a peripatetic man of the people:

WITNESS - Reporting on Hugo Chavez? Pack batteries

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - It was 1 a.m. and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was close to the three-hour mark in a speech to university students in Panama.
Government officials were flagging and so was I after Latin America's most vocal left-wing leader had squeezed a public ceremony, a congressional address, a Panama Canal trip and nearly seven hours of speeches into a one-day visit.

As for the pugnacious former soldier himself, he seemed like his batteries were still fully charged as he charmed the crowd with a mix of jokes, socialist theory and proposals for Latin American integration to counter U.S. influence.

...Always colorful, often surprising and sometimes grueling, reporters ignore Chavez at their peril whatever the hour. He has dismissed ministers, spiked oil prices and caused diplomatic turmoil with a few choice, late-night words.

Critics dismiss him is a authoritarian blowhard but his international status has grown apace with the screeching ascent of oil prices. Venezuela often ranks with Iraq, Nigeria and Iran as an influence on world crude.

I find myself finishing his jokes and his tales about Simon Bolivar, the 19th century South American liberation hero he says inspires his revolution for the poor, but he can still catch you off guard.


...That exposure is part of what makes him popular. Grateful for his heavy spending on social programs, many poor Venezuelans see Chavez as their champion. Ask what he has done for them and invariably they answer: "He speaks for us."

He is a master political showman. Recently he donned the uniform and red beret of his former paratroop regiment to hand troops a batch of new Kalashnikov rifles to defend Venezuela from a U.S. invasion he says he sees coming.

So you see, you don't have to fear Chavez. I mean, just because he's making such an effort to build close ties with Iran and North Korea, you go and assume he's dangerous? Nonsense! Why, he's a sweetheart like Castro and Ahmadinejad.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Dem Hypocrisy on Display

About a month ago, when Democrats prepared to argue their case for keeping Tom DeLay's name on the November ballot, I said they were being hypocritical. Now that the Democrats have won the case (pending appeal), hypocrisy's on full, proud display - at the DCCC, no less:

TX-22: Waaaaaaaah!
Posted by jesselee
Thursday, July 6, 2006 at 2:56 PM

Via The Hill, we finally hear the first utterances from a Texas Republican Party firmly hoisted by its own petard.

Shorter Texas GOP: Waaaaaaaaah!

"I think it's a sad day for the voters of the 22nd district of Texas," said Gary Gillen, the chairman of the Republican Party of Fort Bend County, which is one of the four counties in that district. "I think [the ruling] denies the voters the opportunity to select the candidate they want to vote for."

Yeah, what do they call that again... oh yeah, the primary...

It was only a few short years ago (2002 to be exact), when career criminal Bob Torricelli decided that he couldn't even get re-elected in New Jersey. Even though the primary was past, and even the legal deadline for a candidate to withdraw had passed, the Democratic party said "this is about ensuring that the voters of this state have an opportunity to exercise a choice in a competitive race." The Democratic party's legal counsel further argued that "the courts historically have been uninterested in how a vacancy is created," and that not allowing a new candidate would "undermine the availability of a competitive race." The court found with the Democrats, and Frank Lautenberg stepped in at the last minute to save them.

So choice - notwithstanding the law - is good for New Jersey voters when a Democratic dead duck dodges defeat, but not for Texas voters consistent with the law?

Thngs like this probably make Rahm Emanuel's staff feel better when they're not doing CYA for future disappointments.

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The Car that Drives Itself

A car that drives itself! On the heels of a cyborg revolution? Who needs nanotechnology?

Time to dust you off, old buddy.

Update: Looks like someone else was over-excited about the arrival of the self-driving car.

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Contrasting Views in Mexico

This is from Reforma, a moderate-to-conservative Mexico City daily:

The text reads 'Just when you thought you were safe!' AMLO is of course, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador - candidated of the PRD.

This is from La Jornada - Mexico's labor-left daily:

It references AMLO's demand for a recount, which is illegal except for 'inconsistencies' (more detail here). The evil guy is delivering a ballot box to Carlos Ugalde, head of the IFE. The text reads "We found a stash of very consistent votes; they're the ones we're making so AMLO is given up for dead.'

Yes, subtlety is the wit of political cartoons.

By the way, with the count of 300 district committees now completed, Calderon is reported to have topped AMLO by .57%.

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Democrats Fall for Immigration Rope-a-Dope

Democrats have begun to haul off on Republicans for failing to pass an immigration bill, but they risk creating a bigger Republican victory if (when) the President signs a bill.

Bob Novak notes in his most recent article that:

Democrats have been pummeling House Republican leaders for calling hearings instead of getting down to business in resolving differences between the border enforcement bill passed by the House in a mainly party-line vote and the bipartisan Senate measure providing for guest workers. This week's hearings make the point that the Senate bill is filled with details that have escaped wide attention.

Democratic Representative Bob Filner of San Diego tells the Associated Press: "This is a charade. It’s a cover-up for the fact that they can’t produce a bill and they can’t secure our borders."

Nancy Pelosi says "Rather than addressing the president and their party's failure on border security and immigration, House Republicans today are holding the first of several field hearings on an issue on which they do not have a single accomplishment... Democrats propose a new direction on immigration. We believe it is long past time to focus on tough laws, actually implement them, hold the administration accountable for enforcing them, and pass comprehensive immigration reform," she said.

Ted Kennedy calls the current immigration hearings a "cynical effort to delay or kill a comprehensive immigration bill," and Harry Reid says Republicans are 'stalling.' He said of the President "He has complete domination over this Republican Congress. Let him tell us how much he really wants a bill."

Well, what are they going to say when a compromise is signed into law? 'This really isn't an important issue?'

In fairness to the Democrats, they are making two points:

1) The GOP hasn't produced an immigration bill; and,
2) The Senate bill - with legalization - is the way to go.

Now if voters support the Democrats on legalization, then Republicans will be punished if they produce a border-only bill. But the support for 'comprehensive reform' is a mile wide and an inch deep. No swing voter will punish Republicans for securing the border before dealing with a worker program. But as long as Democrats raise the profile of this issue, they are simply setting the GOP up for a bigger win when an immigration bill is signed into law.

If no immigration bill is signed into law - and I'm prepared to put up my firstborn to say that one will - then this is great politics. But otherwise, this is a foolish strategy - one that compounds the Republican victory when it comes.

It looks very much like the White House strategy on national security and Iraq. In 2002 and 2004, they were thrilled to have Democrats engage Republicans on those issues - because ultimately voters trusted Republicans more than Democrats to deal with those issues. Debating border security is fighting the Republicans on their own turf, and it will only suck oxygen away from issues where Democrats have an advantage.

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Dems Pick up Texas House Seat

That's probably what it will mean if DeLay is required to stay on the November ballot. Nevertheless, it will be challenged.

If DeLay is forced to stand for re-election, it will raise the possibility of a 'Mel Carnahan campaign.' In that case, Carnahan died before election day, but the governor promised to appoint his widow to the open seat if voters supported the deceased.

In this case, DeLay might promise to resign the seat, and force a special election. Thus, voters would effectively be voting for an empty seat.

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Ten Worst Jobs in Action Movies

Very funny. Courtest of The Feast (some vulgarity).

Hat tip: Garfield Ridge

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Can China Influence Korea?

In considering North Korea's missile launch, my first response was puzzlement - at why China would not step in and prevent North Korea from such provocative actions. After all, North Korea is driving South Korea and Japan closer to the US, and Japan toward greater military spending, and possibly nuclear weapons. How can China put up with any of that, particularly with a North Korean regime that delivers it no benefit, uses its food and fuel, and steals its train cars?

Well, Business Week suggests that China does not have much influence over what North Korea does.

How comforting is that?

And since I always try to offer a perspective on the domestic political angle, I'll offer this: since North Korea launched its missiles on Tuesday, how much have you heard about Iraq? For better or worse, North Korea is pushing Iraq off the front pages. It may give the Bush administration a whole new, oxygen-sucking issue to succeed or fail on. If the issue remains in the news, then when pollsters ask voters in October, 'do you approve or disapprove of President Bush's handling of defence and foreign policy issues,' people will think primarily of North Korea.

Does that help or hurt the President?

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Venezuela Seeks Membership in Axis of Evil

As Chavez prepares to travel to North Korea, apparently to negotiate an oil-for-missiles deal, it's worthwhile to look at the extent of Venezuela's military buildup. The International Institute for Strategic Studies opines that Chavez's spending seems to be more for modernization than buildup.

Disturbingly, it is once again our 'ally,' Russia, that is supplying Venezuela with much of its hardware.

Go back and read the Wall Street Journal's Mary Anastasia O'Grady for her insightful commentary on Chavez. This piece on his flirtations with Iran seems to be free to nonsubscribers, while this one is not. I'll provide an excerpt to give you a flavor:

A Vote for Venezuela Is a Vote for Iran
June 23, 2006; Page A11

There are elections taking place this fall that will have a major impact on Americans. But we're not talking about congressional races at home. This balloting is for the five non-permanent U.N Security Council seats that will open up in 2007.

In Latin America, the competition between Guatemala and Venezuela for the U.N. Security Council seat that Argentina will vacate at the end of this year is of particular importance.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has made it clear that when it comes to geopolitics, his preferences lie with hostile states like Iran, Cuba, Sudan and North Korea. A seat on the Security Council, where the presidency also rotates monthly, would give the Venezuelan strongman ways to make those preferences operational at the multilateral level.

Five of 15 seats on the Security Council are permanent (held by China, Russia, France, Britain and the U.S.). The other 10 slots are two-year terms. Only permanent seats have veto power but to pass a resolution requires nine ayes. That means every seat matters and if Venezuela gets on the council, it could help block a resolution -- that has not been vetoed -- against its much-admired ally Iran.

Guatemala announced its candidacy for this seat in 2002, but in 2005 Venezuela also threw its sombrero in the ring. U.N. rules say that each region can select its own candidate for an open seat. But if "consensus" around one candidate cannot be reached regionally, the full U.N. general assembly votes in secret ballot. Both Guatemala and Venezuela are working hard to shore up votes for that eventuality.

The Venezuelan ambassador to the U.N. warned the world recently that a vote for Guatemala is a vote for the U.S. There's a grain of truth to that since Guatemala is an American ally, with a government that shares our world-view on multilateral efforts to contain despots. But what is truer still is that a vote for Venezuela is a vote for Iran, which shares the current Venezuelan values of tyranny and aggression.

Guatemala points out that it is a founding member of the U.N. but has never had a seat on the council. It also argues that small countries with valuable experience in the region are too often overlooked for the Security Council and that the last time any Central American country had a seat was in 1997-98.

...Chief among its qualifications is its active role in international peace-keeping. Coban, in Guatemala, is now home to a Central American regional peacekeeping school and training center. Today, Guatemalan peacekeepers are in the Congo and in Haiti, and military observers and officers are in five other African nations, including Sudan. In January eight Guatemalan peacekeepers were killed in the Congo. In expressing U.S. support for Guatemala's candidacy this week, a State Department spokesman noted the fact that "Guatemalans have shed blood for the U.N.," making the country "a strong candidate, and deserving of support."

...Guatemala emphasizes its democratic credentials, as well as its view that the seat is a voice for the region, not for its own national interests. Compare this to the Venezuelan campaign, which rests largely on oil "diplomacy" and the capacity to push anti-American buttons around the U.N.

It may seem strange that Venezuela has any support in the region. Over the past seven years, its meddling in its neighbors' domestic politics have earned it a reputation as a bully. Mr. Chávez is persona non grata in more than a few Latin nations. Many countries are worried about Venezuela's big spending to acquire fighter jets and 100,000 kalishnikovs from Russia. Yet, despite all this, the Chávez government has money, and this has allowed it to advance its cause.

Of the 33 members in the region, 12 are from English-speaking Caribbean islands. These poor economies (many of them crime-ridden) have become heavily dependent on subsidized Venezuelan oil and on Cuba's legendary traveling doctors and teachers. It wouldn't be surprising if some of these countries were to line up with Venezuela.

Argentina, once a haven for Nazis and more recently a harbor for accused Spanish and Chilean terrorists, is also a Venezuelan pawn now. The country has been so incompetent about managing its resources that it too needs charity from Mr. Chávez, making it about as independent from the oil dictatorship as Bolivia and Cuba. More surprising is Brazil's decision to side with Mr. Chávez, who as Bolivia's unofficial energy adviser orchestrated the confiscation of Brazilian assets there recently. Apparently, the eternal Brazilian struggle to prove that it can challenge U.S. "hegemony" in the region trumps the need to regain dignity and protect its investments abroad.

In spite of all this, Guatemala has the solid backing of the more serious democracies in the region -- such as Colombia and Mexico -- and insists that it will not withdraw its candidacy. That means that in all likelihood the vote will probably go to the General Assembly. Guatemala believes it can win that ballot. Let's hope so. If not, Latin America will have handed Iran a victory that is likely to threaten world peace.

Lastly, this is a great, recent piece by O'Grady on Chavez's 'justice system;' you know - the one Cindy Sheehan wants to live under:

Venezuelan Justice on Trial
June 30, 2006; Page A13

Henrique Capriles, a Caracas mayor, is one of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's worst nightmares. Forget about U.S. battleships in the Caribbean or discontent in the Venezuelan military. Mr. Capriles, whose only weapons in opposition to the national government are his ideas, symbolizes what Mr. Chávez really fears. So much so that the president is now trying to lock him up.

In 2004 Mr. Capriles spent four months in a Venezuelan jail even though no charges were brought against him at the time. Now he has been formally accused of an assault on the Cuban embassy, a charge so absurd that even Kafka wouldn't have tried to spin it in fiction. The case is supposed to go to trial today.

...Mr. Capriles, who was re-elected mayor of a section of Caracas known as Baruta in 2004 with 80% of the vote, is far from the only Chávez opponent who stands accused of a crime. But the charges against him are among the most far-fetched. Over breakfast in New York some months ago, he told me about the case, which begins on April 12, 2002, the day after 19 people had been killed during a peaceful march against Mr. Chávez and the military had removed the president from office.

An angry crowd had gathered outside the Cuban embassy on rumors that members of the Chávez government were inside. The mob of an estimated 2,000 had damaged cars and cut the water to the embassy. According to Mr. Capriles, there was "a lot of uncertainty."

...When he arrived at the embassy he remembers that an employee in civilian clothes was perched on the wall surrounding the compound. The man called down to the mayor to say that the door was barricaded for security reasons but that he would put a ladder out so that Mr. Capriles could come over the wall.

Mr. Capriles claims that Ambassador German Sánchez Otero welcomed him by his first name and thanked him for coming. "We had had a friendly relationship before that day," Mr. Capriles told me. The ambassador, Mr. Capriles says, said he knew the problem outside the embassy was not the mayor's responsibility and that he was trying to contact "President Carmona Estanga," the man who had stepped into Mr. Chávez's shoes.

Mr. Capriles says that while he was in the embassy, the Norwegian ambassador phoned to offer help. The Cuban told the Norwegian that the "mayor of Baruta is here" and "helping us." The Norwegian ambassador has backed up Mr. Capriles's recollection of that conversation.

...Six months later a warrant was issued for Mr. Capriles's arrest, without a charge. Fearing that he couldn't get a fair shake, he went into hiding. While he was a fugitive -- an experience he says was the worst in his life -- he saw a television interview in which the prosecutor was asked why there was an arrest warrant out for the mayor. He replied: "This is the case of Cuba." Mr. Capriles eventually turned himself in and spent the first 20 days in jail locked in a room with no windows.

...Mr. Capriles argues that videotape evidence shows what happened that day at the embassy and though Cuba has issued its own doctored version of the tape, he is confident that he will be exonerated if all the facts come out. The Norwegian ambassador's testimony will also help. Yet given the sinister nature of this government, justice seems remote. What seems more likely is that Fidel Castro is coaching his Venezuelan protégé in the art of disposing of an opponent. It can be no accident that Mr. Sánchez Otero has been at the Cuban embassy in Caracas for 14 years, having arrived the same year Mr. Chávez launched his failed coup d'état. Mr. Capriles is being made an example. Harassing, intimidating and imprisoning a charismatic opponent of the "Bolivarian revolution" is meant to discourage those who might be tempted to follow his lead.

Mr. Capriles symbolizes a generational shift in Venezuelan politics. As life has deteriorated over the past few years for his countrymen, Mr. Chávez has retained support by persuading the disenfranchised masses that the only alternative to chavismo is reverting to the corruption of the traditional party system that drove the country into poverty. Now along comes Mr. Capriles -- one of the founders of a new party called Justice First, which grew out of a 1992 student movement concerned about the country's judicial system -- to spoil Mr. Chávez's convenient but false dichotomy.

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AMLO Loses Count, Continues to Agitate

Updated and Bumped
Well, the full count by Mexico's 300 district committees is nearly complete (though it could continue for a while longer). As I write this, 99.26% of the count is completed, and Calderon has expanded his lead to a whopping .36 percent (I'm linking to El Universal's main page, because you don't need to speak Spanish to understand the chart at the top of their site). El Universal reports that AMLO's PRD continues to insist on a full recount. Besides being against the Mexican law to open the ballot boxes, this would give the PRD thousands of boxes in which to go fishing for irregularities - and you can be sure that they would find some. What has been an orderly and well-run election would degenerate into a greater circus, and Calderon's win would be further tainted.

There is some great reading to be done this morning on the election, if you have a little time. Michael Barone has developed a fantastic understanding of Mexico, and the articles at his blog are a great read.

Also very useful is this FT interview with Felipe Calderon, in which he tactfully explains why there should not be a full recount, and why he asserted that he had won on election night. He also discusses his campaign promise to seek to create a coalition government.

Lost in all this is the breadth of the PAN victory on election day. As I've noted before, they emerged with the largest presence in both Mexico's Senate and Camara de Diputados, as well as the Presidency. Further, there were three gubernatorial elections on Sunday - in Morelos, Guanajuato, and Jalisco - and the PAN won all three.

Update: I see the Washington Post is covering the story as well. At least AMLO is making more sense, now. When he lost the preliminary count, he declared himself the winner. Now that he's lost the official count, he says 'no one can proclaim himself the winner.'

As I write this, Calderon is ahead by .45 points, with 99.54% of the vote counted. It's looking closer and closer to the results of the preliminary count.

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Money Well Spent

You would have a hard time finding a better cause than this: sending lunatic Cindy Sheehan to live under Hugo Chavez.

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Curious Count in Mexico

(Updated and Bumped.)
Mexico's 300 district committees met beginning today to review the election tallies and send the numbers to the IFE in Mexico City. Curiously, with more than 81% of the results in, AMLO leads Calderon by 36.65% to 34.68%. The PAN's representative to the IFE has already stated that the results which came in first were states that were strong for AMLO, and that there's no difference between this count and the PREP count. So one would certainly expect that the last 19% will come in heavily for Calderon, to more or less match the preliminary count going in.

Still, it's odd.

Mark in Mexico is liveblogging the count, so be sure to check over there.

Update: As promised, AMLO's advantage is being reduced as the count goes on. Still, he leads by 1.6% with almost 87% of the vote counted.

Plus, I note that Reuters is now covering the count.

Update 2: AMLO's lead over Calderon lasted until 4:07 in the morning, when 97.7% of the votes were counted! As I write this, Calderon's advantage is .11 percent. There were still 3,000 precincts to be counted, but they were from Guanajuato, Sonora, Querétaro, Nuevo León, Sinaloa y Chihuahua - states that favored Calderon. Thus, Calderon once again appears to be the winner - by quite a small margin. AMLO and the PRD have continued to issue threats of 'peaceful marches' throughout the day, so we'll have to watch and see how peaceful they are.

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Venezuela-North Korea Missile Pact

Mexico's Presidential election has been interesting to watch, not least because of the importance it has for the United States. Because the US and Mexico are so closely linked, it would be important regardless of anything else going on in our hemisphere. But given that Hugo Chavez is working so hard to ally the rest of the continent against us, it is particularly useful for the US to have a friendly government in Mexico City.

So it's interesting timing that as Felipe Calderon edges closer to the Mexican Presidency, Hugo Chavez has worked his way into Mercosur, creating a trillion-dollar common market, which he will try to leverage against the US. This will be an interesting dynamic to watch, as Chavez and Inacio Lula da Silva are natural rivals, and their stances toward the US are quite different (read Lula's quotes in the second article). Plus, Mercosur already has enough internal inconsistencies, even before it becomes an anti-US mouthpiece for Chavez' crackpot pursuits.

Chavez's act is growing more and more worrisome. He has sought submarines from Russia, and now is buying fighter jets from that nation. He's got a deal to produce Kalashnikov rifles in Venezuela, and he's also purchasing Russian helicopters. Venezuela's defense spending is up significantly.

And in between firing off verbal volleys at the US, Chavez found time to compliment North Korea on its development of new missiles, in advance of his trip to North Korea at the end of July, where (UPI suggests) he will discuss an oil-for-missiles deal:

The missile launch came ahead of a visit to Pyongyang by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, possibly late this month.

Chavez has announced that he will travel to North Korea, which is at odds with Washington over its nuclear program, at a time when Chavez is seeking to distance Venezuela from the United States.

The Venezuelan leader is most likely to fly to Pyongyang at the end of July on the occasion of his planned trip to Russia on July 25. Chavez told reporters that he will be going to the North to discuss science and technology cooperation.

But Chavez and Kim Jong Il are expected to seek an oil-for-arms deal. During the summit, Venezuela, the world's fifth-largest oil-rich country, is expected to offer energy resources to North Korea, which is suffering from energy shortages after the United States halted its supply of heavy oil.

In return, North Korea can offer conventional weapons and missiles to Venezuela, which is looking to fortify its military power.

The United States has demonstrated that it takes Chavez seriously. Now, as the US and the world react to North Korea's missile launches of July 4, Secretary Rice, Ambassador Bolton, and other US officials had better make sure that North Korea understands that there can be no transfer of sophisticated weapons technology to the Americas - and especially to Chavez.

Update: The World Tribune is now covering this as well.

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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Not Much Harder than Blogging

Peter Gammons has cut a record. It actually sounds like real music.

Peter - If you're reading this, send me a copy and I'll say much nicer things.

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Because America's Begging Him...

Tom Daschle is thinking about running for President. And why not? He's as exciting as Biden, as great a speaker as Kerry, as well-known as Vilsack, as much of a winner as Gore, and South Dakota has a whopping THREE electoral votes! How can he NOT run?

Tom Daschle has said before that he's thinking about running for President. I think he's going to keep saying it until someone notices.

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Little-Noticed Story of the Day

How much have things changed because the US deposed Saddam? A story that received tons of attention 16 years ago receives almost none now: Iraqi leader heads for Kuwait.

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Bush Recognizes Inevitable

The New York Times reports that the President is backing down on his insistence that Congress send him a comprehensive immigration bill. This is merely a recognition of political reality, and is no surprise.

The question now is what a compromise might look like. It appears that there is substantial support for a 'phased-in trigger' for a guestworker program - from the President, in the Senate, and even in the House. But a trigger like the one currently being talked about has to balance enforcement with a guestworker program. Most House Republicans want to make sure that enforcement happens - or no guestworker program. The President and his allies in the House and Senate don't want the guestworker program to be held hostage to enforcement which - let's face it - has never worked in the past. How do you split this baby?

A trigger-based deal is a lot easier to talk about than nail down.

I talked about this at length about a week ago, here.

My bet is that the trigger mechanism specifies milestones for the implementation of the enforcement measures - sections of fence built, Border Patrol agents deployed, employment raids conducted - and links them to phases of the guestworker program. It will give the President the authority to go ahead with parts of the guestworker program if - after consultation with Congressional leaders - he is satisfied that enforcement is succeeding, considering the criteria named in the bill (fencing, apprehensions, workplace raids, etc., etc.). Would something built around this framework satisfy all concerned? Well, the ball is in the House Republican court.

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It's Coming...

It's about time, all right. I for one salute our cyborg overlords.

Does this mean Jim Carrey's "6 Million Dollar Man" movie is back on? Oh heck, here's more - with Lost in Space, Star Trek, and 6 Million Dollar Man all together.

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More Dem Troubles in November

Lately I've been having a lot of fun writing about the upcoming midterm elections. Today The Hill notes that 7 of the most heavily targeted Republican incumbents have been endorsed by labor or environmental groups:

Dem angst as unions split money
By Alexander Bolton

To win the House or pick up a significant number of seats in both chambers of Congress, Democrats will have to battle traditional allies in the labor and environmental community to win targeted races.

At least seven of the most vulnerable House GOP incumbents have been endorsed by unions, environmental activists or other Democratic-leaning advocacy groups. So have at least three of the most vulnerable Senate Republicans.

Organized labor has also poured tens of thousands of dollars into the campaign accounts of highly vulnerable Republicans, in several instances surpassing the amount given to Democratic challengers.

Rep. George Miller (Calif.), ranking Democrat on the Education and the Workforce Committee, has disclosed that at least one of his House colleagues has said that, if Democrats fail to capture the House, labor will be partly to blame. Miller, a lawmaker close to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), shared that anecdote with labor officials, according to a union lobbyist, perhaps sending a subtle message of displeasure that Democrats know labor is hedging its bets...

Read the whole story.

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Democrats Not Ready for Primtetime

House Democrats can't identify their election motto, and haven't consulted their playbook:

Not all House Democrats are up on their leadership’s playbook
By Josephine Hearn

Three weeks have passed since congressional Democrats announced their “New Direction for America,” the domestic agenda they propose should they win control of the House or Senate, but some Democrats apparently still haven’t gotten the memo.

Asked Thursday to comment on their agenda, a half-dozen House Democrats remained fuzzy on the particulars.

“The new model, etc., etc?” faltered Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas).

“I haven’t even looked at it,” admitted Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.). “I’m not very good at talking points.”

“I like mine better,” Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) declared while looking over a list of the Democrats’ six priorities as if it were the first time he’d seen it.

House and Senate Democratic leaders unveiled the agenda mid-June with some fanfare. They held a press conference, wrote letters to their colleagues, talked it up in caucus meetings, distributed laminated talking-point cards and plugged it in an exclusive interview with USA Today.

“This is a watershed moment,” the leaders wrote to their colleagues June 13. “Democrats are listening to what matters to the country, and have united behind a positive agenda that will get America back on track.”

But don't you dare say they don't have a plan!

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Does AMLO Have a Case?

I've been on AMLO's case for being so quick to cry 'foul' after what appears to have been a mostly-clean election. And while I still think he's a demagogue, and expect that Calderon will be elected, it's starting to look a lot closer than it seemed 24 hours ago.

First off, as I covered yesterday, AMLO arrogantly declared that there were 3 million missing votes - which had been cast for other offices but not counted for President. IFE today clarified that there were indeed 2.5 million ballots which were left out of the current, preliminary count due to minor inconsistencies. As the parties agreed to beforehand, these ballots will be included in the official tally once they undergo a pro-forma (apparently) review by party officials. These ballots will have the effect of shaving Calderon's margin to about 257,000 (source is in Spanish). Second, there remain 2,017 'precincts' to be counted, with an anticipated total of about 1.5 million votes (mentioned in the same linked article).

This could make things very interesting, particularly since there are accounts of election materials being found in garbage dumps outside Mexico City, and AMLO is specifically mentioning the possibility of 'peaceful protest marches' if he doesn't get the recount he wants.

Also, let me again include here El Universal's calculation of what the new Mexican legislature will look like, once seats are added according to proportional representation. The third and fourth screens show the totals for the House and Senate, respectively. As I suggested earlier, the PAN will have a plurality - but fall short of a majority - in both. Shockingly, the PRI is in third in both (although in parity with the PRD in the Senate).

Assuming Calderon wins, we'll see if this situation leads to more 'normal' legislating in Mexico. When Fox was elected, he was not loved by PAN legislators because he had sort-of 'parachuted in' to the party nomination from the outside. As for the PRI, they thought his election was a one-time blip in their history of one-party rule, and they largely marched in lockstep against anything he proposed.

Now the PRI looks like a rump party, and Calderon's promise to include members of the opposition in his government could weaken them further. Also, the opposition (PRD, PRI, and other) may recognize that one-party rule is over, and they might have to work with the President. Lastly, Calderon rose through the ranks of the PAN, so his party colleagues might have more invested in his success than they did in that of Fox.

Change is certainly in the air.

Update: El Universal reports here that the remaining uncounted ballots - which are from 2,017 polling stations - contain at least 450,000 votes. As noted above, the guess is that there might be about 1.5 million remaining.

Also, continue to read Mark in Mexico for excellent coverage in general, and a good fisking of a misleading report from the LATimes.

Update 2: The newspaper Reforma (in Spanish, subscription required) estimates that there are about 700,000 votes yet to be counted, and calculates that AMLO would need to win about 78 percent of them to catch Calderon. However, given how AMLO has performed to date in the localities yet uncounted, he is expected to win only about 32 percent of the remaining votes:

Si la tasa de participación y las tendencias de votación se mantienen como hasta ahora, restarían alrededor de 700 mil votos por contabilizar.

Para que López Obrador pudiera revertir la distancia que le lleva Calderón tendría que obtener el 78 por ciento de los votos en las casillas que aún no se contabilizan.

Sin embargo, considerando las tendencias de la votación que ha tenido el López Obrador en las entidades en las que todavía hay actas por contabilizarse, es de esperarse que el porcentaje que obtenga en los votos restantes sea del 32 por ciento.

Update 3: The count by the 300 district committees is half-complete, and AMLO leads Calderon by 37.15% to 34.39%. By all accounts, this is nothing but a statistical oddity, and Calderon should more than overcome the deficit as the review is completed. A PAN official explains to the newspaper Reforma that of the 10 states that have reported to date, 8 are AMLO strongholds in the South, so it's not surprising that AMLO has a small lead, and it's entirely consistent with the preliminary count:

Ciudad de México (5 julio 2006).- El representante del Partido Acción Nacional ante el IFE, Germán Martínez, aseguró que los informes del conteo de los Consejos Distritales hasta el momento coinciden con los resultados que desde el domingo dio a conocer el PREP y que su partido se encuentra tranquilo.

"Estamos esperando a que terminen los cómputos para que se ratifique la victoria de Calderón".

Martínez aseguró que los estados más avanzados en el conteo son perredistas, por lo que es lógica la aparente ventaja de López Obrador.

"Queremos decir que es explicable que a esta hora haya una ligera ventaja del candidato de la coalición del PRD.

"Los estados que se registraron, de los 10 más avanzados, 8 los ha ganado el PRD, como Hidalgo, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Edomex y Guerrero, y de los de menos avance, Baja California, Durango, Chihuahua, Nuevo León, Guanajuato y Yucatán son ganados por el PAN", aseguró

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Early Fireworks: The DPRK Shoots From the Hip

It seems that the DPRK has decided to retaliate for America's launch of the space shuttle Discovery by firing a salvo of missiles into the Sea of Japan. Early reports indicate that the missiles are short-range Scud-types and not the more provactive TD-2. However, Fox News TV is reporting that there may have been up to four missile launches and that one may have been a failed TD-2 launch.

Lieberman's Going to Get Very Lonely

The Times covers the dilemma for Democratic leaders, but they're premature. The dilemma doesn't really come until/unless Lieberman loses the primary - which I fully expect to happen.

The reason is that for now, any Democrat can take the Schumer tack: "I back Joe Lieberman, and he's going to win the primary - so there's no need to talk about hypotheticals.

The problem is that Lieberman is likely to lose the primary. And for that reason, he may decide to withdraw, as Dick Morris has advised. It's this scenario that becomes difficult for Democrats. But I bet that just as Charlie Schumer was cowed by the threats of Jim Dean and Democracy for America, so will most of the rest of the Senate Democrats. We'll wind up hearing a lot of Democratic Senators saying 'I back the party nominee.'

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Happy Independence Day!

Check out the White House Independence Day site, or that of the Library of Congress.

You can also enjoy the Singing Sergeants' rendition of America the Beautiful.

And because I can't go entirely without kitsch, here's another Independence Day speech.

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Mexico Race Getting Ugly

(Updated and Bumped)
AMLO (article in Spanish) says he does not recognize the vote count of the Federal Election Institute, because there are too many inconsistencies. This afternoon he is reported to have shown copies of ballot-box counts that do not match the numbers posted by IFE on the internet. He also alleges that 3 million votes are 'missing;' having apparently been cast for Senate and House candidates, but not for President. Elsewhere, AMLO has been quoted as saying that he has so far held off on asking his supporters to march peacefully in protest. That's a loaded statement.

Assuming that Calderon is eventually declared the winner and takes office, this may wind up a watershed election in Mexican history. After Vicente Fox's election in 2000, many PRI officeholders seemed to regard his win as a 'blip,' and committed themselves to opposing every portion of his agenda, anticipating a return to form in 2006. Well, not only has the PRI not returned to power, but Madrazo got crushed. And the PRI will probably end up with the smallest bloc in both Houses of Congress (as I explained here - after seats are apportioned by proportional representation). Perhaps the opposition will come to recognize that Mexico is no longer a one-party state, and that they need to work with the President.

Also, given the smashing defeat of the PRI, and Calderon's promise to appoint members of the opposition to important government posts, some members of the PRI may decided to switch (to the PAN or PRD) rather than fight. Mexico could ultimately return to a two-party system, without the PRI.

It feels awfully bittersweet to have said in the last few weeks both that Calderon would win, and that the race might be won by whichever side 'counted better.' AMLO might argue that I was right on both.

Also check out Mark in Mexico's disturbing account.

Update: Michael Barone and the Washington Post provide useful summaries of where things stand and what comes next. El Universal offers a sign of progress: Madrazo conceded. A wise move, as he was in 3rd place, about 14 points back.

Update 2: El Universal has compiled the projected totals for each party in the new Mexican Congress. The third and fourth screens show the totals for the House and Senate, respectively. As I suggested earlier, the PAN has the plurality in both chambers, and the PRI is in third place in both - an almost unthinkable result just a few months ago. We shall see if this leads to more 'normal' legislating in Mexico. The PAN will continue to be challenged by its lack of an actual majority in either, and will likely have to work with the rump PRI group to pass reforms.

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Monday, July 03, 2006

Brain Fibers Spontaneously Regrow

Amazing what the human body can be capable of.

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Kobayashi vs. Chestnut

Update: Lots of folks are visiting this page. If youu're looking for current info (July, 07), find it here.

That's what it all comes down to, at the corner of Surf and Stilwell, Coney Island, Brooklyn, on July 4. While I believe Japan is a critical ally in addressing regional security issues and dealing with the North Korean nuclear threat, I'm going in heavy for the jingoism. My heart is with Chestnut, to break the 5-year winning streak of the dominator - Takeru Kobayashi.

Our man Chestnut is clearly the underDOG (see what I did there?). I don't know how to read an odds-making site, but Kobayashi is -320 to win, while Chestnut is +285. Another site makes Kobayashi a 4.5 dog favorite (so if you can get Chestnut +5 dogs, jump at it!) And an oddsmaker is quoted as saying, "Although Joey Chestnut is having an amazing year on the competitive eating circuit and set a new American record with 50 hot dogs, it’s unlikely he’ll be able to unseat the great Kobayashi. Champions respond under pressure, and like Jordan and Elway before him, Kobayashi is the most clutch performer in eating history." So it's a tall order.

So there you go: Jordan, Elway, Kobayashi.

But there's a reason that this is called 'The Super Bowl of Competitive Eating:' it's because on any given July 4, anyone can win!

You can watch Kobayashi at work here. But be warned: he is the perfect eating machine. It's scary to watch. Maybe Joey Chestnut will need to win to get his own video on YouTube. All I could find of him was this.

Read all about the contest here. And turn on your TV at noon, Eastern Time on the 4th. Because with 600 channels, I'm sure someone's carrying it. Probably WE.

Update: CNN just reported that Kobayashi took his 6th consecutive title with 53.75 hot dogs, surviving a great opening surge by Chestnut. Slow but steady won the race. Kobayashi breaks the tie he had with the Montreal Canadiens and the New York Yankees for consecutive North American championship titles, and he now trails only the John Wooden UCLA Bruins and the Bill Russell Celtics. Chestnut finished with more than 50 hot dogs eaten, so if you had Chestnut + the 4.5, you're sitting pretty.

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Gettysburg Saves the Union

Today in History, courtesy of the History Channel. An appropriate way to get in the mood for July 4:

July 3, 1863

On the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Confederate General Robert E. Lee's last attempt at breaking the Union line ends in disastrous failure, bringing the most decisive battle of the American Civil War to an end.

In June 1863, following his masterful victory at the Battle of Chancellorsville, General Lee launched his second invasion of the Union in less than a year. He led his 75,000-man Army of Northern Virginia across the Potomac River, through Maryland, and into Pennsylvania, seeking to win a major battle on Northern soil that would further dispirit the Union war effort and induce Britain or France to intervene on the Confederacy's behalf. The 90,000-strong Army of the Potomac pursued the Confederates into Maryland, but its commander, General Joseph Hooker, was still stinging from his defeat at Chancellorsville and seemed reluctant to chase Lee further. Meanwhile, the Confederates divided their forces and investigated various targets, such as Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania capital.

On June 28, President Abraham Lincoln replaced Hooker with General George Meade, and Lee learned of the presence of the Army of the Potomac in Maryland. Lee ordered his army to concentrate in the vicinity of the crossroads town of Gettysburg and prepare to meet the Federal army. At the same time, Meade sent ahead part of his force into Pennsylvania but intended to make a stand at Pipe Creek in Maryland.

On July 1, a Confederate division under General Henry Heth marched into Gettysburg hoping to seize supplies but finding instead three brigades of Union cavalry. Thus began the Battle of Gettysburg, and Lee and Meade ordered their massive armies to converge on the impromptu battle site. The Union cavalrymen defiantly held the field against overwhelming numbers until the arrival of Federal reinforcements. Later, the Confederates were reinforced, and by mid-afternoon some 19,000 Federals faced 24,000 Confederates. Lee arrived to the battlefield soon afterward and ordered a general advance that forced the Union line back to Cemetery Hill, just south of the town.

During the night, the rest of Meade's force arrived, and by the morning Union General Winfield Hancock had formed a strong Union line. On July 2, against the Union left, General James Longstreet led the main Confederate attack, but it was not carried out until about 4 p.m., and the Federals had time to consolidate their positions. Thus began some of the heaviest fighting of the battle, and Union forces retained control of their strategic positions at heavy cost. After three hours, the battle ended, and the total number of dead at Gettysburg stood at 35,000.

On July 3, Lee, having failed on the right and the left, planned an assault on Meade's center. A 15,000-man strong column under General George Pickett was organized, and Lee ordered a massive bombardment of the Union positions. The 10,000 Federals answered the Confederate artillery onslaught, and for more than an hour the guns raged in the heaviest cannonade of the Civil War. At 3 p.m., Pickett led his force into no-man's-land and found that Lee's bombardment had failed. As Pickett's force attempted to cross the mile distance to Cemetery Ridge, Union artillery blew great holes in their lines. Meanwhile, Yankee infantry flanked the main body of "Pickett's charge" and began cutting down the Confederates. Only a few hundred Virginians reached the Union line, and within minutes they all were dead, dying, or captured. In less than an hour, more than 7,000 Confederate troops had been killed or wounded.

Both armies, exhausted, held their positions until the night of July 4, when Lee withdrew. The Army of the Potomac was too weak to pursue the Confederates, and Lee led his army out of the North, never to invade it again. The Battle of Gettysburg was the turning point in the Civil War, costing the Union 23,000 killed, wounded, or missing in action. The Confederates suffered some 25,000 casualties. On November 19, 1863, President Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address during the dedication of a new national cemetery at the site of the Battle of Gettysburg. The Civil War effectively ended with the surrender of General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia in April 1865.

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Lieberman Going Independent

This will set off all sorts of fireworks on the Left. And given Lieberman's weak performance in the primary race already, you have to figure that Lamont will beat him in the primary - unless he withdraws. I bet that will happen, as Dick Morris counseled a week ago.

Get ready for Kos and DFA to demand that Democratic officials state up-front their support for the party's nominee. I will be shocked if any prominent Democrats buck the trend. As Lieberman's home-state colleague, in a safe seat, Chris Dodd might. But then again, he may be running for President in 2008, and will be pressured to back the primary winner. Chuck Schumer made noise about backing Lieberman, but the criticism from Jimmy Dean made him quiet down real fast.

So the prediction for today: Lieberman pulls out of the Democratic primary, and we have a three-way race which Lieberman ultimately wins. I've said I wouldn't be surprised if he then caucuses as a Republican and notwithstanding the 'Independent Democrat' stuff, I wouldn't be surprised if he does.

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NYTimes Reveals Colonial Code

Amusing item over at Powerline.

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JFK Wouldn't Fit in Today's Democratic Party

I can't disagree. Yet another example of why disunity is their biggest threat this year: on Iraq, Lieberman, election financing... the Democrats are falling apart.

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Mexico Vote Tied; Calderon Ahead Late!

(Updated and Bumped)
According to Mexico City's El Universal, exit polling shows the election tied ('empatado') between Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and the PAN's Felipe Calderon. I think we would use the phrase 'too close to call.' They say that Madrazo is a certain distance behind the two leaders.

The IFE has said that it hopes to be able to declare a winner by 11:00pm Mexican time (midnight, Eastern). However, there will be no declaration if the official count is as close as the exit polling suggests.

Update: El Economista is carrying the tally from the Federal Election Institute, which (as I write this) shows Calderon with 36.74% and Obrador with 35.6%, with just over 90% of the vote counted. Madrazo is a shade over 20%. This is not the final, official, certified result, but it is the real tally of votes - not an exit poll. The percentage of the votes counted is under 'actas procesadas.' 'Participación Ciudadana' is the voter turnout.

Looks like Michael Barone was right - with a vengeance. Madrazo's support dropped significantly from the final polls, while Calderon's surged. Any question that a lot of people who preferred Madrazo couldn't stand the idea of an AMLO win? And given that AMLO has claimed victory, count on there being more than 100,000 people marching to Mexico City's Zocalo today, in support of his candidacy.

Update 2: While it has attracted less attention, the results of voting for Mexico's Legislature are critical - and depressing. One major problem that Vicente Fox encountered was a recalcitrant Congress, unwilling to act on a number of his proposed reforms. Well, the Mexican voters look like they've created a divided legislature again, with roughly one-third of the vote for each of the three major parties, in both the upper and lower House (look at 'Senadores' and 'Diputados' here). Thus the new President will face a fractured Legislature again, and will have a challenge getting anything done.

Update 3: Mark in Mexico tracks the vote count, and Gateway Pundit is worth a read.

Update 4: The markets recognize Calderon's lead. The peso is up.

Update 5: Looks like the photographers are starting to snap photos of Mexico City protesters. Expect lots more today. This banner says simply "AMLO Won; Honk your horn."

Update 6: As noted above, the voters split their vote for both chambers of Congress. While the PAN (Calderon's party) has the lead position in both the upper and lower chambers, they are significantly short of an absolute majority in both. In the Chamber of Deputies, the breakdown is PAN 139 seats, PRD 99 seats, and PRI 62 seats. In the Senate 41 seats for the PAN, 26 for the PRD, and 29 seats for the PRI. These are rough numbers, because seats are also provided according to proportional representation, and also because the totals will be for the coalition headed by each party, and once the election is over the coalitions will break out again into their constituent parties. So the totals given here give a good sense of what the ratios will be, but are far from final.

Update 7: I've created a new post now that AMLO has challenged the IFE count.

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Dems Assigning Blame for November Already!

Roll Call (subscription required) reports that Rahm Emanuel and Howard Dean are still fighting about the DNC's lack of funds to assist in this year's midterms, and who should be blamed if (when?) Democrats underperform:

Emanuel, Dean Still Sparring
July 3, 2006
By Steve Kornacki,
Roll Call Staff

A letter to Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean from Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, has set off a new round of sniping over party strategy and resources between allies of the two party leaders.

Emanuel, who reportedly stormed out of a May meeting with Dean, penned a letter, dated June 22, to the party chairman demanding $100,000 per targeted district from the DNC to defray the cost of the DCCC’s proposed field operation, several individuals who have read the letter said.

...In making his monetary request, Emanuel cited the example of 1994, when, he said, the Republican National Committee earmarked $20 million for then-Speaker Newt Gingrich’s successful drive for a House takeover. By contrast, Emanuel suggested that Dean had offered a woefully inadequate $20,000 per district.

But while his allies argue that Emanuel, through his record-setting fundraising for the DCCC, deserves wide latitude in shaping ’06 strategy, Dean loyalists took the letter as hostile in nature, coming as it did after months of coy suggestions by Emanuel that Dean and the DNC were shirking their financial obligations to the DCCC’s election year effort.

“This is all about C.Y.A.,” a Democrat familiar with DCCC operations, and sympathetic to the DNC, said. “He’s trying to lay the groundwork to blame someone else in case things go bad in November.”

On top of that, Dean’s backers contend he is not low-balling the DCCC on field operations as Emanuel suggests, and that the $20,000-per-district figure was simply a number being bandied about during negotiations, which were still proceeding when Emanuel wrote the letter.

More to the point, Dean’s allies contend, Emanuel is not taking into account what they call the unprecedented support the DNC is providing this year at the state level.

For instance, in Ohio — a quintessential battleground state where Democrats are locked in competitive contests for the governorship, a Senate seat and several House seats, a slew of statewide offices, and control of the state Legislature — the DNC has earmarked significant resources for coordinated statewide campaign efforts and has also implemented early voting and voter outreach programs designed to drive up turnout among the party’s core supporters.

“Anybody’s who’s an operative and who has been around can tell you that the DNC has never stepped up like this before,” the same Democrat said.

...Dean and Emanuel have been squabbling over campaign strategy for months, with Emanuel pushing Dean to fork over large sums directly to the DCCC for this year’s efforts. Dean has been reticent, and Emanuel’s frustrations have often spilled into the press. Despite strong suspicions that Emanuel was the source of many of those stories, Dean and the DNC have largely held their fire for the sake of party unity.

Since taking over the DNC, Dean’s relations with other Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill have been similarly strained, a result of his unapologetic investing of DNC money in all 50 state party organizations — at a time when a handful of states and districts could give the party control of Congress.

Emanuel’s backers point out that the RNC is poised to spend heavily down the stretch in key House and Senate races and argue that a lack of similar support from the DNC could cost the party winnable seats. As of the end of May, the RNC had $43.1 million on hand compared to the DNC’s $10.3 million.

This is the sort of stuff that warms the heart of Republican strategists. They know that when things look their gloomiest, you can always count on Democratic leaders to help out.

I've written on this many times before. Democratic disunity is the number one threat to their efforts this year.

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Sunday, July 02, 2006

Headline from 2003

"Kerry Faces Hard Road in Presidential Bid."

Maybe they could get Walter Mondale.

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Poll Shows GOP Weak, But Improving

This is the LATimes take on the latest Bloomberg poll:

President Bush's job approval rating is up slightly, but discontent over the Iraq war, especially among women, is continuing to boost Democratic prospects in the struggle for control of Congress, a Times/Bloomberg poll has found.

Bush's job approval rating edged up to 41%, his highest since January in the poll. But Democrats held a formidable advantage, 49% to 35%, when registered voters were asked which party they intended to support in fall congressional elections.

...However, beneath the large Democrat lead on the November ballot test, the poll offered potential warnings for the party.

On a variety of questions — including satisfaction with Bush's handling of terrorism and the likelihood of progress in Iraq — it showed modest but perceptible movement in the president's direction since the last Times/Bloomberg survey, in April. Also, the share of Americans who viewed the Democratic Party favorably declined. And creating a check on Bush seemed more important than providing an opportunity for Democrats to many poll respondents who said they intended to back that party's candidates for Congress.

"It's not that I'm for the Democrats specifically," said Carol Shulman, a communications professor from Oxford, Ohio. "I'm for more of a balance of power."

The Times/Bloomberg poll, supervised by Times Polling Director Susan Pinkus, interviewed 1,321 adults (including 1,170 registered voters) from Saturday through Tuesday. It had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

A quick glance at most of the recent polls (over at the indispensable Polling Report), shows that most track improvement for the GOP.

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Roy Orbison Bolsters Nuclear Deterrent

Noted without comment.

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