Saturday, July 15, 2006

Some Suggest Iran Is Moving to War Economy

Iran plans to cut gas imports, subsidies

It's difficult to see how they thought the Iranian public would stand for this, unless they planned to be under martial law by then.

One of the signal developments in Germany of 1938 was the completion of then Chief of Staff Ludwig Beck's calculations that Hitler's economic maneuvers were unsustainable without total mobilisation of the German economy. When he pointed this out to the Nazi leadership he was relieved of his command and resigned. Iran seems to be performing similar calculations.

On the Other Hand:

Ha'aretz quotes anonymous IDF officer that Al Hayat's report is untrue.

On the one hand:

Arabic newspapers occasionally run excerpts from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in their news sections, so take it for what it's worth, but Ynetnews in Israel reports that an Arabic newspaper has a story on an Israeli ultimatum to Syria.

Indeed, the Beeb Is Almost as Neutral as Al Jazeera

As this remarkably similar story shows. Should Al Jazeera's copyright solicitors be notified?

Fortunately, the BBC Remains Scrupulously Neutral in Its Reporting on Middle East Affairs

As this carefully scripted and impartial headline shows.

Ahmadinejad Wants Armageddon

Combine this with the messianic post that Philo linked to the other day, and you have real reason for concern.

Plame & Wilson Want their Privacy

Heh. Check it out.

Hat tip: Laura

Friday, July 14, 2006

Pelosi Hopes for Deficit Reduction

Oh - did you read a story that she 'promised' deficit reduction? Donald Luskin corrects the record.

At least this is much more believeable.

Back to the top.

The Trunk Monkey

Am I the last one to learn about these commercials?

I think my favorite is the attempted bribe.

Hat tip: Paul. Except it seems to be in Oregon, not in Indiana.

Back to the top.

Awesome Shuttle Launch Footage

Check it out here. Courtesy Garfield Ridge and the Bad Astronomy Blog.

The footage is from a camera on the shuttle's Solid Rocket Booster, so you get the view from launch to splashdown. Separation from the shuttle comes at just about 3 minutes in.

Back to the top.

"Chutzpah & Lies" from Lieberman

So if Joe is re-elected as an Independent, he's going to remain with the Democrats, huh? He's going to bury the hatchet with guys like David Sirota, and other core supporters of Ned Lamont?

Not a chance.

If Lieberman is re-elected this year, then he will be 70 in 2012 - the year that he would next stand for re-election. It's completely normal for a 70-year old to run for the Senate, so a re-elected Lieberman will want to cover all his bases in case he decides to run again. If he intends to run as a Democrat in 2012, he'll need to mend fences with party activists. How will it be possible to do that after all the blood spilled this year? Add to that the number of Democrats who will support Lamont if he wins the primary, and I can't imagine why Joe Lieberman would remain a Democrat. It would be far easier to run for re-election as an Independent or Republican - in either case, with his roots in a Connecticut Republican party that would probably be far more hospitable to him.

Back to the top.

After Gang of 14 Meet, Outlook Poor for Haynes

Confirm Them covers what we know about the Haynes nomination in the wake of yesterday's meeting of the Gang of 14.

Back to the top.

Managing Soprano Expectations

Well, it was obviously going to happen someday, right? James Gandolfini was knocked off his scooter by a taxi, and needs knee surgery. The final episodes of the Sopranos are thus delayed until March, 2007:

Gandolfini knee surgery delays 'Sopranos'
Updated 7/13/2006 11:28 PM ET

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Fans of The Sopranos will have to wait a bit longer for the mob drama's final chapter.

Because of "unexpected" knee surgery for series star James Gandolfini, the concluding episodes that were expected to begin in January will be delayed about two months, HBO Chairman Chris Albrecht said.

The surgery alone would have pushed the season start back just a few weeks, but that would have put The Sopranos up against the football playoffs and the Super Bowl, Albrecht told a television critics' gathering Wednesday.

A specific air date for the Sunday-night series has yet to be determined but it's likely to be in early March 2007, he said.

A call to HBO about Gandolfini's surgery was not immediately returned Thursday. The actor, who plays mob boss Tony Soprano, was in a traffic accident in New York recently. A collision with a taxi knocked him off his scooter but he reportedly was able to walk away.

You're better off expecting it in 2009, and anything earlier will be a pleasant surprise.

Back to the top.

Polling News

Today's news contains several polls with bad news for Republicans: AP polls 1,000 Americans, and noted that the President's approval held steady at 36% from the previous month, and that voters by 51%-40% say they intend to vote for the Democrat for Congress this year.

Fox News' latest poll shows the President's approval rating down a few points to 36%, and gives Democrats a slight edge on handling of Iraq, and a large edge on the economy and health care. Republicans hold the edge on terrorism and border security. It shows Republicans narrowing the Democratic advantage on the generic Congressional ballot test from 13 points to 8 points in the last month.

I would not read too much into these polls. There has been a nice upward trend for the President and Republicans generally in the last 6 weeks or so. There appears to be a bump here. But let's wait until we see a little more data, or a continuation of this trend, before growing concerned. Republicans are likely to benefit from enactment of a border security bill and other measures, so I think things are likely to improve.

Back to the top.

Mexico: PRI Falling Apart

I've commented before that the likeliest partner for Calderon's new government would be the PRI. This is rather ironic, since the PRI ran the country for 71 years and few imagined it could fall into third-place status so quickly.

However, the PRI yesterday expelled its former Secretary General, Elba Esther Gordillo. Gordillo had resigned from her party leadership post last year over a bitter dispute with the PRI's nominee for President, Roberto Madrazo. She subsequently created the 'New Alliance' which won a small percentage of the vote on election day. It also seems that she encouraged her supporters to back Calderon for President, potentially handing Calderon the win.

Yesterday the PRI expelled her (article in Spanish). This seems to mark the official kick-off of the anticipated civil war within what's left of the PRI, and analysts and sources are talking about its dissolution. Notably, three PRI governors are calling the expulsion a great mistake, and are saying that they will stay within the party and fight against those who are actually responsible for the beating the PRI took on July 2. They name several PRI leaders in Congress, whom they identify as having betrayed Roberto Madrazo.

I can't see this as anything other than an important opportunity for Calderon. If he can work with factions in the PRI, and take castoffs from that party, he can expand his influence in the Congress. It could give an important boost to the free-market reforms that Mexico needs.

I've also included a cartoon from today's El Universal. It shows AMLO as Superman, trying to lift up a supporter whose sign says 'AMLO Won,' but pinned down by 'Calderon's advantage.'

Back to the top.

Gorbachev: US Desire to Win a Disease

I missed this story the first time around. I saw the headline saying 'Gorbachev: US Has a Disease,' and I decided that anything Mikhail Gorbachev had to say was not worth clicking a link. Guess I was wrong; it was worth a chuckle at least.

Because the disease that the US has is 'the winner's complex;' the desire for an American-style democracy in Russia:

Gorbachev: 'Americans Have a Severe Disease'
15 Years After Being Deposed From Power, Former Leader Discusses Russia, U.S.

July 12, 2006 — - Mikhail Gorbachev is generally regarded as the man who broke down the "iron curtain" that separated the communist world from the West and thawed the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Now, 15 years after a coup removed him from power and the Soviet Union dissolved, he has some stern words for the United States, whose relationship with Russia has soured lately.

"We have made some mistakes," he said, referring to recent attacks on Russia's democracy. "So what? Please don't put even more obstacles in our way. Do you really think you are smarter than we are?"

The former general secretary of the Soviet Union Communist Party accused Americans of arrogance and trying to impose their way of life on other nations.

"Americans have a severe disease -- worse than AIDS. It's called the winner's complex," he said. "You want an American style-democracy here. That will not work."

Gorbachev found a partner in former President Bush in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

During their time in power, communism fell in East Germany, when Germans tore down the legendary wall separating the democratic West from the communist East.

The collapse of communism quickly spread across eastern Europe, and the leaders worked together to create a partnership in the changing world.

His remarks are not entirely without merit, although the entire puff piece is pretty amusing. Shipman describes Gorbachev as the man 'generally regarded' as having broken down the Iron Curtain. I guess if you see Robert E. Lee as the man who ended the Civil War, or Cornwallis as the man responsible for US independence, then you see Gorbachev as the man who broke down the Iron Curtain. Credit Gorbachev with recognizing that the Soviet system was unsustainable, and trying to give up on it. History will remember that Gorbachev was not an entirely willing partner in all this of course; he did approve military action against the new free government of Lithuania in 1991, in an attempt to restore Soviet domination of the breakaway republic.

Further, Gorbachev ought to be thankful that the US was infected with a 'winner's complex,' because that complex brought freedom to millions in the former Soviet Union and Eastern bloc. Ask the people of East Germany, Poland, the Czech and Slovak Republics, the Baltic States, Ukraine, Hungary and others whether it was a good thing that the US insisted on winning the Cold War. I'm sure the answer will be pretty clear there, although it may be a closer question in some parts of the former communist world.

I'm not sure what Gorbachev would prescribe, but it's pretty clear that if the problem is a 'winner's complex,' that the cure would be worse than the disease.

Back to the top.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Dems Back Independent in Senate Bid

We're not talking about Connecticut, so I guess it's OK.

What we're actually talking about is the Vermont Senate race, where Democrats are so strongly behind the Socialist that they're doing everything they can to prevent the Democratic party from fielding a nominee. Is it because Bernie Sanders sees himself as a Democrat? No. In fact, he says he'll refuse the Democratic endorsement if he gets it:

Party shuns Vermont Democrats in race
Seeks to clear way for independent in US Senate bid
By Rick Klein, Globe Staff
July 13, 2006

WASHINGTON -- Vermont's Democratic Party is maneuvering to keep the Democratic candidates for the state's open US Senate seat off the November ballot, as party leaders seek to clear the way for independent Representative Bernard Sanders in his bid for the Senate.

State Democratic leaders are spearheading efforts to gather signatures to put Sanders on the ballot as a Democrat, even though Sanders has repeatedly said he would turn down the party's nomination if he wins the primary. At least three other candidates have announced their intention to run for the Democratic nomination in the Sept. 12 primary, but party leaders prefer Sanders to any of them.

So they oppose Lieberman because he has not been a consistent, loyal Democrat, and they're backing Sanders over actual Democrats because... why, exactly?

And Joe Lieberman says that if he's elected as an Independent, he'll still caucus with Democrats. If Sanders gets elected, they'll have interesting conversations:

Sanders: So yeah, I was always a Socialist, never a Democrat, and the party cleared the field for me.

Lieberman: What do you mean, 'cleared the field?'

Sanders: You know, cleared the field. Made sure I didn't face any Democratic opposition. They did that for you, right?

Lieberman: No. Actually, lots of them supported my opponent at the convention, and forced me into a primary. But then they totally supported me in the primary.

Sanders: Oh, really? How much did they give you?

Lieberman: Well, Chuck gave me $62.10. [more here]

Sanders: That doesn't sound like much, Joe.

Lieberman: Yeah, I know. You see, he was switching bank accounts and he hadn't gotten the supply of new checks yet, so he just gave me a few bills out of his wallet. And then after that, we just kind of played phone tag, and I never got the rest of the cash.

Sanders: So you didn't win the Democratic primary?

Lieberman: Nah, I had to run and win as an Independent - against most of the party leaders, who said they had to back the Democratic nominee.

Sanders: Really? That's pretty different from what happened with me.

Lieberman: Well, it must have gotten better when you won the Democratic primary, right?

Sanders: Oh no, no. I kinda spit that right back at them. Told them that if I won their nomination, I wouldn't even take it. Told 'em I'd leave 'em with a blank line on the ballot.

Lieberman: Bet they were pretty pissed then!

Sanders: I couldn't really say. They were too busy trying to make sure I didn't get any opposition. They might have been mad, though. But what did you do to make them so angry?

Lieberman: Well, I was nice to Dick Cheney, and I got kissed by the President, and I think we need to win the war in Iraq.

Sanders: Wow, Joe. That IS pretty bad. Maybe if you had been a Socialist...

Lieberman: Yeah, maybe. Listen Bernie, do you know where the Republicans are meeting?

I would imagine that DailyKos and Democracy for America, and all the rest of the folks pushing for a 'real Democrat' in Connecticut, and insisting that party leaders back the Democratic nominee - whoever he is - will latch onto this cause, now that it's come to light. I mean, their commitment to a real Democrat would never allow them to back a self-avowed Socialist against a range of real Democrats, right?

Back to the top.

Dems Roll out Agenda - Again

What does the Democratic party have in common with Spinal Tap? The new direction won't go over any better than the old.

Tim Chapman had exactly the same response I did. Go read it.

Back to the top.

AMLO Paid Poll Watchers

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador needs better political advisers. The other day, he said that the reason the PRD's poll watchers did not complain when they witnessed irregularities like stuffing of ballot boxes was that they had been bought by the opposition. Mark in Mexico notes that this interesting tactic - turning on his supporters - has somehow undercut his support from them (shocking how that works).

Now Mexico City's Reforma (in Spanish, subscription required) reports that AMLO's own party - the PRD - paid its poll watchers in the state of Guanajuato:

Paga PRD a sus representantes
El comité estatal del PRD aportó 2 millones de pesos para pagar a sus representantes y Redes Ciudadanas debió erogar 3 millones de pesos
Jorge Escalante

Ciudad de México (12 julio 2006).- Un día después de que Andrés Manuel López Obrador acusó que algunos representantes de casilla del PRD se vendieron, el comité estatal de su partido en Guanajuato admitió que fueron ellos los que dieron 300 pesos a quienes vigilaron la contienda federal y 200 a los que cuidaron la local.

The going rate was about $27 per day for those who watched the federal polls, and $18 for those watching the balloting for local races. And according to the sign in the picture above, breakfast and lunch were free!

While some critics might say that this puts the lie to AMLO's claim, look for him to respond that it only shows that they are mercenaries who can be bought and paid by whoever offers the most.

Then he'll be surprised when his rally is smaller than expected.

The fat lady is warming up, and AMLO's 15 minutes look like they're coming to an end.

Back to the top.

Mumbai Bombing Pointing towards Pakistan

Pakistan hand in Mumbai blasts, sources say.

No one speaking on the record, though.

Lebanese Ambassador to US lets mask slip

Lebanon's Ambassador to the US Farid Abboud was recalled to Beirut on Wednesday night after expressing his support for Hizbullah in the US media.

Hat tip to Little Green Footballs.

On any other day, this should have led the news

The first province in Iraq to have security turned back over to the Iraqis.

"We should not consider this a matter of days"

IAF deputy chief of staff states "This blockade will last as long as the conflict goes on."

The economic consequences of this sort of long-term action in terms of the sustained mobilisation of Israeli reservists remain to be seen. The economics of keeping the reserves mobilised is ultimately what led Israel to leave Lebanon in the 1990's, so this question has no doubt been on the planners' minds throughout the planning process.

Israel Clamps Down

I question the significance of this, given the fact that the decisive strategic axis runs Beirut-Damascus-Tehran, rather than out to sea.

Update: Counterterrorismblog offers more on the Iran angle. Hat tip: Instapundit

Bush Administration Calls for Israeli Restraint; France Splits Hairs

Somehow, Bush wants the politically bankrupt Lebanese government to remain solvent when all the smoke clears away.

France, of course, sides with the kidnappers.

Would a proportional response have been merely crossing the border and bagging counter-hostages? At the current exchange rate of 1 Israeli per 435 terrorists, I don't think the Israelis are anywhere near that level of proportionality yet.

Gang of 14 to Meet Today

According to Roll Call, no definite agenda. They're just going to shoot some bull... and maybe the names Haynes, Boyle, Myers and Wallace will come up:

‘Gang’ Returns As Fight Looms
July 13, 2006
By Erin P. Billings and John Stanton,
Roll Call Staff

The bipartisan “Gang of 14” will meet for the first time in two months this afternoon in a gathering intended to determine group members’ attitudes on a series of outstanding judicial nominations, according to sources.
The seven Democratic and seven Republican Senators will meet at 1:15 p.m. in the office of Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). While organizers said there was no firm agenda outlined for the meeting, Senators and aides speculated the session largely would focus on the pending nomination of William Haynes to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

...Although no specific issue is on the schedule, many close to the gang speculated it is likely to focus most heavily on Haynes’ nomination, given that he came before the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. But several other controversial nominees also remain on the Senate’s radar including circuit court hopefuls Terrence Boyle, William Myers and Michael Wallace.

Boyle — probably the most incendiary nominee in the group — on Wednesday provided written answers to a series of questions from Judiciary members. It is unclear, however, whether those answers will curry him any more favor with Senators who have raised conflict of interest questions over some of his previous rulings.

But it is Haynes, general counsel to the Defense Department, who is likely to come to a vote first. Democrats and some moderate Republicans have expressed concerns that Haynes played an integral role in U.S. interrogation and torture policies used at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.

...But, with the election season in full swing and only seven weeks of scheduled legislative time left on the calendar, the chance that the gang will again be called upon to broker a deal on Haynes or another controversial circuit court nominee appear slim. While there are four judicial confirmations that could prompt a revival of the nuclear option fight, none of them enjoys the kind of support within the GOP at this point that would be needed to bring the group in to play.

Although Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn) and Specter have been working with the White House to try to find a way forward for the stalled nominees, GOP aides acknowledged Wednesday not enough progress had been made and that the window of opportunity was rapidly closing.

But one senior Republican Senate aide wasn’t ready to close the door, suggesting that Haynes, in particular, came across “very strong” and “didn’t wilt” in Tuesday’s Judiciary hearing. This staffer predicted Haynes would come up for a vote this year, and that he has the support — despite concerns from some moderates — to move forward.

“I believe so, given our 55-vote majority,” this source said.

But Democratic Senate leaders signaled this week they are willing to put up a fight, and have not ruled out using the filibuster on Haynes’ confirmation.

This could be interesting. Remember that the Gang of 14 includes Mike DeWine, Lincoln Chafee, and Joe Lieberman - all of whom face very difficult re-election fights. Depending on when the vote comes in relation to the primary (at least in the cases of Chafee and Lieberman) and whome they perceive themselves as needing to appeal to, it will be interesting to watch what they do.

Back to the top.

Chafee, Lieberman - A Study in Contrasts

Conservatives are angry that the National Republican Senate Committee has been so aggressive in supporting Lincoln Chafee in the Rhode Island Senate primary against challenger Steve Laffey, that they have even filed an FEC complaint against the Laffey campaign. What has the DSCC done in another closely-watched race: Lieberman vs. Lamont?

First off, Roll Call (subscription required) buries the lede in today's story about the Lieberman-Lamont race. The story they tell is about how Democratic officials and liberal interest groups who have endorsed Lieberman will have a tough decision to make if he loses the primary:

Lieberman’s Peril Poses Dilemma
July 13, 2006
By Nicole Duran,
Roll Call Staff

Now that Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) has his “insurance policy” of seeking re-election as an Independent should he fail to secure the Democratic nomination next month, he has put it in a drawer and is focusing on shoring up his base and winning the primary.
“My entire world is focused on winning Aug. 8,” said Sean Smith, Lieberman’s campaign manager.

But the possibility that he may bolt the party to save his political career puts many of his supporters in an awkward position.

Even more than Lieberman’s Senate colleagues, Democratic-leaning interest groups aligned with the former vice presidential nominee might occupy the toughest spot come Aug. 9 if he loses the primary to cable TV executive Ned Lamont.

Most traditional Democratic allies, including labor, environmental and women’s groups, preferred to let their current endorsements of Lieberman — many granted before he raised the specter of an independent bid — stand, leaving the question about “what if he loses the primary?” until Aug. 9.

All very interesting. And come August 9, it might even matter But here's the lede:

One group that has been surprisingly quiet about its support for Lieberman is the DSCC.

The organization, which focuses first and foremost on retaining incumbents, is backing Lieberman for now.

DSCC Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) has avoided saying what his committee would do should Lieberman lose the primary.

Still, the committee has yet to launch an independent campaign on his behalf and otherwise seems to be flying under the radar in its efforts to re-elect him.

Spokesman Phil Singer would not discuss whether the DSCC has plans to do something overt, such as take out ads for Lieberman, before the primary.

That stands in marked contrast to what the National Republican Senatorial Committee has done to prop up Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.), who faces a stiff primary challenge from Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey.

The NRSC has paraded GOP leaders to the Ocean State to raise money and shore up Chafee among the party faithful. It began running ads on his behalf last October and recently took the unprecedented step of filing a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Laffey.

Of course, the NRSC is trying to retain control of the chamber and believes that Laffey has no shot of winning in November.

By contrast, both Lieberman, who said he would caucus with the Democrats should he win re-election as an independent, and Lamont would be favored over Schlesinger, a former state legislator. Furthermore, Lamont did not enter the race until March. Laffey threw his hat into the ring last fall.

Lieberman also has a tremendous cash-on-hand advantage over Lamont, though Lamont has already spent more than $2 million from his own pocket and has the ability to funnel millions more into his effort.

One official from an interest group backing Lieberman who did not want to be named said the DSCC’s apparent public hands-off stance is not surprising.

“If I’m the DSCC, incumbents are expected to raise their own money to survive a primary,” especially ones as entrenched as Lieberman, the source said. “You don’t want to be the one saying ‘we gotta help this incumbent’ when that $2 million could go into Cleveland or Montana — there’s better ways to spend that money.”

...According to the most recent campaign fiance reports, the DSCC has done more financially to shore up veteran Sen. Daniel Akaka in Democratic-heavy Hawaii in his primary fight with Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) than it has to help Lieberman.

The Lieberman campaign says it is happy with the level of support it has received from interest groups, the DSCC and individual Senators.

The DSCC contributed $30,000 to Daniel Akaka's campaign from September 2005 to April 2006 - a small amount, but still more than Lieberman got ($62.00). That Senate seat is in even less danger than the one in Connecticut. So why isn't Charlie Schumer ponying up for Joe Lieberman?

OK - money has to go to priority races, and Montana does look like a better investment than Connecticut. But Lieberman is in the race of his life. Surely DSCC spokesman Phil Singer can say something like 'we have nothing against Ned Lamont, but this campaign committee backs Joe Lieberman to the hilt, and we're confident that he's going to win. We're going to give him all the help he needs,' or some other equally-reassuring phrase?

Is Joe Lieberman really sure that he wants to caucus with the Democrats if he is re-elected as an Independent?

Back to the top.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Weirder and Weirder in Connecticut

This race is a campaign analyst's dream.

So you Kos folks don't think that the Republicans have a chance at winning the Connecticut Senate race, even with another anti-war candidate to siphon off votes from Lamont?

Well, what if Alan Schlesinger - the presumptive Republican nominee - is booted out of the race for gambling problems, and the GOP drafts a 'wealthy Republican mogul' to run for the seat? The GOP candidate might be able to win with only 30% of the vote or so.

Concerned yet?

If not, consider that if Schlesinger gets forced out and no good substitute is found, it would be no surprise if either Nancy Johnson or Chris Shays gave up the campaign for re-election to the House, in favor of the Senate nod. Either of them could probably draw 30% of the vote without trying too hard. Either one of them - or a candidate of their caliber - would be a strong contender in a 3- or 4-way race.

And anticipating the response on the Left, yes - I have considered the possibility that if Schlesinger drops out, the GOP might simply endorse Lieberman. I don't think that's especially likely, however.

Update: Schlesinger says he's staying in.

Back to the top.

Jim Valvano's Speech

Update: I note that the YouTube clip below is no longer available, but I provide a new link to it here.

I was reminded that ESPN is coming up on the airing of their annual ESPY Awards. They're silly, but they never fail to remind me of Jim Valvano's speech at the 1993 ceremony. I intended to post it on the anniversary of the ceremony, but discovered that in 1993, the awards were in March - so I would have to wait 8 months for it to come around again. Since I didn't feel like waiting, I just decided to post it:

Here's an excerpt:

...To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special

...I talked about my family, my family's so important. People think I have courage. The courage in my family are my wife Pam, my three daughters, here, Nicole, Jamie, LeeAnn, my mom, who's right here too. And...that screen is flashing up there thirty seconds like I care about that screen right now, huh? I got tumors all over my body. I'm worried about some guy in the back going thirty seconds, huh? You got a lot, hey va fa napoli, buddy. You got a lot.

I just got one last thing, I urge all of you, all of you, to enjoy your life, the precious moments you have. To spend each day with some laughter and some thought, to get you're emotions going. To be enthusiastic every day and [as] Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Nothing great could be accomplished without enthusiasm" -- to keep your dreams alive in spite of problems whatever you have. The ability to be able to work hard for your dreams to come true, to become a reality.

...I know, I gotta go, I gotta go, and I got one last thing and I said it before, and I'm gonna say it again: Cancer can take away all my physical ability. It cannot touch my mind; it cannot touch my heart; and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever.

Valvano was a New York guy like me, and he was a hero of a family member I lost to cancer. He was also a great college basketball coach, whose career highlight was one of the all-time improbable cinderella stories. Less than 2 months after delivering this wonderful and inspiring message, he passed away.

I'll always love this speech.

Back to the top.

Lieberman vs. McCain

ALa (no, not Allah) poses a good question: why do liberals like McCain, but hate Lieberman? She demonstrates that it can't be because of their politics.

Back to the top.


Hotline On Call reports that the Connecticut Senate race may be about to get another entrant:

July 11, 2006
As Connecticut Turns
This just in from our guy in CT, Hartford Courant's Kevin Rennie:

Just when you thought the Connecticut race for the U.S. Senate could grow no odder, Republican state Representative Diana Urban today took out petitions for an independent run, creating the possibility of a four way race should Democrat challenger Ned Lamont defeat Senator Joseph Lieberman in the August 8th primary. Lieberman has also taken out petitions.
Urban, 56, will be running as an anti-war candidate and in a brief telephone interview sounded like a Republican version of Cindy Sheehan. The three term state legislator, claiming the Bush administration possesses a “flat learning curve”, says America went into Iraq for the wrong reasons. She says she was heavily influenced by recently published account of the war, Cobra II. On a more philosophical level, she cleaves to the Sun-Tzu’s Art of War, declaring that her campaign strategy comes from him: “The path will reveal itself to you.”

Claiming “a number of women asked me over and over again to do this”, Urban is not giving up her race for re-election to the state legislature, for which she is unopposed from her affluent southeastern Connecticut district, previously represented by Iraq war enthusiast, Congressman Rob Simmons.

Normally, the GOP would have no chance in a Connecticut Senate race. If Lieberman were the Democratic nominee, running against any Republican, he would clean up. If Ned Lamont is the Democratic nominee, and faces a Republican and no Independent candidate, he would wipe the floor with his opponent.

But if voters have a choice of an anti-war Democrat (Lamont), a pro-war Independent Democrat (Lieberman), an anti-war Republican Independent (Urban), and a normal Republican (Schlesinger), what would that Republican need to get in order to win? I have no idea. But adding a candidate who is likely to draw as many votes from Lamont and Lieberman as from Schlesinger can only help him.

I've said from the start that I don't understand why Democrats would want to put a safe Senate seat at risk, in a year when they have a small chance to win a majority, just to satisfy partisan purity standards.

If Urban runs, it can only help the chances that Republicans take away a seat.

Update: I see that Harold Meyerson defends the challenge to Lieberman. We'll have to see whether Urban is at all a serious candidate. If so, it will change the calculations.

Back to the top.

Stevens: The Internet is a Series of Tubes

It's not a truck, folks.

Ted Stevens has been set to music. Check out the remix here.

Back to the top.

IDF Reservist Call-Up Expands

IDF Re-Engages Lebanon, Reserves Called Up

Israeli National News TV has video, too.

Hitchiking remains on the Knesset agenda, though.

Is This the Blank Cheque?

US: Israel Must Do Whatever Necessary to Protect Itself

The Balloon Goes UP

USA Today bloggers cheer Israel settling accounts now before Uncle Ahmadinejad gets hold of the heavy artillery.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council continues to wring its hands...

Israeli reservists are being called up. Ahmadinejad continues to manifest convincing symptoms of messianic lunacy.

Fasten your seat belts, folks, we're in for a bumpy night.

Pork? Try 'Herd of Pigs'

The Hill describes the quandary House Republicans face in trying to pass the spending bill for Labor and the Department of Health and Human Services. This is always the most difficult appropriations measure to pass, because everyone can find a reason to vote against: abortion policy, healt care funding, and a host of others. This year, the problems include $500 million spent on 1,700 earmarks!

Tom Coburn and Jeff Flake are tag-teaming the Congressional leadership, and can probably prevent this bill from being considered.

Back to the top.

Chavez Signals Fight for Cuba?

Well, I took a quick survey of the status this morning of the Castro rumor. The Jawa Report has a sources that says he has indeed 'shuffled off the mortal coul and joined the choir invisible.' They reference Babalu Blog, which links to Venezuela's El Nacional, where Hugo Chavez tells us that Fidel is 'stronger than ever.'

And remember my speculation that Chavez might have troops on hand to prevent democracy from taking root in Cuba? In the same article, Chavez signals Venezuela's commitment to the Cuban 'revolution,' and its commitment to countering the US Empire:

En cadena de radio y televisión, el jefe de Estado aseguró que Venezuela siempre apoyará al pueblo cubano. "Ahora es cuando Venezuela apoyará a la revolución cubana. No habrá imperio por más poderoso que se crea, que nos desaliente a nosotros. Debo decir que más bien las amenazas del imperialismo, de este imperio obsceno, inmoral, que no tiene moral para hablarle al mundo, es un imperio asesino, genocida, desconocedor de los más elementales derechos humanos, no habrá imperio que nos desaliente para continuar con la alianza estratégica con la Cuba revolucionaria", aseguró.

El primer mandatario venezolano señaló que el gobierno de EE UU, no sólo amenaza a Cuba y anuncia la inminente muerte de Fidel Castro, "sino que además nos amenaza a nosotros, porque en el informe dice que ellos se encargarán de desalentar a cualquier tercer país que quiera apoyar a Cuba revolucionaria".

Here my translation will suffer a little; perhaps a reader more familiar with Venezuelan Spanish can improve upon my rendition. But Chavez's statement goes something like this:

"Now is when Venezuela will support the Cuban revolution. No more powerful Empire will discourage us. Or better, the threats of imperialism, of this obscene, immoral empire, that lacks the morals to speak to the world - is a murderous, genocidal empire that does not recognize human rights. No empire will discourage us from our strategic alliance with revolutionary Cuba."

The Venezuelan leader signaled that the US government not only threatens Cuba and announces the imminent passing of Fidel, "but also threatens us, because its statement says that they will discourage any third country that wants to support the Cuban revolution."

What is Chavez's intention?

Back to the top.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Knockdown, Drag-out Coot-off

Tim Chapman picked up on it. Very funny - unless you identify with Grandpa Simpson.

Back to the top.

Stunning Dishonesty at the LATimes

The LATimes nicely summarizes the argument of many liberals regarding the President's announcement of a smaller-than-projected budget deficit. They say it's no surprise - that the Administration has consistently projected higher deficits early on and then 'surprisingly' small deficits once the fiscal year is well under way:

But the apparent good news will not strike some economists as surprising: This will be the third year in a row that the administration put forth relatively gloomy deficit forecasts early on, only to announce months later that things had turned out better than expected. To some skeptics, it's beginning to look like an economic version of the old "expectations" game.

Even economists who hesitate to accuse the White House of playing games say the claims of good news on the budget are unfortunate because they make people unjustifiably sanguine about the government's current fiscal health.

And the focus on this year's budget will distract attention from the real budget crisis, which will begin in two years as the eldest of the baby boom generation become eligible for Social Security benefits.

...To divert attention from that continuing reality, critics suggest, the administration has borrowed a gambit favored by political candidates, who commonly try to lower expectations about how they will fare to magnify the apparent size of their victory if they win.

So the Bush administration is trying to dodge Social Security insolvency, huh? Seems to me I remember the White House trying to act on Social Security. Was the LATimes supportive then? Well, google 'los angeles times social security bush,' and you get headlines like "Bush's Social Security Equation Comes Up Short on Money, Trust," "Kinsley's Proof That Social Security Privatization Won't Work," and "Privatization's Empty Hype."

What's the word for something like this? Let's use 'hypocrisy.'

And as for the Times' contention that Bush has overestimated the size of the deficit only so that he could subsequently reveal it to be lower than anticipated, it might be harder if people actually expected a strong economy that produced strong tax revenues. Fortunately, Bush is 'helped' on that score by the Los Angeles Times, which as recently as June 29 printed an article entitled 'Economic Jitters an Albatross for Bush,' and as far back as 2003 printed stories like 'Bush's Economic Growth Forecast Called 'False.'

I suspect that if the Times actually covered the fact that we have had 18 straight quarters of economic growth, surging tax revenues, 5.4 million new jobs and 4.6 percent unemployment, that their readers might actually think that a shrinking deficit was no great achievement.

You know, if you report things honestly, people learn the facts.

Back to the top.

The Core and the Gap

As I read the news of bombed trains in Mumbai today, it called to mind Thomas Barnett's book, The Pentagon's New Map. I'm not going to offer a lengthy commentary on why I think Barnett is right, it simply occurred to me that I have not yet posted anything on it. At the very least, if you are not familiar with the implicit thinking of the Bush administration on the Core and the Gap, it is worth a read.

Here's Thomas Barnett's article from Esquire, and here is a summary at Winds of Change.

India is part of what Barnett calls the 'newly-integrating core,' which could be lost in the near future. Today's events remind us how that can happen.

Back to the top.

NYT Prints Another Lie

"MSNBC Star." Or is it not a lie if it's an oxymoron?

This article is virtually the definition of damning with faint praise:

...That growth, while coming from a base that Fox News would find disastrously puny, is demonstrable, especially among the group that is chiefly sold to news advertisers: people between the ages of 25 and 54. For the last quarter, Mr. Olbermann, who is 47, has seen his ratings in that group grow by more than 30 percent.

The growth has not been unfailingly steady, as competitors at Fox and CNN pointed out. They noted that Mr. Olbermann did better in February and March than he has since. Still, for the year, Mr. Olbermann has managed to climb past CNN into second place in the news channel competition at 8 p.m. among that 25-to-54 group. That qualifies as a feat for MSNBC, though Mr. Olbermann’s show remains little more than a dot in the rearview mirror of Fox News.

...Mr. Olbermann thinks he knows one reason behind his gains. He believes that Mr. O’Reilly’s audience, which is still huge, is aging. He noted that Mr. O’Reilly’s total viewer ratings are basically flat, while his numbers in the younger audience group have been dropping — down about 15 percent for the last quarter. “There is no other conclusion to draw than he is not adding younger viewers,” Mr. Olbermann said.

Of course, in terms of numbers of viewers in that younger age group, Mr. O’Reilly is still playing in another league, with about three times as many as Mr. Olbermann. But that does represent a small slice of the total audience for Mr. O’Reilly.

That last line may be the best of the article, 'sure O'Reilly has 3 times the young viewers of Olbermann, but that's balanced out by the fact that he has 10 times the audience in other groups!'
Mr. Olbermann said, “People who didn’t like what I was doing would call and say: ‘Is this guy a jackass or what?’ You can tailor what you’re doing or saying to other people’s expectations, but you’re going to wind up acting.” He freely admitted, “The reaction of the audience has not been paramount with me.”

So you're TRYING to get ratings like this? This isn't golf, Keith; it's more like bowling. You want HIGH numbers.

“The country gave this president every imaginable benefit of the doubt,” he said, about the period following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. “He abused it. You know what Lincoln said: You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of time. But it looks like you can’t fool all of the viewers all of the time, endlessly.”

To that I'll just say, does Keith know that 'all the viewers' means more than 50 people?

Perhaps I'm taking this piece the wrong way. Perhaps I should follow the Keith model, and note that since day 1 of this blog with 3 page views, my growth curve puts that of Instapundit and DailyKos to shame! I'm sure it's not long before they see me in their rear view mirrors.

Back to the top.

Can Giuliani Win?

He's smart to collect chits - raising money for Rick Santorum, Mike DeWine, Asa Hutchinson, Judy Barr Topinka, and Lynn Swann.

I generally believe that Rudy Giuliani would be toast in a Republican Presidential primary. Even though he's America's Mayor, demonstrated great leadership on 9/11, and recognizes evil when he sees it, it's awfully tough to overcome pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-gun control, and pro-illegal immigration in a GOP primary.

That said, I don't see any traditional conservative candidate in the primary who I feel confident would beat Giuliani. George Allen, Sam Brownback, Tim Pawlenty... none has any name ID to speak of. And in the early stages of the campaign, they will divide the conservative vote.

And if it comes down to McCain vs. Giuliani, I think that many conservatives will find Giuliani more palatable. As I've noted before, McCain is too practiced at angering conservatives; at times he's seemed to actively try to upset them. Giuliani has never run in a place where conservative support was important. He's never betrayed them. If he starts the Presidential primary by saying, 'I recognize the views of the majority of Republicans on these contentious social issues, and won't push for reforms on guns, gays, and abortion that are not supported by conservatives in Congress,' then I think he will have a chance.

Again, if there were a clear, traditional conservative in the primary, I think Giuliani would have little chance. But without one, I think he has a fair chance at pulling it off.

Back to the top.

Do They Understand the Job

Man with apparent bomb components allowed to board plane.

Avoid Houston's Hobby.

Back to the top.

Quit Asking for Rice

I think Condoleezza Rice is great. I liked her when she was on the National Security Council; I was thrilled to meet her when she was Provost at Stanford; I thought it was great when she was elevated to Secretary of State.

But she's not going to run for President in 2008, and she's not going to be elected.

AP articles about 'Condistas,' and websites dedicated to drafting her are fine, but she has never run for elective office. She has rejected entreaties to seek office. And when was the last time America elected a candidate who had never sought office before? This is one of those cases where Dick Morris is spectacularly wrong.

She's not going to run. Why not focus on candidates who have a chance?

Back to the top.

Mexico Conspiracy Grows by the Day

Well, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been hard-pressed for a coherent explanation of how the PAN rigged Mexico's Presidential election. So far he's talked about millions of hidden votes, pregnant ballot boxes, and my personal favorite - racoons.

As I covered yesterday, AMLO has said that he has video of ballots being stuffed into a ballot box in Guanajuato and, while the box being stuffed was for Congress, this nevertheless proves a stolen Presidential election. The Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) reviewed the video and said that it showed an instance they were aware of: during the counting, 8-10 ballots were found for Congress in the box for President, so the President of the polling station ordered them transferred to the correct box. AMLO's party - the PRD - had an official poll watcher present, who filmed the whole thing, and then signed the paperwork verifying that the count was accurate.

So AMLO was asked today why the PRD poll watcher signed the document instead of crying foul, if the box had been tampered with. He said that the poll watcher had been bought (article in Spanish, subscription required). If the other side succeeded in buying votes, he said, why wouldn't they have bought election workers as well?' He said it was unclear how many had been bought, but that more information would likely come out.

Of course. AMLO has been undone by a massive fraud that involved the PAN, the PRI, the minor parties (all of whom accept the results), the European observers who saw nothing amiss, the IFE, and now AMLO's own poll watchers!

How has AMLO figured out this grand conspiracy? You'd be surprised. (If you're too young for the reference, add it to your queue).

Back to the top.

Rumors, Rumors, Rumors...

Fidel Castro dead? Barry Bonds to be indicted?

Well, couldn't happen to two sweeter guys...

I'll greet Castro's death as I greeted that of Zarqawi - gleefully. But what I can't wait to see is what happens when Castro dies - be it tonight or some happy day in the future. How many thousands of Cubans and Cuban ex-patriates are sitting breathlessly with their weapons, waiting for confirmation of the rumor? How many boats are sitting in Miami harbor, waiting to head to Havana at the drop of a hat? How many Venezuelan troops are ready to fly to Havana - in some sort of bizarro Monroe Doctrine - to ensure that no democracy takes root.

Back to the top.

Dems to Make Social Security Key Issue in 06

Roll Call (subscription required) reports that Congressional Democrats are planning to revive Social Security 'privatization' as an issue in this year's midterm elections:

Privatization to Be ’06 Focus
July 11, 2006
By Erin P. Billings,
Roll Call Staff

Even before the White House recently hinted that Social Security reform was still on the administration’s radar screen, Democratic leaders and their allies privately had been plotting to resurrect an issue they believe can help inch them to electoral victories this fall.

Democratic Congressional leaders are planning a major event later this month and are looking to tie their “anti-privatization” Social Security message to legislative items moving through Congress in the coming weeks. Senate and House Democrats are still working out the details of their strategy, but leadership aides in both chambers say Members plan to bring the issue up on the floor, at home in their districts, in message events and in radio addresses through November.

“We’re going to look for every opportunity to bring it up,” said one senior Senate Democratic aide. “It’s not going to be just one thing. It’s fair to say you are going to hear people talk about it all the way to the election.”

Democrats believe they can recreate some of the political momentum they gained last year in launching a massive political offensive to sideline the efforts of President Bush to overhaul the entitlement program.

To counter Bush’s argument that the program is broken and will go bankrupt if major revisions are not enacted in the near term, Democrats claimed Bush was trying to put the program in private hands without government protection and create a risky system without guaranteed long-term benefits.

...Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) “made a strategic decision a long time ago not to let this go,” said Jim Manley, Reid’s spokesman. “We were planning on highlighting the issue anyway, and lo and behold much to our surprise President Bush and House and Senate Republicans a couple of weeks ago went public again with plans to privatize Social Security.”

Brendan Daly, spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), acknowledged that there are few legislative opportunities left in the House this year to highlight party differences on Social Security revisions. But Daly said Members still plan to “talk about it whenever they can to remind people that this isn’t just a fleeting idea.”

“This is something Republicans are committed to — they want to privatize Social Security,” he said. “Is it politically good for us? Yes. But that’s not why it’s such a big deal. Democrats are committed to protecting Social Security because it is one of our core values.”

...“This, and corruption are the two issues that keep everyone together and that we are united around,” said the senior Democratic Senate staffer. “We are always going to come back to this and remind people that [Republicans] are wrong.”

...The group is drafting scripts for a national media campaign against candidates and incumbents, including GOP Sens. Rick Santorum (Pa.) and Conrad Burns (Mont.) and Rep. Clay Shaw (Fla.), who they believe are at the heart of efforts to put Social Security in private hands and also provide inviting political targets. Americans United plans to begin that advertising blitz no later than the first week in August, kicking off in as many as five of its nearly 20 targeted states.

“Our effort is not about the outcome of the election, but the outcome of the issue,” said Brad Woodhouse, spokesman for Americans United.

...Republicans say they aren’t surprised Democrats are returning to their old playbook on Social Security but add it is a risky move for a minority party they contend lacks an agenda of its own. What’s more, GOP sources indicated, a large share of Senate Democrats opposed a Republican proposal earlier this year to prevent illegal immigrants from collecting Social Security credits — an issue that undoubtedly will come up on the stump.

“This is a failing strategy for the Democrats,” said a senior GOP aide. “The last thing they want to do is remind voters once again that they have no plans or alternative solutions.”

...In the nearer term, however, Senate Democrats are planning to link GOP attempts to advance the line-item veto and other budget procedural changes to Social Security privatization and benefit cuts. Already, Reid has asked his Caucus in a letter to paint those issues as “a sneak attack on Social Security and Medicare..."

In one sense, this is no surprise: Democrats have been running on Social Security since the program was created, and I expect that they'll still be going back to the well long after I'm gone. But in recent years, Social Security has not shown much salience as a political issue. A number of Republican candidates who've been attacked on the campaign trail for support of 'privatization' have embraced the issue and prospered. As Bob Novak pointed out in 2002, for example:

...The issue did not herd panicky Social Security recipients into the Democratic pen. A Public Opinion Strategies study shows a 12-percentage point Republican advantage among senior citizens Tuesday.

But will a Republican White House inclined toward caution about radical domestic proposals truly embrace the issue? Conservative activists attending a closed-door meeting Wednesday morning were stunned to hear Bush policy aide Barry Jackson spend 15 minutes extolling Social Security reform, and this is not a White House whose staffers free-lance.

The third rail's failure to work did not result from lack of Democratic trying. Cookie-cutter campaigns were waged coast-to-coast, accusing Republicans of threatening elders with reckless schemes. Nobody was more aggressive than Jack Conway, a telegenic young hope of Kentucky Democrats seeking to unseat three-term Republican Rep. Anne Northup in Louisville's traditionally Democratic 3rd District (carried comfortably by Al Gore against George W. Bush). Northrup was made a prime Democratic target nationally. At one senior citizens rally, Conway displayed a chart showing slumping stock prices and asked: "Would you like your privatized Social Security investment account to look this?" Northrup did not take Tom Davis's advice and retreat, while Conway betrayed the inexperience of a 33-year-old by admitting the alternative to private accounts. "We're going to have to look at the retirement age," said Conway. "We're going to have to look at benefit levels." He later took those options off the table, but it was too late.

Rep. Pat Toomey, a leader in pressing for private accounts, increased his victory margin to 57 percent in his Democratic-leaning Pennsylvania district. Reps. Clay Shaw of Florida and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, who in 2000 narrowly won districts containing lots of pensioners, each reached 60 percent Tuesday after campaigning for private accounts.

That was the position of 40-year-old corporate CEO Chris Chocola, who upset a seasoned Democratic campaigner attacking him on Social Security, former Rep. Jill Long Thompson, in traditionally Democratic South Bend, Ind. Another reformer, John Kline, defeated Democratic Rep. Bill Luther on his third try in Minnesota.

Bush's private investment plan was backed by winners of key races that recaptured the Senate for Republicans: Lindsey Graham in South Carolina, Norm Coleman in Minnesota, Saxby Chambliss in Georgia, John E. Sununu in New Hampshire and, especially, Elizabeth Dole in North Carolina. Erskine Bowles, Bill Clinton's White House chief of staff, hammered Dole on Social Security. She responded by exhibiting a blank piece of paper labeled: "Bowles Social Security Plan."

The only losing Republican reformist was Sen. Tim Hutchinson in Arkansas, and he suffered from family values rather than retirement issues. Not all Republicans were steadfast. Jim Talent backed away in Missouri and barely won his Senate seat. South Dakota's Republican candidates in close races -- Gov. Bill Janklow for the House and Rep. John Thune for the Senate -- retreated; Janklow won handily while Thune lost narrowly. Ten-term, 72-year-old Rep. George Gekas of Pennsylvania came out against private accounts; he was the only Republican loser in the nation's four Republican-vs.-Democrat pairings of two incumbents caused by redistricting.

The object lesson came in New Jersey, where neophyte Republican Senate candidate Doug Forrester was pounded for wanting to "privatize" Social Security. He responded by pledging never to touch the system, and then lost badly to old-fashioned liberal Frank Lautenberg.

House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt and his House campaign chairman, Rep. Nita Lowey, had publicly declared the 2002 election a "referendum on Social Security." The verdict was delivered Wednesday by the moderate Democratic Leadership Council, which pointed out the futility of "attacking Republicans on Social Security" as a "silver bullet" and losing four straight elections.

Further, the Republican strategist in the Roll Call story is right when he says that the Democrats are becoming the party of 'no.' No to Iraq, no to anti-terror measures, no to Social Security reform, no to tax cuts, no to the line-item veto (which won't help their attempt to paint themselves as more fiscally responsible than the GOP)... no to everything, it seems. On this point, I find myself in agreement with Stan Greenberg, Harold Ickes, and James Carville.

This attack on Republicans over Social Security reform will no doubt have effect in some races. I am sure that Congressman Clay Shaw for example, is concerned. He's in a close race for re-election in a Florida district that probably has more senior citizens than any other in the country. This attack might help in districts like that.

But apart from that, I think that voters generally feel that the Social Security system is going broke (a reasonable view), and that Democrats don't have a plan. In this case, the Democrats are the guy who drove the car into the ditch. Now they're telling voters that it's not really a ditch and they shouldn't trust the fella with the tow truck. Now how well will that go over?

Back to the top.

In DeLay Case, GOP Wants Quick Decision

The Hill explains it.

There are some cases where elected officials positively thrive from the image of being persecuted. If forced to run, Tom Delay would benefit from that, I am sure. But I doubt that his district is Republican enough for that angry, committed core to carry him to reelection. Ironically, that's probably because Delay gave up some heavily-Republican areas in the infamous Texas redistricting that he engineered to create more Republican seats.

In more ways than one, he may be hoisted on his own petard.

Back to the top.

IFE Answers AMLO

Well, first AMLO was incensed because the IFE - consistent with an agreement among the parties arrived at in February - did not count contested votes among the announced totals in the initial post-election count. Those votes were reviewed by officials of all the parties, ratified, and added into the vote totals.

Obviously this is a shocking travesty - proof of a stolen election.

And now he has shown a video of a man in Guanajuato stuffing ballots for Congress into a ballot box. This too, proves a stolen Presidency.

Well now IFE has explained (original in Spanish) that the man in question is a worker at precinct 2227, in Salamanca, Guanajuato. During the election night count, 8-10 ballots for Congress were discovered in the ballot box for President, so the President of the polling station directed that they be transferred to the correct ballot box. This was approved and videotaped by the poll observer for the PRD (AMLO's party), who made no protest during the event.

Missing ballots, stuffed boxes, mischievous racoons... so far AMLO's complaints have been knocked down as fast as they've come up. But it's starting to look like he's just trying to throw up dust and cause as much confusion as he can. And yet, while Mexico is not the former Soviet Union, this is a nation that can remember when government workers drove to the polls with ballot boxes already full, and substituted them for the real boxes for counting. Elections were predetermined as a matter of course. If 8-10 ballots here and there is the best that AMLO can come up with, I wonder if he can generate the outrage he expects.

Back to the top.

If You Can't Beat 'Em...

Maria Cantwell - whose reelection prospects have gotten a lot worse lately - has hired her primary opponent.

I wonder if she can afford to hire Mike McGavick?

Back to the top.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Best Commercial Ever?

Wow. I don't even remember this commercial. But it makes me want to find an Atari 2600 so I can play Pole Position.

Of course, at some level I am bothered by the fact that I am, now, the dad in this commercial.

Hat tip: Boing Boing.

Back to the top.

Judge Hogan: Jefferson Raid Legal

Roll Call reports:

Judge Rules Against Jefferson: A federal judge has denied a legal motion by Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) and a bipartisan group of House leaders seeking the return of materials seized by FBI agents in a May 20 raid on Jefferson’s Congressional office. The case will now move to a federal appeals court if Jefferson chooses to appeal. The Louisiana Democrat is at the center of a bribery and corruption probe by the Justice Department.

CNN notes that the 'cooling-off period' for the seized materials expired on Sunday, without any compromise between the White House and the Congress over what to do with the materials. While Judge Hogan has ruled that they will be turned over to the DoJ, the President has already shown that he wants to save the Congress from its own poor political instincts. Rest assured, DoJ will not take any action until the Congress and White House have considered next steps.

I have been very critical of House Republican leaders for going further than Democratic leaders in defending an apparent criminal. At least they have not gone forward with the hearings that were promised, to force Alberto Gonzalez to answer questions about this. Perhaps they have the sense to forego any appeal and settle this fight.

Back to the top.

AMLO Fingers Racoon

Oh. That didn't come out right.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador today aired two amateur videos purportedly showing ballot boxes being stuffed. He asserts that this proves that Calderon and the PAN oversaw vote fraud that robbed AMLO of his victory. Leaving aside the logical leaps (does a video of an unidentified person stuffing a ballot box really prove a stolen election?), he introduced me to a Mexican term I had not heard before: mapache.

Specifically, when asked whether he was calling into question the integrity of the citizen poll workers, AMLO answered that on election day the citizens were at work, but so were the 'mapaches,' or 'racoons.' Apparently someone who steals votes is, in Mexican slang, a racoon.

This election gets more interesting every day.

As I suggested earlier, I am concerned that AMLO has so far had a lot of success using protest marches to force the government to do what he wants. I hope that this is one instance where it does not work. But frankly, if more than 1 million people rally in Mexico City, I fear that Mexico's IFE or Trife will find justification for ordering a full recount.

Back to the top.

Dem Poll Shows Ney Trailing Badly

The DCCC is touting a Democratic poll of 503 likely voters that puts Rep. Bob Ney behind Zack Space by a margin of 46%-35% (hat tip, PoliticalWire). I might not have guessed that Ney would be 11 points back at this point, but I would have guessed that he was trailing.

As I've noted before, if Tom DeLay does end up seeking re-election in Texas, he will be an underdog in a heavily-Republican district. Republicans will be loathe to put two more-or-less 'gimme' seats at such high risk, so there will be pressure on Ney to step aside. Of course, if the NRCC agrees with these dismal numbers, then Ney will get a lot of pressure to step aside regardless of what happens with DeLay.

July 11 Update: Ney has released a poll done by Public Opinion Strategies showing him leading Space by 45%-41%. This represents a huge improvement from January, when the same poll showed him trailing 49%-37%.

Color me skeptical.

Back to the top.

Start Printing those Posters...

Time magazine reports that Tom DeLay may seek re-election. Well, duh.

I prefer to pay more attention to the article in Roll Call (subscription required) which reports that my 'Carnahan Scenario' is under active consideration:

One knowledgeable Republican in DeLay’s home county of Fort Bend said the GOP very likely could be faced with a scenario where the recently retired Congressman is ultimately forced to remain on the ballot. If that happens, 22nd district Republicans would be left with three options:

• DeLay gets back into politics and campaigns to win;

• DeLay officially withdraws and Lampson runs unopposed, guaranteeing Democrats a seat they would have no business winning under normal circumstances and boosting their quest to net 15 seats and take over the House;

Republicans campaign vigorously to elect DeLay, who doesn’t campaign himself and vows to resign immediately if he wins, setting up a special election to fill the seat in which the GOP would be favored.

Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace (R), a potential DeLay successor, said Friday that he believes the former Congressman would be inclined to run for the seat if the appellate court ruled that he must stay on the ballot.

So print up those campaign posters!

Back to the top.

Congressional Salary Never LOWER

Your Member of Congress may not be overpaid - at least not as overpaid as he or she used to be. Roll Call (subscription required) reports that Congressional salaries have never been lower than they are today - at least as measured against average incomes.

Ire Over Members’ Pay Raises Is Nothing New
July 10, 2006
By Dan Rasmussen,
Roll Call Staff

When Senate Democrats vowed last month to block the Congressional pay raise until lawmakers increase the minimum wage, they were hitting on an issue that has resonated with voters since the adoption of the Constitution.

History shows Americans have rarely been fond of Congressional pay increases and over the past 200 years have shown themselves more than willing to toss out politicians who vote to boost their own salaries.

“It’s always been a hot issue,” said Deputy House Historian Fred Beuttler, ever since a constitutional vagary left Congress with the difficult job of determining the salaries of its own Members way back in 1789.

In their first meeting, lawmakers put aside debates on the Bill of Rights and the permanent location of the federal government to argue about their own wages.

Pennsylvania Sen. Robert Morris (Pro-Administration) called for Senators to be paid more than Representatives. His logic: Senators, whom he considered to be the older and more distinguished statesmen, should not have to live in substandard boarding houses and fraternize with “improper company” — depredations he believed the younger and greener Representatives could handle.

Faced with strong House opposition, Morris’ proposal was defeated, and both chambers agreed on an equal payment of $6 per day.

“The House decided right away that that was not the way to go,” said Associate Senate Historian Don Ritchie.

...In 1856, Congress finally agreed to an annual salary of $3,000, which was about 20 times higher than per capita GDP, according to statistics compiled by historians Louis Johnston and Samuel Williamson.

Perhaps because the change raised few eyebrows, Congress raised its pay again in 1866 and 1873.

But that final salary raise tipped the scales of public opinion, provoking a firestorm over Congressional salaries the likes of which had never before been seen. Members proposed raising their salaries to $7,500 from $5,000, a change that would be retroactive for two years, giving them a one-time bonus of $5,000.

“The expense of living has advanced fearfully beyond what it was in the days of the Revolution,” argued Wisconsin GOP Sen. Matthew Carpenter, as quoted in Sen. Robert Byrd’s (D-W.Va.) “History of the Senate.” “The people of Wisconsin if they send a man here to represent them in the Senate wish him to live how? In the garret of a five-story building on crackers and cheese, to dress in goat skins and sleep in the wilderness?”

But the public did not buy Carpenter’s arguments. The press deemed the increase a “salary grab” and the bonus a “back-pay steal.” Voters were so enraged that when Congress opened in 1874, Members rushed to repeal the bill.

Relative to per capita income, 1873 was the highest point Congressional salaries ever reached. According to Economic History Services, the $7,500 wage would be roughly equivalent to $850,000 today. At the time it was about 40 times per capita GDP.

“In 1856, the public didn’t notice. In 1866, there was another raise. Seven years later, they touched it up, and people started to scream,” Beuttler said. “They didn’t touch the issue for another 30 years.”

Congressional salaries declined relative to average salaries until 1925, when another Congressional pay increase — this time to $10,000 — reversed the trend. But when the Great Depression hit and lawmakers’ income had risen to about 25 times that of the average worker, the government agreed to a rare salary reduction.

...But according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, salaries never again would be as high in comparison with average Americans as they were in 1932.

Wartime inflation meant that the real value of a lawmaker’s $10,000 salary plummeted. In 1938, Member pay was 19 times the average income. By 1946, it was only seven times the average. Pay hadn’t been so low relative to the average worker since before the Civil War.

Despite consistent Congressional pay increases, a booming economy and steady inflation steadily has narrowed the gap between Congressional pay and per capita income. According to BEA statistics, 2005 Congressional pay was the lowest in history relative to the income of the average American.

In 1967, Congress established a commission to determine salary increases for top-level federal officials. This system was used to increase pay three times, in 1969, 1977 and 1987. On three other occasions, the commission did not recommend an increase.

Since 1991, Congressional pay has increased based on automatic annual comparability adjustments, which are based on surveys of pay in the private sector. Now, instead of passing legislation to enact a pay raise, Members must use a bill to reject an increase. Congress accepted pay increases under this procedure 11 times and rejected them five times...

Just a little perspective.

Back to the top.

Hornets' Nest

One cool thing about blogging is you can post whatever you want, and the worst thing that people can do is ignore it.

Well, I noticed a mammoth hornet's nest near my yard over the weekend and it made me wonder what they look like inside. Apparently, like this and this.

Back to the top.

Barone on Mexico & the Oil Problem

Barone is always a worthwhile read.

Edging to the Right
By Michael Barone

The apparent victory of Felipe Calderon, the candidate of incumbent President Vicente Fox's PAN party in Mexico, is the latest in a series of defeats for the hard left in Latin American elections. It also means there will continue to be a trio of center-right North American governments. Leftist Evo Morales, with help from Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, did win in Bolivia, but Chavez's candidate lost in Peru, center-right incumbent Alvaro Uribe won re-election by a huge margin in Colombia, and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, former Mexico City mayor and candidate of the leftist PRD party, lost after leading in the polls for most of the past two years. The cry has been going up that the "Washington consensus" favoring free trade and free markets is dead in the region. But that consensus is not threatened by responsible center-left presidents like Lula da Silva of Brazil and Michelle Bachelet of Chile. And the defeat of Lopez Obrador, who called for renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, shows it's still alive in Mexico.

That doesn't mean Calderon can solve all of Mexico's problems. His PAN will be the largest party in the Congreso but without a majority in either house. For one thing, oil production will most likely continue to lag if PRI, the ruling party from 1929 to 2000, keeps joining PRD in resisting any change in the monopoly status of government-owned Pemex. Government corruption and urban crime will probably persist. But Mexico's economy, in tandem with ours thanks to NAFTA, is now growing robustly, inflation is low, and there has been no peso devaluation since 1994. And in the Congreso, legislators may be developing the knack of compromise and negotiation that was never necessary when they were just rubber stamps for PRI presidents.

Barone hits on a number of the points that I have made before - so obviously I think he's extremely well-informed. I've made the point about Pemex before, and it is one that has significant ramifications for the US, since Mexico is our second-largest supplier of imported oil (after Canada). Essentially, the Mexican government has used Pemex as a cash cow, and has shortchanged investment in new production for decades. The Mexican government doesn't have the resources to invest in Pemex to maintain or expand production, yet it's always been agreed that the Mexican constitution prevents private investment in the energy sector. Mexico is arriving at the point where something will have to give: Pemex will collapse, or Mexico will allow private investment in the energy sector. Private investment has a better chance under Calderon than AMLO.

Interestingly, Mexico's Reforma (in Spanish, subscription required) chooses today to print a story about the challenge that Pemex faces on its two large new oil fields: much higher costs and the difficulty in securing needed hardware:

Triplica Pemex costos
Pemex le apuesta a Chicontepec y Coatzacoalcos para aumentar la producción de crudo, para lo cual deberá realizar cuantiosas inversiones

Ciudad de México (10 julio 2006).- La era del petróleo fácil para México está llegando a su fin.

Los nuevos yacimientos de los que se extraerá el crudo con el que habrá de reemplazarse la declinante producción de Cantarell, el principal campo petrolero de la última década, requieren gastar hasta tres veces más, de acuerdo con cifras de Pemex.

La paraestatal ha decidido apostarle a dos zonas para aumentar su producción: Chicontepec en Veracruz (terrestre) que posee el 40 por ciento de las reservas totales de hidrocarburos, y Coatzacoalcos Profundo (marina) en las aguas profundas del Golfo de México.

Sin embargo, en Chicontepec, documentos de Pemex indican que se requieren inversiones cercanas a los 40 mil millones de dólares para perforar 20 mil pozos y aprovechar todo su potencial.

Para explotar las aguas profundas del Golfo, serán necesarios miles de millones de dólares en una cifra que aún no se puede precisar.

...Cifras de Pemex, solicitadas por Grupo Reforma a través del Instituto Federal de Acceso a la Información Pública (IFAI), revelan que extraer un barril en Chicontepec cuesta 11.68 dólares en promedio, casi tres veces más que Cantarell.

En Coatzacoalcos Profundo la historia no es muy diferente.

El costo por la renta de equipo especializado para explorar la veta petrolera y de gas ubicada en esa zona se ha triplicado en un año por los altos precios del crudo y la demanda de otras compañías.

Desde hace dos años, Pemex contrató equipos de robótica para perforar pozos en tirantes de agua mayores a los mil metros de profundidad.

El contrato para explorar el pozo Noxal 1 se fijó a un precio entre 50 mil y 70 mil dólares por día a principios de 2005, pero el alza en los petroprecios cambió la historia: hoy se rentan entre 150 mil y 300 mil dólares diarios.

Para concluir los trabajos de perforación, Pemex requiere de otra plataforma, pero ahora tendrá que esperar cerca de tres años para rentarla y tener acceso a nuevos pozos, explicó Carlos Morales Gil, director de Pemex Exploración y Producción.

Por ello, la paraestatal no sólo deberá esperar a que bajen los petroprecios para acceder a una mejor cotización de renta, sino que deberá apuntarse en una lista de espera cuya disponibilidad podría ser hasta el 2010, señaló Guillermo Domínguez, analista y ex director de Tecnología de Pemex Exploración y Producción.

I won't provide a full translation, but the gist is that Pemex has two tremendous new oil fields (Chicontepec and Coatzacoalcos) to develop, which will replace the field that has been its primary source for the last decade (Cantarell). However, the per-barrel production cost of the new fields ($11.68 dollars per barrel) will be triple the cost at Cantarell, and will require the investment of tens of billions of dollars in coming years. Plus, the cost of equipment rental for the deep-water fields of Coatzacoalcos (in the Gulf of Mexico) has tripled, and the waiting list for the availability of some needed equipment lasts until 2010.

There's a lot more information here (free, and in English!). Rigzone notes that in recent years, Pemex has paid more in taxes than it has earned - dramatically reinforcing the point I made about lack of reinvestment of profits.

Back to the top.

AMLO Goes Back to What Works

The New York Times reports today on Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's promise that without a full recount of the Mexican vote which declares him the winner, Mexico will experience unrest:

Leftist Predicts Unrest Without Complete Recount of Mexican Election
Published: July 9, 2006

MEXICO CITY, July 8 — While the announced winner of last Sunday's presidential election, Felipe Calderón, kept a low profile on Saturday, his leftist rival led a rally of at least 150,000 people, charged the polling had been marred by fraud and suggested there would be civil unrest without a vote-by-vote recount.

"If there is not democracy, there will be instability," said the rival, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, at a news conference just hours before he addressed his angry and defiant supporters in Mexico City's central plaza.

At 5:50 p.m., he took the stage in the Zócalo, the historic central square in front of the National Palace, to fire a broadside at what he described as an oligarchy of top-level politicians and businessmen.

"We are aware we are confronting a powerful group, economically and politically, that are accustomed to winning at all costs, without moral scruples," he told the crowd. He maintained that this group had "conspired against democracy" and that "they are the ones who now want to put a servant in the presidency."

...He said his opponent's supporters had resorted to fraud and vote-buying in northern states where the conservative party is dominant, like Jalisco and Guanajuato. He also said he had been the victim of a smear campaign on television and radio that far exceeded campaign spending limits.

He said that the Federal Electoral Institute should have recounted Sunday's ballots during the official tally. He pointed out that mistakes favoring Mr. Calderón were found in about 2,600 cases where officials did recount votes, when tally sheets were missing or contained errors.

...On Friday afternoon, Mr. Calderón seemed confident that no legal challenge would stand up in court.

"My triumph is clear and definitive," he told a meeting of foreign reporters. "There are no legal elements that sustain the possibility of a complaint. In this election, the votes have already been counted, vote by vote, at the time they should have been counted, at the closing of the polls, as happens in all the world."

Mr. Calderón's campaign cited the volatile protests Mr. López Obrador led after his 1994 loss in arguing that he could be a danger to Mexico. And several political analysts have said that Mr. López Obrador's behavior since Thursday has proven Mr. Calderón right.

...Mr. Calderón would seem a certain ally for the United States, and political analysts have suggested that a Calderón presidency could signal an end to the advance of left-wing politics across Latin America, as neoliberal economic policies from Washington have fallen from favor.

On Friday, he said he would not seek to renegotiate agricultural clauses of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and that he would urge the United States and Canada to join with Mexico to create a fund for the construction of infrastructure and other development projects to generate jobs in high-migration states in Mexico.

"The solution to migration is not walls," Mr. Calderón said. "The only real solution to stop or slow the migration phenomenon is the generation of good-paying jobs."

In calling for protests and marches, AMLO is going back to what has worked before. The Fox government sought to indict AMLO for a minor legal violation in 2004 - a move that would have rendered him ineligible to run for President in 2006. AMLO called the move politically motivated, and organized protests that reportedly brought out more than 1 million supporters. That March led the Fox government to give up:

Two and a half weeks later, on April 24, López Obrador convoked a “silent march” through the streets of Mexico City in opposition to the desafuero. An estimated 1.2 million people took part, making it the largest protest march in Mexico’s protest-laden history. It tipped the scales. Three days after the march, Fox fired Attorney General Macedo de la Concha and called for reconciliation. A week later the new attorney general dropped all the charges. The desafuero had become moot.

In 1994, AMLO was ruled the loser of the Tabasco governor's race (strangely, to Robert Madrazo), in a race that many thought was stolen. A probe showed irregularities at almost 80 percent of the polling stations, and Madrazo broke campaign spending rules. AMLO organized strikes and protest marches, which led to the probe. And while Madrazo served his full term, AMLO's fame and influence were established.

So in calling for protests and marches, AMLO is only going back to what has worked before. And if he can actually produce a million people at marches in Mexico City, will Calderon, the IFE and the Trife stand strong?

Back to the top.