Saturday, November 29, 2003
YOU . . . HAVE . . . GOT . . . TO . . . BE . . . KIDDING . . . ME
Peter Yu writing the FindLaw column in CNN makes the familiar and foolish arguments against critics of the Neo Liberal brand of globalization:
The protesters criticized the FTAA for two major faults. First, the FTAA failed to include environmental and labor standards, thus making it difficult for the U.S. to export to countries of low wages and lax environmental enforcement. Second, the agreement would cost the U.S. millions of manufacturing jobs. This article challenges these arguments and, in turn, considers how the FTAA reflects on the current state of a changing international trading community.
. . . It goes without saying that -- as protesters urged -- we need to improve our environment, and to help those who have no alternatives but to work in sweatshops under inhumane conditions. However, including environmental and labor standards in the FTAA is not a practical solution to these problems.
And Mr. Yu goes on without saying how we might do that if we don't do it through trade agreements.
Strategically, such a linkage rarely works. The issue is so politically charged that it often becomes a deal-breaker for an international trade agreement. One only has to recall the failed attempt by the Clinton administration to launch the Millennium Round of WTO talks in Seattle.
It is also naive to believe that environmental and labor conditions stipulated in the FTAA would improve the living conditions of the poor and the disadvantaged in developing countries. Quite the contrary would happen.
By requiring developing countries to implement higher environmental and labor standards, the FTAA would make the products from developing countries more expensive, and thus less competitive in the global community. As a result, the economies in the complying countries would deteriorate, and the people in those countries would suffer.
This is writing at the level of a campus Republican who has just discovered Adam Smith and Ayn Rand. On one hand he is saying that the politics will be difficult. On the other hand his is saying that the economic would be disastrous because they would deny poor countries the ability to compete on the grounds of being poor countries.
The politics are going to be especially difficult when the debate is dominated by corporate interests, resulting in a US trade policy that neither Clinton nor Bush wants to sell to the public. Instead the negotiations are carried on far from the public eye. The mainstream press could barely manage a yawn for either the FTAA or the Cancun WTO talks. It took some digging to find out what was going on in the talks, though far easier to find out what was going on in the streets. If the Administration developed a trade policy that would benefit the majority of Americans and the poorest of our potential trading partners they could use the bully pulpit to make their case.
More importantly Yu keeps his economic arguments vague, specious and theoretical. Standards were a deal breaker in Seattle because the US didn't want them. The historical experience runs counter to Yu's assertion that a linkage of standards would be disastrous for poor countries.
Environmental standards have been found to be good for economies. Our own OMB recently released a report demonstrating that the benefits of environmental law from 1992 - 2002 outweighed the costs of compliance. Benefits were estimated at $146 billion to $230 billion annually, while costs were estimated at $36 billion to $42 billion annually. Environmental regulations force businesses to rethink how they do things. That rethinking almost always results in productivity gains. The value of a population not sickened by pollution would be hard to underestimate. Consider the case of Holland. "The country's environmental gains in the 1990s were achieved while Holland's economy grew 3.5 percent a year, the highest rate in Europe. Holland has had the lowest unemployment on the continent, and personal incomes continue to rise despite hefty eco-taxes on transportation, conventional energy, and waste disposal, which make up a quarter of the total tax burden. Meanwhile, Dutch industries now lead the world in clean technologies and super-efficient manufacturing."
Our experience in this country is that raising the bar on sweatshop conditions at the beginning of the century was also good economics.
Yu ignores the EU, the situation most obviously analogous to the FTAA.
The EU has addressed the gap between rich and poor nations head on.
"The largest recipients were the so-called "poor four" -- Ireland, Greece, Spain and Portugal. To varying degrees, all have made progress. Since 1982, Ireland has become one of the wealthiest European countries, while Spain and Portugal have increased their gross domestic product per capita levels from 73 to 81 percent and 61 to 72 percent of the EU average, respectively. Greece fell behind in the 1980s, but gained ground over the past decade."
The EU has standards for membership far more comprehensive and stringent than anything protesters are calling for in the FTAA. Yet poor countries continue to work towards getting their houses in order to join the EU. They work on stable government, human rights, environmental issues, etc. PRIOR to joining, BEFORE those standards are binding. In Yu's world they would be busy little economic powerhouses, taking advantage of their ability to pollute and exploit their workers, leaving the EU countries eating the dust of burgeoning trade deficits with Turkey and Bulgaria.
Another analogous situation is the United States, if we view it as a free trade zone amongst the states. Here were see that states with higher standards for labor, the environment, etc. have stronger economies than those with the lowest (federal) standards. Would you argue that what is holding Lousiana's economy back is the inability of industry to pollute at will?
In fact, the deal breaker is not higher standards for poor countries. It's US resistance to free trade.
In fact, the deal breaker is not higher standards for poor countries. It's US resistance to free trade.
In fact, the deal breaker is not higher standards for poor countries. It's US resistance to free trade.
The tough negotiators in this round were poor countries that correctly want us to drop our agricultural subsidies.
The situation that should expemplify the benefits of a trade agreement without labor and environmental standards is NAFTA. From the Economic Policy Institute:
In the United States, as economist Robert Scott details, NAFTA has eliminated some 766,000 job opportunities-primarily for non-college-educated workers in manufacturing. Contrary to what the American promoters of NAFTA promised U.S. workers, the agreement did not result in an increased trade surplus with Mexico, but the reverse. As manufacturing jobs disappeared, workers were downscaled to lower-paying, less-secure services jobs. Within manufacturing, the threat of employers to move production to Mexico proved a powerful weapon for undercutting workers' bargaining power.
Was U.S. workers' loss Mexican workers' gain? While production jobs did move to Mexico, they primarily moved to maquiladora areas just across the border. As Carlos Salas of La Red de Investigadores y Sindicalistas Para Estudios Laborales (RISEL) reports, these export platforms-in which wages, benefits, and workers' rights are deliberately suppressed-are isolated from the rest of the Mexican economy. They do not contribute much to the development of Mexican industry or its internal markets, which was the premise upon which NAFTA was sold to the Mexican people. It is therefore no surprise that compensation and working conditions for most Mexican workers have deteriorated. The share of stable, full-time jobs has shrunk, while the vast majority of new entrants to the labor market must survive in the insecure, poor-paying world of Mexico's "informal" sector.
As Bruce Campbell of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives reports, Canada's increased market integration with the United States began in 1989 with the bilateral Free Trade Agreement, the precursor to NAFTA. While trade and investment flows increased dramatically, per capita income actually declined for the first seven years after the agreement. Moreover, as in Mexico and the United States, Canadians saw an upward redistribution of income to the richest 20% of Canadians, a decline in stable full-time employment, and the tearing of Canada's social safety net.
Yu tries to make the point that NAFTA is not the cause for uncompetiveness in the US labor markets:
However, the increasing lack of competitiveness of the U.S. labor force is not the fault of agreements like NAFTA and the FTAA. Of course, it is easy and convenient to attribute the cheaper labor force abroad to abhorrent working conditions and living standards. But is that really the primary reason why the U.S. workforce is not competitive?
We should also look into other causes. For instance, we should ask: Have recent changes in the U.S. education system -- higher tuition costs, increased class size, reduced course availability, and shrinking financial resources -- made our labor force less competitive?
This is simple sleight of hand redirection. Clumsy though. The jobs that have been lost have not been jobs that would have been terribly effected by those factors.
He goes on to make a serious of arguments that barely rise to the level of being points. As in, "Good point.".
What was that George Soros said about President Bush infringing on the sovereignty of other nations? From The Globe and Mail (via Drudge):
Tbilisi — It was back in February that billionaire financier George Soros began laying the brickwork for the toppling of Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze.
That month, funds from his Open Society Institute sent a 31-year-old Tbilisi activist named Giga Bokeria to Serbia to meet with members of the Otpor (Resistance) movement and learn how they used street demonstrations to topple dictator Slobodan Milosevic. Then, in the summer, Mr. Soros's foundation paid for a return trip to Georgia by Otpor activists, who ran three-day courses teaching more than 1,000 students how to stage a peaceful revolution.. . .
In the eyes of international law, what happened in Georgia was a coup. It may have been bloodless, and it may have been the right thing to do, and irony of ironies, it may have happened because Soros and the US government worked together, but it was a coup nonetheless. I'm not going to condemn Mr. Shevardnaze's ouster, because it suits my purposes both in terms of American national interests (weakening Russia and securing energy supplies) and in terms of promoting democracy (better that Shevardnaze be removed during his first steps towards kleptocracy than when he becomes another Mugabe). But if this news report is accurate, the coup against Shevardnaze could not have happened without outside resources, which, in Westphalian terms, amounts to a violation of Georgian sovereignty.
To which I replied:
This sniping is beneath you. This is what Soros does, it's what he's always done and it deserves nothing but praise. In fact it's what the US Government should be doing more of and if it had done more of this, we wouldn't be in the position we are in now in any number of places.
I find it hard to believe that you are equating fomenting and aiding internal democratic revolution with military invasion and imposed democracy.
Are you just sore about the money for MoveOn.org et al. ?
And he returned:
I'm not sniping. If the story is correct, Soros violated the principles underlying Westphalian sovereignty as taught in every INR class I ever had. (I happen to not like Westphalian sovereignty, by-the-way.) That Soros violated sovereignty recruiting and training people to nonviolently overthrow a leader moving in a anti-democratic direction is admirable. If such a thing could've been done to overthrow Saddam, I would've been all for it.
And I returned:
I don't understand why you are hung up on Westphalian sovereignty, which you do not like and the US does not subscribe to, nor does anyone who matters.
Perhaps you are implying that Westphalian sovereignty was the underlying model of Soros' Atlantic piece. I would argue that in Krasner's typology, "international legal sovereignty" is the model that underlying Soros' position.
Warning! shakey ground . . . Moreover, while my understanding of the finer points of international law and it's relationship to the discarded Westphalian model is admittedly dim, the actions of a private individuals occupy a position that is less obviously an impingement on sovereignty. Granted the model refers simply to exclusion of external actors, but it seems to me that there is a major difference between the actions of private individuals and other sovereign states.
Which brings back around to terrorism. . .
God is love
Love is blind
Ray Charles is blind
George Soros is a terrorist.
My my my. . . bedtime.
P.S. I didn't say that the Soros model could apply to Saddam. There has to be a threshold for shame for nonviolence to work.
Saturday morning update:
Matthew schools me on why he stressed Westphalian Sovereignty and wonders if I'm undrestanding anything he says. I reply. Worth reading.
Friday, November 28, 2003
The Newsom campaign, which is heavily financed by the development community, is taking shots at Gonzalez, who has been involved in a number of development battles for the fact that he has gained the support of a handful of developers.
I'll try to get a handle on the race tomorrow and weigh in, but it's seems to me that a strong Green running for Mayor of San Francisco is an unalloyed good thing.
In the early 90's I had high hopes for the Green Party along with the New Party. Lately though the Greens have just inspired my unremitting disgust. I'm not going bother excerpting or linking to the most vicious posts, justs the most devastating one. Concerning their presumption in running candidates in Presidential elections (as spoilers):
They have functioning organizations in 21 of 50 states. In 2003 so far, they have won 17 of 38 races. A vast improvement over last year. In 2002 their candidates lost 402 of 475 elections. In exactly half of those races where they lost, they came in last in a field of three or more candidates. For example, in Westerly, Rhode Island Larry Kern came in 14th out of 14 in a city council race.
In Georgia, three Greens ran write in campaigns for major office. Nanette Gordon ran for Governor capturing 1008 votes for .05% of the vote. Joyce Griggs ran for US House of Representatives in District 1 where Republican Jack Kingston won with 72%. Al Herman ran for US House in District 7 where John Linder won with 78.9%. The two Greens recieved two votes each for .0001% of the vote in their respective districts. These two apparently failed to tell anyone but spouses that they were running. They both went to the trouble to create websites.
Beth Hufnagel ran for Maryland State Comptroller and captured .22% of the vote.
This is somewhat unfair to harp on. The party has no control over people running pointless campaigns under the Green label. I only mention it to highlight the wasted time, resources and credibility. What could the Greens have achieved by redirecting the energy spent on the 201 races in 2002 that they had no chance of winning? Instead of running hopeless symbolic campaigns, they may have been able to nudge a few of their non-symbolic races across the finish line victorious.
Let's look at results that should have been the outcome of party strategy and organizing aimed at becoming a legitimate opposition party. In the entire country only 2 Greens hold office in State Houses or Assemblys. There are no state senators. There are only 3 mayors and 30 city council members. In California where their organization is the strongest they have 16 city council members state wide, one mayor and a handful of vice and pro tempore mayors. They have no one elected to the California State Assembly.
Now, I let it slide that they failed to field a candidate that mattered in the California recall election. But it really made me sick. I mean if the Greens can't field a giant killer for that . . . uh . . .circus, what right do they have to claim our attention . . . ever? Well, my guess is that after reading a handful of articles on my lunch break tomorrow I'll be wishing Mssr. Gonzalez the best.
October 8, 2003—The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) reported that societal benefits of Environmental Protection Agency regulations significantly outweighed costs of compliance between the years of 1992 and 2002. After analyzing the costs and benefits of 107 regulations promulgated by agencies across the federal government, OMB found that total benefits of federal rules were three to five times greater than total costs. Benefits were estimated at $146 billion to $230 billion annually, while costs were estimated at $36 billion to $42 billion annually. Among the government regulations evaluated, “The majority of the quantified benefits are attributable to a handful of clean-air rules issued by EPA pursuant to the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act,” according to OMB.
Benefits cause business to rethink what they are doing and become more efficient.
Essentially, anybody with less than $810 in expected annual drug costs will not reap any benefits under Part D, and this constitutes half of the over-65 population.
Read the rest of the report.
Nov. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Afghanistan wants the international community to investigate where the ousted Taliban militia is obtaining its funding, the British Broadcasting Corp. said, citing Afghan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.
The international community should look into whether a government outside Afghanistan is providing financial support or whether the Taliban receives aid from international groups or individuals, Ahmadzai said in a BBC interview yesterday. . .
The old woman held her stomach, helpless with laughter, despite the fact that she was ill and had been standing at the checkpoint for hours. Her fit was brought on by Mohammed Faqih, a Bethlehem resident who travels around the West Bank and impersonates Arab, Israeli, and world leaders to entertain people waiting to cross checkpoints.
This time Faqih was on his way to Nablus, where his sons study and where one of his two wives lives. As he impersonated Yasser Arafat at the Huwara checkpoint, even the Israeli soldier checking IDs couldn’t help but show his amazement. For a minute, it seemed, the soldier actually thought the Palestinian president was trying to cross the checkpoint with one of his famous phrases, “Jerusalem is ours and whoever doesn’t like it can lump it.” . . .
The Iranian regime has agreed to play the transparency game on the nuclear issue, but at the same time is increasing its pressure on Iranian society. The ayatollahs have been bolstered by American threats, but soon they’ll have to deal with a tidal wave: women demanding their rights.
The head scarf seemed unreal as I knotted it on my head in the passenger airway after the Iran Air 747 landed in Tehran. The other women passengers didn’t appear to believe in its reality, either, with their silk scarves thrown on carelessly, their locks stretching the fabric. So at the baggage carousel, I asked the first question. A real Parisian question: “So what would happen if you all took them off, all at once?” The answer was Iranian, and abrupt: “Another revolution, a bloodbath, and nobody is prepared to pay that kind of price.” . . .
Here's a little gem quietly nestled in the article:
Dr. Dean's advisers said they planned to import 5,000 volunteers from out of state to help with organizing in Iowa through January, a potentially expensive mobilization that would otherwise have threatened to push the campaign over the limit, given the costs of feeding, housing and moving the brigade of volunteers across the state.
By my cocktail napkin calculations that's one volunteer for every 100 likely Democratic primary voter.
Meanwhile, the Gepster can't raise enough money to have a position on opting out. He ain't pulling no 5000 volunteers from out of state either.
From the NY Times:
"It's nice that he made it over there today, but this visit won't change the fact that those brave men and women should never have been fighting in Iraq in the first place," said Jay Carson, a spokesman for Howard Dean, one of the biggest critics of the war among the nine Democrats vying for the party's presidential nomination.
Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts issued a statement saying that the trip was "the right thing to do for our country." But, he added: "When Thanksgiving is over, I hope the president will take the time to correct his failed policy in Iraq that has placed our soldiers in a shooting gallery."
David Axelrod, a senior adviser to Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, described the visit as a "daring move and great politics," but added: "I think these kids need more. I'm sure they were buoyed by his coming, but they need more."
The body blow would have been:
"After cutting about $200 million in the program that provides assistance to public schools serving military bases, a cut that would pare education funding disproportionately for children of soldiers who fought in Iraq: After his latest tax cut failed to extend a child tax credit to nearly 200,000 low-income military personnel; after a $1.5 billion reduction in his 2004 budget for military housing and the like; after a cut of $14.6 billion over 10 years in benefits paid through the Veterans Administration; after all that, it's nice that he could at least show up on Thanksgiving to eat with troops. It was a fine gesture"
Thanksgiving is the wrong time to crack on Iraq. The benefits thing would go further to hollow out the gesture. But what do I know?
Source Washington Post
From the Boston Globe:
BAGRAM, Afghanistan -- She arrived under a glittering sky with a clear message for the troops of the US Army's 10th Mountain Division and for the people of Afghanistan: We haven't forgotten you're here.
"I think we've made extraordinary progress," US Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton told a crowd of soldiers yesterday at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul, the capital. "It's fair to say our attention back home has been pretty much taken up with Iraq over the last several months and we don't want anyone to forget about the mission that is still to be accomplished here in Afghanistan."
Thursday, November 27, 2003
Miner's cheese and pecan wafers
Horseradish cheddar and crackers
Roast Kosher Turkey with apple and roquefort pate stuffing
Mash potatoes and gravy
Swiss chard and kale
Baby beets with meyer lemon
Baby carrots and leeks
Cranberry mango relish
Yogurt, honey, marionberry preserves
Ravenswood Teldeschi Zinfandel 2000
Ravenswood Mendocino Zinfandel 2000
Bonny Doon Nebbiola / Barbera 2001
destined to be shit out through wholesome American guts.
Thanks for a continent to despoil and poison.
Thanks for Indians to provide a modicum of challenge
Thanks for vast herds of bison to kill and skin leaving the
carcasses to rot.
Thanks for bounties on wolves and coyotes.
Thanks for the American dream, To vulgarize and to falsify until
the bare lies shine through.
Thanks for the KKK.
For nigger-killin' lawmen, feelin' their notches.
For decent church-goin' women, with their mean, pinched, bitter,
Thanks for "Kill a Queer for Christ" stickers.
Thanks for laboratory AIDS.
Thanks for Prohibition and the war against drugs.
Thanks for a country where nobody's allowed to mind the
Thanks for a nation of finks.
Yes, thanks for all the memories-- all right let's see
You always were a headache and you always were a bore.
Thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest
of human dreams.
Poultry Slam '98
For Thanksgiving, the time of year when poultry consumption is highest, it's our annual program about turkeys, chickens, and fowl of all types.
Prologue. When is a chicken your friend? When is he your dinner? TAL webmeister/fledgling reporter Elizabeth Meister with Kamiko Overs, an 11-year-old girl at the annual poultry exhibition run by the American Poultry Association in Columbus, Ohio. (5 minutes)
Act One. Still Life with Chicken. Food writer Jonathan Gold tells what it's like to panfry a chicken, with a live chicken watching you the entire time. (13 minutes)
Act Two. Last Meal. When Francois Mitterand knew he was about to die, he decided that the last food to cross his lips would be poultry...a tiny bird that is actually illegal to eat in France. A bird that by tradition is eaten with a napkin covering your head. Writer Michael Paterniti set out for France to try the contraband capon himself. (13 minutes)
Act Three. People Who Love Chickens and Hate This American Life. Last year, a woman named Karen Davis started a national letter writing campaign to try to get This American Life to stop the very program we are broadcasting today--the annual Poultry Slam. In this portion of our show, she explains what it is that we just don't understand about poultry, and why the whole idea of this poultry show was wrongheaded from the start. (10 minutes)
Song: Harry Belafonte "Chickens"
Act Four. The Meaning of a Bird. Writer David Rakoff explains how his life was changed--in a single evening--in a room of 5000 chickens. (14 minutes)
Song: Sly and the Family Stone "Chicken"
Part 1 - Mystic Journey, Ukelele Lady, All Along the Watchtower
Part 2 - Alice's Restaurant
Part 3 - Gabriel's Mother's Highway Ballad #16 Blues, Boxcar Blues, Guabi Guabi
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - House and Senate Republican leaders Monday scrambled to resuscitate a $31 billion energy bill stalled in the Senate, but lobbyists and lawmakers said the legislation might be postponed until next year.
With the hours ticking down before Congress adjourns this week, Senate Republicans had not scraped together the two votes needed to end a Democratic-led filibuster against what the White House has pegged as one of its top priorities.
If we take the vote to end the fillibuster as the outlier, here is the swing vote.
Dems who voted to end the fillibuster:
Max Baucus (Mont.) | John Breaux (La.) | Kent Conrad (N.D.) | Thomas Daschle (S.D.) | Mark Dayton (Minn.) | Byron Dorgan (N.D.) | | Tom Harkin (Iowa) | Tim Johnson (S.D.) | Mary Landrieu (La.) | Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) | Zell Miller (Ga.) | Ben Nelson (Neb.) | Mark Pryor (Ark.)
The Republicans who voted to sustrain:
Lincoln Chafee (R.I.) | Susan Collins (Maine) | Bill Frist (Tenn.) | Judd Gregg (N.H.) | John McCain (Ariz.) | Olympia Snowe (Maine) | John Sununu (N.H.)
McCain is solid on this one. Otherwise, if any of these folks represent you, please e-mail them.
Copyable and Pastable Sample Letter:
I am writing to urge you to vote against the Energy Bill (AKA the No Lobbyist Left Behind Bill) currently under consideration in the Senate.
While I applaud the continued ban on drilling in the Artic Wildlife Preserve, the bill fails to protect the environment on several counts.
The bill does not do enough to promote biofuels or other alternative energy sources.
The bill weakens the Clean Air and Water Act.
The bill does not go far enough to promote investment in America's powergrid.
The bill includes public subsidies for private nuclear power that would cost the American taxpayer an average of $600 a year.
I call on you to reject this bill so that we can develop a plan to deal with the challenges of providing power to the country, protecting our environment and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.
This year, no account of the changes in the Democratic Party can be confined to the Democratic Party. Since McCain-Feingold blocked such major donors as unions from financing voter registration and media buys, a number of 527s have arisen to do such work outside the formal structure of the party. And though these organizations have been called into existence by the exigencies of campaign-finance law, they may be better suited to mobilizing the Democratic base, both for this election and the long term, than the official party.
The central figure in the privatized party is Steve Rosenthal, until recently the political director of the AFL-CIO. One of federation President John Sweeney's first hires, Rosenthal transformed labor's political program, increasing both the share of union voters in elections and the percentages by which those voters supported Democratic candidates.
Today Rosenthal heads two key 527s: the labor-backed Partnership for America's Families, which financed the astonishing registration program in Philadelphia, and the more broadly funded America Coming Together (ACT). Both organizations will register, propagandize and get out the votes of blacks, Hispanics and working women. Partnership has a $12 million budget through November '04; ACT -- which has received $10 million donations from several wealthy individuals, including George Soros -- is budgeted to spend $98 million.
During Rosenthal's tenure at the AFL-CIO, Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, chaired the federation's political committee. But McEntee had a falling out with Rosenthal and Service Employees International Union President Andy Stern over the establishment of these 527s, so he set up yet another, Voices for Working Families, with a budget of $20 million and a mission essentially indistinguishable from the other two. Whatever rift may have existed at the top, however, a trip to the fourth floor of Washington's 888 16th St. -- the building directly across the street from the AFL-CIO -- shows the two organizations working amicably at the opposite ends of the same hallway. "There's not enough money in Steve's world or mine to handle everything," says Suzy Ballantyne, Voices' executive director, "so it's very easy to divide things up. When we sat down to talk about Florida, it took all of three minutes to decide where we'd go first and where they would."
Yet another organization, Grassroots Democrats, is perhaps the purest artifact of McCain-Feingold. Its mission includes telling state Democratic parties where the 527s are canvassing so that the parties won't duplicate their efforts. (Sharing that information without an intermediary violates the law.) Headed up by Amy Chapman, a former Rosenthal deputy at the AFL-CIO, Grassroots Democrats exists chiefly to funnel contributions to state and county party committees, a function performed in pre-McCain-Feingold days by the DNC.
Then there's America Votes, also on the same floor as the 527s, a group where progressive organizations -- the Sierra Club, the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), the NAACP Voter Fund, unions, the other 527s among them -- meet to coordinate their campaign activities. "Historically," says Rosenthal, these groups "have been tripping over each other. Now we'll know that if [NARAL] is reaching 100,000 voters in Orlando, ACT can look elsewhere."
Finally, because the $18.6 million that McAuliffe will hand the eventual Democratic nominee will buy nowhere near enough ads to counter Bush's, longtime liberal strategist Harold Ickes has established the Media Fund, which will raise between $50 million and $80 million, says Ickes, "to produce and run issue ads between March and the Democratic convention" (in July).
Rosenthal is not convinced that all Democratic Party officials share a strategic commitment to building a party on the ground. "Five years ago," he recalls, "I met with the state party chairman from a battleground state. I said, 'Build a real party. Start in three cities; the AFL-CIO will train your organizers and pay them.' I never even heard back from him." Now Rosenthal runs organizations that can train and pay those organizers no matter how benighted the local party leaders may be.
I feel better already.
It also underscores the importance of the Dean campaign. The smart money guys in Washington are putting a premium on organization first message second. I think Dean's is the only campaign that will come out of primary season with both.
The scary part:
Terry McAuliffe doesn't know how to shut it off. The chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), says Democratic strategist Harold Ickes, "is a great salesman; he has this infectious optimism." Even in the face of abjectly awful election outcomes, McAuliffe hasn't been able to tone down that optimism. Nuance seems beyond him. On election night 2002, as all available intelligence pointed to a Democratic debacle, McAuliffe nonetheless told Larry King, "I think it's going to be a very good night for the Democrats."
And when the chairman sits down with me two nights after this November's election, in which the Democrats lost the governorships of Mississippi and Kentucky, he remains true to form. He has just flown in from Florida, where he'd spoken to his usual audience -- Democratic high rollers -- and he seems to still be flying. Plopping himself on a couch, he immediately launches into a high-voltage, somewhat hyperbolic account of his tenure at the DNC.
"Look, we'd love to have kept the two southern governorships," he begins, "but as it relates to what I worry about every day -- the 270 electoral votes -- it's not a factor."
The hopeful part:
"When I came here in 2001, I was horrified," McAuliffe says. "We were $18 million in debt. We were leasing space. We had 400,000 donors; their average age was 76! [At this, DNC Press Secretary Tony Welch interjects that he thinks the age was 67, but McAuliffe is on a roll.] Fifty million people had voted for Al Gore, and I could not go to my desk and pull up one voter from the Gore campaign. Not a single voter file was left in the building. Then, in 2002, I lost 80 percent of our disposable income with McCain-Feingold. So we changed all that."
And, to a large extent, he has. For reasons not just of legal but also of strategic necessity, the big-money guy is cultivating the grass roots. McAuliffe made two critical decisions shortly after he became chairman. The first was to devote major resources to building a small-donor list. The second was to assemble a master voter file, with the names, addresses, voting history and demographic particulars of every one of the nation's registered voters. The Republicans had long since had both.
In his first two, pre-McCain-Feingold years as chairman, McAuliffe retired the $18 million debt and raised an additional $25 million with which he bought and rehabbed a Capitol Hill building that will serve as the party's new headquarters when completed this December, and acquired the technology and the lists to reach donors and voters. The committee's techies dubbed the donor and activist list -- which has grown from 400,000 names to well over a million -- "Demzilla." Already the donations coming in from Demzilla, though they average just $38, bring in enough revenue to cover the DNC's operating expenses. McAuliffe is unsurprisingly bullish on its potential, announcing, "I will raise $100 million on Demzilla!" -- the amount of soft money the party raised in the 2000 election cycle.
Also notable is the DNC's creation of DataMart, its file on the nation's 158 million registered voters. Historically, lists of voters have been kept by state parties, individual campaigns and commercial list vendors. At the end of many campaigns, the results of the phone polling and precinct canvassing that the campaigns have done on voters -- often a pretty fair profile of those voters' politics -- are carted away by consultants or simply trashed. As for the state parties, most have lacked the technical capacity to maintain these lists. DataMart, ideally, will fix all that. "We had 27 million incorrect addresses and phone numbers," McAuliffe marvels. "In Florida alone, 1.6 million were wrong."
As election day loomed in 2002, the DNC was racing to get DataMart in working order, and attempted to use it in two last-minute experiments. In New Hampshire, working with the senatorial campaign of outgoing Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, the DNC developed a profile of a likely Shaheen voter and identified 60,000 of them for outreach. But time ran out before the Shaheen campaign could contact them. In Arizona, the DNC was able to identify areas of Tucson where voters were likely to support the gubernatorial campaign of Democratic nominee Janet Napolitano but where turnout had been historically light. The campaign put late money into Tucson voter mobilization, a move that's credited for Napolitano's victory.
The party has now cleaned up the lists and is making them available -- along with new technology and newly trained technicians -- to the various state parties. Predictably, Democratic state party chairs are among McAuliffe's biggest backers. "Only half our county chairs even had computers," says Denny White, the chairman of the Ohio party. "Now they all have computers with good voter files on them." The battleground states are also on a McAuliffe-accelerated calendar to get their coordinated campaigns -- the field campaigns for the presidential and other party nominees -- up and running. The DNC has directed the parties to do their hiring this winter (historically, hiring takes place in the summer of an election year) so that the coordinated campaigns will already be in place when the party's nominee emerges from the primary process in March.
McAuliffe plans to deliver another gift to the Democratic nominee this spring. The eventual winner, McAuliffe fears, is likely to emerge from the primary season battered and broke. At that point, Bush will have at least $200 million on hand for media buys. "In 2000, Al Gore was dark," McAuliffe thunders, meaning that the vice president ran no television ads because he didn't have the money, "for 92 days!" Such darkness, McAuliffe vows, will not descend on 2004's nominee. "We will have tens of millions in the bank the day we get a nominee. On March 10, or whenever it is, we'll give the nominee $25 million." In the next breath, McAuliffe whittles the figure down to the $18.6 million the law permits the party to transfer. But his point is that such funding has never gone to the nominee "before September or October of election year."
McAuliffe's fund-raising success may have to do less with anything Democrats support than with something -- or someone -- they oppose. George W. Bush has provided more incentive for Democrats to give money to their party than Bill Clinton did. "I'm sitting here with $10 million in the bank," McAuliffe notes. "In the first nine months of 2003, we've outraised our totals for '96 and 2000"(the last two presidential election years). "And that's with a garbled message! When I have a nominee and we got a message, it's gonna be great!"
The "garbled" message seems to drive McAuliffe a little batty. "Nobody wants a nominee more than I do, because right now, we've got nine voices on Iraq and tax policy," he says. He is plainly pleased that "we'll have a nominee by March 10" or thereabouts; until then, he doesn't really have a distinct product -- save Bush hatred -- to market.
"Terry looks at Demzilla as a profit center," says one techie who's worked with the DNC. "Howard Dean's Web site gives his supporters something to do. Somebody in Peoria said, 'I want to build a Peoria for Dean Web site.' The campaign manager said, 'Great.'" At the DNC, there's no such two-way street when it comes to the flow of information. "They mainly want to clean up the state voter files and own the e-mail addresses of registered Democrats," the techie continues. "These are great ideas -- but then what?" The DNC is plainly reaching more Democrats than ever before, but when it comes to creatively engaging its rank and file, it is not in the Dean campaign's league.
McAuliffe argues persuasively that the DNC chairman has no right to formulate a position for the party. Yet Democrats even have trouble coordinating the messages they agree on. The culprit here, says McAuliffe, is a system in which elected officials view themselves as individual entrepreneurs, particularly because they have varied constituencies and funding bases. "You're not going to tell House members and senators what the message is," sighs McAuliffe. "It's just not gonna happen."
One Democratic operative acknowledges, "It's tough for the chair of the DNC, without the force of the White House, to bring congressional leaders together and say, 'This is the message.' But he does need to set up a system where governors, mayors, senators, congressmen can all put out a message they agree upon. I made this case to McAuliffe -- and it wasn't like it was rejected." Neither, however, has it happened.
Well, that's both surprising and comforting. McAuliffe has addressed issues that have been driving me crazy for ten years. If he really has done all that, then I'm willing to forgive him (mostly) for ceding MESSAGE. After all he shouldn't have to do everything himself. Newt Gingrinch took that piece when he was House Minority Whip. Grover Cleveland is doing as president of Americans for Tax Reform. Karl Rove is doing it from the White House. Tom Delay is doing tactical stuff from his perch as House Majority Leader. Where are their Democratic equivilents? How hard is it to pull the Democratic Congressional leadership together for breakfast every Sunday or Monday morning and sit down, look at the week and figure this stuff out?
Anyways, good for McAuliffe for getting HIS house in order. It gives me hope for the run at the White House. I just wish he wasn't conceding so much turf in the mean time.
Well, the Clark campaign finally has a campaign manager, and he's a good one -- Paul Johnson. Part of the Daschle group of top-notch South Dakota political consultants (some of the best in the Democratic Party), Johnson was an integral part of Mark Pryor's Senate win in Arkansas -- the only Senate pickup for the Democrats in 2002.
Well, he may be a talented campaigner, but his ties to Daschle are a sign of what's troubling about the Clark campaign. Namely that it is the product of the minds that have steered the Democratic Party into a cul de sac and are now supervising the digging of a giant ditch.
The signs have been there at every step. The Clintonites who provided early staffing, the big Hollywood fundraising. And on it goes.
Baucus (D-MT) | Breaux (D-LA) | Carper (D-DE) | Conrad (D-ND) | Dorgan (D-ND) | Feinstein (D-CA) | Landrieu (D-LA) | Lincoln (D-AR) | Miller (D-GA) | Nelson (D-NE) | Wyden (D-OR)
These are the Dembskulls who voted to end the fillibuster but not for the bill:
Biden (DE) | Corzine (NJ) | Daschle (SD) | Dayton (MN) | Nelson (FL)
These are the Republicans who voted against the bill:
Chafee (R-RI) | Ensign (R-NV) | Graham (R-SC) | Gregg (R-NH) | Hagel (R-NE) | Lott (R-MS) |
McCain (R-AZ) | Nickles (R-OK) | Sununu (R-NH)
E-MAIL YOUR SENATOR ACCORDINGLY
Now get this ! ! ! ! !
Not voting = Kerry (D-MA) | Lieberman (D-CT) Click on the link to see what they were up to.
Why weren't these jagoffs in the Senate leading the floor fight, arm twisting the 11 Dems that voted wrong? Why weren't they in the Senate showing some leadership?
Number one: The Republicans are keeping close watch on who many votes these guys miss and it isn't pretty. In the cataclysmic event that either of these guys gets the nomination, it's going to be an issue in the general. Why, they will ask, should we believe that you care about these issues if you can't be bothered to vote on them. How, they will ask, can you ask people to vote for you, when you can't be bothered to vote in the Senate? (That's your job - showing up in the Senate and voting when there is a vote.) In fact, I hope Dean busts a cap on their ass on this stuff.
You know what? I'll put it out there. Here it is courtesy of the Republican National Committee:
Gephardt 91 % 563 missed votes | Kerry 63 % 287 missed votes | Lieberman 54 % 246 missed votes | John Edwards 38 % 174 missed votes | Dennis Kucinich (god bless'm) 8 % 50 votes
If I were Howard Dean my last ad before the Iowa Caucus would be "Gephardt 91 % 563 missed votes" Period.
Number two: From The Hill:
With yesterday's congressional approval of Medicare prescription-drug legislation, Republican strategists say President Bush has put in place an essential element of his reelection strategy.
The president now can claim credit for steering many of his key domestic policy initiatives through a Republican-led, if closely divided, Congress - including some bills that could resonate with swing voters.
This bill is a boomerang that is going to hit the GOP in the back of the head. But alas, not until long after the 2004 election.
This answers a question I asked Monday.
From The Hill:
The McCain-Feingold restrictions on soft money hampered Democratic efforts to oppose the Republican-backed Medicare reform bill, according to some House Democrats.
“We’re getting killed on the airwaves by the AARP on Medicare,” said Rep. Albert Wynn (D-Md.). “We’ve got all these great arguments to make against the package and we don’t have the resources to make them.”
Noting that the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act prohibits the use of issue ads that could have been produced with soft money under the old campaign finance laws, Wynn said, “This is when soft money could have been real helpful.” Referring to new groups that have sprung up to collect large donations as a result of the soft-money ban, Wynn asked, “Where are the 527s? Why aren’t they providing cover?”
Another Democratic lawmaker, who, like Wynn, voted against McCain-Feingold, said, “For those of us that worried what it would be like without soft money, this is just the beginning.” Traditional issue-advocacy groups, like the AARP, are not prevented from running issue ads this far away from an election. The AARP spent $7 million on an ad campaign in support of the Medicare bill.
Nevertheless, Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), who backed campaign finance reform and voted against the Medicare bill, said he still supports the soft-money ban. “I don’t believe that this bill passed because there wasn’t enough soft money,” the presidential candidate said in a conference call with reporters. The system is better off without the soft money. It was the right thing to do.”
I don't know if I'll ever forgive the Dembskulls for McCain/Feingold. It was a tactical error of the highest order. It also limited issue ads which are (unlike money) legitimate political speach that last I checked should be covered under the first amendment. Issue ads are good for democracy. What was needed was stronger regulations ensuring their veracity.
From the Washington Post:
Longtime party strategist Harold Ickes was at a loss to see any upside to a Republican victory in an area Democrats have always owned. He said he was flabbergasted that key Democratic senators, led by John Breaux (La.) and Max Baucus (Mont.), went along with it.
"It's totally beyond me," Ickes said. "I think it has seriously undermined our ability to change occupants of the White House next year. Republicans will make it sound like they invented Medicare. That's a big piece of political real estate to give up." He paused. "I don't know," he said. "We just don't have the discipline on our side that's needed."
Robert Borosage of the Campaign for America's Future blamed Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) for the collapse. In the House, he said, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) held the line so effectively that Republicans had to hold open their middle-of-the-night vote for nearly three hours on Saturday -- the longest flouting of the 15-minute rule in House history -- just to eke out a win. After which the Democratic filibuster in the Senate swiftly collapsed.
"There's clearly an absence of forceful leadership at the top of the Senate," Borosage said. "In the Senate we saw the difference between the other side's discipline and our lack of it, and I think Democrats are disappointed in the extreme."
Tuesday, November 25, 2003
Here's the guts of the Fareed Zakaria's interview with Lee Kwan Yew:
". . . The Europeans underestimate the problem of Al Qaeda-style terrorism. They think that the United States is exaggerating the threat. They compare it to their own many experiences with terror - the IRA, the Red Brigade, the Baader-Meinhof, ETA. But they are wrong.
. . . Al Qaeda-style terrorism is new and unique because it is global. An event in Morocco can excite the passions of extremist groups in Indonesia. There is a shared fanatical zealousness among these different extremists around the world. Many Europeans think they can finesse the problem, that if they don't upset Muslim countries and treat Muslims well, the terrorists won't target them. But look at Southeast Asia. Muslims have prospered here. But still, Muslim terrorism and militancy have infected them.
. . . Only Muslims can win this struggle. Moderate, modernizing Muslims, political, religious, civic leaders together have to make the case against the fundamentalists. But the strong, developed countries can help. The NATO allies must, as they did during the cold war, present a solid block. Muslim modernizers must feel that the U.S. and its allies will provide the resources, energy and support to make them winners. No one wants to be on the losing side."
The problem, sadly, is that even Muslim "modernizers" like Malaysia's Mahathir Mohamed feel compelled to play to play the anti-Semitism/anti-West card at home and abroad. Arguably, Dr. Mahathir's behavior stemmed from Malaysia's democracy deficit, for the easy rule of thumb is that the less democratic a Muslim country is, the more likely its leaders are to give rhetorical aid and comfort (if not outright material support) to the fundamentalist cause. The question, then, is how do we bridge the democracy gap in the Muslim world?
The answer only begins with removing Saddam Hussein. The Bush administration recognizes the democratic divide as a problem, but aside from the hope that a democratic Iraq will cause a liberal norm cascade throughout the Arab world, the United States has yet to lay out a strategy to peacefully introduce democracy into the remainder of the Islamic world. The President has major given speeches about the need for Saudi Arabia and other countries to go farther in democratization, and to his credit that is more than some of his critics have done. But applauding baby steps towards democracy and encouraging additional baby steps isn't enough.
. . . Just as we said that security in Europe depended on the strength of democratic values in Central and Eastern Europe, so too does the security of the West depend on the liberalization of democracies in the Islamic world.
. . . In this battle, sincere international law and soft power must be employed alongside force, for even if America possessed the resources to topple every tyrant in the Islamic world, the Islamic peoples' mind-forged manacles would remain. To guarantee peace, we have to go about changing Islamic political culture, which will take money and time, and the courage to not retreat to cultural essentialism. We must, above all, avoid the continental view that political sophistication means embracing other peoples' backwardness. For between freedom and slavery there can be no "special understandings."
I agree with 98% of Stinson's post. I find it odd that he has been (not obsessed, but) distracted by George Soros lately. Soros did as much as anyone to promote democracy and sound civil societies in Central and Eastern Europe. It seems we would have a lot to learn from him when it comes to soft power going forward in the Middle East.
I agreed with the invasion of Afghanistan. I think that Iraq distracted us from finishing the job there. With what we've spent on Iraq, we could have put in wall to wall carpetting and stereo surround sound in Afghanistan.
I disagreed with Conservatives other hawks about invading Iraq. I didn't think the threat of WMD's or the connections to Al Queda were real.
Now I disagree with most liberals about nation building in Iraq which I think is essential now that we are in there. I think putting any of the aid in the form of loans was wrong and I think plowshare-rattling about the 87 billion dollars is wrong. It also smacks of jingoism the same way that the obsession of some conservatives on Islamic malfeasance smacks of jingoism.
Oddly it's Howard Dean and not George Bush is the most bullish about staying the course in Iraq.
Now that the damage is done in Iraq it seems that there is little I would disagree with Stinson about on the war on terror. (Based on this one post. I just stumbled across his blog the other day.) He even has strong reservations about the Patriot Act. My my my.
Despite the ever widening scandals, the yawning chasm between NYAG Eliot Spitzer's effectiveness and that of the underfunded, understaffed, and moraleless S.E.C., our brain trust in Washington has decided to cut funding for enforcement:
"WASHINGTON -- House and Senate Republicans, negotiating an $821 billion-plus year-end spending package, have taken a decidedly pro-business slant to help pick up conservative support after Thanksgiving, when the leadership hopes to win final passage . . .
And amid the growing mutual-fund scandal, the Securities and Exchange Commission, which enjoys bipartisan support, will lose a third of the $96 million budget increase it expected until recently. The decision surprised Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D., Md.), who sponsored corporate-reform legislation in the last Congress that committed the body to a steady increase in funds for the SEC. "Once you push back, you lose the momentum," Mr. Sarbanes said."
Monday, November 24, 2003
The answer is in the comment section.
Link via Atrios
Except in the blogosphere. People are all wound up over this, for three reasons.
Number one: They live on the internet in political junkielalalaland where Ted Rall almost, somewhat matters. They think that a post on a blog a year before the election will matter to the 50 million people likely to vote in the next election. "Boy oh boy! Wait 'til Karl Rove gets a hold of this one!" Not going to happen. There's no there there. Karl Rove isn't going to waste his time introducing Ted Rall to the larger public. What he'll use it for is to circulate among red meat conservatives to fire up the base. Big deal.
Number two: Too many people in the blogosphere have the political temperament of a twelve year old. Witness Dean Esmay:
"If the Dean people do not repudiate Ted Rall in fairly short order, I'll go beyond my earlier (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) claims that I'd never vote for Howard Dean, and go even further: if Dean is the Democratic nominee, I will likely become a registered Republican for the rest of my natural life."
This dust up is more important than your convictions about civil liberties, civil rights, the environment, foreign policy, trade, defense, education - etc? Granted, it came as surprise to me that Esmay isn't a dyed in the wool Republican but come on.
Do you really think that Howard Dean shares Ted Rall's politics? The impulse to believe the worst about someone is something that is really starting to rub me the wrong way. The blogosphere is way too quick too look for the gotcha.
Number Three: The blogosphere hates Howard Dean. Given that the blogosphere really grew up around the war in Iraq the blogosphere is more hawkish than the rest of the population. Liberal/Democratic bloggers tend to be more hawkish than the mainstream of the party. Those that aren't are nailbiting intellectuals who would rather vote for Wesley Clark's resume than Howard Dean's formidable organization which could lay the groundwork for rebuilding the Democratic Party.
What I don't get is that I thought the blogosphere was a place where people were pushing past the shallowness of the mainstream media. Every bit of substantive writing about Howard Dean that I've come across debunks the firebreathing liberal peacenik stereotype. Yet in the blogosphere it's alive and well in the fear of hawks who are afraid that Dean won't trick the country into expensive and unnecessary military adventures and the nailbiters who are afraid of a '72 redux. Read this and this and this and even read the Salon article with the picture of Dean with flames coming out of his head.
Just so there is no confusion. I think that Ted Rall writes some really over the top stuff and I hope the Dean campaign does the right thing here. As offensive as Ted Rall can be, I find $32 billion in tax breaks and subsidies to the oil, gas, coal and nuclear industries more offensive.
Baucus (D-MT) | Biden (D-DE) | Breaux (D-LA) | Carper (D-DE) | Conrad (D-ND) | Corzine (D-NJ) | Daschle (D-SD) | Dayton (D-MN) | Dorgan (D-ND) | Feinstein (D-CA) | Johnson (D-SD) | Kohl (D-WI) | Landrieu (D-LA) | Lincoln (D-AR) | Mikulski (D-MD) | Miller (D-GA) | Murray (D-WA) | Nelson (D-FL) | Nelson (D-NE) | Pryor (D-AR) | Reid (D-NV) | Wyden (D-OR)
What a disaster. They have left every Democratic presidential hopeful twisting in the wind on this issue. The House minority leader, Tom Daschle voted to end the fillibuster being led by Ted Kennedy, the Party's point person on the issue. What was the Party's position on this legislation? Where were the TV ads making their case and providing cover to legislators in swing states? When Feinstein and Wyden broke ranks they said that they felt that it was important to get something passed on a prescription drug benefit. The premium increases that the legislation calls for cancel out the drug benefit. The legislation does not allow Medicare to bargain with drug companies for better prices.
These Senators may think that moderateness and bipartisanship will help them hold on to their seats. Sure, but they are seats on a sinking ship. Those qualities worked for Clinton as an individual politician, but they have been a disaster for the party.
It's funny. The Republican Party is supposedly the party that cherishes the individual, independent and free. The Democratic Party is supposedly the Party that finds value in sacrifice for the common good. But the Republicans are far more disciplined and willing to vote the party line. The Democrats would rather pick their own scabs than win.
The Clinton years have left the Democratic Party a hollowed out husk. McAuliffe's leadership has left the Party dependent on shrinking base of big donors, while the Republican Party has been building a larger base of small donors in addition to a growing base of big donors.
Because of McAuliffe the Party has no organization. Because of Daschle & Co. the Party doesn't stand for anything. Until this Party gets a little soul, it will continue to spiral into oblivion.
While I'm at it here's the list of Democrats who bailed on the Energy Pork Jamboree fillibuster:
Max Baucus (Mont.) | John Breaux (La.) | Kent Conrad (N.D.) | Thomas Daschle (S.D.) | Mark Dayton (Minn.) | Byron Dorgan (N.D.) | Tom Harkin (Iowa) | Tim Johnson (S.D.) | Mary Landrieu (La.) |Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) | Zell Miller (Ga.)
Ben Nelson (Neb.) | Mark Pryor (Ark.)
e-mail your Senator
Tom DeLay, in the midst of passing his Medicare bill, says "We must forget about ideological absolutes." This, of course, was the mantra of "third way" progressivism, which held that the policy goals of the left (healthier, better educated people) could be achieved through the favored free market means of the right. DeLay's third way is roughly the reverse. The means of the left -- massive government intervention in the economy -- will be used to achieve a caricature of rightwing policy goals, increased corporate profitability.
Ultimately, it seems to me that the Democratic Party is just helpless when faced with the prospect of a GOP that isn't even going to try to stand for conservative principles. A party organized as an alliance between Big Government and Big Business just has too many big guns on its side. The only real question is whether or not conservatives will try and take their party back from the Rove-DeLay-Frist domestic policy agenda and return the GOP to advocating something that resembles a small government philosophy.
Link via Brayden King
Corporate welfare is nothing new in American politics, what is new is that everything the GOP does seems to flow from the question: How can we spread around the public largesse to our fundraising constituency and dress it up as a public policy solution.
Consider this from Paul Krugman via Atrios via Brad Delong:
One interesting point he made has to do with why the markets have yet to go into panic mode. He said he gets various letters from hedge funds, etc..., and all of them contain some version of the line "we expect a return to fiscal discipline after the '04 elections." As Krugman rightly noted, this is just crazy. The Bushies claim that the deficit will be cut in half by 2008 - but even this rosy scenario can happen only if none of what they are continuing to propose to do - namely making all of the various expiring tax cuts "permament." The odds of a return to fiscal discipline - either with a 2nd Bush term, or with a President Democrat and House Majority Leader DeLay are pretty close to 0.
I've always been sick of the Republicans are the fiscally conservative stereotype but this Administration is taking it too unprecedented heights. They aren't trying to solve problems in ways that benefit their donor base. They are inventing problems so that they can transfer tax dollars to their donor base.
From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
The conference agreement on the Medicare drug bill would cost an estimated $400 billion over ten years, and much larger amounts in succeeding decades as drug prices continue to rise. Because the legislation is not "paid for," it would substantially worsen the nation's long-term fiscal problems, which already threaten to be the most serious in the nation's history.
This raises a fundamental question: is the legislation sound enough policy to justify substantially worsening an already grim long-term fiscal outlook? Examination of the legislation strongly suggests the answer is no. The legislation contains a number of features that do not represent sound policy, either because they would change Medicare in troubling ways or because they fail to incorporate measures to curtail spiraling drug costs that ought to be an essential part of any legislation to establish a Medicare drug benefit.
Of particular concern on the fiscal front is the legislation's failure to include true cost-containment provisions that would moderate the escalating cost of drugs to both the federal Treasury and American consumers. The legislation could have used Medicare's enormous purchasing power to negotiate significantly lower prices for drugs (as, for example, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Medicaid program do). Instead, at the apparent behest of the pharmaceutical industry, the legislation is structured so that Medicare will not play this role.
. . . In addition, while bypassing true cost containment, the legislation contains a so-called cost-containment measure that could lead to increases in premiums, deductibles, co-payments and payroll taxes in the name of controlling Medicare costs and that would be triggered even if Medicare costs rise more slowly than projected and Medicare drug costs turn out to be lower than projected.
. . . Another shortcoming of the legislation is that despite the expenditure of very large sums, the legislation would make several million of the nation's poorest elderly an disabled citizens worse off, requiring them to pay more for drugs than they do today and possibly to lose access to some drugs they now receive. (The legislation also could cause about two million retirees to lose retiree drug coverage they now have.)
. . . Finally and of particular concern, the legislation contains a major new heath-insurance related tax shelter that could cause premium charges for employer-based comprehensive health insurance to rise substantially over time by providing major tax incentives for healthier, more affluent workers to switch from comprehensive health insurance to the high-deductible health insurance policies that would be packaged with the lucrative new tax shelters. This would cause the pool of employees remaining in comprehensive employer-based coverage to become older and sicker, on average - and hence more costly to insure - which would necessitate increases in premiums for comprehensive employer-based coverage.
Given these concerns and the disarray of the Democratic party it is very troubling to see Wyden and Feinstein breaking ranks. Every Democrat running for President opposes this legislation. If the party is ever going to pull itself together, it's going to have to pull itself together and discipline in tough votes is going to have to be part of that.
I can't find a list of the other seven Dems who are AWOL on this. If you can, post it in the comments section.
Please e-mail your Senator urging the defeat of the Medicare bill.
Dear Senator Xxxxxx:
I am writing to urge you vote against the Medicare bill currently under consideration in the Senate. This bill does not do enough for seniors or contain sufficent cost saving measure to sustain Medicare. Instead it is freighted with handouts to the drug and insurance industries.
While bypassing true cost containment, the legislation contains a so-called cost-containment measure that could lead to increases in premiums, deductibles, co-payments and payroll taxes in the name of controlling Medicare costs. the legislation would make several million of the nation's poorest elderly an disabled citizens worse off, requiring them to pay more for drugs than they do today and possibly to lose access to some drugs they now receive. (The legislation also could cause about two million retirees to lose retiree drug coverage they now have.) the legislation contains a major new heath-insurance related tax shelter that could cause premium charges for employer-based comprehensive health insurance to rise substantially over time by providing major tax incentives for healthier, more affluent workers to switch from comprehensive health insurance to the high-deductible health insurance policies that would be packaged with the lucrative new tax shelters. This would cause the pool of employees remaining in comprehensive employer-based coverage to become older and sicker, on average - and hence more costly to insure - which would necessitate increases in premiums for comprehensive employer-based coverage.
Please continue to work to provide improved, fiscally responsible health coverage to our nation's seniors, but vote to defeat this legislation.
Moments after Iraqi guerrillas killed two American troops yesterday, a crowd swarmed to the car and began pummelling the soldier's bodies with concrete blocks. Witnesses to the assault in the northern city of Mosul said the mob mutilated the blood-drenched bodies, rifled through their pockets, looted their four-wheel-drive civilian car, smashed the windows and tried to set it on fire. One man was seen brandishing a wad of blood-soaked Iraqi dinars, apparently stolen from the men. Bahaa Jassim, one of those who saw the attack, said the soldiers' vehicle smashed into a wall after they were shot and that the crowd stole their weapons and backpacks. The attack was unusually ferocious, even by the ruthless standards of this seven-month conflict. It dealt a blow to the US strategy of promoting the view that the majority of Iraqi civilians are on the side of the "coalition", and that its only enemy is a small number involved in armed resistance.
"They hate Americans round here," said one Iraqi on-looker. "They've been doing many raids around here, so it's not surprising they were attacked."
The really depressing part is that this is happening in the north where we had more good will going in and where Major General David Petreaus has been doing an excellent job of building infrastructure. The door to door raids have just been disastrous.
Sunday, November 23, 2003
A prominent financier argues that the heedless assertion of American
power in the world resembles a financial bubble - and the moment of
truth may be here
by George Soros from the Atlantic
SPOILING (CAREFULLY) FOR A FIGHT
The Democratic candidates are struggling through a crowded debate
schedule, searching for their breakout moment. Behind the scenes with
Team Edwards, practicing lines and perfecting spin.
by Matt Bai from the New York Times Magazine
CRIMES AGAINST NATURE
Bush is sabotaging the laws that have protected America's environment for more than thirty years
By Robert F. Kennedy Jr. from Rolling Stone
LIBERATORS AND OCCUPIERS
This week in the New Yorker, George Packer writes about postwar Iraq,
and about the difficulties facing American forces there. Here Packer discusses
the current situation in the country, accompanied by photographs by Gilles Peress.
APPEAL OF THE RARE
In Darwin, Minnesota, the modern pilgrim can observe what is
claimed to be the world’s largest ball of twine made by one person.
Eleven feet tall, weighing in at 17,400 pounds, the ball is displayed
in a Plexiglas gazebo. The callow sophisticate, passing afternoons in
Paris museums amid roomfuls of Ming vases or dinosaur pelvises, might
guess that a ball of twine, however large, could have only limited
by Robert Sapolsky and Paul Ehrlich from Discover
ROAST TURKEY WITH CORNBREAD STUFFING
A plain old brown paper grocery bag was Mama Lou's secret for
cooking moist turkey without basting.
by Tom H Macker from Pinedelboyz
JESUS WITH A GENIUS GRANT
Fuller Theological Seminary Is Teaching That Smart Christians
Can Have It All--Science and the Bible, Body and Soul, Left and Right.
To Some, That's Apocalypse Now. To Others, There's No Turning Back.
By Alan Rifkin from the Los Angeles Times Magazine
ROCK AND ROLL IN THEIR HEARTS
The Secret to Longevity for Snotty Scotty and the Hankies? Forget Fame.
Rock Because You Love It.
by Martin Booe from the Los Angeles Times Magzine
MUSIC AND MESSAGES
At Mexican clubs in New York, "sonideros" are D.J.'s who entertain the
crowd with humor and messages to loved ones left behind in Mexico.
AUDIO SLIDESHOW from the New York Times
INTERVIEW WITH TRIUMPH THE COMIC INSULT DOG
Triumph, a regular on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, is a puppet
and the creation of Robert Smigel. Smigel also created the animated
short TV Funhouse on Saturday Night Live. Triumph has a new CD,
Come Poop With Me, featuring such tracks as "Underage Bichon" and
"Lick Myself." He's appeared on Hollywood Squares and on the MTV Video
Music Awards, where he almost came to blows with rapper Eminem.
by Terry Gross from Fresh Air
Triumph the Insult Comic Dog
I HAVE FOUR WORDS FOR YOU
Steve Baumer from Microsoft