Saturday, December 13, 2003

grocery strike goes to the senneradabooseye 

From the Christian Science Monitor:

LOS ANGELES – Placard-toting demonstrators remain a common sight at supermarkets here as a strike and lockout of 70,000 southern California grocery workers begins its ninth week with no end in sight.
Management and unions are still hunkered down; negotiations could trickle into next year. And the fight has become emblematic of a larger national anxiety over tradeoffs between consumer prices and decent-paying jobs. On one level, it's a tussle between management - which says it must cut costs to compete with bulk discount houses - and workers who want to preserve health benefits. But there's also a more universal question, analysts say: As manufacturing jobs disappear here - and across the Midwest and South - what alternatives remain for the working middle class?

Read the rest. It's one of the best pieces on the strike that I've seen thus far.

the blog ate my homework 

I was working on finishing up my analysis of the New York Times/CBS News poll and Blogger lost my work. Damn. I'm moving to new digs the first of the year and I look forward to it more everyday. Blogspot was down for two hours last night.

My apologies for a lack of content today, but the blog ate my homework

Friday, December 12, 2003


From the FT:

President George W. Bush warned Halliburton on Friday that it would have to repay the US government for any overcharging on $5bn of contracts to rebuild Iraq and support US troops there.

His remarks appeared to be an attempt to distance the administration from a growing scandal involving the oil field services company formerly run by his vice-president, Dick Cheney.

The warning came a day after Pentagon auditors reported they had found evidence that Halliburton's Kellogg Brown & Root subsidiary might have passed on $61m in excess costs to the government for hauling fuel from Kuwait to Iraq. That work was done under a contract the company was awarded in March to restore Iraq's oil sector.

. . . The Pentagon also said that KBR appeared to have over-estimated by $67m the potential cost of providing dining facilities under a separate contractwhich covers a wide range of Army logistics.

What the print stories don't get at is how unenthusiastic Bush sounds when he commends the Pentagon accountants for finding the discrepancy.

This is the point when John Kerry should go on the war path pushing for wholesale investigations of the no bid contracts the two overcharging scandals and how it all ties up with Cheney and the administration. It's at least as juicy as Whitewater and he has nothing to lose and everything to gain in jumpstarting his campaign.

This is the kind of thing that the Democrats are just hapless about capitalizing on. When you are in the minority you have to create a relentless drumbeat until the issue becomes a crisis.

And I say, bang, bang, bang!!!!!

Continuing from yesterday. . .

From Marketplace:

The debates over NAFTA are much more than academic for the workers of Central and South America. The successes and failures of NAFTA are weighing heavily on Latin American countries that are negotiating their own trade pacts with the United States. Sam Eaton meets farmers in Guatemala who are growing new products through new methods, in an effort to succeed under the trade agreements in ways that Mexican farmers could not under NAFTA.

UPS vs Canada
NAFTA contains a small provision that did not get much public attention: It's called Chapter 11. The provision lets companies sue foreign governments for damages -- if their laws impede free trade. In the first seven years of NAFTA, foreign corporations collected $1.8 billion from U.S. taxpayers, alone; Canadian taxpayers coughed up $11 billion. From Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Stephen Henn reports that Canadians are now furious that United Parcel Service is suing Canada to get a piece of one its fundamental social services: the mail.
Reporter: Stephen Henn

Q&A with "The Economist's" Clive Crook
The Chapter 11 provision has been a major point of contention for countries cutting trade deals with the U.S. The world has been watching as the benefits and pitfalls of NAFTA have been played out on the global stage. Should these problems serve as warning flags for the growing pain-free trade evolution? Host David Brown talks with Clive Crook, deputy managing editor at "The Economist" magazine in London.
Q+A: Host David Brown talks with Clive Crook

Q+A with Carlos Salinas de Gortari
Host David Brown talks with former Mexican president and NAFTA architect Carlos Salinas de Gortari about first turning down, and then accepting, the free trade agreement. With a new world unfolding, President Salinas changed his mind and set out to convince skeptics at home that NAFTA was worth the risk.
Q+A: Host David Brown talks with Carlos Salinas de Gortari

consumer confidence 

From CBS News via Delong:

(CBS MarketWatch) Consumers have turned more cautious after deciding that all the talk of an improving U.S. economy may still be just so much hot air, according to researchers at the University of Michigan.

The consumer sentiment index fell Friday to a reading of 89.6 in early December from 93.7 in November. The decline was unexpected. The consensus forecast of Wall Street economists was for sentiment to improve to 95.6.


From Brad Delong:

The Economist writes about service-sector offshoring: | Offshoring: ...Although there have been no federal legislative proposals in America against offshoring per se, there has been a tightening up on the granting of visas that allow foreign workers to enter America for training and temporary employment. The annual quota for so-called H-1B visas used by itinerant Indian software programmers fell in October to 65,000 from 195,000 a year ago. The idea is to prevent foreigners from taking Americans' jobs. In fact, the effect may be the reverse. Craig Barrett, the chief executive of Intel, a chipmaker and a big employer of Indian engineers, says that America's main problem is a lack of suitably educated engineering graduates. The impact of fewer visas may thus be to encourage American firms to shift more work to India, where well-qualified computer engineers are plentiful.

But the vast majority of the service jobs that are now going offshore do not require highly qualified engineers. Multinationals may in future do original R&D in low-cost places, but for the moment most of the jobs on the move are the paper-based back-office ones that can be digitalised and telecommunicated anywhere around the world, plus more routine telephone inquiries that are increasingly being bundled together into call centres.

Several American states have moved faster than the federal authorities in trying to halt this "labour arbitrage". Lawmakers in New Jersey have proposed a bill to stop firms using foreign workers to fulfil state contracts. Public pressure forced the state to bring back a helpline for welfare recipients that had been outsourced to India. For similar reasons, in late November Indiana withdrew from a $15m contract with the American subsidiary of a leading Indian IT outsourcing firm. Governor Joe Kernan said that the contract did not fit with Indiana's "vision" of providing better opportunities to local companies and workers.

On one estimate, America accounts for over 70% of all offshoring business. The second biggest market is in Britain. Big companies there regularly announce that they are moving service jobs abroad, many of them involving the wholesale transfer of call centres. In late October, the HSBC banking group announced that it is taking 4,000 jobs from Britain to India, and earlier this month Aviva (the Norwich Union insurance group) said it is transferring 2,350 jobs, also to India.

As yet, such moves have been less politically contentious than in America. Patricia Hewitt, Britain's minister of trade and industry, responded to those concerned about the job losses by saying it was a"myth" that offshoring would create widespread unemployment. Nevertheless, her department has commissioned an independent study into the competitiveness of Britain's call centres. Representatives of Amicus, a big British finance-sector union, were this week seeking to persuade the European Parliament to set up a more general inquiry into the likely impact of offshoring on Europe's economy.

The offshoring business remains predominantly English-speaking. It is dominated by American and British companies outsourcing their internal operations to third parties in places such as Ireland, Canada and South Africa, but most of all in India. The fact that America and Britain have relatively liberal employment laws has also been influential in the shift of business overseas...

The fact that trade balances--that dollars paid to Indian call-center workers show up as demand for American exports or as funding for investments in America*--means that the Economist is doing a bad thing when it talks about "job loss" rather than "job shift." Bad Economist! Go lie down now!! No biscuit for you!!!

The question these state governors should be asking themselves is, "Are these call-center jobs really the ones we want to keep?"


*As long, that is, as the Federal Reserve does a reasonably good job of turning Say's Law from an ideology-soaked theory into a practical rule of thumb.

From the Daily Show

Don't Be A Debata Hata

The Democrats pout and glare at Dean one last time in 2003

Bad Senator
In a recent interview John Kerry uses a very naughty word. Someone's getting coal in their stocking.

Stephen Colbert: Interviews I Could Get
Stephen Colbert chats with former presidential candidate and general do-nothing, Bob Graham

From the Portland Mercury:

The Bush administration thinks John Kerry should have his mouth washed out with soap, and then say he's sorry. In question? The F-word. Kerry, in an interview with Rolling Stone, opined about Bush and the situation in Iraq thusly, "Did I expect George Bush to fuck it up as badly as he did? I don't think anybody did." The use of the F-word sent the Bush people over the fucking edge. Chief of Staff Andrew Card went so fucking ape shit that he threatened to fuck up the Democratic motherfucker once and for all. During a CNN appearance on "Late Edition," Card said that the word was "so fucking beneath Kerry it wasn't even fucking funny." And that "a fucking apology might be in order." Kerry's people said that he has no regrets. And to fuck off.

From the Onion:

NEW YORK - Citing curiosity as his primary motive, Bill Clinton typed his own name into the popular search engine during a lull in his daily activities, the former president reported Monday. "I had no idea I would get 2,790,000 results!" Clinton said while seated before the Apple PowerBook in his Harlem office.

WASHINGTON - According to the results of an intensive two-year study, Americans living below the poverty line are "pretty much fucked," Center for Social and Economic Research executive director Jameson Park announced Monday.

GROSSE POINTE, MI-As part of the ongoing trend toward replacing U.S. workers with foreign labor, the marital duties of United Carborundum CEO Howard Reinhardt have been outsourced to his Mexican groundskeeper, industry sources revealed Monday.

"It was time for a change," said Reinhardt's wife Melanie, who has been married to the CEO for 17 years and has conducted her sexual business almost exclusively with him since 1984. "While I was generally satisfied with the level of servicing that I received under Howard, it was my feeling that a younger, more aggressive hand on the tiller might bring some new ideas into play. No matter how mutually satisfying the old deal was, its time had passed."

they shoot donkeys, don't they 

Bob Herbert takes the Democrats to task for acting like Democrats.

Who was it that said, "The Democrats want to fall in love with their candidate. The Republicans just wan't to fall in line."

The only thing more myopic than the blogosphere is the Democratic Party. It's driving me crazy.

honey or vinegar? vinegar, definately vinegar. 

Bill Kristol writes in the Weekly Standard:

A deviously smart American administration would have quietly distributed contracts for rebuilding Iraq as it saw fit, without any announced policy of discrimination. At the end of the day, it would be clear that opponents of American policy didn't fare too well in the bidding process. Message delivered, but with a certain subtlety.

A more clever American administration would have thrown a contract or two to a couple of those opponents, to a German firm, for instance, as a way of wooing at least the business sectors in
a country where many businessmen do want to strengthen ties with the United States.

A truly wise American administration would have opened the bidding to all comers, regardless of their opposition to the war -- as a way of buying those countries into the Iraq effort, building a little goodwill for the future, and demonstrating to the world a little magnanimity.

But instead of being smart, clever, or magnanimous, the Bush Administration has done a dumb thing. The announcement of a policy of discriminating against French, German, and Russian firms has made credible European charges of vindictive pettiness and general disregard for the opinion of even fellow liberal democracies. More important, it has made former Secretary of State James Baker's very important effort to get these countries, among others, to offer debt relief for the new government of Iraq almost impossible. This is to say nothing of other areas where we need to work with these governments.

This decision is a blunder. We trust it will be reversed

Don't count on it. The admin spent the day digging in their heels.

iran and the left 

Danny Postel argues in In These Times that the American Left has been irresponsible in it's lack of interest in the Iranian Student Democracy Movement.

In Tehran since 1999, government vigilantes have stormed a student dormitory brandishing clubs and thrashing students with chains. They have tossed one student out of a window to his death. During such raids, helicopters hover overhead, elite units of anti-riot police gather and plainclothes Intelligence Ministry agents buzz around on motorbikes. Plainclothes security officers routinely detainstudent radicals at gunpoint.

Why are American progressives by and large silent about the situation in Iran today?

How many American progressives knew who Shirin Ebadi was before she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last month? Almost no one. By the same token, how many of us knew who Rigoberta Menchu was before she won the prize in 1992? Many, if not most of us: We'd seen her speak, read her autobiography, or simply had come to know her story by osmosis in activist circles.

. . . But what happens when people are struggling against tyranny and repression that is not being perpetrated by the United States or its proxies and when - to take the case of Iran today - the regime in question is a sworn enemy of the United States.

Let's face it: It's just plain uncomfortable for progressives to say anything that sounds like it could also come out of the mouth of George Bush or Paul Wolfowitz.

Jeremy Brecher argues in Foreign Policy in Focus, however, that "failure to defend human rights in such circumstances only plays into the hands of the Bush juggernaut." Progressives must, he contends, be known as "people whose fundamental solidarity is not with one or another government but with all people who are struggling for liberation from oppression."

I've been making the same case for the last six months. Here and here and here and here.

How bad is it? In September I reported:

From the Opinion Journal:

Blogress Karol Sheinin reports that an Iranian democracy activist named Banafsheh contacted the most prominent "antiwar" group asking them to take a stand against Tehran's thuggish theocracy. In an e-mail (quoted verbatim), Banafsheh describes the answer she got:

Recently I contacted a group called A.N.S.W.E.R. COALITION which organizes marches. After having introduced myself and explained to them the situation in Iran (after 4 phone calls and messages) I was told that they won't help the Iranian activists and their friends in organizing marches against the Islamic Republic as they're afraid the Iranian student movement might be run by IMPERIALIST!!!!!

Student Movement Coordinating Committee for Democracy in Iran

Thursday, December 11, 2003

after nafta 

Marketplace is running a series called After NAFTA:

Jobless in Milwaukee
Factory workers in the Midwest were some of the first to feel effects from NAFTA. One by one, companies looked to Mexico for cheaper labor and moved, taking thousands of jobs with them. As a safeguard for workers who lost jobs, NAFTA promised to retrain them for the better, higher-paying jobs of the future. But what happened to those workers? Sarah Gardner went to Milwaukee, where blue-collar workers once enjoyed a middle-class lifestyle, to see how the changes played out. Apparently, workers are still waiting for those new, better jobs to appear.
Reporter: Sarah Gardner

NAFTA and You, the Consumer
Robert Reich, the Secretary of Labor 10 years ago when Clinton signed the agreement into law, shows us, in a concrete way, how we have benefited from the trade agreement. He says the consumer is the big winner from NAFTA because reducing tariffs and sourcing parts abroad has lowered prices and created more consumer choice.
Commentary: Robert Reich

Post-NAFTA Shopping
The opening of new markets under NAFTA has made for dramatic changes on supermarket shelves. Jeff Tyler went shopping on both sides of the Texas-Mexico border and explored the sometimes-strange world of post-NAFTA shopping.
Reporter: Jeff Tyler

Missing Maquiladoras
During the 1990s, resentment built up in Americans as the pendulum swung well in the direction of Mexico. The number of jobs in Mexico during the first seven years of NAFTA doubled. Most were in the factories, known as maquiladoras, clustered along the U.S.-Mexican border. But as Marianne McCune reports from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, many of those once-well-off workers are now trying to cope after the pendulum of global trade swung back -- to Asia.
Reporter: Marianne McCune

All the Tees in China
In 1992, Ross Perot predicted that America would soon hear "a giant sucking sound" as American manufacturing was drawn down to Mexico. But 10 years later, the sound is that of American and Mexican jobs being sucked away by China and Southeast Asia. Jocelyn Ford explains how NAFTA caused an American golf equipment manufacturer to take his business to Mexico, but how the trade pacts that came in NAFTA's wake have meant the company is on the move again.
Reporter: Jocelyn Ford

Dueling Numbers In a twist on Marketplace’s signature "Numbers" segment, we "do the numbers" on the results of 10 years of NAFTA. So, was NAFTA a good or bad deal? Well, with pro- and anti-NAFTA camps offering different accounting of net job losses and gains, the experts say it’s not that simple. That’s why we challenged Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, and Robert Lawrence, of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, to an on-air numbers duel.

White-Collar Mexico
It's no longer just factory work that's moving down to Mexico: Some big U.S. firms like Boeing, GE and Principal Financial Group are outsourcing white-collar computer programming and service jobs to companies south of the border. These jobs are helping create a new middle class in Mexican cities like Monterrey. Sam Eaton explores the new well-heeled middle-class lifestyle of Mexican I.T. workers.

Mad in America
This flight of white-collar jobs has begun to alarm some American workers. There's a new group of them who feel threatened by this overseas competition. Amy Scott introduces us to a group of tech workers in Connecticut raising their voices in an effort to prevent more high-skill jobs from moving to places like India, China, and Mexico.
Reporter: Reporter: Amy Scott

To Be Continued:

so that's where it went 

Kuttner in the American Prospect:

As a new report by the Economic Policy Institute points out, this recovery is like no other recent economic turnaround in the low proportion of income gains that have gone to wages. The EPI, citing Commerce Department data, calculates that in the last seven major recoveries, dating back to 1949, labor compensation at this point in the cycle typically commanded around 61 percent of the new growth in output and in no case less than 55 percent.

But in the current recovery, labor compensation is just 29 percent of total income growth. What gets the lion's share? Corporate profits.

In the typical postwar recovery, corporate profits got about 26 percent of the pie. This time they are getting 46 percent. That helps explain the stock boomlet, but it won't feel very comforting to the typical worker (who is also the typical voter). The other big job-killer is trade. The trade deficit is now running at an annual rate of more than $500 billion -- about 5 percent of GDP. If America's trade accounts with the rest of the world were balanced, foreigners would be buying more products from the United States, and Americans would have millions more jobs.

pelosi? really? alright, if you say so. 

Mary Lynn F. Jones tries to make the case in the American Prospect that Nancy Pelosi has been a strong leader and exceeded expectations in the House this year. It sure doesn't feel that way. The few times that I've seen her on TV she was awful. Wishy washy and all over the place. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt. But I'm going to be watching a lot closer this year coming up.

kuttner on miller 

Robert Kuttner reviews Matthew Miller's book the 2% Solution in the American Prospect.

Miller's assessment of what ails our society is flawed by a bizarre conception of politics and wishful programmatic fixes. While preparing his book, he went around the country interviewing leaders of both parties and proffering his plans. He managed to convince himself that Democrats and Republicans alike would accept his grand compromise of "using conservative means to achieve liberal ends," if only old shibboleths and interest groups didn't stand in the way.

To read Miller, you'd think that American politics was deadlocked and that the blockage was roughly symmetrical. But that's hardly the real story of the era since Ronald Reagan. As we all know, the far right has won one victory after another, and even after the Clinton interlude, the center is much farther to the right than it was in 1980. The fact that 42 million people have no health insurance, that too many jobs pay poverty wages and that schools are failing is not the result of partisan deadlock but of conservative hegemony.

Liberals have solutions. What they don't have is political power. Even under Clinton, as Miller notes in passing, federal outlays were cut from 22 percent of the gross domestic product to 20 percent. Federal revenue is now at its lowest share of national income since Dwight Eisenhower.

Scour the conservative think tanks and you will find no Matt Millers commending a grand bargain with liberals. You will find right-wing ideologues who are serious about winning. Bill Kristol, Karl Rove, and Grover Norquist did not prevail by disdaining a new right and commending a new center. Rather, the conservative strategy is simply to destroy liberalism and take no prisoners.

to the victor go the spoils 

My big insight yesterday:

The decision to limit bidding on the reconstruction of Iraq really defines the contracts as the spoils of war.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

the other amazon 

From the New York Times:

UMPUENTSA, Ecuador — As international energy companies move into the Amazon basin to tap some of the last untouched oil and natural gas reserves, more and more natives are fighting to keep them out.

Oil workers and contractors have been kidnapped, company officials say. Equipment has been vandalized. Protests, injunctions and lawsuits are piling up as Indian groups grow increasingly savvy in their cooperation with environmentalists.

The governments may increasingly regard the Amazon as an engine for economic growth, but native groups are struggling to balance development with the desire to preserve a nearly primordial way of life. . .

Natives also are reportedly tired of being badgered to ship books in three to four business days.

View Slideshow

from the how to win friend and influence people dept. 

From the New York Times:

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- The European Union said Wednesday it would examine whether the United States violates world trade rules with its decision to bar countries that opposed its war in Iraq from bidding for $18.6 billion worth reconstruction contracts. France, Germany and other U.S. allies were angered and surprised by the Pentagon decision -- which forbids bids by countries with no troops in Iraq -- seen as a slap after efforts to patch up the trans-Atlantic divisions over the Iraq war.

Canada suggested it might halt further aid to Iraq, and Russia issued an implicit threat that it would take a harder line on the restructuring of Iraqi debt that Washington seeks.

"I find it really very difficult to fathom,'' Canada's incoming prime minister, Paul Martin, said of the Pentagon order. Martin, who takes office Friday, said he was ``disappointed'' -- particularly since Canada has pledged about $225 million for Iraq and has troops in Afghanistan.

. . . In Moscow, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, when asked about the Pentagon decision, responded by ruling out any debt write-off for Iraq. "Iraq's debt to the Russia Federation comes to $8 billion and as far as the Russian government's position on this, it is not planning any kind of a write-off of that debt,'' he said. ``Iraq is not a poor country.''

That's not making James Baker's job any easier.

Elsewhere in the Times:

The United States government is paying the Halliburton Company an average of $2.64 a gallon to import gasoline and other fuel to Iraq from Kuwait, more than twice what others are paying to truck in Kuwaiti fuel, government documents show.

Halliburton, which has the exclusive United States contract to import fuel into Iraq, subcontracts the work to a Kuwaiti firm, government officials said. But Halliburton gets 26 cents a gallon for its overhead and fee, according to documents from the Army Corps of Engineers.

court to rule on gerrymandering 

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on gerrymandering in Pennsylvania today. The outcome will determine the degree to which partisan concerns can play in redistricting. Hopefully, the Court will decide that the drawing of districts can be so politically motivated as to be unconstitutional.

Republicans have handed Democrats several defeats through redistricting. What concerns me more is the corrosive effect gerrymandering has on our democracy.

Gerrymandering isn't just bad for either party, depending on who's running a given statehouse, it's bad for democracy because it creates districts that are so geographically tortured they have no civic identity. That alienates citizens from the political process. It also has created constituencies that do not require politicians to build majorities by appealling to moderate voters. The result is an increasingly polarized Congress. Recent moves by the Republicans have been so baldly political that they have severely undermined the civility between the two parties necessary for the two party system to work.

Democrats gave the GOP their first taste of the joys of gerrymandering when they created majority black Congressional districts. The result of this was that it isolated blacks in majority Democrat districts surrounded by brand spankin' new majority Republican districts. Now the GOP uses redistricting to pit Democratic incumbents against each other.

In Texas, they redistricted even though there was no new census data to trigger the redistricting. The Republicans' map disregarded a standard known as "community of interest," which means keeping cities, counties, and regions with shared interests intact if possible.

The Supreme Court should reaffirm the standard of community of interest and rule that redistricting can only be done at certain intervals based on new census data. Citizens should be represented in districts that they have some identification with and the parties need the political football of redistricting taken out of play.

the case against UN peacekeeping 

From the Canadian National Post via the Agonist:

Four years after it was "liberated" by a NATO bombing campaign, Kosovo has deteriorated into a hotbed of organized crime, anti-Serb violence and al-Qaeda sympathizers, say security officials and Balkan experts.

Though nominally still under UN control, the southern province of Serbia is today dominated by a triumvirate of Albanian paramilitaries, mafiosi and terrorists. They control a host of smuggling operations and are implementing what many observers call their own brutal ethnic cleansing of minority groups, such as Serbs, Roma and Jews.

In recent weeks, UN officials ordered the construction of a fortified concrete barrier around the UN compound on the outskirts of the provincial capital Pristina. This is to protect against terrorist strikes by Muslim extremists who have set up bases of operation in what has become a largely outlaw province.

Minority Serbs, who were supposed to have been guaranteed protection by the international community after the 78-day NATO bombing campaign ended in the spring of 1999, have abandoned the province en masse. The last straw for many was the recent round of attacks by ethnic Albanian paramilitaries bent on gaining independence through violence.

I don't think that this means that we should be abandoning the concept of UN or NATO peacekeeping. Instead I would argue that we need to be more involved. More involved in peacekeeping missions and more involved in restructuring to make those missions more effective. Admittedly, I'm not aware of the details, but I would venture that not enough has been done to develop civil society and the UN has primarily worked as cop. These are the results you would expect after four years of simple containment . . . decay and entropy.

let's look at the numbers 

John Cassidy writes in the New Yorker:

Things are looking up - according to George W. Bush and the Times, anyway. Last Tuesday, the paper led its front page with this sunny triple-decker:"MANUFACTURING AT HIGHEST LEVEL IN TWO DECADES;HIRING OUTLOOK IS UPBEAT; STOCKS AT 18-MONTH PEAK ON RUN OF POSITIVE DATA - BUSH OPTIMISTIC." The headline's main claim, however, was inaccurate. It misinterpreted an economic indicator that is designed to gauge whether factories are churning out more or less stuff than they did last month, not absolute levels of production. The most reliable measure of how manufacturing is doing is the Federal Reserve's index of industrial production, which in October was 112.7, compared with a high of 118.4 in June of 2000. The November figure comes out next week. A six-point jump isn't impossible, but it would be virtually unprecedented.

In October, 73.5 per cent of plants and equipment were in active use. Three years ago, more than eighty per cent were. When President Bush took office, about 17.1 million Americans worked in factories; today, 14.5 million do. Last month, another seventeen thousand manufacturing jobs disappeared. Manufacturing employment has now fallen for forty straight months.

Mickey Kaus writes in Slate:

Is Productivity Overstated? In Tuesday's WSJ, columnist George Melloan raises a disturbing possibility: If the discouraging, widely-publicized official employment numbers--only 57,000 jobs gained last month!--understate employment because they don't count self-employed workers (whose ranks have been growing), then maybe the encouraging productivity numbers--9.4 percent rate last quarter!--are overstated because the government divides output by a smaller number of workers than are actually working. The two do not seem to be exactly opposite sides of the same coin--the productivity figures, according the Slate's Brendan Koerner, do incorporate at least some data from a "household" survey that catches the self-employed. But they seem to be on some kind of statistical seesaw--if one is wrong in the down direction then the other's probably wrong in the up direction. How much of a seesaw? I can't answer that. Maybe some economist who knows more about the data can.

In the New York Times Floyd Norris also points out:

The self-employed are a group that statisticians have a hard time dealing with, and the apparent growth in that group may or may not be a good sign for the economy. Some people who say they are self-employed may really be out of work and trying to bring in money as consultants or freelance workers. Others may be doing very well, living a dream of boss-free success.

In any case, the government reported that the number of self-employed workers rose by 156,000 last month, to 9.2 million. That gain was a primary reason that the unemployment rate dropped to 5.9 percent. The number of people on nonfarm payrolls - a number that excludes the self-employed - rose just 57,000, far less than expected, and that led most analysts to call the report a disappointment.

. . . The survey to which Wall Street pays the most attention is the establishment survey, which questions employers about how many people are on payrolls. It is that survey that provided disappointments this month, as it has done for most of the last few years. But the report of strong growth a month ago set off hopes that the employment picture was finally brightening.

That number shows 328,000 more jobs last month than in July, when employment hit its recent low. Even with those increases, there are now 2.26 million fewer jobs, on a seasonally adjusted basis, then there were in January 2001 when President Bush took office.

So, the numbers aren't as rosy as originally reported and gains in self-employment may cancel out the highly touted gains in productivity. That's especially if you count the number of self-employed people who are blogging when they should be trying to drum up some work.

Overall though most opinion seems to hold that the economy will still edge forward through the November election. So then the Democrats case will have to be: "2 million fewer jobs than when George Bush took office, staggering deficits, environmental roll backs - the price we've paid for this meager economic growth is too high. A Democrat could put people back to work and cut the deficit." That's a little subtle, except in Midwestern swing states that have gotten creamed by the loss of manufacturing jobs. The rest of the country has a sentimental/practical attachment to the idea of the United States as a country that makes things.

Anyone care to suss these numbers out a little more?

court to dems: you've made your bed, now sleep in it. fools 

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A sharply divided Supreme Court upheld key features of the nation's new law intended to lessen the influence of money in politics, ruling Wednesday that the government may ban unlimited donations to political parties.

. . . Congress may regulate campaign money to prevent the real or perceived corruption of political candidates, a 5-4 majority of the court ruled. That goal and most of the rules Congress drafted to meet it outweigh limitations on the free speech of candidates and others in politics, the majority said.

the ability to cloud men's minds 

One thing the Gore endorsement might do is level out people's emotions surrounding Howard Dean. The candidate clearly has the ability to cloud men's minds (and women too).

Take Bob Dole on Howard Dean:

"I thank God F.D.R. was my commander in chief in WWII. Had it been Howard Dean we would have not participated. This would have saved lives and none of us would have been wounded. Just one little problem: we would have lost our liberty and freedom."

Except that:
Axis powers had already invaded Poland, Denmark, Norway, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Romania, British Somiland, North Africa and Greece and had been mercilessly bombing Great Britain when the United States finally froze German and Italian assets in America. Then the Nazi's invaded the Soviet Union. On July 26, 1941 Roosevelt froze Japanese assets in United States and suspends relations. On Aug 1, 1941 United States announced an oil embargo against aggressor states. On Dec 7, 1941 the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor. On Dec 8, 1941 United States and Britain declared war on Japan. On Dec 11, 1941 Germany declared war on the United States.

So how one would draw the conclusion that Dean's stance against preemptive war, his criticism of Bush's failure to organize a legitimate international coalition or exhaust inspections before launching a war against a country which hadn't threatened the U.S. or anyone else in twelve years would somehow indicate that he would not have taken us into war against Japan after they attacked us or Germany after they declared war on us is bizarre to say the least.

Speaking of bizarre William Saletan's rant in Slate got top billing and picture in their table of contents:
Stop This Train
Who decides this election - you or Al Gore?

Now the presidential candidate Gore prefers is ahead. Not in the vote count - the first votes haven't been cast yet - but in Democratic polls and money. In Iowa, Howard Dean leads his nearest competitor by eight points. In New Hampshire, he leads by 14 points to 25 points. Financially, he's blowing the field away. He has already renounced matching funds, allowing him to ignore the customary spending caps and outspend his opponents with impunity in the early primaries.

Should Democrats fight it out and see who wins? Not if Gore has his way. "Democracy is a team sport," he declared as he endorsed Dean in Harlem this morning. "All of us need to get behind the strongest candidate."

Who decided Dean was the strongest candidate? Not the voters: They haven't voted. Not the polls, either: They've shown Dick Gephardt, John Kerry, and Wesley Clark scoring better than Dean in hypothetical match-ups with President Bush. The person who anointed Dean the strongest candidate is the same intervening politician who complained three years ago about intervening politicians.

William dear, it's an endorsement and an admonishment. Not an edict. Sheesh.

A couple of weeks ago at Tech Central Station, Megan McArdle started doing a libertarian take on Dean's call for re-regulation.

Mr. Dean indicated that one of his major priorities is going to be "re-regulation." He didn't exactly suggest nationalizing the coal industry, mind you, but he did indicate that he wanted the iron fist of government to close a lot more tightly around utilities, large media companies and any business that offers stock options. Oh, and while he's at it, maybe telecoms too.

. . . To be fair to Mr. Dean, in the last few years it has become apparent that deregulators haven't always paid proper attention to aligning the incentives of the corporate managers with those of their shareholders, or the markets they are supposed to serve. Our first taste of the new millennium has been a veritable festival of opportunities to observe that economic stalwart, the Principal-Agent Problem, in action.

. . . the Principal-Agent Problem describes the inherent difficulties of hiring an agent to manage some piece of your affairs, whether that agent be the CEO of WorldCom or the night manager of your 7-11: the interests of the agent are not the same as your own, and he will be tempted to pursue his interests at your expense.

Some variation on the Principal Agent Problem has been at the heart of nearly every one of the corporate scandals that has shaken investor confidence and defrauded innocent stockholders over the last few years. Libertarians were as appalled as anyone at those abuses -- perhaps more so, because libertarians really care, deep down, about markets. If Howard Dean is ready to try and fix it, why not give him a shot?

Unfortunately, the interview reveals that Mr. Dean is far less interested in trying to fix an important market issue that has been worrying economists for years, than he is in good old fashioned leftist corporation bashing. For among the central goals of his "re-regulation" campaign is increasing unionization. And unions, like corporations, are prime candidates for agent abuse.

Corruption is of course legendary (though thankfully on the wane due to RICO), and generally comes at the expense of union workers whose leadership cut sweetheart deals in exchange for kickbacks. And fraud is so common at unions that the National Center for Policy Analysis reports that between 1998 and 2002, labor union officials were indicted at a rate of 12 per month -- and convicted at a rate of 11 per month. But those aren't the only ways in which union leaders can betray their workers' trust. Possibly even worse are the legal ways that union leaders seek their own interests at the expense of their workers.

And then she spends the next 9 paragraphs detailing examples of union malfeasance. What that has to do with Howard Dean isn't clear. What Howard Dean is calling for is card check recognition which would allow workers to join a union without going through a long expensive government supervised election.

Libertarians should be in favor of card check for two reasons. Number one, it represents less government regulation than the current system. Number two, it restores the fundamental right of freedom of association to citizens to whom that right is almost always denied through the legal wrangling by their employers. Number three (I know, it's a bonus reason) collective bargaining achieves the goals of a just and equitable society without government interference or wealth redistribution. It allows employees and employers to freely bargain over wages hours and working conditions.

As for union corruption, it may be legendary but it isn't widespread. 132 convictions a year? Heavens. Pedatory lending, insider trading, price fixing, illegal dumping of toxic substances, etc. it's not like unions have a monopoly on corruption. The impact of the Enron debacle alone is more than likely greater than the impact of all union corruption for the same year. Most unions simply aren't powerful enough any more to be corrupt.

It's very strange that McArdle eschews looking at the ways re-regulating our utilities markets to avoid another Enron, California, Blackout of 2003 and chooses instead to focus on union corruption, which is currently well-regulated, having been reprioritized by the Bush administration even as they are dropping suits against corporate crimes. It just strikes me that she has a conservative (not a libertarian) axe to grind and the Howard Dean interview was an excuse to use a bunch of anecdotes that she'd saved up. The examples that she gives are maddening, especially to a staunch union supporter. And they are examples of the Principal Agent Problem. But they aren't examples of an industry that has been deregulated and now it's markets are functioning properly. Union's problems mostly stem from being over regulated. And to allow those markets to function properly Howard Dean and every other Democratic candidate is proposing deregulating them.

Then there was the New York Times Magazine piece this weekend about Dean's campaign workers:

Alex Perkins, a 32-year-old policy coordinator for the campaign, quit his job, sold his house in Seattle and showed up at the campaign office offering to work free. Austin Burke, 22, who researches the other candidates, drove from Phoenix -- it took him six days -- and then just wandered around Burlington asking where the Dean office was. Matthew Bethell, 20, a British university student, left London and took the year off to volunteer full time in New Hampshire, even though he can't vote in American elections.

. . . Others take steps of their own invention: they cover their pajamas with stickers that say ''Howard Dean Has a Posse'' and wear them to an art opening, or they organize a squadron to do ''Yoga for Dean.'' They compose original songs in honor of Dean. (About two dozen people have done that; another man wrote a set of 23 limericks.) They marry each other wearing Dean paraphernalia. Overweight supporters create Web pages documenting, in daily dispatches, their efforts to lose 100 pounds in time for Dean's election. One woman, Kelly Jacobs of Hernando, Miss., took it upon herself to travel around the Memphis area for 15 weeks, standing on a single street corner for a week at a time, to promote Dean. I saw a middle-aged man at a garden party in New Hampshire preface a question to Dean by saying he was associated with Howards for Howard. Dean nodded, as if the man had said he was with the AARP.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003


Nicholas Kristoff writes in the New York Times:

SHUN SHUI VILLAGE, China - The most important thing happening in the world today is the rise of China, and that's the reality hovering in the background of the delicate U.S.-China talks under way in Washington this week.

. . . (In 1987) Shun Shui Village had no paved roads, no motor vehicles, no telephones and three black-and-white televisions. Now, along the paved road through the village, every house has a color television, and most have phones and motorcycles. Among Sheryl's distant kin, the youngest son of parents with only a second-grade education has just graduated from the university and bought a cellphone.

Multiply Shun Shui's transformation by the 700,000 villages of China, and you begin to appreciate the implications of China's industrial revolution. One study has found that China accounted for 25 percent of the world's economic growth from 1995 to 2002 (measured by purchasing power parity), more than the U.S.

. . . Soaring Chinese demand has become the major force propping up world energy prices, and the International Energy Agency predicts that China will have net oil imports of four million barrels a day by 2010 - twice Iraq's current oil exports.

Where will that oil come from? What will China's carbon emissions mean for global warming and the New Jersey coastline? Will the U.S. and China go to war over Taiwan, or over the Diaoyu Islands now controlled by Japan? Will China sustain its boom or collapse into chaos?

Instead of engaging on these issues, the White House and both parties in Congress seem intent on launching a new trade war with China. Washington appears unable to focus on anything more weighty than the supposed Chinese dumping of bras and nightgowns in our markets (even though U.S. companies don't make bras).

. . . President Bush has generally handled China quite sensibly, and it was also smart to warn Taiwan against steps toward independence. China's leaders have reciprocated, and have been especially helpful this year in restraining North Korea.

But with next year's elections approaching, the White House has turned demagogic and begun clubbing China over trade so as to win votes in manufacturing states, while endangering cooperation on a broader agenda. There are plenty of reasons to prod China to behave better - I know people who are in prison here, including a South Korean photographer (who often shoots pictures for The Times), whose only sin was documenting the plight of North Korean refugees in China. But our trade denunciations are petty and intellectually dishonest.

. . . One can quibble about China's keeping its currency cheap to promote exports. But China is stabilizing its currency by buying U.S. debt, financing Mr. Bush's budget deficit and keeping U.S. mortgage rates low.

Managing the rise of China will be one of the world's toughest challenges in coming years. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao is offering Mr. Bush both cooperation and patience, and it ill behooves us to slap him around for selling us cheap bras.

gore, dean, the debate and medicare 

Liberal Oasis has some good commentary on the Gore endorsement, the debate and Dean in general.


Check out this exchange yesterday with CNN’s Judy Woodruff, as she pressed about how he switched Christian denominations after a dispute over a proposed bike path:

WOODRUFF: You don't believe, Governor, the Republicans are going to have a field day with comments like these?

DEAN: The Republicans always have a field day with things like this.

That's the reason Democrats lose…because they're so afraid of the Republicans having a field day with comments like this or like that, that they never make any comments.


A side benefit of the Gore-Dean news is that it bumped Dubya’s signing the Medicare bill, in an elaborate hyped ceremony, as the top news story on many shows.

(NBC Nightly News, ABC World News Tonight, CNN’s Paula Zahn Now, Fox News’ Special Report, to name a few).

And Bush needs all the free PR he can get, because more polls came out today showing the Medicare bill is a political loser.

From the ABC/W. Post poll:

Do you approve or disapprove of the Medicare changes voted on by Congress last month?

All Adults
Approve – 32%
Disapprove – 38%

At first blush, the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll showed more support for the drug benefit:

Do you favor or oppose…the new prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients?

65 and Over
Favor – 46%
Oppose – 39%

But other questions showed how soft the support is for the overall bill:

Do you favor or oppose…the changes made in Medicare coverage?

65 and Over
Favor – 38%
Oppose – 44%

How concerned are you that the new changes to Medicare will…not go far enough to help seniors pay for prescriptions?

65 and Over
Very concerned – 56%
Somewhat concerned – 29%
Not too concerned – 7%
Not concerned at all – 3%

How concerned are you that the new changes to Medicare will…benefit prescription drug companies too much?

65 and Over
Very concerned – 58%
Somewhat concerned – 20%
Not too concerned – 11%
Not concerned at all – 4%

It’s tough to step on a presidential news story. But Gore did, making Bush’s sell job, already uphill, just a little bit harder.


Gavin Newsom has defeated Matt Gonzalez in the San Francisco mayor's race.

From KPIX:

With 100% of precincts reporting, Democrat Newsom got 53% of the vote compared to Green Gonzalez's 47%.

That makes me sad. It's bad for the Democratic party. Newsom is the kind of candidate that has led to the atrophy of grassroots Democratic support.

the electorate is ours if we play our cards right - part two - domestic issues 

Picking up from yesterday. Let's continue looking at the New York Times/CBS News poll, shall we. Yeah, I know it's boring. But it's important. At least pretend that your listening.

Todays cluster of issues: Domestics!!! Tomorrow: Economics - and then we're done.

And yeah, I know that I said that we would do Economics today but I changed my mind.



3. What do you think is the single most important problem for the government, that is the President and Congress, to address this year?

7/13-16 '02
| Terrorism 17% | Other 17% | DK/NA 14% | Economy 13% | Business Corruption 6% | Education 5% | Jobs 4% | Defense 3% | Healthcare 3% | Poverty 2% | War 2% | Budget Deficit 2% | Medicare/Medicaid 2% | Big Government 2% | Social Security 1%

9/28-10/01 '03
| Other 25% | Economy 16% | Jobs 16% | Terrorism 8% | War 6% | Education 4% | Foreign Policy 3% | Healthcare 3% | Poverty 2% | Budget Deficit 2% | Defense 2% | Medicare/Medicaid 1% | Social Security 0% | Big Government 0% | Business Corruption 0%

If we cluster issues thusly:
National Security (Terrorism, Defense, Foreign Policy) Economics (Economy, Jobs) and Domestics ( Healthcare, Social Security, Budget Deficit, Education, Medicare/Medicaid, Poverty) and filter out categories that are not indicative (Big Government, Business Corruption, War) then the numbers look like this:

7/13-16 '02
National Security 21% | Economics 17% | Domestics 15 %

9/28-10/01 '03
National Security 13% | Economics 32% | Domestics 12%

Domestic Issues:

50. How much do you think that George W. Bush cares about the needs and problems of blacks -- a lot, some, not much or none at all?

3/08 - 12 '01 | A Lot 30% | Some 31% | Not Much 22% | None At All 11% | DK/NA 5%
9/28 - 10/1 '03| A Lot 23% | Some 36% | Not Much 20% | None At All 14% | DK/NA 7%

Bush doesn't do badly here 61% for 'A Lot' or 'Some' and 34% for 'Not Much' or 'None at All'. The only significant shift is 30% to 23% in 'A Lot'.

51. How much do you think that George W. Bush cares about the needs and problems of Hispanics -- a lot, some, not much or none at all?

9/28 - 10/1 '03 | A Lot 25% | Some 36% | Not Much 22% | None At All 10% | DK/NA 6%

Again, Bush does well. 61% for 'A Lot' or 'Some'.

61. In general, do you think the policies of the Bush administration favor the rich, favor the middle class, favor the poor, or do they treat all groups the same?

1/21 - 24 '02 | Rich 50% | Middle Class 14% | Poor 2% | All Same 28% | DK/NA 7%
9/28-10/1 '03 | Rich 60% | Middle Class 10% | Poor 1% | All Same 26% | DK/NA 3%

This is obviously bad news for Bush and the trend is worse.

65. Do you think the policies of the Bush Administration have made the nation's schools better, worse, or have the policies of the Bush Administration not affected the nation's schools?

9/28-10/1 '03 | Better 23% | Worse 26% | No Effect 47% | DK/NA 11%

What happens when the teacher's union's start running ads attacking Bush's 'No Child Left Behind' law?

This is definitely the weakest part of the poll. It does very little to look at the domestic issues (Healthcare, Social Security, Budget Deficit, Education, Medicare/Medicaid, Poverty) that they asked people to prioritize.

I think the two points that stand out in crafting a strategy to defeat Bush is the widespread(ing) perception that he favors the rich above everyone else and the fact that only 23% think that the 'Education President' has improved education.

ad wars 

The television ad war going on in Iowa and elsewhere is providing more than a modicum of drama and intrigue.

The Reaganite Club For Growth is running this ad attacking Dean for calling for huge tax increases in New Hampshire and Iowa.

It's a pretty tough ad. I'm not sure how much resonance it will have with Democratic Iowa voter's. What Dean is calling for is a return to the tax levels of the Clinton era. I have to say that while I admire Dean's principled and responsible position here, I don't think it's smart politics and I think the tiny part of the cuts that went to the working poor and people making under say . . . $60,000 a year a worth keeping on principle.

Joe Lieberman is running this ad attacking Dean for sealing his gubernatorial papers. Joe sits in a diner and looks straight at the camera and castigates the Bush administration for secrecy and then questions Dean's decision to seal his papers. Joe's big mistake is not going the visuals/ominous narrator route because the more voters see Joe, the less they like him.

The "group" Americans for Jobs, Healthcare and Progressive Values seems to consist solely of Timothy L. Raftis former Iowa Senator Tom Harkin's former campaign manager. They're running a purportedly negative ad against Howard Dean in Iowa criticizing him for getting an 'A' rating from the NRA. This is wrong-headed on so many levels it's hard to know where to start.

Number one: Are Iowa Democrats going to be horrified by an 'A' rating from the NRA? I doubt it.

Number two: For a progressive group to interject the kind of wedge issue that keeps Republicans in power back into the political debate undermines the progressive project.

Number three: The ad lumps Dean with Bush on the issue of gun control. If Dean is the Democrat running against Bush his ability to possibly preclude the NRA (4.3 million members) from endorsing in this election is a pretty big advantage that his rivals don't bring to the table. Even if the NRA endorses Bush, NRA members will be able to vote this election based on other issues because of that 'A' rating.

Number four: On behalf hundred of thousands of Dean supporters who are getting sick of hearing a hawkish, centrist, fiscal conservative, NRA 'A' rating candidate continue to be described as too liberal to elect - THANK YOU - from the bottom of my heart.

The Americans for Jobs, Healthcare and Progressive Values website is hilarious. The homepage is a very personal letter from Raftis. The "About" page which you think is going to be "About" the organization is "About" Raftis. And the "Issues" page that you think is going to be about jobs, healthcare and progressive values is about Howard Dean and guns.

And I think this is the ad that Gephardt erroneously called the first negative ad ever in the Iowa caucus. It's not the first and if Gephardt thinks that the line about Washington Democrats not standing up to George Bush is about him then that's his problem. Gephardt will know that he's getting hit with a negative ad when someone does: "This Congressman Dick Gephardt he's asking for your vote for the Democratic nominee for President. Unfortunately, he hasn't bothered to vote 563 times in Congress this year. That's 91% of the votes that the people of Missouri elected him to represent them in. Is that the kind of leadership you want in a President?"

card check 

H.R. 3619 and S. 1925 are bipartisan bills to secure card check recognition for workers trying to form a union.

The current system is that when a majority of the workers at a worksite sign cards joining the union those cards are presented to the National Labor Relations Board to show support for an election supervised by the NLRB. That sets up a long campaign by the company to scare the workers and block the election through legal wrangling. Those campaigns are very expensive and difficult for unions to win. This legislation would allow the union to be certified as soon as a majority had signed membership cards. It would go a long way towards making it easier for the millions of workers who would like to join a union but are thwarted by the cumbersome process in place today.

Go here to send your Congressmen a message in support of this bi-partisan legislation.

This article does an excellent job at framing the issue in terms of human rights and the freedom of association and looking at the economic price we pay for low union membership in this country.

here comes santa claus 

Check out the new Move On ad. Just in time for Christmas. Contribute here to the campaign to run anti Bush ads in swing states.

It's pretty corny. Effective? I'm not sure. I think this ad was better.

adios amigo 

It really is a shame about Kerry's campaign. After Dean, he was my second choice for nominee. Then Edwards. Then I start to cringe. And then I start to wretch.

From the Boston Globe:

. . . There is a mixture of fight and bemusement in his eyes as he stands outside a Market Basket in Portsmouth early Friday evening. "I need your help," he tells shoppers who are corralled by aides and encouraged to "meet the senator,"

. . . "What is your biggest issue?" he asks those who step up to him. "Bush," answers one woman. "I'm the guy who can beat Bush," Kerry answers. "Probably," she counters. "Probably? What do you mean, probably?" he responds. "How do I persuade you?"

The war in Iraq in this woman's real issue. She is against it, and supports Dean, the candidate now leading New Hampshire polls. "We've got a plan for how we're going to deal with it," Kerry tells her. As she walks off, he continues talking: "I'm going to get your support. You're going to listen to me."

. . . The night before this New Hampshire stop, at a holiday party in Boston, Kerry supporters like Tom O'Neill insisted it is not over for the Bay State's junior senator. Kerry can still turn it around in New Hampshire, said O'Neill, son of the late, legendary Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill. All he must do is " give people a reason to vote for him," Tom O'Neill says.

It sounds so simple. But Kerry has yet to do it, and time is growing short.

Talk about desperate.

The press has been trying to help him breathe some life into his campaign. This month's Atlantic did a cover story on his Vietnam experience. Rolling Stone did an interview with him.

The Rolling Stone interview was interesting for Kerry's combativeness on Bush's foreign policy and of course the money shot was . . .

Did you feel you were blindsided by Dean's success?

Well, not blindsided. I mean, when I voted for the war, I voted for what I thought was best for the country. Did I expect Howard Dean to go off to the left and say, "I'm against everything"? Sure. Did I expect George Bush to fuck it up as badly as he did? I don't think anybody did.

. . . was a breath of fresh air / a stupid mistake / a desperate ploy to grab a news cycle.

It was clear that things had totally fallen apart when he canned his campaign manager and staff quit. Eric Alterman's account of an evening at Al Franken's apartment talking strategy with a bunch of writer types shows just how desperate he is.

Kerry and I had what candidates call a "spirited exchange" in which he defended his vote. He said he felt betrayed by George Bush, whom he had believed, had not yet made up his mind to go to war when the vote was taken. He never expected a unilateral war given the way Powell, Scowcroft, Eagleberger and others were speaking at the time. He defends his willingness to trust the president of the United States, but now realizes that this was a big mistake

You got big troubles if you publicly admit that you thought that Bush would only go to war as a last resort. Their was never any doubt that we were going to war not matter what Saddam did or the UN.

The choice of Franken to organize the event is interesting, since I think Franken's political instincts stink and he hasn't been doing Kerry any favors describing him dressed as a pirate with parrot on his shoulder over and over.

I think Kerry's big mistake, and it's too late to correct was in not running for President from the floor of the Senate. The Senate has been badly in need of leadership. If he had been there, fillibustering, pulling DINO votes, pulling moderate Republicans, doing the interviews on the issues, just really rallying the troops then he would have been one to watch. It would have been good for his campaign and it would have been good for the country.

Instead, Kerry missed 35 votes on the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill alone and 287 total votes or 63%

UPDATE: David Corn takes a good look at how Kerry ended up poorly positioned on just about every issue in this race.

Monday, December 08, 2003

gore to endorse howard dean 

From the Los Angeles Times:

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Al Gore will endorse Howard Dean on Tuesday, culminating the former Vermont governor's transformation from little-known insurgent to the commanding front-runner in the 2004 Democratic presidential field.

Sources close to the campaign say Gore will appear with Dean at a campaign event Tuesday morning in Harlem before campaigning with him in Iowa later in the day.

This will do a number of things.

Most importantly, it further elevates Dean's national stature, giving him momentum in states where he is not campaigning intensely. He is the clear front runner in states where the campaign is in full swing, but lags in the nation as a whole. This will start to put his name recognition on par with Lieberman and Clark's.

It will help him with establishment fundraising. It should shut up some of the party establishment that have been mumbling about Dean whenever they get near a microphone. It should help him in the South and with black voters.

Not a bad day for Dean.

the electorate is ours if we play our cards right - part one - national security 

This has been sitting in my to do list for a while.

In an attempt to put the 37 pages of raw data into some sort of semi-manageable form, here is my analysis of the New York Times / CBS News poll conducted from September 28 - October 1, 2003. I look at what it may tell us about the direction, with particular focus on independent voters, public opinion is headed in this country. My primary interest is in getting the lay of the land for the 2004 General Election. I'm going to do this in three parts over the next three days.


3. What do you think is the single most important problem for the government, that is the President and Congress, to address this year?

7/13-16 '02
| Terrorism 17% | Other 17% | DK/NA 14% | Economy 13% | Business Corruption 6% | Education 5% | Jobs 4% | Defense 3% | Healthcare 3% | Poverty 2% | War 2% | Budget Deficit 2% | Medicare/Medicaid 2% | Big Government 2% | Social Security 1%

9/28-10/01 '03
| Other 25% | Economy 16% | Jobs 16% | Terrorism 8% | War 6% | Education 4% | Foreign Policy 3% | Healthcare 3% | Poverty 2% | Budget Deficit 2% | Defense 2% | Medicare/Medicaid 1% | Social Security 0% | Big Government 0% | Business Corruption 0%

If we cluster issues thusly:
National Security (Terrorism, Defense, Foreign Policy) Economics (Economy, Jobs) and Domestics ( Healthcare, Social Security, Budget Deficit, Education, Medicare/Medicaid, Poverty) and filter out categories that are not indicative (Big Government, Business Corruption, War) then the numbers look like this:

7/13-16 '02
National Security 21% | Economics 17% | Domestics 15 %

9/28-10/01 '03
National Security 13% | Economics 32% | Domestics 12%

Iraq, Foreign Policy, Defense, the War on Terror

4. Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling foreign policy?

6/14- 18 '01 | Approve 47% | Disapprove 31% | DK/NA 22%
10/25-28 '01 | Approve 74% | Disapprove 16% | DK/NA 10%
12/07-10 '01 | Approve 75% | Disapprove 13% | DK/NA 12%
3/07- 09 '03 | Approve 51% | Disapprove 42% | DK/NA 7%
9/28-10/1'03 | Approve 44% | Disapprove 45% | DK/NA 11%

5. Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the situation in Iraq?

4/11 - 13 '03 | Approve 79% | Disapprove 17% | DK/NA 4%
5/27 -28 '03 | Approve 72% | Disapprove 20% | DK/NA 8%
7/08 - 09 '03 | Approve 58% | Disapprove 32% | DK/NA 10%
9/28-10/1 '03 | Approve 47% | Disapprove 48% | DK/NA 6%

My guess is that even if the Administration begins to make baby steps forward, the broad public will be filtering out most detailed news about Iraq and will continue to view it as a messy situation that is costing us lives and treasure. I think it's going to be awfully hard for the admin to puncture the perception that Iraq is getting worse.

43. Would you prefer the Democratic nominee for President to be someone who supported the war in Iraq, someone who opposed the war in Iraq, or would this not matter to you?

8/26-28 '03 CBS | Supported 28% | Opposed 40% | Doesn't Matter 28% | DK/NA 4%
9/28-10/1 '03
REG DEM PRIM VTS Supported 25% | Opposed 29% | Doesn't Matter 41% | DK/NA 5%

Now that 'Opposed 40%' is both striking and puzzling. It would indicate that either: Independent voters are more inclined towards a Democratic nominee that opposed the war than committed Democrats - or - the Republican voters polled are thinking very strategically and are convinced that a Democratic nominee who opposed the war would mean certain victory for their candidate. Only more data will indicate which is more likely.

I think that it goes a long way towards dispelling the myth that Dean's opposition to the war will be a liability in a general election race with Bush. In fact, I think a year from now it will seem prescient.

The other question is which party do those 'Doesn't Matter 28%" favor. If Bush runs on the war and the Democrat on the economy, it most likely will favor the Democrat, notwithstanding a sharp turn in the economy. It doesn't help Bush, that's for sure.


72. Do you think that removing Saddam Hussein from power is worth the potential loss of American life and the other costs of attacking Iraq, or not?

4/02 -03 '03 | Worth It 68% | Not Worth It 22% | DK/NA 10%
9/28-10/1 '03| Worth It 51% | Not Worth It 41% | DK/NA 8%

73. Do you think that the result of the war with Iraq was worth the loss of American life and other costs of attacking Iraq or not?

9/28-10/1 '03 | Worth It 41% | Not Worth It 53% | DK/NA 6%

Clearly the Admin needs to keep the war about Saddam Hussein. The more time that passes, the more it is about liberating the Iraqi people, who are quickly loosing the sympathy of the American public.

74. Has the Iraqi war been longer than you expected, shorter than you expected, or has it been about what you expected?

9/28-10/1 '03 | Longer 45% | Shorter 13% | About expected 40% | DK/NA 2%

Only 2% DK/NA? Odd.

75. Has the war in Iraq cost the United States more money than you expected, less money than you expected, or has it been about what you expected?

9/28-10/1 '03 | More 66% | Less 2% | About Expected 26% | DK/NA 6%

76. So far, do you think the Bush Administration has developed a plan for rebuiling Iraq after the war, or hasn't it developed one yet?

4/11- 13 '03 | Has A Clear Plan 42% | Not Done That Yet 45% | DK/NA 13%
9/15 -16 '03 | Has A Clear Plan 22% | Not Done That Yet 64% | DK/NA 14%
9/28-10/1 '03 | Has A Clear Plan 29% | Not Done That Yet 59% | DK/NA 12%

80. George W. Bush has asked Congress for an additional $87 billion for the next year for military and reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Do you think the United States should or should not spend this amount of money?

9/28-10/1 '03 | Should 34% | Should not 61% | DK/NA 5%

81. Who should have the lead responsibility for setting up a new government in Iraq after the war is over - the United Nations or the United States?

5/9 - 12 '03 | United Nations 45% | United States 13% | Neither 2% | DK/NA 1%
9/28-10/1 '03 | United Nations 68% | United States 26% | Neither 2% | DK/NA 4%

There seems to be a typo for the May numbers, because they don't add up.

84. Do you think of the war with Iraq as part of the war on terrorism, or do you think of it as separate from the war on terrorism? IF ANSWERED "PART OF WAR ON TERRORISM", ASK: Is it a major part of the war on terrorism, or a minor part of the war on terrorism?

9/28-10/1 '03 | Major Part 47% | Minor Part 10% | Not Part 37% | DK/NA 5%

The question is, do the "Minor Part" voters swing with the "Not Part"s or the "Major"s?

64. Do you think the policies of the Bush administration have made the United States safer from terrorism, less safe from terrorism, or have the policies of the Bush administration not affected the U.S.' safety from terrorism?

9/28 - 10/1 '03 | Safer 60% | Less Safe 18% | No Effect 18% | DK/NA 4%

Advantage: Bush

8. Which comes closer to your opinion about what the United States policy should be after the war with Iraq? The United States should not attack another country unless the U.S. is attacked first, OR the U.S. should be able to attack any country it thinks might attack the United States?

4/26-27 '03 | Should Not Attack 50% | Should Attack 42% | DK/NA 8%
7/08 - 9 '03 | Should Not Attack 58% | Should Attack 33% | DK/NA 9%
9/28-10/1'03 | Should Not Attack 55% | Should Attack 35% | DK/NA 11%

11. Should the United States try to change a dictatorship to a democracy where it can, OR should the United States stay out of other countries' affairs?

4/11 - 13 '03 | Change 29% | Stay Out 48% | Depends 16% | DK/NA 7%
9/28-10/01 '03 | Change 21% | Stay Out 61% | Depends 10% | DK/NA 7%

The swing to a strong preference for staying out of other countries affairs is striking. What interesting is that the loss of almost 38% support for the 'Depends' option, given the shift from WMD's to the barbarity of Saddam's regime as a rationale for the invasion.

47. Do you have confidence in George W. Bush's ability to deal wisely with an international crisis, or are you uneasy about his approach?

4/11-13 '03 | Confidence 66% | Uneasy 31% | DK/NA 3%
9/28-10/1 '03 Confidence 45% | Uneasy 50% | DK/NA 5%

48. Compared to when George W. Bush took office, are relations today between the United States and its European allies, better today, worse today or about the same as they were when George W. Bush took office?

9/28-10/01 '03 | Better 9% | Worse 55% | About the Same 31% | DK/NA 5%

Overwhelmingly, these numbers argue that the Bush administration is not positioned on Terrorism/National Security/Defense/Foreign Policy as well as they think they are.

When the Republicans aired this ad in Iowa (ignore the email request and simply hit play on the viewer), Move On aired this ad in swing states. Bush lost four points in West Virginia.

The numbers show that the National Security cluster of issues has slipped in people's priorities. It will likely continue to slip. As the war in Iraq continues to slog on, approval of Bush's handling of it will continue to slide, wether he gains ground or not, unless their is dramatic improvement or a withdrawal that does clearly put the region in danger of sliding off into immediate chaos.

It also argues that Dean is well positioned going into the general. A majority is in favor of multilateralism and UN involvement, they are opposed to preemption, were against spending $87 million on Iraq and don't think that liberating the Iraqi people was worth the cost in lives and treasure.

Tune in tomorrow when we look at the numbers in the Economics cluster.

get out to vote for matt gonzalez in san francisco 

If you live in San Francisco and somehow haven't made up your mind, check out my piece on the mayor's race, I think it remains the most thorough look at the race available on the web.

Common Dreams has a piece arguing that the national Dems who are piling on the Newsom campaign have their party's interests backwards. Peter Gabel argues - and I agree - that Gonzalez will energize the progressive base in San Francisco and beyond. He makes the case, but does have numbers to back it up, that Nader's run in 2000 turned out more Democratic voters for Gore than the Green voters that cost him. I don't know if I buy that, but the point is moot since Gonzalez is running against an establishment Dem, the kind that have hollowed out the party, but he's not running against a conservative Republican.

What Gabel fails to notice is that, as I pointed out last Wednesday, is that a Gonzalez win sets up the Greens to take a shot at Tom Lantos' District 12 congressional seat in 2006. And that is scary to them. But it's not scary. A Green in that seat would be voting with the Dems in Congress most of the time. At least as much as Zell Miller or John Breaux.

A more interesting piece is San Francisco political analyst Richard DeLeon's analysis of this chart that he has constructed:

Here's his breakdown:

This kind of graph is called a scatter plot. This scatter plot measures San Francisco precincts on two scales. The bottom scale shows the percentage “yes” vote to recall Governor Gray Davis (Democrat) in the October recall election.

The left scale shows the percentage vote for Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante (Democrat) of the total votes cast in that same election.

The yellow, red, and green numbers displayed in the graph mark where each precinct is located on those two scales. (I used Board of Supervisors district numbers as the plotting symbols to add valuable information.)

The top 25% of precinct electorates voting for Matt Gonzalez on November 4 are coded yellow. The top 25% voting for Gavin Newsom in that election are coded red.

All the rest are coded green.

To illustrate interpretation, look at that yellow “8” at the very top upper left. Reading off its location from the two scales, we can see that this District 8 precinct electorate was in the top 25% for Gonzalez (code yellow), voted only about 7% in favor the of the recall (bottom scale), and voted about 76% for the Democrat Bustamante (left scale). Now look at that red “2” near the bottom farthest right. This District 2 precinct electorate was in the top 25% for Newsom (code red), voted about 46% in favor of the recall, and voted about 32% for Bustamante.

Okay. Now, two more interpretive steps and we're done with this walk-through.

First, sit back and look at the overall pattern of the precinct voting data displayed in this graph. That pattern is quite tight and clear and may be described as a negative (or inverse) correlation: i.e., the higher a precinct electorate's “yes” vote to recall Davis, the lower its support for Bustamante -- and vice versa. We are not surprised by this, to say the least.

Second, let's zoom in and pay close attention to color. As you can see, most of the top Gonzalez precincts (yellow) are tightly clustered in the upper-left portion of the plot.

Generalization: Voters in the top Gonzalez precincts voted overwhelmingly against the Davis recall and also voted overwhelmingly to elect Bustamante.
And as you can see, most of the top Newsom precincts (red) are located in the bottom right quadrant of the plot.

Generalization: Voters in the top Newsom precincts were the most supportive of the Davis recall (although not even one precinct electorate, it should be said, mustered a majority), and they were clearly the least supportive of Bustamante

From the San Francisco Sentinel. The site is so poorly organized that it is impossible to link to the article.

This makes a something of a case for the arguement that the Dem establishment is on the wrong side of this race when it comes to the party's true interests. It's not exactly correlative. And you could argue ( and I have ) that getting rid of Davis and Bustamante were in the Dems long term interest. That's not how the party elites see it. But then the party elites have been presiding over fifteen years of Democratic decline.

Vote Matt!!! Three cheers for Matt!!!

And while you are at it, buy Richard DeLeon's book Left Coast City, the definitive exploration of the political fault lines in San Francisco from 1975 to 1991. Highly recommended. Even if you don't live in San Francisco.


From the Salt Lake Tribune:

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A flurry of terrorist attacks over the past several days, as well as the deaths of nine children Saturday in a U.S. air assault on a village where a lone Taliban fighter was said to be hiding, have cast a jittery pall over preparations for a historic constitutional assembly scheduled to begin Wednesday.

The U.N. envoy to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, reacted with unusual sharpness to the Saturday air raid, saying it "follows similar incidents" and "adds to a sense of insecurity and fear in the country." Afghan officials were more restrained in their response. Security is already tight for the constitutional assembly, with soldiers stationed at many city intersections. Officials have vowed not to let the U.N.-mandated meeting be sabotaged by violence, but they said Sunday that it may now be delayed by several days.

The recent attacks also threatened to overshadow two milestones in the country's reconstruction and pacification: the imminent completion of the 310-mile highway from Kabul to the southern city of Kandahar, a U.S.-funded project, and the launching Sunday of a program to disarm and demobilize thousands of militia fighters in Kabul province.


MIRAN SHAH, Pakistan, Dec. 7 — Four rockets exploded near a school housing U.S. security personnel in the remote western region of Pakistan but there was no damage or reports of casualties, officials said on Sunday. . . Three rockets exploded a few hundred metres (yards) away from the school building where a few U.S. security personnel are temporarily stationed to check the movement of Taliban and al Qaeda members in Pakistan's tribal rim.

From Newsweek:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7 — Al Qaeda told the Taliban last month it planned to divert a large number of anti-American fighters from Afghanistan to Iraq and cut by half funding to Afghan fighter groups, Newsweek reported on Sunday.

. . . Al Qaeda representatives at the meeting said bin Laden had decided to reduce the network's monthly payment to the Afghan resistance to $1.5 million from $3 million, and that raising and distributing funds was complicated by the U.S. crackdown on finances of suspected terror groups, Newsweek said, citing a Taliban meeting participant who goes by the name Sharafullah.

From the Asian Times:

BANGALORE - The spurt in violence in Afghanistan in recent months has generally been attributed to the resurgence of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. However, aid workers in Afghanistan are saying that it is warlords with connections to the production and trade of narcotics who are behind many of the attacks.

The sharp rise in killings, say aid workers, coincides with the autumn harvest of the poppy crop. Diane Johnston, country director for Mercy Corps, told Associated Press "security is worse in places where people are growing poppies". Late last month, the European Union's envoy in Afghanistan, Francesc Vendrell, warned that laboratories for producing heroin that had been closed down by the Taliban were being set up again.

From Hi Pakistan:

LAHORE: Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan have agreed to initiate collaborative efforts in the special education sector for bringing a much-needed improvement in the condition of handicapped and disadvantaged children over the next few years. The education ministers of the three countries signed and adopted a declaration to emphasise upon inclusive education at the conclusion of a two-day meeting in Islamabad here Sunday.

From the IRNA:

Kabul, Dec 8, IRNA -- Visiting Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Asia-Pacific Affairs Mohsen Aminzadeh met here on Monday with UN Special Envoy to Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi. Appreciating Iran`s constructive role in restoring peace and security in Afghanistan, Brahimi called for Iran`s more assistance in a bid to hold a Constitutional Loya Jirga (grand assembly) more effectively aimed at finalizing a draft constitution.

From Turk.US::

Two Turkish workers kidnapped on Friday in southern districts of Kabul were freed, ambassador Mufit Ozdes said.

From the Hindustan Times:

Authorities were on Monday searching for two Indian road workers kidnapped by heavily armed men in southern Afghanistan, even as two Turkish engineers and an Afghan kidnapped three days ago near Kabul were freed.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

no sunday magazine today 

Sorry, Blogger has been down all day. Now I'm heading out to do some x-country skiing.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Site Meter