Saturday, January 29, 2005

European View of George Bush

Thomas Friedman describes the European view of George Bush thusly:

Let me put this as bluntly as I can: There is nothing that the Europeans want to hear from George Bush, there is nothing that they will listen to from George Bush that will change their minds about him or the Iraq war or U.S. foreign policy. Mr. Bush is more widely and deeply disliked in Europe than any U.S. president in history. Some people here must have a good thing to say about him, but I haven't met them yet

I knew there were good things to say about Europeans. Here they display their innate good sense.

Time to Herd those Cats!

Josh Marshall highlights Bush's intention of breaking the Democratic roadblock to his plans to destroy Social Security.

Social Security is at the core of the set of values that make the Democratic Party what it is, and that make the Democrats the guardian of American values. Bush's efforts, if successful, will destroy the Democratic Party. Any Democrat who does not understand that this is a fight for their very existence needs to be removed from the party. This is an issue on which party unity is absolutely critical.

The old joke about getting Democrats to work together being like trying to herd cats is more true than funny. Someone better be making it clear to the cats involved that in this case, if they don't join the herd there will be no more cats.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The US is really, really short of troops for Iraq

If you want to know how short of troops to send to Iraq the Army is, read this article.

The shortage is so bad that the military is calling up Air National Guard soldiers and retraining them to drive combat convoys in Iraq. That's right. Converting air force enlisted reservists into army truck drivers.

Can a real draft be far behind?

Chile's Privatized Social Security

The NY Times today has a good article on how the Chilean experiment with priviatizing their Social Security system is working now that the first people under the new system are retiring.

The short version is that the people who switched from the older government-funded system because of the promises of a higher retirement are actually getting about half of what the people who did not switch are getting. The government guaranteed a minimum benefit, so that the people who are getting so much less than planned are still being paid about as much from government funds as was the case under the older system. In other words, retirees have been hurt and the government has not reduced its costs.

But its not an entirely bad story. Businesses in Chile have found that the cost of funds for them is a lot lower than previously, and three of the six remaining pension funds (there were originally 22 funds - note the concentration of the system?) are making record profits. The latter is not too surprising since they are apparently charging fees of between 25% and 33% of contributions to the system.

Essentially Chile privatized much of its social security system and has been using the funds provided by workers to increase industrialism and economic development. Stalin did much the same in the USSR. He cut the income of the Kulaks and workers so that the funds could be used to industrialize the Soviet Union during the first two 5-Year Plans. Workers starved, but the nation industrialized. Privatizing Social Security appears to be a Capitalistic method of soaking the workers to industrialize a nation like the Communists did previously.

Somehow it does not seem to me that the nation with the most advanced securities markets in the world (the US) really needs to soak the retirees for more funds for industrial development. Our only problem with funds for industrial development is the "crowding out" caused by excessive borrowing to support the excessive federal deficit. It hasn't been a major problem yet because our economy is growing so slowly, but more rapid growth will require higher interest rates. That will increase the cost of the total federal debt as well as reducing economic growth. The problem is not lack of funds, though. It is a failure of the federal government to manage its spending and revenue.

The purpose of a national retirement system should be to provide an adequate retirement to every worker who loses income because of retirement, and to provide that retirement fairly and efficiently at the lowest possible cost. The Social Security system is doing that as well or better than in any other industrial nation and if the economy performs decently the system will continue to do so without significant change. Even the most pessimistic projections for the system will require merely minor tweaks to keep it functioning well.

Instead in the Holy name of Privatization and Removing Government from Everyone's Lives we are being offered a more expensive system that has never succeeded in any other nation and will not do the job it needs to do as well as the current system does.

Compare privatization of Social Security to the health care crisis that is current in the US. American conservatives have stated for over half a century that our health care system will function better for everyone if it is left to private enterprise and private insurance funded through employers. Ignoring the half century of growing failure of the current system they block every effort to develop a rational, more fair and less expensive healthcare financing system. What does their privatization ideology give us?

The results in health care are clear. We have health care rationing through HMO's, criminal misuse of health care funds by one hospital chain, one in six Americans has no insurance (and one in four children) and our infant mortality rate is more than double that of Cuba or Singapore. All of this is given us at a cost that is double per capita of the next nearest nation in the world.

Privatization of the Social Security system will bring all the failures of our still much too privatized healthcare system and provide no real benefits in exchange. Chile's experience has shown that.

Doug Feith gone from DoD this Summer

Good News for America! Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglass J. Feith announced that he is leaving his post this Summer!

Feith has been the third-ranking civilian in the Department of Defense, and was the man who set up the specialized Intelligence analysis organization in the Office of the Secretary of Defense that cherry-picked elements of Intelligence from and about Iraq that created the impression that Iraq was a major immediate threat to America and fed those directly to Vice President Cheney to be used in the propaganda that took America into the useless quagmire in Iraq.

Chris Suellentrop of Slate described him like this: "Feith, who ranks with Wolfowitz in purity of neoconservative fervor, has turned out to be Michael Dukakis in reverse: ideology without competence. " Suellentrop states in the same article that Feith has had at least a hand in every screwup the Bush admininstration has carried out from selling the war in Iraq as primarily one to remove WMD to the Abu Ghraib disaster.

General Tommy Franks is quoted in Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack as describing Feith as: "the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth."

America will be much better off with his earliest possible departure from the Department of Defense. We would be even better off if we could perhaps convince Putin to take him and exile him to the furthest reaches of Siberia. Good riddance!

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

What do Democrats need to do now?

Let me jump onto the really big political question currently being asked in America today.

Why did the Democrats lose in 2004? Seeing the forest published a truly excellent explanation.

The argument presented (as I see it very roughly) is that the Democrats have represented the commonly accepted values, desires and needs of most Americans, so their main function as a political party has traditionally been to develop and implement the necessary government policies and procedures to implement those values, desires and needs. In current terms, this makes the best of them very wonkish individuals. They accept the existing values and needs of society and so focus on the government actions needed to achieve those values and needs.

Conservative Republicans do not hold those same values, desires and needs, so they have in the past been generally less successful at getting control of government and blocking the politics and procedures the Democrats were installing.

So the Conservative Republicans have developed a set of institutions designed to attack and replace the commonly accepted values, desires and needs of most Americans with those of a minority group. These new institutions are the right-wing think tanks and large segments of the current American mass media. Using these institutions as a base, they have taken over political control of the Republican Party and now have taken over control of the Federal government and many state governments. The article describes this as “marketing” their ideas, then building politically on the success of such marketing.

Since the Democrats have been a party that provided political expression of the already held values, desires and needs of the majority of Americans, they have not had institutions in place to change those values, desires and needs. The result has been a group of Democratic policy-wonks going into elections against the Republican values-wonks, and trying to compete with simplistic emotion-laden political slogans as policies with complex arcane and hard to understand but logically supported proposed government programs.

I find the argument compelling, since it has been my position that the Democratic Party has been losing elections because it is not organized to win them. This argument provides a guide to what new forms of organization are required for Democrats to again start winning elections.

Go read the article and see first if I have done it justice and second if you agree that it is a guide to what new organization initiatives (think tanks and public relations efforts – get our guys on TV and radio) will make our values again the proper guide to what our government does in our name and for us.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Children can be so helpful....

I found this on Andrew Tobias. Parents and grandparents will especially enjoy it. Broadband needed.

It's short. Enjoy.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Inauguration Day

Gritted my teeth and listened to the Slime-in-Chief take the oath of office a few minutes ago. Then went back to learning more about Social Security. I'm not sure which is worse - the Republican lies, the clueless Democratic politicians, or the media that is rolling over for the screwing of America. Every time I think it can't get worse, Bush or Cheney opens his mouth and it does.

Fortunately, they are proving that politicians and religious leaders don't mean shit in the real world. At least not to most of us. For now. I'm damned glad I no longer belong to the Reserves, though. Cheney, who had "other priorities" and Bush who simply didn't need to serve out his commitment have killed and wounded over 10,000 American soldiers in a wasted war, and god knows how many Iraqis. But those ignorant conservative fools reelected Bush because they were afraid of the unknown in a turban and want someone in Washington who will shoot first and not give a shit who gets hurt or what good the shooting does.

Then there is the ownership society. At last, after 70 plus years, the conservatives think they have a chance to destroy Social Security. The levels of ignorance, sick group think, lies and self-interest involved are utterly breathtaking. All of this is gift-wrapped in some really beautiful PR operations. It is fascinating in the same sad way that watching a 70-car car-wreck occur in slow motion is fascinating. I can't stop watching, even while I recognize how many people are going to be hurt.

Today is a really sad day for America and for Texas. Not as sad as November 2, when fear in America overcame hope and confidence, but really sad in itself.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

What is a Liberal Society?

Let me identify the set of ideas that I am operating in. I am essentially a Constitutionalist operating in an economic society which might be described as post-industrialism. Industrialism is characterized as trade that permits large markets, and the factory system of social organization that is designed to serve such broad markets.

The key is that individuals should have protected rights that higher and more powerful organizations cannot abrogate. The same is true of business organizations, but their rights are subject to those of individuals. Government sets rules both individuals and corporations must operate under and government has the power to enforce those rules, subject to those individual rights.

Government is responsible to ensure that the operations of individuals and businesses are not damaging to the society as a whole, and it sets rules of behavior to make sure that individuals and businesses treat each other fairly. Enforcing those rules is what we call the "Rule of Law", and everyone is subject to the rule of law no matter how powerful.

The courts exist to make sure the rule of law, not arbitrary actions of powerful individuals, is what applies. Legislatures made up of elected representatives of the voters set new rules to fit new conditions and modify the older ones that are out of synch with realities. The courts step in the make sure that such rules do not violate the protected rights of individuals and organizations. The most basic right after the right to life is the right to ownership of property. The most essential rights protected by government are the right to life, the right to property, and the enforcement of contracts. These are all subject to the requirement that everyone has the rights and no one can use social or government power to take those rights away.

In this system, individuals have the greatest degree of freedom. Their actions and decisions are presumed to be proper and acceptable unless shown to be damaging to others or a violation of reasonable law. Businesses have similar freedoms but are slightly subordinate to the freedoms of individuals. However, each is subject to enforcement of any fair contracts they make. Notice that individuals, while subject to laws that protect society and enforce fair contracts, have the greatest degree of personal freedom. Businesses have similar freedoms of their own actions, but are expected to act with fairness and within the needs of society. Subject to the rights of individuals and businesses to operate individually without interference, the government sets rules to guide the interrelations of the people and organizations that make up society, and the courts step in to ensure that conflicts are mediated within this ideal.

Since the most valuable assets of any society is its' individuals, government also must establish a safety net to protect the most vulnerable and at risk people.

To make such a liberal society work requires maximum free access to information. A very few clearly identifiable areas of information need to be kept confidential. These are primarily national security, corporate strategy and a few trade secrets. Such areas need to be as limited as possible. They need to be kept confidential as long as they are significant, and no longer, so they have to be subject to time limitations. All exceptions must be justified and justified repeatedly.

Please notice that within this system, free enterprise has great freedom, but not unlimited freedom. Free enterprise is the highly flexible method of organizing ~groups~ to provide goods and services, but it must also be limited where it violates the rules that protect society as a whole. The costs of production need to be enforced on the individual businesses rather than handed off to society as a whole, and businesses must operate transparently to the maximum degree possible. Individuals have greater freedom to act than businesses do since their actions are not as likely to damage society generally.

This, in a nutshell, is a description of liberal society. The key to being liberal is that the interactions must be rational, logical, and within the rule of law, and those actions and their results must be freely available to review. There are also areas of individual or corporate privilege, which are presumed to be outside of review unless there are valid reasons to believe that the corporations or individuals are violating the reasonable law. To the extent that government operates non-rationally, arbitrarily, irrationally, or outside the rule of reasonable law, or that information is improperly kept from public decision makers and the public in general, it is not a liberal society.

In my opinion, this is a liberal, post industrialism society. It implies the safety net, but also describes the rights of both individuals and corporations. The requirement for rationality means that religion cannot run or have veto power on government, since religion is faith-based and inherently not rational.

Why Social Security Reform Now?

Bush is pushing Social Security reform as his top domestic issue. It is an issue certain to unify the Democrats in opposition. It will also split the Congressional Republicans by threatening the ones in competitive districts. Since it seems to be a loser and there are clearly other problems in America that are of greater immediacy, the question has to be why Social Security reform now?

There may be other more immediate problems, but for American conservatives there are no other issues of greater importance. Social Security has been in their cross-hairs for 70 years, and is the basis of all effective and politically popular government entitlement programs. The conservatives have never before had a realistic chance to do away with Social security and it has rankled. This is their first real shot since the Depression. This is the best opportunity because the next election that is at risk is two years in the future, while Bush cannot run for reelection in 2008. Bush, Rove and Cheney have seen their chance and are taking it.

That is why. The "how" is typical Bush decision-making. Anytime Bush makes a major decision his invariable method is to be presented a list of all the options from which he can choose. He then invariably chooses the one that promises the largest possible gain. There is NO consideration of likelihood of success, because the people in the Bush administration have the attitude that they will change those odds by application of their own will. This "Bet the Ranch" philosophy is typical of decision-making in the oil industry.

Cheney recently made a statement that shows how they are hitting for the fences. He stated that workers should be allowed to divert 4% to 6% of the FICA tax into private accounts. The FICA tax is 6.2% of covered wages, matched by another 6.2% from the employer. 6.2% FICA tax covers Retirement, Survivors and Disability benefits, so 6% is more than half the retirement tax. This would quickly gut Social Security and allows a lot of room for negotiation. If they get any fraction of what is being asked they have succeeded, since it will open the rest to later modification. Like the annual tax cuts, such modifications can be used to do away with the Social Security program over time.

But even if the reform proposal totally goes down in flames and they get nothing, it still has two clear advantages for the conservatives. First, it helps to consolidate and the unify the Republican base while helping to set a clear distinction between Democrats and Republicans. The conservatives see themselves as in a period of expansion, so such distinction can only be good for them. They don't seem to consider an effective reaction against their efforts to even be possible, let alone significant. They're on a roll, and can't lose.

Second, no matter what else happens, this is very likely to immunize Republican candidates from the fear of the "Third Rail of Politics" as modifications to Social Security has become known. In the past such proposals contributed to the defeat of a lot of candidates. From now on, though, it is going to be politically acceptable to attack Social Security. It is going to be reduced from a career-killer to merely another contentious issue open for debate.

So "Why now?" Because they think they can and because they want to. Don't bother looking for any real problems. This is about irrational conservative political dogma and Bush administration ego. There is no other reason.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Houston Chronicle Reports Shocking Texas House Vote Story

In the case of the newcomer Democrat and Vietnamese refugee Hubert Vo who reportedly beat long-time Republican power Talmadge Heflin for the State Representative seat for the 149th District by only 33 votes out of 43,499 counted, the investigation has found a real shocking result. This is Texas politics, and there is no apparent fraud.

The Houston Chronicle reported January 15th that their investigation showed no indications of vote fraud, and the relatively few voting errors that have been found to have occurred will not change the outcome of the election.

Of course, the Republican Talmadge Heflin has appealed to the Republican controlled Texas House of Representative, so there may yet be vote fraud committed. We’ll just have to wait, watch the Texas House of Representatives at work, and determine if the normal fraud and criminal activity of that august body rises to the surface in this case.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Womens' Rights and the Republicans

The Republicans are making it more clear what women's rights are under their regime.

John A. Cosgrove of the Virginia Legislature has submitted a bill (HB 1677) that provides that when a fetal death occurs without medical attendance, it shall be the woman's responsibility to report the death to the proper law-enforcement agency within 12 hours of the delivery. Violation of this section shall be punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor. Dkos has a discussion of this.

Now on the opposite coast, a Judge in Washington State has resinded a divorce granted a week earlier because he learned that the woman was pregnant.Fort Worth Star Telegram The father of the fetus is another man and she has not seen her husband for over a year. He was in jail for domestic assault when she became pregnant in June, and is currently in jail in Montana awaiting trial on federal drug charges. If the divorce is not granted, then she will not be able to marry the fetus' father.

We can infer from this that the only purpose for women as far as conservatives are concerned is as producers of babies.

Steve Clemons recently had Brent Scowcraft and Zbigniew Brzezinski discuss America's foreign policy (and I blogged on it at Politics Plus Stuff)

"Zbig's" headline, [was] his forthright prediction that nothing less than 500,000 troops, $200-billion a year, a new Draft, and "war taxation" would be required to "prevail' in the long run.

We are now talking about Viet Nam level commitments. In both Viet Nam and Iraq, these were the more realistic estimated troop levels required to win.

LBJ bought it, but did not dare call up the reserves for political reasons. Too many were still in the Reserves and Guard who had been called back for Korea and for the Berlin Crisis. So he expanded the draft and left the Reserves and Guard alone.

We all know how successful that was. But so do Bush and Quayle.

Before the Iraq war, General Shinseki told the Senate that it would require several hundred thousand troops after the war was over, and Wolfowitz said he was wrong.

Gen. Shinseki's estimate could not possibly be correct, because if it was, we couldn't afford to invade Iraq. It also contradicted the philosophy of the Secretary of Defense, Rumsfeld, but that was less important than the fact that the DoD would never be able to convince Congress to support the Iraq war if Shinseki were correct. So Gen Shinseki was retired and replaced.

Now Zbig Brzezinski is confirming Shinseki's estimate.

More history. After Viet Nam the Congress reduced the size of the army and moved most of the support services to the reserves so that any effort to conduct a preemptive war like Viet Nam would require the use of Reserves. The idea was that this would make the effort so politically expensive that the Executive branch would not go into wars we really didn't need. [See LBJ above.]

Iraq has shown that this did not work, but GWB's Iraq war would have been politically impossible without his father's Persian Gulf War. It demonstrated that the Reserves and Guard COULD be called up without political repercussions. But Bush 41 was sufficiently politically astute to recognize that we still couldn't deal with a long-term useless war.

Now we have a war that has effectively destroyed our reserve Army system (Guard and Reserve) and left us with the choice of a draft or another cut-and-run as Nixon finally did.

We can put it off, but ultimately that is going to be the choice. Unfortunately, the Draft will merely be a way of delaying the cut-and-run option. We will not achieve the goals our government has for success in Iraq. The goals are too unrealistic, and the Iraqis won't let us.

Democracy? Well, democracy for Shiites - maybe. Never more than that. But few westerners will recognize what democracy for a tribal society really means. They should go look at Lebanon or Nigeria. Democracy in a tribal society means determinining the level of national power of each of the tribal leaders, little more. Until there is an industrial-economy-based middle class, democracy does not mean what Americans think it does.

The election January 30th is a chimera. The promise it seems to hold is not real. For Iraq (if they are lucky) it will result in a Shiite-controlled government which has a loose federation with the Kurds and a revolution (read civil war) with the Sunnis.

Our issues really come back to 1. how many casualties and how much treasure will we continue to throw into Iraq, and 2. how can we pull out of Iraq with the greatest benefit for ourselves and the Iraqis?

There is the cost-benefit ratio. Something conservatives claim to understand. I wonder how they will decide on it?

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Scowcraft and Brzezinski on Iraq

Steve Clemons organized a meeting in which Brent Scowcraft and Zbigniew Brzezinski discussed the future for American foreign Policy. Steve has posted a transcript and a video

Steve also posted some comments written by Chris Nelson in his insider “Chris Nelson Report. I find the following excerpt especially chilling:

-- but, to repeat, it does not sound like either, but particularly Brzezinski, has much confidence that Bush and his top people have the moral or intellectual capacity to accurately diagnose the problems, much less to implement viable approaches.

4. On Iraq, the clearest headline from Scowcroft was his observation that the coming election, even if it takes place, "won't be a promising transformation, and it has great potential for deepening the conflict; we may be seeing incipient civil war at this time." And even if ultimate success is possible, it will be a 10 year process. Quite frankly, Scowcroft said, the current situation is so dire that the real question for today is the fundamental one of "whether we get out now" implication, before too much damage is done world wide.

-- "Zbig's" headline, arrived via a detailed discussion of the cascade, the reasons for it, and his forthright prediction that nothing less than 500,000 troops, $200-billion a year, a new Draft, and "war taxation" would be required to "prevail' in the long run. But, he noted, "Not even [a dictatorship like] the Soviet Union was prepared to [go to such extremes] in Afghanistan. There comes a point in the life of a nation when such sacrifices are not justified...and only time will tell if [the United States] is facing a moment of wisdom, or cultural decay."

So Zbigniew doesn’t think the current administration can diagnose the problems in Iraq, let alone implement solutions. Brent thinks the Iraq election in January is likely to lead to real civil war rather than any solution, and Zbigniew thinks that the military solution is at Viet Nam levels – a “solution” that is unlikely to be attempted.

That being the case, unless some miracle occurs the Iraq war will be going on in 2008 with no likelihood of solution even then.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Brent Scowcraft fired from foreign Intel Advisory Board

Steve Clemons points out that the Bush II administration has now succeeded in purging every member of the Republican realists from any foreign policy positions in the US government. Anyone who has ever stood up and said "You are wrong." to the Bush administration is now gone. That makes telling the Truth a rather expensive proposition.

That leaves only the people who have been making all the mistakes in office. I'm sure that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld now feel more comfortable. But we American people sure shouldn't.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Current American Political Economics

New Donkey dot com takes on today's David Brooks NY Times Editorial for his sloppy characterizing of present American liberal and conservative positions. In so doing, he also provides what I find to be a well-written and much more accurate characterization of the two positions.

The mainstream of American liberal economic policy has never been thoroughly "Social Democratic" in the European tradition; one of its hallmarks has been support of an "American Model" that combines strategic public investments that promote growth, along with relatively small "social supports" that prevent mass impoverishment and promote upward mobility, and the maximum degree of entrepreneurial freedom consistent with genuine competition and key social goods like a clean environment. That's certainly where most Democrats this side of Dennis Kucinich want to take our economic policies today.

Moreover, the rise of the contemporary Conservative Movement in the U.S. has led the Right towards economic theories that abandon this "American Model" in favor of a monomanical commitment to lower taxes for high earners and lowering business costs regardless of the social costs--an "American Model" only if you think of Mississippi circa 1975 as a model for anything other than economic self-abasement. And to the extent that today's conservatives can be said to embrace the true "American Model," it's via the deeply dishonest method of engaging in massive public borrowing to sustain a social safety net the public demands, and to finance strategically targeted tax cuts aimed at favored constituencies. Brooks spends a lot of time in his column deploring the huge level of public debt in European countries today. Exactly which party, and which end of the ideological spectrum, is associated with the happy accumulation of public debt in this country? It ain't us donkeys, David.

Also today, Steve Clemons points out one way the conservatives are failing to make strategic public investments that promote American economic Growth.

This article in USA Today captures one dimension of the battle between the Bells and local communities who are trying to invest in local infrastructure on behalf of their citizens and companies.

Here are the lead grafs:

To hear BellSouth talk, high-speed fiber lines are the way of the future. So why is it so determined to stop Lafayette, La., a rural community in the heart of Cajun country, from installing its own fiber?

Joey Durel, Lafayette's mayor, has been asking himself that same question. His city plans to build an advanced broadband network to offer voice, data and video to its 116,000 residents. But local officials claim BellSouth is trying to kill the project. And they say it's getting help from Cox, the local cable-TV operator.

"We have the opportunity to do something great for this community -- and in a state that needs a big win," Durel fumes. "They have to get out of our way."

It's the dark side of the fiber story.

The regional Bell companies have made much of their billion-dollar plans to run broadband networks across the USA. Yet they're also quietly trying to erect hurdles that would make it hard -- or expensive -- for anyone to compete with them.

Besides municipalities like Lafayette, the Bells are going after their phone rivals, Internet carriers and major metro areas -- anyone with an interest in building services that might compete with the Bells.

Critics say the Bells' efforts are an attack on competition and that consumers could be the big losers.

The financial and political costs to America if telecom competition erodes further and Baby Bells are permitted to carve out spheres of impenetrable control and influence will be staggering.

What ties these two items together is the utter short-sightedness and selfish greed of the conservatives currently making US government policy. Steve Clemons points to FCC Chairman Powell as handing whatever he can to the businesses to FCC regulates (like the phone companies) so that he can cash in with a really high-paying job when he leaves government.

I think it is even broader than that. Modern American conservatives refuse to even look realistically at the needs of the overall community, so they are setting government policy in accordance with the demands of would-be monopolists who do not like the rigors of competition. Once they have done that, like Powell they will leave government for the high-paying jobs they have used their government jobs to create. They are modeling themselves on Dick Cheney and G. W. Bush, both of whom made their wealth out of government connections and manipulations.

In the meantime, then are not doing the things government needs to do to continue growing a productive economy, like establishing a broad-band infrastructure that everyone can tap into easily and cheaply.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Let's all Congratulate Bill O'Reilly

He has been awarded the prize as Misinformer of the Year by Media Matters for America. So many lies, so little time to tell them. How hard can one psychopath work??

The Senate Hearings on Alberto Gonzales as AG

The ACLU has issued a Press Release and Report on what the Senate should ask Albert Gonzales about his Civil Liberties record during his up-coming hearings for appointment to the position of US Attorney General.

By policy, the ACLU does not take a position either for or against a candidate for appointment. The press release is an excellent summary of the questions they want asked.

The New York Times today has a good article on his nomination proceedings. To quote:

Even some of Mr. Gonzales's detractors say they do not expect to prevent him from becoming the nation's 80th attorney general, as well as the first Hispanic holder of the office.

Instead, they say, they hope to lay down a record that will make it difficult for him to be confirmed to the Supreme Court.

What do Researchers Think Happened Nov 2?

The following are explanations by researchers of the 2004 Presidential election. The journal is The Forum: A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics.The following are the abstracts of particular articles. I have underlined findings I consider especially useful.

1. The Presidential Election of 2004: The Fundamentals and the Campaign. This is by James E. Campbell of University of Buffalo, SUNY.

This article examines the 2004 presidential campaign by examining the trinity of fundamentals that have historically affected presidential elections and how they 'played out' in this year's campaign. The three fundamentals are public opinion about the in-party and candidates before the campaign gets underway, the state of the pre-campaign economy, and incumbency (both personal and party-term incumbency). They are assessed for elections since 1948 and in one case since 1868. The first two of these fundamentals slightly favored President Bush and the third (an incumbent seeking a second party-term) strongly favored him. The analysis considers how the fundamentals interplayed with voter assessments of candidate qualities, issues, and ideology to lead to the closely fought Bush re-election. After all is said and done, after considering the impact of the war on terror and in Iraq, the election turned out much as one would have expected based on candidates’ ideological positions. The 2004 election added another case to the string of presidential losses by liberal northern Democrats since 1968.

2. An Alternative Account of the 2004 Presidential Election . This is by Barry C. Burden of Harvard University.

ABSTRACT: The consensus immediately following the 2004 presidential election was that Bush won because of support for "moral values." I challenge this interpretation by showing that Bush won because of widespread increase in his support among white and married women. I hypothesize that this is a response to concerns about domestic security rather than support for Bush's position against gay marriage. In addition, Bush was generally helped by higher turnout, though Kerry's efforts brought down his the Republican vote share in battleground states.

3. Terrorism, Gay Marriage, and Incumbency: Explaining the Republican Victory in the 2004 Presidential Election . This is by Alan Abramowitz of Emory University

ABSTRACT: An analysis of the 2004 presidential election results indicates that President Bush's relatively narrow victory reflected the normal advantage of incumbency and preexisting divisions within the American electorate rather than a fundamental shift in the partisan or ideological loyalties of the electorate. There was little change in the public's attitudes toward Mr. Bush or the political parties during the campaign and gay marriage referenda had no discernible impact on either voter turnout or support for the President. However, Mr. Bush did somewhat better than expected in the states most directly affected by the September 11th terrorist attacks.

4. Up, Up and Away! Voter Participation in the 2004 Presidential Election . This is by Michael P. McDonald of George Mason University.

ABSTRACT: A record 122.3 million people, or 60.0% of those eligible, cast a vote for president in 2004. In this essay, I examine variation in voter participation among the states. I find that electoral competition in the battleground states was associated with higher turnout rates, and that where competition at the presidential level was not present, an amendment banning gay marriage or an interesting Senate election is related to higher voter turnout.

[There are also two other articles I personally found less interesting.]

My conclusions:

Article 1. suggests that Bush was strongly favored going into the election on three key elements. Those were A. precampaign public opinion on the in party, B. the state of the precampaign economy, and C. the incumbency both in office and the party.

Article 2. suggests that Bush won particularly because he increased his share of the woman's vote, probably because of their concern with domestic security.

Article 3. suggests that Bush won based on his incumbency rather than any fundamental shift in the loyalties of the electorate.

Article 4. explained the overall increase in election turnout - close Presidential states or gay marriage amendments, or a close Senatorial election.

Based on this, I have to conclude that Bush won largely because of his incumbency, and that no fundamental shift occurred in the electorate to give this result. Had the margin of the win been greater then it would have been an indication of a shift in voter allegiance, but the margin was the narrowist for an incumbent in a century. The high turnout together with the narrow margin of victory emphasizes the lack any fundamental voter shift. The high voter turnout has explanations other than a long-term shift in voting preferences.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

The Dollar Continues to Drop

This from Reuters today.

As the dollar fell in 2004, investors piled into foreign companies' U.S.-listed securities to make a currency-conversion killing.

For example, a stock in a foreign market trading at 10 euros in September had an ADR price of $12 because one euro then equaled $1.20. Today, even if the foreign stock's value is unchanged, the ADR is priced at about $13.70 because the dollar has weakened to almost $1.37 against the euro.

The price of an ADR is mainly driven by the price of its locally-listed share. But the ADR trades in dollars -- and that benefits U.S. investors when the dollar weakens.

"Today, investors are seeing significantly better returns by owning the ADR," said Max Eyers, head of international trading at J.P. Morgan's ADR desk.

The dollar has lost 10 percent against the euro and 7 percent against the yen in the last three months alone.

As the dollar falls, look for an increase in inflation, or an increase in the interest rates as the Federal Reserve works to prevent inflation. Either will damage the economy.

This is a direct result of the uncontrolled federal deficit. You may thank your President and Congress.