Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Reactions to First Debate (Foreign Policy)

Hi Everyone,

Who you think won tonight's debate on foreign policy really depends on which candidate you thought needed to deliver a "knock out."

Polls show that Bush has commanding lead over Kerry on the foreign policy dimensions. What's more, this is basically Bush's only advantage. Since the next debate will be on domestic issues, Bush really had to put it away here. Bush needed to say "9/11" 30 times in 90 minutes like he did in his RNC speech. He failed to do that.

His best chance to really deliver the knock out punch was when Kerry was asked what the number one foreign policy threat to the USA was. Kerry said it was nuclear proliferation and only later in his answer did Kerry tie that to terrorism. Here is where Bush should have said something like, "In the post 9/11 world, the biggest threat to America is 9/11 style terrorism." But instead Bush said, "I agree with my opponent, the number one threat is nuculer perliferation."

Realistically, Kerry could not have "put it away" tonight. But Kerry could present himself as the "safe alternative." I think he did that. He did not talk like a caricature of himself, his answers were direct and to the point.

My impression is that the debate was a tie - advantage Kerry.

Comments? Impressions?

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Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Elections In Iraq and Afghanistan

Hi Everyone,

There has been a lot of talk lately about Iraqi elections and Afghan elections. There are some interesting comments from people in power and some interesting implications for the future.

Rumsfeld put his foot in it again by suggesting that the Bush administration would be satisfied if elections were carried out in 60%-80% of Iraq. Of course the 20%-40% that would NOT have elections would be the areas of the Sunni Triangle under insurgent control. Rumsfeld's "Some elections is better than no elections" assertion is utter nonsense. Its typical of the Rumsfeld style that he delivered this patently absurd line in a condescending tone that said, "if you don't agree with me you must be some kind of idiot." Here is why Rumsfeld is wrong about some elections being better than no elections: The elections we're talking about are for the body that will write the Iraqi constitution. If the Sunnis aren't represented the Iraqi constitution won't include their concerns. The danger is that the Kurds and the Shiites will write a constitution that Sunnis would never had agreed to. Some elections conducted early could be a total disaster for the legitimacy of the new constitution. It would have been FAR better if there were sufficient troops in Iraq to establish something resembling order nationwide and then hold full elections. But Rumsfeld wanted a low number of troops to prove his theories about modern military operations. So once again this all comes back to the flawed and incomplete plan they had for the occupation.

In Afghanistan there are reports from Human Rights Watch that corrupt registration processes are going on unchecked by the Afghan government or the American observers. Between that and the continued de facto independence of regional war lords and you have a recipe for electoral farce in Afghanistan as well.

Oh, by the way, oil has hit $50/barrel. But the Bush administration has flip flopped and is now going to release part of the Strategic Oil Reserve to counter act the increase in prices.

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Friday, September 24, 2004

Nuclear Detente in South Asia?

When I was in college at Lawrence U. in Appleton, Wisconsin, we had this political science professor from Mumbai (Bombay) who spoke just like John Hausman from the Paper Chase. His voice was slightly English in accent but mostly it just oozed centuries of family membership in the elite of India that might even have pre-dated the British "Raj". As Freshmen, we were scared to death of him. One day he asked us, "Does anyone know what is important about today?" Nervously a hand went up....."Its the 25 anniversary of the assasination of JFK?" (which it was by the way, pretty sharp for a frosh). "No..." said the professor, "Although I suppose that's improtant tooo. There was an election in PakiSTAN today. What do you dooo here in the Midwest just sit around and watch the corn grow?" (I thought that was unfair since most students at LU were from Chicago, Minneapolis and Milwaukee and this guy had lived for over 30 years in Appleton, Wisconsin and he was calling us hicks?) In his defense the new Prime Minister of Pakistan was Benizir Bhuto, the first woman head of government in any Muslim country and only the second woman head of government in the world.

So, does anyone know what is important about today?

India and Pakistan are holding a summit in New York City (note: not Washington, D.C.). You can read the BBC.com story about it here. This peace process has survived a leadership turnover in India and several minor border clashes in Kashmir. This is a HUGE development in the world. The nuclear standoff between these two countries is dangerous beyond measure. That they are talking and saying nice things about each other is fantastic! I only hope Musharraf can avoid being killed for his trouble.

I'm very interested to read what von Brawn thinks of it. My take is that India and Pakistan have looked into the abyss and decided they like living more than they hate each other. In other words this could another case where we have to chalk one up for Mutually Assured Destruction.

While I'm waxing speculative about South Asia, I'll suggest that India should get a permanent seat on the Security Council. After all China has one and India and China have serious strategic differences in South Asia and South East Asia. According to the original logic of the Security Council, both should be represented. By the way, I think putting Japan on the Security Council wouldn't be a bad idea either. Germany, I'm not so sure. The EU/Western Europe already has two votes on the S.C. Would adding Germany really incorporate new strategic interests? Anyway, India is clearly a responsible nuclear nation that also has a powerful conventional army, navy and airforce capable to projecting power throughout the Indian Ocean (India has aircraft carriers which China does not). India has its own strategic agenda independent of the US and in potential conflict with China. So they should be on the S.C.

Comments? Discussion?

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Presidential Debate Schedule

Presidential Debate Schedule
All debates are scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m. PDT (9pm EDT).

First presidential debate:Thurs., Sept. 30th. University of Miami, Coral Gables , FL
Vice presidential debate:Tues., Oct. 5th, Case Western, Cleveland, OH
Second presidential debate:Fri., Oct. 8th, Wash. U., St. Louis, MO
Third presidential debate:Weds., Oct. 13th, ASU, Tempe, AZ

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Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Pink and Teal States

The two party system here continues for one simple reason: the first party to split loses.

The last major split was the Southern Conservatives, who voted for third parties in presidential (but not congressional) elections in 1948, 1960 and 1968. They voted Republican in presidential elections in 1964, and from 1972 onward. Congressional elections did not turn Republican there until the 1990s (the slow demise of "blue dog" and "boll weevil" Democrats).

The minor splits were Naderites (loony left, bolting from the moderate Gore) in 2000.
Also the confused Reform Party of the 1992 and 1996 (which drew from across the spectrum) and the Reform party of 2000 on the loony right fringe.

The Republican majority depends on liberal Republicans from the Northeast (e.g., Sens. Jeffers, Chafee, Snowe, Collins, Former govs. King, Whitman, Weld). This group still votes Republican in national elections, even though they are way out of the mainstream of the Republican party today. In the 1990s, Governors Pataki (NY), Whitman (NJ), and Weld (MA) ran on pro-choice moderate platforms. Gov. Romney (MA) is pro-choice now. Gov. Weicker (CT) was the first to bolt, running as an independent though a former Republican senator. Gov. Angus King (Maine) was the next to bolt, also as an Independent. In 2000, ALL of New England voted for McCain in the Republican primaries. Then, famously, Sen. Jeffers (Vt.) Yesterday, Chafee (RI) said he would not endorse Bush. When these groups walk out of their party altogether and starting voting for Democrats, you will see major changes. Already, in 2000, they all voted for Gore. It is little surprise that Howard Dean (VT) and Kerry (MA) come out of this region.

Across the country, moderate Republicans still exist in parts of the midwest and California. The Republicans in CA have, with Schwarzenegger, returned to the more moderate mold of Wilson-Riordan Republicans. Minnesota experimented with Jesse Ventura, who was basically a disaffected Republican.

So America is not divided into red and blue states. Rather, America's political spectrum squirms in its two-party straitjacket, remembering always the tradeoff between power and purity.


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Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Putin on the Ritz

I have been a defender of President Vladimir Putin since he was handed the job suddenly in 2000. Putin has pursued stability in Russia, and has pursued the traditional foreign policy of all Russian leaders since Grand Prince Ivan [Kalita] began the "gathering of Russian lands" in the 15th century. Putin once said that anyone who was not nostalgic for the old USSR had no heart, but anyone who actually wanted it back had no head. Putin believes that Russia can be a great country once again. To that end, he has restored traditional Tsarist symbols, and the Soviet anthem (with new words). He has embraced Russian orthodoxy (Yeltsin maintained his atheism).
Life in Putin's Russia has improved. Tax collection is up. The state has managed through oil revenues to make some repairs to the horribly crippled state and military apparatus. The Duma finally legalized private ownership of property in rural areas in 2001. He has made war on the kleptocracy and mafiacracy that developed under Yeltsin. In particular, he has made war on the mafia barons who also (a la Berlusconi) control all the media. The "attack on free press" that is widely reported is really an assault on the mafia barons who control the big private TV networks. There is, in fact, very little real independent media in Russia. Russians, as they have since Soviet days, look to VOA and the BBC for the real news.
However, a poster here called "Master of Space and Time" has the situation backwards regarding Putin's influences: American policies have provided the impetus for Russia and Putin to move to the right. After the bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, the US retaliated with cruise missile strikes on suspected terrorist sites in Sudan and Afghanistan. Soon thereafter, the Yeltsin administration began calling the Chechens terrorists. This situation dramatically worsened after the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, and the attacks on the WTC in 2001. The USA legitimized brute force as the response to terrorism, so now Putin sees terrorists where he once saw rebels. As the saying goes, to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Since 9/11, Bush has made it clear that pre-emptive invasion and indefinite detention of suspected terrorists is OK. Putin now demands our support when he does the same in Chechnya
In other words, the Bush administration truly abandoned the rule of law after 2001, and it has no moral authority to advocate the rule of law in Russia. Russia’s leaders, inclined by nature to authoritarianism, are unlikely to work for democracy, peace, and the rule of law, if the USA is no longer on the side of such things. Note that, for all the talk, there has not been a single election in Afghanistan or Iraq.
The attack on the children in Beslan was another watershed moment for Putin. He took this occasion to demand much more centralized authority for the government – in particular, appointing local governors and move to electing the Duma via party slates rather than individual candidates. These moves represent real ambivalence to the value of democracy when a country is at war with terrorism.
America must lead the way; instead, we too have shown real ambivalence to democracy at a time of supposed "war." Not only have we announced that our campaign is good versus evil, but we have abandoned political dialogue everywhere. Ariel Sharon has been told he may effectively put Arafat under house arrest and cease all negotiations. When Bush suggested Putin negotiate with Chechen leaders, Putin responded tersely, "Why don’t you invite Bin Laden to the White House?" Bush has left us with no answer to give.

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Monday, September 20, 2004

Bush and Berlusconi

Hi Everyone,

Yesterday I posted the question "Are the Republicans Becoming Fascists?" Today I will expand on the theme by looking at Bush's closest ally on the Continent of Europe, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Italy is now the only major ally Bush has in Europe other than the United Kingdom. Bush is full of praise for the Italian government. If Clinton had a special relationship with Blair, Bush has that relationship with Berlusconi of Italy. Of course Blair has supported the US war in Iraq and there are rumors that Blair is something of an evangelical but his relationship with Bush is nothing like the love fest he had with Clinton.

Silvio Berlusconi is a kind of combination of Rupert Murdoch, Dick Cheney and George Steinbrenner. He owns the one of most popular professional soccer teams in Italy, AC Milan. He also owns the lion's share of the Italian media market. He rose to power amid accusations of corruption and abuse of power. He routinely uses his TV stations to violate equal time laws that require that all political parties be given equal access to the media. When he became Prime Minister, he was already under indictment for a number of corruption related crimes. He and the parties in his coalition immediately set about retroactively repealing the laws he had been indicted under. Pretty slick, eh?

Berlusconi is the leader of a five party coalition. The leading party is his own "Forza Italia" party. The name is taken from a soccer fan chant shouted by AC Milan fans...it means "Go Italy." Forza Italia portrays itself as a kind of Gaullist party for Italy (referring to the French nationalist General and politician, Charles DeGaulle). But there are wide spread concerns that Forza Italia is more radical than the image it likes to portray. Forza Italia's (FI) partners in the coalition include two far right parties: the Northern League (LN) and the National Alliance (AN).

LN is a socially conservative party that advocates greater autonomy for the wealthy region of Northern Italy. This is a kind of Bloc Quebecois for Milan, Turin and the Po Valley.

AN is the most alarming party in Italy. AN is the new name of the Italian Social Movement (MSI). MSI was run by Mussolini's family and was openly fascist in its sympathies and ideology. MSI existed for years on the fringes of Italian politics as a pariah party excluded from consideration as a coalition partner by all the parties of the left and right. But Berlusconi has helped the party - now called AN - enter the mainstream.

You can check out a summary list of the governments in Italy at the ZPC website.

Conservative nationalist parties like LN and post-fascist parties like AN exist in every country in Europe. Examples are Le Pen's National Front in France, the German NPD, DVU and Republikaner parties, the Progress Parties in Denmark and Norway, the British National Front, Vlaams Bloc in Belgium, and the Freedom Party of Austria. However, they have been excluded from power in every country except for Austria (Jorg Haider's FPO party) and in Italy. When combined with suspicions about the true nature of the Forza Italia party, it could be argued that Italy is currently ruled by a kind of post-fascist coalition.

Such is the nature of Bush's greatest ally in Europe. I believe that the American Republican party is becoming less and less like the British Conservative party or German Christian Democrats and more and more like the Italian coalition between the Forza Italia and National Alliance.

Comments? Discussion?

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Saturday, September 18, 2004

Are the Republicans Becoming Fascists?

OK, that I would even ask this question may make me appear to be an idiot. People throw the word "fascist" around a lot without really knowing what it means - the cops are fascists, your parents are fascists, etc. Right wingers do the same thing with "socialist" which they invariably refer to as "socialistic" which is not actually a word but what the heck...They called Bill Clinton a "socialist" and make no mistake, the right wing thinks "socialism" and "communism" are synonyms (they aren't but that's for another posting). For now lets talk about fascists...

What is a fascist? I looked up a fairly good definition online here. I took the passages in quotation marks from that link. Let's check the major components of fascism against the direction of the Republican party, especially post 9/11.

1) "Aggressive nationalism, combined with militant symbolism, which proclaims national superiority both in the internal arena (excluding minorities) and in the international arena (colonialist tendencies, achieving a stronger stand on the international arena).This also leads to an aggressive foreign policy."
Does this apply to the Republicans?: Yes but. With regard to internal racial exclusion its certainly debatable. Most Americans left of center would argue that the Republican party has alarming racist elements but most official Republican party statements are careful not to exclude people overtly because of their race. However, the view that the USA is vastly superior to all other countries is a widely accepted view not only among Republicans but among most people in America. Reagan's reference to the USA as "the shining city on the hill" is an example of this. The "neo-cons" have taken this world view and operationalized it into the aggressive, militarized foreign policy we have today.

2) "Idolisation of a single charismatic leader as the saviour of the nation."
Does this apply to the Republicans?: Yes. Republicans speak of Bush as a national hero. They make thinly veiled statements to the effect that if Bush were not our leader, the "terrorists" would have nuked us by now. His ads showing him at "ground zero" at the WTC are classic fascism. I've heard many religious conservatives say things like "God made sure George Bush was our leader during this terrible time." So, yes, the Republican party is idolizing Bush as a national savior.

3) "Emphasis on a national unity (like a bundle)"
Does this apply to the Republicans?: Yes. The Democrats have tried to cash in on the "unity" theme and Republican use of it for political purposes has declined a bit but all through to 2002 and into 2003 anyone who opposed any Bush policy (from tax cuts to the war in Iraq) was accused to disrupting national unity as if that in itself was the next thing to treason.

4) "Powerful, oppressive and disciplined state organization, including secret police and censorship, to ensure compliance with the state and the regime. This apparatus is not limited by constitutional or any other requirements and is under the domination of the leader and the party/movement."
Does this apply to the Republicans?: Not yet, unless you're a Muslim or Arab. The current regime has thrown the constitution out the window with regard to criminal prosecution of suspected terrorists. I hear from a friend who is a Federal defense attorney that Federal Prosecutors are being told to openly violate court orders for full disclosure of evidence even in relatively routine immigration cases. But most English speaking, native born US Citizens are not being abused yet so people haven't noticed this important change (I'm hoping for elaboration on this point from Law Talking Guy). If Patriot Act II gets passed this will be a clear YES.

5) "Militant anti-communist ideology"
Does this apply to the Republicans?: Yes. Although being "anti-communist" isn't all that relevant now the Republicans still use "communist" or "socialist" as a serious insult. But if you replace "communist" with "Islamist" its a slam dunk that the Republicans fit this component of fascism.

6) "Disdain for liberalism, social democracy, and all other forms of individualism as weak ideologies that lead only to defeat, governmental inefficiency, etc."
Does this apply to the Republicans?: Yes. I shouldn't have to elaborate too much on this one. Its so obvious that Republicans have a lot of hate for liberals, social democrats, "secular humanists" etc.

7) "Strong power symbolism, based on masculinity, sports, etc."
Does this apply to the Republicans?: Yes. Nascar Nation ring any bells for anyone? Ads with soldiers? Flight Suit Georgie on the Aircraft carrier? I could list dozens of examples.

8) "Propaganda apparatus, that systematically regulates the population into accepting the ideology. Media is controlled by the regime."
Does this apply to the Republicans?: Not Really/Sort of. With the exception of FOX news I'd say the media is fully independent of the Republican party. However, the Republicans do have a highly developed propaganda machine that works very effectively by simply repeating pro-regime/anti-opposition slogans over and over again.

9) "Control of the economy through corporativism, in which the formal structures of private ownership of industry are supposedly maintained but in which both labour and capitalists must accept the most detailed state regulation and extensive wage and price controls."
Does this apply to the Republicans?: No but...While there is no state regulation of the type mentioned here their is a clear "corporatist" inclination in secret meetings with energy companies that were in clear violation of anti-trust laws at the time.

SUMMARY: OK, so by my rough subjective assessment, the Republican Party has about a 50%-60% overlap with major components of fascism. I wouldn't go so far as to say that the Republican party IS a fascist party right now. But the direction of change within in the party is clearly in an alarming direction.

Comments?

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More minority news

Here's a little tidbit that the mainstream media is probably not reporting too much. The Log Cabin Republicans, a prominent group of gay Republicans, have declined to endorse President Bush for the upcoming election. This is hardly a surprise. Most gay Republicans are "economically Republican", i.e. social moderates/liberals who vote Republican because they believe in low taxes and small, fiscally responsible government. Bush has lost these voters because of his ultra-right wing social policies and his deficit spending.

What surprises me a little here is their non-endorsement of Kerry, whom they accuse of waffling on gay rights. (If you're curious, his views on gay rights can be found here) In any case, Kerry, a fiscal conservative and a social moderate, will probably get a lot of these votes anyway. The others will likely just stay home (or vote Nader). This is another minority that might play an important role in the November election, so stay tuned.

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Friday, September 17, 2004

One Of These Polls Is Not Like The Others

OK, no sooner do I post about how one poll can be misleading than we see an example of it.

Four polls have come out in the last few days: American Research Group, Harris, Pew and CNN/USA Today/Gallup.

Three of the polls have the national horse race in a statistical tie (neither candidate ahead of the other by more than the margin of error). ARG and Harris have Kerry slightly ahead (ARG has Kerry with a statistically significant lead if you take Nader out of the race). Pew has Bush slightly ahead. Zogby polls from the last week or so also show a tied race.

But Gallup has Bush with a 55-42 lead! This is not completely out of the blue. Gallup has been consistently showing more support for Bush all along. If you go back and look at Gallup for months you'll see they showed Bush with leads back when every other poll showed him significantly behind.

The problem with this is that CNN ONLY REPORTS THE GALLUP POLL (guess why). So CNN is not only making the poll results the story rather than jobs, Iraq, Enron, Halliburton etc but they are making what looks like an outlier poll THE story. The result is that millions of people are being told that Bush has a prohibitive lead when in fact it that is almost certainly not true. It is more likely that he is tied with Kerry and could actually be behind given the poll results that CNN doesn't report.

Which brings me to another caveat, don't rely on only one news source!

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Thursday, September 16, 2004

Likely Voters and Polls

Hi Everyone,

The poll numbers are all over the place these days. Some polls show Bush ahead by 8 points or so. Most other polls show Bush and Kerry tied or at least within the margin of error. There are even some polls in the last week that show Kerry ahead among "registered voters."

This has lead to a kind of "my poll can beat up your poll" argument among prognosticators both amateur and professional. This leads to a series of questions:

1) Are all polls equal? Answer: No.

Some polls are much more carefully done than others. A friend of mine at the University of Miami (Fla) has told me some hair raising tales about what passes for a usable poll for the Miami Herald. He told me he's seen their raw data and its a joke. They just make up the margin error some times. They hire professors from local community colleges to do the polls even though these folks may not have the training, experience or staff to conduct an unbiased poll. My advice would be to very suspicious of any poll done by a newspaper without a national reputation. NYT, WSJ, Washington Post and maybe the LA Times are probably OK but don't read to much into a poll by the Indianapolis Star for example.

Also, some polls are "push polls." In this age of image dominated TV journalism, polls can BE the story. That means that both parties have incentive to show their guy ahead as much as they can. Polling groups with ties to one party or the other will give polls that intentionally push a particular result: For example they'll ask a bunch of questions about corporate corruption, Haliburton, Enron etc and then ask if you have a favorable opinion of Dick Cheney. Or they'll ask a lot of questions about protecting Americans from terrorism and defending "the Homeland" and then ask you if you intend to vote for Bush. Strategic Vision is the most commonly reported poll that has a clear tie to the Republican Party. Their results have differed from independent polls by as much as 10 percentage points - always in Bush's favor.

Finally, there are polls that fiddle with the sample. Polls are presented as "random samples" but they aren't really random. What they are is "normalized" which is a lot different. Polls actually have quotas for Republicans, Democrats, Independents, women, men etc. The recent Time poll that showed Bush ahead by 12 points had 10% more Republicans in their sample than there are registered Republicans nation wide. A number of pollsters criticized this poll for biasing the results.

2) What is a "Likely Voter?" Answer: Depends on the poll.

Usually, pollsters give screening questions about past voting history to determine if a respondent is a likely voter or just a registered voter. But there is little confidence that the screening really identifies people that are going to vote in the next election. Usually Republican candidates do better among likely voters than among registered voters. Here are some demographic characteristics that political scientists have identified with higher voter turnout (note: not a prediction of individual behavior as in the pollsters' "likely voter" terminology):
The higher the age group the higher the turnout.
Turnout is higher among men than women.
Turnout is higher among Whites than non-Whites.
Turnout is higher among higher income brackets.
So what does this mean? Well, it generally means that when turnout is low, the share of the votes cast by older, White, rich men goes up (guess which party they vote for). When turnout is high, the share of the votes cast by this group goes down. Most of the polls for this election say that turnout is going to be unusually high in 2004. Latino, Black, overseas and youth turnout are all expected to be MUCH higher than in the past. This could be interesting because these are all groups that will be more likely to vote for Kerry but will be unlikely to be included in "likely voter" polls. Indeed, overseas voters aren't counted at all. Remember how I said some polls of "registered voters" show Kerry slightly ahead? This could explain that result.

3) Can any one poll tell us anything? Answer: Not really.
You shouldn't look at just one poll and declare that you've learned anything with any precision. You have to dig a little and find out as much detail about as many polls as possible. Look at what kind of voters are supporting each candidate. Look at the trends over time. Check to see if a poll you're looking at is consistently more favorable to one candidate or the other.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Iraq Policy Changes

Hi Everyone,

In this morning's post I mentioned that the Bush administration was transferring funds out of Iraq. That was incorrect. Apparently they are transferring funds WITHIN Iraq. The BBC reports that the Bush administration is preparing to shift $3.5 Billion away from reconstruction and infrastructure development and towards "security," "job creation" and increasing oil production. So the Iraqis will have to make do with a antiquated and damaged electricity grid, widespread absence of safe water, under funded hospitals (big problem with over 10,000 civilian casualties per year) and damaged roads and bridges, but at least the oil will be flowing.

I might be inclined to say this is an excuse to hand over money to Halliburton but Halliburton has the contracts either way so really this is just an accounting issue to them.

BBC's analyst says this represents a major admission on the part of the Bush administration that security is a problem. However, this misses a major point here. If they are transferring the funding just now, do they really intend to ratchet up security activities right away? Or, as many are now speculating, are they waiting until after the November 2nd election to rejoin the battle for the Suni Triangle? There is widespread speculation that the Bush administration has ordered the Army and Marines to surrender large areas of Iraq to the insurgents to keep casualties down until after the election. Iraqi police and civilian casualties are not being kept down.

Comments? Discussion?

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Worsening Mess in Iraq

Hi Everyone,

Just a brief report here....An Army reserve Captain wrote a letter to the editors at the Washington Post a while back. This Captain is from the same doctoral department as von Brawn and myself. He's a smart guy and a nice guy and I would never have expected him to be making his views so public on a matter like this. I can only take from this that he feels extremely strongly about it (no surprise since he lived through over a year in Iraq). Here is what he wrote:

"Letter to the Editor
Monday, July 7, 2003; Washington Post
Among the reasons for plummeting troop morale in Iraq [front page, June 20] is the fact that the Army seems unable to provide even a minimal quality of life for us. From toilet paper to telephone service, everything is perpetually "on its way." It takes three weeks for mail to arrive. Telephone service is spotty, and almost none is available for calls to the States; likewise, e-mail access is very limited. Hot showers, hot chow and climate-controlled living spaces are a distant dream for most troops. The men and women on the ground will continue to soldier on, but the Army could at least provide some taste of real life in return."
RUSSELL A. BURGOS, Thousand Oaks, Calif. (The writer is a U.S. Army captain stationed in Iraq

I've heard that Capt. Burgos has an article in a forthcoming political science journal. In the last week he's been quoted in the Washington Post comparing Iraq to the Israeli occupation of Southern Lebenon. We'll keep you posted on it.

Also, Capt. Burgos' remarks echo those of my second cousin who was a section leader and electrician in an Ohio National Guard unit in Iraq. He sent numerous emails home over the year he was there and nearly all complained about the living conditions. He also said there was a class system for living quarters. He was helping build them so he was an expert. He said the Airforce units lived the best and the Army - especially the Guard and reserve units - lived the worst. He also said that the Army had another engineer unit ready to come into Iraq an help make up the difference but at the last minute sent that unit home without deploying while my cousin's unit had its stay in Iraq extended. That didn't help his morale I can tell you.

NPR is now reporting that the Bush Administration is going to shift funds away from Iraq to pay for "security" operations whatever those are.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Nader and Other Republicans at it Again in Florida

Hi Everyone,

Reuters is reporting that the Florida election commission has put Ralph Nader on the ballot as the candidate of the Reform Party in that state despite a court order not to. A Florida judge had ruled that the Reform Party was "a skeleton of its former self" and was no longer a party - at least not the party that gain standing under the leadership of Ross Perot. An article in the Tallahassee Democrat (I wouldn't make any assumptions about Southern papers' editorial policy based on a name like this) says the Judge ruled that way because of the major changes in the Reform party since the last election. The Florida Dept. of State put the Reform Party on the ballot anyway saying that Hurricane Ivan prevents them from waiting for the appeals process to play out.

I don't know what the law is in this kind of case but I agree with the Judge on the substance. The Reform Party under Ralph Nader is radically different from the Reform Party of Ross Perot. Indeed, this party is little more than an institutionalization of protest votes. Under Ross Perot, in 1992 and 1996 they ran as centrists. In 2000, under Pat Buchanan, they ran on the far right. Now in 2004, Ralph Nader is running the party on the far left. For this party to claim privileged status because past success of Ross Perot (or even Buchanan) is to deny that the party has kept nothing but its name from one election to the next.

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Monday, September 13, 2004

Developments not in the Polls

Hi Everyone,

This is the season of the horse race reports. Media are reporting a lot of horse race stuff and less and less on policy. I've said before I think this is because of the poor level of training and education among journalists (the horse race is easier to report). It could also be because those journalists that want to avoid even the hint of bias avoid policy stories because reporting a policy failure or success has implicit endorsements for one candidate or the other. Either way, journalists are failing in their supposed mission to inform the voters.

Anyway, even the horse race reports are based on polls that don't cover a lot of important developments. Your local news people will just report the poll numbers without any discussion of what those numbers might mean or what they leave out. Here are some items that aren't being discussed much.

Minority turnout: Especially in Florida there are indications that African American and non-Cuban Latino turnout is going to be higher than it has been in a long time. African Americans are very upset about the disenfranchisement of thousands of "Black" voters in Jacksonville. These were registered voters who were turned away because of a flawed list of "felons" compiled and enforced at the direction of Governor Jeb Bush. Latinos are a fast growing group of voters. Thousands of legal residents have accelerated their plans to gain citizenship because of the Patriot Act. Law Talking Guy's step father recently became a U.S. Citizen (born in U.K.) and LTG says that there are indications that the Bush administration has tried to delay the citizenship of as many as they can until after the election but their numbers are still way up (Perhaps LTG can fill us in on the details). In Florida the number of Latino voters has increased by 30% since 2000 and most of those new voters are not Cuban. Similar developments are happening in Colorado (which Bush won easily in 2000 but is now tied). These kinds of voters don't usually make it into lists of "likely voters" so the polls may not be counting them.

Overseas Voters: "Votemaster" is reporting the following:

"I have it on good authority that overseas voters are registering in huge numbers this time, maybe double or triple 2000. I was told that the number of people who showed up at the Democratic party caucus in England earlier this year was 10 times what it was in 2000, ditto in other countries. Americans overseas vote in the state they last lived in, even if that was decades ago. There are about 7 million overseas Americans and probably about 5 million are over 18. In Florida, it was the overseas absentee ballots that swung the election. I believe that something like 8% are military, but the rest are students, teachers, artists, government workers, business executives, spouses of foreign nationals, missionaries, retirees, and more. What is significant here is that these people represent a lot of votes and are not included in any of the polls. Nobody knows if they are largely Democrats or Republicans, but their votes could be one of the big surprises of this election. If anyone has any actual data (as opposed to speculation) on this group, I'd be interested."

Bell Curve is currently overseas, perhaps he could give us a report.

States With Split Electoral Votes: Nebraska and Maine both split their electoral votes based on Congressional district but polls of neither state break it down like that. Maine has 4 electoral votes and Nebraska has 5. Maine is tied overall and Nebraska appears safe for Bush but there has been no poll in that state this time around.

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Sunday, September 12, 2004

Another Big News Day

Hi Everyone,

Here are some big news stories (and potentially big news stories that may be about to happen).

Item 1: Another bit of North Korea just blew up. Reports of a large mushroom cloud along the North Korean/Chinese border on Thursday had American, Chinese and S. Korean leaders scrambling to figure out what happened and then spin it. There very little information coming out of the "Hermit Kingdom" on this one. Early speculation that it was a nuclear weapons test seem to have been unfounded (according to US officials). However, there are reports that explosion occurred at a secret N. Korean missile research center with some sort of underground firing range (go figure). There are no reports of casualties but a train explosion a few months ago killed hundreds and injured over a thousand people.

Item 2: Demonstrations turned violent in Herat, Afghanistan when demonstrators set fire to UN offices there. Afghan police opened fire on the crowd killing 8 people, wounding 15 (4 critically). The demonstrators were apparently upset because their local governor (who had built a private army) had been transferred to the Ministry of Mines.

Item 3: Fighting is flaring up again in the "Sunni Triangle" in Iraq. A suicide bomber killed a number of Iraqis in an attack on Abu Ghraib prison. Iraqi police at Abu Ghraib say that five civilians were injured when American troops swept the neighborhood.

Item 4: There is an election underway in Australia. The challenger, Mark Latham (Labor), is strongly critical of Australia's support for the occupation in Iraq (aprox. 800 Aussie troops are there). Latham has repeatedly said that if elected, he would pull Australian troops out of Iraq. Other issues in the election are the recent bombing of the Australian embassy in Indonesia and a nagging scandal about a ship full of refugees from Afghanistan. Former civil servants are claiming that the current PM, John Howard (Liberal - note: Liberal means something different outside the United States this is a center-right party), lied bout the incident in the run up to the last election. Apparently, the desperate refugees threw their children overboard when the Australian Navy turned their ship away. Latham seems the consensus winner of the first debate.

Item 5: SOUTH Korea has admitted to having conducted a secret nuclear weapons research program. Harry Shearer's Le Show reported that the Washington Post reports that S. Korea extracted weapons grade plutonium in 1982 and had been conducting nuclear experiments as recently at six years ago. Interesting.

Item 6: Two Danish parties (The Social Democrats and the Radical Liberals) reconsidering their continued support for deploying Danish troops in Iraq. I'm not sure if this will have immediate policy implications. Danish governments often survive major policy opposition so long as a majority doesn't form in opposition their continued government. The danger for the current government (Liberals and Conservatives) is that the Social Democrats and Radical Liberals are frequent coalition partners and seem to have the tacit support (if not cooperation in a future government) of the "New Left" Socialist People's Party.

Comments? Discussion?

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Saturday, September 11, 2004

What Drives the Campaigns?

Hi Everyone,

Take a look at this really interesting graphic on the electoral college calculator by votemaster. It tracks the electoral college count based on most recent polls over the course of the campaign going back to May. The graphic marks important events. Obviously the events are selected based on the assessment of the votemaster and are somewhat subjective. But there is remarkable correlation between events and changes in the graphic. By the way, there are similar graphics for each state on the electoral college calculator main page. The state graphics indicate which polls are which so you can identify any with apparent bias.

When I look at the graphic, several things jump out at me:

1) The two events that seem to have had the biggest and most durable effect on the electoral college count predictions are Reagan's funeral - which led to a week long love fest for Republicans and conservatives, dropping Kerry's support in the electoral college count and putting him into a rough tie with Bush for about 2 weeks - and Kerry's selection of John Edwards as his VP candidate (possibly confounded with opening of Fahrenheit 9/11) - which caused a large jump in the electoral college numbers for Kerry that lasted for about 3 weeks.
2) The DNC seems to have lead to a sharp spike in electoral college support for Kerry that rapidly dropped again.
3) The swift boat ad backfired and seems associated with something of a renewed bounce for Kerry. This dropped off a week or so later (possibly due to the ads showing Kerry testifying about war crimes in 1972 which ran after the original swift boat ads, possibly due to the Kerry campaign's suspension of TV adds to save money) .
4) August was a month of serious erosion for Kerry.
5) The RNC represented the bottom of Kerry's August plunge. As as soon as the RNC happened, Kerry started to recover. Two possible explanations: either the RNC made Bush really unpopular or this is because Kerry started campaigning again after taking August off. I suspect the latter explanation is more likely.

I suggest keeping an eye on this graphic as the debates come along. Kerry's campaign staff shake up would get marked just before the current end of the graphic as of Sep 11.

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Friday, September 10, 2004

Issue Salience

Hi Everyone,

Our recent, heated horse race debate seems to have annoyed one of our loyal fans. He is generally a nice enough guy - for a foreigner. Just kidding, some of my best friends are foreigners in one country or another. Well, his comments seem to be asking "who cares?" in response to the horse race debate. OK, in honor of the "Who Cares?" question here are some poll highlights from pollingreport.com about which issues people care about. Our foreign friend will find them interesting I hope if for no other reason than to give him a picture of American political culture.

OK here goes:
There are several polling companies asking about issue priorities but only FOX and CBS are post RNC.

There seems to be a consensus that biggest issue is jobs and the economy. Fox asked about jobs and got 23% saying it was their most important issue. CBS asked about the economy and got 30% saying it was most important. Survey says....#1 answer for both polls...."Good answer!"
There is a lot of variability on the terrorism issue depending on how the question is phrased. Fox asked about "terrorism and homeland security" and found that 22% of respondents ranked it as their most important issue. CBS asked about "terrorism (general)" and found that 8% of respondents ranked it as their most important issue.
There seems to be an interaction between how the terrorism questions are worded and the importance placed on Iraq. FOX got only 8% saying Iraq was the most important issue. But CBS got 15% saying that Iraq was the most important issue. I suspect that the "homeland security" terminology somehow gets people to bundle Iraq and terrorism in their heads. Or it could just be that FOX has a biased sample.
Both CBS and FOX asked about "healthcare/medicare" and got 13% and 12% respectively saying it was the top issue for them.
Foreign policy got roughly 8% in FOX and 5% in CBS.
Interestingly only FOX asked about gay marriage and only 4% said that it was their top priority for this election.
Both FOX and CBS asked about taxes and got 4% and 3% respectively saying taxes was their biggest concern.


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Why Kerry will lose, conclusion

When we last left off, our misunderstood humanitarian was listing problems the Bush campaign has that Kerry hasn’t/can’t capitalize on. Because of these, I think Kerry'll lose. Today, I wrap it all up and move on to other less sensitive areas…

I’ve given you seven points, do I need to go on? As the Economist (who endorsed Dubya the first time and is likely to do so again) noted, there are many, many ways to attack this president. They even had a humorous photo of it on the cover a few weeks ago. But yet this Democratic candidate can’t find one? He can’t get angry, point out weaknesses, problems with policy, or anything (And boy, he tried in Ohio. At midnight. After Bush's speech at the RNC. Wow. What a flop)? There are so many ways to run the flag up and see who salutes…is he paralyzed with options? Maybe he’s like me at a favorite restaurant…you get in, sit down, look at the menu, and then there is so much good looking stuff, you can’t decide what to get. I’m always the last one to order, because I just can’t decide, it all looks good. Maybe Kerry has the Dilemma of the Easy Pickings. [Having written this the other day, I was rather amused to find this on Slate: “Kerry decided it would be a good idea in Pennsylvania to talk about how he has difficulty deciding what to eat at restaurants. "You know when they give you the menu, I'm always struggling, what do you want?" he said. A cook at a local restaurant, though, solves Kerry's dilemma by serving "whatever he's cooked up that day. I think that's the way it ought to work for confused people like me who can't make up our minds what we're going to eat."…so, umm, basically, I’m right, and the candidate says as much?]

Now, what does this have to do with Karl Rove? Do I think he is Wile E. Coyote, super genius, as RbR is fond of saying (check out this link for the cheesy theme song)? No. But I think he is a step above whatever goons Kerry has (or had, the jury is still out on the Clinton imports). The press has been full of rumors, and grumbling, from Democrats, lefties, etc., who want a new team on Kerry’s side. I’ve said the same thing since this race started. They now have one. Let’s see if the competence level increases.

Ideally, you need two things to win a campaign in this day and age, and it would be preferable to have both. One, ya gotta be charismatic. Or at least it can make up for a lot of other things. Bill Clinton, check. Kerry…not so much. Two, you need a good campaign guy. Begala, Carvel, Atwater…Rove? Certainly don’t think he’s a Dick Morris or Ed Rollins, but he clearly has maneuvered a less than stellar candidate, with serious problems, into a position he should never have attained (well, two positions…governor, then president). Kerry needs handling, big time. Clinton needed it, Reagan needed it…no matter how good they are, they need to sometimes get their image reshaped and all of that. And Kerry isn’t good enough to do this on his own. He needs a stern talking to and somebody to play hardball with the direction his campaign is headed.

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1000 Points of Death

I am disappointed that the deaths of Americans in Iraq have not made the news until the infamous "1000 mark" was reached. I was in San Francisco in 1995, when this unfortunate item made it into the news: the 1000th person had killed himself by jumping off the Golden Gate bridge. They had stopped releasing an official tally at 970, in hopes that people wouldn't compete for the "honor" of being 1000. Stalin said that to kill one person was murder, but to kill a million is a statistic. We are in danger of viewing the casualties only as numbers.

Worse, the "1000 mark" did not include (1) foreign troops (we are at 1,100 now altogether) or (2) tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians and fighters.

Kerry needs to be careful, and so far he is. You don't trot out US corpses for political gain and get away with it (unless you're Republicans and the corpses come from Somalia, in which case the conservative media says 'bless you'). Rather, you have to show that this is the result of bad war planning and shocking indifference of the Bush administration. He hasn't been to a single funeral, and has even banned cameras at Dover Air Force Base where the flag-draped coffins arrive (Clinton, by contrast, watched every dead soldier come home in person).

The right attack is to show the clandestine footage with yet another Bush vacation and say, "Bush, AWOL again."

p.s. I scan the lists every few days for names. You can see the list of casualties at the CNN link site on this page (very hard to find on the CNN site otherwise).

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Thursday, September 09, 2004

Hey Law Talking Guy! Check This Out!

LTG is fond of saying that the electoral college is even more screwed up than people think. Here is a tidbit from http://www.electoral-vote.com/.

"One of the Republican electors in West Virginia has threatened to to cast his vote in the electoral college against George Bush even if Bush carries West Virginia. In a close election, one electoral vote could matter. In 2000, the final score was Bush 271, Gore 266, because one of Gore's electors, Barbara Lett-Simmons, cast a blank ballot."

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Polls that Matter

Here's a survey of recent important polls that show both the state of polling and the polling among the states:

Pennsylvania: (718 voters, MOE +/- 4%)
48 Bush, 47 Kerry
change from
49 Kerry, 44 Bush a week ago.

Ohio (661 voters, MOE +/- 4%)
52 Bush, 44 Kerry
change from
48 Bush, 47 Kerry, two weeks ago

Michigan polls (last week)
Dem Pollsters: 51 Kerry, 43 Bush (MOE +/- 4%)
Republican Pollsters: 47 Kerry, 42 Bush (MOE +/- 3%)

Florida (2 weeks ago)
Republican Pollsters: 48 Bush, 45 Kerry (MOE 3%)
Independent Pollsters: 47 Kerry, 46 Bush (MOE 4%)

(for obvious reasons, i.e., 2 million coastal residents away, nobody has polled in Florida for a week).

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Why Kerry will lose, part 2

Why Kerry will lose, part 2…

When we last left off, I was listing areas where the Bush administration was having trouble…and because I didn’t think Kerry was capitalizing, I was having a hard time seeing how he could possibly win. I’ll continue with what I see as just a few of Bush’s problems Kerry hasn’t/can’t capitalize on…

As a side noe, based on the response, I've clearly hit a nerve. Apparently, Kerry is doing fantastically well for a challenger and this president should be shaking in his boots because this situation never happens. My polls are all wrong, I've been assured, this is clearly a cake walk for Kerry. I'll simply ask you this...with so many commentators agreeing with me that Kerry is running a bad campagin (here-USWest comments, Chris Matthews last night, the DNC big wigs, media commentary, etc.) why is it that only the Yellow Dog Democrats on this site can't see the log in their own eyes?

Fifth, Kerry's inability to use the English language. He may be smart, Ivy League education, but Alan Keyes proves that won’t prevent you from saying dumb things. Heck, George Bush proves that. So when asked whether he regretted his decision to vote for the Iraq war, or whether he felt duped, etc., knowing everything that he knows now, Kerry said in one of his debates with Edwards, nope, he felt fine with his decision and would vote that way again. Umm, but Mr. Kerry, sir, you don’t approve of the war in Iraq. You think it was run by a mentally deficient blind monkey, you would have done it differently, you said the president either lied or misled the American people, you said this was not the most important thing, you said…or did you? What is your position? And don’t give me this nuanced crap, because what comes across is—I am George W. Bush. Or at least, I would have done everything he did. At best, it sounds like you’re trying to square the circle. [Update—he would have voted for war, but done the entire thing differently…so, how can you say you support this conflict if the whole thing was done incorrectly? More nuance…and to the American people, I guarantee you his position sounds like Bush’s.]

How about this: I originally voted to give the president backing in conducting foreign policy, as did many in the Senate. I assumed he would be conducting a diplomatic push in addition to his saber rattling—visiting foreign capitals, sending his cabinet members abroad to make the case, much as his father effectively used James Baker in the First Gulf War. In addition, I assumed he would be calling upon the full toolbox America has to offer, such as economic sanctions, arm twisting, trade, investment, diplomatic wrangling, loans, etc. But he didn’t effectively—or with much enthusiasm—communicate our goals, concerns, and interests to our allies. In addition, he chose to fight a war that alienated key allies and took our eye off of the real prize—bin Laden—at an inopportune moment. Therefore, if I had the opportunity to vote on this again, if time were reversed and knowing what I know now, I would not vote to authorize force, because I feel the president would misuse that opportunity as he did the first time around. Any questions?

Sixth, the VP laid out his rational for lower taxes at the convention. And, as previously mentioned, they were as follows: it would help us get out of this mess, and it did. Employment has picked up, mortgages are low, and first time home buying is high. Umm, right. All of those things were true four years ago, but more so. And without the massive jobs lost in between. And consumer confidence was higher. And we had a budget surplus. And we weren’t running record trade deficits. And Kerry can’t stick with these traditional “Democratic issues” and make a go of it?

Seventh, other foreign policy areas. Cheney mentioned Libya the other night. Now, I don’t have any inside dirt, but do you really think that Libya gave in, suddenly, even overnight, because we found Saddam cowering at the bottom of a spider hole on a farm in Iraq? Has anybody—press, Democrats, etc.—bothered to read the pieces in the NY Times or BBC about the multi-year effort that went into Libya, involving both the US and British? Or how that stretches back before the Bush administration came to power? Or how domestic political events in Libya, including the lobbying of one of Qaddafi’s sons, helped push the Colonel over the edge?

Is anybody going to mention Bush's flip-flopping and lack of policy on North Korea? His flip-flopping and only barely grudging acceptance of nation-building? What about a lack of policy on China? Iran? How about the fact that the EU (Common Foreign and Security Policy, my foot!) has a concerted effort to deal with Iran and we won’t even talk to them? How about Cuba, made any headway there? Glad we got rid of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but how’s that going? Smoothly? Got all the troops you need? What, you don’t, why not…? Oh, right, you had to send them to Iraq and possibly let UBL escape. Sounds like a good policy.

I’ll end it there, and leave you begging for the conclusion…more tomorrow.

Flame on!

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Smoking Gun on Bush ANG Documents?

Hi Gang,

Getting away from the horse race arguments for a moment it appears that the smoking gun has surfaced showing that Bush got preferential treatment while serving in the Texas ANG. Now, Werner von Brawn is from Texas (I hope I'm not telling secrets) and he and his wife both say that the particular unit Bush was in is well known in Texas as having been really corrupt during the Vietnam era. It was THE place for favored sons to sit out the war in safety. But even if its an open secret in Texas, there hasn't been anything like a smoking gun. Until now.

CBS ran a story on 60 Minutes II in which Ben Barnes admitted that he exerted pressure to get Bush preferential treatment in being admitted to the Texas ANG. This comes at the same time that yet more documents have come out (see CNN story) detailing Bush's suspension from the Texas ANG. Bush has always claimed that he "served honorably." However these new documents are full of accusations of preferential treatment, interference on Bush's behalf by higher authorities and assertions that Bush's piloting skills did not meet ANG standards.

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More Onion

This goes along pretty well with Brawny's post. I'm sorry to keep posting stuff from The Onion, but it's just too damn funny.

Bush Campaign More Thought Out Than Iraq War
WASHINGTON, DC—Military and political strategists agreed Monday that President Bush's re-election campaign has been executed with greater precision than the war in Iraq. "Judging from the initial misrepresentation of intelligence data and the ongoing crisis in Najaf, I assumed the president didn't know his ass from his elbow," said Col. Dale Henderson, a military advisor during the Reagan Administration. "But on the campaign trail, he's proven himself a master of long-term planning and unflinching determination. How else can you explain his strength in the polls given this economy?" Henderson said he regrets having characterized Bush's handling of the war as "incompetent," now that he knows the president's mind was simply otherwise occupied.

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Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Why Kerry will lose, part 1

In the interest of space, and so as not to hog up the whole blog, I’ve divided this into three parts. Sorry it’s so long, but I just got to rambling and, well, here it is…

A teaser: Why will Kerry lose? Two words: Karl Rove. But more on that in part 3…

Now, here’s the thing. I have been saying for months that Kerry will lose and nobody believes me. It’s not that I want him to lose, I just think that this is one of the worst run campaigns—with a bad candidate—that I have seen in a long time. The president faces so many potential problems and has so many things going against him, and yet Kerry can’t make any head way. That tells me Bush is gonna win. Let’s examine just a couple of points…

First, Bush evaded the draft with some deft maneuvering. Or we could call it that, if everybody on the planet didn’t know he did it. His VP got out on student deferment, no qualms there. But somehow, Kerry can’t make any headway with his three purple hearts, bronze and silver stars. He volunteered for combat, went, got awards, and he is seen as fighting an uphill battle as to whether he can “win” the "who’s tougher" debate. Or the "who’s got the ability to lead the military" debate. Or the "who’s ever fulfilled their military duty" debate.

Second, the economy has lost 1.8 million overall jobs. Or so the numbers roughly tell us. Unemployment is higher than it was four years ago and people aren’t that happy with the state of the economy. And yet, the president doesn’t seem to be doing too poorly because of this. I am the first to say that jobs will be issue number one come November…but this president is winning on that issue? Where is Kerry? Why can’t he make any headway? Polls tell us that Democrats are the preferred party to deal with this issue. Hello? Any Democrats out there want to run on this issue? And with the announcement of jobs added in August, Bush will finally have a somewhat positive note to run on.

Third, Bush’s approval ratings are bad. In every category, except war on a noun, he has negative approval ratings. His overall ratings are negative. He is seen as a nice guy who will marginally do a good job on terrorism. That’s it. And that, and a bag of peanuts, will get you what? People don’t even like his job on Iraq. And yet, he’s at least even, or ahead, of Kerry? Two months ago, people were saying they hadn’t seen numbers this bad on a sitting president since, well, ever. And yet, he ain’t out of it yet.

Fourth, the war in Iraq. Let’s see, how many blunders can I find? How about, a billion? Can Kerry find ONE that he can either enunciate clearly or make stick? No. How about no imminent threat? How about no WMD? How about containment works? How about Hussein wouldn’t give terrorists WMD because terrorists would use them on Hussein? How about the fact that deterrence worked in the First Gulf War, under George HW Bush, and would work now? How about because there aren’t connections to terrorists? How about the fact that there are bigger threats out there? Do I need to continue? I could…and yet Kerry can’t choose one of these and have a go? [He just did, and it’s a loser…he has now insulted our “coalition”…what an idiot, you don’t insult what you have, you deride the president for alienating our traditional allies]

We’ll end it there, I’ll pick up where I left off tomorrow…

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Iraq and 9/11 and Horse Race update

Iraq and 9/11:

Bush is out giving his stump speeches now making no distinction at all between Iraq and the War on Terror. This is smart politics but it is laughably untrue.

With the exception of Fox News viewers, most people know that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the attacks on 9/11. The problem is that Fox News has high ratings as it attracts many viewers with its flashy style and sensationalist approach.

Also, today is the landmark day in which 1000 Americans have been killed in Iraq. At this rate, if Bush is reelected, more Americans will have died in Iraq than died in the 9/11 attacks by the time Bush is in his second year of his second term. What is more, the war in Iraq has already cost more than the 9/11 attacks. I'm not trying to equate the two events on moral terms or anything looney like that. I'm just trying to underscore the costs of the two events because Bush points to the 9/11 attacks as the cause of economic problems but never says the war in Iraq causes such problems.

Horse Race Update:
Finally, Zogby has just released a series of state polls taken after the RNC (reported in the electoral vote calculator link on the sidebar). With these updates Kerry hangs on to a 42 electoral vote lead over Bush (264 to 222). While Bush currently leads in Ohio, 4 other states that voted for Bush in 2000 are exactly tied (Florida, Missouri, Colorado [pre RNC Rasmussen poll], Nevada). If Kerry wins either Florida, Missouri or Colorado he wins the election. If Kerry wins Nevada, he would need to win one more Bush state (the most likely being Arkansas which is a 2 point race right now). Also, Zogby's website has a press release that says the conventions appear to have had little to no effect on the state by state results.

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Monday, September 06, 2004

News Items Not To Be Overlooked!

Hi Everyone,

Here are some more news items that everyone should look into. These stories will probably get under reported or their significance will be ignored entirely. Republicans always say there is a liberal bias. At times, I've complained that there is a conservative bias (especially from Fox but also from MSNBC). But what there really is a sensationalist bias (except with Fox, those guys are ideologues). Because of that some of these stories will get ignored or under played.

Item 1: CNN is reporting that a book by former Senator Bob Graham (D-Fla) is saying that a year before the U.S. invaded Iraq, General Tommy Franks told him in a meeting at Franks' HQ in Florida (Graham was chairman of the Senate Intelligence committee at the time) that he was losing resources in Afghanistan because of a planned invasion of Iraq. Franks favored using those resources to finish in Afghanistan and then attack Somalia (which has a large Al Qaida presence and no functioning government) while avoiding Iraq where Franks felt intelligence was inadequate. A few days after Franks met with Graham, President Bush assured German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder that the United States "harbors no attack plans." Is it any wonder the German Chancellor seems to have taken the U.S. Iraq policy as a personal betrayal. Bush flat out lied to the Chancellor of one of our closest allies in Europe. Unlike France, Germany has long been one of the most pro-US governments in Europe. Not any more.

Graham also says that the 28 pages of deleted text in the Senate's 9/11 report dealt with financial ties between Saudi government officials and 9/11 hijackers. The pages were deleted at the request of the White House. You may remember also that at that time the Saudi government was running full page ads in major newspapers and TV ads in major markets claiming they were a misunderstood but loyal ally.

Item 2: CNN is also reporting more problems with President Bush's Texas Air National Guard Records. Air National Guard regulations of that time required commanders to issue an investigative report when someone under their command missed a scheduled medical exam. No such report was included in Bush's file. The regulations also required that anyone who missed as many months of drills as Bush did (five months) should undergo counseling. No report of such counseling is included in Bush's file. Air National Guard commanders of that time excuse the missing files by saying "Not everyone in the Guard wanted to be chief of staff of the Air Force back then."

Item 3: The pundits were right. The conventional predictions of the pundits that Bush would get only a modest bounce of two to four points has been shown to be correct. A CNN/Gallup poll (which has shown consistently more support for Bush than most independent polls) shows that Bush got a minimal 2 point bounce from the RNC. This is a HUGE difference from the sensationalist stories over the weekend of a 10 point bounce based on Time and Newsweek polls (which have since been discredited).

Item 4: Remember South Asia? India and Pakistan are still peacefully negotiating with each other. I guess their version of the Cuban Missile Crisis has scared them into sanity! This is good news and should be cause for a global mood of cautious optimism.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan, independent election monitors are sounding the alarm that the upcoming Presidential elections there could be a disaster of mismanagement, intimidation and violence.

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"Economically Republican"

Have you ever talked to a social moderate who's a Republican and asked why? You probably received the answer "I'm economically Republican." (I have heard an inordinate number of gays say this) I thought I'd break down what this means; the answer is not easy anymore.

Back in the day, it was clear what Democrats and Republicans wanted to do economically. I probably don't need to remind you, but Democrats were generally known as "tax and spend", wanting a big government but raising taxes to offset the costs. Republicans, on the other hand, were the "small government" party -- cutting taxes but also relegating power to the states to cut costs for the federal government.

Now what? Well, Bush has developed into a "borrow and spend" president, cutting taxes while spending enormous amounts of money he doesn't have. We know what Nobel laureates in Economics think about this: "[Bush has] embarked on a reckless and extreme course that endangers the long-term economic health of our nation." Kerry, on the other hand, has promised to cut taxes for most Americans while raising taxes on the rich to offset the deficit -- he has even pronounced it: "I'm a fiscal conservative."

So we have a social reactionary with a policy of fiscal nonsense versus a social moderate-to-liberal who's fiscally moderate-to-conservative. Where does this leave these so-called "economically Republicans"? One of them, Andrew Sullivan (his site is highly recommended) puts it this way:

"... Conservatism as we have known it is now over. People like me who became conservatives because of the appeal of smaller government and more domestic freedom are now marginalized in a big-government party, bent on using the power of the state to direct people's lives, give them meaning and protect them from all dangers. Just remember all that Bush promised [at the RNC]: an astonishingly expensive bid to spend much more money to help people in ways that conservatives once abjured. He pledged to provide record levels of education funding, colleges and healthcare centers in poor towns, more Pell grants, seven million more affordable homes, expensive new HSAs, and a phenomenally expensive bid to reform the social security system. I look forward to someone adding it all up, but it's easily in the trillions. And Bush's astonishing achievement is to make the case for all this new spending, at a time of chronic debt (created in large part by his profligate party), while pegging his opponent as the "tax-and-spend" candidate. The chutzpah is amazing. At this point, however, it isn't just chutzpah. It's deception. To propose all this knowing full well that we cannot even begin to afford it is irresponsible in the deepest degree. I've said it before and I'll say it again: the only difference between Republicans and Democrats now is that the Bush Republicans believe in Big Insolvent Government and the Kerry Democrats believe in Big Solvent Government. By any measure, that makes Kerry - especially as he has endorsed the critical pay-as-you-go rule on domestic spending - easily the choice for fiscal conservatives. It was also jaw-dropping to hear this president speak about tax reform. Bush? He has done more to lard up the tax code with special breaks and new loopholes than any recent president. On this issue - on which I couldn't agree more - I have to say I don't believe him. Tax reform goes against the grain of everything this president has done so far. Why would he change now?"

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Sunday, September 05, 2004

Winning the War on Terrorism With Free Trade

Hi Again,

Bush and the Republicans want us to believe that there is no alternative to their approach to the war on terror. Their approach is to wage a series of wars designed to overthrow the target regimes and intimidate others. But this assumes that the critical ingredient to global terrorism is support for terrorists by "rogue states." However, there is a lot of reason to believe that Al Qaida represents a radically different kind of terrorism.

In the 1980s terrorists like Abu Nidal and Carlos the Jackal opperated with the backing of various national governments in the Middle East without a really firm commitment to a particular state's cause or ideology (there are even rumors that Abu Nidal assassinated some PLO leaders for Israel). The groups run by these men were something of a cross between mercenaries, gangsters, and spies. They hired themselves out to states to execute missions on behalf of those states but with enough separation for those states to deny any connection. When these guys became a liability to the states that hired them - or made too many enemies by playing both ends against the middle - they were often assassinated (as Abu Nidal was in Iraq) or arrested.

But Al Qaida is different. Al Qaida seems to operate without much state support. It chooses targets on its own without input from states and without coordinating with any governments' foreign policy. Yes, Al Qaida did benefit from its association with the Taliban in Afghanistan but calling the Taliban a "government" in the traditional sense is being rather generous. Also, the fact that an Al Qaida cell is operating in a country doesn't necessarily mean that country backs Al Qaida. Al Qaida can function effectively so long as its leaders can avoid being arrested and many countries in the world have remote areas where police authority is tenuous at best.

So what does this mean? It means there is not a military solution to the "War on Terror." This is a political problem. We will win when groups like Al Qaida are as marginalized in the slums of Pakistan, Indonesia and Egypt as they are in the cities of the developed world. How do we achieve that?

I think that ultimately the best thing we could do to weaken terrorism is improve the trade flows in the developing world. The most important thing we can do in that direction is stop the pernicious and wasteful subsidies of Big Agriculture in the developed world. By allowing the rural poor in the 3rd world to benefit from a trade relationship with the West, we will build prosperity there which will encourage better local government which makes it harder for terrorists to hide and harder for terrorists to convince people that the West is their enemy (because we'll be their biggest market).

Comments?

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Latest Polls

Hi Everyone,

The post-RNC polls are coming out and they show some interesting things not only about how voters are thinking about the election but about how the press is reporting it.

First a summary of the polls:
Time poll has Bush leading 53 to 43 (previous Time poll had Bush leading Bush and Kerry tied at 46)
Newsweek has Bush leading 54 to 43 (Previous Newsweek poll not available on summary chart on pollingreport.com)
Zogby has Bush leading 46 to 44 (Previous Zogby poll not available on summary chart on pollingreport.com)
American Research Group has Kerry leading 46 to 45 (Previous ARG poll had Kerry leading 49 to 45).
The post RNC state by state polls (the only ones that really matter) haven't started coming out yet. It could very well be the case that the bounce in the national polls is due to increased support in states already solidly behind Bush.

Zogby's summary report of the post RNC "bounce" is that undecideds who had been leaning towards Kerry were now firmly undecided again. Also some voters who had been supporting Kerry are now undecided. In past postings and comments I've said that I believe that negative ads have the effect of depressing turnout among undecided voters. This is because while it can convince people that the victim candidate is undesirable, it doesn't convince them to vote for the perpetrator. Zogby's analysis presents a similar view of the most recent polls. This means that it is now up to Kerry to restate his case for his candidacy while at the same time decoupling undecided from Bush by attacking Bush. This is the point in the campaign where Dukakis failed miserably. Early indications are that Kerry's campaign is at least not going to do what Dukakis did (i.e. nothing).

The press is reporting mainly the Time and Newsweek polls which are probably outliers but fits better with screaming head formating on the talk shows. Zogby and ARG have been more consistently in the middle of the varied poll results but their less dramatic numbers are not getting air time. This means that what might be a modest 4 point bounce for Bush is being reported like a 10 point bounce.

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Friday, September 03, 2004

Not A Slow News Day!

Hi Everyone,

This is anything but a slow news day. Here are some brief comments to spark discussion about some of the stories.

Item 1: What did the Russians do to deserve the 1000 years of really rotten karma that they have endured? I mean damn! Russian history makes Irish history look like a Disney production. Now they've had this hostage situation in a school in the impoverished North Ossetia region. Russian commandos stormed the school and early reports say that not only did some of the terrorists escape but many of the children were killed in the crossfire. Pictures of the scenes are frightening. Not just because of images of naked and bloody children being taken away from the battle but because so many of the children show obvious signs of malnutrition. I saw at least one kid that looked like (s)he had suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome.

Item 2: A third hurricane in a month is about to hit South and Central Florida. 'Nuff said.

Item 3: American Research Group released a national poll taken just before the RNC started. It showed Kerry with a 1 point lead over Bush with Nader at 3% and 6% undecided nationally. Kerry has a 5 point lead among independents.

Item 4: "Give 'Em Hell Kerry." Kerry is coming out swinging after enduring days of personal attacks from RNC speakers. In a midnight speech at Springfield, Ohio (in the heart of the Republican part of the state, the "I-75 corridor"), Kerry defended his own character while slamming Cheney and Bush. Some highlights from the CNN story linked at "Item 4" are:

"For the past week, they attacked my patriotism and my fitness to serve as commander-in-chief. ...Well, here's my answer: I'm not going to have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have and by those who have misled the nation into Iraq."
In response to charges by Zell Miller and Dick Cheney that Kerry was "unfit" to be Commander-in-Chief, Kerry said, "Misleading our nation into war in Iraq makes you unfit to lead this nation. Doing nothing while this nation loses millions of jobs makes you unfit to lead this nation. Letting 45 million Americans go without health care makes you unfit to lead this nation. Letting the Saudi royal family control our energy costs makes you unfit to lead this nation. Handing out billions of government contracts to Halliburton while you're still on their payroll makes you unfit. That's the record of George Bush and Dick Cheney, and it's not going to change."

Kerry has crossed the Rubicon with this speech. He's publicly and loudly declared the President to be unfit to continue in office. I think he's right and for a lot of the reasons (and more) that he mentioned. But it's not something he can take back. It's what political scientists call a "Costly Signal." What's more he made the speech in a Republican area of a swing state.

Item 5: Conan's a little light on historical accuracy. In his speech at the RNC, Arnold Schwarzenegger said that he had seen Soviet tanks as a child in Austria and that when he left Austria he was leaving a "socialist" government. Both statements cannot possibly be true. First, Schwarzenegger grew up in the British Zone of occupation in Austria and so must have mistaken our loyal British allies for the Evil Empire - oops. Second, Schwarzenegger left Austria in 1968. At that time Austria was governed by the Christian Democratic "Austrian Peoples Party" (OVP). Eh, Christian conservatives - socialists perhaps he couldn't tell the difference. What's more the dominant characteristic of Austrian governments for a very long time was a "grand coalition" of Social Democrats and the aforementioned OVP. Hardly evidence of a Soviet style Austrian government or even "Finlandization" of Austria.

Comments?

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Thursday, September 02, 2004

Endgame and Engagement

The Axis of Evil has been spinning. Analysts believe that North Korea has nuclear weapons. We are withdrawing troops from S. Korea, a signal that we are giving up on that issue entirely. Now Iran has announced a uranium enrichment program that will turn fuel uranium into weapons-grade material. By using bluster, threats of force, and isolating the United States, GWB's foreign policy has produced the greatest threats to American security in decades - nukes in the hands of our worst enemies

The Iranians have no incentive not to build the weapons -- GWB has made it plain that the accusations about WMD, even if they are totally false, are just an excuse for attacking any country on his s**tlist. So, in such an atmosphere, knowing that there is nothing that Iran (like Iraq before it) can do to win the good graces of the USA, development of nuclear weapons is the most rational move. Moreover, Iran now has what it did not have in 2002-- a window of opportunity. Why? US forces are tied down in Iraq and overextended everywhere.

How sad that in the late 1990s, we ended animosity with Vietnam and were negotiating with North Korea. We should not forget that in 2000, North and South Korea entered the Olympics under the same flag, and unification seemed imminent? Also, under Albright's leadership, we had relaxed sanctions, allowing import of pistachios and other products, from Iran. Had these policies been pursued, we would be in a very different world today. Engagement, not containment. As it is, the policy of engagement is only followed (after GWB's saber-rattling of 2001) with China. America needs new leadership whose vision of security is rooted in the realities of the 21st century, not the miltarism of the 19th.

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Thoughts on RepCon, part 1

The speakers, until Wed., were boring. The delegates were bored. They clearly looked like a bunch of people who realized they were on a sinking ship and there was nothing they could do about it.

And with good reason. McCain gave an awful speech. Much as Kerry before him, McCain, who has been in politics most of my lifetime, clearly showed he has no personality and no idea of how to give a rousing speech. Amazing to me, but both he and Kerry are either in such safe districts (or states) that they don’t need to appeal to anyone, or they pay off a lot of people. They share the same infuriating lack of knowledge as to how to have an effective pause, how to build up a crowd with your voice, how to suck the crowd in for more, hanging on your every word. The material wasn’t so bad, but the delivery could put a mule to sleep.

And then a funny thing happened on Wed. night. The speakers got mean and nasty. I don’t mean made for TV mean, I mean Zell Miller looked like he could chew barbed wire and drink napalm. He was the southern preacher with a thick hickory stick walking into the house of ill-repute ready to bust open some heads for the Good Lord Above. He didn’t smile. He didn’t look happy. And, when it was done, he showed how serious he was by going on Hardball and challenging Matthews to a duel. An honest to goodness duel. And he looked and sounded like he meant it. I agree with RbR...he's gone nuts.

Now, I didn’t see all of Cheney’s speech…unlimited pasta bowls at the Olive Garden were calling…but it was much of the same. When are the rumors of Botox going to start…he had no change from his usual, grumpy sour-puss expressions.

But this did a funny thing—it energized the crowd. And the reason, I think, is exactly what Chris Suellentrop says in today’s Slate says: Republicans hate Kerry more than they like Bush. Which is funny, because that’s what Democrats say…well, in reverse, of course. And it certainly looked to be the case. Cheney mounted the worst defense of tax cuts and the war in Iraq last night, yet the crowd was all over him for his anti-Kerry remarks. Same with Zell Miller. Bashing the Chin gave them a reason to be there.

So this convention has quickly turned (for one night only?) into a get out the haters…and while we can debate whether that will get the Republicans any more votes, it is also the same strategy the Democrats are using. Well, that would be if they had a strategy…

Next on the agenda—the Kerry campaign is quickly heading downhill. As Jon Lovitz as Mike Dukakis said on SNL, “I can’t believe [he’s] losing to this guy.”

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Welcome, fellow earthlings!

Good morning, I'm Professor Werner von Brawn. The other political scientist. Long time lurker, first time poster. In the absence of fair and balanced reporting, I offer you more of the same unfair and imbalanced reporting. Except, of course, it's from my own little corner of reality. So it may seem rather odd at times. A little Homeresque in 3-D land, if you will…

For starters, a little about me. Oh, heck, what do you care, I'm named after a pro wrestler from…well, that would be giving away the whole enchilada this morning. I enjoy NASCAR, Jeff Foxworthy, and pork rinds. Or, if you are more of the Volvo driving, Mother Jones reading, sprouts eating crowd, I can do that to. I am all things to all people. Mainly, I like playing Devil's Advocate to those with warped vision. My mom just thinks I'm a cynic.

Some quick talking points to get us started:

Within a year…

McCain will come to his senses and remember why he doesn't like the Bush camp-and won't be offered the Sec. Def. job.

On election day, voters will say their number one concern is jobs, not Iraq.

In the event of a second Bush administration, both Powell AND Rummy will be gone.

If elected president, Kerry will not withdraw troops from Iraq and will, in hindsight, look to be a GHW Bush realist.

Kerry won't be elected.

And I still won't have a job as either the head football coach for a Gritty Little Team in the PAC-10 or a top Democratic Campaign Strategist. Although believe me, one is infinitely preferable to the other and they could both use my excellent services…

Stick around, I'm sure I'll get interesting one of these days…

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More on Zell Miller's Raging Attacks

OK,

MSNBC has the transcript of the interview posted now. You can see it on the Hardball page.

In the last posting I pretty much just made fun of Zell Miller (geez the guy challenged a man to a duel on national TV). But here is a brief discussion of one or two of the criticisms he made of John Kerry.

In the speech and the interview, Zell Miller argued that Kerry was weakening the national defense by voting against a range of defense programs. Among those listed were SDI (aka "Star Wars"), the B-1 bomber, the B-2 bomber, the F-14, and the Harrier. Here is some relevant info on those weapons programs.

SDI: This is a program that has never met the expectations of even its biggest supporters. It has costs billions and tests have been mixed at best and usually have been embarrassing failures. What is more, even if it did become fully functional, it would do nothing to defend America against terrorists using a nuclear or "dirty" bomb. It would only be able to defend the US against missile attack from another nation-state. But such threats have always been successfully deterred by our own massive capability to retaliate.

B-1 bomber: This is a plane based on 1960s/1970s technology. It was originally conceived of as a replacement for the venerable B-52 which is based on 1950s technology. The B-52 is still in service, mainly as a platform for air-launched cruise missiles. The B-1 saw some service in Afghanistan and in the invasion of Iraq. However, it too is obsolete now. It has no stealth capability for example. Its main advantage now seems to be that they are newer than the B-52s and yet old enough that the Air Force is willing to risk them in dangerous missions on which they would never risk a B-2.

B-2 bomber: This is the famous "Stealth Bomber" with the distinctive flying wing shape. While not obsolete technologically, its potential combat role may be redundant. The technology is so secret that these planes are based safely in the United States and use their enormous flight range to reach targets around the world. Its most effective weapon is the GPS/satellite guided JDM bomb which can be launched dozens of miles from the target - thus limiting risk to the plane and crew. But as GPS technology is applied to cruise missiles, the usefulness of a bomber that takes as much as 24 hours in the air to reach its target may be called into question by even the most dedicated "hawks."

F-14: The famous "Top Gun" plane that Tom Cruise flew around in. It too is obsolete. Its based on 1960s technology and its role has been completely taken over by the much newer and more flexible F/A-18 Hornet which themselves are well into major upgrade. F-14s are being converted to ground attack aircraft much as the equally old F-15 has been. Do we really need more F-14s?

The Harrier: The British built Harrier is the vertical take off capable (VTOL) plane the British used - out of desperate necessity - in the Falklands war. Its based on 1960's and 1970's technology. The vertical lift offs look cool on CNN but the fact is these planes are very slow and vulnerable while lacking both the armor and the weapons load of the A-10 which has similar ground attack role. While the Harrier was effective against the Argentinean Airforce this plane is now long since become obsolete. In the first Iraq war Harriers had a frightening casualty rate brought about by their extremely visible heat signatures. The VTOL capability is useful but has been incorporated into the new Joint Strike Fighter which is currently in the final stages of development. The JSF incorporates stealthy technology as well as higher speed into a VTOL aircraft.

By the way, the JSF will spark another controversy in the future. It will likely make the F-117 "Stealth Fighter" (which is really a ground attack bomber) obsolete. I imagine in four or eight years, the Republicans will be hollering about Democrats who voted to cancel the F-117.

To sum up: Why is Zell Miller upset about voting against these programs? Each could be argued to be nothing less than military pork barrels. In the case of the Harrier, the pork isn't even going to American companies! At least Northrop-Grumman provides some jobs for building the B-2 and F-14.

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Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Zell Miller Has Gone Nuts!

In the movie MASH, there is a scene where Hawkeye (played by Donald Sutherland) provokes Frank Burns (played by Robert Duvall) into attacking him by repeatedly asking Burns details about Margaret's sexual technique. Burns eventually leaps over the table and violently attacks Hawkeye. Hawkeye is on the ground being beaten and not resisting. Instead he is screaming, "Frank Burns has gone nuts!" The very next scene is Burns in a straight jacket being driven off to who knows where.

OK, I told you that story so I could tell you this one...

I was channel flipping tonight in a vain attempt at escapism after a long day of writing about politics. Nevertheless, I did manage to catch a remote interview between Chris Matthews and Zell Miller on MSNBC. Matthews kept asking Miller if he really believed the stuff he said about Kerry. "Do you really believe that John Kerry and Ted Kennedy don't want to defend this country?" or "Do you really think John Kerry and Ted Kennedy want to defend this country with spit balls?" or "Did the MX missile or the Harrier have any military impact in Afghanistan or Iraq?" or "Haven't you ever voted against a large package bill when you would have gladly voted for a smaller bill?" Rather than answer Matthews, Miller would go off on these bizarre tangents. At one point, he actually said, "I wish we lived in the day when I could challenge you to a duel!" Most of the interview, Matthews had to struggle to complete his questions because Miller kept interrupting him demanding that Matthews "Git outta my face! I wish I was over thar wichu so I could git in yor face!" At first I thought Chris Matthews was trying to interview Cotton Hill from "King of the Hill." Then I realized the simple truth....Zell Miller has gone nuts!!!!!

If you can log onto MSNBC and find a transcript of the interview do it! It just happened so its probably not up there just yet. I was in stitches half the time. Matthews was doing everything he could to keep from laughing at Zell Miller on national TV. Matthews kept giving winks to the people off camera whenever Miller would interrupt him. When Miller challenged him to a duel, Matthews nearly burst out laughing. Too bad the thing was on cable instead of NBC network news.


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