Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Its the Middle Class Stupid

It was apparent looking at the national exit polling after the 2004 disaster that there was something to be said of the role of economics in the election. There was a clear correlation between support for Bush and family income which had most middle class voters supporting Bush. One could argue that the bigger the tax cut the stronger the support for Bush, and that this dynamic made the difference in the election much more than the culture wars or national security. The argument is there, up front in the exit polling, and that is precisely the argument that Anne Kim, Adam Solomon, and Jim Kessler make in the Democratic Strategist.
At Third Way, we not only believe the what's-the-matter-with-Kansas analysis is wrong, but that it represents a dangerous red herring for Democrats. In a report we co-authored called The Politics of Opportunity, we isolated five areas of disconnect between how Democrats talk about the middle class and view the economy and how the middle class view their own economic situation and that of America.

Disconnect one is optimism versus pessimism. Whether it's the "people versus the powerful" Al Gore's convention speech or John Kerry's "Benedict Arnold companies" where American workers see their factories "unbolted, crated up, and shipped thousands of miles away," the Democratic economic message is pervasively pessimistic. Democrats see the American Dream fading, the middle class being squeezed, jobs disappearing, schools crumbling, and wages stagnating.

That is not the way middle-class Americans view their own lives. Days after 9/11, 80% of Americans expressed optimism about the year ahead. Two months after gas hit $3 per gallon, 73% said they were optimistic about their family's finances. In 2004, 78% said they were doing "fairly well" financially. And only 22% believe they will not "earn enough money in the future to lead the kind of life [they] want."
Disconnect two is economic decline versus economic strength. Democrats have become the "falling behind" party. America is falling behind China and India in innovation. Our kids are falling behind in math and science. Our middle class is shrinking. And by the year 2062 our GDP will be half the size of Burma's.

Fortunately for America, and unfortunately for Burma, this does not reflect economic reality. Most economists who advise investors seeking to earn money (rather than those who advise politicians seeking to win votes) are confident in America's future. Most see America winning the competition against India and China, just as we did over Japan in the 1980s and Germany in the 1970s. They know that our economy boasts strengths unmatched by other nations, including flexibility, resiliency, strong capital markets, financial and political transparency, legal protections for intellectual property and an unparalleled university system.

It is true that our national prosperity is threatened by the Bush policies of high debt, tax giveaways to the most affluent, a theocratic faith that corporate America will solve our health care and energy crises, and the growing income inequality found in our country. Yet even with six years of wrong choices behind us, the bursting of the tech bubble, the attacks of 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and sky-high oil prices - America's vital economic signs are fundamentally robust.

Disconnect three is economic security versus individual opportunity. Democrats rarely talk about individual aspirations of greatness or success; they mostly talk about people's economic status or about their economic fears.

As Americans have grown more affluent -- and with a few blips along the way, American households have steadily grown more affluent over the past 60 years -- they have come to care less about economic security and more about economic opportunity. In the past, individuals were far more likely to aspire to a job that offered modest pay but high security. Today they would rather choose a potentially higher paying but riskier job.

Economic security should be addressed, but equal time should be given to the yearning most Americans have to get ahead.
Disconnect four is ideas. Most signature Democratic ideas do not benefit middle class people; they benefit those who aspire to the middle class. The typical Pell Grant recipient earns less than $20,000. The minimum wage impacts less than 2% of working Americans. The earned income tax credit phases out to a pittance for families over $25,000. Head Start, food stamps, and WIC are for the poor, poorer, and poorest of society. The middle class believes in these programs, but they are wondering when someone will pay attention to them.
Disconnect five is an unconvincing economic critique of conservatives. Folks, if bashing rich people, the oil industry, and the drug companies were an effective political strategy, jets would be landing at Michael Dukakis National Airport in Washington.

An effective economic critique should tell a story. The conservative story about Democrats is that they believe the government does a better job of spending your money than you do. Every conservative economic argument against the left derives from this statement. Democrats need a story of their own.

In a conversation this weekend a friend argued that John Edwards was unelectable because by talking about "two Americas" and ending poverty he gave the middle class nothing to vote for. The thing is that Edwards, more than anybody else creates the story that is discussed here in the article. The author's here move on to prescribe a number of initiatives that the Democrats should be pushing, I would add universal health care to their list, but it fits well within the same argument.

The answer to the critique that Edwards is only really appealing to a group of people who don't vote and needs to be talking middle class is to respond with social contract. This is the idea that must be pushed by Democrats, that we are all tied together and that we have collective political obligations to one another. We have collective interests that must be defended, and part of that is dealing a blow to poverty in America, but another part of that is to defend middle class interests as the author's suggest. John Edwards' response should be that we are all in this fight together when someone accuses him of only defending the poor. And that is precisely what he's doing, from Edwards' One America Committee:
This is not about pumping money into a broken government program. It's about finding ways to help everyone who works hard and makes responsible choices get ahead. It's about creating a new kind of social contract that I call the "Working Society."

Edwards is not the only one catching this boat, in fact it seems to be a boat that many are rushing to catch after Michael Tomasky argued in the American Prospect that Democrats must return to their social contract roots, Howard Dean has picked up on the idea too.
America's busted social contract is already being discussed on the presidential campaign trail, most notably by Howard Dean, who gave a major policy speech on December 18 on this theme. But Dean barely mentioned the word "values" as he outlined his New Social Contract.

What the author's at the Democratic Strategist call "disconnect five" is a very important part of the social contract campaign that the Democrats should be running as well. However, the author's miss the boat here by focusing so much on the narrow interest of "the middle class". It's Katrina stupid. Hurricane Katrina last year revealed something important about the Republican agenda. The Republican Party seems to believe that government is always evil, and that we owe no collective obligations to each other. This is the narrative that Katrina spelled out for Democrats to create for the Republican Party, and the failure of the Federal government to come to the aid of Americans in their darkest hour showed a Party that only wishes to govern for the sake of a few elite interests. That is the narrative that Democrats are looking for to frame Republicans with. They hate government and only use it cynically to help their friends, we will use it to help the middle class and poor Americans to govern for the collective of America instead of just the elite few.

At this point that framing of the Republicans will be difficult to do because of the way that the concept of guilt has been laid out in relation to the Katrina disaster. That narrative that has emerged is that "everyone screwed up, everyone is guilty." But to channel Hannah Arendt here, "where all are guilty no one is." And to place blame everywhere takes it away from where it really belongs, the Bush Administration. Who had the resources to manage this disaster? The federal government, did they? No. Did the State of Louisianna have the resources? No, they had some, but not nearly the resources the Federal Government had. Did the city itself? Absolutely not. I'm not a Ray Nagin fan, but he had no ability to do anything.

So yes, the Democrats need to respond to their growing problems with white middle class voters, but the answer lies in emphasizing social contract and the Republican's violation of that fundamental idea. The author's miss that point but make a strong case that Democrats should be paying far more attention to the middle class.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

US Poverty Rate Holds Flat

The US Census released its annual poverty report, and amazingly, the poverty rate did not increase last year. In fact it dropped slightly, but the decrease was not statistically significant. This is the first time the poverty rate has not increased during the Bush Administration, though the President still seems to be effectively countering John F Kennedy's famous argument that "a rising tide lifts all boats."
With the poverty rate steady but median household income rising, ''that could represent an increase in inequality'' between the wealthy and the poor, said David Johnson, chief of the Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division of the Census Bureau.

Furthermore, more evidence emerged in this study that drastic changes to US health care policy are needed.
However, the number of people without health insurance increased to 46.6 million in 2005. About 45.3 million people were without insurance the year before.

So, better news than has been seen on this front for several years, but still not good news, the Bush Administration is still a phenomenal failure on income equality issues, and a major overhaul of the health insurance system is desperately needed. Elect Democrats to the House and Senate in November and maybe some of this can start to change.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Pew Poll on Politics and Religion

Pew released a poll recently regarding perceptions of the parties as they relate to religion. The results showed a decline in the Republican monopoly of being "friendly to religion," and a very low number of people believing that the Democratic Party was "friendly to religion." Those initial numbers, with the Republicans polling at 47% friendly to religion and Democrats at 26% I don't particularly find problematic, this surface question shows no indication that anyone who the Democrats have any hope of reaching anyway considers whether the party is "friendly to religion" a voting issue. If people consider the Democrats to be unfriendly towards religion and don't vote based on that it doesn't matter. However, there are parts of this study that do show the Democrats having a problem of perception.
Sixty-nine percent agreed that liberals had “gone too far in trying to keep religion out of schools and government”

This is a perception problem, and it is probably fueled by the Constitutional illiteracy of most of the American public. Democrats should not change their positions as far as school prayer, and other "religion in the public square" issues. In large part because the Democrats hold a position that is consistent with years and years of Supreme Court precedent, it appears to be the "right" interpretation of the establishment clause, and Democrats should stand behind that, but what needs to happen is that a way to frame these issues while still upholding the essential core constitutional principles needs to be used by Democrats in which people begin to understand why Democrats hold these kinds of positions. This is precisely the point Barack Obama was making when he was chastised by much of the liberal blogosphere back in June. The poll, also interestingly has bad news for Republicans on this question:
And 49 percent agreed that conservative Christians had “gone too far in trying to impose their religious values on the country,” also a three percentage point increase.

This means that there is a large block of respondents who just flatly don't know which way is up, responding merely to a raw perception without any knowledge of either the Democrats or Republicans views on these issues. Which again feeds into Obama's point that Democrats need to reframe the debate on these kinds of perception issues.

Above anything else, I think this poll demonstrated that the public is by and large ignorant of either Party's approach to these "religion in the public square" issues. Republicans seem to wish to impose Christianity on American society, a fundamentally un-American idea, and Democrats have failed to make this case. Too many Democrats try to hide in the shadows until these issues pass by, which concedes the entire debate to the Republicans who can frame Democrats any way they like. Democrats should be standing up and explaining their positions instead of just conceding this ground to the Republicans as so many seem to want to do. One of the lessons of the 2004 election was that when the Republican Party tells boldfaced lies it hurts much more than it helps to ignore the lies and hope they go away.

Segregated Survivor?

I will admit I don't watch Survivor anyway, and it has never been something that I've been inclined to watch, it strikes me as silly, pointless, and stupid. But now it seems to have crossed a line from bad TV to downright disturbing with the anouncement that in the upcoming season teams will be segregated by race. CBS has justified this by contending that they "wanted to get more minorities on the show", which is fine, but to suggest that the only way to do that is by segregating out contestants by race is to suggest that people of different races can never really coexist as friends and equals. Admittadly, Survivor was never a model of civic committment and collective effort to begin with, as it seems to mirror some Machiavellian view of the world in which all that matters is self interest rather than social good. Organizing survivor teams by race will send the message that we're better off sticking to our own kind, in fact some commentators have even admitted as much, suggesting that minorities always get ripped off in survivor and the new setup gives racial minorities something to root for. Americans have succeeded historically through collective action that transcends such irrellevent differences as race. When people have been divided, the oppressed have lacked the power to create any change, only when people with a common collective interest saw through such categories to work for a common good has America succeeded, the most notable of these was the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s which set the stage for the Great Society, one of the greatest expansions of workers rights in American history. When Americans have been pulled together collective interests have been expanded, when Americans have been pushed apart, those interests were ignored by the elite and powerful who pursued a narrow self interest. This is a dumb idea and sets the absolute wrong cultural message.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Oregonian Runs Outlandish Fluff Piece on Gordon Smith

The Oregonian runs a silly fluff piece about how "bipartison" and "middle of the road" Gordon Smith is, with a press corps like this its no wonder its hard to convince people of the fact that Gordon Smith is little different than any other Republican. There are even little pieces in the article that demonstrate that Smith is in fact very Conservative, but the author merely brushes over them ignoring the implication. The article seems to make the claim that because every once in a while Gordon Smith breaks ranks with the Republican Party, he is therefore a moderate. But the rarity of Smith breaking ranks pretty much decimates the argument that Smith is a moderate. Furthermore, the article uses contrasting votes to demonstrate this when they don't demonstrate moderation at all, but rather a bad sense of public policy.
Additionally, Smith has been an adamant defender of Medicaid. The Pendleton millionaire whose high-end pin-striped suits earned him the "best dressed" senator award in a survey of congressional aides in Washingtonian magazine has earned praise nationally as an advocate for the poor.

Last year, amid escalating war costs and a growing federal deficit, Republican congressional leaders and the Bush administration planned massive cuts to Medicaid. Smith balked, leading a fight to reduce the cuts in the health care program.

Health care advocate Ron Pollack calls Smith "the most significant legislator" guarding the Medicaid safety net.

"Senator Smith has become the leading, and most effective, member in the Senate protecting low-income children, seniors and families needing health care," Pollack, executive director of national advocacy group Families USA, says in an e-mail.

But Smith also has supported tax cuts that opponents say help mainly the wealthy. For Chuck Sheketoff, an advocate for low-income Oregonians, Smith's positions are difficult to reconcile.

"He on the one hand very truly wants to protect Medicaid," says Sheketoff, executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy. "I've sat in his office and talked with him. He's totally sincere about that. . . . On the other hand, it is unbelievably frustrating that he is so fiscally irresponsible when it comes to budget rules and budget process and taxes.

Supporting the tax cuts that put Medicaid in danger and then opposing cuts to medicaid is not moderate, it is just flatly stupid. Sheketoff is correct, that set of policy positions is not moderate, it is just fiscally irresponsible. If you're going to vote tax cuts for the insanely wealthy, sane public policy suggests that you should then support the spending cuts that go with it, otherwise you're just running up a massive deficit in order to give rich people a tax cut. Either way I think the policy is deplorable, but that demonstrates not moderation, but an attempt to have it both ways that simple cannot exist in good governance, Smith should either oppose the tax cuts or support the spending cuts that they cause.

The author goes on to claim that "the National Journal ranked Smith the most moderate member of the U.S. Senate [in 2005]." I can't find National Journal's rankings right now, but I'll take the claim at face value and disect it from there. The Republican Party has astounding Party loyalty, and the difference between the 10th most conservative Senator and the 50th most conservative Senator may not be very great. National Journal is not the only group that does in depth analysis of voting records. does this too. Progressive punch too finds Smith to be almost in the dead center of the body of the Senate ranking #52. But a closer look at the actual scores that Senator's recieve shows us that this is not a product of Gordon Smith being a moderate, but rather an astounding Party loyalty on the part of the Republicans. Progressive punch gives Smith a score of 14.8, meaning that Smith votes with the progressive wing of the Senate 14.8% of the time, or to put it the other way, he votes with the most conservative wing of the Senate 85.2% of the time. This is consistent with the author's own analysis of Smith's voting record, determing that:
Most Smith votes have toed the party line. Of about 200 votes this year that were not unanimous, Smith voted the same way as Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist 170 times.

170 of 200, that comes out to 85%, so the two approaches to analyzing Smith's voting record yielded nearly the exact same result. This separates Smith from the Senate's two most moderate members (proximity to a progressive score of 50) by 35, that same range which encompasses only 3 Republicans and 1 Democrat, can be equated to the +35 range over a progressive score of 50. While comparing Smith's voting record to Democrats with the inverse (Democrats who vote with the liberal wing 85% are the inverse of Republicans who vote with the conservative wing 85% as Smith does), we find that 20 Democrats fall within the same proximity to the middle point of the Senate as 3 Republicans So Joseph Biden of Delaware who ranks #25 in the Senate votes with the liberal wing the same amount of the time that Gordon Smith (who ranks 52 in the Senate) votes with the conservative wing. When one party has such astounding loyalty as the Republicans do, some members are made to appear far more moderate than they are, especially in studies like the National Journal's (I actually like National Journal in terms of methodology, they just don't show enough info) that don't show actual scoring only a comparison with the rest of the Senate.

In the most important cases, Smith has sided with the far right, he voted for the confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts, he voted for the confirmation of right wing ideologue, Anthony Scalia's mini-me, Samuel Alito, and the article points out a number of other votes he has cast with the far right fringe of America.
On several recent controversial issues, Smith voted with Republicans. For instance, he supported the constitutional amendment to prevent flag desecration. Smith says all rights -- including freedom of expression -- have limits.

"I promised our veterans I would vote for it," he says.

Smith, who campaigned in 2002 as an advocate of gay rights, also has supported a federal amendment to prohibit gay marriage.

Finally, I'll leave you with a nice gem quote at the end of the article showing Sen. Smith's general mindset demonstrating without a shadow of doubt that Smith is no moderate.
The senator quickly dismisses Democratic criticism of his votes.

"I've beaten them more than they've beaten me," he says. "The Democratic Party is not my constituency. These are people that believe in socialism. I don't."

That is a mindset that opposes any kind of pragmatism or compromise, it labels the opposition inaccurately in a way that sets them up as an ultimate evil to be opposed. If I were to adopt Mr. Smith's mindset I would call him a fascist to reciprocate, but I won't, because Smith's attitude does nothing for the country, and a reciprocation is just as bad as his initial remark.

Gordon Smith is not a moderate, he doesn't act like a moderate, he doesn't vote like a moderate. The Oregonian should stop running these kinds of fluff pieces that make incumbent Senator's nearly impossible to defeat. If the Oregonian is going to be fair they should run a feature on how moderate Ron Wyden is next week, after all, his progressive score is 88, only 3% more liberal than Smith is conservative. Smith can pretend to be a moderate all he wants, and he can run for reelection in 2008 that way if he wants, but he doesn't need any help from the press to spread his lie.

I'm slow

Sometimes you just get so mad about something that you can't even bring yourself to write about it. So, here are some thoughts on Bush's outrageous press conference on Monday in which he once again tied Iraq together with 9/11, then proceeded in the very next sentence to claim that he had never suggested a link.
...imagine a world in which Saddam Hussein was there, stirring up even more trouble in a part of the world that had so much resentment and so much hatred that people came and killed 3,000 of our citizens.

You know, I've heard this theory about everything was just fine until we arrived, and kind of "we're going to stir up the hornet's nest" theory. It just doesn't hold water, as far as I'm concerned. The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East.

The President was not even being subtle here in trying to equate Saddam Hussein's Iraq with the 9/11 attacks, and in response a reporter called him on it (a rare occassion).
Q What did Iraq have to do with that?

THE PRESIDENT: What did Iraq have to do with what?

Q The attack on the World Trade Center?

THE PRESIDENT: Nothing, except for it's part of -- and nobody has ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack. Iraq was a -- the lesson of September the 11th is, take threats before they fully materialize, Ken. Nobody has ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq. I have suggested, however, that resentment and the lack of hope create the breeding grounds for terrorists who are willing to use suiciders to kill to achieve an objective. I have made that case.

Oops, Mr. Bush got caught so he had to backtrack. Iraq was involved in 9/11 until someone catches Mr. Bush spreading that lie, then Iraq wasn't, but they were still a threat to us and still tied to Al-Qaeda, also a lie. Bush is trying to toe a fine line here where he wants to tie Iraq into the "terrorist threat" while still not being accused of lying to the public about connections between Iraq and 9/11, it can't be done for the obvious reason that Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Where the White Women At?

Every August we seem to have the return of "Where the White Women At?" The quest in the SCLM to locate our nation's missing white women. This week, the return of the JonBenet Ramsey story. Don't get me wrong, its a horrible story, someone killing a mere child as is suspected, but lets be real. This kind of stuff happens all the time. If JonBenet had not been a rich white girl, and had instead been a poor inner city black girl, none of us would ever have heard of her. The most attention the story would have recieved would have been a local newspaper story, it certainly never would have become a favorite of network television and a nationwide story. Instead it is a story that is universally well known by the American public. And why? Because the media loves a missing rich white girl, and JonBenet Ramsey fit that profile.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Apparently I'm Pro Terror

With the British arrests last week and the response to Lamont's upset over Joementum, it is clear that the Bush Admninistration and the Republican Party have officially kicked off their 2006 midterm election campaign. The message? The Democrats will help the terrorists win. Not only that, but the terrorists are "waiting for the Democrats here to take control, let things cool off and then strike again." Republicans have called Ned Lamont the "Al Qaeda candidate". It is clear that the Republicans hope to keep terrorism at the top of the public consciousness and once again falsely tie Iraq into it even though the claim that there was any relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda has been widely discredited. In one sense it's working. Terrorism has moved up 10 points in the last month in importance to the public.

This is a cynical attack, and a dishonest campaign strategy, but the American public fell for it in its more subtle forms in 2002 and 2004, hopefully now 5 years removed from 9/11 it won't play, and clearly the Republican Party feels the need to really lay it on, not even being subtle anymore. They are now directly tying the Democrats to terrorism and overtly suggesting that any opposition to the President on Iraq emboldens the terrorists. Clearly the public is less inclined to accept this than before, the Republicans saw no need to be quite this over the top in the past, hopefully the outright absurdity of the argument that the GOP is currently engaged in will shine through to the public so that this kind of fearmongering tactic will be soundly rejected in 2006.

Friday, August 18, 2006

New Quinnipiac Poll for Connecticut Senate

A new Qunnipiac University poll has been released showing Joe Lieberman leading Democrat Ned Lamont in the race for the Connecticut Senate. Lieberman, who decided to run as an independed after being rejected by Democratic primary voters has become the defacto Republican nominee, as Alan Schlesinger currently polls at only 4% Statewide, and Lieberman has an astounding 75% support amongst Republicans. Not only that, but as David Sirota points out, Lieberman has attacked other candidates necessary for the Democrats to gain control of the Senate, has been supported by President Bush and RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman, and has the glowing endorsements of Sean Hannity, Anne Coulter, and Michelle Malkin.

Furthermore, Lieberman has hired a Republican pollster and will share information with Republicans running for reelection as Governor as well as in the House of Representatives. Three House races in Connecticut could prove key to the Democrats winning back the House of Representatives, yet Lieberman will be sharing polling data with them as well as running his get out the vote operation with them. There can be little doubt now that Lieberman is for all practical purposes the GOP candidate, he is harming Democrats downticked and in other States, getting his base of support from Republicans, and doing as much as he can to prevent the Democrats from taking back one or both houses of Congress.

Webb Within Striking Distance of Allen

Allen's latest demonstration of his bigoted racist attitude appears to be giving a boost to the Webb campaign. A recent Survey USA poll has Allen taking a modest beating for the remark with 67% saying it was innapropriate, and a near 50/50 split saying the comment was racist. Furthermore, a majority thought Allen's pitiful apology was inadequate. Allen's approval rating in this poll has dropped from 51% to 47%. A new Rasmussen poll yet to be released allegedly has Webb only 5% behind Allen now. Since the poll hasn't even been released yet, I obviously don't have the internals, but the timing of the poll makes me think that Webb is probably picking up ground as an aftershock of Allen's "macaca" comment.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Federal District Judge Throws Out Warrantless Wiretapping

What a thought, that the Bush Administration might have to abide by the rule of law. I know that seems to be far beyond the comprehension of Administration insiders. Good to see this, the program was pretty blatantly illegal and the closest thing to a check on the executive lately has been Arlen Specter trying to pass a bill to make what they're already doing legal.
U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit became the first judge to strike down the National Security Agency's program, which she says violates the rights to free speech and privacy as well as the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution.

''Plaintiffs have prevailed, and the public interest is clear, in this matter. It is the upholding of our Constitution,'' Taylor wrote in her 43-page opinion.
''By holding that even the president is not above the law, the court has done its duty,'' said Ann Beeson, the ACLU's associate legal director and the lead attorney for the plaintiffs.

The NSA had no immediate comment on the ruling.

Taylor dismissed a separate claim by the ACLU over data-mining of phone records by the NSA. She said not enough had been publicly revealed about that program to support the claim and further litigation could jeopardize state secrets.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Line of the Day

From the DailyKos Cheers and Jeers Feature:
I can't believe I have to say this:


BELTWAY DEMOCRATS: Support your party's nominee in the Connecticut Senate race!

BELTWAY REPUBLICANS: Support your party's nominee in the Connecticut Senate race!


Or you get no cookies and nappy time. Sheesh.

Carter on a Roll

Jack Carter won the Democratic Primary today, but that's not why he's on a roll, since his primary victory was a given. Carter is on a roll because he's received a lot of attention in the past week. The New York Times ran a story on him yesterday, winning the primary has given Carter much media attention today, National Public Radio ran a story on Carter yesterday, and he appeared on Hardball with Chris Mathews today. This increased media attention is going to provide a big boost to Carter in name recognition that could put the Nevada race into serious contention. Carter has surged in recent polls, one poll conducted by Rasmussen has Carter only 7% down, others have a wider gap, but this race can definately be in play, and the increase in attention will only help Carter to catch Ensign. There are few people taking the Carter-Ensign race seriously, but this is a prime seat for the Democrats to pick up and could be the 51st seat needed for a majority.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

George Allen: Racist Southern Senator

Senator George Allen's comment the other day at a campaign rally calling a Webb volunteer who had been attending Allen's campaign stops with a video camera to document the happenings of the Allen campaign for the Webb campaign "macaca". This took some time to pick up steam partly because very few people, myself included had any understanding of the word "macaca". An excellent diary at DailyKos provides us with the answer, it is white power, racist code speak.
Yesterday, when the news broke that George Allen called someone at a campaign stop a 'macaca,' I did some Google searches to find out what it meant.  As it turns out, the question is not if 'macaca' is a racist term, but which of the three definitions of the word 'macaca' did George Allen intend when he used it?

Here are the three choices:

1. 'Macaca' - French : racist slang; similar to English 'nigger,' used to describe Arabs.

2. 'Macaca' - English : racist slang; similar to 'nigger' used to describe Arabs.

3. 'Macaca' - English : racist slang; used by American white supremacists in 'insider' talk about African-Americans.

The volunteer, S.R. Sidarth, is of Indian descent, so the racist nature of the word is clearly applicable. The Allen campaign has insisted that Allen intended to say "mohawk" because that is what the campaign referred to the volunteer as based on his hair style. Atrios found a picture of Mr. Sidarth, and he clearly does not have a mohawk.

To top things off, in a terrible article by the New York Times completely missing the racist nature of Allen's remark, the following came out from Larry Sabato, Political Science Professor at the University of Virginia.
Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said today that Mr. Allen was strong enough in Virginia that the verbal gaffe would probably not keep him from being elected to a second term in the Senate.

But should Mr. Allen run for president, the word “macaca” will hurt him, “not only because it is offensive on its face but also because it fits into a long pattern of insensitivity by Allen on racial and ethnic matters,” Mr. Sabato said.

The article goes on to explain that Allen and Sabato went to school together and both served in student government. Allen isn't the only racist Republican Senator running for reelection this year, we've also got Trent Lott who famously praised Strom Thurmond's racist campaign for President in 1948, and Conrad Burns in Montana.
Back in 1994, while campaigning for a second term, Senator Burns dropped by a local newspaper, The Bozeman Daily Chronicle, and told an editor an anecdote about one of his constituents, a rancher who wanted to know what life was like in Washington.

Mr. Burns said the rancher asked him, ''Conrad, how can you live back there with all those niggers?''

Senator Burns said he told the rancher it was ''a hell of a challenge.''

The anecdote was published, and Senator Burns apologized. When he was asked why he hadn't expressed any disapproval when the rancher used the word nigger, the senator said: ''I don't know. I never gave it much thought.''

Maybe he didn't express any disapproval because he didn't particularly disapprove. On another occasion Senator Burns had to apologize after giving a speech in Billings about America's dependence on foreign sources of oil. In the speech, he referred to Arabs as ''ragheads.''

''I regret the use of such an inappropriate term,'' he said. ''I hope I did not overshadow the serious substance of my remarks.''
It has always been this way with Conrad Burns. Back in 1991, immediately after a civil rights bill had been passed, he invited a group of lobbyists, some of them white and some of them black, to accompany him to an auction.

When asked what was being auctioned, he replied, ''Slaves.''

The Washington Post quoted one of the lobbyists as saying: ''We were floored. We couldn't believe it.'' Senator Burns later said he was talking about a charitable auction in which the services of individuals are sold.

Voters in Montana and Virginia have a unique opportunity this November to boot out these racist jerks, Tester and Webb are first class candidates who would represent their State in a much more positive way. Voters have a choice this November between the hate mongers who want voters to fear the gays, the illegals, the foreigners, and the blacks, and candidates who have a real serious program to make this country a better place.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

I'm Worried

Everything appears to be looking up for Democrats looking at the 2006 midterm elections. Recent generic congressional ballot polling has the Democrats with anywhere from a 12-18 point edge over Republicans depending on the poll. Egged on by poor fundraising numbers, the GOP has made the ID-01 contest between right wing lunatic Bill Sali and Democrat Larry Grant one of their targeted races, not to pick up, just to hold. Given the general state of Democrats in IDaho that race should not be competitive, yet it might be and Republicans are afraid of it becoming so.

Its easy to count to a 50-50 split in the Senate, its reasonable to suggest that Ford or Carter could be the 51st Democrat for a majority. Larry Sabato's recent list of swing races that the election could turn on requires less than half to be won by Democrats in order to take the House. Now DailyKos runs a story today about how the WA-05 could be in play, this was Tom Foley's old District, so it shouldn't be a stretch for the Democrats to win it, but in recent years it has trended strongly Republican, and for it to be in play is very bad news for the GOP.

I'm loving all the good news, and am very optimistic about the November elections, but in a way there is too much good news. It seems too good to be true, and things that are too good to be true usually just aren't true, and that has me worried.

Friday, August 11, 2006

They Took Our Jobs!

No, no they didn't.
High levels of immigration in the past 15 years do not appear to have hurt employment opportunities for American workers, according to a new report.

The Pew Hispanic Center analyzed immigration state by state using U.S. Census data, evaluating it against unemployment levels. No clear correlation between the two could be found.

Other factors, such as economic growth, have likely played a larger role in influencing the American job market, said Rakesh Kochhar, principal author of the report and an economist at the Pew Hispanic Center in the District.

"We are simply looking for a pattern across 50 states, and we did not find one," Kochhar said. "We cannot say with certainty that growth in the foreign population has hurt or helped American jobs."

Immigration policy is a central issue in this fall's congressional elections. The report's findings appear to refute the idea -- often voiced by supporters of stricter immigration laws -- that foreign workers depress wages and take jobs from American workers, especially those with less education and fewer skills.

In the 10 states with the top employment rates from 2000 to 2004, for example, five states showed a high influx of immigrants while the other five showed little growth in the foreign-born population. "Even in relatively slow economic times, a relationship fails to reveal itself," Kochhar said.

Gotta love the Pew Hispanic Center, they do some really great stuff. It seems the job situation has so little to do with immigration that the general economic tide of the moment completely overshadows the effect of immigration on the job market.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Going through the right wing Spokeman Review (Spokane WA) editorial page, I bumped into yet another outrageous, misleading collumn by Thomas Sowell. This right winger at the Hoover Institute loves to distort and pull evidence completely out of context to make his case. Today, Sowell claims that increasing the minimum wage causes job losses. Its become apparent in recent years that this analysis of the situation is not evidently true, as a recent Bloomberg article points out:
it's an ``intellectual puzzle'' why a boost in the minimum wage wouldn't lead to wider unemployment, because the economic laws of supply and demand dictate that it should.

Explanations include cost savings from reduced job turnover, increased productivity as a result of better worker morale and the attraction of higher-quality employees through higher wages, Blinder says.

Labor is different than a product because as you pay higher wages and better benefits, employees are more likely to put forth effort. So as wages increase productivity would increase, more than making up for the wage gap. But Sowell says otherwise, and claims that there is a widespread consensus amongst economists that increasing the minimum wage does cause job losses.
A survey has shown that 85 percent of the economists in Canada and 90 percent of the economists in the United States say that minimum wage laws reduce employment. But you don't need a Ph.D. in economics to know that jacking up prices leads fewer people to buy. Those people include employers, who hire less labor when labor is made artificially more expensive.

90% eh? That's pretty compelling I guess. But wait! When was this study? Doesn't the "expert" consensus change as times change? After all, there was a time when scientists legitimately doubted whether global warming was human caused, but now there is a clear consensus that it is. The Bloomberg article thankfully cites the same study to answer my question.
This view once was widespread. A 1978 American Economic Review survey found that 90 percent of economists said the minimum wage boosted unemployment among low-skilled workers.

1978!? Wow Sowell, methinks you're not telling your readers that it was a 1978 study for a reason. Someone is hiding obvious facts in order to shape their argument. At least be honest enough to give your readers a date instead of leading them to believe it was a recent study.

Sowell's dishonesty continues as he argues the job situation was great in the 1940s when the minimum wage was outstripped by inflation.
The hard facts say otherwise. Back in the 1940s, there was no less racism than today and black teenagers had no more education than today, but their unemployment rate was a fraction of what it is now -- and was no different from that of white teenagers.

What was different back then? Although there was a minimum wage law on the books, the inflation of that era had raised wage rates well above the specified minimum, which had remained unchanged for years.

For all practical purposes, there was no minimum wage law. Only after the minimum wage began to be raised, beginning in 1950, and escalating repeatedly in the years thereafter, did black teenage unemployment skyrocket.

Gee, did it ever cross your mind Mr. Sowell, that perhaps there might have been something happening in the 1940s outside of minimum wage rates that would lead to high employment rates? Oh yeah! There was a war going on wasn't there? Nothing big, just a little World War with wartime production. Could it be that the large number of people going off to war as well as a needed increase in production might have caused higher employment? What a thought! Sowell, I know this is no different than anything else you've ever written, but this was a dishonest junk collumn. As a closing remark I leave you with the result of the 1997 minimum wage increase
Some economists say the 1997 increase had no impact on job growth.

``We saw no ripple effect at all in the unemployment rate,'' Stiglitz says. ``Unemployment just continued to go down.'' The minimum wage increase, he said, ``was totally swamped by other factors going on in the economy.'

Lieberman is a Ridiculous Self-Serving Prick

Joe Lieberman filed to run as an Independent candidate in Connecticut's Senate race today after losing the primary to Ned Lamont yesterday. As a long time Democrat, Lieberman should have more respect for the wishes of his party's voters in Connecticut, instead he risks preventing the Democrats from holding onto his seat by running as an independent.

The best coverage in the mainstream media that I have seen of the Lieberman-Lamont result last night came from the Diane Rehm show this morning which talked about the race as being about Lieberman's consistent record as an apologist for Bush, about how the Lamont campaign got rolling with the help of grassroots blogs, but was not a "blog anti-war" campaign, they rightly pointed out that Lamont would have gone no where if there was not already a lot of frustration with Lieberman. The rest of the media seemed intent upon discussing the race as a "moderates are being kicked out of the Democratic Party" dynamic, or as a blog insurgency dynamic, which would make one wonder how Lamont managed to get enough votes to win if it was just the blogs. This race was, as Rahm Emmanuel has pointed out, about what happens in 2006 when you're a Bush apologist.

Lieberman's Democratic colleagues need to make it very clear that he should respect the will of Connecticut's primary voters. Kos argued yesterday that he should be stripped of his committee assignments if he runs as an independent. That seems a little extreme to me, it should be made clear to Lieberman that the Party will not support him as an independent, but he should not be shunned too much because in the off chance that he wins we shouldn't alienate him so much that he caucuses with the Republicans.

In other news, Ed Perlmutter won the primary for the CO-07, and Cinthia McKinney lost her primary in the GA-04.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Lamont Wins Connecticut Primary

Lamont leads with nearly 96% of the votes counted. Looks safe to call the Connecticut Senate Democratic Primary for Ned Lamont. Congratulations and thank you for having the guts to boot Leiberman.
U.S. Senate - - Dem Primary
706 of 748 Precincts Reporting - 94.39%
Name Votes Pct
Lamont 138,836 51.92
Lieberman 128,566 48.08

A Few Points

1-Early reports that I placed in my blog about the ruling by Mexico's electoral tribunal were incorrect. About 10% of the precincts, those with particular evidence that fraud may have taken place will be recounted. The early reports incorrectly stated that the tribunal refused to grant any recount.

2-Primary day. In Connecticut and Colorado we have important primaries, Connecticut's race between Ned Lamont and Joe Lieberman should prove to be the real race for Senate, as whoever wins the primary today should trounce their opponent/s in the general election in November. I know I'm rooting for Lamont here. In Colorado it is primary day for 7th Congressional District, I don't care who wins, but whoever wins will be running in an open race that is clearly one of the top pickup opportunities in the House for Democrats in November.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Bad News In Mexico

The New York Times reports that the Federal Electoral Court in Mexico has rejected candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's appeal for a full recount of the ballots. Unbelievably stupid decision. In a country where election fraud has a strong history every precaution should have been taken to ensure the legitimacy and accuracy of the result. The closeness of this race in and of itself should have been enough to recount the ballots. It is now a reasonable conjecture that the wrong man will serve as President, or if Calderon is the right man legitimately elected then his administration will always have that shadow of doubt hanging over it as to whether Calderon truly won. Lopez Obrador's supporters will likely take to the streets, and with good reason. This was a sad day for Mexico's emerging democracy. This is not about Calderon and Obrador, but about how the public views the legitimacy of its elections, and when it is this close, all possible precautions to ensure that legitimacy should be taken, and have not been.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Recent Changes to Cwech Dozen

I have just updated the Cwech Dozen due to some recent changes, I have added Jack Carter in Nevada due to a new poll showing him closing in on Republican incumbent John Ensign, and have added Darcy Burner in the WA-08 House race against Republican incumbent Dave Reichert due to Congressional Quarterly updating the status of the race to "leans Republican," the NYT election guide calls this race a "toss up" and the district itself looks like a prime pickup opportunity, the district was won by both Gore and Kerry, and elected Reichert by less than a 5% margin in 2004. That leaves one spot remaining on the Cwech Dozen, if you have any suggestions for who to fill it with please leave a comment. My only criteria are that it be a Democrat in a competitive race preferably for House or Senate, I don't choose sides in primaries either for the purposes of the list. Candidates web pages are linked on the side bar.

Promising Poll for Kulongoski

Blue Oregon alerted me to an Oregon AFL-CIO poll showing Kulongoski with huge leads over Republican Ron Saxton. Kulongoski leads head to head 42%-25%, and has significantly better favorability numbers than Saxton.