Friday, December 01, 2006

World Aids Day...

Don't forget...


Today is World Aids Day. The idea of the world-wide day of awareness is to encourage the international community to step up to the plate and fight the disease.

The theme of this World Aids Day is accountability. There will be international observances calling for nations of the world, and international organizations to keep their committmens in fighting AIDS.

Clearly, the AIDS pandemic is at its devastating worst in the poorest areas of the world. The expense of getting AIDS treatment drugs, combined with lack of proper medical facilities, labratory testing facilities, and proper basics such as nourishment and hygiene make fighting AIDS in developing portions of the world extremely difficult. But it is clearly not a lost cause.

A study to be published in the New England Journal of Medicine today reveals that a holistic approach - even in the poorest areas - can be successful. The study shows that low-cost treatment programs can dramatically increase survival rates in poor countries.

Typically only 30 percent of AIDS patients survive for one year in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere where the HIV infection rate is about 3 percent among adults.

But integrating drug care -- usually generic drugs -- with nutritional support, tuberculosis treatment, counseling and other public health programs brought the survival rate up to 87 percent for adults and 98 percent for children, said Fitzgerald of the Weill Medical College of Cornell University.

That is a rather staggering improvement - especially for the children. And - it's economically efficient:

Fitzgerald and his colleagues said the annual cost of giving a three-drug combination to fight the AIDS virus was about $500 for generic medicines and $750 for brand-name drugs. "We estimated the overall cost per patient per
year (including medicine) as about $1,600," they said.

If you are able to spend a paltry $1,600 and re-gain a functioning memeber of the community, who is able to go back to work...or if a child, is able to grow up and contribute to the community - that is a bargain.

But of course, the poorest regions of Africa, central America, and Asia are not the only places where there is suffering from this disease. Even here, in one of the wealthiest nations of the world, people struggle with AIDS - and at all levels, the poor, middle class, and even the wealthy. AIDS is no respecter of income. And even though many here in America are able to take advantage of drugs and treatment which enables them to live strong, vibrant lives - there still is no cure...which I was reminded of all to closely this year. Much has been done, but there is so much left to do.

A few more links:
US Dept. of State
Kaiser Family Foundation

Stop AIDS. Keep the promise.

From December 1, 2005.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I occassionally listen to my share of right-wing wacko radio...don't ask.

Anyway, I am consistently shocked by the amount of lies, misrepresentation, intellectual dishonesty, hypocricy, and hateful speech to be found on the shows of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Michael Savage.

(Okay, to be honest, I'm not really shocked - these are typical Republican tactics. What is a better way to say it - I'm disheartened that it is so brazen and people actually accept this tripe.)

There is too much of it to chronicle - but I'm especially apalled today by Sean Hannity. Back in the spring, he spent show after show after show defending the alleged rapists in the Durham, NC lacrosse team incident. What possible reason to defend such behavior? Astonishing.

Today on his show he proceeded to defend the Michael Richards racial slur incident - and push blame upon the minorities in the audience, one of whom was a guest on his show. Why defend such action? Astounding.

And then - in his next segment - he proceeds to defend the alleged murderers who fired over 50 rounds in killing an unarmed young groom at his bachelor party. Again, what possible use is there in defending such horrific behavior? Bewildering.

This is reprehensible - and anyone who listens to these shows should be offended. Even if you are a conservtive, or even a Republican - if you condone such reprehensible behvior you should rationally and critically think about why. Hannity certainly won't - he traded rational and critical thought for ratings years ago.

Monday, November 27, 2006


He never had the chance to fulfill his own possibilities, which is why his memory haunts so many of us now. -- Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., from the foward of his biography of Robert F. Kennedy, "Robert Kennedy and His Times."

If anyone who is reading this blog plans to go see a movie over this holiday season, I would highly encourage you to go see Bobby.

Bobby depicts life in the Ambassador Hotel on the day that Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated there. The movie itself does not primarily follow the story of Bobby Kennedy that day, rather it focuses upon a series of fictional characters who were in the hotel that day. In so doing, it depicts the time and the feeling of the last moments of the 1968 Kennedy Campaign, and the first moments of America afterwards.

This is a time of America that I know less about than most others. And I don't know that I've ever spent time thinking about how significant a moment the assassination of Bobby Kennedy was in American history. Of course, I'd always lumped his death into the trifecta of 60's assassinations, along with his brother John F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr. But I have always felt those others were more "important." This movie made me re-think that.

To be fair, this movie is not a work of history - but fiction. The characters the film follows through the day are creations used to tell a broader story. But that story is significant, and this movie is a useful tool to tell it. The movie is unashamedly emotional - even before the assassination scene. It is unapologetically "pro-Kennedy" - when Kennedy is seen in the film it is in old news footage and his spoken word through various speeches. When the film is not using 60's footage, often the characters speak of "Bobby" in reverent and idealistic tones. These aspects are used to capture a feeling of a moment in time, a moment in American history that I was captivated by.

When Bobby Kennedy died, so did American optimism. I had never comprehended that before. It was a moment of utter change in the history of our nation - never since have we as a nation had a sense that something was coming that was better, that was more, that was deeper. That we are on the verge of the next American evolution. America doesn't feel these things anymore. Historian Michael Beschloss has said that you can almost date the death of liberalism in this country to the events of mid-1968. I think you can date the end of American optimism to the same date.

We used to feel such optimism.

America had Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, and Marshall that gave us a united, free, representative government. Such as the world had never seen before.

America had Lincoln, who decided to keep his still-new nation united, and to free men and women held in the bondage of slavery.

America had Teddy Roosevelt who busted trusts and represented a new progressivism.

America had Franklin Roosevelt who told us all we had to fear was fear itself, led us through the most difficult economic trial our nation has faced, and through one of the most difficult international conflict the world has faced.

Then America had John Kennedy - for a very short time - who was showing us to ask not what our country can do for us, but rather what we can do for our country. But he was taken. We had Martin Luther King, Jr. - also for a very short time - who showed that character, integrity, and non-violence can lead to fundamental social change. Then he was taken.

And we could have had Bobby Kennedy, who was intently focused upon our inequities - racial inequities, financial inequities, etc. And, finally, Bobby was taken too.

That ended it. American optimism. It hasn't been the same since them. Since then we've had the power-hunger of Nixon, the trickle-down excess of Reagan, and the neoconservatism of the second Bush.

Within 30 minutes of this film's opening, I realized that was the story - the death of American optimism that accompanied the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. Such a thought had never occurred to me before, but it certainly struck me while watching this film.

That's why - even though the film overtly pulls emotional strings, and is no work of history - Bobby is absolutely worth seeing. Because it gives a glipse of how important a day that was in American history - through the impressions delivered by these characters.

My wife and I watched this film in Memphis, TN. After being so touched by the film, we drove by the Lorraine Hotel - the site of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. It just seemed to make sense. These senseless deaths - more than senseless, history-changing - took so much from what America could have been. At least it seems that way. It is a foolish conceit to ask "what might have been" questions about history. Whatever I perceive as "might have been" wasn't - and isn't. The question we should ask is not "what might have been." The questions each of us should ask is - Are we continuing the legacy? Are we standing for the same things these men stood for? Are we resisting inequity - promoting equality. Resisting violence - promoting peace? Are these the things we stand for?

We have to be willing to commit to create the things we wish had been. We - collectively - have to return optimism to America again. Sure, it takes great leaders to do that - but it also takes everyday people refusing to accept leaders who don't.

America is still full of possibilities. It's our responsibility to fulfill them.

Class Warfare...

Really good article by Ben Stein - the conservative lawyer, writer, actor, and economist - in yesterday's New York Times - In Class Warefare, Guess Which Class Is Winning

Stein recounts a recent discussion with Warren Buffett, which turned to the inequity of current US tax policy:
Put simply, the rich pay a lot of taxes as a total percentage of taxes collected, but they don’t pay a lot of taxes as a percentage of what they can afford to pay, or as a percentage of what the government needs to close the deficit gap.

Mr. Buffett compiled a data sheet of the men and women who work in his office. He had each of them make a fraction; the numerator was how much they paid in federal income tax and in payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, and the denominator was their taxable income. ...

It turned out that Mr. Buffett, with immense income from dividends and capital gains, paid far, far less as a fraction of his income than the secretaries or the clerks or anyone else in his office. Further, in conversation it came up that Mr. Buffett doesn’t use any tax planning at all. He just pays as the Internal Revenue Code requires. “How can this be fair?” he asked of how little he pays relative to his employees. “How can this be right?”

Even though I agreed with him, I warned that whenever someone tried to raise the issue, he or she was accused of fomenting class warfare.

“There’s class warfare, all right,” Mr. Buffett said, “but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
Fascinating. Coming from a multi-multi-billionaire, and a conservative economist - an admission that our tax policy is indeed a class warfare...with those at the top giving themselves all the breaks they want. After noting how questionable it is that "the country is enjoying what economists call full employment while we are still running a ... deficit of ... $434 billion for fiscal 2006," Stein goes on to analyze five arguments generally promulgated by right-wing Republicans (many of whom call themselves conservative) on why we should not be raising the marginal tax rates on the wealthiest people:

1. Class Warfare - "I think Mr. Buffett answered that one."

2. Raising taxes actually lowers revenue, while cutting taxes stimulates federal revenue -
In fact, the federal government collected roughly $1.004 trillion in income taxes from individuals in fiscal 2000, the last full year of President Bill Clinton’s merry rule. It fell to a low of $794 billion in 2003 after Mr. Bush’s tax cuts (but not, you understand, because of them, his supporters like to say). Only by the end of fiscal 2006 did income tax revenue surpass the $1 trillion level again.

By this time, we Republicans had added a mere $2.7 trillion to the national debt. So much for tax cuts adding to revenue. To be fair, corporate profits taxes have increased greatly, as corporate profits have increased stupendously. This may be because of the cut in corporate tax rates. Anything is possible.
3. Don't raise taxes, cut spending -
The sad fact is that spending rises every year, no matter what people want or say they want. ... But spending has risen every year since 1940 except for a few years after World War II and a brief period after the Korean War.

The imperatives for spending are built into the system, and now, with entitlements expanding rapidly, increased spending is locked in. Medicare, Social Security, interest on the debt — all are growing like mad, and how they will ever be stopped or slowed is beyond imagining. Gross interest on Treasury debt is approaching $350 billion a year. ...
4. Deficits don't matter -
One would think that big deficits would be highly inflationary, according to Keynesian economics. But we have modest inflation (except in New York City, where a martini at a good bar is now $22). On the other hand, we have all that interest to pay, soon roughly $7 billion a week, a lot of it to overseas owners of our debt. This, to me, seems to matter.

Besides, if it doesn’t matter, why bother to even discuss balancing the budget? Why have taxes at all? Why not just print money the way Weimar Germany did? Why not abolish taxes and add trillions to the deficit each year? ... If deficits don’t matter, why not spend as much as we want, on anything we want?
5. Conservatives cannot argue for higher taxes -
It makes my head spin, and I guess it shows how old I am. But I thought that conservatives were supposed to like balanced budgets. I thought it was the conservative position to not leave heavy indebtedness to our grandchildren. I thought it was the conservative view that there should be some balance between income and outflow. When did this change?

Oh, now, now, now I recall. It changed when we figured that we could cut taxes and generate so much revenue that we would balance the budget. But isn’t that what doctors call magical thinking? Haven’t the facts proved that this theory, though charming and beguiling, was wrong?
Exactly Mr. Stein. If you consider yourself a "fiscal conservative" - which, by the way, I do - you should be shocked and embarressed at the status of the federal budget deficit, and the failure of our tax policy to ask those who are most able to contribute to our fiscal health to do so. Spending should obviously be strictly controlled, but the best way to begin increasing revenues, decreasing the deficit, decreasing governmetntal debt service, and do all that while affecting the fewest amount of people - is to get rid of the irresponsible Bush-gifted tax breaks to the wealthiest individuals and corporations by rolling back the marginal tax rates on the hightest income brackets, rolling back the tax breaks on dividends, rolling back the tax breaks on estate wealth transfers, and finally rollnig back the tax breaks (and additionanl incentives) to big businesses who are making billions quarterly.

Tax policy that would make sense, work toward balancing the budget (which Clinton did consistently), and stop shifting the burden to our children and grandchildren. Why would anyone oppose this? Anyone whose core constituency are the wealthy that are benefiting from these irresponsible gifts.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The King of the free market...

Milton Friedman, Free Markets Theorist, Dies at 94

Milton Friedman, the grandmaster of free-market economic theory in the postwar era and a prime force in the movement of nations toward less government and greater reliance on individual responsibility, died today in San Francisco, where he lived. He was 94. ...

Conservative and liberal colleagues alike viewed Mr. Friedman, a Nobel prize laureate, as one of the 20th century’s leading economic scholars, on a par with giants like John Maynard Keynes and Paul Samuelson.

Flying the flag of economic conservatism, Mr. Friedman led the postwar challenge to the hallowed theories of Lord Keynes, the British economist who maintained that governments had a duty to help capitalistic economies through periods of recession and to prevent boom times from exploding into high inflation.

In Professor Friedman’s view, government had the opposite obligation: to keep its hands off the economy, to let the free market do its work. He was a spiritual heir to Adam Smith, the 18th-century founder of the science of economics and proponent of laissez-faire: that government governs best which governs least.

The only economic lever that Mr. Friedman would allow government to use was the one that controlled the supply of money — a monetarist view that had gone out of favor when he embraced it in the 1950s. He went on to record a signal achievement, predicting the unprecedented combination of rising unemployment and rising inflation that came to be called stagflation. His work earned him the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science in 1976.

Prof. Friedman was one of the great thinkers of the 20th century. Altough he is now gone, his legacy will surely last for generations to come - just as the names Adam Smith and John Maynard Keynes are still rembered.

That makes two giants of economic thought lost this year. I posted earlier this year about the loss of John Kenneth Galbraith - another great thinker.

Prior related post:
Sad News...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Good signs...

A Democrat has not held statewide office in Texas in over a decade. The days of Ann Richards and the Texas Democrats are distant memories.

But, you know, everything old will be new again...

It looks like there are signs of life for the Texas Democratic party. Small signs, to be sure, but indicatations that the party is gaining strength nonetheless.

The Houston Chronicle has two interesting articles today about the Democratic signs of life: Warning for GOP in Harris County and Democrats Turn Dallas County a Shade of Blue.

From the first -
Harris County Democratic and Republican officials have looked at Tuesday's local election results and they agree: The GOP-dominated county government could be recaptured by Democrats as soon as 2008. ...

In an election when many ethnic minority voters didn't vote, Republican judicial candidates on the bottom half of the Harris County ballot won by an average of fewer than four percentage points — 52 percent to 48 percent.

The average margin four years ago was more than nine points.

If minority voters had been energized, as they might be in the 2008 presidential year, it could have been a Democratic sweep, some analysts said.

They point to Dallas County, long a GOP stronghold, where Democrats claimed every countywide seat elected Tuesday. ...

But the demographic trends are long-term: The Hispanic population is booming and the Anglo population is not.

"The Republican Party is not attracting minority voters the way it should. I've been saying this for 10 years," [Republican County Commissioner Steve] Radack said. ...

Rice University political science professor Bob Stein said an immediate effect of Tuesday's local and national results could be interest from talented Democrats who realize they have a legitimate chance to be elected next time around. ...

But the demographic and political trends seem clear.

"Doomsday is coming," said UH political science professor Richard Murray.
This is a good sign for Democrats in Texas and Harris County...but it should be tempered with the caveats suggested in the article - this year in Texas was unique because of the 5-way Gubernatorial race and the national winds of Iraq and Republican corruption impacting so many voters.

Now the Dallas County story -
The home of glitzy restaurants, million-dollar condos and six-figure Neiman Marcus holiday baubles has a new distinction that has nothing to do with its oversupply of Hummers and BMWs.

Dallas County still calls its historic courthouse Old Red, but on Tuesday it went "blue."

A national wave of Democratic voting and changing demographics swept Republicans out of power in the county as the GOP surrendered 42 judgeships, the district's attorney office and the county judge's seat.

"Dallas has become a very competitive two-party county and very sensitive to changes in the national political mood," said Matthew Wilson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University. "The difference in this election was that more Democrats came out and more voted a straight party ticket."

Wilson said demographic changes gradually have been turning the county of 2.3 million residents more Democratic. Hispanics, who locally have traditionally voted Democratic by a two-to-one margin, have continued to move into the city and aging inner-ring suburbs such as Irving, Grand Prairie and Garland.

Meanwhile, white middle-class residents who tend to vote Republican have continued to move to Collin County suburbs such as Plano and McKinney, while middle-class blacks, who lean Democratic, have moved to suburbs such as Lancaster in southern Dallas County.

Finally, he said, urban revitalization in the city center has brought young singles who also tend to vote Democratic.

Cal Jillson, another SMU political scientist, said he and others expected Democrats to slowly gain offices this year, in 2008 and 2010 because of those trends. "Instead, the national trend brought them in all at once," he said. ...

It will take at least one or two more cycles of Democrats holding gains before the county could be called safely Democratic, Wilson said.
More good news. One key thing that both articles address - the long-term story is already written. Demographic changes in Texas are happening - and happening so fast - that over time this state will be turning back to the Democratic party.

Kind of explains the Right's irrational xenophobia.

It is a long-term process, but the Democratic Party is growing at the grassroots level. And - if it's not getting old yet - I want to give another tip-of-the-hat to Howard Dean. This is what the 50-state plan is all about - grow the grassroots party in every state, regardless of how red that state may be. Overtime, those investments are going to pay massive dividends.

Today, Dallas County, tomorrow, Harris, the next - Austin. Texas Democrats are coming back.

The depth of the morass...

I was almost dumbstruck reading this article: Iraqis cheer Rumsfeld departure, look for changes in U.S. approach from this morning's Houston Chronicle.

This demonstrates just how tragically incompetent and disconnected from the reality of Iraq that the Bush administration is/has been.
Iraqis today cheered the resignation of U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, blaming him for policy failures and scandals they say helped spawn the daily sectarian carnage wracking their nation.

"Rumsfeld's resignation shows the scale of the mess the U.S. has made in Iraq," said Ibrahim Ali, 44, who works at the Oil Ministry. "The efforts by American politicians to hide their failure are no longer working." ...

"I think that there will a shift in the U.S. policy in Iraq after his resignation," said Osama Ahmed, 50, a civil servant. ...

Whatever suggestions are put forward, however, Iraqis said Rumsfeld's departure was a positive move.

"Rumsfeld's resignation is a good step because he failed to keep security in Iraq," said Saad Jawad, 45, a former army officer who also works at the Oil Ministry.

Many Iraqis blamed Rumsfeld for spurring the emergence of Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias by disbanding the former Iraqi army following the April 2003 toppling of the former government of Saddam Hussein.

Although that order was actually issued by former top U.S. administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, such sentiments show how widely Rumsfeld is identified with failed policies in Iraq.
"I am happy with Rumsfeld's resignation because he played a major role in disbanding the former Iraqi army. He participated in building the new army on a sectarian basis," said Louai Abdel-Hussein, 48, a Shiite who owns a small grocery in Baghdad.

Ahmed, the civil servant, said Rumsfeld should also be held responsible for crimes by American forces in Iraq, particularly the abuse of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison that became known in 2004. "Rumsfeld's resignation is not enough," Ahmed said. "He should be put under investigation for his responsibility in the crimes committed in Abu Ghraib and the killings and rapes carried out by U.S. soldiers against Iraqi citizens, he said.

These are the opinions of the people we "liberated." I do not mean to suggest that the opinions of non-Americans need to drive our appointment of government officials. What I am suggesting is that if this is reflective of the opinions of the peoples whose nation we are occupying - it is evidence of the complete state of denial that Bush and his administration are mired in.

The real question, the difficult question, going forwad will be is George Bush ready to accept reality, admit tragic and monumental mistakes, and actually try to fix the mess he made in Iraq?

My guess is no. I think that starting yesterday, Bush has written Iraq off, and will proceed to concentrate on d0mestic issues for the next two years, in hopes of leaving office with some modicum of positive feeling from the populice. I don't think he's got it in him to take responsibility, admit mistakes, and do the hard work of making corrections.

That will be left for the next administration.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Ding, Dong - the Witch is Dead...

And I didn't think today could get much better. is reporting that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is "stepping down." (No full story yet.)

Today truly does begin the New Direction for America!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A New Direction...

It's been a good night.

Much better night than I expected.

Hopefully, this will indeed be a new direction for America. Maybe we can put behind us the past six disastrous years of the Bush administration.

Montana and Missouri are still out there...but both of them look reasonably good for the Democrats. If so - that's both the House and Senate. Unbelievable.

I don't know if I'll be the first to say it - but Kudos and Congratulations to Howard Dean and the 50 state plan. Governor Dean deserves much if not all of the credit for this landslide Democratic victory. Brilliant strategy, brilliantly executed.

It's been a good night. Now, let's all hope that this indeed portends a New Direction for America.


Nope...the numbers do not seem to be working out for one of my favorite candidates - Harold Ford, Jr. in Tennessee.

88% is in...and all of Memphis - and he's still almost 60,000 votes down. More than half of Nashville is still out, but I now don't think the numbers are going to work out. I think it will still close - but not enough.

(FYI - I though he would win Shelby by 100,000 plus votes. It turned out to be 76,000. I'll still bet money that he'll lose by right around that 24,000 difference.)


Nick Lampson will win TX-22.



Another impulsive call...

Webb is going to win Virginia. He's been down all night - but with 95% reporting he's only down by 12,000 votes...and Richmond is only 70% in.

These Democrats are going to win in two Republican seats becasue the cities are reporting late...

I think...


Total gut-call here...

Right now, 9:55, Corker leads by 5% with 74% reporting...

I'm calling Ford the winner.

The most votes outstanding (I've been looking at the individual county analysis in Tennessee) are in Shelby Country and Davidson County - Memphis and Nashville.

This is going to be a last-minute comeback, and Ford will win...

I think.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Last minute predictions...

Okay. We're here. Mid-terms 2006. I'm going to make some last minute (relatively-uninformed) predictions and see how it all turns out tomorrow.


Overall - Democratic Gain of 3

Important Races -
Rhode Island - Whitehouse picks up one for the Dems
Connecticut - Lieberman holds as an Independent Democrat
New Jersey - Menendez holds on to the seat for the Dems
Maryland - Too close to call - I'm giving this to the Rep Steele for the terrific campaign he has run...Republican gain
Virginia - I think the power of the incumbent will trump in this toss up race - Allen holds the seat for the Reps
Pennsylvania - Ding! Dong! The Witch is Dead! Casey picks up one for the Dems
Ohio - Good campaign by Sherrod Brown in a terrible year for Ohio Reps - pick up for the Dems
Tennessee - Harold Ford Jr. ran what may have been the best campaign in Senate history, making an improbably competitive run in a Republican stronghold...but the nasty, dirty Republican machine politics turned this race at the death - Corker holds for the Reps
Missouri - Oh, so close. I'm going to guess and say Reps hold...but could go either way
Montana - Tester is the perfect man for Montana, and will pick one up for the Dems
Arizona - This race has come from no where to get tight at the end, but Kyl will hold for the Reps without much problem


Overall - Democratic Gain of 12

I don't even pretend to follow too many individual House races, but I did some quick-and-dirty reading about some interesting and competitive races, and I think that the Democrats are going to be able to make some strong gains - though not nearly what the media is hyping. I think the interesting places to watch will be the races in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wyoming - and of course TX-22.

Pre-Game analysis:
I think there are two stories to come out of this election - the corporate-media story, and the real story.

First - I think that the big corporate media story on Wednesday will be the big "victory" of the Republicans, because they've managed to hold both Houses of Congress. Why? Because the Republicans have managed expectations so well this year - while the Democrats have gotten caught up in the hype.

The right-wing vote is not as disinterested and unmotivated as the Republicans have led the media to fact, they will turn out in large numbers, just as they always do. And that will tip the scale in the 70 or so competitive races. The Right has effectively been sending out negative signals so that even such a disastrous loss as what I am predicting can be spun as a victory. Very smart.

Second - in my opinion the real (but unreported) story will be the HUGE SUCCESS of Howard Dean's 50-state plan. When is the last time over 70 seats in the house, and 10+ races in the Senate were competitive? In the end, most of those races will end up staying Republican...but it is a miracle that they are competitive - especially in Republican strongholds like Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, Montana, Missouri, Idaho, etc. And this is the first election of the 50-state plan. Even without taking either the House or Senate, the Democrats should be overwhelmingly excited about the first-cycle success of this plan. With perseverance, this is going to turn the map blue. Kudos to Howard Dean - and the tremendous slate of candidates that the Democratic party attracted in 2006.

Let's see what happens...

Prior related posts:
Midterm predictions for the Midterms...

One final plug...

I had two good opportunities last night.

First (and admittedly foremost) I was able to take my son to the Houston Dynamo's Western Conference Championship game, which the Dynamo won to make it to the MLS Cup Final in Dallas next weekend.

That was a great time.

But I had another great opportunity. I got to shake the hand of Jim Henley, who was doing some last minute campaigning outside the entry gate to Robertson Stadium before the game.

Jim Henley is running an uphill battle to unseat the incumbent in TX-7. In fact, it's probably a lost-cause sort of a battle. But Mr. Henley is a candiate worthy of support. From his website:
James B. Henley has dedicated his life to teaching since 1987. He has taught History and Debate at Sidney Lanier Middle School where he has won the praise and devotion of a generation of Houston students.

The Lanier debate teams have won three consecutive National Middle School Debate Championships. In fact, Mr. Henley’s teams are undefeated in debate competition since 2002. [See the news links in Lanier Debate section.] For the past eighteen years, Mr. Henley has directed an annual tour of Washington D.C. leading several thousand parent and students from his school community to meet national leaders from both parties.

Jim was born in 1947, the son of James B. Henley Sr., a World War II veteran and Laura H. Henley, a native of Belgium. They met and married after the war and raised seven children in Camden, Arkansas.

Jim graduated from University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Arkansas. He served as pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Clarksville from 1967 to 1976 and graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.

In addition, this is what the Houston Chronicle said in endorsing Mr. Henley in the Democratic primary:
IN the predominantly Westside Houston 7th congressional district, the Chronicle endorses Houston public schoolteacher Jim Henley, a debate instructor at Lanier Middle School, who is seeking to unseat entrenched incumbent John Culberson.

Seeking to capitalize on voter unease over ethics scandals in Washington, Henley is running a grassroots campaign using a cadre of former students and their parents as volunteers. He has vowed to take no political action committee contributions and is counting on small, individual donors to fuel his effort. He opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq and is calling for a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops by next December.

Henley favors banning automatic assault weapons, but believes hunters should have their rifles.

...He has established a reputation of high character and academic leadership during his 18-year teaching career. He opposes extension of portions of the Patriot Act that he feels erode citizens' constitutional rights and decries the warrantless NSA surveillance approved by the Bush administration.

Jim is a good candiate, in a tough district to try to unseat an incumbent. But I will always be proud to support good candidates like Mr. Henley - regardless of the result.

Jim Henley, Teacher for Congress!!

"A shabby piece of work"...

That's how the White House referred to our military.

Okay - not exactly - I was just trying out an experiment in Republican-style rhetoric.

But, that actually is a quote from the White House - "a shabby piece of work" - in referring to an editorial in the Military Times publications (the Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times, and Marine Corps Times) urging President Bush to fire Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. The editorial cited a loss of support from military leaders over the Iraq war.

Of course, coming from the an organization providing news to the military, the Bush Administration took this legitimate criticism to heart and decided to review it's current leadership, and attempt to forge a coherent Iraq policy going foward.

HA!!! Just kidding. This is the Bush Administration after all. They just ignore it - the White House press secretary Tony Snow dismissed the editorial as a "shabby piece of work."

I think the American people are realizing what is indeed a shabby piece of work:
George Bush, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld think you’re stupid. Yes, they do.

They think they can take a mangled quip about President Bush and Iraq by John Kerry — a man who is not even running for office but who, unlike Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, never ran away from combat service — and get you to vote against all Democrats in this election.

Every time you hear Mr. Bush or Mr. Cheney lash out against Mr. Kerry, I hope you will say to yourself, “They must think I’m stupid.” Because they surely do.

They think that they can get you to overlook all of the Bush team’s real and deadly insults to the U.S. military over the past six years by hyping and exaggerating Mr. Kerry’s mangled gibe at the president.


Everyone says that Karl Rove is a genius. Yeah, right. So are cigarette companies. They get you to buy cigarettes even though we know they cause cancer. That is the kind of genius Karl Rove is. He is not a man who has designed a strategy to reunite our country around an agenda of renewal for the 21st century — to bring out the best in us. His “genius” is taking some irrelevant aside by John Kerry and twisting it to bring out the worst in us, so you will ignore the mess that the Bush team has visited on this country.

And Karl Rove has succeeded at that in the past because he was sure that he could sell just enough Bush cigarettes, even though people knew they caused cancer. Please, please, for our country’s health, prove him wrong this time.


Go read the rest of that great editorial by Thomas Friedman.

Friday, November 03, 2006


If there ever was a textbook example of what is wrong with conservatism in general, and the Republican party in America specifically, we saw it in Houston this week.

Houston mayor cancels free flu shots at polling places

The mayor of Houston, Bill White, and a private foundation came up with a great idea to distribute flu shots to those in need going into this winter season - one that had been used in several other cities around the country. Provide flu vaccinations to the poor and elderly at early voting locations around the city. If and when people come in for voting, at the same time they can get their flu shots.

This was a creative mix of public and private organizations working together for the betterment of the public health of our community.

Until Republicans got involved:
Mayor Bill White today ordered a halt to a privately funded drive to offer flu vaccinations at early voting sites in Hispanic and black neighborhoods, amid conservative criticism that the effort would boost Democratic votes.

Since Monday, the city had been offering the free vaccinations at four polling places around Houston under a national grant program, used in more than 20 other cities.

White defended the program at a news conference today, saying public health was the city's only motive in launching the initiative. Still, he said he decided this morning to abandon the plan after today to avoid perception that it could be viewed as an effort to draw certain voters to the polls. ...
"There was no political motive whatsoever to do it," he said. "I don't want to have to spend more money in defending a baseless lawsuit than we're giving away in vaccine — or allow anybody to question the integrity of the political process."

Critics of the program have been discussing the issue on conservative Web blogs and talk radio.
``I think the program was completely motivated by a plan to turn out Democratic voters,'' said [county Republican Chairman Jared] Woodfill, citing White's service as party chair and as a deputy energy secretary under former President Clinton.

He said the vote-vaccination plan violated a portion of the Texas Election Code that prohibits offering anything of value in exchange for votes.

This is simply beyond the pale. Rather than worry about the health of our community - and specifically our communities most vulnerable population - the Harris County Republican party is worried about their vice-grip on power. Shameful.

This program was a bright-light, an example of EXACTLY the way private and public entities should be working together:
Stephen Williams, director of the city's Health and Human Services Department, which has touted the program in recent days, said he hopes to get permission to use the vaccine in other locations.

The terms of the grant, he and White said, required a tie to polling places in medically underserved areas where populations are less likely to get a vaccination.

The city and Amerigroup Foundation got the 3,000 doses with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a philanthropic group that devotes funding to health care.

The Amerigroup Foundation, according to its Web site, is the philanthropic arm of the Amerigroup Corp., a managed health-care company with a focus on providing services to low-income communities.

A textbook example of Republican party principles - power above people.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Eat all the seafood you can, while you can...

This is a really disturbing article from MSNBC - Seafood could Collapse by 2050, Experts Warn:
Overfishing, pollution, warming are destroying stocks, study finds

If you like seafood - like I do - or if you simply like fishing, the outdoors, and the environment in general, it is disquieting to think that the vast majority of wild ocean species could be virtually gone.
If current trends of overfishing and pollution continue, by 2050 the populations of just about all seafood face collapse, defined as 90 percent depletion, a team of ecologists and economists warns in a study published in Friday’s issue of the journal Science.

There are serious consequenses to such an eradication of ocean species, beyond me not being able to eat some of my favorite foods. Including some scary economic and third-world nutrition impacts:
Joshua Reichert, head of the private Pew Charitable Trusts’ environment program, pointed out that worldwide fishing provides $80 billion in revenue and 200 million people depend on it for their livelihoods. For more than 1 billion people, many of whom are poor, fish is their main source of protein, he said.

As the population of the world - especially in developing nations - is exploding, and the thought of the loss of food-supply and jobs in those areas could produce massive instability in those regions.

On the positive side, it looks as if such impacts can be avoided with proper, and efficient, management:
The researchers called for new marine reserves, better management to prevent overfishing by large trawling fleets and tighter controls on pollution.

In the 48 areas worldwide that have been protected to improve marine biodiversity, they found, “diversity of species recovered dramatically, and with it the ecosystem’s productivity and stability.”

This is the sort of issue that should not be ignored by developing nations. We must look for leaders with the political will to tackle such dire - yet preventable - consequenses.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


DA drops case against ex-HISD employee

Harris County prosecutors acknowledged today that they don't have enough evidence to convict a former Houston ISD employee accused of falsely changing Sharpstown High School's student dropout records.

Assistant District Attorney Terese Buess asked state District Judge Brock Thomas to dismiss the felony charge of tampering with a government document against Kenneth Cuadra as lawyers on both sides prepared to pick a jury later this week.

After reviewing Houston Independent School District computer records, Buess said she concluded there was no way to prove that Cuadra was the person who changed the dropout numbers to make it seem that no students dropped out of Sharpstown High School in 2002.

Cuadra was a school computer technician and the only HISD employee charged
criminally in connection with a dropout scandal that uncovered similar
under-reporting of at least 3,000 dropouts from Sharpstown and other

Hooray for Mr. Cuadra. He and his family have been through a lot over the past two years, and it is almost criminal that it took the Harris County DA's office this long to drop these completely false charges.

The Houston Independent School District (HISD) was roiled with controversy several years ago when a state audit revealed that the state's largest school district underreported nearly 3,000 dropouts.

Few people were disciplined for the outrageous scandal - and only one was charged with criminal offense. And that charge was merely an attempt at scapegoat.

"It rehashes a very unpleasant period," said Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers. "I think the DA's office is going to be highly embarrassed when the results come down."

"This is a case that should never be in trial," Fallon said. "Going after the computer tech is the most absurd piece of prosecution I've ever seen."

This was merely the case of the DA's office attempting to push a low-level school district employee into pleading guilty in order to make a public show of holding someone responsible - although not anyone actually associated with the fradulent reports.

There are reports that as of yesterday, the DA's office was pushing Mr. Cuadra to settle - when the CLEARLY KNEW that they did not have any evidence against him to take to trial. Shameful.

It is upsetting that no one responsible for these fraudulent HISD reports was held responsible - and it is upsetting that HISD and the DA's office would try to pin responsibility (and in the process damage the reputation) on someone they thought they could bully into the scapegoat role.

Not this time.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Surprise, surprise...

Looks like I just might be right after all - Write-in tightens race in District 22.

The Republican write-in effort to hold former Rep. Tom DeLay's congressional seat, once viewed as a long shot, has created a tight race, according to a Houston Chronicle-11 News poll.

Thirty-five percent of respondents said they would vote for a write-in candidate, a statistical tie with the 36 percent support for Democrat Nick Lampson, according to the poll of more than 500 likely voters in the 22nd Congressional District.

Most who say they will write in a candidate plan on naming Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, the Houston city councilwoman backed by the Republican Party. Two lesser-known candidates also are running as write-ins.

This is what I wrote two weeks ago:
[I]n an admittedly isolated personal observance, it appears that in Houston, the Republicans are starting to pour on the money. Commericals on the airwaves can be heard for Sekula-Gibbs - but I haven't heard anything from Lampson. In addition, there are two big billboards heading down 59 South for Sekula-Gibbs...nothing from Lampson.

Maybe it's just me - but in one of the most heavily Republican districts in the US, I think that the Vote Twice/Write In campaign is gaining traction, and she has a chance to upset ... the underdog.

If a write-in wins in TX-22 it will be unprecedented, but not wholly unexpected.

Related prior post:
An upset, of what would have been an upset, in the making?...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Why they'll hold...

Two interesting articles recently about the GOP's unequaled Get Out The Vote (GOTV) machine.

First, from today's Houston Chronicle - Republicans oil their successful turnout machine.
Despite the gloom, Republican campaign operatives sound confident. They have been fine-tuning their data-mining, micro-targeting and other methods that served them well in past elections. Some Democrats are beginning to sound worried.

Republicans, led by White House political guru Karl Rove, sought in 2002 to reverse a decades-long Democratic edge in voter turnout that was fueled in large part by well-organized labor unions.

The GOP developed a program that started three days before the election. It was aimed at identifying Republicans and likely Republican voters and getting them to the polls. The tactic was fine-tuned in 2004 and will be even more effective this year, Republicans said.

"We are putting forward the most unprecedented grass-roots effort in the history of midterm elections," said Danny Diaz, spokesman for the Republican National Committee. "We outraised the Democrats, we've made more voter contacts, and our (get-out-the-vote) operation is more robust — we are extremely confident we have built a foundation to maintain our majorities."

The Republican Party has raised $199.4 million since the 2004 elections, almost double the $108.4 million raised by the Democrats.

In 2004, the Republican Party used marketing-style data-mining — for example, calculating whether a certain voter in a particular district owned a snowmobile and was therefore a likely Republican voter, then targeting the prospect with a narrow political message.

This is precisely why I'm still skeptical that the Democrats will be able to win either the House or Senate. The margins in so many of the individual campaigns are razor thin - and it is the Republican's GOTV effort that will get them over the top.

On a similar note, the Washington Post had a great analysis of the most basic of Republican election year tactics - The GOP Leans on A Proven Strategy.
President Bush and Vice President Cheney have given multiple interviews to conservative journalists, senior adviser Karl Rove has telephoned religious and social activists, and the White House has staged signing ceremonies for legislation cracking down on terrorism and illegal immigration. Two weeks before Election Day, Bush aides invited dozens of radio talk show hosts for a marathon broadcast from the White House yesterday to reach conservative listeners.

The message that Bush and others are sending to alienated supporters is that, no matter how upset they have been about various policies or political missteps over the past couple of years, life would be far worse under the Democrats. They name liberal lawmakers who would take charge of key committees and warn conservatives that taxes would go up and protection against terrorists would go down.

The White House courtship of the right paid enormous dividends in the past, but this year it is complicated by a far more skeptical audience than in 2002 and 2004. Conservatives who were key to those victories have grown frustrated with the Bush policies on federal spending, immigration, Iraq and foreign affairs, and uncertain of his commitment to issues such as preventing legalized same-sex marriage. The Mark Foley page scandal did not help reassure "values voters," as strategists call them, nor did the publication of a book by former White House official David Kuo saying that Bush aides dismissed Christian conservatives as "nuts."

Manipulate the Christian right...even though Bush, Cheney, and Rove have stated that they are simply "nuts" who sole purpose is to be manipulated.

The Republicans are failures at governing our nation - but they are experts at elections. They'll show it again this year.

Related prior post:
This sums it up...

Lampson for TX-22...

Big step for Nick Lampson in his attempt not only to win TX-22 this year, but to retain the seat going foward - VFW endorses Lampson in District 22 race.

Lampson was originally the big underdog, running against Tom Delay in a heavily Republican district. After Delay's corruption led to an indictment and his subsequent withdrawal from the race, Lampson became the favorite. It is widely expected, however, that Lampson will simply be a temporary seat-filler, until a Republican can run again in 2008.

Maybe not:
The national Veterans of Foreign Wars PAC has endorsed Democrat Nick Lampson in his race for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's seat, an endorsement that Lampson's campaign says helps debunk claims that he is a liberal.

Lampson's staff has been touting his VFW endorsement and the endorsement of the National Rifle Association to show that the former congressman is a moderate to conservative Democrat in line with voters in this conservative Republican district.

Of course, this is the only other option:
Republican write-in candidate Shelley Sekula-Gibbs doesn't detail her stand on the war, except to say that she supports the president's war on terror and opposes an early withdrawal.To be fair, Sekula-Gibbs entered the race very late, and is simply not qualified for seat.
Go Nick Lampson!!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The key...

Will the Democrats be able to win the Senate in the 2006 midterm elections?

Back on 2-October I suggested that the Democrats would pick up 2 seats in the Senate. Since them, it seems as if Santorum really has lost his seat in Pennsylvania, which would bump the number to three...

But one of those two I was counting back on 2-Oct was Harold Ford Jr. pulling the HUGE upset in picking up a seat in Tennessee. Today, I feel much less confident that Ford will be able to pull that upset off ... but I have become more convinced that if he does win Tennessee, that is a much larger statement about the national scene, and the Democrats may be able to come up with the other three victories and take the Senate.

Let me explain...

First - why am I less confident that Ford is going to win Tennesse? Simple answer - typical Republican gutter-tactics - see the following two pieces: More on the Tennessee Mudslide; A Contentious Campaign in a Battleground State. Consider:

RUSSERT: Ken Mehlman, the Republican candidate in Tennessee has asked that you take that ad off the air, that it is over the top. Former Republican Senator William Cohen says it’s, quote, “overt racist appeal.”Will you take that ad down?

MEHLMAN: Tim, I don’t have the authority to take it down or put it up. It’s what called an independent expenditure.The way that process works under the campaign reform laws is I write a check to an independent individual. And that person’s responsible for spending money in certain states. Tennessee is one of them.

I’ll tell you this, though. After the comments by Mr. Corker and by former Senator Cohen, I looked at the ad. I don’t agree with that characterization of it. But it’s not an ad that I have authority over. I saw it for the first time the same time that they did.

RUSSERT: The whole idea of having a blond white woman winking at a black Congressman, the notion of interracial sex is not in your mind racist?

MEHLMAN: I think that that ad talks about a number of people on the street talking about things that Mr. Ford allegedly has either done or a proposal he has for the future. I think it’s a fair ad.

Disgusting. Or this:

[Republican candidate] Corker depicts himself as more "senatorial" than Ford but is running an almost entirely negative campaign at this point. He depicts Ford as a smooth-talking city slicker who has deeper roots in Washington, D.C. -- where Ford lived for part of his childhood -- compared with Corker, the self-described "real Tennessean" in the race.

The hardest blows have come from the national GOP. The National Republican Senatorial Committee ridicules Ford's expensive tastes on a "Fancy Ford" Web site, and the Republican National Committee is airing a controversial new ad that features a scantily clad blonde who says she met Ford at a Playboy party. "Harold, call me!" the woman chirps.

Ugh. When you have no ideas, you resort to slime. Unfortunately, these days slime is terribly effective, and such a dirty, nasty, negative campaign could very easily turn this campaign around in the final couple of weeks. It's a shame that a candidate with leadership, vision, and exuding confidence in Tennessee and America would be torpedoed by dirty-Republican tactics...but that's the way it goes.

But, Ford is a great candidate, and will keep fighting to the end of this thing - bringing lots of Tennesseans around:

John Layne is a 57-year-old white Republican with a long gray beard, no job and advancing emphysema. He arrived an hour early to hear Harold Ford Jr. speak in this struggling mountain town.

"Oh, sure, there's some prejudice," Layne said as he contemplated casting a ballot for a black man. "I wouldn't want my daughter marrying one." But he's more concerned about rising medical costs: When it comes to voting, "you gotta look at the person, not the color."

While visiting a diner in Oak Ridge, Corker stopped to shake hands with Linda Ramsey, who was having lunch with her husband, Dale, and daughter Kelcee. Ramsey responded with a big smile when Corker asked for her vote. But when he moved to the next table, she conceded she was leaning toward Ford.

Although she supported Corker in the primary, Ramsey explained, "all he wants to do is point fingers. Ford is stepping up above it."

If Ford can pull this off in Tennessee, then nationwide, Democrats have a real chance. To be able to fend off the dirty-Republican tactics would be indicative of a national wave of support for the New Direction of the Democrats, and a latent disgust of these typical Republican tactics.

Go Harold Ford Jr.!!

GM signs of life...

Can losing over one hundred million dollars in three months ever be considered a good thing? Maybe, just maybe - if we're talking about a US auto manufacturer.

The Houston Chronicle reports this morning - GM posts $115 million loss for third quarter.

Sure, $115 million is a lot of money to lose - but in compared to a year ago...or the $5.8 billion loss that Ford just actually looks pretty good.

GM's July-September loss of 20 cents per share was far better than the same period last year when the nation's largest automaker lost $1.7 billion, or $2.94 per share.

The company said that excluding goodwill impairment at its finance arm and charges associated with the reorganization at Delphi Corp., its former parts division, it made a profit of 93 cents per share.

It looks as if operations actually turned a profit. This could be a good sign for an ailing giant.

Not such good news at Chysler, a former US auto major, and not component of DaimlerChrysler. Altough the parent company posted a profit, the Chrysler division lost a boatload - Chrysler Announces $1.5 Billion Loss.

Executives at DaimlerChrysler said today that they were working on a plan to return Chrysler to profitability after a loss of nearly $1.5 billion in the third quarter.

But they would not rule out the possibility that Chrysler could be spun off or sold, breaking up the eight-year alliance between the German and American auto companies.
Chrysler blamed its loss, signaled a few weeks ago, on slumping sales of a product line that depends heavily on sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks, and on the deeper discounts it has been obliged to offer consumers.

Last week, Chrysler said that it was striving to cut its manufacturing and marketing costs by $1,000 a car, under a plan called Project Refocus, the second extensive restructuring effort at the company in six years.
Until today, Mr. Zetsche [CEO of DaimlerChrysler] and other executives always insisted that Chrysler had a safe place in the DaimlerChrysler fold. But when the parent company’s chief financial officer, Bodo Uebber,was asked repeatedly today about Chrysler’s prospects during a conference call with analysts and journalists, he gave cryptic, noncommittal answers.

But over at Ford, it also looks as if asset divesture is in the works - Ford’s Dismal Results Renew Speculation on Asset Sales.
“Ford can do two things: borrow more money and sell assets” to buy time until their operations problems are fixed, John Casesa, a longtime auto industry analyst, told The New York Times.

Ford already has put a British maker of luxury cars, Aston Martin, up for sale. The chief financial officer, Don Leclair, said Ford is preparing a short list of bidders, but does not expect to close a sale before the end of the year. ...

Mr. Mulally confirmed that Ford is open to reviewing its other luxury brands — leaving the door open to a potential sale of Jaguar, Volvo or Land Rover. “I really think it’s going to hinge on how the businesses are doing and can we make profitable growth businesses out of them with the action we have taken and additional actions that might be required,” he said in a conference call.
But as it is noted above - this is only buying time, it's not a long term plan. New CEO Alan Mulallay noted after the poor results released on Monday that Ford would not start seeing the results from their turnaround plan until the end of 2007.
Indeed, the new chief executive at Ford, Alan R. Mulally, a former Boeing executive, said the automaker would require a full transformation in the way it thought about consumers and approached the American market.

The typical Detroit turnaround, based on plant closings and introducing a few hit vehicles but with little change in attitude, will not be enough to see Ford through, Mr. Mulally said ...

Related prior posts:
Ford takes a beating...
Black October for US Auto...
More Shakeups in US Auto...
Toyota chief fears GM, Ford demise...
GM pushing Union on Healthcare cuts...
The China Syndrome...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


How unintelligent does the Bush administration believe the American public is? The constant misunderestimation of us - the American people - is stunning.

Or maybe we really are as unintelligent as they think.

Bush and his cronies now believe they can simply pretend what they've said - over and over again - in the past never happened - and what they are saying now, is what they've always said. Does that remind you of anything? Say, George Orwell's 1984? In 1984, the totalitarian government would change their slogan, change who they were at war with, change who was a patriot and who was a villian - and simply deny and erase the evidence of their former statements - and the loyal public would buy it.

Bush’s new tack steers clear of ‘stay the course’
Phrase became liability for GOP in election year

After three solid years of the Bush administration holding firm on the line of "Stay the Course" - now they are trying to say that was never the policy. What?

President Bush and his aides are annoyed that people keep misinterpreting his Iraq policy as "stay the course." A complete distortion, they say. "That is not a stay-the-course policy," White House press secretary Tony Snow declared yesterday.

Where would anyone have gotten that idea? Well, maybe from Bush.

"We will stay the course. We will help this young Iraqi democracy succeed," he said in Salt Lake City in August.

We will win in Iraq so long as we stay the course," he said in Milwaukee in July.

"I saw people wondering whether the United States would have the nerve to stay the course and help them succeed," he said after returning from Baghdad in June.

But the White House is cutting and running from "stay the course."

Look at this terrific link from Thing Progress: Bartlett: ‘It’s Never Been A Stay The Course Strategy’

BUSH: We will stay the course, we will complete the job in Iraq. [8/4/05]
SNOW: The second thing you do is you stay the course. [7/10/06]
SNOW: But on the other hand, you also cannot be a President in a wartime and not realize that you’ve got to stay the course. [8/17/06]
BUSH: We will stay the course. [8/30/06]
BUSH: We will stay the course until the job is done, Steve. And the temptation is to try to get the President or somebody to put a timetable on the definition of getting the job done. We’re just going to stay the course. [12/15/03]
BUSH: And my message today to those in Iraq is: We’ll stay the course. [4/13/04]
SNOW: People are going to want more of it, and that’s why the President is etermined to stay the course. April. [8/16/06]
BUSH: And that’s why we’re going to stay the course in Iraq. And that’s why when we say something in Iraq, we’re going to do it. [4/16/04]
BUSH: And so we’ve got tough action in Iraq. But we will stay the course. [4/5/04]


Also - take a look at this link from the same blog: REPORT: Bush Officials Were ‘Rooting’ For North Korea to Test Nuclear Weapon

Before North Korea announced it had detonated a nuclear device, some senior officials even said they were quietly rooting for a test, believing that would finally clarify the debate within the administration.

Until now, no U.S. official in any administration has ever advocated the testing of nuclear weapons by another country, even by allies such as the United Kingdom and France.

One of these officials may have been Rice herself, Kessler hints. Rice, he reports, “has come close to saying the test was a net plus for the United States.” Rice has been trying to counter the prevailing view that the test was a failure of the Bush administration’s policy.
This is Orwell in action...


A cover story in yesterday's New York Times exposed serious problems in the recent wave to deregulate energy - In Deregulation, Plants Turn Into Blue Chips.

This has been the recent trend in energy production and distribution - deregulate the industry in the hope of stimulating competition and lowering consumer utility bills.

But this Times story points out that although massive investment firms may have been able to profit from deregulation - to the tune of billions and billions of dollars in just a few short years - consumers have not seen the wonderful benefits that were promised. In fact almost the opposite has happened - competition has not occurred, and consumers have paid the price for the profits the investment firms are reaping.

But even as some investors have profited handsomely by buying and sometimes quickly reselling power plants, electricity customers, who were supposed to be the biggest beneficiaries of the new system, have not fared so well. Not only have their electricity rates not fallen, in many cases they are rising even faster than the prices of the fuels used to make the electricity.

Those increases stand in contrast to the significantly lower prices in other businesses in which competition was introduced, such as airlines and long-distance calling.

Some electricity customers are also being saddled with monthly surcharges to cover construction costs for plants that were sold at bargain prices and then resold at huge profits. Some of these surcharges will continue for years.

And, look what market is analyzed as an example of the worst affects of deregulation:
Take the case of the Texas power plants. After the Texas Legislature, urged by Enron and big industrial customers, voted to make electricity generation a competitive business, the utility serving the Houston area sold 60 power plants that generate most of the power for the area to four investment firms — the Texas Pacific Group, the Blackstone Group, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Hellman & Friedman — which soon resold the plants at the $5 billion profit.

But state regulators have ordered electricity customers to pay an average of $4.75 monthly for 14 years to finish paying for the construction of the power plants, plus interest.

And the utility that sold the plants, Centerpoint, is suing for even higher payments from customers. Houston-area consumers now pay among the highest electricity rates, nearly double the national average.

Supporters of deregulation said customers would benefit from healthy competition among a growing number of electricity producers. But such competition has not developed.

Yuck. Talk about a total lack of planning...or at least planning with consumers in mind.
Many of the power plants that were sold are still owned by the utilities’ parent companies; they were simply transferred from the regulated utilities to unregulated sister companies. Some regulators allowed utilities to favor the sister companies with long-term contracts even if they did not offer the best price for electricity.

In fact, independent electricity producers argue that their modern generating plants often sit idle while older, inefficient plants owned by politically powerful utilities and their unregulated sister companies whir around the clock under long-term contracts. For example, Calpine, an independent generating company, and some big industrial customers have complained that Entergy, the Louisiana utility holding company, is favoring its own plants when Calpine’s power would be cheaper. Congress has ordered studies of the issue.

Because utilities are still allowed to pass on the cost of the power they buy, they have little incentive to choose a cheaper supplier. Electricity customers therefore end up paying more than they would have to if electricity production were truly competitive.
It’s a great deal, having ratepayers cover your managerial mistakes.”

This is what happens when you allow the energy companies to control energy policy within the states and federal government. There is no one left looking out for the consumers. Deregulation is good only for the utility companies, not for us consumers.

This is an excellent example of why there are some key industries that it makes complete sense for governments to highly regulate. I fully believe in the free-market, however, there are key industries that provide critical national services that our government has a responsiblity to oversee to protect consumers from this very type of activity.

(As an aside, deregultion played a major part in the power "shortages" in California some years ago, which played a part in exposing Enron as a manipulitive corporation, rather than the corporate beacon that they had generally been perceived of previous to the California episode.)

From Improbable to Possible...

Really nice profile about Texas Gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell in todays Houston Chronicle - Bell's Political Revival Harder than Imagined.

Chris Bell's political career was in the dumps by Christmas 2004.

Bell already had lost a bid for Houston mayor, and Republican redistricting had cost him his seat in Congress after his freshman term. But on the upside, Bell had become a hero among Democrats for filing a successful ethics complaint against then-U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land.

In the kitchen of his Houston home, Bell sat with Jeff Steen, his longtime friend and political adviser, trying to decide whether to run for governor, Steen recalls.

Bell knew it would be an uphill battle, requiring almost a miracle to win. But he believed it could be done by the right candidate in the right place at the right time, Steen said.

However, the road has been steeper than Bell could have imagined.

Democratic leaders and financial donors dodged his calls. The news media cast him as an underfunded also-ran.

It is almost utterly inconceivable that a Democrat could win the Governor's office in Texas - or almost any statewide office. But - if it was going to happen, this would be the year. There are five candidates in the race, and winner takes all - no run offs. The candidates are Republican incumbent Rick Perry. More conservative independent Carrol Keeton Strayhorn - who is running due to her distain for Perry, and belief that he is not conservative enough. Independent Kinky Friedman - who is an odd candidate who could pull disaffected liberal voters, but whose policy positions veer to the right. There is a Libertarian candidate - which will take conservative votes.

And then there is Democrat Chris Bell. Essentially, there are four conservatives and Bell. Clearly, the hope of the Bell campaign is for a very large Democratic turnout, Democrats vote for him instead of Friedman, and finally, that Strayhorn, Friedman and the Libertarian take many votes away from Perry.

Unlikely, but possible.

Age: 46
Family: Married to Alison Ayers. They were introduced by Allen and Elizabeth Blakemore, two of Houston's top Republican political consultants. The Bells have two sons: Atlee, 10, and Connally, 8.
Education: Graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and the South Texas College of Law. He was a member of Phi Delta Theta at UT.
Background: TV and radio reporter. Lawyer. Member of the Houston City Council, 1997-2002. Ran an unsuccessful race for Houston mayor, 2001. Served in the U.S. House, 2003-2005.
From the stump speech : "If you give me the bully pulpit and a veto pen, I will lead a 'New Texas Revolution.' " "Carole Strayhorn and Rick Perry are two sleeves of the same empty suit"
What you might not know about him: Bell has a dry, quick wit. But because it is situational and has a you-had-to-be-there quality, his humor rarely translates to the news media.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Ford takes a beating...

Ford Reports Loss of $5.8 Billion in 3rd Quarter

Just a terribly ugly quarter for the US' second largest auto maker. New CEO Alan R. Mulally put it bluntly, saying, "Let me make it clear — these results are unacceptable." And the current turn-around plan doesn't look to pay any benefits soon:

“Without giving any specific guidance, the profits will be worse in the fourth quarter than in the third,” Mr. Leclair said, later clarifying that he was referring to operating income. Several minutes after he made that remark, Ford’s stock, which had been trading a few cents above last week’s close, fell sharply.

Early this afternoon, Ford’s shares were trading down 14 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $7.87 on the New York Stock Exchange.

In the third quarter, Ford’s continuing operations lost $1.2 billion, or 62 cents a share, roughly what analysts had expected.

The losses in Ford’s North American operations were $800 million more than a year earlier. The company’s Premier Automotive Group, which includes the European brands Jaguar and Land Rover, lost $593 million, five and a half times more than last year.
Those numbers, while dismal, did not surprise analysts, who expected the company’s performance to be far worse than a year earlier, when it lost $284 million.
Things are just ugly for US Auto. GM recently turned down the opportunity to work with Carlos Ghosn - who has effectively turned around both Renault and Nissan. Now, Ghosn may begin to eye Ford a little closer.

Ford had been seen as a potential partner for Nissan and Renault, which spent the summer exploring an alliance with General Motors. After those talks ended abruptly earlier this month, Carlos Ghosn, the chief executive of both Nissan and Renault, said he was still interested in collaborating with a company in North America.
Related prior posts:
Black October for US Auto...
More Shakeups in US Auto...
GM pushing Union on Healthcare cuts...
The China Syndrome...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The plan(s)...

It appears as if the Republicans have finally come up with a plan in Iraq...well competing plans...or secret plans...or hobbit plans.

Sadly, I'm not kidding:

GOP Sen. Conrad Burns [said] in Tuesday's debate that he believes President Bush has a plan to win the war in Iraq but is keeping it quiet.

“We're not going to tell you what our plan is,” Burns told Democrat Jon Tester. Matt McKenna, a Tester spokesman, likened Burns' comments to statements by President Nixon that led to rumors of a “secret plan” to end or win the war in Vietnam. “The comparison is two politicians who put their own ambitions above the safety and success of the troops,” McKenna said.

Burns' spokesman Jason Klindt said Burns is adamant that details of a plan to win should not be released. Klindt said he doesn't know if Burns knows any specifics of a plan, but added, “I think he knows the general strategy.”

From Burns' remark draws comparison to Nixon.

Are you kidding me. There might be a plan, but - voters of Montana - we're not telling you...and I think, I might know the general strategy of that plan, but Bush won't tell me - Senator, Republican, and member of the Defense appropiations subcommittee. That is the NUTTIEST thing I've ever heard.

Until I heard this:
Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) offering a new way to understand the importance of the Iraq war:

"As the Hobbits are going up Mount Doom, the Eye of Mordor is being drawn somewhere else. It's being drawn to Iraq, and it's not being drawn to the U.S. You know what? I want to keep it on Iraq. I don't want the Eye to come back here to the United States."

The Eye of Mordor, for those who don't follow the study of geopolitical dynamics, was used by the Dark Lord Sauron to search for the One Ring that would consolidate his power over Middle-Earth.

Next: What Harry Potter thinks of bilateral negotiations with North Korea.

From the Chicago Sun-Times.

Truly unbelieveable.

This sums it up...

Republican media consultant Craig Shirley said the party's national leadership appears to be trying to scare disaffected voters to the polls by arguing that Republicans aren't as bad as the Democrats. "It would be nice if the national party started talking about what we are for ... instead of simply trashing the left," Mr. Shirley said. "We used to be proud of our ideas about less government and more freedom."

Again, experts at winning elections, pathetic at governing.

From the Washington Times article Conservative voters likely to stay home.

Other telling excerpts:

Top Republicans -- including President Bush, his chief strategist Karl Rove, Vice President Dick Cheney and Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman -- have been meeting with conservative activists, columnists and broadcasters, emphasizing the importance of this midterm election. That message has rippled out via newspapers, magazines, TV, radio and the Internet.

An e-mail sent this week by the conservative group carried the subject line, "Don't you dare not vote," and featured a column by veteran activist Doug Patton appealing to Republican voters' patriotism.

"As you contemplate how to express your frustration with Republican leaders who may have mishandled the power we have entrusted to them," Mr. Patton wrote, "consider how you would explain your apathy to the 1.2 million brave men who have given their lives in America's wars over the last 230 years."

Securing the Common Good...

Clinton Reflects on His 2 Terms and Hits Hard at Republicans
Clinton Comeback

Fifteen years ago, then-Presidential-candidate, Bill Clinton went to Georgetown University and delivered a speech about a New Covenant between the people and their government. In that speech fifteen years ago, he said:
People once looked at the president and the Congress to bring us together, to solve problems, to make progress. Now, in the face of massive challenges, our government stands discredited, our people are disillusioned. There’s a hole in our politics where our sense of common purpose used to be.

Yesterday, now-former-President, Bill Clinton went back to Georgetown and delivered a speech intending to put the message of progressive politics under a unifying theme that the American people - voters - can understand:
This sort of politics — striving for a common good — for me stands in stark contrast to both the political and governing philosophy of the leadership in Washington today and for the last six years.

Striving for the common, it seems like it's been a long time since a political leader would talk about something like that. At least six years, I'd say. A Common Good - it is so encouraging to hear a politician talk about something higher than partisan politics - working together for American goals:
The country has been well served by its progressive and conservative traditions. We understand that campaigns will be heated, but we want it to be connected somehow to the real lives of real people, to the aspirations of ordinary Americans.

Hopefully, the Clinton's message yesterday will be studied by Democrats running for office all of the nation. The last thing that we need is for the Democrats to actually squeak into office in these mid-term elections and be just as partisan, just as corrupt, and just as unwilling to do the work of the American people as the Republicans currently are. We need to accomplish the goals of the people:
We believe in mutual responsibility. They believe that, in large measure, people make or break their own lives and you’re on your own,” he explained in today’s speech. “We believe in striving, at least, to cooperate with others because we think that there are very few problems in the world we can solve on our own. They favor unilateralism whenever possible, and cooperation when it’s unavoidable.

For some - completely unknown - reason the current Bush administration, and the Republican party in general, still blames Clinton for every issue that comes before them - North Korea, the Foley scandal, terrorism, etc. Such 'blame-Clinton' tactics are nakedly irresponsible... but they are also poor politics. Clinton is about as popular as he has ever been, and his popularity is only on the rise:
When Clinton left office, his approval numbers in the Gallup poll were at a low 39 percent in early 2001. Today they are 20 points higher, and they have risen steadily as President Bush’s numbers have dropped.

Sure, blaming Clinton may still stir the rabid, right-wing base of the party... but that is the opposite of reaching out to the common good. And it's wholly ineffective. Weeks ago, Clinton was ambushed while doing an interview for Fox News - and he took much criticism when he actually fought back. But that moment - the moment when a Democrat actually fought back against Fox News and, as an extention, right-wing talk radio - has been a rallying cry not only for progressives, but also for the average American. We saw someone stand up against the propaganda and lies spewed constantly from the right-wing media. That media, Fox News and talk-radio, made such a big deal about it because it was terrifying for them. Because the people understood where it came from - for too long, the party in power has irresponsibly attacked the left and Clinton himself, while being entirely ineffective in their governing. Republicans may well be experts at winning elections - but they have utterly failed at governing.

In another recent speech, Clinton said the following:
Democrats, Clinton said, have a “big responsibility.” “Forget about politics,” he whispered. “Just go out and find somebody and look them dead in the eye and say, ‘You know this isn’t right’… We can do better, and this year, it’s a job that Democrats have to do alone.”

We, the people, can do better. It's time for us to return to a focus on the Common Good.

Related prior posts:
Skewed Perspective...
The Democrat's Problem...
Positive Signs...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Looks like I am wrong...

Okay. I can admit it when I'm wrong, or when I'm potentially wrong.

Last week I wrote about the TX-22 campaign, and said based on personal observation that it looks as if Shelley Sekula-Gibbs campaign may be getting some traction in the heavily Republican district.

Individual personal obervation is often a poor indicator of the overall picture. - a hardcore right-wing Republican blog-site - recently carried a posting mentioning that the Libertarian candidate in the race in TX-22 is out-polling Sekula-Gibbs, the Republican write-in candidate. Yikes. That would be a monumental embarrassment for the Republicans.

Related prior post:
An upset, of what would have been an upset, in the making?...

A really, really bad day...

I heard this story on the radio this morning, then found this article on MSNBC - Picasso Dream Painting in Nightmare Scenario

Steve Wynn ... accidentally gave the multimillion dollar [Picasso] canvas an elbow.

Wynn had just finalized a $139 million sale to another collector of his painting, called “Le Reve” (The Dream), when he poked a finger-sized hole in the artwork while showing it to friends at his Las Vegas office a couple of weeks ago.

Ouch. Blowing up a $139MM deal with a clumsy elbow. What a bad day...

On Purpose...

Interesting nugget from Newsweek - Beliefwatch: On Purpose

Time was, not so long ago, that no one ever said a bad word about Pastor Rick Warren. He was the genius grower of churches, the California whiz who found a magic formula for marketing Christianity to the masses, who hit the jackpot with his book "The Purpose Driven Life," by some accounts the best-selling nonfiction book ever. The newsweeklies noticed him, The New Yorker profiled him, members of Billy Graham's family lauded him and Bill Gates himself hobnobbed with him.
Has Warren simply gotten so huge—with 400,000 pastors trained in the art of being purpose-driven and more than 20,000 people coming to hear him preach on Sundays—that he's an easy target? Or are American Protestants really beginning to tire of megachurches? The numbers wouldn't support this latter hypothesis: there are twice as many megachurches in America today as there were five years ago, and Warren himself handles the criticism like a giant shooing a pesky fly. "It's about time someone started to be negative," he says with a smile in his voice. "The media love to build people up, and they immediately love to tear them down." He has important things to do, he says, pointing to his new initiatives to stop poverty, AIDS and illiteracy in Africa. The negative press is nothing—"like a water spider on the pond of life." Then he quotes John 10:37: "If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not." A verse that critics and fans alike can take to heart.

Related previous post:
A purpose driven nation?...

Monday, October 16, 2006

An upset, of what would have been an upset, in the making?...

Interesting article in the Houston Chronicle today about TX-22 - Big Gap in Cash Marks Dist. 22 Contest.

The article focuses on the big lead in cash that Democrat Nick Lampson holds over Republican Shelly Sekula-Gibbs, who is a write-in candidate for the Republicans after former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay had to resign in disgrace after being indicted for egregious corruption.
Lampson has $1.7 million in the bank compared with Sekula-Gibbs' $403,000 in the race to replace former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in suburban Houston's congressional District 22.

Since DeLay's resignation in the midst of scandal, and the Republican party's inability to replace a name on the ballot under Texas law, pundits have put TX-22 in the solid Democratic column, assuming that the Republican's would not be able to win with a write-in candidate. Maybe.

But, in an admittedly isolated personal observance, it appears that in Houston, the Republicans are starting to pour on the money. Commericals on the airwaves can be heard for Sekula-Gibbs - but I haven't heard anything from Lampson. In addition, there are two big billboards heading down 59 South for Sekula-Gibbs...nothing from Lampson.

Maybe it's just me - but in one of the most heavily Republican districts in the US, I think that the Vote Twice/Write In campaign is gaining traction, and she has a chance to upset ... the underdog.

Who would have thought a Democrat could have won TX-22? Who would have thought a write-in candidacy could beat the only major party candidate on the ballot?

This district could still come down to a crazy finish.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Not "Staying the Course"...

It appears that the bi-partisan commission set up by Congress and the White House to analyze current Iraq policies will reject Bush and the Republican policy/mantra of "stay the course."

Articles from both the New York Times and MSNBC indicate that James Baker, co-chairman of the commission, "said today that he expected the group to depart from Mr. Bush’s call to 'stay the course.'"

That is relatively good news. But - there is tragic news as well:

In interviews over the past two weeks, other members of the Iraq Study Group, an independent organization that came together with the reluctant blessing of the White House, have expressed concern that within months whatever course the group recommends will be overtaken by violence and other developments in Iraq.

“I think the big question is whether we can come up with something before it’s too late,” one member of the commission said late last month, after the group met in Washington. “There’s a real sense that the clock is ticking, that Bush is desperate for a change, but no one in the White House can bring themselves to say so with this election coming. It’s a race between our political calendar and the Iraqis.”
That's just beyond comprehension. Just like the Republican House leadership decided to risk the safety of kids in the page program in order keep their grip on power, and protect one safe seat in the House, the White House is willing to risk American soldiers, and countless Iraqi lives in order to wait to address the situation until after an election.