Friday, November 28, 2003

FAIR slashes Hannity to bits ...
The latest issue of Extra! by FAIR takes a really good look at the supposed fair and balanced "Hannity & Colmes" show: [An Aggressive Conservative vs. a "Liberal to be Determined"]. This is probably one of the most thorough investigations into Hannity's background. As a regular watcher of the "Sell-a-book & Colmes" show, I can tell you that this report by FAIR is very accurate portrayal of the overwhelming one-sided fight on the show, which I have stated in previous posts.
I like Alan Colmes. When his show was being broadcast in Boston, I was a regular listener, wrote letters to WRKO supporting the show, and have communicated with Colmes irregularly. However, as one other blogger noted, Colmes does act like Hannity's prison bitch on the FoxNews TV show.
While Hannity is a tactical [shrill] debater - often berating liberal guests, Colmes is apologetic in his position and ingratiating towards conservative guests. Some could say he is a classier act than Hannity. But some of us on the other side would like to see him get some backbone - or replaced with someone with some backbone. I doubt that will happen because Hannity prefers to run and dominate his show.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Kerry to mortage house?
One has to wonder if this is good money after bad: ["House, Painting and Wife Join in Kerry Financing"]. Although, it might be interesting if the wife starts making independent expenditure ads. What could she say? "My husband is a nice guy ... I love him ... don't attack my husband" ... etc.? All of this while he attempts to spring out of Iowa: ["Seeing Iowa as springboard, Kerry mounts a new push"]. However, what would happen if realizing he couldn't win, he just up and quit. Would anyone think any less of him? Less than they already think of him? Where would his support go? Interesting to wonder about.

Ending the Hillary talk ...
Here's hoping all the Draft Hillary nonsense will finally end already: ["Hillary says won't run now, maybe 2008"]. Although, I bet the speculation will still be on the horizon no matter how many times she keeps telling people she isn't running.

Sharpton jumps to second in South Carolina ... more polls
The Feldman Group released a poll yesterday showing the Rev. Al Sharpton in second place in South Carolina. John Edwards has also jumped back up to first: Edwards 17 percent, Sharpton 12 percent, Howard Dean at 11 percent, Wesley Clark falls to 10 percent, Joe Lieberman has 9 percent, and Dick Gephardt has 8 percent.
The day before, WTOP in D.C. reported results for the four candidates who are participating in the D.C. primary, a week before Iowa: Dean 45 percent, Shaprton at 11 percent, Carole Moseley Braun has 8 percent, and Dennis Kucinich with 4 percent.
Also Tuesday, Mason-Dixon released a poll from Florida: Lieberman 21 percent, Dean at 17 percent, Clark with 14 percent, and Gephardt has 11 percent.

Even though these polls don't mean anything and there are huge undecided numbers - voters who could go any of the candidates by each state's primary election day - the last few weeks of state-by-state polling numbers are revealing some interesting findings.
The first is that Kerry is in serious trouble. He is third in Iowa, second in New Hampshire, and nowhere anywhere else. Now maybe the millions he plans on pumping into his campaign can help him. But it doesn't look good.
Second, Clark, who quickly became the media darling, has not caught on with the voters. He was supposed to sweep in and knock Dean off the perch but hasn't been able to do much.
Third, with the frontloading of the primaries and the emphasis on money in politics, unless something serious happens, Dean is on the verge of clinching the Democratic nomination very quickly. He is showing surprisingly good positions outside of New England. I personally don't think he can beat Bush without a southerner or Midwesterner in the VP slot. And even then, it is still going to be hard for Dean to win. The popular invasion of Iraq and the gay civil union law will hang over Dean like an anvil in a lifeboat. Most people - especially progressives and liberal Democrats - don't realize that the most of the nation is conservative to moderate - not moderate to liberal. Look at the sea of red states Bush won. And it wasn't computer vote rigging either that gave the election to Bush. He won because people didn't like Gore. Sure, Bill Clinton was able to win twice but that is only because he was a moderate to conservative Democrat who had Ross Perot peeling off moderate to conservative votes from Bush 41 and Bob Dole. It is frustrating that no one realizes these things. Anyhow, back to Dean. No one else has come forward with enough clout to become the anti-Dean candidate - yet. And if Dean becomes the nominee and he loses to Bush there will only be one person to blame: DNC chairman Terry McAulliffe who, once again, set up the Democrats to lose by creating a primary process that ended so quickly that voters didn't get enough of a chance to really analyze the potential candidates.
Lastly, most political experts believe that Gephardt will emerge as the anti-Dean candidate. On trade and other issues important to working folks - and to beating Bush [!] - Gephardt would probably be a stronger Democratic nominee. As an aside, it should be noted that while the job situation in many swing states could cripple Bush ["Trade War Hurts The Dollar"] - this analysis is completely wrong BTW - he has started to put up some trade barriers to some imports, especially from China ["Sino-US trade friction unlikely to trigger trade war"]. However, in order for Gephardt to become the anti-Dean, he has to elevate his position. Gephardt's current numbers in states he has to win - or should be doing well in - are shockingly low at this point in the process. The pro-union, working folks candidate cannot be fifth in Pennsylvania, sixth in South Carolina, etc. and expect to be toe-to-toe with Dean or even win the Democratic nomination.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Sounds from space?
The crew aboard the international space station reported hearing "crunching" sounds this week: ["Space station crew hears crunching sound"].

Interesting endorsements
Rolling Stone writer William Greider endorses Dean ...: ["Why I'm for Dean"]. Here is an interesting passage:
"The governor has shown flashes of the same bluntness in his prime-time campaigning. Last summer, he told a revealing story on himself--a conversation with Robert Rubin, the former Treasury Secretary and Wall Street's main money guy for Democrats. Rubin had warned that unless Dean stopped attacking NAFTA and the multinationals for the migration of US jobs, he couldn't raise contributions for him from the financial sector. As Dean told it, "I said, 'Bob, tell me what your solution is.' He said, 'I'll have to get back to you.' I haven't heard from him." What I like so much about the story is that powerful, influential Bob Rubin pokes Dean in the chest, and he pokes him back. Then Dean discloses the exchange to the Washington Post."
Since when has Dean attacked NAFTA? He has been a cheerleader for NAFTA. I don't know what the hell Greider is talking about here.

... while Historian Howard Zinn endorses Dennis Kucinich: ["Zinn"].
My latest column
Here's my latest column: ["Casual reflections about giving thanks"]. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Yikes: Dean crushing Kerry in second Mass. poll
The Boston Herald released a poll this morning showing Howard Dean with a wider lead over John Kerry than the Boston Globe reported on Sunday: Dean at 33 percent, Kerry with 24 percent, Wesley Clark well behind with 7 percent, Joe Lieberman with 4 percent, and Dick Gephardt with 3 percent. These numbers are well within the margin or error.
Research 2000 shows Dean in the lead in New Jersey [19 percent to Lieberman with 15, Kerry with 14, and Clark at 13] while Survey USA puts him 10 percent up in Iowa: Dean 32 percent, Gephardt 22 percent, Kerry at 19 percent and Edwards jumping up to 11 percent.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Holy sh*t!

The Boston Globe is reporting that Howard Dean leads John Kerry in Massachusetts: ["Dean bid showing strength in Mass."]. This is so huge it isn't even funny.
But that Kerry apparently cannot hold off Dean in his own home state is a reflection of the deep political problems faced by the senator, whose campaign for the Democratic nomination has been hit with internal turmoil and criticism that the candidate has failed to ignite any passion.
Talk about stating the obvious. While I didn't have any specific numbers, I sensed some huge problems for Kerry in Massachusetts in recent months. The first was the money the campaign spent trying to get bodies to the campaign announcement. Then, there are the tons of elected pols who are backing Dean - and others - over Kerry. This all comes back to what I said on Nov. 12: Kerry hasn't done the outreach or made long term friends in his own state even though he was in a relatively safe seat.

Fascism on the horizon?
Thanks to Leroy for sending this article out to me: ["Gen. Franks Doubts Constitution Will Survive WMD Attack"].
"It means the potential of a weapon of mass destruction and a terrorist, massive, casualty-producing event somewhere in the Western world – it may be in the United States of America – that causes our population to question our own Constitution and to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a repeat of another mass, casualty-producing event. Which in fact, then begins to unravel the fabric of our Constitution. Two steps, very, very important."
Pray this never happens ... but don't be surprised if it does.

Creepy stuff on implants ...
And thanks to another reader for sending this, just in time for Christmas: ["Bio-chip implant arrives for cashless transactions"]. Happy New World Order! Bring on Armageddon ... not!

Edwards' campaign gets the numbers wrong
Perusing through the campaign sites, I noticed that candidate John Edwards had posted an interactive Electoral College map on his Web site ["Interactive Electoral Map"] which allows viewers to be their own strategist. The cool thing about this map is that people can figure out from past elections which states the Democrats need to win in order to beat Bush. It also makes the case I have stated before - all the Democrats need are the states Gore won plus one more.
However, the Edwards folks need to recheck their numbers. According to their site, Bush beat Gore 278 electoral votes to 260 votes. However, Bush only beat Gore 271 electoral votes to 267 votes. Someone will need to fix that.

More poll numbers
A Keystone Poll of Pennsylvania from yesterday shows a three-way race between Joe Lieberman, Howard Dean, and yeah, Al Sharpton: Lieberman 12 percent, Dean 11 percent, Sharpton 10 percent, with Dick Gephardt showing 7 percent and Wesley Clark and John Kerry posting 6 percent. These are not good numbers for Gephardt who should be in a higher position.
American Research Group posted more numbers from New Hampshire on Friday showing Dean with huge numbers: Dean 38 percent and Kerry at 17 percent. However, look at the race for third: Clark at 7 percent, Lieberman at 5 percent, Edwards and Gephardt at 4 percent, and Dennis Kucinich at 3 percent.
On Thursday, Quinnipiac University showed Dean creeping up on Lieberman in his home state of Connecticut: Lieberman 28 percent, Dean 23 percent, Kerry with 14 percent, Clark at 9 percent, and Gephardt with 8 percent.

Campaign notes
A lot has been made about the 30-second TV spot sponsored by the RNC promoting President Bush's leadership during "the war on terror." Despite previously saying that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and subsequent war on terror would be "off limits" during the reelection campaign, these ads started airing in Iowa last week.
Here is some of the reaction to the ads:
Dean launched an ad of his own: ["Misled"].
Kerry also released a new TV ad: ["No Mr. President"].
In a press release, Kucinich wrote:
"The Republican National Committee is using money that derives largely from the wealthiest few in America to pay for advertisements aimed at keeping all Americans scared. We will not be frightened into submission. We will not forget the lies we were told about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. We will not forget that Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11. We will remember that for the hundreds of billions we are spending on an unjust and destabilizing occupation in Iraq, we could have an investment in American education that would include free pre-kindergarten and free college tuition. We need to get our priorities straight and not give in to the fear-mongering. I offer America the hope of a new approach and a clear choice in the next election."
On the FBI tracking down anti-war protesters, Dean wrote earlier today:
"I am deeply concerned that the FBI appears to be engaged in a coordinated, nationwide effort to gather information on Americans opposed to President Bush’s unilateral war in Iraq. I am committed to providing local law enforcement with the tools to ensure demonstrations remain safe and peaceful for all involved, but we cannot allow a return to the dark days of Hoover's FBI and COINTELPRO, when the government harassed, smeared, and even spied upon people who criticized U.S. policies. John Ashcroft must remember that questioning the government does not make you a terrorist. In fact, the right to assemble peacefully and the right to petition our government are some of our most deeply held patriotic traditions."
While Dean has been smacking Gephardt in Iowa TV ads, for his support for the war, Gephardt has been striking back, attacking Dean's record in Vermont:
"On August 9th of 1993, four days after that fateful budget vote in the House of Representatives and one day before President Clinton signed his economic plan into law, Howard Dean announced a series of mid-year budget cuts that shocked the State of Vermont. State revenues had come in a little below expectations, so he decided that cuts had to be made. He cut health care services for 2,500 low-income disabled adults. He dropped dental coverage for over 12,000 Medicaid recipients. Monthly welfare benefits were cut. And for those nursing home patients who were forced to go the hospital, Medicaid would no longer pay to hold their bed for them back at the nursing home.
In the end, Howard Dean was forced to back down by state legislators and by Vermont Legal Aid, which sued him for making cuts without the proper authority. In 1993, Howard Dean cut special education funding by a million dollars and refused to increase education funding by the $7 million the State Board of Education said was critically necessary. In 1994, he increased state spending in nearly every area, but froze funding for Medicaid, education, and special education. Children with special needs and ailing low income citizens didn’t warrant even a meager three percent
increase in funding."
On the overtime rule change, Kerry wrote:
"President Bush has delivered another raw deal for America’s workers. Because of his actions, as many as eight million Americans - including fire fighters, police officers, paramedics, nurses, and store supervisors - will be denied the pay their families count on to put food on the table or save for college and a home. Once again George Bush has put special interests and corporations ahead of hard working families. We need a president with the courage to stand up to powerful special interests and put jobs back at the top of the national agenda. As president, I will honor the hard work of Americans determined to earn an honest living by working to rescind Bush special interest overtime rules in my first 100 days."

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

The supposed liberal radio network
All you folks out there hoping for a liberal radio network may just have to wait a little longer. AnShell Media, the company that is supposed to be setting up the network, has announced they have been sold to a former AOL/DNC exec: . I have just one question: Why is this guy paying ANYTHING for basically NOTHING? There is no liberal radio network called AnShell. The site: ["AnShell Media"]. lists no talk hosts, no radio programming, no affiliates, no launch date, essentially, no network. Sure, they have a handful of Democratic activists on the board of directors and there are some press clippings about the couple promoting the creation of the network but there is essentially no network! Here are a couple of lines I think are interesting:

Walsh, who once worked for the Democratic National Committee, appears to have a less partisan vision for the radio network than the Drobnys. He described the planned programming as primarily "centrist, with a hint of liberalism."
Great, however, we already have that - it's called NPR!

Though the Drobnys initially said they planned to be operational by the fourth quarter of 2003, AnShell has yet to take any significant steps toward getting on the air. The company has not hired any talent, purchased any stations or signed any contracts for distributing any programs.
Like I said, it isn't a network.

"I've never seen anything that doesn't exist get so much press," said Michael Harrison, editor of Talkers, an industry trade magazine.
Eh, neither have I!

Drobny, who initially said he would spend $10 million of his own money to start the network, confirmed that he spent less than that and profited from the sale.
Is this a bait and flip? A lot of people are waiting for something to happen and it doesn't look like it will. You gotta wonder.

Limboob, the money launderer?
Brian Ross has a huge scoop at ABCNews: ["Money Matters"].
My question: Since when does a bank deliver cash? And, how come no one dimed him out earlier? In the end it will be one law for him, another for the rest of us.

Latest poll numbers
Zogby reported this morning that Howard Dean is solid in New York: Dean 21 percent, Wesley Clark at 10 percent, Dick Gephardt and John Kerry tied with 7, and the Rev. Al Sharpton and Joe Lieberman tied with 6 percent. It should be noted that in a head to head match up with President Bush, Gephardt has the best numbers: Gephardt 48 percent to Bush's 38 percent. Lieberman would beat Bush by 8 percent while Clark, Dean and Kerry would all beat Bush by 5 percent, or within the margin or error. Very interesting numbers here.
In a Marist poll out of New Hampshire Monday, Dean continues to lead handily: Dean 44 percent to Kerry's 23 percent. Third place continues to be the battle or "comeback kid" slot: John Edwards at 7 percent, with Gephardt and Lieberman tied at 6 percent.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Well, what did you expect?
Toys R Us announced yesterday that it would be closing 182 stores and laying off 3,800 workers: ["Toys R Us to close Kids R Us, Imaginarium businesses"]. Well, gee, what did you expect? This goes to the heart of everything I talk about concerning American trade policy. Manufacturers who close plants in America and move them to Mexico or China are essentially stealing their own markets from themselves. If you aren't working - or earning better than normal wages - you don't have money for toys or special kids clothes, etc. If these people aren't shopping at the stores, the stores will go out of business.
Don't be surprised if you hear more of this type of bad news coming from the retail sector. Both Target and Wal-Mart have already warned about lower than expected Christmas revs. Gee, I wonder why? The free trade cultists have ignored this part of the trade problem and instead, gleefully obsessed over the supposed lower prices that imports offer consumers. But if you are a consumer without a job, you can't consume! It really is that simple.

NAFTA at 10
Speaking of trade, yesterday was the tenth anniversary of NAFTA passing the House of Representatives. Two presidential candidates noted the anniversary as part of their media emails:
Dennis Kucinich: "For a decade, we have been subjected to a grand experiment called NAFTA. When that agreement was signed in 1993, it was enthusiastically supported by big business, Republicans, and all too many Democrats -- including then-Governor Howard Dean, who even attended a NAFTA signing ceremony. Now it is clear that this experiment has failed. We've lost close to 3 million manufacturing jobs since July 2000. Over one half a million of these are directly attributable to NAFTA. Our trade deficit grew to $418 billion last year and continues to climb. And, because of the WATT [sic], corporations have been granted unprecedented powers to sue the government in closed trade courts anytime laws designed to protect workers or the environment are deemed to infringe on corporate 'rights.'
Kucinich also created a link where people could talk about their NAFTA experiences [""] and attacked Dick Gephardt for backing GATT/WTO.
Dick Gephardt: "For more than twenty-five years, I have worked to promote trade policies that grow our economy, raise worker standards, and open up markets for American products. I have never left the side of the American worker in any of these battles and in turn led the fight against a series of bad trade agreements including NAFTA and the China trade deal because I not only believed these agreements were bad for American workers and their families, but were also detrimental to workers in Mexico, China and throughout the world.
"Today as we celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the passage of the NAFTA trade agreement we learn that we have lost nearly 900,000 American jobs, 13,000 jobs in South Carolina alone, as a direct result of NAFTA. These are not only manufacturing job losses, they are high tech jobs which were expected to be the promising jobs of the 21st century. As I predicted, these trade agreements have resulted in a race to the bottom where corporations in every sector of our economy move around the globe looking for the cheapest available labor, abandoning American workers and manipulating workers abroad.
"Unlike the other candidates in this race, my opposition to NAFTA, Fast Track, and the China trade deal were not born of political convenience, but of moral necessity. I am the only candidate in this race who voted against NAFTA. Senators Kerry and Lieberman both voted for NAFTA and Governor Dean supported NAFTA, Fast Track, and permanent trade relations with China. Senators Kerry, Lieberman, and Edwards all voted for the recent China trade deal that has sent thousands of South Carolina textile jobs overseas. All of my opponents are now saying that if elected president, they would never support a trade agreement that jeopardized American workers, but where were they when American workers really needed their support.
"I believe that free trade and open markets create good jobs for American workers, but I have traveled to countries like China, Thailand and Indonesia, where the most sophisticated, high-tech labor is now done for a few dollars a day. Workers should receive a living wage and be treated with dignity everywhere around the world which is why I have proposed an international minimum wage, different for every country, but with the universal goal of raising standards and wages around the globe.
"My entire campaign is focused on preserving good paying jobs in this country and creating additional jobs to get the more than 3 million Americans who have suffered under the Bush economy back to work again."
The NAFTA fight was probably one of the most exciting battles that I have ever been involved in with unfortunate end results for Americans. Over one million decent wage, low skill jobs lost according to the last numbers I saw in the New York Times. It was amazing to the see the propaganda and lies that were being promoted by the proponents and the wholesale buying of votes by then-President Clinton and his big business buddies [One of the most heinous vote buying examples I know of was done by Clinton when he bought the vote of Mass. Rep. Gerry Studds in exchange for $1.2 billion in money for the fisheries of Massachusetts, money that was immediately gutted from the budget by the Republican Congress. Essentially, Studds sold his vote for nothing and left the Congress right afterwards. Also, check out the "Selling of Free Trade" by John MacArthur for a really good overview behind the scenes from the NAFTA fight].
I believe that NAFTA vote was one of those moments in history where things started to change.
It was also the death of the last modern populist movement our nation had: Jerry Brown's insurgent, almost successful campaign for the Democratic nomination for president [before the insiders and the late Paul Tsongas jumped in and derailed it], Ross Perot co-opting most of Brown's best talking points and attracting almost 20 million voters, and Clinton eventually winning the presidency by tricking voters with his lite-populism that Dick Morris described as triangulation [or strangulation, as I describe it] of the body politic.
After NAFTA, things started to change around our country. The most noticeable was when the big corporations that control talk radio started to change their formats from serious talk to "hot talk" formats. Almost simultaneously, programmers across the nation decided that less intelligent, lighter talk formats and programming were needed to sooth the savage beast, if you will. In Boston, long-time talk hosts like Jerry Williams and Gene Burns - hosts who would have serious discussions about the issues of the day - were dumped and replaced by pinheads and rightwing psychos like Jeff Katz and Two Chicks Dishing [both now thankfully gone] and to a lesser extent Howie Carr, who would ridicule the poor and entertain topics like supermarket gripes and who do you want to see naked on TV. At the same time, the politicians began to run roughshod over everything. Without the watchdogs who was to stop them?
Our nation hasn't been the same since. Look around you. Isn't it strange that your friends and neighbors are more concerned about the lives of celebrities than the plant closing down the street? It isn't funny that people are more concerned about the death of a pretty pregnant woman from California or a young, sexually active intern than the social problems in their hometowns? And we wonder why a lot of young people - and their parents too - are clueless to the world around them. People feel powerless and beaten now and the television is nice distraction from the realities around them, an opiate to the senses that will keep you from figuring out anything and that's exactly how big businesses want it.

Monday, November 17, 2003

An end to the computer voting conspiracy?
As regular Politizine readers know, I have been very critical of some of the computer voting conspiracies floated by liberal Democrats in the last year. I have no qualms about their comments and fears concerning DRE or touch-screen computer voting machines. Those machines have no paper trail and should not be used. However, I have challenged them on their comments about optical scanning machines, which scan paper ballots, and have used statistical and actual election data to disprove many of their accusations.
Earlier this month, Republicans won gubernatorial seats in Kentucky and Mississippi, and the accusations that Republicans were rigging the machines, continued.
However, Saturday, a Democrat, Kathleen Blanco, beat Republican Bobby Jindal for the governor's seat in Louisiana during their run-off election Saturday. The turnout was about 51 percent [Louisiana, a conservative, southern state, allows for a run-off election when one candidate does not receive 50 percent of the vote in a primary election - unlike supposedly liberal states like Massachusetts which don't have run-offs. Also, 18 candidates participated in the primary].
Blanco, who ran as a fiscally-conservative Democrat, was predicted to fail but will now be the state's first female governor. According to press reports, the race was a bitter one - with Jindal, a self-proclaimed conservative Native American Indian and former member of the Bush administration, exchanging jabs with Blanco. New Orlean's Democratic Mayor Ray Nagin even shocked fellow Democrats when he endorsed Jindal. Most polls had Jindal winning the race.
However, Jindal didn't win the race, Blanco did. So, after seeing a little clip about the election results, I did some googling. And guess what I found? Louisiana has ES&S voting machines!: ["McKeithen plans to standardize Louisiana's voting machines"].

McKeithen indicated he likely will scrap the state's newest portable touch-screen voting machines, which are used in two parishes and in absentee voting, after malfunctions and problems created costly headaches. "I told the people who make them, 'We're going to use them to get through this election cycle. We make no promises to you after that,'" McKeithen told the Press Club of Baton Rouge on Monday, calling the touch-screen voting machines that malfunctioned last year during fall elections "horrible."

Later, McKeithen said this:

McKeithen said he didn't expect any problems with the touch-screen machines in the Nov. 15 runoff. "It's going to be accurate. It's just not going to be real fast or easily done," he said.

Well, actually, the tally was pretty fast and probably accurate. The article states that Louisiana has over 10,000 voting machines. It should be noted that during the fall elections last year, Mary Landrieu, a conservative Democrat, was reelected to the U.S. Senate despite a Republican sweep everywhere else across the country.
However, if the computer voting conspiracy is true and rightwing Christians who give money to Bush are hacking into voting machines they made and changing the results, how come a Democrat won in Louisiana?

Is Howard Dean another Bill Clinton?
Mokhiber and Weissman let a former Conservation Law Foundation attorney in Vermont take shots at Howard Dean: ["Howard Clinton?"].

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Hating Bush ...
... hating Clinton: ["Hatred, anger, and the 2004 election"]. Pretty good blog post here via Smirking Chimp about some political history which gives me the chance to do a little ranting. I especially like this part of the blog:

We can all recall the Clinton hatred of the 1990s: wild accusations that he planned to enslave America in a "New World Order," that he'd had Vince Foster murdered, that he ran drugs out of the Mena airport, that he had fathered a black "love child," and on and on and on.
True, but don't miss the larger point: All of those accusations about Clinton were not hateful or delusional, but logical - especially if a person looks at the evidence that goes with the conspiracies with an open mind. As well, these conspiracies are not unlike the accusations now pressed against Bush.
Vince Foster may not have been murdered by Clinton; but he didn't commit suicide in Fort Marcy Park, which is the official Clinton FBI line. The evidence is overwhelming that he was dumped in the park from somewhere else. Also, the placement of the bullet in his head and where the gun was dropped after the shot, are not consistent with a suicide. Clinton may not have been involved in the drug-running/Contra operation out of the Mena Airport, but both he and Hillary supported the Contras butchering socialists in Nicaragua and drugs were run out of Mena. Both Bush 41 and Clinton knew the CIA was running drugs out of Arkansas. Liberal reporters like Counterpunch's Alexander Cockburn have done thorough investigations in this matter and have found the Mena story to be true. The black love child issue was never resolved since Clinton's complete DNA was not released to investigators. Only part of his DNA was released to investigators - to protect his genetic code - and when the media said it didn't match, people took it as gospel even though the complete code wasn't released. In a criminal court, the partial DNA would not have been taken seriously and the complete DNA evidence would have been ordered. Anyone can read the Army's plan for civilian control in Operation Garden Plot or look at what happened at Waco and understand that there should be great fear of some sectors of the government whether a Democrat or a Republican is in office. Just because rightwing radio hosts were fanning the flames in 1993, doesn't mean it isn't legitimate. In fact, the same citizen control fears are being fanned against Bush by both rightwingers and leftwingers so, get a grip already.
I know a lot of this because I have done a lot of investigating of rightwing organizations and the militia movement. During the 1990s, I made numerous speeches and talks about the problems with NAFTA and GATT, and many of the people I spoke to were a part of the these movements. While their beliefs may be a little wild-eyed, these people are normal - truck drivers, mechanics, hunters, school teachers, etc. - who have serious and relevant fears of their government. I also read a lot and try to do so with an open mind. If you look at any of the claims by those people with an open mind yourself, you would find the same logic.
As well, on issues of media consolidation, trade deals, and civil rights, rightwingers have been at the forefront of fighting for the interests of Americans, while all these so-called progressives and liberals, who came late to the issues because it was trendy, were worshipping at the alter of Clinton/Gore.
Where the hell were you people?!? It's almost too late now to fix because of your actions between 1991 and 2000!
Lastly, let me leave you with this thought, and please, take it seriously and with an open mind: For all the talk about the dangers of AG John Ashcroft - and I do believe he and the PATRIOT Act are dangers - is the blood of any American on his hands? No.
However, no one can say the same for Clinton's former AG Janet Reno, who ordered the raid at Waco which led to the deaths of 80 Americans who weren't harming a fly [As an aside, give yourself a history lesson: Rent the documentary "Waco: The Rules of Engagement" and see what the Clinton administration did to those Americans].
And don't forget the deaths of hundreds in the Murrah Federal Building bombing which would not have been perpetrated had Waco not occurred. The building also might not have been blown up had the feds listened to sources warning them the building was going to be blown up. Rightwingers have tried to get people to listen to them on this issue. Their fears are eerily similar to ones floated by many now - that the feds under Bush 43 could have prevented the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
How come one is perceived as logical and the other isn't? If these people could look beyond the partisan politics, they could find the logic in both arguments.

Kerry having money problems?
TIME Magazine is set to report Monday that John Kerry is having serious money problems. From Drudge:

Senator John Kerry's fund raisers are telling him it's getting next to impossible to find anyone willing to write a check to his campaign, TIME's Karen Tumulty reports in this week's issue (on newsstands Monday, Nov. 17). Last week the Senator fired campaign manager Jim Jordan, announced he's following Dean's lead in opting out of spending limits for his campaign and vowed "to get really real and focused." That declaration, of course, only raised the discomfiting question of what he's been doing until now.
In addition, it doesn't look good when the Kerry effort keeps sending out beg emails for cash to people subscribed to his media list:

"Now is the time to stand together and gather our resources, for this may be the most important election of our lifetime. Please donate now."

The Hillary story that won't die ...
Some still think, with the help of those in the media, that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee: ["2004: Wishful Thinking?"].

The scenario, as sketched by this hard-boiled insider, calls for Clinton to make an entrance as healer and unifier at the end of the primary season in May or June in the unlikely - but not impossible - event that none of the existing contenders has amassed a majority of the convention delegates. "You'd have to have Howard Dean not wrapping it up, and being an angry, wounded front runner," this adviser said. "You'd have to have two of the other challengers tearing each other apart in primary after primary. Then Hillary could come in, well in advance of the convention, and say, 'Look, somebody has to save the party'."
I have always said that I didn't think Hillary would run, especially in a tight primary field. With Wesley Clark jumping in, with the backing of many Clinton insiders, a Hillary primary campaign seemed unlikely. But this hypothetical elevation at the convention could have some weight, especially when you look at the front-loaded primary season and the power of the super-delegates.
First, because of the front-loaded primaries, there is a good chance a nominee will be clear by the middle March. I don't think this will happen but it is the standard assumption. I think, because there are so many egos in this battle and so much money, it will be a long bloody battle - which gives the healing Hillary effort even more cred. If the super-delegates - the thousands of party insiders and elected officials who will be at the convention - aren't happy with the nominee, there is a good chance they could work to forward Hillary at the convention.
I think, in the end, this will rip the party apart and create so much disillusionment within the ranks of volunteers - especially those of the nominee - that it could kill the party's chances. Let's say Dean wins and Hillary and the insiders swipe the nomination from him. What do you tell the thousands of volunteers he has? How can you tell them with a straight face that they shouldn't feel betrayed and instead, do what their told? It would be a huge risk and alienate thousands of people who are energizing the party while the insiders are contuning to wreck their chances of beating Bush by listening to Terry McAulliffe and the former President Clinton.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Yeah, right
Sorry, I don't believe any of this: ["Case Closed: The U.S. government's secret memo detailing cooperation between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden"]
First off, there is no smoking gun. There is still no connection made between Saddam Hussein and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Plus, why has this taken so long to get out? Can anyone believe this memo which is being published in The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, which thinks that the invasion was a swell idea and will be supporting the reelection campaign of President Bush? It should also be noted that Bill Kristol is the editor for The Weekly Standard and also helped draft the invasion plans, via the conservative think tank Project for a New American Century.
And then there is the move by the president to speed up the transition: ["Iraq to Get Transition Government by June, Council Says"]. You can almost hear the gears turning in Karl Rove's head ... "gotta be outta there by the summer ... can't have the troops in harms way during the reelection campaign ... we've ordered the Pentagon to keep the body bags from being filmed, which helps ... but, we gotta be outta there by the summer ..."
Then, there is this: ["U.S. casualties from Iraq war top 9,000"].
And while we are at it, what is all this talk about the "end of the recession"? Says who? So, 126,000 more are employed than last month. That doesn't mean a thing. Everyone knows that retail outlets make most of their seasonal hires in September and October, in order to get the best workers trained and in place for the holiday spending season - November and December. So, how is this normal action by the job creation sector an end to the recession? Well, it isn't. A country can't lose 3.1 million jobs in 33 months and then call 250,000 new jobs in two months an economic recovery. If this continues for another 33 months, then yeah, it would be a recovery.
And what about the increase in the GDP they keep raving about [7.2 percent between July and September]? First, a lot of people spent their money locally last summer during the vacation season and didn't make trips overseas, so whatever money families spent on their vacations, it was spent here. Also, sure, most people who got an extra $2 to $5 in their paychecks per week and those people went out and spent that money. Two hundred million taxpayers spending $5 more a week produces $1 billion in more spending per week. That is $4 billion per month or $12 to $15 billion that quarter. Some people got even more. And if those people spent all of their tax break, that is even more money. Plus, the government borrowed billions more and spent it on things like the war so that would also get counted in the GDP.
However, this doesn't mean the recovery is underway. Now let's look at some of the bad economic numbers:
* Personal bankruptcies: Personal bankruptcies rose 7.8 percent in the 12 months ending Sept. 30, according to data released Friday by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. More than 1.6 million people, granted, a small portion of the population, filed for personal bankruptcy this past fiscal year. But it was a record high. Personal bankruptcies have nearly doubled in the past decade. What does this mean? Well, generalizing, people are spending a lot more than they can afford or they have gotten themselves into debt from health care or other problems. Most of this spending was during the 1990s, according to press reports, which means that even during the boom, the spending and earnings were fake.
* Trade deficits: Trade deficits jumped to a record level in September - a $41.3 billion trade deficit - including billions of cheap imports flooding into the United States from China. That is the equivalent of 206,500 homes valued at $200,000 shipped overseas. That is $41 billion worth of goods that could have been produced here, by American workers, who pay American taxes, funding American schools, etc. This deficit follows a $39.5 billion trade deficit in August - or, another 197,000 $200,000 homes. That's the value of 400,000 high-end homes basically shipped overseas in the last two months. No nation can continue on this path. When is this free trade madness going to end?

More poll numbers
Here are some interesting poll numbers from different states.
According to Research 2000 today, John Edwards leads in his home of North Carolina [Edwards 43 percent, Howard Dean 25 percent, John Kerry 9 percent and Dick Gephardt at 7 percent] but he would get clobbered by President Bush [Bush 52, Edwards 42].
In New Hampshire, WMUR/UNH continue to show a Dean lead - 38 percent to Kerry's 16, Edwards and Wesley Clark with 5 percent, Joe Lieberman at 4 percent, and Gephardt at 3 percent.
On Thursday, Wisconsin Public Radio and St. Norbert College reported Lieberman in the lead in Wisconsin with 16 percent, Dean following with 14 percent, Clark at 12, Gephardt at 9 and Kerry with 8 percent.
In New Jersey, Quinnipiac University also found Dean and Lieberman tied with 16 percent, with Kerry at 15, Clark with 11, and Gephardt at 9 percent.
In Dean's home state of Vermont, the former governor has a solid lead: Dean 47 percent, Kerry 18 percent, and Clark at 8.
But in Dennis Kucinich's home state of Ohio, he trails: Lieberman has 18 percent, Gephardt has 14, Kucinich at 12, and Dean and Kerry tied with 9 percent.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Kerry campaign collapsing
Quite a lot can happen in three days. The Shaheens take over the John Kerry for president campaign, Kerry tells staffers he is firing his campaign manager, via conference call, while chomping on dinner. He brings in a Kennedy hack, two other campaign workers jump ship in protest, and then he bombs on Jay Leno.
Kerry's campaign is imploding.
This is what happens when you are the frontrunner two years away from an election and it is sad to see. It has happened to some of the best of them but never like this. However, it wasn't unexpected.
As someone who has watched Kerry for over 15 years, seen him in other races, and watched him lose all spine when the tough votes have come along, I could have told you this would happen. When he first came to the senate, Kerry was a champion of campaign finance reform, refusing PAC money and only accepting $250 donations. Then he changed his mind and started taking big money and formed his own presidential slush fund PAC. He paints himself as a champion of the environment but what has he actually done for the environment? Just voting against drilling in ANWR isn't enough. What legislation has he sponsored and moved through the senate? Where are the tax breaks for people who purchase hybrid cars? Kerry drives a massive SUV - what kind of example does this set?
Kerry has no recognizable legislative record despite being in a safe seat in Mass. Politicians who have safe seats are the ones who are supposed to be the visionaries. They can afford to take chances on being thinkers and floating new ideas. Kerry has had 18 years to prove himself beyond his war record and blue-blood good looks and has nothing to show for it. In fact, his actions on legislation are coming back to haunt him on a massive scale in this campaign.
Take organized labor.
Kerry has always had a bad relationship with the unions in Mass. [sans the governmental and teachers' unions] but lucky for him, most of these voters have never had a place to go [Anti-union zealots Jim Rappaport (1990), Bill Weld (1996) and Michael Cloud (2000), have been Kerry's challengers].
However, instead of making some inroads with the union folks, Kerry has kicked the shins of working folks and organized labor by voting for NAFTA, GATT and the WTO, and PMFN trade status for China. Kerry, like Ted Kennedy, Joe Kennedy, and other Democrats in Mass., has taken advantage of the fact that many voters have had nowhere else to go. Instead of standing up for workers, Kerry has helped pass bad corporate and workers' legislation. Kerry's reaction to working folks on his trade votes? TFB - we live in a global society and if you can't compete with 10 cent labor in China, too bad, blah, blah, blah. I saw him literally say that to a handful of Verizon workers in Manchester complaining that they couldn't compete with workers from India. They were all pretty shocked but I wasn't.
Well, John, welcome to New Hampshire and Iowa, where working families are struggling to put food on the table because the factory jobs are gone and people have to work two or three service slave jobs at a fraction of the wages they once earned. Kerry helped these people lose their economic advantages as Americans and then he wonders why they don't bow to him during his presidential campaign?
Then there is the war vote which has cost Kerry dearly. Supporting the president's invasion has hurt other campaigns, and it is one of the reasons Howard Dean is even taken seriously at all. At the time of the vote, Kerry and others were worried about being painted as too liberal for not backing the war. Well, it has come back to kick you in the ass, hasn't it? Dick Gephardt also voted the same as Kerry but isn't being treated as badly because - for the most part - he has stood with working people. Kerry doesn't have that to fall back on and the brie and wine crowd became Republicans years ago. Both John Edwards and Joe Lieberman are also fading, although their support for the invasion of Iraq is only a small part of the reason why they are fading.
Kerry even came back to Boston to do local TV, telling Natalie Jacobsen that his campaign isn't collapsing [see for yourself this Sunday at 10 a.m. on Channel 5]. Sure, Boston TV reaches southern New Hampshire. But the stunt smells of trying to protect the home base.
In the end, all the staff changes are not going to whip this campaign into shape. It is a sinking ship unless Kerry - not the staff - can find direction - any direction - as to where he plans to lead the nation. Right now, the direction Kerry has shown voters is a bad one.

Another look at Dean's opting out...
Robert Kuttner has a pretty good piece in the Boston Globe this morning about the power of small donations: ["Growing power of small money"]. This is a great point. Look at the numbers: Two million $70 donations equals $140 million. That is a lot of cash. Look further: Two million volunteers working street by street, precinct by precinct in swing states and not, promoting the candidate. Hmm - Bush: 70,000 people ponying up $2,000 checks in his "Ranger" and "Pioneer" programs. Or any Democrat: two million people ponying up $70. Eh, give me the latter any day of the week.

... and another look at Nader
"Never say Nader"

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Mac vs. PC gal speaks out
There have been mixed reviews about last week's Rock the Vote debate broadcast on CNN where young people supposedly were able to speak directly to the candidates about their issues. Well, according to a few, the thing was rigged.
Take Alexandra Trustman, a Brown University student, who has been getting hammered at school for her question about what kinds of computers the candidates used. Trustman responded with a column in the Brown Daily Herald, attempting to clear the air: ["Don't shoot the messenger"]. I am publishing the entire post here because the link seems to be having some problems:

Don't Shoot the Messenger By Alexandra Trustman
I'm writing in response to the Daily Jolt forums, the student dialogue and The Herald representation of me and my question at CNN's Rock the Vote. I'm extremely disappointed in the student body's reaction, especially because they weren't privy to the circumstances under which I had to ask the question, a situation that occurs daily in the media.
To clear things up, I was called the morning of the event and asked by the executive producer of the show if I would ask a question at the forum. I was told the question would probably be something about Macs or PCs, but that, once I arrived in Boston, we could amend what I would ask. Immediately, confused by the question's relevance as well, I tried to think about ways to make it seem applicable. I thought perhaps CNN's aim in wanting the candidates to answer their computer preference was really a way to breach the topic of technology. So, I constructed a much more relevant question, about how, if elected, the candidates would use technology in their administrations.
Once in Boston I was handed a note card with the Macs or PCs version of Clinton's boxers or briefs question. After reading it, I told the executive producer that I didn't see the question's relevance and had thought of one that I would like to ask instead. He took a look at my question and told me I couldn't ask it because it wasn't light-hearted enough and they wanted to modulate the event with various types of questions - mine was to be one of the questions on the less serious side. The show's host wanted the Macs or PCs question asked, not because he was wondering about the candidates' views of technology, but because he thought it would be a good opportunity for the candidates to relate to a younger audience - hence the 18- to 31-year-old audience of Rock the Vote. At this point it was clear to me that the question would be asked regardless of whether I was the person to ask it.
I had to make the decision whether to actively participate in Rock the Vote by asking a question that wasn't mine and wasn't representative of me as a Brown student, or to sit in the stands uninvolved. The executive producer had asked and wanted me to pose the question, so being someone who doesn't like to go back on her word, as a favor to him I went ahead, hoping that if CNN wanted the question asked there must be a reason. Loyalty to my commitment and the opportunity to be involved in Rock the Vote outweighed any criticism I thought would come from the question. Granted, I wish I had been able to ask something else, but when put into perspective, there are many questions I could have asked that would have yielded a much more negative response. It's not as if what I said was inappropriate or politically incorrect. As the New York Times put it, Rock the Vote was "intended by its organizers to offer a somewhat offbeat view of the candidates by having them answer questions from young voters. And there were, indeed, the offbeat questions, like whether the candidates ... preferred PCs to Macs."
It's unfortunate that the candidates were unable to take advantage of the question to try to relate to the young viewers by extrapolating their answers. In effect they missed the opportunity to reveal an aspect of their offbeat, youthful side. Those who criticized the question didn't take into account why CNN might have wanted it asked - what's more, they didn't hesitate to judge me for asking a question I couldn't change. I would have hoped that such a liberal student body, from a school that in the very school catalog advocates intellectual freedom, would have reserved judgment on a situation and person it knew little if nothing about. Not one person bothered to inquire or find out the truth about the incident. No one even asked me to write this opinions column. My side was left completely unrepresented and was as a consequence misrepresented.
At a school where we pride ourselves on open mindedness and good journalism, I would have expected that before being criticized, both sides of the story would be presented, if not for the professionalism of the Brown Daily Herald, then perhaps for the respect of a fellow student.

A few quick things. First, if she were really embarrassed by the question, she shouldn't have asked it. In the end, individuals are responsible for their actions. Second, live television is what pranks are for. She could have easily ignored the prepared question and asked her own technology question or another one. What was she worried about? It isn't like security was going to come over and kick her out. Well, maybe if she said "Baba Booey." But because Trustman followed the rules, she has to take a little heat for her actions. Imagine the praise she would have received had she asked her more complicated technology question. I can hear the New York Times now: Wow, a serious question, how did that get by?
Then, there is Alethea Pieters - a campaign aide for Boston City Council twerp Mike Ross - who, after a busy day of working the polls helping Mikey trounce Mission Hill activist Carmen Torres, asked the party question and then received a profile from Mark Jurkowitz in the Boston Globe: ["She's not afraid to question 'party' politics"].
Tee hee. Tee hee. "I don't know which one I would want to party with. But Joe[Lieberman] picked me, so I guess I should party with him." Tee hee. Tee hee.
Oh man ... What is most pathetic about all of this is that CNN doesn't think young people can have a serious discussion about issues or even try to have a discussion about serious issues. In Boston, there are tons of young people who have a better grasp of global and domestic policies and concerns than most of the candidates! There are some serious young people in that town. Why couldn't they ask their own questions, whether serious or light?
Then, there is the Rock the Vote organization itself. A supposed non-partisan group which helped get Bill Clinton elected to two terms by registering and urging young people to vote via PSA ads [most young conservatives already vote so they didn't need much encouraging]. Strangely missing was the Rock the Vote 2000 effort - which could have buoyed the campaigns of Al Gore or - gasp - Ralph Nader! Well, they couldn't do that because Rock the Vote is funded and run by liberal Democrats, many of whom are from the music industry - hence, the hand in hand effort with MTV. And, as Jello Biafra so eloquently stated on his last spoken word CD, they all remembered what Gore's wife Tipper put the industry through during the PMRC fundamentalist years when Al was a young buck conservative southern senator. There would be no rockin' of the vote for him or Nader.
I saw the debate on rebroadcast Sunday. And what struck me was how Hollywood it all seemed - the beautiful smiling faces in the crowd, not a scar or ounce of body fat on them, perfectly tailored, many of them probably very well educated with the token retail stiff or auto mechanic, being manipulated to talk down to the young people watching. Pathetic.

AP: Rummy wants more ground troops in Iraq
C-SPAN is reporting that Donald Rumsfeld is saying that if the generals want more ground troops in Iraq, he will make the suggestion to the president. Happy Veterans Day.

Poll numbers from Delaware!
I have been searching for months for some poll numbers from Delaware, an early primary. Here is what Mason-Dixon is reporting from yesterday: Joe Lieberman has 19 percent, Howard Dean has 15, Dick Gephardt is at 12 percent, Wesley Clark comes in at 10 percent, and John Kerry has 8 percent.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Nader blasts Democrats
Anyone who knows anything knew this was coming: ["Ralph Nader calls Democrats whiners"].
Nader also called Democrats "chronic whiners" for continuing to blame him for the election of Republican President George Bush in 2000. "They should realize that the retrospect on Florida concluded (Democrat Al) Gore won Florida," Nader told the Wisconsin State Journal shortly after his speech at a the National Conference on Media Reform at UW-Madison on Saturday morning. "Gore won the election," Nader continued. "It was stolen from the Democrats. And they should concentrate on the thieves and the blunderers in Florida, not on the Green Party." He added that 300,000 registered Democrats in Florida voted for Bush. "I think the Democrats can be fairly charged with chronic whining, and they ought to look at themselves first and foremost," Nader concluded.

Political notes
Kerry shakes up campaign staff ... again, via email:
"I have decided to make a change at the top of my campaign leadership. Mary Beth Cahill, an accomplished leader for Democrats and progressive causes, including President Clinton, Sen. Ted Kennedy, Rep. Barney Frank, and EMILY's List, will be my new campaign manager. From the bottom of my heart, I thank Jim Jordan for his leadership, extremely hard work, unsurpassed loyalty and devotion to me, to this campaign, and to the people who have worked with him. I've asked Jim to continue in his role as Senior Strategist as we enter this critical phase of the campaign."
If a ship is leaking, changing the captain doesn't do a whole lot of good. Unless - of course - the captain orders repairs to be made to the ship - which is going to be hard when the ship is Kerry himself.

Another important follow up article on the state of primaries in America: ["Some states scrapping presidential primaries, citing cost, low turnout"].
Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin said: "Clearly, the process is flawed. The country is only now beginning to wake up to the fact that there's a primary. Active Democrats are only now focusing on it. Average voters aren't focused at all. And that's not good." [Curtis] Gans [director of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate] said the changes are not all bad. A turn to caucuses strengthens person-to-person politics, rather than the television-driven, mass advertising campaigns that mark such big primary days as Super Tuesday, when 11 states vote.
Again, thanks to DNC head Terry McAuliffe front-loading the primaries, the chance for Democratic and independent voters - in state after state - to have a quick say in the process has been taken away. The chance for people to signal a protest via the ballot box and for candidates to get free media via campaign appearances has been taken away. Sure, states canceling primaries and the Democratic Party holding caucuses will allow the most organized - not the best financed - candidates to win. But the turnout will be lower and the importance of the victory will be less to those candidates.
If a Democrat wins the presidency in 2004, those Democratic states should consider doing the same thing to Republicans in 2008, whether it saves money or not.

Gephardt takes a big lead in Iowa: ["Gephardt inches ahead in Iowa"].
It's Kerry and Dean mixing it up again: ["Dem flip flap: Kerry rips Dean for reneging on fed $$"].
Pissin' off the teachers' union: ["Vermont teachers' grudge haunts Dean"].
Al Franken for U.S. Senator? Hilarious: ["'08: No Joke"]

Sunday, November 9, 2003

Dean flip-flops again
The big news this weekend is Howard Dean's flip-flop on taking federal matching funds during the Democratic primary and general election campaign: ["Dean goes his own way: Abandons 'broken system' of funding"]. The worst part about all of this is how the campaign played up the decision - by signing a Declaration of Independence from the special interests [!] published on his site: ["Dean for America"]:
"WE, therefore, the architects and builders of Dean for America, appealing to the Wise Judgment of the American people on our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these United States, solemnly Publish and Declare, the People of these United States are, and of Right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT OF SPECIAL INTERESTS and that as FREE AND INDEPENDENT CITIZENS, they have full Power to participate, deliberate, pursue the common good, protect their own interest from corruption, and to do all other Acts and Things which INDEPENDENT CITIZENS may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, we mutually pledge to each other to write letters, knock on doors, organize our neighbors, self- fund this effort, and vote."
However, by opting out of the matching fund system, the campaign has essentially told everyone that they are going to raise as much money as they can, from whatever sources, with no limits or integrity, in order to win the primaries.
Now, candidates have every right to do this - although Dean is the first Democrat to do it. But the larger problem is that this stands against everything in the Declaration. The site tells its supporters that "the tea is in the harbor," but it would be more accurate to say, "the cash is in our pockets."
Let's be honest: The only people who can cough up $2,000 checks are the special interests or people who have some sort of influence or interest in the candidate winning, for whatever reason. I am generalizing and this is a cynical way of looking at things but it is for the most part true. Most normal folks can't afford to pony up that kind of money. The Dean campaign continues to point out that its average donation is around $77 [from 200,000 contributors]. But in order to raise $200 million to compete with Bush, the campaign will need 100,000 people to give $2,000 each or he will have to take large chunks of special interest money, just like Bush does.
How does that keep "the People of these United States are, and of Right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT OF SPECIAL INTERESTS"? The truth is that it doesn't. The publicly financed matching fund program is in place to keep candidates competitive even if most of their supporters can only afford to give small donations.
As an aside, the qualifications for public financing are pretty high, from the FEC's Web site ["Primary Matching Funds"]:
"Partial public funding is available to Presidential primary candidates in the form of federal matching payments. Candidates seeking their party's nomination to the Presidency can qualify to receive matching funds by raising over $5,000 in each of 20 states (i.e., over $100,000). Only contributions from individuals apply toward this threshold. Although an individual may contribute up to $1,000 to a candidate [actually, it is $2,000 now], only a maximum of $250 counts toward the threshold and is matchable."
Candidates must also agree to spend no more than $45 million in the primaries.
So at the bare minimum, a candidate needs 1,000 people to pony up a fiver in 20 states to get matching funds. How difficult is that? If, for example, a candidate did this, the candidate would only get an additional $100,000. It isn't really a "public financing" system as much as it is a "matching fund" option.
However, does Dean really think he needs more than $45 million to win the primaries? Dean is in the top tier and that is more than enough money to win if you know what you are doing and more money than any of his opponents will raise in the waning months of the primary season. In defense of the campaign, the front-loaded primary season - gerrymandered by DNC head Terry McAuliffe - makes it necessary to raise tens of millions more for ads since this will be the only way some of these candidates will be able to compete in multiple states, week after week, between January and March.
But let's be even more honest: Whether it is public financing or special interest financing, it seems as though presidential campaigns have only one function - to allow supporters and contributors to subsidize big corporate media. Sure, some of the money goes to staffing, mailers, and materials. But the majority of the money will get shoveled to television stations for manipulative ads. Political junkies like myself know this is part of the game - and there is a whole field of experts and artists who create the political ads.
But one has to wonder about the civil discourse and the lack of political involvement by Americans. Dean's decision to drop out of the matching fund system is only going to make things worse.

A tale of two POWs
Great piece this morning in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the differing treatment of Jessica Lynch and Shoshana Johnson: ["Two POWs, one an American icon, the other ignored"].

Hate vs. opinion?
Here is an interesting piece from Democratic Underground: ["Book Learnin' Equals Hate"]. However, it should be noted that it was the Clinton administration that started all the "hate" attacks. A person doesn't believe in affirmative action? He must "hate" blacks, Latinos and women. Want to cut social programs to make the government smaller? You must "hate" the poor - and we'll allow the government to shut down to show you how much of a hater you are. Support gun-owner's rights? You must "hate" your neighbor because no one would own a gun unless they were a hater. Black churches in the south burn down? Well, must be the "hate" of the white man even though it was a black man who was caught setting fire to the church.
Clinton was the one who used the difference of opinion as a weapon against the conservatives. And now, the conservatives are using it against the liberals. As that idiot Sean Hannity would scream, it is even more heinous because the nation is at war, blah, blah, blah, which isn't really true since our troops were in harm's way under Clinton and that didn't stop his attackers. So, give me a break already. We either all have an opinion or we don't. Can we all just please accept everyone else's opinion and get over the "hate" stuff?

Political notes
Pretty good piece in the Boston Herald this morning about the Democrats' problems in the south: ["Dems face uphill battle in South"].
Local N.H. reaction to Dean's flag flap: ["Dean explains his flags remark"] and ["Dean campaign gathers strength despite Confederate flag flap"].
Nine Democrats vs. Bush. One journalism professor imagines the debate: ["The future TV debate matchups"].

Saturday, November 8, 2003

Should felons be allowed to vote?
It isn't very often that you get a revelation from reading an article but it happened to me this morning. The cover story in this week's edition of The Nation is about felons losing the right to vote: ["The Last Disenfranchised Class"]. I have always been against felons having the right to vote. I even voted against a measure in Massachusetts in 2000 that would have changed the law allowing felons to vote, much to the chagrin of my liberal friends [I will never forget the heated argument Ben Geman, the former political reporter for the Boston Phoenix, and I got into about the issue at a post-campaign Nader party in Boston].
My reasoning has always been if you commit such a heinous crime as a felony, you shouldn't be allowed to vote.
However, after reading this article, I have to change my position. Since I am against the drug war and since I believe in decrimilization of some drug use, how can I support a policy to keeps people who have served their sentences from voting? Now, the article describes an interesting case of a Republican New York woman who made a very bad decision in an extenuating circumstances. Tons of people make one bad decision. But should this one bad decision keep people from exercising their God-given rights to vote, especially after they have served their sentences?

Nader redux?
The disenfranchisement article originally caught my eye this morning because I started reading the latest Micah Sifry piece on an approaching Ralph Nader 2004 campaign: ["Ralph Redux?"]. I am one of those Nader people who is undecided on what to do in 2004 [Full disclosure: I was Nader's New Hampshire coordinator in 2000]. I have been thinking about this for the last year or so and admittedly have been extremely worried about a second term of George W. Bush's reckless domestic and foreign policy. Frankly, in supporting Nader, I was never worried about Bush winning. I never thought he would turn out this way. I thought he would be more like his father was and more bipartisan, the way he governed Texas.
I thought wrong.
However, the issue of what the Greens do comes back to what the Democrats do. The Greens - not unlike the Libertarians - are a political party. They have every right to run their own candidates and should, safe states or not. Yes, the nation is in perilous danger. John Rosenbrink said it best in the Sifry piece:
"People ... are very focused on stopping the right-wing cabal that has taken over the country. Therefore, the focus has to be on defeating Bush. Beyond that, the Green Party needs to project a sense of urgency around saving the country, saving the Constitution, saving the planet."
But, political parties can do what they want to. And the Democrats have not yet given the Greens any reason to drop everything and support them. Nader said it best in 2000: Al Gore has to earn our votes. The Democrats have to earn our votes. Yes, the other guy is evil, but the devil you know is sometimes better than the devil you don't know. We don't know who the Democrat nominee will be yet. So can we really wait for them to choose before the Greens and to a lesser extent the Libertarians nominate their candidates? No. Parties should be able to do what they want.
But back to the main point: Have the Democrats shared any power with the Greens in an effort to woe them? No. Have the implemented Instant Runoff Voting in any of the states they control in an effort to make sure that Democrats win with Green #2 votes? No. The Democrats haven't done anything to improve relationships with Greens.
In fact, everything the Democrats are doing is almost all negative. They've continued the "spoiler" name calling. They have infiltrated groups, discussion meetings, and Internet chats about what the Greens should do and turned them into unproductive attacks on Nader and not on what the Democrats have done to become losers or what the two parties could do to defeat the Republicans. Some Democrats have even directly made personal attacks - publicly and privately - against Nader and Green supporters for what happened in 2000 instead of looking inward or making changes to the system.
These actions have done nothing to improve the political dialogue and the Democrats are no closer to getting Green support than they were in the late stages of 2000. If the Democrats don't get it together they will surely be doomed.

The latest poll numbers
Yesterday, Quinnipiac University released its latest poll from New York showing a very tight primary race: Joe Lieberman has 17 percent, Howard Dean has 15 percent, Wesley Clark has 12 percent, with the Rev. Al Sharpton and John Kerry tied with 11 percent. Dick Gephardt has 9 percent.
On Thursday, American Research Group released another New Hampshire poll showing Dean running away with it: Dean at 38 percent, Kerry at 24 percent, with Clark, Edwards, and Lieberman at 4 percent, and Gephardt and Carol Moseley Braun at 3 percent.

Friday, November 7, 2003

'The Reagans'
I have been completely silent about commenting on the CBS [now Showtime] mini-series "The Reagans" because I wanted to see the outcome of the whole controversy and I am a bit shocked that the network caved in to pressure about whether the mini-series was accurate or not. However, this piece by Jonathan Alter in Newsweek really sums up my reaction to the whole thing : ["Gutless at CBS"]. I am going to hone in on these statements by Alter:

"Clearly what happened here is that CBS caved to its advertisers, who feared a boycott orchestrated not just by Matt Drudge and talk radio but by Ed Gillespie of the Republican National Committee, who got into the act last week. This was not only craven of CBS but short-sighted. Docudramas depend on jucy [sic] personal material. No one wants to watch one about the brilliant successes of the Strategic Defense Initiative. CBS' whopper was exceeded only by Drudge, who told JoeScarborough on MSNBC that "if they went and did a Clinton story [that was critical] there would be just as much outrage." Yo, Matt. Spare us. If the Fox network wants to air a docudrama about how terrible Bill and Hillary were (and it's only a matter of time), do you really think it would be pulled because of pressure from advertisers? Do you think the next time some sleazy producer tries to make a quick buck with the 5,834th docudrama about the sins of the Kennedys that some liberal talk radio establishment will immediately materialize to smite it?"
And this:

"The other scenes that apparently stuck in the craw of the Reagan hero-worshippers and GOP political operatives who saw a way to rally their base were those that depicted tensions within the Reagan family and Nancy Reagan's controlling personality. Imagine! A docu-drama that actually reflects the headlines from the era! Anyone who was alive in the 1980s knows that the Reagan First Family was close to dysfunctional (as in, not speaking to each other for long periods) and that the First Lady plotted her husband's schedule with the help of an astrologer and fired his chief of staff. That's not spin; it's fact. As Casey Stengel said, you can look it up."

Now don't get me wrong. I think things should be as accurate as possible in documentaries. But this wasn't a documentary; it was a TV drama. This isn't Ken Burns talking about baseball or jazz, this is like a Danielle Steele novel. To get so worked up over this was absolute foolishness.
And then there is this from Slate, analyzing some of the things conservatives have written about Reagan and whether he was all there during his last years in the Oval Office: ["Saint Ronald"].
However, one thing is clear: There is an "elephant echo chamber" and we should all be very worried about news departments, production companies, and yeah, major corporations, being frightened by retribution from the Republican National Committee for news investigations or movie productions it may seek to make. I recall, a few years back, at Drudge's outrage when the producers of "Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back" were pressured by gay activists who believed the film was too anti-gay and wanted it toned down a bit or they would organize boycotts of the film. The producers didn't budget and Drudge cheered them. But now, Drudge praises similar actions as holy. Pathetic.
As an aside, I have always wondered about the obsession some politicos have with Reagan. It has always struck me as craven idol worship that borders on the insane - not unlike the way some have felt about Bill Clinton. There was this great Szep cartoon in The Boston Globe back in 1999 that summed it up best: Three middle-aged women talking about Clinton's sexual "indiscretions" and remarking that Juanita Brodderick probably wanted to be raped by Clinton. Appalling.
But back to the Reagan worshippers. They act as if he were Jesus resurrected from the cross! Republican-controlled political bodies ram through name changes at airports, parks, and schools to honor the president who was voted "Most likely to get U.S. into a nuclear war." It would be funny if it wasn't so scary. Almost like naming the high school in "Heathers" after Paul Westerberg from the Replacements.
The guy was a bad television actor who gutted social programs, gave giveaways to big business and the rich, and with the help of a Democratically-controlled Congress, created a $5 trillion debt which will never be repaid. Interest payments on the debt created during these years takes away over $200 billion annually from the treasury that could be spent on other things. That money could be used for mass transit, free college tuition for the uneducated without work, health care for the millions of people who don't have it, etc., etc., etc. But no, it is spent every year, over and over again, on interest payments because Reagan had to have more bombers and more missiles, and Democrats had to have albatrosses like the boondoggle Central Artery Tunnel in Boston and the Denver airport.
Reagan did end the Cold War - by spending so much on weapons of mass destruction that he bankrupted the U.S. and the Russians too, who couldn't keep up. Now, thanks mainly to Reagan, we don't worry about dominoes falling or Reds under our beds. We don't worry about the Russians and the bomb, we worry about many different faceless, ghostly insurgents in a number of different conflicts all over the world. We worry about planes flying into buildings, Anthrax attacks, and terrorists armed with weapons our country gave them to fight the commies during the Reagan years - weapons which are now pointed at us. Iraq would have never been a country with supposed weapons of mass destruction had Reagan and Donald Rumsfeld, the current Defense Secretary, not sold the weapons to Saddam Hussein. The bodies of the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, thousands of dead Americans, and thousands of other dead global citizens, lie squarely at the feet of Ronald Reagan. He wasn't a Christian, he was as close to the anti-Christ as we have had in a president.
This is the "legacy" that Reagan built and it isn't one to be proud of.

Shocking ... but not really
The New York Times, via Common Dreams, reported yesterday that Iraq was trying to negotiate a surrender after all, according to sources: ["Iraq Said to Have Tried to Reach Last-Minute Deal to Avert War"]. Should this really surprise us? No. These clowns were gung ho to go in there cowboy style. And now they are too busy attending fund-raisers to attend funerals.

Dean and the Confederate flag flap
There have been some interesting comments surrounding Howard Dean's flap about the Democrats appealing to southern voters and I will be posting some links at the end of this blog entry. But let me first start by saying that while he may have used a poor example to make his point, his point is more important and he is right.
I have been saying for years that Democrats need to go after poor, working class, religious conservative whites as a voting bloc. The argument is similar to argument made by the DLC - the Democratic Leadership Council - the conservative wing of the Democrat Party only the opposite action.
Essentially, the DLC advocated moving the Democrats to the center to attract much needed support from big business and Wall Street to run their campaigns. This money was then used to spend on advertising in an effort to appeal to the millions of independent swing voters who go whichever way the wind blows. The liberal Democrats - government workers and their unions, minorities, gays, women and the abortion lobby, etc. - will have nowhere else to go, the DLC said, so ignore them.
However, their strategy has been spotty at best. It should be noted that DLC candidates only usually win when there are conservative independents - mainly Ross Perot - siphoning off votes from the Republicans. With the exception of Clinton's reelection campaign in 1996, Democrats being light-Republicans has been a guaranteed campaign loser since the Republican sweep of Congress in 1994. In election after election, Democrats who try to be Republicans get hammered. So why do they keep this strategy? I will never understand this.
The Republicans - ingeniously - attack Democrats, any Democrat, as being liberal and in reaction, the Democrats then counter the attacks by accentuating their most conservative positions. This reaction to the attack is often counter productive. It alienates the Democratic base and the ads often come across as shrill and negative, which turns off the independent swing voters - a lose-lose proposition.
On the opposite side of the argument are the progressives who believe they have the Utopian vision and if people would only listen to them, everything would work out and we would all be bouncing up and down saying, "Happy, happy, joy, joy ..." However, admittedly, since I consider myself progressive although more populist than progressive, some of the positions taken by progressives are so socialist that it scares voters even if the ideas make sense. The activist mentality and the autocratic nature of some progressives also turns off many who would be drawn to their cause. So, following the grand plan of the progressive movement is also not the route to victory for the Democrats.
However, what the Democrats haven't tried, is going after the po' white folks and taking a populist view on economic issues in an effort to draw the conservative, populist Reagan Democrats back into the fold.
How do you do that? Well, author and radio broadcaster Jim Hightower made a pretty convincing case for the idea during a speech at the annual CPPAX meeting in Cambridge, Mass. in 2001. He said - to the silent shock of progressives in the audience - that liberals should ignore the social issues and join with Christian Coalition voters on economic issues. Hightower advised finding alliances with conservative populists on issues like trade and corporate corruption and work together on bringing working family incomes up. His comments on this section of the speech were met with silence, indifference, bordering on anger from the 100 plus people in attendance which goes back to the point about the activist's mentality and whether Democrats and liberals are serious about winning. Economic populism is good public policy. It gets to the core of what regular folks - white, black, Latino, whatever - care about and that is accessible work at decent wages. For far too long, the Democrats have been in the pocket of big business, much to the detriment of the people who used to be the party's base. These people fled the party to the Republicans and to a lesser extent, the Greens. Why? Well, they didn't have too much choice. With the economic issues out of the way, the Republicans can use their advertising to appeal to the least common denominator with independent swing voters: Tax cuts. In simpler terms, if both major parties are going to ship the work overseas, the Republicans will at least keep my taxes low so I better vote for them. However, if the Democrats counter this - not with more handouts but with the protections allotted them in the U.S. Constitution - the independents will then have a choice between living wages or lower taxes. Guess which one will win out? Sure, we don't know, but isn't it worth trying, just once? For almost a decade the DLC have had their way. The progressive way won't work. Maybe it is time for the populists to get a crack at trying to win.
Dean is starting to get this and unfortunately used a poor example to make his case. Following up, his opponents in the debate on Tuesday used his comments about broadening the base to attack him instead of getting at the heart of the argument. The Rev. Al Sharpton jumped on Dean for his comments, taking offense but not getting much of the point. John Edwards, a southerner, chastised Dean too, but it reminded me of the Lynyrd Skynyrd line from "Sweet Home Alabama" which was written in reaction to Neil Young's anti-lynching song "Southern Man": "Well I hope Neil Young will remember, southern man don't need him around anyhow." Dean later said he didn't mean to offend people with his comments and still hasn't made the case that he is the one to bring the populist mantle to the voters. But he is on the right track and let's hope the Democrats start to get it.
Here are some other people who do get Dean's comments:
Civil Rights attorney Constance Rice tells Dean to keep at it: ["Confederate Flap: Stand Firm, Howard Dean"]

"[O]ne of Martin Luther King's most profound insights came in his warning that to avoid elimination as the irrelevant unskilled, poor whites and poor blacks had to band together in a "grand alliance" and demand from politicians jobs, justice and opportunity for everyone. King realized that the grand old bargain this country had always offered to poor whites - namely, accept your poverty and we will ensure your racial caste superiority over blacks - must be destroyed before universal opportunity could be realized. King clearly knew that the very whites he was appealing to clung to both the Confederate flag and empty white supremacy. Yet he still proposed this alliance for the greater prosperity of all: 'Together [poor whites and poor blacks] could form a grand alliance. Together, they could merge all people for the good of all.'"

Black columnist Sheryl McCarthy at Newsday agrees: ["Dean's Right on Appeal to Southern Whites"]

"I admire Howard Dean's candor, his guts in opposing the Bush administration's march to war in Iraq and his lack of wimpiness compared with his opponents. Democrats are always complaining that they have to come up with a message that will distinguish them from Republicans. But they're terrified that, if they stray too far from the Republican message of smaller government, lower taxes and fierce patriotism no matter what the cause, they'll lose even more ground. Dean tells it like it is: that working-class white Southerners, like African-Americans, ought to be the party's natural constituents, and that it's not impossible to attract both groups."

Or this from Debra McCorkle at Alternet: ["Southern Comforting"]

"Howard, I suggest that you hush up about rebel flags this week and tell us some stories. When I have a waitress friend who begs her doctor for amoxicillin instead of the stronger zithromax because it costs one tenth the price even though she needs to get well fast, my trucking buddies are going to understand that as quickly as my great aunt. When I see a decades-old factory close, leaving hundreds of workers unemployed, because they can move the thing to China and employ slave labor so that Wal-Mart's profits are assured, the common man and woman can understand that something is wrong. When the richest of the rich prosper through tax cuts in a period of recession while the poorest parents skip meals, people will question the direction our country is heading. Tell anecdotes; don't preach about constituencies, Howard. The truth is, politics in itself is pretty boring, a bean counter's concern. Breathe a little life into it with some storytelling. Go Faulkner on us, and don't forget a little Flannery, because weirdness is what America is all about."

Thursday, November 6, 2003

Democrats shouldn't limit primary debates

Democrats shouldn't limit primary debates: Here is my latest column on the move by some to limit the number of candidates involved in the Democratic debates.
With less than three months until the first presidential primary votes are cast, Democratic insiders and the mainstream media have started their pathetic practice of deciding which candidates are "electable" and who should have a seat at the debate table.
In an editorial in New Hampshire's Concord Monitor last week, the newspaper cited low ratings and "tedious sniping" as the reason "drastic changes" were needed in the debate process. Of course, the newspaper ignored the fact that all the debates so far have been broadcast on cable news channels and C-SPAN, cable-only stations which historically garner low ratings. Then, there was Donna Brazile, Al Gore's former campaign manager in 2000, who said, "It's time for the rubber to hit the road. It's time for some of the candidates to stay home." Brazille - who is black - wouldn't name names, but it was very clear from her comments which candidates should not be included in the debate: The lower tier candidates which include the only two black candidates and the true peace candidate. Strangely, Brazile is chairman of the Democratic National Committee's Voting Rights Institute - a group that is supposed to be promoting choices and participation.
How is that for hypocrisy?
For political junkies like me, this behavior by the media and bigwigs at the DNC is not a surprise. Throughout the history of the modern political era, insiders and the media have manufactured frontrunners to make politics easier to digest. By first establishing a tier system to rate the candidates, the media and insiders control the process a year before even the first debate.
There are several factors in deciding who a top tier candidate will be. One is a candidate's ability to raise scads of money. In election after election, campaigns have become obscenely expensive. In the past, all a candidate needed was a million or two and the commitment of some important party activists. Nowadays, $5 to $10 million a quarter has to be raised in order to win what some are calling "the invisible primary." The cash is then used to bombard the voters with manipulative ads. In order to get the money for the ads, the candidates have to lean on the moneyed interests within the party. It also helps to curry favor with the Washington media establishment so the same interests know you're working to be taken seriously.
After the tier system is created, the media can then ignore the lower tier candidates and spend all its time emphasizing the handful considered "electable" by the cocktail crowd. Essentially, the political pundits make the decision for you - by judging who can win and who can't - before a single vote is cast.
Isn't that nice of them?
These electable candidates will then get the majority of coverage from the big newspapers, national magazines, and major television networks, while the other candidates struggle to be heard. This lack of coverage can be the death of a lot of campaigns since most voters have other things to worry about than candidates in a final election a year away. But similar to the logic that "early money is like yeast," free media - especially during presidential campaigns - is one of the only ways a campaign can reach the voters in the very early stages of a candidacy. Being able to participate in the debates is essential.
Complaints by the media and the insiders that debates are too crowded are not unusual. In 1992, there were six Democratic candidates involved in the early debates and that was too many for some of the insiders. In 1988, seven Democrats participated in the debates and many candidates lasted until the Super Tuesday primaries. In 1984, as many as eight candidates were on television in the debates.
Republicans also have a history of crowded presidential debates. In 2000, as many as nine candidates participated in the primary process before a few candidates dropped out. Former-Ambassador Alan Keyes - a black Republican - was allowed to participate in all the debates even though he didn't have a chance in hell of winning the presidency. In 1996, nine candidates participated in the debates and the media didn't say a thing.
The logic of limiting participation in the debates is that only the "winnable" candidates would be allowed. But with that logic, only one candidate should be allowed to debate since there will only be one winner. As well, the insiders are selling many of these candidates short. Gore's campaign was probably one of the worst run campaigns in the history of the party, all the more reason not to listen to cranks like Brazile. But almost all of the states he won in 2000 will probably be won by most of the Democratic field. This means that the nominee really only has to win one southern or Midwestern state in order to galvanize enough Electoral College votes to beat President George W. Bush. Most of the lower tier candidates are from Midwestern or southern states while most of the top tier candidates - the supposed electable candidates - are not.
So, while the insiders think they are bettering their odds by suggesting exclusiveness, they may actually be costing themselves the election. More importantly, the premise of limited participation calls into question one of the founding principles forwarded by the Democratic Party: Inclusion, or supposed inclusion, of all kinds of activists, voters, donors, and yeah, candidates.
What the complainers don't realize is that debates are no longer about having an extensive conversation about policy initiatives. That reporting is something people will need to read - after newspapers and magazines conduct long sit down interviews with the candidates. Debates have become short boxing matches where the candidates' visual and verbal presentations are accentuated. Who scored the best jab, the best one-liners, who slipped out of their chair during the low-key questioning period, are all repeated and analyzed on the post-game news shows. Media outlets are even tracking the number of seconds each candidate received during a 90 minute debate, not unlike football possession time or pitch counts for a starting baseball pitcher.
If the media wants a serious discussion about issues, it doesn't need to limit the number of participants. It can simply lengthen the format and time candidates are allowed to answer questions. While good candidates should be able to explain their positions on the invasion of Iraq, tax cuts, and health care within 30 to 60 seconds, a little more time would allow them to get more specific.
The question then becomes, Will the American people be patient and attentive enough to sit through these answers, keep a personal scorecard, in order to find a candidate to support? So far, the voters seem disinterested whether there are two candidates or nine.

... and some differing follow up ...
What a difference a day makes. I admit, I have been working on the above column for a couple of weeks. In fact, this version was the third version and edited down to the main point about limiting access to the lower tier candidates. However, I got up this morning to see that the Pew Research Center For The People & The Press has done some surveys and found that Republicans are making gains in swing and solidly-Democratic states: ["Poll shows dramatic GOP gains nationally"].
Now, these are polls of a small amount of people, so there really isn't any proof - just guesstimates - that the country is swinging right. A better way to do the analysis would be to check the voter registration numbers in states and track them during an annual period. Then, you might see shifts in party support. While most people don't change their affiliation, it would show how new voters are registering and that might reveal better pattern numbers.
However, that wouldn't necessarily prove that either party had gains just by registration. During the 2000 election, 13 percent of Democrats in Florida and 8 percent of Democrats in New Hampshire voted for Bush, according to CNN's exit polling. I have used these figures - along with others - to make the argument that Ralph Nader didn't steal the election from Al Gore. Independent registrations are trending higher than most political parties which spells trouble from the process because without allegiance one way or the other, the swing voters change the course of elections on little more than a whimsy - an effective ad here, a small scandal there, an exaggerated policy position over here. Because these independent voters have no affiliation to a political party, they can often be swayed by half-truths or out-right lies during the media portion of a campaign.

... McAuliffe is in trouble ...
DNC head Terry McAuliffe is in "limbo" with other Democrats after gubernatorial losses in Kentucky and Mississippi: ["Election result leaves McAuliffe in limbo"]. The Democrats get hammered in 2003. They got hammered in 2002. They got hammered in 2000. How many more losses must the party take before the leadership is canned? Keeping McAuliffe on is like keeping a CEO on while the stock slides. The Democrat's stock has been sliding for 12 quarters. When is someone going to jump in and stop the hemorrhaging?
Second note of the Democratic losses: How much longer will it be before the computer voting conspiracy buffs start blaming optical scanning machine software for the Democrat's losses?
Quick, the clock is ticking ...
It should be noted that when I went to vote on Tuesday for my local municipal elections [most of my candidates lost, BTW], I talked with a couple of precinct workers about the Accu-Vote machines used in my town. Not only are the machines not hooked up to modems - a major plank of the conspiracy argument, all those rightwing Christian hackers out there breaking into the phone lines and manipulating the results - the clerk has seen no major problems with the machines and in recounts they have had incredible accuracy to the paper ballots, similar to the accuracy I posted in my articles about recounts in some of towns I have done research on: ["Vote fraud, conspiracies, and real solutions to the elections problem"].
At the end of the voting, the precinct captain prints out the results from the machine and calls in the results to the clerk. Later, the voting card is taken out of the machine and both the card and the print out are brought to the clerk's office.
So, how do the rightwing Christians hack into the software to manipulate the results again?
I have been thinking about doing a study of counting process with local election boards just for kicks to see what other towns and cities do. It would be interesting to know. Unfortunately, I just don't have the time. Maybe some states use modems. So far, from what I have seen in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, this isn't the case.