Saturday, September 25, 2004

Duel Identity

In the Senate race for John Edwards' seat:
Things may start to get more exciting soon, since people seem to agree that Burr has so far not had any effective campaign strategies. Bowles is stretching out a lead, and this race is too important to the control of the Senate to just let it go. In fact, since Zell Miller has already proposed bringing back dueling, this Burr-Bowles race may be something to watch. Burr is (seriously) distantly related to another famous Burr: Aaron, who sent Al Hamilton ("I'm in charge here at the Treasury Department) to his final resting place on the $10 bill.

North Carolina Economy and the Election

The economic situation is darned interesting.

Kerry has tried to make the argument that the NC economy is dying fast, but that argument doesn't hold up very well: According to the U.S. B.L.S., NC has added (as of July 2004) more than 100,000 jobs since the low point of the recession in July, 2002.

Bush has tried to make two arguments: (1) the downturn in the economy was due to 9/11, and (2) the economy is getting stronger. The first certainly doesn't hold up, again using the the BLS data: Bush took office in January 2001. By September 2001, NC had already lost 90,000 jobs. One could say that so many fewer jobs in so short a period had to be some larger structural forces (tech bubble, over-built office space, etc), but the trend starts well before 9/11 in any case.

Is the economy getting stronger, in NC? The state's unemployment rate is 5%. That's 5.0 percent. When I was in grad school, the argument was over whether it was possible for the "Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment" could possibly be below 5.5. I guess it can, if we now consider 5% to be a problem.

Here is the way some of the "debate" may play out:

The Charlotte Observer (EXCERPT, from Lexis)
September 19, 2004, Sunday

Democratic candidate slams president, congressman to Pillowtex crowd
By Lena Warmack

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. -- As part of her campaign for the 8th Congressional District seat, Beth Troutman met with former Pillowtex employees in Cannon Village to offer her plan for reviving North Carolina's economy and bringing back jobs.

The visit coincided with President Bush's stop in Charlotte Friday for a forum and fund-raiser.Troutman, a Democrat, used the appearance to criticize Bush's economic plan and her opponent, Rep. Robin Hayes., R-Concord. "We have been sold out. There is not enough work in the 8th District in North Carolina," Troutman said. "Congressman Hayes and President Bush have failed North Carolina."

Troutman described the local economy as "struggling" because of recent job cuts and outsourcing of manufacturing jobs.Unemployment reached 6 percent in Cabarrus County this year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.Mary Willimson, 53, of Kannapolis, who has been unemployed for a year, accused President Bush of dodging Kannapolis during his visit to North Carolina."He forgot about us all," she said."We are still waiting for the economic recovery that you (President Bush) keep talking about," Troutman said.

Here is something I have said before, but so have others. (Especially Mark Johnson, of the Big O). It just seems to be getting more and more true. The issue of the North Carolina economy is going to pit Burr and Bush against Ballantine. Likewise, Bowles and Kerry have to run against Easley. (Who would have thought 4 of 6 candidates would all have names starting with B?) If the economy is doing well, it helps incumbents, who can claim credit. But if Kerry is going to argue NC is swirling down the hole in the porcelain, what is Governor Easley going to say? Ballentine will be able to use Kerry ads against Easley, unless they are careful. This sort of intraparty competition is not that rare, but I have rarely seen it pitched in such stark relief.

For example, here is a bit from Easley's web site:

North Carolina’s economic picture is improving. Last year, our state added jobs, while the nation lost jobs. Many of our families, however, are still struggling to find work and we owe it to them to do everything we can to grow jobs in our state. While we cannot control globalization and trade policies, these economic times require that we redouble our efforts to recruit and retain jobs and industry. Although the national economic situation and our national trade policy are outside of our direct control, we have done some things in a bipartisan manner to improve North Carolina’s economy.

Now, for the Kerry (i.e., anti-Easley) message:

"Only George W. Bush could celebrate over a record budget deficit, the loss of jobs over the past three years and last weekend's announcement of a record increase in Medicare premiums," Kerry said.
"W stands for wrong -- the wrong direction for America."

Kerry was campaigning in North Carolina, the home state of Sen. John Edwards, his running mate, emphasizing the loss of American jobs overseas and talking about his plan to change rules that let companies defer paying taxes on money earned abroad.

We give them a complete freebie," Kerry told about 300 people, "and when I'm president of the United States, it will take me about a nanosecond to ask the Congress to close that stupid loophole that rewards companies."

North Carolina voted for Bush in 2000 by 7 percentage points but, with Bush seen as vulnerable on job losses, the contest is closer this year, polls indicate. The state has lost more than 160,000 jobs during the Bush administration, mostly in the furniture and textile industries where free trade policies have encouraged the export of jobs to cheaper labor markets.

So, here's the point: the 160,000 job loss figure is a complete fabrication. The very worst thing you can say is that there has been a net loss of about 46,000 jobs in NC, and that is assuming that Bush is actually responsible for a trend (the bursting of the internet/tech bubble) that was on its way no matter what.

Well, then....are the Dems willing to hammer Easley out of office, and lose the Manse d'Guv, in order to try to turn NC BLUE? There is no other way they can make the economic issue stick.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Let Them Eat Cake! Then, You'd Only Need Water

Teresa Heinz Kerry, drawing on her immense experience of poverty and the needs of desperation, suggested that clothing is unnecessary for disaster victims.

To wit, an excerpt:

Teresa Heinz Kerry, encouraging volunteers as they busily packed supplies Wednesday for hurricane relief efforts in the Caribbean, said she was concerned the effort was too focused on sending clothes instead of essentials like water and electric generators.

``Clothing is wonderful, but let them go naked for a while, at least the kids,'' said Heinz Kerry, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. ``Water is necessary, and then generators, and then food, and then clothes.''

If the poor would just eat cake, then we could just ship water and generators.

Some fallout: The American Association for Nude Recreation saw a chance to buff its image.

And people apparently take this Heinz advice of "go as naked as you can" pretty seriously. John Kerry's daughter certainly did, at Cannes. Teresa should have warned Alexandra to wear hipper undies, tho. Or...forget the undies; she should have worn a generator.

Channeling John Kerry

Props for Whiskey on John Edwards--Good on ya!

Whiskey is a Captain's Quarters contributor. Their motto, alone, is worth the visit:

"Thus every blogger, in his kind, is bit by him who comes behind."

(You have to say it with a pirate sort of voice, tho. Don't hurt your throat, but add some "ARRRR!"s)

Dan Rather Resigns as Top Kerry Operative

okay, no he didn't.

but Benjamin Ginsberg had to resign, for about the same cause.

This from the NYTimes, that right wing rag:

NEW YORK (AP) -- A top adviser to John Kerry says he talked to a central figure in the controversy over President Bush's National Guard service at the suggestion of a CBS News producer shortly before disputed documents were released by the network.

But Joe Lockhart denied any connection between the Kerry campaign and the papers supplied to the network by the Bill Burkett, the former Texas Army National Guard official he telephoned at CBS' suggestion.


``He had some advice on how to deal with the Vietnam issue and the Swift boat'' allegations, Lockhart said late Monday, referring to GOP-fueled accusations that Kerry exaggerated his Vietnam War record. ``He said these guys play tough and we have to put the Vietnam experience into context and have Kerry talk about it more.'' (bold emphasis mine)

Jesus on a stick, man! How come CBS is in the business of providing campaign advice to the Kerry-istas? And, if CBS is on Kerry's side, why did they publicly bugger him with the Kinko's Papers?

Team Bush's response, from the same article:

``The fact that CBS News and a high-level adviser to the Kerry campaign coordinated a personal attack on President Bush is a stunning and deeply troubling development,'' said White House communications director Dan Bartlett. He urged Kerry to hold accountable anybody involved in helping CBS obtain the documents.

Under the circ's, that is a pretty measured and reasonable answer.

(Nod to JP)

UPDATE: Brief but informative article, quoting Duke colleague and very smart person Susan Tifft. She's pretty fly, for a news guy.

Best Editorial Cartoonist

K. Grease is sometimes asked who is "the best" editorial cartoonist, or (what amounts to the same thing) who is my favorite.

The answer seems to disturb people, but I'm not sure why.

Here it is: My favorite, far and away, is Al-jazeera's house guy, Shujaat Ali.

Sure, 90% of his stuff just makes me mad, but 50% or more also makes me think pretty hard. He speaks eloquently for a lot of people you'll never meet, or even see, and may never have thought about.

From the main Al-jazeera (English) page, go to bottom left. You will find the current cartoon (or click here to go directly to the current bit), and the archives.

Some of them take a little while to load, and the sound is terrible, but there is no faster way to get an insight into an Arab view of current events. And his caricatures are so savage that you just can't help but like him. Yes, he beats up the U.S. pretty bad, but his truly bilious ventings seem to target the U.N., the Arab elite, and the middle eastern media. (And, of course, the "Zionist entity.")

While you are there, take a look around the headlines on the Al-Jazeera main page. We aren't in Kansas anymore, Toto.

The Next Scandal

John Kerry, sports putz? So says Dino Panagopoulous, founder of "Football Fans for Truth."

The charges:
  • Last month, John Kerry lauded "Lambert Field" during a visit to Wisconsin
  • He praised the Ohio State Buckeyes football team--during a visit to Michigan
  • Kerry said that Eddie Yost was his favorite Red Sox player - though Yost never played for the Sox
  • John Kerry throws a football like a girl (I don't buy this one; I've never seen JK throw a girl, so how would anyone know?)

But, the inside story? K. Grease has it, for his loyal readers. It turns out that the FFFT postal box is located within just miles of the Bush headquarters. According to the Boston Herald, "Panagopoulous denied they are tied to the Bush campaign, though he and his partner support Bush."

Coincidence? I think not. Call Dan Rather. He'll get at the truth, as he defines it.

(Nod to JP, for the tip)


Monday, September 20, 2004

Burkett Lies, Dan Fries, I Wonder Why?

CBS Statement on source of documents on Bush (excerpt):

...Bill Burkett, in a weekend interview with CBS News Anchor and Correspondent Dan Rather, has acknowledged that he provided the now-disputed documents used in the Sept. 8 "60 Minutes Wednesday" report on President Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard.

Burkett, a retired National Guard lieutenant colonel, also admits that he deliberately misled the CBS News producer working on the report, giving her a false account of the documents’ origins to protect a promise of confidentiality to the actual source....

The Dan has to eat crow. Excerpt:

I find we have been misled on the key question of how our source for the documents came into possession of these papers. That, combined with some of the questions that have been raised in public and in the press, leads me to a point where-if I knew then what I know now-I would not have gone ahead with the story as it was aired, and I certainly would not have used the documents in question.

But we did use the documents. We made a mistake in judgment, and for that I am sorry. It was an error that was made, however, in good faith and in the spirit of trying to carry on a CBS News tradition of investigative reporting without fear or favoritism.

If Dan were really in favor of that tradition, it would be a break from his previous practice.

Still, I wonder why this is such a story. CBS was sloppy and partisan? Yawn.

What about Bush avoiding the draft? Is that really a story? I have to be honest: If I had been of draft age (K. Grease was 15 in 1973, when the draft ended, and the war started to end), I have every confidence that my parents would have told me to stay in college to avoid the war. My dad was a lieutentant, later a captain, in the Army. He commanded an armored cavalry unit (100th Recon Troop, Century Division) in combat in southern France, and won a Bronze Star. He served for years, not months. And he volunteered. But his feelings about Vietnam were confused.

Bush pulled strings to join the National Guard. He really did. Thousands and thousands of other people did, too.

Kerry served, for seven months, and made sure there was a video camera around the whole time to record his heroic facial expressions. Every time he got a scratch, he put in a for Bronze Star, to get out as soon as he could. Thousands of other guys did that, too.

Tens of thousands of other men served, and got killed or got their lives turned inside out.

Others left the country, or objected, for principled reasons, or not. We'll never know. It's complicated.

Here's the thing: there actually is a war to talk about, you know: the one in Iraq. It's not going that well, but the CBS brain trust decided to divert attention from that to the war that American just can't really make up our minds about, from more than 30 years ago.

So, for a week of news cycles, right in the meat of the campaign, we have been focused on Dippy Dan and the Kinkos Papers. The whole chattercult focused, again, on Vietnam. At best, this was just a wasted week for Kerry; at worst, Bush will actually pick up sympathy support for getting picked on with forged documents.

Did I say that Dan Rather was a liberal partisan? I take it back. He was much more effective in hurting Kerry this past week than any Bush operative could possibly have been. Maybe next time Rather can run with Nader, as a VP candidate.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Democracy is Overrated II

Now K. Grease is really angry. I hold the following truths to be self-evident.

  • Voters are (rationally) ill-informed
  • Most of them aren't that bright anyway; in any case, they don't know more than I do about good choices in my life
  • Regardless of their wisdom, other people shouldn't be able to tell me what to wear, or who to sleep with, or what to think or say about God
  • I should have the right to use or dispose of my property in any way that doesn't physically harm others ("I'm offended" doesn't count).

But the particular brand of mob rule we call democracy ignores, or actively lies about, all these things. Still, "democracy" is a thing we all admire, right?

Actually, I think we do, or claim to. That's okay, people get to be wrong about what they believe. But what bugs me is the hypocrisy of so many people who claim to favor democracy, because they actually favor the opposite. What most liberals mean by "favoring democracy" is this: "I favor using the coercive powers of government to implement through the court system, backed by Federal marshalls and the Army if necessary, a particular brand of policy that is honestly supported by less than a quarter of the U.S. population." In other words: We got guns! We don't need no stinkin' persuasion.

Consider "gay marriage": 2/3 to 3/4 of most states are opposed to civil sanction of same sex unions. Louisiana just voted on a ban, and it passed overwhelmingly (excerpt of AP story at bottom of this post).

Now, being a Libertarian, I strongly favor gay marriage rights. But not because I think that gay Americans should be singled out for special protection.

I favor gay marriage because "the people," and their knuckle-dragging hired thug, "the government," have no right to dictate private choices. I don't want to live in a system where some group of yahoos, if they are numerous enough, can use religion, prejudice, or whim to restrict the right of contract between consenting, informed, competent adults. And the name of that system is "Democracy."

I have no problem using the Bill of Rights, and the court system, to thwart repressive impulses of the mob, as long as we all admit that that is what we are doing. Saying "I love democracy" out of one side of your mouth, and then fighting against the majority will on the other side, is the basest kind of hypocrisy.

The real point of disagreement between me and the liberal democracy apologists is this: they think democracy is basically good, but prone to abuse, unless vigilance keeps it pure. I think the abuse is the thing itself: Democracy is inherently oppressive, unless it is chained up like a dangerous wild animal in domain restrictions.

In vain you tell me that Artificial Government is good, but that I fall out only with the Abuse. The Thing! the Thing itself is the Abuse! Observe, my Lord, I pray you, that grand Error upon which all artificial legislative Power is founded. It was observed, that Men had ungovernable Passions, which made it necessary to guard against the Violence they might offer to each other. They appointed Governors over them for this Reason; but a worse and more perplexing Difficulty arises, how to be defended against the Governors? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Edmund Burke, in A Vindication of Natural Society.

*********************************************

Associated Press Story Excerpt (The lawyer's name is John Rawls! Is that cool, or what?)

September 19, 2004, Sunday, BC cycle 12:26 AM Eastern Time508 words

HEADLINE: Louisiana voters approve same-sex marriage amendment; opponents promise court challenge

BYLINE: By KEVIN McGILL, Associated Press Writer

...Louisiana voters overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment Saturday banning same-sex marriages and civil unions, one of up to 12 such measures on the ballot around the country this year.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, the amendment was winning approval with 78 percent of the vote, and support for it was evident statewide. Only in New Orleans, home to a politically strong gay community, was the race relatively close, and even there the amendment was winning passage. Turnout statewide appeared to be about 27 percent of Louisiana's 2.8 million voters, somewhat low for a state election. Christian conservatives had conducted an intense grassroots lobbying campaign for the amendment, which had been expected to pass easily.

The civil rights group Forum for Equality had already promised legal action against it."It's gratifying to see the people of Louisiana had an opportunity, as distinguished from judges, having the final say on the issue of whether traditional marriage will continue to be the fundamental institution in our state," said Darrell White, a retired state judge and consultant for Louisiana Family Forum, which pushed for the amendment.

John Rawls, a lawyer for Forum for Equality, reiterated the group's contention that the amendment does far more than stop gay marriage and that it could affect many private contracts between unmarried couples, gay or straight - a claim its supporters dispute."I am disappointed that so many Louisianians either did not read the amendment or are so afraid of gays that they voted for this amendment anyway," Rawls said....