Saturday, October 07, 2006

Big Wheels Keep On Turning....

Jeez, the way Reuters has been posting good news for Democrats all week, you'd think maybe they were an European news service...
ST. LOUIS (Reuters) - Wall Street has shifted its allegiance in the 2006 election cycle by donating more to Democrats than Republicans who have been the investment banks' usual benefactors, U.S. Federal Election Commission data show.

Five leading firms Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Bear Stearns Companies Inc., Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch & Co. and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. have contributed $6.2 million so far to candidates before the November elections, with about 52 percent going to Democrats.

"People give ideological money and they give money to people they think are going to win," said Maurice Carroll, director of Quinnipiac University's Polling Institute in Hamden, Connecticut. "It looks like it's going to be a good year for Democrats."

Despite being awash in record profits, Wall Street executives, investment bankers, brokers and traders may be getting weary of Republican control, Carroll said. President Bush's polling numbers are low and growing violence in Iraq also weighs heavy on Republican leadership, he said.
Thems some pretty heavy hitters.

As Carroll points out, this is really just part of the story, however. What I'd be interested in seeing is the personal contributions of people like Ace Greenberg, et al, and where that money's going.

See, a public, high profile donation like these sends one message: we don't like what we see next. The personal contributions, however, indicate the political philosophies of the individual involved. If, for example, you were to tell me that, say, Jon Tester got $5,000 from Merrill Lynch, that's one message to Conrad Burns about his effectiveness as a legislator (and of course, an attempt to purchase Tester, just in case).

If, however, you tell me that 5 VPs got together and created a "Bullish on Tester" PAC, that tells me that, fundamentally, the individual mindset at Merrill Lynch is changing to a more progressive agenda, and that mindset is heavily influenced by peers and co-workers.

That's a far more basic and important shift in the political landscape. Even the 2004 election, for all its ghost shadow good news, wasn't nearly the cause for celebration that this year looks to be shaping up as.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Y'know, Payback IS A Bitch...

After a difficult summer of bad headlines out of Iraq, Bush appeared to be getting his footing in the weeks surrounding the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

His job approval ratings were up. And his message was playing widely that Republicans are better than Democrats at handling terrorism and that the United States must stay in Iraq to finish the job.

"The stakes are high, the Democrats are the party of cut and run. Ours is a party that has got a clear vision and says we will give our commanders and troops the support necessary to achieve that victory in Iraq. We will stay in Iraq, we will fight in Iraq and we will win in Iraq," Bush said in Stockton, California, on Tuesday.

It is a theme he is still pushing and will continue to highlight, but right now, the scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley, the Florida Republican who sent sexual messages to teen-aged congressional aides, is burning up the air waves.

"It's driving out everything. I don't know how long the legs will be, but probably pretty long, because it's the sort of scandal that's going to keep having odds and ends show up," said presidential scholar Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution.
Anybody got Monica Lewinski's phone number?

See, here's the thing: If you're going to be the party of morality and wrest power based on that footing by, well, distracting the American people from things like fighting terrorism BEFORE it hits our shores by, when you're trying to govern, what in the hell do you think is going to be lobbed back at you at an opportune moment?

Friday Music Blogging

Jamiroquai. Hated the song, but the video stuck in my mind all these years.

Friday Kitten Blogging

The Media Is The Massage

Michael Wolff, media columnist at Vanity Fair, said bias was not so much linked to the ideology of the journalists or even the corporate owners as it was driven by a desire to boost ratings.

"I don't think Fox says, 'We're here to promulgate a political agenda.' I think they say, 'We're here to get ratings ... and we do that by speaking to this particular demographic, which happens to be conservative and right wing,'" he said.
Not exactly, Mr. Wolff, but you're not far off the mark.

Folks, this is chicken-and-egg stuff. Yes, putting jerk-offs like Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and John Gibson drive ratings, but it's a feeback loop: by actively promoting a regressive, fear-based and fear-mongering agenda, Fox News increases the likelihood that people will vote with their fears. And fearful people like to hear news that makes them feel good about being afraid.

You're in your house alone. You get startled by a noise. You're scared. That's an embarassing situation, and no one likes to be embarassed. What Fox would like to see happen in this scenario is for you to buy an alarm system (which, of course, is advertised on Fox), a couple of guns, and tell all your friends some made-up story about how you just had to do all this, because your neighborhood is unsafe.

Whereas a normal person would just turn on the light, see it was the cat, chuckle at themselves, and go back to bed.

I can't stress this enough: Fox likes panic. Fox thrives on panic. So Fox's political agenda is to feed the beast. And that means promoting a right wing agenda that scares people while downplaying rationality and the advice we all got growing up: Stop. Breathe. Think.

And of course, the Republicans, being a party of fearful puddles of mouse-piss, cling to Fox like a raft after the Titanic has gone down, and feed that agenda, adding their own unique perspective and fears.

Lee Meringoff of Marist sums it up best, I think:
"They're not after converts so much as getting their supporters to show up," he said.
Political persuasion used to mean taking a position, defending it, re-evaluating it, and amending it if necessary, and thus was forged public policy.

Today, it means poll-testing a sound bite for a fully-formed agenda to ram down the throats of constituents and then scare enough people into voting for it. "Contract For America," anyone?

There's also a campaign finance aspect to this trope. Candidates appear on Fox, not only to promote a fear-based agenda, but to present themselves as the bulwark to society from this particular demon. Viewers (Fox' viewers tend to skew, um, ancient, which means they have a little coin stashed away) not only see the "problem" and the "solution" but are invited to participate by, as Soupy Sales said "send(ing) in those funny green pieces of paper."

In exchange for this, Fox gets a fairly clear field to bash whomever they want with little fear of oversight from the FCC or Congres for that matter.

Thought-experiment: what would have happened if Fox had been broadcasting the Super Bowl with the Jackson nipple-slip, instead of CBS? Does anyone here honestly think Fox would have paid nearly as dearly as CBS?

No one doubts that Fox News is in it to make money, and that as the country now begins its swing towards a more liberal (actually, moderate-conservative) perspective, Fox will likely adjust accordingly, with much grudging and nattering. However, they will never abandon the money trough that conservative politicians and their own programming has created, a cash flow of both campaign contributions and advertising money that is fear-based, fear-driven, and fearfully cynical. Just look at how Fox has tried to Stalinize Mark Foley as a Democrat...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Rick Santorum, R.I.P.

Don't let the door hit you on the way out
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Unfortunate Juxtaposition?

Closer To The Brink

In succession to the post I made yesterday about the races for the House, Zogby/Reuters have released a poll about the Senate races up for grabs this year.

Hang on to your hats, folks: In ten battleground states, Dems clearly lead in five (six, if you count Lieberman in Connecticut), and are dead even in two, one of which is a Republican holding. The Democrats need six to take control of the Senate.

The most interesting races are in Montana, where Jon Tester (see sidebar) has a four percent lead over C. "Moremonetary" Burns, the incumbent Republican, as well as Rhode Island, where Sheldon Whitehouse holds a four point lead over moderate Republican incumbent, Lincoln Chaffee.

The Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey Senate races all show the Democrat with a double digit lead over his Republican opponent, including Man-Dog Santorum in Pennsylvania.

Republicans hold clear leads in only two of the ten, but that includes Virginia, where George "Macaca" Allen is up by nine over James Webb, but a whopping 13% of voters have yet to make up their minds between a Republican bigot and a "Republican-lite" bigot.

The most exciting race for me is in Tennessee, where Democratic Congressman Harold Ford is dead even with Republican Bob Corker to replace outgoing Majority Leader Bill Frist, the catkiller. Each has 40%, but almost twenty percent of the electorate has not made up their minds (the smart money sees Ford winning, I think). For an election to be such a toss-up this close to election day in a seat that should by rights be safely Republican, along with the Chaffee and Burns problems, speaks to me that this anger that voters are feeling at Republicans is not limited to the "usual suspect" states, nor to the extremists in the Republican party.

The race I haven't touched on is in Ohio, where incumbent Republican Mike Dewine is deadlocked with challenger Sherrod Brown in a battle of moderates, at 40%. Dewine, although a moderate Republican (in this day and age, Genghis Khan would be a moderate Republican, tho), faces stiff resistance probably as a backlash from the Bob Ney scandal, and the fact that he also took in a princely sum of $1,000 from a group advised by Jack Abramoff. Add to that the Noe scandal (not related to Abramoff, but one involving the investment by the Ohio Worker's Compensation fund in a rather u nconventional investment vehicle, run by members of the state Republican committee, and about $13 million dollars in lost funds), and Dewine is in serious jeopardy. 17% are undecided in Ohio.

Dewine cannot count on the Radical Right's support, since he broke with his party and was one of the Gang Of 14 Republicans and Democrats who brokered the filibuster compromise last year. In effect, he's left stranded on a raft amid the debris of the Abramoff and Noe scandals, without the usual right-wing lifeline that other, more conservative Senators might rely on. I'd say it's a testament to his personality and moderation that Ohioans would even consider him against the backdrop of all these scandals and six years of Republican mishandling of all three branches of government.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Hump Day Marx Brothers

Today's Episode: Groucho Explains The Global War On Terror

On The Brink

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats lead in races for 11 of 15 crucial Republican-held U.S. House seats a month before Nov. 7 elections, putting them within reach of seizing control of the chamber, according to Reuters/Zogby polls released Wednesday.

Republican incumbents are at particularly high risk, the polls found, with seven of nine trailing their Democratic challengers in the high-stakes battle for control of the U.S. Congress.

Democrats must pick up 15 seats to reclaim control of the House, and the polls found Republicans were also behind in four of six open seat races in districts they won in 2004.

"This is a dismal showing for Republicans," pollster John Zogby said. "Republicans ought to be very, very nervous."

The polls, taken Sept. 25 to Oct. 2 in 15 of the most competitive House districts across the country, overlapped by three days the sex scandal involving Florida Rep. Mark Foley's explicit Internet messages to teenage male congressional pages.

The scandal and questions about how their leaders handled it have mushroomed into a political crisis for Republicans, who worried it could demoralize the party's core supporters, particularly social and religious conservatives.
The news gets even better. Of the eleven races the Dems take, nine of them are by margins of more than five percent (and remember, some of this was done before the Foley scandal broke fully), and at least five are by double digits, meaning the race is all but over already.

Add to that now, Tom Reynolds seat is in play AND so is Christopher Shays, a moderate Republican from Connecticut who has been the recipient of an awful lot of Mark Foley's slush fund (what spilled over the brim from his ample fund of contributions made from his backers), and you have what amounts to the tip of the iceberg. We won't fully see the embroilment of this scandal for another couple of days in terms of how it affects the polls.

Conventional wisdom has it that Hastert will ahve to fall on his sword and at least resign the Speaker's position, if not his seat, which might put even his seat in play.

Times are going to be interesting in what should shape up to be an amazing race.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

South Foley

(hat tip to Miss Cellania)
Didn't take long, did that?

New York Matters, Part Deux

As we draw closer to the November midterm elections, what should be a slam dunk for Democrats nationwide, taking over at least one house of Congress, and possibly both, is still up for grabs. As Time magazine reports this week, there's "an eerie, Zen-like calm" projected by top Republican officials. Why? A couple of reasons. First, money. Republicans on the whole still out-draw in campaign contributions by a sizable amount, thanks to special interest and corporate donations.

Second, aggressive redistricting by Republicans means that, rather than have 100 seats up for grab as happened in 1994, there are really only 36 seats that the GOP has to focus on in order to retain control of Congress. The Dems need to capture 21, 15 House, six Senate. Tall order when all that money and machinery can be so narrowly focused.

Which means the Democrats will have to pick their spots very carefully. Earlier this year, I recounted how important New York state would be in determining the make-up of Congress. Today, we can flesh out some of the details:
In the Empire State, Democrats and nonpartisan political analysts say as many as five of the nine GOP seats could be in play in November. However, so far only one - the race to replace moderate Republican Sherwood Boehlert of Utica - at this point in the campaign leans Democratic or is a toss-up.

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) is being challenged by Nassau Legis. Dave Mejias (D-Farmingdale), who in six weeks raised more money than King's previous two opponents combined. Despite being listed as one of the top races to watch by political handicappers, King is a heavy favorite in this overwhelmingly Republican district.

Several other GOP incumbents are in competitive races, according to nonpartisan political analysts. Among those are: Sue Kelly of Westchester, John Sweeney of Clifton Park, James Walsh of Syracuse and Randy Kuhl of Hammondsport.

The Democrats' "best opportunities are in congressional districts that are generally Democratic but have Republican incumbents," said Stuart Rothenberg, a political handicapper.
In each of the previous three elections, Democrats have been able to capture at least one seat formerly held by Republicans, while maintaining a tight grip on all their holdings in the state. This year, several factors should increase that tally:

1) Bush's miserable performance as President will be a real issue in two ways: it's angered the hell out of Democrats, and it's deflated and frustrated blue state Republicans, who tend to be more moderate than red staters.

2) Eliot Spitzer, Hillary Clinton, and Andrew Cuomo are almost guaranteed to win their races, again, deflating Republicans who might turn out for competitive races, but who will be further frustrated and likely not to vote.

3) Rep. Mark Foley. The taint of Congress and incumbency was already weighing heavily on Republicans across the nation, but recent revelations regarding the sex scandal that Foley singlehandedly created will tarnish anyone who's had any type of close ties to Foley. The fact that the party leadership in Washington knew enough about Foley's escapades to warn pages as early as five years ago does not reflect well on anyone in the party, but in particular on Tom Reynolds, who ought to have known better and who is running in the 26th.

4) Lastly, traditional Republican strongholds in the state, like Long Island and Westchester County, have seen a gradual erosion of that power as aging Republicans retire and move away, such that Tom Suozzi, a Democrat, was able to wrest the Nassau County board away from the GOP.

The fight is there. The work is cut out for us. It's time to wipe the slate clear of Republicans and take back Congress.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Standing Up For The Legislative Process

In the course of looking over the sordid material provided by the Foley affair, I came across this little exchange("Maf54" is Foley):
Maf54 (7:46:33 PM): did any girl give you a haand job this weekend

Xxxxxxxxx (7:46:38 PM): lol no

Xxxxxxxxx (7:46:40 PM): im single right now

Xxxxxxxxx (7:46:57 PM): my last gf and i broke up a few weeks agi

Maf54 (7:47:11 PM): are you

Maf54 (7:47:11 PM): good so your getting horny

Xxxxxxxxx (7:47:29 PM): lol?a bit

Maf54 (7:48:00 PM): did you spank it this weekend yourself

Xxxxxxxxx (7:48:04 PM): no

Xxxxxxxxx (7:48:16 PM): been too tired and too busy

Maf54 (7:48:33 PM): wow?

Maf54 (7:48:34 PM): i am never to busy haha
Now, as an experienced hand with masturbation, and a firm advocate of it as a stress reliever, particularly as it pertains to disseminating good feelings (see my sidebar link for Masturbate For Peace), I was thinking a little about this.

You're a Congressman from, say, Florida. A Republican in good standing who has certain...impulses...that if he acted upon them, might be taken the wrong way by his constituents, and things could get out of hand.

You know, you'll got to consider all these bills and mark up all those pages, and you're too busy to hire, um, help for your swelling needs, since that would leave a paper trail for your district. And besides, your fellow members get agitated and you might arouse suspicions. I mean, it's not like going to see the Yanks bat around at the Stadium! People get upset when sex is involved and money is spent!

So you lock your office door, and buzz your secretary and tell her you need to polish up your response to some legislation. You tell her to tell anyone who calls that you're consulting with your staff in order to firm up your position.

Now cast the stock answers you hear given to the media with this scenario. I wonder if legislators aren't telling more than we're hearing?

"After working closely with fellow members..."

"We polished up the language in conference..."

"I closely examined the many pages in this bill..."

"I can safely say we have the situation firmly in hand..."

"We are in Iraq for the long haul..."

"I'm here to play ball with the members of Congress..."

"I'm reaching across the aisle to work hand-in-hand with members of the other party..."

See how easy it is to realize how extensive sexual perversions are in Congress? You try it!

A Pirro-ette

Well, it looks like Jeannine's troubles have only just begun. You may recall the rather embarassing leak last week of an investigation into conversations she held with Bernard Kerik over planting a bug on her husband's boat.

Said husband was suspected of having an affair with his lawyer's young and attractive wife, Lisa Santangelo:Jeannine Pirro and Lisa Santangelo

Admittedly, that takes balls. Here's the man defending you from a federal tax evasion inquiry, and you go around banging his wife.

Well, frying pan into the fire stuff was revealed overnight.
Financial disclosure statements from Pirro's time as Westchester district attorney have been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury, according to a spokeswoman for Pirro.

The grand jury asked the Westchester County Board of Ethics to turn over more than 100 pages of Pirro's financial disclosures from 1998 to 2005. [...]

The New York Post also reports a federal prosecutor is looking into whether Pirro allowed plea deals from defendants who used the lawyer who once represented her husband.
Apparently, ol' Jeannine was, um, funding her husband's affair. The smoking gun they are looking for is kickbacks from the lawyer Michael Santangelo in exchange for the plea deals she agreed to so willingly, and also to see if, as she claimed, the boat was jointly held. Al Pirro and Michael Santangelo has business dealings apart from his representation in Federal court. It's possible those business deals would come under scrutiny as well.

The only good news for Pirro was a rally yesterday on Staten Island, but even that was tainted by this scandal. Many leading Republicans, including New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg and Republican gubenatorial candidate John Faso came in support of Pirro as she trolled for votes in perhaps the only borough she stands a faint chance of carrying in the city.

Conspicuous by their absence were the two men who encouraged Pirro to run, first against Hillary for Senate (and we all saw what happened there) and now against Andrew Cuomo for Attorney General: Gov. George Pataki and former New York City Fuhrer...I mean, mayor, Rudy Giuliani.

Add them to the increasingly long list of unprincipled cowards under the GOP banner...

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Condoning Pedophilia...

Just another service offered by your United States Republican Party:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Republican leader of the U.S. House of Representatives said his office knew a year ago about inappropriate contact between a former intern and newly resigned Rep. Mark Foley and called on Saturday for a criminal probe of the matter.

Foley, 52, a six-term Florida Republican, resigned from the House on Friday after ABC News reported he sent messages to current and former congressional pages with references to sexual organs and acts.

Staff for the Republican leader, Speaker Dennis Hastert, said they had been alerted to an exchange between Foley and one congressional page in the fall of 2005 but were not told about any sexually explicit e-mails or text messages, according to a statement issued by the speaker's office.

They said Foley had been warned to stop any such contact and that Hastert did not become aware of the incident until the spring of 2006.
Yea, right. Hastert knew last year, which is why Foley was discouraged from running for Senate against Katherine Harris in Florida.

Then again, Hastert was a high school wrestling coach and perhaps he had his own, you know, attraction to the youthful sweaty bodies of adolescent men...I wonder if he was getting sloppy seconds from Foley?

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