Friday, December 03, 2004

Kerik's Legacy

via The Onion

Emptying the cabinet

So now Tommy Thompson is out too, and ex-Senator and UN Ambassador John Danforth as well (because he didn't get the secretary of state job, the baby). I wonder if Tommy will try for governor of WI again or if he too will try for President in 2008.

According to the rumormill, Bush wanted Giulliani to be his Homeland Security Director, but Rudy turned it down (he doesn't want to be under Bush's thumb in the race for 2008), so Rudy suggested the guy who held Pataki's coat during 9/11: Benard Kerik, the ex-NYPD chief. Kerik's done a great job training the Iraqi army hasn't he? Boy, they are just whipping out the insurgents and with no help at all from the US/"Coalition" [hopefully you could tell the last bit was scarastic]!

I am assuming that Bush will be the kingmaker in 2008, but I wonder if there will be Bush-fatiuge amoung even conservatives by then. I was tired with him on January 20, 2001 12:00:000000001. Didn't like the way he walzed up to the podium.

Ukraine gets a second chance at Democracy

Good news. In Kiev, the Supreme Court declared the results of the disputed presidential runoff election invalid and that the runoff should be repeated on December 26, just what Yushchencko wanted. Look for every Western country and the UN to send observers to make sure there is no funny business this time.

Ukraine up until now had had the best democratic government, in terms of free elections, in the former USSR. I am pleased that they will continue down the old road and not on the Putin/Bush/DeLay ends justify the means route.

This was a victory also for Yushchenko, the so-called Ukrainian Al Gore in this election (only that his proof of a stolen election was much more complete than Gore's), who didn't want a new election altogether. His yellow-wearing supporters contended that Yushchenko had won the run off [got over 50%] despite the results touting a plurality win for him. Current president Kuchma and his party have been so embarrassed they have been trying to drop their candidate Yanukovych like a rock, despite Putin congratulated Yanukovych on his victory three times.

In news more related to the US but still Ukrainian themed the Wall Street Journal reported, "the Ukrainian Parliament, which earlier this week passed a no-confidence vote in Mr. Kuchma's government, raised its pressure on him, calling in a nonbinding vote for a withdrawal of the nation's 1,600 peacekeepers from Iraq, where they make up the fourth-largest contingent."

"'Due to the sharp deterioration of the situation in Iraq, the Parliament addresses the president with the proposal on withdrawal of [Ukrainian] troops from Iraq,' the resolution said. The chamber voted 257-0 in support of the proposal. Forty deputies who were present did not take part in the vote."

"Most Ukrainians want the troops brought home, and the deployment has been a rare topic of agreement between the two rivals vying for the presidency. Both Mr. Yushchenko and Mr. Yanukovych support a pullout."

So who's number 3? Poland or Australia? How is this a coalition? I still chuckle with sadness when the Pentagon or the press say "coalition forces." I still can't believe 53 million Americans think Bush has the best handle on fixing the mess he created by choice. "It's your bed, lay in it."

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Absurdity has a new name

It's mandatory minimums. The idea behind taking the sentencing phase for drug related crimes was to create uniformity and more importantly, for politicians to claim (in the Nelson Rockefeller mold) that they are "tough on crime,"

The Wall Street Journal reports, "when it comes to measuring the weight of drugs, procedures around the country are anything but standard. The amount of cocaine or marijuana in the defendant's possession is just the start: What really matters is how much a person intended to procure or produce. That question leads the justice system into a speculative realm where botanists, chemists and forensic scientists imagine what might have happened if the defendant had had more time or skill."

"... Prosecutors and defense lawyers have debated, for example, whether a man who hoarded bags of Chinese tea could have made a significant quantity of speed from it were he an expert chemist -- which he wasn't. Another man was caught growing thousands of baby marijuana plants. Had they grown up, how much marijuana would they have yielded? The answers to such questions can mean the difference of a decade or more in a prison sentence."

"The Supreme Court is now weighing whether the federal sentencing guidelines are constitutional. " I hope they say no. The whole thing is idiotic, that someone who caught with a couple bags of weed should do more time than someone who tries to blow up a plane.

We should make sure the judges in our city, county, state, and country are compassionate but fair and tough on crime and drugs. The legislature has no business taking away the judge's gavel on these issues, in my opinion. The arbitrariness of sentencing when it comes to predicting how much drugs they would have made is even more silly.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Donnie Fowler for DNC

I know I said good things about Dean, and good things about Simon Rosenburg, and bad things about Terry, but now my mind is made up ex-Clark Campaign Manager Donnie Fowler is my pick. I also know that he was the fall guy (and maybe partly to blame) for Clark's stumble out of the gate that probabbly cost him the nomination and maybe the presidency. But I am a forgiving guy and Fowler's rhetoric is right where I stand:
The Democratic National Committee

Embracing the New Politics and Perfecting the Old
Donnie Fowler, Candidate for DNC Chairman / November 2004

In a time where America's progressive movement and the Democratic Party feel the pain of defeat, Democrats must reaffirm our soul and commit ourselves to the new politics while perfecting the old. Today's Democratic Party is the legacy of our nation's greatest accomplishments - the American Revolution, abolition of slavery, giving women the vote, the right to organize, winning two world wars, and the civil rights movement. Standing up for this tradition is the charge of the DNC and progressives everywhere.

Democrats must stand up for our beliefs and take risks. Democrats must be defiant in defeat. When we lie down, we get run over.

Democrats must cross the values threshold. Democrats love issues, but we must remind voters we have a soul before we convince them that our policies make sense.

Democrats must find new voters. To return to power, Democrats must maintain the loyalty of traditional Democrats and recognize that huge parts of the electorate have arrived, changed, or shifted in our country over the last forty years.

Democrats must remember that voters don't live in Washington. Conventional wisdom and an aristocracy of consultants have created a national party that has lost the handle on what is truly important to voters and what is really happening in their lives. Local people know better. Let them lead.

The Democratic Party must increase its communications capability. Democrats must communicate year round with voters where they live, through their local news outlets, and by using trusted local opinion leaders. Regional political and communications offices plus a true understanding of new media and new technologies are essential.

We must form a shadow government. The DNC should coordinate the Party's leadership, not just our congressional members but also our governors, party chairs, DNC members, and leading thinkers. The Democratic Party needs a single entity, acting as a clearinghouse, so that the resources and message of the progressive movement do not duplicate each other or directly conflict.

We must raise money. Continued fundraising success requires a message that attracts donations and proof that the money produces real results.

We must measure what we do, hold ourselves accountable, and review our progress. The DNC must perform more like a business by setting measurable goals, quantifying its progress, holding staff accountable, and reviewing its activities on a semi-annual basis.
- - -

Donnie Fowler has achieved a leading role in political and high technology circles through his work in Silicon Valley and at the Federal Communications Commission, service in the Clinton White House, and work on six presidential campaigns. He has advised dozens of companies, policymakers, public advocacy groups, and political campaigns on how to manage their media, policy, business development, & technology agendas.

Six Presidential Campaigns / Four Presidential Cycles
o Gephardt '87-'88, Jackson '88, Clinton/Gore '96, Gore/Lieberman '00 (National Field Director), Wesley Clark '03 (Campaign Manager), and Kerry/Edwards '04 (Michigan State Director)

Political and Campaign Work in Fourteen States on the Ground
o S.Carolina, Iowa, New Hampshire, Connecticut, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Wyoming, California, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Virginia

Technology & Telecommunications Background
o Federal Communications Commission ('97-'99)
o TechNet, Silicon Valley ('01-'03)

Courtesy of MyDD and DailyKos

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Another one bites the dust

The latest resignee is Tom Ridge former governor of PA and one time Presidential-Candidate-Only-in-Corridors-of-Washington. By the way, he was head of the Department of so-called "Homeland Security" which really strikes me as a Nationalistic term along the lines of "Mother Russia" of USSR and "Das Vaterland" of Nazi Germany. Our country was founded by immigrants; the only people who can truely consider this their "homeland" are the Native Americans and if you really want to get into semmantics our only true homeland is Africa's Rift Valley where Homo Habilis first walked.

[By the way, I just love those WSJ sketches of people, don't you?]

According to the Journal, "Mr. Ridge told the president that he will remain in office at least until Feb. 1, but would like to leave his position for a more lucrative job in the private sector to help pay for two daughters in college. Those around Mr. Ridge, however, have said that his exit plan is part of his own political strategy to build a base so he can be a Republican presidential contender in 2008." These are his lackies doing a whispering campaign. I am sorry, but the guy who came up with the dumbest color-coding system in the history of mankind shouldn't be president. We have a system of two colors (orange and yellow)with 3 other colors (red, green and blue) as distractors.

Back in the rumor mill, reporter Robert Black culls a list from GOPers calling him up trying to get their boss' name dropped. "One name that has frequently surfaced as a contender is that of Asa Hutchinson, the Homeland Security undersecretary for border and transportation security. Officials inside the department say that Mr. Hutchinson has been lobbying intensely for the secretary's job, but in an interview with reporters from his home state of Arkansas, he said he was considering whether to remain in his current post or explore other jobs in the public and private sectors. Mr. Hutchinson has developed tense relationships inside the department, particularly with the Deputy Secretary Admiral James Loy, who is widely liked and respected by both the White House and Capitol Hill. Some senior respected figures in the department have been saying that they will resign should Mr. Hutchinson take the reins.

Other names that have surfaced as possible Ridge replacements include: White House homeland security adviser Frances Townsend; New York Governor George Pataki; former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani; former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik; Rep. Chris Cox (R., Calif.); Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney; and former Utah governor and current EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt."

OK, here's my take on reality: Asa maybe, Townsesnd would follow the pattern of placing WH operatives into the various departments for ultimate control, Giuliani and Pataki and Romney are running for President, Kerik I doubt it, Cox is too powerful where he is in the House, Leavitt might want this to "move up" to a higher-profile but equally thankless job.

If Kerry had won, I think he would have put Gary Hart up for the post, or another buddy ex-Senator Warren Rudman, who is a GOPer of the old school and more like the current Kerry.

WSJ also has a handy score card to keep track of the Bush Administration's revolving door: [sorry, scroll down a ways, I am not good at making tables]

Seat Current Holder Future? Successor?
Justice John Ashcroft Resigned Alberto Gonzales
Defense Donald Rumsfeld May stay
State Colin Powell Resigned Condoleezza Rice
Homeland Security Tom Ridge Resigned TBA
Treasury John Snow May stay
Agriculture Ann Veneman Resigned TBA
Interior Gail Norton No plans
Commerce Don Evans Resigned Carlos Guitierrez
Labor Elaine Chao No plans
Education Rod Paige Resigned Margaret Spellings
Energy Spencer Abraham Resigned TBA
Transportation Norman Mineta May leave
Health & Human Services Tommy Thompson May leave
Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi No plans
Housing & Urban Development Alphonso Jackson No plans
Source: research

Monday, November 29, 2004

the Legacy of environmental lawsuits

Utahns know, and some out of state environmentalists are well aware of the so-called Legacy Highway. This route is supposed to be an alternative to I-15 from Davis Co. to SL Co. (from the 3rd to 1st populated counties in the state). Folks like the Sierra Club were able to block the highway that was going through wetlands because of an inadaqueate environmental impact statement(made in 1997). Many people were upset that SLC mayor Rocky Anderson intervened in the lawsuit in favor of the environmentalists.

That was 2001. The Salt Lake Tribune reports, "Three years later, with nearly $18 million in delay costs racked up, UDOT is prepared to release the results of that supplemental study, which cost around $3 million."

There's a two fold problem on a more macro level: how do you protect the environment and how do you promote commerce and industry effiecently? Our environmental laws are in a way being abused by the Sierra Clubs of the world by blocking projects on technicalities and not the merits. The environmental lobby effectively is raising the costs of building such bridges and highways to a point where people won't build them via court costs. At the same time, if this highway truely does mow down wetlands when they could have built a light rail system or had the highway get a better route away from such areas, shouldn't there be some mechanism to make them do so?

There has to be a better way.

holiday shopping

Two bits of good news out there on the economic front: This weekend's holiday shopping was near record setting, and even better, Wal-Mart had one of it worst seasons yet.

According to the Wall Street Journal, "Wal-Mart on Saturday took the unusual step of slashing its prediction for November sales growth, citing disappointing holiday sales at its stores. Wal-Mart predicted that November same-store sales in the U.S. would grow by only 0.7% over a year ago, far less than the 2% to 4% rise the retailer had expected."
This from a company that tried to seem labor friendly by allowing Unions...but only in China. I guess it is the least you can do for the people that make all your stuff.

The Nation quotes Andrew Rothman, "a former US diplomat who is now the China country head for CLSA Emerging Markets, an investment bank, says, 'Most multinational companies of any size in China have a union presence, and I've not heard of it causing a problem for anybody.' That's little wonder, because the federation unit at most companies confines itself to such things as organizing outings for workers or, less often, administering workers' health or unemployment insurance payments." Seems like the same old same old, find a way to push the cost of insurance for your workers (health etc) onto the workers or taxpayer, as long as it isn't Wal-Mart's bottom line.

Do you ever notice how the workers at Wal-Mart seem so depressed, even when they are smiling and saying "Welcome to Wal-Mart!"? This is why. For a nice contrast, go to CostCo: all the employees are jolly because they get way higher pay, health insurance, etc. there. And guess what, CostCo is doing great. You don't need to screw your workers to post profits.

But back to the first point: Holiday shopping. According to the Journal: "Historically, the post-Thanksgiving weekend isn't especially strong for online spending because so many people are out in stores. The busiest shopping day on the Web, according to Verisign, is the Monday after Thanksgiving, when consumers get back to their high-speed, broadband Internet connections at the office." American workers are so efficient these days that they can get more work done, and still use the boss' fast internet connection to order gifts for their relatives in Toledo.

Here's a cool chart via the Journal and Visa, on how much more people spent this year just with their Visa over last Thanksgiving Weekend:

Interestingly, the big rush this year was again discounted electronics, but nothing else drew in consumers. There is no talking elmo or anything like that (is elmo considered an electronic?) this year. It seems people want iPods, DVD players, DVDs, and TVs for Christmas and not clothes.

This has another happy effect for me: stores like GAP will do poorly. Hope everyone enjoyed their weekend with friends and family, I know I did. Now I just need to get some sleep, refill the barren fridge, and study my brains out until my last final.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Do you enjoy the break?

sorry dear readers, for not writing in so long. I have been busy with family-oriented projects and relaxing, along with reading lots of Glannon's Guide to Civil Procedure. On the plane it will be Examples and Explainations of Contracts. Yipee! Well not really, but I do feel a bit more rested than before.

The only reading a really did other than law school was a cursory glance at the continuing mess in the Ukraine and that there was another spat among the BOP crew. That reminds me that I need to talk to my old college professor who is now at the University of Ottawa as head of the Ukranian Studies department. He must be busy these days.

I think it is interesting that no one that I have seen has directly referenced the strange similarities with the outcome of the Ukranian and American elections. Both had a surprising 3 point victory for the incumbent party, both were "supported" by Moskow (remember how George W. Bush looked into Putin's eyes and said he was a "good man?" ... first of all, he says that about just about everyone, secondly, it makes you wonder about his judge of character and hence his nominees to various posts), both losing sides complained that the exit polls and actual results didn't match up, both losing sides complained of fraud and a stolen election (it seems those in the Ukraine have a better case than liberals like those at BOP).

The people that rule Russia right now and who want to rule Ukraine for another term do not understand democracy. They still are stuck in the Soviet Union mindset of power justifies anything, the rule of law comes second to the their rule. I dare say a less extreme version of this view of might makes right has taken hold of the American Republicans as well, with Tom DeLay demanding special exemptions, Bush's Adminstration justifying torture and all manner of power grabbing under the "War on Terror" Rubric.