July 17, 2004

In what might well be an historic first, a sitting governor has used the phrase, "girly men" to attack his political opponents.  I guess that's what happens when you elect a man to that position who's more juiced than Barry Bonds.  At some point, Ahnolt Ziffel's shtick starts to wear thin; behind his Teutonic accent and mannerisms, he's little more than a Chamber-of-Commerce sockpuppet.  It's no wonder that State Senate leader John Burton called his bluff on this one.  With George Bush running at the top of the ticket this November, the Governor has very little influence to pressure recalcitrant members of the Democratic Caucus.
 
The source of the Governor's irritation is the unwillingness of the Democrats in the State Legislature to repeal a bill passed late in Gray Davis' tenure, which gave workers the right to sue their employers for workplace violations.  This is perhaps the biggest issue being pressed by the business lobby at the moment, and as one might expect, exaggerated claims about its impact abound on the Right (before it passed last year, the public was warned that it would allow workers to sue if the font size of an office posting was the wrong size, a myth that I took great pains to discredit).  It has held up passage of the budget two weeks past the legal deadline, and has provided yet another reminder to voters that the biggest problem in Sacramento isn't the term-limited, interchangeable hacks who hold office, but the system that makes responsible budgeting impossible.   Schwarzenegger has yet to show he's even remotely interested in doing anything other than playing the symbolic role of "Governor", so any chance of real reform will have to be put off til 2006, when presumably he goes back to groping extras on the Terminator 4 set.

July 15, 2004

Joseph Wilson Is Evil !! The silliest, most overblown attack on any blog this year (so far).


July 13, 2004

The Law of Unintended Consequences: Kausfiles questions the reasoning of those who have evidenced paranoia about the "K Street Project", the effort by the Republican leadership in Congress to coerce lobbyists and law firms to hire exclusively from their partisan ranks. No doubt, to be a Democratic staffer on the Hill, hoping for a plum job representing the haves after the obligatory tenure of public service, the last ten years must have been a very traumatic time. Hopefully, it will be a radicalizing experience.

Although I'm bothered by the thuggish, jackbootish tactics of Grover Norquist, et al., this hasn't been an issue at the top of my agenda, for the simple reason that it just signifies how I would expect fascists to act when they take power. Listen people, Tom DeLay is the House Majority Leader, the Vice President is incapable of having a civil conversation on the floor of the Senate, and the President is arguably the most unlikable jerk ever to hold high office. They are now hinting, appropos of nothing, that the November election might have to be suspended in the event of a terrorist "attack". They just took us to war under false pretenses, at a sacrifice of a thousand men and women, and their domestic platform is nothing more than millionaire tax cuts, queer bashing, and arsenic dumping. How else would you expect these people to act?

Of course, another reason I could care less about this issue is that K Street represents the largest impediment to a progressive agenda being enacted in this country. Such policies can only be pursued if the corporate lobby is brought to its knees first, something that won't happen if former liberal staffers are working on K Street in significant numbers. What Norquist and Santorum have inadvertantly done is begin the destruction of that bipartisan coalition in Washington, the result of which shall push the center of gravity further to the left than they could have ever envisioned.

July 12, 2004

Enablers and co-dependents....
If you're going to argue that the selection of John Edwards has failed to produce a bounce, it would be helpful to provide some actual numbers from the past as a point of comparison. Since no one else has....

Until 1976, Vice Presidents were usually picked by the nominee during the week of the convention, often after the candidate had been formally nominated. Since the nomination was typically not decided until the delegates had their say, it made sense not to jump the gun. In '76, however, Ronald Reagan, trailing Gerald Ford in the delegate race, threw a Hail Mary, nominating Senator Richard Schweiker to be his running mate several weeks beforehand, then attempted to use the convention floor to force Ford to do the same. He failed, in a precursor of the nomination battle that was to follow, but the practice of picking a Veep well before the convention soon caught on.

The next time it happened was in 1984, when Walter Mondale chose Geraldine Ferraro to be his running mate a month before the convention. Selecting a woman was an unprecedented move, and such farsightedness in recognizing the existence of the "gender gap" has been fruitful for Democrats since then, but the selection caused barely a ripple in the polls. At the ensuing convention, Mondale did receive a nice bounce, but he lost anyway.

In 1988, Michael Dukakis waited until early-July to pick Lloyd Bentsen. That pick also produced a small bounce in the pre-convention polls, albeit a bounce in favor of George Bush (Dukakis picked up a much larger boost at the convention itself in late-July). When it came time for Bush to pick a nominee, his choice of Dan Quayle came in the middle of the Convention. It is safe to say that the selection of Quayle was one of the most disastrous political moves of the 20th Century, and in reaction, the American People ended up giving 41 one of the largest post-convention bounces in history.

After that, the Vice Presidential nominee was always picked well before the formal nomination process was completed, so pollsters can detect a bounce from the Veep selection as distinct from any bounce accruing from the convention itself. In each instance, the nomination of the Vice President had an almost neglible impact on the polls, while the convention itself produced a significant impact. Clinton opting for Al Gore in 1992 hardly nudged the polls at all; Gore's history-making selection of Joe Lieberman had even less of an impact. And if Dole and Bush (43) were aided by the nomination of party warhorses for the number two slot, it wasn't immediately apparent in the overnight polls.

This time, the consensus is that Kerry has picked up 2-3 points or so in the polls since he chose John Edwards (that is to say, he's gone from being tied to being about 5 points up). The White House spin machine has been quite aggressive in painting this as insignificant, and continue to act as if polls which include Ralph Nader as a "candidate" have any intellectual honesty whatsoever. In fact, a pre-convention bounce of five points, in a race in which Kerry had either trailed or been tied, is massively significant, and the state-by-state trends right now are quite favorable to the Democratic nominee. He continues to out-perform Gore in the so-called "Purple States" (states won by either Gore or Bush by <5%), and has caused a number of "Red States" to be thrown into doubt, including North Carolina, Virginia and Arizona. The cool, composed Edwards compares favorably on the stump with the vulgarian loose cannon from Wyoming, and he may have already changed the dynamic of this race.

July 11, 2004

Not to put too fine a point on it, but what NBA Finals were the critics of the proposed Shaq-to-Miami trade watching last month? The Lakers were thoroughly out-classed and out-hustled by the younger, stronger Pistons, and came within a last-second Kobe three-bomb from having been swept in humiliating fashion. The question isn't whether this trade decimates the Lakers, and starts a rebuilding cycle; after the Finals, the Lakers had no choice but to rebuild. Old, slow teams don't get better with time, particularly one with as dysfunctional a lineup as the Lakers had last season. If they had done nothing but kept the nucleus together, they would have seen the Lakers grow further and further from being a championship team, unable to fend off younger rivals in San Antonio, Houston, and Minnesota, much less the budding dynasty being built in the Motor City.

Faced with the choice of either losing Kobe or Shaq, the front office wisely opted to trade the older player of declining skills and health.
Moreover, the trade makes sense even if Kobe signs with the Clippers next week, or, even more unlikely, is sent to jail for that joke rap in Colorado. Without Kobe, the Lakers can make an immediate play in the free agent market, and begin setting up for the inevitable run in 2007 at Yao Ming. Of course, with Kobe, the addition of Odom, Butler and Grant gives the Lakers more depth than they had last season, when it seemed like any injury to the Four Tenors put the team into a slump, and signals a return to the "Showtime" style demanded by the fans.

In any event, the team had two options: they could either start playing for the future, or they could have simply allowed the current team to atrophy over the next few seasons. The Lakers have always taken a certain pride in not hanging the banners of divisional and conference championship seasons in the rafters of the home arena; being an also-ran was something not to be celebrated by the franchise. Having that attitude always reassured the fans that simply making the playoffs, or even going to the championship, wasn't good enough. Hats off to Mitch Kupchak for no longer postponing the inevitable, and for realizing that the status quo was not going to bring any more titles to L.A.
Just in time for the upcoming Julie Delpy opus: a Countess Bathory action figure. [Link via Luke Thompson]