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August 29, 2003 PERMALINK
I Got Your „Managerial Flexibilityš Right Here
(posted August 29 1:15 AM ET)

Back in 2002, when a Democratic Senate bill was proposed to create a Homeland Security Dept. that kept long-standing worker protections, Dubya dismissed it:

...it is important that we have the managerial flexibility to get the job done right∑We can't be micro-managed....

∑the notion of flexibility will in no way undermine the basic rights of federal workers∑[we need] the ability to move money and resources quickly in response to new threats, without all kinds of bureaucratic rules and obstacles.

Of course, „managerial flexibilityš is his philosophy for all of the federal government, not just the Homeland Security Dept.

And this week, we got an example of what he means by „managerial flexibilityš -- arbitrary pay cuts.

Under a formula established by law, 1.2 million federal workers were to get an average pay hike of about 15%.

Bush slashed that to 2%.

And if inflation runs at the same rate as the last 12 months, 2.1%, Bush will have turned an expected pay raise into a pay cut.

He has the legal authority to take such measures in times of „national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare.š

Arguably, an expected half-trillion dollar deficit qualifies as „serious economic conditions,š but Dubya didn‚t cite the economy as the rationale.

Apparently, „Yellow Alertš qualifies as a „national emergency.š According to Dubya‚s official explanation:

A national emergency has existed since September 11, 2001, that now includes Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

(Not that Bush Administration is linking Saddam to Al Qaeda without any evidence or anything.)

To put things in a little perspective, this pay cut will save $11 billion in the next fiscal year.

The Bush tax cut that goes mostly to the wealthy? $135 billion over the same period.

It‚d be one thing if sacrifices were being fairly spread throughout all parts of society.

But they‚re not.

The Bush worldview? Better to screw more than a million working stiffs, who work on behalf of all of us, than dare ask Bush‚s corporate buds to give up a little.

Unless, of course, there‚s a presidential campaign hard-up for a couple hundred mil.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

August 28, 2003 PERMALINK
Can Anyone Stop Dean?
(posted August 28 12:30 AM ET)

If you listen closely, you can hear the sound of John Kerry, John Edwards, Joe Lieberman, Dick Gephardt, Joe Biden, Al From and Bruce Reed collectively banging their heads into a wall.

With a new Zogby poll giving Howard Dean a 21-point lead over Kerry in NH everyone now knows that a Dean nomination is more than just a possibility.

If Dean wins Iowa and NH (he currently leads in both), and has the most money (not yet, but on his way), he‚d be damn near unstoppable.

Except for incumbent presidents and vice-presidents, nobody has won the early deuce since Jimmy Carter in ő76.

(The only other was Sen. Ed Muskie in 1972, but he was the Establishment candidate seen in both as performing below expectations.)

And if a „Stop Deanš movement can‚t get behind a single candidate and swamp Dean with money, chances are the momentum from the early wins would carry him through.

Rival campaigns are rationalizing the Dean rise, saying things like:

„He‚s peaking too soon. He‚s spending money and running ads and we‚re not yet. His support isn‚t diverse.š

But after Labor Day, rivals are going to have to prove that they have diverse support, that their ads will translate into higher poll numbers, that they have any ability to peak at all.

It‚s far from certain that anyone can.

Sure, most campaigns are not in high gear just yet.

But it‚s not like they‚ve been sitting around either. And no one has displayed much evidence that they can generate excitement.

A mild exception is Kerry, who sparks some by mere fact of his war record, which some believe is enough to claim electability.

As such, he‚s arguably getting the support of those intrigued by Dean, but unconvinced Dean‚s electable.

However, if Dean keeps chipping away at the notion that he can‚t win, Kerry will lose any rationale unless he offers something else up.

But Dean appears to be making progress in his electability argument, as recent posts from the pro-war The New Republic indicate.

Furthermore, this week you haven‚t seen the same level of anti-Dean hysteria from the Beltway as you did after Dean‚s fundraising feat at the end of June.

Could it be that cooler heads among our Beltway Dem elite are prevailing?

Of course, there‚s plenty of time for twists and turns, such as a wild card like Wesley Clark.

The Hillary chatter is starting again. (Bad idea, Hill, get a record of legislative accomplishment to run on first. You got time.)

And don‚t forget that in 1976, an „Anybody But Carterš movement spawned late entries after Carter won a string of primaries.

But outside of new candidates, there won‚t be many twists and turns unless the other Dems learn how to create some Ų fast.

QUICK HITS

Joe Lies

Joe Lieberman, after trying to make waves by attacking Dean from the right, the other day sought to tear him down from the left.

By lying.

This Lieberman quote aired on MSNBC‚s Hardball yesterday:

He‚s got a position that‚s against gun control in the federal government.

That I presume means: against the Brady Bill, the assault weapons ban. I don‚t agree with that.

Yet a simple trip to the Dean website proves otherwise:

I believe the federal gun laws we haveųlike the Brady Billųare important, and I would veto any attempt to repeal or gut them.

The Assault Weapons Ban expires next year, and it should be renewed.

Apparently, no Hardball fact-checkers were in the house to correct the statement.

Bushisms From Arnold

An interesting stance on gay marriage from Schwarzenegger given on yesterday‚s Sean Hannity radio show (clip aired on CNN‚s Newsnight):

I think that gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman.

More to come, one hopes.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

August 27, 2003 PERMALINK
The Wartime Rhetoric Is Back
The Jingoistic Fawning Isn't
(posted August 27 1:30 AM ET)
(edited August 27 10:45 AM ET)

„No Retreat.š The President defends his strategy in Iraq, as three more US soldiers die there. More Americans now dead in Iraq than during major combat.
-- Opening of NBC Nightly News, 8/26/03

Hence the problem for the Bushies. You can‚t spin away dead people.

Yesterday, Bush gave a well-hyped speech intended to stop the slide in public opinion regarding the occupation.

But Bush doesn‚t control his megaphone the way he did in the build-up to the war. Now, a more active media filter is in the way.

Bush apparently thought he can wrest control back by amping up the wartime rhetoric.

However, instead of jingoistic fawning, ABC‚s World News Tonight subtly exposed the tactic: „the wartime rhetoric was backš

But the slow return of the media‚s spine is not Bush‚s only problem here.

He‚s losing support from people who still support the war.

This weekend‚s Newsweek poll reported that 61% believe the US „did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq last March.š

And yet, in the same poll:

48% would support troop withdrawal if attacks continue (a plurality).

55% don‚t support a troop increase.

60% support a reduction of spending in Iraq.

69% are very or somewhat concerned that the US will get bogged down in Iraq.

Clearly, a significant portion of war supporters (read: non-liberals, non-Bush-haters) have not signed on for an extended occupation.

(Hell, even Toby Keith is not 100% on board.)

Since these folks cannot be imperialist neocons, they can be assumed to be folks who felt Saddam needed to be taken out and that the alleged WMD was a real threat.

Therefore, when Dubya trots out the old pro-war arguments -- such as, „catastrophic weapons will no longer be in the hands of a reckless, unstable dictator,š -- he doesn‚t help his cause.

Because for these shaky supporters, Saddam's removal is the reason for the US to limit its commitment and get out as soon as possible.

For them, deposing Saddam means "Mission Accomplished," leaving little reason to risk more American lives.

Bush also doesn‚t help his cause by implicitly scolding these Americans who question an indefinite occupation:

Retreat in the face of terror would only invite further and bolder attacks. There will be no retreat.

Of course, no one is talking retreat.

Those concerned simply want the international community to have more control, lighten the US burden, and remove the stigma of unilateral occupation.

And when Bush questions these Americans‚ resolve, he risks insulting people who were once by his side.

Stopping the guerilla violence and protecting soldiers‚ lives is probably the only thing that will win over concerned Americans.

And no speech by Bush is going to magically make that happen.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

August 26, 2003 PERMALINK
How Dean Can Drop Public Financing
And Avoid The Flip-Flop Charge
(posted August 26 12:45 AM ET)
(minor edit August 26 8:45 AM ET)

On CNN‚s Inside Politics yesterday, LA Times‚ Ron Brownstein raised Howard Dean‚s expectations, noting that he may be able to raise enough money to forgo federal matching funds, and the spending caps that go with it:

∑if he is willing to think about opting out of the matching system, that would be extraordinary because he is generating almost all of [his] contributions in small matchable amounts∑

∑That would make a statement that they believe that they have created an ongoing ability to mine money out of the Internet that would be worth giving up millions.

Maybe they don't get there but the fact that they're talking about it at all, I think, is an indication of how confident they are of their financial power.

But this expression of confidence has had its downside.

While it hasn‚t done anything to stop his momentum in the short-term, Dean picked up some bad headlines and editorials for musing about the opt-out.

Dean‚s taking heat because in a March interview he indicated that he was committed to public financing and would criticize others who weren‚t.

While earlier this month he said:

Could we change our mind? Sure, but I really don't want to do that...

∑I think public financing is a good thing. The question is what do you do with an opponent who can murder you from March to December?

And on CNN‚s Late Edition this past Sunday:

You know, we raised $7 million last quarter, not $70 million. And I think that kind of is a premature discussion∑

∑[But] if we conclude that we can raise a lot of money and be competitive with George Bush in a better way, we're going to beat George Bush any way we can.

The reality is, George Bush is planning to game the system.

Bush Inc. has said the campaign won‚t abide by spending caps during the primary, but will during the general election.

(The Federal Election Commission distributes matching funds for the primary, and a straight-up grant for each eligible major-party candidate in the general election.)

The Bush plan sounds innocuous, since he doesn‚t face anyone significant in the primary.

But the trick is the primary period doesn‚t end until the candidate is officially nominated.

And the RNC pushed the nomination all the way to Sept. 2, past the traditional August date for the incumbent party.

Since Bush is aiming to raise upwards of $200M for the "primary," he can dump all of that during the winter, spring and summer.

Then, scoop up about $74M of taxpayer cash in the general election grant.

That‚s a blatant bastardization of the system (though it produces no dismay, only jaw-dropping awe, from the political press corps.)

That gives any Dem, who can pull it off, legit grounds to opt-out of the public system that he or she supports in theory.

Yet Dean was so adamant about public financing before. How can he escape being called a hypocrite?

He‚s made the Bush argument already. But if it looks like he‚s trying to buy the primary, that argument won‚t wash.

Here‚s how he could solve the conundrum.

Formally opt-out of the primary matching funds system, so he can fundraise at will.

But informally announce that he will not spend more than $44M Ų the estimated spending cap Ų in the actual primary contest.

That way, he can‚t be accused of unfairly drowning his Dem opponents in campaign cash, and violating the principle of public financing.

But he would be able to spend freely in the period between when he might effectively win the nomination, and technically accept it at the Dem convention in late July.

That wouldn‚t come close to buying the election. It‚s just trying to keep pace with Bush Inc., trying to make it a fair fight.

And Dean, in particular, would still have the authenticity of being fueled primarily by small donors (while two-thirds of Bush donors have given the $2K max).

Furthermore, the $44M move would also have a side benefit of imposing some spending discipline on the campaign during the primary.

As Dean said, this is all premature. We don‚t really know how big Dean‚s fundraising prowess has gotten.

But if he, or anyone else, can find a creative and appropriate way to cut into Bush‚s money advantage, they have an obligation to do so.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

August 25, 2003 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted August 25 1:45 AM ET)

The chaos in Iraq dominated Sunday, and the Administration was on the defensive, thanks to:

-- A week of attacks capped with the UN HQ bombing.

-- A Newsweek poll released Saturday (with results aired on NBC‚s Meet The Press and ABC's This Week) showing Americans have major concerns with the occupation.

-- Members from both parties hitting the Sunday shows to press for more troops and more money (with Dems still pushing for internationalization.)

How did the Bushies handle it all? With a „Everything‚s Goin‚ To Be Alrightš attitude.

On MTP, the head of the Joint Chiefs, Richard Myers, brushed off the call for more troops:

If [General John Abizaid] wants more troops, he can have more troops. That is never an issue.

But that‚s not what General Abizaid is asking for. That‚s not what his division commanders are asking for.

Yet Wesley Clark (on CBS‚ Face The Nation to further tease a possible prez run), blew the lid off of that:

Everybody knows up and down the line what's really available∑

∑It's clear there's no encouragement for [generals on the ground] to come and ask for more troops [from the Pentagon]∑They read the tea leaves.

Myers also pooh-poohed the Dem push for internationalization:

We have over 40 countries involved in this and another 14 that look like they‚re going to probably put troops into Iraq. So this is an international effort.

Later on MTP, Sen. Joe Biden was having none of it:

We pay the whole bill∑All these other 10, 20, 30 nations, they‚re contributing an average 400 troops per nation. Give me a break.

But it wasn‚t just Dems sounding the alarm.

GOP Sen. John McCain, also on MTP, was explicit in his call for more troops and money:

There‚s not enough of them, and we are in a very serious situation, in my view, a race against time∑

∑I think we need, I would guess, at least another division, but we also need people with specialized skills.

Linguists we‚re running short of. Our Guard and Reservists are at the breaking point. We need civil affairs people∑

∑People in 125-degree heat with no electricity and no fuel are going to become angry in a big hurry∑

[So] the money has got to flow. We have to get these oil pipelines repaired. We have got to get the water flowing.

If McCain's not GOP enough for you to think the criticism is bipartisan, check out South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Graham‚s largely supportive talk on Fox News Sunday was somewhat contradicted by his concerns, not just on Iraq, but Afghanistan too:

∑I would agree with the idea we need more.

Not necessarily more combat troops, but more people to help get Afghanistan and Iraq into decent shape so that we can turn the corner on what's happening over here with the public∑

∑The public [also] needs to know that al Qaeda and Taliban that are left are regrouping on the Pakistan-Afghan border to try to destabilize Afghanistan as they go into their democratic elections.

So we need more combat aircraft in that area∑

∑ [And] the infrastructure needs in Afghanistan and Iraq are billions.

We are underestimating the cost of this conflict, and we in the House and the Senate need to appropriate a lot more money.

Who was backing up the Administration‚s line on the talk shows? That would be...nobody.

Even Myers didn‚t always help his own case as he went off-message at times.

While he insisted we had enough troops, he acknowledged, „we are stretched thin.š

And when Tim Russert asked, „did you misjudge the level of resistance,š Myers responded, with understatement:

I think the diehards in the Iraqi regime∑I think they‚ve been probably a little more active than we thought.

Assessing the overall chatter, it would seem the Bushies have lost the Washington establishment CW on this one.

Which means nothing can save them from an extended media savaging, except for actual success in stopping the attacks and providing reliable services for Iraqis.

Don‚t hold your breath.

QUICK HIT

Quote of the Day

We're not going to let them take our flag anymore. That flag belongs to everybody in the country; it doesn't belong to Tom DeLay.
-- Howard Dean, CNN‚s Late Edition

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

The Sandbox
Humor by John Cougarstein

NEWS ALERT
To Save Job, Gray Davis Repositions As Ferret-Loving, Porn-Publishing, Fruit-Smashing, Cliché-Repeating, Sitcom Actor

SACRAMENTO, CA (Aug. 18, 2003) -- Gov. Gray Davis unveiled a hip, edgy persona in an attempt to co-opt the appeal stoked by the litany of candidates seeking to replace him.

Appearing before reporters with ferrets perched on both shoulders, Davis announced a series of new projects and a new verbal style.

He signed a NBC contract to appear as Mr. Drummond in an updated version of „Diff‚rent Strokes.š

In what is seen as a swipe at rival Gary Coleman, Todd Bridges will return but Lil‚ Bow Wow will play Arnold. Traci Lords will replace the late Dana Plato as Kimberly.

At the same time, Davis will launch a new eponymous magazine, „Gray,š that will mix hard-core porn with lifestyle advice.

„It‚ll put Larry Flynt out of business, and Martha Stewart to boot,š said one Davis aide. „The pictures are much raunchier than Hustler, and Gray‚s recipe for white chocolate mousse with mint meringue is to die for.š

Also, while Arnold Schwarzenegger has been campaigning with catch phrases such as „I‚ll be backš and „Hasta la vista, baby,š Davis incorporated his own while taking questions on the budget crisis.

„The Legislature better bring it,š said Davis, „because I‚m keeping it real. The force is with me. Nano-nano.š

Then, after staffers passed out raincoats to reporters in the front row, Davis ended the news conference by yelling, „Please Hammer, don‚t hurt őem!š and then smashing an inordinately large avocado with a sledgehammer.

For more Cougarstein, check out The Cougarstein Ramble and download Cougarstein songs at Iuma.com

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

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