Thursday, September 30, 2004


With an eye to tonight's debate, I am pausing to recount the things which make me quite optimistic for Sen. John Kerry's chance of capturing the White House on November 2nd.

1. The Kerry campaign and Democrats generally have raised more money than our side ever has--both in absolute terms and relative to the Rethuglicans. Not only will our campaigns command more resources, but it is a strong indication of broad, galvanized support and interest in this election. On top of that, more political money is being poured into the new 527 groups like Americans Coming Together. These groups will be pouring out the dough to fund swing state ad buys as the campaign draws to crescendo as well as launching the largest, most coordinated GOTV effort we have ever seen.

2. It's fair to say that our last four years of national nightmare under the reign of Bush fils has galvanized the left. People who voted for Al Gore in 2000 will vote for Kerry, but not all people who voted for Bush in 2000 will vote for him again. There are too many questions, and some of these people are looking to jump ship.

3. God damn Ralph Nader and anyone who votes for him. He's still polling at about the same rate he was in 2000, but my irrational hope is that all these tree-hugging Nation-reading knee-jerks will wake up and realize there is too much at stake to not vote Kerry. Sure, for his liberal-guilt ridden bourgeois voter base, four more years of Bush might not make a hole lot of difference (other than for the obvious grating on moral sensibilities). But for almost everyone else in this country and the billions of people around the world who will be affected by this election, the choice is all to clear and pressing.

4. Polls showing Bush jumping out to sizeable leads are statistically nonsense, particularly the Gallup poll. This is due to the weights ascribed to voting groups used to "normalize" the polling sample response to the larger population. Basically, they are disproportionately weighting it so it appears more people will vote Republican. While skewed polls don't tell us who will win, they do serve a real function: demoralizing democratic faithful. If people think Kerry has no chance, then they will not be compelled to volunteer on the campaign, phone bank, door bell, donate money, or maybe even show up to vote. Don't let the bastards grind us down. Bush and the establishment want us to be pessimistic and second guessing strategy. BE OPTIMISTIC. We can win this thing handily.

5. That much said, recent polling data indicate that Kerry is fighting back and narrowing the gap between he and Bush. More importantly, linking polls to electoral college votes shows that the race is a dead heat at this point. Like 2000, this one is going to be decided by a razor thin margin (not to mention legal maneuvering, and good old fashioned ballot-stuffing and voter intimidation on the part of the Rethugs).

6. Does anyone really think the situation in Iraq is going to improve in the next 32 days? As the tragedy in Iraq continues, Bush will be held to account.

These are just some of the reasons to feel optimistic that we can take this country back 32 days from now. So what are you going to do about it? Now that I no longer work for a 501(c)3 I can tell you to get your ass out in the field and do some electioneering. If Bush is president again come Jan 20, 2005, we only have ourselves to blame. Get your but down to your local campaign HQ and fight your little hearts out.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004


Don't have the link, but overheard Wolf Blitzer last night on CNN crooning about Bush's leadership in getting the Saudis to pump more oil. This should play well for Bush politically in the election, according to Blitzer's sanguine analysis.

Earth to Wolf: The Saudis are pumping oil because it is selling for +$50/barrel and they stand to make a shit ton of money. It has nothing to do with Bush's diplomatic skills or close ties to the Saudi royal family (although the high prices may be tied to the latter).

This is simple economics. Supply and demand. When the price goes up, suppliers want to sell more. Pretty straight forward. To add a level of complexity, the Saudis are part of a cartel--an agreement to restrict supply and push prices up for optimal profits. When the price goes high enough, individual actors in the cartel have an incentive to cheat (a prisoner's dilemma game) and capitalize on the high prices. It's plain to see why the Saudis would want to sell oil at $50 a barrel rather than at $35.

So not only does Bush not have anything to do with the Saudi's decision to pump oil, but he is fraternizing with despotic cheaters.

Friday, September 24, 2004


I was invited to speak next week at a conference of the Inter-American Forum. The conference is on "Globalization and Civil Society," helping community leaders build linkages between global and local issues. My charge is to talk about what is neoliberalism, what does the neoliberal development model entail and what alternative models are possible. My remarks will post here sometime next week. Until then, I am recommending participants check out two concise and approachable articles from the American Prospect archives, which I will also share with you here:

"Free Markets and Poverty"


"Corporate Control of North America"


Wednesday, September 22, 2004


Zogby finds the Kerry/Bush race is back to a dead heat:

The polls showed that neither Bush nor Kerry, a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, has a clear lead in enough states to garner the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the Nov. 2 election. Based on surveys from Sept. 13 through 17, Kerry had 264 votes to Bush's 241. Each state poll had its own margin of error, which Zogby didn't specify in a statement on the Web site.

Prediction: This November is going to make Florida 2000 look like a calm, orderly affair. My advice: keep your protesting shoes handy.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


Okay, that title didn't have too much to do with this post, other than the market fundamentalism part. Recently, a friend turned me on to this site from the Rockridge Institute, which seems to be a rather new group (thank you George Soros) aiming to strengthen and deepen the progressive policy epistemic communities.

I've been boning up on my financial history recently, and am currently reading a great book from Fred Block. Lo and behold, here he is on the front page of the Rockridge Institute blasting away at the 'who, what, when, why and where' of
market fundamentalism.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

HAPPY 5765!

Next year under a Democratic administration...or in Jerusalem. Whatever, I'm not too picky.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004


The former secretary to Bush's squadron commander in the Texas Air National Guard told the NYT that memos aired on CBS:

"We did discuss Bush's conduct and it was a problem [Lt. Col. Jerry B.] Killian was concerned about...I think he was writing the memos so there would be some record that he was aware of what was going on and what he had done."


"I looked the man in the eye. I was able to get a sense of his soul."

Now Bush's soul mate is capitalizing on a terrorist attack (which actually didn't even happen in Russia, it happened in Ossetia, a distinct national-ethnic group squeezed between the Chechens, Georgians, and Abkhazians) to roll back the tide of democracy. From today's FT:

Putin, citing the need for the reforms to beat terrorism, has said he will nominate regional governors himself in the future and proposed changes to the electoral system that will effectively stop the rise of a strong parliamentary opposition.

Sounds familiar.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004


Here is the corollary picture to this earlier post on Treasury's inability to sell bonds to the private market.

Rob Scott of EPI explains how foreign governments are now financing a whopping 2/3 of the US trade deficit. Why might foreign governments in Japan and China loan us this much money? Hell, they have to do something with the dollars they are earning by flooding the US market with their exports. So why not loan it back to us so we can buy more of their stuff?...and the circle of life continues.

Monday, September 13, 2004


From CNN on Saturday, Robert Novak epitomizes hypocricy:

I could never tell a lie...only national security secrets.

NOVAK: The -- Margaret, I believe -- I don't know of anybody who changed their opinion. "The Boston Globe" got a new expert who said the thing probably is authentic. In the same story, they went back to the expert that "The Washington Post" had used. He said it isn't authentic. I think it's going to be very interesting to find out if these are forged or phony documents. That's -- as a journalist, I think that's a very interesting story.

I'd like CBS, at this point, to say where they got these documents from. They didn't get them from a CIA agent. I don't believe there was any laws involved. I don't think we'll have a special prosecutor, if they tell. I think they should say where they got these documents because I thought it was a very poor job of reporting by CBS. Why did CBS not go to the -- to Killian's family and get -- and ask them about it, as ABC did, and got these quotes, and they said they think they're phony documents -- I thought -- I thought that the "60 Minutes" thing by Dan Rather was a -- was a campaign operation, rather than an attempt to get to the bottom of the truth.

HUNT: Robert Novak, you're saying CBS should reveal its source?


HUNT: You do? You think reports ought to reveal sources?

NOVAK: No, no. Wait a minute.

HUNT: I'm just asking.

NOVAK: I'm just saying in that case.


NOVAK: I think -- I think it's very important. If this is a phony document, the American -- the people should know about it.

HUNT: So in some cases, reporters ought to reveal sources.


HUNT: But not in all cases.

NOVAK: That's right.


What is that saying about, "he who lives in a glass house..."

Sunday, September 12, 2004


From the NYT's Week in Review section, China's poor, rural migrant workers swarm to the cities:

its scale already dwarfs the migrations that reshaped America and the modern Western world. China, by official count, has 114 million migrant workers who have left rural areas, temporarily or for good, to work in cities, and that doesn't include tens of millions of family members who moved with them. Government experts predict the number will rise to 300 million by 2020, eventually to 500 million. Today, Shanghai alone has three million migrant workers; by comparison, the entire Irish migration to America from 1820 to 1930 is thought to have involved perhaps 4.5 million people.

"This is the largest movement in human history," said Cheng Li, a government professor at Hamilton College, in Clinton, N.Y., who specializes in China. "It is far bigger, and the speed is unprecedented."

For now, the government is encouraging migration to promote its immediate goal of providing cheap factory and construction labor and its long-term goal of urbanization. Every wealthy modern nation has had to shift from a rural-based economy to an urban one in order to prosper. China is trying to make this transition - which involves a fifth of the world's population - in record time. How well, or poorly, the government handles this migration will determine whether these workers help create a middle-class society or just form a permanent underclass in a country that has already become sharply divided between rich and poor.

Friday, September 10, 2004


From the

A Treasury auction of US government bonds yesterday attracted almost no private demand, creating confusion in the bond markets following a sale on Wednesday that had pulled in unprecedented private appetite.

...Yesterday's surprise collapse in demand added to a sense of unease following unprecedented levels of direct buying in a $15bn auction of five-year notes the day before. Bidders who deal direct with the Treasury usually only amount to about 1 per cent of any auction but on Wednesday, unknown parties took about one-third of the bonds on offer instead of going through the banks, prompting fears that Wall Street could be losing its grip on the market.


Following the detainment of Sir Mark Thatcher on mercenary charges (private sector terrorist, if you will) in South Africa, Zimbabwe today sentenced Simon Mann to 7 years in prison for his role in a foiled coup to overthrow the government of Equatorial Guinea. Mann, of course, is the co-founder of the euphamistically named Executive Outcomes, a mercenary group comprised of former apartheid-era South African special forces, as well as human rights abusers from all walks of the former Soviet bloc.

One of Mann's former associates at Executive Outcomes, Nick du Toit, is currently on trial for his life in Equatorial Guinea for his part in the alleged plot. Sir Mark Thatcher, son of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, has been charged in South Africa with helping to fund the plot via a payment to a third party (he was trying to flee to the US). He has been subpoenaed to answer questions on September 22. Sir Mark denies any involvement or knowledge of the coup.

A total of 88 people are in custody in South Africa, Equatorial Guinea and Zimbabwe in connection with the plot.

Though not an endorsement of the regime in Equatorial Guinea, my sentiment is less mercenaries = good news.


ABC News' "The Note" this morning stakes a beach head for the parameters of discourse for the post-election pundit-o-crats (and also provides an incisive self-critique of the political media--with all the credibility of George Soros arguing for capital controls):

...if nothing changes in the race as it now stands — with President Bush winning a decent-sized victory — much of the talk will be about the greater technical proficiency of the Bush-Cheney effort.

In fact, even if Kerry wins, there will be much talk about the discipline, focus, success, and, yes, shamelessness of the BC04RNC team:

Avoiding a nomination challenge; merciless distribution of message of the day; deflection of any serious discussion of the war in Iraq, health care, jobs, or the tax burden; installing a White House press secretary willing to use the podium for political purposes but not respond directly to any hard questions; making the race not about the incumbent's record but the challenger's, all the while claiming to want to focus on "the future"; and the wielding of national security as the ultimate political trump card.

For the Democrats in Cambridge (under a Kerry loss scenario), the talk will be about August, reliving the Dukakis nightmare, and the press' inability to live up to the shared claim about the historic "importance" of the election.

For the journalists there, questions will be raised about the ease with which the establishment media was led around by the nose by the Internet, cable, and paid media that was just above the video-press-release level.

Some preliminary conclusions, sure to be part of the IOP discussion:

1. As long as political reporters — rather than reporters who cover health care, economics, and military affairs — dominate election coverage, there will always be more emphasis on narrative that implicitly celebrates tactical cleverness and bare-knuckles ruthlessness over narrative that celebrates ideas.

2. Serious scrutiny of four-year plans for deficit reduction, Iraq, homeland security, etc., were crowded out by coverage of polls, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Bob Shrum.

3. Neither candidate was made to answer detailed questions about his plans (We particularly look forward to reporters who got pre-convention Bush interviews recounting how about a third of their allotted time was taken up by a presidential speech!).

Monday, September 06, 2004


It's Labor Day. It's an election year. It's time for SWA: The State of Working America 2004-05.

Fresh off the e-presses, SWA surveys in acute detail the economic conditions faced by America's working families. It contains a wealth of organized data and statistic--a veritable Bible of the labor market--and serves as an incredibly valuable resource for anyone needing up-to-date, off the shelf facts about the U.S. economy. (Disclosure: I worked on this, but have no financial interest in the book.)

Download tables and charts here.

Sunday, September 05, 2004


Everybody sing (to the tune of "Battle Hymn of the Republic"):

When the union's inspiration through the workers' blood shall run,
There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun;
Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one,
But the union makes us strong.

Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
For the union makes us strong.

Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite,
Who would lash us into serfdom and would crush us with his might?
Is there anything left to us but to organize and fight?
For the union makes us strong.

It is we who plowed the praries; built the cities where they trade;
Dug the mines and built the workshops, endless miles of railroad laid;
Now we stand outcast and starving midst the wonders we have made;
But the union makes us strong.

All the world that's owned by idle drones is ours and ours alone.
We have laid the wide foundations; built it skyward stone by stone.
It is ours, not to slave in, but to master and to own.
While the union makes us strong.

They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn,
But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn.
We can break their haughty power, gain our freedom when we learn
That the union makes us strong.

In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold,
Greater than the might of armies, magnified a thousand-fold.
We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old
For the union makes us strong.

Don't forget to check out my fellow union bloggers, and keep on fighting!

Friday, September 03, 2004


After four days of dementia and historical revisionism at the RNC convention, this morning's job numbers from BLS are enough to jar us back into reality.

Here, EPI economists show how Bush's promise of job creating tax cuts compares with reality.

And here is what the president had to say about his tax cuts:

"we unleashed the largest tax relief in a generation. Beacuse we acted our creating jobs."

"To create jobs my plan...will make the tax relief permanent.

And the Veep:

"President Bush delivered the greatest tax reduction in a generation, and the results are clear to see. Businesses are creating jobs. People are returning to work...The Bush tax cuts are working."


What to make of this morning'sEmployment Situation Report from the BLS.

The economy added 144,000 jobs in August. Hey, that's better than the upwardly revised 73,000 created in July, but still far short of the level needed just to keep pace with the number of new people looking for work or to draw back into the labor market people that gave up looking in despair. As a result of the still anemic jobs outlook for most people, 152,000 people bowed out of the labor force.

EPI will have more on this shortly (see here).


But if I didn't know better, I'd say G-d wants to flush the Bushes out of Florida.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


This morning Fox News is hyping today's RNC convention theme as "The Land of Opportunity." In Globalize This' ongoing counter-RNC coverage, I am replaying two posts that illustrate this theme.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist believes in opportunity...shameless, dastardly, hypocritical opportunity. And he never misses an chance to seize these opportunities.

Reaching way back now to 12/8/03:

WHAT I'M READING: Dastardly Republicans

I don't use the word messianic lightly, and I wouldn't use it to describe Al Franken's latest opus, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. I will say that Franken, with the help of a dozen research assistants and a remarkable wry wit, has written a masterful dissection of the "vast right-wing conspiracy"--which, by Franken's measure, combines shameless, avaricious and evil geniuses with a confedarcy of dunces.

It's hard to decide which incidence of right-wing forked-tongue malfeasance described by Franken is most offensive to my American values of common decency and fair play, but I'll try. Franken on the 2002 Minnesota Wellstone-Coleman Senatorial campaign (I'm sure Al Franken won't mind me quoting part of his book here, hope the good people at Penguin Publishing are as understanding--from p. 179-80 of Lies, book excerpt in my italics):

The Wellstone-Coleman campaign had been considered one of the most negative in recent memory...But mainly it was Coleman's proxies who played it dirty. The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) ran an ad called "Pork" that hit the hypocrisy jackpot. It savaged Wellstone for voting "to spend thousands of dollars to control seaweed in Maui," claiming that he prioritized seaweed control over national defense. In fact, Wellston did vote for S.1216, as did Strom Thurmond, Trent Lott, and eighty-four other senators. That bill did appropriate the seaweed control spending--but it also provided $21 billion for veterans' health care, $27 billion for veterans' compensation and pensions, and block grants to assist NYC's recovery from 9/11. The NSRC was chaired that year by Bill Frist, who later replaced Trent Lott as Senate majority leader. Before the [Wellstone] memorial, Frist spoke with the Wellstones' older son, David, who later recounted the conversation to me.

"I'm sorry about your parents and your sister," Frist told David.

"Did you authorize the seaweed ad against my dad?"


"And did you vote for the seaweed bill?"

There was a pause. They both knew that the answer was yes. Finally, Frist said, "It wasn't personal."

"My dad took it personal. Thanks for coming to my family's memorial"

...And so on for about 350 pages. Not to be outdone by Franken's research team, I wanted to check the facts before I posted. So I went to Thomas, the online repository of the Congressional record hosted at the Library of Congress. It's really slow because it contains millions of pages of documents, so be patient.

Following the historical track of legislation is tricky even for seasoned researchers-- Navigating the absurdities of parliamentary procedures, the renaming, renumbering, tabling, conferencing and sending to committee of bills, etc. Conferences occur when the House and the Senate version of a bill are in discord. A bicameral group of legislators get together to reconcile the two bills. This is where a lot of horse trading takes place away from public view. Legislative items that have nothing to do with the disputed bill are tacked on and core components of the bill are stripped out. Sometimes conferences are usefully employed to get legislative work done that would be arduously time consuming in the larger legislative bodies, and sometimes they are used to strongarm pork, pet projects, and grotesquely egregious legislative items.

For example, say they are debating a bill to appropriate money to give flags to widows of Marines killed in Iraq that will most certainly pass unanimously. A legislator could, say, tack on a rider that cuts off appropriations for overseas funding of family planning centers that distribute condoms--a highly polarized issue that is difficult to raise in open session. But no one will dare vote against giving flags to war widows, so the anti-choice measure passes into law. If legislators succeed in reporting a bill out of conference, all likelihood is that it will pass resoundingly (as members of both parties have just come to an agreement). Since there is no conflict, there is no news story, and the bill passes to law without public scrutiny (usually when this happens).

As far as I can tell, the thread through S.1216 disappears when the bill is sent to the Senate Commerce Committee on 6/10/99. Go figure. I'm not saying Franken is wrong; I just don't have more time to spend on this goose chase.

In conclusion, this is a must read for all political persuasions. Intellectually honest conservatives will want to know what is behind the "facts" and people who are shaping their beliefs. And, if you can bite your tongue through the comedy routine, you may be surprised at what you learn. Intellectually cowed liberals will discover new resolve.

This is a good one for the book shelf.

And also to 5/6/2004 for more of What I'm Reading:

Hearings Before the Senate Banking Committee on The Mexican Peso Crisis and the Administration's Proposed Loan Guarantee Packagfe to Mexico.

Senator Bill Frist, March 9, 1995:

"I am deeply concerned that the American taxpayer is going to be stuck with billion-dollar losses from an ill-conceived plan based on false assumptions."

American taxpayer? Deeply concerned? Okay. But where the hell has Frist been for the past three years?!?

Let's recap some of the current administration's ill-conceived plans based on false assumptions: Tax cut. Enron energy policy. Deficit-bloating tax cut. Iraq War. Tax cut for corporations and +$300k earners. PhRMA-HMO Medicare Bill. Tax cut. Navy-Boeing lease deal. No-bid reconstruction contracts. Agriculture subsidies.

Yep, he really said it: "I am deeply concerned that the American taxpayer is going to be stuck with billion-dollar losses from an ill-conceived plan based on false assumptions."