Saturday, January 31, 2004

Soon, Grasshopper, Soon

Predictions for Tuesday's seven contests. And a Super Bowl prediction to boot! Tune in Saturday for some schooling.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Random Musings

1) After next Tuesday we will have a two man race. Kerry will be man number one and either Edwards or Clark will be hombre numero dos.

2) Dean allowed his base to sway him from his record as a centrist governor, as evidenced by Kerry's take of just over 50% of self described moderates in NH primary.

3) Lieberman is living in La-La Land. A three way tie for third? Huh? It's time to step aside Joe.

4) Edwards is, without a doubt, the best speaker in the race.

5) Has Dennis Kucinich found a wife yet? And, will he drop out once he has?

6) Al Sharpton will place last in SC, proving that most African Americans know a charlatan when they see one.

7) Clark was sunk in NH because Dean was sunk in IA. Kerry killed two birds with one stone, or sunk two battleships with one missile, whichever metaphor suits you.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

The Deaniac Response aka Cry Babies Inc.

This and this tell quite a story about Deaniacs. Now, I do not claim that these folks speak for ALL of Dean's supporters, but there seems to be a trend here- if Howard doesn't win the nomination I am going to pack up my toys and go home. Or, some go so far as saying they will vote for Bush. I guess when one is so completely full of self-righteousness nothing else matters. How sad.

Monday, January 26, 2004

NH Predictions

This seems even harder to peg than Iowa as the weekend polls were far from unanimous , with Zogby three days showing Dean back within the margin of error of the leader, Kerry. Polls have shown various candidates in third- Clark, Lieberman and Edwards. And some polls are trending to suggest and Edwards second place finish. So much depends on who comes to vote tomorrow. The weather forecast calls for some snow and cold weather. That might lead one to foresee lower participation among the over 60 crowd, but I am not so sure I would stake a bet on that happening. The big question is how many Independents will take Democratic ballots tomorrow.

Nevertheless, I will go out on a limb and make predictions-
1) Kerry 32%
2) Dean 21%
3) Edwards 21%
4) Clark 14%
5) Lieberman 12%

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Tell Me How You Really Feel

This really and truly captures my feelings about the state of the country today. And it was spoken by Howard Dean.

Today our nation is in crisis. The president pushes forward an agenda and policies which divide us. He divides us by race by using the word quota. He divides us by gender by attacking a woman's right to make her own health care decisions. And, he divides us by sexual orientation by supporting senators who have slandered gay Americans. And appeals once again to the worst instincts in us instead of all that which is good in America. We seek the great restoration of American values.

We seek to build a community of millions and strengthen the voice of our people. And, like the Founders of the Republic, we seek change... and return high moral purpose to the United States of America.

Are You Angry Enough?

From AI---
If you're not angry about what Bush has done to the environment, education, foreign relations, U.S. workers, our judiciary, and on and on; if you're NOT filled with passion to send this administration packing and get the U.S. back on a sustainable and sane path, you're just not paying attention.

I understand where AI is coming from, and up to a point agree with him. I may not be quite as mad at what this "president" has done to OUR country, but I am pretty pissed off. Probably more than anything else I am repulsed by this administration's giant suck up to Christian Conservative bigots- from appointing John Ashcroft as AG to defending man-on-dog sex Senator Santorum. But I am also mad at his inept foreign policy, his elevation of rhetoric over results (cf, AIDS funding, NCLB, etc.), his unqualified and extreme judicial nominations and his Labor Department's attempts to screw hourly workers.

But where AI and I depart is over our own rhetoric. AI and other Deaniacs tend to shoot from the frothy lips, as it were. There is no internal editor/censor to filter out the more incendiary comments. Although I tend to think that most people think/feel as I do with respect to the current squatter in the White House, the fact is they do not. And we need to understand that vitriolic rhetoric has its limits and that it may very well turn off the moderate Americans whose support we need to win in November.

You Have the Power

Ok. So like a lot of other centrist Dems I have had my issues with Howard Dean. And just as everyone else has, I have listened to many of the remixes of his infamous Iowa non-concession. But this remix is not a slap at Doctor Dean and actually shows him at his most eloquent. I may not always agree with him (though I suspect my argument is more with his supporters than with Dean himself), but words like these remind me of great orators like FDR and JFK and Reagan.

Friday, January 23, 2004

No WMD Stockpiles, Says Chief Inspector

NYT has this story based on Dr. Kay's interview with Reuters on his last day as head of the US efforts to find WMD in Iraq. (Kay stepped down because resources were being diverted from his team's efforts to find WMD evidence to counter-insurgency efforts.) According to Kay, Iraq may have had illicit weapons after the Gulf War, but "got rid of them" sometime before the war.

Of course, the White House is still claiming that Iraq possessed stockpiles of WMD. At some point they are going to have to admit that Iraq did not have WMD, although I guess Bush's use of the phrase "WMD related activities" is a tacit acknowledgement that he lied through his FUCKING teeth, as did Powell, as did Cheney, as did Rumsfeld, as did Rice.. Regime change begins at home people.

All's Right in the World?

These comments on dKos after the debate last night show that maybe not all the Deaniacs have jumped ship. As I noted the other day I was surprised by some of the post mortems being offered by Deaniacs, and how it seemed as though some/many were almost throwing in the towel. But this comment thread shows that the Deaniacs are alive (but maybe not well). Judging by how many of them graded Dean as an A or at least top of the class in debate performance shows that they are just as delusional as they were pre-Iowa.

I wonder if the Kool Aid tastes better the second time around?

Thursday, January 22, 2004

More on Gay Marriage and the Religious Right Bogeyman

Note: This is an email I got in response to my post below with respect to the Religious Right and their opposition to gay marriage. I think the points made are valid and I do recognize my own use of the Religious Right as a convenient whipping boy.

I do agree with your basic position on this matter. My only observation, comment etc is that you ascribe this philosophy against the right to marry to the "Religious Right" time after time. The opposition to what you and I both believe in comes from all over the political spectrum, both right and left, Republicans and Democrats. I think that the strategy of positioning the opposition to the "right" as you do in your commentary is part of an overall strategy (conspiracy if you will) to prevent the thing from occurring. Why I say this is that every time I hear of a poll on the subject, supposedly there is overwhelming support for handcuffing marriage to be a union between one man and one women. I have heard polls in the 80% range. As both you and I know, the persons comprising the "Religious Right" is not composed of 80% of the population. Getting back to the point. If we can't educate the majority of the people that marriage can be as rewarding to society between one man and one woman, as well as one man and one man or one woman and one woman, we lose. The same arguments which support the "franchise" for a man and a women, weigh equally in favor of man/man or woman/woman. Society is stabilized; children have role models, support and nurturing by two individuals versus one; persons who care for one another are protected vis a vis health benefits, pensions, transfer of property at death etc. I liken back to thinking what kind of a society we would be if we still thought that persons of color were inferior or shouldn't marry white people, or that women are not as capable as men etc. In any event, just my thoughts.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Extending the Franchise

No, not the voting franchise, the marriage franchise. Like many other native Bay Staters, I am anxiously awaiting the May 17 deadline for the SJC's decision to go into effect- or for the Legislature to pass a REAL civil unions bill (unlike Vermont's). That gays and lesbians ought to enjoy the same rights of citizenship as other Americans just seems to make sense. I have not ever been swayed by the arguments of the Religious Right that postulate gay marriage as undermining heterosexual marriage. Beyond the obvious response of pointing to the divorce rate among hetero couples and saying, "seems like us breeders are doing a fine job screwing up marriage all by ourselves", there is an argument to be made that by extending the franchise we solidify its importance to our society.

By recognizing gay and lesbian marriage we bring in hundreds of thousands of new adherents to the tenets of marriage. Maybe our view of marriage changes a bit, at least in terms of the gender of the individuals, but the institution itself and its basis in long lasting monogamous relationships is strengthened by its new apostles. Anything that promotes lasting relationships also ensures societal stability and the establishment of communities.

And, on a more personal note, once gay marriage is legal in Massachusetts (or some other state if MA punts) I myself will be able to marry. Long ago I made a decision that I would not enter into a marriage contract in any state that did not allow my gay and lesbian friends to do the same. It just did not seem right for me to take advantage of a right that was denied to others based on their sexual preference. While I have continued to agitate for equal marriage rights, it was also important to me to make my own personal stand by foregoing my exercise of that right, otherwise I would be nothing more than a hypocrite.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Dejected Deaniacs?

Of course, I had to take a few strolls through the Dean side of Bloggerville just to see how they were coping. Amazingly enough, at both dKos and Oliver Willis many of the Deaniacs seem to be abandoning ship. To me, this is SHOCKING! I had thought Dean's support, more than many other candidate's was rock-solid.

Granted, he was stomped in Iowa last night, but that is one caucus. And eventhough his grass roots campaign should have fared better than third place, it is still early and he still has too much money for people to be walking away. Now, should he fail to finish first or a close second to Clark in NH, it's all over. Dean cannot afford to lose to Kerry in each of the first two contests.

But the bottom line for the whole race is that if Kerry wins NH, the race is OVER.

Call Me Impressed!

Anyone who has read my P2004 posts has noticed my fondness for Senator Edwards, even as I supported General Clark. However, after last night's performance in Iowa I have decided to switch teams. I even went so far as to offer my help next month here in Missouri, if the Senator decides to campaign here (I hope he will, and I hope a Gephardt endorsement is not far off).

I have always liked Edwards and in fact he was my first choice up until Clark got into the race. I was concerned about Edwards lack of traction and allowed that to color my perspective. I put too much emphasis on early polling data and those numbers did not look good for Edwards chances of winning the nomination and ultimately ending the Bush Reign of Error.

So maybe, just maybe I was wrong. And I violated one of my own rules of politics, which is that you support the candidate that your heart tells you is right. I did this as a consultant, turning down more lucrative offers from better positioned candidates all because I felt a connection with my candidate. It made me a loser in some respects, but I never, ever felt like a whore, which was so much more important to me.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Winners and Losers


HoHo Dean- who would have thought the good doctor would not only come in third, but not even be within hailing distance of second place? What does it say that in a largely pacifist state an anti-war candidate gets only 18% of the delegates, as compared with 70% for two pro-war contenders?

Dick Gephardt- apparently labor union support is not enough to win Iowa any longer. This is a sad ending to a distinguished career in public service.

Wesley Clark- the General was all set to play anti-Dean as the Doctor surged into New Hampshire. With Dean struggling is there a need for an anti-Dean? Or, if such a need still exists does the task fall to John Kerry or John Edwards?


John Kerry- Wow.. where did this come from? Although polls showed the Senator from Massachusetts gaining, no one estimated he had the sort of ground troops to lead the pack in such a decisive victory. With his numbers already going up in NH before tonight, I expect him to climb into first in NH with his bounce. He will overtake Clark and Dean in the Granite State. May be on his way to the nomination and the recycled Clinton nickname of Comeback Kid.

John Edwards- Another wow here. Second place? And within several points of first and ahead of the presumed front runner by double digits. Edwards had shown that he could raise money in the Q1, and one has to assume that his showing in Iowa will rev up the dollar machine again. Edwards has at the least put his name at the top of the VP stakes for the time being.

Sunday, January 18, 2004


Congratulations to the Patriots! And thank you for once again coming through for us recovering Red Sox fans. Now, back to politics.


What in the world is going on in Iowa? Well, it's not called a race for nothing! Despite months of pundits and prognosticators claiming to have divining powers, we come into the day before the Caucuses with a four man dogfight, according to the polls. But why?

Is it because Howard Dean is finally getting chinks in his armor? It's fairly well documented that no matter what the doctor says, his fans cheer wildly, even as his spokepeople go on the offensive to explain the gaffe. For months, I wondered just when the blunders would add up, all the while seeing his poll numbers climb. But it seems the layer of hard core Deaniacs, some of the doctor's support may have been softer than advertised.

One also has to keep in mind that eventhough a good many of Dean voters are just as mad as the doctor, they are not kamikazes. More than anything else, if you hate Bush you want him out of the White House. And it would seem that the trepidation some of us in the Party have felt for quite some time about the doctor's ability to accomplish that task has finally started to spill over to Dean's softer supporters. Have the gaffes and blunders finally reached a critical mass where to ignore them is simply irrational?

A more interesting question is just what is it that's fueling the Kerry bandwagon? I have not written much about my home state senator for quite some time, having essentially written him off. Kerry had been a serious disappointment to me for the past nine or ten months as he ran (to put it mildly) a lackluster campaign. Kerry was someone who I could have embraced, not only for my Baystate connection, but the old Kerry had very idiosyncratic politics which, even though they were not exactly like mine, were comforting to someone like me who tends to view government with two parts intellect and one part heart. I have never been quite comfortable with ideologues of either stripe because most of them have suspended critical thinking, replacing thought with emotion and rigid orthodoxy.

Kerry was the first Democrat I ever voted for (had I not missed the absentee ballot deadline in '94, it would have been Kennedy, despite having consulted to a GOP candidate in the primary that year) and I would have given him strong consideration this year. But when he started playing five sides to the Iraq War vote, he began to lose me. Part of the reason was that I supported the war, but more importantly was that I saw his actions as trying to squirm away from the responsibility for his vote. (A more candid response to the issue would have gone something like this- "Yes, I voted for the war and at the time and based on the information we were given, it seemed to be the right thing to do. Deposing Saddam and liberating Iraq would have also been a compelling reason to take action, but that was not the rationale this President used. Bush misled Congress and the American people and I am angry to have been duped, as are many of my colleagues. Furthermore, this president has failed to adequately plan for a post-war Iraq and countless Americans are now in harm's way with no plan to protect them, to rebuild Iraq or to build international support. I will change that.) And, true to Democratic Primary form, Kerry saw fit to pander to every interest group within the Party. While I understand that this is how the game is played, it was a bit surprising coming from someone who had strayed from Party orthodoxy on many occassions.

But why is Kerry peaking in Iowa now? People are having second thoughts about Dean, as noted above, and undecideds seem to be breaking to Kerry and to Edwards. Part of this could be Kerry's stature as someone people feel has the experience to compete against Bush-Rove. He may also be getting some bounce from his claims that Gephardt and Dean will raise middle class taxes. I am not certain that any one of these factors is what 's actually propelling Kerry to the top of the polls.

Could Iowa be to Edwards what New Hampshire was to Clinton? A second place showing, or perhaps even a strong third, would make Edwards a real player in the Democratic sweepstakes. As much as I waited for Dean's descent and wondered what happened to Kerry, I wondered just when John Edwards would break through (though I had my doubts he would). Edwards has been buoyed both by the Des Moines Register endorsement as well as his appearance above the fray between the other three running in the Hawkeye state. Voters have been constant in their praise of Edwards for running a positive campaign, but praise had not translated to support until recently. The Register endorsement gave Edwards the sort of recognition and support he needed in order to attract some of the fence sitters and pick up some of the soft support from Gephardt and Dean. I have to believe that people liked Edwards and thought about supporting him, but without the institutional support of Kerry or the net support of Dean or Clark, people did not view Edwards as having the weight to run. The endorsement surely changed all that.

Lastly, who has not already written a post mortem for Gephardt? He HAS to win here and no matter what poll you look at and how incorrect it may be, it's hard to believe that tomorrow night he will claim victory. This is a state that he won in 1988, but therein lies the bugaboo. Gephardt ran out of money not too long after Iowa. People are afraid, given his mediocre fundraising, that the same might happen again. Also, it seems that his anti-free trade rhetoric is not winning over Iowans in the way it once did. This is especially confounding to me because given our economic climate anti-free trade arguments should have more traction now. But to an extent the other candidates are also sounding pseudo-protectionist notes, thus taking trade off the table, at least to an extent. Gephardt has not been able to parlay his opposition to NAFTA into support- maybe this is because the other three have backed away from free trade, but the other explanation is that NAFTA is old news. People accept free trade as the status quo. They may not all like it, but they don't really believe it will go away. No matter, Dean has been able to peel off service unions and some industrial unions from Gephardt's base, leaving him with nothing more than old rhetoric, a flawed health care plan and his folksy charm (yeah, I know many of you don't agree with the last one).

Tomorrow night will be interesting, to say the least!

Thursday, January 15, 2004


I thought of simply waiting until Sunday night to make my predictions for Iowa, but that seemed a bit too timid. So, here I am putting myself out there. Feel free to take me to task on Tuesday.

1. Dean-------28%
2. Kerry-------26%
3. Edwards----25%
4. Gephardt---21%

You read it here first folks. The first big shock of '04 is that Gephardt will finish fourth in Iowa. Kerry and Edwards have both surged in the past 7 days taking support from both Dean and Gephardt. Assuming this trend continues, a good chunk of the undecideds will break that way. I also guess that Kucinich's supporters will switch to Dean on second ballots as they have no other place to go.

I thought about Kerry pulling off the unthinkable and topping Dean, but I am not convinced that he has the foot soldiers necessary. Though, the point has been made that Kerry's army of state legislators may be enough to pull off a coup on caucus night. I would be shocked to see Edwards leap over Kerry and/or Dean as he does not have the grassroots support of Dean or the elite support of Kerry, but strange things sometimes happen in Iowa.

Gephardt has been hurt by his battle with Dean (I would argue both men have bruised each other) and lingering misgivings about a repeat of 1988 when Geppy won Iowa only to run out of money a few weeks later. And Gephardt himself has not been so convincing when I have seen him answer that question. So, lingering doubts and desire for a new face drive Gephardt into fourth in Iowa. The only question left is who he will endorse- my guess would be Kerry.

If that sort of endorsement came prior to NH, Kerry may have a chance of finishing first in the Granite State, which just a few weeks ago was looking like the shoals upon which his campaign would run aground.

This race seems to get weirder by the hour.

More Good News on the Education Front

Failing City Teachers Face a Faster Ax proclaims the headline from today's New York Times. NYC teacher union boss Randi Weingarten (interesting note- Ms. Weingarten is not a teacher by trade, but rather an attorney) is proposing a sped up dismissal process for incompetent teachers. This is fantastic news for anyone who cares about teacher quality. And not only is the union making this proposal, but buried deeper in the story is news of a potential change in the teacher career ladder to make it more similar to other guild professions (i.e., medicine). Of course, the question that will remain is whether or not compensation will be reformed as well, as this is a crucial factor in recruiting and retaining good teachers. I am not going to become overly hopeful though because a career ladder could be made to fit quite snugly with the uniform salary schedule. (I won't at this time get into why the uniform salary schedule is so bad, except to point out that it is Old Economy, not well equipped to meet market realities of a profession and rewards longevity, which is a poor proxy for quality.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Bad News is Good News... No Really, It Is

The NYT has a story about charter schools that seems to be bad news, but is really good. It is all in how one views accountability in education.

New York law provides three ways for charter approval- through the SUNY Board of Trustees; the State Education Department and the NYC Schools Chancellor is permitted to convert some traditional public schools to charters. Charters are granted for a five year period and are reviewed during their fifth year of operation, at which time the chartering authority may chose to renew the charter for an additional five year term, provide a probationary extension or fail to renew the charter. Decisions are based on student academic performance and schools' academic plans.

This year brings about the first round of reviews for NY's three initial schools, all of which were authorized by SUNY. According to the Times, evaluators have recommended shuttering one school, closing the middle grades at another and providing just a probationary renewal to the third. This is good news for education and good news for parents and the community. But not for the reasons the teachers' unions and other traditional public education apologists will rejoice. This is not a failure of charter schools; it is a great success.

Charter schools promised to be held accountable in return for freedom from many state laws governing school operations, particulalrly collective bargaining requirements. If the SUNY Board follows the recommendations of its Charter School Institute evaluators, it will close one school and partially close a second. In other words, it will actually hold a school responsible for its failures. And it will not be swayed by parental satisfaction with the schools, which by all accounts is substantial.

These schools failed in their mission to educate children, for one reason or another. Every year in America hundreds of traditional public schools fail to meet their educational goals, yet not a one is closed. They continue on not even in medicority, but in abject failure. NCLB will go some ways toward holding schools accountable with its provisions for school choice, but whether it goes far enough is debatable. Until such time that schools are threatened with closure as a punishment for educational malpractice they will not improve to the point where we can claim that all children in America are provided with a quality education. There is simply no incentive, nor is there a credible enough threat of punishment, to force schools to change.

Charter schools can lead the way in ensuring REAL accountability for educational success. And it is good to see that New York will be a part of that movement. Kudos to the folks at the Charter Schools Institute at SUNY.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Too Little Too Late?

It is not a secret that I admire Senator John Edwards and would have loved to see him as the Democratic nominee against AWOL Bush. But, despite raising a boatload of cash in Q1, Edwards was never able to rebound after his performance on Meet the Press. Despite his lack of traction, I have always harbored a desire to see Edwards climb out of the single digits and make this a real dog fight for the nomination. And while Clark is now the Official Candidate of Musclehead, I still wish Edwards the best.

But I wonder if yesterday's endorsement by the DesMoinesRegister will provide some sort of spark to Team Edwards. The past few weeks have seen several stories of an Edwards renaissance, as he eschews the down and dirty of some of the other campaigns.

It is clear to anyone who bothers to visit the candidates' websites and read their policy proposals that Edwards may be the wonkiest candidate in the bunch. (Given Clark's late start, he may be excused for placing behind Edwards.) He has proposed bold initiatives in the Clinton-New Dem tradition and has the cross cultural appeal of a Southern moderate, born of modest means who lived the American Dream fueled by income derived by fighting for folks injured by "the man".

Aside from Clark, Edwards is probably the only candidate in the field who can attract the sort of broad based support necessary to topple Team Bush. But Edwards achilles' heel seems to be either his youthful looks or his nice guy persona or both. Even though he is 50 years old, Edwards presents much younger and seems to have more of a youthful aw-shucks than the mature, yet vibrant aura of JFK or Bill Clinton. In addition, in our political climate anger and attacks are what push poll numbers up, not manners and homespun passion.

One has to wonder if Edwards simply picked the wrong time to run for the White House. Maybe four years from now America will seek out a decent, kind, bright person to sit in the Oval Office. Or maybe they do now, but our party is being fueled by blind rage and hatred, and in that climate Edwards is destined to fail. The only reason that Clark even stands a chance in this climate of rage is his electability, which has been a driving force in his campaign and his ever increasing bandwagon.

The two men do not seem to be all that different in temperament, but are obviously quite different in their respective backgrounds. Interestingly enough, both men are fighters in a way that Howard Dean never has been- Clark on the battlefield of war and Edwards in the courtroom- yet both seem to place behind the Doctor in fighting rhetoric. Perhaps those who have actually fought do not need to pepper their speeches with fighting analogies and red faced rage the way someone who has not actually fought must do in order to give the impression of a pugilist.

It is more than a bit ironic that the men who have actually fought are the ones who do not rely on pugilism to attract voters. Maybe it is something about the reluctant warrior. But Howard Dean seems destined to fake his way into the Bush fighting hearts of many of my fellow Democrats. And it is sad to see someone who really has fought for the little guy fall by the wayside simply for his unwillingness to make the veins in his neck bulge.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

About that Return I Promised

(As much as I hate the LiveJournal style of blogging, I am going to indulge in a bit of it.)
Not too sure that I will be back this week. And as much as I could take the easy way out and blame school, the reality is a bit more nuanced. Major change may be happening with respect to school- where I go, what I do, etc.- and my personal life. I think my time might be better spent in the lotus position meditating rather than banging away at this keyboard.
There may be a post here and there or there may be silence. One never knows. I could change my mind about the whole thing tomorrow and post five different pieces on why Howard Dean cannot win in November or why John Edwards should have waited another cycle. I might also want to ponder just how W manages to get 60% approval ratings despite his failure to find Osama Bin Forgotten, to create new jobs or to balance the budget.
But I think that all those topics will be covered by numerous other folks in the blogosphere (just click on the links to your right) and I fear that too much focus on the negative makes a person bitter and intemperate and that is something I am hoping to avoid.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Vacation Almost Over

Just a quick note to say that musclehead will be up and running with bold new content this weekend. My glorious escape from the misery of St. Louis is nearing an end and I will be back to pounding away on the keyboard. This weekend may be light though as I have to buy books and get all my reading done for Monday, the first day of class.

Now that we are officially in campaign season, the blog will probably focus almost exclusively on P2004, but I am hoping to do a bit more on law, especially since I have Con Law this semester (my one legal love).

Hope everyone had a joyous New Year.