August 2006 Archives

Olbermann Smacks Down Rumsfeld genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation & Video-Philes

Daniel DiRito | August 31, 2006 | 11:09 AM | link | Comments (1)
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GOP: Terror, Terror, & More Terror genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Alert

Confirming Thought Theaters assumptions, the Wall Street Journal outlines the Republican strategy as we enter the final two months of the 2006 election cycle. At the same time, Reuters is also reporting on a new poll indicating that the threat of terrorism holds significant sway within the voting public (hat tip to Mike's Neighborhood).

From The Wall Street Journal:

While past addresses often stressed improvements on the ground, that theme is likely to be less prominent in coming weeks. Instead, Mr. Bush is likely to talk more about the importance of winning and how the U.S. is adapting to the changing nature of the struggle against terrorism in Iraq and beyond, stressing the continuing violence in Baghdad and the recent Israel-Hezbollah conflict.

The speeches also could help Republican candidates in the fall congressional campaign, despite the flagging popularity of both Mr. Bush and the war. Advisers to the president believe -- and polls reflect -- that while most people say they are unhappy about the way the war is going, they still oppose the immediate withdrawal that high-profile Democrats increasingly favor.

The plans were outlined by a senior administration official. "Terrorism is on the minds of Americans, and as we go into the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, it's appropriate and necessary that the nation continue to hear about the state of the war and the nature of our enemy," the official said. "This is a long fight that we're going to have to sustain."

Recent polling supports the notion that while Americans are unhappy with the progress in Iraq and feel the administration has handled the conflict poorly, they also remain hesitant to support any immediate withdrawal. In a recent WSJ/NBC News poll, over sixty percent of those surveyed are opposed to an immediate Iraq withdrawal...supporting the Thought Theater analysis that Americans are still hopeful of a victory in Iraq and despite their opposition to the war, they may well vote for the Party in November that doesn't preclude the possibility of a positive outcome.

From Reuters:

The Quinnipiac University Polling Institute said 62 percent of Americans were "very worried" or "somewhat worried" that terrorists would strike the nation in the next few months while 37 percent were "not too worried" or "not worried at all."

By a 60 percent to 37 percent margin, respondents said authorities should single out people who look "Middle Eastern" for security screening at locations such as airports and train stations -- a finding that drew sharp criticism by civil liberties groups.

"It's one of those things that makes people think they are doing something to protect themselves when they're not. They're in fact producing more insecurity by alienating the very people whose help is necessary in the war on terrorism," he said.

Quinnipiac's director of polling, Maurice Carroll, said he was surprised by the apparent public support for racial profiling. "What's the motivation there -- is it bigotry, or is it fear or is it practicality?" he said.

This data makes clear just how powerful the fear that is associated with terrorism has become. It also indicates just how influential it may be in the upcoming midterm election...and how that may manifest in positions taken by Americans that lack a reasoned rationale (ballot box decisions). What remains undetermined are the relative motivational value quotients between the sentiments opposing the war in Iraq and the fear invoked by thoughts of terrorism. At the moment, Democrats seem to be staking their November fortunes on the former and Republicans seem to be embracing the latter. Regardless, both parties seem content to characterize the election as a national referendum...albeit on differing priorities.

Daniel DiRito | August 30, 2006 | 12:42 PM | link | Comments (1)
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Bush Interview Confirms Strategy Shift genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Terror management

In an NBC News interview aired on Tuesday evening, President Bush discussed the Iraq invasion and the war on terror in terms consistent with the strategy shift reported by Thought Theater nearly a week ago in the eighth posting on "Political Strategy". In simple terms, the strategy is to frame the two issues in the form of questions intended to force Americans to ponder the risks to their own personal security should they decide to abandon the GOP position and vote to give Democrats control of the House or the Senate. By asking questions, they are able to invoke the principles that underlie a psychological construct defined in "Terror Management Theory"...summarized as a uniquely human awareness of our own mortality and the terror that it creates. Read the full MSNBC article here.

NEW ORLEANS - Calling resistance against terrorism the “defining struggle of the 21st century," President Bush declared Tuesday that he would not let Americans’ frustration with the war deter him from finishing the job in Iraq.

“I have been saying all the time that we need perseverance and patience and the willingness to defeat a terrorist organization, an ideology of hate, with not only military action but the spread of freedom," he said.

“I believe this is the calling of our time."

Bush said he could “understand the frustrations of our citizens." But “if we retreat for the sake of popularity, is that the smart thing to do? My answer is absolutely not," he said. “It’d be a huge mistake to give the battlefield to these extremists.

“We retreat, they follow us," he added. “And I see this clearly as day."

With the President's comments, he becomes one of many within the GOP to begin to discuss Iraq and the war on terror with rhetorical questions. I first noticed the shift with a speech delivered by Karl Rove and then followed up by Dick Cheney. I'm convinced that with the President following suit, there has been a clear, though subtle, strategic shift. The President also emphatically reiterated that Iraq wasn't responsible for 9/11...a further piece of the strategy shift intended to co-opt the Democratic mantra that the Bush administration is trying to conflate Iraq and 9/11.

Bush shot back at critics who accused him of having misled the public into believing Iraq was responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks: “They weren’t Iraqis, nor did I ever say that Iraq ordered that attack," he said.

But he said the intense violence in Iraq was a sign of how entrenched the terrorist movement was there, making it all the more important that the United States draw a line in the sand.

“These terrorists have made it clear they want us to leave Iraq prematurely, and why is it?" he asked. “Because they want a safe haven. They’d love to get ahold of oil. They have territorial ambitions. ...

“I personally do not believe Saddam Hussein picked up the phone and said to al-Qaida, ‘Attack America.’ [But] he was on our state-sponsor-of-terrorists list, and he was paying families of suiciders. He also, by the way, had weapons of mass destruction at one time and had the capacity to make them. That’s a dangerous mix."

Note the effort to shift the focus from the poor execution of the Iraq conflict to a greater concern about what would happen with the war on terror should we leave Iraq before the job is complete. Again, he posits his concerns in the form of a question. As an aside, even David Letterman has caught wind of the shift as evidenced by a segment titled, "Laura Bush Interviews Herself"...a piece in which they spliced together a series of rhetorical questions she asked and answered when discussing the handling of Katrina in a recent interview.

It will be interesting to see how well the new strategy has worked in future polling on the President's approvals as well as his handling of the Iraq conflict and the war on terror. The most recent polling did seem to indicate some gains with regards to the handling of the war on terror, long seen to be one of his strengths by voters and clearly the issue upon which the GOP intends to campaign between now and November.

Daniel DiRito | August 30, 2006 | 10:33 AM | link | Comments (2)
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Tomlinson: Bush Appointee In Trouble Again genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Kenneth Tomlinson

Kenneth Tomlinson, former head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a position from which he was forced to resign, is once again under scrutiny for questionable activities in his new position with the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Tomlinson was ousted from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting after he came under fire for attempting to alter public broadcasting programming to reflect a more conservative message as well as other questionable practices. Read the full New York Times article here.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 29 — State Department investigators have found that the head of the agency overseeing most government broadcasts to foreign countries has used his office to run a “horse racing operation" and that he improperly put a friend on the payroll, according to a summary of a report made public on Tuesday by a Democratic lawmaker.

Mr. Tomlinson’s position at the broadcasting board makes him one of the administration’s top officials overseeing public diplomacy and puts him in charge of the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe.

Mr. Tomlinson, 62, is a former editor of Reader’s Digest who has close ties to Karl Rove, Mr. Bush’s political strategist and senior adviser. Mr. Rove and Mr. Tomlinson were on the board of the predecessor to the broadcasting board in the 90’s. Mr. Tomlinson has been chairman of the broadcasting board since 2002.

Not unlike his friend, Karl Rove, Mr. Tomlinson seems to have a propensity for pushing the limits in order to advance his agenda while always attempting to downplay any inference of impropriety. He, like Karl Rove, continues to have the full support of the President which leaves one inclined to conclude that so long as appointees promote the same agenda endorsed by the President they will remain in positions of influence despite unethical, if not criminal, behavior. One might speculate that the values of the President and his operatives wane at the waters edge.

The heavily edited State Department report on Mr. Tomlinson’s activities at the Broadcasting Board of Governors did not identify the friend who received the improper employment contract. The report said that there was no competitive bidding to hire him, that he was retired and on a government pension when Mr. Tomlinson hired him and that he never filed the required paperwork with the board.

Mr. Tomlinson was rebuked in the earlier report at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for improperly hiring an acquaintance from a journalism center founded by the American Conservative Union. The corporation paid the person more than $20,000 to monitor public radio and television programs for bias, including “Now," with Bill Moyers as host.

People who have seen the report said it noted that Mr. Tomlinson, on his lawyer’s advice, ended an interview with investigators early. One person familiar with the inquiry said Mr. Hamilton ended the interview as the investigators began to ask about using the office for horse racing business. Mr. Hamilton would not comment about the interview.

Mr. Tomlinson joins a long list of Bush cronies who have been scrutinized for improper activities and unethical practices. Nonetheless, the President continues to appoint these individuals to significant positions. As an aside, it seems a bit comical that Tomlinson and former FEMA Director Michael Brown were both involved with raising horses...a coincidence one might connect with the President's preference for "cowboy diplomacy".

Perhaps they should be joined by Bill Bennett on a Presidential committee to explore the virtues of exposing more Americans to gaming and gambling related enterprises. After all, that seems like a worthwhile consideration for a President committed to family values, doesn't it?

Daniel DiRito | August 30, 2006 | 9:18 AM | link | Comments (0)
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The Light Leaves genre: Front and Center & Snapshot Thoughts

The Louvre in Paris - 2004
Sometimes The Light Just Up And Leaves

Daniel DiRito | August 30, 2006 | 8:32 AM | link | Comments (2)
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George W. Bush: Giving The World A Hand... genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation & Snapshot Thoughts & Tongue-In-Cheek

Giving the world a hand

Daniel DiRito | August 29, 2006 | 6:38 PM | link | Comments (1)
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The Economy: The Makings Of A Perfect Storm? genre: Econ-Recon & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Nasa satellite photo

There are more signs that the wheels may be about to fall off the economy and the Federal Reserve seems a bit nervous about how to best insure that doesn't happen. The prevailing question at the moment centers on whether to continue the long string of rate hikes in order to keep inflation in check or to ease off in order to keep the economy rolling forward. Regardless, it now appears that consumer confidence has reached a level where spending is being voluntarily restrained in anticipation of leaner economic times. Bloomberg has two articles discussing the economy here and here.

Aug. 29 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. consumer confidence fell to a nine-month low in August as higher gasoline prices raised fears of inflation and a slowing housing market rattled Americans, a private survey showed.

Americans are restraining their spending, which makes up 70 percent of the economy, as gasoline prices are kept aloft by violence in the Middle East and a slowdown in the housing market makes them feel less affluent.

"The housing slowdown is an increasing drag'' on growth, said Zoltan Pozsar, an economist at Moody's Economy.com in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “That consumer and business confidence hold up as housing slows is crucial for the expansion.''

Frankly, one needn't be an economist to realize that if the housing market continues to slow, consumer confidence is going to weaken. Further, there are indications in a number of regions that housing prices may actually be dropping...a situation that will not only slow consumer confidence; it may well lead to a surge in foreclosures and bankruptcies and set into motion a scandal similar to the Savings & Loan debacle witnessed during the late 1980's.

"When you have a very visible strain in the economy like housing at present, something that probably won't break but just might, the Fed gives more weight to the potential for exponential losses,'' said Lou Crandall, chief economist at Wrightson ICAP LLC in Jersey City, New Jersey. "A policy shock would be more costly than usual at present.''

Minutes released today of the Federal Open Market Committee's Aug. 8 meeting, where interest rates were kept steady for the first time in two years, will likely show how worried policy makers are about a property downturn versus the dangers of accelerating inflation.

Unfortunately, it may be a case of over optimism to presume that the Federal Reserve's monetary policy can fully manage the factors that drive the U.S. economy...a belief that gained credence during the Greenspan years...a period of relative stability. Economic problems can easily spiral out of control as it is virtually impossible to isolate the influence of one economic segment from the remaining segments. Further, housing may well be the single most influential segment...one capable of triggering exponential ramifications.

Here's a plausible equation. If one assumes that the backlog of unsold homes continues to expand, there will be pressure to reduce home prices as those homeowners in financial difficulty are forced to cut their losses. Once that process begins, there is a potential for a dramatic drop in home values. As that happens, more and more homeowners...who have been allowed to borrow up to 125% of the value of their homes or have adjustable rate mortgages or interest only mortgages that convert to interest and principle mortgages within a specified period of time...find themselves in untenable situations.

While I can't provide hard data, it seems anecdotally accurate to conclude that the prevalence of short term mortgage products...loans that aren't fixed for a full 25 to 30 year period...makes more and more homeowners vulnerable to fluctuations within the economy and the housing market. Large numbers of homeowners have grown comfortable with refinancing to new mortgage products every few years. They have come to assume that there will be acceptable and favorable mortgage products available each time they need to refinance.

Unfortunately, as soon as the housing market begins to demonstrate instability...in the form of rising inventories, reduced construction, declining prices, or a higher incidence of foreclosures, the available products become much more conservative as well as longer term...a move necessitated by the inability to predict consumer success in the short term...and therefore a stable and successful lending portfolio for lending entities.

As homeowners realize that they may be unable to obtain favorable mortgage terms, those who conclude they won't be able to sustain the trend begin to look at selling their homes in order to relocate to lower priced housing. They immediately exert further downward pressure on the housing market as it becomes a race to get homes sold in anticipation of the trend...and that will undoubtedly lead to further reductions in home prices and therefore values.

Once housing prices begin to fall, the condominium industry is placed in danger. That happens because a greater percentage of condominiums aren't owner occupied as they were frequently first homes for many buyers who have ridden the housing boom into larger homes...often renting out their condos in a market of rising rental rates...able to cover the mortgage costs by virtue of the rent received. Additionally, many of these owners have refinanced their condominiums in order to pull out available equity in order to fund the purchase of larger, more expensive homes or to simply use the equity to purchase expendable products like automobiles, furniture, and other discretionary items.

As housing prices fall, condo values drop even faster as does the rent one can charge. Frequently, homeowners will attempt to unload rental properties first which then begins to impact apartment rental rates. As condo rental prices drop, apartments are forced to compete and the downward rental rate pressure is increased.

Clearly, one can see the domino effect that takes place once the housing market stalls. One must immediately examine construction activity once housing begins to decline. Obviously, if housing starts decline, jobs will be lost and unemployment will increase. Troubling as that may be, it gets worse. Frequently in a housing boom, the final push is to build more condominiums and apartments in order to provide lower priced housing to those who may be entering the market for the first time. Unfortunately, these projects are often funded and built upon the basis of pro-forma rents that won't be sustained in a housing slowdown.

As home prices decline, so do rental prices...creating circumstances whereby new condo and apartment properties cannot meet their debt structure which was based upon optimistic rental rates. They are also forced to compete with individual home rental rates as more and more homes hit the rental market at lower and lower rates.

The end result is often disastrous for lenders. Not only are there growing defaults on individual mortgages, they frequently see failures on large project loans (apartments and condominium projects). Lenders become increasingly cautious and money becomes more difficult to borrow. That practice limits small business lending and venture capital which now begins to impact the larger economy and the job industry.

Given that small business growth is largely responsible for job growth, a reduction in small business lending will frequently lead to expanding unemployment rates. Fewer jobs tends to put more homeowners out of work which only further accelerates downward pressure on housing prices as unemployed homeowners are forced to dump homes at lower prices in order to avoid foreclosures or bankruptcies. In essence, the repetitive downward spiral is self perpetuating until such time as the bottom is reached and the recovery cycle begins anew.

Fed forecasts presented to Congress last month predicted that inflation will hover around 2 percent to 2.25 percent next year -- a level that's higher than what some policy makers, including Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, have said is desirable. Bernanke added that inflation will probably recede in 2008.

Bernanke, 52, told Congress last month that rate changes take some time to work their way through the economy and that a housing downturn posed a risk to growth. He said in March 2005 that his comfort zone for inflation excluding food and energy was 1 percent to 2 percent, a range he hasn't disavowed since becoming Fed chairman this year.

"I am increasingly getting the feeling that is on the low side,'' said Richard Berner, chief U.S. economist at Morgan Stanley in New York. "The Fed may implicitly be choosing a slightly higher inflation objective than previously thought.''

It now takes a bigger increase in unemployment to bring inflation down by one percentage point, an equation economists refer to as the sacrifice ratio. A prolonged slump in housing may also have a large impact on household spending decisions; economists at Merrill Lynch & Co. estimate housing contributed 2 percentage points to growth, or about 60 percent, over the last three years.

"There is no reason to hammer the economy to bring inflation down another half point,'' said James Glassman, senior economist at JPMorgan Securities Inc. in New York.

The strategy of letting inflation drift slowly lower has its own risks, economists note. The economic pain to lower inflation may be even higher.

It is clear that the economy sits more squarely on a tipping point than it has for some five years. One of the problems with economic policy is the inability to calculate the intangible aspects of that policy...such as the impact it may have upon consumer confidence and spending. The economic data we frequently see cited is not dissimilar to political polling information. It offers a snapshot of sentiment but it isn't necessarily a predictor of future sentiment or actions. Numerous other factors may influence consumer sentiment...a growing reality in an increasingly unstable environment filled with the uncertainty of the Iraq war, Middle East turmoil, and the fear of terrorism.

Americans' expectations for the inflation rate 12 months from now rose to 5.5 percent in August from 5.1 percent in July. It reached a high this year of 5.6 percent in May, the Conference Board's figures showed.

Consumers were less optimistic about the labor market six months from now, suggesting consumer spending may sag further after slowing in the second quarter.

The share of people expecting better employment opportunities in the next six months fell to 14 percent, from 14.3 percent. The proportion of people surveyed who expect their incomes to rise was 17.7 percent after 18.3 percent.

Economists watch confidence gauges for clues to the strength of consumer spending. Even so, spending and confidence haven't been closely correlated this year, said Lynn Reaser, Boston-based chief economist at the Investment Strategy Group at Bank of America.

In the end, responsibility for economic conditions must also be shared by political leaders. To the extent that conflicts around the world and their associated uncertainty shapes consumer confidence, those in positions of power must be mindful of the ramifications of their decisions and actions. One would be hard pressed to identify a recent historical example of such tenuous circumstances. That alone should be instructive to those currently in power and should they fail to heed the emerging warning signals we may well enter a position of economic instability that matches the political instability. Ironically, one year after Katrina, we may well be witnessing the makings of a perfect storm.

Daniel DiRito | August 29, 2006 | 8:44 AM | link | Comments (1)
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Cheney Rolls Out The Terror Wagon genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Dick Cheney

If one wants to understand the mindset of the Bush strategy, one need only watch Dick Cheney. Time and again, Cheney has been called upon to articulate the message upon which the President and his Party intend to campaign. Today was no different as the Vice President delivered the GOP talking points to those attending a Veterans of Foreign War convention in Nevada. Reuters has the full article here.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Vice President Dick Cheney on Monday seized on Democratic calls to pull troops out of Iraq to draw an election-year link between early withdrawal and the possibility of terrorist attacks in the United States.

As Cheney and President George W. Bush try to help Republicans keep control of the U.S. Congress on November 7, polls show public support for the war ebbing away. But Bush gets better marks for his handling of terrorism and Cheney tied the two together.

"Some in our own country claim retreat from Iraq would satisfy the appetite of the terrorists and get them to leave us alone," Cheney told a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno, Nevada. "A precipitous withdrawal from Iraq would be ... a ruinous blow to the future security of the United States."

Thought Theater has previously discussed the GOP strategy to use the fear of terrorism to offset American displeasure with the war in Iraq. Cheney's remarks are a clear attempt to raise enough doubt within voters to hesitate to vote for a Party that wants to withdraw from Iraq...an effort to paint the Democrats as weak on security. In simple terms, the Republican goal is to shift voter focus to security and terror in order to overcome dissatisfaction with Iraq.

Cheney said terrorists wanted to arm themselves with chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons, "to destroy Israel, to intimidate all Western countries and to cause mass death in the United States."

He suggested critics were naive and did not understand the magnitude of the threats.

"Some might look at these ambitions and wave them off as extreme and mad," he said. "Well, these ambitions are extreme and they are mad. They are also real and we must not wave them off, we must take them seriously."

Cheney said he welcomed the vigorous debate over Iraq but added: "There is a difference between healthy debate and self-defeating pessimism. "We have only two options on Iraq - victory or defeat - and this nation will not pursue a policy of retreat."

I expect Cheney and other Republican operatives to become increasingly pointed as November approaches. Delivering doubt proximate to points of decision (Election Day) tends to have the maximum impact. Doubt frequently makes people hesitant to enact changes...especially if the doubt can be infused with a fear of terrorism...which is equated with a threat to personal safety and security. Cheney's demeanor is ideal for delivering these types of messages. Despite being unpopular, his frequent assertion that he has no political motivation (since he doesn't intend to seek the presidency) gives his words some added credibility with voters who are concerned about terrorism.

Daniel DiRito | August 28, 2006 | 2:51 PM | link | Comments (1)
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Federal Judge Cans Florida Voter Registration Law genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Voter registration

In a move viewed by many as a victory for voter participation, a federal judge has ruled that a Florida state law that sought to penalize third party voter registration groups is unconstitutional. The law exempted existing political parties from the penalties. Read the full article here.

(AP) A federal judge on Monday declared a new Florida voter registration law unconstitutional, ruling that its stiff penalties for violations threaten free speech rights and that political parties were improperly exempted.

The 48-page ruling by U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz means that state authorities cannot enforce the provisions of the law. It took effect Jan. 1 and has been blamed by several labor unions and nonprofit groups for effectively blocking voter registration drives across the state because of the financial risk.

The measure quietly passed the Legislature in the aftermath of the 2004 presidential election that saw national attention focused on Florida as a key battleground state and the registration of more than 1.5 million new voters, nearly twice the number registered in the 2000 election cycle.

While there have been instances of voter registration irregularities, the Florida law and other similar laws that were passed after 2004 in reaction to significant new voter registrations. Historically, voter registration efforts enlist more Democrats than Republicans and many have criticized the new laws as a means to limit the expansion of Democratic voters. The prevailing problem is that both sides of the argument are looking for advantages rather than simply promoting a larger voter turnout and much of the wrangling is intended to handicap the opposition.

"This is a win for democracy and will send a signal to officials in Florida and other states that you cannot erect unreasonable barriers to voter registration," said Wendy Weiser, co-counsel for the third-party groups and deputy director of the Democracy Program at the New York University law school's Brennan Center for Justice.

Attorneys for the state had argued that the Legislature was within its powers to single out third-party groups because of evidence of past registration problems.

From my perspective, the voter registration system would be better served if it were standardized throughout the country since that would allow it to be more efficiently managed and monitored. As it now stands, voter registration procedures can vary from county to county...often making the process intimidating and cumbersome for the public...and frequently leading to fewer registrations.

Daniel DiRito | August 28, 2006 | 1:31 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Real Wages Decline Under Bush Economy genre: Econ-Recon & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Pennies

Statistics rarely lie. Many Republicans and a number of pundits have questioned why economic growth (increased GDP) hasn't been met by consumer confidence or a widely held belief that the U.S. economy is strong. Many have called for the Republican Party to tout economic growth in their efforts to hold control of the House and the Senate but recent data from the Commerce and Labor Departments may provide the clues as to why it may not be a convincing argument with many voters. Read the full New York Times article here.

With the economy beginning to slow, the current expansion has a chance to become the first sustained period of economic growth since World War II that fails to offer a prolonged increase in real wages for most workers.

That situation is adding to fears among Republicans that the economy will hurt vulnerable incumbents in this year’s midterm elections even though overall growth has been healthy for much of the last five years.

Insert tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and a favorable environment for large corporations and it shouldn't be difficult to understand why the average American feels left out of the most recent economic expansion. Perhaps this latest data will once and for all dispel the oft held Republican notion that trickle down economics will serve the interests of all Americans. While it may have led to some additional investment as well as some job growth, in the long run it concentrates more wealth in fewer hands at the expense of the average wage earner.

The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003, after factoring in inflation. The drop has been especially notable, economists say, because productivity — the amount that an average worker produces in an hour and the basic wellspring of a nation’s living standards — has risen steadily over the same period.

As a result, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation’s gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960’s. UBS, the investment bank, recently described the current period as “the golden era of profitability."

As one looks at the historical significance provided with this data, it is hard to ignore the magnitude of the Bush economic agenda. Further, it helps demonstrate the degree to which this administration has sought to influence the fundamental constructs of the U.S. economy as well as how successful they have been in that effort. Unfortunately, that may well limit the ability of Republican candidates to use the economy to advantage in November. The favorable numbers simply aren't there for the majority of Americans.

Earlier this month, the University of Michigan reported that consumer confidence had fallen sharply in recent months, with people’s expectations for the future now as downbeat as they were in 1992 and 1993, when the job market had not yet recovered from a recession.

“Some people who aren’t partisans say, ‘Yes, the economy’s pretty good, so why are people so agitated and anxious?’ " said Frank Luntz, a Republican campaign consultant. “The answer is they don’t feel it in their weekly paychecks."

In the first quarter of 2006, wages and salaries represented 45 percent of gross domestic product, down from almost 50 percent in the first quarter of 2001 and a record 53.6 percent in the first quarter of 1970, according to the Commerce Department. Each percentage point now equals about $132 billion.

Over the last year, the value of employee benefits has risen only 3.4 percent, while inflation has exceeded 4 percent, according to the Labor Department.

This data also suggests that Democrats can benefit from an emphasis on the need to address healthcare costs and the growing numbers of uninsured Americans. The growing shift of health insurance costs to employees continues to minimize the impact of wage increases, leaving the increases in take home wages relatively insignificant. Add in concerns about social security, failed pension plans, and the reduced influence of unions and one can see why many workers are hesitant about their economic future.

In another recent report on the boom in profits, economists at Goldman Sachs wrote, “The most important contributor to higher profit margins over the past five years has been a decline in labor’s share of national income." Low interest rates and the moderate cost of capital goods, like computers, have also played a role, though economists note that an economic slowdown could hurt profits in coming months.

What little optimism that has been present may have merely resulted from the favorable housing market and low interest rates...factors that allowed many Americans to draw upon home equity in order to keep pace with rising costs and insufficient wage increases. Should the housing market falter...and there have been recent indications that the decline has begun...one would expect even less economic confidence and potentially devastating consequences for many who have over borrowed or will be unable to sustain rising mortgage costs.

“There are two economies out there," Mr. Cook, the political analyst, said. “One has been just white hot, going great guns. Those are the people who have benefited from globalization, technology, greater productivity and higher corporate earnings.

“And then there’s the working stiffs,’’ he added, “who just don’t feel like they’re getting ahead despite the fact that they’re working very hard. And there are a lot more people in that group than the other group."

In 2004, the top 1 percent of earners — a group that includes many chief executives — received 11.2 percent of all wage income, up from 8.7 percent a decade earlier and less than 6 percent three decades ago, according to Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, economists who analyzed the tax data.

But in a sign that Republicans may be growing concerned about the public’s mood, the new Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., adopted a somewhat different tone from Mr. Bush in his first major speech, delivered early this month.

“Many aren’t seeing significant increases in their take-home pay," Mr. Paulson said. “Their increases in wages are being eaten up by high energy prices and rising health care costs, among others."

As we approach November, should the economic indicators continue to create doubt, Republicans may find themselves with little to offer along the campaign trail. Assuming that economic growth, expressed in terms of GDP increases, will be sufficient to hold off Democratic gains may prove to be another miscalculation on the part of the GOP. In an election cycle that seems to be shaping up to be a "throw the bums out" mentality, economic declines may well be the final straw.

Daniel DiRito | August 28, 2006 | 7:56 AM | link | Comments (1)
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Case In Point: The Politics Of "Truth" genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Those readers that follow Thought Theater have a good sense of my thinking. I frequently defy convention and I'm certain my positions on any number of issues are seen to be in conflict with any purist ideological or political persuasion. While it is often easier to affiliate with a particular group or a way of thinking, it is contrary to my objective...the pursuit of more "truth". I don't presume to know all that is "truth" and I am readily willing to admit when my notion of the "truth" is incorrect. Believe it or not, I am solely driven by finding more "truth"...a huge task in a world that often prefers denial and deception. Nonetheless, I persist.

I happened upon a critique of my recent posting, Political Strategy: The Horse Race Begins, at another site, Stubborn Facts, and I decided to use it to demonstrate what really underlies many of my ruminations here at Thought Theater. First, let me be clear that in doing so, I am in no way intending to attack or insult the author of the critique. In all honesty, since I initiated Thought Theater, this situation is one of an all too few that allows me to address the essence of what I believe and why I launched the site.

We live in a world that assumes everyone has an agenda...and for the most part that is an accurate observation. I too have an agenda but it is one that few understand or actually believe to be sincere. To state it as clearly as possible...I want to know as much "truth" as is humanly possible before I die. I have opinions on what I think to be "true" and I enjoy being engaged in order to test those "truths"...but not to be able to say that I was right...but to be able to say that I found and accepted as much of the "truth" as was actually available. In that regard, I guess I am a purist...but that is often confounding to those that don't know me well.

For the most part, people assume that all other people are biased and make discriminations...and that is generally an accurate conclusion. The purpose of Thought Theater...an extension of Daniel...is to find the means, the methods, and the motivation to put the "truth" of our humanity ahead of that bias and those discriminations...in order to advance all of humanity...not merely one person's or one group's or one political party's or one particular country's preferred version of humanity's "truth". When we aren't acting to advance all of humanity, we are merely engaging in the practice and pursuit of power (politics)...as opposed to the uncovering and unfurling of the only enduring power..."truth".

Call me a dreamer, but I remain convinced that we have the capacity to find "truth" and I am reassured each time I encounter youngsters like my niece and nephews. They enter this world in the embrace of the ability to find, and with the desire to discern, that which is "truth". Unfortunately, once they arrive we quickly begin the process of convolution. Nonetheless, each time I encounter a child, I am reminded that humanity has the potential to pursue and embrace "truth". It provides the hope that sustains me each day.

The following is the posting from Stubborn Facts:

I get a bit aggravated when I see pundits criticize normal, legitimate political debate as some kind of inappropriate "playing politics". We're facing serious problems, and the opposition party should be proposing serious alternatives, not trying to trivialize the substantive policy choices of the party in power as being mere political tactics. With that in mind, let's take a close and unflattering look at a recent post by Daniel DiRito at Donklephant and Thought Theater: Political Strategy: The Horse Race Begins.

DiRito's article begins with the typical Bush-critic's reference to Karl Rove. I've recently decided to not bother taking seriously any political commentary which includes the word "Rovian", but this article falls under the exception that it provides an opportunity for education in rhetorical tactics. DiRito's beginning with Rove is to suggest that all the policy positions of the Bush Administration are purely political. Iraq? Political. War on Terror? Political. If Rove is behind it, he leads you to assume, then it must be political, not the result of real policy decisions based on the best interests of the country.

Next, DiRito engages in a cynical bit of misdirection, claiming a change in the GOP argument which never happened, but which feeds into Democrats predisposition against the President.:

The important thing to note in the 2006 strategy is a minor, though significant, shift in the GOP framing…a technique that has been the hallmark of their success. This week the President gave a candid answer to an oft asked question…on a topic that has been the source of repeated Democratic criticism. He was asked what Iraq had to do with 9/11 and he quickly replied, “Nothing"…but then went on to explain that he believes the lesson of 9/11 was that we must take threats seriously before they materialize.

Herein is the shift. Republicans realize that the conflation of Iraq and 9/11 is no longer the viable tool that it was during the 2002 and 2004 elections. In a classic counterintuitive Rovian shift, they have taken the Democratic strategy for 2006 and incorporated it into the GOP’s new framing. When Bush uttered “Nothing", the revised strategy was revealed. Simply stated, the new GOP strategy is to incorporate the Democratic message into their revised rhetoric. This isn’t the first time that the Bush administration has co-opted the message of the opposition when it became apparent that they were perilously close to a position of checkmate.

In fact, neither the President nor any member of the Administration ever said that Iraq was responsible for 9/11. No, the President has consistently said just what he said after his "nothing" answer. The Iraq war was a consequence of the 9/11 attacks not because Iraq was directly responsible for those attacks, but because Iraq posed a real risk to the United States, and after 9/11 we realized that we can no longer wait for such risks to fester and grow until they result in a deadly attack. No, we must be proactive, not reactive. We must neutralize the risks before they kill thousands of us. (Bobby has an excellent discussion of the global strategic thinking here and here.)

The usefulness of this bit of misdirection is it gets people to stop thinking about the actual policy differences between the two parties right now. Rather than actually criticize the serious policy adopted by the President after 9/11, the doctrine to take the war to our enemies rather than wait for them to attack us, DiRito criticizes political tactics. He gets a lick in on the President without having to actually oppose directly the President's policy, and without having to propose anything with which to replace it.

DiRito's next rhetorical tactic is, rather bizarrely, to accuse the Republicans of planning to campaign (gasp!) on the actual policy differences between the parties.

Not only do they now want Democrats to make voters consider leaving Iraq, they will take it a step further and insist that voters consider the potential consequences and risks…once again invoking the power of terrorism in order to create voter doubt…all the while framing the Democrats as the object of that doubt. The goal is to make the doubt about leaving Iraq (the terror threat) greater than the dissatisfaction about the conduct of the war. Forcing voters to move beyond the GOP’s past poor performance is essential and can be achieved by refocusing voters on other more ominous potentialities.

Isn't that exactly what political campaigns are supposed to do? To "insist that voters consider the potential consequences and risks" of the policies proposed by the other side? Isn't that what Democrats do when they decry all the money and lives we are spending on Iraq as they call for immediate withdrawal? When they accuse the President of wanting Parkinson's patients to suffer because he's against federal funding of stem-cell research? That's not political strategy, it's a policy debate. And make no mistake that, however it began, Iraq is now a war of necessity.

DiRito continues in the same vein:

Here’s the Republican equation. They will not focus on aggressively defending the Iraq war…and to that end we have seen the President express frustration with the situation as well as concerns about the ongoing sectarian violence and even sharing a veiled insinuation that the new Prime Minister may not be up to the task. The uncertainty and chaos are beneficial to the revised strategy.

They have already ceded the poor execution of the war and will allow the Democrats to make the case that we were misled and that the war was mismanaged. The goal is to actually encourage and enable Democrats to criticize the war. While the GOP is allowing Democrats to make those points again and again…Republicans will begin to request that voters answer questions that seek to discern if the Democrats have any solutions beyond their criticism.

How horrible, that a political campaign ask what the other side is going to actually do about the problem they're complaining about. So much for that "if only the President would admit to mistakes" bit, which, we were assured at the time, would make us feel ever so much better about supporting him in the future. And how is it that the GOP "is allowing Democrats" to make an argument? I suppose he means that the GOP is not actively fighting back on that issue, which is probably correct. Here again, though, he sees this as evidence of cynical manipulation rather than an actual policy shift. I suppose the Democrat wish for the President to "admit his mistakes" was simply the first wish, and that he was then supposed to politely walk off the stage and turn everything over to John Kerry without a fight. Funny, though, it seems like just last month that the netizens were still complaining about the rose-colored glasses with which the President sees Iraq.

DiRito then shifts to the Connecticut race. It appears than once again the Connecticut Senate race is about the war, not Connecticut or the alleged shortcomings of Joe Lieberman. At least he acknowledges some reality:

Further, if Ned Lamont continues to be vague on the handling of Iraq, the GOP will again argue that Democrats are only focused on winning elections by playing on people’s dissatisfaction with the Iraq war…all the while doing so at the expense of a favorable outcome in Iraq and therefore a safe and secure America. They will play Lamont against Lieberman in order to highlight the uncertainty within the Democratic Party…the messier it gets, the better it will be…and Lamont and Lieberman (assuming they both remain in the race) will have no choice but to attack each other in order to win.

Heavens to Betsy. The nasty ol' Republicans are going to sit back and watch their opponents destroy themselves with internal disputes. Shame on 'em. It couldn't possibly be that this "Rovian" strategy will work because there is, indeed, "uncertainty within the Democratic Party" about the conduct of the war and what to do in the future.
DiRito again accuses the White House of some kind of "shift in strategy." Quoting a remark by Karl Rove that "al-Qaeda leaders view the Iraq war as the 'central front in the war on terror,'" DiRito says:

Again, note the shift in strategy. They are no longer defensively pushing the argument that Iraq is the focal point of the war on terror; instead they will ask Americans to determine if al-Qaeda thinks it is the “central front in the war on terror".

If the chief leader of the main terrorist group fighting us, the man whose decisions killed over 3,000 Americans on 9/11, says that Iraq is the central front in the war on terror, doesn't that pretty much make it so? If the enemy says "here is where we will defeat you", doesn't that all by itself make that battle pretty important? DiRito again tries to turn a real policy debate into just an argument over political strategy and framing.

DiRito does do a pretty accurate job of summarizing the fundamental message from this White House, though:

While Democrats will seek to focus the voter on making the election a referendum on George Bush and the Iraq war…attempting to frame it as a yea or nay on keeping Republicans in power, Republicans will step beyond that framing and ask voters a series of questions intended to raise doubts and shift the focus to a hypothetical equation…can Democrats protect America and do they understand what is really happening in Iraq and in the minds of the terrorists?

As I've previously noted, the Congressional races around the country will be decided mostly by local voters based on local issues. National issues will play some part in the campaigns, but no matter how much the Democrats may want this to be a national referendum on how the President has conducted the Iraq War, it is not.

Perhaps after reading all this you think I am being too harsh on Mr. DiRito. Surely all of his agonizing is not just about partisanship; surely he is concerned with actually answering the substantive and difficult policy choices facing us. But no. His conclusion reveals that, as much as he's tried to suggest that it's Mr. Rove who is all about politics over substance, the reality is that he and the Democrats are the ones focused on politics rather than crafting good policies:

Unless the Democrats want to be caught flat footed again, they will have to find the wherewithal to listen intently to the carefully crafted Republican rhetoric and be prepared to make rapid strategic adjustments. If they fail to do so, they may well find themselves eclipsed by a familiar nose at the political finish line.

Nothing there about the Democrats actually coming up with real policies. No call for them to end the rabid divisions within the party. No call to come up with a plan for Iraq beyond "cut and run". No, he just wants them to figure out how to sell what they've got a little better. The Democrats will not succeed until they propose real policies which are supported by most of their leaders and voters. Criticism of the other guy is not enough to win elections unless it is accompanied by real proposals which Americans can support.

The following was my response:

I certainly appreciate your critique and I welcome robust dialogue and debate...however I believe it would be best to do so after reading my entire series on "Political Strategy" which is linked in the first paragraph of the posting at Thought Theater. The particular posting you reference, Political Strategy: The Horse Race Begins, is the eighth in a series on "Political Strategy"...a topic that I find fascinating given my psychology background.

If you do read all of the postings you will find that I have been suggesting that the Democrats do more than oppose Republicans and I have argued that they should put forward a comprehensive plan for Iraq and the war on terror.

Unfortunately, your effort to conflate my discussion of political strategy with a disregard for policy disputes is your prerogative...but it is a misrepresentation of the purpose of the "Political Strategy" series at Thought Theater. You presume that my remarks are meant to be policy statements in order to make your argument that I, along with the Democrats, am only focused on politics. To be clear, in the posting you've noted I am focusing on strategy (not policy)...wherein strategy is the means by which we humans attempt to convincingly make our points.

While I find politics fascinating from a psychological perspective, it also frequently makes for lousy policy...something both Republicans and Democrats engage in all too often. Your posting seems to be suggesting that Republicans don't play politics...a position you're welcome to embrace...but one that I would characterize as either naive or blindly partisan.

If you were to read the bulk of my thoughts at Thought Theater you would find that my prevailing purpose is to offer what I'm able to in order to expose more "truth" in a world that is all too frequently filled with manipulations and misrepresentations. I believe that watching behavior (strategy) helps us uncover bias and discriminations in order to expose "truth"...I am not interested in determining what I want to be true and then setting out to impose that "truth"...I am interested in dissecting that which I encounter in order to find more of the "truth"...and that is a quintessential distinction.

I try to avoid getting aggravated because I'm always willing to listen, read, and observe since it is the only path to more "truth"...getting aggravated simply means one has an agenda that isn't being supported or endorsed. The pursuit of "truth" is never aggravating if one is actually committed to finding "truth". Politics is merely the game people engage in to attempt to influence "truth"...sometimes they are one and the same and many times they aren't.

As I read your final paragraph, it struck me that you were doing exactly what I oppose...pushing an agenda (your version of the "truth") absent enough information to do so...an unflattering indication that you prefer politics over "truth" and that you couch your version of the "truth" as the practice of policy...and I find that to be intellectual dishonesty.

Ironically, had you looked at the main page at Thought Theater you would have found another of my postings, Biden: Seeking A Reasoned Plan For Iraq, just two entries down from the one you've discussed here. It is an entry about the need for a plan in Iraq and a need to get beyond politics in order to do so.

I would be delighted to engage in a dialogue about what needs to be done in Iraq and with regards to the war on terror if you're interested in doing so...but I would respectfully suggest you forego your hasty attempt to place me in a category. I think you will find me to be far more thoughtful than you've concluded herein.

Regards,

Daniel

Daniel DiRito | August 26, 2006 | 3:15 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Katherine & Anita: The World Of Lonely People genre: Gaylingual & Polispeak & Snapshot Thoughts & Tongue-In-Cheek

Katherine & Anita

Daniel DiRito | August 26, 2006 | 12:09 PM | link | Comments (3)
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Conan O'Brien: Hotdogs For Homophobes genre: Gaylingual & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

Daniel DiRito | August 25, 2006 | 11:11 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Political Strategy: The Horse Race Begins genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The following posting is the eigth entry in a continuing Thought Theater dialogue on political strategy. The first posting, Political Strategy: The Opening Dialogue, can be found here, the second posting, Political Strategy: Beyond Extremist Labels can be found here, the third posting, Political Strategy: The Numbers Speak can be found here, the fourth posting, Political Strategy: Splitting The Baby can be found here, the fifth posting, Political Strategy: Examining Potential Outcomes can be found here, the sixth posting, Political Strategy: Voter Mobilization can be found here, and the seventh posting, Political Strategy: Bad Math & Inconsistency can be found here. In addition, other related postings can be found here, here, here, and here.

The political gallop to the November finish line is heating up and the race is certain to tighten. Get ready folks, we’ve just rounded the final turn and we’re now headed into the homestretch and that horse making a big push on the Democrats’ right flank is none other than the GOP’s Secretariat, Karl Rove. With his legal troubles apparently behind him, Rove seems to be focused like a laser on once again wearing the floral blanket. In his most recent public appearance in Ohio, Rove reiterated the talking points of the strategy upon which the GOP intends to run.

Mr. Rove, a White House adviser and the architect of Mr. Bush’s winning presidential campaigns, peppered Democrats on taxes and national security, invoked the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and called the Iraq war “the heart of the battle" in a global war against “Islamic fascists."

The 20-minute speech echoed Mr. Bush’s 2004 campaign themes. He said Mr. Bush would not abandon the war and said of terrorists to the audience: “Who thinks if we come home, that they’re not going to follow us?"

The important thing to note in the 2006 strategy is a minor, though significant, shift in the GOP framing…a technique that has been the hallmark of their success. This week the President gave a candid answer to an oft asked question…on a topic that has been the source of repeated Democratic criticism. He was asked what Iraq had to do with 9/11 and he quickly replied, “Nothing"…but then went on to explain that he believes the lesson of 9/11 was that we must take threats seriously before they materialize.

Herein is the shift. Republicans realize that the conflation of Iraq and 9/11 is no longer the viable tool that it was during the 2002 and 2004 elections. In a classic counterintuitive Rovian shift, they have taken the Democratic strategy for 2006 and incorporated it into the GOP’s new framing. When Bush uttered “Nothing", the revised strategy was revealed. Simply stated, the new GOP strategy is to incorporate the Democratic message into their revised rhetoric. This isn’t the first time that the Bush administration has co-opted the message of the opposition when it became apparent that they were perilously close to a position of checkmate.

Not only do they now want Democrats to make voters consider leaving Iraq, they will take it a step further and insist that voters consider the potential consequences and risks…once again invoking the power of terrorism in order to create voter doubt…all the while framing the Democrats as the object of that doubt. The goal is to make the doubt about leaving Iraq (the terror threat) greater than the dissatisfaction about the conduct of the war. Forcing voters to move beyond the GOP’s past poor performance is essential and can be achieved by refocusing voters on other more ominous potentialities.

Is there any doubt that the rhetorical question asked by Karl Rove, “Who thinks if we come home, that they’re not going to follow us?" is strategically brilliant. As much as I despise the underlying objectives of Karl Rove, it is folly to ignore his strategic intellect…a statement that will anger many Democrats but a reality worth admitting in order to outmaneuver the GOP. Rove’s genius is seen in his decision to frame the Iraq dilemma in the form of a question. Doing so immediately removes all signs of defensiveness…the trait most frequently associated with deception. Invoking voters to use their judgment avoids the need to explain the administration’s failures while making voters assume responsibility for their own safety and security.

While some may prefer to discount the validity of my argument, I would recommend that they review recent polling on these underlying issues and note how the way in which the questions are posed is critical to the answers received and thus the polls outcome…a phenomenon that is being routinely demonstrated by seemingly erratic and inconsistent data gathered during very similar timeframes. It simply points out how important framing the debate and therefore each voter’s subsequent determinations and discriminations will be this November.

I contend that this current GOP approach is fully consistent with the formative assumptions found within “Terror Management Theory"…a topic previously discussed here at Thought Theater. The theory argues that we frequently act in ways that are intended to minimize the terror (fear) associated with our uniquely human awareness of our pending mortality. Positing the Iraq situation in the form of a question serves to maximize that awareness.

Here’s the Republican equation. They will not focus on aggressively defending the Iraq war…and to that end we have seen the President express frustration with the situation as well as concerns about the ongoing sectarian violence and even sharing a veiled insinuation that the new Prime Minister may not be up to the task. The uncertainty and chaos are beneficial to the revised strategy.

They have already ceded the poor execution of the war and will allow the Democrats to make the case that we were misled and that the war was mismanaged. The goal is to actually encourage and enable Democrats to criticize the war. While the GOP is allowing Democrats to make those points again and again…Republicans will begin to request that voters answer questions that seek to discern if the Democrats have any solutions beyond their criticism.

The GOP will point to the Connecticut primary to raise doubts as to the direction the Democrats may take the country if they are put in power…arguing that not only are Democrats weak on security and terrorism; they can’t agree on a plan and may well be willing to acquiesce to the anti-war left which, Republicans will argue, simply wants to leave Iraq. They need to create voter hesitation and they will do that by asking the carefully and appropriately crafted questions.

The fact that they won’t endorse their own Republican candidate in Connecticut is also part of the strategy. They actually want voters to conclude that Republicans are objective enough to set aside partisanship in the interest of national security. They stand to benefit each time a voter ponders exactly what would compel Republicans to accept Joe Lieberman over their own candidate. Each instance that a Democratic politician defends Ned Lamont over Joe Lieberman will be used to demonstrate that Democrats place more value on partisanship than the national interest.

Further, if Ned Lamont continues to be vague on the handling of Iraq, the GOP will again argue that Democrats are only focused on winning elections by playing on people’s dissatisfaction with the Iraq war…all the while doing so at the expense of a favorable outcome in Iraq and therefore a safe and secure America. They will play Lamont against Lieberman in order to highlight the uncertainty within the Democratic Party…the messier it gets, the better it will be…and Lamont and Lieberman (assuming they both remain in the race) will have no choice but to attack each other in order to win.

Lastly, the more Lamont is forced to distinguish himself from Lieberman on the war, the more ammunition he will provide to Republicans to discredit the anti-war agenda and reinforce what the GOP will present as their own fully objective evaluation of the Iraq situation…one they will assert is motivated by nothing more than national security and the best interest of all Americans.

Mr. Rove criticized the New York Times for disclosing a government program to track terrorist finances and a Detroit judge for ruling against a federal government warrantless domestic surveillance program. He said that program, if in use at the time, could have prevented the 2001 attacks.

He referenced Osama bin Laden extensively and said al- Qaeda leaders view the Iraq war as the “central front in the war on terror."

Again, note the shift in strategy. They are no longer defensively pushing the argument that Iraq is the focal point of the war on terror; instead they will ask Americans to determine if al-Qaeda thinks it is the “central front in the war on terror". While Democrats will seek to focus the voter on making the election a referendum on George Bush and the Iraq war…attempting to frame it as a yea or nay on keeping Republicans in power, Republicans will step beyond that framing and ask voters a series of questions intended to raise doubts and shift the focus to a hypothetical equation…can Democrats protect America and do they understand what is really happening in Iraq and in the minds of the terrorists?

In essence, they will be asking voters to step beyond issues of manipulation and mismanagement; invoking them to consider their own personal safety. I would summarize it to be an attempt to make voters choose between two bad alternatives…make them ponder the following – “We Republicans may have screwed up…but we still want to protect you…and there can be no doubt that the world is still a dangerous place and terrorists still want to harm America…think about that before you vote. …you may think its bad now…but don’t let this election be about partisan politics…we’re simply asking you to please take a moment to imagine what it might be like if you give the Democrats control…do this for your own personal welfare…please."

Unless the Democrats want to be caught flat footed again, they will have to find the wherewithal to listen intently to the carefully crafted Republican rhetoric and be prepared to make rapid strategic adjustments. If they fail to do so, they may well find themselves eclipsed by a familiar nose at the political finish line.

Daniel DiRito | August 24, 2006 | 4:56 PM | link | Comments (1)
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Ukes Of Hazard: Gay Boyfriend genre: Gaylingual & Tongue-In-Cheek & Tuned Out & Video-Philes

Daniel DiRito | August 24, 2006 | 11:55 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Biden: Seeking A Reasoned Plan For Iraq genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

As with most controversial issues, the tendency is for people to migrate to the extremes as polarization becomes the predominant drumbeat...which subsequently drowns out otherwise reasonable solutions. The conflict in Iraq has succumbed to this formula both here in...

Daniel DiRito | August 24, 2006 | 9:37 AM | link | Comments (0)
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FDA: 18 & Older Can Purchase Plan B OTC genre: Hip-Gnosis & Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Six Degrees of Speculation & Uncivil Unions

The Food and Drug Administration, after numerous delays that many felt were politically motivated, has approved Barr Laboratory's Plan B contraceptive for over the counter sales to women over the age of 18 years old. Read the full article...

Daniel DiRito | August 24, 2006 | 7:49 AM | link | Comments (1)
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Do New Housing Stats Foretell Trouble? genre: Econ-Recon & Six Degrees of Speculation

The latest statistics on the housing industry suggest a dangerous turn of events that may have significant implications for the U.S. economy. I've long been concerned that recent economic strength has been predicated upon the implementation of a period...

Daniel DiRito | August 23, 2006 | 8:30 PM | link | Comments (2)
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Clinton Criticized On Ryan White HIV/AIDS Funding genre: Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Video-Philes

The Ryan White Act has been a mainstay in providing HIV/AIDS funding for a number of years having been originated in 1990. In this year’s effort to reauthorize the funding, a conflict has emerged that is generating some interesting...

Daniel DiRito | August 23, 2006 | 10:21 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Poll: 51% Now Say Iraq Not Tied To War On Terror genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The most recent New York Times/CBS News poll seems to indicate that a majority of the voting public is no longer connecting the Iraq war with the war on terror. Despite the administrations efforts to conflate the two issues,...

Daniel DiRito | August 23, 2006 | 8:32 AM | link | Comments (1)
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New Polling: Is GOP Terror Plan Working? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The funny thing about polling is that most people endorse the results if they like them but if they don't they tend to discount their meaning. Such is the nature of bias and the less than objective manner in...

Daniel DiRito | August 22, 2006 | 8:42 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Eden's End genre: Econ-Recon & Rhyme-N-Reason & Six Degrees of Speculation

I wrote the following poem, Eden's End, some time back after focusing on the many people one sees on the roadside with signs asking for money because they are without work or homeless or any number of other reasons....

Daniel DiRito | August 21, 2006 | 11:20 AM | link | Comments (0)
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SNL: Gaystrogen For Queer Loss genre: Gaylingual & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

Daniel DiRito | August 18, 2006 | 6:35 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Conservative Buchanan On The Neocons Demise genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

I've never been fond of Pat Buchanan but I've found that at least I can respect his ability to remain true to his conservative ideology...a far more consistent position that our President and his neocon supporters. In reality, Buchanan...

Daniel DiRito | August 18, 2006 | 5:55 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Security Moms Kicking GOP Habit? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

It’s beginning to look like security moms have had their fill of President Bush and the GOP. Married women with children went from soccer moms to security moms in the last two election cycles...all the while remaining a key...

Daniel DiRito | August 18, 2006 | 8:44 AM | link | Comments (0)
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David Letterman: Bill Clinton On Ann Coulter genre: Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

Daniel DiRito | August 18, 2006 | 7:18 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Deficit To Grow By 1.76 Trillion In Next Decade genre: Econ-Recon & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The Congressional Budget Office reports an expected deficit of 1.76 trillion dollars over the next decade...but that assumes that the President's tax cuts will not be made permanent. If those tax cuts were to be extended permanently, the deficit...

Daniel DiRito | August 17, 2006 | 5:02 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Cease Fire Brings Media Focus Back To Iraq genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

With the cessation of major conflict in Lebanon, the war in Iraq is once again a focal point of media attention and it appears that the news is bleak. Following on the recent debate about whether President Bush was...

Daniel DiRito | August 17, 2006 | 12:17 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Judge Orders Halt To NSA Domestic Surveilance genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

A federal judge has ordered an immediate halt to the Bush administration's NSA domestic surveillance program they many have argued is illegal due to its failure to use the established FISA court procedure. Republican leaders are calling for efforts...

Daniel DiRito | August 17, 2006 | 11:28 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Report Says Arrest Made In JonBenet Ramsey Case genre: Indie-Script

It is being reported that an arrest has been made in Thailand related to the death of JonBenet Ramsey. The ten year old case has long been thought to be a cold case but there is some indication that...

Daniel DiRito | August 16, 2006 | 3:14 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Allen & Wadhams: Bully, Bully genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation & Video-Philes

The offensive remarks made by Senator George Allen have all the makings of a Dick Wadhams campaign. Wadhams cut his political teeth in Colorado and has been seen as the person behind the rise of Senator Wayne Allard, a...

Daniel DiRito | August 16, 2006 | 10:39 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Bush Now Frustrated With Iraq Progress genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Catching up with the vast majority of Americans, President Bush has expressed frustration with the progress in Iraq and the lack of support for the U.S. effort from the new Iraqi government and the Iraqi people. Nonetheless, perhaps Bush...

Daniel DiRito | August 16, 2006 | 8:13 AM | link | Comments (0)
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The Daily Show: Middle East Cease Fire genre: Just Jihad & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

Daniel DiRito | August 15, 2006 | 5:02 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Dobson Leads Religious Voter Registration Efforts genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

James Dobson, the head of Colorado based Focus on the Family is leading a massive voter registration effort geared to engage millions of religious voters for the upcoming midterm election in November. Dobson has long been associated with Karl...

Daniel DiRito | August 15, 2006 | 4:06 PM | link | Comments (0)
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DSCC Rolls Out New Video: Secure genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Video-Philes

The DSCC and the Democratic Party realize that the GOP has used security issues successfully in the last two election cycles and they are determined to allow 2006 to be more of the same. The DSCC has rolled out a...

Daniel DiRito | August 15, 2006 | 2:16 PM | link | Comments (0)
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George Will: The View Of A Real Conservative genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Sometimes the degree to which an individual or a group of individuals become consumed with their chosen ideology can be so all encompassing that it defies reality. George Will offers that very commentary on the Bush administration and his...

Daniel DiRito | August 15, 2006 | 1:15 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Immigrant Population Grows In 49 States genre: Econ-Recon & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

In another sign that Democrats may be positioned to make gains in November, the Census Bureau released new data that immigrant population now tops 35 million and has expanded in 49 states. Nearly 17 million of those immigrants are...

Daniel DiRito | August 15, 2006 | 11:48 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Mel Gibson: Signs Of Anti-Semitism genre: Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

Daniel DiRito | August 15, 2006 | 11:21 AM | link | Comments (1)
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ABC (Abstinence) Program Gets Mixed Reviews genre: Gaylingual & Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Six Degrees of Speculation

The Bush administration's ABC program...a plan to combat HIV that promotes abstinence until marriage, being faithful, and condoms if necessary is being met with mixed reviews at the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto. Thought Theater previously reported on...

Daniel DiRito | August 15, 2006 | 9:43 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Richard Cohen On Middle East Birth Pangs genre: Hip-Gnosis & Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The Washington Post's Richard Cohen has a good article on the situation in the Middle East and the growing concerns that the conflict is far more about ideology than geography. The article points out that the United States and...

Daniel DiRito | August 15, 2006 | 8:45 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Mike Douglas Show: Lennon, Garland, & Bassey genre: Happy Remembrances & Tuned Out & Video-Philes

As a kid I used to watch the Mike Douglas Show after school. He always had good talent on his show and in tribute to his passing, I thought It would be nice to post some video of big...

Daniel DiRito | August 12, 2006 | 9:20 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Evanescence: My Immortal genre: Traveliscious & Tuned Out

I've always loved this song, My Immortal, by Evanescence. It was one of the songs that inspired my decision to leave a career of fourteen years. I was looking at music videos on You Tube and I came across...

Daniel DiRito | August 11, 2006 | 7:23 PM | link | Comments (3)
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Citizenship: Antidote To Ideology genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

We have seen an interesting conflation of events that point to the complexity of politics. Those events include the victory by Ned Lamont in Connecticut, the rollout of the new GOP talking points with regards to the war on...

Daniel DiRito | August 11, 2006 | 11:28 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Poll Numbers: AP-Ipsos & Fox News genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The latest polling data doesn't offer the President or his Party much to be excited about as we head towards the November midterm election. While the GOP has sought to make the most of the Ned Lamont victory and...

Daniel DiRito | August 11, 2006 | 9:25 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Daily Show: Birth Pangs Of Exporting Democracy genre: Just Jihad & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

Daniel DiRito | August 11, 2006 | 7:54 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Hostal Metro genre: Front and Center & Snapshot Thoughts

Is A Welcoming City Ever Hostile?...

Daniel DiRito | August 9, 2006 | 1:11 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Lamont Wins: Political Strategy Implications genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

One thing is for certain about gambling…once the dice have been cast, it is impossible to withdraw one’s bet. Like it or not, the Democratic Party, by proxy, may have placed it’s November election bet three months early in...

Daniel DiRito | August 9, 2006 | 12:40 PM | link | Comments (2)
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Sidestepping Truth: The Nature Of Bias genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Lanny Davis writes in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece that the liberal left has embraced the tactics of “McCarthyism". He provides a few examples of comments from a couple of the more prominent netroot blogs to support his...

Daniel DiRito | August 8, 2006 | 3:09 PM | link | Comments (0)
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George Will On Middle East Instability genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

George Will, an old guard conservative, has been a skeptic on the invasion of Iraq for some time. In a Newsweek opinion piece, he elaborates on the potential for further instability in the Middle East. Clearly, Will and other...

Daniel DiRito | August 8, 2006 | 9:58 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Scalia Rules DeLay Will Stay On Ballot genre: Polispeak

The attempts by Tom DeLay and the Republican Party to have the Supreme Court intervene to allow the removal of his name from the ballot was quickly denied by Justice Scalia. DeLay won the primary for the congressional seat...

Daniel DiRito | August 7, 2006 | 5:04 PM | link | Comments (0)
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The Minimum Wage Myth May Be Ending genre: Econ-Recon & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The myth that raising the minimum wage will hurt low income wage earners by hindering job growth is being met with increasing skepticism. The rationale that it is better to pay millions of Americans poverty level wages than to...

Daniel DiRito | August 7, 2006 | 1:47 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Poll: Voters More Reasonable On Cultural Issues genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak

A new Pew Research poll indicates that Americans may be more moderate than expected on five key cultural issues. The survey indicates that on most issues, a majority of voters prefer a middle ground approach. Reuters has the full...

Daniel DiRito | August 5, 2006 | 10:52 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Political Strategy: Bad Math & Inconsistency genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The following posting is the seventh entry in a continuing Thought Theater dialogue on political strategy. The first posting, Political Strategy: The Opening Dialogue, can be found here, the second posting, Political Strategy: Beyond Extremist Labels can be found here,...

Daniel DiRito | August 4, 2006 | 10:30 PM | link | Comments (0)
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The Daily Show: On "Taint" (Adult Content) genre: Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

Daniel DiRito | August 4, 2006 | 7:59 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Dems Stop GOP Minimum Wage & Estate Tax Bill genre: Econ-Recon & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

In another defeat for Bill Frist, Democrats were able to stop the passage of a GOP bill intended to give huge tax breaks to wealthy Americans and take the important minimum wage issue off the table prior to November's...

Daniel DiRito | August 4, 2006 | 7:38 AM | link | Comments (2)
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Scott Winship: A Must Read For Democrats genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Following on the heels of my latest foray into the jaws of the political beast, I thought I would direct readers to an excellent article that summarizes the current conflict within the Democratic Party using the best available data...

Daniel DiRito | August 3, 2006 | 4:09 PM | link | Comments (0)
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The Hatfield's & McCoys: Lieberman V. Lamont genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

I think it’s time for a little perspective and a reality check. Perhaps the most important midterm election in modern history is little more than three months away and as I watch the Lieberman vs. Lamont race, I have...

Daniel DiRito | August 3, 2006 | 1:10 AM | link
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Kansas On The Mend: Part II genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The conservative anti-evolution hold on the State Board of Education in Kansas appears to have been defeated, leaving the Board with at least a 6-4 pro-evolution membership heading into the November general election. The primary election received national attention...

Daniel DiRito | August 2, 2006 | 8:29 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Political Strategy: Voter Mobilization genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The following posting is the sixth entry in a continuing Thought Theater dialogue on political strategy. The first posting, Political Strategy: The Opening Dialogue, can be found here, the second posting, Political Strategy: Beyond Extremist Labels can be found here,...

Daniel DiRito | August 1, 2006 | 8:04 PM | link | Comments (0)
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The Daily Show: This Week In God genre: Hip-Gnosis & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

Daniel DiRito | August 1, 2006 | 6:04 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Can Faith & Religion Be Acts Of Cowardice? genre: Hip-Gnosis & Nouveau Thoughts & Six Degrees of Speculation

I’ve always been a contrarian. Those who know me well know that my motivation for being so is primarily to force myself to look at alternate perspectives in order to uncover more “truth". Being a contrarian is like walking...

Daniel DiRito | August 1, 2006 | 3:00 PM | link | Comments (1)
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