Friday, December 27, 2002

Kingfishery and Kingcakery - This release on the "secret" Mexican sugar deal from US Rep. David Vitter's website. Nothing new here.

Kingfishery and Kingcakery - The Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation's President had something to say about the "sugar" deal with Mexico. This column, printed for use by the media over the week of December 16, basically claims that not much is known at all about such a sugar deal, at least among the state's sugar producers. Vitter's comments seem to suggest that there is a lot of information about this "sugar deal" out there; but what's revealing about the LFBF President's letter is that sugar farmers have been kept out of the loop. The fact that this is so seems to indicate that the deal has not been revealed to Louisiana sugar farmers because it would not be welcome by them. As I can dredge up more information on this "secret" sugar deal, I will post it here.

Kingfishery and Kingcakery - U.S. Rep. David Vitter (R, La.) has written a Christmas day letter to the editor of The Times-Picayune on the US-Mexican Sugar deal. The letter reads:

I was happy to see The Times-Picayune's Dec. 20 article on the substantive issues surrounding the U.S.-Mexican sugar trade negotiations. Since this is such a complex issue, I feel it is important to elaborate on several key points.

First, while U.S. negotiators had hoped to finalize an agreement by year's end, this is unlikely given that at least four major issues remain unresolved. They are: the ratio of raw to refined sugar that Mexico can import into the United States, how these imports must be spread out throughout the year rather than concentrated in one short period of time, whether Mexico can import cheap sugar from other countries while it exports sugar into the United States, and whether the U.S. sugar industry can employ all of the legal mechanisms normally available to settle future sugar disputes.

Second, the Mexican responses in the ongoing sugar negotiations have gotten slower over the last two months. This brings up the question of whether in fact Mexican political forces are mounting, which could stall or unravel any deal. In addition, the United States has stated that any deal would be contingent on Mexico eliminating its 20 percent tax on corn sweeteners.

Third, I am continuing to work hard with a number of others to make sure the ideas and concerns of the Louisiana sugar industry are fully appreciated. These efforts on the part of many people are yielding at least some limited, positive results. For instance, on Dec. 18, U.S. trade negotiators met with U.S. sugar industry representatives for a detailed briefing.

U.S. Rep. David Vitter

Such clarification and such detail. How does Vitter know so much and why do Louisiana's sugar farmers know so little? This "secret" deal is only now partially coming to light. And we still know very little about the details other than what Vitter and "US trade negotiators" are willing to release. Again, the question remains: Did Bush effectively lie about this secret sugar deal when he denied its existence after Mary Landrieu brought it up during the Louisiana Senate run-off election? Spin it left, spin it right, spin it round and round until we are dizzied by it ... Bush lied. Period.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Lagniappe - To my liberal friends and family, Merry Christmas! To my conservative friends and family, Merry Christmas! I would not be able to enjoy the holidays as much as I do without all of you.

Monday, December 23, 2002

Lagniappe - How generous of the New Orleans Saints to give the people of Cincinnati and their Bengals such a nice Christmas present. The Saints do not deserve a playoff spot. Their performance today was deplorable.

Sunday, December 22, 2002

Lagniappe - So, Trent Lott apparently claims that he fell into a trap set by his enemies. How dare they?!? You know ... those sneaky enemies "within" who first sent him the invitation to Strom Thurmond's birthday party ... and then forced him to accept it ... and then programmed his brain to spew forth the vile that came out of his mouth ... and then orchestrated his ouster as Majority Leader!

Take a look at Lott's own words here; and notice especially that they came following a question about whether he received enough support from the White House! Lott can cleverly try to imply that these "enemies" are the anti-Mississippi (Yankee??), anti-Conservative (liberal??), and anti-Christian (atheist?? Jewish??) crowd, but Lott can really only be talking about his fellow Republicans in Washington, DC, because they're the only ones that could have even remotely "set him up" for such a fall - absurd idea though it is. I love it. Keep talking, Trent. All the way through the 2004 elections!

Cuaderno Latinoamericano - Evidence of Islamic terrorist activity in Latin America is all the more reason for the Bush Administration to take the region seriously and to promote an effective and respected Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Again, Otto Reich is too complicit in the "institutional" terror of Latin America's military authoritarian regimes of the 1970s and 1980s to be an effective anti-terrorist advocate in the region. I said it before and I'll repeat again: Good Riddance, Reich. To Bush: Where's your leadership in forging solidarity and dialogue with our neighboring countries to the South?

Cuaderno Latinoamericano - Interesting article in today's New York Times about ex-President of Peru Alberto Fujimori's speculative return to Peruvian politics. The story is all too familiar in the context of Latin American personalistic politics, and the seemingly limitless ability of the Latin American people to forgive and forget their corrupt, but colorful and charismatic, leaders. The most interesting item in this report, from my point of view, is the prospect of an Alan Garcia/Alberto Fujimori competition for the country's presidency in the not-too-distant future. Both Garcia and Fujimori saw a meteoric rise to power, followed by just as meteoric a fall into exile and disgrace, with the distinct possibility of rehabilitation and resurrection. Nothing particularly controversial or special about this article, just a topic of interest and one to watch.

Saturday, December 21, 2002

Cuaderno Latinoamericano - Andres Oppenheimer has a good piece on the current controversy over the appointment of the Administration's principle representative in the State Department for Latin American affairs. It appears that Otto Reich, the Administration's previous appointee, is finished. I say: Good riddance. But the problem remains, as Oppenheimer notes, of a dangerous inattention to Latin America in US foreign policy as reflected in this ongoing leadership crisis.

Kingfishery & Kingcakery - Well, well, well ... and Lordy, Lordy ... seems like Mary Landrieu was right after all when she claimed that Bush had a "secret" trade deal with Mexico on sugar. Bruce Alpert, of The Times Picayune's Washington bureau, reports:

The Bush administration hopes in the next two weeks to complete a deal to increase Mexican sugar imports into the United States, according to a Louisiana congressman.

Rep. David Vitter, R-Metairie, said the administration has begun to show to sugar producers and other interested parties some of the proposed draft language for a new sugar agreement, which the Mexican government has sought since it signed the North America Free Trade Agreement with the Clinton administration in 1994.

The pending agreement became an issue in the recent U.S. Senate election, when incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said the deal was being held up until after the Dec. 7 election to aid her Republican challenger, Suzanne Haik Terrell, a charge the Bush administration denied.
It gets worse. Apparently the only affected constituency that hasn't been made privy to the details of the deal, or included in the discussions, are the sugar farmers of Louisiana. This seems a bit secretive to me. And Joan McKinney, of Baton Rouge's The Advocate Online, writes:

The Bush administration will give the U.S. sugar industry its first look today at draft agreements on sugar trade between the United States and Mexico, but the key and most controversial issues will not be included in the review, according to a Louisiana congressman.
Why won't these "controversial issues" be included in the review? If keeping information hidden in this way doesn't constitute a "secret" deal, I don't know what does. A few paragraphs later, McKinney writes:

In addition to protesting the rumored level of the sugar import quota, U.S. cane growers also have charged U.S. trade negotiators have disclosed only the administration's general trade goals and have denied access to the actual texts of U.S. and Mexican proposals and counter-proposals.
Denied access to the affected US industry?!?! How much more "secretive" can you get?

I don't care how Bush spins this, he lied! I wish we had him saying so under oath, then we could impeach him for perjury. But, heck, if it ain't under oath, I guess it's o.k. to lie through your teeth and still feel like an honest, decent human being all full of integrity.

Lagniappe - I find it amusing and ironic that some conservatives cannot help but come down as hard on democrats for Trent Lott's gaffe as they do on Lott himself. Believe me, Trent Lott's problem is exclusively his own. It belongs to no other person or party. I can't wait to see how Lott's demise - and the corresponding connection between his statement and the GOP's connection to racial backwardness - becomes part of the vast, left-wing, Bill Clinton conspiracy. It's especially amusing that conservatives have the gall to get their gander up when Bill Clinton, a man constantly humiliated, belittled, and abused by Republicans, gets a little bit of payback by suggesting that Trent Lott reflects what the GOP does secretly on the "back streets" in the south. Are those "racist" Republican conservatives finally feeling some sympathy for us "morally relativistic" and "sexually-perverted" Democratic liberals? Oh, and one final comment: to all you Republicans who are finding some moral comfort in demanding that Trent Lott resign his Senate Majority leadership post, why not demand the full kit-and-kaboodle of Trent Lott's expulsion from the Senate. If there were such a thing as "impeachment" of a Senator (and for all I know, there very well may be), why not demand it? If you really want to pat yourself on the back, and say how much better you are than the Democrats who rallied to Clinton's defense, then find a way to impeach Lott.

Blog Banter - The debate raging among conservative intelligentsia these days is whether or not the Lott fiasco has exposed a fault line (race) within the conservative movement that differentiates paleocons (such as Pat Buchanan, Bob Novak, etc.), traditional conservatives (such as Andrew Sullivan, Jonah Goldberg, Bill Buckley and the National Review crowd), and neocons (ex-liberals Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol, etc.).

Naturally, Krauthammer writes in defense of the neocon crowd and places opposition to Lott within the conservative movement most squarely in these ex-liberals who supported the color-blindness of the Civil Rights movement, but who became critical when this turned into racial preferences. Jonah Goldberg, as might be expected, comes to the defense of traditional conservatives arguing that the concept of racial color-blindness is not a neocon import, but has always been a part of thoughtful conservative ideology. Andrew Sullivan, for his part, argues in his Daily Dish for Friday, December 20 that the split is not shades of ideology, but rather generational - in that "younger" conservatives (those who came of age in the Affirmative Action age, rather than the "segregation/civil rights" age), don't frame the race issue in the same way as "older" conservatives. Virginia Postrel, identified by Jonah Goldberg as a traditional conservative, but self-identified as "an old southern liberal," sees the divide in geographical terms, i.e. North vs. South. Postrel's view, I think, is paralleled by Jonah Goldberg's National Review colleague Rod Dreher, who has a wonderful piece on the "Southern" angle.

Being from the deep south myself, I find much value and truth in Postrel's and Dreher's points of view, and I think Andrew Sullivan's generational argument also has some merit. But I think they are all incomplete. Having also lived in Reading, PA, for a number of years, and having witnessed knee-jerk anti-hispanic discrimination as well as David Duke-ish KKK activities in and around the Reading area, I can confirm that the geographic "peculiarities" on race in the South that Dreher and Postrel seem so taken by are by no means exclusive to the South. And having seen some "younger" folk in and around the suburbs of New Orleans (even though more "exposed" to inter-racial contact) reflect the same racial attitudes as their "elders," I am prone to think that Sullivan's generational argument is not without its flaws.

My own experience and reflection on the subject leads me to believe that the real dividing line on the issue of race among conservatives is between the thoughtful conservative intelligentsia, who tend to approach the subject of race within the conservative movement with a great degree of circumspection and critical self-reflection (an "ivory-tower" perspective, if you will), and your average, working-class street conservative whose views and thoughts on race are more conditioned by local and environmental contexts than by any real thoughtfulness or critical reflection on the subject. It is just as much an educational and class division as anything else. I have found that young white males who grow up in St. Bernard Parish and attend racially-integrated public schools, and who have never lived in a "segregationist" community as it was understood 40 years ago, are just as likely to hold the same racial attitudes as are their "segregationist" forbears. In fact, it sometimes seems worse because the patronizing attitudes are still present, but without the corresponding "gentility" of previous generations that Rod Dreher captures so well in his stories about the racism of the segregationist era in the South. In order for there to be some critical reflection on the question of race, there first must be some reflection. And I find that for most people class and education determine an ability for reflection - regardless of ideological sympathy, generational identity, or geographical location.

Friday, December 20, 2002

Lagniappe - The New York Times has editorialized about the GOP "changing of the guard" from Lott to Frist as Senate Majority Leader. The last sentence of the editorial states: "One of the obvious lessons of the Lott firestorm is that the Republicans must give much more than a passing glance to the record of the person they choose to lead them." For the next two years, the spotlight will be almost unfairly pinpointed on every small movement made by the GOP leadership - just because of the overwhelming and unopposed power the Republican party commands over the federal government.

I will mention again my belief that single party governance is no cake-walk. The simple fact is that the GOP effectively controls both chambers of Congress, the Presidency, and the Supreme Court. In the public's mind this makes any excuse for GOP blustering and inaction unacceptable; it gives the illusion to GOP lawmakers that things ought to proceed seamlessly and smoothly, thus leading to a "relaxing" of the GOP guard; and it gives license to the Democrats to take the gloves off and pull out the stops since there is really nothing more to lose. All of this only makes governing that much more difficult for the GOP. Not to say the GOP can't rise to the challenge, but it won't be easy. This whole Lott affair encapsulates this dynamic: Lott let down his guard and the response was exceedingly and unexpectedly (even if justifiably) brutal; but the GOP seems to have struggled and limped through it, though with clear damage done. Democrats were for the most part silent on this matter, preferring to let the GOP leadership battle it out. As long as there is no "opposition" in positions of power to at least give the appearance of a "balance" of power, I predict more such scenarios of internecine conflict for the GOP over the next two years.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Cuaderno Latinoamericano - Ginger Thompson, of the New York Times, reports on the approaching ten year mark of NAFTA and what this will mean in terms of the removal of the last vestiges of Mexican tariffs on US Agricultural imports. James Dao, also of the NYT, writes on the fate of Otto Reich as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. The Washington Post reports on US Social Security funds working their way down to Mexico. Hugh Dellios, of the Chicago Tribune, takes up the subject of loan schemes in Costa Rica that take advantage of US expats and retirees. The LA Times has a wonderful commentary on the current Venezuelan crisis and the difficulties it poses for US policy towards that important oil-producing country.

Lagniappe - As an experiment, and more to see how it looks on the page than for any other vain hope of actually receiving a donation, I have placed a link to PayPal on this site (in the left-hand column). At the very least, it gives a new dimension to my "Lagniappe" blog category!

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Lagniappe - I would like to go on record to make the following prediction: Should Trent Lott fight for his position as Majority Leader of the Senate, and should he succeed in his efforts, both Lincoln Chafee AND John McCain will bolt the GOP and vote with Democrats to give the Democrats, once again, control over the Senate. My reasoning is simple.

Lincoln Chafee has always been considered the next potential Jim Jeffords and has been criticized for his moderate positions from within his own party. This cannot sit well with Chafee under normal circumstances. However, now that Chafee has staked his position squarely against Trent Lott, he is basically giving his party an ultimatum which, if not heeded, will make life all the more uncomfortable for Chafee in a GOP controlled Senate under Lott's leadership. Now that Chafee's on the public record against a Lott leadership, that's an easy call to make.

The McCain angle is a bit more complicated, since McCain has been relatively quiet on the Lott controversy to date. But, the clincher for the McCain switch has nothing to do with the Lott problem directly. My thinking is that, with Al Gore out of the 2004 Presidential race on the Democratic ticket, McCain's only nationally-recognized and fully publicly vetted competition for a potential Democratic nomination in the 2004 Presidential race is no longer in the picture. Switching parties to capture the Democratic 2004 Presidential nomination must be very tempting for McCain, who is considered anathema among Republicans to GOP orthodoxy, and very appealing to moderate Democratic and Republican voters - the so-called "swing" voters. If Lott prevails, it will give very good cover to McCain to leave the GOP and join with the Democrats - especially if he can "share" the burden and the criticism of such a move with Chafee and deflect such potential criticism on the basis of a "principled" rationale for bolting as opposed to an "opportunistic" rationale (not to mention extracting some plum concessions from the Senate Democratic Leadership in doing so). Put it this way: I'd vote for McCain on the Democratic ticket given what I see as the lack of available viable alternatives to challenge Bush in 2004.

But all this depends on Lott's fight to keep hold of the Senate Leadership post. I'm not at all sure Lott will prevail; and, in fact, my money is that he doesn't. But if he does, take note of what happens and, should things turn out as I have predicted, remember that, as far as I am aware, I called it first.

Lagniappe - When the President's brother and the President's black Secretary of State both come out publicly against Trent Lott, you know that the man is finished as Majority Leader of the Senate - no ifs, ands, or buts about it now. The only question remains now is how far Trent Lott will go to damage his Party further.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Liberal Lighthouse - You go, girl! Maureen Dowd on Trent Lott:

"You know you're in trouble when Clarence Thomas is playing Martin Luther King to your David Duke."

Cuaderno Latinoamericano - Otto Reich: May he wait in limbo forever. Just like his nemesis Fidel Castro, Reich is an anachronism. The position needs someone with a vision that extends beyond the Florida straits.

Monday, December 16, 2002

Lagniappe - I have not commented on the Trent Lott situation because I think conservatives, to their credit, have been providing enough thoughtful criticism for all of us. Andrew Sullivan and the folks at The National Review are clear and unwavering in their denunciation of Trent Lott and what his comments represented. How stunning a reversal of fortunes for the Republican Party in only a mere month since the party's spectacular performance in the latest elections. From adding a few seats in the House, and from retaking the Senate, (an unprecedented achievement given the historical record of midterm elections for the party holding the Presidency), the GOP has witnessed the following: (1) the sacking of the Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neill, and the Chief Economic Advisor to the President, Larry Lindsey, in order to address the poor performance of this administration on the economy; (2) the Louisiana run-off victories of Democrats Mary Landrieu and Rodney Alexander in the face of full-frontal assault by the national GOP; (3) the blunder of Trent Lott, which has divided the GOP Senate and thrown the GOP Senate leadership into full-blown crisis; (4) Henry Kissinger's resignation in the face of widespread criticism as Bush's designee to head up the bi-partisan panel charged with investigating the failure of National Security agencies in dealing with the 9/11 tragedy, etc. ...

As I wrote in an earlier posting, single-party monopoly of government does not a governance cake-walk make. In fact, if anything, single-party dominance of the three branches of government makes governing harder by raising expectations in the light of essentially non-existent opposition/gridlock. It appears now that the GOP is imploding under the weight of its victory and the burdens of governance that came along with it.

Democrats are watching and waiting ... and if the Democratic Party can begin to stake out a coherent position of opposition to the GOP on issues of substance to the American public, it will stand an excellent chance in the next national election cycle in two years. What was perhaps the finest performance of the GOP in this Century, could also be followed by its most tragic performance as well. And the legacy of George W. Bush could go tragically (and ironically) down with it. If such comes to pass, the pundits will be comparing George I and George II along more parallel lines than was expected only a short month ago.

Saturday, December 14, 2002

Kingfishery and Kingcakery - Michael Crowley has an interesting and engaging analysis of Mary Landrieu's recent electoral success in The New Republic. He pins the sugar card as most important, and I can't argue with him on that. The article also mentions the Louisiana GOP's efforts to suppress the black vote, though this is by no means a major point of the article. On the whole, it is a good analysis. But there is one little thing that I need to correct. Crowley refers to the Mexican newspaper Reforma as an "obscure" newspaper. This could not be further from the truth. La Reforma, as it is called in Mexico, is one of the nation's three leading newspapers. More importantly, however, this newspaper is the single most important "independent" newspaper in the country, which played no little part in bringing Vicente Fox and the agenda of the PAN (Mexico's Conservative National Action Party) to the helm of government. Furthermore, a report by La Reforma on anything business or trade related must be taken seriously. It is a newspaper that tends to be pro-business and the veracity of its stories, in my opinion, is more reliable than any other newspaper in the country. If it reports a sugar trade deal, I would believe it.

Kingfishery and Kingcakery - In reviewing the reports that continue to surface about the "tricks" played on the run-off election day in Louisiana, I am coming around to the realization that if these despicable things are ever going to stop in the state of my birth and current residence, there needs to be an attitude change among all of us, myself included, who blithely (and even a bit proudly) accept dirty Louisiana politics as a matter of course. We in Louisiana cannot continue to find Edwin Edwards charming and find his moniker as "The Crook" cute. We cannot smile knowingly and shrug at Cleo Fields stuffing his pockets with money. We cannot observe David Duke with detached curiosity. Taking any measure of perverse pride in our corrupt reputation, or throwing up our hands as if to say "Oh well, what to do? After all, it is Louisiana" is no longer tenable - at least not for me. Speaking of Louisiana politics in this way, which I have done in this blog on a number of occasions, only serves to validate and perpetuate this perverse legacy of politics. No more is it acceptable to laugh and poke fun at Louisiana political shenanigans light-heartedly. Why? Undoubtedly the sleaziness and underhandedness that I witnessed on election day last week is rooted in this "resignation" to "dirty politics" that so defines the average Louisiana citizen. While my rants focused on the Republican party shenanigans in trying to suppress the black vote in New Orleans, apparently this vile also comes courtesy of the Democratic party in Louisiana (thanks to fellow Louisianian Rod Dreher for pointing me to this review of all the election-day shenanigans in this past election cycle in Louisiana.). It is ALL despicable and abhorrent. I agree with Donna Brazile that there has never been such blatant disrespect for the voter and for efforts to encourage the participation and turnout of all eligible voters - at least as far as my recollection stretches - in a Louisiana election. It's got to stop if we want to take ourselves and our commitments to a fuller and more vibrant democracy seriously. And it's only going to stop if I (and others, Rod Dreher included) stop propagating it as somehow tolerable and to be expected because, after all, it is Louisiana.

Friday, December 13, 2002

Kingfishery and Kingcakery - A disgruntled Republican is filing suit against the participation of "tax-exempt" churches in their supposed from-the-pulpit endorsements of Mary Landrieu in the latest Louisiana Senate race. Republicans should be more concerned with the dubious legality of the Louisiana GOP in acting against the democratic process by trying to suppress the black vote rather than chastising people of faith from "guiding" members of the congregation on issues and candidates in local and national political races. Also, the suit should target the large Christian Coalition churches from their political activity as well.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Kingfishery and Kingcakery - I wonder what to make of it that another Louisiana Republican politician, this time a state legislative representative from Bush Country north of Lake Pontchartrain, was caught in an Eastern New Orleans Porn shop and arrested on charges of lewd behavior? I know Louisiana is full of hypocrites and sinners, especially from the conservative moralistic crowd, (Rev. Jimmy "I have sinned" Swaggert, Bob "Caught with his pants down and garter belts on" Livingston, Rev. Marvin "Airline Highway Trysts" Gorman, etc.), but what can we do about this? (Not to say the left liberals in Louisiana are any better, i.e. Edwin "Crook" Edwards and Cleo "Stuffed Pockets" Fields - but at least they don't sermonize and cast stones at others about sins they themselves commit.) Gov. Mike Foster (a Louisiana Republican that I admire) is perhaps the best thing the state has produced in terms of an no-nonsense, above-board, legit politician in a long time. (I have high hopes for democratic mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, but it is still too early to tell, though it looks very promising.) I wish that Foster could have done more in his seven years as governor to clean up this nasty image of Louisiana politicians, but I guess there is only so much the good guys can do.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Cuaderno Latinoamericano - Gretchen Peters provides an excellent, brief analysis of the state of US-Mexican relations in The New Republic. The gist of this is that 9/11 moved Mexico off the radar screen of US foreign policy precisely when conditions were perfect for a harmonization of interests that would have benefitted both countries. Most importantly, with Vicente Fox at the helm of Mexico's government, the pro-business, free trade, conservative cards were in alignment between the two countries. That has all evaporated and now Fox, an erstwhile Bush compadre, has been forced to distance himself from the US in order to strengthen his own hand in Mexico's domestic political dynamic. If Bush wants to make nice with Mexico and maximize the benefits that the US can gain from the bi-lateral relationship, Bush ought to be bringing his influence to bear in Mexico on behalf of Fox like he did for Republican candidates in the latest round of elections in the United States. Without giving Fox some face time and some real movement in the bilateral relationship, the individual who will bear the brunt of responsibility for snuffing out Mexico's nascent democracy, should the Fox experiment ultimately fail, will not be Fox - but rather George W. Bush, for cozying up to Fox at first and then abandoning Fox to the sharpened razors of the anti-US nationalists. There is still time for Bush to deliver for his "amigo," but the time is running out.

Blog Banter - Not only has Mickey Kaus commented on the Louisiana GOP tactic of attempting to "dampen" black voter turnout, but his "Backfill" addition to his initial posted comments has pointed to a Washington Post article that speaks about a flyer supposedly distributed by the Louisiana GOP in black public housing projects which read, in part: "Vote!!! Bad Weather? No problem!!! If the weather is uncomfortable on election day (Saturday December 7th) Remember you can wait and cast your ballot on Tuesday December 10th." While there is no evidence as of yet to decisively link this flyer to the state GOP, I have no doubt that the Louisiana GOP is capable and willing to do this. Any group so intent to try to suppress voter turnout by posting election day signs saying as much, would also not shy away from the more vile (but anonymous) flyers discussed above. And this outrage will linger in the minds of Louisiana's significant black voting population for a long, long time. Has the GOP buried itself in Louisiana? I think so. It will be a while before it can recover.

Liberal Lighthouse - Regarding the entire Republican strategy of suppressing black voter turnout nationwide, John B. Judis has an excellent piece in The New Republic addressing this very topic. It is must reading for putting the Louisiana GOP's tactics in a national context.

Blog Banter - Finally, Mickey Kaus has risen to the challenge and commented on the Louisiana GOP's tactic of exploiting an intra-party rift between Cleo Fields and Mary Landrieu to try to get black people to stay home and not vote. Kaus never really denies that the effort by the Louisiana GOP was intended to suppress the black vote. He calls the move "cynical" (whatever that means in an election context - I would call it patently "dishonest") and actually passes it off as an improvement for the GOP in terms of, apparently, its history of suppressing the black vote. Is Kaus admitting the GOP has a sordid history of doing worse to suppress the black vote? In any case, Kaus's analysis itself is cynical in that it whitewashes (pun intended) the clear intent of this tactic. As a good citizen of the world's greatest democracy, Kaus should instead be advocating the strengthening of turnout for all eligible voters - something that a vibrant democracy needs, and something that has sadly been on the decline all throughout the US. And Kaus makes no mention of the GOP bribery of people to hold aloft the signs, which is another level of "cynicism" altogether. I have to give Kaus credit for addressing this issue, though his dismissal of it so cavalierly is disappointing. Where's Andrew Sullivan in all of this?

Monday, December 09, 2002

Kingfishery & Kingcakery - The Times-Picayune ran this story on the signs paid for by the Louisiana Republican Party which attempted to discourage black voter turnout. The Louisiana Republican Party spin on this is almost laughable, if it weren't so pathetic. Still no comments on this despicable election-day behavior by Sullivan or Kaus.

Sunday, December 08, 2002

Lagniappe - To all those critics of the New York Times, Andrew Sullivan first among them, let me just note that of the following reporting done on yesterday's Senate run-off election in Louisiana, only the New York Times took up the issue of the Louisiana Republican Party's attempts to discourage black people from voting in the election. There is no mention of this scandal in the election reports of The Washington Times, the UPI, the Washington Post, and the AP. I don't know how the Wall Street Journal reported on the election since only paid subscribers can access its story; but I'd bet almost anything it says nothing about this scandal. As someone who saw this outrage first-hand, I can tell you that the New York Times is neither exaggerating nor fabricating this story. But what is even more scandalous is that this very newsworthy aspect of the election has been buried or ignored by all BUT the New York Times. Will conservative media outlets and pundits comment on this outrageous anti-democratic electioneering behavior by the Louisiana Republican Party? What will Mickey Kaus and Andrew Sullivan have to say? We'll see ...

Kingfishery & Kingcakery - Something I witnessed today while driving down the streets of the City of New Orleans really drove the point home to me of the sleaziness and downright evil of the Louisiana Republican Party, and of Suzanne Haik Terrell's failed Senate Campaign. As I drove past the intersection of Washington and Carrollton Avenues, which is in a predominantly poor black part of the City, I noticed an election day sign all along the neutral ground (our name for a "median") that read in large print: "Mary, if you don't respect us, don't expect us." In small print at the bottom, the words read: "Paid for by the Louisiana Republican Party." When I saw this sign, I was incensed. It is perhaps the most despicable, desperate, and dare I say racist, last-minute election campaign tactic that I have ever seen.

For one, the Louisiana Republican Party was trying to tap into the intra-party division that has existed between some influential and well-known black Louisiana democratic politicians and Mary Landrieu. No matter how the state Republican Party can try to spin this slogan, its meaning and intent is all too clear. The slogan is trying to say that black folk should not vote for Mary Landrieu because of her "disrespect" of black constituencies as some of her black critics have claimed. Why is this sign so despicable? First, the sign is not attempting to promote a candidate or an idea, as most campaign signs posted on election day tend to do, but rather to deliver an ad-hominen attack on a candidate. Second, the state Republican Party is itself "disrespecting" black voters by pretending to speak on behalf of black people - or at least passing the sign off as coming from black voters disaffected with Mary Landrieu.

As anyone in the State of Louisiana knows, the Republican Party by far does not represent the state's black voters. And, furthermore, any disappointment with Mary Landrieu felt by the black population is because Mary's positions have been seen as MORE aligned with traditional conservative (i.e. Republican) policies that do not attend to the needs of the black community. The state Republican Party's pretending to reflect the complaints of Cleo Fields and other black critics of Landrieu is bad enough, but its purpose of "using" black discontent for its own selfish ends of getting Terrell elected, and not truly in advocacy of the legitimacy of the complaints of Landrieu's black critics, is downright morally wrong.

Even worse, though, is that the hope of the slogan was to boost Terrell's chances by discouraging black people to vote at all. How else can one interpret the "don't expect us" part of this slogan? In my mind, the signs were a deliberate attempt to disenfranchise black voters by encouraging them to stay home instead of casting a vote for a "disrespectful" Democratic candidate.

The Democratic Party is often accused by Republicans of using the "race card" in unseemly ways. This sleazeball and race-baiting slogan, placed where and when it was, makes the Louisiana State Republican Party no different. In fact, it almost seems worse because the state Republican Party has absolutely no interest in the policy directions and political attentions that would "respect" the black community in the ways that Cleo Fields and Landrieu's other black critics would "expect."

[UPDATE 12/8/2002 12:42AM CST: I just read the New York Times story on this election. The article comments on this tactic of discouraging black voter turnout. I just can't believe anyone would want to discourage citizens from participating in the electoral process. Energizing and turning out your own base is one thing, telling people likely not to vote for you to stay home is another. What the article points out that I didn't realize until now is that the Louisiana Republican Party also paid black people $75 a pop to stand on corners and hold up these despicable signs. Disgusting.]

Saturday, December 07, 2002

Kingfishery & Kingcakery - Well, well, well. Not only has incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu decisively defeated Republican candidate Suzanne Haik Terrell in the last remaining US Senate race, but Democrat Rodney Alexander has defeated his opponent (Fletcher) in the only other contested Congressional race for a seat in the House of Representatives. What does this mean? A couple of things from where I sit. First, it means that the Democratic Party nationally is far from defunct. Today marks the great U-Turn in the fortunes of the Democratic Party. When you couple this stunning victory with the sacking of Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Economic Advisor Larry Lindsey, and the fact that the entire national Republican party - all the way up to President Bush - placed their influence and reputations on the line in this election, the future appears ominous for Republicans and for GW's reelection. So, the first meaning is the rejuvenation of the Democratic Party and a glimpse of hope to national democrats that may spark some energy in the national party. Louisiana democrats beat the national Republican party machine. Second, negative campaigning can go too far. Terrell's deplorable attack ads and the nastiness of her campaign turned people off and may have even converted some moderate voters who have tended Republican in past elections to cast votes for Landrieu. I think Landrieu's negative campaign was just as deplorable, but I think voters probably felt she was driven to this in order to defend her personal and professional reputation. Landrieu's campaign was, in effect, a defensive reaction to Terrell's primary campaign. So, the second meaning is the failure of Republican campaign strategies to go to the extremes in negative campaigning. Personally, I'm pleased with the outcome of the election, especially since I'm a liberal from Louisiana. And I'm pleased to see the national Republican Party humiliated in this way. People tend to remember the last moments of any process, and the last moments of the 2002 US Congressional Elections went to the Democrats. Democrats should take heart from this and Republicans should worry.

Friday, December 06, 2002

Liberal Lighthouse - E.J. Dionne, Jr. is quickly becoming one of my favorite columnists. His latest piece in the Washington Post discusses something that I have noticed and felt for some time now: the myth of a liberal media. Dionne makes a good point that mainstream media is likely to represent the privileged professional and intellectual classes, which tend to tilt leftward on social issues, but moderate/conservative on business/economic issues. Furthermore, "mainstream" news media is no longer what it was 20 years ago. In fact, it strikes me for the first time that most people's news comes not from the National Print Media (i.e. The New York Times or the Washington Post), nor increasingly from network news channels, but rather from local newspapers, radio, cable television networks, and the internet - all of which tend to be dominated by conservative voices. In fact, the impact and presence of the shrill conservative tirades against the "liberal" media would seem to indicate that conservative voices are getting more "press" than they would lead you to believe - if not in the few, big, liberal-leading media outlets, at least in the majority of other media outlets that the average person sees much more regularly. I can tell you that down in the Big Easy, hardly anyone cares about or reads The New York Times, but significant numbers listen to Rush Limbaugh on the Crescent City's most important Talk Radio Station. Just an observation linked to Dionne's thoughtful essay; and I'm finally glad that someone in the "liberal" media is finally taking this myth of "liberal" media bias head on.

The Weak in (National) Review - Let me refer you to David Frum's Diarrhea for December 6, 2002, (Maybe I shouldn't poke fun at a person's diary in such a mean way in the Rush Limbaugh manner; but, oh well ... it is public ... and I am in a mischevious mood ... and it is published in National Review - but, really, this is all in fun and I bear no ill-will or malice towards Frum.) In this online weblog, Frum compares Bush's speech on the occasion of the lighting of the national tree with that of Clinton. He glories in the fact that Bush clearly professes his faith, and implies that Clinton's more "tolerant" (Frum's own characterization) speech is somehow atheistic ("rests on a belief in nothing at all"). While I am all for the need to recapture meaning in ritual religious festivities - as opposed to the meaningless term "holiday" (i.e. a day off from work) - where appropriate, I think Frum is way out of bounds to claim that just because Clinton speeches tended to be inclusive, Clinton (and those who think Clinton's approach is appropriate) are somehow ashamed of who they are and what they believe - unlike Bush. First of all, this is very presumptuous. I don't see how Clinton's personal faith has anything to do with a national public speech. Couldn't Frum admit that Clinton, or anyone for that matter, could be firm in his/her faith without always broadcasting it whenever a religious "holiday" comes around? Secondly, how does Frum explain the clear reference to Christianity in Clinton's speech: "the land where a homeless child grew up to be the Prince of Peace." Clinton's speech does not "rest on a belief in nothing at all" - but rests on the recognition that many Americans have many faiths - which, in my mind, is the more appropriate symbolism to be projected in a public speech by a President elected by Jews, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, etc. Frum is proud that Bush is not "ashamed of who he is and what he believes." Why, then, does Frum feel the need to explain that Bush is "a man of religious tolerance"? If there is no shame in professing one's religious identity publicly and exclusively, why the need to also demonstrate "tolerance." Perhaps Frum is recognizing implicity that a public speech made by a President at a "national" event should be for all American Citizens of All Faiths, and that it is not a personal reflection for Bush's personal faith.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

Liberal Lighthouse - For a full run of "Bushisms" - and some great laughs - check out this compilation by Jacob Weisberg. Some of my favorites, just to get you warmed up:

"'I was proud the other day when both Republicans and Democrats stood with me in the Rose Garden to announce their support for a clear statement of purpose: you disarm, or we will.'—Speaking about Saddam Hussein, Manchester, N.H., Oct. 5, 2002 (Thanks to George Dupper.)"

"'There's no bigger task than protecting the homeland of our country.'"

"'The trial lawyers are very politically powerful. … But here in Texas we took them on and got some good medical—medical malpractice.'"

May you have fun with the rest of the list!!!

Lagniappe - On the latest in Iraq, I just don't understand the Bush Administration's secretiveness and its obfuscation. For one story on the recent events, see this New York Times story. For those who don't trust the "ultra-liberal" New York Times, a more conservative take on the same story can be read at The Washington Times. If the Administration has clear and damning evidence against Saddam, why won't it come clean with the American public? The Washington Times says that the Bush Administration doesn't want to "tip its hand." But what would it be tipping its hand towards? The weapons inspectors are in Iraq. Surely the Inspectors and the Bush Administration can time such a release of information so that the inspectors can hit these sites as soon as the information is made public. Iraq would have no time to hide anything, and any refusal to permit inspections or to delay access would be a clear violation of the UN resolution and a sign of Iraqi prevarication - which the Bush Administration claims Iraq has been doing all along. Furthermore, now that it looks as if the Bush Administration will probably act unilaterally anyway, and that war is a foregone conclusion, why is not tipping the hand so important? I just simply don't understand it. It makes no rational sense. The only thing the US public is left with is (1) either blind trust of our own government, which seems willing to share information with a UN in which it has no faith and whose cautious stance it can't tolerate, but not with the American public against which the Iraqi threat is very real and which seems to be itching for some face time with Saddam, or (2) that it simply doesn't possess hard evidence of Iraqi lies about weapons of mass destruction, but just anecdotal evidence. Come on, Bush, don't pull a Saddam and hide things even from your own people under the guise of "national security" concerns. Come clean.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Blog Banter - Andrew Sullivan has posted a critical commentary in his "Daily Dish" for Tuesday, December 3, 2002, on the Krugman column that I addressed in my previous post. Thanks to Andrew for pointing me to the original WSJ article that Krugman is responding to, as well as to the E.J. Dionne Jr. article in the Tuesday, Nov. 26, Washington Post that Sullivan claims Krugman ripped off. After reading all the relevant articles, I must agree to some extent with Sullivan that Krugman's column isn't really an original and really does borrow from Dionne's piece, which is clearly the more superior critical economic analysis. However, I see nothing wrong with rehashing the same line; and I find it perfectly believable that Krugman and Dionne can get incensed by the same parts of the article without having read each other's pieces. Pundits repeat outrages all the time. Perhaps Andrew takes offense that Krugman didn't give Dionne his due; but I would say that, though the basis of each of the two columns is the same, the points that each is trying to make are quite different. Krugman is playing up the notion of taxing the poor even more so that they can come to "despise" an intrusive and abusive government, but Dionne focuses more on the economic fallacies of the argument. In any case, I still think Krugman's overall argument is valid, and while Krugman may have exaggerated that the WSJ editorial calls for tax increases on the poor, it is certainly implied. And this is where Andrew Sullivan is a bit disingenous. He claims the article is actually arguing that "any further reductions in net taxes should be avoided." But that is simply not true. The picture that the article paints is one of the "context" in which a Republican Congress and Presidency consider further tax relief. Much like the article never explicitly says that taxes on the poor need to be raised, the article never says that taxes on the wealthiest income earners should not be reduced further. The difference is that the former is certainly implied, while the latter is not implied at all. And here Krugman is more honest than Sullivan. The WSJ article calls for a reconsideration of the "two-tiered" tax system, preferably - if the tax burden disparities based on income level pointed out in the article mean anything - in a way that "corrects" the imbalance in who bears the tax load burden. In other words, the reconsideration of this "two-tiered" tax system should more fairly and properly equalize the tax burden born by the different income groups, and this effectively means reducing the share of the tax bill borne by the top income earners and increasing the share borne by the bottom income earners. It is my reading of the article that, by painting a picture of an apparent growing disparity between who pays more of the share of the national tax bill and who pays less, in order for those wealthy who are footing an ever greater percentage of the tax bill to get some tax relief, the issue of those who have a disincentive to care about further tax cuts because they don't pay income taxes, needs to be resolved. And that resolution is a zero-sum game in which tax cuts for the "overtaxed" need to be balanced by a growing income tax stream from those "undertaxed." This is the real gist of the article, and Andrew Sullivan refuses to recognize it. For him to say that the WSJ is arguing against more and deeper tax cuts for the top income earners is simply absurd - especially since the purpose of the article is to address a tax system that "undermines the political consensus for cutting taxes at all." The goal is not to prevent further tax cuts, but just the opposite - to create an environment more supportive of further tax cuts, which will only happen if those who currently don't pay income taxes have a future tax bill to complain about, too.

Liberal Lighthouse - As much as conservatives despise him, Paul Krugman has a scathing column that exposes the true colors of the "tax cut" conservative crowd in a Wall Street Journal editorial. I haven't read this WSJ editorial because I don't subscribe to the newspaper and, as the WSJ commodifies everything, the average Joe unwilling or unable to pay for a subscription doesn't have the privilege of being enlightened by this newspaper's opinion. In any case, I don't think Krugman would make up a story as damning as this one without some concrete proof to back it up. The gist is that wealthy conservative "tax cutters," sick and tired of having to shoulder a tax burden that is seen as excessive, and under the delusion that people who live on below-poverty-line incomes do not cough up a significant portion of their meager incomes in taxes (whether income, payroll, or sales taxes), want to punish these poor folk by eliminating the tax breaks that they get just for being poor. Krugman's point seems solid to me. Regardless of how you feel about who gets more or less screwed by the tax code, it just doesn't make sense that tax cutters would argue that an effective increase in taxes on the poor somehow fits the logic of a "tax cutting" philosophy - unless, as Krugman claims, the reality for such people is a "tax cut" for the wealthy only. You'd think that fiscal conservatives would applaud the fact that some portion of the population doesn't pay income tax, as it keeps more disposable income in the market. Anyway, Krugman's biting sarcasm is appropriate, and the hypocrisy of conservatives as being pro-growth, anti-tax, and the "real" growth option for the poor is clearly exposed.