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Between the Lines

November 05, 2004

Siesta time

Today's posts will be the last for a while. I've been blogging away since before the war began and need a break. When I do come back in January, I expect to be writing once a week. Until then, thanks to those of you who have written, whether in support or opposition. I've learned something from all. Meanwhile, check out today's talkers below.

Posted by tbrown at 12:40 PM


Things to watch

There's a lot going on just below the headlines.

Fallujah: Can you say 'Tet?'

The number of dead and wounded from the expected battle to retake insurgent-controlled Fallujah probably will reach levels not seen since Vietnam, a senior surgeon at the Marine camp outside Fallujah said yesterday.

**

Navy Cmdr. Lach Noyes, a surgeon, said the hospital here is preparing to handle 25 severely injured soldiers a day, not counting walking wounded and the dead.

The worst month for the U.S. in Iraq, so far, was April, when 126 troops died—largely at Fullujah and Ramadi. The worst month in Vietnam was April 1969, when 543 Americans died.

Now President Bush appears intent on routing the perhaps 5,000 insurgents and jihadis in Fallujah as a necessary prelude to the promised Iraqi elections in January. It's easy to understand why he left this assault until after the election:

The new approach is fraught with risks, and it could take Bush a large part of his second term, billions more taxpayers’ dollars and more American lives to put Iraq on a path toward peace and begin a U.S. troop withdrawal.

“This is only the first stage of a very long process that will likely take years,” said Michael Eisenstadt, an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “We should lower our expectations for any rapid successes.”

Years. Is it OK now to compare this "catastrophic success" to Vietnam? Oh, I forgot. The worse things get, the better we're doing.

Electronic voting magic in Ohio

Here's the engaging story of how one Ohio precinct with 638 registered voters managed to cast 4,258 ballots for George Bush.

County officials did not return calls seeking details.

No doubt.

A software glitch? A plot? Stay tuned.

Moral values

Blogger Jeff Jarvis has some pertinent thoughts on the meaning of the "moral values" issues that supposedly decided the election:

We all have moral values. They're just different. That's the issue. That's why we fight over these things. It's not as if one side has moral values and the other side doesn't and that's why we fight. We fight because we all have conviction about what is morally right and different definitions of what that means.

**

Our government is not meant to be a church. That is the real intent of separating church and state. It's not just about keeping state away from interfering with church. It's about state not becoming church.

The Constitution is about not letting the state interfere unduly and uninvited in our lives -- in our bedrooms, our speech, our thoughts, our families, our beliefs.
That is a matter of both principle and also common sense. Even back then, the founding fathers certainly knew that power corrupts and that politicians should not be the people we turn to for moral guidance! They're politicians. They are on the front line of human corruption -- the wrong side of the line.

Gumming the dollar

George Bush's ambitious—and, it must be said, absurdly wrongheaded—fiscal plans are reminiscent of the Titanic. There's a real big iceberg out there and we're bearing down on it at flank speed.

After recovering briefly over the last few months, the U.S. dollar is slumping fast in world currency markets. It hit an all time low against the upstart Euro in today's trading. This may seem like an arcane concern, but only because we haven't had a true currency crisis in this country in living memory. But just because we haven't doesn't mean we can't. And they aren't pretty. Ask Argentina.

The backdrop, from today's Washington Post (free site registration may be required):

The dollar continued its decline in global currency markets yesterday, intensifying worries among some economists that mounting U.S. budget and trade deficits could send the U.S. currency into a tailspin.

**

It was the second straight day that the dollar has fallen despite a surge in the stock market, continuing a trend that began in early October when it started slipping against the currencies of major U.S. trading partners. The decline rekindled the fears of some analysts that the dollar could be headed for a severe sell-off unless the White House and Congress make a major effort to shrink the budget gap.

Currency traders, who employ complex trading strategies to make—or lose—dump-trucks full of money on modest changes in values of currencies, are a very hard-nosed bunch. They have taken a look at the Bush tax cuts, which have slashed government revenues, and his concurrent enormous increases in government spending. Combined, these resulted in a 30 percent increase in the national debt during his first term. The traders know that the fate of the dollar increasingly depends on the good will of the central banks of Japan and, especially, China. And those traders are now busily trashing the dollar. It's a fact that when you act like a banana republic your currency is treated appropriately.

Here's the administration reaction:

But John B. Taylor, the Treasury undersecretary for international affairs, defended the Bush administration view that the deficits pose no danger of a dollar collapse. He issued a detailed rebuttal of what he called "scare stories."

**

The large influx of foreign money shows that "sound, growth enhancing economic policies are continuing to make the U.S. an attractive place to invest," he said.

Taylor said administration policies already in place will help shrink the trade deficit. One is President Bush's pledge to cut the budget deficit in half, as a percentage of the U.S. gross domestic product, by 2009. That would decrease the trade deficit because lower government spending or higher taxes would reduce the amount of money consumers spend on imported goods.

Taylor pointed out that the Treasury is also prodding foreign governments to achieve faster economic growth, which should increase demand for U.S. exports, and it is trying to persuade China to change its fixed-exchange rate policy by allowing its currency, the yuan, to rise. A higher yuan would be likely to slow the flood of Chinese goods into the U.S. market because those products would become more expensive for U.S. consumers.

"Even if those policies take some time" to reduce the trade deficit, Taylor said, "there is no reason to think there will be problems in the meantime" in continuing to obtain enough money to cover the gap.

You can't even call this hodge-podge jawboning. It's too lame. Let's see: Spending ourselves into bankruptcy--or borrowing our way out of debt--makes us an attractive place to invest. A Bush "pledge" is not exactly a negotiable instrument. And what's that nonsense about "higher taxes." Bush has explicitly rejected those. You get the picture.

What's really happening is that our policies are giving China, the one country that actually is likely to become a rival superpower one day (unless Malthusian or environmental pressures intervene), increasing leverage over our financial well-being. This is a poor idea. Our relationship with China is on a decent footing right now, but that is always subject to change. China remains a political police state and it is determined, one way or another, to attempt to force a reunion with a now democratic and reluctant Taiwan. This could be a flash point for sour relations. If it happened, China might well exercise its fiscal leverage by slashing its purchase of U.S. treasury bonds, the main remaining prop under the tattered dollar. That would hurt China as well as us, because we'd no longer be buying every widget they make. But the Chinese leadership doesn't focus on next week's polls or next quarter's business results. Rather, its view is on the much longer run, and if it senses a permanent advantage to be gained at the expense of temporary pain it might well seek it.

Whatever happens, it most likely will take some time to play itself out. So it's not like we don't have radar. But instead of rearranging the deck chairs, will someone go wake up the skipper? Please?

Posted by tbrown at 12:38 PM


A rude awakening?

British PM Tony Blair when to bed thinking John Kerry would win the election. Then he woke up.

Posted by tbrown at 12:25 PM


November 04, 2004

Aside from four more years ...

… just what does George Bush's win mean? Well, let's start here:

Let me put it to you this way: I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style. That's what happened in the -- after the 2000 election, I earned some capital. I've earned capital in this election -- and I'm going to spend it for what I told the people I'd spend it on …
-- President Bush, today at a press conference

We'll have plenty of opportunity to deal with terrorism and our wars, so let's set them aside for now and look at the domestic concerns Bush mentioned today:

-- Reform of Social Security begins now, he said. By "reform," of course, he means privatization.

-- Tax "simplification." This means a so-called flat tax, which could be either the reduction of the income tax to one bracket or a switch to a "consumption" tax, another name for a national sales tax.

-- Legislation to limit damages in civil suits.

-- Regulatory "reform."

In addition, of course, there is a certainty that Bush will be appointing new justices to the U.S. Supreme Court and hundreds of judges to lower levels of the federal judiciary. And he will, no doubt, be replacing several members of his cabinet.

His domestic agenda certainly is ambitious, but really is just a consolidation of ideas he has been pursuing since he took office. The difference is that he now may have the strength to push through large chunks of it.

Which brings us to the "mandate" question. Did he get one or not? Well, 51 percent of the vote is hardly the sweeping victory that some Bush partisans would have you believe.

Here's one picture of what it looks like.

One percentage point over 50 is not the landslide victory scored by some presidents in the past (Reagan in 1984, Johnson in 1964 and FDR in 1932, for example). And it's hardly a ringing endorsement of a president who had huge support until his invasion of Iraq turned outto be a more difficult mission to accomplish than the president guessed. This is a purple nation, and Bush would be well advised to remember that.

On the other hand, Bush's opponents would be foolish to minimize the importance of his victory. The election was a referendum on the job Bush has done—and he won. He's the first president to be elected with a majority of the popular vote since his father in 1988. And while the accompanying Republican gains in Congress are not sweeping, they are significant. As Kevin Drum notes,

If the results had gone the other way, we'd be talking about them as a clear repudiation of Bush and everything he stood for.

Going forward, the big question will be how skillfully Bush employs the strengths voters gave him on Tuesday.

Posted by tbrown at 01:01 PM


And if you don't like the Bush agenda?

Well, here's one pretty funny proposal.

Posted by tbrown at 12:59 PM


November 03, 2004

Summing up Bush

His strategy was simple but effective, says William Saletan at Slate.

And that'll be it for tonight. We'll have plenty of time to rake over the coals later.

Posted by tbrown at 12:34 AM


November 02, 2004

Kerry won't concede until all Ohio ballots are counted

And that won't happen for nearly two weeks.

TV networks projected Bush as the Ohio winner—and their math looks pretty persuasive to me; I spent some time going over the county-by-county tables—but the Kerry camp believes that tens of thousands of provisional ballots, cast by voters whose eligibility was challenged, could swing the state to the senator.

From MSNBC:

Provisional ballots were issued to voters whose voting eligibility was challenged at the polls, a procedure the Republicans leveraged heavily. In an eleventh-hour blow to Democrats, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens declined Tuesday to overturn an appeals court order clearing the way for vote challengers to be present at polling places in Ohio, where Democrats claimed that Republicans were seeking to discourage minority voters.

Those ballots, if decisive, could hold up the election well into next week.
“None of the provisional ballots are counted, and they won’t be counted until the 11th day after the election,” Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell said in an interview Wednesday morning on CNN. “We can’t predict what the results are going to be."

So it looks like it may be a while yet before we know for certain who won. Still looks like Bush to me, though.

Posted by tbrown at 11:26 PM


Four more years

It looks like Bush has won.

Things have been moving very quickly in the last few mintues.

I'd figured Bush would take Florida, and the networks are now giving it to him. I was less certain about Ohio, but it now looks like that key state also is going to swing into the Bush column.

We may not know the outcome definitely for a day or two, because there apparently are about a million absentees in Florida and at least 150,000 "provisional" ballots have been cast in Ohio. Also, Ohio is awash in law suits by both sides.

But it looks to me like the president has done it. And this time he'll win the popular vote by a couple of percentage points as well.

In the state, too, Republicans are threatening to break the lock the Democrats have had on high office for the last two decades. Democrat Christine Gregoire has a very thin lead over Dino Rossi the the governor's race, and Republican Rob McKenna looks like probable new attorney general.

Could be a big night for the R's.

Posted by tbrown at 10:25 PM


Gubernatorial tossup

At just before 10 p.m., Democrat Christine Gregoire has 49.8 percent of the vote and Republican Dino Rossi 49.2. This was Gregoire's race to lose—and she's working real hard at it.

For the other big statewide office, Republican King County Council member Rob McKenna appears likely to best Deborah Senn.

It will be a black day for the state D's if the Republicans cop the top two statewide offices on the same day that Kerry beats Bush in the state and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray sends U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt into retirement.

In other races:

Lt. Governor: Brad Owen (D) will be back for a reprise.

Secretary of state: Sam Reed (R), a proponent of the "cajun primary," looks like he'll probably get four more years, though Democrat Laura Ruderman is giving him a pretty good run. Jacqueline Passey, who by the way is a fellow blogger as well as a Libertarian, is getting a little under 3 percent of the vote

Auditor: Brian Sontag (D), is winning big.

Commissioner of public lands: Republican incumbent Doug Southerland is narrowly leading Democrat Mike Cooper.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Terry Bergeson has what looks like an unbeatable lead over Judith Billings.

Insurance commissioner: Put a check by incumbent Democrat Mike Kreidler's name.

Posted by tbrown at 10:05 PM


DailyKos computes a tie

This Democratic site does the math on a possible electoral-vote tie (which would ensure Bush's re-election by the House of Representatives).

Posted by tbrown at 09:30 PM


Washington ballot measures

I-872, to adopt the so-called "cajun primary" in which the top two vote-getters would appear on the general-election ballot regardless of party, looks like a go, 61-39. One of the dumbest ideas in recent political history, IMHO, but the people are speaking.

I-297, which is supposed to facilitate the cleanup of radioactive waste at Hanford, is passing 67-33.

All others are taking bigtime:

I-884, which would have tacked one more penny onto the state sales tax to pay for education, is going down 65-35.

Referendum 55, charter schools, is losing 60-40.

And I-892, which would have allowed any bar or card room that now has scratch tickets, to install electronic slots, is going down 59-41.

Posted by tbrown at 09:15 PM


It may all come down to Ohio

So far, Bush and Kerry seem to be splitting the three biggest swing states. Kerry takes Pennsylvania. It looks to me like Bush has Florida, though none of the networks have called it for him yet.

That leaves Ohio. If Bush takes it, he almost certainly wins. If Kerry takes it, he probably wins.

So what's going on there?

With 68 percent of precincts reporting, Bush has a 52-48 lead.

However, in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), which is going to Kerry nearly 2-1, only 52 percent of the vote is in. In populous Franklin County, Kerry is taking 53 percent of the vote – but 92 percent of the precincts there have reported.

You can see Ohio county breakdowns here.

Posted by tbrown at 08:57 PM


It looks like it could be Bush in Florida

No one's calling it yet, but with 94 percent of precincts reporting Bush is up 52% to 47%. Seems like that should be enough.

Bush is also ahead 52-48 in Ohio, but only about half the vote is in there.

Posted by tbrown at 08:25 PM


California and Washington go for Kerry

It's now:

Bush 207
Kerry 199

Posted by tbrown at 08:06 PM


The 8 p.m. count …

Electoral votes:

Bush 203
Kerry 133

Much of Bush's lead comes from "red" states where few returns are needed to project a winner.

Kerry has won Pennsylvania convincingly. Ohio and Florida remain too close to call. So do the upper Midwest states, where Kerry needs to do well: Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.

Soon we'll also have some Washington state results to discuss. The presidential vote will go to Kerry, but we also have the governorship, a U.S. senator and nine congressmen to elect, plus a state legislature and, as usual, a bunch of ballot measures. All to come.

Posted by tbrown at 08:02 PM


The war and terrorism

Exit polls indicate that voters are drawing a distinction between the war in Iraq and the threat of terrorism.

In New Jersey, for instance, an AP exit poll found that about half the voters opposed the war or believed the war was going badly. Kerry got between 80 and 90 percent of the vote from those two groups.

On the other hand, about 700 New Jersey residents died in the 9/11 attacks, and terrorism was the top concern listed by about 25 percent of voters. In that group, Bush got 80 percent of the vote.

Kerry carried New Jersey.

Posted by tbrown at 07:40 PM


The Channel Surfer

This Washington Post page (free site registration may be required) is monitoring and listing all the cable and network projections.

Handy way of keeping track.

Posted by tbrown at 07:28 PM


Live blogging tonight …

I'll be pecking away for as long as there seems to be something to say about the results.

A few quick thoughts:

As I write (at about 6:50 Pacific time), everything seems to be going about as expected: Bush is winning Bush 2000 states; Kerry is winning Gore 2000 states.

As predicted, the election still seems likely to hinge on some key swing states: Pennyslvania, Ohio and Florida, though not enough votes have been counted in any of them to project a winner yet.

Kerry is leading in Pennsylvania.

Bush is leading in votes counted in Ohio, though exit polls there favored Kerry.

Bush is leading in Florida.

Turnout has been huge and may set a record. In some states, including Ohio and Pennsylvania, some polling places stayed open after their scheduled closing times to allow those already in line to vote.

A big turnout, conventional wisdom says, favors Kerry. But remember, no matter what you hear or read here or elsewhere, it's going to take a while to sort out.

Posted by tbrown at 07:01 PM


November 01, 2004

Still undecided?

Read this – the first presidential endorsement by The New Yorker magazine in its 80-year history. It's long – but so is the list of reasons why we need a new president.

Posted by tbrown at 12:07 PM


Ignore the polls

They're no more relevant to what will happen tomorrow than the latest Bin Laden tape. None of the polls can tell you with certainty what's going to happen. Either it'll be close, as they're predicting, or it won't because of the unmeasurable influence of new voters, who don't fit into polling models. Instead of worrying about this, think about who's right for the job and why. Then vote.

It's up to you now, in the only poll that counts.

Update: Here's an election indicator that's at least as accurate as those polls -- and it indicates a Kerry win.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 10,054.39 today, a loss of about 2.4 percent for the two months preceeding election day. As I noted here, stock-market historian James Stack says that the action of the Dow in the two months before an election has been an uncanny forecaster of the winner. In nine of the 10 cases since 1900 in which the Dow declined, the incumbent party lost.

Make of it what you will.

Posted by tbrown at 12:06 PM


Meanwhile, in Iraq: Beyond merely FUBAR

While we await word on who the next president will be, our prospects in Iraq continue to swirl down the drain. This piece from Newsweek paints a bleak picture. Whoever wins the presidency will face the thankless task of extricating us from this mess. And it won't be easy.

U.S. Marines are preparing for a block-by-block battle with insurgents and terrorists in Fallujah. The fighting is expected to last into December. If it does, you can expect scores more U.S. casualties to add to the 1,120 Americans who have died and the more than 9,000 wounded so far.

Newsweek:

For months the American people have heard, from one side, promises to "stay the course" in Iraq (George W. Bush); and from the other side, equally vague plans for gradual withdrawal (John Kerry). Both plans depend heavily on building significant Iraqi forces to take over security. But the truth is, neither party is fully reckoning with the reality of Iraq—which is that the insurgents, by most accounts, are winning. Even Secretary of State Colin Powell, a former general who stays in touch with the Joint Chiefs, has acknowledged this privately to friends in recent weeks, NEWSWEEK has learned. The insurgents have effectively created a reign of terror throughout the country, killing thousands, driving Iraqi elites and technocrats into exile and scaring foreigners out. "Things are getting really bad," a senior Iraqi official in interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's government told NEWSWEEK last week. "The initiative is in [the insurgents'] hands right now. This approach of being lenient and accommodating has really backfired. They see this as weakness."

A year ago the insurgents were relegated to sabotaging power and gas lines hundreds of miles outside Baghdad. Today they are moving into once safe neighborhoods in the heart of the capital, choking off what remains of "normal" Iraqi society like a creeping jungle. And they are increasingly brazen. At one point in Ramadi last week, while U.S. soldiers were negotiating with the mayor (who declared himself governor after the appointed governor fled), two insurgents rode by shooting AK-47s—from bicycles. Now even Baghdad's Green Zone, the four-square-mile U.S. compound cordoned off by blast walls and barbed wire, is under nearly daily assault by gunmen, mortars and even suicide bombers.

And the assassinations and abductions continue.

Posted by tbrown at 12:05 PM




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 RECENT ENTRIES
Siesta time
Things to watch
A rude awakening?
Aside from four more years ...
And if you don't like the Bush agenda?
Summing up Bush
Kerry won't concede until all Ohio ballots are counted
Four more years
Gubernatorial tossup
DailyKos computes a tie

 LINKS

Blogs to watch

Abu Ardvark
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Drudge Report
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