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Our friend Noah Shachtman

Our friend Noah Shachtman has a bizarre and unsettling story up on his DefenseTech blog about a Los Alamos whistleblower who was beaten senseless over the weekend by a group of thugs who apparently told him he'd better keep his mouth shut as they were knocking him around. I'm not quite sure what to make of this and I don't know much of the backstory. But I do know Noah. He follows this stuff pretty closely and he knows his stuff. So I pass it on on that basis.

Contrary to almost everyone

Contrary to almost everyone else who's ever reported on the matter, Rep. Tom DeLay claimed that he saw no evidence of sweatshops, forced labor or forced abortions when he went on a junket to Saipan in the mid '90s. Now a filipino woman who worked there at the time has come forward to say that she can attest to it all first-hand and that DeLay must not have been looking very hard.

Just to provide a little backstory on this, back in the day (that is, the day(s) when DeLay was there) garment factories could import cloth and workers to Saipan to work in the island's garment factories free of US labor laws, minimum wage laws and tariffs. Then they could ship the stuff off with "Made in the USA" labels.

DeLay was there courtesy of Jack Abramoff to fight the good fight against efforts to make the garment industry on the island come into line with US labor laws.

Steve Clemons has some

Steve Clemons has some new details about what was contained in one of those John Bolton NSA intercepts. Apparently the intercept was of Asst. Secretary of State William Burns and turned on US dealing with Libya -- after Bolton himself had been dropped from the team dealing with the matter.

This looks interesting.

So following up on

So following up on the post below, is it really true, as Thomas Beaumont of the Des Moines Register says, that public support for private accounts has been gradually increasing?

The short answer is, no. Not even close. But there's a bit more to the story.

PollingReport.com has most of the relevant data available here. And as you can see pretty clearly, across the board support for private accounts is lower now than it was when President Bush got started on this last December. In fact, in most cases, back then private accounts had at least plurality support when the question was asked, just private accounts, yes or no, without noting the loss of guaranteed benefits that inevitably go with them.

A couple of the polls, however, do show either a very small or even statistically insignificant bounce back for private accounts in the late spring.

For instance, here are the numbers over the last six months for the CBS poll's generic, private accounts question.

May For 47 Against 47 N/O 6 April For 45 Against 49 N/O 6 February For 43 Against 51 N/O 6 January For 45 Against 50 N/O 5 November For 49 Against 45 N/O 6

That is the most pronounced example <$Ad$> of this pattern, while most of the others show continued deterioration. A few show entirely different patterns.

The ABC/WaPo poll, for instance, started 53% for and 44% against in December. It actually showed them even more popular (56% to 41%) in March. In late April, however, support was at 45% and opposition had bumped up to 51%.

It's also worth pointing out that these numbers are always much lower when pollsters add any information about the benefit cuts that go along with private accounts or the debt necessary to incurr to finance them. And general questions about "the Bush plan" continue to poll worse and worse.

My own hunch is that the decreased prominence of the debate may have buoyed the numbers for private accounts because a quick look at all the numbers seems to show that the numbers were the worst when the topic was garnering the most attention.

But even this slight uptick showing up in some polls bears watching.

Saturdays Des Moines Register

Saturday's Des Moines Register ran a piece on Sen. Grassley's first comments suggesting that he may not be able to get any Social Security phase-out bill through his committee this year.

What jumped out at me, though, was this passage ...

Bush says allowing workers younger than 55 to invest a portion of their tax in private accounts would provide a better return and allow them to pass the account on to heirs.

And while public opinion polls have shown that a minority of Americans support Bush's handling of the issue, support for the concept of personal accounts has gradually increased, although no polls have shown a majority in favor of the idea.

"We are pleased with the progress Senator Grassley is making on Social Security," White House spokesman Allen Abney said. "The president is fully committed to <$Ad$>personal accounts."


What polls is he looking at?

I haven't watched the numbers as closely recently as I was earlier this year. But it's hard for me to believe this can be true if for no other reason than that the first polls in December and January actually showed narrow majority support for private accounts. Since the author of the piece, Thomas Beaumont, seems to agree that they don't show majority support now, I don't see how that can be a gradual increase.

Can any poll-watchers provide some guidance on this one?

Martin Shram has an

Martin Shram has an Oped in Newsday today ("Nixon's Henchman Lecture Us on Ethics"), which pulls together in one nice bundle the festival of self-inflicted media bamboozlement that was last Tuesday, when the various Watergate crooks got together to give us all a lesson on ethics and tell us why Mark Felt was the lowest of the low.

Here's one delicious <$NoAd$> graf ...

"I was shocked because I worked with him closely," Colson said on MSNBC. "And you would think the deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, you could talk to with the same confidence you could talk to a priest." Then on CNN: "I was shocked, because ... I talked to him often and trusted him with very sensitive materials. So did the president. To think that he was out going around in back alleys at night looking for flowerpots, passing information to someone, it's . . . not the image of the professional FBI that you would expect."


This is a good one. Take a look.

Over at Early Returns

Over at Early Returns, Kenny Baer's blog at TPMCafe, Kenny notes a poll just put out by the new group Third Way, which claims to show that the Democrats have lost the support of the American middle class, notwithstanding the fact that the Dems claim to be the party of the middle class.

But this sounding strikes me as telling us much less than it claims to say.

For instance, given the expansive terms by which we in the US define "the middle class", any party that loses a national election pretty much by definition loses the middle class simply because it's close to impossible to win a national election if you don't win the middle class.

The study goes on to say that the Dems' weakness with the middle class is obscured by their disproportionate strength among African Americans. But, as I've said before, aren't blacks voters too? I've never quite understood this sort of formulation.

The simple fact is that Democrats haven't been able to win a majority in either house of Congress for more than a decade. So clearly they've got to wring more voters from somewhere in order to become the majority party again. But this way of slicing and dicing the numbers seems inherently misleading.

Do we have a

Do we have a challenger for the Count?

According to the South Bend Tribune, Joe Donnelly is pretty much certain to make another run to unseat Rep. Chris Chocola (R) of Indiana's second district.

Donnelly ran against Chocola last year. And the Count expanded his margin from 2002. But Donnelly still made a race of it. The final tally was Count 54% and Donnelly 45%.

As is usually the case with challengers, Donnelly was short of funds. And apparently the DCCC didn't give him much support either. So money-wise he was pretty much on his own.

It would certainly be a shame to see that happen again, given all the nonsense Chocola has pulled so far this year.

TPM Reader G flagged

TPM Reader G flagged my attention to an article in today's LA Times about whether or not President Bush is a lame duck.

The piece includes quotes you'd expect from folks on both sides.

But then there's this line from the author of the piece, Janet Hook: "Many of the assets Bush brings to his second term distinguish him from other two-term presidents. Unlike President Reagan's broad-brush "Morning in America" campaign for reelection in 1984, for example, Bush ran in 2004 on a specific agenda of new issues, notably overhauling Social Security and the tax code. Some Bush allies say his recent troubles in Congress are a measure of how ambitious his aims are, not how much <$Ad$>leverage he has lost."

The idea that President Bush ran on a specific agenda that included privatizing Social Security strikes me as little more than preposterous. And I am surprised to see Hook accept it so uncritically.

Yes, he did mention it during the campaign -- just enough to allow his supporters to say now that he didn't spring it on the public without ever having mentioned it before. But when he did mention it, it was almost always in speeches to loyalists and just as a few toss-off lines intended for said loyalists' eager consumption.

But he didn't bring it up in ads, in the debates, in any prominent setting. And for good reason. His entire campaign was framed around two planks: strength against terrorism and the flaws of John Kerry. The first time it got any sort of significant emphasis from the president was a couple days after the election.

Indeed, I think we could make the whole point more specific. Since his election President Bush has laid out a very aggressive legislative agenda, one based on reforms that would fundamentally change how the country looks -- privatization, tax reform, etc. These just weren't the things he ran on. It may not have been 'Morning in America', more like 'Midnight in America'. He ran on toughness against terror. Then once he'd bagged reelection he shifted gears entirely to focus on political economy.

If he really had run hard on privatization and won, even narrowly, he'd be in a vastly stronger position on the issue now than he is. What this last six months has shown is the poverty of the idea that winning an election gives you a 'mandate' if you try to use it to push policies you'd never told voters you were going to push.

Robert A. George who

Robert A. George, who perhaps in this context especially I should identify as being from the 'saving remnant' wing of the Republican party, has a post this morning in the Huffington Post about Mark Felt, Deep Throat and, of all people, Ken Duberstein. Take a look.

Among other things, he has a quote from Duberstein which puts the whole 'Felt should have told the president' nonsense in some proper context: "He couldn't go to the White House Chief of Staff (Haldeman or Ehrlichman); he couldn't go to the Justice Department (John Mitchell); he couldn't go to the White House Counsel (John Dean). He did something responsible. The congressional committees hadn't been formed yet. What do you do? Felt put America first."

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