Friday Reads: Walking Dead Edition

halloween with esther williams
Happy Friday! It’s still October!

I’m going to binge on all things Halloween for awhile because I refuse to acknowledge the onslaught of National Crass Consumerism Season which overtakes all Autumn Holidays. Tis the season for me refusing to buy anything but the basics because I don’t want to encourage the takeover of all things autumnal.

The campaign trail continues to heat up and there’s been a death watch put out for two republican candidates.  The first one is my disastrous Governor Bobby Jindal.  The second one is for the abysmally dull Jeb Bush. The Republican field is narrowing down to people that are really unfit to govern at all and all Republican establishment eyes appear to be turning to dim, inexperienced, and very flip floppy Marco Rubio.  But, let’s go wallow in the Bobby Jindal death knell awhile.

The Louisiana governor’s campaign reported having just $260,000 to spend at the end of September after raising a little over half a million dollars and spending significantly more than that in the third quarter. It’s a paltry sum compared to his rivals, and if Jindal can’t jumpstart his White House bid soon, he could be headed the way of Rick Perry and Scott Walker, who ended their campaigns when their coffers ran dry.

Jindal’s been such a disaster for Louisiana it appears that a few Democrats actually have a chance in statewide elections including the race against David Vitter for Governor.  Sean Illing refers to this as our “nasty Bobby Jindal hangover”.   Could this be the year that Blue Dog Democrats make a come back? sandra Dee Halloween

The GOP is in serious trouble as a national political party. Demographic shifts, a crisis-driven conservative media and an ungovernable congressional caucus have tarnished the Republican brand. Increasingly, the GOP’s base is confined to the south and to pockets of rural America. But even in a conservative state like Louisiana, Republicans are being challenged by Democratic candidates. While it’s unlikely that Louisiana becomes a blue state anytime soon, there are some compelling indicators that the political winds are shifting.

First, you have the emerging gubernatorial race, which is far more competitive than many thought possible. The Democratic candidate, John Bel Edwards, is now leadingthe former Republican frontrunner, David Vitter, by a substantial margin. “

It’s almost laboratory conditions in Louisiana for Democrats,” James Carville told Salon in an exclusive interview. “You have a horrifically unpopular incumbent governor [Bobby Jindal] and the likely Republican survivor [Vitter] is one of the most flawed candidates in American politics.”

Against the backdrop of Jindal’s tenure (which began with an $865 million surplus and ended with a $1.6 billion budget deficit) and the GOP’s broader image problem, things set up perfectly for Louisiana Democrats.

In addition to the gubernatorial race, there is also the campaign for Louisiana Secretary of State. The Democratic candidate is Chris Tyson, a young progressive who many, including Carville, believe has a bright future in national politics – although Tyson himself insists his “immediate concern is winning this election.” A Baton Rouge native, Tyson would be the first African-American elected statewide in Louisiana since Reconstruction. As yet there is very little polling data, but that which exists shows the race extremely tight.

That the race is close at all is remarkable. Tyson’s Republican opponent, incumbent Tom Schedler, was thought unbeatable by most observers of Louisiana’s politics, but that’s no longer the case.

Carville, who follows Louisiana politics as closely as anyone, expected a competitive race. The Republican Party is reeling nationally, he noted, and “Chris is a once in a generation candidate…He’s a progressive Democrat in Louisiana, but he’s also the son of a federal judge, a former small business owner, a law professor, a community activist and a graduate of Howard, Harvard and Georgetown University.” Tyson may not win this election, Carville added, but “it’ll be interesting to watch because it’s a good barometer of what’s possible in this political climate…The deck couldn’t be stacked more in the Democrats’ favor.”

I watched the debate between the four candidates running for govenor and basically wanted to sell the kathouse and head for the safety of a blue state.  However, none of them could ever be as worse for the state than Jindal. At least their open to addressing some of the problems we have in the state with something other than naked ambition in mind.  So, Jindal is building a huge house in Baton Rouge.  We won’t be completely rid of him but it seems he’s gone from public life shortly.

uploads-20131017T1612Z_d9c3d8a16e07853f46edd6951c40a14f-5x65Jeb Bush is tightening his campaign belt.  Yesterday, many in the media put him on the Death Watch list.

Jeb Bush’s campaign slashed hundreds of thousands of dollars in salaries over the last three months as the struggling candidate’s fundraising machine slowed to a more middling pace, new campaign-finance reports indicate.

No longer able to raise unlimited sums with his super PAC, Bush hauled in $13.4 million in the third quarter of the year for his campaign. That’s more than all of his GOP rivals except Ben Carson. But Bush also spent more than many of them, leaving him with about as much money in the bank as Marco Rubio. Ted Cruz has more.

Bush’s campaign once saw its size and staff as its strength. But the newly released campaign-finance reports indicate it could be a liability if fundraising slacks further.

More than 60 Bush staffers might have had their salaries cut or their positions changed to reduce their income, compared with the second quarter of the year when Bush announced his candidacy, the campaign-finance reports show. The campaign did not want to discuss the numbers. But the pay cuts, depending on whether the salaries are divided on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, could have saved the campaign anywhere from $450,000 to nearly $900,000 per quarter, according to a POLITICO analysis of the campaign’s payroll. The cuts have ranged from the small for some staffers ($12 a week) to large reductions for four of the top campaign chiefs who each took a $75,000 pay cut.

vintage-halloween-pinup-gloria-saundersYouGov describes Bush’s campaign as “faltering”. 

He was once the clear frontrunner for the GOP 2016 presidential nomination.  Then, while candidates like Donald Trump emerged, he was still seen by many Republicans as the likely nominee.  But now former Florida Governor Jeb Bush runs behind Trump, neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Florida Senator Marco Rubio.  Bush is just about tied with Texas Senator Ted Cruz and businesswomen Carly Fiorina in the latestEconomist/YouGov Poll.

Red State has officially put him on Death Watch.  (Not linking to it.  Won’t do it.  Wouldn’t be prudent at this juncture.)

There is also some talk about no one liking Chris Christie. This includes his home state. He should be on death watch too except no one cares about him any more.

Meanwhile, the Biden Will-he-or-Won’t-he? obsession of the national media continues.

Former Delaware Sen. Ted Kaufman, one of Biden’s closest political advisers, said Biden would soon make a decision about whether to enter the race. In an email obtained by The Associated Press, Kaufman asked former staffers to stay in close contact and said Biden would need their help immediately if he enters the race.

“If he runs, he will run because of his burning conviction that we need to fundamentally change the balance in our economy and the political structure to restore the ability of the middle class to get ahead,” Kaufman said.

Calls within the Democratic Party for Biden to run have been growing for months, fueled largely by concerns that front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign was faltering under the weight of an email scandal and declining popularity. But Clinton’s commanding performance Tuesday in the first Democratic debate, coupled with Biden’s seemingly endless delays in making a decision, have put a damper on the speculation in recent days, with top Democratic leaders questioning whether it’s too late for Biden.

Kaufman’s letter to former Biden aides marked an attempt by the vice president to signal he’s still very much considering running and shouldn’t be written off. It also served to reinforce the notion that Clinton isn’t the only Democrat who could run in part on a promise to lock in policies that Obama has advanced during his two terms.

“He believes we must win this election,” Kaufman said. “Everything he and the president have worked for — and care about — is at stake.”

Clinton and her top rival in the race, Sen. Bernie Sanders, have been campaigning for months and have raised tens of millions of dollars, giving them a huge head start that would make it tough for Biden to mount a viable challenge. The first filing deadlines in some states are just weeks away and Biden currently has no operation in key states. Alluding to those concerns, Kaufman said Biden was “aware of the practical demands of making a final decision soon.”

Has any one ever seen a whackier campaign season or is it just me?  So, establishment Republican donors appear to be stumped or Trumped, depending how you wanna look at it.  I’m thinking that SuperPacs mayfcc65b1919f1a271e4dbf7073a021211 actually have a huge effect in the race because the traditional campaigns don’t seem to be flush with cash right now.

“You could have this big super PAC, but if you have limited momentum and limited money to keep the campaign going, it’s like the guy at the top of Mount Everest with two broken legs and an extra oxygen tank,” said Republican strategist Matthew Dowd. “You’re living longer, but you’re not going anywhere.”

One of the challenges for Bush and other GOP hopefuls has been the dominance of real-estate impresario Donald Trump, who has siphoned off much of the enthusiasm in the base. The businessman raised $3.8 million, even though he has pledged to self-fund his campaign and is not soliciting contributions.

“Donald Trump has basically stultified the fundraising for these candidates,” said Anthony Scaramucci, who had been Walker’s national finance co-chair and is now backing Bush. “He’s the Trump speed bump. His ratcheting up in the polls has made it very difficult for more establishment Republicans to get traction with donors.”

In all, six Democratic candidates reported raising $123.2 million for their campaign committees so far this year, while 15 GOP candidates pulled in $143.5 million overall.

Clinton and Sanders together had $60.1 million on hand at the end of September. Meanwhile, the 15 Republicans combined reported having $61.2 million in the bank.

Meanwhile, the first primary happens in February.  Who knows what will come and go between then and now?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Another Piece of the Snowden-NSA Leaks Puzzle Falls into Place

64 Gigabyte thumb drive

64 Gigabyte thumb drive

Another piece of the puzzle fell into place this morning when Ken Dilanian of the LA Times broke the news that Edward Snowden somehow managed to save stolen data on a thumb drive and walk out of the NSA facility in Hawaii with it.

Former National Security Agency contract employee Edward Snowden used a computer thumb drive to smuggle highly classified documents out of an NSA facility in Hawaii, using a portable digital device supposedly barred inside the cyber spying agency, U.S. officials said.

Investigators “know how many documents he downloaded and what server he took them from,” said one official who would not be named while speaking about the ongoing investigation.

Snowden worked as a system administrator, a technical job that gave him wide access to NSA computer networks and presumably a keen understanding of how those networks are monitored for unauthorized downloads.

On Tuesday the Guardian reported that Snowden arrived at Hong Kong airport carrying four laptops. From the article:

As he pulled a small black suitcase and carried a selection of laptop bags over his shoulders, no one would have paid much attention to Ed Snowden as he arrived at Hong Kong International Airport. But Snowden was not your average tourist or businessman. In all, he was carrying four computers that enabled him to gain access to some of the US government’s most highly-classified secrets.

This led a number of security experts to wonder if Snowden had absconded with four NSA computers, which would have been an incredible security failure for the agency. It’s not clear why the Guardian focused on these computers as carrying the stolen classified secrets, but the Guardian’s reporting on this story has so far been flawed by misinformation–perhaps because of a lack of understanding of the relevant technology.

Back to the LA Times article:

Officials said they still don’t know how Snowden got access to an order marked “Top Secret” from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or a highly-classified directive from President Obama authorizing a military target list for cyber attacks. Neither document would be widely shared, or normally available to a low-level NSA employee.

A larger number of NSA employees and contractors might have access to a PowerPoint slide show on PRISM, which uses online data from nine U.S. Internet and technology companies. Snowden said he provided the slides to the Washington Post and The Guardian.

There is another disturbing aspect to Snowden’s actions that is still mysterious. When did he decide to steal the data and when did he begin copying the classified documents? We know that Snowden first contacted journalist and film-maker Laura Poitras in January 2013, and he contacted Glenn Greenwald in February.

But Snowden did not begin working for Booz Allen Hamilton as an NSA contractor until either late March; because when Booz Allen fired him on June 10, they stated that Snowden had worked for them for less than 3 months. This strongly suggests that Snowden deliberately too the job with Booz Allen in order to steal government secrets.

In March of 2012, Snowden was apparently working for Dell, because there is a record of his donating $250 to Ron Paul’s campaign as a Dell employee living at an address in Maryland. When he gave an additional $250 to Paul in May 2012, he gave an address in Waipahu, Hawaii and listed his occupation as “Senior Advisor,” with no employer noted. So what was Snowden doing between May 2012 and March 2012 when he went to work as an NSA contractor for Booz Allen?

I guess we’ll find out eventually. Stay tuned.

This is an open thread.

Late Night: FEC Investigating Obama’s 2008 Fundraising

From Roll Call:

Individuals familiar with the [Obama 2012] campaign told Roll Call Friday that the FEC has been investigating the financial records of Obama’s previous campaign. The scope of the probe, which began approximately two years ago, is unknown. Presidential audits typically take years to complete and can cost millions of dollars….

The FEC was not required to audit the president’s campaign because Obama chose not to accept $84 million in federal funds following the Democratic National Convention in 2008….The potential for the FEC’s audit became increasingly more likely as the FEC questioned some of Obama campaign filings. In all, the FEC wrote 26 letters to Obama for America warning the campaign that if it did not adequately respond to the agency’s questions that it “could result in an audit or enforcement action.”

These letters totaled more than 1,500 pages of questions and data that outlined compliance concerns — including the longest one ever sent to a presidential candidate.

The article says that the Obama campaign has spent millions on legal fees since 2008 and has had to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Treasury department because of “unverifiable contributors.”

Like me, you may recall stories about how the Obama campaign had disabled software that would catch people who had already given the maximum or people who were using false identities. I located this relevant article from the October 9, 2008 LA Times.

Barack Obama’s money machine is fueled by the likes of Martha Murphy, a grandmother who has donated 104 times for a total of $2,475.34.

Murphy has used her credit card to donate in amounts as small as $10. “It is amazing how it adds up,” she said.

The Democratic candidate’s donors also include “Derty Poiiuy,” an individual with a scatological sense of humor who has given $950. “Mong Kong” has contributed $1,065 and lists an address in a nonexistent city. “Fornari USA” gave $800 and listed the address of an apparel store of that name near San Francisco.

The Republican National Committee filed a federal complaint this week, alleging that some of Obama’s small donations are illegal because they come from foreign nationals or exceed the limit.

Obama’s contributions have also exposed a loophole in the law, which does not require disclosure of the identities of donors who give $200 or less, making it impossible to determine whether they are legitimate without a federal audit.

I realize nothing will probably come of this, but it would be nice if it at least got enough play to be embarrassing for Obama’s campaign staff. I really don’t think Obama himself is capable of guilt or shame.