Psst, Corlyss: Whatcha Think About This Poll?

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Ralph
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Psst, Corlyss: Whatcha Think About This Poll?

Post by Ralph » Thu May 11, 2006 6:55 am

Poll: Democrats lead GOP by double digits

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A CNN poll released Wednesday may continue the anxiety for the GOP, showing Democrats with a 14-point advantage over Republicans among registered voters asked their preferences in this year's midterm elections.

The poll, conducted for CNN by Opinion Research Corp., found that 52 percent of respondents who were registered voters said they were leaning toward voting for a Democrat, while 38 percent said they were leaning toward a Republican.

Ten percent said they didn't know how they would vote or that they would choose a candidate not from the two major parties. (Watch what is pulling down the president's approval rating -- 2:07)

Among all Americans, the poll found 50 percent leaning toward Democrats, 37 leaning toward the Republicans and 3 percent intending to vote for non-majority candidates. Ten percent had no opinion

The poll, based on telephone interviews with 1,021 adult Americans between Friday and Sunday, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. (View the poll results -- PDF)

Republicans are suffering politically, the poll suggested, because nearly half of the Americans interviewed said they think the country is on the wrong track.

Forty-six percent of respondents said they believed things were going well and 53 percent said they felt things were going badly. Two percent had no opinion. The question had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

The figures are nearly reversed from what a similar CNN poll found in February, when 51 percent of respondents said they thought things were going well and 47 percent said things were going badly.

Republicans enjoy a 29-seat majority in the House and a 10-seat majority in the Senate, but political watchers say those majorities, especially the one in the House, may be threatened.

Democrats would need to pick up 15 seats to regain the House and six seats to take control of the Senate.

Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the No. 3 Republican official in the House, told CNN he isn't worried about his party losing power.

"Between now and [the midterm elections], the Democrats are going to be forced to define what they're for," said Blunt, who is the majority whip.

"That's going to work to our advantage as it works to our advantage to have a chance to explain what we're for."

Congressional Republicans have also been weighed down by the public's low opinion of President Bush's job performance.

A CNN poll released Monday found Bush's approval rating was 34 percent -- an uptick of 2 percentage points from the most recent CNN poll in late April. (Full story)

The president's disapproval rating was 58 percent, down 2 points from the previous poll. (View Bush's latest approval numbers)

The poll, also done by Opinion Research Corp., was based on interviews of 1,021 adults. Both shifts are within the poll's sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

More than half of those who disapproved of Bush's job performance -- 56 percent -- said the war in Iraq was the reason. (Read the full poll results -- PDF)

Thirteen percent said the recent increase in gas prices had fueled their displeasure. Twenty-six percent gave other reasons.

Because that question was asked only of those who disapproved, it had a different sampling error -- 4 percentage points.
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Barry
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Post by Barry » Thu May 11, 2006 6:53 pm

It will be nice if those numbers hold up, but the Democrats have made it a habit of blowing leads. The only numbers that matter are those on election days. Let's see what happens.

MSNBC just flashed the lowest approval ratings for all of the presidents going back to Truman; using the Gallup poll. Truman, Nixon and Carter all went lower than Bush has. Although after this latest news, I expect him to dip into the high 20s and make a run at Carter.
"If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee." - Abraham Lincoln

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Post by Corlyss_D » Thu May 11, 2006 7:19 pm

1) Where's the link to the story so I can go to the poll itself?
2) Remember that the incumbent return rate is 98% in the average election. Even in the Republican Revolution of 1994, it was 95%.
3) If it's the same ol' same ol' about the generic Democrat beating the generic Republican, it's not news. That's been the story for decades. The problem is, the Democrats don't run as a party, and the individuals they pick are not generic enough to get elected. End of story.
Barry wrote:It will be nice if those numbers hold up, but the Democrats have made it a habit of blowing leads. The only numbers that matter are those on election days. Let's see what happens.
The leads, at least in this case, are statistical polling phoney baloney. Besides, even the most reliable predictor, the "likely voter," isn't thinking about the election now.
Barry wrote:MSNBC just flashed the lowest approval ratings for all of the presidents going back to Truman; using the Gallup poll. Truman, Nixon and Carter all went lower than Bush has. Although after this latest news, I expect him to dip into the high 20s and make a run at Carter.
Bush isn't running and the Republicans are not going to let the Democrats fool the public into thinking he is. Charlie Cook has come out with another predictor: the approval rating of congress, which is lower than Bush's. His historical analysis reveals that when the public is this angry with congress, the ruling incumbents lose seats. We'll see. Most of the historical data comes from eras when the gerrymandering wasn't so refined.
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Post by Ralph » Thu May 11, 2006 9:04 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:1) Where's the link to the story so I can go to the poll itself?
2) Remember that the incumbent return rate is 98% in the average election. Even in the Republican Revolution of 1994, it was 95%.
3) If it's the same ol' same ol' about the generic Democrat beating the generic Republican, it's not news. That's been the story for decades. The problem is, the Democrats don't run as a party, and the individuals they pick are not generic enough to get elected. End of story.
Barry wrote:It will be nice if those numbers hold up, but the Democrats have made it a habit of blowing leads. The only numbers that matter are those on election days. Let's see what happens.
The leads, at least in this case, are statistical polling phoney baloney. Besides, even the most reliable predictor, the "likely voter," isn't thinking about the election now.
Barry wrote:MSNBC just flashed the lowest approval ratings for all of the presidents going back to Truman; using the Gallup poll. Truman, Nixon and Carter all went lower than Bush has. Although after this latest news, I expect him to dip into the high 20s and make a run at Carter.
Bush isn't running and the Republicans are not going to let the Democrats fool the public into thinking he is. Charlie Cook has come out with another predictor: the approval rating of congress, which is lower than Bush's. His historical analysis reveals that when the public is this angry with congress, the ruling incumbents lose seats. We'll see. Most of the historical data comes from eras when the gerrymandering wasn't so refined.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Thu May 11, 2006 11:41 pm

Ralph wrote:We need to get you your own TV show.


There was a time when I was better at this than the people who got paid to do it.
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Post by Ralph » Fri May 12, 2006 8:15 am

Corlyss_D wrote:
Ralph wrote:We need to get you your own TV show.


There was a time when I was better at this than the people who got paid to do it.
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Oh, for me you're the Grand Old Lady of Cyber-Silly Political Punditry.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Fri May 12, 2006 12:04 pm

Ralph wrote:Oh, for me you're the Grand Old Lady of Cyber-Silly Political Punditry.
:shock: :roll: I'm relieved you don't dislike me!
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Post by Ralph » Fri May 12, 2006 12:43 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
Ralph wrote:Oh, for me you're the Grand Old Lady of Cyber-Silly Political Punditry.
:shock: :roll: I'm relieved you don't dislike me!
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I adore you. You're lucky though you don't work for me as an attorney. You'd be in hell. :twisted:
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Post by Corlyss_D » Fri May 12, 2006 1:30 pm

Ralph wrote: You're lucky though you don't work for me as an attorney. You'd be in hell. :twisted:
If you had a practice in Federal Contract Law, I'd be all that stood between you and malpractice suits. :P
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Post by Ralph » Fri May 12, 2006 2:59 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
Ralph wrote: You're lucky though you don't work for me as an attorney. You'd be in hell. :twisted:
If you had a practice in Federal Contract Law, I'd be all that stood between you and malpractice suits. :P
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Why would I ever practice in such a boring area of the law? :)
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Post by Corlyss_D » Fri May 12, 2006 3:08 pm

Ralph wrote:Why would I ever practice in such a boring area of the law? :)
It's not as dull as most people think it is. Much of contract law is about social policy. Watching that all play out at the policy level is fascinating. But it's just as well most think it's boring. Keeps the riff-raff out.
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Post by Ralph » Fri May 12, 2006 3:18 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
Ralph wrote:Why would I ever practice in such a boring area of the law? :)
It's not as dull as most people think it is. Much of contract law is about social policy. Watching that all play out at the policy level is fascinating. But it's just as well most think it's boring. Keeps the riff-raff out.
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How about writing a pilot script for a TV sitcom about a female federal contract law specialist?
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Post by Corlyss_D » Fri May 12, 2006 3:25 pm

Ralph wrote:How about writing a pilot script for a TV sitcom about a female federal contract law specialist?
No thanks. Look at what the forensics programs have had to put up with since CSI shows became popular. But it's a mistake to think it is dull. The tales of wrong-doing uncovered in the contracting field are legion - very little of it on the government employee side, thank goodness. Much of it is handled thru plea-bargains, purges, and civil fines. But there's a fair share of good ol' crim law in too.
Feeding the Beast: How Wedtech Became the Most Corrupt Little Company in America. - book reviews
Michael M. Thomas

Feeding the Beast: How Wedtech Became the Most Corrupt Little Company in America Feeding the Beast: How Wedtech Became the Most Corrupt Little Company in America. Marilyn W. Thompson. Scribner's, $22.50.

Over a period of roughly 10 years, beginning in 1975, an inconsequential South Bronx machine shop, Welbilt Electronic Die Corporation, later renamed Wedtech, managed to gather and utterly dissipate approximately $150 million of public money and private capital. Its founder-promoters early battened on to the possibilities afforded by well-meaning "set-aside" legislation designed to give minority-owned businesses a leg up in government contract work. By the time the sorry "saga" had run its course, Wedtech or, more properly, the relatively small public and private money sources to which it provided special access, had become a schooling ground for as rich and greedy a variety of shark as ever gathered in one place in the history of American business.

It is this quality of concentration, this extraordinarily high per-dollar ratio of peculative diversity and creativity, that gives the Wedtech story its particular flavor. This is not, as the publisher's blurb suggests, "the worst domestic scandal of the Reagan administration." That laurel surely belongs to the still-unfolding savings and loan crisis, the criminous underpinnings of which are only now beginning to become visible.

Nevertheless, Marilyn W. Thompson, a New York journalist and an early digger into the Wedtech scandal, has delivered a smoothly written, frequently intriguing, and just as frequently maddening account of the scam's brief life and flush times. Within the dimensions of the story as she has chosen to tell it, surely nothing has been left out. Indeed, incipient mulcters of the public purse could do worse than to take her version (I believe at least one other "big" book on Wedtech is in the wings) as textbook and Cicerone.

The problem with Thompson's book is as much a matter of taste as anything else. She is almost exclusively concerned with the processes of fraud. These may by turns be fascinating, outrageous, even bloodcurdling, but in business, even of the shadiest sort, process must inevitably boil down to meetings, conversations, and the preparation of documents. Wedtech was a tale played out by some of the most florid characters a novelist could wish for; it would embrace a vast cast of suborning and suborned: street-smart "dese, dem, and dose" types, a congressman, a goodly portion of the backchannel operators of the Reagan White House and associated executive departments, assorted New York politicos and, at the end, financial exotics of the sort only California seems capable of spawning. Closer, continuous, and more imaginative focus on some of these characters would have enlivened the narrative even as the coils of complication drew tighter. Thompson tends, in my opinion, to concentrate too closely on the "deal" side of Wedtech; she follows too hard on the money, too closely and too doggedly, and after a while the changes rung on a single theme become monotonous and wearisome.

Not that fatigue wouldn't, to some extent, be inevitable. Basically, what built Wedtech up and tore it down was overrepetition of a business strategy as honored by time as it is worn: If someone is in your way, make him an offer. What is truly astonishing about Wedtech is how receptive to co-option one "obstacle" after another was. Someone like convicted and disgraced ex-congressman Mario Biaggi is easy to understand: he arrives on the scene with his hand out. But as one servant/guardian of the public weal after another sells out for ready cash or bargain-priced (or gratis) Wedtech stock and fastens another tarnished star to the tail of this rising comet, it really makes one think about what sort of polity we have become. Finally, of course, it must be remembered that nothing gets as far as Wedtech did without the participation of "respectable" elements of society, persons of standing at the bar and on the exchange. What Uncle Sam pumped into Wedtech was peanuts compared to the sums extracted from the investing public, which would not have happened without the highly commissioned sponsorship of the most esteemed names in law, investment banking, and public accountancy.

Thompson's account neglects an inferential side of the story that also needs to be addressed. When the company finally collapsed, it employed over 1,000 people in several plants. Presumably, while the boardroom shenanigans were being played out, the company was actually making something. Presumably, while the sharks tore at the carcass, other principals, like co-founder Joseph Mariotta, who all but disappears from Thompson's account, were busy on the factory floor.

I would like to have learned more about this. Thompson's version focuses too greatly on the financial fun and games, making Wedtech seem as if it existed solely as a shell, a boiler room invention through which one money malefaction after another could be concocted and implemented. That this was to a great extent true, I have no doubt, but it took 10 years to kill this company; those 1,000 employees must have been doing something during that time, and very possibly doing some of it right.

It is to be hoped that Wedtech is merely a curious and singular bit of brigandage and not a symptom of the general degradation of our commercial culture. I fear not, however--which brings me to my final quarrel with Thompson's approach. Like most contemporary business journalism, Feeding the Beast is relentlessly non-judgmental. Thompson is resolute in avoiding questions of "larger significance." Or is Wedtech just another glittering rhinestone in the diadem of the American genius for financial duplicity, rating somewhere alongside Fisk, Gould, and Vanderbilt's Erie Railroad caper?

Yes and no. As a tale, it is certainly full of sound and fury, peopled by a cast whose contempt for "values" verges on the breathtaking. As a cautionary tale? Ah, there's the rub. My own guess is that investigators looking into exactly how now-defunct thrifts were looted--with complaisance if not connivance on Uncle Sam's part that obscured the boundary between mere dereliction of duty and outright corruption--could profit as much as any would-be swindler from a close study of Marilyn Thompson's exhaustive study.

COPYRIGHT 1990 Washington Monthly Company
Too Good to Be True: the Outlandish Story of Wedtech. - book reviews
Joe Mysak

HISTORY may rightly term the Wedtech scandal the Teapot Dome of the 1980s. But far from being merely a partisan matter for those on the other side to chortle about, it was, to twist the aphorism, a scandal to those who think and a tragedy to those who feel.

Viewed alongside the rich and gaudy canvas of the savings-and-loan disaster, of course, Wedtech is a mere hashmark on a timeline. But it epitomized the decade, founded on a conservative dream and damned by some of the means chosen to make that dream come true-in this case, government-run minority set-aside programs-as well as the usual assortment of thieves in high places.

The real story here is not the duplicity and dissembling of a malfeasant Ed Meese, as Miss Thompson believes it is. Nor is it properly treated as a heavy-handed morality play of an Administration chasing after fairytales, or the usual horrible example of Greed in Reagan's America, as Mr. Traub seems to think. No, if there is any moral to the story, it is Jeffersonian: the bigger government gets, and the more intrusive, the worse.

The very name of the company now connotes fraud on a massive scale. But the story of Wedtech began simply, with two poor mechanics with a vision of greatness, fighting against almost insurmountable odds in a machine shop in the South Bronx. The story ended with bankruptcy and jail sentences for most of those involved.

Too Good to Be True, the better of these two books, correctly puts the emphasis on the almost shocking venality that pervaded the business and politics of the Wedtech scandal. Writes Mr. Traub: "'Nobody wanted to say no,' as an official of the Small Business Administration, one of Wedtech's great benefactors, put it. And no one, or scarcely anyone, did say no. Wedtech made it in everyone's interest to say yes-through the projection of moral beauty, through political pressure, through stacks of cash stuffed in envelopes. The moral beauty gave the outsiders the justification for succumbing to the pressure and the money, and it gave even the insiders a pretext for breaking the law when it suited them."

Destiny," Mr. Traub later observes, sometimes seemed to escort Wedtech through the world with a lantern, looking for yet another dishonest man."

"Moral beauty" refers, of course, to the fact that Wedtech-or, as it was then styled, Welbilt-was a minority-owned firm, located in a crumbling slum that looked like Dresden after the firestorm, and which seemed to offer salvation to the downtrodden through hard work.

This was the fairytale," the "noble sentiment," that Ronald Reagan believed in, and which Mr. Traub seems to disparage. As often happens, however, the "moral beauty" was more idealized in its presentation than a Maxfield Parrish painting. Wedtech was not, in fact, a minority-owned firm, and did not actually qualify for the Small Business Administration's so-called minority set-aside program, although it said it did. That was the founding lie from which all the others followed.

Wedtech has passed, but the creation of special group interests and of set-aside programs has not; and despite last year's Supreme Court ruling against set-asides, the whole business of special political treatment for minority contractors is spreading as perniciously as ever.

The results are predictable. When politicians cave in to special-interest groups whose insistent cry can be reduced to Give me more money, when they award contracts through favoritism based on color, or sex, or campaign contributions, when they disregard professionalism and fiduciary responsibility for the sake of a political agenda, the value of a tax dollar is easily forgotten.

This is an election year, and as public comment focuses on the issues and on partisan or ideological wrangling, it is easy to ignore some more basic considerations. In addition to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, there are 35 governorships, 28 state treasurers' posts, 45 full state houses, and 16 full state senates being contested this year. More than eight hundred cities will elect mayors or city councils. All will be subject to the same kinds of games-playing and influence-buying as were practiced in the Wedtech scandal.

These will include not only cash payments, although there will be lots of those. The most prominent feature-untouched by the authors of both these books, by the way-will be intimidation. The entire subject of special treatment for minority- and women-owned firms, despite what happened at Wedtech, remains taboo. As Russell Baker observed in his New York Times column earlier this year, racist" is "the ultimate epithet from which there is no appeal."

Until the truth is told frankly about sweetheart deals for favored groups, and until federal and municipal governments get out of the business of doling out contracts without competition, there will be more Wedtechs, great and small.

Both Feeding the Beast and Too Good to Be True are reasonably competent, but few general readers will find them compelling. The first book is journalistic in style and somewhat rushed, the second is heavy-handed in its cynicism and obvious in its conclusions. Future historians, however, will no doubt find them useful as sobering reminders of where official favoritism of any sort can lead.
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