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Thursday, May 31, 2007

The debate on Fox:

Looks like it will only have
  • Kucnich
  • Biden
  • and maybe Gravel
Now that would be fun to watch. I hope it goes through, because it would really show everyone what a Big Player the Fox News Channel is.

LINGUISTICS: I don't like to call it simply "Fox News", since that kind of implies they are an actual news organization. My preference is to call it the "Fox News Channel", since the noun is "channel" and that tends to diminish the "news" component.



3 comments


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

David Brooks' most inane column ever?

While "reviewing" Al Gore's book, The Assault on Reason, David Brooks exhibits contempt for any kind of rational thinking. He also treats Gore like he's a space alien, hence the column title, The Vulcan Utopia.
  • [Regarding Gore] "it is still possible for exceedingly strange individuals to rise to the top"
  • "Gore writes in his best graduate school manner"
  • "Gore seems to have come up with a theory that the upper, logical mind sits on top of, and should master, the primitive and more emotional mind below."
  • "Without emotions like fear, the "logical" mind can't reach conclusions."


2 comments


Monday, May 28, 2007

Deep think:

If you find the blogs not very active this Memorial Day and want to read something substantial, consider a 5,600 word essay in the New York Review of Books. Covered:
  • Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic
    by Chalmers Johnson
  • Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower
    by Zbigniew Brzezinski
  • Statecraft and How to Restore America's Standing in the World
    by Dennis Ross


1 comments


Sunday, May 27, 2007

It is rare:

Cheney Addresses West Point Grads:
Vice President Dick Cheney, on hand to deliver this year’s commencement address, acknowledged that this crop of West Point grads is unique. "It is rare in West Point history for a class to have joined during war time and graduate in the midst of that same war," he said. Addressing the academy’s graduates, the vice president, who drew a crowd of protestors outside one of West Point's gates, relied on the same brand of doomsday rhetoric that has characterized his remarks since 9/11. "We know," he told the audience at one point, that Al Qaeda is "working feverishly to obtain even more destructive weapons and using every form of technology they can get their hands on. This makes the business of fighting this war as urgent and time sensitive as any task this nation has ever taken on."
And about timelines?
Not only is the threat real, he warned, it’s immediate. "The timeline is no longer a calendar, it’s a watch," he said, quoting a line used recently by Mike McConnell, the director of National Intelligence. Cheney then claimed that the “enemy likely has cells inside our own country."
Perpetual war, they're here already, be very afraid, etc.



2 comments


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Random observations:
  • Throughout the media on Friday, the votes in Congress were consistently characterized as "funding the troops" instead of "funding the war". A disgrace.

  • If you haven't been reading the Howler and Anonymous Liberal, you should. Their observations that the media is setting up to portray any Democratic presidential candidate as "troubling" and Republicans (especially Fred Thompson) as "experienced" and "genuine" are correct. 2008 could be another dismal election year, like 2000 was. The latest in this saga is the McCain/Obama idiocy promoted by Politico.

  • Bush's press conference on Thursday was cringe-inducing for anybody with an IQ over 110. Fred Kaplan has a decent review of ths stupidity.

  • The attempted manipulation of elections by the Justice Department and White House is not getting sufficient coverage. That the press and pundits aren't all over this story is quite striking.

  • The Murdoch of Moscow. The New York Times had an interesting editorial about the press in Russia. Key points:
    After Mr. Putin took over, national television stations were the first to lose their independence. Major newspapers are increasingly controlled by those who do the state’s bidding. The radio correspondents for the Russian News Service, the main source of news for radio stations, resigned earlier this month to protest censorship by new owners.

    In the meantime, polls show President Putin’s popularity has soared. No wonder. Fewer and fewer Russians can see or hear from anyone who opposes him, his policies or his government.
  • The vote in Congress for the supplemental for Iraq: Congress, especially the Senate, does not represent current public opinion. Two-thirds of the Senate are legacy seats, from elections in 2002 and 2004. And the Senate is not representative of the people, but of the states. That's why when a war gets started, it takes a long time to shut it down. Not defending everything E. J. Dionne says, but he does note that:
    Rep. Dave Obey (D-Wis.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said recently that no one remembers how long it took to reverse the direction of American policy in Vietnam. Obey is hunkered down for a lengthy struggle.
Happy Memorial Day Weekend.



2 comments


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Compassionate Conservatives:

Why Card and Gonzales went to the hospital to meet with Ashcroft with an authorization that they hoped he would sign:
"We were just there to wish him well." - A. Card
Why Attorney General Alberto Gonzales engaged in an "uncomfortable" conversation with Goodling where he "laid out ... his general recollection ... of some of the process ... regarding the replacement of the U.S. attorneys.":
"The statements made by the attorney general during this meeting were intended only to comfort her in a very difficult period." - Brian J. Roehrkasse, a Justice Department spokesman


1 comments

Bush turns up the fear factor:

From his speech at the Coast Guard Academy:
  • "In the minds of al-Qaida leaders, 9/11 was just a down payment on violence yet to come."
  • "Here in America, we are living in the eye of a storm. All around us, dangerous winds are swirling and these winds could reach our shores at any moment."
  • "Among the potential targets our intelligence community believes [an] al Qaeda operative discussed with KSM were water reservoirs, the New York Stock Exchange, and United States military academies such as this one."
  • "Hear the words of Osama bin Laden: He calls the struggle in Iraq a `war of destiny. He proclaimed `The war is for you or for us to win. If we win it, it means your defeat and disgrace forever.'"
Hear the words of Osama bin Laden?

In late September 2001 (when the attackers were identified) could anybody expect that Bush would be quoting an uncaptured bin Laden five years later to rally support for his policies?

A-freakin'-mazing.

Isn't it time for another Terror Alert?

It's always risky to predict things, but Bush's rhetoric is getting so bizarre, it makes you wonder if it won't turn on him in a big way in the near future. How can Bush get all worked up with bin Laden when he's on record saying he didn't give a rat's ass about the guy:
"I am truly not that concerned about him." 3/13/2002


1 comments


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Where's bin Laden?

Get this:
WASHINGTON - Seeking to rally support for the war, President Bush is pointing to U.S. intelligence asserting that Osama bin Laden ordered a top lieutenant in early 2005 to form a terrorist unit to hit targets outside Iraq, and that the United States should be first in his sights.

The information, which Bush was to cite Wednesday in a commencement address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, was declassified by the White House on Tuesday.

Bush, who is battling Democrats in Congress over spending for the unpopular war in Iraq, will highlight U.S. successes in foiling terrorist plots and use the intelligence to argue that terrorists remain a threat to Americans, said Frances Fragos Townsend, the White House homeland security adviser.
Can I get a job like that? One where failure (in this case, to capture bin Laden and roll up al Qaeda) is used as a justification for doing something (Iraq war) that doesn't resolve the problem.

If Americans, the press, the beltway crowd, and Congress are so stupid that they don't turn on this miserable failure of a president, then they deserve what they get.

Bush is shameless and contemptuous.



3 comments


Monday, May 21, 2007

Cokie and Steven Roberts on trade policy:

You're gonna love this: (excerpts, emp add)
Labor taking the wrong view on trade

In today's dynamic global economy, change has to be embraced, not rejected. That's why Democratic leaders cannot afford to listen to the labor movement as the country approaches a major debate over trade policy.

... Democratic leaders have to stand up to their old friends in the labor movement and tell them the truth: trade is vital to American prosperity and security, and you don't get a veto here.

As ardent free traders, we have long been skeptical of including labor and environmental rules in trade deals. They smacked too much of protectionism, and seemed to have one aim: Raising costs for foreign firms and making their products less competitive in the world market.

Freer trade is good for American businesses, American workers and American consumers.

... all the fear mongering about globalization destroying the American economy - heard frequently from Democratic candidates last fall - is wrong. In fact, the opposite is true.

[a] point that labor leaders never mention: their members, like all American consumers, can buy more goods more cheaply, from sweaters to softballs, when they are made abroad.

... do trade deals "sell out American workers"? Absolutely not. But there are losers as well as winners, and any free trader must also support better education, smarter midcareer training and more generous benefits for workers who do lose their jobs to international competition.

However, those losers, and their labor bosses, should not be allowed to dictate trade policy.
How about that (now discredited) line about getting a better education and midcareer training? That'll solve the problem for sure.

On just a purely political level, the Roberts' advice is poison for Democrats. Diss the labor faction? You've gotta be kidding.



6 comments


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Newt Gingrich's massive ignorance:

From Meet the Press:
Prime Minister Maliki is doing the best he can in a chaotic environment, and he’s not a very strong person, but if—imagine we were the French in the 1700s, debating the American Continental Congress and saying, “Well, should we really send aid to these guys?
Gingrich is trying to sell the story that is was good for the French to support the American rebellion, and by some logic, the U.S. should therefore be in Iraq supporting the Maliki government. But first, a little history:
Louis XVI   1774-1789

[Jacques Necker] supported the American Revolution, and progressed upon a policy of taking out large international loans instead of raising taxes. This, Louis hoped, would reduce France's deficit and fund the American Revolutionary War which France was fighting in. When this policy failed miserably, Louis dismissed him ...

... Louis convoked the Assembly of Notables in 1787 to discuss a revolutionary new fiscal reform of Calonne's. When the nobles were told the extent of the debt, they were shocked into rejecting the plan. This signalled that Louis had lost his legitimacy to rule as an absolute monarch ...
You know how that story ends.



2 comments

One Friedman Unit from now:

Jim Hoagland writes:
[The Iraq government] is a government that barely exists and should be changed. But that change should come not from U.S. intervention but from fresh national elections, to be called and overseen by the United Nations this winter. New elections provide the best chance of achieving workable power- and revenue-sharing arrangements in Iraq. It is vital that Iran encourage the majority Shiite population in Iraq to accept such elections and arrangements.


2 comments

Smoothing it out:

If you take the numbers of coalition troops that have died in Iraq, you get the following bar chart (light blue):



And if you plot a 36-month moving average*, you get the red line. That's what Bush calls progress.

May already has 75 fatalities. If there are 85 for the month, the moving average will continue to rise.

* - 1 to 35 month moving average for the first 35 months.



1 comments


Saturday, May 19, 2007

The immigration bill:

From this blogger's perspective, anytime immigration is discussed, it's a net loser for all sides. You've got racists that don't want brown people entering the country, you've got business in favor of as many immigrants as possible, you've got compassionate liberals that oppose deportation, and you've got labor which opposes having more workers entering the country. Until a solution is crafted, and while the debate on immigration takes place, a sour mood prevails, compromise is hard to achieve, and there is little fluidity in the political realm.

While there are divisions within the Republicans, I've always thought that there was a significan political downside for Democrats with the subject. The question is this:
During an election year, if Democrats support a mild immigration bill (i.e. mostly amnesty) would that make it harder to get independents and Republican to vote for a Democrat?
I think it would be harder.

It's very important that the Democrats get as big a win in 2008 as possible. So, getting the immigration issue out of the way now, means that come 2008, the issues on the table will be Iraq and the economy (either in recession, or still not going great for the average citizen). If that's the case, then Democrats will be able to get more votes than otherwise. So passage of an immigration bill this year, however flawed, is good politics for the Democrats.



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Al Qaeda in Iraq:

In a 1,566 word essay in the Weekly Standard, Don't Abandon the Iraqis, Fred Kagan tries to make his case. And a lot depends on his assertion that al Qaeda is the big threat there. He mentions al Qaeda 18 times, which is a little over one percent of all the words in the essay. Like rasins in a muffin, almost.

Kagan is echoing Bush (or is it the other way around?) by trying to scare the public with al Qaeda - think "9/11" - in order to keep the troops in Iraq. But will it sell?

Over at Belgravia Dispatch, these words by Kagan were excerpted:
[Writing about a recent visit by Kagan to Iraq]

But to my amazement, we also saw children in those streets who did not glare or run or stand dourly as the occupiers passed. Instead they smiled and waved, asking for candy or just saying hello. Even in the worst places in Iraq, we have not lost the children. They still look to us with hope. They still expect us to deliver them from death and violence. They still believe that we will honor our commitments to their parents.
Greg Djerejian comments:
Dear readers, this cheap adolescent drivel was written by one of the key architects of the surge. These are the basic intellectual parameters being brought to bear in terms of policy-making assumptions regarding the war (we haven't lost the children yet!). And this is what passes for "analysis" in the Weekly Standard, that is to say, Murdochian propaganda masquerading as maudlin cri de coeur. Be afraid, be very afraid.

This is faith-based adventurism, little more...


1 comments


Friday, May 18, 2007

How low can it go?

After reading the story James Comey told about the White House badgering Ashcroft, one fact stuck out: that Comey wanted to have Ted Olsen on his side, to give him support in the battle with Andrew Card.

Ted Olson is one of the good guys!

The end is nigh.



1 comments

Atrios is 100% wrong:

Atrios writes:
... I'm quite pro-immigration and think there should be fairly straightforward and transparent paths to citizenship for people who come here. I think cultural homogeneity is a bad thing as it tends to be self-reinforcing with homogeneity leading to increasing conformism. I think this country would be a much less interesting place without the recent immigration boom, which followed decades of historically low levels of immigration.
Please. If there is one thing that cripples support for the welfare part of Welfare-Capitalism, it's when an "outside" group is , or seen as, taking a disproportionate share of a support system.

Why do you think that there was progressive legislature from the 30's to the 60's? That was when there was limited immigration. People felt part of a whole (blacks excepted) and were more willing to support a Federal social safety net.

Look at other countries and you will find that with increased immigration, there is a diminution in support for welfare programs.

Sure, it would be nice if people weren't that way, but they are. Saying that we should bring in lots of immigrants and then wondering why there is resistance to generous social welfare programs is classic liberal folly.



2 comments


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Al Gore's latest book:

Is called The Assault on Reason. But that seems to be a misleading title. If you read the excerpt over at Time, the problems are mostly that of the press failing to do its job.

Reason has been, and continues to be, out there - alive and kicking. It's just that the press has largely ignored it and instead run with Republican talking points. There are plenty of knowledgable people (e.g. Juan Cole) who can provide a good analysis of the situation in Iraq, or of the terrorist "threat" to the nation. But they are given limited time in the media, if any at all.

There's plenty of reason over in climate-scientist-land, but the global warming debate is in the state it is today, not because of an assault on reason per se, but because the press invites the un-reasonable to the table, and in the din of wasteful debate, the public ends up confused or misinformed.



7 comments


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Food prices are way up!

In a Los Angeles Times article, Food prices eat deeper into wallets, we read: (emp add, excerpts)
Southland residents already pay among the highest grocery prices in the nation, and the forecast is for even higher costs. Federal statistics released Tuesday for April show that food prices in Southern California rose 5.7% from a year earlier.

Prices are going up for much of what gets dumped into the grocery cart including cereals, bread, bacon, pork roasts, chicken, eggs, cookies, hot dogs, oranges, soda pop and dried beans.

Nationally, food prices rose 3.9% in April compared with the same month in 2006, and the outlook is equally chilling wherever you shop. It is happening for many reasons: inflation, drought, freezing weather, even the rising cost of corn — highly sought after not only as ingredients for thousands of food products but also to make ethanol.

The base price for milk in California is up 30% from a year earlier. Nationally, milk is up 3.2%.

The price of a pound of oranges in Southern California has jumped nearly 75% to more than $1. Nationally, they have climbed 34.1%.

A 1-pound package of ground beef at Ralphs has risen 16% to $2.89 in the last year, according to TheGroceryGame.com, which tracks prices. Nationally, ground beef is up 2.7%.

Twelve ounces of Tyson Frozen Chicken Nuggets at Ralphs are $4.59, up 18% from about a year ago. Chicken is up 5.5% nationally.

A box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese at the supermarket chain is 25% more than a year ago, while the price of a 34.5-ounce container of Folger's coffee is up 30 cents to $9.69. Nationally, the price of coffee rose 4.9% in April compared with a year earlier, government data showed.

At Vons, red seedless grapes are up 17% from about a year ago to $3.49 a pound.
Those are striking examples, but they aren't exotic, and so the government claim that food prices have jumped 5.7% seems artificially low.

A week ago in a post about consumer borrowing and the economy, this blogger, who lives in Los Angeles, wrote:
... I keep close track of food expenses and those have risen 35% in the last 12 months ...
Government says 5.7%, I experience 35% (and have the spreadsheets to prove it). Am I unusual? I an extremely frugal and look for sales and whatnot. Those - the discount prices - have risen even faster. And in the Los Angeles Times story there is support for that contention. One mother was profiled as something of a typical shopper:
[ Wendy Diamond, a Long Beach mother of three] now buys more house brands such as the cereal, has cut soda pop from her budget and makes bread and ice cream at home.

Even so, Diamond figures the monthly food bill for her family of six — a husband, three children and a grandparent — has risen by $100 to $400 from a year ago.
What's a $100 increase over $300 spent a year ago? That's right, 33%.

One of the more disconcerting things about this LATimes story is that the government reporting of inflation is so way off.

Of course, there are people and institutions that benefit from a falsely low inflation report. The government expecially, since many benefits are tied to the cost of living. So let's not kid ourselves about what's going on.



6 comments


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jerry Falwell:

Was a liar and a hate-monger.

Good riddance.



2 comments


Monday, May 14, 2007

The wounded:

As of today, there have been 3,400 U.S. soldiers that have died in Iraq. But there are plenty of wounded as well.

On Friday, March 23, ABC World News Tonight's Person of the Week was a woman who makes clothes for wounded soldiers. Regular clothing doesn't fit well for those who have prosthetics and her contribution makes it a little easier for the vets.

As part of the segment, several clips of veterans in a hospital (or rehab facility) were shown. And these soldiers had lost legs, arms, or both. One striking image was that of an African American with no flesh below both knees, lying in a bed, with some sort of metal 'extensions' attached to his legs. It was, and remains, a sickening sight.



More Americans should pay attention to the permanent, life-long misery that these veterans will be forced to live out. Personally, I don't see how anyone can end up in that state without massive mental trauma.

This is what war brings and it is irresponsible for the press to minimize this aspect of the Iraq war.



7 comments


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Belgravia Dispatch:

Is back after a one-month hiatus.



1 comments

Mother's Day:

Wishing everyone out there a good Mother's Day. But have you noticed that it's one of the worst days to be on the road? That's because so many people are taking their mother (and the rest of the family) to a nice restaurant, and, because the son or daughter is behind the wheel, the driving is the most careful of the year (especially around for o'clock in the afternoon - shortly before dinner time). That interferes with the natural rhythm that normally exists on the roads. As a result, fewer cars make a left turn or go through an intersection on a yellow light. When the light goes green, the cars get up to speed slowly. And lane changes are not as sprightly as they usually are.

Contrast that with other special days, like Christmas or Thanksgiving. For those days, even though it can be busy, all the drivers are either trying to get somewhere quickly (Christmas shopping) or put on lots of miles (Thanksgiving trips). Which has a focus on speed and efficiency. On Mother's Day, driving speed and efficiency is not paramount. In fact, speed and efficiency is a negative, and you end up with a different traffic dynamic - one we're not used to.



0 comments


Friday, May 11, 2007

Worrisome Democratic voter fraud:

From TPM:
Today's Must Read: More on Karl Rove's push to have voter fraud investigated just before the last election. Did it matter that the allegations were two years old and had already been investigated?
From TPMmuckraker: (the link above) (excerpts, bold emp add, italics original)
... Rove requested last October that the Justice Department investigate allegations of voter fraud in three jurisdictions ... all battleground states.

... at least twice in October, Rove or his deputies passed on word of the allegations to Kyle Sampson.

Sampson ... passed on the allegations to a Justice Department official ...

... Sampson also gave him a 30-page report prepared by Wisconsin Republicans about voter fraud in Milwaukee. Sampson apparently expected [it to be passed] on to the department's criminal division.

... you can see that 30-page report, titled "Fraud in Wisconsin 2004: A Timeline/Summary" here (pdf, see page 10). As the title would indicate, it was nothing but a collection of news clippings related to voter fraud allegations in Milwaukee... in the 2004 election.

Two things about that. First, it appears that Rove wanted the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation of two-year old allegations right before the 2006 election. But second, these allegations had already been investigated ...
What were these two-year old allegations that had already been investigated? Well, here's one from page 13 of the document: (emp add)
A flyer for a Democrat-themed 'vote-a-thon' planned for this Saturday on the state Capitol square in Madison fails to disclose who is funding the effort and promises free coffee at a local restaurant for taking part, in potential violation of state law. The flyer urges people to 'gather and go' to the City-County Building in Madison. The flyer includes cartoon images of donkeys but has no legally-required disclaimer that highlights who is behind the political effort. The flyer also promises free coffee at the nearby Sunprint Cafe, which typically charges $1.50 (tax included) for coffee. Wisconson Statute 12.11. defines election bribery as "... any amount of money, or any object which has utility independent of any political message it contains and the value of which exceeds $1." "Unfortunately, the Democrats are increasingly relying on the troubling and illegal practice of bribery to rustle up votes," Republican Party of Wisconson Executive Director Darrin Schmitz pointed out.
Shocking! And certainly a good reason to crank up the investigatory machine right before an election.



2 comments


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

How Jay Carney, Time's Washington bureau chief, "works":

First: Have a junior staffer take a 746 word Bloomberg report (issued on May 4) about Gonzales, Sampson, and Goodling and trim it down to 549 words.

Second: Write a post over at Swampland with these words:
Our colleague Massimo Calabresi breaks new ground on this story ...
Third: Rest easy, now that you've finally said something on the U.S. Attorney dismissals since last commenting on March 20 (about Fred Fielding's negotiations with the Senate Judiciary committee over White House staff testimony).


For those interested, here is the entire set of Swampland posts by Carney on the Attorney Scandal:
  • January 11: The famous post where Carney dismissed Josh Marshall's work on the attorney firings with these words:
    Of course! It all makes perfect conspiratorial sense!

    Except for one thing: in this case some liberals are seeing broad partisan conspiracies where none likely exist.
  • January 18: Jay pulls back a bit, but still maintains:
    ... what I don't see is a broad-based conspiracy. I see political hackery ...
    Whatever that distinction is supposed to mean.

  • March 2: Carney pulls back further, but with caveats: (emp add)
    The story changed this week when one of the fired US Attorneys, David Iglesias, went public with accusations that he had been pressured by two lawmakers to speed up the investigation of a New Mexico Democrat. Those accusations have spurred the Dems on the Hill into action. The hearing Tuesday should be riveting. If Iglesias names names, and others tell similar stories, I will take my hat off to Marshall and others in the blogosphere and congratulate them for having been right in their suspicions about this story from the beginning. We're not there yet, but Iglesias' decision to go public is a big deal.
  • March 6: Small entry where he says:
    ... the fired U.S. Attorneys have made the administration look ... dismissive of the idea that federal prosecutors should be given broad independence from political interference.
  • March 13: The hat is off!
    My hat is off. Josh Marshall at TalkingPointsMemo and everyone else out there whose instincts told them there was something deeply wrong and even sinister about the firings, and who dug around and kept writing about them while Iglesias decided whether to talk to the press or go quietly on to his next job, deserve tremendous credit.

    When this story first surfaced, I thought the Bush White House and Justice Department were guilty of poorly executed acts of crass political patronage. I called some Democrats on the Hill; they were "concerned", but this was not a priority.
    If Jay calls "some Democrats" and they aren't on top of things, then it's a good reason for no further investigation. That's the Time magazine way.

  • March 20: About Fred Fielding and the Senate Judiciary committee.

  • May 8: The post where Carney says Time magazine "breaks new ground" on the U.S.Attorney firings.
There you have it. No comments in February. None in April from Time magazine's Washington bureau chief, even though his hat is off and he acknowledges there is something substantial and serious going on.



1 comments


Monday, May 07, 2007

This is good news:
Consumers Boost Borrowing Despite Prices

WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumers boosted their borrowing in March at the fastest pace in four months, showing resilience in the face of rising energy prices and a painful housing slump.

The Federal Reserve's report, released Monday, showed consumer credit increased at a brisk annual rate of 6.7 percent in March. That marked a pickup from February's 2.8 percent growth rate and was the biggest increase since November.

Consumer spending is indispensable to a healthy economy. The economy grew at an anemic 1.3 percent pace in the January-to-March quarter, the weakest in four years, due to fallout from the housing slump and belt tightening by businesses. Consumers, however, managed to continue spending, an important factor in keeping the economy moving.

Use of revolving credit, primarily credit cards, rose at a sizzling pace of 9.2 percent in March. That was up from a 2.9 percent growth rate in February and was the biggest increase since November.

Demand for nonrevolving credit used to finance cars, vacations, education and other things, also picked up. Nonrevolving credit use rose at a 5.2 percent pace in March, compared with a 2.7 percent growth rate in February.
It would appear that consumers are spending because they have to keep spending (on food, energy, education, medical). There may not be much they can cut back on.

And by the way, I keep close track of food expenses and those have risen 35% in the last 12 months. So no wonder the consumer continues to spend.



0 comments

The French elections:

Over at The Moderate Voice, there is an excerpt from Le Figaro about Sarkozy’s win. Talks about the socialists being adrift. Worth a look.



0 comments

It just never stops:

Do you keep track of the military casualties over in Iraq?

After a bloody April (117 total, US+UK) the month of May already has 28, for an average of 4 per day. So far this year there have been a total of 397 deaths, at a rate of slightly over 3 per day. There has been lots of talk about if the surge will work to reduce sectarian violence and allow the Iraqui government to function. But not so much about the continuing costs in lives (and money) that are being incurred daily.



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Happy birthday Tim!

He turns 57 today.


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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Subnitted without comment:

From Wikipedia:
Book of Abraham

The Book of Abraham is a scriptural text for some denominations of the Latter Day Saint movement. According to Joseph Smith, Jr., the movement's founder, the text is a partial translation of the words of Abraham, in his own hand, written on a set of Egyptian papyri purchased by the religion in 1835 from a traveling mummy show, although subsequent examination of those papyri has called that claim into question.

The work was originally published in the Latter Day Saint movement newspaper Times and Seasons together with facsimiles of vignettes from the papyrus, with Smith's interpretations. Later, it was republished as part of the Pearl of Great Price, which has been canonized by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as one of its four scriptural works.

According to Smith, the papyri recounts the story of Abraham's early life as well as a vision he received concerning the creation of the world. The book is a source of some distinctive and controversial Latter-day Saint doctrines such as the exaltation of humanity, the plurality of gods, priesthood, and pre-mortal existence.

For many years the original papyri were considered lost. In 1966 at least some of the papyrus scrolls were found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Based on this rediscovered source material of the Book of Abraham, non-Latter Day Saint Egyptologists say that the illustrations and the original text of the Book of Abraham are funerary texts, dating to about the first century BC, that describe events in the afterlife of deceased Egyptians.


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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Bill Kristol will love this: (seriously)

On the wires: (emp add)
Qaeda's Zawahri says Iraq bill shows U.S. defeat

DUBAI (Reuters) - Al Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri said a U.S. congressional bill calling for a troop withdrawal from Iraq was proof of Washington's defeat, according to a Web video posted on Saturday.

"This bill reflects American failure and frustration," Zawahri said.
Expect Zawahri to be quoted by Kristol, Krauthammer, Hannity, and Limbaugh.

I sure looks like the political debate in the U.S. is going to get really ugly. See also Greenwald observations about the new wewintheylose.com website, where they write:
Congress has passed ... the Iraq Surrender Act of 2007.


1 comments

The Broder Bounce:

Bush’s job approval

28%
 
 




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Does Alan Blinder have the answer?

In a Washington Post op-ed, Free Trade's Great, but Offshoring Rattles Me, Alan Blinder discusses free trade and how it will be tough on many workers in the U.S.:
[Consider an] an American computer programmer or accountant. They've done what they were told to do: They went to college and prepared for well-paid careers with bountiful employment opportunities. But now their bosses are eyeing legions of well-qualified, English-speaking programmers and accountants in India, for example, who will happily work for a fraction of what Americans earn. Such prospective competition puts a damper on wage increases. And if the jobs do move offshore, displaced American workers may lose not only their jobs but also their pensions and health insurance. These people can be forgiven if they have doubts about the virtues of globalization.
And then he looks to the future:
... one good bet is that many electronic service jobs will move offshore, whereas personal service jobs will not. Here are a few examples. Tax accounting is easily offshorable; onsite auditing is not. Computer programming is offshorable; computer repair is not. Architects could be endangered, but builders aren't. Were it not for stiff regulations, radiology would be offshorable; but pediatrics and geriatrics aren't. Lawyers who write contracts can do so at a distance and deliver them electronically; litigators who argue cases in court cannot.
Blinder concludes:
What else is to be done? Trade protection won't work. You can't block electrons from crossing national borders.
But he said:
Were it not for stiff regulations, radiology would be offshorable
So, there are regulations that prevent offshoring after all? Why can't similar regulations be applied to computer programming and architecture? (to name two professions Blinder cites)



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Friday, May 04, 2007

The dog days of summer:

What will be the public reaction if this summer:
  • The Iraqi parliment takes a two-month recess beginning in July
  • Bush takes a month off in August
  • Violence continues to rage in Iraq
  • U.S. soldiers are dying at the rate we've seen so far this year (~90/month)
  • The administration tries to sell the idea that progress is being made at the political leve in Iraq - or that we're moving towards progress - or some such talk
With an absent Iraq parliment and U.S. president, how could anyone (Bush, neocons, Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol, et al) make the case that the U.S. troops are there to provide security while a lasting political arrangement is being crafted?



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Thursday, May 03, 2007

I am so tired of fact checking every f*cking thing in the universe:

Let's start this post out by looking at what Johathan Chait wrote recently:
The notion that political punditry ought to, or even can, be constrained by intellectual honesty is deeply alien to the netroots.
Hey, Jonathan, that's mostly what we do, try to find out what's really going on. That's called intellectual honesty.

Take this post for example. Robert Novak writes about a new movie about the 1857 Mountains Meadow Massacre, attributed by most to the Mormons, and how it plays into current politics since Mitt Romney is a Mormon and running for president. How involved was the Mormon leadership at the time? Did Brigham Young know or order the massacre? Etc. Here are the key points Novak makes: (emp add)
The basic facts of the Mountain Meadows Massacre are not in dispute. Mormons mobilized Paiute Indians, accompanied by Mormons disguised as Indians, to attack a peaceful wagon train. The settlers beat back the attack but were left short of food and ammunition. They disarmed at the request of the Mormons, who said they would lead the settlers to safety but instead turned on them, murdering every man, woman and child above age 8. All that is in doubt historically is whether this was ordered by Brigham Young, president of the Mormon Church and territorial governor of Utah. [The movie] "September Dawn" says he was responsible; the church denies it.

Today's Mormons, including Romney, cannot be blamed for those events.

John D. Lee, Young's adopted son and the man who led the massacre, was executed by firing squad 20 years after the killings -- the only person punished. "I have been sacrificed in a cowardly, dastardly manner," he said after his conviction and excommunication.
At a minimum, the reader is told that John D. Lee was behind the massacre and was punished and excommunicated. And it's all in the past. Right?

Well, no. Turns out that
On 20 April 1961 Lee was restored to membership in the Mormon Church.
Which isn't all that long ago and shows that the Mormons haven't, pace Novak, thrown Lee out of the church.

You can make up your own mind about the relevance of Lee, the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and present day Mormons, but the thing many bloggers do - pay attention now Johathan Chait - is, as Atrios said, Fact Check Their Asses.

Because nobody else will.

UPDATE: Corrected date.



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Broder Bilge:

The "Dean" has another entry in his pro-bipartisanship essays, this one called, get this, Thankless Bipartisanship. Before we look an an excerpt, remember this:
Broder-approved bipartisanship allowed Bush's 2001 tax cuts to become law.
Now to the essay:
[This week Sen. Lamer Alexander said] "the Senate spent three days debating and passing perhaps the most important piece of legislation of this two-year session. Almost no one noticed."

Alexander has a point. The bill, boldly named the America Competes Act, authorized an additional $16 billion over four years as part of a $60 billion effort to "double spending for physical sciences research, recruit 10,000 new math and science teachers and retrain 250,000 more, provide grants to researchers and invest more in high-risk, high-payoff research." ....

The House has yet to act on most of the provisions, and finding the money to implement them will not be easy.
So, Broder's bipartisanship results in trillions of lost taxes going to the treasury, yet he's touting a punk program ($60 billion) that has the bipartisan imprimatur, and concludes that bipartisanship is the way to go these days.

Broder's bipartisan fixation is nothing more than a way to insure that the very right-wing Republicans have a say in crafting legislation - no matter how little they represent the public.



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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

What the hell is Harvey Mansfield talking about?

In a lengthy, but worthwhile essay, Glenn Greenwald looks at a recent Wall Street Journal op ed by Harvey Mansfield that supports the notion of a president that does not have to follow the law. There are many problems with what Mansfield has written, but let's look at something he wrote earlier in the same vein:
To counter enemies, a republic must have and use force adequate to a greater threat than comes from criminals ....

But enemies, being extra-legal, need to be faced with extra-legal force.
Here's the problem. The definition of enemies, how they are pursued, and their punishment, are specified by law. But Mansfield says the law shouldn't apply when it comes to the latter two. If you accept the law as something that defines "enemies" (aka law-breakers), then you should accept the law's other provisions, those that declare what processes are allowed to deal with them.

To argue with a straight face that people who violate the law are "extra-legal" and therefore outside the law's jurisdiction (and protection) is absurd. The law recognizes that people will violate the law at times, but still considers actions to catch and punish them to be within the law's purview. And that's setting aside the whole notion that the law deals with suspects, not enemies. The law is used to determine who really is an enemy, with rules for evidence and trial proceedings. But Mansfield doesn't care for any of that. Some Leader gets to say who an enemy is (absent any evidence!) and Mansfield says "anything goes".

It's time to come out and say it. The Weekly Standard and the Wall Street Journal editorial page, by running Mansfield's essay in a non-critical manner, are fascists. (Or, as some have suggested, the milder term "royalists".)

UPDATE: Remember, Mansfield is writing this during a time of peace, where there is no existential threat to the nation. There are no Nazi subs off the Atlantic coast. No troops marching on Washington. It's hard to conclude anything other than that Harvey Mansfield is deranged.



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Bill O'Reilly less nuanced than Father Charles Coughlin:

That's what an Indiana University study says:
Using analysis techniques first developed in the 1930s by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis, Conway, Grabe and Grieves found that O'Reilly employed six of the seven propaganda devices nearly 13 times each minute in his editorials. His editorials also are presented on his Web site and in his newspaper columns.

The seven propaganda devices include:
  • Name calling -- giving something a bad label to make the audience reject it without examining the evidence;
  • Glittering generalities -- the oppositie of name calling;
  • Card stacking -- the selective use of facts and half-truths;
  • Bandwagon -- appeals to the desire, common to most of us, to follow the crowd;
  • Plain folks -- an attempt to convince an audience that they, and their ideas, are "of the people";
  • Transfer -- carries over the authority, sanction and prestige of something we respect or dispute to something the speaker would want us to accept; and
  • Testimonials -- involving a respected (or disrespected) person endorsing or rejecting an idea or person.
The same techniques were used during the late 1930s to study another prominent voice in a war-era, Father Charles Coughlin. His sermons evolved into a darker message of anti-Semitism and fascism, and he became a defender of Hitler and Mussolini. In this study, O'Reilly is a heavier and less-nuanced user of the propaganda devices than Coughlin.
That's saying something.

Nerds may remember there was a game called Wff 'n Proof that dealt with logic. There was another game from the company called Propaganda (for ages 11 and up!). I had, and still have it. In the game, you learn to recognize various techniques that are used to win an arguement - even when the facts are not on your side. And anyone who watches or reads O'Reilly can see that he uses them all the time.



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Living in a world of their own:

You recall that people upset with Wikipedia started an alternative, Conservapedia.

Now, we read this:
Republican White House veterans Charlie Gerow and Jeff Lord have created a new conservative video Web site called QubeTV, which they describe as an alternative to YouTube, a popular clearinghouse for sharing video files.

YouTube rose to prominence in political circles last year when former Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, had his infamous "macaca" moment posted on the site, which many believe led to his defeat by Democrat James H. Webb Jr.

Both Mr. Gerow and Mr. Lord, who served as aides during the Reagan administration, say QubeTV is necessary because of what they view as an anti-conservative bias by the administrators of YouTube.
So, here's how a conservative can spend the day:
  • Wake up and read the New York Post*
  • Drive to work listening to Laura Ingraham
  • During the lunch hour, check out some QubeTV videos
  • Drive home listening to Michael Medved or Sean Hannity
  • Turn on Fox News Channel for "fair and balanced" reporting
  • Look at a few entries at Conservapedia
  • Before going to sleep, spend thirty minutes reading a book published by Regnery
* They deliver in cities outside New York



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What's this crap about an "artificial deadline"?

Bush says:
... members of the House and the Senate passed a bill [for funding the Iraq War with conditions].

... a few minutes ago, I vetoed this bill.

Tonight I will explain the reasons for this veto ...

First, the bill would mandate a rigid and artificial deadline for American troops to begin withdrawing from Iraq.
An artificial deadline would be picking dates out of a hat. If, in the opinion of Congress, Iraq is not worth more than four years of occupation, deciding to exit sometime in the fifth year is not an artificial deadline. It is a considered deadline.



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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

They didn't decide:

Over at Volokh Conspiracy we read:
Did Sampson and Goodling Have Total Control of DOJ Political Hiring?: The National Journal has a fascinating story about the hiring and firing of political appointees at DOJ that may help explain the context of the U.S. Attorney "purge" story:
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales signed a highly confidential order in March 2006 delegating to two of his top aides .... extraordinary authority over the hiring and firing of most non-civil-service employees of the Justice Department. ...
Remarkable. And assuming this story checks out, it certainly explains why Gonzales seemed so clueless about the U.S. Attorney firings. It seems that Gonzales had taken himself completely out of the loop of all DOJ political appointee hiring. He had delegated that role completely to two 30-somethings, Kyle Sampson and Monica Goodling; his only role was a formality, required just so that OLC would find the practice constitutional.
Don't kid yourself. These 30-somethings weren't making the decisions; they were merely gears in the machine. They did what their political superiors in the White House wanted (i.e. Rove).



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