Wednesday, April 30, 2008

As predicted, five months ago: (Dec 3, 2007)
Get ready for a 2% Federal Funds rate:

At least, that's the impression one gets from reading Fed "hawk" William Poole's recent speech, superbly interpreted by Mark Thoma. As Felix Salmon remarks:
Mark Thoma deserves some kind of medal for doing this. Fed speeches are long and dense; Thoma's worked out a way of making them much easier to read without losing any of their subtleties. In this one, William Poole comes to the defense of the "Fed Put" against the moral-hazard brigade. Well worth reading, or at least skimming.
Poole is supposed to be the one resistant to easy money, but in his (somewhat defensive) speech he claims the Fed looks, or should look, beyond Wall Street when it makes policy. If it bails out the stock market, well, that's just a by-product of helping everyone else.

Apparently, Jim Cramer's message issued this summer finally got through.
  • "Bill Poole has no idea what it's like out there!"
  • "My people ... are losing their jobs!"
  • "The Fed is asleep!"
  • "Bill Poole is shameful!"
  • "Cut the rate."
  • "Open the discount window."
  • "Bill Poole, listen to me. There was a president by the name of Hoover, and no one thinks much of him now."
Did Poole listen to Cramer? Apparently so, because there is this passage in Poole's 30 November speech:
The U.S. stock market, between its peak in 1929 and its trough in 1932, declined by 85 percent. Question 1: If the Fed had followed a more expansionary policy in 1930-32, sufficient to avoid the Great Depression, would the stock market have declined so much? Question 2: Assuming that a more expansionary monetary policy would have supported the stock market to some degree in 1930-32, would it be accurate to say that the Fed had “bailed out” equity investors and created moral hazard by doing so? I note that a more expansionary monetary policy in 1930-32 would, presumably, have supported not only the stock market but also the bond and mortgage markets and the banking system, by reducing the number of defaults created by business and household bankruptcies in subsequent years. [...]

I can state my conclusion compactly: There is a sense in which a Fed put does exist. [...]

When there is a high degree of confidence in the central bank, everyone should believe that the central bank will respond to events that might otherwise drive the economy into recession. In this sense, a “Fed put” should exist. A central bank is supposed to do what it can to maintain employment at a high level.
Bring on the low, low rates.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Shorter Bush presser:
  • Congress is to blame for high gasoline and energy costs (and drilling in ANWR is the solution).
  • Congress is to blame for high food prices.
  • Congress is to blame for not fixing problems with loans (house, student).
  • Congress is letting the American people down.
  • And I'm angry.


Monday, April 28, 2008

What do you think?

Marc Ambinder: (emp add)
## The Obama campaign knows that Wright is throwing Obama under the bus, and they're of two minds about the political repercussions. On the one hand, they want him to shut up, knowing that the press is likely to repeat the Crazy Uncle soundbites more than they are the intelligent, learned theologian soundbites. The public associates Obama with Wright; the more they think of Wright, the more they think of Obama. They do not believe that the tour will rehabilitate Wright's image with those voters who were offended by the comments.
Joan Walsh: (emp add)
[Wright] is a man of enormous self-regard, and he's clearly trying to hurt Barack Obama. His national rehabilitation tour started fairly sympathetically with the Moyers conversation, but it's devolved into self-pity and self-glorification ever since. His Sunday night talk to the NAACP was mostly silly, from the questionable science behind his insistence that black children are right-brained (creative) while white children are left-brained (logical and analytical) to his mocking the way white people talk, dance, clap, worship and sing.
Andrew Sullivan, posting an email he received: (emp add)
Jeremiah Wright fucked Obama today and fucked him good. Remember how good everything felt right after Obama historical speech in Pennsylvania -- like we might inch toward an honest discussion on race? Wright seemed to do everything he could this morning to shut that down.
Kos Diarist ThatPoshGirl: (emp add)
I hate to say it, but I think Wright is intentionally hurting Barack Obama. Jeremiah Wright is an intelligent man and surely knows the damage he is doing. He has recently made statements and done things that he has to know are causing Obama problems. Yet he remains defiant and continues to dig the whole deeper and deeper for Obama.

What makes me believe these actions are intentional is his body language. When I have watched him recently, he has not appeared angry or hurt, he seems to be filled with glee. I have gotten the impression that he is thoroughly enjoying himself.
Bob Herbert: (emp add)
The Rev. Jeremiah Wright went to Washington on Monday not to praise Barack Obama, but to bury him.

Feeling dissed by Senator Obama, Mr. Wright gets revenge on his former follower while bathed in a spotlight brighter than any he could ever have imagined. He’s living a narcissist’s dream. At long last, his 15 minutes have arrived.

The question that cries out for an answer from Mr. Wright is why — if he is so passionately committed to liberating and empowering blacks — does he seem so insistent on wrecking the campaign of the only African-American ever to have had a legitimate shot at the presidency.

[I]t’s not like [Wright's] naïve politically. He knows exactly what he’s doing.

My guess is that Mr. Wright felt he’d been thrown under a bus by an ungrateful congregant who had benefited mightily from his association with the church and who should have rallied to his former pastor’s defense. What we’re witnessing now is Rev. Wright’s “I’ll show you!” tour. For Senator Obama, the re-emergence of Rev. Wright has been devastating.
Any Jeremiah Wright supporters out there that disagree?


Rev. Jeremiah Wright - one man demolition team:

In the comment thread for Kevin Drum's post about Wright's NAACP appearance, are these remarks:
Wright's speech this morning was pretty good, but then he completely threw Obama under the bus during the Q&A. I was stunned. I went into a place where I do volunteer work afterwards and everyone was talking about it. It was one of the most selfish things that I have ever seen. One of the black female anchors on MSNBC said her blackberry was going crazy with messages from her black friends about how Wright was single handly destroying Obama's campaign.

For those of you who defend his NAACP speech, are you going to write letters of apology to CHarles Murray who wrote the Bell Curve now? Because Wright was espousing the same racist nonsense that Murray does: that Black children learn in different ways than white children because of genetics.
What's that last part about? From the transcript of his speech:
[citing Dr. Janice Hale] European and European-American children have a left brained cognitive object oriented learning style and the entire educational learning system in the United States of America.

Left brain is logical and analytical. Object oriented means the student learns from an object. [Beginning with] the solitude of the cradle with objects being hung over his or her head to help them determine colors and shape ...

That is one way of learning, but it is only one way of learning.

African and African-American children have a different way of learning.

They are right brained, subject oriented in their learning style. Right brain that means creative and intuitive. Subject oriented means they learn from a subject, not an object. They learn from a person.
Good to know that African-Americans are less capable of learning via logical and analytical methods. He's saying that they are, by nature, less able to comprehend mathematics (which is overwhelmingly logic and analytics). Talk about perpetuating a stereotype! Charles Murray would be proud.

ALSO: Obama is half-black and half-white. How would Wright characterize the appropriate pedagogical approach to someone like that?



On his contention that the U.S. government had created AIDS as a method of committing genocide against African-Americans, [Rev. Jeremiah] Wright referred to a hotly-disputed 1996 book "Emerging Viruses: AIDS And Ebola : Nature, Accident or Intentional?" by Leonard G Horowitz, which contends that AIDS and the Ebola viruses evolved during cancer experiments on monkeys.
Horowitz (at Wikipedia):
Dr. Horowitz ... has been a staunch proponent of natural healing using sound, color, oxygen, nutrition, and water-based therapies.

Dr. Horowitz has testified to receiving Divine direction concerning subjects that place him at the center of controversy. For instance, he feels compelled to decline generally unquestioned practices of vaccination that he argues is blood intoxicating and genetically-mutating.

Dr. Horowitz’s ... contributions that have substantial bearing, he says, on the forthcoming Messianic Age of World Peace includes his:

1) advancing the alpha-numeric code with which Revelation 13:18, pertaining to the mark of the beast—“666,” can be definitively deciphered implicating global industrialists and multinational corporation in the conduct of genocide;

2) promoting the global concert described in Revelation 14:1-3 involving 144,000 persons singing a “new song” based on the musical notes published in his book Healing Codes for the Biological Apocalypse required for the concert’s success in facilitating a global spiritual awakening; and

3) decrypting Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man” drawing that encodes these frequencies of sound representing a path to world peace and human enlightenment—music that engages the precise mathematical frequencies of energy our Creator uses to heal and sustain everything natural.
From Horowitz' website,
The vast majority of studies undoubtedly conclude that women who undergo abortions are placed at increased risk of breast cancer.
If you go to Horowitz' website, you will find lots of material that align with Pat Robertson's theories about how the world works (global conspiracy, Bible prophecy). Wright, as evidenced by his recent remarks and his advocacy of Horowitz-type theories, is a pre-Enlightenment man.


All thanks to Bernanke, who put bailing out investment banks ahead of fighting (commodity) inflation:

In the news:
Opec chief warns of $200 a barrel oil price

The president of Opec, the cartel of oil-producing countries, has given warning that the price of crude could hit $200 a barrel, sparking fears that rising fuel costs will force more businesses into bankruptcy.

Chakib Khelil, the Algerian Energy Minister and president of Opec, said that the falling value of the US dollar would continue to drive up oil prices as investors sought to store their wealth in other assets.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Think about it:

Jen Sorensen is a very talented cartoonist and her website is worth a weekly visit (updates every Monday). One cartoon, The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades, should be seen and contemplated, especially the first two panels. Bottom line: the productivity gains that would have us all leading a more comfortable life have been absorbed by capitalists. None of the gains were shared by labor. For a period of thirty years. That's astounding.

The cartoon will have resonance with those of a particular generation who, in the 1960's, heard about how great things were going to be with the advance of technology. It sounded plausible. It was realized, but the error was in thinking that the distribution of productivity gains was going to continue as it had before.


Don't blame John McCain!

Digby is unhappy that McCain said the following about capital gains taxes:
"Sen. Obama wants to raise the capital gains tax, which would have a direct effect on 100 million Americans." "That means he has no understanding of the economy and that he is totally insensitive to the hopes and dreams and ambitions of 100 million Americans who will be affected by his almost doubling of the capital gains tax."
The idea of McCain claiming that anyone, much less Barack Obama, doesn't understand the economy because "100 million Americans" would be affected by the raising of the capital gains tax is mind boggling.
And Atrios chimes in:
With talk of raising the capital gains tax in the air, you're going to hear a lot of conservatives and mainstream media folks blather on about how much this kind of thing is going to be so bad for the "middle class" or "even working folk" because everyone is invested in the stock market through 401K plans, etc. But the capital gains tax rate will never apply to that money. More than that, any capital gains from those plans will be, upon withdrawal, taxed at the income tax rate which for most people will be higher than the current 15% capital gains rate.
Silly Digby. Silly Atrios. Don't they know that the well-respected, independent, unbiased, and wealthy Charlie Gibson had this to say during the Philadelphia debate:
... in the 1980s, when the [Capital Gains] tax was increased to 28 percent, the revenues went down. So why raise it at all, especially given the fact that 100 million people in this country own stock and would be affected?
So there. Charlie Gibson says 100 million people own stock and would be affected by a change in the capital gains tax. That should settle the matter. McCain was not relying on an in-house bunch of crazy supply-side economic advisors. McCain was simply agreeing with pundit conventional wisdom, which Charlie Gibson represents.


Bush tweaks candidates at correspondents' dinner

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush, the man who lied the country into war, poked fun at his potential successors Saturday night, expressing surprise that none of them were in the audience at the White House Correspondents' Association annual dinner.

"Senator McCain's not here," Bush, approver of torture and violation of Geneva accords, said of GOP nominee-in-waiting John McCain. "He probably wanted to distance himself from me a little bit. You know, he's not alone. Jenna's moving out too."

Bush, who earlier in his presidency tried to dismantle Social Security, then referred to scandals that have dogged the campaigns of the two remaining Democratic candidates, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, in explaining their absence: "Hillary Clinton couldn't get in because of sniper fire and Senator Obama's at church."

The president, who will go down in history as having done nothing to combat global warming, admitted to being "a little wistful" in his final appearance at the dinner, showing video clips of his routines from previous years. He finished by conducting the U.S. Marine Band in a medley of patriotic marches.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

When it comes to beating up the New York Times for their advocacy of free trade ...

... no one does it better than Dean Baker.

FUN FACT: The New York Times cites the Peterson Institute for International Economics (that's Peterson as in Pete Peterson, billionaire and Senior Chairman of the Blackstone Group).


The total surveillance society is almost here:

Earlier this year it was reported that the Feds were going to take and keep on file DNA samples whenever a person was arrested* (even if never charged or convicted). Now, California has gone one step further. Even if the government doesn't have a DNA record for you, they can still have you on file, as it were:
California takes lead on DNA crime-fighting technique
The state will search its database for relatives of unidentified suspects in hopes of developing leads. Critics voice privacy concerns.

California will adopt the most aggressive approach in the nation to a controversial crime-fighting technique that uses DNA to try to identify elusive criminals through their relatives, state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown announced Friday.

Employing what is known as familial or "partial match" searching, the policy is aimed at identifying a suspect through DNA collected at a crime scene by looking for potential relatives in the state's genetic database of about a million felons. Once a relative is identified, police can use that person as a lead to trace the suspect.

... Tania Simoncelli, science advisor to the American Civil Liberties Union, called Brown's decision a disappointment and said the organization is exploring its legality. The group has not decided whether to challenge the policy in court. "The fact that my brother committed a crime doesn't mean I should have to give up my privacy," she said.

At a recent FBI conference on familial searching, Jeffrey Rosen, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University, warned: "I can guarantee if familial searching proceeds, it will create a political firestorm."


Once a relative has been identified, police can interview him or construct a family tree based on existing records. If a suspect is identified, police can obtain a warrant for his DNA, or even gather it surreptiously from an abandoned drink or cigarette butt. The suspect's DNA sample would then be compared to the crime scene sample and possibly used as evidence.
In the past, a "search" was of a physical area, requiring a warrant in many instances. The search would be justified based on certain facts and arguments presented to a judge. But there is no underlying logic in a DNA search. It's a search of every entry, without any narrowing criteria.

* - Feds to collect DNA from every person they arrest (AP)


And now for something completely different:

Some Alan Greenspan / Bill Clinton bashing. From the New Yorker's Minsky Moment article:
If anybody is at fault it is Greenspan, who kept interest rates too low for too long and ignored warnings, some from his own colleagues, about what was happening in the mortgage market. But he wasn’t the only one. Between 2003 and 2007, most Americans didn’t want to hear about the downside of funds that invest in mortgage-backed securities, or of mortgages that allow lenders to make monthly payments so low that their loan balances sometimes increase. They were busy wondering how much their neighbors had made selling their apartment, scouting real-estate Web sites and going to open houses, and calling up Washington Mutual or Countrywide to see if they could get another home-equity loan. That’s the nature of speculative manias: eventually, they draw in almost all of us.

You might think that the best solution is to prevent manias from developing at all, but that requires vigilance. Since the nineteen-eighties, Congress and the executive branch have been conspiring to weaken federal supervision of Wall Street. Perhaps the most fateful step came when, during the Clinton Administration, Greenspan and Robert Rubin, then the Treasury Secretary, championed the abolition of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which was meant to prevent a recurrence of the rampant speculation that preceded the Depression.
Bill Clinton, champion of free trade (NAFTA), accepter of the new CPI forumla (Boskin commission), and advocate of the repeall of Glass-Steagall. Bill Clinton was, when it came to economics, more a Republican than a Democrat.


Equal time:

For a positive review of Rev. Wright's appearance on Moyers, consider this blog post (by a Republican female African-American attorney, if that matters).
It appears that the whole basis of his "God damn America" comments controversy after 9-11 is based in the scripture of Psalm 137 and an interview that US Ambassador Peck gave about his feelings about our foreign policies abroad reverberating back against America that Pastor Wright was making reference to in his sermon ...


Rev. Right, historian:

From the Bill Moyers interview:
BILL MOYERS: When I hear the word "black liberation theology" being the interpretation of scripture from the oppressed, I think well, that's the Jewish story--

REVEREND WRIGHT: Exactly, exactly. From Genesis to Revelation. These are people who wrote the word of God that we honor and love under Egyptian oppression, Syrian oppression, Babylonian oppression, Persian oppression, Greek oppression, Roman oppression.
Persian oppression? According to the Bible, it was Cyrus the Great who told those in exile to go back and rebuild the temple. He was considered Yahweh's anointed and the Jews offered prayers for him. Other Persians, like Ahasuerus (likely Xerxes) showed favor to the Jews (book of Esther).

The Jews, wrestling with the tension between "doing right by the Lord" and the compromises required by statecraft, were inclined to forsake a king and have the priests attend to religious matters, as long as they lived under a begnign hegemon. The Persian Empire was precicely that (unlike the Greek Seleucids and the Romans, which tried to impose alien cultural norms).


Friday, April 25, 2008

Rev. Wright on Bill Moyers:

He comes off even worse than before.

Why? Because instead of the usual short clip of Wright being a hot-head saying "God Damn America" and "Chickens coming home to roost" you were shown extended portions of those respective sermons.

And in those sermons Wright makes an argument commonly found in some Christian, Jewish, and Islamic groups:
Collective guilt and punishment.
Over space and time. Wright cites various transgressions the "United States" has done, starting with beating up on Native Americans, then slavery, ending up with Hiroshima. Past behavior is deemed valid criteria for assessing the nation today. That kind of thinking is similar to that found in 2 Kings, when Josiah, King of Judah, and everyone else in the land, even though they reformed, were defeated by Pharaoh Neco of Egypt (and later the Babylonians) because:
Nevertheless, the LORD did not turn away from the heat of his fierce anger, which burned against Judah because of all that Manasseh had done to provoke him to anger. So the LORD said, "I will remove Judah also from my presence as I removed Israel, and I will reject Jerusalem, the city I chose, and this temple ...
Manasseh was an earlier king who tolerated idols (according to the Bible).

That kind of collective assessment of who done wrong and who deserves punishment is totally inappropriate for the modern world because those kind of grievances can never be assuaged. It's like the Hatfields and the McCoys or those never-ending fights in the Balkans. It's a primitive ethic which threatens Enlightenment values.

That's not to say that Wright is unique or that it's purely an African-American issue. Many conservative Christian groups also think along those lines (e.g. Hagee saying New Orleans "had it coming"). Wright is securely in that tradition. But no matter who does it, this atavistic sense of justice interferes with progress for any modern, diverse, secular state.

ALSO: Moyers didn't ask Wright about the government conspiracy to unleash AIDS on the black community. Instead, we were treated to about ten minutes of a conversation about music.

AND: A quick check of bloggers indicates that many thought Wright acquitted himself well. They weren't paying attention.

UPDATE: This comment was found over at Daily Kos: (emp add)
When I was looking for text of more of Wright's sermons I came across a blog and saw it was a rather conservative Christian blog. Someone had posted the text and maybe sme clips of some sermons but on the page I had gotten to they were discussing their reaction. ...

They were ashamed of how they had judged him based on the clips and just felt so certain in their judgment and hadn't bothered to look at the whole sermons and what he had really said. They didn't know if they were quicker to accept it because it was affecting a liberal or because Wright was black and his style so different but they were wrong. They also discussed what they found so inspiring in his sermons, about tears in their eyes and how effectively he expounded on God's message and the teachings of Jesus.
UPDATE IN RESPONSE TO COMMENTS: From the transcript, parts of Wright's sermons:
"... the United States of America government, when it came to treating her citizens of Indian descent fairly, she failed. She put them on reservations. ... ... America ... put [Africans] in chains. The government put them on slave quarters, put them on auction blocks, put them in cotton fields ... God damn America! That's in the Bible, for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating her citizen as less than human."
and (following 9/11)
"America's chickens are coming home to roost! We took this country by terror away from the Sioux, the Apache, the Arawak, the Comanche, the Arapaho, the Navajo. Terrorism! We took Africans from their country to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism!
Those offenses cited by Wright took place over one hundred and fifty years ago. He is clearly saying that America has been found wanting; for that it deserves opprobrium by God ("God Damn America") and recent acts of violence (e.g. 9/11) are part of a normative system of divine justice ("Chickens coming home to roost").

EVEN MORE: A Kos diary with a Harriet Beecher Stowe quote:
"Both North and South have been guilty before God ...     [And if there is no reform, then] injustice and cruelty shall bring on nations the wrath of Almighty God!"
FINALLY (?): There is a blog unaffiliated with the UCC, run by a UCC member, but sometime critical, with this to say about the Moyers interview:
Moyers did spend a fair amount of time trying to apply context to Wright's post 9/11 sermon, but all it really did is confirm that Wright connects many of the historically bad things the U.S. has done to 9/11 in a biblical context.


No words can adequately describe this:

Look at this chart:
It's from The Fed's inflation gauge isn't realistic, critics say (via The Big Picture).

Social Security recipients have been losing out to real inflation (anything between 3 and 7 percent) since they get increases based on the newer methods.

And when the change was made in 1998, where was Bill Clinton on this? That modification of the calculation of the inflation rate probably did more to hurt the elderly than anything else over the last 20 years.


Obama is stupid:

Because of this:
Obama Will "Take Fox On" In Appearance This Sunday
There is no upside, and no reason to go on Fox "News". It's a total propaganda outfit and Obama will not score points with anyone (except maybe Mark Kleiman).

If this is Obama's attempt to connect with white working-class voters, then he's severly mistaken. Don't expect economic issues to be discussed (outside of the capital gains tax). Obama will be asked about his connections to William Ayers and Rev. Wright, flag pins and the "bitter-cling" remarks. It'll be a rerun of the ABC debate.


On the Wall Street Journal's bookshelf:

Via The Big Picture, there is a video of Greg Ip discussing possible Fed rate cuts. Presumably this was shot at the Wall Street Journal. So let's take a closer look at the books on display:


Gun culture:

In the news:
Dealer of gun used in Va. Tech shootings visits campus

Dealer Eric Thompson spoke at the school Thursday night as part of a weeklong demonstration in favor of allowing people to carry concealed weapons at colleges.

"For people who want to arm themselves, there shouldn't be policies in place to stop them," Thompson told about 60 students who attended his talk. There were only a few anti-gun questions posed to Thompson, and none of the protests school officials prepared for.

Thompson visited to support a chapter of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, which advocates weapons on campuses, but said he paid his own way.

Virginia Tech last week marked the first anniversary of the shootings in a dormitory and classroom building in which 33 died, including shooter Seung-Hui Cho.

Cho bought a Walther .22-caliber handgun through Thompson's Web site, based in Green Bay, Wis. Through another company Web site, Thompson also sold handgun accessories to the man who killed five Northern Illinois University students and himself in February.

[Andrew Goddard, whose son Colin was injured in the shootings] questioned whether Thompson's motivation was to make money by selling more guns. Thompson said he was selling guns at cost for two weeks to help students afford weapons.
Manly American men just can't get enough of those gleaming metal phalluses.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Well, yeah:

In the news:
Republican Sen. John McCain, campaigning through poverty-stricken cities and towns, said Wednesday he opposes a Senate bill that seeks equal pay for women because it would lead to more lawsuits.

"I am all in favor of pay equity for women, but this kind of legislation, as is typical of what's being proposed by my friends on the other side of the aisle, opens us up to lawsuits for all kinds of problems," the expected GOP presidential nominee told reporters.
And it's the same argument the White House makes. But that's the point of the legislation, to allow lawsuits. When McCain and the White House say the legislation "opens us up" to more lawsuits, it sounds like that's a regrettable side effect, and therefore a problem.


Relax, Tom Friedman:

You probably won't have a pie thrown at you during the next six months.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Lesson from Pennsylvania?

Maybe states shouldn't be so all fired-up to have their primary first (or nearly so), but instead try to schedule the primary as many weeks possible after the last one held somewhere else in the nation. Pennsylvania had six full weeks of campaining (and spending). Contrast that with California, which was part of a big cluster of states. California didn't get anything like the attention Pennsylvania got. So maybe states will try and space their primaries out a bit more, lessening the silly rush to be first (when the result is more due to name-recognition than issues or campaign competence).


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pennsylvania is over:

Thank goodness. What a miserable six weeks of nothing but essentially the same dreary commentary recited over and over and over again.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Cokie Roberts = idiot

From ABC's This Week:
Voters understand the Constitution. They have a very strong sense of that, inchoately. And that is, they know that the president is not going to determine capital gains taxes.

So they don't vote for President on issues, they vote for President on a gut-check.
"I like that guy", or "I like that guy better than the other guy".

And "I think that the decisions that he [or in this case, maybe she] make in the next four years, I'm going to be more comfortable with than I would be with that other person".
Which is why these questions that try to get at "who you are" and "what you care about" matter.
Low-quality .wav file here.

UPDATE: According to Cokie Roberts' version of the Constitution, the President doesn't have veto power and is therefore unable to affect legislation involving, say, capital gains taxes.


Let's get with the program:

The New York Times, writing about this year's (largely unsuccessful) flu virus, writes:
In research that could improve the likelihood of picking the right strains, an international team led by British scientists has documented — through molecular and genetic analysis — how seasonal flu strains evolve and sweep around the world. It turns out that new flu strains emerge in several countries in East and Southeast Asia, and are then carried by travelers to Europe and North America some six to nine months later. Several months after that they reach South America, where they die out. Then the whole process starts over.

Although scientists knew generally that influenza strains often emerge from in and around China, the new research expands the area that bears watching and surely bolsters the case for greatly enhanced surveillance in Asia.
Hey, instead of "enhanced surveillance", how about telling the Chinese to put a halt to close contact between fowl, swine, and humans? Because that's how these things get started, and it's very common in China. That country should implement measures (like those in Hong Kong markets to avert bird flu) where animals were segregated and in clean facilities. It's not expensive. It requires cement and wire and water. It's on the order of the civil engineering and food handling legislation (of the late 19th and early 20th centuries) that did more to decrease illness and mortality than any drugs.

If China doesn't get with the program, then no more trade, no Olympics, no more making nice. Same for other countries that put traditional ways of farming above reform to prevent disease.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

He admits it:

First, Glenn Greenwald (April 1): (emp add)
The central paradox of our political life is that the right-wing faction that continues to dominate our political institutions and win elections embraces fringe beliefs which have little popular support. That's why their overarching objective is to remove substantive considerations from our political debates -- the more consequential the issue, the less establishment media attention it receives, the less real public debate there is over it. Instead, our elections are determined by the barren, petty personality-based distractions and mindless chatter that define the lowly Drudgian Freak Show, where our political life now almost exclusively resides.
George Stephanopoulos (after the Philadelphia debate, in report by Calderone of
... asked whether questions about flag pins or Bosnia are actually relevant to voters, he replied: “Absolutely.”

“The vote for the president,” Stephanopoulos said, “is one of the most personal” decisions that someone makes.


Friday, April 18, 2008

Explain this:

Some headlines this morning:
Citigroup stumbles again
CNN Money - 46 minutes ago
Citigroup delivered another devastating quarterly loss Friday, this time losing more than $5 billion due to troubling results in its fixed-income business and higher consumer credit costs.

Citigroup results send stock futures higher
Reuters via Yahoo! News - 32 minutes ago
Index futures were firmly higher on Friday after shares of Citigroup Inc rose before the opening bell following the release of its quarterly results.
And it can't be because the loss was "better" than anticipated. IHT:
The loss totalled $5.11 billion, or $1.02 per share, and compared with a year-earlier profit of $5.01 billion, or $1.01 per share. Revenue fell 48 percent to $13.22 billion.

Analysts on average expected a loss of 96 cents per share on revenue of $14.35 billion, according to Reuters Estimates.

Despite the loss, Citigroup shares rose $1.43, or 6 percent, to $25.46 in premarket trading.
Up 6% on "worse than expected" (bigger loss, smaller revenue).



Bush, speaking about his Iraq venture:
"... so long as I'm the president, my measure of success is victory and success."
Will Ferrell has parodied Bush's thinking style with lines like:
"We need a national program for the nation."
Ferrell is a comedian. Bush is a joke.


Big Science = Evil

Or something like that. In a radio spot on Sean Hannity's show (Thursday) promoting the anti-evolution movie Expelled, one line heard was this:
The movie Big Science doesn't want you to see.
So it not just those pesky paleontologists who assert hominids have been around for millions of years. It's a much more menacing Big Science that we all have to contend with.

To the barricades! Smash their test tubes and mass spectrometers! Rip up their lab coats! Erase those formula-laden blackboards! Etc.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Words spoken:

Using the transcript at the New York Times, here is a breakdown showing how many words were spoken in each topic area (by both the moderators and Clinton and Obama) at the Democratic debate in Philadelphia:

  • Red is for generic politics (delegates, running mates).
  • Yellow is for the "gotcha" items (and includes asking candidate X if "Y can win").
  • Green is foreign policy.
  • Blue is taxes (including remarks that Hillary made that strayed from the CapGains tax questions) and gas/oil.
  • Pale blue for guns
  • White for Affirmative Action
Of the (approximately) 15,649 words spoken, 5,811 - or 37% - were devoted to the "gotcha" category.
On economic issues, the ABC moderators focused on taxes and ignored the national debt and any mention of spending for a safety net (as we head into a recession).


Pro-Obama Dick Polman comes down hard on Obama:

For his performance in the debate. ("... if he still harbors any hopes of driving Hillary Clinton from the Democratic race by scoring an upset victory in Pennsylvania, he might be wise to get real.")


Bush's opposition to dictatorship:

In Saudi Arabia? No.

The dictatorship that is in your neighborhood.
Pope Benedict XVI visited the White House on Wednesday, his 81st birthday, and praised America as a nation where strong religious belief can coexist with secular society.

The president ... adopted a trademark Benedict phrase when he said the nation needed the pontiff’s “message to reject this dictatorship of relativism.”


Stephanopoulos should lose his job:

He asked Obama: (emp add)
On this issue, the general theme of patriotism in your relationships, a gentleman named William Ayres, he was part of the Weather Underground. In the 1970's, they bombed the Pentagon, the Capitol, and other buildings. He's never apologized for that.

And in fact on 9/11 he was quoted in the New York Times saying, "I don't regret setting bombs, I feel we didn't do enough".

An early organizing meeting for your Senate campaign was held at his house and your campaign has said you were "friendly". Can you explain that relationship to the voters?
The quote cited was not issued in the wake of the 9/11 attacks; it was in the paper the morning of 9/11. But Stephanopoulos gives the viewer the idea that Ayres was somehow in agreement with what al-Qaeda did that day. The New York Times confirms:
Mr. Ayers did not make the remarks after the attacks on the World Trade Center that day. The interview had been conducted earlier, in connection with a memoir that he had published, “Fugitive Days,” and he was referring to his experience in the Weather Underground.
True, Hillary also talked about it (after Stephanopoulos' question) but she's a candidate. Stephanopoulos is supposed to be a journalist, a person who helps inform the public. He not only failed to clarify the situation vis-a-vis 9/11, but he actively promoted a misperception, especially with the cute "in fact" part.


How about this question?

David Brooks, approving of ABC's debate, writes:
"... I thought the questions were excellent. The journalist’s job is to make politicians uncomfortable, to explore evasions, contradictions and vulnerabilities. Almost every question tonight did that."
Taking that as a standard ("make politicians uncomfortable"), why not ask:
Which hand do you use when you wipe your ass?


Josh Marshall on ABC's handling of the debate:
It's stuff like this that really makes me think that whole big chunks of the established press needs to be swept away.


The reason we have so many "low information" voters:

Is because of institutions like ABC "News".


One observation:

It's been pointed out that the ABC moderators of the debate asked a bunch of questions that were trivial, like Obama's connection to William Ayres. There were many like that, which were seen as validating right-wing concerns (capital gains tax) or right-wing character charges (patriotism). But here's the interesting point:
The debate was primarily to help Democrats in Pennsylvania choose a candidate.
And having Clinton and Obama discuss right-wing talking points does nothing for the Pennsylvania primary voter.


What a bunch of shitheads:

Who? ABC "News", that's who. Get a load of the three featured video clips on their main page for Wednesday's debate:
Let's see now. Will watching any of those clips help voters decide which candidate might be best on
  • The Iraq War
  • The economy
  • Global Warming
  • Health Care
  • Executive power
  • Civil liberties (FISA, torture)
  • Education
  • National debt and trade debt
  • Energy policy
  • China
  • Immigration
  • Supreme Court
  • Food prices (domestic and global)
to mention a few minor issues.


ABC's handing of the debate:

Didn't watch it, but did read several bloggers that were critical of Gibson and company (e.g. Josh Marshall, Mark Kleiman, Will Bunch twice, Dan McQuade - these last two are quite entertaining). Why bother? This blog reported on the piss-poor performance by ABC back on January 6. Here's a reposting:
The outrage at 9:25

Everybody's talking about the Obama-Edwards-Clinton confrontation that took place at about 9:35 PM during the Democratic presidential debate, but almost nobody is commenting about what ABC was doing prior to that moment. As Mark Kleiman notes:
I'm not sure why ABC News thought it important to start every segment of the debate with a video segment embodying a Republican talking-point, or why Gibson thought it his place to reinforce those talking-points in direct debate with the candidates.
And how! At 9:25, Gibson took the debate to domestic issues, and framed it with this: (emp add)
GIBSON: I'm going to move on to domestic policy. How much the government is spending, How much you would spend with the programs you propose, promises you've made. And some of that is entitlements. A little background - ABC's Betsy Stark.    [video segment followed]

STARK: Every hour of this new year another 400 baby boomers will turn 60, swelling the ranks of those soon eligible to collect Social Security and Medicare. The forecasts are foreboding. By 2017 the Social Security surplus runs dry, and the system begins in taking less tax revenue than it pays out in benefits. For Medicare the problems are even more severe. By 2013 the program's Hospital Insurance Fund is expected to fall into the red, and the insurance premiums seniors pay for doctor's visits and prescription drugs are projected to keep rising. Many young American's simply assume there will be nothing left for them to guarantee the security of their old age.

screenshot     mp3
To most people, the expression "run dry" means "empty". But in fact, in 2017 the Social Security Trust Fund's surplus will not have even reached is largest size:
Social Security Trust Fund
  • Projections are that current receipts will continue to exceed expenditures until 2017 (according to Charles Blahous, Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy).
  • Thereafter, there will be a shortfall that will be made up by withdrawals from the Trust Fund, although the Trust Fund will continue to show net growth until 2025 because of the interest generated by its bonds.
To clarify. The Social Security Trust fund has two income streams: tax receipts and interest on bonds. It has one expenditure stream: to retirees. ABC would have you panic because, even after piling up a huge surplus and before that surplus has reached its maximum, in 2017 one income stream to the fund will be matched by the expenditure stream. And what really matters, the ability of the fund to pay benefits, isn't scheduled to be a problem until 2042.

When misleading statements like those Betsy Stark peddled are believed, it's no surprise that, as she put it, "Many young American's simply assume there will be nothing left for them to guarantee the security of their old age."

UPDATE: The Daily Howler reviews the same misleading segment.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

First time ever:

In the news:
WASHINGTON - President Bush has quite a birthday present for Pope Benedict XVI: at least 9,000 excited guests gathered on the White House's South Lawn for a 21-gun salute, a famed soprano's rendition of "The Lord's Prayer" and an emotional presidential welcome. [...]

The president kicked off the unprecedented series of events by motoring to Andrews Air Force Base just outside Washington on Tuesday to meet Benedict's plane, something he's never done for any leader.
Bush does seem like Tony Blair in some respects. Wouldn't be surprised if years from now, he becomes a Catholic.


Cartoon alert:

Troubletown is excellent this week.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Joe Lieberman on Rush Limbaugh:

Via NRO:
As an Independent, it doesn’t bother me at all to be honored at the same dinner with Rush Limbaugh.

In fact, to show you how much things have changed for me, one of my greatest missions this year is to convince Rush to support the Republican candidate for President!

The truth is I greatly admire Rush’s love for our country and support for our troops, as shown by his remarks tonight and his generous support of MCLEF. Rush has a big voice but he has heart that is even bigger.
Limbaugh is a sadist who revels in discussing torture.


Stephen Roach bashes Alan Greenspan:



Pay attention to who David Brooks cites:

In an op-ed dismissing Obama's speech on the economy, Brooks writes: (emp add)
Barack Obama delivered a speech in Pittsburgh on Monday on the economic stresses facing American workers. In the speech, he devoted one clause in one sentence to the single biggest factor affecting the workplace: technological change. He then devoted 45 sentences to one of the least important: trade deals.

Economists differ over how much outsourcing will change the American job market in the future, but there is little evidence that trade has been a major cause of job loss or even wage stagnation so far. As Robert Z. Lawrence of the Peterson Institute for International Economics wrote in a recent study: “The recent increase in U.S. inequality ... has little to do with global forces that might especially affect unskilled workers — namely, immigration and expanded trade with developing countries.
The Peterson Institute for Internation Economics's full name is the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics. And who is Peter G. Peterson? A billionare who has been relentless in his campaign to abolish Social Security. It's likely that the institute named for him shares a similar lack of concern for labor.

Brooks ends with:
American voters aren’t so stupid as to think their problems are caused by foreigners and malevolent lobbyists.
Which is a variation on the classic, "You're not so stupid that you're going to walk away from an opportunity to make big money with this chain letter?"


What do Obama supporters want?

Michael Lind has written an interesting article over at that basically says that Obama is representative of a "Yankee" political tradtion, and that's not good enough to win elections since it doesn't connect with lots of blue-collar workers (especially in the mid-Atlantic and South). Overall, Lind's perspective seems accurate. But what's also interesting are the comments in reaction to his essay. This is typical:
I can't begin to say how encouraging

it is to hear an American politician tell the truth. It's true that our increasingly faltering economy, with its highly visible payoffs to a very few, has scared a lot of Americans and is making more and more of us bitter at our seeming powerlessness to make things right. [...]

I didn't find Obama's "bitterness" remarks offensive - just truthful. Thank you, Senator, and please give us more.

-- ridgeguy
The goal in politics is to win elections and implement policies. Telling the "truth" (whatever that's supposed to mean) can often be politically counterproductive, yet here we have an Obama supporter that sees truthtelling as more meritorious than succeeding politically, and wants more! That's not too far from the delusions of Nader voters. For them, it was more important to be morally right than to prevent Bush from becoming president.

A corollary for many who advocate the "truth" gambit is that small town America needs to be "educated" about this-and-that, and once educated, Obama's statements will no longer be seen as offensive. If that's the plan, then get the order right. "Educate" first, tell the "truth" second. Instead, now that Obama has blundered, there is a rush to "educate" Pennsylvanians over a span of 10 days, which ain't gonna happen.

Obama, and his supporters, better get real, and get real fast. Instead of "diagnosing" the problem as a pathology of small town America, how about addressing real issues like empowering labor and expanding the safety net? Literally, look at a typical household budget and see where the strains are, and how they might be alleviated. That's something people will respond to. We're talking dollars and cents; the thinking that is associated with a trip to Wal*Mart. That's how to win.

ADDENDUM: Some reasonable comments at Salon (sharing this blog's viewpoint, of course) here: 1, 2, 3.


Good news everyone!
Rupert Murdoch and Sam Zell, two media figures who led major newspaper acquisitions in recent months, are among four new members joining the board of directors of The Associated Press, it was announced Monday at the news cooperative's annual meeting.
This country will soon be like Russia and Italy, where reactionary media barons totally dominate, and as a result, become effective (or actual) heads of state.


Monday, April 14, 2008

A boozer like Bush:

Just what we need in the White House.


TV alert:

Dick Polman, who has a pretty good blog (liberal, currently pro-Obama), will be on the Charlie Rose show tonight.


Obama = Free trader?

Forget the guns and religion. Here's what he said last week (via TNR):
"... it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to ... anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."


A New York Times op-ed, rewritten:
Tulip Buyers Needed

Published: April 14, 1637

Dutch politicians are devising economic stimulus measures to encourage consumers to spend more. These measures will cost taxpayers a lot and isn't money well spent. The problem is not too little consumer spending; the problem is too few tulip buyers.

Many argue that we don’t need government intervention to bring the buyers back; we just need the market to work its magic through lower prices.

Well, not entirely. When it comes to tulips, lower prices don’t inevitably cause sales to rise. Why? Because lower tulip prices create the expectation of still lower prices later, causing buyers to wait for a better deal. Left alone, a weak market therefore overshoots with prices too low and the planting of too few bulbs.

The solution is for the Dutch government to offer a temporary 5 percent tax rebate — up to 25,000 guilders — for first-time tulip buyers. By creating demand for tulips, this rebate cushions the fall for everyone and stimulates economic growth.

The really good news is that the cost for this program is minimal and would likely stimulate enough spending and growth to more than pay back the Treasury with higher revenues later.

Edward E. Leamer is a professor of management, economics and statistics and the director of the Wageningen Forecast at the University of Groningen.


With friends like these ...

Thinking-only-about-himself, former president and crypto-Obama supporter Carter is likely to meet to meet with Hamas chief. That'll really help Obama and the Democratic party appeal to wavering Jewish voters.

Thanks, Jimmy! Great timing. An election year is precisely when you want to do that sort of thing.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

More on the "cling to guns" flap:

Marc Cooper: (excerpts, emp add)
As the editorial coordinator of HuffPost’s OffTheBus project, I had the privilege and responsibility of doing the final edit and ultimately approving for publication the web story Friday that has set off a firestorm over Barack Obama’s remarks about a “bitter” attitude that sometimes plagues economically-pressed small towns.

Writer Mayhill Fowler’s story -- now with more than 2500 5,000 comments on it -- was picked up by The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post,, the Associated Press, Fox News, Reuters, Politico, the Lou Dobbs Show, Hardball, Olbermann’s Countdown, The, The DailyKos, TalkingPointsMemo and myriad other outlets.

I want to say a few words about the author of the piece, Mayhill Fowler. A highly-educated, sophisticated intellectual as well as an ardent Obama supporter, she has become a mainstay of OffTheBus.
She's also a moron when it comes to writing about working class people. She's an artsy-fartsy fool (and rich, apparently). From the story she wrote: (excerpts, emp add)
When I began following the Obama Campaign through Pennsylvania, the place was new to me ...

Pennsylvanians are as friendly as Iowans-- and that's a huge compliment.

In the midst of this harsh pastoral, Pennsylvanians are scrappy survivors. [...] They refuse to be bound to the broken temples of commerce and manufacturing, the vacant Beaux Arts hotels, the rotting nineteenth-century row houses, the abandoned sidings and once-grand railway stations that inscribe Scranton and Wilkes-Barre and diminish Pittsburgh and Lancaster. Pennsylvanians are remarkably chipper.

These qualities of hospitality, patriotism and endurance are exactly what Californians need to hear about Pennsylvanians. And when he spoke to a group of his wealthier Golden State backers at a San Francisco fund-raiser last Sunday, Barack Obama took a shot at explaining the yawning cultural gap that separates a Turkeyfoot from a Marin County.

Obama made a problematic judgment call in trying to explain working class culture to a much wealthier audience. He described blue collar Pennsylvanians with a series of what in the eyes of Californians
[!] might be considered pure negatives: guns, clinging to religion, antipathy, xenophobia.

I'm not sure this is what at least this lot of Californians needed to hear about Pennsylvanians. Such phrases can reinforce negative stereotypes among Californians, who are a people in a state already surfeited with a smug sense of superiority and, as an ironic consequence, a parochialism and insularity at odds with the innovation, prosperity and openness for which California is rightly known. (Of course, this is a generalization, and as such does not fit everyone; but as a state characteristic I stand by it.) Californians might be better served by hearing that Pennsylvanians have a strong sense of their place in American history, for here California is wanting.

To give Obama his due, he spoke about working class Pennsylvanians likely because he had been thinking about them a great deal. [...] It's curious, then, that he often has such a hard time making a connection with many working class Americans.
Of course Fowler is free to write what she wants, and being an Obama supporter is no reason why a journalist should keep quiet about a candidate's "flub". But she is so totally unaware of why Obama is having trouble reaching lower-class whites, and that's evident in her writing. Not only does she make broad, and innacurate, remarks about Pennsylvanians ("friendly as Iowans", "remarkably chipper"), but she also has inane things to say about Californians (too many to list here). But she's a "sophisticated intellectual", and that explains why she doesn't see things as they are.

She's so invested with her poetic view of various states (PA, CA) that she's blind to statements Obama made that, while they align with her sentiments, have terrible optics. And get a load of this from her bio page:
What can I tell you? I'm an over-educated sixty year-old woman with politics in my blood.
Really? How over-educated? We'd all like to know.

CODA: Reading the comments at Huffington Post, there are many that consider Fowler to be pro-Hillary (or anti-Obama). Not so. She's just clueless.


This deserves low ratings:

"Four of the sharpest minds in politics"? What a joke.

Nothing more than a line-up of uninteresting (and unobjective, for the most part) pundits. But they're Tim's friends, and that's all that counts.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Politics means appealing to the voters:

And Obama hasn't done well lately with Pennsylvanians. Setting aside the overblown request for orange juice in a diner, Obama has made a couple of mistakes.

Bowling. Yes, bowling. Why didn't he take an hour for someone to show him the basics? Instead, he rolls an incomplete game (!) and racks up a score of 37. It would have been worth thousands of dollars in ad-buys if he'd performed credibly.

Second mistake. Speaking like a sociology professor in San Francisco about the plight of the people in Hicktown, USA Pennsylvania is just plain stupid.

Obama seems strangely resistant to pleas that he get off his high horse and be more of a regular guy. Remember George W. Bush and how frustrating it was when he successfully appealed to folks based on his "ranch" and exaggerated Texas accent? It worked, didn't it? Not saying that Obama has to don bib overalls and stick a straw in his mouth, but he should at least not act so above-it-all.


Friday, April 11, 2008

Shorter Bill Clinton:
Hillary is 60 years old, and her memory isn't all that good at the end of the day.
Man, he's sure not helping.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

No sympathy for Randi Rhodes:

Apparently, she was on a tour as a representative of Air America. Calling Hillary Clinton a "fucking whore" was coarse and inappropriate. She deserved to go.


That Wall Street Journal interview/story of Greenspan:

Here. Some excerpts:
  • "I was praised for things I didn't do," Mr. Greenspan said during one of three interviews at his sun-drenched office in downtown Washington, D.C. "I am now being blamed for things that I didn't do."
  • Now 82 years old, Mr. Greenspan wants to set the record straight before the ink dries on the first draft of the financial crisis' history.
  • Mr. Greenspan says he doesn't regret a single decision. In his view, many critics are ignoring evidence in his favor and failing to assess the process by which he made decisions.
  • The criticisms that get under his skin are those from friends and former colleagues, many of them respected economists who backed his policies at the time but now say, in hindsight, that the calls were wrong. "I do take it seriously if my peers think I have misstated the facts," he says. "But where's the evidence? Too many people make accusations by assertion. I think it's improper."
  • Mr. Greenspan now admits he was wrong about the improbability of a housing bubble. Yet he has long maintained that bubbles are an unavoidable feature of a dynamic economy. He pulls out a 1999 speech and shows, underlined in green marker, passages in which he warned of recurring but unpredictable patterns of overconfidence followed by investor panic. He does not share some foreign central bankers' belief that their job is to defend against excessive asset-price inflation: No sensible policy, he maintains, could have prevented the housing bubble.
  • Mr. Greenspan says many of the criticisms against him are unjust. He is particularly perturbed by attacks over a 2004 speech in which he suggested that more borrowers would benefit from adjustable-rate mortgages. Interest rates were at a historical low at the time, which means that those who held on to the mortgages would have seen rates adjusted upward.


Inflation watch:

Some scary observations over at The Cunning Realist.


What if Bush gave a "major" speech on the Iraq War and nobody blogged about it?

That pretty much sums up today's reaction.


Harold Meyerson gets it:
What's been missing in America's trade policy is a preference for Americans. The object of trade in China is to help the Chinese nation. German trade is designed to help Germany; Scandinavian, to help the Scandinavian nations. This is not the case here. General Electric goes abroad to lower costs and boost profits. Goldman Sachs invests abroad in the same kind of low-wage, high-profit enterprises. That's the mission of such businesses. But the U.S. government has never taken on the mission of defending the American economy, or the American people, in the global economy. That is not the only reason the broadly shared prosperity of the three decades following World War II is now a distant memory, but it is a certainly a major reason.
Of course, that sentiment is something "liberal" Brad DeLong disagrees with since he likes trade policy that helps folks elsewhere, even if it comes at the expense of domestic workers.

A comment in the thread for that OpEd reads:
When I was in France one of my teachers explained the difference between the anglo countries (UK and USA) and the non-anglo countries (the non-English speaking western European countries). And I think he is correct.

In the non-anglo countries, the middle class has a strong class identity. They know who they are and they watch out for their interests. Most have recently been hurt by nobility and there is a recent history of strikes and revolutions. If you read LeMond you see the constant strikes and the constant struggle for wages and decent living standards.

In the anglo countries, the middle class has no class awareness. Only the aristocracy is aware of the class structure of the society - and they tell the peons that the peons live in a classless society. And the peons buy into it.

In this situation, the anglo aristocracy is very successful at watching out for the interests of their class. They sooth the peons over the great inequality in wealth that exists in anglo society by saying that some of the wealth will "trickle down" .... someday.
Is that true? It's certainly true that when people talk the way Meyerson does, they are often attacked for waging "class warfare" (which is seen as the precursor for a socialist agenda), especially by the right wing media.


Shorter David Broder:
Ignorance is bliss.
How else to interpret these words of his:
A country that tunes its television sets to the Super Bowl or the World Series in numbers that dwarf any presidential debate is probably healthier in its outlook and more sensible in its priorities than one in which C-SPAN would outdraw ESPN.


So tired of Michael Gerson:

His latest, anti-Obama and pro-McCain essay begins with this: (2nd para)
There is little doubt that Americans generally feel that the initial use of military force in Iraq was a mistake. Recent, paradoxical polls show a dramatic increase in the number of people who believe that the war is now going well alongside a hardening majority who believe it should not have been begun.
Yawn. Okay, he tells the reader that there is a majority of Americans that think the Iraq war should have not been waged. But also states that there is
"a dramatic increase in the number of people who believe that the war is now going well"
which could be a jump from 20% to 40% (significant) or a jump from 2% to 4% (meaningless). But Gerson doesn't give the hard numbers, so the reader is left to guess. And even if many people are thinking the war is going well, they may also hold the view that the war shouldn't have been waged. But no matter, all Gerson wants to do is ignore his own role in promoting the war when he was Bush's speechwriter, and tout McCain as some sort of "realistic" (!) visionary for the future.

Bonus: Haven't got enough of Fred Kagan? Gerson brings up the recent action in the south of Iraq and provides a taste:
... as Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute points out, Moqtada al-Sadr was forced to cave in at the end.
Gerson cites Kagan of the august AEI. That should be good enough for everyone.


Using the war, and the general, for politics:


How odd:

Watching the Charlie Rose show tonight, where he interviews John Burns and Dexter Filkins about Iraq, they pretty much take the view that the "surge" was a success. In fact, they make a big deal about how much better things are. To support that view, they cite many ugly events that were a regular occurrence in 2005 (daily killings, torture, people scared to be out on the streets, etc.) But the odd thing is, that kind of pessimistic assessment was virtually absent from the Charlie Rose show in 2005.


What's really interesting is ...

that both Paul Volker and Alan Greenspan are still around as both of their legacies come under review, especially since Greenspan is looking more and more inferior to Volker.


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Fed reassures:

Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee March 22, 2005:
[Oil Price: $55]

One source of upward pressure on inflation had been the rise in energy prices, and it seemed reasonable to expect that these prices would level out or even decline mildly ...
Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee August 8, 2006:
[Oil Price: $70]

Moreover, while energy prices had risen further in the intermeeting period, energy prices could well level out in coming quarters.
Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee March 18, 2008:
[Oil Price: $105]

Even with a substantial easing at this meeting, most members saw overall inflation as likely to moderate in coming quarters, reflecting a projected leveling-out of energy and commodity prices ...
Eventually, they'll get it right.



In the news: (excerpts)
Florida lawmakers pass "take your guns to work" law

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (Reuters) - Most Florida residents would be allowed to take guns to work under a measure passed by Florida lawmakers on Wednesday.

Critics say the measure usurps business owners' rights to determine what happens on their property and puts workers and managers at risk from disgruntled employees.

Dozens of workplace shootings occur every year in the United States and studies have shown that job sites where guns are permitted are more likely to suffer workplace homicides than those where guns are prohibited.
What studies? And where is John Lott to refute them?


One hour lecture:

The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class

Distinguished law scholar Elizabeth Warren teaches contract law, bankruptcy, and commercial law at Harvard Law School. She is an outspoken critic of America's credit economy, which she has linked to the continuing rise in bankruptcy among the middle-class. Series: "UC Berkeley Graduate Council Lectures"


Another entry in the Brad DeLong files:

NYTimes: (excerpts, emp add)
For Many, a Boom That Wasn’t

In 2000, at the end of the previous economic expansion, the median American family made about $61,000, according to the Census Bureau’s inflation-adjusted numbers. In 2007, in what looks to have been the final year of the most recent expansion, the median family, amazingly, seems to have made less — about $60,500.

This has never happened before, at least not for as long as the government has been keeping records. In every other expansion since World War II, the buying power of most American families grew while the economy did. You can think of this as the most basic test of an economy’s health: does it produce ever-rising living standards for its citizens?

More than anything else — more than even the war in Iraq — the stagnation of the great American middle-class machine explains the glum national mood today.

The causes of the wage slowdown have been building for a long time. They have relatively little to do with President Bush or any other individual politician (though it is true that the Bush administration has shown scant interest in addressing the problem).

The slowdown began in the 1970s, with an oil shock that raised the cost of everyday living. The technological revolution and the rise of global trade followed, reducing the bargaining power of a large section of the work force.
Of course, if you are safely ensconced at Berkeley, why care about the bargaining power of labor? Free-trade gets you cheap television sets and inexpensive shoes, which is all that matters to some people.

In case you are wondering, this blog will continue to harp at "liberal" DeLong for his advocacy of free trade (with countries that pay workers considerably less) until he admits he is wrong.


Tuesday, April 08, 2008


From a Bill Foster ad:
Maybe that spate of books by atheists is having an effect.



"The bright new financial system, with all its talented participants, with all its rich rewards, has failed the test of the marketplace," Volcker said.
Read it all.

From a related essay: (at Seeking Alpha)
Is this what we have reduced our financial system to? Where it is so weak and fragile that the failure of a single investment bank threatens a widespread financial calamity. If so, how did we let it reach this point?
Good question.


George Will on the Columbia Free Trade Agreement:

Addressing one particular issue:
... Obama ... says Colombia has not done enough to protect its trade unionists.

Colombia's unions, however, document that the number of murders of their members has sharply declined. Edward Schumacher-Matos, visiting professor of Latin American studies at Harvard, notes that "it was far safer to be in a union than to be an ordinary citizen in Colombia last year": The murder rate of unionists was less than one-eighth the murder rate of Colombians generally.
So, if murders have "sharply declined" and are less than the overall rate of a country with right-wing militias and a rebellion, there no cause for concern.


Will $4 a gallon gasoline kill the U.S. economy?

With the weaker dollar, oil is holding steady at over $100 a barrel (recently touching $109). And, even though April is "forumla switch-over month" (which causes a spike), the recent rise appears to be solid and unlikely to drop much, if at all, for the rest of the year. (via
And of course, food prices have jumped as well. Can the consumer cope? Is more borrowing the answer? Will the $1200/$600 stimulus let folks get by until after the election?

Related: How long can this situation prevail before gasoline prices really take off?


Monday, April 07, 2008


Fafblog! is back. Nice top graphic. Yet to get back into the groove, though. Give it a few weeks.


How come it's a liability for the Republican, but not for the Family Research Council?

In the WSJ:
Democrats' Hopes Rise for House Seat
April 7, 2008

A conservative firebrand with a connection to a former Ku Klux Klan leader will run for a Louisiana seat in the House of Representatives, raising Democrats' hopes they can pick up what has been a reliably conservative district for more than three decades. [...]

Conservative Woody Jenkins won Saturday's Republican run-off ...     Mr. Jenkins, a local newspaper editor, is well known in Louisiana politics as a conservative firebrand. He served in the state House and ran unsuccessfully in the 1996 Senate race against Democrat Mary Landrieu, who currently holds the seat.

Among his political liabilities, however, is a connection to former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, from whom he purchased a phone list during his 1996 Senate run. He was fined $3,000 in 2002 by the Federal Election Commission for illegally concealing the purchase. Democrats see the Duke issues as factors in their favor, according to a party memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
About Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian think-tank and public policy foundation:
The Nation claims that in 1996 Perkins paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,000 for use of his mailing list. At the time, Perkins was campaign manager for Louis E. "Woody" Jenkins, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Louisiana. The Federal Election Commission fined the Jenkins campaign $3,000 for attempting to hide the money paid to Duke.

The Family Research Council says Blumenthal's claims about Perkins connection to David Duke are false. They say Duke's "connection was not known to Mr. Perkins until 1999. Mr. Perkins profoundly opposes the racial views of Mr. Duke and was profoundly grieved to learn that Duke was a party to the company that had done work for the 1996 campaign." The response to the Nation article does not address the appearance before the Council of Conservative Citizens.
Setting aside what Perkins knew at the time, the Republican candidate, Jenkins, is seen as having a problem vis-a-vis Duke. But is Perkins, who has a closer connection to Duke (he was the one that purchased the list), and, by extension, the Family Research Council saddled with a similar problem? No. How come?