Saturday, June 30, 2007

Pick your poison:

From Iraq Coalition Casualties website (and consider making a small contribution). By quarter:
By half:


Almost there:

In an essay critical of Sen. Lugar, Bill Kristol ends with this: (emp add)
.. too many of our politicians are not serious. As retired General Jack Keane told the New York Sun last week, "The tragedy of these efforts is we are on the cusp of potentially being successful in the next year in a way that we have failed in the three-plus preceding years, but because of this political pressure, it looks like we intend to pull out the rug from underneath that potential success."
Got that? We are "on the cusp". Meaning very close to, but not there yet. And if we get there, what can look forward to? Why, "potentially being successful". And when might this potential success manifest itself? Sometime in the future, up to a year after the cusp passing.

How encouraging.

You know, looking over that quote by Keane it seems that that is the kind of language you use when you've internalized failure in Iraq but can't say it outright to yourself or to others. Keane comes off a kind of defeatist, and he's ostensibly a big fan of the surge and the Iraq war in general.


Friday, June 29, 2007

David Gregory is in a movie:

David Gregory on Ann Coulter: (speaking to Elizabeth Edwards)
You said rather pointedly that you think Ann Coulter is guilty of hate speech against your husband and others as well. If you strip away some of the inflammatory rhetoric against your husband and other Democrats [there's an important message buried inside].
From the mockumentary Fear of a Black Hat. Remarks by the manager of the ultra-violent gangsta rap group Niggaz With Hats:
Take away the pornography; take away the women-bashing; take away the kill-whitey stuff. Take it all away, and you've got the kids next door, you really do.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Ralph Nader hails recent SCOTUS rulings:

In a week that has seen the Supreme Court render several decisions by a 5-4 majority, Ralph Nader issued a statement saying that the rulings "prove my point that there is no difference between the two parties." Nader, a candidate for president in 2000 and 2004, said that a Democratic president would have appointed justices exactly like Roberts and Alito.

When asked what he meant, Nader remarked, "It's obvious that a Supreme Court with justices chosen by a Democratic president to replace Rehnquist and O'Conner would have ruled the same way. It would have upheld restrictions on abortions, denied challenges to federal funding of religion, permitted censorship of students making jokes, and taken steps to overturn Brown vs. Board of Education."

While many Democrats blame Nader for Gore's loss in 2000, he remains unapologetic. "Now that I've been proven right," Nader said, "the nation will rally round my third run for president in 2008." When asked what was motivating him to run again, Nader replied, "Now that they are minting those dollar coins with presidents on them, when I'm elected I'll get the kind of recognition I so richly deserve."


Bush reports progress in Iraq:

From his speech today at the Naval War College:
In the mixed Shia-Sunni neighborhood of Rashid, our foot patrols discovered a wall with two Arabic sentences spray-painted on them. It's just a small example. It certainly didn't get any news, but it says, "Yes, yes to the new security plan. No difference between Shia and Sunni."
Expect more of this as September approaches.


What Jonah Goldberg is trying to say:

You've heard that Goldberg's book, originally titled
Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation From Mussolini to Hillary Clinton
Has now been changed to
Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation From Hegel to Whole Foods
Which has some people scratching their heads, since John Mackey, founder and chief executive of Whole Foods, is a libertarian and greatly opposes "The Left".

But when Goldberg mentions Whole Foods, what he's really referring to are sandal wearing, granola eating, Volvo driving hippies. Even if the consumer demographics don't reflect that (Whole Foods is popular in upscale neighborhoods where people are willing to pay more).

Goldberg also like the alliterative nature of the subtitle. He could have called his book
  • Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation from Castro to Child Safety Seats
  • Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation from Mao to Medicare
  • Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation from Stalin to Sarbanes-Oxley


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

They just do what they want and say anything to justify it:

U.S. Constition, Article I, Section 8: (selections, emp add):
The Congress shall have power to

make rules concerning captures on land and water;

make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;
From the Post's report on Cheney: (emp add)
The vice president's lawyer advocated what was considered the memo's most radical claim:     that the president may authorize any interrogation method, even if it crosses the line into torture. U.S. and treaty laws forbidding any person to "commit torture," that passage stated, "do not apply" to the commander in chief, because

Congress "may no more regulate the President's ability to detain and interrogate enemy combatants than it may regulate his ability to direct troop movements on the battlefield."


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Stroking the Id:

Think Progress reports on Ann Coulter's appearance yesterday on ABC's Good Morning America. Coulter:
"[I]f I’m gonna say anything about John Edwards in the future, I’ll just wish he had been killed in a terrorist assassination plot."
Typical Coulter, pulling the extremist cord. But did you notice something odd about what she said? The keyword is "assassination". Rarely do you hear a terrorist plot characterized as one to assassinate someone. Coulter put that word in because it allowed her to say what she'd really like to say, that she wishes Edwards was assassinated. She can't say that by itself, but can try and get away with it by inserting it, literally, into that globby entity, "a terrorist plot", which the conscious mind processes, leaving the right wing Id to thrill at the notion of assassinating Edwards (and presumably, other liberals).


Monday, June 25, 2007

Who is in charge?

This will be a hot topic for quite some time. In the wake of the Washington Post series on Cheney (yet to be completed), here are some observations:
Anonymous Liberal:
Time and again we see the Vice President making decisions, attending meetings, and handling situations that really should be handled by the President personally. We also see the Vice President continually limiting or otherwise manipulating the information and advice that reaches the President's ear. We see him secretly intercepting memos intended for other cabinet officials, keeping key officials out of the loop on important decisions, and using other officials to disguise the provenance of advice originating from his office.
Balkinization: (emp orig)
the Vice President ... consistently prevails in the internal debates. He wins virtually every battle ...

... Cheney wins internal battles because the President constantly sides with Cheney over all his other trusted advisers.

This week's contretemps is a good example. The Addington theory that the Vice President is not covered by the Executive Order regulating the way in which every "entity within the executive branch" must handle classified national security information is patently frivolous.   ....   The Archives asked DOJ to say so -- to resolve the dispute, something that should have taken OLC all of 15 minutes or so because the question is so easy. And yet if reports are correct, DOJ has not even begun the process ...   Why?

The answer appears to be that the President has made it known that in such disputes, he will almost invariably side with Cheney, notwithstanding that Cheney's judgments have been so extreme, so idiosyncratic, and have so often proved disastrous. Therefore resistance from others in the Administration is futile, no matter how much they chafe under Addington's direction.

And so the $64,000 Question is: Why has this President, unlike every other, so uncritically deferred to the Vice President, even where the rest of his Administration is begging him not to do so?
Balkinization suggests:
I suspect it has something to do with the fact that the uncompromising nature of the Cheney and Addington worldview appeals to the Manichean side of Bush that emerged in full force post-9/11.
Maybe. But we have yet to read about Cheney's influence on the budget process - something the Post will publish later this week. Domestic policy has no Manichean aspect about it but I'm guessing Cheney will be revealed to have gotten his way in this arena as well. If I'm correct, a different kind of explanation may be needed for Bush's behavior. Perhaps a cocktail of too-lazy-to-work, dry drunk, and deluded-by-faith.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Bill Kristol is right:

It really is a pain in the neck when a meddlesome busybody bureaucrat gets in your face while you're blowing the cover of a covert CIA agent for political gain. Enough already! Best to abolish the agency that breeds these officious scoundrels who dare intrude on the hallowed ground of the OVP.

How can Cheney be expected to efficiently deploy top secret information if he has to comply with arbitrary standards for handling such materials? Give Dick some breathing room, for crying out loud. Important men cannot be tied down by petty rules and regulations.

When Hitler's bombs were falling on London, did Churchill have to deal with the Information Security Oversight Office? No! He put classified papers in his cigar box, where they were safe and secure for the duration of the war. Sadly, this country has forgotten that valuable lesson.

[cross posted over at Power Line]


Cheney's fourth branch claims:
  • The story has legs.
  • The story is a good source of jokes.
  • Most important of all, the story makes Bush look weak.
No only do you have the report earlier this year about Cheney's maneuvering around the White House to increase the chances of a military strike against Iran, but there was the spectacle of the White House supporting the OVP's noncompliance with classification oversight by saying on Friday that the president's order exempted the VP's (and P's) office even though "it didn't specifically say so". Talk about Cheney in the lead and Bush following!

Kevin Drum writes of:
... Cheney's chronic contempt for the rules everyone else has to follow and George Bush's inability to stand up to him ...
A comment from that post:
If the Democrats really wanted to do something, they wouldn't frame it as overreach by Cheney.
Instead they would taunt Bush over his weakness. He really hates that and would be forced to act.
BONUS: You know that nonsense where Bush claims that the provision in the Constitution where the president is Commander in Chief means that he can do anything he wants while waging a war? That provision is there to make clear what entity controls the military. Not the Congress. Not the Vice President. Only the President. "Scholars" like John Yoo who take the CiC provision and then invent grandiose claims such that the president can do whatever he wants by playing "battlefield" in the U.S. and other far-flung places, are doing nothing more than playing grade-school games with language.

UPDATE: Jim Henley has related thoughts about CiC notions peddled by the White House.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Cheney in a nutshell:

Credit for this goes to Elton Beard at Busy, Busy, Busy. In a conversation about Cheney's latest hijinks, Beard said that it amounted to this:
"Screw you!" he explained.
All the nonsense about the OVP being in or out of the executive, the subsequent White House claim that there was an implied exception for the President and Vice President regarding oversight, or that Cheney was merely ignoring a "small" provision, is just crap being thrown in your face.

That's their "explanation".


Cheney fourth branch of government roundup:

There are lots of blog posts commenting on Cheney's assertion that his office isn't part of the executive. Here are some of the better ones you might have missed (i.e. outside the TPM Kos Digby axis)


Friday, June 22, 2007

"The Establishment"

From Wikipedia: (emp add)
"The Establishment" is a pejorative term to refer to the traditional ruling class elite and the structures of society which they control. The term can be used to describe specific entrenched elite structures in specific institutions. For example, candidates for political office are often said to have to impress the "party establishment" in order to win endorsement.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the "establishment" was seen as representing restrictive, authoritarian policies. It was associated with age, as the old fashioned way of doing things, and was said to be dominated by members of the war generation who had not yet adapted to or accepted the big societial changes of the decade.
E.J. Dionne today: (emp add)
A large majority of the country has now decided that the establishment was wrong to support the war, and that those who opposed it -- including the left -- were right.
Back in the 60's again!

Take that, Newt Gingrich.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Great image:

The stamp over at Tennessee Guerilla Women.

And another over at TheDarkStuff (click to enlarge).

And this one is pretty good.


Go get 'em!

From the House Oversight Committee: (emp add)
The Oversight Committee has learned that over the objections of the National Archives, Vice President Cheney exempted his office from the presidential order that establishes government-wide procedures for safeguarding classified national security information. The Vice President asserts that his office is not an "entity within the executive branch."
Great! Therefore there can be no claims of "Executive Privilege". They can be subpoenaed, any and all documents and emails can be demanded, etc.

From Wikipedia: (emp add)
Executive Privilege is the power claimed by the President of the United States and other members of the executive branch to resist certain search warrants and other interventions by the legislative and judicial branches of government.


The Broder Bounce:

Bush’s job approval


And we're not even in a recession.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Wanker of the week:

Apparently Atrios hasn't read him yet.

"Liberal" Richard Cohen pens an op-ed stating that Lewis Libby should not go to jail. This is more confirmation that the Beltway crowd stand up for each other and against the rest of us.

His arguments and observations:
  • Fitzgerald's prosecution made "a mountain out of a molehill".
  • He did it "at the urging of the liberal press (especially the New York Times)".
  • Opponents of the Iraq war "thought" the investigation would show "something".
  • Opponents of the war can't think.
  • There is plenty of "antiwar sanctimony" demanding "Stalinist-era abasement" of Libby.
  • "No one has yet explained, though, how Libby can express contrition and still appeal his conviction."
  • Journalists shouldn't have to "suspend their various and sacred vows of silence" even if they are a conduit of lies from government officials.
  • A previously obscure government official will go to prison for 30 months. (Apparently such an official shouldn't have to.)
  • The underlying crime is absent.
  • The sentence is excessive.
  • The investigation should not have been conducted in the first place.
  • Libby's sentence should be commuted.
Let's get the first big talking point out of the way. Fitzgerald was tasked with investigating, not only the leak to Novak, but all leaks about Plame to journalists. The fact that Richard Armitage was the source for Novak did not mean that therefore, no one else in the White House was peddling dirt on a critic of the administration.

Cohen's second point is that an unthinking bunch of war critics, along with the "liberal press", are stupid and misguided in thinking the investigation and prosecution was a good thing. There never should have been an investigation! (Even though the CIA called for one.) Cohen's essay drips with disdain for liberals. And disdain for old-line national security types who care when covert anti-proliferation agents are exposed.

The third point is that "No one has yet explained, though, how Libby can express contrition and still appeal his conviction." Here's how. An appeal can leave unchallenged the fact that Libby lied, for which he could express contrition right now. Writes John Dean: (emp add)
On June 14, the Washington Post nicely summed up the issues Libby believes he will win on appeal: "whether Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald had the constitutional authority to prosecute Libby; whether Walton was correct in prohibiting an expert on human memory from testifying for the defense; whether the defense should have been allowed to introduce more detailed evidence of the classified national security matters weighing on Libby's mind at the time of his conversations about Plame; and whether the defense should have been permitted to call Andrea Mitchell, NBC News's chief foreign affairs correspondent, as a witness in an attempt to discredit testimony from a colleague, Tim Russert, the host of NBC's 'Meet the Press.' Russert was a critical prosecution witness."
Only the challenge to Russert's testimony could be considered as part of a defense that Libby did not lie. In any event, what critics are calling for Libby to express contrition? We're not fools. We know Libby lied and don't care much how he feels about it. The concern is with justice, truth, and yes, even national security.

The fourth point is straight from the Lewis Libby Love Letters crowd. Poor Libby, a mere "obscure government official" (so how dangerous could he have ever been?) was given an excessive sentence. You see, "white-collar types tend to have a morbid fear of jail", and so Bush should commute the sentence.

David Broder and Richard Cohen see eye-to-eye on the Libby trial. Either in their own minds, or for polemical purposes, they break down a situation, in this case: Libby lying to impede an investigation into leaks that were used to discredit a critic of Bush's false claims about Iraq. They then look at each of them in isolation in order to dismiss them. (Armitage told Novak, war critics were using the trial to stop the war, Joe Wilson is a showboat, etc.) It's a classic technique of argumentation. But you have to be gullible to buy it.

This is one of the worst essays Richard Cohen has ever written. It's in jump-the-shark territory.

NOTE: It's still early in the day, but the comments thread for Cohen's essay is huge. Many, many outraged readers.

UPDATE: Atrios has noticed. Cohen is Wanker of the Day, although the post linked to is rather short. There will no doubt be a substantial reaction from the netroots throughout the day.

Sure enough, Greenwald is on the case (and Atrios has added that link to the Wanker post).

UPDATE2: Cohen's essay is boffo reading over at the National Review's corner ("an impassioned argument for sparing Libby ... coming from a lib").

UPDATE3: Bloggers to read: Kos, Talk Left, All Spin Zone, Supreme Irony of Life, Who is IOZ, Sour N Sweet, TommyWonk, CommonPrejudice, Oh you think so, Booman Tribune, Consortium News.

Even Heading Right is lukewarm about Cohen's arguments!


Monday, June 18, 2007

They won't follow us home!

Neocons and Iraq war advocates Bill Kristol and Fred Kagan write in the Weekly Standard:
[The] announcement that Iraqis were turning against al Qaeda was just one of many such announcements over recent weeks and months.

... most Iraqis want nothing to do with al Qaeda's religious and political views.

Iraqis have also shown that they are not interested in having their homes become a base for the export of international terrorism ...

... Iraqis have never lined up at the gates of al Qaeda recruiting stations for training and dispatch to foreign lands.


Sunday, June 17, 2007


Used to read Maureen Dowd (or at least extended excerpts posted on Blogs). Used to watch the weekend Chris Matthews Show. Used to read Tom Friedman. Used to watch the Charlie Rose show. Used to read Howard Fineman. Used to watch PBS's News Hour. Used to watch and read various other "centrist" news sources and pundits.

But don't do that anymore. The commentary and presentation is purile, careless, and uninformed.

It's getting to the point where for this political junkie, I only want the raw facts from the press, without any "analysis". For commentary that is level-headed and empirical, I go to the usual blog sites: TPM, K-Drum, Kleiman, Yglesias, Greenwald (and even Sullivan who, despite his earlier foolishness, has been excellent on the torture issue).

The discourse is more stupid than ever. Witness the bizarre sexual obsessions of Dowd and Matthews. Yes, it's gotten to the point where the blogosphere offers better journalism than the established press.

Who would have believed it?

Oh yeah, and there's a coming "stabbed in the back" narrative that will be loads of fun to witness.


Frank Rich on the Libby Love Letters:

Worth a read.

Rich says that the letters were intended (or expected) to be kept confidential, something that Judge Walton decided against. I didn't know that.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

It's really very simple:

One topic that's being discussed this week is the notion of the "honest conservative". The starting point was this observation, which some say applies to the Bush administration:
Of the three features—-personal honesty, sincere support of the regime, and intelligence—-it was possible to combine only two, never all three. If one was honest and supportive, one was not very bright; if one was bright and supportive, one was not honest; if one was honest and bright, one was not supportive...
Then there was a follow-up which noted that the current pivoting of conservatives away from Bush is preparation for attacks on the Democratic president. Then Digby weighed in, followed by Tristero.

Look, here's what's happened. Starting with the Gingrich revolution of 1994:
The Republcan party became vicious, corrupt, and authoritarian, with the goal of destroying the New Deal and giving more power to the plutocrats, using religion and and jingoism for political gain.
Let's not get distracted with fine distinctions over wheather or not a particular Republican or conservative is "intelligent" or "honest" or whatever. That kind of analysis might have made sense decades ago, but not now. Eisenhower, Nixon, and Ford were Republicans who accepted the New Deal and Great Society. The current breed of Republican does not. They don't want to use government to assist the poor or the unfortunate. While the Republicans controlled Congress for more than a decade, the minimum wage wasn't raised, food stamps weren't raised, qualifying for Medicaid became harder, etc. If you read Dick Armey over at Time's Swampland you got a taste of that kind of thinking. Republicans don't care about government except to the extent that it can be used to raid trust funds and shovel money to their rich friends.

Looking for an "honest conservative" is a fool's errand.


Friday, June 15, 2007

The tale of two perspectives:

The top headline at Excite Money & Investing:
Dow Nears Trading High on Inflation Data
Wall Street barreled higher again Friday after the week's most anticipated economic reading indicated that inflation excluding the price of gas remained tepid last month ...

The consumer price index showed prices rose at the fastest pace in 20 months in May as the cost of gas jumped. However, the so-called core CPI, which excludes often volatile food and energy prices, rose a lower-than-expected 0.1 percent. The figure, which the inflation-wary Federal Reserve watches closely, was below the 0.2 percent increase Wall Street expected.

The move higher follows sharp gains Wednesday and Thursday that marked the Dow's best two-day advance since last July after figures on wholesale prices excluding food and energy costs showed inflation rose at a modest pace.
But there were these as well:
Consumer Prices Up Sharply
Consumer prices surged in May at the fastest pace in 20 months, fueled by another big rise for gasoline and an increase for food as well.

Inflation was docile in other areas, with prices for computers, clothes, cars and airline tickets all falling.

The Consumer Price Index posted an increase of 0.7 percent, the biggest one-month gain since the fall of 2005 ...
Gas Prices Expected to Rise at Pump
Gasoline futures extended their rally Friday, raising the prospect that prices at the pump will reverse course and again head higher in the coming weeks. Oil futures moved above $68 a barrel.
See The Big Picture for some analysis of the numbers.



Harry Reid said General Pace was incompetent. And this causes the brave, manly, oh-so-tough neocons and Republicans to faint.

What a joke.


Fence foolishness:

Charles Krauthammer, doing work for the plutocrats, wants to focus your attention on a fence as a solution to the immigration situation:
Fences work. That's why people have them around their houses -- not because homeowners are unwelcoming but because they insist that those who wish to come into their domain knock at the front door.
Wait a minute. What's this about knocking on the door? Isn't the fence supposed to keep people out?

Oh, the fence doesn't actually do that, or at least not very well. So what keeps people off of the homeowner's front lawn? That would be enforcement of some sort (like calling the police). And the analogue for immigrants would be workplace enforcement. But Krauthammer doesn't want to talk about that. Better to fool the rubes with big talk about fences, which give the impression of keeping illegal immigrants out of the work force, without actually doing much.

Bravo, Charles!


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Then and now:

Andrew Ferguson on Gore's new book:
10 Jun Washington Post 13 June New York Sun
You can't really blame Al Gore for not using footnotes in his new book, "The Assault on Reason." It's a sprawling, untidy blast of indignation, and annotating it with footnotes would be like trying to slip rubber bands around a puddle of quicksilver. Still, I'd love to know where he found the scary quote from Abraham Lincoln that he uses on page 88.  
In a chapter entitled "The Politics of Wealth," Gore argues

that the ancient threat to democracy posed by rich people run amok has finally been realized under the man who beat him in the 2000 presidential race.
In a chapter titled "The Politics of Wealth," Al Gore argues
in his new book, "The Assault on Reason,"
that the ancient threat to democracy posed by rich people run amok has finally been realized under the man who beat him in the 2000 presidential race.
Be sure to read Anonymous Liberal and the (outraged) Howler on the Post's clear anti-Gore animus.


It's worse than that:

E.J. Dionne writes:
... those who attack the system don't actually want to change it much. For example, there's a very good case for abolishing the U.S. Senate. It often distorts the popular will since senators representing 18 percent of the population can cast a majority of the Senate's votes. And as Sen. John McCain said over the weekend, "The Senate works in a way that relatively small numbers can block legislation."
Look at what it takes to block legislation (or a censure resolution). All it takes is a filibuster and a subsequent failure to invoke cloture. Invoking cloture reqires 60 votes. So if one side has 41 votes, that's enough to block legislation. All it takes is 41 Senators from 21 states.

Under a worse case scenario, Senators from the 21 least-populous states could block legislation. How many people are in those 21 states?

If you look at the List of U.S. states by population, we find that out of a total of 300 million for the country, there are 37 million in the 21 least-populous states. That amounts to 12.4% of the population, or one in eight.

But wait, there's more!

Taking this further, it's possible that in each of the 21 least-populous states, the senator was elected with a vote of 50% +1. Effectively half the population of each state. So it could take as little as 18 milliion people to elect enough senators to stop action on a particular bill. That's one in 16 people. And that explains, in part, how anti-democratic (and pro-plutocratic) the Senate can be.

One in 16 is all it takes.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Anne Applebaum, still scared:

From her essay in the Washington Post:
... it's not exaggerating at all to say that the events of the past week -- and the wildly divergent international news coverage that accompanied them -- illustrate a profound transformation that has taken place, slowly and quietly, over the past several years. Call it post-post-Sept. 11, or maybe just a return to status quo ante: Either way, it's pretty clear that that brief moment of consensus -- those very few years when the world's most powerful governments all believed that the world's worst problem was international terrorism -- has now passed.

The world's attention has wandered away from international terrorism -- and so, if I may say, has ours.

It's not hard to explain why: Time has passed -- more than five years now.

Despite the terrorist attacks in Britain and Spain, the absence of another attack on the scale of the World Trade Center has meant that the world's attention is no longer singularly focused and that the perceived need for international unity has diminished.
Well, that's what the evidence shows. That the terrorist threat was limited in scope. It was always overestimated, mostly because of one, unique, exploitation of a vulnerability (taking over airplanes) allowed a small group to wreak havoc in a spectacular way. Bush and others took advantage of that perception (and amplified it) in order to further their own political and policy goals.


Monday, June 11, 2007

In BusinessWeek:

An article, The Real Cost Of Offshoring: (excerpts)
U.S. data show that moving jobs overseas hasn't hurt the economy. Here's why those stats are wrong

[Supporters of globalization] point to the powerful performance of the U.S. economy. And with good reason. Despite the latest slow quarter, official statistics show that America's economic output has grown at a solid 3.3% annual rate since 2003, a period when imports from low-cost countries have soared.

But new evidence suggests that shifting production overseas has inflicted worse damage on the U.S. economy than the numbers show. BusinessWeek has learned of a gaping flaw in the way statistics treat offshoring, with serious economic and political implications.

The short explanation is that the growth of domestic manufacturing has been substantially overstated in recent years. That means productivity gains and overall economic growth have been overstated as well. And that ... "helps explain why wage growth for most American workers has been weak"

The underlying problem is located in an obscure statistic: the import price data published monthly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Because of it, many of the cost cuts and product innovations being made overseas by global companies and foreign suppliers aren't being counted properly. And that spells trouble because, surprisingly, the government uses the erroneous import price data directly and indirectly as part of its calculation for many other major economic statistics, including productivity, the output of the manufacturing sector, and real gross domestic product (GDP), which is supposed to be the inflation-adjusted value of all the goods and services produced inside the U.S.

... analysis of the import price data reveals offshoring to low-cost countries is in fact creating "phantom GDP"--reported gains in GDP that don't correspond to any actual domestic production.

... offshoring may have created about $66 billion in phantom GDP gains since 2003. That would lower real GDP today by about half of 1%, which is substantial but not huge. But put another way, $66 billion would wipe out as much as 40% of the gains in manufacturing output over the same period.

It's important to emphasize the tenuousness of this calculation. In particular, it required BusinessWeek to make assumptions about the size of the cost savings from offshoring, information the government doesn't even collect.

Depending on your attitude toward offshoring, the existence of phantom GDP is either testimony to the power of globalization or confirmation of long-held fears. The U.S. economy no longer stops at the water's edge. Global corporations often provide their foreign suppliers and overseas subsidiaries with business knowledge, management practices, training, and all sorts of other intangible exports not picked up in the government data. In return, they get back cheap products.

But the new numbers also require a reassessment of productivity and wages that could add fire to the national debate over the true performance of the economy in President Bush's second term. The official statistics show that productivity, or output per hour, grew at a 1.8% rate over the past three years. But taking the phantom GDP effect into account, the actual rate of productivity growth might be closer to 1.6%--about what it was in the 1980s.

Phantom GDP helps explain why U.S. workers aren't benefiting more as their companies grow ever more efficient. The cost savings that companies are reaping "don't represent increased productivity of American workers producing goods and services in the U.S."

Phantom GDP helps explain why U.S. workers aren't benefiting more as their companies grow ever more efficient. The cost savings that companies are reaping "don't represent increased productivity of American workers producing goods and services in the U.S.," says Houseman. In contrast, compensation of senior executives is typically tied to profits, which have soared alongside offshoring.

But where are those vigorous corporate profits coming from? The strong earnings growth of U.S.-based corporations is still real, but it may be that fewer of the gains are coming from improvements in domestic productivity. In fact, holding down costs by moving key tasks overseas could be having a greater impact on corporate earnings than anyone guessed--or measured.
There's more in the 2,200 word report, but those are the key points.

But here's another tidbit from the report:
Yet no matter how hard you look, you can't find any trace of the cost savings from offshoring in the import price statistics. The furniture industry's experience is particularly telling. Despite the surge of low-priced chairs, tables, and similar products from China, the BLS is reporting that the import price of furniture has actually risen 6.7% since 2003.
Is the BLS under reporting inflation and over reporting GDP growth?


If the "surge" is declared a success, will Bush bomb Iran?

One common reaction to calls for a military strike against Iran (like that floated by Joe Lieberman yesterday) is that it would make the existing mess in the region even worse. And that makes sense.

But if the neocons and Petraeus say things are getting better, even though the surge results are mixed (or worse), that may boost the Cheney faction's cred within the White House. And it will tend to justify the notion that a military solution is the way to go, not only in Iraq, but also Iran.


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Gay Bomb:

Confirmation the U.S. military was working on it in 1994.
Pentagon officials on Friday confirmed to CBS 5 that military leaders had considered, and then subsquently rejected, building the so-called "Gay Bomb."

As part of a military effort to develop non-lethal weapons, the proposal suggested, "One distasteful but completely non-lethal example would be strong aphrodisiacs, especially if the chemical also caused homosexual behavior.

Military officials insisted Friday to CBS 5 that they are not currently working on any such idea and that the past plan was abandoned.
Too bad. Imagine the possiblilties. (Insert your own joke about reviving Broadway musicals here.)



Is it time to stop caring?


Friday, June 08, 2007

Set theory:

{Mitt Romney's statements during June 5 debate} ∩ {Facts about weapons inspectors in Iraq} = Ø


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Washington Post's Op-Ed Comedy Corner:

Shorter Willian Otis (a former federal prosecutor):
Convicted felons with access to big money, like Lewis Libby, shouldn't do jail time. They should only pay fines.
Shorter Robert Novak:
John Edwards' presidential ambitions are at risk because the following Democrats aren't impressed with the guy:
  • Mark Siegel (A 35-year party insider who also was, and remains, a big-time lobbyist.)
  • Bob Shrum
  • James Carville (who co-signed a letter asking the judge to show lenience toward Libby)
Shorter David Ignatius:
It's not Republican cronyism, utopian neocon ideology, or Cheney-and-Rumsfeld orchestrated fake intel that's the problem. Our response to Hurricane Katrina and the chain of errors that spawned the disaster of Iraq are symptoms of a disease of noncommunication. We cannot access the expertise we possess.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

3500 dots:


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

2004 clip of Republicans scaring you:

David Sirota, blogging the Republican debate, has an entry which is a set of video clips from the 2004 convention of big name Republicans talking about the threat to America. Lots of Giuliani.

If you think, like this blog does, that the terrorist threat is wildly overstated, it will be either amusing or depressing.

You almost feel as though they'll start talking about plans to fluoridate children's ice cream.



On the torture issue, Andrew Sullivan has an amazing document that shows the similarity.

What's interesting is that the first step in the process is the classification of the individual to a category that is outside the jurisdiction of national or international rules of conduct.


High Tech:

President Bush shows Putin a portable radar dish designed to detect missles fired at Europe by terrorists based in Iraq.

The dish is part of a "black ops" system developed by Haliburton and the Carlyle Group with input from former members of the Defense Department's Office of Special Plans. The system has an expected completion date of 2015 and will cost $125 billion.


The decline of Western Civilization over 99 years:




As criticism mounted, Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, waded in to insist that the logo would inspire people "to make a positive change in their life".


Monday, June 04, 2007

That amazing Iraq Coalition Casualties website:

Referenced by the big media. Seen by so many. Yet, from the website:
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Obama the magic neolib?

The teaser for Fred Hiatt's essay, Can You Tell Them Apart?, reads:
On foreign policy, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are closer to each other -- and to the Bush administration -- than you might think.
God help us all. Recently, the Post's Richard Cohen was saying Bush was a neoliberal (and widely quoted by "genuine" conservatives like Laura Ingraham). Now this.

Romney is a well known idiot (Sunni = Shia = Muslim Brotherhood, "double Guantanamo"). Bush is delusional. Is Obama in the same category?

Or is Hiatt trying to undercut his candidacy?

OUTRAGE CORNER: In the course of the essay, Hiatt writes of Romney [emp add]:
Romney says that "the jihadist threat is the defining challenge of our generation," as real as the threat that was posed by Nazi Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union, and he promises an appropriately sized response.
Note Hiatt's wording:
The jihadist threat is as real as the threat posed by Hitler and Stalin.
That's a bullshit term. Saying it's "as real a threat" comes of in many minds as "as great (or likely) a threat". But that casual interpretation evaporates if you pay close attention. All Hiatt is really saying is that the jihadist threat is not an imaginary one. We know that. Is it much of a threat? Not if the latest round-up of let's-remove-the-No-Parking-signs-at-JFK-airport-and-therefore-destroy-the-US-economy culprits are any measure of what we have to face


Friday, June 01, 2007

This is not progress:

Now that the numbers are in for May, we can plot the average-monthly-casualties-for-the-duration (maroon line). It keeps on going up.