Monday, December 31, 2007

Son of a bitch:

Who? Brad DeLong, that's who. Why? Because in an essay about the current financial problems (which you should read in its entirety) he ends up with this as a likely solution:
The second option is simply inflation. Yes, the financial system is insolvent, but it has nominal liabilities and either it or its borrowers have some real assets. Print enough money and boost the price level enough, and the insolvency problem goes away without the risks entailed by putting the government in the investment and commercial banking business.

The inflation may be severe, implying massive unjust redistributions and at least a temporary grave degradation in the price system's capacity to guide resource allocation. But even this is almost surely better than a depression.
About those "unjust redistributions". Who benefits the most from inflation? The owners of real assets. Who loses? Mostly the poor, or those with fixed incomes or incomes with joke-COLA adjustments. While it's not a direct parallel, consider these words by conservative (!) Paul Johnson, writing about Weimar Germany: (Modern Times, pg 135)
The banks were charging 35 per cent interest a day on loans, while paying depositors only 18 per cent a year. As a result, a peasant woman who deposited the price of a cow and drew it out six months later found it was worth less than the price of a herring. Small depositors and holders of government bonds lost everything. The big gainers, apart from the government itself, were the land-owners, who redeemed all their mortgates, and the industrialists, who repaid their debts in worthless paper and became the absolute owners of all their fixed capital. It was one of the biggest and crudest transfers of wealth in history. The responsibilities were clear; the beneficiaries of the fraud were easily identifiable.
So, the American poor will take it on the chin if Brad DeLong's "inflation solution" is pursued. And what about Social Security bonds? Will their value tank, leading to a real crisis? If the SS surplus loses half its value - not improbable with the DeLong approach - what then? Do we merely say that there were "massive unjust redistributions" to the elderly? Of interest, in DeLong's piece, nowhere does he speak of taxing the rich. If it's such an important problem (staving off a depression), where are they as part of the solution?



Benazir Bhutto often appeared with a white head-scarf, and to a certain degree, it makes her look like the stereotypical image of the Virgin Mary.
There seems to be a substantial amount of empathy here in the United States towards Benazir, and perhaps this contributed in a small way.


Wrong person:

In a CNN story, Hillary says she risked life on White House trips, we read:
On Saturday night in Dubuque [Hillary argued that] she risked her life on White House missions in the 1990s, including a hair-raising flight into Bosnia that ended in a "corkscrew" landing and a sprint off the tarmac to dodge snipers. [...]

The dictum around the Oval Office in the '90s, she added, was: "If a place was too dangerous, too poor or too small, send the first lady."
Wait a minute, isn't that a job typically assigned to the Vice President?


Observation about Kristol writing at the NYTimes:

Here is an excerpt from a story about the New York Times giving a rationale for hiring William Kristol to write in the op-ed pages:
The New York Times’ hiring of Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol to write for its op-ed page caused a frenzy in the liberal blogosphere Friday night, with threats of canceling subscriptions and claims that the Gray Lady had been hijacked by neo-cons.

But Times editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal sees things differently.

Rosenthal told Politico shortly after the official announcement Saturday that he fails to understand “this weird fear of opposing views.”

“The idea that The New York Times is giving voice to a guy who is a serious, respected conservative intellectual — and somehow that’s a bad thing,” Rosenthal added. “How intolerant is that?”
Here's the deal. People aren't fearful of opposing views. Opposing views can be discussed in the news pages. Opposing views can be criticized in the op-ed pages. But it's a whole 'nother thing to put an advocate for an opposing view on the op-ed pages. And, pace Rosenthal, folks aren't fearful (nice ad hominem, though). They are pissed off.

To make the point painfully clear, consider what Bob Herbert wrote on the op-ed pages about the sex-slave trade:
What’s important to keep in mind is the great extent to which the sex trade involves real slavery (kidnapping and rape), widespread physical abuse, indentured servitude, exploitation of minors and many other forms of coercion. This modern-day variation on the ancient theme of bondage flourishes largely because of the indifference of the rest of us, and the misogyny that holds fast to the view of women — all women — as sexual commodities.
You can be damn sure that there are at least a few men who would take an "opposing view" on this matter. So why aren't they writing in the New York Times op-ed pages, presenting the upside for this kind of male entertainment? Because Andy Rosenthal doesn't want them there. He does, however, want Bill Kristol there. Not for the facile reason of presenting an "opposing view", but to advocate for said "opposing view" - which is the AEI/neo-con view. So, we can conclude that the "opposing view" explanation - at least read literaly, is bogus.

But let's look a little closer. The Times can address lots of views within the news pages. For example, they do that with global warming and evolution disputes. But there's no one on the op-ed pages promoting global-warming-denial or that Darwin was wrong (at least not yet). So why the exception for the neo-con? Probably because, at least in Rosenthal's mind, neo-con-ism is a credible opposing view. And what makes him credible? It's not his track record, that's for sure. However, Kristol is always extremely well dressed, is the editor of a magazine, and appears on television frequently (only FNC, natch). If only advocates for Intelligent Design had such a person. Then, perhaps, they would be deemed "respected" and "serious", and write for the Grey Lady.

By the way, it's not restricted to the New York Times. The Los Angeles Times gives Jonah Goldberg a weekly column, and he's the guy who advocates the "opposing view" that Liberals are fascists. Although, oddly enough, there are no columnists there who support Communism, Dominionism, or the theories of Velikovsky. Op-ed space is scarce, and choosing who writes there is reflective of a newspaper's ideology. The New York Times is not hostile to neo-cons, and so we will see William Kristol there in a short while.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Pick someone else:

Apparently Bill Kristol will be writing op-eds in the New York Times. Personally, I'd rather read Pat Buchanan. Why?
  • He represents paleo-cons, a faction of conservatism that rarely gets heard and which may be growing (these days) at the expense of neo-cons.
  • He's had some success in politics (at least at the presidential primary level) and has made good calls about the political viability of candidates (both Democrats and Republicans).
  • Is an economic nationalist (i.e. against free trade) and a deficit hawk, positions ignored by the press for the most part.
  • Can be quite funny at times.
  • Is reasonably civil during political debates (and seems to get along nicely with Elanor Clift on the McLaughlin Group).
In any event, consider Kristol's point of view. He's already got a magazine (!) where he can express his views, along with frequent appearances on Fox News Channel. So what will he do at the Times? Probably try and establish a narrative. Most likely something along the lines of American Greatness, which he was all excited about in 2000 when he admired John McCain. (According to Paul Krugman, Times op-ed columnists are not supposed to endorse candidates. Will Kristol be held to the same standard? Will he be allowed to support a candidate in the pages of the Weekly Standard, yet appear "disinterested" in the Times?)

Whatever. In the words of some commenter on a random blog, "Bring back TimesSelect!"


Friday, December 28, 2007

Let's talk trade:

Paul Krugman has a column in the NYTimes today which is generally favorably towards free trade (with important qualifiers). The concluding lines are:
As I said, I’m not a protectionist. For the sake of the world as a whole, I hope that we respond to the trouble with trade not by shutting trade down, but by doing things like strengthening the social safety net. But those who are worried about trade have a point, and deserve some respect.
This is naïve in the extreme. The best way to insure that people are given economic security is to integrate that security into the economy, say through protectionism. The notion that, at the end of the year, the government will give compensatory money to the "free trade losers" is a technocrat's dream, but only that. Such recipients would be seen as undeserving since they hadn't been working that year. And what capable worker wants to be stuck in a safety net anyway?

For those who say protectionism is bad, it's useful to note what Krugman said earlier this week in an interview on the Charlie Rose show: (emp add)
CR: Trade.

PK: I was afraid you were going to ask me about that. I'm a big free trader, but not for the reasons that people would say. If you ask me, if the United States turns somewhat protectionist, would that have devastating effects on the U.S. economy? The answer is, no, it would not. It would have devastating effects on the economy of Bangladesh. Devastating effects on the economy of Paraguay. The open trading system is really important for the poor countries. Are there problems, does it cause some problems in the United States? Yes, but not as much as people think.

CR: On the basic issue of trade, you're saying "I'm for free trade because it's in the best interest of people in poor countries."

PK: That's right.
Which is the Brad DeLong argument. Free trade helps the rest of the world. This blog dissents strongly from that position and is admittedly nationalist-selfish in wanting to preserve economic status for the middle class and improve it for the poor by avoiding the global labor arbitrage (aka "free trade") that depresses wages and outsources jobs.


50 Most Loathsome People in America, 2007:

Compiled by folks over at The Beast - whatever that is. Best profile:
26. William Kristol

Charges: Bears the burlesque Cheshire grin of a sophist born with a large silver spoon jammed sideways in his mouth. A second generation neocon raised in the tradition of Straussian perception management and myth creation, Kristol is basically lying about everything -- always -- and he knows it. Whether at the helm of Rupert Murdoch's Weekly Standard, appearing on Murdoch's Fox News Channel, or co-founding the disastrous Project for a New American Century, Bill is arguably the most egregious media hawk of a generation. Seems to have suffered no ill impact to his career or prestige despite having been completely wrong about everything to do with Iraq and Iran, and actually laughs about it with obnoxious frequency.

Exhibit A: "First of all, whenever I hear anything described as a heartless assault on our children, I tend to think it's a good idea. I'm happy that the President's willing to do something bad for the kids."


Get ready for action!

Remember this from November by Fred Kagan and Mike O'Hanlon? (excerpts, emp add)
Pakistan’s Collapse, Our Problem

AS the government of Pakistan totters, we must face a fact: the United States simply could not stand by as a nuclear-armed Pakistan descended into the abyss. Nor would it be strategically prudent to withdraw our forces from an improving situation in Iraq to cope with a deteriorating one in Pakistan. We need to think — now — about our feasible military options in Pakistan, should it really come to that.

The most likely possible dangers are these: a complete collapse of Pakistani government rule that allows an extreme Islamist movement to fill the vacuum; a total loss of federal control over outlying provinces, which splinter along ethnic and tribal lines; or a struggle within the Pakistani military in which the minority sympathetic to the Taliban and Al Qaeda try to establish Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism.

All possible military initiatives to avoid those possibilities are daunting. With 160 million people, Pakistan is more than five times the size of Iraq. It would take a long time to move large numbers of American forces halfway across the world. And unless we had precise information about the location of all of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and materials, we could not rely on bombing or using Special Forces to destroy them.

One possible plan would be a Special Forces operation with the limited goal of preventing Pakistan’s nuclear materials and warheads from getting into the wrong hands. Given the degree to which Pakistani nationalists cherish these assets, it is unlikely the United States would get permission to destroy them. Somehow, American forces would have to team with Pakistanis to secure critical sites and possibly to move the material to a safer place.

[Kagan and O'Hanlon assume that operation would be a success, since the sentence that directly follows is:]

For the United States, the safest bet would be shipping the material to someplace like New Mexico; but even pro-American Pakistanis would be unlikely to cooperate. More likely, we would have to settle for establishing a remote redoubt within Pakistan, with the nuclear technology guarded by elite Pakistani forces backed up (and watched over) by crack international troops.
There you have it. Problem solved in two steps:
  • Special Forces operation simply goes in and removes all nukes from Pakistan.
  • Said nukes stored safely in New Mexico.
It's a winning plan.


Belgravia Dispatch is back:

After a near two-month hiatus, a post on the Bhutto assassination.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Airbrushed for your protection:

You may recall that several years ago, the USPS issued a stamp where they took the cigarette out of Jackson Pollock's mouth. Story:
... Jackson Pollock was larger than life: a brilliant but rough-edged man, a hard-drinking chain smoker rarely seen without a cigarette dangling from his lips ...

But on Thursday, with much fanfare, the federal government helped Jackson Pollock kick the habit, unveiling a new 33-cent stamp based on a famous photograph of the artist, but without his trademark cigarette.

The Postal Service calls it a design issue, an effort to produce a stamp calling attention to Pollock the artist, not Pollock the smoker. But cultural historians are appalled, saying the political incorrectness of smoking these days is leading us to snuff out our own past.

"The communists used to airbrush inconvenient persons from photographs. Americans are airbrushing signs of inconvenient sins. I think it's a joke," said Professor Todd Gitlin of New York University.

It's not the first time the Post Office has had a no-smoking policy. Blues guitarist Robert Johnson was captured smoke-free in 1994. A stamp of chain smoker Edward R. Murrow shows no cigarette too.
Well, they've done it again. We get a glimpse of a new stamp in this story: Bette Davis featured on new 2008 stamps.
Notice something missing? Oh yeah, it's the cigarette she's almost always seen with. The stamp was probably derived from one of these two images:
And there are lots more, which this peculiar website provides. Such as these:

Culturegeeks has this to say:
Looking at this new Bette Davis postage stamp, I’m pretty sure that they Photoshopped a cigarette out of her hand.

While I understand not wanting to promote smoking, couldn’t they have just found a picture where she wasn’t smoking? A challenge, I’ll grant you ...



On the special west coast broadcast of ABC's Good Morning America (8:00 AM PST) reporter Mike von Fremd had these words:
This is another example that presidents are never on vacation. The president was here in Crawford supposedly hoping today to spend time on a new mountain bike. Instead, he was on a secure phone. [...]

He was supposed to be riding a new bike he got for Christmas today. Instead of riding his mountain bike, he's going to be very busy talking to his staff.


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Ann Coulter data point:

If you ever thumbed through her book Godless: The Church of Liberalism, you noticed that a big proportion was devoted to ridiculing evolution. But it wasn't clear what her position was on the issue - since most of the writing was presenting critics of Darwin. Coulter tends to avoid making outright declarations on policy at any serious level and prefers to engage in ad-hominem screeds. So her "public face" on evolution wasn't clear (at least to this reader).

No longer. In a typical blame-liberals-for-everything column, she comes right out and says:
... Huckabee says he doesn't believe in evolution. Neither do I, for reasons detailed in approximately one-third of my No. 1 New York Times best-selling book, "Godless: The Church of Liberalism."
Look, Coulter just tosses out nonsense, is incoherent with many of her arguments, and dealing with them is a waste of time. So why this post? Because the way to keep your wasted time to a minimum is to note her stance on evolution and leave it at that. It's an excellent proxy for a person's professed world-view, which for Coulter is a complete dismissal of science. And it's different from standard-issue religion, which, while it may believe in a few untestable notions (of a God, afterlife, spiritual power) does not challenge science in the same way as evolution-denial.

It's a little surprising to see Coulter come out explicitly against evolution because it sets her apart from almost all the other conservative commentators, and especially from the money-cons.


Monday, December 24, 2007

Get the set:

Available at
Only $16.99 each.


If it's "beyond belief", then it's probably not true:

K-Drum wonders:
In the LA Times today, Josh Meyer writes about a subject that's been bouncing around in my head for the past couple of weeks but never quite made it onto the blog: why did we videotape only two interrogations of al-Qaeda subjects in the months after 9/11? [...]

... doesn't it seem almost beyond belief that we wouldn't videotape every interrogation we did and then study the tapes endlessly for clues?
Yup. If you substitute "not true" for "beyond belief" you get:
It's not true that we [the CIA] wouldn't videotape every interrogation.
Taking the two negatives out, and cleaning up the line, you get:
The CIA videotaped every interrogation.
That sounds right. Okay, maybe not every interrogation, but nearly so.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

The New York Times is unduly worried:

In an editorial about the AMT, we read: (emp add)
Congress has passed and President Bush is sure to sign into law a bill that will spare some 23 million Americans from having to pay the alternative minimum tax next April. ...

... the bill doesn’t include a way to make up for the lost revenue — $51 billion for the one-year reprieve, an amount roughly equal to the annual budgets of the Departments of Energy, Justice and Interior. To make up the shortfall, the government plans to borrow the money, which will have to be paid back later with interest, either by raising taxes or reducing government services. ...

America’s middle-class and upper-middle-class taxpayers are being shielded from the alternative tax today, but they and their children will pay the cost tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.
No. They won't have to pay, and neither will most everybody else. The solution to paying for the tax cut is simple: Raise taxes on cigarettes. It's easy and painless and fair. California has plans to pay for much of a universal health care plan by levying an additional $1.50 a pack. And Congress will, as soon as possible, up the Federal tax by 60 cents for expanded S-CHIP. And if it hurts smokers, well, they're a pariah group, so who cares?

A sensible approach is for the federal government to increase the tax cigarettes at $15 a pack, and states apply a $5 increase. Add in the basic cost of product, manufacturing, and delivery, and you're looking at a retail price $25 a pack or a mere $1.25 for each cigarette. The typical smoker would then pay $6,000 a year in cigarette taxes and be a solid source of revenue, what with so many being addicted and all.


No usury in these United States:

Story: (excerpts, emp add)
Unpaid credit cards bedevil Americans

Americans are falling behind on their credit card payments at an alarming rate, sending delinquencies and defaults surging by double-digit percentages in the last year and prompting warnings of worse to come. ...

Until recently, credit card default rates had been running close to record lows, providing one of the few profit growth areas for the nation's banks, which continue to flood Americans' mailboxes with billions of letters monthly offering easy sign-ups for new plastic.

Even after the recent spike in bad loans, the credit card business is still quite lucrative, thanks to interest rates that can run as high as 36 percent, plus late fees and other penalties. ...

Economists also cite America's long-standing attitude that debt — even high-interest credit card debt — is not a big deal.

"The desires of consumers to want, want, want, spend, spend, spend — it's the fabric of our nation," said Howard Dvorkin, founder of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which has advised more than 5 million people in debt. "But you always have to pay the piper, and that can be a very painful process."
Also, The bears must wait another quarter
Currently available data on consumer spending make it very unlikely that we'll see negative real GDP growth for the fourth quarter.

The BEA reported on Friday that seasonally adjusted real consumption spending grew at a 6.5% annual rate between October and November. ...

With 2007:Q4 real consumption growth in the ballpark of 3%, it's extremely unlikely that we'll see the negative real GDP growth for 2007:Q4 that some analysts had been predicting before the strong November retail sales figures came in.
That's amazing. 6.5% growth in real consumption from one month to the next. Looks like the American consumer will literally spend until they can no longer do so, and only then take measures to save and reduce debt.

Don't consumers read the news? Not that they should go nuts and stop spending entirely, but at least to pull back a little in light of the general warnings of future difficulty ahead (which could include a recession).

HERE'S A DEPRESSING THOUGHT: You figured that the day of reckoning was near? That faced with the prospect of trouble, people would straighten up and fly right? Well, consider the possibility that everybody, government, banks, and consumers, will just continue on in their merry way - facilitated by lots more borrowing - for up to one more year. The government is set to do that by passing AMT relief while adding to the national debt (since offsetting taxes were nixed). Banks are set to borrow massively from the Fed (anonymously, natch). And the consumer is, apparently, going to continue borrow - only this time on credit cards instead of using the MEW-AMT. And history tends to confirm this prediction in that repeatedly trends that "should" be stopped, like excessive borrowing or creeping inflation, are often not ended until literally, the absolute limit of the trend is reached - like slamming into a wall. And it ends up an even worse mess than before.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Welcome to Brad DeLong's utopia:

Item: (emp orig)
Even college grads might want to consider blue-collar careers. Last year, because U.S. News readers tend to be college educated, we included only careers that typically require at least a bachelor's degree. This year we've added four careers that don't. Why? More and more students are graduating from college at the same time that employers are offshoring more professional jobs. So, many holders of a bachelor's degree are having trouble finding jobs that require college-graduate skills.
Repeat after me: Protectionism is good. There is no need to trade with countries that pay their workers a pittance (or work without proper safety measures). The much-heralded "benefits" of cheaper imported goods comes at the price of hollowing out, and ultimately destroying, a real national asset: professions that took years of effort and education to develop. "Consumerism" is the handmaiden of International Capitalist Darwinism, since all it cares about is the price of an item and ignores externalities such as the impact on domestic manufacturing and services (to the detriment of both the businessman and the worker).


Friday, December 21, 2007

This could go on forever!

News item:
Consumer Spending Surges in November

Consumers put aside worries about slumping home sales and soaring gasoline prices and headed to the malls in November, pushing spending up by the largest amount in 3 1/2 years. The Commerce Department reported Friday that consumer spending surged by 1.1 percent last month ...

With spending rising at a faster rate than savings, the nation's savings rate dipped into negative territory in November at 0.5 percent. That meant that households spent all of their incomes and either dipped into savings or borrowed to finance the higher level of spending last month.


Climat change:

Washington Times:
Sen. Inhofe is right. There is no possibility of climat change, as long as Lancôme controls the product.


Pajamas Media - All the news the MSM forgot to print!

This post title is the title from Pajamas Media's front page. What did the MSM forget to print? Here's a screenshot:
Hey, get ready to worry about terrorism again, only this time involving Philippine crop dusters. If you read the story, you find out that of the "mysterious" crashes:
  • Two of the five involved a pair of planes colliding mid-air.
  • The other three crashes are reported without any details of probable cause (mechanical failure, rocket launched at it, inexperienced pilot, threatening messages before/after).
But that's enough for Pajamas Media to bring out the Possible Terrorist Threat Concern. No wonder the MSM forgot to print it.

Oh, and just a reminder, Annie Jacobsen is the person who raised a ruckus in 2004 about members of a Syrian band that she thought were terrorists.


Greenspan's brain:

In today's Krugman column, he makes a passing reference to something Greenspan wrote four decades ago:
In a 1963 essay for Ms. Rand’s newsletter, Mr. Greenspan dismissed as a “collectivist” myth the idea that businessmen, left to their own devices, “would attempt to sell unsafe food and drugs, fraudulent securities, and shoddy buildings.” On the contrary, he declared, “it is in the self-interest of every businessman to have a reputation for honest dealings and a quality product.”
But you should read more of Greenspan's essay, as excerpted at The Mess That Greenspan Made: (emp add)
"Protection of the consumer against 'dishonest and unscrupulous business practices' has become a cardinal ingredient of welfare statism," Greenspan began his essay, which Rand included in her 1967 book, "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal."

"Left to their own devices, it is alleged, businessmen would attempt to sell unsafe food and drugs, fraudulent securities, and shoddy buildings. Thus, it is argued, the Pure Food and Drug Administration, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the numerous building regulatory agencies are indispensible if the consumer is to be protected from the 'greed' of the businessman.

"But it is precisely the 'greed' of the businessman or, more appropriately, his profit-seeking, which is the unexcelled protector of the consumer.

"What collectivists refuse to recognize is that it is in the self-interest of every businessman to have a reputation for honest dealings and a quality product."

."Protection of the consumer by regulation is thus illusory," he said. "Rather than isolating the consumer from the dishonest businessman, it is gradually destroying the only reliable protection the consumer has: competition for reputation

"While the consumer is thus endangered, the major victim of 'protective' regulation is the producer: the businessman."
Regulation endangers the consumer! How naïve. As if concern about reputation held back Charles Keating. There are many problems with Greenspan's asserions: consumers would have to keep tabs on all manufacturers for quality. Rregulation helps avert problems before they happen. When shoddy goods are sold, there are huge barriers to getting recompense. Some companies flat out disappear, thus rendering compensation impossible. Etc. [Troll note: regulation doesn't solve all these problems but makes them less frequent and establishes clear criteria for safety, whereas "reputation" is ephemeral, nebulous, and ultimately worthless. Did Merrill Lynch's reputation suffer after they drove Orange County into bankruptcy? Not much, if at all. People forget these things and here we are with ML selling crummy mortgage backed securities.]

As the Bloomberg report (excerpted at TMTGM) put it:
Four decades later, Greenspan's argument seems almost childlike in its idealism. Yet, judging by his inaction, it looks like he never stopped believing.
He knows what he's doing. Using libertarian free-market fundamentalism to hold off the regulators so the fat cats can ripoff the public. Because without a regulatory state, it's pure Capitalist Darwinism, where the strong crush the weak and businesses have the advantage over the consumer.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

It's up!

Orcinus / David Neiwert's first take on Goldberg's book.


Diagramming Jonah Goldberg:

This pretty much sums up the book:


Jonah Goldberg vindicated!

Goldberg has been saying that liberals are fascists and has a book to prove it. One chapter is devoted to the F-man himself:
Franklin Roosevelt's Fascist New Deal (42 pages)
How does he make his case? Simple. Look at the coinage issued throughout the Roosevelt years. Check the reverse:
A fasces!

Talk about in-your-face. And who replaced the lovely Winged Liberty in 1945? Fascist Franklin, that's who. They could have picked another coin, but the fascist impulse couldn't be denied.


Oh, and for you nitpickers who say, "Yeah, but that dime was first minted in 1916, well before FDR," consider Jonah's other excellent chapter:
Woodrow Wilson and the Birth of Liberal Fascism
Wilson, elected in 1912 had the new dime-with-fasces put out under his watch. More proof that Democrats and liberals and progressives are fascists.

And if that's not enough, what was a popular song during the depression?
Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

It became best known ... through recordings by Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallee. Both versions were released right before Franklin Delano Roosevelt's election to the presidency ...
Yowser! There you have it, three Goldberg-level proofs that liberals are fascists:
  • Wilson puts out a dime with fasces
  • Roosevelt elected on the strength of the fascist-dime song
  • Roosevelt's profile put on the dime after he died


Beg to differ:

Over at Crooked Timber, Michael Bérubé says that Jonah Goldberg's latest book Liberal Fascism puts him in mind of Dinseh D'Sousa's The End of Racism. Well, maybe. But with chapter headings like The Great Society: LBJ's Fascist Utopia, the companion book should be D'Sousa's The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11.

The End of Racism is far too tepid. But Enemy At Home is just like Liberal Fascism. No matter what, blame all problems on liberals and don't speak a word about conservatives. Call liberals terrorists and fascists. It's as simple as that.


Did it:

Yesterday a number of blogs suggested that Chris Dodd be rewarded with a donation for his work to block the FISA bill.

Kos: Money for Good Deeds: $5 for Dodd
Agonist: Sale! Sale! Sale!

So this blogger sent in $5. And apparently so did many others:
Dodd's Filibuster Fallout

Chris Dodd may have missed crucial stump time in Iowa in order to stage his filibuster of the telcom immunity provision in the FISA bill. But it paid off. Harry Reid pulled the bill on Monday, which counts as a big victory for Dodd. And the netroots rewarded Dodd's efforts with an outpouring of support and activism. According to the Dodd campaign, more than 615,000 emails from more than 11,400 people were sent to other Senators lobbying them to back Dodd on the FISA filibuster. And more than 20,000 comments were posted on supporting his cause. The filibuster also benefitted Dodd's long-shot presidential campaign. According to the campaign, it generated 20,000 new sign-ups and nearly $200,000 in contributions.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

That Christianity resolution:

Last week the House voted 372 to 9 for a resolution, Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith. It mostly states that there are lots of Christians, here and throughout the world, they've been a factor in history, celebrate Christmas, and so on. What's interesting is this. There are two bills in question, the one introduced, and the one voted on. The difference? The passed bill omits this line from the one introduced:
Whereas Christians identify themselves as those who believe in the salvation from sin offered to them through the sacrifice of their savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and who, out of gratitude for the gift of salvation, commit themselves to living their lives in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Bible;
That line is doctrinal in nature and subject to debate. It's explicitly Pauline, and not supported by the four Gospels. And guess what? The Republican Representative who introduced the bill was Steve King, a Catholic. Looks like that attempt to pass a law respecting an establishment of religion (or doctrine within a religion) failed. For now.


Bob Kerrey, Bill Shaheen, and Mark Penn issue joint statement:
We deplore all the talk about former cocaine user and possible African-American drug dealer, Barack Hussein Obama, being the Islamic Manchurian Candidate merely because he attended a madrassa overseas while living among billions of crazed Muslims, which included his father and paternal grandmother. As if that's a reason you can’t trust him. And anyway, his dad was an atheist, so that should totally defuse the religion issue. On the contrary, the fact that B. Hussein Obama has spent so much time with people that want to destroy America is a tremendous political asset which he probably didn't realize at the time since he was so busy. Busy in kindergarten writing about his presidential ambitions after which he chose Christianity as his faith. Instead, it vanquishes that pernicious stereotype of the "underperforming black youth" who will always be a disappointment, even when he grows up.

There is a smear campaign going on, it's outrageous, and the Clinton campaign will have nothing to do with it.


It's official:

News item:
The Bush-Cheney administration wants FCC chair Kevin Martin and the Republican majority on the commission to approve a rewrite of media-ownership rules that would allow big media companies to own daily and weekly newspapers, radio stations, television stations, cable systems and key internet news sites in an individual community.
In other words, Bush wants to strengthen the Liberal Media because, well, they like the Liberal Media.


Monday, December 17, 2007


Jonah Goldberg:
Fascism was an international movement that appeared in different forms in different countries, depending on the vagaries of national culture and temperament. In Germany, fascism appeared as genocidal racist nationalism.
In America, it took a "friendlier," more liberal form. The modern heirs of this "friendly fascist" tradition include the New York Times, the Democratic Party, the Ivy League professorate, and the liberals of Hollywood. The quintessential liberal fascist isn't an SS storm trooper; it is a female grade-school teacher with an education degree from Brown or Swarthmore.
Variant One:
In America, it took a "folksier," more outdoorsy form. The modern heirs of this "frontier fascist" tradition include the American Cattlemen magazine, the Grange Party, the Jim Shoulders fan club, and wearers of Wrangler jeans. The quintessential frontier fascist isn't an SS storm trooper; it is a rodeo clown who honed his chops during Wyoming Frontier Days events.
Variant Two:
In America, it took a "Franciscan," more Catholic form. The modern heirs of this "faith fascist" tradition include L'Osservatore Romano, the Catholic League, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the Knights of Columbus. The quintessential faith fascist isn't an SS storm trooper; it is a celibate parochial-school teacher with a divinity degree from Villanova or Notre Dame.
This blog means no disrespect to cowboys or Catholics. It's just that Goldberg simply plugs names into his "these are fascist" template with no regard for the facts. Fascism is primarily based on violence, militarism, and suppression of dissent. Liberalism, whatever you think about it, isn't that. But that doesn't dissuade Goldberg. He will say anything - anything - to attack the character of liberals (or whoever he's going after at the moment).

UPDATE: Commenter at Yglesias has similar thoughts:
I think an interesting game could be created out of that last sentence. Just fill in the blanks with any two random items, as long as they are nonsensically and outrageously (i.e. "brilliantly") juxtaposed:
"The quintesessential liberal fascist isn't an murderous antisemite that equates humans with bacteria, it is a male barista at Starbucks
"The quintesessential liberal fascist isn't a death camp director who ensures that the monthly quota of gassings occurs , it is summer camp counselor who encourages children to have "fun"
You too can play!

Ages 4-12.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Shorter David Broder:
If you're having trouble falling asleep, read my Sunday column.


Framing the candidate:

Ref: (Weekly Standard)
[Huckabee's] campaign has refused to release publicly [his church sermons] and one wonders why.
The question:
Why is Mike Huckabee ashamed of the sermons he delivered when he was a Baptist minister?


Saturday, December 15, 2007

This is not a good sign:

The website,, apparently created one week ago on December 7, is a Hillary Clinton for President production. It only consists of a list of attacks (their characterization) by Obama and Edwards. Only Obama and Edwards. "Attacks" like this:
HEADLINE: Edwards accuses Clinton of failing to connect with voters.
No Republican attacks. No media attacks (or mis-characterizations). Lots of data about Obama and Edwards. The website seems directed at Clinton supporters more than anything else.

Nice User Interface, though.


Friday, December 14, 2007

That look:

publius at Obsidian Wings writes:
... Mark Penn really shouldn't be on TV. I could almost smell him through my computer screen. To see what I mean, check out the exchange beginning at 3:50 (specifically, at 4:14). Penn, pretending to backtrack from the Obama drug allegations, goes out of his way to throw the word "cocaine" out there. Trippi rightly calls him out though. Penn's tactic here is hardly novel (see, e.g., Edwards praising Cheney's love for his lesbian daughter in the debate), but Penn is so transparently phony that it doesn't work.

Second, check out the exchange beginning at 5:30. The look that Trippi gives Penn at about 5:45 is priceless. It's quick - but it's just pure disgust. I thought it was hilarious.
Since the YouTube was (eventually) rendered "no longer unavailable" at Obsidian Wings, here's a screenshot of the moment:
The full video can be seen at


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Is Hardball for eighth graders?

Here's the opening and closing lines from today's Hardball segment on the Democatic presidential race:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Obama has pulled 6 points ahead of Hillary Clinton in Iowa, according to the latest "Newsweek" poll. But with three weeks left to the caucuses, can he hold or even widen his margin? Is the Hillary campaign due for a shake-up? And can Senator Edwards survive if he loses in Iowa? Big questions for our big guys coming and joining us right now. David Axelrod is chief strategist for the Obama campaign. Joe Trippi`s senior strategist for the Edwards campaign. And Mark Penn and the senior strategist for the Clinton campaign. Gentlemen, you are the big shots. You are the star fighters of this coming -- in fact, new century.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you, David. Thank you, Joe. Thank you, Mark Penn. You are the masters of the universe.
As a commentor put it:
... what's the deal with with starting the show with "Starfighters" and ending with "Masters of the Universe?" Is Huckabee the Death Star, is Rudy Skeletor? Is Chris stuck in my mid-80's childhood? All we're missing is a riff on GI Joe and Transformers. "Does your candidate view Dick Cheney as a Cobra Commander or is he closer to a Megatron? Show of hands!"
Also, some observations at the subversive garden.


More Clinton loveliness:

On Hardball tonight, Clinton advisor has this to say in the wake of Bill Shaheen's comments about Obama and drug use:
MATTHEWS: These comments that are coming out of your campaign from different directions -- and I`m not sure how they`re coming, and nobody does -- but going after his perhaps youthful drug use, which he admitted in his book, and going after comments he made as a student and as a kindergarten student in fifth -- at the age of 5, I should say, do you think those appropriate shots at the opponent, or are they below the belt?

MARK PENN, CLINTON SENIOR CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: Well, I think we have made clear that the -- the issue related to cocaine use is not something that the campaign was in any way raising. And I think that has been made clear. I think this kindergarten thing was a joke after Senator...

JOE TRIPPI, SENIOR EDWARDS CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I think he just did it again. He just did it again.

PENN: This kindergarten thing, after what the senator did...

TRIPPI: Unbelievable. They just literally...

PENN: Excuse me.

TRIPPI: No, no. No, no, Mark, excuse me.

PENN: Excuse me. Excuse me

TRIPPI: This guy`s been filibustering on this. He just said cocaine again. It`s like...

PENN: I think you`re saying cocaine.

TRIPPI: No, no.

TRIPPI: You just did it.
Trippi is an Edwards man. David Axelrod, chief strategist for Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign, also present on the show, didn't jump in during that exchange.


Mike Hickabee:

That sounds right.


Clinton adviser: further concern over Obama drug use
A top adviser to Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign said Thursday that Democrats should give even more thought to Sen. Barack Obama's admissions of illegal drug use before they pick a presidential candidate. Bill Shaheen, a national co-chairman of Clinton's front-runner campaign, raised the issue and said Republicans would work hard to discover new aspects of Obama's admittedly spotty youth. "It'll be, 'Did you cut the cocaine with Drano before selling it? What about using crack pipes to decorate the Christmas tree? How often did you socialize with Marion Barry? Were you the go-to guy for kindergarten contraband?'".

Shaheen further observed that Republicans will be able to use wildly speculative remarks made by Democrats to raise the issue, thus insulating the GOP from charges of mud-slinging. "That's the saddest part of all," he said.

Reached for comment, a Hillary spokesperson said that while it was true that their organization is a tightly-run ship exercising strict discipline, a key selling point this primary season, in this specific instance a national co-chairman was a loose cannon speaking on his own. But some doubts remain since the campaign refused to deny it was preparing emails hinting that Obama's drug connections were established when he attended a madrassa as a child.

Campaining for his wife in South Carolina, Bill Clinton said that the proper thing for Obama to do if asked awkward questions is tell the truth. "Tell them you didn't inhale. Tell them you didn't have sex with that woman. Tell them you were against the Iraq War from the start. That's the kind of Clinton candor voters respect. People will want more of that when they cast their ballots next year."

In a specially commissioned seance for the Associated Press, Richard Nixon was contacted and said, "Man, that 'speculation' of what the opposite party will do is a brilliant way to throw mud while leaving your hands clean. If I did that in 1960, Jack Kennedy would be a footnote in history."

In a related story, the Washington Post is set to run a four-part series, "Obama Dogged By Drug Rumors," one week before the Iowa caucuses.


Clinton adviser: Obama drug use concern
A top adviser to Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign said Wednesday that Democrats should give more thought to Sen. Barack Obama's admissions of illegal drug use before they pick a presidential candidate. [...]

Bill Shaheen, a national co-chairman of Clinton's front-runner campaign, raised the issue ...

He said Republicans would work hard to discover new aspects of Obama's admittedly spotty youth. "It'll be, 'When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?'" said Shaheen ...

Shaheen said later he regretted them. "I deeply regret the comments I made today and they were not authorized by the campaign in any way," Bill Shaheen said in an e-mail released by the campaign.
Well, that takes care of that.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007



We are finally free from the oppressive Geneva Convention!

Andrew Sullivan, 5 days ago:
... the United States has effectively withdrawn from the Geneva Conventions.
Digby, today:
The United States has clearly abrogated the Geneva Conventions. In fact, the treaties may now just be dead altogether.


Huckabee: Blissfully ignorant?

Is it an act, or what? Huck doesn't know what's going on with the recent NIE on Iran. Doesn't know squat about Mormons. This may connect on some level with voters, but it's hard to see how it will impress The Establishment.


A review of the Bush years:

At Troubletown. Quite a lot there.

(If it ages out after a week, see it here.)


Huckabee is playing the Christ Card:

In an early report:
Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, asks in an upcoming [New York Times Magazine] article, "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?"
Some observations:
  • Huckabee knows he's being wildly inpolitic. It's on a par with asking if Baptists handle snakes on weekends or if Jews have horns. (See the Weekly Standard for other crude stereotypes.)
  • The consensus will be that Huckabee, a Baptist minister who brandishes his religious schooling, is lying when he proclaims ignorance about Mormon doctrine.
  • This will piss off the Republican moneyed interests. Expect someone, probably McCain or Guiliani, to get some quick cash to counter the Huck.
  • Isn't Huckabee beginning to sound a lot like Pat Robertson? (e.g. on AIDS, women submitting to men)
  • Looks like this quote about "Jesus and the devil" being brothers will be around a long time. Great fodder for political cartoonists.


This is weird:

From Fed Teams With Central Banks on Credit:
The Federal Reserve announced Wednesday it was coordinating with other central banks to deal with the global credit crunch. Wall Street rallied after the surprise announcement.

In a statement timed before the start of trading in New York, the Fed said it planned to offer $40 billion in emergency funds to banks next week through an auction process.

[A] Fed official, who spoke to reporters on a conference call, said that the adverse reaction of Wall Street on Wednesday had nothing to do with the timing of the announcement.
Wow! Hang on to your hats. $40 billion. Such an astronomical sum. And the timing had nothing to do with yesterday's big down day. Well, maybe.
The Fed said that it was creating a temporary auction facility to make funds available to banks ...

"This is not about particular financial institutions with particular problems. It is about market functioning," said a senior Federal Reserve official ...
It's not for Countrywide or Citibank (or so they say).
The Fed cut a key interest rate on Wednesday but by a quarter-point rather than the bolder half-point move that many investors had hoped for. Economists looked more favorably on Wednesday's action, although they cautioned that the Fed's experiment at finding another way to inject cash into the banking system had not been tested. "Clearly, the Fed is feeling its way in the dark here. Current conditions are unprecedented in modern times," said Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.
It's about injecting cash into the banking system, but nobody's sure how to do it.
Analysts said the use of auctions to try to get more money into the banking system was an acknowledgment that efforts to spur direct loans from the Fed to banks through the Fed's discount window had not worked as well as hoped because of banks' fears that investors could become worried if they started utilizing the Fed's discount window to any large extent.
Investors would worry if a bank used the discount window? First of all, that doesn't sound right. Since when did investors worry about banks using the discount window? If true, that means the Fed is working to reassure Wall Street. Is that their purpose in life?
The Fed said that commercial banks would be able to bid at auction for funds that would be drawn from the Temporary Auction Facility. The money would be intended to help cash-strapped banks raise money needed to keep making loans to businesses and consumers.

The action represented another step by the Fed to deal with a serious credit crunch stemming from the tightening of bank lending standards in the wake of multibillion dollar losses from a rising tide of defaults on mortgage loans.
Banks need money to keep making loans that they aren't making anymore because of tighter lending standards. Check. Is this a signal to banks to resume issuing Liar Loans or those with a credit score of 450? Sounds like an attempt to patch/reinflate the housing bubble.
The Fed said that the new auction process should "help promote the efficient dissemination of liquidity" when other lines of credit were "under stress." The experience gained from the four scheduled auctions would be "helpful in assessing the potential usefulness" of this new process to provide funds to U.S. banks, the central bank said.
Great, "the experience gained will be helpful in addressing its usefulness". So, this exercise is an experiment with unclear effectiveness. Either that, or just a PR move to assuage the markets.
It said that the temporary swap arrangements being set up would provide up to $20 billion in reserves for the European Central Bank and up to $4 billion for the Swiss National Bank. The reserves would be available for up to six months.
$4 billion is Swiss francs! Feel the power. But here's the last line in the report:
Many businesses and consumers report rising trouble in obtaining loans as banks become more fearful about extending credit in the wake of a surge in bad loans stemming from the U.S. housing crisis.
Except for housing, consumers have no difficulty getting credit (credit-cards, auto loans), so what's that all about?

UPDATE: Felix Salmon recommends these explanations (1 2) for today's announcement. Apparently $40 bil is a big deal, although the secrecy aspect is not encouraging (which banks tap it will not be disclosed).


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Iraq War verdict:

It seems probable that violence will decline in Iraq and it will slide toward a sullen and weak governance. This is not surprising, because given enough time - on the order of several years - a stronger force (the U.S.) can exhaust a rebellion. That's almost certainly what Cheney was hoping for and what Bush now sees as vindication.

But what will history record about this adventure? There were objectives not met because they were never there to begin with:
  • Eliminating WMD from Iraq.
  • Severing an operating relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda
What was accomplished was pretty much one thing:
  • Removal of the dictator Saddam Hussein
And the question to be asked is, "Was it worth a trillion dollars for that?"

Expect the verdict of history to be no.


Monday, December 10, 2007

That Unitary thing:

Over at the Prospect, in a review of the destruction of the CIA torture tapes, we read:
An expert in organizations might tell us that one remedy ... is embracing a competing culture of professionalism. After all, it was the professional ethic (among other things) of the uniformed JAG lawyers in the Pentagon that led them to push back against Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s authorization of coercive interrogations by the military. And it was no doubt the professionalism of the many CIA officials who chafed against practices like waterboarding that forced the administration to document -- and then unsuccessfully defend -- the legal rationale for their use.
And it was the professionalism of the US Attorneys that resisted filing flimsy charges against Democrats close to an election.

The Bushies don't like professionalism because it interferes with them getting their way. How do they stamp it out? By invoking the Unitary Executive principle, which says in effect, that no matter what the professional approach is to a particular issue, it is subservient to the wishes of the president. That's what the Unitary Executive theory is all about.


Sunday, December 09, 2007

Great journalism!

Kudos to ABC's This Week. They had their "Classic Roundtable" (George Will, Cokie Roberts, Sam Donaldson) to comment on the week's events. You will be pleased to learn that their 17-minute discussion was entirely about presidential politics (Obama-Oprah, Romney-Mormon, Surgin' Huck) and nothing at all about the NIE report on Iran or the CIA's destruction of torture tapes.


Shorter David Broder:

Questions about Republican presidential candidates' religion are not new. I remember reporting on George Romney when he addressed the Mormon issue. I also remember covering John C. Frémont when he was attacked with false charges that he was a secret Catholic.

Some things never change.


Saturday, December 08, 2007

What a week!
  • NIE report says Iran not working on a bomb.
  • Huckabee caught with Wayne Dumond story.
  • Treasury Department tries to address mortgage crisis.
  • Romney speech on religion.
  • CIA destroys torture tape.
Each of those stories will have a big impact on American politics.


Friday, December 07, 2007

Repudiating the Enlightenment:

Yglesias writes:
... there continues to be something staggering about the extent to which the politicized "faith" crowd believes that it is a right and just thing to do to, say, keep a man shackled naked in a standing posture in a freezing room and then, later, strap him to a board and force water down his throat so as to induce a sensation of drowning ...
And it is staggering. But why would the "faith" crowd be that way? Belgravia Dispatch offers a clue in commentary about Bush's defense of torture:
Rarely has one seen such an edifice of half-truths, lies and obfuscations put in the service of a democracy turning its back on Enlightenment values to cheerlead use of torture against detainees in its captivity.
Because that's what an anti-torture stance is: an expression of Enlightenment values. And the Enlightenment is resented by many Christians, even respectable ones with a mild demeanor such as N. T. Wright. Most prominently with the evolution debate, but also regarding other issues such as due process, equal protection under the law, and a rejection of barbarity.

So it should not be a surprise that there is a contingent of Christians (not all, to be clear) that are four-square in support of, to put it bluntly, a governance and world-view that existed about 400 years ago.

UPDATE: This blog is not asserting that the Enlightenment is "right" and that those on the other side are "wrong". It happens to prefer the Enlightenment, but it's completely legitimate to take a completely different world view. The Enlightenment dispenses with a Manichean perspective. For conservative Christians, there really is an Evil, and you can torture Evil (or those working on its behalf). So away with the Geneva Convention! The Enlightenment tries to stay away from identity politics (everyone equal, etc.) but other may prefer collective punishment. The Enlightenment uses empirical data and rules of inference to determine how the world works (and worked). Others prefer to get that from a book. Deciding on what world-view you would like to support is a matter of choice. In this (two-choice) example, neither one can be proved from the other's perspective, since there is no common ground from which to proceed. Whichever one prevails over the long run is whichever one garners the most public approval. That tends to support the Enlightenment, since it's more in sync with economics and technology. But it's not a guarantee.

The interesting question is why there has been a turn away from the Enlightenment in recent years. Some might say that the increasing change in the modern world triggers a reaction. Too much, too fast, and time to slow down (or reverse). And let's not forget that the Al Qaeda attack was very disruptive and made, for a brief while, Enlightenment "progress" look fragile, and it lost respect as a result.


Philosophy time:

If the CIA records a tree falling in a forest with nobody there to hear it, and the tape is subsequentally destroyed, did it make a sound?



Howler has a couple of posts (1 2) that highlight Howard Kurtz' portrayal of millionare Brian Williams as just a simple man of the people.

One is reminded of the days when the Soviet press would report in hushed tones of reverence that, on a visit to the Tutayev Collective, Uncle Joe personally hopped on a tractor and plowed a dozen furrows.

Actually, Kurtz is a piker compared to Hugh Hewitt. Here is his take on the Romney speech: (emp add)
Mitt Romney's "Faith in America" speech was simply magnificent, and anyone who denies it is not to be trusted as an analyst. On every level it was a masterpiece. The staging and Romney's delivery, the eclipse of all other candidates it caused, the domination of the news cycle just prior to the start of absentee voting in New Hampshire on Monday --for all these reasons and more it will be long discussed as a masterpiece of political maneuver.

Far more important than all of that, however, was the content of the address, which was a brilliant explication of the American political theory of faith and freedom. Romney used the moment to defend not just himself but the American tradition of faith in the public square, of vigorous and valued religious plurality, and, crucially, why that tradition has allowed America's role in the world to be so unqualifiedly good. The unexpected but brilliant connection of our tradition of religious liberty with our ability to move in the world to save it again and again from evil and to rebuild it without demands for territory or treasure lifted the speech very far above the ordinary campaign speech, and in so doing lifted the Romney candidacy. Americans watching the speech were listening to a great communicator talk with pride and obvious skill and passion about America and its long history of freedom.
Wow! Since Hewitt says Romney is so great, why are Republicans even bothering with a primary season?


Remarkable, but not surprising:

Excerpts from the Post's story, Review of Iran Intelligence to Be Sought: (emp add)
Senate Republicans are planning to call for a congressional commission to investigate the conclusions of the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran ...

... conservatives and neoconservatives [are] unhappy about the assessment ...

... the NIE has become politicized ...

... critics [are] even going after the analysts who wrote it ...

... conservative commentators challenge its veracity ...

This NIE was presented with a clear intention to deceive and to redirect foreign policy," wrote Danielle Pletka ...

"I have no doubt that these people believe they are protecting the nation from the President [said Pletka]
Pletka is vice president for foreign and defense policy at the American Enterprise Institute. The AEI peddles conspiracy theories. How about that?


Huckabee's odd failure:

Dick Polman writes about Huckabee not knowing about the NIE report: (emp add)
The NIE report is, shall we say, kind of a big story. Sixteen intelligence agencies conclude that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program four years ago, and signaled the Bush administration over the summer that this conclusion was likely....that story was on every front page and it dominated the TV news. Yesterday, President Bush had held a morning press conference about it.
While there are many details surrounding the NIE story, the essence can be conveyed in very few words. 27 in fact. That's the number in bold above. How could Huckabee not know even that? Someone listening to the news at the top of the hour over the radio (typically while driving) would grasp the main points and potentials (nuclear threat from Iran greatly reduced; goes against recent Bush public line; maybe there's a chance for diplomacy in the region; possible reduction in tension and reduction in oil "risk premium"). The basic datum - Iran halting production - can allow for all manner of seat-of-the-pants analysis, which is all that Huckabee was being asked for. It's kind of like learning that Queen of England has been kidnapped. You don't know anything other than that, but you can still opine on whether the changing of the guard will be suspended for the duration.

Odd that Huckabee wasn't able to say squat about the NIE report.


Who was Romney's speech directed to?

In terms of the general electorate, it would seem that Romney would want to make Mormonism a non-issue. If so, then a speech "addressing" the issue would be long and boring with no memorable lines. You'd want people to think, "Yeah, yeah, whatever," and focus more on Romney's tax plan or ideas about coal gasification. A wonkish debate on policy would be what Romney would like.

But he didn't do that. He gave a speech that mixed some explicit Christian beliefs along with generalized deism. And who is that supposed to appeal to? The conservative Christians flocking to Huckabee?

It seems that Romney's speech had modest goals. He was making his pitch to the pundit class and reporters in general. The thinking might be, "Look, we can't change the hard-core conservative Christians, but maybe the low-information Christians will get - from the pundits - a generalized feeling that Romney is okay, and maybe vote for him."


Shorter Mitt Romney:

There is no place in politics for a debate about religion, except when disparaging the "religion of secularism".


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Baptist preacher and self-proclaimed "Christian Leader" lied!
Yes he did. And it wasn't lying about something trivial like whether he mailed in the utilities bill. No. It was lying about his actions with a parole case involving rape and, subsequently, murder.

Go Huck!

Looks like this blog was on to something when speculating that the better case to be made against Huckabee is his veracity. Now we have four (Democrat appointed) parole board members and a senior aide to the governor saying Huckabee did what he says he didn't. Five to one.


Run with it!


Don't forget, California has lots of conservatives:

Very conservative, at that. In the central part of the state. Story: (emp add)
The U.S. Episcopal Church faces major tumult this week when an entire California diocese with more than 9,000 members decides whether to secede in an unprecedented protest over gay issues.

The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, based in Fresno and consisting of nearly 50 churches in 14 counties, would be the first diocese to bolt from the U.S. branch of the 77-million-member global Anglican Communion if Saturday's final vote passes.

The U.S. church and Anglicanism generally have been in upheaval since 2003 when the Episcopal Church consecrated Gene Robinson of New Hampshire as the first bishop known to be in an openly gay relationship in more than four centuries of church history.
Might be the first in the nation. How about that?


Mike Huckabee, truth teller?

At the tail end of the very hot story about Huckabee ignoring pleas from women raped by Wayne Dumond, we get this: (emp add)
... in a 2002 story ... for the Arkansas Times about Huckabee's role in freeing Dumond, four board members -- three of who spoke on the record -- said that Huckabee lobbied and pressured board members on the matter. This included a 1996 executive meeting at which the board's recording secretary -- who ordinarily tapes the entire sessions -- was asked to leave the room. Several board members and members of the state legislator have said the secret session violated state law.

Huckabee, in turn, has said that all four parole board members have lied about his role in Dumond's release from prison.
There are some who want to argue that Huckabee's judgment was, like all of us, fallible at times. But set that aside. Do you really think that four parole board members are lying? (Huckabee says in his defense that they were all appointees of Democratic Arkansas governors.) That might be a better measure of Huckabee's character than a disputable issue of what risk to the community Dumond was believed to be.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

We must bomb Iran:

No matter what the NIE says, it's indisputable that Iran is pursuing "weapons related program activities".


Lies, damn lies, statistics, and Washington Post statistics:

The Post writes a pro-NAFTA editorial. Remember, NAFTA went into effect in 1994.
... the impact of NAFTA seems to have been both larger and more positive in Mexico than in the United States. Mexico's gross domestic product, now more than $875 billion, has more than quadrupled since 1987.
As Dean Baker points out, the Post is using nominal (instead of inflation-adjusted figures) which isn't a proper measure of growth. But how about the audacity of justifying a 14 year old program based on 20 years of data?

In reality, there is nothing new here. The Post supports programs that business wants. Concern for the average worker (e.g. with programs like Social Security) are ignored for the most part.


The Washington Post lies when it "fact checks":

Let's start with Yglesias: (emp add)
Rudy Giuliani runs an ad in which he explains "I know that reducing taxes produces more revenues," which is an impossible thing for Giuliani to "know" since it's false: [ad inserted here]

Fortunately, The Washington Post and The New York Times both have ad fact check features designed to set the record straight. But the Times doesn't notice what Rudy said, and the Post further misleads, saying "a matter of fierce dispute among economists." Brendan Nyhan asks "What's the point of fact-checking if you're not going to call Rudy on that claim?"
Yes, saying tax cuts bring in more revenue are "a matter of fierce dispute among economists" is bad, but look what else is in the Post's analysis: (emp add)
ANALYSIS: The ad, airing in New Hampshire, is accurate -- but selective -- in saying that the three Democratic contenders would raise taxes. What Giuliani leaves out is that Clinton, Obama and Edwards have pledged to repeal the Bush tax cuts only for the wealthiest Americans -- Clinton pegs the threshold at more than $250,000 in income, Obama at $200,000 -- while keeping the reductions for everyone else.
Letting the Republican-crafted Bush tax-legislation expire is not raising taxes. Raising taxes is an act of volition. If anybody, it's the Republicans who are raising taxes - because that's how they wrote the law. The Post is repeating a Republican slogan, when it declares that a program the Repubicans crafted to expire is an action by Democrats.

Just as a thought experiment, if in 2009 all members of Congress were kidnapped along with the President, which guarantees that the Bush cuts expire, would it be legitimate to say nobody raised taxes?


Podhoretz and his readers:

TPM flags Podhoretz' comments in the wake of the NIE report:
I entertain an even darker suspicion. It is that the intelligence community, which has for some years now been leaking material calculated to undermine George W. Bush, is doing it again. This time the purpose is to head off the possibility that the President may order air strikes on the Iranian nuclear installations.
What is interesting is the first comment appended to Podhoretz' post: (emp add)
David Thomson Says:
December 3rd, 2007 at 7:26 pm

It is my gut impression that the NIE is staffed by “elites” who graduated from Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and other so-called universities of distinction. These people are very dangerous. A very high percentage of them, maybe even the majority, embrace a deceitful pacifism. They are utopians that believe on a subconscious level, if not even consciously, military action almost always causes more harm than good. This is especially true if those who threaten America possess dark skin. In that case, they are victims of our alleged imperialist policies. Everything will work out fine if we were only nicer to them. These folks would feel quite comfortable with the 1933 Oxford Union resolution declaring, “This House would under no circumstances fight for its King and country.”
Very dangerous elites who won't stand up to dark-skinned Hitlers!


Monday, December 03, 2007

Facebook virtual gifts:

Here's the background (over 6 months ago).

Here's a good Slowpoke cartoon on the subject.


NRO's Cliff May:

It wasn't intelligence, it was a policy choice (along with hyper-partisan anti-Bush politics):
... the purpose of this NIE is to prevent Bush from using military force during the remainder of his term to destroy Iran's [halted] nuclear weapons program ...
Over at NRO, they see what they want to see.


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.


Saturday, December 01, 2007

Shorter David Broder:
Wow! McCain and Huckabee are principled supporters of business-friendly immigration policies.


Yeah, right: