Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Tuesday, September 30, 2003  

The NewsHour had a fairly interesting interview tonight with a former CIA operative and Valerie Plame co-worker Larry Johnson. Listen:

Let's be very clear about what happened. This is not an alleged abuse. This is a confirmed abuse. I worked with this woman. She started training with me. She has been undercover for three decades, she is not, as Bob Novak suggested, a CIA analyst....

So the fact that she's been undercover for three decades and that has been divulged is outrageous because she was put undercover for certain reasons. One, she works in an area where people she meets with overseas could be compromised. When you start tracing back who she met with, even people who innocently met with her, who are not involved in CIA operations, could be compromised. For these journalists to argue that this is no big deal and if I hear another Republican operative suggesting that well, this was just an analyst fine, let them go undercover....

I say this as a registered Republican. I'm on record giving contributions to the George Bush campaign. This is not about partisan politics. This is about a betrayal, a political smear of an individual with no relevance to the story. Publishing her name in that story added nothing to it. His entire intent was correctly as Ambassador Wilson noted: to intimidate, to suggest that there was some impropriety that somehow his wife was in a decision making position to influence his ability to go over and savage a stupid policy, an erroneous policy and frankly, what was a false policy of suggesting that there were nuclear material in Iraq that required this war. This was about a political attack. To pretend that it's something else and to get into this parsing of words, I tell you, it sickens me to be a Republican to see this....

I was in the same class with her. I was Larry J. In fact, when I first saw her last name I didn't recognize her until one of other my classmates who's out now called me up and said, hey. To realize this is a terrific woman, she's a woman of great integrity and other people that don't know her were trying to suggest that she is the one that initiated that. That is such nonsense. This is a woman who is very solid, very low key and not about show-boating.

(Emphasis is, of course, mine.)

Apparently, righties have mounted a counterattack on Plame and Wilson. I wonder what they might say to Johnson?

(And I have to say that the fact that it was a conservative columnist who "outed" Plame is delicious in its irony. Conservatives lied about the Niger connection, and then they played payback, and the instrument of their payback was the pen of a conservative. So who can they blame? As to the question of Novak's ethics, the other half of the above interview addresses that. Criminal? That's another story.)

posted by Jeff | 9:17 PM |

Oh, one more thing. I'm going to do something now that I've never done before, and may not be likely to do again anytime soon.

Go contribute to Dennis Kucinich.

It's the end of the quarter, and Kucinich needs money if he's going to make a push. He's the best candidate, but you have to put your money where your mouth is. I've given him money, in my first act of political donation. If everyone who supports Kucinch gave 50 bucks, we're looking at what--$200 million, three, more? Most of us can afford fifty bucks. So go. Now.


posted by Jeff | 1:50 PM |

Okay, let's talk hate. Jonathan Chait's written a lovely article for the New Republic describing why liberals hate Bush. It isn't a huge departure from the arguments we're hearing from Conason et. al., but he does throw something new into the mix. Rather than just catalogue Bush's "misdeeds," he explores why the actions so incense lefties. Thus he takes it out of the realm of presumed-fact and explains how certain actions are interpreted by liberals. Given our assumptions and prejudices are different than conservatives, it's not surprising we find some of his actions odious, even while the same actions are exalted by conservatives.

Conservatives believe liberals resent Bush in part because he is a rough-hewn Texan. In fact, they hate him because they believe he is not a rough-hewn Texan but rather a pampered frat boy masquerading as one, with his pickup truck and blue jeans serving as the perfect props to disguise his plutocratic nature.

Conservatives will take exception, of course. They will point out that being a pampered frat boy doesn't preclude the possibility that you might actually enjoy clearing brush from the barren wastes of your West Texas "ranch." Okay, but who cares what righties think? We’re talking what pisses us off. Bush might well like to go dumpster diving after high tea--that doesn't mean he understands what it means to be homeless.

So I think Chait's right. It seems that part of the reason he's written what amounts to an apology cum tantrum is so that he can move forward. Hate, after all, is important to acknowledge; it's death to nurture.

So I read with interest a debate Chait conducted over the past week with the National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru. It deviates from Chait's article thesis--Ponnuru isn't interested in why lefties hate (though he's happy to see it)--focusing more on the events themselves. For many of us lefties, the Bush presidency has been an exercise in credulity, or more likely, sanity. We listen to the news, watch the polls, and then look at Bush and his actions and begin howling madly at the moon: surely there is no way to reconcile the two versions of reality.

Chait and Ponnuru examine these realities to illuminating ends. One gets the sense by reading their versions that conservatives must not be that much more excited by what they see on the news than we are; apparently, it substantially differs from their view as well. And the result is something remarkable: comprehension. We see how reasonable people might arrive at differing positions. I'll give a particularly provocative example: tax cuts.

It's true that Bush hasn't executed a partial retreat on his tax cut, as Reagan did. But it's also true that Bush's tax cut was modest in size compared to Reagan's. The Gingrich Republicans wanted to abolish four Cabinet departments, cut spending, and kill Americorps. Bush has created a Cabinet department, increased spending--including on education--and pledged to boost funding for Americorps. Reversing the New Deal? This president won't even take on the Tennessee Valley Authority. Or Title IX. Or the National Endowment for the Arts. You're quite right to say that Clinton was willing to offend liberals on some important issues. Bush is willing to offend conservatives on some, too: racial preferences, for example.

You assert that Bush's tax cut was "modest in size" compared to Reagan's. In fact, Brookings scholars Bill Gale and Peter Orszag showed that, if you allow for some technical corrections (which I'll explain if I you make me) Bush's tax cut is 2.3-2.7 percent of GDP, compared to 2.1 percent for Reagan. Plus, in 1986 Reagan felt bad that he had opened so many loopholes for the rich and pushed for a tax reform that made the tax code more progressive. Bush, to put it mildly, shows no sign of doing anything like that.

It's hard to evaluate your claim about the size of Bush's tax cuts without knowing what "technical assumptions" Gale and Orszag make. Having followed Mr. Orszag's work on Social Security, I suspect that I don't share those assumptions. The tables in this Treasury paper back up my assertion. In any case, Bush's tax cuts were not so large that they are expected to result in income taxes as a percentage of GDP being lower at the end of the decade than they were at the start.

You asked for the technical assumptions on the tax cuts, you got 'em. Before 1985, the tax code was not indexed for inflation. This meant that people would be pushed into higher brackets every year even if their real income stayed the same. (TNR forcefully advocated indexing, by the way.) This meant that without regular tax cuts revenues would naturally rise as a percentage of the economy very rapidly. So, about 45 percent of the Reagan tax cut merely offset natural revenue growth from inflation. Secondly, Reagan agreed to scale back his tax cut in 1982. If you want to look at the actual revenue loss of the Reagan tax cut, you need to consider the net cost. So, examined in light of realistic comparisons, Bush's tax cut was larger than Reagan's.

Chait gets the last word there, but do you think for a minute that Ponnuru would leave it at that if he had another shot? [Update, 10/1. Mr. Ponnuru alerts us that he does indeed have a response.]

We started at hate, so let's return there. What I particularly enjoyed about this exchange is that it had exactly the opposite effect of hate. I enjoyed Ponnuru's honest take on the questions and his lightness and humor (he's the funnier writer). While I don't find it difficult at all to muster hate for Bush or Tom DeLay, I do for Ponnuru. He's a reasonable, honest guy (at least here, in my only exposure to him).

My home state of Oregon once had a reputation for innovation. We led the way on conservation, land-use planning, recycling, and on and on. During that great phase of innovation, our left and right worked very closely together. They did not indulge in hatred, but rather had the kinds of exchanges we see here. In the 1980s, political polarization struck Oregon, and last year we were such a laughingstock that Doonesbury mocked us.

Hate dooms political movements--inevitably. What's less obvious is that it dooms political processes as well. But then, I guess that looking at the way the federal government has operated over the past 15 years would have confirmed that. As Dems move forward, I suppose it's wise to remember that those whom you demonize today are those you'll be crafting legislation with tomorrow. Talking about what a pinhead Bush is may feel good, but it sows evil seeds.

posted by Jeff | 1:07 PM |

I know this is lame posting this morning; I've got some thoughts on Jonathan Chait's article in TNR and his debate yesterday with Ramesh Ponnuru. I'll get to that sometime this afternoon.

In the meantime, Krugman's back today. His article is sorta like one I wrote on Open Source Politics, which also appears today. So of course I recommend it.

posted by Jeff | 9:16 AM |

Weather Report

Time again for one of my wildly popular Portland weather reports. As you may recall, in April I complained about the rain. Hearing my blaspheme, the weather gods took quick action and smote Portland with a crushing Phoenix-like summer. Then last month I noted the devil sun's activities neutrally (sorry, seems my links are bloggered for that one), attempting not to further enrage the violent gods.

Well glories of glories, after a 95-degree Saturday, I'm delighted to report that today a dense fog rolled in and shrouded our little town in merciful, life-giving wetness. Pedaling across the Hawthorne Bridge this morning, I admired the sodden city, glassy river, and pretty old barge crusing toward Swan Island. That's my beautiful city: gray.

Color this webfoot (tickled) pink.

posted by Jeff | 9:02 AM |

Okay, I was wrong, the Plame thing is a very big deal. Still interested? Round up the usual suspects...


posted by Jeff | 8:52 AM |

Monday, September 29, 2003  

And now the White House has gone out on a limb and denied that Rove was the source of the Plame leak. Of course, Gephardt, Lieberman, and Kerry are trying to score political points by demanding probes. (If only they had been running for President two years ago--but that's another story.)

posted by Jeff | 2:26 PM |

The Bush strategy: discredit, wait, bury them in money. In '95, Clinton started the ads in late summer and kept rolling through the primaries. Rove plans a different strategy. Describing all ten candidates as weak, he'll wait until a single opponent emerges, and then dump a quarter of a billion dollars on him. In the meantime, the Bushies will slag Democrats generally.

But the yawns over at the RNC belie anxiety over how quickly things are falling apart. The comparison to Clinton is interesting, but the circumstances were exactly reversed: after 2 1/2 years of unpopularity in which he looked completely un-re-electable, Clinton started pulling out of his nosedive, riding the wave of a surging economy. With early ads, he was trying to polish the apple. Bush, on the other hand, is in freefall after 2 1/2 years of unprecedented popularity. Ads right now would only highlight the fact that every initiative Bush planned to tout as a success is now regarded as a failure.

Calling the ten Dems "unusually weak and divided" is part of the discrediting--and flies in the face of polling showing Democrats are now competitive for the first time since 9/10. Much like Rove's endorsement of Dean, the one candidate of the early nine he didn't want to face, he's now trying to make political capital of the White House's weakness. It doesn't matter: the failures of the Bush team will either go away (making a re-election bid viable), or stay the same or worsen, dooming Bush to his daddy's fate.

Rove's playing the hand he's been dealt, but what he thought was a full house is starting to look a lot more like two pair or worse.

posted by Jeff | 10:42 AM |

The Valerie Plame story, despite it's intense interest to bloggers, remains a zero to the mainstream press (minus, of course, the Post). Last night, I did a search in Google news on "Plame" and got 12 results. That's twelve. This morning it's up to 18, which represents a fifty percent increase on squat. (I don't want to minimize this--variations on the name "Wilson" get returns in the hundreds. More on what that may mean below.)

Yesterday, a minor tributary in the Plame torrent was a post on Instapundit in which Glenn Reynolds essentially said, "What's the big deal?" Connoisseurs of the complex and conspiracy-tinged love the story. After taking a mouthful of information, they identify hints of payback and notes of crime and coverup. But for the vast majority, the story is bizarre. More importantly, it's hard to pull the threads together so that they form a clear, direct narrative. Reynolds is merely asking the obvious.

(Here's how it goes now: Joseph Wilson investigated reports that Saddam was seeking uranium from Niger, ultimately dismissing them as false. When Bush made the very same claims in the run-up to war, Wilson went public and called them bogus, embarrasing the President. In payback, the Bushies leaked the information that Wilson's wife was an undercover CIA agent. Revealing the names of undercover agents is a felony, and so now the Bushies are in hot water.

At damn near every point in the story, readers will find ambiguity such that linking them all up seems esoteric at best. They wonder, revenge?--how is that revenge? Isn't it, at worst, just a slip by minor functionaries in the White House? What's the big deal?)

Instead, a great many of the articles are merely rehashing the yellowcake story. Sidestepping the complexity of Valerie Plame, the articles go back to whether that evidence of yellowcake really was "darn good" after all.

Until the links get stronger and until the press figures out how to reduce the story to a coherent 2-3 sentences and explain why it's a big deal, my guess is that it will remain the purview of the blogger. The Bushies will continue to play misdirection and hope to kill the story by starvation. It may work, but those who have been following the story will tell you that they thought it already had. And yet here it is back in the news.

One can't help being reminded of illegal activity by another President that seemed complex and esoteric to the press and public--all except the Washington Post. In the end, everyone recalls, that one turned out to be a pretty big story. So you never know.

[Update: 2:25 pm PDT, running total on Google News is up to 38; things are picking up.

5:49 pm - 44.]

posted by Jeff | 8:19 AM |

Plaming on...

President Bush's aides promised yesterday to cooperate with a Justice Department inquiry into an administration leak that exposed the identity of a CIA operative, but Democrats charged that the administration cannot credibly investigate itself and called for an independent probe.

The story comes from Walter Pincus, who's been doing great work on exposing the White House's "darn good intelligence" over the past few months.

posted by Jeff | 7:56 AM |

Sunday, September 28, 2003  

Things are exploding in the l'affair du Plame (apologies to actual French speakers). I'm an Emma-come-lately on the whole thing, so I'll just point you to the relevant locations. If the name Plame is new to you, go here. (Go give Tom some hits; along with a handful of other bloggers, he's been a real Bernstein on this thing.)

The Ur-source is a Washington Post article published this morning. Particularly, the important information is that CIA Director Tenet is asking the DoJ to look into the possibility that someone from the White House violated federal law when it leaked the name of an undercover operative. (The reason was political--payback because Plame's husband had outed the White House on it's ultra-lame Niger yellowcake claim.)

Now, because this case has more turns than a bucketful of snakes, I'm gonna give a few sources for analysis. Bear in mind that you can spend an hour or better following this.

Tom Maguire offers his observations. Pithy comment:

"And they are still not sure if "outing" her mattered. Well, if they don't know whether her secret past is important, the White House aides probably don't know either. The absence of any intention to breach national security will be politically, if not legally, helpful."

Mark Kleiman has been following this for months as well. You'll find his thoughts here. Pithy comment:

"When this story first broke, I mostly didn't believe it, because outing a covert CIA officer would have been such an intolerable violation of everything this Administration claims to stand for: not just "honor and integrity," which were obviously mere prolefeed, but putting the national security first and keeping secrets secret.

When the country finds out about this, Bush is going to take a big hit. A year ago, he was a hero, and this might have bounced off. Not now."

The inimitable Kevin Drum was also one of the earlies. He got his series of blogs off to a start with this comment: "Holy shit." (For Kevin, that's real surprise.) He's posted a number of thoughts on this, all worth reading. Just go to Calpundit start here, and read up blog. Pithy comment:

I doubt that blowing Valerie Plame's cover actually did much harm in the end. But that doesn't matter. This episode exposes the viciousness and amorality at the very heart of the Bush administration, and I hope it opens some conservative eyes about the nature of the administration they support. These guys are not who you think they are and they aren't pursuing their policies for the principled reasons you think they are. After all, if they went to war with Iraq because of a genuine commitment to humanitarian relief and Middle East democracy, don't you think they would have paid a little more attention to postwar planning? What does it tell you that they didn't?

Remember: this is not just some run of the mill political dirty trick. It's perilously close to treason. No truly principled conservative administration would do a thing like this, and the fact that they've been trying to dodge it for two months tells you everything you need to know about them.

And of course, Josh Marshall has a thought or two himself. Interestingly, the fact that he's so close to the story means his commentary is of the more fragmentary, microscopic variety. Go here after you're familiar with all the names and theories. Pithy comment:

Let's say, hypothetically, that the "two top White House officials" who blew Valerie Plame's cover were in the political and/or communications operations at the White House. That's what is widely suspected. But, for the moment, let's assume that is the case.

If so, how did they find out that Joe Wilson's wife was a CIA employee working under non-official cover (in common parlance, undercover)?

Oh, one more thing. Condi Rice, three-card monty dealer for the administration, made the rounds today. You can see her Fox News comments here.

posted by Jeff | 5:40 PM |

Saturday, September 27, 2003  

Friday--ah, Saturday--satire, anyone?

A Rock Springs, Wyo man yesterday realized that Republicans had duped him. "They don't give a damn about me," the unemployed potash miner said. "All that crap about tax cuts and keeping your own money so you can spend it--all that sounded a lot better when I had a job." The man, 44-year-old Michael Dutton, is a husband, father of three, and life-long member of the Party. "I was down at Rosie's Bar the other day, and ol' Fred Hinney was talkin' about the liberals this and the liberals that and I took one look at him and it hit me. All those Republicans we been listenin' to--Rush, Hannity, hell even Bush--they're stinkin rich. And here's ol' Fred talkin' like he drives a goddam Caddy. Hell, Fred ain't got a pot to piss in!"

The native Wyoming man had previously worked for Grunfeld Bremins, the Cheyenne-based company that was last year purchased by Halliburton. In January, Halliburton shuttered the last of the Wamsutter and Reliance mines that have been a mainstay of Sweetwater County for 47 years. Halliburton, in announcing the news, cited profitability as the reason for shuttering the mines. Although Grunfeld Bremins had earned on average 6% growth per annum over the past decade, Halliburton cited this as inadequate. "Six percent growth falls well below Halliburton benchmarks. Thanks to our new federal imbed program, we grew 92% in the last six months alone," spokesman Jay Poirier was quoted as saying.

Mr. Dutton describes the process as incremental, as he started observing inconsistencies in the Republicans actions. "I was all for the tax cuts. I mean, I hate the government just like any good American, right? But I didn't get very much back, I'll tell you. But what the hell; you know trickle down and all that--I figured it might work."

It didn't. In early 2002, just as Grunfeld Bremins was entering final negotiations with Halliburton, Dutton was laid off. "It was just after 9/11. Everything looked bad--airlines goin' out of business, tourism shot to hell. I thought at the time that's what did it. But I'll be damned if he didn't cut taxes again!"

During the lay-off, Dutton worked for an area Wal-Mart, but was laid off when the store closed down to make way for a Wal-Mart Supercenter. He then worked as a handyman, house painter, and did odd jobs.

"You know, guns kept me goin' for a little while. I kept thinkin,' Well, at least the Republicans'll let me keep my guns." But eventually, Mr. Dutton began to regard this as cold comfort.

"I don't know. Now we gotta pay for two wars, and the poor non-coms get their pay cut. We're building schools in Iraq and down the road here ours is going to seed. They say you can go down to the Baptist Church there for the government cheese, but I don't really like the Baptists. They kinda freak me out, you know? I look at the Republicans and I see Dick Cheney gettin' stinkin' rich, and all of Bush's oil buddies, but here I am cuttin lawns like I'm 16. It just ain't tricklin' down, you know what I'm sayin?"

Dutton is mostly alone in this town of Republican stalwarts. Yesterday, there were no harsh words in the cheese line at First Baptist Church. "Just think how bad it would be if the Democrats were in control," said Hope Jones, a 28-year-old mother of two. "We'd have to go down to the welfare office for the cheese."

"He's a hero, and I won't hear any of your liberal claptrap," said Homer Bly, a 69-year-old retiree. "You all just hate America."

"If it weren't for George W. Bush, we'd all be speakin' Arab," added his fishing buddy, Bill Poe. "He's the only thing standin' between Osama bin Laden and the United States of America. Hell, the Democrats'd invite 'im in and put 'im on welfare."

Tough words for tough times.

And here in a hardscrabble land, Mr. Dutton will find little support for his heterodox views. "But dammit, I don't care. My eyes are open now. The Republicans just aren't out for the common man."

posted by Jeff | 9:40 AM |

Friday, September 26, 2003  

You knew about the conflict of interest, now it appears the issue may become a legal one:

A Congressional Research Service report released yesterday concluded that federal ethics laws treat Vice President Cheney's annual deferred compensation checks and unexercised stock options as continuing financial interests in the Halliburton Co.

Cheney said on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sept. 14 that he has "no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind and haven't had now for over three years." His assertion came during a discussion of Halliburton's contracts in Iraq. Cheney said he had "severed all my ties with the company, gotten rid of all my financial interests."

In response, Cheney's office said he had purchased an insurance policy so he would be paid even if Halliburton failed. And his office also has announced he has agreed to donate the after-tax proceeds from his stock options to three charities.

However, the congressional report said that neither the insurance policy nor the charity designation would change the public official's disclosure obligation.

posted by Jeff | 1:28 PM |

Is Dean Angry?

When Dean was gathering steam in his campaign, people started floating various theories as to why. Insidiously, conservatives and conservative Democrats have managed to stick a label to his success: angry.

Among the Democrats running for president, nobody stirs more passion and excitement from party activists than Dean. The once-obscure Vermonter's blunt talk and early opposition to the war in Iraq have turned him into a fundraising and grass roots phenomenon. Most of the other Democrats sharpened their anti-Bush rhetoric to tap the angry Democrats excited by Dean.

Dean is expected to pull in more than $10-million in the quarter ending Sept. 30, and his success is triggering an internal struggle over the soul of the Democratic Party. Some worry the party is headed toward a repeat of the humiliations of Walter Mondale and George McGovern, Democratic candidates tagged with the liberal label.

It isn't even a hypothesis anymore--it's a mostly-accepted truth. Media are in this habit--they want a quick thumbnail sketch of any figure. In political campaigns, the frontrunners are those who have already established a sketch; the outsiders are those unknown to the media echo chamber. So Lieberman, despite having no apparent supporters, is the front runner because he was the candidate for Veep last time around. He's a nice guy to the media, so that's what you hear about--amiable front-runner Joe Lieberman.

When Howard Dean, whom the media had labeled a marginal anti-war liberal from New England, emerged on the national scene with hosts of supporters, the re-sketching ensued. After all, you can't very well be marginal if you've got the most supporters and seem to be most in step with the party. So who is this guy, the media wanted to know. Funny thing about the echo chamber is, though, whoever yells in it first and loudest creates reality. Voila: Howard Dean, angry candidate who will only inspire party "activists" through his hateful speech while alienating "mainstream" voters.

Fortunately, it's a sketch that hasn't completely gelled yet. So before it does, I think liberals need to ask the question--where did this characterization come from?

Where else could this have come from? Certainly not from those who know his platform. His anger at the Bush follies was real (and is shared by his 9 co-candidates, who condemn the President harshly), but he came out of the gates with a fully-developed platform. He immediately began talking issues and talking specifics. He took the Republicans to task, certainly--but on the issues.

But that's not what the Dean sketch looks like. Thanks to folks like the DLC and George Will --who have an active interest in seeing Dean defeated--the image of Dean is not positive. Whether his anger causes the commentator to call him a latter day McGovern or Newt Gingrich makes little difference--he's just angry. You know, like Gore was boring.

To his credit, Dean hasn't enforced this characterization so far. But if last night's debate is any guide, people are really going to try to stick him with negative labels. That's all part of politics. But as good bloggers and policy wonks, we shouldn't submit to the simplistic characterization. All candidates are far greater than the sum of the media sketch. Often they don't actually even resemble the sketch (remember Bush's characterization as a man-of-the-people, an everyday salt). More importantly, before we accept the characterization, it doesn't hurt to look at the people doing the characterizing and getting a handle on what they have to gain from it.

Dean may be angry, but he's not "the angry candidate." That's just conservatives trying to marginalize a serious threat to their power. If anything, it's what recommends Dean the most.

posted by Jeff | 10:16 AM |

Thursday, September 25, 2003  

Yesterday I discussed some emerging Democratic rhetoric about protectionism. Generally when I babble about topics I don't understand, it doesn't bother me. But this bit about free trade and labor is something I'd like not only to discuss ignorantly, but actually comprehend. So I started sending out emails and posting comments to various trained professionals. Now I'm starting to get some good stuff back.

First, from the folks over at Economists for Dean, unpronounceable Lerxst offered some cogent analysis. In particular were these observations.

Free trade creates winners and losers. The benefits that go to the winners are very large but spread out throughtout the economy while the costs are highly concentrated in particular areas (e.g. apparel manufacturers in the Southeast).

What we ought to do but never have really done is really offer substantial assistance to workers dislocated by trade. Use high quality research (some of which exists and more of which needs to be done) to target the right kinds of assistance (e.g. training) to these workers. There is a program called Trade Adjustment Assistance that has been poorly run and has offered only a pittance to these workers. It has recently been "reformed" but as Dean often says "we can do better"

Focus on upskilling the workforce. A coleague of mine often talks to unions who grill him on free trade and he always asks them what they expect of their kids...are they sending them to college or are they planning on their kids having the same factory jobs? The answer is of course...they want them to suceed by developing better skills. Of course there is a transition that is painful...but we can't stop progress, we just have to make a commitment as a country to cushion the blow as best we can by providing real opportunities to those hard-hit by trade. When we industrialized there were some who wanted us to return to agrarian life...that wasn't the right answer and going backwards is not the right answer now. We also need to think about how to help encourage the development of higher skill industries.

Another economist, who can identify himself if he wishes, came at the question from the other direction. He's a development economist, and he responded in particular to the demand for stricter labor and environmental controls for our trading partners.

My support of free trade actually comes more from a development perspective: free trade is absolutely essential for the development of the third world. Free trade can benefit all nations, but the problem for a country like the United States is that free trade will cause structural changes that are resisted by Unions and others. Generally, free trade will cause labor intensive light manufacturing jobs to go overseas in rich countries. Also, some of the other labor intensive service jobs like call centers. This is not a pretty process - people lose jobs, have to learn new skills, have trouble adjusting. New jobs will be created in their place but in areas that are not traditionally unionized. So what you get in response is union driven not-so-free trade where lots of industries are protected - mostly the labor intensive ones. This tends to hurt developing countries most because it is through these labor intensive jobs that developing countries stand to gain but are precluded from doing so yet pressures to open up their markets to big conglomerates who put small scale farmers and the like out of business. So what we need is free and fair trade, not just free trade (which is a misnomer anyway in the presence of protections). So I find the anti-free trade logic, especially when wrapped up in concern for the poor countries, totally wrong.

I do have concerns about environmental protections - but this is a very tricky proposition. Quite simply, we have relatively strong environmental laws because we are a rich enough country to afford them. In a country where people are starving and dying from unsanitary conditions and lack of access to health care, clean air is definitely a second-order problem. As a public health issue, worrying about the harmful affects of dirty air does not even register while cholera epidemics are common, for example. This is why the now infamous exporting-dirty-industries logic is both tragic and, in some senses, correct. What I am concerned about is a free-trade induced race to scuttle out protections so that out dirty industries can remain competitive.

I also sent an email to Max Sawicky, but my question was sufficiently garbled that he couldn't answer it. More as that becomes available.

posted by Jeff | 2:12 PM |

Mostly so I can find this link later, I, along with every other blogger in the 'sphere, note that Bush's approval has for the first time dipped below fitty percent (in one credible national poll).

The President, displeased.

posted by Jeff | 9:05 AM |

Didn't Candidate Bush promise to bring a new age of bipartisan cooperation to Washington? We may have to give him an "F" on that one, too. It's all partisan, all the time. (Though at least no one's called the cops on the opposition lately.) Let's review yesterday's activities.

After getting hammered for two years on their lack of patriotic fervor, Democrats are striking back:

At hearings, at press conferences and in interviews, Democratic lawmakers unleashed a torrent of criticism, finding fault with everything from the administration's rationale for the war and a lack of postwar planning to its diplomatic efforts and even Mr. Bush's decision to leave the United Nations Tuesday before others finished speaking.

Don Rumsfeld was on the Hill yesterday, cooly defending the quagmire.

In a sign of mounting partisan fighting over Iraq, triggered by President Bush's $87 billion emergency supplemental request, Democratic senators declared the recovery effort so far a political failure and accused the administration of having misled the country into an exceedingly costly mess.

Tom DeLay, never one to leave a caustic remark unrebutted, waded in with a series of personal attacks:

Facing mounting criticism of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, supporters of the president hit back Wednesday, calling on congressional critics to state what they would have done differently after the 9/11 attacks....

"John Kerry says, 'We really need a regime change in Washington.' Bob Graham suggests that the president's actions in Iraq might warrant impeachment proceedings," Delay said.

"Nancy Pelosi says of the Iraqi liberation, 'We could have brought down that statue for a lot less.'

"Howard Dean questions whether the liberated Iraqi people are really better off than under Saddam Hussein's boot heel," DeLay said.

Speaking of belligerent Texas Republicans, the redistricting seems to be really reaping fine rewards for that state. It's a proud legacy of bipartisanism for Bush's resume.

State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio accused the GOP of using recount, recall and redistricting efforts in Texas and nationwide in a "new playbook for a narrow Republican majority attempting to use government to expand partisan power."

(And of course, we have Cali for comic relief.) Not that I'm complaining--in times like these, you never really want for material when you sit down to blog. Let the sideshow continue!

posted by Jeff | 7:32 AM |

Wednesday, September 24, 2003  

The BBC is reporting that the Iraq Survey Group will say there are no WMD in Iraq. Big surprise, that.

The report will say its inspectors have not even unearthed "minute amounts of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons material". They have also not uncovered any laboratories involved in deploying weapons of mass destruction and no delivery systems for the weapons.

I doubt very seriously if this will stir a yawn here (possibly the Brits will howl), but it does provide us an opportunity to revisit this most central claim of the Bush/Blair rush to war.

Let's go ahead and assume the best: the Bush/Blair team did have intelligence about Saddam's WMD and they were actually scared he'd use them. What does this tell us? Right off the bat, I'd say it blows a hefty hole through the whole Bush doctrine of pre-emption. Remember that jewel of the neo-con brain trust? We could invade anyone we regarded as threatening; not imminently threatening, as fifty years of international law has suggested, but any potential threat. Except Iraq wasn't. Sorta like how we've been executing criminals cause we knew we had the right guys.

It also tells us the Bush foreign policy folk are dangerously incompetent. They have commited the US to a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar (half a trillion, probably) boondoggle. US troops will be used to secure a region previously contained, but now festering with hatred and real terrorists. Those US troops will not be available for other regions or for the "war on terror."

It tells us that the 11,000-page document that Iraq submitted to the UN was accurate: Iraq did not have WMD. Recall that the incompetent Bushies never considered that a possibility. They declared that Iraq was in "material breach" by virtue submitting this accurate document and said this justified invasion. (Colin Powell: "Our experts have found it to be anything but accurate full, or complete. It should be obvious that the pattern of systematic holes and gaps in Iraq's declaration is not the result of accidents or editing oversights or technical mistakes. These are material omissions that, in our view, constitute another material breach.") They also demanded that Hans Blix pull out of Iraq because they asserted he was incompetent. Seems "incompetent" is the key word--on that we can all agree.

In a certain sense, White House critics were mistaken to label Bush a liar. It distracted focus from a charge verifiably obvious: he is dangerously incompetent. Now he is "rebuilding" a country by paying private corporations (selected in a secret process) billions with taxpayer money. So many of this administrations policies are abject failures--economic policy, jobs stimulus, terror issues, the "roadmap," the Afghanistan reconstruction, and the Iraq debacle--that it's incomprehensible Congress would consider pulling his chestnuts out of the fire now. I still think the White House lied its butt off in the ramp-up to the war, but that's immaterial. The whole thing's a debacle, lie or no. That's the last thing the whole affair tells us.

posted by Jeff | 2:28 PM |

The BBC is reporting that the Iraq Survey Group will report that there are no WMD in Iraq. Big surprise, that.

The report will say its inspectors have not even unearthed "minute amounts of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons material". They have also not uncovered any laboratories involved in deploying weapons of mass destruction and no delivery systems for the weapons.

I doubt very seriously if this will stir a yawn on this side of the pond, but it does provide us an opportunity to revisit this most central claim of the Bush/Blair rush to war.

Let's go ahead and assume the best: the Bush/Blair team did have intelligence about the WMD and they were actually scared he'd use them. What does this tell us? Right off the bat, I'd say it blows a hefty hole through the whole Bush doctrine of pre-emption. Remember that jewel of the neo-con brain trust? We could invade anyone we regarded as threatening; not imminently threatening, as fifty years of international law has suggested, but any potential threat. Except Iraq wasn't.

It also tells us the Bush foreign policy folk are dangerously incompetent. They have commited the US to a multi-year, multi-billion-dollar (half a trillion, probably) boondoggle. US troops will be used to secure a region previously contained, but now festering with hatred and real terrorists. Those US troops will not be available for other regions or for the "war on terror."

It tells us that the 11,000-page document that Iraq submitted to the UN was accurate: it did not have WMD. Recall that the incompetent Bushies never considered that a possibility. They declared that Iraq was in "material breach" by virtue submitting this accurate document and said this justified invasion. (Colin Powell: "Our experts have found it to be anything but accurate full, or complete. It should be obvious that the pattern of systematic holes and gaps in Iraq's declaration is not the result of accidents or editing oversights or technical mistakes. These are material omissions that, in our view, constitute another material breach.") They also demanded that Hans Blix pull out of Iraq because they asserted he was incompetent.

In a certain sense, White House critics were mistaken to label Bush a liar. It distracted focus from a charge verifiably obvious: he is dangerously incompetent. Now he is "rebuilding" a country by paying private corporations (selected in a secret process) billions with taxpayer money. So many of this administrations policies are abject failures--economic policy, jobs stimulus, terror issues, the "roadmap," the Afghanistan reconstruction, and the Iraq debacle. I still think the White House lied its butt off in the ramp-up to the war, but that's immaterial. The whole thing's a debacle, lie or no.

posted by Jeff | 2:28 PM |

Also in the Post, this news, which I find troubling.

With the AFL-CIO's prized endorsement dangling before them, several [Democratic presidential] candidates are sounding a more protectionist note as they side with labor unions in criticizing the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Clinton signed into law in December 1993, and warning that they will oppose future pacts if they do not include stricter and more enforceable labor and environmental standards. Critics warn that such standards could curtail U.S. trade because some nations cannot meet them.

Don't get me wrong--I'm enormously in favor of trade unions. There's always going to be a tension between profitability and worker payrolls, and trusting employers to look out for their employees' best interest is just foolish. On the other hand, unions aren't necessarily the best group to define trade policy. If employers are short-sighted about the benefit of happy employees, then unions are often short-sighted about the benefit of trade.

The reason candidates are sidling up to unions is simple: cash. Even with McCain-Feingold's restrictions, a union endorsement and union organization is regarded as critical to get traction in a primary with ten competitors, particularly now that Clark has stepped into the ring, Clinton rolodex in pocket.

From my perspective--the voter's perspective, that is--it's bad news. Unions want to protect jobs, and this call for labor and environmental standards has nothing to do with global economic justice--it's merely a way to covertly stop jobs from being exported to countries that can't possibly meet the standards. That's okay as far as it goes, but what are unions doing at home? The mass of workers sit behind computers or work retail jobs in employment cul-de-sacs like Wal-Mart and Hooters. Unions have alienated Americans because they're seen as trying to protect $30-an-hour skilled manufacturing jobs that almost no one has anymore.

And for the candidates, toeing the union line means ignoring trade policy that, for example, would support small business--where unions don't have a presence. Or ignoring other investments that would help business innovate so it can more readily compete in a global market. Or worrying so much about jobs that they ignore systemic problems like irresponsible corporations.

I hear this kind of thing, and I think of the Dems isolating themselves, kowtowing to a political minority (albeit a powerful one) and alienating a much larger group while supporting policies that, in the long run, won't benefit workers.

posted by Jeff | 6:56 AM |

Maybe I'm not crazy after all. From the Post this morning: A Vague Pitch Leaves Mostly Puzzlement.

In his speech today to the U.N. General Assembly, President Bush tried to walk a fine line between defending a war deeply unpopular in much of the world and looking for help from reluctant countries to rebuild Iraq. The result left diplomats and lawmakers puzzled about his ultimate intentions.

Or maybe the Post is crazy, too.

posted by Jeff | 6:29 AM |

Tuesday, September 23, 2003  

And here are some of the numbers on Bush's speech to the UN. Words mentioned:

Iraq, Iraqi: 39
Saddam, Saddam Hussein: 3
Afghan, Afghanistan: 7
Osama, Osama bin Laden, bin Laden: 0
terror, terrorism, terrorist: 20
al Qaeda: 1
sex, sex trade, sex tourism, sex tour, sexually abuse: 6
slave, slave trade: 4
Palestinian, Palestinians: 4
Israel, Israeli: 1
evil: 2

For a more probing textual analysis, you might read the speech and then read Renana Brooks' "A Nation of Victims."

posted by Jeff | 1:11 PM |

Now, to the Bush speech. I'm a bit at a loss to give it serious analysis. In the past few months I've felt like one of us has gone barking mad, and lately I'm starting to think it's me. So herewith I offer the ravings of a lunatic. Often there's a certain attraction to seeing inside a diseased mind.

As I mentioned, it seemed like Bush was on the stump, rallying a supportive crowd. He aped Churchill and employed the usual florid dogmatism:

Events during the past two years have set before us the clearest of divides: between those who seek order, and those who spread chaos; between those who work for peaceful change, and those who adopt the methods of gangsters; between those who honor the rights of man, and those who deliberately take the lives of men and women and children without mercy or shame.

Between these alternatives there is no neutral ground. All governments that support terror are complicit in a war against civilization. No government should ignore the threat of terror, because to look the other way gives terrorists the chance to regroup and recruit and prepare. And all nations that fight terror, as if the lives of their own people depend on it, will earn the favorable judgment of history.

I guess the implication is that, with the barbarians at the gate, you best not stop to consider (like the fey French), but attack now and often. History loves a winner.

Then he described the great work the international community had done in Iraq:

In the nation of Iraq, the United Nations is carrying out vital and effective work every day. By the end of 2004, more than 90 percent of Iraqi children under age five will have been immunized against preventable diseases such as polio, tuberculosis and measles, thanks to the hard work and high ideals of UNICEF. Iraq's food distribution system is operational, delivering nearly a half-million tons of food per month, thanks to the skill and expertise of the World Food Program.

Our international coalition in Iraq is meeting it responsibilities. We are conducting precision raids against terrorists and holdouts of the former regime. These killers are at war with the Iraqi people. They have made Iraq the central front in the war on terror, and they will be defeated. Our coalition has made sure that Iraq's former dictator will never again use weapons of mass destruction. We are interviewing Iraqi citizens and analyzing records of the old regime to reveal the full extent of its weapons programs and its long campaign of deception. We're training Iraqi police and border guards and a new army, so the Iraqi people can assume full responsibility for their own security.

I don't know, but as my diseased mind recalls it, the body he addressed was the same one who turned down his request to invade, and who rebuked the US for unsanctioned invasion. Apparently I was wrong--I guess they were in on it the whole time. In fact, I was under the misapprehension that the whole reason he set foot into that Godless democratic gathering was to ask for help. I listened to the speech and I've scanned it online, and I can't find any evidence of that. My bad, apparently. The closest he got was a request an anti-nuclear proliferation treaty.

After that, he started talking about victims of slavery and the sex trade. A worthy issue indeed, but is there some logical connection to hitting up the UN for dough to pay for the war they didn't authorize in Iraq?

Seriously, I don't really know what the hell he was talking about.

(Tom might, but I can't divine it from this, either.)

posted by Jeff | 12:17 PM |

New blog: Economists for Dean.

While we are all enthusiastic about Dean, we do not intend this site to be a center for expresssions of blind devotion to our man. Our analysis will be critical, and where we think Dean's got it wrong, we'll say so, and we expect our readers will, too.

At this point, this is neither an endorsement or slag, but just an advisory. May be a blog to watch.

As blogs begin to proliferate, I think we'll see more of this kind of specific intellectual advocacy. It's an interesting phenemenon, because as politics and the media become more saturated in money, reasonable people have fewer places to turn for objective opinion. Into the gap step like-minded people with relevant backgrounds. Yeah, O'Reilly screams loudest, but who are you going to trust--a guy who's paid millions to criticize Dems, or a bunch of unpaid economists with a genuine interest in the future of America?

(Which is not to say that's what this blog offers. The economists are unnamed, so for all we know, they might be sophomore econ students at Wisconsin. Even then you've got more insight than O'Reilly, but not as much as, say Max Sawicky.)

posted by Jeff | 9:46 AM |

Talk about cognitive dissonance. I just listened to the surprisingly pointed speeches of Kofi Annan and Brazilian President Luiz In?cio Lula Da Silva. Annan criticized unilateralism and declared that the world is at a turning point; he warned that if the precedent set by the US (whom he politely did not name) continued, the world could sink into chaos. Next, Da Silva gave a nuanced analysis of the situation facing the world in terms of economic and terrorist challenges.

Now the President's up, and his words sound like a canned stump speech being piped in from Cleveland. From 2002.

He hasn't gotten to the pitch yet, so we'll see. More after the speech--

posted by Jeff | 8:05 AM |

Kucinich pitch:

America is in a dangerous place right now. Economic and governmental power is divided among fewer and fewer entities. While in office, George Bush has consolidated these gains in ways unthinkable just three years ago. With the tragedies surrounding 9/11, he's solidified the conservative party line, and made it safe to fear again in America.

In my judgment, the antidote to this should be profound, radical change. Not necessarily in terms of policy--I'm not advocating Communism--but rather seizing back from conservatives the very definitions of politics. We need someone who advances a positive, hopeful agenda for Americans. Someone who will remind Americans of the enlightened values on which this country was founded, not the narrow, fearful, hate-fueled politics of the Republican party.

Dennis Kucinich is the only candidate with this vision.


posted by Jeff | 7:37 AM |

Monday, September 22, 2003  

Not that my paranoid little mind's getting the better of me, but what do you think of this scenario:

Far from things getting better, Bush's incomprehensible incompetence drives the Iraq situation further into chaos and the economy into a tailspin. As difficulties mount, he and his team continue to handle it with profound ineptness, alienating all but the most ardent conservatives of the base. His approval ratings fall to the 30s. All of this happens by February, when the excitement over the Democrats starts to pick up.

Then what happens?

I saw this headline in the Times today ("Clark Collects a Large Sum in a Short Time"), and had a grim flash of a possible future. If it's clear early on that Bush is doomed, the money is going to start flowing to the Dems. Who will it flow to? The reform minded? The incorruptable? The straight shooter? The liberal? Ah, no--it'll flow to whomever looks the most likely to keep the corporate trough full of slop.

I'm not suggesting that any of the candidates is corrupt. But a pretty cool thing is happening in politics right now: the big money is coming from the little people. Whether you like him or not, Howard Dean is a populist--his support comes from the people, not the usual structures of power. His money comes from the many checkbooks of average Americans. They're not supporting him because they think he's the best candidate to beat Bush, but because they like his policies and his style.

Remind you of anyone? In 2000, a straight-talking populist John McCain was running on the money of average citizens. He was not only attracting a lot of press, he was beating George. But when things started to look too close, big money flowed in--to defeat him.

I can't imagine a scenario in which big money flowing into the Democratic primary doesn't subvert the will of the people. So far, the will of the people has been expressed because there are so many candidates and because Bush has looked so good. I still think Dennis Kucinich (coo SIN itch) has a viable chance to emerge--his policy positions are most distinct from the crowd, and now that people are starting to see the debates, these will get out there. Clearly, though, a Dean or Kucinich candidacy can be stopped in its tracks by the flow of big cash. More importantly, big money refocuses the debate on conservative issues, rather than on the opposition, liberal views that already have Dems considering a number of innovative solutions. Imagine, for example, an infusion of dough into the Lieberman coffers. Then, rather than a de facto position of change, the candidates must argue against a front-runner who wants only minor modifications in foreign and domestic policy.

So the best thing Democrats can hope for is that Bush's woes don't get any worse. He's still supported by a majority of Americans, and safe money is still on him to repeat (particularly when backing a Dem at this point looks like buying a lottery ticket). Instead, it would be best if things started to go seriously wrong in about May.

posted by Jeff | 9:19 AM |

Headline of the Day: Bush Calls Criticism of War 'Uncivil.' Seems the most powerful man on earth is concerned that Teddy Kennedy's tone of voice might not have been perfectly kosher.

In an Oval Office interview with Fox News' Brit Hume, Bush said that while he respected Kennedy, the senator "should not have said we were trying to bribe foreign nations."

"I don't mind people trying to pick apart my policies, and that's fine and that's fair game," Bush said in the interview that will air tonight. "But, you know, I don't think we're serving our nation well by allowing the discourse to become so uncivil that people say — use words that they shouldn't be using."

In order to reach maximum irony, the story should include something about the Hammer weighing in, right? Ask and it shall be delivered:

Kennedy's comments, part of the drumbeat of criticism Bush has received lately from Democrats, were described as a "new low" by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Kennedy dismissed DeLay's comments, saying that GOP leaders are avoiding questions about Bush's policies "by attacking the patriotism of those who question them."

That sounds a nice note for a Monday morning, don't you think?

posted by Jeff | 9:09 AM |

Saturday, September 20, 2003  

You don't want to jump to conclusions, but this doesn't seem good:

A Muslim chaplain at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo who counseled suspected terrorists and taught fellow troops about Islam is the first known U.S. soldier to be detained in the U.S.-led war on terror.

Yee, of Chinese descent and reportedly from New Jersey, converted to Islam from Christianity in 1991 after his military studies at West Point. He left the Army for Syria, where he received religious training. He returned to the U.S. military soon after.

As an Arabic-speaker, Yee counseled the detainees, advised them on religious matters and made sure all of their dietary needs were met at the base in eastern Cuba.

(Those paragraphs have been rearranged for clarity.)

This comes after two moderate Canadian Muslims were not allowed to enter Florida because, according to one border agent "You've chosen to fly on the wrong day." (It was September 11.) These are exactly the kinds of situations that raise some of the most pronounced debates between the pro-control and the pro-liberty camps (which don't divide along liberal/conservative lines).

There are legal issues here, certainly. Given that we don't know the details in these cases, it's pointless to speculate about whether they were legal actions. But I can tell you what really chafes from the card-carrying ACLU member perspective: it's that the current government actually wants two things: it want to remove liberties and it wants to remain secretive about it.

This Army chaplain, like all the people in Cuba, are being detained without charge. That's two layers of secrecy--the accused doesn't know of what, and we as citizens have no way to get access to the case or find anything out about it.

This amounts to bad faith. If the federal government seeks to remove our rights, it better be transparent about it. If it would rather try to navigate in the waters of very strict regulation and remain secret, that's something else. But I'm reminded when I hear these cases that they're doing both--functioning without sufficient oversight, and subjecting people to legal methods loosened to evade Constitutional requirements.

So I don't know what the story is with this chaplain. But because the Ashcroft Justice Department is so secretive and abusive of citizen rights. I now suspect foul play.

posted by Jeff | 5:07 PM |

I'd like to thank the AP today, while I still have the chance. They saw fit to rank the Oregon Ducks number 22 in the country this week. They'll be the number 22 team for another few hours, after which the Michigan Wolverines buzzsaw will remove them.

Nevertheless...GO DUCKS!

[Update (4:30 pm PT): The AP are a bunch of chumps. How in the world could they have ranked the mighty fighting ducks as low as 22? I think 4 is more appropriate. After all, Michigan was ranked 5, and the Ducks just beat 'em. (And please ignore any previous mention of "buzzsaws.")]

posted by Jeff | 8:44 AM |

Friday, September 19, 2003  

On the Infallibility of George W. Bush
By Richard B. Cheney

Since the end of major combat operations in Iraq, a number of America's doubters have seen fit to call the President's judgment about various issues into question. This is a grave mistake. There has never been a worse time in US history to criticize the President or the government. We are at a war with unseen forces of liberty-haters, and the last thing we want to do is speak loosely and give these sinister forces comfort and hope. This is a time for restraint, not a time for speaking loosely.

I'm writing today because I feel a response to these doubters--some are called "Democratic candidates for President"--is necessary to quickly heal the nation. They want nothing more to sow discord and create an environment of ill will toward our heroic President. This is no time for ill will.

First of all, the operations in Iraq are a resounding success. We anticipated success, and we got success. Already the seeds of democracy have sprouted. The spirit of brotherhood is strong in Iraq, and soon it will be a thriving democracy, a strong ally. We said before the war that our goal was liberation of the Iraqi people. They're liberated. Some nay-sayers have tried to sully our great victory with talk of what might or might not have been said to justify a war about what Saddam Hussein--the brutal dictator--might or might not threaten us with. That's all water under the bridge and no concern of mine. To doubt the President's intention here is to sow the seeds of discord, to give aid and comfort to the enemy. Nay-sayers will say that the enemy is now in Iraq, but I'm not going to get into who may or may not be flooding across this or that porous border. This is no concern of yours. Support the President and you have defeated the enemy.

Next, I'd like to address the issue of terrorism. After the tragedies of September 2001, the President immediately went to work to stop terrorism in its track. He choked off one of the lifelines of terror in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. A number of key evildoers were captured before they could do harm to this country. Then, he choked off another lifeline when he invaded Iraq. Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were, as everyone knows, good friends. We have good evidence from our friends in Niger and the Czech republic that confirm these connections. I can envision these two evildoers sitting by the pool in one of Saddam's terrible, opulent palaces smoking Cuban cigars and laughing evilly. But the President has put a stop to all that. Now, I'm not going to get into what one country says or what a particular intelligence agency says about this evidence. As the President has said before, it's darn good intelligence.

Finally, the economy is robust and growing, thanks to the jobs program the President signed into law this year. We were hit with some bad news after we took office. The Democratic economy was in collapse, overburdened by excessive spending on the unproductive poor. The President acted quickly, identifying the productive wealthy, and making sure they had the money they needed to get this economy moving again. And it is moving. Nay-sayers will point out that we still have unemployment. But that's just because they're the ones who are unemployed. If they were productive like the wealthy, they wouldn't be unemployed. The President has emphasized his compassionate conservatism, and you see it there. Compassion for the productive, conservatism for the unemployed. Now as to whether this economist or that Congressional Budget Office talks about this or that ballooning deficit isn't something we need to dwell on here.

So America, all is well. The President is perhaps the finest leader anyone has ever seen. All his initiatives have been a success. Only those who don't think America's the greatest country in the world would criticize this President. They don't really want to help the country; they want to hurt it. But this isn't something we'll allow. Whether they're the liberal media, the "Democratic candidates for president," or unfunny satirists, they're not true Americans. In the end, we will defeat them just as surely as we have defeated our enemies in Iraq, Afghanistan, and France.

Thank you, America, for your attention. And remember, this President doesn't make mistakes, only his enemies do. Good night.

posted by Jeff | 12:23 PM |

Karl Rove, mortal?

Eighteen months later, key administration officials have concluded that Bush's [steel tariffs] order has turned into a debacle. Some economists say the tariffs may have cost more jobs than they saved, by driving up costs for automakers and other steel users. Politically, the strategy failed to produce union endorsements and appears to have hurt Bush with workers in Michigan and Tennessee -- also states at the heart of his 2004 strategy....

But in this case, the facts may be less important than the perception in key states where the tariffs have been debilitating. The tariffs failed to give Bush the allegiance of the United Steelworkers of America, the industry's largest union and one the White House had hoped to win over. In August, the union endorsed Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (Mo.) for president and issued a statement saying any of the Democratic candidates would offer better than "the reactionary policies of the current administration."

Perhaps worse for Bush, the tariffs alienated thousands of small businessmen who run steel-consuming companies. "He didn't win the steelworkers over, and he sure as hell didn't win the users over, and there are a hell of lot more of us," said Jim Zawacki, chief executive of G.R. Spring & Stamping, Inc., a small manufacturer in Grand Rapids, Mich. "A lot of people feel burned," said Mike Lynch, vice president of government affairs at Illinois Tool Works, a large machine tool company outside Chicago.


posted by Jeff | 11:13 AM |

Via Genfoods, this may be a better way to stick it to the man: get nekkid! Playboy's trying to scare up some Wal-Mart employees for a "Women of Wal-Mart" edition. Care to see if Wal-Mart will risk firing any of the women who appear in the shoot?

posted by Jeff | 9:55 AM |

Here's a variation on that old "a capitalist will sell you the rope to hang himself" theory: Adbusters is marketing tennis shoes that will put Nike out of business. Or at least reap a PETA-like bonanza out of the press and focus a little attention on style and sweatshops.

Here's the scoop:

Adbusters Media Foundation intends to sell $60 pairs of plain canvas shoes marked with a black spot as a contrast to the flashy shoes made by Beaverton-based Nike. In the process, the group says it hopes to "transform capitalism" and make a statement about anti-corporate activism....

Adbusters plans to take out a full page ad in The New York Times within the next two months to promote its blackSpot sneaker campaign, designed to "show that we have the power to un-cool megabrands," said Kalle Lasn, the organization's founder. Proceeds from blackSpot shoe sales will be used to expand the campaign, which Lasn said could later target companies including McDonald's, ExxonMobil and Wal-Mart.

Sixty bucks? That's a lot for a shoe that looks a whole lot like, ahem, Nike-owned Chucks. But I digress. Adbusters appears to be taking it straight at Nike, making Portland ground zero for the campaign. The shoes are called BlackSpot, which is a pretty clever idea--for the assault, they can plaster black spots all over the city. Presumably, there's going to be some semi-legal, informal Nike ad blackspotting (Portland offers thousands of disgruntled "agents").

It's an interesting idea: capitalism as anti-capitalist advocacy. Adbusters' theory is that Nikes sell not because they're worth a hundred bucks, but because they have the cachet of Nike. So they'll use the inverse cachet to sell their own shoes. Like Royal Tenenbaum said it's, "kind of a 'fuck you' to the old man."

The old man, for his part, is not terribly frightened. He's been doing this a lot longer than Adbusters, and knows that pretty much any news is good news. The Nike spokesman immediately turned the campaign into a positive: "It's a testament to the strength of the Nike brand that Adbusters decided to specifically target Nike to leverage its own agenda."

In any case, it'll be pretty fun to watch from my prime seats here on the fifty-yard line. I'll keep you updated.

posted by Jeff | 8:59 AM |

Thursday, September 18, 2003  

This is interesting. I'm working on a project, and someone used the example of Cortez burning his ships to commit his men in the conquest of Mexico (that's a helluva nice lefty example, ain't it?). I was digging around for a source and came to a site called ThinkQuest.

This is what the page said:

We're sorry. Due to Hurricane Isabel, all ThinkQuest systems are currently down. We expect the sites to be available sometime after 12 noon (US Eastern time) on Friday.

Everyone all right out there? I guess it's time for me to stop whining about the Portland weather.

posted by Jeff | 4:05 PM |

Oh, and incidentally,Bush yesterday also distanced himself from Cheney's outrageous lies about an Iraq-Al Qaida connection.

""No, we've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September the 11th."

Recall, if you will, what Dick said:

We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the ’90s....

With respect to 9/11, of course, we’ve had the story that’s been public out there. The Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack, but we’ve never been able to develop anymore of that yet either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it. We just don’t know.

Well, according to the President, you do. Or maybe not. After making his nice, clear declarative statement ("we've had no evidence"), Bush indulged in the same kind of backing-off-while-not-looking-like-you're-backing-off that Rummy and Condi modeled two days ago:

"Now, what the vice president said was is that he has been involved with Al Qaeda. And al-Zarqawi, an Al Qaeda operative, was in Baghdad. He's the guy that ordered the killing of a U.S. diplomat.... There's no question that Saddam Hussein had Al Qaeda ties."

So I guess what Cheney said was true. "I think it's not surprising that people make that connection." I mean after all, that's the impression the White House has been pushing for a year. And sorta kinda continues to push, apparently.

And on that note, I'm outta here--at least for the rest of the morning.

posted by Jeff | 9:05 AM |

I had meant to mention that the DNC has a blog. To show they have that 'net cred, they call it "Kicking Ass" (which is actually not bad). In particular, I wanted to mention that not only do they have a blog, but they linked Open Source Politics, which struck me as a major coup for our new project.

Well, blow me down! Today, along with 28 other carefully-selected blogs, I note that they have added "Notes on the Atrocities" (the link reads "Emma Goldman"). Pardon me while I do a modest little victory dance over here.

Thanks, guys.

posted by Jeff | 8:50 AM |

Wednesday, September 17, 2003  

Now the truth is tepidly coming out. Rummy and Condi have backed off Cheney's lies about an Al Qaida-Iraq connection. (They're loth, however, to give up the political advantage such a position offers, or to feel that they have to come clean to the 70% of Americans who bought the lies.)

Donald Rumsfeld:

At a Pentagon news conference, Rumsfeld was asked about a poll that indicated nearly 70 percent of respondents believed the Iraqi leader probably was personally involved.

"I've not seen any indication that would lead me to believe that I could say that."

Rummy did, however, try to keep suspicion alive with other insinuations.

''We know he was giving $25,000 a family for anyone who would go out and kill innocent men, women and children. And we know of various other activities. But on that specific one, no, not to my knowledge.''

Condoleezza Rice

Rice, asked about the same poll numbers, said, "We have never claimed that Saddam Hussein had either direction or control of 9-11."

''What we have said is that this is someone who supported terrorists, helped to train them (and) was a threat in this region that we were not prepared to tolerate.''

I'll be interested to hear how the apologists will spin this.

posted by Jeff | 12:28 PM |

A couple of items to point out. Yesterday, Kevin Drum was on a serious tear. He posted not only an interview with Paul Krugman (I promise--no more Krugman news for awhile), but also a great piece on how anti-tax red states actually get the lion's share of tax benefit, while pro-service blue states get the shaft.

And while we're talkin' interviews, over on the Oregon Blog, I've posted an exclusive interview with Portland mayoral candidate Phil Busse. Oregonians take note.

posted by Jeff | 10:09 AM |

A couple weeks ago, PIPA (Program on International Policy Attitudes at the U of Maryland) released an important study on Americans' attitudes toward terrorism (.pdf file). Friday they released a subsequent report about attitudes toward Iraq (again, .pdf). If you're a researchy-type person, I recommend them as interesting reading. More to the point, though, are a couple findings I found instructive.

In the terrorism study, Americans gave contradictory responses. On the one hand, three-quarters felt either no more safe over the past two years (48%), or less safe (28%). Yet on the other, nearly half (46%) felt that the President's handling of terrorism has reduced the risk of terror. Is this surprising? (Yeah, yeah, if you're reading this blog, you're not surprised.) No. People answered one question from the point of view of their personal safety, and one from the point of view of their patriotic support of the President.

Digging a little deeper, nearly all opinion is against the President's policies. People believe his policies are too assertive (54%) and that the US should be more cooperative (66%). They think we should put less emphasis on military solutions, more emphasis on diplomatic and economic solutions (35% to 58%). And fully 81% felt that "the US needs to work more closely with other countries to fight terrorism."

More: 78% feel the US should "make greater efforts to improve relations with people in the Islamic world," and two-thirds feel the US should play a smaller role in the Middle East. In terms of our policies, a majority (58%) feel we're playing too much a "policeman" role in the Middle East, that we should decrease our military presence there (64%), and that our military presence increases the likelihood of terrorism (64%).

So, Americans don't like the President's policies. This was supposed to be a strength of his going into the next election cycle. Presumably, these attitudes will stay roughly the same, because they're not hinged to success or failure in Iraq (the safety question, for example, has been steady for two years). But there's a strong cautionary note here. People still support the man. And when the election happens, people won't be casting votes for policies, but for people. If the Democrats turn the campaign into a personal attack, there's a risk of swinging people who dislike the President's policies back into his camp.

The strategy, then: give respect to the man and the job he's done, but highlight policy differences. Stay away from personal attacks. Even at this stage of the campaign, it behooves the candidates to mind the difference between these two. In this regard, the entrance of Wesley Clark into the campaign is probably a good thing--it will elevate the discource to policy. Anyway, that's my hope.

These findings are hopeful. Despite a constant stream of patriotic rhetoric from the White House, over-the-top reportage of 9/11 rememberances and the war, people have mostly kept their eye on the ball.

posted by Jeff | 9:01 AM |

Tuesday, September 16, 2003  

Okay Wesley Clark, put this in your spliff and smoke it, mon: Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana give Dennis Kucinich (coo SIN itch) an A+ on his pot position. We be jammin.

posted by Jeff | 1:02 PM |

This is also pretty interesting (via Kos):

NY Times Bestsellers:


5. LIVING HISTORY, by Hillary Clinton.

9. TREASON, by Ann Coulter.

15. BIG LIES, by Joe Conason.

16. THIEVES IN HIGH PLACES, by Jim Hightower.

17. STUPID WHITE MEN, by Michael Moore.

Is that the smell of a revolution brewing?

posted by Jeff | 11:47 AM |

And then there were ten...

Am I the last blogger to notice this? The real question is, what's Clark got that Kucinich ain't got (besides a square jaw, an Oxford education, the possible title of "commander," and wild popularity)?

Some background on Clark I'll be reading at lunch: Anarchists say nuh-uh (and check out the snappy gif);

Michael Moore says uh-huh!;

Fox gives a short bio (and it must have killed them);

A blog for Clark here;

and another one here.

Who else has good Clark resources?

[UPDATE (4:30 pm, 9/17): From Clonal Antibody we get this interesting report on Clark from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. I stand corrected; seems Clark's view about the invasion was decidedly mixed.

Via TalkLeft, a number of other sources. Here's a bio by the Memphis Commercial Appeal. (No, I've never heard of it, either.)

An article in Salon--looks more meaty than the Memphis piece. And another one today.

And Jeralyn has posted some info about him herself here.]

posted by Jeff | 11:26 AM |

How do you spell Blogspot? U - n - r - e - l - i - a - b - l - e.

posted by Jeff | 10:36 AM |

I did a a not-very-exhaustive on stories that discussed Dick Cheney's comments on "Meet the Press" looking to see if anyone called him a liar. The closest was the Post article I quoted yesterday, which had a paragraph that disputed the evidence of an Iraq-Al Qaida connection. And yet everyone knows this is a lie. Even the Post's language was softer than I expected. Little did I know I was reading the most damning comment in the major press.

If we have such a liberal media, how is it that the Veep can lie on national TV about the justification for war--and for misleading Americans--and not a single paper calls him a liar? Even the lead "Vice President Repeats Discredited Intelligence" would have been reasonable and perfectly defensible (I guess I wouldn't expect "Veep Repeats Lie").

If our press is objective, why doesn't it report objectively about this? Truth is, the emperor and all his men have been buck naked for a long time, and not a single news agency is willing to mention it. Fine objectivity, that.

(Meanwhile, the press may get a lot less objective if the President goes ahead with his plan to veto Congress's effort to overturn those horrible FCC rules about consolidation.)

posted by Jeff | 7:55 AM |

Monday, September 15, 2003  

The President's approval rating is down to 52%; the public has lost confidence in the Iraq policy; two-thirds of Americans want the UN to run the show in Iraq (.pdf file). What does it mean?


Fourteen months before an election, there is no worse guide than polls. Think how recently it was that Bush looked untouchable: with the President standing in a flight suit declaring victory in a war, conservative commentators across the country had gone ahead and put the '04 election in the "win" column. It doesn't take much mental gymnastics to imagine scenarios now that will return the President to wild popularity.

Of course, we don't have anything better to do, so it's an interesting pasttime. Lately I've been hearing the excitement of Dems who are certain that the house of cards has collapsed. Today Atrios said the Prez had jumped the shark. Who knows?

Months ago, I started talking about how the Dems need to get out of their reactive, president-focused politics. This applies to good news as much as bad. Even if the President is looking bad to voters, without a strong platform, Dems run the serious risk of squandering the opportunity to start leading again. The only thing these low numbers offer is a chance for Dems to be heard. If people hate Bush's policies, they're looking around. "I told you he was a rat bastard" ain't gonna win them over.

posted by Jeff | 1:54 PM |

At the center of this dispute about Paul Krugman is the question of White House lies and buck-passing. In reader comments to one of the posts, RJP wrote: "Followed by a non-response from you on the Administration never admitting a mistake, so I'll assume you've conceded that point." Ah, no. I still haven't heard an admission of failure, and now we have this news:

In a rare television interview yesterday, Cheney expanded on an effort by President Bush and top aides to argue that there should be no further changes in Iraq policy despite bipartisan and international calls for different approaches. He declared "major success, major progress" in Iraq, said most of the country is "stable and quiet" and asserted that Americans are viewed as "liberators" there.

The vice president offered an unqualified defense of virtually all administration actions leading up to the war in March and its aftermath, even as the administration has opted to seek a U.N. imprimatur for the occupation after five months of resisting that. Cheney said the administration did not underestimate the financial cost, the resistance or the troop strength needed to pacify Iraq, and he said that prewar allegations about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction would be vindicated.

Perhaps only RJP will be shocked by this. But Cheney didn't just play defense with Russert, he went on the offense and made some statements I think most people will find shocking.

We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the ’90s, that it involved training, for example, on BW and CW, that al-Qaeda sent personnel to Baghdad to get trained on the systems that are involved. The Iraqis providing bomb-making expertise and advice to the al-Qaeda organization....

With respect to 9/11, of course, we’ve had the story that’s been public out there. The Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack, but we’ve never been able to develop anymore of that yet either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it. We just don’t know.

As far as I know, this last part is a blatant lie. The FBI and CIA have discredited it, the Czech government has denied it, and even after months of trying to make the link, the US hasn't been able to find a single shred of evidence. Back to the Post:

An FBI investigation concluded that Atta was apparently in Florida at the time of the alleged meeting, and the CIA has always doubted it took place. Czech authorities, who first mentioned the alleged meeting in October 2001 to U.S. officials, have since said they no longer are certain the individual in the video of the supposed meeting was Atta. Meanwhile, in July, the U.S. military captured the Iraqi intelligence officer who was supposed to have met Atta and has not obtained confirmation from him.

Moving along. Cheney characterizes everything as a success:

The fact is that most of Iraq today is relatively stable and quiet.

Fine. I actually think that, given everything we knew going in--and we did know it, even I knew it--Iraq was bound to be a quagmire of racial and religious hatred, retribution, and violence. It's reasonable to say that it's going as well as expected. But this isn't what the Bushies tried to sell to the American people as the definition of "going well."

More significantly, I think this is a great opportunity for critics of the White House's foreign policy to get some traction. Hold the Bushies to it. Every time something bad happens, remind the American people that the White House thinks this is how it should be. This is "going well." Make them, for once, stand by one of their damn policies.

Russert then ran through a series of predictions Cheney made before the war and confronted him with the reality now. Listen:

CHENEY (March 16): I disagree. To suggest that we need several hundred thousand troops there after military operations cease, after the conflict ends, I don’t think is accurate. I think that’s an overstatement.

MR. RUSSERT (yesterday): We, in fact, have about 140,000 troops, 20,000 international troops, as well. Did you misjudge the number of troops necessary to secure Iraq after major combat operations?

CHENEY (yesterday): Well, you’re going to get into a debate here about—talking about several years, several hundred thousand troops for several years. I think that’s a non-starter. I don’t think we have any plan to do that, Tim. I don’t think it’s necessary to do that. There’s no question but what we’ve encountered resistance. But I don’t think anybody expected the time we were there to be absolutely trouble-free. We knew there were holdover elements from the regime that would fight us and struggle. And we also knew al-Qaeda was there, and Ansar al-Islam, up in northeastern Iraq, which we’ll come back to, talk about in a minute.

So I don’t think there was a serious misjudgment here. We couldn’t know precisely what would happen

On the cost of the war. Russert led in by pointing out that Pentagon estimates were $50 billion and that Lawrence Lindsay was fired for suggesting it would cost between $100-200 billion (it's already at that figure, six months in).

VICE PRES. CHENEY: No, I didn’t see a one-point estimate there that you could say that this is the administration’s estimate. We didn’t know. And if you ask Secretary Rumsfeld, for example—I can remember from his briefings, he said repeatedly he didn’t know. And when you and I talked about it, I couldn’t put a dollar figure on it.
MR. RUSSERT: But Daniels did say $50 billion.
VICE PRES. CHENEY Well, that might have been, but I don’t know what is basis was for making that judgment.

The Iraqi reception:

VICE PRES. CHENEY (March 16): Well, I don’t think it’s unlikely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe we will be greeted as liberators. I’ve talked with a lot of Iraqis in the last several months myself, had them to the White House. The president and I have met with various groups and individuals, people who’ve devoted their lives from the outside to try and change things inside of Iraq.

MR. RUSSERT (yesterday): We have not been greeted as liberat[ors].

VICE PRES. CHENEY (yesterday): Well, I think we have by most Iraqis. I think the majority of Iraqis are thankful for the fact that the United States is there, that we came and we took down the Saddam Hussein government.

On the Niger story.

... I guess the intriguing thing, Tim, on the whole thing, this question of whether or not the Iraqis were trying to acquire uranium in Africa. In the British report, this week, the Committee of the British Parliament, which just spent 90 days investigating all of this, revalidated their British claim that Saddam was, in fact, trying to acquire uranium in Africa. What was in the State of the Union speech and what was in the original British White papers. So there may be difference of opinion there. I don’t know what the truth is on the ground with respect to that, but I guess—like I say, I don’t know Mr. Wilson. I probably shouldn’t judge him. I have no idea who hired him and it never came...


VICE PRES. CHENEY: Who in the CIA, I don’t know.

On domestic issues, he defended the tax cuts:

MR. RUSSERT: If you froze the tax cut for the top 1 percent of Americans, it would generate enough money to pay for the $87 billion for the war, if you did it for just one year. Would you consider that?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I think it’d be a mistake, because you can’t look at that without considering what its impact would be on the economy. An awful lot of the returns in that top bracket are small businesses, and they provide an awful lot of the job growth in this economy. If you’re going to go increase taxes on small businesses, you’re going to slow down the extent to which we’re able to reduce unemployment. So I think it’s a serious mistake; the wrong time to raise taxes.

Increase taxes on small business? These are exactly the kinds of lies and misdirection that inflame reasonable people. Did Russert mention raising taxes on small business?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Tax cuts accounted for only about 25 percent of the deficit.

MR. RUSSERT: But we see deficits for the next 10 years, big ones. How do you deal with that, when you have Social Security, Medicare, coming up?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: We anticipate even with the added spending that we’ve asked for now we’ll cut the deficit roughly in half from where it’ll be next year over the next five years.

What do you bet that if this regime manages to stay in power that in four years Cheney will say he didn't say that on "Meet the Press?"

posted by Jeff | 9:38 AM |
Blogroll and Links