Josh Greenwald's Web Journal

Thursday, December 30, 2004

need to remember this

there may be the seedlings of a thesis in here, seems like there's a lot of ways to interpret these numbers, wonder where they get their data???

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

new favorite thing

google images

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Kevin Drum gets the Social Security fiasco close, but not quite...

Kevin Drum on the heist that is social security reform. But he actually paints a more generous picture than is the case in his recent post.

The latter half of the trade off between higher tax burdens on the middle/lower class on the one hand and lower taxes on the upper class on the other was not a deliberate transfer. While the extra revenues from the higher-than-currently-needed payroll taxes were supposed to be placed in what we've all heard about, the "lock box", the proceeds should have been used to reduce other non-lock box debt levels, rather than supplementing general expenditures.

The point being that the increased payroll taxes were supposed to effect NOT a wealth transfer between classes BUT RATHER a wealth transfer over time.

but maybe we never could've expected congress to keep their hands out of a cookie jar that tempting, to them it's practically free money.

Why in the world was double taxation of dividends a virtual crusade and social security solvency such a farce?


I am clearly out of touch with contemporary sneaker fashion. What ever happened to the David Robinson air pump high tops, or the Jordan's with the subtle but cool flying AJ? when did every pair of sneakers turn into a some kind of bike reflector?

maybe I just need a vacation...

Monday, November 29, 2004

This is why we shouldn't subsidize a stadium in Manhattan

The Toronto Skydome, originally built for $600 million, sold for $21 million today to Rogers Commincations.


Building a stadium In Manhattan would cost the city dearly in terms of money and land, neither of which it has in great supply. All to host a football team 8 times a year.

Mind the following points:

- New York will never attract the type of conventions that would make the statdium economically viable. High labor/hotel costs are just too great a competitive disadvantage.

- When we do have home football games nobody else will drive into the city b/c of the traffic, so we lose substantial economic performance on the few days that we actually gain it.

- The opportunity cost of the land usage is almost immeasurable. The 24 hour economic activity that could be created by adding office space/housing on that land would likely be enormously positive, and all the funding could come from private sources and not strain the city budgets (in fact the higher taxes generated would help the budget).

- With failures all around the country, we should be able to put to rest the idea that stadiums are positive economic influences (at least versus alternative uses of land and investment funds).

- Very very few of the taxpayers helping to fund billionair Robert Johnson's new stadium will ever sit in one of the luxury boxes their taxes help pay for.

- (heir to the J&J empire) Johnson's value in the team will skyrocket with a stadium in Manhattan. Why should taxpayers fund it?

I can't seem to get any good answer from people why I'm wrong except for "f**k off the J-E-T-S rule" crap...

Friday, November 19, 2004

Hiatus official OVER

been adjusting to a new job over the past month. This blog thing kind of fell by the wayside. also I think the election sort of burnt me out (crud).

but I'm back baby!!!

all 34 people who have viewed my profle can now rejoice...

Wednesday, November 03, 2004



Tuesday, November 02, 2004

How Bin Laden Got Away

a friendly reminder ahead of election day...

November 14, 2001: Kabul is taken by Aorthern Alliance.
November 17, 2001: Osama last seen leaving for Tora Bora
November 19, 2001: Al Qaeda vows last stand at Tora Bora
November 21, 2001: **Bush asks CENTCOM to prepare for Iraq**
November 23, 2001: London paper says Osama is at Tora Bora
November 25, 2001: NY Times writes that Osama is at Tora Bora
November 27, 2001: **Franks meets with Rumsfeld about Iraq**
November 28-30, 2001: Osama is able to escape by walking into the
mountains over the border to Pakistan.
December 1, 2001: **Rumsfeld issues new Iraq orders for Franks**
December 4, 2001: **Franks reports to Pentagon on Iraq**
December 10, 2001: Pakistan deploys troops to the border
December 12, 2001: **Franks reports to the Pentagon on Iraq**

Impeach George W. Bush, Do It Monday.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The Discovery Institute and Bush politics: Scarily Similar Tactics

Interesting report in Wired on the new and improved creationism movement as implemented by the Discovery Institute. It's scary that it's succeeding. It's even more astonishing that the tactics and antics of the Discovery Institute described by Wired sound eerily similar to those of Karl Rove, Mr. Bush, etc.

In describing an Ohio State Board of Education debate on the question of how to teach the theory of evolution in public schools:

The debate's two-on-two format, with its appearance of equal sides, played right into the ID strategy - create the impression that this very complicated issue could be seen from two entirely rational yet opposing views...

... To defeat it [Darwinism], he offers a strategy that would be familiar in the divisive world of politics, called "the wedge." Like a wedge inserted into a tree trunk, cracks in Darwinian theory can be used to "split the trunk," eventually overturning scientific materialism itself...That's where Discovery comes in...For Discovery, the "thin end" of the wedge - according to a fundraising document leaked on the Web in 1999 - is the scientific work of Johnson, Behe, Dembski, and others. The next step involves "publicity and opinion-making." The final goals: "a direct confrontation with the advocates of material science" and "possible legal assistance in response to integration of design theory into public school science curricula."

Step one has made almost no headway with evolutionists - the near-universal majority of scientists with an opinion on the matter. But that, say Discovery's critics, is not the goal. "Ultimately, they have an evangelical Christian message that they want to push,"...It's a lot easier to skip straight to steps two and three, and sound scientific in a public forum, than to deal with the rigor of the scientific community...realized that to win in the court of public opinion, ID needed only to cast reasonable doubt on evolution.

There's much more in the article. Evem notes that "US senator Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) inserted language written by Johnson into the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The clause, eventually cut from the bill and placed in a nonbinding report, called for school curricula to "help students understand the full range of scientific views" on topics "that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution)."

The tactics sound eerily similar to the disinformation campaigns waged by Karl Rove on behalf of the Bushies. And with startling success...

Dragging the presidency through the playground mud...

Is there no highmindedness whatsoever in all of politics? Does every action taken by the Bush administration have to feel like a 3rd grade tantrum? Gross exaggeration and innaccuracy not only without regard for the truth, but without regard for it being obvious to everyone that it's not the truth. It makes me ashamed that this is the best America has to offer: a man of no substance, no moral or ethical character.

Check out the fake debate briefing book for Kerry created by Bush-Cheney 2004, and displayed smack in the center of their website.

Have they no shame? Or is it just that they have nothing of their own to stand on?

Oh, I got it... it's both.

Bug Eyes

glad they're safe, but geez these girls have some of the craziest freakin' bug eyes of all time...

Monday, September 27, 2004

Here comes my band...

Need to trade two floor tickets to the Pixies Hammerstein show on Tuesday, December 14th for two floor ticket to the Saturday show on December 11th.

Supply side army recruitment?

So we need to reduce tour lengths, cutting our supply of soldiers, to encourage more recruits, because we need more soldiers. Sounds good...

Army May Reduce Length of Tours in Combat Zones. By THOM SHANKER and ERIC SCHMITT. ASHINGTON, Sept. 26 - Fearing a sharp decline in recruiting and troop retention, the Army is considering cutting the length of its 12-month combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, senior Army officials say.

Senior Army personnel officers, as well as top Army Reserve and National Guard officials, say the Army's ability to recruit and retain soldiers will steadily erode unless combat tours are shortened, to some length between six and nine months, roughly equivalent to the seven-month tours that are the norm in the Marine Corps.

Reminds me of Republican fiscal policies.

But other Army officials responsible for combat operations and war planning have significant concerns that the Army - at its current size and as now configured - cannot meet projected requirements for Iraq and Afghanistan unless active duty and reserve troops spend 12 months on the ground in those combat zones.

Maybe we can just abandon the war on terror? That would free up more troops for Iraq wouldn't it?

Hey, here's the truth (finally)

So, how many in the room think Collin Powell will be back for a second term Bush administration?

Powell says rebellion in Iraq intensifying
By Edward Alden and Thomas Catán in Washington and Mark Huband in London
Published: September 26 2004 22:01 | Last updated: September 26 2004 22:01

Colin Powell, US secretary of state, said on Sunday that the revolt in Iraq was intensifying, in a departure from the Bush administration's recent assessments of security in the country.

"We are fighting an intense insurgency," Mr Powell said on ABC television's This Week programme. "Yes, it's getting worse and the reason it's getting worse is that they are determined to disrupt the election."

The thing is, Powell doesn't deserve to be back. He should have been saying this months and years ago... It's disturbing that telling the truth only belatedly (and with nothing to lose) seems couragous and honorable relative to the usual W administration M.O.

October surprise?

The economist point out one reason October carries unusually significant risk:

Moving mountains Sep 16th 2004. Diplomacy's nuclear perils. ... Diplomatic efforts to keep North Korea talking—with dollops more aid from China just for turning up—have got nowhere. It may have decided to await the outcome of America's presidential election in November, hoping for a Kerry administration and a softer line.

Yet other explanations are possible. There have been rumours that North Korea is preparing an October “surprise”. American satellites are keeping close watch on other sites away from last week's explosions; ...

It would seem likely to me that al Qaeda also would consider October to be an attractive month for a new terrorist strike, it would after all be the ideal timing to influence the U.S. elections. Perhaps the unusual strength in the treasury markets reflects something of a premium given high short-term political risk?

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Do any of these guys know what they're doing?

One graf in today's New York Times article on extending the tax cuts today that in particular I don't get...

Even as they pushed for the cuts that will add to the federal budget deficit, House Republican lawmakers said Wednesday that they hoped to have a vote soon on a constitutional amendment that would require the government to balance the budget by 2010, except if the country is at war.

That proposed amendment has no chance of becoming law, but it would conflict with even the Bush administration's rosiest goals for reducing the deficit, which is expected to hit $420 billion this year, a record. Mr. Bush has promised only to cut the deficit in half by 2009.

Forget the fact that the proposal "has no chance of becoming law", my problem is that won't a balanced budget amendment preclude any form of fiscal expansion-type flexibility on the part of the government? Which was basically the (overt at least) basis for the Bush administration enacting the tax cuts during the recession?

So.. wouldn't this amendment invalidate (from the Republican's perspective) basically the central strategy of the Bush administration in dealing with the recession?

Side note: with congress extending the tax cuts it makes no sense for the long end of the yield curve to be as tight as it is, the bond markets are definitely a bit wacky right now.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

things I need to find

the cool Pavement poster from John Cusack's apartment in High Fidelity

Jay Mohr's Action series on DVD

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Primer for the Kerry campaign

Damning interview with Senator Bob Graham (D-Fla) with Graham is the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and held the post during the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and the run-up to the Iraq war. The Kerry campaign should use every graf as a talking point in the coming weeks.

In his book, Graham asserts that the White House blocked investigations into Saudi Arabian government support for the 9/11 plot, in part because of the Bush family's close ties to the Saudi royal family and wealthy Saudis like the bin Ladens. Behind the White House's insistence on classifying 27 pages detailing the Saudi links in a report issued by a joint House-Senate intelligence panel co-chaired by Graham in 2002 lay the desire to hide the administration's deficiencies and protect its Saudi allies, according to Graham.

How come nobody in the prominent press/media seem to press the administration on these issues? How is it that Bush can avoid cippling hits even when delivered by a source as credible as the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee? He covered up Saudi involvement in 9/11, clear support for two of the terrorists, and blocked furtherance of the investigation so that we don't know how much more extensive the involvement may have been.

To echo Brad de Long: Impeach George W. Bush. Do it now.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Why Bush can't talk about his economic record...

Check out the chart (thorugh the link to the original Economist article). Nice inflection point...

The other planet Aug 30th 2004 From The Economist Global Agenda. The number of Americans in poverty is rising, as is the number without health insurance. The best anti-poverty programme is a tight labour market. America still doesn’t have one

CONTRARY to popular belief, President George Bush’s campaign against terrorism is not the first time the United States has waged war on an abstract noun. In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty. Then, as now, the administration had some trouble defining the enemy. The poverty line it eventually adopted, a line first drawn by Mollie Orshansky of the Social Security Administration, remains in place today, adjusted for inflation, but otherwise scarcely altered. Two parents, bringing up two kids, are judged to be poor if they live on less than $18,660 a year (for an unencumbered individual under the age of 65, the threshold is $9,573). On Thursday August 26th, the Census Bureau revealed that 35.9m Americans, or 12.5% of the population, fell below this poverty line in 2003, 1.3m more than the year before.


Wednesday, August 25, 2004

What would it take for Rumsfeld to resign?

What would it take for Rumsfeld to resign? I guess bungling the war could happen to anybody, it's not like he had sexual relations in the oval office or anything...

Via the NYT, the congressional panel "in tracing responsibility for what went wrong at Abu Ghraib, ... drew a line that extended to the defense secretary's office."

What exactly would it take for Rumsfeld to resign? True, he didn't directly order torturing of prisoners, but his incompetence clearly fostered it. He didn't plan competently for post war Iraq when every reasonable military commentator was calling for greater spending, more troops and really to have any kind of plan at all for post-Saddam.

Central in hyping the Saddam threat, key in sending too few troops (and likely b/c of the political repercussions even though he knew we should have had more personnel), completely unprepared to administer the peace.

Why does Bush continue to greet Rummy with open arms like he's some kind of savior? He should treat him just like the Iraqis greeted us, a kick in the pants head first to the door. Maybe this team's legacy of ineptitude will lessen with his absence.

A Trail of 'Major Failures' Leads to Defense Secretary's Office By DOUGLAS JEHL. WASHINGTON, Aug. 24 - For Donald H. Rumsfeld to resign over the prison abuses at Abu Ghraib would be a mistake, the four-member panel headed by James M. Schlesinger asserted Tuesday. But in tracing responsibility for what went wrong at Abu Ghraib, it drew a line that extended to the defense secretary's office.

The panel cited what it called major failures on the part of Mr. Rumsfeld and his aides in not anticipating and responding swiftly to the post-invasion insurgency in Iraq. On the eve of the Republican convention, that verdict could not have been welcome at the White House, where postwar problems in Iraq represent perhaps President Bush's greatest political liability.

The report rarely mentions Mr. Rumsfeld by name, referring most often instead to the "office of the secretary of defense.'' But as a sharp criticism of postwar planning for Iraq, it represents the most explicit official indictment to date of an operation that was very much the province of Mr. Rumsfeld and his top deputies.


The panel sidestepped the broader, even more contentious, question of whether Mr. Rumsfeld had sent enough troops to Iraq. It focused instead on what it described as short staffing among the military police, who were outnumbered by prisoners by a ratio of 75 to 1 at Abu Ghraib, and at the headquarters of Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, whose 495-member staff numbered only about one-third of the authorized total.

Outnumbered 75 to 1??? I'm not an expert but that sounds like a ratio that could make a half-trained prison guard in a foreign hostile country lose it a little.

Monday, August 23, 2004

MIT OpenCourseWare

MIT deserves a lot of respect for their OpenCourseWare initiative. While other institutions aggressively protect their intellectual property, MIT has undertaken to exhibit its course materials to the world, you don't even have to register. I think the public benefit of their altruism is enormous. It's an incredible resource, I'm using it right now to dust off my matrix algebra courtesy of Professor Strang's video lectures. Highly recommended.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

CBS on Importing Canadian Pharmaceuticals

Watching 60 minutes tonight, they run through the back and forth over Americans importing Canadian pharmaceuticals again. Their coverage, however, makes me shake my head.

I think there's no denying that, as a big money political contributor, big pharma has considerable influence over regulation in the U.S. and that no question they are placing pressure for the FDA not to accede to demands to allow free flow of drugs across the border or to lessen the limited monopolies granted to new drugs. But while making the insinuations, the evidence offered for this influence being untoward by CBS is simply the disparity between drug prices in the US and Canada.

The problem with this is there is absolutely no mention of the need to provide incentives to innovate in the creation of new drugs. 60 Minutes unnamed expert witness talks to how drug companies make a profit on medications sold in Canada, but this is very shortsighted in that it takes into account only incremental (or variable) profit and ignores the considerable high fixed costs of researching the new drug prior to reaching market (as well as the costs incurred for drugs that never make it at all).

I don't know that there is any right answer here, but my intuition is that the appropriate market price is likely somewhere in between the domestic and foreign prices for these drugs, with the U.S. consumers footing the bill (i.e. providing the monetary incentive) for much of the research that leads to new drugs, while Canadians and others enjoy something of a free ride.

Hard to say. But I did notice that there are no pharmaceutical companies among the top 50 Canadian companies by market capitalization (link), though there are three in the top hundred.

My problem with CBS is they don't even explore the concept of temporary monopoly incentives being extremely important in driving innovation in a large fixed cost business like developing new drugs. It's one whole half of the argument here and it's ignored in favor of a "big business screwing the consumer" theme.

My other thought is that this is probably the case that the FDA should be making to the public (and probably wants to) rather than arguing that we can't regulate and guarantee safety of imported drugs. They should be making a case that Canadians are getting a free ride on Americans and that running drugs through Canadian pharmacies only exacerbates the market failure.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Snow on B-berg Today

Just now Treasury Secretary John Snow gave an interview on Bloomberg television and attributed the below expectations job and economic growth to our failure to adequately deal with (a) frivolous law suits, (b) rising medical costs, (c) lack of an energy plan, (d) failure to make the tax cuts permanent. I have to believe that no serious economist would site these triggers as the key to revving up the economy or employment ... save perhaps the energy plan, but what that would entail and how it could alleviate the current high prices or the burgeoning demand from the rest of the world (read: China) vague to the point where I am doubtful it exists. In the end, I am sick and tired of this administration using the economy (and for that matter terrorism) as an excuse to covertly advance other adgendas.

Maybe if they hadn't used the recession as an excuse to reduce tax cuts mainly for the rich instead of implementing a fiscal expansion better tailored to fighting a slowdown (i.e. distributed lower down the income spectrum to those with a greater propensity to spend and wih a shorter time frame rather than having much of the tax cuts kick in down the road). They gambled and lied and we lost. Now with a straight face they want to play again...

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Okay, so we're leaving a few children behind...

Charter schools, a main thrust of the No Child Left Behind Act, look to be performing actually worse than regular schools, even when compared to our already poor performing urban schools.

The first national comparison of test scores among children in charter schools and regular public schools shows charter school students often doing worse than comparable students in regular public schools.

as usual, our political process incentivised our leaders to shout this from the rooftops...

The findings, buried in mountains of data the Education Department released without public announcement, dealt a blow to supporters of the charter school movement, including the Bush administration. ... Federal officials said they did not intend to hide the performance of charter schools, and denied any political motivation for failing to publicly disclose that the data were available. "I guess that was poor publicity on our part," said Robert Lerner, the federal commissioner for education statistics. Mr. Lerner said further analysis was needed to put the data in its proper context.

So, who signs our nation's report card?

Friday, August 06, 2004

So that's three consecutive "blips" now...

Depressing July payroll data this morning. Non-farm payrolls rose only 32k in July, well below the 240k expected, which itself wasn't exactly a rosy number.

U.S. Payroll Growth Is Slowest in 8 Months - WASHINGTON -- U.S. employers hired workers at the slowest pace in eight months in July, fanning fears the economic recovery may be fizzling.

Nonfarm business payrolls grew by a net 32,000 jobs last month, the smallest increase since December, the Labor Department said Friday. The department also said employers created 61,000 fewer more jobs in May and June than was first estimated.

That's three months of disappointing and increasingly worse payroll data. Can Snow still call this a blip? Can W still tout his record on the economy (erroneously or not)?

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Stops on my world tour (Part I)

Gaudaloupe (sp?)

according to Discover HD theater (which BTW rocks), Gaudaloupe is the "Sharkiest place on earth"

I will have to brush up on my scuba diving...


Why is it that takes me to the homepage of Allianz Funds?

Am I missing something?

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

No walking away from this

This is truly unbelievable.. I don't understand how this can't come back to end Cheney's career. In order for Cheney to not know that Halliburton profit growth was almost entirely due to an undisclosed change in accounting he would have to be grossly incompetent. I very very much doubt that Cheney was unaware of the accounting change. This was fraud.

Halliburton Settles S.E.C. Accusations By FLOYD NORRIS. The Halliburton Company secretly changed its accounting practices when Vice President Dick Cheney was its chief executive, the Securities and Exchange Commission said yesterday as it fined the company $7.5 million and brought actions against two former financial officials.

The commission said the accounting change enabled Halliburton, one of the nation's largest energy services companies, to report annual earnings in 1998 that were 46 percent higher than they would have been had the change not been made. It also allowed the company to report a substantially higher profit in 1999, the commission said.
Mr. O'Donnell, a partner at Williams & Connolly in Washington, declined to answer a question as to whether Mr. Cheney had been aware of the effect of the accounting change on the company's profits.

O'Reilly Fact(or) Fiction

Why does the race to the top of TV news media also involve the race to the bottom of journalistic ethics and integrity? Are the incentives so misaligned? Sadly, it appears so...

My First (and Last) Time With Bill O'Reilly by David Cole. It started innocuously enough. On Monday, June 21, a producer from Fox News's The O'Reilly Factor called to ask me to appear as a guest that evening to comment on a front-page story in the New York Times claiming that the Bush Administration had overstated the value of intelligence gained at Guantánamo and the dangers posed by the men detained there. I'm generally not a fan of shout-television, and I had declined several prior invitations to appear on O'Reilly's show, but this time I said yes. Little did I know it would not only be my first time, but also my last.

I sat in the Washington studio as the taping of the show began in New York with a rant from Bill O'Reilly. He claimed that "the Factor" had established the link between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, and then played a clip from Thomas Kean, head of the Senate's 9/11 Commission, in which Kean said, "There is no evidence that we can find whatsoever that Iraq or Saddam Hussein participated in any way in attacks on the United States, in other words, on 9/11. What we do say, however, is there were contacts between Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Iraq, Saddam--excuse me. Al Qaeda."

I was impressed. O'Reilly, who had announced his show as the "No Spin Zone," was actually playing a balanced soundbite, one that accurately reported the commission's findings both that there was no evidence linking Saddam and 9/11, and that there was some evidence of contacts (if no "collaborative relationship") between Saddam and Al Qaeda. Maybe all those nasty things Al Franken had said about O'Reilly weren't true after all.

But suddenly O'Reilly interrupted, plainly angry, and said, "We can't use that.... We need to redo the whole thing." Three minutes of silence later, the show began again, with O'Reilly re-recording the introduction verbatim. Except this time, when he got to the part about Kean, he played no tape, and simply paraphrased Kean as confirming that "definitely there was a connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda." The part about no link to 9/11 was left on the cutting-room floor.

Now it was my turn. O'Reilly introduced the segment by complaining that we are at war and need to be united, but that newspapers like the New York Times are running biased stories, dividing the country and aiding the enemy. "The spin must stop--our lives depend on it," O'Reilly gravely intoned. He then characterized the Times story that day as claiming that the Guantánamo detainees were "innocent people" and "harmless." He said the paper's article "questions holding the detainees at Guantánamo."

I noted that the Times had said nothing of the sort. And I pointed out that the article relied on a CIA study finding that the detainees seemed to be low-level and had provided little valuable intelligence.

That didn't convince O'Reilly, however, who again criticized the Times for misleading its readers by terming the detainees innocent and not dangerous. I replied that he was misleading his own viewers, by exaggerating what the Times had said. "No, I'm not," he retorted. So far, the usual fare on newstalk television.

But then I decided to go one step further: "It seems to me like the pot calling the kettle black, Bill, because I just sat here five minutes ago as you re-recorded the introduction to this show to take out a statement from the head of the 9/11 commission stating that there was no evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11."

Apparently O'Reilly does not like being called "the pot." He exploded, repeatedly called me an "S.O.B." and assured me that he would cut my accusation from the interview when the show aired. He also said I would "never ever" be on his show again. At this point, I wasn't sure whether to take that as a threat or a promise.

Sure enough, when The O'Reilly Factor aired later that night, both Thomas Kean's statement about 9/11 and my charge about O'Reilly deleting it were missing. All that was left was Bill O'Reilly, fuming at the liberal media's lack of objectivity and balance, and ruing the divisive effect "spin" has on our national unity.

How does O'Reilly get away with calling himself a journalist???

Homeland Insecurity (Part II)

Glenn Kessler writes about credibility and terrorism alerts in today's WP. It's a back and forth article of opinions on whether the raised threat level was appropriate, appropriately communicated and/or politically motivated, with a headline and intro emphasizing the latter. While I'll be one of the first to offer a vote of no confidence in both the actions and integrity of this administration, I think that on what we've heard about this specific terror threat so far that the backlash is somewhat inappropriate. Specifically, most people seem upset that the alert was based on survellience done by al Qaeda three to four years ago, but clearly an MO of the group has been to plan attacks well in advance so this doesn't seem out of place to me. Kessler himself makes this point, but does so well down in the article. Further, as also pointed out (though again burried far below the negative headline), the administration took pains to deliniate only specific areas (financial buildings in a few key cities) that were under threat rather than raise the entire nation's sthreat level.

On a different note, I wonder if private area security is taking this into account and if so what exactly can they do about it. I work in one of the buildings that was indicated by the warnings and while it hasn't affected my motivation to go to work (I suppose I already bottomed there..) I don't see, at least overtly, how any of the in-building security measures would be at all effective in preventing an attack. The only change they've made is to make us flash our IDs upon entry, and seemingly they check visitors' bags and don't let them upstairs. Yet if this were a sleeper cell, they probably would be employees; insiders who would be able to bypass these meager measures. I hope we have more security than meets the eye.

Monday, August 02, 2004

The genius of Will Ferrell

somebody call Dick Cheney.. hehahah!!!

turn up the volume, go here:


Daniel Gross actually gives the neocons too much credit in Slate.

As Daniel Altman convincingly argues in his new book, Neoconomy, the administration's efforts to remake American fiscal policy have been just as radical—and just as calculated—as its efforts to remake foreign policy. The Neoconomists, led by the dour supply-sider Lawrence Lindsey and the more cheerful (and shameless) Glenn Hubbard, possessed of "a revolutionary mindset," used the forecasts of a surplus as an excuse to restructure the tax code. Their goal was to eliminate or sharply reduce taxes on savings and investing and instead finance government activities by taxing wages. So marginal tax rates were cut on the wealthy, the estate tax was slated for elimination, and taxes on dividends and capital gains were slashed. The result: hundreds of billions of dollars of the Social Security surplus spent, hundreds of billions in extra debt, subpar job growth, and structural deficits as far as the eye can see.

And they're not done yet. If the Neoconomists have their way, Altman concludes, "All your income from working would be taxed" while "none of your income from other forms of saving would be taxed." That's a huge relative advantage for those with enough assets to invest and live off of savings and a huge relative disadvantage for people who haven't yet made it. Two Americas, anyone?

One quibble: Altman portrays the Neoconomist revolution as having been accomplished by stealth. But it was all out in the open from the outset. It's just that the financial and political press were unequipped to deal with the Bush economic team's disingenuousness and willfully rosy projections. It's only now, when the woeful results are evident, that the neo-econs are hiding. (There should be a reward for the first person who spots Council of Economic Advisers Chairman N. Gregory Mankiw or National Economic Council head Stephen Friedman in public.)

These tax cuts were sold openly and prominently as a means to fight the recession (or prior to that as returning the surplus to hard working americans), to imply that even once anyone from the executive branch took the podium and iterated neocon goals as the driver for the tax changes is blatantly false. I have never witnessed anything remotely like that ever happening. And certainly it was never pointed out that the effect is to shift the tax burden incremetally away from the high end of the spectrum.

To argue that it wasn't a covert agenda because the media was too obedient to read between the lines is to ignore what actually was in the lines...

Friday, July 30, 2004

2Q GDP below expectations

Second quarter GDP growth at 3% is very disappointing. My question is: if output grew only 3% and productivity gains are continuing to run higher than that, doesn't that imply shrinking labor usage in the quarter?

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Insider's view of media consolidation...

Ted Turner on how the FCC and Big Media tune out the little guy:

In the late 1960s, when Turner Communications was a business of billboards and radio stations and I was spending much of my energy ocean racing, a UHF-TV station came up for sale in Atlanta. It was losing $50,000 a month and its programs were viewed by fewer than 5 percent of the market.
I acquired it.

When I moved to buy a second station in Charlotte--this one worse than the first--my accountant quit in protest, and the company's board vetoed the deal. So I mortgaged my house and bought it myself. The Atlanta purchase turned into the Superstation; the Charlotte purchase--when I sold it 10 years later--gave me the capital to launch CNN.

Both purchases played a role in revolutionizing television. Both required a streak of independence and a taste for risk. And neither could happen today. In the current climate of consolidation, independent broadcasters simply don't survive for long. That's why we haven't seen a new generation of people like me or even Rupert Murdoch--independent television upstarts who challenge the big boys and force the whole industry to compete and change. [cut]

Interesting stats from later in the piece:
To get a flavor of how consolidated the industry has become, consider this: In 1990, the major broadcast networks--ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox--fully or partially owned just 12.5 percent of the new series they aired. By 2000, it was 56.3 percent. Just two years later, it had surged to 77.5 percent.

I wonder how much of that has to do with liberization of the rules regarding syndication, but I guess that's a change that encourages vertical consolidation as well. Thank god for the internet...

Friday, July 23, 2004

Documentaries Are Ruining this Fine Country

Chirs Ward at the Citizen Journal goes off on Michael Moore:

A few weeks ago the Conan O'Brien Show took the scene from the movie The Morning After showing a tidal wave destroying Manhattan, setting it to the song "Surfin’ USA" by the Beach Boys. The scene in the actual film was actually one of horror and in its original context it was; the people running screaming from the wave were filled with terror. But when set to the fun summertime Beach Boys song, that same scene was transformed into thousands of people just having a good time trying to body surf the biggest wave of their lives. Surfin’ USA indeed—the same images, but a completely different story. Context is everything.

I was thinking of that hilarious Conan clip as I recently sat through Fahrenheit 9/11, a film that uses those same cinematic tools but for a sinister effect. I watched as Michael Moore uses background music, quick edits, fades, sound bites, innuendo and one-sided images to create an emotional montage, and asks the audience to follow their feelings and believe everything they see only as it relates to the narration done with mocking sincerity by Mr. Moore.

Fahrenheit 9/11 also asks the audience to stop questioning anything that’s depicted, because the truth is whatever Moore says it is...and look! He even has the pictures to prove it! Of course, it doesn't matter that many of the images are unrelated to what Moore is narrating. Once again, context is everything.... [cut]

Yeah, I really feel for republicans on this one. It's appalling that
someone would use a legitimate forum for politically slanted

But, just for fun, let's play devil's advocate.

I haven't seen the movie, but there's some serious issues with this
commentary. Doesn't it seem odd that the author Chris Ward can write
ten grafs with the title "Scrutinizing Farenheit" yet not cite a
single wrong fact or specific misstatement in the movie? What's he
scrutinizing? If it's so full of shit, there's got to be one thing
obviously wrong, isn't there? Maybe it was 6 minutes instead of 7...

Isn't an entire commentary with no facts and a comparison to a
hollywood special effects disaster flick and the Conan O'Brien show in
itself one big show of innuendo? but wait, now I'm making my head

Let's move on. I suppose it's different for Moore to insinuate that
the president had alternative motives (family connections, corruption,
incompetance, revenge for daddy) for the Iraq war other than the war
on terrorism. Granted it's not like he's using a public office to
make these obviously wrong insinuations. Certainly, we must hold
documantary film makers to higher standards than the executive branch.
We can fogive Dick Cheney for helping the majority of americans see
the (un)truth about Iraq's invlovement in the WTC attacks. He was
just being, well.. (a) Dick.

Bush lied about his tax cuts being aimed at the middle class, yet
trotted minority middle class families out at his SOTU speach.
Speaking of his overt support for minorities, he just became the first
president to not to speak at the NAACP's annual convention in a four
year term since Herbert Hoover. His budget office is a joke to the
serious analyst community for it's political slant. His economic team
has become possibly the most partisan of all time. Their forecast for
2004 employment is based on outrageous assumptions that just happen to
place employment levels above where they were when W took office. It won't
happen but the voters will only know the official forecast before the
election. Incidentally, if they fail to meet it, Bush junior will
have another thing in common with Hoover, the first president since the Hoove to
end a term with less jobs it began with. Guess they didn't like that

I can go on, (sitting on healthcare cost projections to get new
legislation through, outing a CIA operative for political
backstabbing, firing the National Park Service Police Chief for having
the guts to say we're actually underfunding homeland security,
promising funds to NYC post the WTC attacks, promising comprehesive
non-partisan audits of Iraq spending, blaming Abu Graib on a few lone
nuts, on and on and on).

Republicans have more to worry about than documentary films.

Notably, this: Bush approval ratings

Even more this: LA Times poll

and incumbents don't usually get much of the undecided vote. The
backlash against Michael Moore is not about indignation it's about

Funny republicans, don't you know when you're beat?

Sunday, July 18, 2004


if only civilians were taxed at the bottom line like corporations.. rent should be deductable.
let the revolution begin...

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Civil Diservice: Writing About Writing About Yellowcake

Cristopher Hitchens opines on Plame's Lame Game in his latest greatest piece in Slate, but IMHO only succeeds in coming up lame himself.

The article's subtitle is "What Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife forgot to tell us about the yellow-cake scandal" and begins with:

Two recent reports allow us to revisit one of the great non-stories, and one of the great missed stories, of the Iraq war argument. The non-story is the alleged martyrdom of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Wilson, supposed by many to have suffered cruel exposure for their commitment to the truth. The missed story is the increasing evidence that Niger, in West Africa, was indeed the locus of an illegal trade in uranium ore for rogue states including Iraq.

The Senate's report on intelligence failures would appear to confirm that Valerie Plame did recommend her husband Joseph Wilson for the mission to Niger.

Now, reading this one might be tempted to think that Hitchens would have actually read the Senate report. But yet Hitchens cites only the secondhand analysis of other reporters to back up his scathing headline.

I think Josh Marshall undertakes a much more detailed an evenhanded analysis here.

Marshall seems to make the much more convincing case, and with ample evidence from the actual report. The whole thing makes me wonder how many of our mainstream journalists actually get their hot tips and talking points from the W war room, rather than impartial primary sources.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Pointing to Pointing to Despair

Brad de Long points to Marc Andreesen pointing Alex Tabarrok to the Los Angeles Times and Davan Maharaj reporting from the Congo, and in so doing reminds me why Hernando de Soto's The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else continues to be one of the most important books I've ever read.

Also, William Easterly's The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics.

These two books more than anything I've encountered detail the malaise the developing world is stuck in today, the corrupt self perpetuating bureacracies and dismal lack of legal and property rights reform that inhibit rasing of capital and remain the largest barriers to growth in the third world today.

Walled in

Benjamin Netanyahu's editorial in today's New York Times strikes me as shortsighted in all the reasons that matter most.

While he may be factually correct in his assertion that:

While the advisory finding by the International Court of Justice last week that Israel's barrier in the West Bank is illegal may be cheered by the terrorists who would kill Israeli civilians, it does not change the fact that none of the arguments against the security fence have any merit.

I think he misses the larger point of the purpose of the barrier, or more specifically that it fails in its ultimate purpose. The security barrier is intended to provide a defensible border against Palestinian terrorism. Yet, will the state prohibit all arabs from entering its borders, can it and will it completely block off all border crossing?

I don't believe that a wall of this sort can effectively stem terrorist attacks within Israel. Particularly, as the continued suppression of the Palestinians will only further feed the supply and resolve of terrorists.

Beyond this opinion, the wall marks a disturbing course for Israel, an evolution towards ever more right wing closed fist engagement, that not only seperates the country from Palestine, but isolates it ideologically from the western world as well. This plan just deosn't seem as though it offers up either a short run fix (i.e. less terrorists) or a long run solution, and deepens the problem.

Homeland Insecurity

via Tim Noah, at Slate, just unbelievable the lengths this administration will go to maintain the facade of competance, accountability and progress. On countless fronts (fiscal policy, Iraq war logistics, social security reform, healthcare reform, on and on and on...) now our parks aren't even safe.

The National Park Service formally terminated Teresa Chambers on July 9. Chambers is the Park Police chief who was canned this past December for answering truthfully some questions posed to her by a Washington Post reporter about how budget constraints had forced a reduction in police patrols in parks and on parkways around Washington, D.C. For months prior to that interview, we now know from an affidavit Chambers filed June 28, Chambers had been harassed by her two superiors, National Park Service Director Fran Mainella and Deputy Director Don Murphy, over her refusal to disguise within the Park Service and its parent agency, the Interior Department, these patrol reductions. (The reductions were potentially embarrassing because the Bush White House doesn't want to admit, even to itself, that it's not putting its money where its mouth is on homeland defense.) The National Park Service put Chambers on administrative leave for her sins. The expectation was that it would fire her. Now it has.

...The OSC agreed to take Chambers' case in February, but for inexplicable reasons it failed to act within the customary 120 days. "We just continued to give them extensions," Chambers told Chatterbox. After "about three weeks," however, Chambers decided to file her own complaint, as the law allows. The June 28 affidavit and the July 9 motion were both part of that effort. As is usual under such circumstances, the OSC will now withdraw from the case.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Picture Perfect

Kerry has more than a fighting chance to oust bush in November. W's poll numbers continue to slide.

wavering line of death

is here again, flickering on and off again on my ipod screen. Battery failure is clearly imminent. As great a product as it is, the durability, particularly of the battery just leaves me feeling a bit cheated. Considering the cost ($500) having the battery implode three times in under two years is unacceptable. And now my warrantee is up...

Friday, July 09, 2004

Best economy we've seen in years!?!

GE spewed its 2Q results this morning

GE's second quarter 2004 earnings were $3.9 billion, 3% higher than second quarter 2003, the Company announced today. Excluding non-cash earnings from GE's principal pension plans, earnings increased 9%.
"Our earnings per share for the second quarter of 38 cents exceeded our previous guidance of 37 cents, as nine of 11 businesses contributed double-digit improvements to earnings and first-half cash from operating activities grew 61% over last year," said GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt. "Orders continue to be strong, growing at 13%, with services orders up 29%. This is the best economy we've seen in years.

But here's where I fall off the boat, consolidated revenues rose 11% yr/yr, but costs and expenses rose 14%, well ahead of the top line gain.

So what's driving the EPS gain??? Corporate income taxes paid fell to $816 million from $1.216 billion in the prior year, nicely picking up the slack for lower pre-tax income of $4.74 billion (down from $5.01 billion). With the gov't picking up the check I would hope those added expenses are going towards hiring, though you wouldn't know it from the june payroll numbers.

How can reporters write on GE's earnings and not mention the tax reduction driving the EPS gain?