Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

People like Washington Post national political editor John Harris get really upset when you tell them that although their reporters--some of their reporters--have credibility, the Washington Post operation as a whole has none. Here's an example not from the print but the web side of the operation:

Eleanor Clift writes a story called "The Biggest Political Lies of 2005" and the liars are... "the White House declaration that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby had nothing to do with leaking the identity of a covert CIA agent... the White House... “everybody saw the same intelligence we did”... Bush .. “We do not torture”... Cheney... “the insurgency is in its last throes”... The revelation that President Bush authorized spying on American citizens without warrants... Bush says he bypassed the law because of the need for speed...the facts say otherwise... Bush’s explanation is riddled with lies... Alito wants us to believe he was a callow young thirtysomething who advocated far-right positions to curry favor for a job. The White House is telling senators that Alito didn’t mean all those things he wrote about disregarding privacy rights and overturning Roe v. Wade—another big lie. No wonder this year’s list was so easy to put together..."

What headline does WPNI put on the story? "Who told the worst political untruth of 2005? It's a shame the list of contenders is so long." What is Clift's list of contenders: Bush, Cheney, and Alito. That's not a long list at all. "But maybe," some editor or headline writer at WPNI thought, "we can get all the people who simply scan the headlines to think that Eleanor Clift is saying something very different from what she actually says."

Thou has conquered, Galilean! Or maybe not. Ross Douthat wants to re-Christianize America's public life: - Daily Dish: [S]erious Christians who worry about the naked public square don't rejoice when a Ten Commandments display... passes muster as "ceremonial deism."... [W]hen Christians cede control of their symbols to the mass culture, it's only a short jog to ceding control of Christianity itself to what you might call the American heresy - the gospel of success.... This could be an argument for withdrawal and quietism - for Christians to abandon the public square entirely, and focus on cultivating an orthodox subculture in a more materialist sea. But that's the counsel of despair. If the mass culture is really so bad for Christianity, maybe Christians ought to be doing more to change it, instead of letting it change them - which is what that whole "salt of the earth" thing was supposed to be about, I think. Changing the culture is hard to do, of course - a lot harder than winning Pledge of Allegiance battles, or even elections. But people (right or left, but the left has understood this better for some time) who think that culture wars are mainly about politics are kidding themselves...

In this endeavor, however, he has a big problem. His eager foot soldiers in the re-Christianization campaign turn out to be people like... well, like... Thomas Sowell who, to put it as politely as I can, certainly doesn't seem to know the True Meaning of Christmas:

Thomas Sowell: It was just a small thing but I was taken aback when I received a memo saying that the offices at work would be shut down during "winter closure." Then it dawned on me that "winter closure" was what we used to call "Christmas vacation."... The idea is that any mention of Christmas might offend people who are not Christians —- and that this should be avoided at all costs.... Christmas is now one of many things that make us walk on eggshells during this supposedly liberated era. Are we all wimps? Over the years, we have gotten used to the American Civil Liberties Union launching legalistic jihads against recognitions of Christmas, in between coming to the rescue of murderers and terrorists....

Note, first, that the "offices at work" to which Sowell refers to are the offices of Stanford's Hoover Institution for War, Revolution, and Peace, famed right-wing think tank--I recall one Stanford mainline economics professor saying, "Well, if he's a right wing nut I could get him a job at the Hoover Institution." If even the bosses of the Hoover Institution don't think it's worth pandering to Sowell's sensitivities...

Note, second, that when Thomas Sowell thinks of Christmas, his mind jumps to the ideas that (i) it is important not to be a wimp and (ii) it is important to HATE the ACLU, which is always "coming to the rescue of murderers and terrorists." This is not attractive. This is not even Christian--or should not be Christian. This is not even sane: one has to pray that someone will adjust Sowell's meds so that he can find a measure of peace.

Ross would not like what he would see if he accomplished his task. Not at all. As long as Thomas Sowell and company are his Christian soldiers in the public sphere, nobody sane can much care for it. As Ross knows very well: he shudders at the prospect of "more Christians making the case against same-sex marriage, or pushing all their chips into the battle over courthouse displays in Alabama."

Vastly preferable to a re-Christianization of the American public sphere spearheaded by the likes of Thomas Sowell is the further spread of the ethics of, say, Hollywood, as expressed in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure: "Be excellent to each other! Party on, dudes!" Those are sentiments Jesus would have a much easier time getting behind than those of our troubled Brother Thomas (see Mark 2:19, Luke 6:27).

So here is a story that we tell in order to make us less likely to behave like Thomas Sowell, and more likely to behave like Bill and Ted:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

Be excellent to each other. Party on, dudes and dudettes. Merry Christmas, everyone.

So I innocently clicked on a link and found myself reading Donald Luskin. That hasn't happened before. Memo to self: be sure to check the "status" bar before you click.

It was a near-run thing. After reading a paragraph and a half, the Stupidity Rays emanating from the LCD screen had nearly paralyzed me. I was barely able to press the "back" button before unconsciousness overtook me...

Here's what I found: a defense of the corrupt Peter Ferrara and Doug Bandow:

Donald Luskin: Peter Ferrara and Doug Bandow for taking money from indicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, allegedly in exchange for writing op-ed columns favorable to Abramoff's clients. Yes, the immediate intuition is that these men's ethics were compromised here. But, really, this is a little issue. Where's the beef? Everyone -- think-tankers, op-ed writers, etc. -- gets paid by someone. And those who pay, naturally, choose to pay scholars and journalists who tend to already agree with them. It seems unlikely, then, that Ferrara or Bandow would have written anything different whether or not Abramoff paid them.

Luskin genuinely does not seem to understand -- I am not kidding, he genuinely does not seem to understand -- that the big issue is Ferrara's and Bandow's hiding who was paying them. If Ferrara and Bandow (and the others) had written, at the bottom of the op-eds they sent to newspapers, "this op-ed was commissioned and paid for by Abramoff Associates as part of its paid lobbying effort for client X," there would be no problem here--and Bandow wouldn't have been fired from Cato, and Ferrara's Institute for Policy Innovation might have a reputation that was not flushed down the toilet.

Luskin does not seem to understand -- I am not kidding, he genuinely does not seem to understand -- that Abramoff pays for results. If Ferraro and Bandow would have written the same things without Abramoff paying them, he wouldn't have paid them.

And Luskin does not seem to understand -- I am not kidding, he genuinely does not seem to understand -- how things work over here in the reality-based community. Here in the U.C. Berkeley Economics Department we've looked at fifty files for the assistant professors we're going to be hiring over the next couple of months. The one question we never ask is "Does he or she agree with us?" The two questions we always ask are "How interesting is the topic?" and "How good is the work?" We want people who will help us teach and will help teach us--whether they are students of Joseph Stiglitz or Martin Feldstein or Larry Katz or James Heckman. I know I'm proud to have played a (alas, very small) part in the education of Randy Kroszner and Robin Hanson, both far to my right. I know that Hal Varian is proud to have played a part in the education of Dean Baker, far to his left. The key for us is something it never occurs to Luskin we might care about: the quality of the work, not the allegiance to a particular group of politicians--for, as Max Sawicky wrote yesterday, "If you don't think the Democratic Party doesn't have the same potential for lyin, cheatin, and stealin [as the current Republican Leadership], you are gravely misinformed. The only constraint on the abuse of power -- besides an opposition lurking in the wings -- is an engaged, informed public..."

Mark Thoma tells us that we should go read the San Francisco Fed's Mark Doms:

Economist's View: Technological Diffusion : The San Francisco Fed's Mark Doms discusses his work with Ethan Lewis on the adoption of technology, in this case the use of personal computers. An interesting result is that higher average educational attainment for a region results in more intensive adoption of personal computers and faster growth in wages:

The Diffusion of Personal Computers across the U.S., FRBSF Economic Letter.... Doms and Lewis examine how the personal computer diffused throughout the U.S. economy from 1990 to 2002. Using a data set that reports technology use for hundreds of thousands of business establishments, the authors document the extent to which the intensity of use of personal computers (as measured by personal computers per 100 employees) varied across 160 metropolitan areas around the country....

The study found that in 1990, the San Francisco Bay Area was the most computer-intensive area in the country. Because the Bay Area is also home to many IT producers, this finding raises the question of whether one area may be more computer-intensive than another primarily because of the industries located in that area. For instance, the finance and high-tech industries are the most IT-intensive, regardless of location. Therefore, if an area has a large financial industry (like New York) or a high-tech center (like the Bay Area...), then that area might also be more computer-intensive than an area such as Hickory, N.C., where a larger share of the economy is based on furniture manufacturing (an industry that is not very IT-intensive).

The authors calculate computer-intensity measures that account for industry composition and still find very large and persistent differences across metropolitan areas in their computer usage in 1990 and again in 2002. Among others, the San Francisco Bay Area ranks very high, even after controlling for the industries located there.... The results... raise the question of why San Francisco might be out in front of most regions while others are so far behind. ...[T]wo factors ... appear to be particularly important: the human capital of an area (as measured by education) and the degree to which the area is an IT center and therefore generates spillovers to other industries in the area.... Doms and Lewis address the question of causation: Does computer adoption affect the education level of the workforce or does the education level of the workforce affect computer adoption? Using several approaches, Doms and Lewis find strong evidence that the education level of the workforce results in higher rates of computer adoption... cities with a higher share of the workforce that has completed 16 years or more of education... in 1990 are also cities that had high rates of computer adoption by 2002.

Another reason for differences between metropolitan areas... is that some benefit from the presence of a strong IT-producing sector... "spillover effects."... [T]he importance of these spillovers seems to be much less important in explaining cross-area differences in computer adoption than the overall level of education.... [A]reas that successfully adopt technologies tend to have superior economic performance. Consistent with this, Doms and Lewis find that areas that were computer-intensive in 1990 were also areas that enjoyed faster real wage growth for college-educated workers, and, to a lesser degree, for workers with less than a college education...

Max Sawicky and Duncan Black on the place of substantive policy analysis:

Max Sawicky writes:

MaxSpeak, You Listen!: WONK THIS WAY: Some people are saying that in an adverse political environment, research or policy are not very important.... [M]aybe I can still convince you this is a mistaken belief.... People don't like unnecessary wars and Congressional corruption, but they aren't crazy about moving to an ample, generous welfare state either. There is no mass outrage over our unsustainable fiscal policy, or the ginormous trade deficits. Concern for poverty in the wake of Katrina has vanished faster than a sunshower. The Bushists may lie like the dickens, but at bottom in many cases their messages are founded on certain commonsensical notions. And not infrequently, Democratic politicians talk absolute rubbish. The Repubs' messages are highly debatable, and from my standpoint invariably wrong, to be sure, but they are not hollow.

For some to discount facts is understandable since they often fail to appreciate how difficult it is to ascertain and document important facts. They dismiss policy analysis and research because they don't do it, don't know how to do it, and don't understand what role it plays in the political process. I know you are begging for some examples, if you are still reading. What was the most important social policy fight this year? It was Social Security. The Bush initiative did not fail because people ran around screaming that investing in stocks is risky. Of course any fool knows that investing is risky, and any fool with enough money is going to invest. I do. So why did privatization go down?

I think in this case the most credit goes to Peter Orszag of Brookings, Jason Furman, currently at New York University, and Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Orszag's work had an impact on AARP, and AARP's voice is significant. Furman did yeoman work as well. Dean had already written a book that anticipated the entire debate. EPI did a raft of papers that I think had an impact on our main audience -- journalists and Hill staff. The fruits of all this sort of work made their way into blogs and mass media, but there were informed sources. It wasn't some tricky advertising guru or dude in pajamas.... When good research gets into Congressional offices, it has an impact, even if you never hear about it. A knowledgeable staffer can look at something he or she disagrees with and still appreciate that it can present a political problem if it circulates....

[T]o give the public something substantive that it can take to heart is the basis for progressive transformation of society.... Otherwise we're looking a rotating bands of miscreants, alternatively taking office, raiding the till, and getting thrown out by the next cohort of miscreants-to-be. If you don't think the Democratic Party doesn't have the same potential for lyin, cheatin, and stealin, you are gravely misinformed. The only constraint on the abuse of power -- besides an opposition lurking in the wings -- is an engaged, informed public. Being angry and stupid isn't good enough...

And DuncanBlack chimes in:

Just to add to the earlier discussion, it wasn't all that long ago that Left Blogistan was dominated by boring boring repetitive wonky wonkery of the most wonkish kind - during the Social Security Bamboozlepalooza tour. The president was lying, the Trustees' various reports were based on contradictory internal assumptions, and journamalists didn't know what the hell was going. We came, we wonk'd, and we kicked some ass.

...adding, I wrote this before reading Max's post but he is of course absolutely right. It was something I left out of the earlier post but shouldn't have. While I don't see wonkery as an especially important part of the day to day public discourse - by pundits, bloggers, columnists, and even politicians - that doesn't mean that the Wonks in Exile shouldn't be toiling away in their wonky dungeons doing the FSM's work. Research should be done, policy proposals written, etc... I just don't think that, in general, such things are an especially important feature of our public debate at the moment. There are exceptions and having the wonky tools in place when they arise is crucial. But even the social security debate was basically a defensive one. Such wonkery is necessary when those moments arise, but there's little point in having public debates about detailed policies which can't possibly pass, etc...

Another good Paul Krugman column:

The Tax-Cut Zombies - New York Times : Since the 1970's, conservatives have used two theories to justify cutting taxes. One theory, supply-side economics, has always been hokum for the yokels. Conservative insiders adopted the supply-siders as mascots because they were useful to the cause, but never took them seriously.

The insiders' theory - what we might call the true tax-cut theory - was memorably described by David Stockman, Ronald Reagan's budget director, as "starving the beast." Proponents of this theory argue that conservatives should seek tax cuts not because they won't create budget deficits, but because they will. Starve-the-beasters believe that budget deficits will lead to spending cuts that will eventually achieve their true aim: shrinking the government's role back to what it was under Calvin Coolidge.

True to form, the insiders aren't buying the supply-siders' claim that a partial recovery in federal tax receipts from their plunge between 2000 and 2003 shows that all's well on the fiscal front. (Revenue remains lower, and the federal budget deeper in deficit, than anyone expected a few years ago.) Instead, conservative heavyweights are using the budget deficit to call for cuts in key government programs. For example, in 2001 Alan Greenspan urged Congress to cut taxes to avoid running an excessively large budget surplus. Now he issues dire warnings about "fiscal instability." But rather than urging Congress to reverse the tax cuts he helped sell, he talks of the need to cut future Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Yet at this point starve-the-beast theory looks as silly as supply-side economics. Although a disciplined conservative movement has controlled Congress and the White House for five years - and presided over record deficits - public opposition has prevented any significant cuts in the big social-insurance programs that dominate domestic spending.

In fact, two years ago the Bush administration actually pushed through a major expansion in Medicare. True, the prescription drug bill clearly wasn't written by liberals. To a significant extent it's a giveaway to drug companies rather than a benefit for retirees. But all that corporate welfare makes the program more expensive, not less.

Conservative intellectuals had high hopes that this year President Bush would make up for this betrayal of their doctrine by dealing a death blow to Social Security as we know it. Indeed, he tried. His proposed "reform" would, over time, have essentially phased out the program. And he seemed to have everything going for him: momentum from an election victory, control of Congress and a highly sympathetic punditocracy. Yet the drive for privatization quickly degenerated from a juggernaut into a farce.

Medicaid, whose recipients are less likely to vote than the average person getting Social Security or Medicare, is the softest target among major federal social-insurance programs. But even members of Congress, it seems, have consciences. (Well, some of them.) It took intense arm-twisting from the Republican leadership, and that tie-breaking vote by Mr. Cheney, to ram through even modest cuts in aid to the neediest.

In other words, the starve-the-beast theory - like missile defense - has been tested under the most favorable possible circumstances, and failed. So there is no longer any coherent justification for further tax cuts. Yet... even as Congressional leaders struggled to pass a tiny package of mean-spirited spending cuts, they pushed forward with a much larger package of tax cuts. The benefits of those cuts, as always, will go disproportionately to the wealthy.

Here's how I see it: Republicans have turned into tax-cut zombies. They can't remember why they originally wanted to cut taxes, they can't explain how they plan to make up for the lost revenue, and they don't care. Instead, they just keep shambling forward, always hungry for more.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Eric Umansky finds Marty Lederman explaining what is going on:

Marty Lederman : The rhetoric of "inherent" presidential power is obscuring what's at issue here. Perhaps he would have had the power to authorize some of this conduct (hard to tell how much -- we don't know enough about it) had federal law never addressed the issue. But this is not a case in which the President acted with Congress's consent, where his authority is at its apex; nor where he acted unilaterally, in the face of congressional silence. Instead, this is a case in which the American public had a comprehensive, contentious, and long public debate, borne of a serious history of government abuse, and our elected representatives -- both Executive and Legislature -- regulated this subject matter in great detail (going so far as to enact a specific exigency-in-war provision), and flatly prohibited the conduct in question -- a consensus resolution that all three branches and the public came to rely upon and take for granted as common ground for almost 30 years.

Instead of moving to change that, the Administration simply decided to circumvent what the Legislature had already decided to do. And they did so without even telling the legislature about it, let alone the public. Indeed, they kept acting as if all was just as it had been for 25+ years. And then when they were found out, their explanation was that the legislature had, unknowingly, effected a radical change in the law when they voted to allow the use of force against Al Qaeda -- i.e, they blamed it on Congress, which is, not surprisingly, a form of argument ("we know better than you what you intended") that seems to have really set off many folks on the Hill (and on the FISA court, whose judges were also played for dupes).

This is, in other words, a classic Youngstown Category III case of an imperial Executive, not acting unilaterally, as Lincoln did, or in conformity with legislative will (as Lincoln claimed to be doing -- he agreed to abide by whatever limitations the Congress enacted), but instead in direct violation of the decisions that were reached in the democratic process. I hope that would be, and will be viewed as, deeply problematic, regardless of one's views on the merits of whether we ought to have a system of data mining...

Impeach George W. Bush. Impeach Richard Cheney. Do it now.

David Wessel makes four predictions for 2006. Hasn't anyone told him that you predict either a number (or an event) or a date, but not both? - Capital : Making predictions in a column requires balance between the provocative (and implausible) and the plausible (and dull). With that goal, here are four educated guesses about 2006.

Ben Bernanke's first interest-rate move as U.S. Federal Reserve chairman will be to cut rates.... Mr. Bernanke aced his confirmation hearings. Now come... Avoiding quips that unintentionally move markets.... And... moving rates the right way.... The next call is Mr. Bernanke's.... with oil prices receding, and with wages rising (painfully) slowly while productivity climbs (encouragingly) briskly, inflation is barely stirring.... Mr. Bernanke may... leave [interest rates] alone until a weakening economy some day causes him to cut rates.

A big bankruptcy will rattle the U.S., and shake political support for unfettered global trade. Maybe it will be General Motors, maybe Ford Motor, maybe some other old, unionized industrial company... bankruptcy court... is a way to shed not only debt, but also union contracts and health and pension benefits.... The workers who get hurt are those who played by all the rules. That doesn't sit well with the public, even with consumers who cheerfully buy Japanese cars or Chinese sweaters.... An epochal bankruptcy could push Congress to impose tariffs or to force the Bush administration to do more than jawbone China on exchange rates or to block approval of new free-trade pacts.

Health care will emerge as a big issue in the 2006 U.S. congressional elections, forcing 2008 presidential candidates to promise action. In 1991, neophyte politician Harris Wofford became the first Democrat to win a U.S. Senate seat from Pennsylvania in about 30 years by arguing that every American should have the right to health care.... now big companies, which helped thwart the Clintons and shunned John Kerry's health-care proposals, are really worried. When the public and big business agree on an issue, it finds its way onto the national agenda....

The gap between winners and losers in the U.S. will keep widening. In a 1998 book, a colleague and I predicted technology would propel faster economic growth and a growing supply of educated workers would narrow the gap between high- and low-paid workers over the ensuing 20 years. We were right on the first, and only temporarily (in the late 1990s) right on the second. Next year won't help our case. By nearly every measure... inequality is growing.... The politicians in charge believe resisting these forces is counterproductive.... Mr. Greenspan, a card-carrying conservative, sees a need to do more than we are. "Equal opportunity requires equal access to knowledge," he has said. "We cannot expect everyone to be equally skilled. But we need to pursue equality of opportunity to ensure that our economic system works at maximum efficiency and is perceived as just."

Francisco Franco is still dead. Except in the archives of National Review, that is, where he is the glorious hero with a righteous cause who saved the day--an integral part of Western civilization--the man to whom Spain looks for leadership.

Yes, National Review praises military coups, the overthrow of democratic governments, the imperative need to side with neither Churchill nor Hitler, and that integral part of Western civilization that was Francisco Franco:

October 26, 1957: General Franco is an authentic national hero... [with the] talents, the perseverance, and the sense of the righteousness of his cause, that were required to wrest Spain from the hands of the visionaries, ideologues, Marxists, and nihilists that were imposing... a regime so grotesque as to do violence to the Spanish soul, to deny, even, Spain's historical destiny. He saved the day.... The need was imperative... for a national policy [to]... make this concession to Churchill this morning, that one to Hitler this afternoon.... Franco reigns... supreme. He is not an oppressive dictator.... only as oppressive as is necessary to maintain total power...

March 9, 1957: Franco is a part, and an integral part, of Western civilization... [the] convergence of the multifarious political philosophical, religious, and cultural tendencies that have shaped Spanish history... the man to whom the Spanish people look--as the Chinese have looked to Chiang [Kaishek], for all his faults--for leadership.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The New York Times has Times-Select, which grants you access to its op-ed columnists. The Washington Post has Post-Future-Select, which grants you access to its op-ed columnists future writings. Here we have Charles Krauthammer's column from March 23, 2008, with some strange parallels to his column of December 23, 2005:

TERM LIMITS NONSENSE: By Charles Krauthammer: March 23, 2008: The past seven years have already been the age of the demagogue, having been dominated by the endlessly echoed falsehoods that the president has "violated the Constitution." But today brings yet another round of demagoguery. Administration critics, political and media, charge that by running for a third term, the president has so trampled the Constitution that impeachment should now be considered. (Barbara Boxer, Jonathan Alter, John Dean and various luminaries of the left have already begun floating the idea.) The braying herds have already concluded, Tenet-, Powell-, Hegel-, Sununu-, and Kerry-like, that the president's running for a third term is slam-dunk illegal and unconstitutional. It takes a superior mix of partisanship, animus and ignorance to say that.

Is the president constitutionally prohibited from running for a third term? Law professor Alberto Gonzales (one critic calls him the man who "literally wrote the book on today's legal struggles") finds "pretty decent arguments" on both sides, but his own conclusion is that Bush's actions are "probably constitutional." It is true that Congress and the States tried to restrict the ability of presidents to run for a third term with the Twenty-Second amendment but, as Attorney General Harriet Miers wrote, "No president has denied that he retained inherent power to run for a third term and, if elected, to reassume office" if the dire necessity of war demanded it. It is true that no president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has chosen, so far, to run for a third term. But can it possibly be the case that in these perilous times a president has less power than FDR did? And the unwritten prohibition that Roosevelt broke in deciding to run for a third term because of the necessity of World War II was a stronger law--hallowed by the example of Washington, Jackson, and Lincoln--than a dubious amendment that has never been tested.

President Bush's circumvention of the so-called Twenty-Second Amendment is a classic separation-of-powers dispute in the area in which these powers are most in dispute. For the past four decades, presidents have adhered to the Twenty-Second Amendment for reasons of prudence, to avoid a constitutional fight with Congress, and because the times were not so dire as to require, say, a third term for Ronald Reagan. The fact that past presidents have acquiesced in the Twenty-Second Amendment in no way binds future executives to obey its silly restrictions, so dangerous to our country in circumstances like these.

Attorney General Harriet Miers argues that Bush's use of presidential necessity to override the so-called Twenty-Second Amendment with its illegal and unconstitutional restrictions on presidential terms is firmly established by Justice Yoo's decision in Kollar-Kotelly v. NSA. In that opinion, John Yoo deemed legal the NSA "vacuum cleaner" scanning of all electronic communications whatsoever, and allowed the transfer of Judge Kollar-Kotelly to Guantanamo to be held as an "enemy combatant." "The Fourth Amendment cannot stand against the necessities of wartime," Justice Yoo wrote, "and who is a more effective combatant for the enemy than one who tries to hobble America's ability to kill terrorists through pointless legalisms?" It follows logically that the Twenty-Second Amendment cannot stand either if necessity is opposed--and who can doubt that it is, that only George W. Bush is it to helm the ship of state?

This is a war, dammit!

The official Economic Policy Institute talking points on the economy:

MaxSpeak, You Listen!: TALKING POINTS ON THE ECONOMY: From my fearless leaders Larry Mishel and Ross Eisenbrey:

  1. Profits are up, but the wages and the incomes of average Americans are down.

    • Inflation-adjusted hourly and weekly wages are still below where they were at the start of the recovery in November 2001. Yet, productivity--the growth of the economic pie--is up by 13.5%.
    • Wage growth has been shortchanged because 35% of the growth of total income in the corporate sector has been distributed as corporate profits, far more than the 22% in previous periods.
    • Consequently, median household income (inflation-adjusted) has fallen five years in a row and was 4% lower in 2004 than in 1999, falling from $46,129 to $44,389.
  2. More and more people are deeper and deeper in debt.

    • The indebtedness of U.S. households, after adjusting for inflation, has risen 35.7% over the last four years.
    • The level of debt as a percent of after-tax income is the highest ever measured in our history. Mortgage and consumer debt is now 115% of after-tax income, twice the level of 30 years ago.
    • The debt-service ratio (the percent of after-tax income that goes to pay off debts) is at an all-time high of 13.6%.
    • The personal savings rate is negative for the first time since WWII.
  3. Job creation has not kept up with population growth, and the employment rate has fallen sharply.

    • The United States has only 1.3% more jobs today (excluding the effects of Hurricane Katrina) than in March 2001 (the start of the recession). Private sector jobs are up only 0.8%. At this stage of previous business cycles, jobs had grown by an average of 8.8% and never less than 6.0%.
    • The unemployment rate is relatively low at 5%, but still higher than the 4% in 2000. Plus, the percent of the population that has a job has never recovered since the recession and is still 1.3% lower than in March 2001. If the employment rate had returned to pre-recession levels, 3 million more people would be employed.
  4. More than 3 million manufacturing jobs have been lost since January 2000.

  5. Poverty is on the rise.

    • The poverty rate rose from 11.7% in 2001 to 12.7% in 2004.
    • The number of people living in poverty has increased by 5.4 million since 2000.
    • More children are living in poverty: the child poverty rate increased from 16.3% in 2001 to 17.8% in 2004.
  6. Rising health care costs are eroding families' already declining income.

    • Households are spending more on health care. Family health costs rose 43-45% for married couples with children, single mothers, and young singles from 2000 to 2003.
    • Employers are cutting back on health insurance. Last year, the percent of people with employer-provided health insurance fell for the fourth year in a row. Nearly 3.7 million fewer people had employer-provided insurance in 2004 than in 2000. Taking population growth into account, 11 million more people would have had employer-provided health insurance in 2004 if the coverage rate had remained at the 2000 level.

I'm not sure (4) is right--the measured poverty rate is up, but I'm not sure we know more than that. And I'd say in (1) that real wages and incomes have been flat while productivity has raced ahead, rather than that real wages and incomes are down. But otherwise I'll get out the rubber stamp and the inkpad...

Today in "Dan Froomkin's 'Cooking with Walnuts'" we learn that walnuts are a perfectly effective substitute for pine nuts in making pesto sauce... No, that's not it, today Dan Froomkin tries to figure out why any reporter who is not a nutcase would sit quietly through Scott McClellan briefings, rather than spend his time doing something else that he might learn something from. The question is a very hard nut to crack. I do know that those times I have sat quietly in the corner of the Starbucks across the street from the White House compound with my ears open listening to the low-level staffers talk while they wait in the latte line--well, that you can learn more there in half an hour than in two whole days spent in the White House Briefing Room.

Briefing Room Follies: Mark Leibovich opens his Style section profile of Scott McClellan with this absolutely priceless anecdote: "President Bush bounded... into the Roosevelt Room.... 'Is Scotty here? Where's Scotty?' Bush asked, half-grinning.... 'I want to especially thank Scotty,' the president said, looking at his aide. 'I want to thank Scotty for saying' -- and he paused for effect..." 'Nothing.'"

Leibovich's story... suggests that [McClellan's] penchant for robotic repetition of meaningless stock phrases is just a matter of following orders. "'We've come to understand that no matter how we slice and dice something, Scott's going to stick to the recipe,' says Ken Herman, White House correspondent for Cox News Service. 'I can't think of any topic where on the sixth or seventh iteration of a question we get something different from the original answer. By somebody's measure, that's the definition of doing the job well. Certainly not ours.'..."

It has diminished the daily briefing to a playacting spectacle in which he recites lines while reporters play the part of exasperated inquisitors.... Yesterday's briefing provides an illustration. At mid-day, the Senate an the White House still appeared on a collision course on the Patriot Act....

Q: Scott, would the President veto a three-month extension of the Patriot Act? Is that something you can accept?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think we need to talk about what's going on here. What's going on here is pure obstructionist politics. A minority in the Senate, led by Senate Democrats, are putting politics above our nation's security. This bill has been thoroughly debated. It enjoys majority support. They need to give it an up or down vote and quit playing politics with our nation's security.
Q: So would the President veto a three-month extension?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President has already made his views known on that -- I expressed his views last week -- and nothing has changed in terms of our views. That's why it's important for them to go ahead and get this passed now.
Q: So you would veto a three-month extension?
MR. McCLELLAN: I expressed our view last week; nothing has changed.
Q: Can you tell me what that was again?
MR. McCLELLAN: You can see what I expressed last week. You know very well what it was....
Q: Will you use the word 'veto'? Why are you not using the word 'veto'?
MR. McCLELLAN: I expressed our views on that last week -- Q: But if you still stand by them, why won't you reiterate it?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, what I said last week still stands.
Q: Which is what?

It's like giving a direct answer would cause him pain or something....

And here we have Matthew Yglesias reminding us that a world in which Fred Barnes is able to blather in print or in electrons is an ugly, ugly thing:

TPMCafe || Things Are Great!: Several conservative writers seem concerned recently that the American people don't believe the economy is strong even though, allegedly, it's really super-strong. So they offer the White House advice on how to improve its communications strategy. Today, Fred Barnes:

Yet there's a strong case Bush and his aides can make for impressive economic gains at the individual level. True, rising healthcare costs have cut into the gains, but tax reductions have helped. By citing micro numbers or fleshing out macro numbers, the administration would convey this message: it's not just you who's doing well. Most Americans are. The country is. For instance, there's the growth in per capita disposable personal income from $26,424 in 2003 to $27,001 in 2004 and $27,365 in 2005. That's not all. In November, hourly wages were up 3.2 percent. And people are able to spend more. Real personal consumption spending has risen nearly 3 percent in the past year. True, these last two numbers are macro, but they're ones people can understand.

Sadly, per capita numbers don't really tell you anything about how "most" people are doing. But here on the White House Economic Statistic Briefing Room website we have a link to median household income data. Median household income in 2004 was $44,389 which is a lot by world standards. But in 2003 it was $44,482 which was more. In 2002 it was $44,546 which was even more. In 2001 it was $45,062 which was even more. In 2000 it was $46,058 which was even more. In 1999 it was $46,129 which was even more. In 1998 it was $45,003 which was less, but still higher than today's median. And if you go all the way back to 1997, it was $43,430 -- lower than it is today.

That's the sort of thing that probably lies behind dour economic sentiments. Lots of people -- most, really -- haven't been doing all that well. Now at the same time, it would be foolish to pretend we're living through some kind of economic catastrophe. America is still a very rich country, GDP is growing a lot, there's a lot of productivity growth, and thanks to a rise in asset prices people have been able to keep ramping up consumption even while incomes fall slightly. In other words, there's an interesting story to tell here and a bit of a puzzle. Presumably, we'd all like median incomes to go up, rather than down; to understand this trend and wonder what can be done about it. Wouldn't it be more worthwhile to let the White House write its own propaganda and spend some time thinking about that?

If I had infinite hours in the day: Digby writes: "Richard Morion pollster for the Washington Post actually had the temerity to write this drivel yesterday in an online chat: 'Naperville, Ill.: Why haven't you polled on public support for the impeachment of George W. Bush? Richard Morin: This question makes me mad... Seattle, Wash.: How come ABC News/Post poll has not yet polled on impeachment?Richard Morin: Getting madder... Haymarket, Va.: With all the recent scandals and illegal/unconstitutional actions of the President, why hasn't ABC News / Washington Post polled whether the President should be impeached? Richard Morin: Madder still.... [W]e do not ask about impeachment because it is not a serious option or a topic of considered discussion....' Jane points to this Media Matters report: 'A January 1998 Post poll conducted just days after the first revelations of Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky asked the following questions: "If this affair did happen and if Clinton did not resign, is this something for which Clinton should be impeached, or not?"... Morin was the Post's polling director at the time.'... The Washington Post ate it up with a spoon, sending out their pollster post-haste to take the public's temperature on [Lewinsky].... Today, the same pollster gets mad when people bring up the idea of impeachment in the context of a hugely unpopular president lying about national security.... Media Matters asks: 'Please explain WHY a question asking if President Bush should be impeached if he lied to the country about war is "biased". Please also explain how this is consistent with polls the Post ran -- under your direction, I might add -- in 1998 asking whether then-President Clinton should be impeached if he had an affair with Monica Lewinsky. Do you now believe those questions you asked -- and reported on -- throughout 1998 were "biased"?... Why does The Post think it is appropriate to raise the spectre of impeachment when there is a Democratic president, but not when there is a Republican in office?...'" Dahlia Lithwick: "Why won't the Bush administration obey the law?.... It now appears, however, that while the American people thought they were bargaining in good faith with their president, he was nodding and smiling and taking what he wanted in secret. At the start of this "war," Congress thought it was authorizing the use of force in Afghanistan. But now we've learned that in so doing it also gave the president limitless powers to break the law. Congress thought it was passing the Patriot Act. But it was actually giving the government broad and seemingly open-ended new surveillance authority. We believed the executive branch to be bound by the rule of law--by the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions and the ancient writ of habeas corpus. But the president was redefining torture, disregarding international conventions, and granting himself broad discretion to name and imprison enemy combatants for years on end. Americans believed they were bargaining in good faith with their government over the original deal struck in 1978 when Congress enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. FISA was supposed to represent a compromise between security and civil liberties, by making it illegal to spy on Americans without judicial oversight but setting the bar for such oversight quite low. Even as amended by the Patriot Act--which further lowered the standards for a FISA warrant--the statute still purported to adhere to the fundamental bargain: Americans would not be spied upon by their government without basic constitutional checks in place..." "Seriously, when I first read this AP report on Dr. Frist.... These guys have slipped the bonds of normal corruption so completely.... 'WASHINGTON - Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's AIDS charity paid nearly a half-million dollars in consulting fees to members of his political inner circle...'" "Also, Two Wrongs are the New Right - Wonkette: In the wake of revelations that the Bush administration conducted a campaign of illegal wiretaps pursuant to matters that are widely claimed to be vital to the national interest yet simultaneously devoid of any evidence that the legal avenues available to the President were insufficient to the pursuit thereof, it's possible to imagine that dull-witted, tranked-up press corps failing to ask any number of questions. Like: Why, Mr. President, are you so angry about the Patriot Act filibuster when you seem jolly well disposed to conferring whatever powers you like upon yourself? Like: What part of "You have seventy-two hours to seek a warrant after the initiation of a wiretap" don't you understand? Like: Why can't you and the idea of separation of powers just hug it out, bitch? Nevertheless, some hopeful and naive part of us still wonders why no one is questioning one of the central planks in the Administration's defense of their actions, namely: "Hey, it's totally okay that we are wiretapping American citizens without legal authority because we totally briefed some Democrats that we were going to be doing it." That's an extraordinarily bizarre justification! Since when does briefing members of the opposition party have boo-boo-poopy to do with something being legal or not? You'd think that the Bush administration could more fully harness their crazy-ass "let's brief the Democrats" power by gathering the gang of four and telling them you were going to save the taxpayers some scratch by knocking over a few jewelry stores. We wish we could avail ourselves of this executive privilege, unfortunately, down here in the real world where we common folk live, the po-po have a name for what Bush suggests gives him legal cover: criminal conspiracy." "Compromise Reached at As per the request of the Print Post, Froomkin's column is clearly marked opinion. This distinguishes it from the "[news] analysis" by Peter Baker. This makes it easy for non-cognoscenti to learn the difference between analysis (which is ok for reporters) and opinion (which is not). For example, in opinion you can write that the president is lying, but in analysis you have to write that "most everywhere in Washington outside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue" thinks the President was lying.... I guess one might imagine [that there might be] someone who wasn't sure that Mr Baker counts himself among "most everyone." As punishment for being liberal and being thought to be a Post White House reporter by [Republican operative] Patrick Ruffini and a liberal to be named later, Froomkin gets moved from the lower left hand corner of the web page where to see his name you have to scroll (or buy a huge monitor) up to front and center..." Kevin Drum: "TAKING TERRORISM SERIOUSLY.... Part 1 of a multi-zillion word story about the trials and tribulations of the Department of Homeland Security is running in the Washington Post today, and a lot of it is pretty much what you'd expect: a huge new agency trying desperately to deal with turf wars, lack of leadership, and budget issues. But they also had to deal with political cronyism, as Tom Ridge and Christine Todd Whitman discovered: 'One stark example was the White House's blockade of a Ridge-supported plan to secure large chemical plants. After Sept. 11, Whitman had worked with Ridge on a modest effort to require high-risk plants -- especially the 123 factories where a toxic release could endanger at least 1 million people -- to enhance security. But industry groups warned Bush political adviser Karl Rove that giving new regulatory power to the Environmental Protection Agency would be a disaster.... In an interagency meeting shortly before DHS's birth, White House budget official Philip J. Perry, who also happens to be Cheney's son-in-law, declared the Ridge-Whitman plan dead. "Tom and I would just throw our hands up in frustration over that issue,' Whitman recalled. This is the most infuriating aspect of George Bush's approach to terrorism: that he treats it as a partisan weapon instead of a genuinely serious business. Chemical plants really are a prime target for terrorists, but Dick Cheney doesn't want to annoy his corporate pals, so EPA's plans to address it get shelved. WMD counterproliferation really is important, but it's not very sexy and doesn't serve any partisan ends since Democrats support it too. So it's ignored and underfunded. Detention of enemy combatants when the enemy is an amorphous group like al-Qaeda is a genuinely vexing issue that deserves a serious bipartisan airing, but the Justice Department treats it like a child's game, inviting barely concealed rage from a conservative judge who thought this was supposed to be life-and-death stuff." Matthew Yglesias writes: "The Bush administration has taken to likening revelations of its illegal activities to the time The Washington Times allegedly messed up surveillance of Osama bin Laden by reporting that he was using a satellite phone to communicate with the outside world. That was certainly the story the Clinton administration always told, and Daniel Benjamin -- Clinton NSC veteran and TPMCafer -- repeats the story while disputing the analogy. Glenn Kessler, writing in today's Washington Post, says the whole thing is an urban legend. Apparently Time reported that bin Laden used a satellite phone in 1996, citing Taliban sources, and Peter Bergen reported that bin Laden used a satellite phone on CNN in 1997 citing... Osama bin Laden as his source. The Times article, meanwhile, didn't say that the US government was tracking bin Laden through the phone, it just said he used a satellite phone, which several media outlets had previously reported. And whether or not it had been previously reported, presumably this is something bin Laden would have already known anyway. So... what's going on? "Sen. Chuck Hagel said Wednesday that Americans can be protected against terrorism without violating the law or ignoring civil rights.... 'We are a nation of laws. You cannot avoid or dismiss a law.' At issue, Hagel said, is whether the decision to order such surveillance violates a 1978 law requiring approval by a secret U.S. foreign intelligence surveillance court.... Asked about Vice President Dick Cheney's warning that Bush’s critics could pay a heavy political price, Hagel said: 'My oath is to the Constitution, not to a vice president, a president or a political party.' Hagel said he's determined to 'do what I think is right for the people I represent and the country I serve.'..." Abu Aardvark: "Michael Rubin's review of George Packer's Assassin's Gate is a thing of such rare beauty that one hardly dares look at it directly for fear of spoiling it. Shorter George Packer: 'the neo-conservatives told us magical stories of fairies and unicorns who would shower us with hugs and puppies, which we really wanted to believe but in retrospect probably shouldn't have. Doh!' Shorter Michael Rubin: 'Packer dishonestly fails to tell us about the fairies and unicorns we found in Iraq, or how they showered us with hugs and puppies.' Coming soon - Rubin's expose about how the State Department, egged on by Juan Cole and John Kerry, mercilessly murdered all the fairies and unicorns just before they could shower us with hugs and puppies. Also, his detailed analytical account of Ahmed Chalabi's triumphant sweep through this December's Parliamentary elections, which only he accurately predicted - with a detailed dissection of the literally thousands of Iraqi National Congress votes that he'd just like to see so-called Iraq experts explain away!"

From George Packer (2005), The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq (New York: FSG: 0374299633) Colin Powell's account of his last meeting with George W. Bush, as told by Colin Powell to George Packer:

In the same week of early January... Colin Powell was summoned to the White House for his farewell conversation with the president. All along, Powell had been the dutifully quiet dissenter on Iraq, concerned about the damage to alliances, skeptical (but not enough) of the administration's more fevered claims about weapons and terrorism, realistic about the difficulties of postwar. But his prestige was badly tarnished when his prewar speech to the UN about Iraqi weapons was proved mostly false. Though Iraq became more and more the responsibility of his agency, Powell had lost almost eery major fight back when the crucial decisions were made. His tenure as secretary of state was a great disappointment.... Now, sooner than he wanted, he was being replaced by Condoleezza Rice, a shrewder bureaucratic survivor.

After a few awkward minutes in the Oval Office, Powell realized that Bush had no idea what his secretary of state was doing there. The White House chief of staff, Andrew Card, was summoned, but he, too, was clueless. Who had called for the meeting? It began to seem entirely possible that the phantom vice president had arranged one more parting humiliation for his old colleague and more recent nemesis. Powell drew himself up and informed the president that he had come not for their weekly meeting but to say goodbye. Finding himself alone with Bush for perhaps the last time, Powell decided to speak his mind without constraint. The Defense Department had too much power in shaping foreign policy, he argued, and when Bush asked for an example, Powell offered not Rumsfeld, the secretary who had mastered him bureaucratically, not Wolfowitz, the point man on Iraq, but the department's number three official, Douglas Feith, whom Powell called a card-carrying member of the Likud Party. Warming to his talk, Powell moved on to negotiations with North Korea, and then homed in on Iraq. If, by April 1, the situation there had not improved significantly, the president would need a new strategy and new people to implement it. Bush looked taken aback: No one ever spoke this way in the Oval Office. But because it was the last time, Powell ignored every cue of displeasure and kept going until he said what he had to say, what he perhaps should have said long before.

At least, that's what Powell told Packer he said in his last meeting in the Oval Office. Is it accurate? I don't know: I do know that since his UN speech Powell's word trades at a very high discount indeed.

Tony Karon watches as Ahmed Chalabi's faction gets perhaps no seats in the new Iraqi parliament:

Another Flesh Wound for Chalabi: Remember that scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail... the Black Knight loses three limbs... insis[s] that he's suffered only a flesh wound, and insisting that he will smite his assailant, King Arthur?... A few weeks ago, no less an esteemed outlet than the Washington Post would have had us believe that Ahmed Chalabi was a serious contender for prime minister of Iraq -- and this after almost everything of consequence that Chalabi had told the U.S. media had proven to be bogus.... "Highly placed sources say he has become the choice of many U.S. officials to lead the country," the Post reported... [S]omehow the Washington Post and a number of other titles that really should know better have not yet fully grasped the reality that the U.S. rarely gets its way on the ground in Iraq. Chalabi, for the record, garnered so few votes in the December 15 elections that his list may not get a single seat in parliament....

And here's the Washington Post last month, on Chalabi:

A Lightning Rod's Striking Return: By Sally Quinn: Washington Post Staff Write: Anticipation is high in the steamy standing-room-only crowd of journalists and cameras at the American Enterprise Institute. "Hollywood," "big deal," "who knew?" is the buzz around the room. Of course every news organization wants to be there for the return of Iraqi lightning rod Ahmed Chalabi. Outside on the street, a small crowd of placard-carrying protesters are shouting "Liar." Chalabi strides to the podium after a flattering introduction by the head of the institute. "He has been defamed, undermined and attacked..." says Chris Muth. "He permits himself to exhibit no sign of bitterness." Chalabi's dark eyes dart around the room. He wears an ambiguous smile. He begins to speak.

One hour later, after a comprehensive summary of the situation in Iraq without a note or hesitation, he takes questions. Some are more like accusations.... He refers them to the Robb-Silberman report on prewar intelligence. "Page 128," he offers helpfully. When the questions are over, he disappears, leaving his smile behind him....

On the heels of his week-long visit to the United States, few want to be quoted by name saying anything positive. Yet suddenly many have positive things to say. It was only a year and a half ago that his Baghdad office and home were raided and trashed by U.S. and Iraqi forces. He had gone from being the darling of the neo-cons to a pariah. Many thought he was dead politically. But today he is a strong contender for prime minister in next month's elections, and highly placed sources say he has become the choice of many U.S. officials to lead the country....

One top White House official, in listing the possible leaders who could emerge in Iraq after next month's elections, put Chalabi's name first. Chalabi's two biggest enemies in the administration, Colin Powell and George Tenet, are now gone. One of his biggest supporters, Vice President Cheney, is still there, and met with him this week. Ask about Chalabi among members of the administration, and off the record there is general agreement. "Very astute fellow," says one very high government official. "Extremely bright and competent," says a senior military man. Another top military officer who has worked with Chalabi was effusive. He says that most of the Iraqis he has dealt with are inexperienced and indecisive, whereas Chalabi "is decisive, personally very courageous, is incredibly energetic, knows Western ways.... He is the only one of the deputy prime ministers willing to take on the touchy issues." More important, this man says, "he delivers, he cuts through the bureaucracy."

Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, describes Chalabi to colleagues and reporters as the most effective of the Iraqi leaders, the go-to guy. And Chalabi furthered his reputation at a meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations and at a private lunch at the home of financier Henry Kravis in New York on Saturday. Among the guests were Henry Kissinger, Lesley Stahl and Jim Hoge, editor of Foreign Policy magazine. "He is smart as he can be," Hoge said. "My God, he's somebody who can get something done." Hoge could understand why people might like Chalabi to run things in Iraq, given "our desperation to get somebody to help pull us out of this mess." "He did extremely well," another guest said. "His tenacity and wiliness are extraordinary. If he pulls this off, he will be the Talleyrand of the century."...

The accusations swirl around Chalabi, but they always seem impossible to nail down. The Los Angeles Times reported that he cooked up this trip to the United States, that a U.S. official called it "his idea, not ours." But the spokesman for Treasury Secretary John Snow says, "There was an invitation." It would stand to reason. Chalabi is chairman of Iraq's Energy Committee. "He wanted to talk to me about oil," Chalabi explains. After that meeting was set up, Chalabi says, he received an invitation to meet with national security adviser Stephen Hadley. Then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Chalabi himself initiated meetings with the secretaries of agriculture and commerce....

Chalabi's detractors say that the idea he might ever become prime minister is ludicrous. They say he made a huge mistake in breaking away from the Shia-Sunni alliance and going out on his own. They say that he has no support at all and will be lucky to win even a few delegates. He grins. He knows that the Prime minister will be chosen in a smoke-filled room. And he is gambling that, once things settle out, he will emerge as the most viable candidate after all....

Yesterday Chalabi met with Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, who wrote the Republican version of the resolution calling for concrete steps toward U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq. Chalabi requested the meeting. Warner agreed, having seen the schedule of Chalabi's other meetings. "I was somewhat taken by surprise," Warner said, adding that the road map is clear when somebody sees the secretaries of state and defense, the national security adviser and the vice president. He said Chalabi told him the newly elected Iraqi government would be up and functioning 30 days after the election. "We have to deal with people the Iraqis have put in those positions," Warner said. "How he got there, I don't know. But there he is. . . . I have the impression he will be around."...

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

National Review has web archives!

You, too, can now learn what ex-Trot James Burnham has to teach us about the true nature of anti-McCarthyism:

The McCarthy issue was used by the American Communists as their channel back into the stream of Popular Frontism. The Communists, in fact, invented the term "McCarthyism," and devised most of the ideology that went with it.... The liberals, on a roaring civil rights jag... lowered their guard and the Communists closed.... "[A]nti-McCarthyism" as a movement... was a united front, the broadest and most successful the Communists have ever catalyzed in this country....

What Wilmoore Kendell has to teach us about the true nature of liberalism--you know, that doctrine of Harry Truman:

As this columnist never misses a chance to say, it isn't that the Liberals aren't anti-Communist; they are merely anti-Communist in a peculiar sort of way... [that] automatically exclude[s] effective anti-Communist action. And they cannot go along when the community sets out to do something about its Communists.

The magazine on Eisenhower's 1957 sending the 82nd Airborne Division to Little Rock to protect civil rights:

By what right, according to what law, do these heavily armed combat teams of the first nuclear age "pentomic" division remain and act in Arkansas? Where is the statute... that entitles these soldiers... to quarter themselves on the municipal property of the Little Rock school system? to obstruct traffic...?... to forbid citizens to assemble together?... to club and stab citizens slow to respond to shouted orders? What law authorized the rude braggadocio of General Walker?... The truth is... [t]here is no law, the bayonets have displaced the law in Little Rock.... General Walker is in Little Rock as the commander of an army of occupation... enforcing unconditional surrender. No sensible person will excluce the possibility of a domestic crisis so extreme.... [W]ould it not be prudent to reflect that when guns are released from control by law, we can never be sure what direction they will point in?

The magazine's doubts about the Fifteenth Amendment:

Although the states qualify voters, Art. I, Sec. 4 of the Constitution grants to Congress the power to make or alter... regulations concerning elections for senators and representatives. The Fifteenth Amendment prohibits the denial or abridgement of the right to vote "on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."... [H]onest men may differ as to the wisdom and expediency of these grants [of power to the federal government.]...

And Frank S. Meyer on the virtues of McCarthyism:

The peculiar horror of this presidentiad of Eisenhower... [is that] everything merges into one dull blur.... It cannot grasp as real the looming threat of dehumanization that proceeds from the iron tyranny of Soviet Communism or from the soft blandishments of the Welfare States and World Government.... [T]he Era of Moderation could be fairly launched only after the censure and destruction of McCarthy. So long as there was a voice so powerful... insisting that the contemporary world presented an absolute choice between good and evil... the anesthesia could be only imperfectly administered.... What Joe McCarthy was... can[not]... be judged by weighing in the balance the niceness of his discriminations or that tactical acuity of his actions.... His was not a common role. It comes to few men to play it--sometimes to a poet, sometimes to a politician sometimes to someone of no particular position.... Joe McCarthy, who bore witness against the denial of truth that is called moderation, and died for it: "He was a prophet."...

Yes. I know that blatant mendacious stupidity is not an impeachable offense. But in this case I'm willing to make an exception. Kevin Drum writes:

The Washington Monthly : BLACK IS WHITE, UP IS DOWN....Via the Carpetbagger, Treasury Secretary John Snow explains why a president who has vastly increased the federal deficit is more fiscally responsible than a president who vastly reduced it:

Sipping a latte at a Starbucks coffee shop with reporters in Washington two days ago, he said that "the president's legacy will be one of having significantly reduced the deficit in his time," and said Clinton's budget was a "mirage" and "wasn't a real surplus."

Snow said the Clinton surplus was inflated by a stock-price bubble and that Bush will be remembered for cutting the gap from a record $412 billion in the 2004 fiscal year.

You can't make this stuff up. Consensus reality just doesn't exist for these guys anymore.

OK now: Bob Kimmitt, Mark Warshawsky, anybody else in the Bush Treasury who wants to retain ties to the reality-based community, or to avoid losing their own reputations to the Clown Show--now is time to start thinking about whether you want to bail out.

Capitalisticus: So what's this about Michael Froomkin's younger brother Dan?

Academicus: You won't believe me.

Capitalisticus: I won't believe you?

Academicus: Nope.

Capitalisticus: Try me.

Academicus: Well, you're aware that he writes this column--a combination of the Defense Early Bird and the White House Watch that Ryan Lizza currently does for the New Republic--called White House Briefing for the Washington Post's website? Anyway, the Washington Post Ombudsman took a strafing run at Dan's column, saying that it was inappropriate to call it "White House Briefing," that its name should be changed, and that the Washington Post's political reporters did not like it because it was "opinionated" and "liberal."

Capitalisticus: What a minute--did you say "the Ombudsman"?

Academicus: Yep.

Capitalisticus: Deborah Howell, the person who is supposed to handle complaints from readers about reporters and editors?

Academicus: Yep.

Capitalisticus: She based her column on complaints from readers?

Academicus: Nope. Readers seem pretty pleased. The column's principal aim was to try to tell people that the print Washington Post is a very different thing than the WPNI--Washington Post-Newsweek Interactive--operation that is To the extent that the column had a base, it seemed to be based on complaints from unnamed Washington Post print newsroom reporters. And on a big complaint from Washington Post national political editor John Harris.

Capitalisticus: That would seem a broadminded view of her role--that is is supposed to include airing complaints from editors about reporters, for example.

Academicus: Yep.

Capitalisticus: What did John Harris say?

Academicus: That Froomkin's column was "an obstacle to our work." That it "dilute[d] [the Post's] only asset -- our credibility" as objective news reporters. That he found claims that Dan Froomkin was a "second-rate hack" to be "not far-fetched".

Capitalisticus: What?

Academicus: When New York University's Jay Rosen of PressThink asked him to document his complaints about Dan, John Harris responded by sending Rosen a webpage address-- part of his answer: "Does Dan present a liberal worldview? Not always, but cumulatively I think a great many people would say yes—-enough that I don’t want them thinking he works for the news side of the Post. Without agreeing with the views of this conservative blogger who took on Froomkin, I would say his argument does not seem far-fetched to me." The title of the web page was "Dan Froomkin: Second-Rate Hack."

Capitalisticus: Were the arguments on the webpage cogent?

Academicus: Didn't seem so to me--some of the things Froomkin wrote that were called "biased" were pro-liberal, some were pro-libertarian, some were pro-consistency, and most seemed pro-transparency. More important, I think, is that the author of the web page was Patrick Ruffini, Bush-Cheney 2004 Webmaster and currently eCampaign Director for the Republican National Committee.

Capitalisticus: Harris thinks journalism is bad if Republican operatives don't like it?

Academicus: It sure looks like it. One theory--held by Jay Rosen--is that what is really going on is a Washington Post that is terrified, terrified of offending the White House.

Capitalisticus: And Harris holds out this Ruffini character and his "not far-fetched" arguments as evidence that Froomkin shouldn't be writing a column called "White House Briefing"?

Academicus: Not quite. You see, Harris didn't call Ruffini "Bush-Cheney 2004 Webmaster and currently eCampaign Director for the Republican National Committee." He called him "this conservative blogger."

Capitalisticus: Harris got played? He didn't know what Ruffini's day job was?

Academicus: Nope. Harris was the player--or tried to be: When asked "[W]ill you fess up to what exactly you know/knew about Patrick Ruffini and when exactly you knew it?" Harris answered: "I'll address the matter here. I did know that some people raising questions about Froomkin are Republicans..."

Capitalisticus: So he tried to sell Republican operative Patrick Ruffini to Jay Rosen and his readers as a grassroots conservative weblogger?

Academicus: Yep.

Capitalisticus: Why?

Academicus: Well, wouldn't people have laughed at him if he'd told Rosen, "I think Froomkin has a liberal bias because Patrick Ruffini, Bush-Cheney 2004 Webmaster and currently eCampaign Director for the Republican National Committee, says so"?

Capitalisticus: But people must be laughing at him now?

Academicus: Yep.

Capitalisticus: And he didn't anticipate that anybody would fact-check him? This is just not credible. I don't believe you.

Thrasymachus: Remember: he comes out of print daily news journalism. In daily print news journalism, it's easy to be sleazy. If you want to you can make your hit unanswered and then be gone. Your target writes a letter to the editor, it maybe gets published five days later, without context, and if the target is lucky the letter to the editor repairs a tenth of the damage. Can either of you think of an example of a daily print news journalistic hit in the past in which the target managed to effectively respond?

Capitalisticus: Ummm... I still don't believe you.

Academicus: Back when Max Frankel set Fox Butterfield to slime the victim in the William Kennedy-Smith rape case in the New York Times. There was substantial push back then--a lot of New York cocktail party chatter on how it was near-criminal how eager the New York Times was to go into the tank for the Kennedy clan.

Thrasymachus: That's one example--one exception that tests the rule. Are there any others?

Academicus: Ummm...

Thrasymachus: That's the daily news print for you. You can slime. It's in print. You're gone. And they can never catch up. The fact that the web works differently--that you can be fact-checked and the fact-checking can be as widely distributed as your initial slime--that was... not a thing that Harris thought about when he decided to call Pat Ruffini "this conservative weblogger" rather than "Bush-Cheney 2004 Webmaster and currently eCampaign Director for the Republican National Committee."

Capitalisticus: But his only asset is his credibility as an objective news reporter. He put that at risk...

Academicus: But identifying Pat Ruffini as a conservative weblogger is like identifying Jim Carville as the spouse of a Republican strategist...

Capitalisticus: Or like Judy Miller's promising to identify Scooter Libby as an ex-Capitol Hill staffer...

Academicus: John Harris has a book about Clinton out, The Survivor. He can't afford--he professionally can't afford--to exhibit Judy Miller sourcing ethics...

Thrasymachus: Did I say that Harris was particularly smart, or thoughtful, or understood his own best interests?

Platon: You have to laugh.

Academicus: You do indeed.

Capitalisticus: You realize that I don't believe you? That this is simply not sane?

Academicus: I told you so.

Glaucon: Yes, you do have to laugh. But has all this done Dan Froomkin any damage?

Academicus: I don't think so. WPNI boss Jim Brady appears to like the work that Froomkin does. And Brady says that he's not thinking of changing the name of the column. The Post's New York Bureau Chief, Michael Howell, has weighed on in the side of approving of what people like Dan Froomkin and Jefferson Morley do:

I’ve been following the latest battle between blogistan and the print world and I had a few thoughts. I am a fan of Dan Froomkin and Jeff Morley, among other bloggers on our website. I admire the loose-limbed free associative quality of their writing.... A few of my esteemed (and I’m not being facetious in my use of that adjective) colleagues have dismissed Froomkin and Morley as clip jobbers. That’s unfair and a bit foolish. They are terrific bloggers, who read widely and compare and contrast and draw connections—-often obvious—-that reporters sometimes shy from for fear of appearing less than objective. (Aspiring to objectivity as opposed to, say, fairness, always has struck me as a desultory intellectual cul de sac.)... That said, I can see the argument for tweaking Froomkin’s labelling. When Froomkin’s column first appeared, I assumed we had added a reporter to our corps in the White House (I would note in my clueless self defense that I am based in New York City and so lag on my awareness of newsroom hires).... [I]t would be terrific if the Web triumphalists, who seem never to have experienced a moment’s doubt, could acknowledge that this just might, possibly, be honestly felt. As political editor John Harris notes, there’s a long and proud tradition of the journalist as independent and removed observer.... [P]rint reporting is a “cool” medium; blogistan is often as hot as Hades. There are perfectly good and honest reasons that some of our best reporters are wary of turning into some version of the mindless babblers who hold forth on television (and, in fairness, on a few blogs) and so they put their toes one at a time into the Web waters.... [M]any of us suspect that the Post maintains a separate web operation for another more prosaic reason. Our operation is a non-union shop...

Glaucon: I'm surprised. I would have said "clip jobber" is exactly what Froomkin and Morley do--but that to do a good job of clip jobbing, of synthesis and analysis in real time, is a very difficult task and the ability to do it is a very valuable skill. There are more people who can summarize Scott McClellan's briefing in three hours than who can figure out what today's news means and what pieces of it are important in three hours.

Academicus: Did Harris or Howell say what they wanted the name of the column changed to?

Glaucon: Michael Froomkin recommends: "Dan Froomkin's 'Cooking with Walnuts'."

Platon: Still, nothing here seems to explain the energy and the animus that you can feel coming out of Howell and especially Harris, in waves...

Academicus: Yes. What's really going on over there the Washington Post anyway?

Glaucon: I think it's a matter of Froomkin's not having paid his appropriate dues. Dan Froomkin says that he's just providing a bunch of links and commentary so that you can easily keep up with that day's news about the White House. And he is. But he's also being Walter Lippmann--he's telling you where the real news is, and what the day's news really means.

Capitalisticus: And everyone in the Washington Post newsroom thinks that you only get to be Walter Lippmann after paying your dues, when you finally--after decades of loyal service--get promoted from objective news reporter to columnist.

Glaucon: You are not supposed to sneak in the side door, webmaster one day and author of "White House Briefing" the next.

Platon: May I point out that the fact that the Post and the Times choose their "Lippmanns" as a reward for long-time loyal service rather than on the basis of their intelligence or synthesizing ability is a reason that their mindshare is low, and falling? I mean Herbert... Tierney... Broder... Cohen... ye Gods, give me strength!

Academicus: The most heartfelt criticisms of Froomkin's "White House Briefing" I have heard coming from within the print Post aren't objections to Dan Froomkin's being "opinionated" or "liberal"--but rather print journalists' cries that one of us ought to be doing this, or we ought to be rotating it among ourselves, rather than outsourcing it to somebody who doesn't live in the print newsroom.

Televisticus: I think you all are missing the real source of energy here...

Glaucon: You do?

Televisticus: Yes. You have to pick up on Powell's "non-union" comment. I think that this is key: the employees of WPNI--Washington Post-Newsweek Interactive--are not in the print Washington Post's newsroom. They are across the river, in Arlington, Virginia. They are not members of the Newspaper Guild. Print reporters look at shrinking print advertising and growing online advertising revenues, think of how as more and more homes acquire more and more computers it makes more sense to take advantage of the efficiency of electronic distribution, think about how declining print runs and rising page views will shift the distribution of revenue sources for the entire Post operation, and think hard about what's going to happen to them in five years.

Academicus: And that is?

Televisticus: That as print circulation shrinks, and online circulation grows, the Washington Post Company is going to take advantage of this by shifting its beat reporters out from under the aegis of the print Washington Post and onto the books of WPNI. The print reporters will find that their jobs are being eliminated, but that they are welcome to apply to new jobs being created in Arlington. New jobs that do exactly what their old jobs did, but for the web rather than the print edition. New non-union jobs. New jobs that pay half of what their old jobs did.

Academicus: Ah. I see.

Televisticus: And that, I think, is the principal, although perhaps not entirely conscious, source of John Harris's imperative need to throw mud at the WPNI operation. He and his people must establish, and establish immediately, a large quality and reputational difference between Washington Post and WPNI in readers' minds, if they are to have any chance of keeping the Washington Post Company from halving their salaries and making them work in northern Virginia in the long run.

Academicus: Ah. So this is really a cross-Potomac white-collar outsourcing issue?

Televisticus: I think so.

Thrasymachus: You are naive.

Televisticus: Well, yes, I agree that I am naive. But in what way do you think I'm naive?

Thrasymachus: You said that Post corporate headquarters will transfer jobs from the Washington print newsroom to the Arlington web newsroom, in the process destroying the Newspaper Guild and halving journalists' salaries.

Televisticus: I did.

Thrasymachus: Why should they transfer jobs? Why shouldn't Post corporate headquarters wake up to the fact that its three White House print beat reporters spend a large chunk of the day trapped in the White House briefing room (or similar locales) on assassination watch, in the equivalent of a news isolation chamber where there only source of "information" is Scott McClellan? Post corporate headquarters will say:

Wait a minute. Someone like Dan Froomkin--blogging in his bathrobe from his basement, running off of the wire services and the press releases and the think-tank reports and his own network of policy- and political-relevant sources--can pull together something that is as interesting and as informative as what the beat reporters do, and do it much cheaper. It won't be real White House reporting, but then reporting what Scott McClellan said today isn't real reporting either. And what Froomkin does is just as satisfying to the readers.

The print newsroom jobs won't be moved from Washington to Arlington. The print newsroom jobs will vanish. The White House Briefing Room will be empty--save for the AP and UPI and Knight-Ridder staffs. And, from the print reporters' perspective, their entire profession will have been replaced by something cheap and inferior.

Academicus: Ah.

Thrasymachus: And the only lever the print reporters have to stop this process is to try to make readers think that the work product of the Froomkins and the Morleys is vastly inferior and shoddy so that Washington Post Corporate won't dare undertake such a shift.

Glaucon: Vastly inferior compared to the work product of the Harrises?

Capitalisticus: The guys with the Judy Miller sourcing ethics?

Academicus: The guys who are easily browbeaten by Republican political operatives?

Thrasymachus: Did I say that John Harris and company were effective at making their case?

Peter Baker and Charles Babbington of the *Washington Post* bury their lead in paragraphs 13 through 17: Deputy Director of Intelligence Michael Hayden says that the Bush administration broke the law because it would have been "inefficient" to follow it: following the law "'involves marshaling arguments' and 'looping paperwork around'." Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says that the Bush administration did not dare ask Congress to authorize the program, yet claims to believe that Congress did.

Impeach George W. Bush. Impeach Richard Cheney. Do it now.

Bush Addresses Uproar Over Spying: Nor did [Bush] explain why the current system is not quick enough to meet the needs of the fight against terrorism. Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the NSA in urgent situations can already eavesdrop on international telephone calls for 72 hours without a warrant, as long as it goes to a secret intelligence court by the end of that period for retroactive permission. Since the law was passed in 1978 after intelligence scandals, the court has rejected just five of 18,748 requests for wiretaps and search warrants, according to the government.

Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who was NSA director when the surveillance began and now serves as Bush's deputy director of national intelligence, said the secret-court process was intended for long-term surveillance of agents of an enemy power, not the current hunt for elusive terrorist cells.

"The whole key here is agility," he said at a White House briefing before Bush's news conference. According to Hayden, most warrantless surveillance conducted under Bush's authorization lasts just days or weeks, and requires only the approval of a shift supervisor. Hayden said getting retroactive court approval is inefficient because it "involves marshaling arguments" and "looping paperwork around."

In asserting the legality of the program, Bush cited his power under Article II of the Constitution as well as the resolution authorizing force passed by Congress after the Sept. 11 attacks. The resolution never mentions such surveillance, but Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said it is implicit and cited last year's Supreme Court decision in Hamdi vs. Rumsfeld , which found that the force resolution effectively authorized Bush to detain U.S. citizens indefinitely as enemy combatants. But the same ruling held that detainees are entitled to challenge their imprisonment in court.

"This is not a backdoor approach," Gonzales said at the White House. "We believe Congress has authorized this kind of surveillance." He acknowledged that the administration discussed introducing legislation explicitly permitting such domestic spying but decided against it because it "would be difficult, if not impossible" to pass.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I'm clearly not fit for this world.

The elevator from the parking garage up to the main floor of Barnes and Noble has broken down under the weight of Christmas shoppers.

I walked past Wolf Camera three times without noticing its existence. (Of course, the fact that the only sign saying "Wolf Camera" was not visible from the footpath provides some sort of excuse.)

"What are all these people doing here?"

"They're Christians. They're buying Christmas presents."

"If they are Christians, shouldn't they be processing, wearing robes, holding candles and singing advent carols? Should they be driving SUVs at excessive speed through parking lots?"

"Don't ask vain questions!"

"O come, o come Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
Who mourns in lonely exile here
Until the son of God appear..."

"Hush! You're making a spectacle of yourself!"

"Rejoice! Rejoice!"

"People are looking!"

"Emmanuel shall come to thee..."

"Shut up and shop!"

Dan Gross is offended by Edward Prescott on the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal. So am I. Prescott is capable of much better work than this regurgitation of misleading Bushie talking points.

Dan Gross writes:

Daniel Gross: December 18, 2005 - December 24, 2005 Archives: [There's good stuff but] there's also a fair amount of junk in there.... [I]n the last couple of years, a huge differential has opened in the taxation between short-term gains and long-term capital gains. If investors were wealth-seeking machines that were highly influenced by differential taxation rates -- as Prescott argues -- then you would think that the opening of this differential would have a huge impact on investing and trading behavior. People would avoid taking short-term capital gains at all costs, and seek only to take long-term capital gains. Of course, precisely the opposite has happened in the two years since the tax regime on capital gains changed.... Prescott also slips into the intellectual dishonesty so common to this page, writing:

And this isn't about giving tax breaks to the rich. The Wall Street Journal recently published a piece by former Secretary of Commerce Don Evans, who noted that "nearly 60% of those paying capital gains taxes earn less than $50,000 a year, and 85% of capital gains taxpayers earn less than $100,000." In addition, he wrote that lower tax rates on savings and investment benefited 24 million families to the tune of about $950 on their 2004 taxes."

That's a nice way of playing with numbers. It may well be that 85 percent of the households that pay a capital gains tax of some sort earn less than $100,000. But that doesn't mean the benefits of capital gains tax cuts don't flow disproportionately to the ultra-rich. The real question to ask is: what percentage of capital gains taxes paid are paid by those earning less than $100,000. The answer: a heck of a lot less than 85 percent.... [P]eople making more than $100,000 probably pay 90 percent or more of the capital gains taxes.... Next, he's on to the deficits.

But shouldn't we worry about federal deficits? Isn't it true that we need to raise the capital gains and dividends rate to capture more revenue and thus help close the widening deficit maw? The plain fact is that last fiscal year the debt-to-GDP ratio (broadly defined) went up only 0.2%. If the forecasted deficits over the next five years are correct, it will begin declining. Tax revenues will rise as economic activity continues to grow -- indeed, this has been the case in 2005. Besides, to raise tax rates and thereby dampen economic activity seems a perverse way to improve our economic situation, including our level of tax receipts -- 15% of something is better than 20% of nothing.

Now we're into serious doublespeak. We don't have to worry about extending tax cuts due to expire, Prescott argues, because if the current forecasts on deficits for the next five years are correct, the deficits will begin declining. Of course, the reason the current forecasts call for deficits to start declining in the out years is precisely because they presume the temporary tax cuts will disappear....


Not good. Not good at all. An economist's job is to teach people what is going on--not to make misleading assertions about the incidence of tax law changes by regurgitating Don Evans's talking points. Don Evans can speak his own talking points perfectly well.

At National Review, he writes:

Larry Kudlow on Federal Reserve on NRO Financial : I still can't forgive the [Federal Reserve] for decimating and deflating the bullish stock market economy five years ago, a move that temporarily ended the great productivity surge of the Internet revolution.

Productivity growth in the American economy, nonfarm business sector:

1996 2.7%
1997 1.6%
1998 2.7%
1998 2.8%
1999 2.8%
2000 2.8%
2001 2.5%
2002 4.4%
2003 4.4%
2004 4.2%

I can't stand it. I really just cannot stand it.

Not even Fafblog can deal with the Bush administration at the appropriate level. However, it is trying.

Here Fafnir interviews Condi Rice:

RICE: First of all, we don't send prisoners off to be tortured, Fafnir. We just transport prisoners to countries where torture happens to be legal and where they happen to end up getting tortured.

FB: Well that explains everything then! It's all just a wacky misunderstanding, like that episode a Three's Company where Jack sends Janet off to Uzbekistan to get boiled alive by the secret police.

RICE: I'd also like to point out that whenever we send a prisoner to a country that routinely tortures prisoners, that country promises us NOT to torture them.

FB: And then they get tortured anyway!

RICE: Yes, they do! It's very strange.

FB: Over and over again, every time! That's gotta be so frustrating.

RICE: Oh it is, it is.

FB: So the first time you kidnap a prisoner an send him to Saudi Arabia you're like "don't torture this guy" an they're all "we totally won't" an then they go an torture him an you're all "ooh Saudi Arabia I told you not to torture him!" an they're all "oh we're sorry, we promise next time" an then you go "well you better" an you send em the next guy an they torture him too an you go "oh man Saudi Arabia you did it AGAIN!"

RICE: The president believes in the value of patience, Fafnir. He's not going to let a few dozen innocent torture victims come between him and his favorite third-world dictators.

FB: See after the first coupla hundred times that happened I woulda registered a complaint with customer service.