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, August 19, 2006

HIstory Unfolding: The Lebanon War

My friend Mike Levitin had an amazing intellectual experience his first semester at Harvard because he found himself in a freshman seminar on the origins of World War I taught by David Kaiser.

Here David Kaiser discusses the war in Lebanon:

HIstory Unfolding: The Lebanon War: Friday, August 18, 2006: Last week I decided not to discuss the newly agreed cease-fire in Lebanon because I really didn’t know what to think about it. Now certain things have become extremely clear. The cease-fire represented an almost complete cave-in on the part of the United States and, as it turns out, an admission that we had no means of reaching our objectives of breaking Hezbollah’s power. During the week both President Bush and Secretary Rice tried to put a positive spin on matters... it is very hard to tell whether they are once again fooling themselves or whether they have something more up their sleeve.

There are two possible explanations of what happened. Either State Department officials got through to their boss, who in turn got through to the White House, that the American position in the Arab world would collapse completely if the fighting continued much longer, or else the Israelis decided that further indecisive conflict with 100 rockets falling in Israel every day would not be worth its cost. And thus, last Friday and Saturday, Americans at the UN agreed to a cease-fire that did not include the return of the captured Israeli soldiers, did not demand Hezbollah’s disarmament, and did not provide for an international force with coercive powers. Things have become much clearer this week, as the Lebanese Army has made clear it has no intention of disarming Hezbollah and France has proposed to send nothing more than a token international force....

Rice began her interview by claiming that the international force was a crucial element of the agreement and claiming that it had the right to defend itself if Hezbollah stood in its way, but she quickly had to backtrack and admit that no one expected the international force physically to disarm Hezbollah. Instead, she postponed the day of reckoning.... In other words, although not enough of the world agreed with the United States to give us what we wanted, give them time, and they will.

The Post op-ed... concluded by addressing a troubling point. “Already, we hear Hezbollah trying to claim victory. But others, in Lebanon and across the region, are asking themselves what Hezbollah's extremism has really achieved: hundreds of thousands of people displaced from their homes. Houses and infrastructure destroyed. Hundreds of innocent lives lost. The blame of the world for causing this war.”

The problem, of course, is that virtually every report out of Lebanon says that that is not how the Lebanese people (much less the rest of the Arab world) see the situation at all. Hezbollah’s stature has grown because it fought the mighty Israeli Army to a standstill, and it will grow further as it takes the lead, with the help of Iranian money, in reconstruction....

The President’s statement, like so many of his statements on Iraq, insists that eventually the population of the Middle East will see things our way. He apparently believes this despite the lack of any evidence that they do, or that his policies are doing anything but making them more anti-American. More serious is his statement that the international force could help seal the Syrian-Lebanese border, which it has no intention, according to published reports, of doing.

Ironically, these statements begin to recognize, in a backhanded fashion, that the United States cannot accomplish all that much in the world without an international consensus behind it. That is why the foreign policy establishment has opposed the thrust of Bush Administration foreign policy from the beginning, and events are proving them right....

What does all this mean for the future? I see two possibilities. In the first, the United States government will continue to mouth the same platitudes for two more years while the situation in Iraq, Lebanon, and very likely elsewhere continues to deteriorate.... [T]he second possibility is that the President and Secretary of State take seriously the implication of their statements (and the President’s accidentally recorded remarks to Tony Blair) that the real problem is not Hezbollah, but Syria and Iran. That is an oversimplification. Hezbollah is an authentic popular movement that has won thousands of hearts and minds by meeting the needs of Shi’ite Muslims in various parts of the world, including in Lebanon. Syria’s presence in Lebanon, which we insisted on ending several years ago, probably kept a lid on Hezbollah—-the kind of subtlety that the present Administration simply cannot grasp. But the crisis has worked to Iran’s benefit, and a new crisis looms over its uranium enrichment program. Perhaps Seymour Hersh, who last week reported that the Administration viewed the Israeli invasion of Lebanon as a dry run for an American attack on Iran, is right, and the Administration regards an attempt to topple Iran from the air as the only real solution to the problems of the Middle East.

In an earlier report Hersh claimed that some Administration figures actually believe that bombing Iran would sour the people on their rulers—-a fantasy parallel to the one trumpeted by the President and Secretary of State last week, that the Lebanese people will realize that it was Hezbollah that brought so much destruction upon them.... [T]he logic of the Administration’s position is driving it inexorably towards another war, and so far, it has been quite consistent about how it sees the problems of the Middle East and what should be done about them—to eliminate those regimes that supposedly stand in the way of the spread of democracy.

Yes, It Is Finally Time for "Snakes on a Plane"!

Flashboy writes:

Flashboy: Review: Snakes on a MOTHER------- PLANE : One of the greatest moments in the history of Newsnight Review (or The Late Review, as it was then) was when Tom Paulin somehow managed to find deep meaning in Speed. Somewhere around Sandra Bullock's line about "what did we do to this guy - did we attack his country?", Paulin convinced himself that it was actually an insightful look at individual alienation in a fracturing world, or something.

This would not have happened with Snakes On A Plane.

Snakes On A Plane tries to do nothing other than to mine every possible nugget of fun from that old, old story - what happens when a crime lord tries to kill a key witness by putting a load of (SPOILER) snakes on a plane. There is no social realism. There is no analysis of political agency or the innate prejudice that lurks beneath the facade of civilisation. The snakes are not symbols for anything, except for how awesome snakes are.

It is, thank f---, not Crash.

It knows what it is. It is a snakes on a plane movie. The director knows what it is, the cast know what it is, and Samuel L Jackson (throwing himself into it, super serious, like there's an Oscar for Best Reptile Antagonist) sure as hell knows what it is. The studio, of course, didn't know what it was for quite a long time, but finally they just threw their hands up and went with the flow.

It has the best snake/toilet scene I have ever witnessed....

It's funny, really funny; sometimes with an overt, campy winkiness, other times just through sheer, joyful oversnaking. And it's also a proper gory eat 'em up, with several guaranteed frights and plenty of gruesome herpetological face-twatting....

The non-Jackson cast are also enjoyable, manfully refusing to act like they're in Airplane! when many of them really actually are playing characters from Airplane!. It has Julianna Margulies from ER. It has Nancy from Peep Show as a vacuous bimbette with a dog. It has Champ Kind from Ron Burgundy playing the co-pilot, and playing him as Champ Kind from Ron Burgundy. Whammy!

Criticisms? Sure. Duh. The tone flaps about a bit, as I said.... But really, it hardly matters. It's an unashamed and unafraid out-and-out creature-feature, a righteous chunk of OTT snakesploitation that puts the snakes right where you want them. On a motherf------ plane. It's not quite at the level of a classic like Tremors - but with any luck, the sequel can improve on that. Snakes on a Plain: Snakes v Graboids. You know it would work.

Hippos on a Helicopter
Penguins in a Porsche
Yaks on a Yacht
Tyrannosaurs on a Train
Beetles on a Bus
Cougars on a Catamaran...

A Data Point: Sociologists Smarter than Physicist...

Cosma Shalizi, sociologist, has a truly remarkable intellectual encounter with a... with an I'm-not-sure:

2006 08: On the Superiority of Sociology to String Theory: One of my friends in graduate school had an adviser with a gift for memorable expressions, at least for a theoretical physicist, especially when dismayed by some stupidity. Two of his put-downs which stuck with me were "I could go crazy tomorrow and find an appointment in the sociology department", and "I don't want to criticize you, but this is the way superstring people think".

I was never sure which was supposed to be worse, but now I know. Sociologists have many faults, but they do know better than to try explaining a variable with a constant, while string theorists evidently do not. (Via CapitalistImperialistPig, who has better things to write about.)

The fact that Prof. Motl reasons so badly here that he'd fail my freshman stats class is, of course, infinitely less offensive than fact that he's a bigot (of the "we must squarely face the harsh light of my pseudo-scientific prejudices" variety). But I can't help feeling -- hoping, even -- that the two sorts of idiocy are linked.

It Is Called "Diplomacy"

It is called "diplomacy." Matthew Yglesias explains why Jacques Chirac is a real president:

The Fakeout | TPMCafe: It seems to me that French diplomacy over the past couple of weeks has been fairly brilliant.

The war in Lebanon, as wars so often are, was the result of a serious double miscalculation. First, Hezbollah clearly failed to anticipate how Israel would respond to their cross-border raid. In turn, Israel clearly failed to anticipate how difficult it would be to mount a major anti-Hezbollah operation in Lebanon. And, indeed, the miscalculations were surely interlinked. Hezbollah correctly assessed how difficult it would be for Israel to mount a massive retaliation and therefore banked on Israel not retaliating massively.

The resulting war was a disaster for both sides. Israel really was significantly hurting Hezbollah. But it was doing so at a massive cost to itself in terms of lives lost and money spent. Hezbollah was bound to start running low on rockets and Israel running low on things to bomb. The situation was heading in the direction of grinding, endless guerilla conflict that would have been exceedingly costly and essentially hopeless from the Israeli perspective while also imperiling everything Hezbollah's built itself into in southern Lebanon.

Each side had reason to regret the conflict's existence. Both sides would have been made better off by calling "do over" and returning to the status quo ante. But neither side wanted to back down. Nor would it have been easy for either side to do so since the coalition Hezbollah/Syria/Iran team won't negotiate with the Israel/USA coalition and vice versa.

Enter France.

In essence, through two consecutive bait-and-switches -- first over the wording of a UN resolution, and second over the deployment of French troops to Lebanon -- France managed to get both parties to agree to a return to the status quo ante, which is better for both sides (that's why the tricks worked), but that neither side could admit to wanting. That's a pretty good result, especially considering that Chirac spent essentially none of France's resources achieving it.

Now, yes, it's true that it would be nice for some gigantic crew of foreigners to come into Lebanon, disarm Hezbollah, police the border, and create a giant, happy, stable democracy at peace with its neighbors. But nobody really knows how to pull this off. The internal political balance in Lebanon is extremely delicate. Nobody -- not Israel, not France, not the United States, not even Hezbollah's patrons -- was or is in a position to actually destroy or disarm Hezbollah absent a wider reform of all of Lebanon. The two most recent revisions to the Lebanese domestic scene -- the Taif Accords and the Cedar Revolution -- both deliberately involved wink-wink acceptance of Hezbollah's militia in exchange for Shiites not demanding the level of political power in Beirut that demographic realities would suggest. And -- with good reason -- nobody wants to open up the pandora's box of Lebanese consociationalism for further revisions.

The resulting situation -- which is the same as the pre-war situation -- is totally unsatisfactory and sub-optimal for all kinds of reasons. But it's the best resolution anyone really knows how to arrange for a very complicated situation that could (and, in the past, has) swiftly degenerated into horrifying bloodshed and anarchy.

More Republican Budgeting

Angry Bear watches the Republican fiscal policy clown show:

Angry Bear: Federal Default Regarding Medicare Checks: It seems that The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have been ordered to delay certain payments until the next fiscal year begins:

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has been instructed by the United States Congress in the Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) of 2005, to place a brief hold on Medicare payments for ALL claims (e.g., initial claims, adjustment claims, and Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) claims) for the last 9 days of the Federal fiscal year, i.e., September 22, 2006 through September 30, 2006. Noridian Administrative Services (NAS) will release the held payments on Monday, October 2, 2006 including all payments that normally would be scheduled for release on that date.

Ford Sets Steep Cuts to Vehicle Production


Ford Sets Steep Cuts to Vehicle Production - New York Times: By MICHELINE MAYNARD: The Ford Motor Company said today that it would cut vehicle production by 21 percent in the fourth quarter, its steepest cut in more than two decades, because sales of its most important products, light trucks, are faltering.

Ford said it was abandoning its goal, reiterated as recently as April, of selling 900,000 pickup trucks a year in the United States. That could mean that the reign of Ford's F-series pickup truck as the best-selling vehicle in America could be coming to an end after nearly a quarter-century.

The company said the production cuts were necessary because high gasoline prices were eroding sales of light trucks and sport-utility vehicles, which account for two-thirds of Ford's sales, and that it could no longer hope for fuel prices to fall again.... "We know this decision will have a dramatic impact on our employees, as well as our suppliers," Mr. Ford wrote in the message. "This is, however, the right call for our customers, our dealers and our long-term future."

Ford Motor executives are trying to develop an expanded version of the North American turnaround plan that the company announced in January. The plan, called the Way Forward, called for the company to close 14 plants and eliminate 30,000 jobs by 2012 to streamline its operations and cut costs. Ford is now looking at deeper cuts, on a swifter timetable than the original plan. It is expected to announce the additional steps in September. General Motors is undergoing a similar effort to trim costs and turn around its North American vehicle business; it has said it will close all or part of a dozen factories and eliminate tens of thousands of jobs.

Ford's announcement today that it would cut fourth-quarter production by 168,000 vehicles will have an immediate impact on its bottom line. Auto companies count vehicles as sold when they are shipped from the factory to the dealer, not when they are ultimately purchased by the consumer. Under this system, cutting production directly reduces the manufacturer's potential for revenue and profits.

Ummm. No. A small correction. Ford's announcement today does not have "an immediate impact on its bottom line." It has an immediate impact on what Ford reports its bottom line to be--but not on the bottom line itself.

When Did the Recession of 2001 Begin? Do We Care?

Greg Mankiw writes:

Greg Mankiw's Blog: Business Cycle Dating: Back in 2004, Michael Mandel of Businessweek gave me grief for saying that the 2001 recession began in late 2000, rather than at the official NBER date of March 2001. My view (and the view of the nonpartisan CEA staff) was that the data were substantially revised after the NBER committee made their call, and the March 2001 date no longer seemed right in light of the revised data. Mandel's view was that I was a Republican stooge.

Recently, a friend emailed me a paper on dating business cycles by the prominent time-series econometrician Jim Hamilton and coauthor Marcelle Chauvet. If you look at their Table 6 (page 53), you can find their estimated date for the start of the recession: September 2000.... I am happy to welcome Jim Hamilton into the Republican stooge club.

Menzie Chinn comments:

Econbrowser: The 2001 recession revisited: In a recent post, Greg Mankiw cites Hamilton and Chauvet in support of his view that a good argument could be made that the recession of 2001 actually began in 2000.... As some readers may recall, the 2004 Economic Report of the President contained this box, which states:

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) uses a variety of economic data to determine the dates of business-cycle peaks and troughs.... [T]he four data series that the NBER used to determine the timing of the recession have been revised.... Real personal income less transfers... peaked in October 2000. Nonfarm payroll employment... peaked in February 2001. Industrial production['s] peak came even earlier, in June 2000. Manufacturing and trade sales... the most recent data show a peak in June 2000.... [M]onthly GDP reached a high point in February 2001....

The median date of the peak for the five series discussed here is October 2000....

First let me make the observation that while Mankiw prefers the multivariate Markov Switching results in Table 6 of Hamilton-Chauvet, it is by no means the only set of estimates in the paper. Table 8, using the recursive estimation methodology indicates a March 2001 recession date....

I refer first to what the NBER Business Cycle Committee states are the variables of importance....

Because a recession influences the economy broadly and is not confined to one sector, the committee emphasizes economy-wide measures of economic activity. The committee views real GDP as the single best measure of aggregate economic activity.... The traditional role of the committee is to maintain a monthly chronology, however, and the BEA's real GDP estimates are only available quarterly. For this reason, the committee refers to a variety of monthly indicators to determine the months of peaks and troughs.

The committee places particular emphasis on two monthly measures of activity across the entire economy: (1) personal income less transfer payments, in real terms and (2) employment. In addition, the committee refers to two indicators with coverage primarily of manufacturing and goods: (3) industrial production and (4) the volume of sales of the manufacturing and wholesale-retail sectors adjusted for price changes. The committee also looks at monthly estimates of real GDP such as those prepared by Macroeconomic Advisers (see Although these indicators are the most important measures considered by the NBER in developing its business cycle chronology, there is no fixed rule about which other measures contribute information to the process....

So, while I think reasonable people can disagree on the starting point, for me, a revisiting of the data tells me the recession of 2001 took place in... 2001.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Why Oh Why Are We Ruled by This Clown?

Josh Micah Marshall watches the clown show that is the Bush administration:

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: August 13, 2006 - August 19, 2006 Archives: Puzzled (from the NYT) ...

More generally, the participants said, the president expressed frustration that Iraqis had not come to appreciate the sacrifices the United States had made in Iraq, and was puzzled as to how a recent anti-American rally in support of Hezbollah in Baghdad could draw such a large crowd. "I do think he was frustrated about why 10,000 Shiites would go into the streets and demonstrate against the United States," said another person who attended.

It's like we just need to be in lock down. How little [additional] damage can we get by with in the next two and a half years?

Impeach George W. Bush. Impeach him now.

Physiological Consequences of Economic Growth

Physiological consequences of economic growth:

So Big and Healthy Grandpa Wouldn't Even Know You - New York Times: By GINA KOLATA: Valentin Keller enlisted in an all-German unit of the Union Army in Hamilton, Ohio, in 1862. He was 26, a small, slender man, 5 feet 4 inches tall, who had just become a naturalized citizen. He listed his occupation as tailor. A year later, Keller was honorably discharged, sick and broken. He had a lung ailment and was so crippled from arthritis in his hips that he could barely walk. His pension record tells of his suffering. “His rheumatism is so that he is unable to walk without the aid of crutches and then only with great pain,” it says. His lungs and his joints never got better, and Keller never worked again.

He died at age 41 of “dropsy,” which probably meant that he had congestive heart failure, a condition not associated with his time in the Army. His 39-year-old wife, Otilia, died a month before him of what her death certificate said was “exhaustion.”

People of Valentin Keller’s era, like those before and after them, expected to develop chronic diseases by their 40’s or 50’s. Keller’s descendants had lung problems, they had heart problems, they had liver problems. They died in their 50’s or 60’s. Now, though, life has changed. The family’s baby boomers are reaching middle age and beyond and are doing fine. “I feel good,” says Keller’s great-great-great-grandson Craig Keller. At 45, Mr. Keller says he has no health problems, nor does his 45-year-old wife, Sandy. The Keller family illustrates what may prove to be one of the most striking shifts in human existence — a change from small, relatively weak and sickly people to humans who are so big and robust that their ancestors seem almost unrecognizable.

New research from around the world has begun to reveal a picture of humans today that is so different from what it was in the past that scientists say they are startled.... The biggest surprise emerging from the new studies is that many chronic ailments like heart disease, lung disease and arthritis are occurring an average of 10 to 25 years later than they used to.... Human bodies are simply not breaking down the way they did before.... The proposed reasons are as unexpected as the changes themselves. Improved medical care is only part of the explanation; studies suggest that the effects seem to have been set in motion by events early in life, even in the womb, that show up in middle and old age....

In 1900, 13 percent of people who were 65 could expect to see 85. Now, nearly half of 65-year-olds can expect to live that long.... American men, for example, are nearly 3 inches taller than they were 100 years ago and about 50 pounds heavier.... Today’s middle-aged people are the first generation to grow up with childhood vaccines and with antibiotics. Early life for them was much better than it was for their parents, whose early life, in turn, was much better than it was for their parents....

Scientists used to say that the reason people are living so long these days is that medicine is keeping them alive.... But... Fogel... 50,000 Union Army veterans... focused on common diseases that are diagnosed in pretty much the same way now as they were in the last century. So they looked at ailments like arthritis, back pain and various kinds of heart disease that can be detected by listening to the heart.... Fogel and his colleagues looked at health throughout life.... [A]lmost everyone of the Civil War generation was plagued by life-sapping illnesses, suffering for decades.... [T]he Union Army was not very picky. “Incontinence of urine alone is not grounds for dismissal,” said Dora Costa, an M.I.T. economist who works with Dr. Fogel, quoting from the regulations. A man who was blind in his right eye was disqualified from serving because that was his musket eye. But, Dr. Costa said, “blindness in the left eye was O.K.”....

Dr. Almond.... The flu pandemic arrived in the United States in October 1918 and was gone by January 1919, afflicting a third of the pregnant women in the United States. What happened to their children? Dr. Almond asked. He compared two populations: those whose mothers were pregnant during the flu epidemic and those whose mothers were pregnant shortly before or shortly after the epidemic.... [C]hildren of women who were pregnant during the influenza epidemic had more illness, especially diabetes, for which the incidence was 20 percent higher by age 61. They also got less education — they were 15 percent less likely to graduate from high school. The men’s incomes were 5 percent to 7 percent lower, and the families were more likely to receive public assistance.

The effects, Dr. Almond said, occurred in whites and nonwhites, in rich and poor, in men and women. He convinced himself, he said, that there was something to the Barker hypothesis...

Reading Around: 20060816

Worth reading: Daniel Davies and others reflect on his previous "not this war now" position on Iraq; Tom Friedman is shtrill; George Bush demonstrates his total ignorance of geography; the very strange John Lott further embarrasses himself; and a Republican calls an America of Indian descent a "macaque."

  1. Crooked Timber » » Anti Which War When?

    Anti Which War When? Posted by Daniel: Marc Mulholland makes a very good point and one that has to be frank left me stumped. Regarding the “Anti (this) War (now)” position, which I had hitherto believed was my own view on the Iraq War, the question i...

  2. Crooked Timber » » Anti Which War When?

    19—it is important to see why the war was the only one on offer, however. Why was Rumsfeld so enamored of the “lean” troop idea? I think this connects to the general politics of war in America. War that requires mass mobilization—such as the Vi...

  3. Roger That § Unqualified Offerings

    Roger That: Crooked Timber commenter Roger has a ne’er so well express’d moment as part of the discussion of Daniel Davies’ reconsideration of his “Anti-This War Now” position regarding Iraq. (He’s edging closer to Jim Henley’s Anti-Most W

  4. Economist's View: "We Are On a Losing Trajectory in Iraq"

    "We Are On a Losing Trajectory in Iraq" Thomas Friedman has some questions for Dick Cheney: Big Talk, Little Will. by Thomas L. Friedman, Commentary, NY Times: The defeat of Senator Joe Lieberman by the upstart antiwar Democrat Ned Lamont has sparke...


    (Via Juan Cole) Link: QUESTION: How can the international force, or the United States if necessary, prevent Iran from resupplying Hezbollah? BUSH: The first step is -- and part of the mand...

  6. The Shootout | Articles | Chicago magazine

    The Shootout A former U. of C. colleague has sued Steven D. Levitt, coauthor of Freakonomics, for defamation in a case growing out of research on gun-control laws. by James L. Meriner. Levitt (above) is being sued by Lo

  7. Of Monkeys and Senators | TPMCafe

    Of Monkeys and Senators: By Matthew Yglesias | bio: For the record yes, obviously George Allen was trying to use a racial slur against S.R. Sidarth. The reason you might not think it was a slur is that the slur in question was terribly obscure. It's obscu...

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Ah. The New Republic...

It writes:

A defense of Ann Coulter: Weenie Roast. by Elspeth Reeve

As I have said, anyone writing for the New Republic who wants to have any reputation with the reality-based community. Any reputation at all. Needs to bail. Last week.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Shrillblog: Joe Klein Is Shrill!

At long last, our daily prayers for the conversion to shrillness, fairness, and reality based-ness of Joe Klein have been [answered!](

British Right-Wing Thatcher Acolyte Max Hastings Is Shrill

From Newshog:

NewsHog: "He who has one enemy will meet him everywhere": Max Hastings is a veteran British journalist who writes for the rightwing Daily Mail (that's Brit rightwing - a lot saner than the US rabid version) but also contributes a provocative op-ed column for the Guardian. Hastings is a colourful character and about as Tory as the come. That's why I was pleasantly surprised by his Guardian column today. It's comprehensive roasting of Bush's rhetoric of "either for us or against us" and belief in a worldwide Islamist conspiracy. You have to read it all, but here's a whet for your appetite:

George Bush sometimes sounds more like the Mahdi, preaching jihad against infidels, than the leader of a western democracy. In his regular radio address to the American people on Saturday he linked the British alleged aircraft plotters with Hizbullah in Lebanon, and these in turn with the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

All, said the president of the world's most powerful nation, share a "totalitarian ideology", and a desire to "establish a safe haven from which to attack free nations". Bush's remarks put me in mind of a proverb attributed to Ali ibn Abu Talib: "He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare, and he who has one enemy will meet him everywhere."

In the United States a disturbingly large minority of people - polls suggest around 40% - remain willing to accept Bush's assertions that Americans and their allies, which chiefly means the British, are faced with a single global conspiracy by Islamic fundamentalists to destroy our societies.

In less credulous Britain one could nowadays fit into an old-fashioned telephone box those who believe anything Bush or Tony Blair says about foreign policy. Many of us are consumed with frustration. We know that we face a real threat from Muslim fundamentalists, and that we are unlikely to begin to defeat this until we see it for what it is: something infinitely more complex, diffuse and nuanced than the US president wishes to suppose.

And more, as he cuts to the quick of the neocon's amateurish "framing" in pursuit of power rather than actual success in the "long war":

The madness of Bush's policy is that he has made a wilful choice to amalgamate the grossly irrational, totalitarian and homicidal objectives of al-Qaida with the just claims of Palestinians and grievances of Iraqis. His remarks on Saturday invite Muslims who sympathise with Hamas or reject Iraq's occupation or merely aspire to grow opium in Afghanistan to make common cause with Bin Laden.

If the United States insists upon regarding all Muslim opponents of its foreign policies as a homogeneous enemy then that is what they become. The Muslim radicals' "single narrative" portrays the entire course of history as a Christian and Jewish plot against Islam.

It is widely agreed among western governments and intelligence agencies that, in order to defeat the pernicious spread of such nonsense, a convincing counter-narrative is needed. Yet it becomes a trifle difficult to compose this when the US president promulgates his own single narrative, almost as ridiculous as that of al-Qaida.

And finally, the coup-de-grace on the whole failed neocon adventure and on the leaders who have championed it to the world - Bush and Blair:

Tony Blair - "waist deep in the big muddy", as Pete Seeger used to sing about Lyndon Johnson in the Vietnam era - clings to a messianic conviction that he must continue to endorse American statements and policies to maintain his restraining influence on George Bush. This invites speculation about what the president might do if Tony was not at his elbow. Seize Mecca?The west faces a threat from violent Muslim fundamentalists that would have existed even if a Lincoln had been presiding at the White House. As a citizen, I am willing to be resolute in the face of terrorism, which must be defeated. I become much less happy about the prospect of immolation, however, when Bush and Blair translate what should be an ironclad case for civilised values into an agenda of their own which I want no part of.

It would be a wonderfully erudite and convincing argument if a peacenik liberal had written it. That the author was a champion of old-style conservatism as editor of the Daily Telegraph for so many years, and a friend and confidante of Maggie Thatcher, is just.... how can I put this... sublime.

Tom Ridge Is One of Us

Former Bush cabinet secretary Tom Ridge is shrill:

Ridge says Cheney wrong about Lamont victory: [Responding to Cheney's claim that Lamont's victory would encourage "al Qaeda types"], former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge bridled at his former colleague's remark: "That may be the way the vice president sees it," he said, "but I don%u2019t see it that way, and I don't think most Americans see it that way."

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Wall Street Journal Editorial Page Edition)

Jim Hamilton reminds us why, as Roger Altman has said, the Wall Street Journal sells for twice as much when its editorial page is ripped out of it:

Econbrowser: Good and not-so-good reasons to disagree with Bernanke: Some of the reasons people have given for why the Fed should keep raising interest rates make sense to me, and some don't. I have to say that the line of reasoning from the Wall Street Journal takes the cake:

The Fed's Open Market Committee decided not to raise interest rates again -- not because inflation is contained but because it says the economy is slowing. Uh, oh. Here we go again, back to the era of the Phillips curve, the economic theory that postulates a trade-off between inflation and unemployment. We thought Paul Volcker and Alan Greenspan had buried that notion years ago. But apparently it lives on like Arthur Burns's ghost in the attic of the Fed, ready to inhabit a new Chairman who has inherited an inflation and is afraid that breaking it will send the economy into recession.

To me, there is a basic question here that can be settled without appeal to ideology or consultation with ghosts. Surely the relevant question for an objective observer is the following: if the unemployment rate goes up or the rate of growth of real GDP slows down, should that cause a rational person to anticipate a lower rate of inflation than you would have predicted in the absence of those changes?

Harvard Professor James Stock and Princeton Professor Mark Watson, two of the nation's most careful and respected economic researchers, conducted a very thorough investigation of how well different models succeeded for purposes of forecasting inflation in an article published in the Journal of Monetary Economics in 1999. They compared Phillips-Curve specifications based on measures of the level of real activity such as the unemployment rate or the growth rate of industrial production with alternatives that included 19 different interest rate measures, 12 different measures of the money supply, 21 different price or wage indexes, and a number of other variables. Here was their conclusion:

The major conclusion of this study is that the Phillips curve, interpreted broadly as a relation between current real economic activity and future inflation, produced the most reliable and accurate short-run forecasts of US price inflation across all of the models that we considered over the 1970-1996 period. This conclusion will come as no surprise to applied macroeconomic forecasters in business and government, where the Phillips curve plays a central role in short-run economic forecasting. The conclusion is also consistent with the recent academic literature on short-run economic forecasting...