Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

This is Bad Economic News

Factory orders fall 1.5% in February; Manufacturing sector remains sluggish as factories hold out for further developments in Iraq war. Quoting:

Orders for durable goods — items such as cars and appliances meant to last three or more years — fell 1.6 percent, a bigger fall than the previously reported 1.2 percent drop…Orders in almost all major categories of manufactured goods were down. Non-durable orders were also down, falling 1.4 percent, their largest decline since February 2002, the department said.

Unfortunately, unemployment increases tend to follow decreases in any (or in this case, all) of these numbers. With more unemployment and less optimistic expectations as a result of these numbers, it is rational for firms to further scale back their orders, leading to further unemployment and worsened expectations… It’s the type of situation where short-term stimulus (either from fiscal or monetary policy) is usually called for, especially with inflation not an issue. Instead, we have a tax plan that (1) skews the benefits upward, (2) is phased in over time, and (3) is not alleged even by its supporters to be stimulative in the short run (except perhaps insofar as it improves expectations of lifetime income–the permanent income hypothesis).

AB

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In Honor of Mr. Cheney Today

There’s this from the Press Gaggle:

Q. So you think that his [Vice President Cheney] prediction could still pan out that the Iraqis wouldn’t fight?

MR. FLEISCHER: I assure you, the Vice President does not say things lightly. So when the Vice President says something like that, he has good reason to say it and to think it and, therefore, to say it.

25 Mar. 03

AB

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Orcinus found a Great Quote

It’s sufficiently appropriate for the current times that I’ll lift it entirely from Dave:

“The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.” [emphasis mine]

Theodore Roosevelt in the Kansas City Star, 149. May 7, 1918.

Yes, this is from Teddy “Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick” Roosevelt. Based on this, Roosevelt would clearly argue that those who are against people exercising their right to free speech and their right to criticize U.S. policy are “base”, “servile”, “unpatriotic and servile”, and “morally treasonable to the American public”. Using the logic heard often on talk radio and righty blogs, this anti-American behavior gives aid and comfort to the enemy and makes those who practice it objectively pro-Saddam.

AB

And, while we’re mentioning Dave Neiwert, when you have free time and are mentally prepared to be a little bit frightened, make sure to read his excellent 12 part series on “Rush, Newspeak, and Fascism“. If you’re not in a hurry, it will be easier to read when he finishes compiling all the posts into a single pdf.

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Controversy becoming more public

The story of the Military Brass vs. Rumsfeld and the Neocons has been getting a lot of play lately. In Europe, both the very liberal Guardian and the center-right Financial Times had daily stories alleging that the troops and commanders were unhappy over the limited deployment of ground troops. Today’s New York Times has a story that must really make Rove–not to mention Defense Secretary Rumsfeld–unhappy. Here are some quotations:

  • Long-simmering tensions between Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Army commanders have erupted in a series of complaints from officers on the Iraqi battlefield that the Pentagon has not sent enough troops to wage the war as they want to fight it.
  • [there are] questions [from troops in Iraq] that challenge not only the Rumsfeld design for this war but also his broader approach to transforming the military.
  • Even some of Mr. Rumsfeld’s advisers now acknowledge that they misjudged the scope and intensity of resistance from Iraqi paramilitaries in the south, and forced commanders to divert troops already stretched thin to protect supply convoys and root out Hussein loyalists in Basra, Nasiriya and Najaf.
  • General Shinseki, who commanded the NATO peacekeeping force in Bosnia, said several hundred thousand troops could be needed [for the post-war occupation]…”Wildly off the mark,” was how Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, dismissed the Army chief’s comments. Mr. Rumsfeld was a bit more circumspect in his criticism, saying that the general had a right to his opinion, but that this one would be proven wrong.
  • General Nash, currently a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, added, “It is extremely unfortunate that he [Gen. Shinseki] has not had more influence on the war planning and the allocation of forces.”

Of course, Gen. Shinseki is the Army Chief of Staff, and under the Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz model of war, the Army will play a less crucial role. So some of this debate may be traditional turf battles. On this subject, it’s worth noting that Rumsfeld spent 35 years in the Navy (4 years active, 31 reserve). Wolfowitz, though he has extensive experience in defense policy, apparently never served in the armed forces.

AB

UPDATE: This today from Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Meyers: “It is not helpful to have those kind of comments [comments that “the plan” is a bad one” come out when we’ve got troops in combat, because, first of all, they’re false, they’re absolutely wrong, they bear no resemblance to the truth, and it’s just harmful to our troops that are out there fighting very bravely, very courageously”. Meyers entered the Air Force in 1965. What I still haven’t seen is a senior Army official defending the plan. (Note: I think it’s still too early to state that the plan is good or bad).

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Gary Hart Has a Blog

It looks like Hart is posting on alternate days. Here’s a sample:

I’ve been meeting with students and activists in Durham, Manchester, Hanover, Boston, Amherst, and New Haven and I have been hearing some common themes…Heidi Brooks, a business school student, asked me “how will we know when the war is won?” We’ll know the war is won when we withdraw the last of the American forces from the region.

This link is not an endorsement of Hart (I don’t think he can win, which is perhaps unfortunate since Hart has–or should have–substantial credibility on the subject of anti-terrorism). As far as I can tell, the principle flaw with Hart’s blog is the blogroll, which is at least one link short. It would be nice if more of the field added blogs, assuming they are not vacous and ghost-written statements, press releases disguised as blogs. Just for fun, ponder briefly what blogs by G. W. Bush and John McCain would have looked like in the spring of 2000 (say, during the South Carolina primary); even better, consider Gore and Bush blogs between the 2000 election and the final Supreme Court ruling.
AB

P.S. Taking cheap shots might be viewed by some as somehow giving “aid and comfort” to the enemy so I probably shouldn’t, but I try as I might I can’t stop myself from suggesting www.hungrycaterpillar.blogspot.com [for Bush's campaign blog].

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Angry Bear Back from Vacation

I guess the headline says it all. Europe was great and the people were friendly to Americans–at least to us. Unfortunately, I didn’t talk much to the locals about war views. I guess I wasn’t real anxious to approach people and say “Hi, I’m American, what do you think about the war?” Here’s one exchange, which occurred in a pool hall in Brussels:

European: You’re American? How do you feel about the war?

AB: We’re against, she (“Honey Bear”?) is entirely, and I am against without UN and NATO being on board. [pause]…I suppose you’re against?

European: Why? Because I’m Muslim?

AB: No, because you’re European.

European: Yes, I’m against.

Then we played snooker. AB won.

More interesting were the conversations with Americans upon my return. Here’s an unfortunately typical exchange:

American: How was your trip?

AB: I had a great time.

American: Good. Were they mean to you because you are an American?

AB: No, they were quite nice, even the French.

American: You spent money in France?

AB: Yes, lots.

American: I hate the French.

AB: Don’t you see the contradiction in supporting a “war for democracy and freedom” while hating countries that are actual democracies when the leaders of those countries follow a course that reflects the will of 80 to 90 percent of their citizens?

American: I hate the French.

AB: Another beer, please.

In any event, I have to catch up on (1) real work, (2) the news, and (3) my favorite bloggers. Normal posting should resume tomorrow.

AB

P.S. In the meantime, there’s this for your consideration: Is this the second dip? Recent economic numbers show contraction has already begun.

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Paris Scenes

We caught the tail end of a protest in the Place de Concorde last night. It ended at 5:00 and we didn’t get there till around 5:30, so the pictures below don’t show the full turnout. The most notable aspect was the lack of any overt anti-Americanism…the signs were all peace oriented as opposed to “bush=hitler” and things along those lines. “No war for oil” was about as extreme as it got. We were speaking English and got no dirty looks or comments, which was a nice surprise. Here’s a few shots from the protest:

1. The crowd:

2. The police:

3. More crowd:

4. A sign left at the plaza (about as anti-American as it got):

AB

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London Dispatch

For the most part it seems like business as usual in London, with scattered sightings of protesters here and there, and some anti-war signs on buses. Upon arriving in Picadilly Square, I did see a group of people with “Shag Iraq” T-shirts–which could really be either a pro or anti-war message…in this case, I think it was anti. Saturday, we saw a group of several hundred sign-waving protesters on their way to a rally in Hyde Park that drew around 100,000 people, which is impressive, but 1/10th the turnout at the last pre-war protest.

Finally, reading the London Times this morning, I skimmed an editorial and in the process thought to myself “what moron wrote this?” Looking to the byline, it was none other than the transplanted Londoner, Andrew Sullivan. You can’t get away from him.

AB

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Angry Bear on Vacation

I’ll be out of the country, in the UK and France Freedom, on a personal vacation that was booked some time ago and is completely unrelated to anything geopolitical in nature.

I do hope to post perhaps on alternate days or perhaps every third day. Hopefully, I’ll get some interesting European perspectives and sentiment about the war from the random people we meet. And if I can get my new digital camera to work, there will be pictures as well.

Normal posting resumes around 4/2.

AB

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