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

Make Sure to CC John Ashcroft

Missing Bill of Rights copy recovered (after having been missing for 138 years).

More seriously, this is a subject on which I can actually agree with Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit):

…because it’s pretty obvious that, barring a miracle of some sort, we’ll be at war shortly. And my next advice is equally applicable to war supporters and opponents: Keep your eye on the civil-liberties ball, and don’t be distracted. I predicted on September 11 itself (and in this column just a couple of days afterward) that bureaucrats would take advantage of 9/11 to slip through items that had been on their wishlists for years, and they did. There’s now a “USA Patriot II” bill floating around in draft form. I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone try to slip it through Congress while everyone’s attention is on the war.


Comments (0) | |

Budget Deficits

The OMB (the White House agency with responsibility for the budget) pegged the upcoming budget deficit at $300b–this is basically a direct projection based on the fact that the deficit for the first four months of fiscal year 2003 was $98b (so 12 months should be just under $300b). This of course does not include any expenditures for the war, nor for any post-war nation-building in Iraq. The White House has, somewhat famously, refused to attach a number to the cost of war. Here’s Ari Fleischer in late February on the topic:

“There is unquestionably a responsibility on the Executive Branch to provide to the Legislative Branch an estimate about what the war would cost, what the humanitarian operation would cost. And that is a responsibility the administration takes seriously…Because we take it seriously, I’m not in a position to speculate what the number may be.”

Recently, CNN and othersreported that the White House would make a $95b supplemental request to cover the war. In any event, CNN now has an interesting piece on various estimates of the likely costs of the war.

So that puts this year’s deficit at at least $400b (and there are more tax cuts to come soon). As a percentage of GDP, $400 billion will approach 4%, levels only seen in 83-86 and 91-92, neither being great stretches for the U.S. economy. Indeed, the 91-92 recession bears much of the blame (credit?) for the elder Bush’s loss to Clinton in 1992.


P.S. The CNN story also has a great graph on “Budget Deficits as a Percentage of GDP”, but note that the projections do not include the cost of the war or any rebuilding of Iraq.

UPDATE: See also this editorial in today’s Washington Post, which ends with “To approve a budget plan including large tax cuts without attempting even to estimate the cost of the war would be breathtakingly irresponsible.” I’m not sure why they wrote “would be” instead of “is”.

Comments (0) | |

Funny or Scary?

Via Ampersand, this link to a collection of safety posters and instructions from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), with new and improved captions explaining what they mean. They are hilarious.

After about the fifth, I thought they were real pictures, actually used by the DHS. By about the tenth, I was sure a sketch artist had made them up–a parody of safety placards, not actual placards that the government would really use. Well, sure enough, they are real, copied from the website (the same site that introduced you to Duct TapeTM brand chemical and biological weapons repellant).


Comments (0) | |

From Bold to Audacious

You may recall not so long ago when everything President Bush did or proposed doing was “bold”. As in “the President’s tax package may severely damage the economy and wreak havoc on the poor, but it is a very bold plan”. Apparently, the new word is “audacious”, as in “In a series of audacious moves, President Bush–eschewing diplomacy–is straining or breaking relations with long-time allies and setting a dangerous precedent for unilateral agression.”

Atrios has the “audacious-watch” here. And for what it’s worth, I can add the NYT’s David E. Sanger who in a piece today writes:

What has surprised the world is the audacity with which Mr. Bush has pursued that vision — to the point today of drawing up detailed plans for making Iraq an American protectorate, for as long as it takes to transform it into a peaceful nation.


Comments (0) | |

Fed Leaves Interest Rate Unchanged

Central bank policy-makers unanimously agreed to leave their target for the federal funds rate, an overnight bank lending rate, unchanged at 1.25 percent, the lowest level since 1961, but said they could not decide whether the economy’s risks were tilted towards weakness or inflation.

This means they basically think the economy is worse than when last they met, but they can’t decide how much worse.


Comments (0) | |

More on Robin Cook

For those interested, the BBC’s has a page devoted to Cook’s resignation, which includes a link to video of the speech. There’s also an editorial here. The article describes Mr. Cook as receiving an “unprecedented standing ovation in the House of Commons” (the BBC’s political analyst explained that “MPs applauding one another [was] simply not done.”) Here’s an interesting line from the speech:

“What has come to trouble me most over past weeks is the suspicion that if the hanging chads in Florida had gone the other way and Al Gore had been elected we would not now be about to commit British troops”.

Oddly, there’s basically nothing on this on CNN (one paragraph in a story headlined “Bush ultimatum to Iraq“). Damned Liberal Media.


UPDATE: From Altercation (scroll down):

At a seminar Saturday night in Los Angeles, journalist Robert Scheer was ticking off succinct and persuasive arguments against going to war when the picture began to break up. Suddenly a C-SPAN announcer declared that technical difficulties made the telecast impossible (in fact, the audio could still be heard) and so the seminar was yanked and replaced — by Army-supplied footage of military maneuvers. An antiwar speech from the British House of Commons yesterday afternoon was also abruptly interrupted.

Parliamentarian Robin Cook was giving reasons to avoid the war when he was replaced suddenly on the screen by a color test pattern and the words ‘FOX NEWS QATAR.’ ”

UPDATE: Full transcript available on CNN.

Comments (0) | |

This Should be Worth Watching

Robin Cook, Jack Straw’s predecessor as Foreign Secretary and currently leader of the Commons resigned in protest over the impending war today. And he’s scheduled to give a speech, probably around 3:00 Eastern, after Jack Straw’s speech. It’s not on CSPAN’s web page and I’d be surprised but not shocked if CNN carries it, but it should be worth watching if you can find it. I’ll post a transcript when I find one. Why do I think it will be interesting? Here’s a quote from the Guardian describing Mr. Cook:

Mr Cook is now expected to make a public statement on his resignation in the Commons tonight, following Jack Straw’s address to MPs at 7pm.

This could be a highly dramatic moment, as Mr Cook is a veteran Commons orator, and is expected to take apart the legal basis for a pre-emptive attack on Iraq with forensic skill.

Here’s a quote from his resignation letter:

“In principle I believe it is wrong to embark on military action without broad international support. In practice I believe it is against Britain’s interests to create a precedent for unilateral military action.”


Update: Many “liberal hawks” on Iraq find solace in the fact that Tony Blair is in favor of the war. Their logic is something along the lines of “I don’t fully trust the current [U.S.] administration and I don’t think they’ve fully demonstrated the need for war. However, there is probably much evidence that isn’t being made public, for security reasons. Whatever that evidence, it is compelling to Prime Minister Blair. If Blair is convinced that Saddam has or will soon have WMD, then that’s good enough for me.”

It occurs to me that Cook’s resignation may do a lot of damage to this theory. This assumes that as a former foreign secretary, current Leader of the Commans and historical ally of Blair, Cook knows what Blair knows. This may not be a safe assumption though. Blair essentially fired Cook as Foreign Secretary (though Cook remained in the cabinet–the position he resigned today), replacing him (also see this) with the much less liberal and less Europhilic Jack Straw.

Comments (0) | |

This Seems Worth Passing Along

Dear bloggers, webmasters, journalists, yada, yada, It seems that we’re now on the eve of war, with Bush’s final ultimatum, the White House saying that “diplomacy [sic] has ended”, Robin Cook’s resignation in Britain, and the announcement that there will be no additional U.N. Security Council vote.
NOW is the time to make voices heard, whether you’re for the war or against

it. Please ask your readers, listeners, friends and family to contact their elected officials today, right now, to tell them how they feel. (If you’re cool, you’ll say something like, “If you’re reading this, you have time to call these people…” — not that I’m cool). Here, for your convenience, are some ways to contact elected officials.

White House Comment Line: (202) 456.1111
White House Email:,

Contacting your House Representative:

Contacting your Senator:

the good reverend


Comments (0) | |