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

If Tucker Carlson Tried to Hit Upon Chloe Bruce

AB readers – please indulge me for a moment. Just imagine a situation where Tucker Carlson tried to make the moves on one Chloe Bruce. Yes, this attractive young woman is quite the martial arts expert and it would be such a joy if she were so offended that she kicked the stuffing out of Mr. Carlson. Something tells me, however, that Ms. Bruce would simply brush off the advance and not waste one second of her life with this bow tie twit.

I raise this only in light of this interview:

CARLSON: Let me – let me put it this way. Whether he’s gay or not actually is not our business, and I do think it’s indefensible that the newspaper in Idaho spent a year interviewing 300 people to answer the question, Is he gay? That’s none of your business. Having sex in a public men’s room is outrageous. It’s also really common. I’ve been bothered in men’s rooms. I think people who do …
ABRAMS: Tucker, what did you do, by the way? What did you do when he did that? We got to know.
CARLSON: I went back with someone I knew and grabbed the guy by the – you know, and grabbed him, and – and –
ABRAMS: And did what?
CARLSON: Hit him against the stall with his head, actually!
CARLSON: And then the cops came and arrested him. But let me say that I’m the least anti-gay right-winger you’ll ever meet

It’s disgusting that this crew was laughing about the fact that the little coward known as Tucker Carlson went and found another person to help beat up the person who approached him in the restroom. Assaulting another person is funny?

But back to my hypothetical. Why is it OK for guys to beat up on other guys for this stuff and yet it is considered manly when a guy decides to hit upon a woman. Is it because the woman will not strike back?

Come to think about it – some women would certainly have the ability to do so and any one of them wouldn’t need to go find any assistance. Other gals Tucker shouldn’t hit upon.

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Where is Gwadar? In Balochistan, where else?

The BBC News reports:

Gwadar port is on the Arabian Sea at the mouth of the Gulf through which 30% of the world’s daily oil supply passes.
Officials say the port will benefit Balochistan. That is disputed by Baloch militants fighting the government.
The current estimated cost of the port project is nearly $1bn. Much of the funding has come from China.

While inaugurating the port, President Musharraf described the occasion as “a historic moment” for Pakistan.
A high-level Chinese delegation, led by Minister for Communications Li Shenglin, was in attendance.
Gen Musharraf also announced that a modern airport would be built near the port with Chinese assistance.

“The same Chinese friends will build an airport here for us, where the best aircraft will come,” Musharraf said according to AFP news agency.
Gwadar is expected to provide strategic storage and transport facilities, as well as road and rail links to China.
The port is seen by observers as China’s first foothold in the Middle East.

China’s involvement has been viewed with hostility and suspicion not just in Pakistan, but also internationally.
The port is said to be part of Chinese naval expansion along the Asian and African coasts called the ‘string of pearls’ initiative, according to a US Department of Defense report.
It entails the maintenance of ports and bases at strategic places in the region.
Observers say that United States as well as the Gulf countries have major reservations at the ‘overwhelming’ Chinese involvement in the project.
The Gwadar port is situated right next to the strategic Straits of Hormuz and its busy oil shipping lanes.
The surrounding region is home to around two-thirds of the world’s oil reserves.
It is also on the shortest route to the oil rich Central Asian states through land-locked Afghanistan.

The Association for Asian Research elaborates on the issue of the port and how military presence of some kind is a part of expansion.

Who else is moving into the area? With some form of military? And with defense against Islamic terrorism as part of the discussion?

(Read India and Tajikistan, with ties to Russia, as part of a pact on energy and militant Islam. Discussed in Part III.)

Where is Balochistan? Part I

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Comparing Presidents: The Military

This post looks at national defense, specifically the size of the active duty military, and spending on defense (as a share of the federal budget and as a percentage of GDP), going back to Ike’s term. Data on military personnel from 1952 to 1959 comes from this DoD site (sadly, the link doesn’t seem to be active and I can’t find another one), data from 1960 to 2005 is available from the DoD by way ofthe Statistical Abstract of the United States, dollar figures for spending on defense and the federal budget are available from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget Table 3.1, and GDP comes from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget Table 1.2.

Some charts…

Some tables to match…

What do we learn from this? First, only three administrations – JFK/LBJ, Reagan, and GW increased the size of the active duty military… and GW did so by a smidge. Given Republican complaints about Clinton shrinking the military (and he sat in the middle of the pack in that regard), you’d think GW would have tried to increase the size of the active duty military quite a bit. Looks like at this rate, they’ll be able to continue criticizing Clinton for shrinking the military for administrations to come. (In fairness to GW, my guess is that the active duty military is now a much smaller part of the fighting force – all the two-weekend-a-month-folks doing 15 months in the Sandbox and stoplossed so they’ll do it again can attest to that, plus there are all the military contractors. The really big shrinkage in the military took place after the end of Vietnam, and in Ike’s term (i.e., after Korea). JFK/LBJ’s ramp-up makes sense – Vietnam was a proxy war against the Soviets. Reagan’s ramp-up… well, there was the Cold War posturing, the cutting and running in Beirut, and Grenada.

By the numbers, one would think GHW did a good job if you value the military. He managed to do a pretty successful job in Panama and defending our friendly despots in Kuwait against Saddam in Gulf War 1 while still shrinking the size of the military and cutting spending. Contrast that with GW… the biggest spending increases by far (twice Reagan’s, in fact, as a percentage of GDP). Clearly ill-defined badly-planned missions with tap-dancing goals are costly. That said, as a share of the budget (and of GDP), spending on the military is still much lower than in the tail end of WW2 & Korea years.


Update… Table 3 originally was a repeat of Table 2. Thanks to reader Mark Hessel for pointing out the error.

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At Least Richard Miniter Allows Rebuttal Comments

Max Sawicky is having a good last week including this:

Richard Miniter of Pajamas Media is a douchebag. He posted a drive-by attack on me, then wouldn’t allow me to post a relatively civil comment in response. Since he got only one comment, evidently nobody reads him so it doesn’t matter.

Sort of remind everyone of a troll that hangs around here – except our troll has never got a single comment on any of his stupid blog posts. But let’s check out what Richard said:

Over at Pajamas Media’s main page, a guy named Max Sawicky- some blogosphere big shot – is making a fool out of himself … All of the “threats” to gays, women and free-thinkers that he cites are of citizens exercising their constitutional rights to free speech, assemby and petition (now called lobbying). In other words, the “threats” come from people who peacefully disagree with Sawicky. And THAT is more dangerous that terrorism, which has killed some 3,000 Americans in the past six years?

I see. The theocrat party pushes for government restrictions on individual choices and this meat head calls this an exercise of free speech? But it does seem that Max was able to eventually get his comment posted over at Miniter’s place. Something you cannot do over at the blog of our favorite troll.

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Antigua update Part I WTO GATS

Reader JohnA forwarded this article as an update to the toe in the water scenario for implementing WTO GATS policy. The New York Times article suggests possibilities.

Antigua is best known to Americans for its pristine beaches and tourist attractions like historic English Harbor. But the dozens of online casinos based there are vital to the island’s economy, serving as its second-largest employer.
More than a few people in Washington initially dismissed as absurd the idea that the trade organization could claim jurisdiction over something as basic as a country’s own policies toward gambling. Various states and the federal government, after all, have been deeply engaged for decades in where and when to allow the operation of casinos, Indian gambling halls, racetracks, lotteries and the like.
But a W.T.O. panel ruled against the United States in 2004, and its appellate body upheld that decision one year later. In March, the organization upheld that ruling for a second time and declared Washington out of compliance with its rules.
That has placed the United States in a quandary, said John H. Jackson, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center who specializes in international trade law.
Complying with the W.T.O. ruling, Professor Jackson said, would require Congress and the Bush administration either to reverse course and permit Americans to place bets online legally with offshore casinos or, equally unlikely, impose an across-the-board ban on all forms of Internet gambling — including the online purchase of lottery tickets, participation in Web-based pro sports fantasy leagues and off-track wagering on horse racing.
But not complying with the decision presents big problems of its own for Washington. That’s because Mr. Mendel, who is claiming $3.4 billion in damages on behalf of Antigua, has asked the trade organization to grant a rare form of compensation if the American government refuses to accept the ruling: permission for Antiguans to violate intellectual property laws by allowing them to distribute copies of American music, movie and software products, among others.
For the W.T.O. itself, the decision is equally fraught with peril. It cannot back down because that would undermine its credibility with the rest of the world. But if it actually carries out the penalties, it risks a political backlash in the United States, the most powerful force for free-flowing global trade and the W.T.O.’s biggest backer.

There are several thought that come to mind:

1) The Doha Rounds of talks have pretty much stalled completely on the agricultural subsidy problem between two big players, the US and the EU. China has resisted US pressure to respect intellectual property rights, so the ‘moral high ground’ is in danger for the US on the symbolic level at least.

2) The testing of rules and jurisdictions would be easier if the short term stakes look small, as in this David/Goliath case.

Antigua is a small country (70,000 people) so the penalty imposed on intellectual property would be tiny for the US in relation to the economy. But the issue of jurisdictions is huge. The US federal government has restricted use of credit cards and such for internet gambling offshore, and there is a long history of regulation at the state and local levels of government.

3) I do not think that the gambling industry has as powerful a lobby and financial backers as agricultural, and is less centralized. Americans are also ambivalent about the industry, but it has become a money maker for states as sole providers of tickets.

4) Alternative routes to globalization are being explored in various multi-lateral agreements based on regional interests with similar political goals or more familiar cultural values as more local businesses become involved in regional trade.

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Comparing Presidents: Rankings of Economic Growth

I’m coming to the end of the series of posts comparing Presidents. There may be a few more… if I can find the data for them. But in the meantime, this one is sure to piss people off. It takes some information from previous macro posts, and summarizes it in a bit of a different way… in an attempt to rank how well the economy as a whole performed under each administration. I intend to do the same in various other areas (e.g., social issues, personal income issues, etc.) in later posts.

Each of the series I’ll use in this post has been used in an earlier post – to avoid repeating myself excessively, I’ll note that the sources of the data are linked to in the earlier posts I’m going to reference, as are graphs of the series themselves. In particular, this post will make reference to are on real GDP per capita, the National Debt, and Real GDP less change in the National Debt per capita (sorry – no graph in this last post, just a table showing the percentage change). Note… unfortunately, I only found data on debt by fiscal year. Thus, while real GDP figures are annual (i.e., the most common way of presenting them), I was forced to use quarterly data (for the last quarter of the fiscal year) for real GDP less debt per capita. Thus, the three series aren’t 100% compatible, but its as good as I could do given the constraints of the data.

OK. So let’s start…

First off… here’s a summary of how each administration did on real GDP per capita (note – it’s a graphical representation of a table that appears in the real GDP per capita post)…

Here’s a table ranking them. Note that I show the “raw rank” and an “adjusted rank.” While Clinton’s growth rate is faster than Reagan’s, they are sufficiently close that I decided to rank Reagan equal to Clinton.

What do we get from this… the three Democratic Presidents are in the top half of the sample… and only one Republican President is. Put another way, 80% of Republican administrations are in the bottom half of the sample, and 100% of the Democratic administrations are in the top half of the sample.

Next, debt. Why debt? Well,
GDP = Consumption + Investment in Capital + Government Spending + Next Exports.

Which means that a President can boost GDP (and hence real GDP per capita) simply by borrowing 3 zillion bucks and spending it. (On a menu of economic policies, that one is known as “The Reagan.”) Should that really count? Well, probably not… its like borrowing money and then counting what you charge on your credit card as income. So in order to come up with a “true” measure of growth, we have to take into account debt… so here’s what the annualized percentage change in debt look like…

Here’s a table…

Clinton did the best job of reducing the size of the debt, followed by Ike and Nixon/Ford. All Democratic Presidents left a smaller debt than they inherited. All Republican Presidents since 1980 have increased the debt. Reagan was the grand champeen, as my grandfather would say. In fact, the annualized in the national debt under Reagan was greater than the sum of annualized decrease under all five administrations that decreased the debt. Fiscal responsibility and small government indeed…

And now, we combine the two…

And a table…

(Here’s where having to use a different period for debt per capita and real GDP less debt per capita than for the real GDP per capita measure becomes obvious. Note that Even though Ike cut the debt, his real GDP less debt per capita is less than his real GDP per capita. This is because of the difference between the annual real GDP per capita used in the first table (i.e., the standard way of looking at real GDP per capita), and the real GDP per capita for the end of the second quarter used in computing the last series, because that’s when the fiscal year ended during Ike’s term.)

So what do we get from this? Well, the economy performed best under Clinton, then JFK/LBJ. Then Carter, and since he’s almost as good, we’ll call Reagan a tie for third. Then Nixon/Ford, with Ike and GW tied for sixth, and GHW bringing up the rear. And in terms of parties, there is no contest… the economy as a whole seems to grow faster under Democrats. Giving Reagan the benefit of the doubt, he’s the only the Republican that does as well as the worst Democratic President. 100% of Democratic administrations in the sample get at least a bronze medal.

And before anything else, lets cover the excuses that come up time and again… Its not that Republicans inherit problems from Democratic administrations –even leaving out the first two years of each administration, growth is quite a bit faster under Democratic Presidents. It’s not control of Congress – growth is faster under Democratic Congresses than under Republican Congresses. It also is not the case that Democrats are elected when times are good and Republicans are elected when times are bad. And lags don’t explain it either. Its not the Fed – among Democratic Presidents, only JFK/LBJ got more favorable monetary policy than Republican Presidents, and Carter and Clinton were treated much more shabbily than Republican administrations.

I think that covers all the excuses I’ve seen before… for growth. I’m not sure what excuses one might come up with to explain away the massive run-up of debt under some Republican Presidents.

What’s left? Well, its possible I made a mistake with the numbers. You’re welcome to check ’em – the original sources of the data for each series are provided in the posts to which I linked above, and as regular readers know, I tend to go the true original source of the data where I can – the BEA for real GDP per capita, the Treasury or the OMB for debt, etc. And if there’s no mistake? Well then…

On the whole, Republicans are either the victims of incredibly bad luck, or lousy economic policy. But either way, they are not the Party of growth. Macro-economic growth seems to be faster when Democrats are in office.


As an aside… regular readers know I’m thinking of putting this series of posts into a book format. Question… does the above way of summarizing results work in such a format?

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Psychologists and torture

The Houston Chronicle comments on the American Psychological Association and the recent national meeting regarding psychologists’ role in interrogation.

One of the mental health profession’s strengths is its grasp of ambiguity. Love and hate, rage and attraction, altruism and greed can coexist in the same person, and practitioners help clients accept that.
The Hippocratic oath, on the other hand, is simple. Do no harm. Based on this mandate, American psychologists should have nothing to do with the interrogation of terrorist suspects in prisons such as Guantanamo Bay.
Even when legal, the harsh techniques used in these centers include inflicting mental anguish; the very basis on which these prisoners are held — depriving them of both the protections afforded prisoners of war and the legal rights of criminal suspects — comprises a human rights violation. By helping interrogators in such prisons, psychologists are promoting, not healing, mental distress.
Unfortunately, the American Psychological Association last week concluded otherwise. To its credit, in a closely watched decision at their annual meeting, the group forbade members from “direct or indirect participation” in about 20 extreme interrogation techniques that have been used recently by U.S. military forces and intelligence agencies.
The association singled out waterboarding, exploiting detainees’ phobias and exposure to extreme temperatures.
But the resolution didn’t go far enough. Because psychologists are heavily involved in intelligence work — from giving advice to conducting studies — any ambiguity about their role in inflicting harm has special consequence.
The American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association ban their members from taking any part in prisoner interrogations. According to Leonard Rubenstein of the nonprofit Physicians for Human Rights, medical professionals’ ethics plainly ban them from using their expertise in any situation in which distress is purposely inflicted.
Though the American Psychological Association “unequivocally condemns torture,” its members may still help interrogators at Guantanamo and similar facilities.
Still worse, a number of exposés show that in recent years psychologists have been pivotal in creating some of the most abusive tactics in use since 9/11.
These extreme measures don’t even produce reliable evidence, many mental health and intelligence experts agree. Under duress, prisoners just say what they think interrogators want to hear. Experienced interrogators, on the other hand, build rapport and incentives, which do produce useful information. Psychologists are neither trained, nor necessary, for this non-therapeutic questioning process.
The worst argument for psychologists’ presence at interrogations comes from U.S. Army Col. Larry James, director of the psychology department of a military medical center.
“If we lose psychologists from these facilities, people are going to die,” he said at the APA meeting. Psychologists, James suggested, can rein or report overzealous violators.
Any interrogation system that teeters so close to atrocities needs more than a psychologist. It requires thorough overhaul and specific bans of the most extreme methods. The Department of Defense has listed such prohibitions. The CIA has not.
Torturing prisoners doesn’t produce reliable data. It does, however, violate human rights and strip Americans of the right to protest torture of its own men and women. Above all, it blurs our credibility as a democracy worth defending.
No American psychologist should have a part in an interrogation system with the potential to devolve into murder. No American should.

The failure of the APA is a serious one in my view. I believe the carrot to be the authorization of writing script for medication for the DOD, currently not allowed by any state medical board.

Both the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association have resolutions restricting members participation as a policy. As an institution I believe the American Psychological Association is on the way to crossing a very dangerous line for the profession.

The comments made by readers of the Houston Chronicle were generally opposed to the editorial point of view. Comments?

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Unions Can Do Marvelous Things

Michael Rubin does not seem to be too happy with a particular strike:

Air Greenland went out on a sudden strike yesterday just two days before the last flight to the United States. It’s stranded about 60 Americans (and a number of others) around a region where there are no intra-town roads. The Air Greenland office in town is refusing to help with rescheduling those here and the Greenland travel folks in Copenhagen are no where to be found. We seem to be pawns, all the more so since there doesn’t seem to be enough hotel rooms in town for everyone. Even if the strike ends, it will take a bit to get all the various travelers to the single airport that can handle jets to the U.S. or Europe. There is only one internet accessible computer at the hotel and a long line, so, long story short, no Iran News Round Ups for a little while until I can find my way back from Ilulissat.

Kevin Drum appears to be elated:

SEND THEM ALL TO A COLD AND DESOLATE PLACE AND THEN STRAND THEM … Air Greenland finally solves the wingnut pundit problem. Thanks guys!

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