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

Bloggered Update

Still no archives and I’ve been unable to publish for about the last 24 hours (I think that in the process of trying to fix the archives I messed more stuff up). Anyway, still no archives but posting seems to work now.


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Climate Change

You may recall that recently the White House altered a report on Global Warming, replacing a statement that temperatures have risen significantly in the last decades with a reference to a paper by two astronomers, Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas. The Soon and Baliunas paper argues that

…These results offer strong evidence that the climate of the 20th century was not unusual, but fell within the range experienced during the past 1,000 years…The available scientific evidence does not support the claim that the climate of the 20th century was unusual when compared to the climate of the previous 900 years.

That paper, its methodology, and its conclusion have been widely criticized (see also here).

Now, in his weekly newsletter, physicist Bob Park gives us some important background on Soon and Baliunas:

To appreciate its [the S&B paper] significance, we need to go back to March of 1998. We [presumably, members of the American Physical Society] all got a petition card in the mail urging the government to reject the Kyoto accord (WN 13 Mar 98). The cover letter was signed by “Frederick Seitz, Past President, National Academy of Sciences.” Enclosed was what seemed to be a reprint of a journal article, in the style and font of Proceedings of the NAS. But it had not been published in PNAS, or anywhere else. The reprint was a fake. Two of the four authors of this non- article were Soon and Baliunas…The article claimed that the environmental effects of increased CO2 are all beneficial…It was a dark episode in the annals of scientific discourse.

Read the first part of Park’s newsletter for a little insight into how the current administration chooses among conflicting scientific–or purportedly scientific–reports.


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I was just about to write a post complimenting Google on how much more reliable Blogger has been lately. But now my archives are gone. Hopefully they’ll be back soon.


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Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Earlier, I wrote about some new Red/Blue posts by Atrios and Nate Newman. Atrios linked to a map highlighting the areas with the most rapid increases in housing values and points out that the areas with the most rapid increases over the last few decades, meaning they are the places people want to live, are all Blue (i.e., Gore) “decadent liberal socialist enclaves.” In turn, this led me to speculate that it would be hard to tell a map with Blue highlighting Gore Counties from a map using Blue to highlight the counties with the greatest gains in property values. I left the proof as an exercise for the reader.

Reader and Researcher James K. Galbraith, who wrote a book on income inequality and also heads The University of Texas Inequality Project, sent me a great map with counties color-coded by the extent to which their income is above or below the national average. His conclusion:

As a rough cut, Gore won the rich places and the poor places. Bush won the middle-income places and the empty places.

Take a look at the two maps together (click to enlarge):

Income Inequality by County
In Galbraith’s map, as he explains, “Red indicates the largest positive contribution–counties where the money is. Blue indicates the largest negative contributions: counties with significant populations and incomes well below average. Greens and yellows are counties with either insignificant populations or incomes near the average–[areas that contribute] little to inequality.”

The high income areas, Red in Galbraith’s map, are all Gore areas. But large swaths of the lowest income area, Blue in Galbraith’s map, also voted for Gore (e.g., the border areas in Southern Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico). This highlights the main point of Judis and Teixeira’s book, The Emerging Democratic Majority, that areas that (1) have a lot of people, (2) have a lot of money, or (3) are growing most rapidly, are all trending Democratic.

Back to my original hypothesis from the earlier post, you would be able to tell the vote map from the housing value appreciation map because Blue counties come in two varieties: (a) urban or (b) rural, non-white, and low income. The most rapid housing appreciation, on the other hand, is remarkably concentrated in urban areas.


P.S. Here’s the original file (pdf) that Galbraith sent me; this paper (see the appendix) explains the Income Inequality measure used to construct his map.

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Gore Speaking Out at

The DLC loves Gore, or at least likes him, but they don’t like Howard Dean. Meanwhile, Gore is starting to out-Dean Howard Dean:

Former Vice President Al Gore, assailing U.S. policies in Iraq and at home, on Thursday argued that the Bush administration “routinely shows disrespect” for the “honest and open debate” that produces the truth…

“…I think it’s partly because they feel they already know the truth, and aren’t very curious to learn about any facts that might contradict it”


“…The direction in which our nation is being led is deeply troubling to me, not only in Iraq but also at home, on economic policy, social policy and environmental policy.

Millions of Americans now share a feeling that something pretty basic has gone wrong in our country, and that some important American values are being placed at risk, and they want to set it right.”


The Department of Defense’s planned surveillance system, Total Information Awareness, was “right out of George Orwell’s ‘1984,”‘ Gore said.

…Gore argued that the administration used false pretenses to launch the war against Saddam Hussein, including claims that the Iraqi leader was involved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and was on the verge of providing terrorists with chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

“As a result, too many of our soldiers are paying the highest price for the strategic miscalculations, serious misjudgments and historic mistakes that have put them and our nation in harm’s way.”

And, in case you missed it, there’s a growing Draft Gore movement and this will surely increase his standing with such groups, though sadly it probably does little for his electability.


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Red vs. Blue Update

Nathan Newman reports that The Tax Foundation has issued its latest report on who pays and who gets paid. The results: the Red States are subsidized by the Blue States. In Newman’s words,

“And large industrial “blue states” inevitably receive less. California receives only $5592 per capita for its citizens, New Jersey only $5509, Illinois only $5373. New York is doing better on getting aid than a few years ago, but still ranks only 26 on list of per capita receivers of aid.

So the next time you hear about a “welfare state”, think Bush-voting state.

Meanwhile, Atrios links to this NYT analysis of changes in housing prices from 1983 to 2003. In a nutshell, if you believe that people vote with their pocket books, then they are overwhelmingly voting for the Blue regions.

For previous Red vs. Blue posts, see the Topics section at the top left.


P.S. Here’s a project for someone with lots of time on their hands: Take this map of red and blue counties in 2000. It’s one that Fox News and various conservatives love to cite because it is in fact overwhelmingly red, although most of the red areas are sparsely populated (if democracy were “one square mile, one vote” instead of “one person one vote” then Republicans would rule the country, but it’s not). Back to the project: Now find county-by-county data on changes in housing prices over the last 10 or 20 years. Sort them in decending order of changes in housing values. Identify the top 677 and the bottom 2,434 (the respective number of counties carried by Gore and Bush). Now use mapping software to color-code the map in Red (top 677 counties) and Blue (bottom 2,434 counties). Finally put the maps side by side–can you tell them apart?

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Good News, but Where are the Jobs?

“America’s business productivity soared in the second quarter of 2003 and new claims for unemployment benefits dropped to a six-month low last week, a double dose of good news as the economy tries to get back to full throttle.” Productivity in the second quarter grew at an annualized rate of 5.7%, which is extremely high by historical standards (note that the number is still subject to revision, but even if it’s cut by 1/3, it’s still very high).

New application for jobless benefits stayed below 400,000 per week for the third consecutive week. However, a slowing of the rate of layoffs is not the same as creating more jobs (recall that the recent drop in unemployment from 6.4% to 6.2% was triggered by people abandoning their job search, not by people finding new jobs; also see Matt Stoller’s post at ISTES). But the productivity growth in the second quarter, if it reflects a trend and not an aberration, is good news in the long run: it will mean that when the economy starts expanding, inflation will not be a major concern.

On the other hand, excess capacity and the accompanying downward pressure on prices have been a major business problem of late. Because of that excess capacity, it would not be difficult for measured productivity (output divided by hours of labor) to increase quite a bit in the short run without reflecting what is typically thought to cause long run productivity growth–new, more efficient, technologies and processes (think 1990s). Time will tell. At the least, the latest news is not bad news; how good it is unknown.


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Mike Hawash Update

You may recall the story of Mike Hawash, a U.S. citizen arrested in March and held without access to council for five weeks until charges were filed. The eventual charges were for attempting to aid the Taliban, conspiring to levy war against the United States, and conspiring to provide material support for terrorism. Yesterday, Hawash plead guilty to the attempting to aid the Taliban charge and agreed to testify against the other members of the Portland Seven in exchange for the government dropping the latter two charges (full plea agreement here).

Not, as far as I can tell, part of the plea agreement was an explanation of why civil liberties and the Constitution had to be taken down along with Hawash.


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Did you hear that Arnold Schwarzenegger is, should Gray Davis be recalled, running for for Governor of California? What? You already knew that? Ok.

Here’s a Terminator-worthy line from Mr. S.:”I will go to Sacramento, and I will clean house.” Still, I think it would have been better if he held his press conference in Sacramento, just he could end with his trademarked “I’ll be back.”


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Ahh, The Daily Show

Tonight, Jon Stewart gave Dean a bit of a hard time, which is a good sign for Dean–it means the writers think viewers now know who Dean is, unlike, say, Dennis Kucinic. Then he turned to Lieberman and played his wilderness line, which I wrote about here. Here’s Jon, echoing my thoughts, only funnier:

Yes Dean could lead the Democrats into an unpredicted wilderness where they would have no control over the White House, both Houses of Congress, or the Supreme Court. Oh, wait, nevermind. It appears they’re already in the wilderness…I wonder who lead them there?

[Flashes Gore-Lieberman poster from 2000]

Oh riiiight.


P.S. Hey, Angry Bear, how are you able to so easily quote TV shows that don’t publish transcripts? The answer is the magic of TiVo.

UPDATE: For undisclosed reasons, I was visiting and the first post I saw was hilarious

Gov. Dean Heals Leper, Walks on Water…Gov. Howard Dean cemented his Democrat presidential frontrunner status today when he healed a man of leprosy then walked across the surface of a small lake to his next campaign appearance.

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