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

Leave California. Now.

Ok, it’s not that bad. But I see via Digby that Gov. Schwarzenegger hired Stephen Moore (see this post for background on Moore) as an advisor. Apparently, the US Newswire lets people write the headlines for articles that mention them:

Gov. Schwarzenegger Names Stephen Moore to Calif. Audit Committee; Noted Economist and Activist to Help Solve Golden State Fiscal Crisis

Moore’s Club for Growth is the last bastion — other than a few people at the AEI and in the current administration — of the theory that tax cuts will increase general revenue.(*)


(*) Yes, tax cuts will increase general revenue when rates are near 100% (because if taxes are 100%, then revenue will be near zero as almost nobody will work), but given modern tax rates, that’s a non sequitur.

UPDATE: Upon closer inspection, the US Newswire piece is a press release, so Moore or one of his agents is responsible for referring to Moore as a “noted economist.” The last line, which says “For more information or to schedule an interview with Stephen Moore, please contact Kevin McVicker at 703-739-5920,” gave it away.

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Bush’s Steely Dilemma: The tariffs are illegal

So says the WTO. Actually, it was back in July that the WTO initially said that the steel tariffs, imposed in early 2002, contravene WTO rules. But the US appealed that decision. According to WTO rules, any country has one chance for an appeal, and the ruling of the appeal is final. The AP is now reporting that the WTO appellate panel is going to issue a verdict later today affirming the initial WTO ruling – that is, ruling against the US.

What does this mean? It means that the EU countries (along with a few other) are legally allowed to impose tariffs on a number of US products. Being politically savvy, the products that they intend to target come from a few key swing states, like Ohio and North Carolina. Actually, the EU already won permission to impose some tariffs on US goods for an unrelated WTO decision that went against the US (that one was about US tax laws that unfairly subsidize exports), but they haven’t imposed the tariffs yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if this time they fire away, however.

The steel tariffs are pretty widely acknowledged as an economic blunder, done for purely political purposes, but which is providing less political benefit than Rove had hoped for. As I discussed several weeks ago, the Commerce Department’s International Trade Commission finds that the steel tariffs are costing US jobs in other manufacturing industries. And now, if the steel tariffs are maintained, the new tariffs that the EU imposes will cost more US jobs.

So the question is this: what does the Bush administration do? There’s a faction in the administration that has wanted to get rid of the tariffs for months, for the reasons mentioned above (plus, Bush is supposed to be a free-trader on principle, isn’t he?). But they were overruled, presumably by Rove and others who are still hoping for some political benefit of maintaining them. Actually, I think that this is a classic case (as with a lot of Bush’s policies) where the administration can’t admit they’ve made a mistake and change policies, even when it’s clear to everyone that they should.

So, will Bush’s fear of admitting a mistake beat economic common sense? Another possibility is that the administration will see the WTO ruling as some convenient political cover for dropping the tariffs. It certainly will strengthen the hand of the anti-tariff faction within the administration. On the other hand, taking orders from a multinational institution that the US doesn’t have complete control over will certainly rankle a lot of people in the administration (particularly over in the Vice President’s office, I would imagine). So who will win? Stay tuned.


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It Must Be True What They Say About Absolute Power

From the Washington Post:

Angry about a leaked Democratic memo, the Republican leadership of the Senate yesterday took the unusual step of canceling all business of the committee investigating prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) called on the author of the memo — which laid out a possible Democratic strategy to extend the investigation to include the White House and executive branch — to “identify himself or herself . . . disavow this partisan attack in its entirety” and deliver “a personal apology” to Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence.

Only if those steps are taken, Frist said, “will it be possible for the committee to resume its work in an effective and bipartisan manner — a manner deserving of the confidence of other members of the Senate and the executive branch.”

Get it? Democrats write a memo outlining concerns that Republicans will stonewall the investigation and describing possible responses. The Republican response? Halt the investigations. I guess the memo was a pure flight of fancy.


UPDATE: CalPundit parses the text of the memo and concludes, “There’s nothing wrong with this, and it wouldn’t have happened if Republicans had been willing to conduct a fair and thorough investigation in the first place. So let’s save the mock outrage, OK?” Note: Sincere outrage over Republicans’ mock outrage is fine.

UPDATE 2: Marshall has the right analogy on this one:

Two guys walk into a ring for a fight. One knows he’s about to get creamed. But he can’t bear the shame and humiliation of walking away from a fight. So at the very last moment he whips out some phony claim that the other guy’s cheating.

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Via Joe Conason:

[Nader friend Robert McChesney speaking] “I don’t think Ralph should run. It would be bad for him personally; I doubt he would get half the number of votes he got in 2000. And it would be bad for the Greens … Core elements of progressive constituencies, exactly the groups that the Greens need to build upon, will revolt with open contempt — far worse than 2000 — to anything that helps keep Bush in office … Running a presidential candidate in 2004 for the Greens is probably a quantum leap off a cliff. It is the Greens’ Jonestown.”

I made a commitment in my now-vanished comments to be nice to Greens, to avoid the “see what the differences between the parties are now?” lines of reasoning and instead focus on “here’s why Democrats want your vote.” And I’ll stick to that commitment. Nevertheless, this will sound more disparaging than it is: a Nader run in 2004 will set the Green Party back, substantially. He will get a much smaller amount of the vote in what is shaping up to be another close race. So the only two options are to again be the spoiler (goodbye Clean Air and Water Acts, hello Halliburton contracts), or to run and fail to stop the Democrat anyway, thereby ensuring that Democrats are hostile to Greens.


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God Dammit, this Pisses Me Off

Where are my libertarians at on this one? I can’t really even blame Bush, because it was just about as bad under Clinton. That is, things are in fact worse now than under Clinton, but it seems like the result of following a linear trend that started in the early 1980s. In any case, watch the video available here the next time you’ve got a broadband connection.

Via, like most things that piss me off like this, Atrios.


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And Reagan Became President of the United States in 1981, and It Was Good. The End.

Education in Iraq:

The first indicator of what a Saddam-free education will look like is arriving this month, as millions of newly revised textbooks roll off the printing presses to be distributed to Iraq’s 5.5 million schoolchildren in 16,000 schools. All 563 texts were heavily edited and revised over the summer by a team of US-appointed Iraqi educators. Every image of Saddam and the Baath Party has been removed.

But so has much more – including most of modern history. Pressured for time, and hoping to avoid political controversy, the Ministry of Education under the US-led coalition government removed any content considered “controversial,” including the 1991 Gulf War; the Iran-Iraq war; and all references to Israelis, Americans, or Kurds.

“Entire swaths of 20th-century history have been deleted,” says Bill Evers, a US Defense Department employee, and one of three American advisers to the Ministry of Education.

Via Atrios.


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Imminent Threat Winner

Josh Marshall’s been running a contest in which he asked his readers to submit the best quotes showing that the Administration did in fact state that the threat from Iraq was “imminent.” The competition was fierce, as exemplified by the various quotes in Marshall’s post. I won’t give away the winner, but here’s the runner-up:

Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof — the smoking gun — that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.


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Bishop Takes Reverend

… members of the church’s executive committee were told Thursday night that Bishop Douglas Thuener had removed the Rev. Don Wilson. Wilson opposed the consecration last weekend of Bishop V. Gene Robinson, as do many of the church’s roughly 60 members.


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Good Job News, at least

Assuming it’s not revised downward, it’s a vindication of massive Keynesian spending (demand side stimulus), not supply side economics. From Forbes:

Just a day after Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan expressed hope the labor market would start to improve, the October payrolls report showed a 126,000 gain, more than double analysts’ forecasts. Dramatic revisions to previous data showed three consecutive months of gains.

Jobs growth had been the missing element in an otherwise robust recovery but economists are gaining conviction that all the pieces of the puzzle are now falling into place.

Some now wonder how much longer the Fed will consider its benchmark rate, at a 45-year low of 1.0 percent, appropriate, even with low inflation.

Barring actual, not potential, inflation, my guess is that the Fed isn’t too likely to raise rates in the next, say, 11.5 months.


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