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

MTV Video Music Awards

I didn’t watch them, but skimming the news I can’t help wondering how many Google hits I’d get if I were to post the words “Madonna”, “Britney Spears”, and “kiss”. Nah, that’s too cheesy.

AB

(Frustrated Googlers, click here to find what you’re looking for. See also here.) But before you leave, check out this table comparing GDP growth under Clinton to the dismal economic performance under Bush. Rock the vote.

Real GDP
Growth
Period
2.65% 92-93
4.04% 93-94
2.67% 94-95
3.57% 95-96
4.43% 96-97
4.28% 97-98
4.11% 98-99
3.75% 99-00
0.25% 00-01

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Kurtz and Franken

Howie Kurtz has a lengthy piece on Franken and his book today; it’s partly a summary of Franken’s charges and partly an interview of Franken (there’s little by way of addressing whether the charges have merit, which is a rather weak showing for a star media analyst). On balance, my fair opinion is that Kurtz’s piece is remarkably fair and balanced. Here’s my favorite tidbit:

Franken doesn’t merely denounce conservatives. He harasses them, provokes them, gets right up in their faces. He once called up National Review Editor Rich Lowry and challenged him to a fight in a parking garage. Lowry declined.

“Comedians who aren’t funny have to try to become political spokesmen — thus Al Franken’s new career,” Lowry said yesterday. “But if I said I was unhappy that such an ill-informed and unpleasant man is emerging as a Democratic Party spokesman, I’d be lying.”

All this time I thought that comedians who aren’t funny were called waiters. Also, I challenge anyone to watch the Stuart Smalley skit with Michael Jordan and not laugh.

AB

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Reasonably Good News

From Reuters,

Gross domestic product, or GDP, grew at a revised 3.1 percent in the second three months of the year, the government said before the open. That was up from the 2.4 percent rise estimated a month ago and slightly above Wall Street expectations for a 3.0 percent gain.

AB

UPDATE: Leave it to Kevin to rain on the parade.

UPDATE: See also General Glut, who ballparks the GDP growth in the absense of the surge in military spending at 2.2%–decent, but not great. For comparison (and a reminder of how good the economy was under Clinton), I grabbed Real GDP growth numbers for 92-93 to 00-01 from the Economic Report of the President:

Real GDP
Growth
Period
2.65% 92-93
4.04% 93-94
2.67% 94-95
3.57% 95-96
4.43% 96-97
4.28% 97-98
4.11% 98-99
3.75% 99-00
0.25% 00-01

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Update on “It’s because they’re stupid, that’s why. That’s why everybody does everything.”

Just click here. As some might say, Jeebus. (For context on the title of this post, click here).

AB

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Leave No Fraudulent Statistics Behind

A while back, Education Secretary Rod Paige made the news because Houston high schools, Sharpstown High School in particular, were caught faking drop out rates. Now, via Susan Nunes, I see that Houston high schools are also lying about how many of their students plan to go to college:

Across town, Davis High School, where students averaged a combined SAT score of 791 out of a possible 1600 in 1998, reported that every last one of its graduates that year planned to go to college.

Now “plan” is a vague, almost Clintonian Rovian word, but even so, the 100% figure is surely a lie:

At Davis High, for instance, comparison with test scores and records from the Higher Education Coordinating Board, which tracks students who enroll in public colleges and universities in Texas, suggested that not 100 percent, but less than half of Davis’s 1998 graduates enrolled in the state’s two- or four-year institutions of higher education, which generally absorb the great majority of college-bound graduates, particularly from poorer high schools.

I can believe that every student answered that “they would like to have a college scholarship,” but that’s not quite the same.

Paige was elevated from Superintendent of the Houston Independent School District to Secretary of the Department of Education based on the allegedly stellar results of Houston schools under his watch. In fact, the Texas system became the model for the No Child Left Behind Act. Like so much else with this administration, upon closer inspection the success morphs into smoke, mirrors, fraud, and lies. Also like much else with this administration, much of the truth was known beforehand, but severely under-publicized.

AB

P.S. Susan also links to this unusual story (though she does say “For those who love conspiracy theories”).

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Angry Bear Traffic Tops 100,000 Per Day

That, of course, is only on a pro forma basis. Ezra Klein at NotGeniuses has an interesting theory:

What I’m trying to get is that in terms of sheer effect, 5 blog readers, due to how specialized and specific the medium is, equal thousands of Washington Post readers in net effect in the political world. You can bet your ass every campaign right now is keeping a watch on the blogs and the CW that emerges from them, and that makes blogs more powerful than they seem.

I agree entirely that blog readers are a self-selected group of political junkies. And I guess any group that consists disproportionately of political junkies probably also includes a few political bigwigs or freinds thereof. So I don’t dismiss Klein’s theory entirely, but I do often feel that blogs are primarily one giant echo chamber, daily ministrations to the choir.

So, assuming my comments work today, some questions for blog readers:

  1. Has reading blogs changed any of your views? If you can pin it down, which blog? If you remember the post, cite and/or explain.
  2. Has blog reading encouraged you to donate time or money that you otherwise would not have? If so, to what and why?
  3. Even if you view each individual blog as insignificant, do they, taken as a whole, have an effect on politics?

If the comments are not working, then send me an email and I’ll write a post or two giving the highlights. My guess at the moment is that #2 is where the best hope for blogs lie.

AB

P.S. Try to keep references to anyone named “Lott” to a minimum.

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The Birth Tax

From the NYT today:

Even if the economy rebounds strongly over the next few years, the federal budget deficit could climb for the rest of the decade if Congress adopts proposals strongly supported by President Bush, the Congressional Budget Office said today…The nonpartisan office said the deficit would be $480 billion next year but could reach a cumulative total of $5.8 trillion by 2013.

At several points in the article, a Republican says something to the effect that ten year projections are unreliable, so we shouldn’t worry. For example, White House budget office spokesman Trent Duffy said this:

The only thing we know about 10-year projections is that they are terribly, terribly wrong. In 1993, 10 years ago today, C.B.O. did not predict that in the late 1990’s we would have a surplus.

Dufffy’s not entirely wrong here, ten year predictions are highly speculative. One presidential candidate in 2000 , Al Gore, repeatedly pointed this out and argued that we should not blow the whole ten year projected $1.4 trillion surplus on tax cuts, and instead advocated a more conservative (!) approach of targeted tax cuts and paying down the debt.

The other candidate, George Bush, loved those ten year projections and used them to justify tax cuts. Now he doesn’t like ten year projections.

On a related note, remember Bush’s “it’s your money, I’m gonna give it back to you” line? That should really be modified now to “it’s your children’s money, and their children’s money, and I’m gonna give it to people making over $100,000 a year.”

AB

P.S. I believe Molly Ivins gets credit for coining the “birth tax” phrase. Dwight Meredith recently did some back of the napkin calculations and finds that the birth tax is roughly equal to one BMW–admittedly, entry model–per taxpayer.

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What was he trying to say?

Conason is on Crossfire with Al Franken (who the witty Tucker keeps confusing with Al Sharpton. Hey Tucker, how about “Chairman Al”?) Also on is someone named Blanquita Cullum, who complains that she’s always introduced as a conservative, even though she was, minutes earlier, introduced as “nationally syndicated talk radio show host Blanquita Cullum.”

Conason seems to be trying to say something. Here’s the first pitch:

(CROSSTALK)

CONASON: Al and I are going to change the slogan. We’re going to change the slogan.

CULLUM: I actually think that Fox News and many of their hosts are more editorialists. But they do have more — they make an effort. They have people like Greta. They have got Ellen Ratner. They have got Alan Colmes.

FRANKEN: Who?

CULLUM: Ellen Ratner, who is a very outspoken

(CROSSTALK)

Swing and a miss, strike one.

CONASON: Why can’t I finish what I’m saying? Why can’t I finish what I’m saying?

CARLSON: Go crazy.

CONASON: See, you shouldn’t act like the Fox News Channel, which Al and I are changing their slogan to

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Attempt to explain

(CROSSTALK)

Close, but strike two. Time to talk to the coach

FRANKEN: Let Joe do his joke.

CONASON: Yes. We’ll get to that. [then instead talks about conservatives not being evil]

Shortly thereafter, the strikeout:

CARLSON: On that note, I’m afraid we’re going to have to end. I’m sorry. We’re completely out of time. Al, your face is actually twitching, so you’re starting to make me a little nervous. Joe Conason in Boston, thank you. Blanquita Cullum here, thank you.

Foiled! For the record, here’s what Joe was trying to say:

I hope we can discuss the new slogan I’ve suggested for Fox News Channel, drawn from the wording of Judge Denny Chin’s decision in the network’s lawsuit against Franken and his publisher. Instead of “Fair and Balanced,” why not “Wholly Without Merit”?

AB

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Lying Liars and the Hypocritical Lying Jackasses with Bowties Who Tell Them

I’m reading the transcript because I unfortunately missed what was surely a great Crossfire: Al Franken hosting and Joe Conason as a guest. Conservatives really just make shit up. And they’re hypocrites. Here’s Carlson ably displaying both at the same time:

CARLSON: Well, there’s mixed news, speaking of, to report this week on retired General Wesley Clark’s quest to become a vice presidential nominee. The good news is, he’s found a candidate who will take him. The bad news is, that candidate is Howard Dean….We can’t know whether Clark will succumb to Dean’s charms. We do know that Dean could use Clark’s help. During an appearance on “Meet the Press” earlier this summer, Dean admitted that he had no earthly idea how many American troops are currently on active duty or even, in an ideal world, how many there should be. Wesley Clark could help with that.

Dean said he couldn’t answer the question, but when pressed did not say that he had no idea but rather that, “I know there are roughly between a million and two million people active duty”–a true if somewhat imprecise statement that in no way resembles Carlson’s characterization (see the addendum).

Now for the hypocrisy. Dean also took heat for saying that there were 135,000 troops in Iraq when the true number was 146,000. Last week, Bush said that, “We’ve got about 10,000 troops there, which is down from, obviously, major combat operations.” At the end of major combat operations in Afghanistan, we had 3,000 troops there (see Milbank or Somerby). Dean off by less than 10%; Bush off by more than 300%. No wonder Carlson has to lie.

Here’s the ending of the Carlson-Franken exchange:

CARLSON: Do you think it is kind of important to know that if you’re running on a platform that includes fixing the United States armed services?

FRANKEN: Well, I don’t know if the platform is about fixing the American armed services. I think the American armed services did a damned good job in Iraq and a damned good job in Afghanistan, frankly. [Carlson repeats his question and they move on].

Shortly thereafter, they bring on Joe Conason. More highlights to come.

AB

Addendum: What Dean really said (if you think my ellipses are hiding something, or just for fun, read the whole MTP exchange). [Note: reformatted to improve readability]

Russert: Let’s talk about the military budget. How many men and women would you have on active duty?

Dean: I can’t answer that question. And I don’t know what the answer is.

[…talks about the need for more troops in Afghanistan]

Russert: But how many troops—how many men and women do we now have on active duty?

Dean: I can’t tell you the answer to that either. It’s…
Russert: But as commander in chief, you should now that.

Dean: As someone who’s running in the Democratic Party primary, I know that it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of one to two million people, but I don’t know the exact number, and I don’t think I need to know that to run in the Democratic Party primary.

Russert: How many troops would have in Iraq?

Dean: More than we have now. My understanding is we have in the neighborhood of 135,000 troops. I can’t tell you exactly how many it takes. General Shinseki thought that we were undermanned by roughly 100,000.

[…talks about how he’ll have advisors]

[…debate over the merit of Russert’s seeking exact numbers]

Dean: I know there are roughly between a million and two million people active duty. I know that we don’t have enough people in Iraq. I know that General Shinseki said that we need 300,000 troops to go into Iraq, not 200,000 troops, and I’m prepared to assume the burden and have the proper people around me advising me on what needs to be done.

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