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

Did my last post imply…

…that new and obscure members of the House might be particularly motivated by the chance to get national press coverage? I’m probably just being cynical. On the other hand, there’s this:

WASHINGTON (AP) — In another swipe at the French, a Florida congresswoman [Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, first-termer] has proposed that the government pay for families who might want to bring home from France the remains of Americans who fought and died in the world wars.

And for that matter, who outside of Ohio had heard of Bob “Freedom Fry” Ney (R-OH) or Walter “Freedom Toast” Jones (R-NC) until they de-Frenchified House cafeteria menu? (My take on the menu change is here)


Bush Budget to Pass House by One Vote?

Eleven moderate Republicans signed a letter, sent to Dennis Hastert, opposing the House version of the President’s proposed budget. The group of moderates argue that the additional tax cuts and accelerations of cuts under the 2001 reform are too much, given the ballooning deficit and ongoing spending needs. They basically want to cut the tax cut to one third it’s current size (cynics might argue that Bush intentionally proposes an absurdly large cut just so Moderate Republicans and Democrats can declare victory when the enacted additional tax cuts are only a few hundred billion dollars over 10 years).

The House has 229 R’s, 205 D’s, and one Independent/Socialist whose name I can’t recall at the moment. If only the eleven defect then there are 218 yae votes and 205+11+1=217 nay votes.

But it may not be so simple. Really close votes like these present an opportunity for relatively unknown Representatives to get, relatively speaking, a lot of press coverage. Look for lesser-known Republicans in moderate districts to draw out making a statement for or against the budget. Also watch for a little extra pork going to those same districts. And of course, both of these warnings apply equally to Democrats in moderate to conservative districts.


P.S. Here are the signers: GOP House members who signed Friday’s letter were Amo Houghton, Jack Quinn and Sue Kelly of New York; Mike Castle of Delaware; Nancy Johnson and Rob Simmons of Connecticut; Jo Ann Emerson of Missouri; Fred Upton of Michigan; Todd Platts of Pennsylvania; Steven LaTourette of Ohio; and Ray LaHood of Illinois. 6 out of 8 of these are “Blue States”.

P.P.S. Yes, it’s very close. For those inclined to blame Nader, please read this. For those inclined to vote Nader again, reading it is mandatory.

Is CalPundit so Crazy…

That he just might be on to something (see 4th bullet point)?

The one problem with this theory is that State is known to leak relatively freely, so if true, this probably should have gotten out already.


UPDATE: Howard Fineman has more on Powell and the possibility of resignation.

Weapons of Mass Bad PR (WMBPR)

Saddam’s WMBPR:

March 13, 2003 | GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — A defiant Saddam Hussein, under intense international scrutiny for possible ties to terrorism, this week distributed $225,000 to 21 families of Palestinians killed in fighting with Israel, including $25,000 to the family of a Hamas suicide bomber.

While there is never a good time to give money to Hamas suicide bombers, this is a *really* bad time for Saddam to be giving money to Hamas (at least, from his perspective). I suppose we could use this to lay the groundwork for upcoming invasions of Iran, Jordan, and Syria by shifting the justification for the war to attacking regimes that support militant Palestinians.

The U.S. is not unarmed in the WMBPR race, however. We’ve got Donald “Old Europe” Rumsfeld:

“And I think until we know what the resolution is, we won’t know the answer as to what their [Britain’s] role will be.

And to the extent that they are able to participate, in the event that the President decides to use force, that would obviously be welcomed.

To the extent they’re not, there are work-arounds and they would not be involved, at least in that phase of it.” [Rumsfeld has since modified this statement, saying he expects a significant military contribution from the United Kingdom”].


Oil and the Economy

ArgMax links to an old, but good, post he has on the relationship between Oil Prices and GDP growth. As oil prices hover in the mid 30’s–and they might top 40 if the war doesn’t go quickly–it’s worth a read. As you might have guessed, higer oil prices are historically correlated with lower (or negative) GDP growth:


If you haven’t seen it…

It’s worth the trip: The entry for 3/13:

Q My point is, why is the President going through this charade of diplomacy when he obviously plans to go to war?
MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, this is a very serious word, the diplomacy. And the President is carrying it out because he believes in the value of consultations.
Q. But he obviously is not going to follow, no matter what happens.
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that, frankly —
Q. How can you do that, really?
MR. FLEISCHER: — when you use the word “charade” — which, if I’m not mistaken, has French roots — (laughter) — you may want to address your question to those who say they will veto any resolution.
Q. Aren’t you glad you —
MR. FLEISCHER: I’m glad I minored in French. (Laughter.)
Q. You did?
MR. FLEISCHER: Mais, oui.
Q. It’s come to this. (Laughter.)


P.S. Ok, it was a loaded question, but was it remotely answered?

Angry Bear is Happy

Comments were quick and easy to add. I’m using BackBlog, mostly because the only two I’d heard of (Haloscan and YAACS) aren’t accepting new blogs. But I must say, I should have done this a while ago, given that it’s this easy. I did note that my test post took a bit to show up, so you may have to be patient

I also replaced Google with Freefind because most of Google’s results just pointed to Freefind is better in that it goes to the right archived page, but it still doesn’t go to the right post. For example, if I search “consumption tax” it will correctly point to “”, but it won’t bring up “”.
If anyone has solved this problem, tips will be greatly appreciated.


More Eating of The Press: Confessions of a WH Reporter

This is from Atrios, so you’ve probably already seen it. But my post before last was on the press as lapdogs, and I’ve talked quite a bit about Hubbard and the CEO, so here goes. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a confession by a Washington Post Economics Writer, Jonathan Weisman. Weisman describes the way interviews must be obtained and quotes approved. (Get it? It’s only a quote if the WH press office says it’s a quote; otherwise it was never uttered.) Follow the Poynter link for the full story, but here’s the actual confession:

“I had, of course, violated journalistic ethics, by placing into quotation marks a phrase that was never uttered by the source, ellipses or no ellipses. I had also played ball with the White House using rules that neither I nor any other reporter should be assenting to. I think it is time for all of us to reconsider the way we cover the White House.”

Of course, ask Helen Thomas, Bennett “Noted in the Building” Roth, or anyone at The Washington Post (the WP didn’t get to ask any questions at Bush’s “press conference”; Time, Newsweek, USA TODAY also were disfavored) what happens when you do challenge the president.


Getting Money out of Nigeria

Previously, I speculated that all the government money stashed in secret accounts in Nigeria, just waiting for your help in getting it out of the country, would be gone by now. That may be the case, but there is apparently a new source of embezzleable (is that a word?) funds, research grants:

In February 1999, a research grant (US$12.5Million) was given to the my department with I leading a team of other clinical pharmacologist, by the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria to conduct a research on the effect of a “local plant extract” on Sickle Cell Disease in Nigeria.

The research has since been concluded (specifically in August 2002). Of the total amount given to us for the research purposes we only expended US$4.623Million leaving a balance of US$7.877 Million. We are contacting you with a view to transferring this balance out for our own use.

We have put in over 25 years of our lives into working for the government and as academics we do NOT have anything to show for it, hence this opportunity we see as a God-Sent one.

The really distubing thing about these emails is that they indicate that at least one person smart enough to turn on a computer, and also able to read, fell for this.


Bush Eats the Press

Michael Crowley has a nice piece in the New York Observer on Bush’s Iraq Press Conference:

In other words: They … wuz … used! The press corps seemed mainly to serve as a prop, providing Mr. Bush with an opportunity to deliver another pro-war speech while appearing to bravely face the music. The White House sprung it on them at the last minute: The press conference was announced that very day, giving reporters little time to prepare.


In fact, the event’s only moment of candor may have come when Mr. Bush admitted during the conference that he was calling on reporters according to his pre- arranged list of names, which his press secretary, Ari Fleischer, later copped to preparing.

“This is scripted,” Mr. Bush joked.

Strangely, many reporters laughed at this remarkable joke, which had the additional benefit of being true.


On the first quote, I say any reporter who can’t come up with decent questions for the President in just one hour–on a subject that has been page one news for many months–should resign, or even better, be fired immediately. Regarding the second quote, it appears that the questions were not pre-approved, per se. Instead, reporters met with Fleischer (maybe Rove as well) in advance, and based on those meetings, the White House drew up a “script” of who to call on and when.