I'll be back Sunday evening/Monday. Have a great weekend!
Musings, usually in politics and sports
I've seen this going around for the last couple days:
"That when dying and bleeding, beset by the flower of terrorism, with pistol to set against automatic rifle and grenade, the Iraqi police did not ask for help from 82nd Airborne. They asked for ammunition."
How heroic--rather than call on the US to help them out of this mess, they just asked for more bullets to fight off the evil terrorists with.
Somehow, this evaluation of the US response to the battle doesn't paint actions as heroic as much as inadequate--and when it comes from the Joint Chairman, it means somebody was concerned.:
"It's tactical-level stuff that needs to be worked on the battlefield, and not here in Washington," General Myers said at a breakfast meeting with reporters. "We can do better."
He continued: "It is never the intention of the U.S. military to leave the Iraqi forces out there on the end of a limb without helping them. Whether we do that well all the time is another issue."
Clearly, more than some extra ammunition was supposed to be offered, and they shouldn't have needed to ask for the ammo in the first place. The US response to the immediate crisis mirrors the response to the more pressing crisis of transitional planning.
As I wrote yesterday, the nominal ruling body of Iraq is set to be a formerly exiled, nearly illegitimate-to-the-masses IGC that will at best have more members, but in the same proportions as before--Shiite-dominated. That's a recipe for disaster. In other plans, the Kurds and Shiites may be brokering a deal in which Kurdistan takes security of its own area (oil) and runs as a relatively autonomous state not subject to strict Islamic Law, and Sistani can have the ruling hand of the majority and its own area (oil). Suspiciously left out of this deal are the Sunnis in the middle, where there is no oil. While plausibly in the shortest of short-term interest for the US to get out and let Iraqis start dying more uniformly for Iraq's pace towards democracy, the long term implications clearly (at least in my mind) favor a weak central government holed up near the capital, with competing ethnic groups ruling their ancestral areas in direct opposition. Without adequate self-security, they will be weak to influence from neighboring states with their own vested interests.
How much of this will Bremer allow? Theoretically he has no choice after June 30, but anyone who believes the US will attempt to exert no authority in Iraq by July 4th is not paying attention. Attempting is not succeeding however, and its striking how not-in-control Bremer and his bosses at home have been over the past six months. The ONLY thing that Bremer has been able to make stick that he has sought, is the June 30th pullout. Regional elections are out, the verdict on the strength of Islamic religious reference in the constitution is still not fully known. The IGC, headed by the convicted felon and admitted intelligence misinformer Ahmed Chalabi, has seemingly been working toward this goal all along, and now he is receiving his chance in the vaccum that is US post war policy. Of course, Sistani is the figure with the real power, and in the wake of the UN's decision that elections are not possible by July 1, Sistani appears to give it three more months before he releases the hounds.
By the way, check out The Dreyfuss Report, a thorough niche source on Iraq. If you put tinfoil hat status on a scale of 1-10, where 1 is the OED and 10 is The Anarchist Cookbook, Dreyfuss's stuff (and that at TomPaine, the host site) is probably about a 5.5. But he's following the machinations pretty closely--something the US press in general is just not providing. WaPo is getting high marks for its fair reports from the ground, actually, but for the most part the power struggle between the actors is going largely unreported--and Dreyfuss is good for catching up on that.
Here's the superceding indictment of Jeffrey Skilling and Richard Causey, of Enron. These are two of the most powerful people in charge of what was the 7th largest company. Skilling in particular was day to day responsible for what went on, and I suppose that's why he's been hit with 36 counts of fraud and bad faith trading. But try a little experiment. Do an Edit-Find on the page, and search for the word "Lay" in the indictment.
Look, I know the Washington Times is a crackpot paper funded by Rev. Moon, the bastard son of Jim Jones and Rupert Murdoch. I only wish Desmond Tutu could have some dangerously Communist daily paper in Washington to balance things out.
But you kind of know what you're getting when you link to their stuff--cheerleader material. I certainly saw my share of WT front pages, and I've read my share of relentlessly pro-administration articles, but I'd never seen a copy of one of their weekly editions. Maybe this isn't usual for them, but because Bush is getting hammered across town in WaPo (here, for instance) and of course everywhere else, the Times feels it needs to do its part to stop the slide. So here's the front page of the Weekly Edition. What's the color picture above the fold? Why, it's John Kerry and Jane Fonda at Valley Forge in 1970! And it's next to a full column story about John Kerry and Jane Fonda, and where the picture came from (the Internet, natch--it's just been flying across it!).
What else do we have? Bush says market for nukes must end--presumably soon, if not in fact within the year or two that the US has known about the market for nukes in Pakistan. The al-Qaeda memo (which is not confirmed as being one) shows frustration--meaning that we're winning the war! An ex girlfriend says Bush talked about having to do drills in Alabama, so there's no chance at all he wasn't shagging some other woman on the weekend he mentioned to her he'd be "drilling." (cough) And a neutral story about how lousy US public schools are. Blaming the school unions appears to have been saved until the story jumps inside.
And you thought the Democrats were enjoying a lot of free media lately...
Bush's numbers continue to slump, and now both Democratic candidates are up by double digits against the President. Standard 9-months caveats apply, but early or not, this kind of plummet by an incumbent during the primaries is pretty unprecedented, and it will only feed on itself without some action or good news for Bush.
I've found some discussion about the dub video featuring virulent Islamic rap. The purveyor is Mohammed al-Massari, the UK-based Saudi Arabian dissident who has lived in Britain since 1994 and has reputedly carried bin Laden's messages to Western press. He claims that it's selling like hotcakes in Britain and abroad, which may be true but doesn't read with much credibility in the article, nor does al-Jazeera's similar contention. There's a vested interest in suggesting how popular it is. I posted the Observer article because it seems to be the source for pickups by Reuters and then the Boston Globe and other outlets. Everyone uses snippets of the original Observer article. It's serious business, but I do find it amusing a) how little work news outlets ever do on their own anymore researching a story, and b) how badly the first person to hear it translated the lyrics:
"The minister Mr. Blair, there my dirty kuffar
The one Mr. Bush, there my dirty kuffar"
"There my dirty kuffar?" I've listened to it a few times, and I'm no stranger to dub/dancehall style, and it's pretty clear he's saying "Them a dirty kuffar." The plural subject spoken that way is a key phrasing in all island patois, that makes its way into reggae and rub-a-dub style, mon. And the beat is from a big hit by Sean Paul called Get Busy. Winnipeg's Sun calls the song "catchy but violent," and I must confess I agree. Sean Paul's original is pretty happenin'. I'd love to hear someone at the Globe try and parse THAT one.
Did you know at least 75 people were wounded or killed after a suicide* attack in Hillah near Baghdad today? If you didn't scan Fox News, you probably didn't--because none of the other news bibles on MyWay are even carrying the story as a lead. It's pretty pathetic that you have to get your bad news on the war from Fox. Hey, I too wanted to talk about Howard and the Johns and Bush's funny job numbers and McClellan under siege and whatnot, but geez--people are getting taken out by the score on a weekly basis, and our government's actions set that situation up. Two trucks with explosives took people out like they'd driven it into the It's a Small World ride: Iraqis, Filipinos, Poles, Hungarians and one American soldier.
Ah, there you go. It was the OTHER armies who got hit, and the generic "Iraqi civilians." That's why everybody else including Reuters opted to talk about Howard and the Johns and Bush's funny job numbers and McClellan under siege and whatnot--because no British troops were killed either.
Meanwhile the Iraqi "Governing" Council, natch, floats as their favorite option keeping the Council, adding more, and delaying full elections. Imagine that! The one plan that I thought most observers agreed would be the least stable and legitimate to the Iraqi masses, is now the frontrunner plan because it allows Bremer and Co. to leave the fastest:
"The diplomats told Reuters the U.S. plan for caucuses has been discredited among Iraqis and was no longer being considered seriously among U.S. occupation officials in Iraq or in Washington.
Among the many options for an interim government to assume sovereignty on June 30 is an expansion of the current U.S.-selected 24-member Iraqi National Council, a favorite proposal in Washington, the diplomats said."
Will this plan, if adopted, be good for Iraq and by clear extension our national interests? I seriously doubt it. But as long as it's somebody else taking the suicide bombs in the teeth, the White House is gambling that blowback will be minimal. Based on the coverage of today's bombing, it may unfortunately be good money.
*Fox actually calls it a "homicide attack," which I reject not on political grounds but on grammatical ones--if you kill somebody, it's automatically a homicide attack, but not all homicide attacks involve a suicide.
Loretta Sanchez, the B-1 Bob vanquisher, showed up on Hardball tonight to play coy about who she might endorse, and to augur for letting Sharpton and Kucinich stay in if they want, and get debate time if they do. (Matthews and his standard gang all think Edwards should push heavily for a 2-man debate). But at the very last question, Sanchez turned blunt: "George Bush has no chance in California." Aside from being nominally accurate, it's not only presumptuous but unnecessarily antagonistic. I think Democrats need to be very careful in their complete relief and exhilaration, discovering that they do indeed have a chance in November. I admire the candid response, but there ARE 9 months to go, California just dumped their Democratic goobernor for a sauve GOP one, and being cocky is just bad strategy. Maybe it was a clever ploy to get Ed Gillespie to dump too much money into Cali, but he's not stupid.
Entirely tangentially to her public service or ideas for the country, Loretta Sanchez has to be the most attractive Congresswoman I've ever seen. Dornan never stood a chance.
John Ellis gives credit to the discredited Kerry Affair for turning the primary process into a two-man race:
"Here you have Senator John Kerry running the table. There you have a website hit job. And presto!.....a (let's just say) 25-point lead evaporates over a long holiday weekend."
There's a nifty Latin phrase that applies to this kind of conclusion reaching--something about proper hocking and Eggo waffles. While I'm part Latin, my folks didn't speak it with me growing up, so I can't remember it.
Whatever the Latins would call it, I think it's largely bunk. For one thing, it presupposes that a sizeable subsection of the Wisconsin voting public reads Drudge or random papers of the UK, which doesn't strike me as a strong contention. About 9% of the votes were cast by self-described Republicans; that's not enough to swing an election. They didn't get it from the Journal-Sentinel, unless they snuck it into the printed version and/or neglected to use the words "Kerry" and "affair" in their reportage. The network news didn't even touch it, as far as I know, and while the cable pundits danced around the allegation like they were trying to chant it into revealing itself, they carried precious few details for anyone to make sense of.
But let's assume for a moment that the allegations were publicized just enough to give voters the willies. The story "broke" around midweek last week, reaching its fever pitch by Friday, when the Sun posted negative quotes from the "accuser's" family. By Monday, the "accuser" had definitively denied the story, and the family was suddenly on the Kerry Train.
So in the mayfly-like life cycle of this story, the peak effect should have been right as the weekend started, if not a little before. So under Ellis' theory, the drag on Kerry's numbers should have begun just before then, and reached its peak right before the denial--Sunday, let's say. So why did Zogby show Kerry with a still-commanding 47-20 lead over Edwards based on polling done all that weekend?
Let's examine another angle: if the story were resonating with Kerry voters or potential Kerry voters, one would expect his counts to shrink sharply while everyone else's--albeit most likely Edwards'--rose. But Kerry finished with 40% of the vote instead of 47%. Dean dropped almost as much--five percent--from projection as Kerry did, without the hindrance of a major scandal allegation. Even if you throw both totals entirely towards Edwards, that makes up less than half the original difference between them, according to Zogby. Kerry didn't lose a lot of support, as much as Edwards made up a lot of ground that Zogby and others were not capturing. To be fair to Ellis, perhaps he was relying on ARG numbers, where the last data were run a full week before the primary. But to be fair would also be damning--why is Ellis relying on week-old data? I think he's more up to date than that.
So having called the "Kerry Affair" into question as a rationale, what explains Edwards' overperformance achievement? Issues, timing and non-Democrats. Here are MSNBC's exits on Wisconsin. Nearly two-thirds of voters claimed that agreement on issues was the deciding factor; Edwards was 10 points higher among those. Among voters who voted based on whether the candidate could beat Bush, Edwards was hammered. Angry voters went most convincingly for Kerry; the less angry the voter, the more votes Edwards picked up. Kerry was decisive among voters who wanted most to defeat Bush, and who wanted experience--but that was only about 30% of the total. Based on themes like "a positive message," "cares about me," and "right temperament," Edwards waxed Kerry like Ralph Macchio in karate training. Only among voters who found "standing up for what you believe" most compelling (who numbered 25%) was the vote essentially split, although Edwards won there, too. But the most decisive question of the night was on trade--the NAFTA argument Ellis claims couldn't have held much water in Wisconsin. A whopping 74% of voters believed that trade policy had taken jobs from Wisconsinites, and among that group Kerry won 39-36. Edwards was a bit ahead on "no effect," Kerry solid among the 13% who thought trade had been good for the state. Considering that the final outcome was 40-34, the split on this issue not only looks like a contributing factor, but very nearly THE contributing factor.
Another factor was when voters made up their minds. Fifty-eight percent decided within the last week, most of them within three days. This factum does lend support to the idea that since they decided so recently, their votes could have been influenced by outside events. But it could just as easily have been the trade issue, since what little hammering of Kerry that Edwards attempted last week was on NAFTA.
Finally, you have to consider the political makeup of the electorate. Almost four in ten voters were not Democrat; a pretty large group for a Democratic primary. The 9% GOP turnout was apparently a record. And the more conservative the voter got, the more likely they were voting for Edwards (until you get to "very conservative," a group making up only 3% of the total, and nominally for Kerry). Based on party affiliation, Kerry won Democrats by 17 points, but lost independents by 22 points, and Republicans by 26! This is not a new trend at all, but you can bet that the Edwards team will make these results fundamentally clear to the media in the next two weeks.
So why did Edwards do so well? Late breaking moderate/right-minded voters who were ambiguous about Bush but pessimistic on the economy and trade in particular, showed up in large numbers.
One final note on the exits: Howard Dean's primary economic difference from the serious field was his intent to repeal ALL of the Bush tax cuts, not just those for the upper brackets. So among which group did Dean do best--"cut all the taxes," "cut wealthy people's taxes," or "cut NO taxes?" If you guessed the last, you peeked. No fair. They ought to put that into the dictionary under "cognitive dissonance."
I think it's very clear that wherever moderate and right-leaning primary voters are feeling hard hit by job losses, they will be pulling levers for Edwards. As such, places like Ohio, Minnesota and New York (despite the political similarity to Kerry) will be ripe targets.
I tend to agree with the media--Edwards is clearly the story tonight. He faces a long battle to win supremacy on Super Tuesday, but he has punctured Kerry's most effective weapon, the aura of inevitability. Edwards had nothing to lose tonight, although his candidacy was probably dead without doing as well as he did. Either way, he achieves everything he could have hoped for and more--serious competitiveness with Kerry, everyone else in the race gone, and having done it in the Midwest, a political region ripe for the picking this year.
This is great news almost all around IMO. The nation--mostly Democratic, but plenty of independent and Republican viewers--gets a look at another serious choice. Kerry gets what should be a mild test on issues and holding up in general under light attack. The party gets more free press, press that has been like a gift from the sky for the last month. Democrat voters get a head to head view of their two best candidates, and the party doesn't spend useless money simply aggregating Kerry delegates through May. The GOP now has to do better oppo work on two guys instead of one, has less time to hit the eventual winner, but does at least get some kind of spoken record to build from on Edwards in case he wins--and at least for now, Bush is still handling Edwards in the polls. On the other hand, 40% of the voters in Wisconsin were not Democrats, and they propped Edwards up. Finally, the nature of the two, with Edwards apparently determined to keep things positive, will make the tone of the debate the best it's been in either party for years. The scandals swirl from Kerry to Bush and back, but Edwards stays above the fray. That will surely change now, but as Joe Scarborough pointed out, Edwards has experience dealing with powerful people and the tricks they pull.
Edwards will focus primarily on those states where his more echt-populist spiel plays with people who have been hit by manufacturing losses, and Georgia because it's in the South. That means Ohio and New York. New York will be a tough prize to take, but because of the proportional format, doing well there even in second can be a boon for delegates. Ohio would be his best chance. He spent last week in California and will probably go back at least once in the next two weeks, but he may lose for lack of money and time out there.
Edwards needs to use Super Tuesday as a springboard to even, open competition. He must press Kerry for at least one debate, one MtP together--something to get him one on one where he would likely devastate Kerry. If he fares at all reasonably well--taking Ohio is a good threshhold--he will survive to make a big push in the Southern Tuesday the following week. If he can't dominate that week, he'll be smited.
All I can say is, Thank GOD. We all needed this to happen, I think. It's better for everybody in the long run.
Time to scan the globe (or the US plus Reuters, at least) for the media's differential take on what the story was coming out of Wisconsin tonight. I'll save my crucial analysis for last. !
We'll start with the online newsbibles:
AP: Kerry Edges Out Edwards in Wis. Primary. Their coverage also includes a turnout story (heavy GOP helps E); a Kerry personal piece and one for Edwards, in that order on the page.
Reuters: Kerry Holds Off Edwards in Wisconsin. The Kerry story is next, then the Edwards story...and after the Ben Chandler victory story, there's a different Edwards story. The verbage in the main and Kerry story is all slanted to the edging, not the winning. Also in the Kerry story, there's a great tactic to subtly show what the reporter may think of the claim: quote the candidate as the evidence. "Kerry says the win moves him forward," and in fact Kerry did say "a win is a win." But note that the reporter doesn't actually say that the win does that.
CBS: Two-Man Race, But Not An Even One. CBS is surprisingly dismissive of Edwards, relatively speaking. That's a pretty declarative head. The Kerry story calls his win "narrow," but then there's a Dean story, and THEN the Edwards story. Meaningful? Not a testable question, unfortunately.
MSNBC: NBC: Kerry wins Wisconsin primary. You know, that really should be the headline on the main story everywhere. Perhaps "Edwards Second" tells more of the full picture, and leaves out the edginess and the ekeiness. No candidate pieces, but the most ominous headline so far: Wisconsin raises questions about Kerry . I think it's an entirely fair analysis; it's just notably strong. Then it goes turnout--Dean (weirdly positive on the day his campaign died)--Chandler.
USAT: Gannett isn't doing a good job pushing their new stuff to MyWay--there are NO election pieces via MyWay at 1130p PST. The cover page fronts Kerry's picture, gives the "wins Wisconsin" line, Edwards is subheaded as finishing in a "hard-charging" second, and gets the candidate piece Kerry does not. No mention of Dean or Chandler on the front. We'll call that a draw.
Fox: Kerry Wins Wisconsin, but Just Barely. Fox's political statement here is to not push any other stories about either main candidate, the dropout of Dean, or the Chandler win.
ABC: Kerry Edges out Edwards in Wis. Primary. No followups on the election; ABC is actually a pretty lousy online news source. I figured I'd throw it in. But if there's one link you click on tonight, let it be that one. Teresa Heinz is being clenched in the all-time clumsiest victory spousal-kiss. Just one more thing Clinton did better, I guess.
Let's wheel around the country with a few of the ueberdailies:
WaPo is batty for Edwards! I was wondering if anyone would have the cojones to run an Edwards picture instead of Kerry's, and Don's Family Paper happily obliges. Edwards is just so damn sunny, how can you not run with him? But he needs to learn to unbutton the coat if he's going to do the thumb in the air thing. They do manage to make "Kerry" the first word in the head, but then they go "pundit-surprise", "those wacky, independent Wisconsinites," and then that bizarre "Dean still has influence" story again. Getting trumped by Edwards in this case at least can be rationalized in Kerry's mind as he lays that black and grey helmet onto the pillow tonight. But to get beaten out on the Post's front by a story about Dean--and it's not about him getting thrashed and likely dropping out? Bob Shrum for Mr. Broder, please!
NYT: for all the crap they've (deservedly) gotten lately, they do an excellent job with their front this evening. Head is "Kerry Holds Off Push by Edwards in Primary Vote in Wisconsin"--wordy, but I like the use of "push" instead of close. I suppose they're both subjective, but "push" talks journey while "close" speaks about destination. Dean's failure is the subhead. The analysis goes next with the competition angle highlighted, then three name-labeled links to each candidate's side story piece. Then on with the rest of the news! Kerry and Heinz are pictured; Heinz frankly looks awful. The least excited First Lady candidate in decades, the least fawning. Not that she should fake it or even be required to feel comfortable on the front pages everywhere, but man--it's like she's looking forward to a full bodywaxing backstage after the speech.
LAT takes the middle road, showing the Kerry picture but leading with Edwards in the head. "Edwards Takes a Close Second in Wisconsin"--that's a head you don't ever see in the sports pages: "Panthers take near-win home as defeated NFC Champs." The analysis is "2 man, too late", but then talks about Edwards' next move. As far as the Times is concerned, Kerry is the handy prop that Edwards will use to prolong the story, er, primary season.
Denver Post runs with Kerry, mostly, although they do make a firm point to portray the 2-man dynamic as the key story.
Boston Globe runs the AP story under "Kerry Narrowly Wins Wisconsin," then runs two Dean stories and an exit poll story underneath.
Safe to say, the fact that Edwards got within 6 points of Kerry is being played as the most compelling story, to the extent that some outlets are running his picture instead of Kerry's, and even referring to him in the outcome headline! The media want a battle, and it appears they'll get one.
No, not in Wisconsin, in Kentucky's 6th District, where Ben Chandler is competing against Forgy Kerr for current Governor Ernie Fletcher's open seat. Although the district has majority Democratic registration, both it and the state of Kentucky in general have recently trended GOP in much the same way as the rest of the South. According to SurveyUSA's most recent polling, Chandler has an excellent shot to pick up a seat for the Democrats in the House, where the margin is close enough to make every vote dear. There are several substories going on here. The money being spent is substantial, as is--relatedly, of course--the national party interest. Kerr has explicitly tied her fortunes to President Bush's, which appears to have backfired as Bush's approval ratings have tanked in January. Chandler has made news by utilizing "blogads" to scare up precious ad revenue. With minimal expenditure in a very narrow niche, Chandler has reaped tens of thousands of dollars and has encouraged other candidates to follow his lead.
The next special election race of note is in South Dakota June 1, where the Democrat also enjoys a substantial lead at present.
Given the potency of the drugs that Afghanistan produces, I'd like to be in the area next time Defense Undersecretary Dov Zakheim blows this kind of smoke. I can fully believe that guerilla attacks are taking forms that show a lack of coordination and money, and in one sense that's good news. But Zakheim's insinuation that it means things are improving in Afghanistan, or that the Taliban are weakened to the point of dispersal, is absurd. Kabul operates as an island under loose Karzai-US control; the surrounding countryside is predominantly lawless, and the south and east of the country are under sway of the very same Taliban. Warlords dominate the rest of the country, as they did--to great civil detriment--before the Taliban came to power.
We all enjoyed a good laugh at the fervent denials of the Iraqi Information Minister, who claimed that all was well in Baghdad as US tanks rolled past his office. The situation facing Zakheim is not quite so obvious, but there's more than a little spinsanity involved in claiming that the US has the Taliban feeling desperate.
For you political junkies, ignore this posting.
The new Dodgers ownership is jumping onto the rationalistic train, hiring Billy Beane's protege' Paul DePodesta as its new GM. Beane is quickly becoming mythical for his success in squeezing a high number of wins per dollar out of the Oakland A's, and the basis of his success is a personnel view that relies heavily on statistical analysis rather than scouting eyes. The new school includes GMs with the Yankees, Red Sox, Rockies, Blue Jays and Giants, as teams who understand that on-base percentage is more important than batting average, and strikeout-to-walk ratio is more important than wins. The Red Sox, employing father-of-the-movement Bill James, High Priest of Analysis Voros McCracken and GM wonderboy Theo Epstein, are the poster franchise for the movement. Unfortunately for them, having been shown up by a Yankees franchise that got exceedingly lucky circumstance in order to acquire A-Rod, it's not a pleasant looking poster. But they'll be fine. I probably should post something about that trade, actually, given its notoriety (not to mention how jazzed I am about it).
Anyhow, DePodesta's move to LA creates another franchise likely to remake their image in the Beane/James mold. That's good news for the league, and bad news for the rest of the NL West and Dodgers like Cesar Izturis, Alex Cora, and Adrian Beltre.
Speaking of Beane, I highly recommend the book Moneyball. It's a short, entertaining read that would not be intimidating to the casual fan, and is a fascinating story both on a personal level about Beane, and in its discussion of the paradigm shift that's occuring in player analysis.
UPDATE--as if by magic, (current) fellow Portlander Rob Neyer posted this review of the transaction, in much the same fashion as I. I've taught him so much. :)
Industrial production surged in January, a good sign in a battered sector of the economy. That's not why I'm posting this trees-for-the-forest article, though. Did you ever notice that reporters consistently frame economic numbers in terms relative to previous highs or lows? In general it's useful news--"Unemployment at 36-month low" or "factory output drops for 9th straight month." It gives you context for the current number, which is--like any survey--merely a point in time.
But there are two caveats: first, percentage increases or decreases are already relevant to past data; otherwise they couldn't show "movement" up or down. Beyond that, what the magnitude of the delta misses, is whether the movement is towards equilibrium or away from it. In other words, if the GDP tanks for several quarters then shoots up rapidly (such as in Q4 of FY03), a salient part of that number is that the improvement is mostly due to how bad things were before, and big improvements (or declines) are always most possible after a prior peak or valley.
The second caveat is exemplified in this article. At some point, your focus can become so narrow as to be meaningless. Take this reference:
"Big industry production rebounded in January, rising by a strong 0.8 percent, an encouraging sign that the industrial sector's recovery is on track.
The increase in output at the nation's factories, mines and utilities came after industrial production was flat in December, the Federal Reserve reported Tuesday. While unhappy about that, economists were still hopeful that the lackluster performance seen in December was a temporary rough patch and that activity would bounce back in January.
The pickup in industrial production last month matched analysts' expectations and marked the biggest increase since November."
[all emphasis mine]
Way to spot the trend there, Ms. Aversa!
This video is awfully disturbing, so if virulent Islamofascist rhetoric (or worse, mediocre dub skills) repulses you, don't click.
The sources that pointed me to it made some claims I'd like to investigate, particularly regarding its popularity with Muslim kids. It supposedly comes out of London, and while I don't doubt it has some currency, both sources seemed to marvel at how much like a real music video it seems--and anyone who would say that clearly hasn't checked out MTV2. It's pretty slapdash. But it's definitely ugly. "Kuffar" means infidel, by the way, which is why Bush, Blair and others get the tag. The metamorphosis from Sharon's head to a pig's head, and laughter over footage of the collapsing Towers, are notably vile scenes. Is this a serious street rallying cry, or skinhead video that barely makes it out of the basement it was made in? Not sure yet. I'll let you know what I find.
of surveys that plot the slide of opinion about George Bush, relative both to himself and potential Democratic opponents. CBS runs a bit to the left, but no one has had Bush outside the margin of error since late January, and the majority have Kerry at or outside the margins instead.
There is a wealth of response data in CBS's poll this time; I'd like to get into some of it. I want to tie them into a discussion of the "Kerry bubble" that various pundits are trying to prick, on the premise that Kerry's electability is a tautological sham of circular reference. I'm no giant Kerry fan, and I'm sympathetic to that perspective, but I'm beginning to be persuaded otherwise by the polling returns.
It will have to wait until tomorrow, however. Back into the weekly grind after a nice weekend.
Another grand performance by Sharpton in the Wisconsin debate; really the only interesting part of it. A treatise on lies, by the Reverend.
Paul Bremer says it was foreign fighters. In the article, an unsourced US official in Baghdad disagrees, on logical grounds: not terrorist M.O. The use of highly structured attack patterns and formations makes it much more likely to be an attack from military remnants, a story the Iraqi police back up by identifying some of the attackers as local residents. Bremer and the White House seem to be having trouble deciding which group to blame things on for the greatest dismissive effect.
In a vigorous show of confidence and support for his (current) man Howard Dean, campaign chairman Steve Grossman told the NYT that if Dean loses Tuesday--as he surely will--Steve will kiss whatever John Kerry has to offer up to him. As a way of rebutting these negative comments,
"Dean spokesman Doug Thornell replied, 'Steve Grossman has meant a lot to our campaign. ... We will miss him and wish him well.'"
Good to see Thornell taking Grossman to task for such mutiny!
Far be it from me to declare a scandal dead (especially when we barely know what the scandal is), but three key pieces of the "Kerry Affair" are not adding up:
Welcome to the newsal linkset the Inter-rags The Hill and Roll Call, two seminal political papers covering Congress. The Hill is free; Roll Call (like its cousin Congressional Quarterly) is freeloader-averse.
Because the presidential election is obviously the focus, some interesting lower-card races are passing under the radar. The two House seats up for special election Tuesday and in June are getting minor press; if Democrats win both (in fairly Republican districts) as currently surmised, that would make surely make news.
But in the Dinosaurs of California category, there's a nifty primary coming up in the O.C. Dana Rorabacher, a staunch Republican in a staunch Republican district, is seeing a fierce challenge from ousted retread Bob Dornan (whom the Hill gleefully refers to by his old moniker, "B-1.") Scroll down a bit on Feb 12th's postings.
Given the odious manner in which Democrats regard Dornan--especially after a barely civil race against Loretta Sanchez that ended in several failed challenges by B-1--one imagines that Rorabacher will discover friends he never knew he had.
I suppose the more important story is the cover page, which reports the closed door meeting of House GOP "firebrands" on the subject of budget reform. They say they're serious, but they may want to check with their colleagues in the Senate, who said "Too late, George!" with their lopsided passage of the transportation bill. The Democrats appear to be in the delightful position of letting the spending go unchecked, bolstering their wavering Republican friends by mentioning how important highway funds and jobs are back home in the district, incurring (good) and then thwarting (better) a lame veto attempt, and blaming 2005 CBO projections on Bush in the fall. Meanwhile, any attempt to truly gouge domestic spending plays right into the hands of "breaks for the rich, cuts for everyone else" charges, a charge that will have varying resonance depending on the state of the economic machine over the first two quarters of the calendar year.