GDP Drama Queens
Today, the Commerce Department issued a somewhat bitter revision to its estimate of first quarter GDP growth, lowering it from 1.3% to 0.6%. Economists were expecting a downward revision, but they thought it would come in at 0.8%.
Fourth quarter 2006 growth had been a swifter 2.5%, so ducking back under 1% (for the first time in 4 years) is naturally a disappointment and an occasion for some to begin mouthing the R word. Estimates of second quarter growth, however, suggest the first quarter's sluggishness was the bottom of the trough. The current quarter is expected to put up 2.3% GDP growth, still below long-term trend, but a decidedly snappy rebound from last quarter.
Still, for some, the recession specter is just too tantalizing to resist.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke doesn't believe the economy will slide into recession this year, nor do Bush administration officials. But ex Fed chief Alan Greenspan has put the odds at one in three.
This bit about Greenspan, which dates back to comments he made back in February, continues to bewilder me. As I jawed about at length at the time, the original offending comments were actually fairly benign.
"When you get this far away from a recession invariably forces build up for the next recession, and indeed we are beginning to see that sign ... While, yes, it is possible we can get a recession in the latter months of 2007, most forecasters are not making that judgment and indeed are projecting forward into 2008 ... with some slowdown."
In short, his message was that a recession is possible, but not particularly likely. Still, first the AP, then Drudge, then a flood of followers-on grossly mischaracterized Greenspan's comments as a prediction of looming recession. The next day, the market took its biggest tumble since 9/11. So thunderous were the inaccurate echoes of Greenspan's remarks that he was forced to revisit them, explicitly clarifying that he believes a recession is unlikely in 2007, pegging the odds at 1 in 3.
But the Associated Press continues to hear what it wants to hear from the former Fed Chairman. To requote from above:
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke doesn't believe the economy will slide into recession this year, nor do Bush administration officials. But ex Fed chief Alan Greenspan has put the odds at one in three.
"But"? Don't Greenspan's odds make plain the fact that he also does not believe the economy will slide into recession this year? Of the last 30 years, 12 have seen recessions, so 3:1 represents long odds, based on recent history.
Still, despite multiple AP stories out this morning containing the above quote, nearly identical except for their ominous headlines (e.g. Economy Has Worst Growth Since 2002 and Economy Nearly Stalled in First Quarter), and despite Drudge throwing up a couple of red links for the occasion, the market is more sanguine this time around, with the major averages all trading higher mid-morning.
Fomer Senator Quits Law & Order
The actor who has played District Attorney Arthur Branch on the NBC shows "Law & Order", "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit", "Law & Order: Criminal Intent", and "Law & Order: Trial By Jury" since 2002 has abruptly quit the show.
The actor, named Fred Thompson (who also served a stint in the United States Senate), joins fellow L&O DAs emeriti Nora Lewin (played by Dianne Wiest), Adam Schiff (played by Steven Hill), and Alfred Wentworth (played by Roy Thinnes), whose tenures have collectively spanned the shows' 17-year history.
Show creator Dick Wolf reacted to the sudden news:
"I've spoken to Fred today, and although he told me he has not made a firm decision about his political future, he felt that given the creative and scheduling constraints of the upcoming season, he asked to be released from his responsibilities to the show ... I will sincerely miss working with him on a regular basis, and I obviously wish him the best of luck with whatever the future holds."
As a confessed "Law & Order" junkie, I'm sorry to see Thompson depart the cast. Happily for Thompson fans, he currently appears in the role of President Ulysses S. Grant in the new HBO movie "Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee".
Thompson's resignation from the show is significant enough that news of it is topping influential blogs left and right, as well as the Drudge Report. With this much coverage, we can't help but speculate, so why fight it?
Paparazzi, pundits, and particularly real-life Manhattan DA, 87-year-old Robert Mogernthau, are all desperate to know: who will replace Branch as TV's new New York County DA?
Will ADA Jack McCoy finally get the promotion he's been angling for since the mid-90s? Or will they bring in a new piece of eye candy (just like consecutive ADAs Claire, Jamie, Abbie, Serena, Alexandra, and Connie)? Or might Det. Nick Falco (aka Michael Imperioli, aka Christopher Moltisanti, aka Spider) finally graduate law school and leap straight to the top of the prosecutorial pack, now that his Soprano's arc has concluded?
[Retroactive spoiler alert there, but really, if you haven't seen the most recent "Sopranos" in the 10 days since it aired, chances are slim you're going to pencil in a time to watch.]
Google Sees You When You're Sleeping (And Maps You)
Except for the fact that 2nd Avenue doesn't slope so dramatically as to want to pitch taxis into the East River, this Google Maps street level view is an impressive representation of the corner I live on. I can almost make out the wording on the awning to John's Restaurant. (Note to travelers: John's is sub-par, but if you make a left here, you're just steps away from a very solid new Italian joint.)
So just how up-to-date are these street-level pictures, you ask? Well, judging by the state of Ground Zero, not so very updated. I haven't been down for a few months, but unless they've re-dug up Greenwich Street and supplanted the t-shirt and knick knack stands in favor of dilapidated scaffolding, these shots are at least a few years old.
Just how long has Google been stockpiling these images?
I Went Out There And Won a Fifth Of One For the Gipper
I'm taking 20% of the credit for this.
Reagan Tops Gore In Squeaker
Wed may 30 2007 10:19:28 ET
'The Reagan Diaries' outsold Al Gore's 'Assault On Reason' in opening week action, bookscan will report.
Reagan won the race by selling just 5 more books than gore! [Recount! Recount!]
'Diaries' moved 49,626 copies to gore's 49,621, industry sources tell the drudge report.
Isaacson 'Einstein' bagged 21,007 for the week [208,939 since release]... Hitchens 'God is Not Great' exchanged 17,876 [58,490].
Previously: MTP: The Reagan Diaries
Blogger Immigration Poll
John Hawkins has published the results of poll of "right-of-center bloggers" about the Senate Immigration Poll.
Not surprisingly, the respondents (myself included) were overwhelmingly opposed to the legislation. Only one question truly split the pack.
3) Do you think it would be appropriate for the Republican leaders in the Senate, Mitch McConnell and Trent Lott, to resign their leadership positions if this bill passes?
Yes: 28 (56%)
No: 22 (44%)
View the full results.
That's the Spirit
After trending downward for two months, the Consumer Confidence Index rose to 108 in May.
Analysts had showed little confidence in consumer confidence, forecasting it to come in at a much more tepid 104.8.
Says Lynn Franco, Director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center: "The bounce-back in Confidence was due primarily to a more upbeat assessment of present-day business conditions. Consumers' view of the job market, both present and six months from now, was little changed and did not provide a boost in confidence. The short-term outlook remains cautious, and rising gasoline prices are having a negative impact on consumers' inflation expectations. All in all, confidence levels continue to suggest growth, albeit at a slow pace."
Something has gone horribly wrong.
In 2007, the planet's greatest specimen of the noble subspecies Canis lupus familiaris that comprises man's best friend...
So say the judges at the World Dog Show.
I blame climate change.
Report: The Global Tide Is Rising!
The economic tide, friends. The economic tide.
World Development Indicators 2007
World Development Indicators (WDI) publication is the World Bank's premier annual compilation of data about development.
Over the last 10 years developing economies have grown faster than in any period since 1965—and even faster since 2000. While the global picture is dominated by the larger economies—Brazil, China, India, Russia, and South Africa, recently joined by the major oil exporters—more are now doing well and fewer have suffered severe recessions, raising average growth rates.
Economic growth is a clear marker of development, and countries that grow usually reduce poverty. But if the fruits of growth are not widely shared many poor people can be left behind even as average incomes rise. Nor does economic growth guarantee that access to water will improve or that more children will attend school. But failing to grow almost always makes matters worse.
The study also illustrated the correlation between poverty reduction and per capita income growth among developing countries.
From the 1st world to the 3rd, it seems like an obvious point that income growth would tend to diminish poverty, but this deceptively simple truism is one that's frequently lost even on seekers of our highest offices...
It's economic growth, not redistribution of wealth, that is the rising tide that lifts all boats.
Growth also tends to keep inflation at bay, hyperinflation being one of the intractable problems that prevents "developing" countries from joining the developed world.
Of course, achieving robust and sustainable economic growth is easier said than done, particularly for countries whose economic plight is compounded by health epidemics, civil unrest, or political instability. Happily, there's at least a set of overarching macroeconomic guidelines available for any policymakers aiming to buoy their countries' long-term aggregate welfare and improving the lives of their most destitute citizens.
[Hint: It ends with "alism" and it doesn't start with an "S".]
(HT: Seeking Alpha)
Happy Memorial Day
Michael Yon offers updates and perspective from Anbar for the occasion.
(Google users aren't to be blamed if they forgot it was today.)
NWA Flight 327: Terrorist Dry Run After All
As blog devotees will recall, nearly three years ago, Anne Jacobsen had a frightening story to tell about her experience aboard a Northwest Airlines flight from Detroit to Los Angeles. At the time, her tale of several ominously behaved Middle Easterners got a heap of blog coverage, along with a few blips of major media attention amid more frequent yawns and dismissals of her supposed alarmism over what, we were assured, turned out to be nothing more than than exceedingly bizarre behavior by a law-abiding musical group.
Maybe Jacobsen was lucky to suffer only derision and disregard. Today, she might well have been slapped with a defamation lawsuit.
According to the judgment of air marshals, as detailed in a new report from DHS, however, her concern was on the money.
The inspector general for Homeland Security late Friday released new details of what federal air marshals say was a terrorist dry run aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 327 from Detroit to Los Angeles on June 29, 2004.
Excerpts fom 51-page inspector general report:
On the flight, 13 Middle Eastern men behaved in a suspicious manner that aroused the attention and concern of the flight attendants, passengers, air marshals and pilots.
Briefly, the following events occurred. Thirteen Middle Eastern men were traveling together as a musical group, 12 carrying Syrian passports and one, a lawful permanent resident of the United States of Lebanese descent, purchased one-way tickets from Detroit to Los Angeles.
Six of the men arrived at the gate together after boarding began, then split up and acted as if they were not acquainted. According to air marshals, the men also appeared sweaty and nervous. An air marshal assigned to Flight 327 observed their behavior and characterized it as "unusual," but made no further reports at the time.
During the flight, the men again acted suspiciously. Several of the men changed seats, congregated in the aisles, and arose when the fasten seat belt sign was turned on; one passenger moved quickly up the aisle toward the cockpit and, at the last moment, entered the first class lavatory. The passenger remained in the lavatory for about 20 minutes. Several of the men spent excessive time in the lavatories. Another man carried a large McDonald's restaurant bag into a lavatory and made a thumbs-up signal to another man upon returning to his seat.
Flight attendants notified the air marshals on board of the suspicious activities.
In response, an air marshal directed a flight attendant to instruct the cockpit to radio ahead for law-enforcement officials to meet the flight upon arrival. After arriving, Flight 327 was met by federal and local law enforcement officials, who gathered all 13 suspicious passengers, interviewing two of them. An air marshal photocopied the passengers' passports and visas. The names of the suspicious passengers were run through FBI databases, indicating the musical group's promoter had been involved in a similar incident in January 2004. No other derogatory information was received, and all 13 of the men were released.
Perhaps most terrifyingly:
he Homeland Security Operations Center (HSOC) logs show no entries regarding Flight 327 on the day of the flight. Flight 327 was logged into HSOC's database on July 26, 2004, four days after the events that occurred on the flight were reported by The Times. The suspicious incident was brought to HSOC's attention by an inquiry from the White House Homeland Security Council.
Wednesdsay's Washington Times will carry the full inspector general's report.
From You, Okay? I learned It From Watching You.
Employee sues lawfirm specializing in Social Security disability cases for $33 million for their failure to offer her a window to combat her "seasonal affective disorder".
A Connecticut secretary who suffers from the "winter blues" is suing her ex-employers for $33 million, claiming they wouldn't give her a well-lit desk with a window view.
Caryl Dontfraid says she has seasonal affective disorder, which causes depression during the fall and winter and can be alleviated by exposure to bright light.
"She wanted to work closer to a window with good light," her attorney, Robert Campos-Marquetti told the Daily News. "This is a request that could have been easily accommodated."
"She asked if it was possible for her to work at home during certain times of the year and we said, 'No,'" said David Hill, a Binder & Binder supervisor.
"We deal with very sensitive personal information and to have access to our information, you have to be in our office."
Ten days after her request, Dontfraid was relocated - along with the rest of her department - to another part of Binder & Binder's office, the suit states.
She spoke to Hill and "reiterated her need to be placed in a different workplace as a reasonable accommodation," and was fired later that day, the suit alleges.
Hill said Dontfraid's new seat was just 3 feet from a window.
Hmm. Karma works at the corporate level too. Who knew?
Clinton Trawling for Single Anxious Females
No, the other Clinton.
THE Single Anxious Female has taken over from the soccer mom of the 1990s and the stockcar-racing Nascar dad of the Bush era as the influential new voting block that could deliver victory to Hillary Clinton in the 2008 presidential election.
Many of the 18 to 44-year-old single women who watched Sex and the City, the television series, now want a woman in the White House. They are concerned about terrorism, angry about the Iraq war and worried about affordable health-care and education, according to the Clinton camp.
“I think the better way to define them is SAFs,” said Ann Lewis, a senior adviser to Clinton. “Single Anxious Females.”
Samantha Waterman, 41, a Clinton supporter and SAF from Los Angeles, believes the glamorous girlfriends in Sex and the City would be for Hillary.
But Bill's not getting out of the game either.
Despite his roguish past, Bill Clinton is helping to bring Single Anxious Females into his wife’s camp. “I like Bill,” said Waterman. “Honestly, I think more men than women got upset with him for fooling around. Maybe it’s a guilt complex. Women are better able to forgive him.”
Now bathing in the false appeal of identity politics, Team Hillary appears to be banking on the idea that American women don't want a candidate whose policies will enable them to thrive and succeed, but rather that supporting and bearing witness to Hillary's own success is enough of a win.
Maren Hesla, a director of Emily’s List, the campaigning group for women in politics, said single women’s “voting muscle” was growing rapidly in strength. “It’s a group we’ve been tracking with a lot of interest because they’re close to becoming the Democratic party base. They regard Hillary Clinton as a role model who can break through the glass ceiling for all of us.”
Naomi Wolf, 44, the feminist writer and author of The End of America, said politicians had long been aware that single women could swing the election. ... Wolf compares Clinton to the aloof boss played by Sigourney Weaver in the film Working Girl, while the single female voters she needs to attract are more like bubbly, down-to-earth Melanie Griffith, her secretary.
My Fellow Americans...
Goverrhea: Thoughts On the Anti-Price Gouging Bill
The House is really stretching to reach new heights of absurdity, with its passage of HR 1252, the Federal Price Gouging Prevention Act. Not only does this bill have no chance of doing anything positive for consumers (despite what its 124 co-sponsors would either ignorantly and/or disingenuously tell you), but it virtually guarantees a rash of unintended and harmful consequences.
Deliberately blind to the impact of OPEC, fresh Alaskan supply outages, ongoing military conflict in the world's oil capital region, the dawn of the summer driving season, and the simple fact that wholesale crude oil prices - not your friendly neighborhood franchisee - drive the retail price of gasoline, this bill nonetheless seeks to flog retailers for "gouging" consumers. But since price-gouging has not been found to be a problem in the American retail gasoline market, despite 30 years of dogged investigation, this price control aims to fix something that simply ain't broke. Just because the bill serves no actual purpose, however, doesn't mean it won't have any impact. Like most any price control, the primary problem with this price control is the fact that it's a price control.
When government imposes its awkward hand on the price of gasoline (a price driven by a rational market encompassing millions of widely distributed participants; a market, it bears repeating, that demonstrably does not exhibit price-gouging tendencies), it necessarily moves the price away from the market-clearing equilibrium. That necessarily upsets the balance of supply and demand (in this case by lowering supply, since the downward artificial price pressure constitutes a disincentive for suppliers to supply it).
Problem: not enough gasoline; gas too expensive. Congressional solution: lower supply.
I'm sure the obligatory (if superficial) delving into free market theory has sent any of the bill's 284 supporters who may be reading this running for the door with fingers firmly implanted in ears. But unfortunately for us, assuming the bill is ever enacted, there's plenty more bad news to explore.
In their collective bureaucratic wisdom, the 124 cooks who whipped up this fetid broth settled on some marvelously ambiguous triggers, deeming retailers to be in breach if they deign to take "unfair advantage [of] unusual market conditions" or sell their wares at "unconscionably excessive" prices.
In a capitalist system, in which merchants are permitted (and expected) to maximize profits by seeking higher prices, just as consumers are expected to maximize value by seeking lower prices, until the two sides equilibrate at some market-clearing price, how are merchants expected to know when their appropriate profit-maximizing behavior constitutes "unfair advantage" or when their prices become "unconscionably excessive"? The easy answer is: they won't know. They certainly won't know when their rational, profit-maximizing economic behavior might become "unfair" or "unconscionable" in someone else's eyes. And that's a big problem.
The penalties laid out by this bill are (to use the Congressional parlance) unconscionably excessive. They call for civil and criminal fines of up to $150 million dollars for corporations and up to $5 million and 10 years in prison for individuals.
Thanks to the bill's severity and ambiguity, your friendly neighborhood gasmonger is going to shutter his business the day this bill is enacted if he knows there's a chance he may be personally fined millions of dollars and spend up to a decade behind bars, should his state attorney general not approve of his pricing. The brave ones may stick it out and try to cut enough costs that they can afford to lower their prices below market rates in order to ensure compliance. Some if not most of them will quickly turn unprofitable and go out of business themselves. The craftier ones may find enough costs to cut (e.g. lowering wages, reducing operating hours, cutting corners on safety, deferring property and equipment maintenance) that they manage to survive.
Once things shake out, we can say with near economic certainty that we'll have far fewer retail gasoline suppliers in business selling far less supply and providing a reduced quality of service. That seems like a daunting price to pay for a law that stands no chance at providing any offsetting benefit.
The bad news is that so many legislators don't understand the inevitability of these negative consequences, whether because they're unable to grasp the causality or because they're unwilling to let it get in the way of such a delightful bit of panderage. The good news is that the outlook is not so inescapably grim, so long as we manage to reject this nonsensical line of thinking. We know how to lower the price of gasoline (and retail energy in general). Yes, investment in alternative energies is vital, but it's a long-term solution. But we've got three bullets in the clip right now - building new refinery capacity, building new (or reconditioning old) nuclear facilities, and drilling in ANWR and currently forbidden coastal regions. None of these will bring new product to market tomorrow, but within a few years, they'll offer meaningful relief to millions of gas-buying Americans.
It's true that none of those measures carry the satisfaction of sticking it to evil oil companies or throwing small business owners in prison for sentences normally reserved for repeat violent offenders, but they do offer the consolation of actually improving the situation in question, rather than making it significantly and perhaps irreparably worse.
The Jesus Fish
Shark's virgin birth stuns scientists
A female hammerhead shark has given birth without the help of a male, after genetic tests revealed that its baby shark had no paternal DNA.
An international team reports that the shark's "virgin birth" was down to an unusual method of reproduction known as "parthenogenesis", where an egg starts to divide without being fertilised.
This is the first scientific report of male free asexual reproduction in sharks.
So what to make of the marine messiah? Does its immaculate nautical nativity suggest an aquatic apocalypse is upon us? Do we pray? Repent? Bring it gifts of gold, frankincense, and mackerel?
Will PETA decide that being mollycoddled by the Holy Spirit has rendered the shark unfit to survive in the wild and that we therefore need to execute it?
Rest easy, pilgrim. Turns out the appropriate panic inspired by this unprecedented event is more a familiar one. Say it with me...
"Female sharks might reproduce like this more often when they have difficulty finding mates at low population densities. This could hasten the erosion of population genetic diversity and perpetuate the production of genetically disadvantaged offspring."
This is because sexual reproduction allows for increased genetic diversity which enables a population and ultimately the species to adapt/change/evolve to ever changing environmental pressures, from disease to climate change.
Scientists with the World Conservation Union, which publishes the Red Lists of Threatened Species, recently upgraded the "threat" category of several sharks.
In other words, sharks conceived by single moms via parthenogenesis, no matter how miraculous, are going to be less adaptive to man's boorish ruinations. Sharks begin to die off, there are fewer boy sharks lurking around the girl sharks, parthenogenesis increases, and the soon the vicious cycle of virgin shark birth and global shark death is unstoppable.
The optimist in me finds peace in the knowledge that when this shark dies, it'll be for our ecological sins. The pessimist in me remembers what happened the last time a predator learned this trick.
"Bill Richardson Lopez" Joins the Surname Shuffle
In the heartland of America he is just Gov. Bill Richardson. But in big Hispanic states like California the Democratic U.S. presidential hopeful tells voters he is also a Lopez.
"California has a lot of Hispanic voters and they don't know I'm Hispanic," said Richardson, governor of New Mexico and son of a Mexican woman named Lopez.
It's hard to play identity politics if the electorate can't accurately classify you.
"I am saying 'It's Bill Richardson Lopez and I am one of you and I would like you to consider me, not because I am Hispanic but because I have the best program for the country'," he told Reuters in an interview late on Monday.
I like Richardson (a lot more than some of his opponents anyway). But two the two halves of statement are absurdly irreconcilable.
Strutting the candidate's ethnicity in this expedient if unorthodox way may be a new twist to the Lopez campaign, but it's not the first time he's pondered it. According to a 2005 Time article, donning the handle was suggested at the dawn of Richardson's political career as a way to curry favor with Hispanic voters.
When Bill Richardson first ran for Congress, in 1980, an adviser suggested he campaign as Bill Richardson Lopez, given that his mother was Mexican and in Spanish-speaking nations, the mother's surname is placed after the father's. "Too obvious," Richardson scoffed.
26 years later, the idea still hadn't grown on him. The September 2006 issue of American Profile gave Richardson another opportunity to sound off on the idea of campaigning as a Lopez.
His political advisers once suggested that he use the name Bill Richardson-Lopez because his mother's maiden name is Lopez. "I said, ‘That's not me,” Richardson says. "I try to be a mainstream American politician enormously proud of my Hispanic heritage, and I don't hide it. I feel strongly that if you are going to be representing the American people, you have to be part of the American mainstream.”
In the last 8 months, something must've changed.
Proof That God Exists
A CALIFORNIAN man who tried to kill his girlfriend by leaving her in a car parked across railway lines was himself killed when an oncoming train hurled the car into him as he fled.
His girlfriend survived, the Associated Press reported.
The man drove the car to the head of a line of traffic stopped at a level crossing in the San Fernando Valley neighbourhood of Sunland on Monday, police spokesman Mike Lopez said.
The man, who was seen arguing with the woman, then parked the car on the tracks and jumped out, leaving her behind, Mr Lopez said.
A 450-tonne commuter train hit the rear of the car, launching it into the man.
The girlfriend, who was injured, was taken to hospital in a stable condition.
"She gets hit by a train and lives. He gets hit by his own car and he dies,'' Mr Lopez said.
No one aboard the train, which was carrying 132 passengers and crew, was injured, a Metrolink spokeswoman said.
John E'wards Solves Poverty Once and For All
Johnny Coiffeur seems to have tapped into a sure fire way to keep those Two America blues away. The secret to making gobs and gobs of money (other than trial lawyering of course) is simply to give wildly overpriced speeches about the great poverty dilemma.
How wildly? 137 haircuts worth.
John Edwards has an example to teach University of California at Davis students how to avoid poverty — charge $55,000 for a speech.
That's how much the 2008 Democratic presidential candidate negotiated for his fee to speak to 1,787 people at the taxpayer-funded school in January 2006, according to financial disclosures.
According to Joe Martin, the public relations officer for UC Davis' Mondavi Center, the fee for a speech entitled, "Poverty, the Great Moral issue Facing America," was worth it to school officials.
Hopefully California taxpayers and UC Davis tuition-payers agree. If they keep ponying up for these costly lectures, it's going to put them all in the poor house.
The speaking fee, which amounts to about $31 per audience member, was the highest Edwards earned in nine appearances last year at colleges and universities. In all, he earned $285,000 for the nine speeches.
Incidentally, students at all of California's public universities will pay a 7 percent increase in tuition next year.
The Long Slog
While the Dow Jones Industrial Average managed last October to surpass its pre-bubble burst all-time high set back in 2000 (and to notch up dozens of fresh record closes in the months since), the S&P 500 had yet to revisit its 2000 high until today. It took more than 7 years for the index to return to record territory, a feat it managed in less than 2 years following the stock market crash of 1987. (There was no S&P 500 in 1929, but for comparison, the Dow didn't revisit its pre-Depression highs for 25 years following that crash.)
At 1528.59 midway through the session, the index is currently trading just over a point above its March 24, 2000 record high close of 1527.46.
No such luck for the tech-laden Nasdaq, which still nearly needs to double to get back to its March 2000 highs.
High School Graduate Offers Grim Analysis of Environmental Data
We're all going to die. Just ask your thinly educated, unapologetically hypocritical betters.
Humans face extinction claims star
Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio sent out a message about global warming at the Cannes Film Festival.
The heartthrob has made a film, the 11th Hour, warning that human beings face extinction as a result of the environmental crisis.
At a press conference in the South of France following the screening, The Blood Diamond actor, 32, attacked US President George Bush, saying: "It's very simple. He's done very little for the environmental movement."
The Titanic star's latest film, which he narrates, follows another environmental warming documentary by former US Presidential candidate Al Gore, shown at the Cannes Film Festival last year.
DiCaprio defended Gore from criticism over the amount of energy he has been reportedly using to jet around the world and to run his home.
"Don't shoot the messenger", he said. "This person is trying to relay a message to the public and the way that he travels should not be splayed out like that."
DiCaprio said it should be oil companies that came under scrutiny and that the Government should make systematic change.
The US star said he took steps in his own life to reduce global warming, telling the famous film festival: "I do try to live my life in a green manner. I have installed solar panels in my house and the car that I drive is a hybrid one.
"But it's more about the day-to-day things, being conscious about being a consumer, about looking to endorse green technology. People ask, 'what can a hybrid car do?' It's not about that. It's about being a consumer, the choices you make everyday."
Hollywood's jet-and-offset-set insists that the "climate change" debate is over. If so, can't they now safely shut their soy holes and stop pestering us with these sanctimonious lecture-movies?
MTP: "The Reagan Diaries"
On today's "Meet the Press", the second half dealt with Douglas Brinkley's new book, The Reagan Diaries, a compendium of Reagan's near daily thoughts and reflections written throughout his Presidency. Too bad it doesn't come out until Tuesday - judging by the extensive excerpts published in Vantiy Fair, it looks like a must-own for anyone whose respect and affection for the 40th President make Bill Maher uncomfortable.
Russert noted that Reagan himself appeared on the show 7 times during his political career. Video highlights of his first appearance, during his 1966 campaign for California Governor, are available on the MTP website.
It's a fascinating exercise in framing the sentence, "You have no experience," as a question and asking it as many times as possible.
One of the leading candidates for an inauspicious title aims to pawn it off:
Former President Carter says President Bush's administration is "the worst in history" in international relations, taking aim at the White House's policy of pre-emptive war and its Middle East diplomacy.
"I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history," Carter told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in a story that appeared in the newspaper's Saturday editions. "The overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me."
Bush's countervaluation was somewhat more praiseful.
Just a day after former President Jimmy Carter told reporters that the Bush administration is “the worst in history” the current White House resident called Mr. Carter “the best former president ever.”
“I know that President Carter and I have had our differences,” said Mr. Bush, “But I think most Americans will agree with me that he’s a terrific ex-president. Things have never been better since Jimmy Carter left office.”
Mr. Bush pointed to an array of improvements, including a stable growing economy, lower taxes, reduced inflation and unemployment and increased American strength and preparedness — all of which he associated with Mr. Carter’s years as a former president.
“I think history will judge President Carter’s post-White House tenure favorably,” said Mr. Bush, “As a former president, Mr. Carter has overseen the nation’s longest period of expansion and growth in opportunity.”
Michelle Malkin holds up a mirror to the Associated Press, bewailing over the GOP's lack of diversity, and finds the pot calling the kettle white.
(The pot also needs to keep better track of its double negatives.)
Strict Limit of 5 Coins Per Caller
The second dollar coin in the new presidential series goes into circulation around the country on Thursday with the U.S. Mint hoping it can turn 18th century statesman John Adams into a 21st century marketing phenomenon.
After two famous flops in Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea, the U.S. Mint believes it now has the right strategy for success. But there are still plenty of naysayers around who believe a dollar coin will never gain wide acceptance unless the government gets rid of the dollar bill.
I know what you're thinking. You want the coin, but you're afraid you're not going to be able to get the coin. Relax.
I know what you're thinking. You want the coin, but you're afraid you're not going to be able to get the coin. Relax.
"People who want the coin are going to be able to get the coin," Mint Director Edmund C. Moy said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Now ponder this, misogynistic, pay-gap tolerating citizen: if the Adams coin succeeds where Susan B. Anthony and Randy'L He-dow Teton failed, does it suggest America's simply not ready for a woman to adorn a coin?
Well the joke's on us, because that's not actually John Adams' face you're looking at. Have a click here and tell me the image isn't spitting.
Hillary's Cry For Help
Hillary needs your help, America. Having already figured out how to surrender in Iraq, how to ruin America's healthcare system, and how to cripple our economy, there's really only one big issue left to nail down. The campaign song. She invites you to cast your vote from a field of nine candidates (an interesting parallel...).
- "City of Blinding Lights" - U2
- "Suddenly I See" - KT Tunstall
- "I'm a Believer" - Smash Mouth
- "Get Ready" - The Temptations
- "Ready To Run" - Dixie Chicks
- "Rock This Country!" - Shania Twain
- "Beautiful Day" - U2
- "Right Here, Right Now" - Jesus Jones
- "I'll Take You There" The Staple Sisters
In the web video in which Clinton makes this plea, she also makes a "solemn and sacred promise" not to sing the winning song herself, splicing in some of that cat-strangling impression she did in Iowa back in January.
At the DNC's winter meeting, Clinton sashayed on stage to "Right Here, Right Now" which I suppose you could call the current campaign theme by default. Dodd played "Get Ready" which she appears to have pilfered for the #4 slot. Playing her off-stage after her speech was BTO's “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”. B-b-b-baby, why didn't you include that song in the line-up? Because the band is Canadian? Because Randy Bachman's a Mormon? Because the title rang too true and people took it as a threat?
Happily, there's a line for write-in candidates as well, so BTO fans can still make their voices heard.
I voted for "Ready To Run", but I really wish she'd chosen "Not Ready To Make Nice" as her Dixie Chicks selection and dialed that acerbometer right to 11. I also have to say I'm a little baffled not to see any Sheryl Crow tunes on the list. "A Change Would Do You Good" would've worked in an fittingly supercilious way. Or maybe cue up "My Favorite Mistake" whenever Bubba joins her on stage?
Now that I'm fresh out of snark, I'll concede this is all pretty clever as campaign stunts go and the frolicsome nature of it could help chip away at the whole "cold, scripted cyborg" image.
Evan Almighty - The Theatrical Touring Company
There's got to be an easier way to completely waste your time.
Environmental activists are building a replica of Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat—where the biblical vessel is said to have landed after the great flood—in an appeal for action on global warming, Greenpeace said Wednesday.
Turkish and German volunteer carpenters are making the wooden ship on the mountain in eastern Turkey, bordering Iran. The ark will be revealed in a ceremony on May 31, a day after Greenpeace activists climb the mountain and call on world leaders to take action to tackle climate change, Greenpeace said.
"Climate change is real, it's happening now and unless world leaders take urgent, decisive and far-reaching action, the next decades will see human misery on a scale not experienced in modern times," said Greenpeace activist Hilal Atici. "Those leaders have a mandate from the people ... to massively cut greenhouse gas emissions and to do it now."
Interviewing John McCain after Tuesday's Republican Presidential debate, FNC's Alan Colmes pressed the Senator about his contention that if we surrender in Iraq, the War on Terror will follow us home. Colmes' protest went something like this:
I don't understand the claim that terrorists will follow us home. What are they gonna do - hop on planes?
Bloomberg Stakes a Billion
It seems a little early for an independent candidate who won't be spending a single minute on fundraising to be easing in earnest into the fray, but it's beginning to look like Mike Bloomberg's lacing up his campaigning shoes. After all, why bother? The earlier he jumps in, the earlier his media star can peak and fizzle. Not only doesn't he need to raise money, he doesn't need to worry about a primary contest either. The billion dollars he's prepared to spend should enable him to secure him a ticket to November in nearly every if not every state.
Maybe he was buoyed by the Daily News poll that showed him strongly favored by New Yorkers over Rudy Giuliani in a hypothetical Presidential match-up. Or maybe he figures the timing is right to collect some of campaign staff eager to scurry off McCain's sinking ship.
"Some of the people on McCain's [presidential campaign] staff have been calling me to see if Mike is running because they are ready to leave the McCain campaign, which is a biplane on fire and spiraling down," the Bloomberg adviser said.
(Okay, they used the aviation metaphor, I went nautical. I like mine better. After all, it's harder to survive a bail out from a fiery biplane.)
With a billion-dollar budget, an independent Bloomberg could outspend the two major party candidates combined, even in this record-setting election cycle, so from the perspective of pure political intrigue, his prospective candidacy is, well, intriguing. His ludicrous 20% victory margin in 2005, as a [nominal] Republican in a city with a strong Democrat registration advantage was a testament not only to the sheer amount of money he's willing to spend on campaigns, but to the effectiveness of the campaign organizations he builds. If he does jump in with an instantaneous 10-figure budget, I think he becomes a truly viable candidate.
Even shy of a win, he'd be a major game-changer as a potential spoiler for either side. His spectrum-spanning political identity, both in terms of policy and party registration, make the Bloomberg Effect hard to quantify. It'll depend not only on where his national politics settle, but who become the potential spoilees. His net effect could swing a number of ways, depending on whether Rudy, Hillary, Rudy and Hillary, or neither is nominated.
As a wildly successful entrepreneur whose business success makes Romney's shining career seem pauperly in comparison (Forbes officially estimates his net worth at $5 billion, but it could be as high as $20 billion), he might take a decidedly conservative fiscal tone. Despite the fact that his basic strategy for balancing New York's budget was to introduce massive tax increases, rather than roping in government spending and/or pursuing economic growth, he'd likely need to wax conservative on the economic side to offset his decidedly liberal social and - to a mayorally limited degree anyway - foreign policies (pro-choice, pro-illegal immigration, decidedly anti-gun ownership, and recently just achingly "green").
Just this morning, I flicked on the TV to a Bloomberg commercial extolling the grandeur of his greenness. I'm not sure what the commercial was ostensibly for (I was mostly asleep and shuffling toward the shower), but it sounded a lot like a thinly veiled, nationally focused campaign pitch.
On the other hand, if he can't bring himself to swear off tax hikes and embrace the goodness and light of economic conservatism, his independent candidacy may begin to look more and more like a mainstream Democratic candidacy. This might swing the spoilage factor in favor of the Republican nominee and best of all, it'd likely provide a little protection from the nightmare scenario. If Hillary's on the Democratic line and Bloomberg is toting a liberal policy portfolio, he could poach a lot of northeast liberal support from her. What's more, if Rudy wins the GOP line and hasn't sustained too much friendly-fire damage from the primary, the NY candidate trifecta might conceivably put the state in play for Republicans, assuming Clinton and a fully liberalized Bloomberg split the left roughly evenly.
Again, though, the actual Bloomberg Effect is tough to gauge, not knowing what kind of agenda he'd craft or who winds up winning the primaries. The only safe bet is that it'll be hugely significant to the outcome of the contest.
And to the media's 2008 ad revenues.
A Book About Nothing
Cheryl Hines, Cheryl David, Laurie David, noted eco-activist, Gulfstream liberal, enviro-scofflaw, and wife of someone famous, has written a book entitled The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming, which aims to convince young boys and girls "to grow up to be activists."
David and her co-author Cambria Gordon penned a letter to their three daughters about the book, which David has posted at HuffPo.
We hope that by the time you read this, the solutions to global warming will be well under way. You already know from living with us, how concerned we are about this problem. Sometimes, we go over board with our reactions to everyday annoyances like over -packaged products, leaving lights on in the room, taking too long a shower or leaving your chargers in the wall. We embarrass you when we glare at hummer drivers and or get emotional when we talk about drowning polar bears. But we do this because all of the things that we love and care about are at stake. We do this because we do not want the day to come when you ask us why we did not do more.
First off, "by the time [they] read this?" It's a blog, right? Not a time capsule. Not a posthumous crystalgram from Jor-El. These things tend to disseminate quickly. At 10 and 12, David's daughters are presumably already old enough to know how to read and how to work the intertubes... maybe they just don't ready trashy liberal blogs.
Anyway, onto the over-packaging of products. With my spirits weighed down by the thought of Mrs. David's daily miseries and lamentations, a post at Gizmodo has me puzzled. Or, rather, it has me wondering about her puzzlement over this little eco-paradox.
If over-packaged goods rub her the wrong way, surely there can't be anything on this fragile Earth more egregious than this handsomely-packaged lump of nonexistence (available for $6.28 from iwantoneofthose.com).
Sure, ethereality probably doesn't *need* to be so finely bagged and one could see this as a deliberate and only mildly humorous waste of paper, ink, plastic, and the inadequately compensated labors of various downtrodden workers. But even so, I wonder if the first lady of the Nothing Fortune, whose very Gulfstream jaunts are financed by nothing, could begrudge nothingness a little indulgent pampering.
The manufacturer has a few words of wisdom which seem apropos for the jet-setting, eco-crusading, Seinfeld royalty-reaping crowd.
What better present for the person who has everything than a poignant reminder that they want for nothing? This lovingly crafted vial of emptiness is filled to the brim with unfettered nothingness. Free from the burden of possessions, the weight of responsibility, Nothing is as idiotic as it is brilliant. ... And let us not forget, that 'Nothing' is so important that most of our universe - and the contents of a lot of people's heads - appears to be made up of it.
Perhaps, according to the Jerusalem Post:
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was rushed to the hospital Sunday after a blood clot was discovered in his brain, and is now in a coma, the Palestinian news agency Ma'an claimed.
According to the report, Gaddafi's children, who reside in Europe, were recalled to his bedside in Tripoli.
"The condition of the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is very serious and he was brought unconscious to the hospital," the agency reported.
Captain Ed has more.
Gaddafi gave the US its biggest foreign-relations victory of the Iraq War when he voluntarily disarmed his nuclear-weapons programs. The US and UK had held negotiations with Libya on this point for months, but Gaddafi suddenly acquiesced shortly after the capture of Saddam Hussein. He told Silvio Berlusconi that he didn't want to end his days like Saddam Hussein -- hiding in a dirt hole only to be hauled out by American troops. His abandonment of nuclear weapons may have made the entire exercise worthwhile, although most have forgotten about the surprising level of sophistication that UN inspectors found during the disarmament process.
If he is as ill as the Post and Ma'an reports, it puts Libya in a precarious position. Gaddafi has had poor relations with the Arab League of late, and the Saudis have been the problem.
The Post article goes into a little more depth about those poor relations, including accusations of an assassination attempt on Saudi King Abdullah and opposing ideas about how to solve the Israel-Palenstinian conflict.
More from Ed:
It's not altogether sure that a Gaddafi exit would result in a reconciliation; indeed, no one has really considered what comes after Gaddafi. The entire North African situation, as bad as it is already, could rapidly deteriorate as long-oppressed factions fight for power if he dies, or even if he remains incapacitated.
Buy Mom "Caucus of Corruption"
Matt Margolis and Mark Noonan of GOP Bloggers and Blogs for Bush have just released a book entitled Caucus of Corruption and it's widely expected to be this year's *must have* Mother's Day gift. Nothing says "I love you, Mom" like a book dedicated to cataloging those widespread, yet seldom reported ethical and legal lapses of some of our favorite new Democratic leaders.
See how the apologists excitedly denounce it? That's how you know it's working.
Matt and Mark were kind enough to send me an advance copy, though I'm thus far delinquent in submitting a formal review. Suffice it to say CoC is a strikingly well-researched, handily portable compendium of a stunning glut of scandals and misdeeds, since respun and rebranded (though rarely refuted) by the new majority as "distractions" and "smears".
If you have liberal friends who tape pictures of Nancy Pelosi and Jack Murtha inside their lockers or who lecture you at every turn about Tom Delay and Duke Cunningham, this book makes for a terribly useful quick reference. I don't think it's overstating the case to suggest that there's not an anti-Republican slight that can be slung that can't be countered with a bawdy, "Oh yeah, oh yeah? Well what about..." followed by a quick thumbing-through of Caucus of Corruption and subsequent recitation of an anecdote of equal or greater vileness. In that sense, Caucus likely deserves a spot alongside the great barroom reference guides, like the Guinness Book or the Golden Tee shot diagram faceplate.
Go on out and pick up a copy (or do it the lazy, newfangled way). Or don't you love your mother enough to want her to win bar fights?
Liberman Blogs About Homegrown Terror
Joe Lieberman (CfL-CT) keyed a piece for The Hill's Congress Blog today, discussing the foiled terrorist attack plotted against the Fort Dix Army base in New Jersey that sought to massacre an untold number of American soldiers.
The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing today, our fourth on Islamist radicalization, took on a special sense of urgency with the arrests Tuesday of six would-be terrorists who are accused of plotting to force their way into Fort Dix, New Jersey, with automatic assault rifles and kill as many American soldiers as possible.
Though the plotters were immigrants (three of them illegal immigrants), they've all been in the U.S. since childhood and as Lieberman correctly points out, they appear to have been radicalized (whatever that might mean - brainwashed, seduced by the dark side of the Force, irrationally peeved about a cruddy lot in life, etc.) here at home.
What Lieberman also correctly points out however - a point that seems be very secondary to the primary media theme of the "homegrown" (i.e. non-boogedy-boogedy-neocon-scare-tactic-foreign-Islamofascist) brand of the terrorism - is the fact that the cell is absolutely aligned with the ideology and dogma of Al Qaeda and any like-minded terror network.
Though there is no evidence at this time of an operational link to Al Qaeda, there is quite clearly an ideological link — Osama bin Laden’s radical message reached across cyberspace and traditional borders and poisoned the hearts and minds of these six men in New Jersey.
Indeed, they believe that America is inherently the enemy of Islam and that righteous Muslims must carry out murderous remedies against the infidels. The fact that they received this programming remotely via far-flung cavecasts and DVDs is simply a testament to the increasingly borderless nature of Al Qaeda 2.0.
This is not the first terrorist plot against the U.S. since 9-11 to be stopped before it could be carried out, and it most surely will not be the last to be attempted. But it is another wake-up call to the American people that there are people in this world who so hate our American way of life that they are intent on wantonly killing Americans.
Update: Michelle rounds up coverage of and reaction to the Fort Dix Six's bail hearing this morning, where their lawyers revealed that - wait for it - they were entrapped!
Well, that's a load off. Conspiracies of and by our own government are so much more palatable than the creepy jihadi kind.
Namibia Catches Sarkozy Fever!
One Namibian anyway:
Namibia: Our Nicolas Sarkozy Must Please Stand Up!
What is of interest to me as a political Namibian living in Paris and what largely informed my support for Sarkozy over the past four years is the model of politics that he represents.
First, Nicolas Sarkozy as the son of an immigrant, represents what should be possible in a democracy: we should not fear those who are not of our background when we share the Republican space.
Sarkozy's credo, which I think we should buy into as Namibians, has always been that the republic is one of recognition, hard work and merit.
Namibia won't elect a new president until 2009, but they could do worse than to model their choice after Sarkozy.
...Nicolas Sarkozy once remarked: "If I am elected President of the Republic, it means that I have deserved it".
As a statement it is banal or arrogant, depending on how you look at it, and anybody who stands for a presidential election and wins could lay claim to such a comment given what is normally invested in presidential campaigns.
However such a comment would have been less true of Sarkozy's rival candidate, Segolene Royal, who accidentally became a candidate for the Elysee after a few positive opinion polls.
Nicolas Sarkozy is elected with a mandate he can call his own and for that reason alone, when electing or choosing leaders, Nicolas Sarkozy's journey is indeed an extraordinary model for our politics.
After all, we don't want to sit with a leader who asks himself the awful question: what have I done to deserve being president of this country?
[Mark it: 5/11/07 - first blogged about Namibian presidential elections.]
Scream If You Love Disaster-Exploiting Puppetry
Neither shocking, nor confirmed. But certainly interesting. And beastly if true.
Bryan Preston's been wailing on the story and observes the unequivocal denial by the DNC that's been shaken loose. Either the story's bunk or Dean's laying down an uncharacteristically heroic bluff. I wouldn't say the story's coffin is completely nailed shut until Brownback disavows (as the one principle whose interests aren't aligned with the story's death), but this one seems to have at least one foot in the grave.
Perhaps Sebelius was a lone wolf in this bout of disgracefully opportunistic deceit after all.
'Tis the Season For Al Fresco Gastronomy
In New York, if you live in one of the trendy, folksy, or quaint neighborhoods (which I don't), it's getting to be that time of year when you might look out your window one Sunday morning and see people enjoying the folksy quaintness of curbside brunching. Eggs Benedict, pancakes, overpriced fruit, mimosas... gravy cheese fries if it's a high-quality establishment.
Turns out the same goes for Homer, Alaska.
Odd sounds outside their home woke Gary and Terri Lyon early Sunday morning, so Gary got up to check it out. He looked outside and saw a 500-pound grizzly bear killing an adult moose in their driveway.
"She tore apart the chest cavity, ripped out the heart and ate it," Gary said. "It was like she knew that's what kept it alive."
Oh right, and moose heart.
The couple put their dog inside, grabbed their cameras and started filming the attack as the grizzly battled the moose down the driveway, finally killing it. They posted the video on YouTube.
Of course they did. And there it is.
(As for family-friendliness and work safety of the content, use your judgment. It's your standard bear-killing-and-eating-a-moose-in-the-driveway footage. I watched it with no sound though; it's possible Gary and Terri are cursing a blue streak in the background.)
John E'wards, asked about the collapse of World Trade Center 7 (the centerpiece of most 9/11 "Truth" conspiracy theories), promises an appreciative audience he'll look into it.
What I find worse than the candidate's semi-dismissive, yet impassioned appeasement of the delusional fellow is the fact that he'd apparently never heard of World Trade Center 7 before this incident (or was at least pretending not to have in order to stall for time), judging by his several bewildered mouthings of the curious phrase. It looks like a moment he'd like to chew over with Twix.
In very mild defense of the candidate, I'll just note that in my time on the campaign trail, I ran into a bunch of these whackos and they are tenacious. They seem to work off a very consistent playbook too, which is to try to extract some kind of assurance from candidates that they'll support opening investigations into the collapse. In the first such encounter, I made the mistake E'wards makes here (well, one of the mistakes he makes here, not the impassioned appeasement) by offering a polite, "Give me your contact info so we can discuss this later and I can get back to what I was doing," after getting harangued for 15 minutes or so. Rookie mistake. I've been deluged with Truther spam ever since - my just desserts for not simply telling the nutjob to kindly take a hike.
Federal Reserve Language Watch
The Federal Reserve released its latest interest rate decision today and for the 7th time in a row, it left the Fed Funds rate unchanged at 5.25%. Also continuing a recent trend, the Fed barely touched the accompanying policy statement (edits from the March 21st statement illustrated below).
The standing pat was widely expected, but a number of Fed watchers were hoping to see hints as to the prospects and timing of any rates cuts the committee may be eyeing.
As for incremental hints, they just don't appear to be here, even shrouded in tea leaves as they tend to be. But nor does the statement suggest an ease is any further off than was suggested last month. This failure to budge their winks and implications even a little is sure to fluster the markets, which do love to read great truths into Fed policy statements. Not surprisingly, the immediate reaction to the release was for the major indices simply to whipsaw spastically.
My take: an ease is still more likely than a hike, as the slowing economic growth appears to be becoming a larger relative concern versus inflation. Inflation is still a tad elevated, but not overly problematic and trending the right way. While inflation is generally a thornier problem and it therefore makes sense for Bernanke to err hawkish, timing the policy inflection points is about anticipating the very delayed impact of previous rate changes, not waiting until they're manifest. Knowing that Bernanke knows this, and given that the slowing economic growth suggests the downward inflation trend is likely to continue, bringing inflation shortly into the comfort zone, my guess is that Bernanke is actually getting ready to ease rates within the next couple meetings, but wants to make sure not to broadcast that through the meticulously scrutinized turns of phrase in the policy statements.
That's the optimistic end of my take. The pessimistic side of that coin is that with each quarter of decelerating growth without a rate cut, the Fed gets closer to a true hawkish error - keeping rates too high too long in order to fight inflation, perhaps sufficient to snuff out some of the lastingly robust economic fundamentals we've been enjoying. But so long as the first part of my thesis is correct, Bernanke will pull the rate cut trigger before we find out.
March 21, 2007
For immediate release
The Federal Open Market Committee decided today to keep its target for the federal funds rate at 5-1/4 percent.
Recent indicators have been mixedand the adjustment in the housing sector is ongoing. Nevertheless, the economy seems likely to continue toexpand at a moderate pace over coming quarters.
Recent readings on coreinflation have beensomewhat elevated. Although inflation pressures seem likely to moderate over time, the high level of resource utilization has the potential to sustain those pressures.
In these circumstances, the Committee's predominant policy concern remains the risk that inflation will fail to moderate as expected. Future policy adjustments will depend on the evolution of the outlook for both inflation and economic growth, as implied by incoming information.
Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman; Timothy F. Geithner, Vice Chairman; Thomas M. Hoenig; Donald L. Kohn; Randall S. Kroszner; Cathy E. Minehan; Frederic S. Mishkin; Michael H. Moskow; William Poole; and Kevin M. Warsh.
Obama Lied, 9,988 Died
“In case you missed it, this week, there was a tragedy in Kansas. Ten thousand people died — an entire town destroyed,” Obama told a crowd of 500 in Richmond on Tuesday.
The Greensburg devastation constitutes a tragedy all on its own, without the death toll being exaggerated 83,000%.
Obama, who has been speaking to huge crowds in other areas of the country, did not fill the ballroom of the art center. Most in the crowd waited for more than an hour before he arrived from a fundraiser at the home of a supporter in western Henrico County. There, people paid up to $10,000 to meet the senator for cocktails.
I Thought We'd Established It Was the Name Tags
Proving there's no statute of limitations on playing the race card, former New York City Mayor David Dinkins has emerged from his befitting political irrelevance to endorse Hillary Clinton for President and to blame his 1993 loss to Rudy Giuliani on racism (video here).
It turns out his blessed ouster was wholly unrelated to having presided over 13% unemployment (a level unmatched since the Great Depression), the highest violent crime rate the city has ever seen, or the attempted secession of one of the boroughs.
In fairness, it's not entirely accurate to characterize Dinkins as politically irrelevant. He did come out of the woodwork in both 2001 and 2005 to endorse losing Mayoral candidates Mark Green (the proud new owner of the money-obliterating radio network Air America) and Freddy Ferrer (Edwardsianly class-warmongering coiner of the "two New Yorks" who, as a Hispanic candidate, lost to Caucasian Mike Bloomberg presumably on account of racism).
Congratulations to Senator Clinton on joining the ranks of Dinkins endorsees.
4/29 Truth Update: The Money Trail
It was immediately obvious to any of us who were courageous and patriotic enough to challenge the official story, that the Bay Bridge overpass collapse was an inside job. What was less obvious was who exactly these insiders were - and what exactly were they inside?
Early signs pointed rather damningly to Schwarzenegger and Caltrans, but for whatever reason, this time the cockamamie twaddle of trutherism somehow didn't smell right. Caltrans is a state agency, not a corporation. Conspiracy doctrine generally prefers that elected officials be in cahoots with one or more sufficiently evil corporate concerns, so the pieces weren't quite fitting. Still, given that we were talking about fire melting steel here (chortle), it was never really in doubt that we were looking at a massive cover-up. It just wasn't yet clear who we would be pinning it on.
Now, happily, we're gaining a little focus to our neurosis. As Mark Felt taught us, ferreting out the neredowells here was just a matter of following the money. Who stood to gain from the sudden closure of multiple arteries in one of the most complex traffic distribution structures in the country? With millions of commuters suddenly in need of alternate routing advice, where were they to turn?
[W]ithin 48 hours of Sunday's accident, engineers at the major mapping sites had reprogrammed with alternate routes that added only a couple minutes to estimated drive times. That's a big improvement from a couple years ago, when routing algorithms were only updated sporadically.
Digital cartographers say the response to the Oakland disaster was a promising sign of what's to come _ up-to-the-minute detours and routing technology that takes into account not only major disasters but fender benders and traffic jams.
Of these "major mapping sites" (Yahoo!, Google, and MapQuest), two of them happen to be conveniently located within 50 miles of the site of the incident. The third is headquartered 1,300 miles away. Which two would you guess managed to update their mapping algorithms a whole day before the third? Maybe the two companies who had some advance knowledge?
It took Yahoo nearly 39 hours to suggest new routes [roughly 6:30 pm Monday, local time]. Google Maps was updated late Monday night. MapQuest Inc., a subsidiary of Time Warner Inc.'s AOL, began suggesting detours late Tuesday night.
Not too surprising that Yahoo! and Google are among the perpetrators. But let's not be so blind and sheepish as to stop there. After all, for whose campaign did Yahoo! Chairman and CEO Terry Semel host a hoity-toity $2.5 million fundraiser last year? Yes, it was Governor Schwarzenegger. And if only it stopped there, we might yet sleep at night, knowing it was just another corrupt Republican behind the lies. But OpenSecrets.org reveals that Semel has also made personal campaign contributions to Mark Kennedy Shriver (a Democrat and the Governor's brother-in-law), Ted Kennedy (Arnold's uncle-in-law), George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Joe Lieberman, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, the DNC, and the Republican Party of California.
What's more, Microsoft's rumored takeover of Yahoo! (rumors which are conveniently drying up today), suggests that in all likelihood, Bill and Melinda Gates, Bono, perhaps the Edge, and Washington Governor Christine Gregoire may also have a hand in the dastardly business. As for Google's involvement, founders Brin and Page are thus far curiously silent on the matter, just the kind of stonewalling we might expect.
More to follow as further details and tissue-thin associations and inferences warrant.
In honor of France choosing a freedom-loving, America-admiring, tax-cutting President over a hyperlefty lady-Socialist (a trend that will hopefully catch on), Zombietime has a swell idea for a neologistic reconsideration.
Post-Debate Weekend Caption Contest
Now that we've been treated to rhetorical stylings of 18 Presidential hopefuls during 3 hours of debates, the timing seems right to turn our attention to this, the world's fastest latrine. (HT: Gizmodo)
Submit your caption or photoshop (click the image for a higher-res version) by Sunday night at midnight for a chance to win the lasting respect of your peers and a few cheap toilet humor giggles.
Mitt Romney, Heart Breaker
First off, I think Mitt definitely performed the best tonight, largely because of the significant charisma and poise advantage he holds over the other candidates. All he had to do was avoid gaffes and showcase the chops and he was a shoe-in to win whatever few chips were on the table tonight. He did that and he won a few chips.
But I think Mitt threw away a great opportunity to lock up his identity as the GOP's clear best candidate. Worse, the fumble occurred when he (partially) reversed what I've previously stated was my favorite Romney policy position. During his CPAC keynote, Mitt vowed not only to fight to make the Bush investment income tax cuts permanent, but to do him one better and lower the tax rates on dividends and capital gains from 15% all the way to 0%.
Fabulous. No single policy change would be more beneficial to every stratum of the American economy.
Tonight, during the "down-the-line" question about tax cuts, Mitt repeated this policy, but he limited it to "lower income Americans" (or "low and middle income Americans" - I guess I shouldn't use quotes given that I don't remember the exact phrasing, but that was the gist).
That may hold populist sway, but it's objectively a worse policy. Worse for everyone. Including low and middle income Americans. The greatness of the investment income tax cuts lies in the economic growth they engender. Another big helping of those cuts would be a tremendous boon, making our economy more robust, more flexible, and more sustainably competitive in the global capital and labor markets.
Better yet, these extra growthy tax cuts pay for themselves, just as Art Laffer predicted and as we've seen since 2003. So there's truly no good reason - truly no conceivable, rational reason - to offer them selectively, based on income bracket.
Now... for a little self-soothing.
These were rapid fire questions and candidates clearly didn't have a lot of time to deliver comprehensive answers. It's certainly possible that Mitt's position on investment income tax cuts hasn't changed since CPAC - that he still advocates elimination of capital gains and dividend income taxes for everyone, and that it was simply a more palatable talking to point to identify that this will be a great thing for low income Americans (which indeed it will). I'll be interested to see the transcript to see exactly how he put it - whether he does seem to explicitly exclude higher income bracket taxpayers, or whether what he said might've been part of a longer answer or a broader policy on which he simply didn't have time or inclination to expound, in this very accelerated format.
I do hope that's the case, but lo, my heart is heavy at the possibility that it's not. Make no mistake - eliminating the tax for all income brackets is not the more desirable policy because it lets wealthy people keep more money. It's more desirable because the incredible growth-fueling effect of these cuts, which significantly benefit us all in meaningful and long-term ways (as compellingly illustrated last month), will largely be absent, if the cuts only apply to lower income individuals.
For his part, Mike Huckabee seemed to pick up Romney's possible fumble and explicitly espoused nixing the tax for everyone. For all the grief Huckabee takes from the Club for Growth, he might've been the most ardently pro-growth candidate on stage tonight.
I don't know why I feel compelled to post about the roughly weekly e-mail missives that dribble out of the Clinton campaign - a twisted gluttony for nausea, perhaps - but they always seem to be contain something moderately scoffworthy (today included), so here we are.
What jumped out at me in today's message was Hillary's word choice when describing her strategy to win the New York primary.
Help us run a people-powered campaign by focusing our attention on recruiting organizers and volunteers in the growing roster of early-voting states, including New York.
That vacuous, syrupy modifier is one the leftwardmost of the lefty bloggers simply adore. It saturates their writings with its quaint meaninglessness. It's found in the title bars of their sites and the subtitles of their manifestos. The notion that politics can be "people-powered", while a delight to alliteration enthusiasts, is a little elementary as far as mantras go. To me, "people-powered" needs to refer to Fred Flintstone's car, a kinetic wristwatch, or the Matrix - something that at least isn't, by definition and etymological origin, necessarily powered by people.
I know what they're driving at, but Glenn Reynolds phrased the same sentiment much more aptly and artfully.
Anyway, notwithstanding Clinton's adoption of the nutroots' favorite bromide, her past insolence may not be so easily forgiven. Her refusal to embrace unconditional surrender in Iraq with the same abandon displayed by the more loyally fringe-respecting members of the Democrat field have earned her seemingly indelible pariah status. Read any of these at random for a representative foot-stompingly, fist-shakingly indignant anti-Clinton tantrum.
Is the throwaway inclusion of this throwaway buzzword an attempt to finally curry a little favor among the lefty blogosphere and/or the beginning of a more overt courtship? A little further down the note, the ever linguistically adaptive Clinton does go on to dumb down her diction, so maybe she is taking aim at a more sophomoric audience.
We're so ready for the Bush/Cheney era to be over.
I know, right? I am so over this whole administration.
Now all Hillary needs to do is to start peppering her e-mails with gratuitous profanity and she might actually start getting through.
Also of very marginal interest, I notice Clinton's "From" header has officially changed to reflect her recent decision to drop the "Rodham" again. Off it goes to join Kerry on the lonely heap of expediently abandoned surnames.
She does still close the note as "Hillary Rodham Clinton" though, so the name appears to be undergoing a phased withdrawal. I'm curious whether the next message from Clinton's campaign manager (all of which have come from "Patti Solis Doyle") will suddenly come from Patti Doyle.
Vandalay, Art Vandalay
The Associated Press recently asked 14 Oval Office hopefuls about their dream careers, were they to be denied the flesh-pressing jet-settery of the life of a highfalutin Presidential campaigner.
The answers range from the credible (Bizarro-Huckabee would be making a living doing what Actual-Huckabee does in his free time) to the sickeningly pandering (
Rodham Clinton) to the outright phony (the well-coiffed Mr. E'wards) to the inspiringly Costanza-esque (Biden and Obama) .
Where would they be now?
Alternate career choices for some 2008 presidential contenders:
• Sen. Joe Biden, Delaware: Architect.
• Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York: "Continue to work for causes and issues I care about, in a setting like a university or foundation."
• Sen. Chris Dodd, Connecticut: Teacher.
• Former Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina: Mill supervisor.
• Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Ohio: Astronaut.
• Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois: Architect.
• New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson: Center field, New York Yankees.
• Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas: Farmer.
• Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani: Sports announcer.
• Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee: Bass guitar player for a touring rock band.
• Rep. Duncan Hunter, California: Outdoor writer.
• Sen. John McCain, Arizona: Foreign service.
• Ex-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney: Auto company executive.
• Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado: President.
With 14 candidates responding (7 Democrats and 7 Republicans), there are 3 Republicans and 1 Democrat among the announced candidates that either were not reached or declined to answer.
For posterity, they are: Democrat Mike Gravel (former Alaska Senator and my fervered pick among the Democratic field) and Republicans Tommy Thompson (former Governor of Wisconsin), Jim Gilmore (former Governor of Virginia), and Ron Paul (10-term Texas Congressman and obstetrician).
Is to too late to draft Jason Alexander? I suspect he might mount a more convincing Presidential phantasm than those we've seen thus far from many of the exalted frontrunners.
(Alas, Costanza seems to back Clinton's play. I wonder if he knows that Hillary is among the fringey 71% of Democratic candidates that don't pine for a life of architecture...)