Saturday, February 14, 2004

On the other hand...

Some weeks ago I posted a entended list of reasons why Bush was unbeatable in 04. Money, incumbency, a compliant press and so on.

This post goes the other way, listing the impressive number of vulnerabilities that Bush faces in the next ten months. 1. Jobs. 2. Valerie Plame-gate. 3. AirGuard-gate. 4. 9-11 gate. 5. WMD-gate. 6. Continuing deaths in Iraq. 7. Budget deficit. 8. Trade deficit. 9. Declining dollar. 10. Halliburton-gate.
I'm running out of gates. Any others?

Consumer sentiment

Last month, the Administration touted the 10-point increase in the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index as a strong sign that the economy was heading upward. This chart shows the path of the Index since 2000, and it does indeed show a strong dip, with a strong rebound in the last few months, culminating with an eleven-point gain, to 103.8, in December.
Imagine the Administration's chagrin when, in the latest report, the Index fell by ten percent, giving back all but one of those points.
Consumers are wary. Of the economy, of their own prospects and, no doubt, of Bush.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Economic idiosyncracies

I just heard a report on PBS about the unprecedentedly high cost-to-profit ratio that American corporations were presently enjoying. Unprecedented since records have been kept, by multiples, a result of the astounding "productivity" of American workers. The latter, other reports have said, is a function of the amazing stretch of workers' capabilities due to technology, to extensity of effort, and to cost saving measures by employers. Also unprecedented.

Unprecedented too is the level of American consumer borrowing, federal borrowing, trade deficits, federal deficits, acquisition of US debt by foreign investors and governments.

The gap between rich and poor in the US is at its height. The level of taxation of corporations is at its lowest ever. Indeed, there isn't a statistic in this economy that's mid-line or moderate.

I'd like to find an economic macro-analysis of these and related phenomena--a view of the overall--not just more day-by-day stock market digests. There's something very large at work in the American system, isn't there?

A Longer, Harder Slog

This month's drop in consumer confidence was "surprisingly deep." Is the American public catching on?

Baghdad seething

Riverbend, author of the Baghdad Burning weblog, has been silent for a few weeks. Now we know why.

I was offline for a few brief periods recently while I was visiting my family, while I was changing ISPs and so forth. But not because a member of my family was kidnapped for ransom.

How little we know about life in Iraq. How far from our lives theirs are. How far from democracy, US-style, that nation is.

What were we thinking when we, with ignorant arrogance, decided to impose our view of the world on people who haven't lived under it?

Tom Vilsack for President (or Vice President, anyway)

This speech by the Governor of Iowa is straightforward, bold and right on. If only he had a national forum, such as the one the media repeatedly gives Bush, so that Americans could learn, deep down, how distorted this Administration is.

Pete and the Cabbie

Check out this post at ... who's the tyrant?

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Charting the future, by the real numbers, not by Bush's

Oil production by country for the next few decades. Wind power, anyone?

The real world, not Bush's world

Here's the revised job data, and the retails sales data, from January. Bush's rap about a recovery is fantasy.

Retail sales drop, jobless claims rise, inventories as expected

US retail sales fell posted an unexpected 0.3% decline in January, the first drop since September. Sales in December were revised down to 0.2% from 0.5%. On the employment front, initial jobless claims rose by 6,000 last week to 363,000, defying consensus forecasts of a 11,000 decline. The 4-week average rose by 5,000 to 350,000.
The Bush Administration is seeking to defuse an emerging controversy after White house Chief economic advisor Greg Mankiw praised the economic effects of moving US jobs offshore. Mankiw’s rationale is based on the grounds of resulting wealth to US companies stemming from reduced costs at a time when the White House is attempting to resurrect lost jobs ahead of the elections.


Empire in action

Listen up world! The earth shall be as we wish it to be.

What a revoltin' development this is

Darn. The UN is siding with the Shia about the need for full and free elections. And we thought we could get away with Bush-style democracy, a hybrid of appointment, control and, above all, a favorable entity.

Now, what if the Iraqis ask us to leave? Or maybe they just ask us to stay in our place, stranded in our out-of-town bases? Or maybe we become the enforcers for the Shia government, shooting down rioters who are protesting the Shia rules about women's rights and suppression of the Baathists?

The nightmare has just begun.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Say Ahhhhh Sh*t, Dubya

Can you imagine how hard the White House had to work to find a 30-year-old dental exam? They must really be freaking out over this little scandal, AWOLgate. But is there really a hope that democrats are going to overwhelm the intransigent gullibility of the reactionary right by alleging that Bush shirked his duties in the national guard? Maybe, We can hope. The truth remains that he's a menace now, to our economy, our environment, our civil rights and to our peace and security. He's simply a poor president and we need a better one. Politicians always get sidetracked, distracted. They go tromping around in the rough, instead of taking a drop and moving on. Well, maybe they'll find a few nascar Dads out in the bush -- forgive me -- and bring them back to smoother turf.
Yahoo! News - White House Releases '73 Bush Dental Exam

Greenspan's a dolt

I watched C-Span's testimony today, and while he's a whiz at monetary mumbo-jumbo, he doesn't know shit about anything more macro than data-driven drivel about productivity/incentives to invest/financial shenanigans. When asked about jobs, for example, he drew a blank. When asked point-blank where a jobless American should retrain, he had no answer, none at all.
Representative Barbara Lee of California (my Godess) asked him, "Where are the jobs of the future? What do we tell our kids, who want to play by the rules, where they're going to get jobs?"
To this question, Greenspan said, in essence, I don't know.
Fact is, there was nothing in his testimony that gave heart to anyone that America was going to have a thriving economy an incoming job-seeker.
But, of course, the stock market soared on his testimony, because he said he wasn't going to raise interest rates, meaning that stocks would remain an attractive investment.
Result: The rich get richer. The poor stay poor--and jobless.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

The Republicans had better get out the cheese

To entice the rats back on board the ship of state.

"Let's you and them fight."

The US military is planning to pull the majority of its troops out of the cities of Iraq and hand over the security tasks to Iraqi police, while remaining in their secure compounds nearby. In view of the recent spate of attacks on police stations in the major cities, I'm not certain, if I were an Iraqi, that I would take this as a handover of sovereignty so much as a retreat.

Disappearing act

A clear and detailed exposition of Bush's Air Guard record may be found here, including a copy of the original Boston Globe article that raised the question during the 2000 Presidential campaign. Turns out Bush's promise today that he'll turn over his military records to show his attendance at drills during the "missing year" was made once before, about the same time of year four years ago. And no records materialized. Will the media let him off the hook again? I think not. Maybe Faux news will, but the others will chase this story down as part of their chase for ratings. After all--they smell blood in the water too.

Who are those other guys?

Bush's economic predictions--his riff about the benefits of international outsourcing of jobs, about the long-term benefits of privatizing social security, and particularly about the amount of new-job creation in the upcoming year--are absolutely nuts.

We've already seen one of his job-creation predictions go down the toilet. He told us when his tax-reduction package was passed that it would create 1.7 million jobs in 2003; instead we lost 53,000. And as has been noted elsewhere, the jobs that have been lost are in the high-paid fields (manufacturing, high-tech), to be replaced by retail and service jobs at much lower wages.

I'm waiting for one of the Democrats to drag out the "voodoo economics" slogan from Reagan's days in office. In the meantime, I like this comment by Senator Kerrey: "I've got a feeling this report was prepared by the same people who brought us the intelligence on Iraq."

Who are those guys?

It's reported today that Bush's low approval numbers in the polls have rebounded since he gave the interview that was telecast by NBC, not much of a bounce, but still...
He got a big bounce when Saddam was captured, and the biggest bounces on 9/11/01 and in March 2003 when he invaded Iraq.
I can only conclude that there is a large segment of the voting public who swing from disapproval to approval of Bush when he's making war or lying. My baseline question, however, is this: How can a sensible person change his mind about the President of the United States depending on what occurs from day to day? Are 20 percent of us that vacuous?
Don't answer that.

the bottom line

I've just been browsing through the transcript of the interview that the president gave NBC over the weekend. It's interesting stuff. As expected, it underlines the self-centered arrogance that has come to dominate this administration. I suspect the man is so out of touch with reality, he wouldn't know it from a mission to mars. He may not even know he's been misleading us. What am I saying? Of course he does. A lot of people believe Bush's slop, but not me and not him. Hopefully, not you.

Here's my favorite quote:
"I'm a war president. I make decisions here in the Oval Office in foreign-policy matters with war on my mind." Explains a lot, doesn't it?

Monday, February 09, 2004

Taking the gloves off

This site tracks the ongoing investigation of Bush's record in the Air National Guard, and has uncovered a complete copy of a "torn record" that had been submitted by Bush some years ago to show him earning "points" toward discharge from the guard. Now we see the whole document, and its contents are revealing. It's too long a tale to recite here, but CalPundit has it all.

All Hat and No Cattle--redux

Business Week has analyzed Bush's claim that he will reduce the deficit by one-half in five years and has reacted with the above quotation. This publication, widely read in the financial community, is solidly conservative, rarely anti-Bush, but cannot allow his economic shenanigans to continue. They use words like "misleading" and "illusory" to describe Bush's economic predictions, and are plainly unhappy with his free-spending policies.
Let's hope they convince their fellow fiscal conservatives to stay home on election day.

Politicizing intelligence

The Administration's still at it, only more obviously than ever. This NYT times report about a supposed memo by an Iraqi insurgent soliciting al Qaeda's support for a civil war in Iraq was handed to the reporter by an official of the occupation. It contains a description of the state of the insurgency, calls for assistance, remonstrations about the power of the US Army and its unremitting resolve.
My first reaction was that the memo's a fake, which so many similar leaks have been. My second was that if it's for real, why would it be leaked, except for Bush's political gain? Isn't this precisely the kind of information that we don't want the adversary to know we have? Bush, the president who touts himself as the most capable of handling the war on terr'r, is apparently willing to subvert his troops' efforts when it benefits his chance for reelection.
But then I already knew that.

Bush Says Invasion of Iraq Was Necessary

I was encouraged to channel surf by as president Bush was facing off with Tim Russert on NBC’s Meet the Pres tonight. I wasn’t encouraged enough to watch the whole thing, because it was the same old Texas Two Step, boot-scootin’ around the truth. But I think it’s lovely that he feels compelled to go on the defensive in the media. It shows he’s becoming cognizant of the political corner into which he’s painted himself.


Sunday, February 08, 2004

The Gray Lady smells blood in the water

Okay, so the metaphors are jumbled. Point is, finally the NYT editorial page challenges Bush, calling his "independent commission" a political ploy. Not a scathing attack, but a measured one that cuts through the rhetoric and concludes that by limiting the scope of the commission, Bush in effect leaves it to each of us to decide whether he warped the intelligence to suit his political ends.
Well, so be it.

The dog is begining to wag the tail

This Reuters article about the sluggish job picture states what has probably been felt for months, that the continued absence of jobs may drag the other components of the recovery down, in particular consumer spending. As people lose faith in the security of jobs, they tighten their belts, with the result that instead of continuing to run up credit card debt, they cut expenditures and hence demand.
An unstated fear is deflation: the awful prospect of sustained price decline due to lack of demand, which becomes a vicious circle as layoffs then feed the lack of spending by consumers. With the number of personal bankruptcies at record levels, there's nowhere for the consumer to go but cutting back on expenditures. This economy may indeed be in for a long, hard slog.