Sunday, February 29, 2004

Awwright Den

Well, 15 minutes into the Oscar telecast I was three for three. Then my predictions hit a rough patch and didn't recover. I didn't see the ROTK juggernaut coming and that cost me dearly. Overall, I got only 15 of 24 (71%) correct. In the categories I publicly predicted I did even worse with an anemic 6 of 9 (67%) correct.

Even though I didn't predict a clean sweep for ROTK I'm pleased that Lord of the Rings was recognized in such spectacular fashion.

As for my prognostication skills, despite my poor overall showing, I'll have to comfort myself with the fact that I correctly guessed the winners in not one but both of the important Short Film categories.

Thomas Hobbes Would Be Proud

Grover Norquist asserts that his "ideal citizen is the self-employed, homeschooling, IRA-owning guy with a concealed-carry permit," says Norquist. "Because that person doesn't need the goddamn government for anything." Alas, I don't measure up in Grover's eyes. Seventy-five percent compliance just isn't good enough. Somehow though I don't think that I'd be welcome in his cabal even if I found a way to acquire an AK-47 with a concealed-carry permit.

Grover failed to mention his real requirements for citizenship: You must not only eschew government programs but you must disavow any role for government in the commonweal.

Friday, February 27, 2004

1988 Redux

In 1988 I boldly proclaimed that "all good Republicans will vote for Michael Dukakis." My youthful advocacy of this heretical notion was fueled by my belief that the excesses of the Reagan years would inevitably lead to economic hard times during the term of Reagan's successor. Good Republicans, I advised, would be well served sticking the blame to an uncharismatic "Massachusetts Liberal." The contrast would be stunning and Republicans could usher in a new Golden Age.

Republicans failed to heed my wise advice and they were roundly punished for it with the subsequent election (and reelection) of one William Jefferson Clinton.

With the steady decline in Bush's approval and the rise in the Democrats' fortunes I've been left wondering about an old adage: Be careful what you wish might get it. Is the presidency in 2004 a prize to be sought? Do I need to dust off my youthful thesis?

Turns out I don't need to because John Quiggin has already done it.

"Bush's policies have set the United States on a path to national bankruptcy, a fact that is likely to become apparent some time between now and 2008. Assuming that actual or effective bankruptcy (repudiation of debt or deliberate resort to inflation) is unthinkable, this is going to entail some painful decisions for the next President and Congress, almost certainly involving both increases in taxation and cuts in expenditure. On the expenditure side, this will mean a lot more than the obvious targets of corporate welfare and FDW [Fraud, Duplication, and Waste]. Either significant cuts in the big entitlement programs (Social Security and Medicare) or deep cuts in everything else the government does will be needed, even with substantial increases in taxes..."
It's clear to me that the Bush's policies will have calamitous consequences. In this regard, 2004 is 1988 to the nth degree. What I wrestle with now, which I didn't in 1988, is whether it's better to stand back and let Bush take his well-deserved blame or fight to ameliorate the wreckage Bush has wrought.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

And the Oscar Goes To...

Sunday is Oscar Night. As part of an annual ritual, Aimee and I have seen 10 movies nominated in one or more categories. Our tradition began years ago when we realized that the nominations are announced within two days of my birthday and (until this year) the awards are presented within two days of Aimee's birthday. It was kind of a fun little exercise for us to try and see as many movies as possible in the categories we find most interesting.

Spending February and March seeing that many movies may sound like fun. But there have been years when it really was something of a grind. Because of babysitting constraints we've had to bunch our movie viewing in recent years to coincide with our parents' generous babysitting offers. Thus, even within our compressed movie-viewing timeframe, we might go a couple weeks without seeing a movie and then -- POW -- a whole slew of movies in one weekend. Seeing that many movies in such a short time is good from the standpoint that you can more easily compare them, but at the end of our annual marathon we're usually movied out. Which is a good thing since, with kids, our cinema habits have been drastically curtailed during the remainder of the year.

We did find this year to be a little different. First, the Academy altered the date of the awards ceremony, cutting three weeks off the march to Oscar night. In any other year that probably would have spelled disaster for our ritual. We have enough trouble seeing movies in the usually allotted time. But, this year because of combination of circumstances, when the nominations were announced, we found that we'd already seen seven of the movies with nominations. We have our DVD player, a well-timed vacation (sans kids) and "Rings Fever" to thank. So, after scanning the nominations list, we identified three movies we really wanted to see so we could complete our ballots.

We tend to focus on screenplay, direction, and the overall best picture award. Typically, targeting those categories nets us a fair number of the acting nominations as well. This year was something of an exception, but I'll make acting picks nevertheless.

So, without further ado, here are my picks.

Actor: We've seen all of the nominated performances except for Ben Kingsley's. My parents have raved about The House of Sand and Fog so missing this movie may handicap me. Johnny Depp, though amusing in the fun Pirates of the Caribbean has no chance. I found Jude Law's performance in Cold Mountain compelling, but he seemed to slip out of his accent at times. I will stipulate that Law did a lot with very few lines of dialog. But there just seemed to be something missing. Everyone is raving about Bill Murray but Lost in Translation left me flat. I'm going with Sean Penn. This is Penn's fourth nomination and I think he'll close the deal.

Actress: Gotta go with Charlize Theron just because of the buzz factor. The only other movie we saw in this category was Whale Rider with the youngster Keisha Castle-Hughs. She did do a great job (especially for one so new to acting) but she's not going to win.

Supporting Actor: Another category where I'm handicapped. I thoroughly enjoyed Ken Watanabe's performance in The Last Samurai. But I think the Academy, overflowing with westerners, will give an American the nod. Benicio's already won for his outstanding work in Traffic. Despite the commie-Left leanings of the long-haired hippie Hollywood crowd, Alec Baldwin's not taking home a little gold man. I'm going with Tim Robbins.

Supporting Actress: I found Renee Zellweger's performance something of a distraction in Cold Mountain. I wasn't sure whether she was intentionally providing comic relief. And a couple of her "awwright den" pronunciations made me think of Billy Bob Thornton in Slingblade. The only other performance I saw was Marcia Gay Harden in Mystic River. I don't remember being bowled over by her performance. But I've got to go with her because I've got no point of reference on the other nominees.

Animated Feature: Finding Nemo hands down. Take it to the bank.

Directing: I've seen four of the five nominees. But even if I hadn't, this category, I think, should be almost as easy to predict as Animated Feature. I just don't know how you can have any comprehension of the time, work, dedication, and love that Peter Jackson put into The Lord of the Rings trilogy and find him wanting in this category. For five years he marshaled a small army of actors, writers, special effects personnel and who knows who else. The on-screen results are superb. But seeing all the special features on the extended DVD's reveals the true measure of Peter Jackson as a director.

Original Screenplay: This is usually a category on which Aimee and I usually try to focus. Unfortunately, we were unable to see three of the movies. I don't think Finding Nemo can win, being a kids move. And I think that Lost in Translation will be rewarded in this one category.

Adapted Screenplay: I've seen three of the nominated movies. I'm biased against Seabiscuit given my disappointment with the book. I've read and seen Return of the King and perhaps that explains some of my ambivalence about the screenplay. The movie very obviously had three separate endings and the attempt to weave them together was, in my opinion, less than successful. On the other hand, the adaptation of the long journey sequences and the Shelob bit were well done. So, ROTK might win. But, and I'm tipping my hand here for the final category, I think Mystic River will take home the honors.

Best Picture: I've already expressed my feelings on Seabiscuit and Lost in Translation. And though I enjoyed Master and Commander, it clearly was not a plot-driven movie. (I figured this out even before it wasn't nominated in the Adapted Screenplay category). It's a lark of a period action-adventure movie. But not a best picture. The reason I'm going with Mystic River is because it is the one nominated movie about which you can have a conversation when you leave the theatre. What's going to happen next? Should he or shouldn't he have done that? What did it mean when she did that? I don't feel that any of the other movies offer opportunity for further exploration. Mystic River is the one movie with layers, facets, and unknowns that can be explored even after you leave the theatre.

Well, there you have it. My picks. Check back on Monday and I'll rate my prognostication skills.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

The Constitution of the United States

Article II, Section 1, Paragraph 8

...I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Explain to me how craven political reelection gambits qualify as preserving, protecting or defending the Constitution?

Thanks to Calpundit for the link.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Guess I Have to Move

Based on the results of this highly scientific regionalism quiz my Rocky Mountain High is gone. Because of my 70% Dixie score I guess I'll be looking for Country Roads to take me home to the place I belong.

Thanks to Matthew Yglesias for the link.

Prevaricator, Equivocator, Truth Mangler: Liar

I prefer to call a spade a spade. Thus, I constantly -- my previous post, for example -- refer to Dubya as a liar. Josh Marshall, taking a diplomatic approach, refers to Bush's "belief in the utter malleability of facts."

Josh's post got me thinking about the continuum between the blunt and the diplomatic. Much as I would love to see Bush's reaction, I'm certain that we will not hear the democratic nominee call Bush a liar to his face during one of the debates. I doubt we'll even hear the nominee utter the word on the campaign trail. Is this because it's just too unseemly for a candidate to call another candidate a liar? They'll say he "misrepresented" or he "did not tell the truth." But those phrases are wishy-washy. Liar is a perfectly acceptable and accurate word. Why not use it? Is there a danger that the electorate is not ready to hear the word applied to a man they don't think of as a liar? Are prominent politicians in danger of being dismissed if they were to call Bush a liar? Are the euphemisms a form of self-protection?

Granted, the bulk of Bush's lies are of the "non-disprovable assertion" type. But he's got more than enough blatent falsehoods to qualify as a liar and be proven one by anyone desiring to make the case. Why not call a spade a spade?

"They Ought To Be Held Accountable"

It's somewhat gratifying to have my ideas echoed in the national press AFTER I've thought them. It doesn't happen often. But the Washington Post gives my psyche a boost with this front page headline: White House Forecasts Often Miss The Mark. The story deals much more succinctly with a topic I addressed in a lengthy post here. Though I wasn't quoted, they found someone else to express my thoughts.
"They ought to be held accountable for not taking seriously what happened to the jobs numbers," said Lee Price, research director for the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank.
Appropriately, author Dana Milbank resurrects Bush's "trifecta" line. Actually, it's Gore's line from the 2000 campaign, never actually uttered by Bush until after 9/11. It's appropriate that in an article on accountability Milbank alludes to yet another one of Bush's documented lies. And it's definitely not a coincidence since Milbank was on the trifecta story 18 months ago.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

A Month Old and Still Relevant

Law and Politics comments on this fall's electoral battlegrounds. The post is slightly dated but is worth reading especially if you're an Edwards supporter. Marvin and I have both commented previously on the importance of Ohio. Super Tuesday should be an interesting test of whether the populist or the patrician can win the hearts and minds of blue collar conservatives.

Gollum Sighting

I couldn't pass up an opportunity to pass along this reference to Gollum Cheney. A little dated but still an amusing little image.

Does Edwards Have The Moxie?

I'm not too familiar with Hugh Hewitt. I've probably read some of his stuff over at The Weekly Standard. Apparently he's a fair-minded conservative radio talk-show host with large audiences in California, Ohio, and Georgia -- places John Edwards hopes to do well on March 2. Hewitt has invited Edwards to co-host the radio show any day from now until Super Tuesday. I don't know whether any of those states have open primaries, so maybe the stunt wouldn't buy Edwards a lot in the primaries. But Edwards would show a lot of chutzpah by going toe-to-toe with a dyed-in-the-wool conservative. It could even pay dividends in the general election...

Chew Your Own Food

When journalists get a happy meal at McDonald's do you think they ask the pimple-faced cashier to chew the hamburger for them? I don't think so either. Why then do you think journalists are so willing to simply regurgitate in a "news" story what was fed to them in a press release? Running with stories directly from Drudge, or the RNC (or the DNC for that matter) may help sell papers and generate profits for corporate masters. But it doesn't contribute to a well-informed populace.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Sometimes the First Draft is Best

I did some searching around and found this original draft of Bush's radio address from today:
Good morning. This week I kicked off my re-election campaign when I traveled to Fort Polk, in Louisiana. Returning to a National Guard outpost in the Deep South was, for me, almost like the completion of a journey started long ago. Working on campaign related activities instead of doing my sworn duty -- well, let's just say it brought back a lot of memories. But my visit to an American military base isn't only about me or the precipitous decline in my credibility. My visit is about the 14 Fort Polk soldiers who have given their lives in my ill-timed war to make Iraq a haven for terrorists. I am confident that if Americans can forget about the sacrifices of our National Guard troops as easily as I have then I will win reelection.

Over the last 29 months, many National Guard troops and their families have learned the meaning of sacrifice. I've extended the deployments of National Guard units far beyond their original terms of service. I've sent these brave men and women farther from home than they ever believed possible. And I've also underfunded their mission to such an extent that many of our finest troops have to purchase their own equipment. But, afterall, success in the war on terror requires sacrifice by some people.

For 12 years Saddam Hussein made my daddy look silly for not finishing the job when he had the chance. Then, in 2002, contrary to my wishes, the international community got inspectors back into Iraq. The inspectors saw no new threat. But I didn't believe them. So I asked my State Department to investigate. I didn't like what they said either. I kept asking various agencies until I finally got tired of hearing answers that didn't support my decision to go to war.

All of us knew Saddam Hussein's history. Afterall, it was the wink, wink, nudge, nudge diplomacy of my pappy and Ronald Reagan that allowed him to wage aggressive wars against neighboring countries and inspired him to dominate the Middle East. He built weapons of mass destruction with America's consent and then used them against thousands of Iraqis and Iranians. We know this because we were his good friends when he did it.

Saddam Hussein doubted our resolve to enforce our word. That's understandable given the difficulty I have with the truth. But now he sits in a prison cell while I try to figure out how to get American troops out of his country before our elections. Today in Iraq, our coalition faces deadly attacks from a remnant of Saddam's supporters, joined by foreign terrorists. While the evidence for al Qaeda presence in Iraq was once very thin, thanks to me we now know Iraq is crawling with all kinds of terrorists.

Recently we intercepted some documentation that my predecessor prepared for me describing a terrorist strategy to attack the United States. We stealthily ignored this report until it was too late. My predecessor tried to warn me about al Qaeda. He told me that I would "spend more time on terrorism generally, and on al-Qaeda specifically, than any other subject." But the American people elected me to be a leader and I'm not about to follow any of my predecessor's advice.

That's why I have made Iraq the central front in our war on terror. The terrorists know that the emergence of a free Iraq will be a major blow against a worldwide terrorist movement. Of course they also know how good my word is.

I've talked a lot about drafting a basic law with a bill of rights. The establishment of a free Iraq will be a watershed event in the history of the Middle East, helping to advance the spread of liberty throughout that vital region. And as freedom takes hold in the greater Middle East, the people of the region will find new hope, and America will be more secure.

The problem, of course, is how to make America more secure while at the same time securing my own re-election.

But I have seen this situation before and I know how to deal with it. Americans hardly noticed when I abandoned Afghanistan to the terrorists and warlords in that country. And unless my grand vision for democracy in Iraq can be achieved by June 30th Iraq, like Afghanistan, will be free to look for someone else to finish what I started.

My policies in Iraq and Afghanistan are modeled after lessons I learned over 30 years ago. When America was looking for men to serve in Vietnam "I was not prepared to shoot my eardrum out with a shotgun in order to get a deferment. Nor was I willing to go to Canada. So I chose to better myself by learning how to fly airplanes."

But after a while I found better things to do with my time. So, when I thought no one was paying attention, I sneaked away. My approach was vindicated when the TANG discharged me eight months early.

And I fully expect the American people to vindicate my approach on Iraq and Afghanistan by reelecting me. For although my actions often don't match my rhetoric, I have an ace in the hole. I need merely utter a few words and conjure a little propaganda...

Two-and-a-half years ago, on a clear September morning, the enemies of America brought a new kind of war to our shores. Three days later, I stood in the rubble of the Twin Towers...

You see? I bet you're picturing me standing on some rubble shouting into a bull horn. Get used to it. That image will be everywhere this fall.

Thank you for listening. But please don't pay attention to what I actually do.
If you're interested, you can read the text of the address he actually delivered on air. Karl Rove made a few edits from the original draft.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Science? We Don't Need No Stinking Science

Apparently my legions of loyal readers are less concerned about the president's lack of economic omnicience than his presumed abundance of scientific omnicience. After listening to this NPR story wyvern notes that "when you are President you can pick which science to use. As I have heard; we may soon want to repeal the law of gravity."

Calpundit has a good post on the topic and some worthwhile links. Check it out.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

"Dammit Jim, I'm President -- I'm Not Responsible"

There once was a time when George Bush extolled the virtues of "personal responsibility" and "accountability."

During the more than half century of my life, we have seen an unprecedented decay in our American culture, a decay that has eroded the foundations of our collective values and moral standards of conduct. Our sense of personal responsibility has declined dramatically, just as the role and responsibility of the federal government have increased.

The changing culture blurred the sharp contrast between right and wrong and created a new standard of conduct: "If it feels good, do it." and "If you've got a problem, blame somebody else. Individuals are not responsible for their actions," the new culture has said. "We are all victims of forces beyond our control.” We have gone from a culture of sacrifice and saving to a culture obsessed with grabbing all the gusto. We went from accepting responsibility to assigning blame. As government did more and more, individuals were required to do less and less. The new culture said: “if people were poor, the government should feed them. If someone had no house, the government should provide one. If criminals are not responsible for their acts, then the answers are not prisons, but social programs.”

A Charge to Keep
George W. Bush's campaign book

Then, for a time, he seemed particularly keen on the idea that people who run large organizations should exhibit some kind of responsibility for their organization's actions, forecasts, and statements.

America is ushering in a responsibility era; a culture regaining a sense of personal responsibility, where each of us understands we're responsible for the decisions we make in life. (Applause.) And this new culture must include a renewed sense of corporate responsibility. If you lead a corporation, you have a responsibility to serve your shareholders, to be honest with your employees. You have a responsibility to obey the law and to tell the truth. (Applause.)

Remarks by the President at Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Ceremony
The White House
March 7, 2002

My accountability plan also requires CEOs to personally vouch for their firms' annual financial statements. Currently, a CEO signs a nominal certificate, and does so merely on behalf of the company. In the future, the signature of the CEO should also be his or her personal certification of the veracity and fairness of the financial disclosures. When you sign a statement, you're pledging your word, and you should stand behind it.


Everyone in a company should live up to high standards. But the burden of leadership rightly belongs to the chief executive officer. CEOs set the ethical direction for their companies. They set a moral tone by the decisions they make, the respect they show their employees, and their willingness to be held accountable for their actions. They set a moral tone by showing their disapproval of other executives who bring discredit to the business world.

Remarks by the President on Corporate Responsibility
The White House
July 9, 2002

Perhaps the White House message of the day changed. Or maybe Scott McClellan just didn't get the memo that the boss fancies himself as someone with a "sense of personal responsibility." Today's press briefing offers a case study in how "pledging your word" with your signature and "accepting responsibility" don't apply when you're President.

Q Scott, does the White House stand behind its report issued just nine days ago, the Economic Report, there will be 2.6 million new jobs created this year?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think we went through a little bit of this earlier today. I think that people can debate the numbers all they want; the President is focused on acting on policies to create as robust an environment for job creation as possible so that we can help those who are hurting because they are looking for work and cannot find a job.

The President is encouraged by the direction the economy is moving. It is growing strong -- or growing stronger, I should say -- it is strong and growing stronger. There have been more than 366,000 new jobs created in the last five months. The unemployment rate continues to decline. It is now the lowest point -- at the lowest point it has been in two years, and it is below the average of the '70s, '80s, and '90s. Certainly, productivity continues to be high, and people's disposable incomes are up. There are a lot of good indications about the direction the economy is moving.

But there is more to do. And the President is focused on acting to create as robust an environment as possible. That means acting on his six-point plan for strengthening our economy even more. We live in a changing economy right now, John, and the President has put forward a plan that will help create as robust an environment for job creation as possible. It will help retrain workers who have lost their jobs to meet the jobs of the 21st century -- these jobs that are high-paid, high-skill jobs. And so that's where the President's focus is on.

Q Well, you say this is a changing economy, and you also said earlier that this report was based on economic data that is now three months old. So would it be wrong for the Democrats, later this year -- if you don't meet this 2.6 million forecast of jobs -- would it be wrong for them to beat you on the head about it?

MR. McCLELLAN: It would be wrong for people to raise taxes at this point in our economy. And there are some -- (laughter) -- well, there are some that are advocating letting the tax cuts that the President worked to pass expire. And what that would be doing is raising taxes on small businesses. Small businesses are the economic engine for our economy and they're at the foundation of creating a strong and growing economy. It would raise taxes, if they let these tax cuts expire, on moms and dads who are trying to raise a family. It would raise taxes on married couples by restoring the marriage penalty.

Q When you dismissed the premise of John's question by saying, people can debate the numbers, let's be realistic here, the debate is going on between your Council of Economic Advisors and Treasury Secretary John Snow. Are there people here in this White House who never believed that forecast?

MR. McCLELLAN: Look, John, I think that the Council of Economic Advisors puts out an annual report on the economy; it's the President's Economic Report. And they do that every year. They've been doing it for some 20 years now. That's based on economic modeling and the data that is available at that point in time. The President is interested in the actual number of jobs being created, and the President is interested in making sure that everybody who is looking for a job can find one. That's where the President's focus is.

That's why I say people can debate the numbers all they want, but the President is going to be looking at the actual numbers of jobs being created. And the number of jobs being created is growing. The number is up. New jobs are being created. The economy is certainly moving in the right direction. And my point to John was that the last thing we need to do right now is raise taxes. And we need to focus on the policy decisions that are being made here in Washington, D.C. to create as robust an environment for job creation as possible. And that's where the debate ought to be focused.

Q But it would appear, though, that people very high up in this administration didn't have a whole lot of faith in the forecast of the report that went up to Congress just a week ago in terms of the job creation numbers.

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, it's an annual economic report that is put out by the administration based on the economic modeling and the data that's available at that point in time.

Q Can you answer the specific question, though? Was this report -- was the prediction of this many jobs, 2.6 million jobs, vetted prior to publication by the entire economic team?

MR. McCLELLAN: It's an annual report, David. It goes through the usual -- it goes through the usual --

Q That's not the question. Was it or was it not vetted by the entire economic team?

MR. McCLELLAN: It's an annual report. It goes through the usual --

Q So you don't know, or it was, or it wasn't?

MR. McCLELLAN: Can I get -- can I finish that sentence?

Q When you answer the question. Let's hear it. What's the answer?

MR. McCLELLAN: The answer was, it is an annual economic report and it goes through the normal vetting process. And if you would let me get to that, I would answer your question.

Q -- the full economic team vetted the prediction --

MR. McCLELLAN: It's an annual economic report. It's the President's Economic Report. But again, the President --

Q Just say yes or no --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- it goes through the normal -- it goes through the normal vetting process.

Q So the answer is, yes. I'm not done yet, I've got another one.


Q Why -- if you're suggesting that people will debate the numbers, that's kind of a backhanded way to say, oh, who cares about the numbers. Well, apparently, the President's top economic advisors do, because that's why they wrote a very large report and sent it to Congress. So why was the prediction made in the first place, if the President and you and his Treasury Secretary were going to just back away from it?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, I disagree with the premise of the way you stated that. This is the annual Economic Report of the President and the economic modeling is done this way every year. It's been done this way for 20-some years.

Q So why not -- why aren't you standing behind it?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think what the President stands behind is the policies that he is implementing, the policies that he is advocating. That's what's important.

Q That's not in dispute. The number is the question.

MR. McCLELLAN: I know, but the President's concern is on the number of jobs being created --

Q My question is, why was the prediction made --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and the President's focus is on making sure that people who are hurting because they cannot find work have a job. That's where the President's focus is.

Q Then why predict a number? Why was the number predicted? Why was the number predicted? You can't get away with not -- just answer the question. Why was that number predicted?

MR. McCLELLAN: I've been asked this, and I've asked -- I've been asked, and I've answered.

Q No, you have not answered. And everybody watching knows you haven't answered.

MR. McCLELLAN: I disagree.

Go ahead.


Q Can I go back to the jobs issue for a moment?


Q We've been talking about whether or not the CEA forecast of adding 2.6 million jobs is correct. But actually what CEA forecast was that the average number of jobs in 2004 would be 2.6 million higher than in 2003, which for reasons I won't bore everyone with implies a rate of growth in jobs well beyond the, roughly, 200,000 a month that would be implied by a 2.6 million rise in jobs. The bottom line here is that the CEA is forecasting, at a minimum, about 300,000 jobs a month will be created. Do you stand by that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Economists do economic modeling. That's the Economic Report of the President. Let me be very clear here, though. This President is focused on what we are doing to create as robust an environment as possible for job creation -- not in crunching numbers. He's looking at the actual numbers that are coming in, the actual numbers that are being created, and looking to make sure we're doing everything we can to keep our economy moving in the right direction and create more jobs.

I mean, this is an important debate going on in this nation, and there's a clear choice. Some people -- some people want to turn back and take actions that would raise taxes on people, at a time when our economy is really starting to grow strong.

Q Okay, well, on that point, the President's advisors have, at various times, made very specific predictions about the number of jobs that would be created by the very policies that you are continuing to advocate right now, specifically the tax cuts. Those projections have not come to pass.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you're talking about some original proposals that were proposed, and then you have to look at what was actually passed.

Q They were changed only minimally from what was originally proposed. Why should we believe that these projections are any better, or reflecting better the impact of these policies, than your previous projections?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think when you say what should you believe, I think you should focus on what policy decisions the President is making to create more jobs in this country. It's important that we continue to act to create as many jobs as possible in this country, and that means creating a robust environment for job creation. That's where the President's focus is on. Like I said, we can debate the numbers all you want here, or we can look at the number crunchers. Economists do economic modeling, them make forecasts. There are blue-chips out there, there are a number of different economists out there with different interpretations. And it's based on assumptions --

Q The question is, why --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- it's based on assumptions at that point in time.

Q -- how can you sell these policies as creating jobs when, in fact, they haven't?

MR. McCLELLAN: I disagree --

Q Or at least not to the degree that you previously projected.

MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, no, disagree. Well, one, let's have a discussion about that, because you have to look at the fact that we are in a changing economy right now. I talked about that when John rose this issue. You have productivity growth at very high levels these days. And that's a good thing, because it means increased living standards; it means more -- it means higher pay for workers, so they have more money at their disposal.

And in this changing economy, we have an economy that is strong and growing stronger. But because productivity growth is so high, you're not seeing the same kind of job numbers that you would expect at this level of GDP. And so that's why --

Q But that's not what --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, that's why the President put forward a six-point plan to create an even more robust environment for job creation. That's why he's called on Congress to pass comprehensive energy legislation. That's why he's called on Congress to address the rising cost of health care. That's why he's called on Congress to pass medical liability reform. That's why he's called on Congress to continue to act to promote free trade with a level playing field.

Q And do you think that will create more jobs this year?

MR. McCLELLAN: It will create an even more robust environment for job creation when Congress acts on those measures. Absolutely. But let me dispute -- you said jobs weren't being created. Jobs are being created. There's 366,000 new jobs over the last five months that have been created.

Q What I said was that jobs aren't being created at the level that you were projecting when you were advocating the passage of these policies.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, what was originally proposed versus what actually passed.

Q Scott, just a quick follow-up on that. As Dick mentioned, it does project basically at least 300,000 jobs a month. You, yourself, just mentioned that there are a lot of economists out there who have projections; the blue-chip forecasters is one that is often cited. They're averaging 166,000 a month. The top ten of the blue-chip forecasters are averaging 225,000 a month. What does the White House know to project over 300,000 -- a minimum of 300,000 --

MR. McCLELLAN: We had a briefing on the Economic Report when that was put out, with our economists there to answer your questions --

Q Why are you so much more optimistic?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and I think they answered the questions at that time.

Q Why are you so much more optimistic, Scott?

MR. McCLELLAN: I've already addressed this question.

Go ahead.

Q Just to go back to this number. This is a report that not only was put out by the President's economists, but it was signed by the President of the United States, this report. So, obviously, he supported the concept of projecting 2.6 million jobs over the next year. You're not -- you still have not said that the President stands by that.

MR. McCLELLAN: I said it was the Economic Report of the President, and that the modeling that is done in those reports is done by our economists over in the Council of Economic Advisors. They do this every year. They've done it for some 20 years, in every administration before us over those 20 years.

Q So, looking back -- let's say we get to October and November on this past year, 2004, and if that projection is not fulfilled, how would that not be a failure of this administration?

MR. McCLELLAN: What we are going to do is continue to focus on the policy decisions that are being made here in Washington, D.C. and the policies the President is putting forward. This President has acted decisively to get our economy out of a recession, that he inherited, and get it growing strong. And it's growing stronger at this point. It is moving in the right direction. This is where the debate needs to be, is on the policy decisions that are being made here in Washington, D.C., and do we continue to act to strengthen this growth even more, so that we can see more new jobs being created, or do we turn back and see our economy slow down.

There are some that would advocate letting those tax cuts expire, which means taxes would be raised on working moms and dads trying to raise a family, that taxes would be raised on small business. That's where the debate should be.

Q Given the environment that we're in, the political environment, given the importance of this jobs issue this election year, was it a mistake to make that prediction?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, that's something that's done every year in the annual Economic Report. I mean, you're trying to get in here to get me to answer questions that are trying to trap me into certain things. That's not the way --

Q I'm just asking a question --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think there are some that are looking for headlines here --

Q No, we're looking for answers, not headlines.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- the President is focused on what is happening -- go ahead.

Q Scott, there is a simple question, very important question that will face voters this fall. The President repeatedly speaks to the fact that when he says something you can take it to the bank. If the President signs a report making a prediction, shouldn't voters hold him responsible and accountable for that prediction?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, those are forecasts made by our economists at a specific point in time, based on the data at that point. Productivity growth can affect those assumptions that are put into those economic forecasts. So different economists have different forecasts on the productivity growth. Some think it's going to be lower; some think it's going to be higher. But productivity growth --

Q Okay, but shouldn't he be held responsible --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- it's important -- it's important for -- it's a good thing that productivity growth is high. But we also need to continue to strengthen the economy even more.

Q My question was about his prediction and whether he should be held responsible --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think we've been through this issue.

Q Scott, when you talk about the unemployment -- or the jobs being created, is that based on the payroll survey, or the household survey? Because there's -- because of the tax cuts, there's been a tremendous increase in the number of entrepreneurs that have started their own businesses, and those numbers aren't reflected in the payroll survey.

MR. McCLELLAN: That's correct, yes. The household survey is different from the payroll survey. And the household survey showed that some -- an increase of 496,000 jobs in January alone. So there are different numbers that you're talking about there. And we can look at both. But, again, you're getting into -- you're getting into the numbers here. The numbers that the President is interested in is the actual numbers of jobs being created and the policies that we are taking to create an even more robust environment for job creation.


Q This President has had a number of issues come up over the last couple of weeks in which his credibility has been questioned -- Medicare costs, the budget, Iraq -- even from within your own party. So now you've put out a number that says you -- that your tax plan, your policies will erase all job losses, 2.6 -- it will create 2.6 million jobs. You erase all the losses from his first term by November. And now you say, well, maybe it will, maybe it won't. What are we --

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think -- I don't think that's what I said, Bob. You're putting words in my mouth. I don't think that's what I said. I said that this is our annual Economic Report that is based on the economic modeling done by our economists. And it's based on that snapshot at that point in time, based on the data that is available at that point.

Q But your point is that you don't stand behind that number, that number --

MR. McCLELLAN: Some people are putting those words in my mouth. I said that this was -- this was the President's Economic Report that is put out every year. So I made that very clear. But let's talk about -- you brought up an important issue. Let me remind you that this President does exactly what he says he is going to do. This President said he was going to take steps to strengthen our economy and get it out of a recession. And he advocated the passage of tax cuts, and those tax cuts are working. He is doing exactly what he said he would do. And now he's calling on Congress to take even more steps to create an even more robust environment for job creation. And that's where the focus ought to be. And that's where his focus is.
It seems to me that his focus is on how to back away from a jobs prediction he doesn't believe will come to pass. Last week, the President signed (in bold, manly strokes at the bottom of page 4) an economic report forecasting somewhere between 2.6 and 3.8 million new jobs before the next inauguration. And though the ink on his signature is not even dry "Treasury Secretary John W. Snow and Commerce Secretary Don Evans declined to endorse the jobs prediction." Bush himself seems to be backing away from the endorsement he gave just last week to the jobs projections produced by his economists. And then there is Mr. McClellan doing his best not to answer any questions. Is all this coming from the same administration that told us "When you sign a statement, you're pledging your word, and you should stand behind it?"

Too bad for Bush that he signed the report in pen.

Then again, I'm not surprised he's unwilling to stand behind his signature. Afterall, he's got his history to consider:

The White House has had its own troubles in forecasting job growth in recent years. In February 2003, the CEA published a chart in connection with its argument in favor of the Bush tax plan, which seemed to predict about 300,000 new jobs a month for that year.

But the White House says that chart is inaccurate. And the White House source said Tuesday that the administration actually expected 200,000 to 250,000 news jobs a month last year -- a prediction that was repeated by Treasury Secretary John Snow late in the year.

Few economists were predicting such job growth in 2003, however, and it did not materialize.
"It did not materialize?" Indeed. How about, "last year's Economic Report of the President predicted that 1.7 million jobs would be created in 2003. Instead, the nation lost 53,000 jobs. In Bush's three years in office, 2.2 million jobs have disappeared."

Let's hope the American people believe all of Bush's rhetoric about personal responsibility and accountability. Even if George doesn't believe it himself.

Happy or Haggard? You Make the Call

Talking Points Memo offers this quick snapshot of the two remaining Democratic contenders. That cadaverous picture of Gore Kerry says it all.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Toasty Cheney

"No one is suggesting that President Bush would be tempted to dump his veep from the ticket in November" write Tamara Lipper and Evan Thomas in this week's Newsweek. The assertion seems undercut slightly by the mere fact it appears in a story about that very possibility. The AP today has a wire report out on the same subject. Newsweek's Howard Fineman completes the trifecta.

At this point, I think the chances of Dick Cheney being booted off Bush's team are low. Initially viewed as a stabilizing and avuncular influence on the neophyte, fratish Georgie-Boy, Cheney enjoyed a fair amount of popularity before he slunk off to his undisclosed location. He's recently left his cave to hit the fund-raising circuit and he's proven his enduring popularity in conservative circles. Few, it seems, know or care about his many missteps. And those who are aware of his machinations probably aren't going to vote Bush-Cheney anyway. Cheney's cultivated image is not even likely to be damaged as his friends on the Supreme Court rule in his ongoing dispute regarding release of records from his secretive energy task force.

About the only reason for True-Believers to be worried for good 'ol Dickie is the Plame Affair. Cheney is safe, I think, unless and until indictments are handed down that reach into the Office of the Vice President. If and when Cheney's intelligence meddling (or that of his senior staff) is revealed it may become politically convenient -- if not downright necessary -- for Bush to force Cheney off the ticket.

The question for those of us in the ABB (Anybody But Bush) camp is whether such an eventuality is to be desired.

My preference is that Cheney remain on the ticket. For one, he's a known quantity. The Democratic nominee will not make his running-mate choice on the basis of who the GOP VP candidate is. But, knowing that it will be Cheney in the Vice Presidential debate probably affects the Democratic decision in some incalculable manner.

More importantly though, I'm not inclined to let Bush capitalize on the opportunity to name a new running-mate. Coming, as it likely would, during the fall campaign, a fresh new face could bring with it a raft of positive attention for the Bush reelection effort. Given the simple-minded manner in which the press covers such things, my hunch is that Cheney would finally get the blame he so richly deserves for many of the Bush administration missteps. The flip side is that the press would likely portray the vice-presidential changing of the guard as a clean slate for the top of the ticket too. With absolution from the press and an eager new (young? Latino? Californian? Ohioan?) hatchet man at his side, Bush would find an easier path to victory in November. This is not a scenario to which I look forward.

But at this point I'm not worried. For as the Newsweek article so amusingly notes: "Only the president (possibly) can tell [Cheney] what to say" or, I presume, do. Bush isn't anywhere near being the kind of strong, resolute, and decisive leader that his supporters believe him to be. I don't think the Boy-King has the moxie to put Cheney in the toaster.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Another Day Another Year

Well, another birthday has come and gone.

All in all, it was a good day. I knocked off from work a few hours early. I took in a movie with my lovely wife. While waiting for Aimee to arrive I had the theatre to myself for about forty minutes. Having planned for the free time I read a chapter of my current book. After the movie Aimee treated me to a sandwich at the only fast food restaurant at which I allow myself to eat. On the drive home the radio announcer wished me a Happy Birthday. In 34 years I don't ever recall hearing one of those generic birthday messages actually delivered on MY birthday. The announcer also reminded me that I share a birthday with singer Peter Gabriel. And I learned that talk-show host Jerry Springer was born on February 13th too. Upon arriving home I got a birthday call from my mom. All of this happened on a Friday the 13th, which does make it special for me. To top it off I got to bed early and got a good night's sleep. The rest of the birthday weekend will be filled with family activities, play time with my boys, a dinner with my parents, and even some cake (yellow cake with chocolate icing). Yes, all in all, a good birthday.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Dispelling Military Myths

Today I got an e-mail extolling the virtues of a few of the bravest fighting men ever to don the uniform of America's fighting forces. Betcha didn't know that Bob Keeshan (aka Captain Kangaroo) fought his way up Mount Suribachi at the Battle of Iwo Jima. Private Lee Marvin (yes, the tough guy actor) claims Captain Kangaroo was the bravest man he ever knew. And here's another little tidbit from the e-mail:

On another note, there was this wimpy little man (who just passed away) on PBS, gentle and quiet. Mr. Rogers is another of those you would least suspect of being anything but what he now portrays to our youth. But Mr. Rogers was a US Navy Seal, combat proven in Vietnam with over twenty-five confirmed kills to his name. He wore a long sleeve sweater on his show to cover the many tattoos on his forearm and biceps.

A master in small arms and hand-to-hand combat, able to disarm or kill in a heartbeat. After the war Mr. Rogers became an ordained Presbyterian minister and therefore a pacifist. Vowing to never harm another human and also dedicating the rest of his life to trying to help lead children on he right path in life. He hid the tattoos and his past life away and won our hearts with his quiet wit and charm.
Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Rogers: Stong. Disciplined. Killing machines. Who knew?

Apparently, however, Fred and Bob did about as much to defend our country during war as George Bush during Vietnam. The folks over at the Urban Legends Reference Pages have the complete run down on the military careers of the good neighbor and the Captain.

And since we're on the topic of urban legends, let's say a little more about Bush's military service. In my previous post about Scott McClellan's circular reasoning I may have been too hard on the poor press secretary. Turns out he's just following the boss's lead. Check out Bush's attempt to explain it during the Russert interview:

President Bush: Yeah, they’re — they're just wrong. There may be no evidence, but I did report; otherwise, I wouldn't have been honorably discharged. In other words, you don't just say "I did something" without there being verification. Military doesn't work that way. I got an honorable discharge, and I did show up in Alabama.
In lieu of another lesson on syllogisms, I'll leave it to the folks at TNR to describe how getting an "honorable discharge" is par for the course, whether or not you actually bothered to show up.

On another note, I find the second sentence of Bush's response curious: "You don't just say 'I did something' without there being verification." Huh? Isn't that exactly what this White House is doing? They say he served. They say he showed up for duty. So where is the verification? Sure, we've seen pay stubs, dental records, and torn documents. But as far as I can tell the evidence so far shows merely that Bush got paid, got his teeth checked, and that someone tore a document. Not very impressive.

It seems then that George and I finally agree on something: We need verification of his claim that he actually served. And I'm sure we'll get it. To wit:

Russert: But you authorize the release of everything to settle this?

President Bush: Yes, absolutely.
I can't wait. Until then, I'll keep trolling over on the urban legends pages.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Defending Marriage

Marvin is tilling some fertile ground today. He reminds us of the principled manner in which Bush has approached his decision to Defend American Marriage. Josh Marshall is working the same ground here and here.

By taking out those nasty gay people Bush and his crowd are doing some really good work.

But I want to know where are all the rest of these so-called defenders of marriage? Why aren't they doing more to stop the slow, steady decline of marriage as a sacred institution? Ohio recently passed a Defense of Marriage bill. But what, exactly, is it defending?

Where is the provision that bans divorce? Marriage is sacred. My dictionary tells me that sacred means "inviolable." Divorce is a violation, no? Let us punish the evil-doers who would profane the marriage of a man and a woman by tearing it asunder.

The sanctity of marriage brings with it certain responsibilities. Traditionally one of those responsibilities has always been procreation. Where is the paragraph in the Ohio bill or the proposed amendment to the Constitution of the United States that jails married couples who fail to produce an offspring after 5 years of marriage? The Ohio bill goes to great lengths to couch the rationale for the legislation in terms of the "strong public policy of the state." What could be more important to the public policy of Ohio and the nation at large than ensuring future generations of little boys and little girls who can grow up and marry each other?

And where are the harsh punishments for the likes of the Fox TV executives who dreamed up Darva Conger, Rick Rockwell, and Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire? Fox, of course, should have it's FCC license revoked for treating marriage as mere entertainment rather than the holy, matrimonial institution that it is. And let us not leave out the myriad of copy-cat crimes that have desecrated marriage. My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancee, The Bachelor, and the rest of these shows. Don't they all end with a televised wedding? Everyone on the sets of all these shows should be hauled off to jail for a good long time.

And what are we to do with someone like Brittany Spears? As soon as she had her fifty-six hour marriage annulled she should have been promptly executed. On live TV. That would be a real Defense of Marriage Act.

A Different Kind of Spin

I don’t know Scott McClellan’s educational background. But I’m willing to bet he’s not a lawyer. (Or, at least, not a very good one.) I make this sweeping generalization based on a statement he made in yesterday’s White House press festivities:

MR. McCLELLAN: - these documents make it very clear that the President of the United States fulfilled his duties --

Q Well, that's subject to interpretation.

MR. McCLELLAN: No. When you serve, you are paid for that service. And these documents outline the days on which he was paid. That means he served. And these documents also show that he met his requirements. And it's just really a shame that people are continuing to bring this issue up.
Having spent the better part of the past holiday season studying for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) I'm now programmed to recognize a failed contrapositive when I see it.

A contrapositive is an inference one can validly derive by properly reversing and negating the subject and the predicate of an argument. Problem is, often people trip themselves up with the reversal and the negation part. Here's an example of a statement with an invalid inference showing a common error:

If I study I will get a good grade.
I got a good grade THEREFORE I studied.
On it's face the claim seems valid. But when you examine the argument, it's fairly easy to see why it's invalid. Perhaps, instead of studying, I meet Dubya at the bar for drinks and a few lines of coke before I cheated on the test to get my good grade. Getting a good grade does not prove I studied.

This invalid argument takes the form of:

IF A THEN B --therefore--> IF B THEN A
The contrapositive can be formed only by negating and reversing the subject and predicate in a very specfic way. Here's a statement and its valid contrapositive:

If I study I will get a good grade.
I did not get a good grade THEREFORE I did not study.
This argument takes the form of:
IF A THEN B --therefore--> IF not B THEN not A
Getting the good grade does not imply my having studied. Given these facts getting a good grade does not allow me to draw any further conclusions. Only if I did not get a good grade can I make a valid inference.

Which brings us back to Mr. McClellan: "When you serve, you are paid for that service. And these documents outline the days on which he was paid. That means he served."

Let's plug it in to the handy diagram:

GW serves --> GW paid
GW paid --> GW served
It's easy to see the model McClellan is following here. It's the invalid:

A --> B :: B --> A
Rather than the valid contrapositive in the form

A --> B :: not B --> not A
The valid contrapositive tells us:

not GW paid --> not GW served
So what we're really able to derive from Bush's paystubs is...that Bush was paid.

McClellan's error is called circular reasoning. And since McClellan is paid to spin I guess (to use his reasoning) he must be getting paid too.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Maps Maps and More Maps

Marvin's well known penchant for maps makes an appearance at The Ivy Bush today. If you liked the "official" electoral map at the Edwards site you might like this one too. This second map doesn't have quite the polish of the "offical" map Marvin references. But the relative electoral weight expressed in varying state sizes makes strategic prognostication a little easier. Also, the ability to set a state to "white" (neither donkey or pachyderm) is nice.

Marvin reels off a number of states in which the Democrats might focus their energies. Tennessee, Kentucky, and Louisiana are on his list. He doesn't mention Nevada, which, despite its electoral deficiency, would be a good pick-up. I also think Nevada, with its loathing of Bush's broken nuclear waste promise and a wealth of new, urban transplants, is more likely to flip than the three southern states Marvin mentions.

But, as usual, Marvin hits the nail squarely on the head by mentioning Ohio. Whether or not Bush remembers what he was doing in 1972, he knows his electoral history. No Republican has ever won a national election without carrying the Buckeye state. Therefore, Bush has visited the state over a dozen times trying to burnish his image. I wonder how many of the 3 million jobs lost during the past 3 years are in Ohio's manufacturing sector?

Bush won Ohio in 2000 by about 3.5% (~165,000 votes). Take Nader out of the equation and it's a margin of about 1% (under 50,000 votes). Ohio will be a big prize indeed.

As to Brother John's speculation that New Mexico is safely in Bill Richardson's wonders whether governors wield such power. If true, perhaps Arizona too is in play. Bush won Arizona by 6% in 2000. Remove the Nader factor and his margin of victory is cut in half. Janet Napolitano, Arizona's Democratic governor, was elected in the same 2002 class of governors as Bill Richardson. Surely she can be counted on to stuff ballot boxes for the Anyone But Bush crowd.

Then again, if governors are pulling the levers, Ohio's GOP Governor Bob Taft may not even need Bush to visit his state a dozen more times before the election.

Ivy Bush Scoops Weekly Standard

Not to heap too much praise on my good friend, but I can't let this pass without mention.

On Saturday the folks at The Weekly Standard recently ran a story about the need to nationalize the championship game. They could have cut 5 days off their deadline if they had been reading The Ivy Bush.

Sunday, February 08, 2004


The fact that I'm finally getting around to starting my own blog is, perhaps, mostly the fault of Marvin over at The Ivy Bush. Marvin started his blog about 6 months ago and has been quite diligent about writing "something, anything" nearly every day. More important, however, than Marvin's assiduous posting is the quality of his writing.

From our high school speech and debate days through his daily missives at The Ivy Bush I've had plenty of opportunities to observe and enjoy his writing. During college he shared some of his term papers with me. After college I was lucky enough, on a few occasions, to hear him deliver his sermons. And though I no longer live in North Carolina I was able to follow his stint as a published writer in The Charlotte Observer.

What has always struck me about Marvin's writing is how effortless it seems. I don't know how much time Marvin spends composing his posts or his sermons or his pieces for The Charlotte Observer. But I have this vision of him just jotting out his fully developed ideas. Clearly, this view of him was formed watching him wield a yellow legal pad in high school debate tournaments. Effortless.

Writing, for me, has always been work. I get caught up in structure and syntax; the flow of my sentences. I agonize over which words to use. And despite all that work, I'm often not happy with the results.

I doubt this little effort will be much different. But I'll try to take pleasure in the attempt. At the very least, perhaps, I can quit e-mailing my latest rants to Marvin with the surreptitious hope that my ideas will find the light of day at his blog.