Subject to Change, version 2.0
I'm a goddamed liberal. Deal with it.

Subscribe to "Subject to Change, version 2.0" in Radio UserLand.

Click to see the XML version of this web page.

Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Is Inequality a Concommitant of Rapid Growth?.

Greg Mankiw writes to the New York Times: To the Editor: Your chart about the percentage of income earned by the top 0.1 percent of taxpayers was fascinating, but "Richest Are Leaving Even the Rich Far Behind" failed to draw the obvious conclusions from it. The data show that the rich take a rising share of income when the economy is booming, such as during the 1920's and 1990's. Their share declines when the economy hits hard times, such as during the Great Depression and the most recent recession. The rich took their smallest slice of the economic pie during the 1970's - a period when productivity growth was low and unemployment and inflation were rising. Here's the lesson: If policy makers' primary goal is to reduce income inequality, they should put the economy through the wringer. But if they want economic prosperity for all, they should avoid focusing on the politics of envy. N. Gregory Mankiw Cambridge, Mass., June 5, 2005 The writer, a professor of economics at Harvard University, was chairman of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers, 2003-2005. Well, let's see. Let's take the state-of-the-art data on income inequality from Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty (2003), "Income...

 [Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal]
5:02:30 PM    

Liberal Think Tank Outlines National Security Strategy.

Nico Pitney | Washington, DC | June 7

Think Progress - Today the American Progress National Security Team released "Integrated Power," a new progressive national security strategy. The authors of the report will be discussing it here for the next few days, soliciting feedback from the progressive community. Here is the executive summary and the main document. I will be having a lot to say about this in the coming days. Me likey what me see so far!

[The Agonist]
5:01:44 PM    

Rep. John Conyers: Did the Mainstream Media Get the Memo?

For the past few weeks, I and others on this blog (including its propreitor) have lamented the lack of mainstream media coverage of the Downing Street Minutes (for more info on what this is all about, go here and here). Looking in from the outside of the networks and newspapers, we have been left to surmise just what the problem really is. On a story with constitutional implications, with life and death consequences, there was first silence. Then, there was a story here and there, but no meaningful, dogged and sustained coverage. What gives?

First, this morning, I came across an insightful column on this matter from a reporter named Jefferson Morley on For those of you who still get your news from a paper copy with a cup of coffee, don't bother -- it isn't in the Post today, just online. Mr. Morley's beat is covering the foreign press for the Post.

A couple of quotes from his column (and then on to the startling part): "It's not hard to see why this remarkable document, published in The Times on May 1 (and reported in this column on May 3), continues to attract reader interest around the world." At the end: "Far from being a dud, the Downing Street Memo may generate more stories to come." Great column. And why couldn't I read this in the Post this morning?

Mr. Morley answered my question later in the day, in an online chat at The exchanges with readers speak for themselves and I urge you to read the chat in its entirety. A few stunners:

When asked why there has been so little coverage of the Downing Street Minutes here in the United States, Morley replies: "I think some combination of cynicism, complacency and insulation has stifled the instincts of very good reporters. I also think there is also a failure of leadership at the senior editorial level. The issues raised by the Downing Street minutes are very serious. To pursue them is to invite confrontation. This means that 'beat' reporters cannot realistically pursue the story. I say all this way of explanation, not rationalization. There are several natural followup stories to the Downing Street memo that we should be pursuing right now."

Later he says: "I think its because the Washington press corps is oriented around "news" as generated by the White House and the executive branch. When it comes to Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass destruction, the White House and the Congress have settled on the following narrative: that the U.S. government had every reason to fear the nexus of Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, that the intelligence community agreed that Hussein had WMD and therefore war was not only justified but necessary.

The Downing Street Memo invites the thought that maybe that was illusory, that in fact people in the Bush administration were having meetings dedicated to figuring how to, as Richard Dearlove said, 'fix the facts and the intelligence.' I think it's hard for journalists born and bred in the ways of Washington to contemplate the implications."

This is a stunning account of the way our media has slid backwards from the days of Woodward and Bernstein. I'll let his candid remarks speak for themselves on that.

I would simply ask: after the abject failure of the media to expose the myth of WMD and Iraq, the cheerleading coverage of "embedded" reporters, and the transmission of propaganda to the American people (see Jessica Lynch's "rescue", Pat Tillman's tragic death, and the toppling of Saddam's statue), aren't we owed some good, sustained and thorough reporting on this?

A reader asks whether a Post reporter will ask about the Downing Street Minutes during the joint Bush-Blair appearances in Washington this week. Morley's reply: "If Post reporters don't ask Blair about the memo, they have abdicated responsibility in my view."

What more can I add to that?

- Rep. John Conyers ( [

The Huffington Post | Full Blog Feed]
3:18:44 PM    

Dan Carol: Devolutionary Politics

So just as liberals and progressives are starting to wake up to state-local policy opportunities and the power of grassroots politics, guess what:

Here comes the Supreme Court telling states what to do on medical marijuana, making a mockery of the Commerce Clause, with the deciding votes cast by (drum roll please) Bill Clinton’s two court nominees.

File that under:

Florida 2000 and the US Supreme Court telling a state how to run its elections;

The Bush Administration trying to shut down Oregon’s Death with Dignity law;

Expanding federal intrusions into our schools, our workplaces and our libraries too numerous to catalogue.

In other words, Bush-Cheney and crew are going federal, baby. And they are going to try and close down the very same state and local powers they have crowed about for years.

This can offer progressives a ton of rhetorical opportunities, but it won't mean a thing if, for example, we don't have a serious and well-funded strategy to prevent the FCC and the Bush Administration from shutting down community-owned Internet and wi-fi systems at the behest of Comcast and Verizon (to pick one critical issue among many in the new world of state-local-federal food fighting).

Another new issue to watch in this space: George Bush calling for "risk insurance" to streamline new nuclear power plant siting -- and Joe Lieberman potentially going along with it. This idea is just a cover story, IMHO, for pushing federal pre-emption of local and state land use decisions. Not good.

So what to do today other than grab a drink -- rather than a smoke?

As always, I will start by reminding myself that in this period of party decline and cultural realignment, the weirdest scenario always is the likely scenario.

Yet still: who would have “thunk” that progressives who understand the power of de-evolutionary politics would be thinking today that maybe Clarence Thomas, Sandra Day O’Connor and William Rehnquist (the 3 dissenters in yesterday’s marijuana decision) are useful to have around? That's sure some serious weirdness to mull on...

- Dan Carol (

[The Huffington Post | Full Blog Feed]
3:18:07 PM    

FL-Sen: Harris is in.

Part of me is happy. Part of me wants to throw up.
Republican U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris, who was praised and vilified for her role as Florida's secretary of state in the 2000 presidential recount, said Tuesday she will run for the U.S. Senate next year against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson.

Her announcement brings a high-profile name and the potential to raise a substantial amount of money to a race that Republicans already have said they would target.

"Today, after months of encouragement from friends and constituents, colleagues and advisers, many prayers and with the love and support of my family, the time has come to launch a campaign for the U.S. Senate," Harris told The Associated Press.

Harris, who is serving her second term in Congress, will formally announce her plans in July.

Harris will likely win her party's nomination, though she CW says she'd be weak against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson.

The Republican outfit Strategic Vision had Nelson outperforming Harris 48-41. No independent polling I've seen has pitted the two yet. Shouldn't take long for that to happen.

[Daily Kos]

3:17:04 PM    

Thomas More cruise organizers pull plug on O'Reilly appearance.

Organizers of a fund-raising cruise to benefit the conservative Thomas More Law Center have apparently pulled the plug on an appearance by Fox News host Bill O'Reilly. O'Reilly had promoted the cruise on his TV show and website. The website (SJIHBO) reported that an automated voice message at the phone number listed in an ad for the cruise now informs callers that "[u]nfortunately, the cruise did not have the participation that all parties anticipated," and that therefore "the guest appearance by Mr. O'Reilly and the other speakers have been canceled." Media Matters for America confirmed the message by calling the number listed in the ad.

While the "featured links" page of O'Reilly's website still has a link to the Thomas More Law Center, a search of the site found no current promotion of the cruise. The center's website does not mention O'Reilly. The web page promoting the cruise at Corporate Travel Services (CTS), the group arranging the trip, no longer exists, though the promotional flyer is still online (as of this posting). A Nexis search* revealed only one mention of the cruise in 2005 -- aside from O'Reilly's promotion on his April 19 show -- an article in The Australian, which linked to the now-defunct CTS promotion page. The Thomas More Law Center reportedly told SJIHBO that "the response was surprisingly poor."

Media Matters has previously noted that despite O'Reilly's participation and promotion of the cruise, his stated views on topics such as abortion and "morality" laws conflict with the positions of the Thomas More Law Center.

*Nexis search: "(O'Reilly or Denton) and Thomas More and (cruis! or Caribbean or getaway or appear! or lecture)" in 2005 on the All News database.

[Media Matters for America]
3:16:15 PM    

It Is Starting To Feel Like 1993.

While I have never thoroughly left the early and mid-nineties in terms of fashion and popular culture tastes, the past five months have begun to strongly remind me of the first five months of Clinton's first term, only...

3:14:54 PM    

The Friendly Skies.
The Bush administration said yesterday it would bring a trade case alleging the European Union is providing illegal subsidies to Airbus, the major competitor of The Boeing Co.

U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman said the administration had decided to proceed with a case before the World Trade Organization in light of preparations by member states of the European Union to commit $1.7 billion in new launch aid to Airbus for a new airplane.

Associated Press
U.S. to file trade complaint against EU
May 31, 2005

For the past three years, the Air Force has described its $30 billion proposal to convert passenger planes into military refueling tankers and lease them from Boeing Co. as an efficient way to obtain aircraft the military urgently needs.

But a very different account of the deal is shown in an August 2002 internal e-mail exchange among four senior Pentagon officials.

"We all know that this is a bailout for Boeing," Ronald G. Garant, an official of the Pentagon comptroller's office, said in a message to two others in his office and then-Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Wayne A. Schroeder.

Washington Post
E-Mails Detail Air Force Push for Boeing Deal
June 7, 2005

The 256-page Pentagon inspector general's report, with many e-mails blacked out, showed that the White House shielded one or more key officials from being named for their roles in pushing the deal. The White House had no immediate comment.

U.S. officials faulted for Boeing tanker push
June 7, 2005

About 55 percent of the company's expected revenue of $49 billion this year will come from the federal treasury, and the company has been generous to Congress and the administration.

Over the past decade, its employees and political-action committees have given $925,000 to members of the four House and Senate committees that handle defense matters, according to the watchdog group Common Cause. The company also gave $100,000 for Bush's inauguration.

Washington Post
Rules Circumvented on Huge Boeing Defense Contract
October 27, 2003

[Whiskey Bar]
3:14:08 PM    

No Free Launch

Three times each year, Cursor and Media Transparency ask readers to pitch in to help defray operating costs. Since January's appeal, work has been proceeding on a project that we're now proud to unveil - the new Media Transparency. In previewing the new site, Eric Alterman, whose "Neoconning the Media" is one of more than 20 original articles that we've published so far this year, wrote that Media Transparency gives "even the laziest of reporters no excuses for failing to follow the money." But of course it takes money to follow the money, so please consider helping us to help them, with a modest tax-deductible contribution -- directly or through PayPal -- to Cursor and Media Transparency. Our goal is $15,000 and every dollar raised will be matched at 100%.

3:13:14 PM    

The End In Sight?.

 From a pro-war perspective, this is the kind of image that is supposed to suggest the compassion of the Iraqi campaign. Taken in Basra in mid-May, the image shows a British soldier letting an Iraqi boy look through his...

3:12:31 PM    

What Did Bush Decide and When Did He Decide It?.

The Downing Street Memo reported that in a July 23, 2002 meeting between Prime Minister Blair and his war cabinet, attendees of the meeting discussed the fact that President Bush had already made up his mind to attack Iraq. According to the minutes of the meeting:  There was a perceptible shift ...

[Think Progress]
3:11:39 PM    

Celebrating "Griswold".

Dick Durbin is on the floor of the Senate, speaking to a resolution he's put forward with Olympia Snowe and Barack Obama — calling for a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Griswold v. Connecticut. Griswold was the first "right to privacy" decision, a landmark in the arena of sexual autonomy. It laid the foundation for Roe.

Durbin is citing the Comstock Act, a draconian 1873 law that would not look entirely out of place in the agenda of the Rabid Religious Right today.

Connecting Comstock and Griswold to arguments against Janice Rogers Brown's confirmation and for the stem-cell bill strikes me as a good rhetorical play.

3:10:59 PM    

Pay the Bums More?

There are a lot of things to say about Elizabeth Drew's long assessment of the corruption surrounding the GOP reign in Washington. But my first thought, and I'm only about halfway through the piece, is that members of Congress simply don't get paid enough. Heh. Really, though, I don't see any way to restrict money in politics altogether—politicians will always be in the business of courting lobbyists, and lobbyists will always be in the business of skirting regulations and lavishing gifts on politicians. Powerful interests will always be powerful. The world will keep spinning. Et cetera. Sure, I'd genuinely like to see better regulations on all this, but ultimately, as with corporate governance, a lot of the money problems in Washington stem from the utter lack of integrity of the characters involved: DeLay, Norquist, Santorum, Ney, Abramoff, Bush. Obviously we need to kick the bums out. But we also need to figure out how to make sure future politicians can maintain at least a shred of integrity and don't fall as far down the K Street sinkhole as the current Republican regime has done.

The solution, perhaps, is more money. If members of Congress enjoy traveling, then let's give them enough cash to go traveling. What do I care? It's certainly better—and ultimately much cheaper—than having some trade association put up the funds to send the House Majority Leader to Scotland or wherever in exchange for some hefty tax credits. Now I'm not naïve enough to that think higher salaries for members of Congress would eliminate all corruption, but it would possibly eliminate some. In theory, higher pay would bring greater status, relative to lobbyists, for members of Congress, something that could presumably help out here. You'd also have fewer senators and representatives treating their whole legislative careers as one big favor-dishing prelude to a more lucrative K Street position. (Like, say, Billy Tauzin .) And then there's the bright but admittedly tenuous hope that higher pay would attract, well, a bit more talent to the halls of Capitol Hill. Um, like I said, admittedly tenuous.

- Brad
 [Bradford Plumer]
3:10:02 PM    

David Frum on Reducing Poverty in Africa

Frum argues that Africa does not need financial assistance but might benefit from free trade within the Western Hemisphere:

African aid relief is the same. Jeffrey Sachs may imagine that he knows how much it will cost to pull Africa from poverty, but almost nobody outside the UN apparatus and the world of pop culture believes him … Meanwhile, there is something practical that can immediately be done to fight poverty right on America's doorstep: Pass the embattled Central American Free Trade Initiative through Congress. But because CAFTA is premised on the unglamorous idea that poverty will be defeated by work and trade, not guilt-induced donations, none of its advocates have ever picked up a guitar in their life.

Who to believe – “an internationally renowned economist” (Frum’s words) – or someone who confuses Latin America with Africa? OK – Frum’s concern seems to be poverty in Latin America but free trade is not a sufficient condition for addressing abject poverty. If Frum spent less time criticizing Sachs and more time actually reading what Sachs has written, maybe he’d understand. And yes, $0.7 billion in new U.S. aid is a far cry from sufficient or being generous.
- PGL [Angry Bear]
3:09:02 PM    

Rep. Harold Ford: A Letter to President Bush

June 3, 2005

Dear Mr. President,

I just returned from a two day trip to Iraq with several colleagues, including U.S. Senator Joe Biden and Vice-Chair of the House Armed Services Committee Curt Weldon. We spent Memorial Day weekend meeting with our troops, military leadership and Iraqi government officials, lending our support for their collective efforts to bring stability and democracy to Iraq. On a patriotic note, it felt good being with the bravest and finest fighting force in the world on Memorial Day.

I was pleased that morale was high among our troops. Every soldier we encountered was proud of the progress being made by the military and the Iraqi people. Moreover, the Iraqi government officials we met were deeply appreciative of our efforts - from the Prime Minister to the Speaker of their Parliament to the Chair of the Constitutional Drafting Committee to the new Defense Minister.

However, there were concerns expressed by many. First, it appears, contrary to Secretary Rumsfeld's and your assertions, that the training of the Iraqi military and police forces and the restoration of basic services, including electricity and water, is moving at a slower pace than projected. Second, the pernicious influence of Iran and Syria in encouraging and sponsoring terrorism in Iraq is on the rise. Third, the tension between the Sunnis and Shiites is not lessening, which is detrimental to the efforts to draft an acceptable constitution. And finally, U.S. credibility and stature still lag in the Middle East, despite the noble efforts and sacrifice of our military and the generosity of the American people.

These are not easy times as you know Mr. President. Your steadfastness and tenacity in fighting terrorism should be applauded. But, support for your administration's policies in Iraq is below 45 percent, meaning more Americans disagree with your handling of it. This is combined with a 40 percent approval rating for your handling of the U.S. economy. If I might be so bold, let me make a few suggestions.

First, you and Secretary Rumsfeld should stop overstating our success in Iraq because it overshadows and diminishes actual progress being made in Iraq.

For example, the Pentagon has repeatedly - and now I know erroneously - told Congress and the American people that Iraqi military and security forces are being trained at a rapid rate. The facts are different. Only 3 of the 107 battalions that have to be trained for Iraq to be able and ready to defend itself are up and standing. The misrepresentations by your administration undermine the American people's confidence in our efforts in Iraq, damage support for the war and make it harder for those of us in Congress who support staying and finishing the job in Iraq to maintain our support.

In short, a big part of the answer to this challenge is first to allow the military leadership on the ground in Iraq to offer assessments of our military progress, not civilian suits at the Pentagon. Furthermore, serious thought should be given to sending Iraqi police trainees to training academies in Europe and the U.S. This could slow down even more the process, but I believe it could improve the training and ensure that forces are ready upon completion of the training. And, more assistance is needed for our Army and Marines who are charged with cleaning the streets and sewer systems so that essential services, like water and electricity, can be delivered. In many ways, the delivery of these services is the only tangible measure the Iraqi population has of our success since the capturing of Saddam Hussein. Much work needs to be done on that front.

Second, an honest appraisal of Iran and Syria's influence in Iraq is needed. Every senior Iraqi government official we met assailed Iran's growing involvement in fomenting insurgent activity in Iraq. However, to my surprise, U.S. intelligence and military officials in Iraq flatly rejected the Iraqi government's position on the matter. I trust you know this, but somebody is wrong here. It is not in the interests of U.S. national security for Iraq and the U.S. to be so far apart on this subject. Frankly, I am inclined to believe the Iraqi Defense Minister and Speaker of the Parliament. Something as fundamental as reconciling intelligence and analysis between us and the Iraqis requires immediate attention. Your intervention with your administration is warranted on this point, Mr. President.

Third, the drafting of the Iraqi Constitution must involve Sunnis and Kurds for it to be accepted as the nation's guarantor of freedom and fairness for all, like our own Constitution is. Sending an international team of legal scholars from America and other leading democracies to assist and consult with the drafting committee would help greatly. Our Constitution's endurance is due largely to its unyielding protection of basic freedoms for all, especially the minority in this country. We have to export that concept to Iraq.

And last, U.S. credibility and our moral authority need rebuilding. Mr. President, with all due respect, if you devoted one-third of the time you did trying to convince the country to privatize Social Security to traveling the world to promote this nation's time honored values and urging a re-engagement with the world community, America would win back a great deal of her prestige and moral authority in the eyes of the global community. I recognize and support our nation's responsibility to act when our security interests are threatened even when others won't join us. Yet, there is tremendous value in being engaged with the world.

It makes it easier to win international support for U.S efforts to sell U.S. goods around the globe, fight terrorism, expand political reform in Africa and reduce the spread of HIV and other diseases in corners of the world crying out for help. Moreover, a re-engagement with the world led by you will make foreign travel to the United States more attractive, which would bolster our economy, and simultaneously create safer conditions for international travel by Americans.

Again, thank you for your time and attention Mr. President. You remain in my prayers.


Harold Ford, Jr.

- Rep. Harold Ford (

[The Huffington Post | Full Blog Feed]
3:08:18 PM    

Punching Up The Orange.

This Sunday's latest perfunctory Iraq story in the NYT seems to sum up what's wildly wrong with the coverage of the war -- as well as, perhaps, what's wrong with the overall American military strategy. Simply put, there is...

7:08:40 AM    


Al Qaeda wants to extend Iraq's insurgency to Saudi Arabia. Numerous attacks and statements clearly demonstrate this. Their objectives are more opaque. Their potential objectives fall into the following categories. Coercion. The state stays intact. The royal family actively supports...

[Global Guerrillas]
7:05:04 AM    


This is what happens when the process isn't transparent and we are forced to rely upon anonymous "insiders" and spin doctors for our info. To the administration's credit, they are really smart to use this non-event to block coverage of...

 [John Robb's Weblog]
2:13:20 AM    

Euro falls to 11-month low on yen.

 The euro drops to an 11-month low against the yen, the morning after Italian ministers suggest Italy might adopt another currency.

[BBC News | News Front Page | UK Edition]
1:49:53 AM    

BREAKING! CNN to start covering NEWS!.

Extremely stunning, shocking, just unbelievable development. Should warn the kids. Note to Self: Breathe deeply, prepare for a Michael Jackson wardrobe malfunction, perhaps even a sighting of Elvis (which can then be reported promptly to CNN for them to cover...

[The Left Coaster]
1:45:27 AM    

Click here to visit the Radio UserLand website. © Copyright 2005 Michael Mussington.
Last update: 7/1/2005; 6:37:28 AM.
June 2005
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
      1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30    
May   Jul