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March 2006

Why Oh Why Are We Ruled by These Liars? (Full Employment Budget Surplus Edition)

Menzie Chinn is not a happy camper:

Econbrowser: The Full Employment Budget Surplus: The Full Employment Budget Surplus: It is reputed that President Bush asserted that the budget deficits occured because nobody ever planned for tax cuts, war and recession to occur simultaneously. To my knowledge, nobody has ever been able to verify this quote, although President Bush lays blame on the recession in this 2004 press conference (some two and half years after the recession's end). But in any case, it is beside the point. The CBO has published its graph of the cyclically adjusted standardized budget balance. We are now long past the recession, yet the cyclically adjusted budget deficit remains large as a proportion of GDP, and is projected to start to shrink partly because of the "current law" assumptions CBO is required to incorporate by statute.

So the President has a point. Instead of a swing of 6 percentage points of GDP from peak to trough in the budget balance -- as implied by the unadjusted standardized budget balance -- the full employment budget balance has shifted by only(!) about 4.5 percentage points. (Although, as outgoing CBO director Holtz-Eakin said, these are the "good ol' days" as far as entitlements are concerned. Watch out for Medicare D!)

On a related note, CBO's recently released An Analysis of the President's Budgetary

Proposals for Fiscal Year 2007 (March 2006) has an interesting graph on page 3, showing that even with the Administration's optimistic forecasts on spending cuts, the deficit begins to deteriorate again in FY 2011.


Brad Setser Likes Barry Eichengreen

Brad Setser writes:

RGE - Read Barry Eichengreen: Eichengreen provides the best summary I have seen of competing views on the sustainability of large US trade deficits, along with the impact of sustained trade deficits on US external debt and the investment income balance He leans towards what he calls the standard view: what cannot go on forever, won't go on forever. But he also clearly explains competing views, whether the "New Economy and Higher productivity make it all OK" view of Richard Cooper (and Michael Mandel), the"Savvy investor" view of John Kitchin (Cavallo and Tille have a similar argument) or the US isn't really in debt because of dark matter view of Hausmann and Sturzenegger and their various acolytes in the investment world.

Well worth reading. And Martin Feldstein is worth watching. He seems to subscribe to mainstream view. He certainly thinks the dollar needs to fall.

But how come Brad Setser knows more about what is being written in the office next door to mine than I do? :-) I hadn't heard of this. (I do, however, recommend the excellent John Kitchin.)

Barry's bottom line:

[U]ncertainty about whether a disorderly correction is imminent does not justify inaction. That a Category 5 hurricane strikes only once a generation does not absolve the responsible homeowner, living in a flood plain, from putting his house on stilts or investing in flood insurance. For the United States, insuring against a disorderly correction would involve progressively tightening fiscal policy and thus gradually narrowing the gap between absorption and production. The best way for China and other East Asian countries that export to the United States to meet this deceleration in U.S. absorption growth would be by loosening fiscal policy (increasing spending on social security, health care, education, rural infrastructure and the like) and thus stimulating demand at home. With demand growth slowing in the United States and accelerating in Asia, relative prices, in the form of the dollar exchange rate, will tend to adjust. The argument for gradual adjustment starting now to limit the risk of a sharp, disruptive adjustment later is still sound even if an eventual hard landing is less than certain.


Fire Richard Cohen. Fire Him Now

The Washington Post will never recover its reputation as long as it continues to employ people in the unreality-based community like Richard Cohen:

Rising Hegemon: Suffer the little Wankers: Apparently, Richard Cohen finally noticed the sky is blue.

So common is the statement "Bush lied" that it seems sometimes that I am the only blue-state person who does not think it is true. Then, last week, the indomitable Helen Thomas changed all that with a single question. She asked George Bush why he wanted "to go to war" from the moment he "stepped into the White House," and the president said, "You know, I didn't want war." With that, the last blue-state skeptic folded.

Five and a quarter years of shilling for George W. Bush is five and a quarter years too many.


Louis Uchitelle's "The Disposable American: Layoffs and Their Consequences"

I review it:

'The Disposable American: Layoffs and Their Consequences,' by Louis Uchitelle - The New York Times Book Review - New York Times: Uchitelle's diagnosis... is convincing. But for this card-carrying economist, his desired prescription is not. I see no examples anywhere in the world of economies that have taken steps in the direction he desires without severe side-effects. In Western Europe, unions bargained fiercely for job security, and governments enacted "no firing without cause" laws, giving workers individually and collectively quasi-property rights in their jobs. Yet this did not lead to a happy labor market. Instead, high overall unemployment, extra-high long-term unemployment and extra-extra-high youth unemployment appear to be the consequences of attempts to ensure that managers and workers are in the same boat. Companies that know they cannot lay off groups of workers if demand goes sour are very likely to be companies that hesitate to hire groups of workers even when demand is strong.

Indeed, Uchitelle does not want to forbid all mass layoffs. "Some," he writes, "are inevitable as American companies adjust to the growing competition from abroad." His real wish is for managers to treat their workers as partners and fellow human beings, rather than as potentially obsolete and disposable parts in the corporate money-making machine. But when demand and industrial structure are shifting rapidly, there is a great deal of money to be made by treating workers as disposable parts rather than as partners.

Uchitelle wants the government to help. But the government's powers and competence are limited: it can do much more at cleaning up the mess afterward -- in the form of unemployment compensation, education support and job search assistance -- than it can at getting managers, directors and shareholders to "play nice" when the financial stakes are high.


Party of Idiocy Watch IV

Wonkette finds that Ben Domenech made some fierce enemies at Regnery:

Ben Domenech: Fireproofing His Master's House - Wonkette: Regnery -- generally not adverse to publicity -- would have been perfectly happy to have an editor with a high-profile gig at a major paper's website, if it weren't for the fact that the work said editor was doing for them was so shoddy. We hear that he often passed off his actual editing duties to others, seemed more interested in networking and "taking meetings" than working, and seemed even more interested in making a name for himself as a political operative than, you know, editing. With the Post gig (along with his personal site and other blogging) taking up even more of his time, Regnery decided that paying Domenech to keep an empty office wasn't worth it (which is the kernel of truth in both the "official" story of Domenech's dismissal and his own account sent to us yesterday).

And in the "oh, that explains it" file: His most egregious error at Regnery was allegedly screwing up Michelle Malkin's last book (Unhinged) by leaving out 27 words from a chapter. If you recall, Ms. Malkin was one of the first right-wingers to turn against Domenech and take the attacks from liberal (read: "unhinged") blogs very seriously, until it became much harder for her ideological countrymen to ignore them.

Malkin didn't return our request for comment. Domenech did -- he chalks the Malkin mistake to a printing error out of his control, and says our source is "dead wrong:"

In the time since Malkin, I've worked on six more Regnery books. Not only is this claim wrong, it'll get laughed at by anyone who knows anything about the bookmaking process.

Once again, a quandry -- we still can't wrap our minds around the idea of someone being fired from Regnery for incompetence, and we really don't know a lot about the bookmaking process, except that it's probably more reliable than Movable Type. Still, though -- Malkin turned on him pretty damn quick considering he was her former editor. Per usual, if you're an insider, we'd love to hear from you. If you're an outsider, go ahead and send us your crazy theories too.


Party of Idiocy Watch III

Hugh Hewitt puts his life on the line--and needs a change of underpants--every time he sets foot in his radio studio:

Unfogged: Hugh Hewitt: I've got chutzpah! Posted by Fontana Labson 03.29.06: Everyone's already talking about this, but I wanted to highlight something about Hewitt's pretense of valor. Read the transcript of Hewitt's conversation with Michael Ware. There's this interesting discussion of how Ware came close to having his head sawed off:

By the same token, trying to film them secretly in Baghdad, I was kidnapped by them, dragged out of my car, and a group of Syrian fighters for Zarqawi were preparing to execute me on the street here in Baghdad. So I've been with Zarqawi's people in a number of different forms.... And eventually, the al Qaeda Syrians decided it wasn't worth it, and through very gritted teeth, after having said a Westerner comes in here and you expect us to let him leave alive, they finally relented and set me free. It was not a pleasant experience.

Then, some time after this discussion-- that is, after we've been made aware of the fact that Ware's been in some serious shit-- he says

I mean, you're sitting back in a comfortable radio studio, far from the realities of this war.

and Hugh responds, hilariously, with this:

I'm sitting in the Empire State Building. Michael, I'm sitting in the Empire State Building, which has been in the past, and could be again, a target. Because in downtown Manhattan, it's not comfortable, although it's a lot safer than where you are, people always are three miles away from where the jihadis last spoke in America. So that's... civilians have a stake in this. Although you are on the front line, this was the front line four and a half years ago.

Ok. I just wanted to note the larger context. Nothing more to say, really.


Party of Idiocy Watch II

Ramesh Ponnuru also flees in terror from his own book:

The Corner on National Review Online: A QUIBBLE byRamesh Ponnuru: Garance Franke-Ruta mentions my forthcoming book The Party of Death[: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life], which she describes as a "book on Democrats." The book does have quite a bit to say about the Democrats, and it's tough on them. But the book is about more than that, and the title isn't meant as a pejorative term for the Democrats. I explain, mostly in the introduction, what I mean and don't mean by the phrase. I'm not saying this to complain about Franke-Ruta. It was nice of her to mention the book, and her assumption was an easy one to make, partly because the Amazon page on the book is a bit misleading. (I've tried to get Amazon to change it a few times.)

But wait a minute, Ramesh! It's not amazon.com that you are complaining about. IT'S YOUR OWN PUBLISHER, REGNERY, YOUR OWN SUBTITLE, AND YOUR OWN BOOK'S DUST JACKET!!

Ramesh Ponnuru's The Party of Death: From the Inside Flap:

Is the Democratic Party the "Party of Death"?

If you look at their agenda they are.

IT’S NOT JUST abortion-on-demand. It’s euthanasia, embryo destruction, even infanticide—-and a potentially deadly concern with "the quality of life" of disabled people. If you think these issues don’t concern you—guess again. The Party of Death could be roaring into the White House, as National Review senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru shows, in the person of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In The Party of Death, Ponnuru details how left-wing radicals, using abortion as their lever, took over the Democratic Party-—and how they have used their power to corrupt our law and politics, abolish our fundamental right to life, and push the envelope in ever more dangerous directions. In The Party of Death, Ponnuru reveals:

  • How Hillary Clinton could use the abortion issue (but not in the way you think) to become president
  • Why the conventional wisdom about Roe v.Wade is a lie
  • How the party of death-—a coalition of special interests ranging from Planned Parenthood to Hollywood-—came to own the Democratic Party
  • How the mainstream media promotes the party of death
  • Why Jesse Jackson, Al Gore, and other leading liberals gave up being pro-life
  • How liberals use animal rights to displace human rights
  • The Democratic presidential candidate who said that infanticide is a mother’s "choice"
  • How doctors-—and other health care professionals—-are being coerced, by law, into violating their consciences
  • The ultrasound revolution: why there’s hope to stop the party of death

Ponnuru’s shocking exposé shows just how extreme the Party of Death has become as they seek to destroy every inconvenient life, demand fealty to their radical agenda, and punish anyone who defies them. But he also shows how the tide is turning, how the Party of Death can be defeated, and why its last victim might be the Democratic Party itself.

Of course, there's more: here's the woman who calls herself "Garance", and here's the man who calls himself "Digby".


Fred Barnes Runs in Terror from His Own Book...

A commenter writes:

Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal: Why Does Elizabeth Bumiller Still Have a Job (Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?): Fred "Rebel in Chief" Barnes was on Fresh Air yesterday. He promptly started walking back his hero worship by saying that when his book was commissioned, just after the election, Bush was riding high in the polls yadda yadda... He had the sense to give the impression that he was kind of ashamed by his own book.

Later on he said something like the presidency is not quite a disaster yet, and if you throw Karl and Dick under the bus and elevate Condi to VP, it could possibly be salvaged - at least the VP hearings would change the subject in DC for a week or two! Low expectations indeed.


Addicted Lemmings

Jonesing for a MacBookPro:

Autopope! - How I know I spend too much time in my local Mac dealership:

  1. Enter shop.
  2. Head for display machines. Drool copiously over the 2GHz MacBook Pro.
  3. Overhear salesman telling punter that they're selling like crazy and there might not be any left.
  4. Fondle credit card, already smoking, and realize that the new tax year begins next Thursday.
  5. Ask salesman, "how much, with maxed out memory?"
  6. Salesman confirms that while the list price is the same as the Apple store is advertising, the extra memory is about half the price.
  7. "Say, can you order one for me for next Thursday? With the memory? So it's in the next tax year?"
  8. What did it was the reply: "certainly Mr Stross, I'll put one aside for you and it'll have the memory installed when you come to pick it up."

At no point did I tell him my name. At no point was I wearing a badge, other than maybe the flashing red sign over my head saying JOBS CULTIST. And I wasn't angling for the valued-customer treatment, either. I definitely need to spend less time in that shop.


Why Does Elizabeth Bumiller Still Have a Job (Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?)

A zero-information puff piece on Josh Bolten:

Joshua Brewster Bolten: Longtime Ally, Now a Top Aide - New York Times: Joshua B. Bolten... insider credentials... ability to soothe Congress... amused his 500-member staff by renaming his weekend rock band Deficit Attention Disorder... Mr. Thune said, "he probably will do a better job of reaching out to Congress." Supporters... insisted he would revitalize a moribund policy operation... Bolten, the influential but publicly invisible White House deputy chief of staff in Mr. Bush's first term, would help formulate and drive legislation in a way that Andrew H. Card Jr., the outgoing chief of staff, did not. As deputy chief of staff, Mr. Bolten scheduled the president's almost daily 45 minutes of domestic "policy time" in the Oval Office... Cesar V. Conda... "He was really the maestro of the policy process. I was there a month after Harriet Miers took over, and it wasn't the same."... Bolten... this administration's deal closer... what Mr. Bolten believes is something of a mystery...

With one nugget of reality picked up by Dan Gross:

Daniel Gross: March 26, 2006 - April 01, 2006 Archives: PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY: A great nugget in Elisabeth Bumiller's highly predictable puffer on newly appointed chief of staff Josh Bolten.

But the question is whether Mr. Bolten is the man to right a listing presidency, and whether his skills, instincts and access to Mr. Bush are enough to overcome public anger over the war in Iraq and the growing questions in Washington about the competence of the West Wing staff. Mr. Bolten, after all, has been with Mr. Bush from his first days as a presidential candidate, and in the last three years has presided over the biggest budget deficits in the history of the United States.

"The last time Josh was in here, I said, 'How can a guy as smart as you are come up with such bad results?' " said Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota, the ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee. "He said, 'You can't pin this one on me.' "

Right, he just works there. But wait a second. Republican wise man Vin Weber tells Caroline Daniel of the Financial Times that "in the last five years Josh has been the number one domesitc and economy policy thinker in the White House."

Sounds like the perfect man for the job.


A Warning

New Tab Energy drink:

  1. Is pink.
  2. Contains ginseng.
  3. Bears no resemblance at all to my memories of the drink formerly known as Tab.

Under no circumstances should anybody drink it. None.

That is all.


I Am Becoming an Anthology Intelligence...

My ex-roommate Robert Waldmann plus Google now knows more about what I said two years ago than I do. Scary? Yes. But also evidence that my plan for world domination via internet and weblog is well-advanced:

Robert's Stochastic thoughts: Brad DeLong Disagrees with Andrew Samwick (or so he claims): Samwick is enthusiastic about the appointment of Joshua Bolten as White House chief of staff. In fact, Samwick almost seems to hope that Bolten will be a "game changer" and pull out an amazing second quarter comeback for team Bush (oh god we haven't even reached half time of the second Bush II administration).

Brad writes "I don't understand Andrew's enthusiasm for Bolten" but what did he write about Bolten the "game changer" before Bolten was named chief of staff. Hmm lets ask google to search Brad's old URL for bolten and "game changer"... One hit http://econ161.berkeley.edu/movable_type/2004_archives/000303.html which I edit ruthlessly:

What's the Antonym of "White House Aide?" (Things Worse Than I Could Have Imagined Department): An aide is somebody who works for you who helps you--who does odd jobs, who provides you with information, who advises you about issues on which you need advice. What do you call somebody who provides you with misinformation? What is the antonym of the phrase "White House aide"?

It turns out that, at least as far as economic policymaking is concerned, things inside the Bush White House were worse than I had imagined possible--even though I thought that I had already taken account of the principle that things are generally worse than you imagine.

Let me tell a story:... "if the higher deficit is expected to persist indefinitely into the future, then interest rates are likely to rise between 0.5% and 1.0%." And then the reporters would call Glenn Hubbard.... And he would answer, "If you increase the government's deficit next year by $200 billion, and then erase that deficit and return spending and taxes to their previous levels the following year, then interest rates are likely to rise by an insignificant amount--0.03%." Except that Glenn would not say the words in italics to anyone except himself.... Got the distinction? Short-term deficits have next to no effect on interest rates. Long-term deficits have substantial effects on interest rates. Got it? Good. The reporters certainly didn't.

The reporters would then write their stories.... And we would sigh, and curse the ineptitude of the press corps. But we would take comfort from one thing... at least internal administration decision making was not being fed misinformation.... But now it turns out that we were wrong.... From the shorthand stenographic transcript of the November 26, 2002 White House meeting of George W. Bush with his economic policy and political staffs contained in Chapter 8 of Ron Suskind's The Price of Loyalty:

"Glenn [Hubbard] thinks that a deficit of $200 billion pushes up interest rates by just three basis points [or .03 perent]," [Deputy Chief of Staff] Josh Bolten interjected, bringing things back to the key issue of whether the dividend tax cut was affordable.

OK OK Brad is consistent. He thinks that Josh Bolten is an anti-aide from the negaverse and he has proof.


MarsEdit: Easy weblog editing


Andre Glucksman Unleashes the Fact-Value Distinction

Like Samson with his jawbone of an ass, Andre Glucksman wields the fact-value distinction with awesome force:

Pundita: A modern French philosopher displays clarity of thought. Pass the smelling salts.: Separating Truth and Belief by André Glucksmann Le Monde, 2006, 2 pp.

The anti-caricature campaign started by attacking a newspaper. It then focussed on Denmark as a defender of the freedom of the press, and now it has all of Europe in its sights, which it accuses of having a double standard. The European Union allows the Prophet to be denigrated with impunity, but it forbids and condemns other 'opinions' like Nazism and denial of the Holocaust. Why are jokes about Muhammad permitted, but not those about the genocide of the Jews? This was the rallying call of fundamentalists before they initiated a competition for Auschwitz cartoons. Fair's fair: either everything should be allowed in the name of the freedom of expression, or we should censor that which shocks both parties. Many people who defend the right to caricature feel trapped. Will they publish drawings about the gas chambers in the name of freedom of expression?

Offence for offence? Infringement for infringement? Can the negation of Auschwitz be put on a par with the desecration of Muhammad? This is where two philosophies clash. The one says yes, these are equivalent 'beliefs' which have been equally scorned. There is no difference between factual truth and professed faith; the conviction that the genocide took place and the certitude that Muhammad was illuminated by Archangel Gabriel are on a par. The others say no, the reality of the death camps is a matter of historical fact, whereas the sacredness of the prophets is a matter of personal belief.

This distinction between fact and belief is at the heart of Western thought. Aristotle distinguished between indicative discourse on the one hand, which could be used to reach an affirmation or a negation, and prayer on the other. Prayers are not a matter for discussion, because they do not state: they implore, promise, vow and declare. They do not relate information, they perform an act. When the Islamist fanatic affirms that Europeans practise the 'religion of the Shoah' while he practises that of Muhammad, he abolishes the distinction between fact and belief. For him there are only beliefs, and so it follows that Europe will favour its own.

Civilised discourse analyses and defines scientific truths, historic truths and matters of fact relating to knowledge, not to faith. And it does this irrespective of race or confession. We may believe these facts are profane or undignified, yet they remain distinct from religious truths. Our planet is not in the grips of a clash of civilisations or cultures. It is the battleground of a decisive struggle between two ways of thinking. There are those who declare that there are no facts, but only interpretations – so many acts of faith. These either tend toward fanaticism ('I am the truth') or they fall into nihilism ('nothing is true, nothing is false'). Opposing them are those who advocate free discussion with a view to distinguishing between true and false, those for whom political and scientific matters – or simple judgement – can be settled on the basis of worldly facts, independently of arbitrary pre-established opinions.

A totalitarian way of thinking loathes to be gainsaid. It affirms dogmatically, and waves the little red, or black, or green book. It is obscurantist, blending politics and religion. Anti-totalitarian thinking, by contrast, takes facts for what they are and acknowledges even the most hideous of them, those one would prefer to keep hidden out of fear or for the sake of utility. Bringing the gulag to light made it possible to criticise and ultimately reject 'actually existing socialism'. Confronting the Nazi abominations and opening the extermination camps converted Europe to democracy after 1945. Refusing to face the cruellest historical facts, on the other hand, heralds the return of cruelty. Whether the Islamists – who are far from representing all Muslims – like it or not, there is no common measure between negating known facts and criticising any one of the beliefs which every European has the right to practice or poke fun at.

For centuries, Jupiter and Christ, Jehovah and Allah have had to put up with many a joke. The Jews are past masters at criticising Yaweh – they've even made it a bit of a speciality. That does not prevent the true believers of any confession from believing, or from respecting those of a different faith. That is the price of religious peace. But joking about gas chambers, raped women and disembowelled babies, sanctifying televised beheadings and human bombs all point to an unbearable future.

It is high time that the democrats regained their spirit, and that the constitutional states remembered their principles. With solemnity and solidarity they must recall that one, two or three religions, four or five ideologies may in no way decide what citizens can do or think. What is at stake here is not only the freedom of the press, but also the permission to call a spade a spade and a gas chamber an abomination, regardless of our beliefs. What is at stake is the basis of all morality: here on earth the respect due to each individual starts with the recognition and rejection of the most flagrant examples of inhumanity."


MarsEdit: Easy weblog editing


This Is Not Something That Wishing for a Pony Can Fix...

Holden watches George W. Bush the flip-flopper as he searches for a democracy-minded strongman in Iraq:

First Draft - My, My, How Things Change: Your President Speaks, June 24, 2005: "The Prime Minister is a great Iraqi patriot, he's a friend of liberty, he's a strong partner for peace and freedom.... I appreciate Prime Minister Jaafari's brave leadership. Prime Minister Jaafari is a bold man. I've enjoyed my discussions with the Prime Minister. He is a frank, open fellow who is willing to tell me what's on his mind. And what is on his mind is peace and security for the people of Iraq, and what is on his mind is a democratic future that is hopeful. I want to thank you for your courage. I want to thank you for your understanding about the nature of free societies. I want to thank you for helping Iraq become a beacon of freedom."

And now: 'The ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, told the head of the main Shiite political bloc at a meeting last Saturday to pass a "personal message from President Bush" on to the prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who the Shiites insist should stay in his post for four more years, said Redha Jowad Taki, a Shiite politician and member of Parliament who was at the meeting. Ambassador Khalilzad said that President Bush "doesn't want, doesn't support, doesn't accept" Mr. Jaafari to be the next prime minister, according to Mr. Taki, a senior aide to Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Shiite bloc. It was the first "clear and direct message" from the Americans on the issue of the candidate for prime minister, Mr. Taki said.'

I don't know about you, but I'm going off to reread Graham Greene's The Quiet American http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/asin/0143039024/braddelong00


MarsEdit: Easy weblog editing


Slate Editor of La Mancha By Jack Shafer

In "Make All Mistakes Twice", Jack Shafer saddles up and charges the windmills with his lance to defend the honor of http://washingtonpost.com executive editor Jim Brady's hiring of Ben Domenech.

Do not, however, think that Shafer offers Jim Brady any more significant defense than Rosinante's rider could. Shafer's argument that Jim Brady was right to hire a young guy with no significant clips who was rude enough to seriously piss off Glenn Reynolds and who had made Tom Maguire suspicious that he was making stuff up is... well, it's not clear. By my count, Shafer makes two jokes and two misrepresentations, and then withdraws from the field.

Shafer says that he doesn't "know of any editor who, absent an inkling, conducts a plagiarism investigation before hiring a writer." But here there was more than an inkling that Domenech was unreliable. A misrepresentation.

Shafer says that if "political activism should have disqualified Domenech from an opinion gig, we ought to apply the same standard to columnist-commentators William Safire, Pat Buchanan, George Stephanopoulos, James Carville, Peggy Noonan, Paul Begala, Mary Matalin, Tim Russert, Dick Morris, David Gergen, Chris Matthews, Joe Scarborough, Tony Blankley, and other politicos who have joined the commentariat. (Wait a minute, maybe that's a good idea!)" A joke.

Shafer says that objections to Domenech's hypocrisy about the need for civil discourse are "well taken, as long as nobody intends to exclude from polite political conversation people (like me)..." Another joke.

Shafer says that "promoting writers to do work beyond what their age and résumé would recommend isn't... bad idea... Michael Kinsley, Michael Lewis, Cameron Crowe, Lester Bangs, and Ted Conover." But nobody is claiming that there was ever any sign that Ben Domenech was like Michael Kinsley, Michael Lewis, Cameron Crowe, Lester Bangs, or Ted Conover, are they? A misrepresentation.

And do not think that Shafer is doing this--whatever this is, and for whatever reason he is doing it--to be friendly to Jim Brady (whom Shafer says he "considers... a friend"): Brady's strategy is complete and total radio silence, in the hope that critics with unanswerable criticisms will lose interest and go away. He doesn't want people like Shafer stirring the pot.


Charlie Stross Does X-treme Fiction Writing

This kind of thing should only be attempted by trained professionals hyped up on oatcakes and haggis:

Charlie's Diary: Being inclined towards crazy stunt performances, I'm planning on writing "Halting State" on my mobile phone. This is technologically feasible because the phone in question has more memory and online storage than every mainframe in North America in 1972 (and about the same amount of raw processing power as a 1977-vintage Cray-1 supercomputer).

It's a zeitgeist thing: I need to get into the right frame of mind, and I need to use a mobile phone for the same reason Neal Stephenson used a fountain pen when he wrote the Baroque cycle. Afters all, I want to stick my head ten years into the future. Personal computers are already passé; sales are declining, performance is stagnating, the real action is all in the interstitial networked devices that keep washing up on the beaches of our bandwidth ocean, crazy-weird things like 3G phones and battery-powered network attached storage boxes and bluetooth-controlled vibrators. (It's getting weird out there in embedded intelligence land; the net is alive to the sound of pinging toasters, RFID chips are the latest virus target, and people are making business deals inside computer games.)

The internet's old hat too, even with a second dot com boom (and bust) looking: in ten years' time we'll be up to Web 3.1415926535 and counting. Gibsonian cyberspace fits the picture about the way the US interstate highway system fits in a 1960s road movie. It's time to move on.


MarsEdit: Easy weblog editing


Vox Baby: Bolten To Replace Card as Chief of Staff

Andrew Samwick writes about replacing Card with Bolten:

Vox Baby: Bolten To Replace Card as Chief of Staff: Bolten To Replace Card as Chief of Staff: The President announced today that Josh Bolten would replace Andy Card as White House chief of staff. This strikes me as a very good move. The administration achieved its major policy successes with Bolten in the White House as deputy chief of staff. He was underutilized at OMB, given the insufficiently ambitious deficit reduction goals set by the President. (Yes, that's a euphemism.)

Of all the people I met while working in the Executive Office of the President, there were three who impressed me most with their ability to understand complicated policy issues very quickly. Bolten was one. Another was Keith Hennessey, deputy director of the National Economic Council. The other was David Hobbs, director of legislative affairs, who has since moved on to lobbying. So Bush has a very smart guy running the show. This leaves the directorship of OMB vacant. I wouldn't be surprised if Joel Kaplan, the current deputy director, were promoted from the inside.

We can all agree that Andrew Card was the worst chief of staff ever: a man who was very good at making sure that the president heard only what he wanted to hear.

But I don't understand Andrew's enthusiasm for Bolten. First, I don't understand what "major policy successes" Andrew Samwick thinks the Bush administration accomplished with Bolten as deputy chief of staff. Major political successes, yes. But policy successes? By what moving-of-the-goalposts can the Bush policy record be characterized as better than a goose egg? And to the extent that Bolten was an effective deputy chief of staff, he bears his share of the blame.

And then there is this strange passage from Samwick: "[Bolten] was underutilized at OMB, given the insufficiently ambitious deficit reduction goals set by the President. (Yes, that's a euphemism.)" In other words, Bolten did not do his job at OMB. The job of the OMB Director is to be the pain-in-the-ass always arguing for sounder fiscal policy, for taxes to cover expenditures, and for expenditures that are cost effective. Bolten didn't do that. It's true that Bush didn't want him to do his real job. But that's the point: we want public servants, not presidential servants, in office.

My take: bad news. The Bush administration will continue to be worse than we imagine--even after taking account of the fact that it is worse than we imagine.


Busy, Busy, Busy Is Shrill!

The Ref's done been worked. And Busy, Busy, Busy is really shrill:

Busy, Busy, Busy: Shorter Deborah Howell: The Post and the Whole Picture in Iraq: "We're doing our best to publish all the good news we can find in Iraq but Christ, you know it ain't easy."

Plus: The way things are going, they're gonna crucify me.

Washington Post Ombudsman Deborah Howell is pained - pained! - by a letter from a reader who claims to believe that Washington Post journalists are allied with the "terrorists":

One critic of the coverage is John Dowd, a Washington lawyer: "I can't subscribe to your newspaper anymore because you have lost all sense of balance and perspective in your coverage of the war in Iraq and against the terrorists. It is clear to those of us who have our sons and daughters who are in harm's way that you support the terrorists and you are opposed to the efforts of our Marines, all who are sacrificing so that you are free to publish without interference."

Dowd's son Dan is a Marine captain, just back from his second tour as a helicopter pilot in Iraq. Dowd sees his son and other U.S. and Iraqi soldiers "as the most selfless people I've known in my life." I found his letter haunting; it pains me that he would think Post journalists support terrorists.

Think about that.

A reader accuses Washington Post journalists of siding with Goldstein - er, terrorists - and Deborah Howell doesn't think, "this man is either demented or trying to manipulate me. She doesn't crumple up and toss the letter and she doesn't add it to her loony folder, already overflowing with missives from crazed liberals. She does not take offense at the slur on her colleagues. Quite the opposite.

She takes the complaint seriously.

Think about that again.

Seriously: should Deborah Howell be taken seriously?


Impeach George W. Bush

Last Resort:

You may have all seen this already, but I just wanted to note this paragraph from yesterday's Times story about the memo detailing the prewar Bush-Blair meeting:

The memo also shows that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire, or assassinating Mr. Hussein.

Impeach George W. Bush. Impeach him now.


Brad Setser Is Shrill...

Brad Setser is irate at the continuing Economisterdammerung: the downfall of the Economist:

Roubini Global Economics (RGE) Monitor: The Economist's Lexington columnist needs to get out a bit more... Created: Mar 27 2006 Rather amazingly, the only US public intellectuals that seem to have made it onto Lexington's radar screen come from the American right. The Neocon right and its pet idea (invading Iraq), the economic right and its pet idea (tax cuts), the Harvey C- Mansfield right and its pet idea (manliness). And the ubiquitous Charles Murray. Lexington could not find any public intellectuals (or ideas) from the center, the center-left or the left worthy of mention... Not Mansfield's colleague Robert Putnam, who not only noticed that Americans' now bowl alone but also tried (perhaps without much success) to recreate a nation of civically-engaged joiners. Or any one working on ideas to remake America's costly and increasingly dysfunctional health care system. Warmed-over proposals to provide high-income Americans with yet another tax deduction (health savings accounts) hardly count as innovative.

I would say that the interesting policy debate on globalization currently is found on the left, not the right. The left takes seriously idea that the US needs to find ways to share the benefits of globalization more broadly and address growing concerns about economic insecurity and income volatility, even if there is not quite full agreement on how exactly to respond. At least the left doesn't just argue that higher CEO productivity justifies higher CEO pay (even though higher economy wide productivity doesn't seem to justify higher average pay). Or suggest that the right response to rising job insecurity is less social security.

Certainly the interesting policy proposals for addressing what has come to be called "global imbalances" have tended to come from the center and the left. The right - setting Martin Feldstein aside -- prefers to call Saudi and Chinese central bank financing of the US a market outcome... Or least argue that nothing much should be done about rising US current account deficit.

Policy intellectuals on the center-left, by contrast, have spent plenty of time developing up ideas for a coordinated global response to a growing problem, or even dreaming of new institutions to help emerging economies could get more bang for their (reserve) buck and in the process help to finance the provision of global public goods. At least the FT seems to have noticed. Andy Mukherjee too.

Rant over. I'll return to more technical analysis -- and commentary on the Economist's special section on China -- soon.


John Scalzi's Online Poll

pollView.jsp:

Uh, so, how are you?

  • Well, you know. Fine.
  • As happy as one can be without medication!
  • As happy as one can be with medication! Whoo-hoo!
  • Filled with nameless dread, which I shall name "Todd." Wait, now it has a name. Oh, God.
  • I'm great with honey butter!
  • I refuse to answer on the grounds that I doubt your interest is sincere. You goddamn fake.
  • I'm CAFFINATED!!! w00t!!!111!!1one1!
  • I'm gleeful as I plot your downfall, that's how I'm doing. And soon you will have blundered into my trap. Yes, yes.
  • I am because one night my mom and dad got busy. Isn't that how you are, too?
  • Hallucinating again. Now get your tongue out of my spicules, Admiral.

Ben Domenech's Best Clips?

So I wrote to Jim Brady of washingtonpost.com, asking for some examples of clips by Ben Domenech--you know, the clips that so impressed Brady that he hired Domenech in spite of his obvious deficits. I haven't gotten an answer. Somehow I don't think I well.

So I am turning to you, gentle readers. Do any of you have examples of writing by Ben Domenech that you would call "good" or "insightful" or "incisive"? If so, please send them along.


Dear Mr. Brady:

I am trying to get my mind around the bizarre and sorry story of Ben Domenech, and you know an important piece of it that I don't. I hope that you can help me.

I cannot understand why somebody like Ben Domenech--somebody who regards Jefferson Davis as a lover of America and Coretta Scott King as a communist--would possibly be regarded as a suitable hire for washingtonpost.com. Somebody so out of touch with basic American values, so mean-spirited, of such bad judgment.... It would seem predictable that the odds were very good that he would prove a source of great embarrassment and humiliation, even if it was not clear how beforehand.

Add to this the fact that how Mr. Domenech carries himself reminds Glenn Reynolds that he just can't call himself a conservative if Domenech is one http://instapundit.com/archives/001261.php and that more than three years ago Tom Maguire strongly suspected Mr. Domenech of making stuff up http://justoneminute.typepad.com/main/2002/07/i_like_to_think.html, and the decision to hire Mr. Domenech becomes well-nigh incomprehensible.

Surely there must be--somewhere in Mr. Domenech's record--some amazingly powerful good points: some clips of absolutely dazzling quality that blew the socks off you and your colleagues, and made you overlook Mr. Domenech's extraordinary and obvious deficits.

What were these clips of his that so impressed you? Could you please point me to them? If you can, it would be very helpful.

If you can't, that would be very helpful too, in a different way. I'm told that the betting in the print Post's newsroom is that this was a pure nepotism hire--with the value of exposure to Mr. Domenech's readers or its effect on the reputation of the Post the last thing on decision makers' minds.

Yours,

Brad DeLong


Deutsche Bank --> Bharat Bank

Outsourcing from central Europe. I had claimed in the past that German firms were largely invulnerable to white-collar outsourcing. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe Deutsche Bank is no longer a German-language firm

FT.com / Home UK - Deutsche Bank in job exodus to India: By David Wighton in New York Published: March 27 2006 03:00 | Last updated: March 27 2006 03:00

Deutsche Bank will have moved almost half the back-office jobs in its sales and trading operation to India by the end of next year as part of a reorganisation that has already helped boost revenues by more than €1.9bn (£1.3bn).

The plan will triple its global markets staff offshore to nearly 2,000, according to industry estimates. The bank is also looking to increase offshore research staff from 350 to 500, more than half the present global total of 900.

Deutsche's move comes as other big investment banks are also rushing to take advantage of the low cost of highly educated staff in India. JPMorgan Chase hopes to hire 4,500 graduates in India in the next two years with the aim of transferring 30 per cent of back-office jobs at its investment bank offshore by the end of next year.

The moves highlight the shift in the use of offshore facilities from traditional areas such as information technology support and call centres to more high-value tasks.

Mark Ferron, chief operating officer of Deutsche's global markets business, said the expansion in India was part of a wider reorganisation that had generated significant revenue increases and cost savings.

Deutsche has spent two years on the reorganisation, which is designed to break down the traditional product "silos" of debt and equity, cash and derivatives.

The motivation was partly cost reduction. "It was like Noah's Ark, we had two sets of everything," Mr Ferron said. But it also reflected the changing needs of clients who are demanding more complex transactions often involving different asset classes.

About 15 per cent of operational staff in Deutsche's markets business are offshore and the bank plans to lift this to 40-50 per cent by the end of next year.

Other investment banks expan-ding offshore include UBS, which next month will open its first centre in Hyderabad with an initial capacity for 500 jobs. Lehman Brothers expects to double its numbers in India to 1,000 this year and Credit Suisse is considering offshore expansion.


MarsEdit: Easy weblog editing


Bruce the Apostate

Fewer conservative--well, not "conservative," fewer Bush-loyal--websites are printing Bruce Bartlett's columns. So it is only fair that more reality-based websites do so:

Bruce Bartlett column for 3-29-06: Belatedly, Republicans in Congress have become concerned about the federal budget deficit. But this is making it harder for them to find the votes to extend previously enacted tax cuts, some of which expire in 2008 and all which disappear after 2010. Tax cut supporters are now arguing that failure to extend the tax cuts will actually cause revenues to fall, thereby defeating the goal of deficit reduction.

As the Wall Street Journal put it on March 23, “The revenue data are further proof of the success of the Bush tax cuts of 2003. The fastest way to stop this revenue windfall, and blow an even larger hole in the deficit, would be to fail to extend the 15 percent tax rate on capital gains and dividends through 2010, thus assuring a huge tax increase after 2008.”

The flip side of this argument is that the 2003 tax cuts are said to be raising federal revenue because of a Laffer curve effect. The Journal cited the “astonishing” 14.6 percent increase in federal revenue in 2005 over 2004, which it rounded up to 15 percent. It also noted that revenues in the first five months of fiscal year 2006, which began last Oct. 1, are up 10.3 percent over the same period in fiscal year 2005. No other evidence was offered.

But how likely is it that the Laffer curve is causing revenues to rise, as opposed to normal operation of the business cycle? Not much, in my opinion.

First of all, the Laffer curve came to prominence during a period when the top tax rate on dividends was 70 percent and the rate on long-term capital gains was 40 percent. Economist Arthur Laffer correctly pointed out that a 100 percent tax rate would raise no revenue and that rates close to this would reduce revenue below what a lower rate would bring in. Given the tax rates in existence, it was plausible to argue that a reduction in the top rate and capital gains tax would raise revenue.

However, when President Bush took office, the top rate on dividends was down to 39.6 percent and the rate on long-term capital gains was just 20 percent—far below the rates Ronald Reagan inherited. It is very implausible that these rates were in the “prohibitive” range of the Laffer curve, such that a rate reduction would raise revenue.

But even if we grant the theory, how likely is it that the recent rise in revenue owes anything to this effect? Again, not much.

The fact is that it is only in very exceptional circumstances that there would even be the possibility of a tax cut that would so stimulate growth that it would pay for itself. Even the Bush Administration admits this. The 2003 Economic Report of the President (pp. 57-58) says, “Although the economy grows in response to tax reductions…it is unlikely to grow so much that lost tax revenue is completely recovered by the higher level of economic activity.”

Recent academic research suggests that feedback effects would offset only a fraction of the static revenue loss, that which would result from no effect on consumption or incentives. A 2004 study by Harvard economists N. Gregory Mankiw and Larry Weinzierl found that a cut in taxes on capital might recoup 17 of the static revenue loss in the first three years and a cut in taxes on labor could recoup 13 percent. Mankiw served as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Bush. A study by the Congressional Budget Office in December 2005 found that a tax rate cut would recoup at most 20 percent of the static revenue loss in the first five years.

Overall federal revenues are just barely back to where they were five years ago in nominal terms. According to the CBO, federal receipts were $2,025.5 billion in 2000 and $2,153.0 billion in 2005. Revenues fell 1.7 percent in 2001, fell another 6.9 percent in 2002, and fell again by 3.8 percent in 2003. They didn’t start to bounce back until 2004, when they rose by 5.5 percent.

Revenues as a share of the gross domestic product fell every year from 2000 to 2004, from 20.9 percent to 16.3 percent. The 2005 increase only raised revenues to 17.5 percent—still well below their historical average of 18.1 percent of GDP. It seems to me that the normal cyclical expansion after the end of the recession in 2001 has done far more to raise revenue than any Laffer curve effect. Revenues are simply returning to trend, nothing more.

In short, there is very little likelihood that revenues are rising because the 2003 tax cuts or would fall if they are not extended. The case for extending them must be made on other grounds.


North of the Border

Paul Krugman is conflicted on immigration. In fact, I would say that he is confused--and probably wrong:

North of the Border - New York Times: by PAUL KRUGMAN: I'm instinctively, emotionally pro-immigration. But a review of serious, nonpartisan research reveals some uncomfortable facts about the economics of modern immigration, and immigration from Mexico in particular. If people like me are going to respond effectively to anti-immigrant demagogues, we have to acknowledge those facts.

First, the net benefits to the U.S. economy from immigration, aside from the large gains to the immigrants themselves, are small. Realistic estimates suggest that immigration since 1980 has raised the total income of native-born Americans by no more than a fraction of 1 percent.

Second, while immigration may have raised overall income slightly, many of the worst-off native-born Americans are hurt by immigration -- especially immigration from Mexico.... George Borjas and Lawrence Katz... estimate that U.S. high school dropouts would earn as much as 8 percent more if it weren't for Mexican immigration. That's why it's intellectually dishonest to say, as President Bush does, that immigrants do "jobs that Americans will not do." The willingness of Americans to do a job depends on how much that job pays -- and the reason some jobs pay too little to attract native-born Americans is competition from poorly paid immigrants....

Mexican immigration, says the Borjas-Katz study, has played only a "modest role" in growing U.S. inequality. And the political threat that low-skill immigration poses to the welfare state is more serious than the fiscal threat: the disastrous Medicare drug bill alone does far more to undermine the finances of our social insurance system than the whole burden of dealing with illegal immigrants. But modest problems are still real problems, and immigration is becoming a major political issue. What are we going to do about it?

Realistically, we'll need to reduce the inflow of low-skill immigrants. Mainly that means better controls on illegal immigration.... We need to do something about immigration, and soon. But I'd rather see Congress fail to agree on anything this year than have it rush into ill-considered legislation that betrays our moral and democratic principles.

I think that we should focus on: "the net benefits... from immigration, aside from the large gains to the immigrants themselves, are small." Particularly, we should focus on the "large gains to the immigrants themselves." The net benefits from immigration including the large gains to the immigrants themselves are enormous. We shouldn't forget that.

We should be taking steps to equalize America's income distribution: more progressive tax brackets, more public provision of services, a more generous Earned Income Tax Credit, a higher minimum wage, a greater focus on education. But tight restrictions on immigration are a really lousy anti-poverty policy: one with enormous excess burdens measured in money, and truly mammoth excess burdens measured in utility.


Unclear on the Concept of "Ombudsman"

The ombudsman of a newspaper--say, Deborah Howell of the Washington Post--is supposed to work for the newspaper's readers. Deborah Howell tells the Post's readers that she has no comment on the Ben Domenech affair because "The Washington Post has not hired him. The website has. The two are under totally different management. He will not be working for the newspaper. If you want to complain to the right person, try executive.editor@wpni.com."

But if you're not a reader of the Post talking to your representative, the ombudsman, you get a different story from Deborah Howell:

The (brief) life and (quick) death of a blog: Washingtonpost.com hired GOP operative Ben Domenech, a 24-year-old wonder boy with virtually no journalism background, to add an explicitly conservative voice.... It turns out there were strong indications that he was a serial plagiarizer. He resigned... and Post officials said he would have been fired had he not resigned.

It just happens that former Pioneer Press editor Deborah Howell, now the Post's ombudsman, was in our newsroom today for a Q&A session on journalism topics. I asked her about the Domenech affair. Her reply: "I can't defend it. It's a f**in' disaster."


The Mechanics of United Airlines

Louis Uchitelle on the mechanics of United Airlines:

Retraining for What? Mr. Nunnally had experienced the center's glory days. He joined United in 1989 as a 30-year-old mechanic in San Francisco and transferred to Indianapolis in 1994, drawn by the lower cost of living and the recently opened center. The mechanics in Indiana worked mostly on Boeing 737's, but as United expanded the operation — opening more repair bays, hiring more mechanics and extending the legs of the L-shaped building until each was nearly a half-mile long — they also overhauled other so-called narrow-body aircraft, including Airbus 319's and 320's and the larger Boeing 757's.

With morale high in the 1990's and the mechanics willing to work hard, they put airliners through their periodic overhauls in record time. The stem-to-stern refurbishing of a 737 normally required 22 days at other maintenance centers. The mechanics at Indianapolis cut that to 11 days for a 737 going through its first heavy maintenance and to less than 20 days for older planes. "We had overhaul bays that kind of competed in a friendly way to see who could do the best," said Frederick L. Mohr, general manager of the Indianapolis center from 1997 until 2002.... Capitalizing on the growing productivity, United itself got into outsourcing as a means of keeping the giant center busy during slack periods in its own operations. America West was sending 737's and 757's to Indianapolis for heavy maintenance, and by the spring of 1999 the work force had grown to 2,400 mechanics from fewer than 250 when Mr. Nunnally arrived in 1994. The fast turnarounds and reliable work justified the relatively high fees that United charged, and America West shifted maintenance to Indianapolis from a private, less expensive contractor in Portland, Ore., whose mechanics earned less....

What drove away America West was the labor trouble that erupted over the Fourth of July weekend in 1999 and then mushroomed into a prolonged slowdown. In retrospect, that weekend was the turning point, the moment when the remarkable efficiencies that had been achieved at Indianapolis began to unwind, and labor-management tensions that had been accumulating suddenly asserted themselves.... The incident that started United down the road to outsourcing and layoffs seemed so minor. During the trusting years, the foremen had relaxed the restrictions on the number of mechanics who could take vacation days at the same time. For that Independence Day weekend, more than 100 mechanics had been granted time off — 10 times the prescribed number.

Mr. Mohr, the general manager, was himself on vacation in the days leading up to the weekend, and he called the office to remind his lieutenants to be careful about allowing too many mechanics to be away. Somehow that became a wholesale, last-minute cancellation of vacation time, outraging the mechanics. "To this day, they get upset when they talk about what happened that weekend," Mr. Doucey said. The uproar over vacations stirred up other resentments — how United had gotten tough about sick days, how it had scaled back flexible hours, how it had substituted an 8-hour shift for a 10-hour one that allowed three- and four-day weekends, which the mechanics preferred.

"Once the vacation thing happened, that ignited a lot of small fires," Mr. Nunnally said. The militants in his local fanned those fires, arguing that the mechanics, because of their unique skills, were special people, essential to airline safety, and that United should be forced to recognize their value. Mr. Mohr resisted this logic. "Anything we had to do to respond to the business environment was seized upon by the mechanics as something negative," he said. Mr. Nunnally, who was then chairman of the lodge's grievance committee, was caught between management and his members, his leadership challenged by the militants, who numbered nearly 300 mechanics. "I said to Mohr, 'I have to have some wins, too; I can't be beaten in every grievance and do nothing,' " Mr. Nunnally said. "I practically begged him to cooperate, and he could not do that."

BY the fall of 1999, the mechanics were engaged in a slowdown. That is not difficult when airline safety is at issue. If an inspector, drawn from the ranks of the mechanics, finds fault with a newly refurbished wing flap assembly or some other repair, he writes up a ticket reporting the flaw or a potential malfunction; even if there isn't a problem, time has to be spent to investigate the issue to the satisfaction of the Federal Aviation Administration. As the mechanics had intended, turnaround time inched up, soon reaching 15 days and eventually more than 20 days for a 737. America West stopped sending planes to Indianapolis, as the mechanics had hoped. To regain the lost business, they expected United to restore some of the lost perquisites and thus win back the mechanics' cooperation. Jobs would be preserved, and on the mechanics' terms.... Then, in July 2000, the mechanics slowed work even more by voting to withhold overtime, to protest what the militants viewed as management's recalcitrance in negotiating a new contract to replace one that had just expired. Mr. Nunnally, as grievance chairman, had spoken against withholding overtime, and worked it himself, in defiance of his militant members, but his point of view did not prevail.

Soon after, the outsourcing began. United diverted work from Indianapolis to private contractors in Alabama and North Carolina, contractors who employed nonunion mechanics — in most cases, at lower wages and with fewer benefits. "The outsourcing was a business decision," Mr. Mohr said. "The cycle time had gotten to the point that if we did not outsource, we would have aircraft continuously parked, waiting for maintenance." When United and the union finally signed a new contract in March 2002... the mechanics' combined wages and benefits rose to more than $60 an hour, an increase of roughly $20... double the labor cost of nonunion contractors. It was too big a spread for the mechanics in Indianapolis to overcome — unless they could return to the record turnarounds achieved in the late 1990's. But the old efficiency did not reappear.

Even if it had, the outsourcing would not have stopped, and for a reason quite apart from labor costs. United would not submit again to the leverage over maintenance operations that the mechanics in Indianapolis had exercised....

Job training, as a result, became a channeling process, channeling the unemployed into the unfilled jobs that do exist, with a veneer of training along the way.... Saying that the country should solve the skills shortage through education and training became part of nearly every politician's stump speech.... But training for what? The reality, as the aircraft mechanics discovered, is painfully different from the reigning wisdom. Rather than having a shortage of skills, millions of American workers have more skills than their jobs require. That is particularly true of college-educated people, who make up 30 percent of the population today, up from 10 percent in the 1960's. They often find themselves working in sales or as office administrators, or taking jobs in hotels and restaurants, or becoming carpenters, flight attendants and word processors....

By the spring of 2004, however, out of more than 800 mechanics from United who had gone through her program or were still going through it, only 185 were working again. Despite their skill, 33 of those 185, or 18 percent, were earning less than $13.25 an hour working in warehouses, on construction jobs, in restaurants or in retailing. Some were "throwing boxes," as the mechanics put it, for FedEx, which paid them only $10 an hour at its shipping center in Indianapolis. They took the work, which entailed loading and unloading air freight packages, for two reasons: FedEx offered them company-paid health insurance, which some of the mechanics desperately wanted, and they saw in the job a gamble worth the hardship, given the glum alternatives....

Earning the old level of pay again was rare. Of the 185 mechanics back at work in the spring of 2004, most earned $14 to $20 an hour as heating and air-conditioning repairmen, auto mechanics, computer maintenance workers, freight train conductors (CSX happened to be hiring) or cross-country tractor-trailer drivers, having graduated from a two-week driver-training course offered by Ms. Bucko's people. THE relatively high number of mechanics who became truck drivers angered Mr. Nunnally, the union leader, who now made a living washing windows, which he did in partnership with another former mechanic.... Only 15 of the re-employed mechanics had regained their United wage level or exceeded it, and 8 of those 15 did so by becoming aircraft mechanics again. Several of the mechanics, stifling reluctance and resentment, had left Indianapolis to work for the companies that United and other airlines were using to do heavy aircraft maintenance. They were mostly younger mechanics with relatively little seniority when United laid them off and were still low on the wage scale, earning $19 or $20 an hour...


Department of "Huh?"

Tom Maguire reads Orlando Patterson in the New York Times, and Tom's head explodes:

JustOneMinute: It's Hard Out Here For A Black Man (Cont.): [Patterson writes:] SEVERAL recent studies have garnered wide attention for reconfirming the tragic disconnection of millions of black youths from the American mainstream. But they also highlighted another crisis: the failure of social scientists to adequately explain the problem.... The main cause for this shortcoming is a deep-seated dogma that has prevailed in social science and policy circles since the mid-1960's: the rejection of any explanation that invokes a group's cultural attributes — its distinctive attitudes, values and predispositions, and the resulting behavior of its members — and the relentless preference for relying on structural factors like low incomes, joblessness, poor schools and bad housing...

Why have academics been so allergic to cultural explanations? Until the recent rise of behavioral economics, most economists have simply not taken non-market forces seriously. But what about the sociologists and other social scientists who ought to have known better?....

Tom says:

I'm a bit surprised by his theme - I would have thought that problems with inner-city culture have been discussed for decades. Just for example, what have people meant by "babies raising babies", or by worrying about absent fathers?

What Tom doesn't understand is that Orlando Patterson has been frozen in a block of ice inside the Museum of Comparative Zoology for thirty years, and has no knowledge of the state-of-play of intellectual debates over poverty in America.

What remains a mystery is why Orlando Patterson is so interested in trashing:

The Urban Institute: Reconnecting Disadvantaged Young Men (Book)Author(s): Harry Holzer, Peter Edelman, Paul Offner. By several recent counts, the United States is home to 2 to 3 million youth age 16 through 24 who are out of school and out of work Much has been written on disadvantaged youth, and government policy has gone through many incarnations, yet questions remain unanswered. Why are so many young people "disconnected," and what can public policy do about it? And why has disconnection become more common for young men--particularly African-American men and low-income men--than for young women? In Reconnecting Disadvantaged Young Men, Edelman, Holzer, and Offner offer analysis and policy prescriptions to solve this growing crisis. They carefully examine field programs and research studies and recommend specific strategies to enhance education, training, and employment opportunities for disadvantaged youth; to improve the incentives of less-skilled young workers to accept employment; and to address the severe barriers and disincentives faced by some youth, such as ex-offenders and noncustodial fathers. The result is a clear guidebook for policymakers, and an important distillation for anyone interested in the plight of today's disconnected youth. With a foreword by Hugh Price, former President and CEO, National Urban League

In fact, what remains a mystery is why Orlando Patterson himself seems to have no research strategy in mind at all other than to trash everybody else's research strategy:

A Poverty of the Mind - New York Times: we need a new, multidisciplinary approach toward understanding what makes young black men behave so self-destructively. Collecting transcripts of their views and rationalizations is a useful first step, but won't help nearly as much as the recent rash of scholars with tape-recorders seem to think. Getting the facts straight is important, but for decades we have been overwhelmed with statistics on black youths, and running more statistical regressions is beginning to approach the point of diminishing returns to knowledge.


MarsEdit: Easy weblog editing


Most Expensive Google Ad Keywords

Cory Doctorow writes:

Boing Boing: Most expensive Google ad keywords listed: This list of the highest-paying Google advertising keywords is exciting for its very dullness: if there's one thing that's become clear it's that in 2006, the most aggressive users of keyword advertising are asbestos lawyers, ambulance chasers, and mortgage brokers.

$54.33 mesothelioma lawyers
$47.79 what is mesothelioma
$47.72 peritoneal mesothelioma
$47.25 consolidate loans
$47.16 refinancing mortgage
$45.55 tax attorney
$41.22 mesothelioma
$38.86 car accident lawyer
$38.68 ameriquest mortgage


MarsEdit: Easy weblog editing


Wasn't This John Kerry's Health Plan?

Wasn't this John Kerry's health plan? Just askin...

Marginal Revolution: Jane Galt's health plan:

Have the government pay for all health care expenditures above 15% of adjusted gross income, and cover 100% of health care expenditures by people living under 200% of the poverty line.

This preserves the market in most health care services--happy HSA advocates! It is progressive, and provides universal coverage--happy single-payer advocates! It directs coverage to those who really need it--the very sick--without a middle class subsidy--happy Jane! And it preserves market prices for almost everything from hospital beds to surgical procedures, since a significant fraction of the market will be paying their own way. That keeps the government from having to set prices, which as Soviet Russia showed us, is generally a bad idea. Most importantly (from my perspective) it preserves the market for innovations in drugs and medical equipment.

Here is the full post. My guess is that this needs to be defined across wealth rather than income, if only to a) cover the retired elderly, and b) prevent people from tanking their incomes when family members get sick. It could therefore resemble extreme means-testing for Medicare, one of my favorite ideas. Except it would treat young and old on the same plane.

One worry I've had about means-testing is the implicit tax hike on wealth creation. How steeply would this implicit tax rise, as health care consumes a growing percentage of gdp? And when suppliers are charging the eligibles (what percent of the population lies below 200% of the poverty line?), what kind of controls must we impose on the contracts? Would any doctor or hospital down here in Cajun country have free prices?

The problems Tyler points to are big ones. But I think that, in this case, the cure would not be worse than the disease--as long as Jane's plan was not implemented by the George W. Bush administration, that is.


US Pension Bill Allows Big Cut in Contributions

The Financial Times is upset at the pension bill as well:

MSN Money - Financial Times Business News: US pension bill allows big cut in contributions : Employers will be able to slash their contributions to underfunded pension schemes by tens of billions of dollars over the next five years under proposed legislation before Congress that was expected to have the opposite effect. The legislation was proposed by the White House last year to lessen the risk of a taxpayer bailout of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, a federal safety net for pension schemes. According to an analysis prepared this week by the Joint Committee on Taxation, which does bipartisan technical work on legislation for Congress, The Pension Security and Transparency Act of 2005 would bring at least $10bn in additional tax revenue as employers reduce pension contributions on which they would have been eligible for tax relief. Assuming an average corporate tax rate of 35 per cent, the data suggest a temporary but significant drop in employer payments into pension schemes over the next few years.

The analysis shows tax revenues will rise by $10.2bn under the House version of the bill, and by $12bn under the Senate's, between 2006-11 as a result of the weakened contribution requirements. Funding of pension schemes would reach a low ebb in 2008 under both versions, while tax relief for increased contributions would not begin to rise until 2011....

Separately, Bradley Belt, executive director of the PBGC, announced on Thursday he intends to step down at the end of May "to pursue other opportunities". A spokesman for the PBGC declined to comment on Mr Belt's departure beyond the resignation letter. In a speech two weeks ago, Mr Belt called for both congressional bills to be strengthened and warned that if "the end-product...is a bill that fails to improve on the current law, the president's senior advisers have said they will recommend a veto". Both bills fall far short of the goals set out for legislation proposed last year by the White House, which had formally threatened a veto unless certain measures in either bill are altered.

Of particular note are provisions in the Senate version of the bill which allow the airline industry up to 20 years to fully fund its pension deficits and also give it much wider leeway in the assumptions it uses to determine whether or not company schemes are fully funded....

If you have a company pension, and if you are not an idiot, you need to vote against your Republican Congressman who have doublecrossed you on this. Just sayin'.

Meanwhile, Wonkette's commenters deal with the Bush administration's reaction to this news in the only appropriate way:

And what did the White House have to say about all this?

Question: Scott, Bradley Belt resigned or quit from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Do you know why? Can you fill us in?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I don’t have any more on that. I mean, I’d be glad to take a look at it, but I imagine it’s probably in his letter why he left.


"I imagine?" WTF?

"Why I imagine that Bradley Belt was yanked into the land of Faerie, to serve as slave and jester in the court of Oberon the Faerie King for the next 650 years. Perhaps he will be given the ears of a donkey! Perhaps he will be transformed into a Rowan tree at the whim of the capricious magical King! Who knows! This is Scott McClellan: IMAGINEER."

by Alfonso X. Alfonse on 03/24/06 02:59 PM


The U.S. Trade Deficit Once Again

Dan Altman writes a good article on America's trade deficit:

A Stickier Trade Gap - New York Times: By DANIEL ALTMAN

Last year was the eighth in a row with a record-setting deficit in the nation's current account.... Yet once upon a time, that big deficit turned around, and it took a mere five years.... From 1987 to 1991, the annual current account deficit fell from a peak of almost $161 billion--equivalent to about 3 percent of the domestic economy--to less than $3 billion. This time, however, the challenge is bigger: the deficit of $805 billion for 2005 was about 6 percent of the domestic economy. And there are other factors that could make a turnaround much more difficult.

First, consider what took place in the late 1980's and early 1990's. The dollar was falling rapidly against foreign currencies, partly as a result of coordination by the governments of the world's five biggest economies. As the dollar fell, American investments became less attractive to foreign investors; the same returns would be worth less when converted into their home currencies. The returns themselves were falling, too.... But even if exchange rates change with the euro and Japanese yen, it probably won't solve the problem the way it did from 1987 to 1991. The big difference is the "changing shares of who we import from, and very few changes in who we export to," said Catherine L. Mann, a senior fellow at the Institute for International Economics, a research group in Washington. "It's important, because who we import from increasingly is from countries that have exchange rates that have not moved very much."

Back in 1987, the nation's current account deficit with Japan and Europe, which had fairly flexible currencies, was 62 percent of the total deficit. Last year, it was just 32 percent.... These changes matter, because countries like China protect their currency links by keeping plenty of dollar-denominated securities in reserve in their central banks. Private investors help out, too, and all those purchases of American securities keep the dollar's value relatively high. When the dollar's value drops relative to the euro and the yen, its exchange rates with the Chinese yuan and a bevy of other currencies don't follow suit.

Moreover, even if the economies of Europe and Japan picked up sharply, it might not help American exports as in the late 1980's. "Today, a really big boom for them is a lot smaller, because they've just slowed down so much in terms of their average growth rates," Ms. Mann said....

"The U.S. capital markets are where people want to invest their money right now," Professor Hodrick said, "and the performance of our economy has been really extraordinary, so there's no reason to think that that's a bad idea."...

Hodrick simply has not looked at the capital inflow data closely: there's little reason to think that true private capital flows to America are large right now. Dan should have probed more deeply--and brought up somebody like Marty Feldstein to rebut.

Me? I still think that a soft landing for the U.S.--either a gradual shrinkage of the deficit or a sharper move triggered not by U.S. macroeconomic distress but by a burst of inflation in Asia--is more likely than a hard landing. But we are well into the danger zone, and getting further in with each passing day.


WSJ Interview of Thomas Sowell

The Unknown Professor directs us to a...

Financial Rounds: WSJ Interview of Thomas Sowell: ...Wall Street Journal interview of Sowell. Not surprisingly (since he's 76), he's refreshingly old school. He makes a critical distinction between how he presents his views within the classroom vs. without: 'Mr. Sowell may be an unabashed free-market adherent, but he's proud to say that Professor Sowell left his personal views out of the classroom. In his 2000 memoir, "A Personal Odyssey," he relates an episode in which some students approached him after taking his graduate seminar on Marxian theory. They expressed appreciation for the course but added, "We still don't know what your opinion is on Marxism." He took it as an unintended compliment. "My job was to teach them economics, not teach them what I happen to believe," says Mr. Sowell...'


MarsEdit: Easy weblog editing


Mr. Potato Head Joins the War on Easter!

The "Easter Bunny" version of Mr. Potato Head:

is sold as part of a "Spring Basket." Apparently Playskool wants to sell Mr. Potato Head Easter Bunnies to Jews and Muslims and Atheists as well as to Christians who aren't too clear on the meaning of Easter.

I say Playskool should differentiate. I see a number of different Mr. Potato Heads associated with different spring religious festivals:

  • Lenten "Mr. Potato Head, Come Forth!" Edition: with Mr. Potato Head as Lazarus.
  • Holy Thursday "Deny Me Thrice" Edition: with Mr. Potato Head as Simon Peter.
  • Good Friday "Wash My Hands" Edition: with Mr. Potato Head as Pontius Pilate.
  • Greek "Liberation of Persephone" Edition: with Mr. Potato Head as Hades.
  • Noruz "Zoroastrian New Year" Edition: with Mr. Potato Head as Ahura Mazda.
  • Babylonian "Slaying of Tiamat" Edition: with Mr. Potato Head as Marduk.
  • Passover "Slaying of the Firstborn" Edition: with Mr. Potato Head as Azrael, the Angel of Death.

Reserve Diversification

Larry Summers thinks that poor countries should be earning higher returns on their reserves:

WSJ.com - Summers Prods Officials In Emerging Markets To Diversify Reserves: Lawrence Summers... said emerging-market governments should consider diversifying their reserves away from "maximally liquid, maximally safe" short-term securities, such as U.S. Treasury debt.... Mr. Summers said China, Taiwan, Russia, Thailand, India and other countries with significant reserves should consider "more aggressive investment -- either in support of imports that have a high social return or in a much richer menu of international assets."... "It is an irony of our times," Mr. Summers said, "that the majority of the world's poorest people now live in countries with vast international financial reserves -- It is appropriate that some part of the focus of the international financial architecture move towards the challenge of deploying their large reserves as effectively as possible."

Mr. Summers said the that "large flow of capital from the world's most successful emerging markets to the traditional industrial countries" is "the most surprising development in the international financial system over the last half dozen years." Measured as a share of U.S. gross domestic product, U.S. annual borrowing from abroad now amounts to 7%. As he has in past speeches, Mr. Summers cautioned that the U.S. cannot continue to accumulate debt to foreigners at the pace as which it has been...


Ben Domenech One Last Time (Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?)

Ben Domenech's Parthian shot at RedAmerica was an attack on Steve Levitt and Steve Dubner:

Red America: In regards to another old post where I referenced something written by Father Richard John Neuhaus regarding the book "Freakonomics", I suggest that people actually take the time to read what is said. Neuhaus is setting up in blunt terms the logical consequences of the argument made in "Freakonomics" that hey, abortion may be icky, but at least it deters crime by eliminating people who may become criminals -- in this case, minority children in urban areas.

Is that what Levitt and Dubner argued? No. Let's roll the tape, starting on page 137 of Freakonomics:

By 1970 five states had made abortion entirely legal and broadly available.... On January 22, 1973, legalized abortion was suddenly extended to the entire country with... Roe v. Wade.... The Supreme Court gave voice to what the mothers in Romania and Scandinavia--and elsewhere--had lone known: when a woman does not want to have a child, she usually has good reason.... For any of a hundred reasons, she may feel that she cannot provide a home environment that is conducive to raising a healthy and productive child....

What sort of woman was most likely to take advantage of Roe v. Wade? Very often she was unmarried or in her teens or poor, and sometimes all three.... Childhood poverty and a single-parent household... are among the strongest predictors that a child will have a criminal future....

In the early 1990s, just as the first cohort of children born after Roe v. Wade was hitting its late teen years... the rate of crime began to fall.... And the crime rate continued to fall as an entire generation came of age minus the children whose mothers had not wanted to bring a child into the world. Legalized abortion led to less unwantedness; unwantedness leads to high crime; legalized abortion, therefore, led to less crime.

This theory is bound to provoke a variety of reactions, ranging from disbelief to revulsion.... The likeliest first objection is the most straightforward one: is the theory true?...

[E]arly legalizing states saw crime begin to fall earlier than the other[s].... [T]he states with the highest abortion rates in the 1970s experienced the greatest crime drops in the 1990s.... (New York City had high abortion rates and lay within an early-legalizing state, a pair of facts that further dampen the claim that innovative policing caused the crim drop.)...

To discover that abortion was one of the greatest crime-lowering factors in American history is... jarring. It... calls to mind a long ago dart attributed to G.K. Chesterton: when there aren't enough hats to go around, the problem is not solved by lopping off heads.... [O]ne need not oppose abortion... to feel shaken by the notion of a private sadness being converted into a public good....

[W]hat are we to make of the trade-off of more abortion for less crime?... For a person who is either resolutely pro-life or resolutely pro-choice, this is simple.... But let's consider a third person... [who] does not believe that a fetus is the 1:1 equivalent of a newborn... [but] for the sake of argument... decides that 1 newborn is worth 100 fetuses. There are roughly 1.5 million abortions in the United States every year... the equivalent [for this third person] of a loss of 15,000... the same number of people who die in homicides... and far more than the number of homicides eliminated... due to legalized abortion.... [E]ven for someone who considers a fetus... only one-hundredth of a human being, the trade-off between higher abortion and lower crime is, by an economist's reasoning, terribly inefficient.

Is that argument of Levitt and Dubner's fairly summarized by Domenech's "hey, abortion may be icky, but at least it deters crime by eliminating people who may become criminals -- in this case, minority children in urban areas"? No, it is not. Levitt and Dubner make it very clear that they think that abortion-on-demand is a big loser as an anti-crime policy.

Were I a trier of fact on this issue, I would conclude that Domenech's claims about the argument of Freakonomics are not only false but knowingly false, and made with deliberate and conscious malice.

Why do Domenech (and Richard John Neuhaus) falsely and maliciously misrepresent what Levitt and Dubner say? The only answer I have come up with is this: for the same reason that male dogs lick their testicles--because they can. Lying is simply what Domenech (and Neuhaus) do.

Why doesn't the Washington Post append a correction, stating that Domenech (and Neuhaus) have misrepresented the argument of Freakonomics, and regretting the error? Once again everybody: why do male dogs lick their testicles?


MarsEdit: Easy weblog editing


Mickey Kaus Has Reduced Michael Hiltzik to a Puddle of Shrillness

Michael deserves nothing but our sympathy. There, there, Michael. I know it's hard. Go out to Santa Monica (you know--where Mickey claims the crack gangs run wild) and smell the flowers. It will get better. I promise.

A Platoon of Ignoramuses: You can always measure a writer's level of self-delusion by seeing what he points to as his best work. Mickey Kaus points us to the transcript of a joint appearance he made yesterday on Hugh Hewitt's radio show with Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds, in which the three of them agree heartily with each other like three bobbleheads on the dashboard of the same pickup. I don't know how else to describe this session, other than [censored].... Better to have kept this one under wraps, Mickey....

[Kaus] seems to buy into the argument that the elite media is leading the American public down the path of ignominious defeat and all but consciously aiding and abetting the enemy by signaling that they only have to wait out George Bush, and the US will withdraw. At one point Kaus unloads this amazing apercu:

Sure, the people in Iraq watch the American media often more closely than Americans do.

(It's followed by Reynolds's observation: "It's an information war. Terrorism is an information war disguised as a military conflict." To which we can all say in unison: Huh?).... Watching the right wing buffing up the argument that the liberal media are fomenting defeat in Iraq is an unedifying spectacle. It's dependent on the delusion that the war is going just spinningly, that we've got 'em where we want 'em, and it's just a matter of time before all resistance collapses--unless the virus of defeatism spreads. It also traps the rightosphere in self-contradiction: They can't claim that the traditional media are irrelevant and marginal while also granting us the influence to snooker the entire American populace into anti-war fanaticism. They can't have it both ways. The only person in America with the power to turn the country against the war is George W. Bush, and he's been doin' a heck of a job.

As for Kaus, he's certainly been flailing around lately, no? But giving aid and comfort to the enemies of coherent thought, that's a bit much...


Europe's Fiscal Constitution

Mark Thoma finds that Brad DeLong is worried:

Project Syndicate : Is the German government's willingness to issue more debt and run bigger deficits limited because the market recognizes and penalizes nation states that allow their fiscal positions to weaken? In a word, no. The interest rates on the euro-denominated sovereign debt of the twelve euro-zone governments are all very similar. So the market does not seem to care that countries have different potentials to generate exports to fund the financial flows needed for debt repayments, or different current and projected debt-to-GDP ratios.

Willem Buiter of the University of Amsterdam and Anne Sibert of the University of London believe that it is the ECB's willingness to, in effect, accept all euro-zone debt as collateral that has undermined the market's willingness to be an enforcer of fiscal prudence. As long as the marginal piece of German debt is used as collateral for a short-term loan or as the centerpiece of a repurchase agreement to gain liquidity, its value is much more likely to be determined by the terms on which the ECB accepts it as collateral than by its fundamentals. The ECB%u2019s treatment of all such debt as equally powerful sources of back-up liquidity now trumps any analysis of differences in long-term sovereign risk.

In the long run, this is dangerous. Both market discipline and sound fiscal management are needed to create a reasonable chance of long-run price stability. Omit either a market penalty now for behavior that may become reckless or the institutional levers that give a voice to future generations, and you run grave risks -- perhaps not today or tomorrow, but someday, and for the rest of your life...


A Really Good Idea

Max Sawicky suggests that the Washington Post hire Tom McGuire to "replace" Ben Domenech. That is a really good idea:

MaxSpeak, You Listen!: MAXSPEAK RESCUES
wapo.JPG
: Well, there you have it. McGuire's the one. Post, you don't have to thank me, because it is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.

JustOneMinute

As a runner-up, my choice is

Andrew Samwick.


Ben Domenech Speaks

Ben Domenech speaks:

The folks at washingtonpost.com understand my position and are convinced by my arguments on many of these issues... [but] there is no way this blog can continue without being permanently tagged to this firestorm. Therefore, I have resigned this position with washingtonpost.com. This is a shame. As you all know, I am a conservative, but not a partisan – I believe had this blog been allowed to continue, it would have been a significant addition to the Post's site.... To my friends: thank you for your support. To my enemies: I take enormous solace in the fact that you spent this week bashing me, instead of America.

Wow!


RedState - Conservative News and Community: Red America Ends By: Augustine · Section: Miscellania: Red America, my new blog at washingtonpost.com, has been under attack since its launch. It is a conservative blog on a mainstream media site, so many of the attacks were expected. If one bothers to read it, I believe it stands as a welcome addition to the opinion debate.

The hate mail that I have received since the launch of this blog has been overwhelmingly profane and violent. My family has been threatened; my friends have been deluged; my phone has been prank called. The most recent email that showed up while writing this post talked about how the author would like to hack off my head, and wishes my mother had aborted me.

But in the course of accusing me of racism, homophobia, bigotry, and even (on one extensive Atrios thread) of having a sexual relationship with my mother, the leftists shifted their accusations to ones of plagiarism. You can find the major examples here: I link to this source only because I believe it's the only place that hasn't yet written about how they'd like to rape my sister.

I know that charges of plagiarism are serious. While I am not a journalist, I have, myself, written more than one thing that has been plagiarized in the past. But these charges have also served to create an atmosphere where no matter what is said on my Red America blog, leftists will focus on things with my byline from when I was a teenager.

I can rebut several of the alleged incidents here. The most recent accusation, is that I stole a music review from Crosswalk and passed it off at National Review Online. In fact, I wrote both lists myself; I was one of Crosswalk's music review contributors at the time.

The Left has also accused me of foisting Sen. Frist quotes and some descriptive material from the Washington Post for a New York Press article on the Capitol Shooter. But the quotes I used were either properly credited or came from Sen. Frist’s press conference, which I attended along with many other reporters. So it is no surprise that we had similar quotes or similar descriptions of the same event. I have reams of notes and interviews about the events of that day. I also went over the entire piece step by step with NYPress editors to ensure that it was unquestionably solid before it ran.

Virtually every other alleged instance of plagiarism that I’ve seen comes from a single semester’s worth of pieces that were printed under my name at my college paper, The Flat Hat, when I was 17.

In one instance, I have been accused me of passing off P.J. O'Rourke's writing as my own in a column for the paper. But the truth is that I had met P.J. at a Republican event and asked his permission to do a college-specific version of his classic piece on partying. He granted permission, the piece was cleared with my editors at the paper, and it ran as inspired by O’Rourke’s original.

My critics have also accused me of plagiarism in multiple movie reviews for the college paper. I once caught an editor at the paper inserting a line from The New Yorker (which I read) into my copy and protested. When that editor was promoted, I resigned. Before that, insertions had been routinely made in my copy, which I did not question. I did not even at that time read the publications from which I am now alleged to have lifted material. When these insertions were made, I assumed, like most disgruntled writers would, that they were unnecessary but legitimate editorial additions.

But all these specifics are beside the point. Considering that all of this happened almost eight years ago, and that there are no files or notes that I've kept from that brief stint, it is simply my word against the liberal blogosphere on these examples. It becomes a matter of who you believe.

The truth is, a more responsible teenager would've nipped this sort of thing in the bud. A less sloppy writer would have made sure that material copied from other places never made it into a published piece, and never necessitated apologies or explanations that will do nothing to stop the critics. I was wrong not to do so.

But I do have one other collegiate example that might be to the point. When I was a junior in college, I wrote an article about liberal protests against Henry Kissinger’s visit to our campus. The leftists featured in the piece tried to get me kicked out of school. They mounted a six-month campaign against me. They posted fliers about me on campus. They sent me reams of hate mail. Ultimately, they were unsuccessful – the Honor Council completely cleared my name and the article as the truth. The events of the past 72 hours seem like a rerun of that experience.

The truth is, no conservative could write for the Post without being subject to the gauntlet of the liberal attack machine. There is no question in my mind that any RedState contributor writing for this blog would have found leftists delving through his high school yearbooks and grade school book reports in an effort to discredit and defame him. And if you too were a sloppy teenage writer, your errors or the errors of others would’ve been exploded.

I have a great many friends who are willing to stand and defend me on this. I appreciate their support. I have enormous respect for Jim Brady and the vision he has at WPNI. But while the folks at washingtonpost.com understand my position and are convinced by my arguments on many of these issues, they also feel that the firestorm here will only serve to damage us all, and that there is no way this blog can continue without being permanently tagged to this firestorm. Therefore, I have resigned this position with washingtonpost.com.

This is a shame. As you all know, I am a conservative, but not a partisan – I believe had this blog been allowed to continue, it would have been a significant addition to the Post's site. The Post showed bravery by including a conservative voice, and I hope they continue to seek that balance.

While my blog was only alive for a week, it did have one result that was encouraging. If the change of heart described here continues, it will all have been worth it.

To my friends: thank you for your support. To my enemies: I take enormous solace in the fact that you spent this week bashing me, instead of America.

Regards,

Ben


Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?

Dana Milbank has a very good question for washingtonpost.com's Jim Brady:

Post Politics Hour: Dana Milbank: OK, so it looks like 99% of the queries this morning are about this "Red America" blog and one Ben Domenech.... What I don't understand (although I haven't inquired) is why the website couldn't recruit somebody with more stature to do the job. This city is crawling with good conservative journalists with lots of heft. Domenech may be a smart fellow, but he's 24 years old and tells Kurtz "I'm not a journalist." I think that makes him the only "blogger" on the site who's not a journalist.

Well?


Wallet Biopsies

Kevin Drum joins the Legions of Righteousness as we laugh at--not with, at--the Washington Post's Ben Domenech:

The Washington Monthly: THE APOCALYPSE....I'm feeling left out of the Ben Domenech bashing, so let's take a crack at his latest post, which he mildly calls "one of the ever-growing number of signs of the apocalypse": In brief:

A group of British doctors fought in court for the right to remove a fully-conscious little boy from a ventilator, over the objections of his parents, because they judged his quality of life to not be worth living.

Damn socialists. It's a good thing that a God fearing man like George Bush would never sign legislation to allow such a thing to happen, isn't it?

In any case, I'm glad to see Ben arguing that the state should be obligated to provide medical care for sufficiently sick people. It's a start

Kevin misrepresents George W. Bush's Texas law. Ben Domenech's hero, George W. Bush, went much further than the doctors in Britain wished to. Bush's law allows hospitals to pull the plug not in the interest of mercy--for patients in great pain, or with no consciousness--but in the interest of $$$$$: if you can't pay, your ventilator goes.

The Republican wingnut position is that your right to life is absolute--unless you're poor, and it gets in the way of the financial interests of some for-profit hospital.


Fire Howard Kurtz Now (Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?)

Ben Domenech tells Howard Kurtz a number of things that both know to be false, and Kurtz prints them without any attempt at fact-checking:

Some Readers See Red Over Post.com's New Blogger: By Howard Kurtz: The Washington Post Co.'s Web operation has touched off an online furor by hiring as a blogger a 24-year-old former Bush administration aide who co-founded a conservative site and recently referred to Coretta Scott King as a "communist." Ben Domenech, an editor at the conservative Regnery Publishing, said he regrets the King reference, which he insists was tongue-in-cheek....

Jim Brady, executive editor of Washingtonpost.com, said Domenech was hired because "we were completely unrepresented by a social conservative voice." He said his goal "is to provide voices from as many perspectives as possible" and that Domenech is not intended to balance anyone in particular on his staff. Domenech is "controversial" and the fact that liberals object to his hiring "shouldn't really be a shock to anybody," Brady said....

Domenech, who was home-schooled by his mother in South Carolina and Virginia, says he began writing for the conservative publication Human Events when he was 15 and continued until he left to attend the College of William & Mary. He was an intern and researcher for the Bush White House, served as a speechwriter for Tommy Thompson, then the health and human services secretary, and then spent two years working for Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.).

Late yesterday, the liberal Web sites Daily Kos and Atrios posted examples of what appeared to be instances of plagiarism from Domenech's writing at the William & Mary student paper. Three sentences of a 1999 Domenech review of a Martin Scorsese film were identical to a review in Salon magazine, and several sentences in Domenech's piece on a James Bond movie closely resembled one in the Internet Movie Database. Domenech said he needed to research the examples but that he never used material without attribution and had complained about a college editor improperly adding language to some of his articles.


Deborah Howell Hightails for the Border...

Last fall, when Deborah Howell was making her strafing runs at Dan Froomkin, the idea that the Washington Post's ombudsman's brief did not extend to washingtonpost.com never entered her head. Today, however...

AMERICAblog: Because a great nation deserves the truth: Isn't this interesting. The Washington Post ombudsman is now saying she'll have nothing to do with the Post's Republican blogger scandal because it's not her jurisdiction.... Which is quite funny... the same ombudsman recently wrote an article critical of Post writer Dan Froomkin who writes exclusively on the .com, and considering that the Post's Republican blogger was apparently hired to address the "liberal bias" concerns that the ombusdman raised in that very column about .com writer Froomkin.

So in what possible world is this issue not in the jurisdiction of the Post's ombudsman when she started the entire thing in the first place in her own column?...

Here's the email the Post ombsudman is now sending out to everyone who inquires about the blogger scandal:

From: Deborah C Howell HowellDC@washpost.com
Date: March 23, 2006 9:44:05 PM EST
To: xxxxx
Subject: Re: Domenech

The Washington Post has not hired him. The website has. The two are under totally different management. He will not be working for the newspaper. If you want to complain to the right person, try executive.editor@wpni.com.

Deborah

Wow, they're two totally different companies, yet Deborah Howell had no problem writing a column attacking supposed "liberal" Dan Froomkin who works for the "other company" that Howell claims she now has no jurisdiction over. Amazing how tunes change...

A real ombudsman would write something like:

Post corporate headquarters is running the print paper and the website as separate companies located in separate states, largely to try to economize on labor costs. However, the reputations of the Washington Post newspaper and washingtonpost.com are inextricably intertwined. It is very unfortunate and regrettable that washingtonpost.com has hired a man whose idea of civil discourse is to call the late Coretta Scott King a "Communist" on the day of her funeral, and to condemn Justice Sandra Day O'Connor as worse than the KKK. We hope that washingtonpost.com will correct this error as soon as possible.

Standards, you know.


Unintentionally Hilarious Name Calling

The Washington Post's plan to discredit the right by giving airtime to Ben Domenech continues to be wildly successful--this time over what Ben calls his own "unintentionally hilarious name calling."

Ben Domenech writes now:

Red America: I'm happy that no one's engaged in any ridiculous hyperbole, unfounded accusations or unintentionally hilarious name-calling. We can all agree that such things lower the quality of debate on the Internet, play to the worst side of our knee-jerk partisan nature and have no place in the modern public square. I look forward to engaging you in a serious, respectful discussion on the issues that matter most to the future of our nation...

Ben Domenech writes then:

Red America: Democrats... the shrieking denizens of their increasingly extreme base...

|| RedState: Yeah... I just have this specific and deep-rooted dislike for everything Dan Froomkin says and does. He's one of the dozen or so people in the world that I just detest - along with Noam Chomsky, Eric Alterman, Louis Farrakhan, Barbra Streisand, Kate Michelman, Mitch Albom, Michael Irvin, David Duke, Peter Singer, and Rick Reilly...

|| RedState: I've just gotta say it: Dan Froomkin is without question a lying weasel-faced Democrat shill...

|| RedState: If one spends any amount of time reading the columns of washingtonpost.com's Dan Froomkin - whose status as leader of the hack is without compare - it's easy to realize that, on any given day, the cut and paste function has to be a tiring chore. Every day, it's use the same template, find a new reason to hate. "Bush is a liar because X." "The President is a fool because X." "The White House wants to kill your child's pet because X." Etc...

As "Your Logo Here" writes:

Your Logo Here: In his third installment... Ben Domenech does his best to convince us that he is amused by the firestorm created by his hiring, calling it an "impressive reaction."... Ben says:

I'm happy that no one's engaged in any ridiculous hyperbole, unfounded accusations or unintentionally hilarious name-calling. We can all agree that such things lower the quality of debate on the Internet, play to the worst side of our knee-jerk partisan nature and have no place in the modern public square.

By name-calling, does Ben mean calling Coretta Scott King a "communist"? Do statements such as "Al Gore can suck it" lower the quality of debate? Granted, regular readers know that I've done a good deal myself to lower the quality of debate. But the Post would never hire me because my father wasn't Jack Abramoff's man in Interior...


Former USAID Director Andrew Natsios Is Shrill!

Welcome, Andrew to the Ancient, Hermetic, and Occult Order of the Shrill. Practice your moans of unearthly terror this evening: you have a solo in tomorrow's concert:

The Washington Monthly: THE REPUBLICAN CRACKUP CONTINUES.....In Newsweek, Michael Hirsh reports that former USAID Director Andrew Natsios is the latest long-suffering Republican loyalist to finally crack. The CPA, under the authority of Paul Bremer, "didn't hire the best people," he now says. "We were just watching it unfold. They [the CPA] were constantly hitting at our people, screaming at them. They were abusive."

But perhaps this paragraph is more interesting: 'There is much more to come, especially on the little-noticed issue of contracting in Iraq, which the watchdog group Transparency International last year warned could become "the biggest corruption scandal in history." The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction is expected to issue a harshly critical report in May concluding that the CPA did not have disciplined contracting procedures in place, according to several people involved in drafting the report. If the Democrats manage to get control of the House later this year, it's all going to come in an avalanche of subpoenas and new investigations.

It's not censure or impeachment that Republicans are really worried about if they lose control of Congress. It's subpoenas. If they lose the ability to block Democrats from conducting genuine investigations backed by the subpoena power of Congress, the jig is up. And they know it.

I disagree. Even if Democrats have a majority of *some* chamber come 2007, the Bush White House will refuse to submit to subpoenas. It will dare the Congress to impeach, and focus on holding the stupid 2/3 of the Republican senators. We do have a constitutional crisis here.


Ben Domenech: Semper Fi

Atrios is sad:

Eschaton: Aw, Crap. I knew I should've saved the damn picture. Box Turtle Ben deleted the "Marine Sniper - you can run but you'll die tired" or whatever mug from his cafepress site.

nd never has been a Marine sniper, or a Marine, or a volunteer for America's armed forces. I bet he does play a mean shoot-em-up video game though.

You see, up until yesterday, the Washington Post's Ben "'Red Dawn' Is Not Just Another Cheesy Throwaway Sunday Afternoon Movie" Domenech sold "Marine Sniper - you can run but you'll die tired" mugs. Now he doesn't.

Now, Ben Domenech is not now nor has he ever been a sniper, or a Marine, or a member of our volunteer armed forces.

Now there is great honor in volunteering for America's military. Our soldiers, sailors, and airmen deserve our respect and our deference --including my grandfather the Marine (who died last week at 97), and my two cousins, one in Air Force flight training and the other in the 82nd. But those who merely sell "Marine Sniper" mugs--well, contrary to what John Milton said, they do not also serve.

And what do those who frantically purge their websites of "Marine Sniper" mugs when it begins to get some attention?

Semper Fi, Ben.


The Gift that Keeps on Giving...

No, no, Scott! Ben Domenech is so funny because he is so pathetic. I expected to find a huge amount of hypocrisy and stupidity. But even I didn't expect to find large-scale serial plagiarism. I mean, Elmer Gantry was at least competent:

Scott Rosenberg's Links & Comment: If it weren't so pathetic it would be hilarious. The Washington Post, caving in to a right-wing campaign against its blogger-columnist Dan Froomkin, recently hired a raging young conservative named Ben Domenech to start a blog called "Red America." If it were serious about balance, the Post would then have hired someone like Tom Tomorrow or Kos to bring the scales back to level. But then, they have track records. And they're not plagiarists.

Domenech, it turns out, spent his college years at William and Mary cribbing whole paragraphs from movie reviews in Salon (and other reviews by Steve Rhodes, and other pieces by P.J. O'Rourke.) I don't know which is worse: the act itself or the stupidity of doing so in 1999, as a college student in the Internet era, when you just have to know that it will catch up with you someday. Shouldn't he at least have been copying from National Review or the New Criterion? Did he figure none of his conservative pals would read Salon, so he could pilfer with abandon?

However the story plays out -- and it will, fast -- the black eye for the Post is, sadly, deserved.

Domenech has already posted an apology for complaining that President Bush shouldn't have attended Coretta Scott King's funeral because she was a "Communist." So far, no attempt to explain the multiple acts of plagiarism.