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"20,000 Layoffs." But signs that Dems are doing their research

Reporters don't have time to come up with data like this on their own. This must be a sign that the liberal research and policy organizations are coming to life, doing the miraculous little calculations that tell a story better than a thousand opinions:

Tax Cuts Will Do the Job, President Says (

Bush had summoned his economic advisers to his ranch for a two-hour meeting that consisted largely of self-congratulatory reports at a time when signs of a rebound are increasing.

A year ago today, the White House staged an economic forum in nearby Waco with expensive sets, lighting and logos. The 320 participants included a parcel delivery driver, a welder, homemakers and grandmothers. Since then, 13 firms represented at the forum have announced at least 20,000 layoffs. This year, Bush heard only from his own appointees.

Posted by Mark Schmitt on August 14, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Google made a mistake

Now that I've played with typepad a little bit, I'm pretty sure that Google made a rare mistake in buying blogger. This is the real deal. Blogger seems stuck by comparison, useful for only the simplest blogs. Managing anything in the sidebar is impossible, and the new version of blogger only offers a few templates. I'm sure that if you know how to handle HTML, you can modify the template to do anything, but if you can do that, you might as well install Moveable Type. (And I tried to edit the HTML, with just my rudimentary skills, but the changes didn't seem to stick.) With this thing, in just a few days, I've got a cool design that I made myself, all kinds of good things on the sidebar, comments, trackback, etc. I mightl never use any of it, but it's definitely a blog that says, "This guy seems to know what he's doing," not some schmuck who just keeps posting "this is a test" over and over again.

Posted by Mark Schmitt on August 13, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

What We Knew and When We Knew It

Yesterday's Washington Post story on the manipulation of intelligence on Iraq was brilliant, a tour de force of the Post's best younger reporter (Bart Gellman) and best seasoned veteran (Walter Pincus). It had real sources, not just spinners, who asked not to be identified for legitimate reasons, and it had levels of intrigue unknown to us -- travels to Vienna and previously unreported U.S. investigations of suspected Iraqi nuclear sites. If there was any doubt that there is enough material in this sad episode to fully dominate the news over the last year and a half of a crippled and failed administration, this story should put that doubt to rest. If, that is, there were a bipartisan, House-Senate committee or an independent counsel ready to take it on.

As good as the reporting in the story was, it was remarkable how much of the story required no reporting at all, but was stuff that everyone knew all along. For example, the story quotes Dick Cheney: "We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons," he said. "Among other sources, we've gotten this from firsthand testimony from defectors, including Saddam's own son-in-law." And Gelllman and Pincus point out that Saddam's son-in-law, Hussein Kamal, defected in 1995, returned to Iraq and was murdered in 1996, so he could not be a source for current information about Saddam resuming his quest for nukes. Touche! But wait -- wasn't this obvious at the time? Is there any real reason we need investigative reporters to tell us this several months later. Can't we have some system where a red light goes off at the moment someone like Cheney makes such an absurd statement, and points out that it "appears to conflict with the actual events," or whatever the press corps phrase of choice is this week?

Another example: Gellman and Pincus recall Bush and Blair's assertion that Iraq could build a nuclear weapon in six months if it had access to enriched uranium. They quote an intelligence analyst who says, "That is just about the same thing as saying that if Iraq gets a bomb, it will have a bomb." But wasn't that also obvious at the time? Don't most of us know someone of whom it could be said, "They could build a nuclear weapon in six months if they could get hold of some enriched uranium"? My college roommate Chris Beggy could. That doesn't make him Saddam. It just means we should lock up the damn enriched uranium!

Three questions to consider: Why is it impossible to just say that a presidential statement is a ridiculous lie? Why does the U.S. press need a source to say such a very obvious thing? And has the Bush administration figured out that they can say anything as long as they maintain such discipline that no one ever makes themselves available as a source to the press to admit what is perfectly obvious?

Gellman and Pincus don't mention my own favorite obviously false statement: Bush's charge that the Iraqi's could fly drone aircraft into U.S. territory to spray us with sarin or Easy-Off or Round-Up or whatever noxious chemical they can find in the back of the shed. I remember assuming at the time that that didn't pass the laugh test, given that the earth is ROUND, which makes it pretty hard to control a drone from Iraq to the U.S. without a satellite. Right? And so I was particularly interested in this from Slashdot about an attempt to fly an 11-pound model airplane from Newfoundland to Ireland. A bunch of American geeks can't pull this off, and we're supposed to believe that Saddam was going to be able to send one of his balsa wood drones undected at least three times as far?

Posted by Mark Schmitt on August 11, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Typepad early adopter

Welcome to my latest attempt at a weblog. I've tried it before, but never managed to put anything more interesting than "this is a test" on it, or some random links, just to figure out how to use blogger or wbloggar or some other tool.

I seem to be an adherent of the yuppie fallacy -- that having the right tool equals having the skill. (See Orbis, Williams-Sonoma business plans.) I kept thinking that with a better tool than blogger, I would actually persist in maintaining a good blog. Maybe it's true. Typepad looks great, and I can have one of those slick movable-type blogs without having to figure out how to run perl on my earthlink account!

Posted by Mark Schmitt on August 5, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (1)