Senator Saxby still not sure if the economy’s in a recession.
International negotiators are flocking to PoznaÅ„, Poland to figure out how to extend the Kyoto protocol, whose climate targets end in 2012. I believe that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process is essentially dead — especially from a United States perspective — as I will discuss this week.
Still, PoznaÅ„ will be getting a lot of media attention from December 1 to 12, even if the United States is still represented by a bunch of bad cops. So here’s what you need to know. As the website on PoznaÅ„, aka COP-14, explains:
Bill Clinton is doing the right thing and preparing to do donor disclosure related to his foundation in order to clear the path for Hillary’s nomination as Secretary of State. I was shocked by how far her presidential campaign was able to go without Bill taking this step. Good for Obama for insisting on it, and good for the Clintons for complying.
Now, perhaps, we can refocus some attention on the scandal of George W. Bush’s library fundraising. All throughout the second term of his administration he’s been raising undisclosed, unlimited funds from foreign governments, businessmen, and God knows whoever else. The whole system is in need of reform, but there’s been basically no attention or reporting on Bush’s activities.
This morning of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) about a statement he made in July when he argued that the U.S. economy “may not be in a recession.” Wallace played a recording of Chambliss from an ad released by Jim Martin’s campaign:
CHAMBLISS: We may not be in a recession. I don’t know what that term means.
Chambliss attempted to defend himself, saying that he was “quoting Alan Greenspan.” Wallace, however, noted that while Chambliss used the Greenspan quote in July 2008, Greenspan had said in April 2008 that “we’re headed into a recession.” Chambliss responded by attempting (and failing) to fall back on the “technical definition” of a recession:
Chris, if you’ll remember, [a recession] was supposed to be two consecutive months of negative GDP, and at that point in time we hadn’t seen that. But, you know, economists disagree on the technical definition of recession, and obviously that’s what i was talking about.
Still, however, Chambliss could not bring himself to admit that the economy is in recession.
In attempting to appear knowledgeable about the economy by citing the “technical definition” of a recession, Chambliss actually demonstrated his ignorance. Indeed, Chambliss said this morning that a recession is “supposed to be two consecutive months of negative GDP” growth. In fact, the often cited — though misleading — definition of a recession to which Chambliss was referring says nothing about “two consecutive months,” but rather “two consecutive quarters.”
Definitions aside, Chambliss’s apparent inability to recognize that the U.S. is in a recession demonstrates he is uninformed about the state of the economy. Indeed, the Federal Reserve’s latest economic outlook “warned that a recession is believed already to be underway could last until mid-2009 or later.” Further, as Forbes recently reported on the significant rise in unemployment claims in recent months, “[c]laims above 400,000 are generally considered a sign of recession, and claims have been above that level for 17 weeks.”
Perhaps most startling is that according to a recent survey by the National Association of Business Economists, “96% of the economists surveyed” believe a recession has begun. While economists may disagree about what constitutes a recession, they seem to agree that the U.S. is in one.
Last night I went with my brother to see the Knicks-Warriors game and boy-oh-boy was it something. It just wasn’t much like “professional basketball” as that’s normally understood. The Knicks gave up 125 points. And won. Easily. Chris Duhon now holds the Knicks franchise record with 22 assists. It’s a little sad. For a longtime franchise like the Knicks, that record should be held by a great point guard. And Duhon, no offense, is not a great point guard. David Lee put up absurd numbers — 21 rebounds and 37 points.
But of course if you look at them, plenty of Warriors had good state lines, too. After all, they did score 125 points. They just didn’t even remotely play defense. It was pretty sad.
Back in April, The New York Times‘s David Barstow published a blockbuster story about the corrupt relationship between Pentagon officials, defense contractors, cable networks, and retired generals. It’s a long piece that deserves to be read in full and, indeed, probably deserves to be reread in full. But the gist of it was that the generals who you’d see on TV acting as nominally independent “analysts” were not, in fact, independent at all. They were getting their talking points straight from the Pentagon. And the coordination was motivated, in part, by the fact that they were also on the payrolls of various firms profiting from lucrative contracts with the Pentagon.
Today he has a followup story focusing in tightly on one particular ex-general, Barry McCaffrey. The headline: “One Man’s Military-Industrial Complex”. Spencer Ackerman remarks that if the piece is false “McCaffrey really ought to sue, because if it isn’t, he has no reputation for integrity left.” This is true. And Barstow certainly seems to have the goods. The piece is long to the point where excerpting from specific examples has no real point, but here’s a bird’s eye view of the issue:
The consulting company he started after leaving the government in 2001, BR McCaffrey Associates, promises to “build linkages” between government officials and contractors like Defense Solutions for up to $10,000 a month. He has also earned at least $500,000 from his work for Veritas Capital, a private equity firm in New York that has grown into a defense industry powerhouse by buying contractors whose profits soared from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition, he is the chairman of HNTB Federal Services, an engineering and construction management company that often competes for national security contracts.
Many retired officers hold a perch in the world of military contracting, but General McCaffrey is among a select few who also command platforms in the news media and as government advisers on military matters. These overlapping roles offer them an array of opportunities to advance policy goals as well as business objectives. But with their business ties left undisclosed, it can be difficult for policy makers and the public to fully understand their interests.
On NBC and in other public forums, General McCaffrey has consistently advocated wartime policies and spending priorities that are in line with his corporate interests. But those interests are not described to NBC’s viewers. He is held out as a dispassionate expert, not someone who helps companies win contracts related to the wars he discusses on television.
But rather than focusing on McCaffrey and his issues, it’s worth contemplating the breathtaking lack of integrity on display from the television networks here. As I said, Barstow published a piece on this back in April. None of the TV networks addressed the issue he raised in anything resembling a serious manner. And, again, we now have NBC News caught flat-out in the midst of corruption, deceiving their viewers. And NBC News isn’t sorry. They’re not apologizing. They’re not ashamed. Because they’re beyond shame. They never had a reputation for honor, so they don’t even see this sort of thing as damaging.
On ABC’s This Week today, former Bush strategist Matthew Dowd marveled at President-elect Barack Obama’s cabinet choices, saying that Obama will have “one of the most pragmatic, least ideological cabinets that we’ve seen in a long time.” Dowd noted that this contrasted with how his former boss picked his staff when he first entered office:
DOWD: Much less ideological than George Bush’s cabinet when he appointed it, when he first came into office. People that have disagreements. He has disagreements with his potential Secretary of State. He has disagreements with the person that’s going to run his Pentagon. It’s an amazing thing he has done that.
It shouldn’t be surprising that Obama is more open to appointing “people that have disagreements” than Bush was. As Bob Woodward has noted, Bush has often shown “a lack of interest in open debate.”
This business with Plaxico Burress accidentally shooting himself in the leg really belongs in the “too good to make up” file. Go Redskins!
In part one, I suggested four principles that President-elect Obama’s economic team should follow as they create an economic recovery package. To sum up,
Obama clearly understands this prescription. He has announced that he will champion a two-year recovery package to create 2.5 million jobs, in part by “creating the clean energy infrastructure of the twenty-first century.” To his credit, he told governors and international leaders meeting in
“I promise you this,” he said in a taped address. “When I am president, any governor who’s willing to promote clean energy will have a partner in the White House. Any company that’s willing to invest in clean energy will have an ally in
The question is whether the Congress and the American people will support a recovery package designed not just for short-term stimulus, but for long-term health.
Obama hasn’t said how big his investment package will be, but there is speculation it could climb to as much as $700 billion. Here are some suggestions on how some of that money should be allocated:
I should say the reason I picked up Outliers in the first place was that a friend mentioned that he thought it explained something I’d been curious about. Specifically, The Economist proclaimed that Will Wilkinson, Ezra Klein, Megan McArdle, and myself were the public intellectuals of the future. To which I remarked:
I think it would be strange if the main qualification for becoming a high-profile public intellectual in the future is that you had to start a personal blog in 2002 or 2003.
Gladwell’s book is all about why this sort of thing happens. Rob Pitingolo spells out the argument in detail and observes that it’s analogous to Gladwell’s argument about super-rich software entrepreneurs. Except that even successful bloggers don’t really get to be super-rich, and certainly not Bill Gates rich. But it’s a very similar thing where, yes, you need to work hard but also you need to have been the beneficiary of some pretty lucky breaks to even be in a position where you have the possibility of working hard.