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Michael Ubaldi, May 9, 2005.

Iraq's rugged western landscape is known to have long served as a gateway for the country's enemies and, as such, is an indelible reminder that the Allies face a regional challenge from neighboring dictatorships whose power ebbs in the face of Baghdad's liberal rise. Attacks on civilians, policemen and soldiers do not comprise a homegrown "rebellion" or a "civil war," as some on both the left and right have suggested. Sunni areas of Iraq are troubled but recalcitrance isn't war; and fear does not make loyalty. While the enemy is certainly factious and disparate, al Qaeda tough Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is by all accounts the most visible enemy leader in the country; and the classification of Iraqi hitmen and gangsters, especially if they be former Ba'athists, deserves scrutiny given their consortion with supposed adversaries. For purposes of division the assassins and saboteurs must be thought as politically incompatible but in operation they are often a single target:

Marines, Sailors and Soldiers from Regimental Combat Team-2, 2nd Marine Division are conducting combat operations in northwestern Al Anbar province. The offensive is aimed at eliminating terrorists and foreign fighters from the area. The operation is currently on the area north of the Euphrates River, in the Al Jazirah Desert. The region is a known smuggling route and sanctuary for foreign fighters.

"Insurgent," "militant," "rebel" and "guerilla" are popular press euphemisms for the enemy. Terrorists are also routinely identified as natives — the more rightfully disgruntled, the better. Last Wednesday, the bomb-laden wretch who murdered dozens was arbitrarily granted Iraqi citizenship by the Associated Press. My skepticism came easily but the journalist attendant to the blast and responsible for the claim is flatly contradicted by two years of reports compiled by those for whom accurate descriptions are essential:

U.S. and Iraqi authorities say suicide drivers are invariably foreign fighters. Officers here said they knew of no documented case in which a suicide attacker turned out to have been an Iraqi.

According to the military, the presence of foreign terrorists has increased, returning us to the motivation for continued attacks against Iraqis, their benefactors and their protectors: nothing so unmistakable and uncomplicated as strongmen's contempt for the living, the hopeful and the free.

THE WAR AGAINST TERROR, INDEED: Rich Lowry provides us, in one excerpt, with a description of the primary role of Islamist authoritarianism in the war against democratic Iraq and the conventionally inconceivable aid and direction from "secular" Ba'athists ruling Syria. Congratulations to the mainstream media for finally publishing what has been obvious all along.

Michael Ubaldi, May 7, 2005.

"Bloody Baghdad" is one press agency's moniker for the string of car bombings in Iraq's capital but Strategy Page rightly calls the terrorists' highly localized concentration of urban murder "beyond ineffective." In the southern quarter of the city, the enemy's naked brutality has won him nothing, Iraqi and Allied perseverance and courage far stronger than a muddled frenzy of killing:

Everyone knows that all living things need water to survive and during the upcoming summer months in Iraq, the demand for clean drinking water will drastically rise. The near-term completion of a project in [Baghdad's] Al-Rasheed district will fulfill this need and provide more than 100,000 villagers fresh water. The $500,000 project began six months ago and employed 36 people, of which 30 were from the local area.

Another story narrates dozens more reclamation and construction projects, while USAID publishes staggeringly full weekly reports on work across a vast countryside unrestrained by shiftless thugs.

IN SPADES: Several hundred paragraphs of Iraqi determination and terrorist failure is what one can find in Arthur Chrenkoff's latest volume of reconstruction news.

Michael Ubaldi, May 6, 2005.

While the economy's important numbers hold steady, the politically favored set just improved:

U.S. employers added 274,000 workers in April, more than economists expected, suggesting that higher costs and first-quarter slowdown haven't shaken companies' confidence in economic growth. The increase follows a revised gain of 146,000 jobs in March, the Labor Department said today in Washington. All told, the economy added 93,000 more jobs in February and March than the government previously reported. The jobless rate held at 5.2 percent.

Including April and March, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has recorded in its monthly non-farm payroll reports over 3.4 million jobs created since President Bush signed the Jobs & Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003; tax cuts that exceeded predictions from the President's Council of Economic Advisers to have added at least 1.4 million jobs by the end of 2004 by over thirty percent. And as Larry Kudlow explains today, the market windfall from lower taxes has produced tax receipts aplenty — just as it did after the first year of tax reform.

Michael Ubaldi, May 5, 2005.

"[T]he suicide bomber drove his car and hit the Stryker when about twenty children were jumping up and down and waving at the soldiers." Murder, pain, hope and friendship in Mosul, Iraq — the kind of reporting the world deserves but mostly does not receive, from Michael Yon, to whose weblog I will now return daily. (Hat tip, CDR Salamander.)

Michael Ubaldi, May 5, 2005.

Frank words from a forthright lady in support of President Bush's vilified nominee for United Nations Ambassador: Argentina and the broader left won't be impressed but John Bolton, the president and many more of us will. (Hat tip, the Corner.)

Michael Ubaldi, May 5, 2005.

Those so long mystified by an American economic restoration that did not appear to match longer payrolls with market success may have their answer:

Productivity, a key factor needed to boost living standards, rose at an annual rate of 2.6 percent in the first three months of the year, the best showing in nine months. The Labor Department reported Thursday that the increase in productivity, a measure of worker efficiency, compared to a 2.1 percent rate of increase in the October-December quarter of last year. It was a slightly better gain than economists had been expecting and represented the fastest increase since a 3.9 percent jump in the April-June quarter of last year.

Productivity surpassed historical records earlier this year. From greater output by existing staff comes a disincentive for additional hiring — but greater wealth, of course, ensures the creation of new employment opportunities. So is it wise to assume that productivity will level off in the age of blinding technological innovation? Ingenuity and resilience aren't bad prerequisites.

Michael Ubaldi, May 5, 2005.

One month ago James Robbins assessed terrorism's downward arc, inspired by the enemy's spectacularly futile efforts in Iraq and elsewhere to defeat organized, national military forces following the established conduct of war. At a time when al Qaeda's operational leadership has been disrupted and its gangs in southern Afghanistan faltering, Robbins remains confident:

The daily life of an al Qaeda leader is an endurance test for survival. They spend their time moving from safe house to safe house, in constant fear of discovery, attempting vainly to organize large-scale attacks on their enemies and speculating when they will be betrayed by their friends. It is not a rewarding existence, not even by terrorist standards. This cannot be the jihad they signed up for. Even the most committed among them may be wondering when Osama's master plan is going to kick in and they will start winning a few rounds.

They can kill but if challenged, they can't win. We knew this from the beginning.

Michael Ubaldi, May 4, 2005.

For those seeking expert opinion on the economy's speed and trajectory, the Federal Reserve rendered testimony yesterday:

The Committee believes that, even after this action, the stance of monetary policy remains accommodative and, coupled with robust underlying growth in productivity, is providing ongoing support to economic activity. Recent data suggest that the solid pace of spending growth has slowed somewhat, partly in response to the earlier increases in energy prices. Labor market conditions, however, apparently continue to improve gradually. Pressures on inflation have picked up in recent months and pricing power is more evident. Longer-term inflation expectations remain well contained.

No decline, no danger — which means, to the disappointment of those placing personal gain above public welfare, no political exploitation.

Michael Ubaldi, May 2, 2005.

Wall Street ended Friday on an incline while the press was overwrought — or happy to be overwrought — over news that American Gross Domestic Product expansion for the first quarter of 2005 was 3.1%. "Slowest growth in two years," charged headlines. True; or so said the initial report. GDP was believed to have grown by 3.1% during the three-month period previous to last, the fourth quarter of 2004, before its twenty-percent revision upwards four weeks later. Larry Kudlow doesn't take downturn talk seriously:

Three months ago the first government estimate of gross domestic product for the fourth quarter of 2004 came in at 3.1 percent at an annual rate. At the time, the market consensus expected 3.5 percent growth. Immediately, the mainstream media started talking about an economic slowdown. Turns out, that 3.1 percent was finally revised up to 3.8 percent. ...Well, history is repeating itself — even though, if you look under the GDP hood, you’ll find that the country’s economic engine is humming along.

Bears, Kudlow notes, have had a penchant for seizing on one or two clunker reports not to draw attention to a lagging market sector, which is reasonable and sensible, but for predicting economic entropy — too often politically motivated. Or they've dismissed positive general indicators while decrying flat numbers on employment, wages and the consumers' well-being. Were they watching the news on Friday? As oil prices fell the Commerce Department released two figures defying expectations: income rose by a third more than forecast, consumer spending up twenty percent above predictions.

Is today's economic disappointment objective or subjective?

ON 'SLUGGISH': I've made this comparison before but as a good one, it's worth repeating — the United States' economy outsizes anything in the world it hasn't outperformed. At 3.1% growth, America expanded at 500% the United Kingdom's pace; 3000% of Australia's; over 700% of Japan's; and unspeakably greater than Germany's pace, since the federal republic's Gross Domestic Product most recently shrank.

Where can this perspective be found in the news? Scarcely anywhere since it's hidden out of sight, says Bizzy Blog. Why must America consistently perform above average to stave off sudden, gripping media panic? Or has the bad press anything at all to do with economic expectations?

Michael Ubaldi, May 1, 2005.

Nearly one year ago a congregation of terrorists in the extreme west of Iraq, close to the Syrian border, was targeted and destroyed by Allied aircraft. Widely conflicting accounts from locals were amplified by the elite press and controversy ensued. At the time, Brigadier-General Mark Kimmitt volunteered that "bad people have celebrations, too." Iraqi expatriate Ahmad offers one explanation.