THE END OF UNIVERSALISM. Leave it to David Brooks to bury a recantation of long-held beliefs in a Labor Day weekend column. His Sunday column this week is significant, however, because it outlines a conceptual error that was common in conservative and neoconservative circles over the past five years, and which can still be found across the political spectrum. Writes Brooks:
I spent much of the 1990�s (that most deceptive decade) abroad � in Europe, the former Soviet Union and the Middle East. People everywhere seemed to want the same things: to live in normal societies, to be free, to give their children better lives.
AGAINST DOUBLE-SIDED ANONYMITY IN JOURNALISM. Last spring I was briefly involved in an unpleasant blogstorm for making the case against double-sided online anonymity, but the sorry case of Lee Seigel revives my concerns. Let me be clear: I have nothing against people using pseudonymns to write in comment threads (except when, as in Lee's case, they're writers working under the expectation that they always take public responsibility for their work), or who author blogs while cloaking their identities. It's a free country, and pseudonymous speech has a long tradition in American politics and a strong legal basis for continued protection.
ALL HAIL THE MORTGAGE MOMS. Just the other day, the TAP staff convened around our luxurious oak conference table, reclined in our high-backed leather chairs, and complained that this election was missing the key ingredient for pundits (Disclaimer: Not all the details of this story are precisely true): A clumsily named swing group. So far as we could tell, The Powers That Be had not yet lowered their Sword of Brooksian Characterization to designate a successor to the Soccer Moms, Office-Park Dads, or Security Moms of yore.
BROWN HANDS.This ad is being run in the 13th Congressional District of North Carolina by the Republican candidate, a true whackadoo named Vernon Robinson. Please read the text as quoted carefully. It is almost word-for-word the text of the famous "black hands" ad that Jesse Helms threw up at the last minute against Harvey Gantt in their bloody 1990 senatorial campaign. Apparently, there's a template for bigots in which you just fill in the name of the Other du jour. A hundred years ago, they'd have been talking about my grandmother.
There should be a simple rule written in huge neon signs in every newsroom: �You don�t know what politicians �think.��
The reason is simple. Politicians do not generally say what they think. They say what will advance their political careers. This is their job. (That is a bi-partisan comment.) If a reporter believes that she knows what a politician actually thinks then she is probably too close to this person to be able to cover them objectively. Reporters best serve the public by reporting what politicians say, and leave it to their readers to determine what the politicians might actually believe (if anything).
The NYT had an interesting piece on counterfeit drugs in Russia. It reports that counterfeits may account for as much as 30 percent of total sales. This is what happens when the government creates an artificial monopoly with patent protection. Just as the Soviet Union couldn't prevent black market sales of blue jeans, Russia can't prevent sales of unauthorized versions of patented drugs. A little economic analysis would have been very useful in this article.
If Social Security was a private corporation, Tim Russert would be unemployed and NBC would be out of business. (When you misrepresent the financial state of a private business in the way that Russert misrepresents the financial state of Social Security, you get sued for libel.)
LABOR DAY SPECIAL.Tapped will be closed for Labor Day -- but have no fear, there's still TAP Online content you can enjoy today at the barbeque. Today we're kicking off a debate that tackles two related questions -- just how is the middle class actually faring in the contemporary economy, and how should Democrats and progressives adjust their middle-class appeal accordingly? Labor economist Steve Rose has been making waves in the past year with a critique of the Democratic economic message as being both overly gloomy and overly concerned with a set of government programs that does not actually directly benefit large parts of the middle class.
The NYT�s Europe-bashing desk pulled out the stops today in going after Germany. Readers would have learned about Germany�s �chronic double-digit inflation.� This surely would be news to most readers, since the OECD puts Germany�s inflation rate over the last year at just over 2.0 percent.
No, that's not me rooting for a quick end to the housing bubble; those are the words of David Lereah, the chief economist of the National Association of Realtors, as quoted in the Wall Street Journal. Yes, this is the same economist who until recently was assuring buyers that house prices will never fall.
The new data on pending sales of existing homes show a year over year drop of 16 percent, yet more evidence that the bubble is bursting.