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  • DON'T TAKE IT...

    DON'T TAKE IT FROM ME. My latest piece for New York Times Select (sorry, subscription req�d.) looks at the geography of the coming electoral storm of 2006. Some key graphs on the House side of the equation: Blizzard is the most applicable term for the brewing cataclysm. Why? Because if Mother Nature sweeps a new Democratic majority -- or two -- into power in Washington, the disproportionate share of Republican defeats will occur in the Rust Belt states of the Northeast-Midwest corridor. Coupled with isolated twisters in the Plains and a few Western earthquakes, what you have is the formula for a Republican natural disaster north of the Mason-Dixon Line�. Of the 60 House seats most likely to switch to the other party this year, according to the latest rankings by Chuck Todd, editor of the National Journal�s �Hotline� political tipsheet, 53 are held by Republicans and just seven by Democrats. Where are they? Although 39 percent of incumbent House Republicans are Southerners, only seven...
  • WAPO CONTINUES CAMPAIGN FOR GALLAUDET ADMINISTRATION.

    WAPO CONTINUES CAMPAIGN FOR GALLAUDET ADMINISTRATION. I have previously criticized the Washington Post 's coverage of the Gallaudet protest movement against the university's new president as being slanted towards the administration and against the protestors. Well, case in point: today at 2pm they are doing a live chat with the new president, Jane K. Fernandes , on their website, with no countervailing voice from the other side of the issue, even though the clear majority of the Gallaudet community opposes Fernandes. This is after they gave Fernandes a space on the op-ed page, and editorialized in her favor, and subtly favored her in (mostly fair) news articles. Before, I simply chalked this up to the fact that the Post has the same establishmentarian bias as most of the elite media. But the favoritism is becoming so clear and inexplicable I'm racking my brain for a conceivable ulterior motive. --Ben Adler
  • LANCET AND FACE VALIDITY.

    LANCET AND FACE VALIDITY. In a conversation yesterday, a friend told me that he just couldn't accept the Lancet numbers on Iraqi deaths because they seem too high. The study, he felt, had to have cooked the books in some way, even if the method wasn't immediately apparent. My friend's comments echoed those of Fred Kaplan and Michael O'Hanlon , sensible people who have chosen to reject the study for not terribly compelling reasons. It doesn't really matter, the argument goes, how many people have been killed in Iraq as long as we know that it's a lot and that it's getting worse, but it still can't be that many. I have a little bit of empathy for my friend's position. My gut tells me that the number is too high, in an eerily similar way to which my gut tells me that Kenny Rogers' post-season ERA is too low. If someone had forced me to make a guess prior to the release of the study, I probably would have picked a number between 150,000 and 200,000, or maybe a little higher. My guess...
  • A NADIR OF LOGICAL ANALYSIS.

    A NADIR OF LOGICAL ANALYSIS. Here's a strange column ("A Nadir of U.S. Power") by Sebastian Mallaby in which he suggests a connection between domestic absurdities like "the crazy tort system, which consumes more than a dollar in administrative and legal costs for every dollar it transfers to the victims of malpractice" and the inability of the Bush administration to make headway on tough foreign policy problems such as Iran, North Korea, and Darfur. Mallaby is trying to make a Ferguson ian link between America's long-term economic health and its ability to project power abroad, but I must admit that I don't see his logic here. The consequences of the Bush administration's fiscal recklessness have yet to be felt, for instance, and our military spending is actually on the rise (though nowhere near Cold War heights in percentage of GDP). Besides, some of the issues that Mallaby identifies -- Russia kicking out Amnesty International and Sudan correctly believing that the horrible things...
  • BROOKS'S BOBOS ABANDON GOP.

    BROOKS'S BOBOS ABANDON GOP. Elsewhere in TimesSelectland, it must be said that David Brooks makes an insightful and valuable argument in his column on Sunday. Brooks, who has earned much-deserved mockery for his red and blue America shtick, in which he typically lambasts the coastal intelligentsia that he writes for and belongs to ("they can't tell wheat from corn in a field, or a soldier's rank by his insignia blah blah blah"), finally turns it on its head. Noting how the Republicans have endangered their majority by trampling their Northeastern moderate wing, he remarks, "it's as if they are purposely trying to antagonize the married moms at the pseudo-New Urbanist outdoor cafes." So, finally Brooks admits what liberals have been saying for years: that cultural/regional alienation cuts both ways in this country, and the proud heartland conservatives who use nouns like "Massachusettes" and "New York" as terms of abuse are the most deliberately responsible for it. What is really...
  • THEN AGAIN...

    THEN AGAIN... Contra my assertion that Barack Obama hasn't been a leader on any contentious issue and Tom 's lament this morning, Frank Rich made a solid point in his column yesterday. Says Rich, [I]t's important to remember that on one true test for his party, Iraq, he was consistent from the start. On the long trail to a hotly competitive senatorial primary in Illinois, he repeatedly questioned the rationale for the war before it began, finally to protest it at a large rally in Chicago on the eve of the invasion. He judged Saddam to pose no immediate threat to America and argued for containment over a war he would soon label "dumb" and politcal-driven." He hasn't changed. In his new book he gives a specific date (the end of this year) for beginning "a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops and doesn't seem to care who calls it "cut and run." While one could quibble that Obama isn't leading any actual withdrawal resolutions on the Senate floor at the moment, the point stands. While so many...
  • KNOCK IT OFF, FELLAS.

    KNOCK IT OFF, FELLAS. Senator Barack Obama had better do a little more reading and a little less presidential-positioning before going on Meet the Press again. It's understandably tempting to make a name for oneself by mocking Democrats. It's also a surefire way to gain plaudits from everyone from Tim Russert to Sean Hannity . But yesterday, when Russert read a passage from Obama's new book in which the senator says he's a big believer in free-market capitalism who also worries about the efficiency of government programs, Russert asked him a very specific question Obama couldn't platitude-pander his way out of: So, which programs, Senator? Suddenly the savvy, smooth senator disappeared, replaced by a fumbling dissembler. His answer? He supports Medicare and Medicaid, of course, (of course!), but laments that they use paper billing instead of electronic billing, which would be more efficient. Is he joking? Is he really so careless as to make sweeping laments about government program...
  • Accounting Games: The New Way to Cut Social Security

    The Financial Times reports that the Financial Accounting Standards Board is about to recommend that the federal government adopt "accrual" accoounting to more accurately affect its budget situation. This would mean, for example, that the projected cost of Medicare benefits for a worker who is 25 today should be listed as a government obligation. While the pretense is that this accounting method would be more honest, I can think of 20 ways to game this off the top of my head (e.g. write in cuts for 40 years out that you know will not happen, stop making projections for certain programs -- we don't make projections for prison costs now). It looks to me like another backhanded way to build support for cutting Social Security and Medicare by people who refuse to address the real source of the problem -- the projected explosion in U.S. health care costs. --Dean Baker
  • Every Honest Columnist: The Social Security and Medicare Trick, Yet Again

    Last week it was David Broder, this time it is Sebastian Mallaby telling us that "every honest politician" knows that we have to cut Social Security. Actually, honest politicians who know arithmetic and can read, know that Social Security is projected to be able to pay all scheduled benefits fro the next 40 years, with no changes whatsover. Why do Washington Post columnists so frequently say things about Social Security that are not true? --Dean Baker
  • Brazil's Dynamic Economy?

    In a piece on the importance of the Portuguese language, the Times explains that one reason for increased interest is Brazil's "dynamic economy." Brazil's per capita GDP growth has averaged less than 1.0 percent annually over the last decade. Add this one to the "huh" department. --Dean Baker

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