A PROPOSAL. If we're going to play by Mark Halperin 's rules of mindless balance, then every news item about John Kerry 's hamfisted way with humor should be followed by a sentence something like this: "This is not the first time an important politician has been caught in what observers say is an act of disrespect for our troops." Which would then be followed by a description (in print) or the actual footage (on TV) of this . But this will not happen, because Halperin's a salon-sniffer with all the sincerity of a man who sells potions out of a wagon, and because an awful lot of the people you hear yukking it up on that video are the ones playing Don't Get The Joke from their fainting couches today. It's step-up time today, boys and girls. Are you going to play along with the bullshit controversy du jour or are you going to do your actual jobs? By all means, let's talk about Iraq for the next six days. --Charles P. Pierce

    FEVERED. Someone please show me a single act of public political courage undertaken by John McCain since he won the New Hampshire primary in 2000 that he hasn't hedged, trimmed, or walked back completely. The Bush campaign trashed his wife and daughter, and he's spent the years since trying to get a job as the pool boy in Crawford. He gave a brave speech about the danger of political preachers, but he'd walk on his knees across broken glass to get himself blessed by Jerry Falwell 's direct-mail people. But yesterday might well be the purest day of opportunistic sycophancy in the history of the Straight Talk Express. First, he jumps on the idiotic controversy du jour, lining up with the usual chickenhawk suspects to trash his "good friend" and fellow veteran John Kerry . But he does so at this thing , an event in support of a man who recently threw the term "cut-and-run" at Tammy Duckworth , who lost both legs in Iraq. Ho-ho. Now that's some straight-talkin' for you. Presidential fever...
  • Consumer Confidence: A Con Job?

    I have railed in the past about the uselessness of the consumer confidence index. It basically gives us a measure of where the economy is today and tells nothing about where it will be tomorrow. For this reason, I was not especially impressed by the news that the index had fallen slightly last month . It is worth noting that the drop was driven by a substantial decline in the current conditions index, from 128.3 to 124.7. This component, which does tell us about how people are feeling today, tells us that people are becoming more pessimistic, in spite of the drop in gas prices. --Dean Baker

    BENEFITS WITHOUT COSTS. As a follow-up to Tom 's point , I think it's critical, when discussing potential outreach to religious voters, to consider the potential negative consequences of such strategies. One thing the journalist Peter Boyer has been guilty of is asserting benefits that would come from running more anti-choice candidates that completely ignore the costs of such potential shifts. It is true, for example, that the sudden politicization of the abortion issue in the 1960s has caused a significant number of Catholic voters to align with the Republicans rather than the Democrats. But supporting abortion criminalization has hurt Republican candidates as well. What keeps presidential elections close in a political context that generally favors Republican is that Democrats have the large, expensive to campaign in, and traditionally Republican states of California and New York in their pockets before spending a dime (and if these states were even competitive, the Democrats would...

    GOP MIDTERM CRAPITUDE WATCH. How to outspend your opponent 24-to-1 and lose ground. --Sam Rosenfeld

    MILITARY DEMOS CONTINUED. Brad Plumer writes in to point me to this Heritage Foundation analysis showing that, due to the post-9/11 enlistment boost, the army is both a bit richer and more educated than the population as a whole. So there you have it. While on the subject, you've really got to check out The Corner 's obsession with Kerry's comment. By my count, they've put up 32 posts on the gaffe. Grasping at straws doesn't even begin to cover it. Update: Nick Beaudrot in comments: Fuzzy math point #2: The Heritage study covers the US military, not the US Army. The Air Force and Navy are more likely to recruit better educated enlistees than the Army. This study shows that Army recruits are disproportionately from neighborhoods with incomes between $30K and $60K, with more overrepresentation below median HH income than above median HH income. --Ezra Klein

    HUMAN CAPITAL. Ezra , I think that the lower middle class is more or less the correct answer, although I don't have ready statistics on the socioeconomic backgrounds of military personnel, either. The military still provides a ready avenue for upward mobility, which means that people on lower economic rungs will find it correspondingly more attractive. On uneducated recruits, the problem is that being a soldier today is a remarkably complex and demanding job, which is why the military tries so hard to determine the aptitude of recruits beforehand and establishes an educational floor. One of the reasons that military officers are so reluctant to back a draft is that they don't really want to take everyone. Interestingly enough, the Bundeswehr draws precisely the opposite conclusions about the usefulness of a draft, believing that conscription allows the selection of the very best potential soldiers, who can then be offered selective incentives to remain in the military after their...

    FL-GOV: TWO-WAY CONTEST BECOMES THREE-WAY DEBATE. The suddenly-interesting gubernatorial race in Florida took a surprising turn last night, when self-financed independent Max Linn won a court order 20 minutes before the final gubernatorial debate and joined state Attorney General Charlie Crist (R) and Rep. Jim Davis (D) on the stage. As the Palm Beach Post reported today, the last-minute entry "shook up the night and, possibly, the race itself." In a rapid-paced hour, Republican front-runner Charlie Crist frequently found himself ganged up on by Reform Party candidate Linn and Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Davis. And, thanks to Washington-based moderator Chris Matthews, Crist for the first time in the debates was put in the position of defending an unpopular president and the war in Iraq. Linn and Davis both gave President Bush a grade of F for his performance in office, mirroring poor approval ratings nationally and in Florida. Crist, the state attorney general, gave him a B. Davis and...

    WATERBOARDING: AS NEW ENGLAND AS YACHTING AND LOBSTER ROLLS! Jonah should be ashamed himself for posting this "without comment": I was recently reading Richard Norton Smith's biography of Col. Robert McCormick of the Chicago Tribune. It seems that when McCormick was a student at Groton he was subjected to the school tradition of "pumping." In this quaint ritual the initiate had his head held under a pump and water was forced over him until he felt as if he were drowning. Waterboarding isn't torture, its just part of the New England patrician experience. Does this idiot think that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was undergoing some Groton admissions process? I'm glad to hear he has absolutely no problem with the idea of, say, Iran or North Korea waterboarding captured American soldiers, Marines, airmen, sailors or intelligence operatives. To speak to Ezra 's point, maybe if we had more bluebloods in uniform we could harden our counter-interrogation abilities. -- Spencer Ackerman
  • NANCY.

    NANCY. Kevin Drum , Bob Somerby , and Dana Goldstein all offer good comments on this New York Times profile of Nancy Pelosi . Defending Pelosi against petty or mailcious attacks -- mainly from her right, but also from her left -- used to be a priority of mine before I got too busy, but needless to say the task will become only more necessary (to the extent that I think it remains justified, of course) if the Dems take over the House. I should note that I was surprised to see Dick Armey call himself "a big fan" of hers in the Times piece. At any rate, in the event that she does become Speaker, I certainly hope a right-wing author runs with my Pelosi-related offering in last month's " Spot the Fake Right-Wing Book Title " quiz from the print issue. --Sam Rosenfeld