SUBSTITUTES AND COMPLEMENTS. I was going to just mock Lee Siegel's decision to revisit the blogofascism controversy, but he says something in there that I think is worthy of a serious response since I hear the sentiment from a lot of people. "Linking," writes Siegel, "is no substitute for thinking." This is true, but misguided. Compare it to "deciding which articles to print is no substitute for writing magazine articles." Obviously, the former is no substitute for the latter not because the former activity is useless, but because it complements the other.
Reporters should always use inflation adjusted numbers when making comparisons of dollar values at substantially different points in time. A dollar is worth much less today than it was 20 or 30 years ago. While most readers may know this, they do not typically have ready access to the consumer price index tables, so they will not generally be able to adjust the numbers themselves.
THE CONTRACTING MESS AT DHS. The House Government Reform Committee is out with a report (PDF) today documenting 32 instances of waste, fraud, and abuse in contracting at the Department of Homeland Security. It�s not the sort of reading that makes you feel all cuddly and safe, confident that the government, a good steward of your tax dollars, has everything under control. Instead, it is a stark reminder of what�s broken in Washington.
CHARACTER COUNTS, BUT ONLY WHEN CONVENIENT. Yesterday Ohio Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Stricklandchallenged Republican rival Ken Blackwell to release his tax returns, so voters could see exactly how Blackwell, who favors implementing a flat tax and cutting the capital gains tax, would benefit from his own proposals. Blackwell refused, telling the Canton Repository that his millionaire status proves his ideology that hard work leads to riches.
WILL MEDICARE MATTER? It may be a bad bill, but the Medicare Prescription Drug Program may not be the electoral club many Democrats were hoping it would be. New polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that 8 out of 10 seniors are basically satisfied with the new benefit, hardly the sort of numbers congenial to a November counterattack. Two issues, however, may disrupt the calm. First up, seniors knowledge of the doughnut holes -- the period of a couple thousand dollars where all costs come out of pocket in an effort to discourage overuse of drugs before insurance kicks back in -- is spotty:
THE OP-ED DOJO. Wandering through the nation's op-ed pages is like ambling through a dojo. Each writer has his own particular style, technique, finishing move. There's Tom Friedman, who rushes in with the Implausible Conversational Anecdote, links it to an Off-Topic Invocation Of World Travels, and finishes you with a Confusing Metaphor From Above. Or there's Maureen Dowd, who deploys Unfounded Personal Speculation mixed with Confusing Allegories till she's set up her killing blow: Insinuation of Character Defect. It's impressive stuff.
SERIOUSLY CONFUSING. Last week's puzzling editorial from The New Republic called on the United States to "move ruthlessly to prevent Iran from acquiring the deadliest arsenal of all" but couldn't quite seem to say whether or not this was a call for war. This week's edition fails to clarify matters, asking rhetorically "Will the West finally get ruthlessly serious about Iran? (No, bombing is not the only instrument of policy we have.)"
STEELE AT IT. Well, that didn�t take long: As I predicted yesterday, Michael Steele would somehow turn his media blunder around and try to blame the media, and sure enough here come this first volley, lobbed directly at the Post�s Dana Milbank.
THE NUMBERS GAME. Here�s some interesting polling on the Middle East from The New York Times. Fully 64 percent of the public thinks there will never "come a time when Israel and the Arab nations settle their differences and live in peace." As a general matter, I think people are way too inclined to say that things will never happen. Lots of crazy stuff happens -- in 1910 none of these countries even existed and only crazy people thought they ever would.