BUSH AND THE FLASHMAN. To me, the strangest thing about the president's summer reading list is not its heft, nor its inclusion of heavyweight history and existential literature, but the indication that the President is working his way through the Flashman series, by George MacDonald Fraser. And no, I don't mean it's odd because Sir Harry Flashman is a coward, a liar, a drunk, and a bully; nor is it odd because Flashman is more than willing to let his countrymen die to save his reputation.
"Look, I served with George Allen when he was governor. I don't think he belongs in public service, to be honest with you. There are Republicans that are capable and smart, thoughtful people -- and he's not one of them."
YOU, SIR, ARE NO KARL. Just to chime in on the latest macacagate news, it's worth noting that for all the fuss about Dick Wadhams being the next Karl Rove, he sure seems to have forgotten Rule #1 of campaign damage control: Either apologize completely and fully from the start, or don�t apologize at all. Instead of throwing up bogus explanations and semi-apologies and half-apologies and then trying to blame the media, Allen should have either blown the thing off or apologized to S.R. Sidarth the next day. Instead, we are now on Day 10 of Macaca-watch.
MACACA FRACAS. Over at Midterm Madness, Steve Benenreports that George Allen finally decided to apologize to S.R. Sidarth yesterday -- while leaving to his campaign manager the task of firing up the Republican base with a very different take on the whole matter.
WELFARE REFORM AS POLITICS. Naturally, discussionsof the ten year anniversary of the 1996 welfare reform bill have tended to earnestly focus on the bill's impact on welfare recipients. It's worth recalling, however, that from the beginning the promise to "end welfare as we know it" was primarily a political gambit. And, as this TNReditorial points out, it's been a tremendously succesful one.
JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: DON'T LOOK AWAY. Inspired by a blistering speech from a former U.N. special envoy, Ezrareminds us that pleading futility is a bogus excuse when it comes to the global AIDS crisis. In fact, millions could be saved with just a minimal uptick of commitment from Western countries.
AGAINST ASTRONOMIC NITPICKING. The Pluto wars seem to have finally come to a conclusion as astronomers decide it's not a planet after all under their new definition of planet. The Associated Press reports: "The new definition of what is -- and isn't -- a planet fills a centuries-old black hole for scientists who have labored since Copernicus without one."
WHY WAL-MART MATTERS. I'm of the opinion that how to handle Wal-Mart is among the two or three most important issues facing the country. The conversation hasn't caught up to it, and the arguments being had mostly miss the mark and collapse in their own short-sightedness, but the mega-retailer's impact on the economy, ubiquity across the country, and aggressiveness in using its size will eventually force a reckoning proportionate to its power. Which is why it's such a disappointment to see Jonah Goldberg's sneering, superficial treatment of the subject in today's LA Times.
THE WAGES OF INCOMPETENCE. When I run into conservatives, especially neoconservatives, a point I impress upon them with which they either eagerly or grudgingly agree is this: Because of the bungled, too-few-troops, no-occupation-strategy, go-it-mostly-alone approach in Iraq, we may never know for sure whether the grandiose theories of the PNAC�ers like Paul Wolfowitz are visionary or foolhardy. Although I happen to find the PNAC approach frightening, my view is incidental to that fact. Iraq became a Petri dish experiment in which the �Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal� forgot to place the organisms and the stimulant agent inside the dish in the first place.
One should never make too much of a single month's data, but yesterday's report of a sharp falloff in existing home sales, price declines throughout most of the country, and record inventories of unsold homes, might be seen as supporting the view that a bubble is bursting, but not in the NYT.