WHAT DID DHS KNOW?Jeff Stein reports that some members of Congress are asking questions about whether the Department of Homeland Security may have had access, via its NSA liaison, to the NSA's illegal wiretap and phone record surveillance programs. This would be the same Department of Homeland Security, we recall, whose operatives were used to help Tom DeLay try to resolve a partisan dispute in the Texas legislature and that did such a heck of a job in New Orleans.
METAETHICS: THE SAGA CONTINUES. I don't want to get too bogged down in this, but since Jonah Goldberg's written some posts in response to what I said Friday on relativism, here's a bit more. One thing, for the philosophers in the room, is that "relativism" per se is a vulgar term that just about everyone rejects.
EXPECTATIONS GAME. Some good times to be had reading through The Washington Post's write-up of the Bush administration's bold plan for revival through GOP victory in November -- with victory defined as "Nancy Pelosi not becoming Speaker of the House." (From the article: "If Republicans retain Congress in November, Bush advisers note, he could assert that for the third straight election, the party defied historical patterns and popular predictions." Of course, not only is it widely acknowledged that the odds still favor Republicans retaining Congress despite their massive unpopularity, but also, for Republicans to sustain losses this year without actually losing contro
GOREWATCH. It's getting a bit hard to keep up with Gore's press. He's got the cover of New York Magazine this morning, under the heading "The UnHillary?" The story is written by John Heilemann, who received significant access to the man himself, and came back with the stories to prove it. "Eleven years ago, I wrote a story about Gore in which I remarked that 'what any sensible person does in anticipation of a sustained piece of oratory by Al Gore' is 'order another cup of coffee�black.' So I can�t help but laugh when Gore arrives for the first of our conversations carrying a dainty white cup, walks silently over, waiterlike, and intones, 'I understand, sir, you take it black.'"
The lead editorial in Saturday's New York Times noted the recent drop in the dollar. It then blamed President Bush's deficits and warned of an impending recession unless the budget deficit is reduced. As best I can tell, the editorial was incoherent, like much of the discussion on the trade deficit and the budget deficit.
The financial press eagerly reported Federal Reserve Board Chairman Benjamin Bernanke's comments this week saying that he expected a gradual softening of the housing market, not a serious collapse. Mr. Bernanke's comments may reflect his true view of the housing market. However, it is also possible that these statements were made simply to soothe the financial markets.
ECHOES OF WHAT NOW? Via Matt Singer, this isn't comforting:
Iranian expatriates living in Canada yesterday confirmed reports that the Iranian parliament, called the Islamic Majlis, passed a law this week setting a dress code for all Iranians, requiring them to wear almost identical �standard Islamic garments.�
The law, which must still be approved by Iran�s �Supreme Guide� Ali Khamenehi before being put into effect, also establishes special insignia to be worn by non-Muslims.
FRIDAY AFTERNOON METAETHICS HOUR. I don't want this to be misunderstood, but I'm a moral relativist. Or, rather, I reject moral realism, the view that "moral claims do purport to report facts and are true if they get the facts right. Moreover, they hold, at least some moral claims actually are true." This is a much-debated philosophical issue, but in punditland, it's just a term of abuse. Ergo, Fred Siegelwriting in Blueprint about the least-significant challenge currently facing America -- college professors who are too left-wing for Siegel's taste:
TOTALLY OFF-MESSAGE FRIDAY AFTERNOON POST. Some of my old New York friends and I have gotten into a discussion about the most popular television shows of all time. I made the case for The Flintstones. Hear me out.
Fred & Crew debuted in 1960 as a prime-time sitcom -- the first prime-time cartoon in TV history. It ran for six seasons on ABC, with 166 episodes produced. Since then, it has never been off the air. Ever. In fact, Rick discovered with some quick Googling that the Bedrock gang is on television in 80 different countries in 22 languages. Every single second of every single day, somewhere in the world, The Flintstones is airing.
EASY THERE ECONOMY, EASY...Paul Krugman is in fine form today, letting his inner economist roar forth for a quick lecture on the state of the economy, and why the stock market's drop over the last few days is worrisome. "The rise in stock prices that began last fall," he writes, "was essentially based on the belief that the U.S. economy can defy gravity -- that both individuals and the nation as a whole can spend more than their income, not on a temporary basis, but more or less indefinitely." And then comes the bad news.