Archive

  • JON CHAIT'S GENERALIZATIONS...

    JON CHAIT'S GENERALIZATIONS ARE BENEATH HIM. I have a good deal of respect for Jon Chait , and I hope this time he'll show me -- not to mention his readers -- some in return by actually engaging my argument, instead of deliberately oversimplifying it to make it easier to knock down. In response to my contention that by describing Joe Lieberman foes as "fanatics" he was throwing down the gauntlet and being uncivil, Chait wrote : Ah, I see. So before I wrote my column last Sunday, the left-wing blogospere was a placid realm of civilized discourse. The relentless, juvenile name-calling, the imagining of conspiracies between the Democratic Leadership Council, The New Republic, and various corporate lobbies, the fervent belief that monolithic motivations could be imputed to all who were associated with those sinister, back-stabbing institutions--these things all began with my column on Sunday. I see. Please. Obviously I meant that Chait threw down the gauntlet in the context of this...
  • THE NEW NEW...

    THE NEW NEW LEFT? After reading two rather similar complaints from Richard Cohen and Jon Chait about, in essence, people on the internet being mean to them, it occurs to me that it might be worth pointing out that blogosphere luminaries like Duncan Black and Markos Moulitsas don't actually resemble their online personae Atrios and Kos all that greatly. For Duncan you'll sort of just have to take my word (or that of others who've met him, I doubt you'll see much disagreement on this). For Markos, one can clearly see that when he decided he wanted to write a calm, analytical book, he came up with a calm, analytical book . All of which is by way of saying that one shouldn't infer from the fact that a certain strain of internet commentary has a very different writing style from traditional punditry that the root cause of this phenomenon is a drastic characterological difference between the writers. The other thing is that the comparisons between the stridency and vulgarity of some blog...
  • Post Columnist Advocates Default on National Debt

    Washington Post columnist Allan Sloan called for defaulting on the U.S. national debt, or at least a portion of it, in his weekly column today . Mr. Sloan pointed out that the Social Security trustees project that the program will begin drawing on the government bonds in its trust fund in just over a decade. He said that repaying the bonds in the trust fund will be a burden to the government, and that his children, as future taxpayers, shouldn't have to bear this burden. Mr. Sloan probably would object to describing his column as a call for default on the national debt, but this in fact exactly what it is. In the column, he implicitly derides the legitimacy of the bonds held by Social Security by calling them IOUs. Of course all bonds are IOUs, but they are never described this way in normal discussions. Under the law, the bonds held by the Social Security trust fund are legal obligations of the federal government. Social Security bought these bonds with the excess Social Security...
  • Dying Children and Numbers in Context

    A New York Times article this morning, reporting that up to 4 million infants die every year for the lack of very simple medical care items, provides a classic example of reporting numbers out of context. The article informs readers that the Bush administration proposes to spend $323 million in 2007 on aid for maternal and child health care in developing countries, down from $356 million in 2006. Apart from the failure to adjust the spending figures for inflation, very few Times readers are probably aware of the fact that the 2007 appropriation comes to $1.08 per person in the United States, or 0.013 percent of federal spending. This program may or may not be a good use of public money, but it is a trivial item in the federal budget, and readers should be made aware of this fact. --Dean Baker
  • WORLD CUP MORAL...

    WORLD CUP MORAL CLARITY. Zach Roth , echoing several commenters, defends the President's weak statement on the American World Cup squad by arguing that Bush 's assessment is essentially accurate. That's besides the point. He's the President of the United States and he's supposed to support the team . Before any big sporting event, the relevant local politicians always pick their team to win. They don't play the odds. They don't offer neutral assessments of the situation. They support the team . If Bush wasn't comfortable picking America to go all the way, he still should have found something positive to say: "As you know, American soccer has improved a lot in recent years and our team's gotten a very strong assessment from FIFA, so I'm optimistic." Instead we got "I know they'll try their hardest" like we were talking about a bunch of eight-year-olds. Liberals can't yield on this point. American performance in international team sports competitions has been deplorable during the Bush...
  • THE REAL LIBERAL...

    THE REAL LIBERAL LITMUS TEST. Kevin Drum argues that the left blogosphere isn't actually all that liberal, but rather is politically pragmatic except when it comes to the questions of "the war in Iraq and the almost criminal negligence and incompetence of the Bush administration." Today's USA Today/Gallup poll results add some interesting numerical evidence to that assertion. Disapproving of the President, according to the poll, is a position on which liberals agree by a ratio of 9 to 1; 52 percent of conservatives, 28 percent of moderates, and just seven percent of liberals approve of the job President Bush is doing. And, because around 90 percent of liberals do not approve of what Bush is doing, it's not an exaggeration to say that disapproval of Bush could be considered the new liberal litmus test. To the extent that Joe Lieberman is under attack from the netroots (and he most certainly is), it is largely because he has tied himself so closely to the President -- something even...
  • HEH. I'm not...

    HEH. I'm not much in the habit of regurgitating DCCC press releases, but this quote from Rahm Emanuel is too funny not to pass on: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Congressman Rahm Emanuel, today released the following statement on President Bush�s �best moment in office�: �Five years after President Bush said he would find Osama bin Laden, we�re all glad to hear that all he�s caught is an apparently harmless fish,� said Congressman Rahm Emanuel, Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. An apt point of comparison, considering that bin Laden is still at large. --Garance Franke-Ruta
  • GOSS LINKS. Spencer...

    GOSS LINKS. Spencer Ackerman offers some useful thoughts on Porter Goss ' resignation, drawing parallels between his experience and that of his predecessor, George Tenet , in attempting simultaneously to lead a fiercely turf-conscious bureaucracy while also carrying out Bush administration prerogatives inimical to that bureaucracy. Meanwhile, via Matt , National Review helpfully articulates the maximally pro-politicization line on the subject here . And Bob Dreyfuss laid out the story of Goss' battle against the agency's career officials and agents back in the Prospect 's November cover story . That piece is a gripping read, and contains a quote from one former CIA official making one of the most awesomely inflammatory comparisons ever, regarding Goss's politicized purges on behalf of the President: �There aren�t any Arabists left in the CIA. They�re gone. They weren�t with the program. It�s like Pol Pot, who killed anybody wearing glasses because they might be able to read.�...
  • BUSH LIED, FISH...

    BUSH LIED, FISH DIED? I'd heard questions raised as to whether it was really possible for the President's finest hour to have been catching a 7.5 pound perch in light of the fact that American perch don't get that big. According to the White House, however, this is a complete misunderstanding -- he was being interviewed in English, then that got translated into German, and then translated back into English. What the President actually said was "the best moment was when I caught a seven-and-a-half pound large mouth bass on my lake." Bass do get big enough to make that plausible. Tristero reminds us of Bush's famous dictum, "I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully" (yes, that actually happened) which may be relevant here somehow. More disturbing than this fish business, in many ways, were the President's remarks on the upcoming World Cup. We're fielding a very strong team this year, and Bush is normally the master of nationalistic bluster -- why couldn't he muster a...
  • FROM ONE GULF...

    FROM ONE GULF TO ANOTHER. There's been some talk on the blogs about how Arab and Muslim support for the cash-strapped Hamas-led Palestinian Authority is quite low in the grand scheme of things, but just how low it is comparatively speaking is really driven home when you look at the incredible generosity of a number of Arab states towards the United States in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. All told, Arab states plegded $700 million in one-time aid to private entities to assist victims of the natural disaster in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, including housing and medical donations. Close to $126 million of that has already been contributed to the U.S., including $60 million from Qatar. Kuwait's pledge of $400 million is still awaiting parliamentary approval there, and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have each pledged $100 million in U.S. post-Katrina aid. Meanwhile, the Arab League in March managed to secure promises of $55 million per month for the Palestinian Authority...

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