Archive

  • THE DEMAGOGUE SHUFFLE....

    THE DEMAGOGUE SHUFFLE. Bush 's new plan to deploy the National Guard to the border is a bit pathetic. Here's a guy who has never showed an ounce of interest in border enforcement, who's been laudably pro-immigrant throughout his administration, and who loves to declare that he doesn't follow the polls. So, now that his numbers are bottoming out, what does he do? Send American guardsmen to lock-down the border, stopping a crisis that doesn't actually exist. Forget, for a moment, that our National Guard is wildly overstretched, and probably has better things to do than stand watch for Mexicans (ports, anybody?). We're about to send thousands of troops to intercept peaceable human beings who are net pluses to our economy and desperately needed by many of our industries. If we need immigration reform, fine. And if we want to increase enforcement, so be it. But the idea that this is such an urgent problem that the legislative process must be circumvented for immediate troop deployment is...
  • THE "IT'S CLASSIFIED!"...

    THE "IT'S CLASSIFIED!" SHUFFLE. I'm continually amazed by how bad -- how unctuous, transparent, and phony -- Bill Frist sounds in interviews. Appearing on CNN's "Late Edition" yesterday, he parried a question from Wolf Blitzer about the NSA data mining operation by first going on at length with detailed positive commentary about the program and then immediately hiding behind the "it's classified" defense when tough questions came up. This is a classic Bush administration move, of course, but Frist handled it with his characteristic klutziness: [BLITZER]:Are you comfortable with this program? FRIST: Absolutely. Absolutely. I am one of the people who are briefed... BLITZER: You've known about this for years. FRIST: I've known about the program. I am absolutely convinced that you, your family, our families are safer because of this particular program. I absolutely know that it is legal. The program itself is anonymous, in the sense that identifiers, in terms of protecting your privacy,...
  • WHEN IN DOUBT,...

    WHEN IN DOUBT, LIE. In Laura Bush �s interview yesterday with Fox News, in which she blamed the media for her husband's abysmal poll numbers, the first lady said this: And I think right now what we're seeing with these poll numbers is a lot of fun in the press with taking a poll every other week and putting it on the news, on the front page of the newspaper. When his polls were really high, they weren't on the front page. (Emphasis added.) Really? Here's a list of headlines from The New York Times and The Washington Post about polls taken when President Bush wasn't on such hard times. Every one of these was on the front page: 1) January 29, 2002, the Post : Bush and GOP Enjoy Record Popularity; Poll Finds Broad Support Despite Doubts on Economy 2) March 11, 2002, the Post : Poll: Strong Backing for Bush, War; Few Americans See Easy End to Conflict 3) July 17, 2002, the Post : Poll Shows Bush's Ratings Weathering Business Scandals 4) Dec. 17, 2003, the Times : Bush's Approval Ratings...
  • WITH GREAT HUBRIS...

    WITH GREAT HUBRIS COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY. Cliff May makes a common conservative joke about the Bush administration getting blamed for problems that have no apparent connection to anything it's done, in this particular instance riots in Sao Paulo. The thing of it is that this mindset -- holding the United States partly responsible for everything that goes bad wherever one happens to live -- is a straightforward consequence of precisely the sort of foreign policy May favors and the Bush administration has implemented. The prevailing orthodoxy has it that the United States should be engaged everywhere, unrestrained by international organizations, and deeply concerned with the internal policies of other countries. There are two ways you could try and justify that combination of hegemony and asymmetrical sovereignty. One would be purely in terms of the American interest: "The world should work like that because it's good for us." But if you phrase it that way, then the 95 percent of...
  • Two Points on Health Care

    Since questions continually arise on my health care postings, I will make a couple of points here that do not directly relate to the news coverage. First, health care costs have posed a problem everywhere, but nowhere do they pose as much of a problem as in the United States. If we look at the OECD data , in 2003 (the most recent year available) the United States spent 15.0 percent of its GDP on health care. The next three countries ranked by expenditure as a share of GDP are Switzerland, Germany, and Iceland at 11.5 percent, 11.1 percent and 10.5 percent, respectively. Canada clocks in at 9.9 percent of GDP, Sweden at 9.4 percent, and the United Kingdom at just 7.7 percent. The comparison of GDP shares actually understates the gap in expenditures. Per capita GDP is more than 20 percent higher in the United States than in Europe, primarily because we work more hours. The difference in current expenditure levels is attributable to much more rapidly growing costs in the U.S. than...
  • THE UNCONCERNED AMERICAN....

    THE UNCONCERNED AMERICAN. Most Supreme and Enlightened Overlord Mike wonders if the NSA program's weirdly high poll numbers point to a populace "still very, very scared of another terrorist attack," and willing to do, or sacrifice, just about anything to stop it. I'd go in the opposite direction: This seems to me a populace not terribly worried about the government peeking at their phone logs, and willing to sacrifice whatever abstract privacy rights such a program violates in order to possibly prevent an attack. It's perfectly plausible that Americans have X level of anxiety over another attack, where X is a low number, but only Y amount of concern over the government knowing they don't call their grandparents enough, where Y is a lower number. And since terrorist attacks are both rare and really bad, you can have a country both relatively unconcerned about their reoccurrence and willing to give up quite a bit to prevent their success. Nevertheless, were Americans accepting high gas...
  • JUST POSTED ON...

    JUST POSTED ON TAP: HOW TO AVOID A BLOG WAR. Garance offers some advice to the MSM. Also, those of you who missed the launch party for David Sirota �s new book " Hostile Takeover " may be interested in watching the event here . The American Prospect co-hosted the event with the AFL-CIO, and among the speakers was the Prospect �s Harold Meyerson . --The Editors
  • PUNCH HARDER, DON'T...

    PUNCH HARDER, DON'T RUN. Obviously, the public's initial response to the latest from the NSA hasn't been the outrage I would have hoped for, but nonetheless I think Democrats desperately need to ignore this implicit advice from Mark Blumenthal : MP makes no predictions, but Bush can only stand to gain if the public's attention shifts from his handling of gas prices, the economy, immigration and Iraq to his administration's efforts to "investigate terrorism." The Post-ABC poll found that 51% approve (and 47% disapprove) of "the way Bush is handling Protecting Americans' privacy rights as the government investigates terrorism." That is "hardly a robust rating," as the ABC release puts it, "but one that's far better than his overall job approval, in the low 30s in recent polls." On the contrary. If Bush had low ratings overall but high ratings on some random peculiar subject -- agriculture issues or something -- then avoiding the topic would be the way to go. But Republican handling of...
  • THE WASHINGTON POST'S...

    THE WASHINGTON POST 'S POLL IS FLAWED. Let me get the fun part out of the way first. Here's an answer to Matt 's question about the identity of Specialist (whose criticism, which has on occasion targeted yours truly, is indeed valuable and well-argued sometimes). "Specialist" is the code name for a secret team of a dozen White House interns targeting liberal blogs who have been chained to their desks in the basement of the West Wing and who suffer regular whippings at the hands of Tony Snow . Seriously, there's also a very good answer to Mike 's question : Why the heck did 63 percent of respondents to the Washington Post 's poll initially find the controversial NSA program acceptable? Here's a possibility: The poll is seriously flawed. Take a look at the poll itself . The key question comes after four other questions, each of which frames this purely as civil liberties vs. terrorism, with no mention of legality. And the question itself is framed that way, too. It reads: It's been...
  • IS THE NSA...

    IS THE NSA PROGRAM ILLEGAL? COULD IT BE CRIMINAL, TOO? Is the NSA's newly-revealed program to collect the phone records of millions of Americans illegal? Experts are expressing different opinions this morning. But Kate Martin , director of the Center for National Security Studies, thinks it's clearly illegal -- and she says it may even be criminal , too. I just got off the phone with her. And I'm going to try -- and probably fail -- to accurately boil down what she said into something real, real simple. Her view is that there's only one legal way for NSA to get such records -- with an order from the court created by the FISA. Others are arguing there may be other ways -- by subpoena or by a so-called "National Security Letter" from the FBI. But she makes a strong case that this just isn't so. The key question is, Does the NSA have subpoena power? If it does, it might not need a court order. If it doesn't, however, it seems clear that it would need a court order. Got that? Martin says...

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