• Now With 50% More Cronyness!

    This piece by Noam Scheiber on Bush's extended cronyism makes a very good point: It's the second kind of cronyism--call it "outer-circle cronyism"--that's truly destructive. The focus here isn't so much on handing out jobs to dubiously qualified friends and associates--that is, to one's own cronies. It's on handing out jobs to cronies of cronies, which increases the scale of the cronyism exponentially. He goes on to list examples, which you should go on to read. But rather than recondemning Bush for Michael Brown, fun as that may be, the point to be made here is different. Brown's appointment and Bush's cronyism shouldn't surprise, they should be expected, and the fact that so many are gaping in open-mouthed awe at Bush's cavalier attitude towards appointments just shows that America has some serious dissonance between what they elect and who they think they're voting for.
  • Big Government Conservatism

    Stephen Moore, former Club for Growth head and all-around nutty tax-cutter, penned an op-ed in the WSJ that you can just tell had him sobbing tears of frustration by the last line. Nevertheless, it's fairly good stuff, if only for the minty-cool refreshing feeling that comes from seeing at least one conservative flip out at Bush for betraying everything he believes in. To wit: Alas, in the world of compassionate conservatism, the quaint notion of limited federal power has fallen to the wayside in favor of an ethic that has Uncle Sam as first, second and third responder to crisis. FEMA, despite its woeful performance, will grow in size and stature. So will the welfare state. Welcome to the new New Dealism of the GOP. Both political parties are now willing and eager to spend tax dollars as if they were passing out goody-bags to grabby four-year-olds at a birthday party. The Democrats are already forging their 2006 and 2008 message: We will spend just as many trillions of dollars as...
  • All The President's Men

    And the scandals come marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah... A senior White House budget official who resigned abruptly last week was arrested Monday on charges of lying to investigators and obstructing a federal inquiry involving Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist who has been under scrutiny by the Justice Department for more than a year. The arrest of the official, David H. Safavian, head of procurement policy at the Office of Management and Budget, was the first to result from the wide-ranging corruption investigation of Mr. Abramoff, once among the most powerful and best-paid lobbyists in Washington and a close friend of Representative Tom DeLay, the House majority leader. [...] The F.B.I. affidavit, which was dated Friday and made public on Monday, said that Mr. Safavian had provided extensive, secret assistance to Mr. Abramoff in 2002, when the lobbyist wanted help on behalf of a client to arrange a lease on favorable terms for the Old Post Office Building, which was...
  • Poor With Cable

    From David Shipler's The Working Poor : Breaking away and moving a comfortable distance from poverty seems to require a perfect lineup of favorable conditions. A set of skills, a good starting wage, and a job with the likelihood of promotion are prerequisites. But so are clarity of purpose, courageous self-esteem, a lack of substantial debt, the freedom from illness and addiction, a functional family, a network of upstanding friends, and the right help from governmental or private agencies. Any gap in that array is an entry point for trouble, because being poor means being unprotected. You might as well try playing quarterback with no helmet, no padding, no training, and no experience, behind a line of hundred-pound weaklings. With no cushion of money, no training in the ways of the wider world, and too little temptation against the threats and defenses of decaying communities, a poor man or woman gets sacked again and again -- buffeted and bruised and defeated. When an exception...
  • Odds and Ends

    • There's a whole lotta good stuff on Tapped today. Pay particular attention to Sam Rosenfeld' one-for-the-road takedown of David Brooks and Matt on why locking away the op-ed columnists was precisely the wrong idea. On a different note, I guess next week I'll be able to link to myself over there -- weird. • The LA Times has an interesting op-ed on whether or not we should negotiate with al-Qaeda. Generations of countries afflicted by terrorist organizations have talked their way out of conflict before, though often only after many deaths and even more bombs. One thing I've long feared with bin-Laden's horde is that their cultural differences make a decidedly political, territorial organization with comprehensible aims seem like an antagonistic group bent on destruction for the sake of it. Whatever the wingnuts say, there's little reason to think that, and the country would be doing itself a disservice if it didn't at least attempt to see if we could open a dialogue of sorts. Cheney...
  • Not Dead, Just Victorious

    The Carpetbagger notes that the Christian Coalition is now basically bankrupt, their organization hollow and extraneous. But don't pop the bubbly just yet -- there's a reason the Christian Coalition is dying and it's not because they lost. iIt's because they won. Having integrated the nation's churches with the Republican majority, having convinced Karl Rove that his richest source of voters lay among evangelicals, and having elected a fair number of space cadet politicians more likely to revere the Cross than the Constitution, there's no longer a reason for a massive group like the Christian Coalition to exist on the outside, what mattered about them was long ago ushered into the inside.
  • The Triangle

    Peter Daou's written a really interesting piece on the media triangle that blogs are now a part of. It's a good corrective to some of the blogosphere's more fantastical boosters, but beyond that, it's a really good analysis of the interplay between blogs, the established press, and the political mainstream. Looking at the political landscape, one proposition seems unambiguous: blog power on both the right and left is a function of the relationship of the netroots to the media and the political establishment. Forming a triangle of blogs, media, and the political establishment is an essential step in creating the kind of sea change we’ve seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Simply put, without the participation of the media and the political establishment, the netroots alone cannot generate the critical mass necessary to alter or create conventional wisdom. This is partly a factor of audience size, but it’s also a matter, frankly, of trust and legitimacy. Give it a read .
  • North Korea To Give Up Nukes

    This is great news. North Korea agreed Monday to end its nuclear weapons program in return for security, economic and energy benefits, potentially easing tensions with the United States after a two-year standoff over the North's efforts to build atomic bombs. The United States, North Korea and four other nations participating in negotiations in Beijing signed a draft accord in which the North promised to abandon efforts to produce nuclear weapons and re-admit international inspectors to its nuclear facilities. Foreign powers said they would provide aid, diplomatic assurances and security guarantees and consider North Korea's demands for a light-water nuclear reactor. I don't know enough about the issue to offer much further commentary on it, but assuming the agreement evolves into a solid plan (and that, unfortunately, can be a big assumption), this is something to celebrate. The breakthrough happened as Bush administration officials were preparing to scurry back home without an...
  • Old Europe -- Just Like the New Country

    A week after Koizumi deployed his lipstick assassins to win a landslide victory for reform in Japan, we were supposed to see the same in Germany. Angela Merkel, an American-style economic reformer who promised free market solutions and a reigning-in of the welfare state was slated to crush Old Europe's Gerhard Schroeder. But a funny thing happened on the way to the ballot box... Merkel's campaign was inept, self-contradictory, uninspired. Schroeder was canny, quick, and crucified Merkel as a uncompassionate conservative, slicing her lead in the polls and leaving election night a nailbiting affair. When all was said and voted, Merkel's Christian Democrats had won a plurality with 35.2% while Schroeder's Social Democrats got 34.3%. And then Schroeder did something very American: he claimed victory. The argument? That his surge shows the German people didn't want to replace him. Apparently German elections run not on majorities and pluralities, but on momentum and buzz. And since neither...
  • Budget Tragedies, Budget Statistics

    By Neil the Ethical Werewolf As Democrats know and Republicans try to forget, this Administration has turned the record budget surpluses of the late 1990s into unprecedented budget deficits. We've gone from a surplus of $236 billion in 2000 to a $412 billion deficit in 2004. Among the causes are tax cuts, the Iraq War, corporate welfare, and general mismanagement. The Bush Administration hasn't paid any serious political price for its fiscal nihilism. When there's a war on, nobody can be brought to care about bloodless matters like deficits. Furthermore, there's a level at which you pay no additional political price for pushing the deficits higher. You'll have the fiscal conservatives (all five of them, perhaps!) against you with the same intensity whether you run deficits of $112 billion or $412 billion. So once you've stuck yourself with deficits, there's no reason not to let them run out of control.