Thursday, October 13, 2005

Logic and reason


"McClellan added: 'Faith is very important to Harriet Miers. But she recognizes that faith and that her religion and that her personal views don't have a role to play when it comes to making decisions.' "

So, they are trying to sell her to the right on the basis of her faith, and reassure the middle and the left on the basis that her faith doesn't matter.

Um. So, the media strategy is "A is true" and "A is also not true." How many more years of this do we have?

Richard Cohen

Atrios declares Richard Cohen to be "wanker of the day" for his column, Let My Leaker Go!.

OK, it's called "Let This Leak Go", which strangely is not about a prostate problem.

My message to Cohen:

I'm sure you are receiving many responses to your column "Let This Leak Go" and that mine is just one of those many. Hopefully, the volume of responses will not prevent you from reading and considering this one.

As someone who has been following this story, as much as possible given the lack of information, I have to say that I have not seen a less serious take on the matter than your column.

Without knowing what evidence and testimony has been presented, other than that of the reporters involved who are not named Miller, you are suggesting that Fitzgerald not indict anyone and go home. You have decided and announced what action he should take without knowing the facts of the case.

By what definition is this journalism or opinion? There must be some editors around; please ask them if, as a rule, you should proceed with a story or column if you don't have the essential facts.

You are suggesting a course of action for the prosecutor, and ascribing motives to the subjects of the investigation, and downplaying (at best) the validity of the charges that may be brought, all without the facts that you need to do any of these things.

Your column cannot be taken seriously. Thank you for your attention.

Lame Man

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Accountability moment

"We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. "The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me."


I never really bought that line of thinking. There were too many lies and distortions and too much slime going around for any clear-eyed "accountability moment."

But maybe the voters were on to something. Maybe the narrative that no one could see at the time was the voters saying, "he got us into this mess, let's stick with it for a while and see if he can get us out."

Well, it's been less than a year and the polls are saying that the public is writing him off.

President Bubble Boy: Your poll numbers are in the toilet. Your administration is soon to be indicted. You showed that you are in charge of nothing in your response to Hurricane Katrina. More and more, you seem to be nothing other than a figurehead, a showpiece for others who set the agenda.

This is your accountability moment.

Rank amateur speculation

Libby Did Not Tell Grand Jury About Key Conversation

The previously undisclosed June 23 meeting between Libby and Miller, their telephone conversations of July 8 and 12, and Novak's July 14 column occurred during an intensive period in which senior White House officials were scrambling to discredit Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, who was then publicly asserting that the Bush administration had relied on faulty intelligence to bolster its case for war with Iraq.

How does this square with the "heard it from reporters" defense? Suppose that Cheney and Libby were the driving force in digging up info about Plame. Libby and Rove do the grunt work of spreading the info to reporters. Between the two of them, they play a game of "second sourcing." As in, "I don't know (wink, wink) who first told you about Plame, but I can confirm that, off the record of course."

That's when this First Amendment charade starts. Protecting sources, when those sources were playing the reporters for suckers the whole time.

Larger discussion point: Is "arrogant" the most appropriate word for this whole scandal? How else would one describe an illegal, yet petty and foolish, act of disclosing the identity of an undercover agent?

And will anyone be following up with any of the Kool-Aid drinkers who have said "it was only politics," or "she wasn't really undercover," or "Fitzgerald is an out-of-control prosecutor"?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Amateur copy editing, or unconstructive criticism

Liberal Hopes Ebb in Post-Storm Poverty Debate

Paragraph 2, first word: But.
Paragraph 6, first word: But.
Paragraph 17, first word: But.
Paragraph 29, first word: But.
I'm not going by that moldy rule of "don't start a sentence with the word 'but'" here. The effect in this article is whiplash; on the one hand, on the other hand.

Paragraphs 7, 8, 11, 12: Quotes from two conservatives, one stating that liberal policies don't work, and the other stating support for supply-side economics.
Paragraph 13: Explains that poverty fell during the Clinton years and has risen during the Bush II years.
I'm not suggesting that Clinton can be defined as a liberal, just questioning the construct of putting these arguable quotes ahead of objective results.

Paragraph 3: "Conservatives have already used the storm for causes of their own, like suspending requirements that federal contractors have affirmative action plans and pay locally prevailing wages.'
Paragraph 18: "...Mr. Bush suspended the Davis-Bacon Act, a 1931 law that prohibits federally financed construction jobs from paying wages less than a local average."
Paragraph 20: "Likewise, the president suspended rules requiring federal contractors to file affirmative action plans, which his allies called cumbersome."
The vague construction in paragraph 3 is detailed 15 paragraphs later, as actions taken by Bush.

Liberal Hopes Ebb in Post-Storm Poverty Debate

1 WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 - As Hurricane Katrina put the issue of poverty onto the national agenda, many liberal advocates wondered whether the floods offered a glimmer of opportunity. The issues they most cared about - health care, housing, jobs, race - were suddenly staples of the news, with President Bush pledged to "bold action."

2 But what looked like a chance to talk up new programs is fast becoming a scramble to save the old ones.

3 Conservatives have already used the storm for causes of their own, like suspending requirements that federal contractors have affirmative action plans and pay locally prevailing wages. And with federal costs for rebuilding the Gulf Coast estimated at up to $200 billion, Congressional Republican leaders are pushing for spending cuts, with programs like Medicaid and food stamps especially vulnerable.

4 "We've had a stunning reversal in just a few weeks," said Robert Greenstein, director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal advocacy group in Washington. "We've gone from a situation in which we might have a long-overdue debate on deep poverty to the possibility, perhaps even the likelihood, that low-income people will be asked to bear the costs. I would find it unimaginable if it wasn't actually happening."

5 Mr. Greenstein's comments were echoed by Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut: "Poor people are going to get the short end of the stick, despite all the public sympathy. That's a great irony."

6 But many conservatives see logic, not irony, at work. If the storm exposed great poverty, they say, it also exposed the problems of the very policies that liberals have supported.

7 "This is not the time to expand the programs that were failing anyway," said Stuart M. Butler, a vice president of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research and advocacy group influential on Capitol Hill.

8 While the right has proposed alternatives including tax-free zones for businesses and school vouchers for students, Mr. Butler said, "the left has just talked up the old paradigm: 'let's expand what's failed before.' "

9 Doubt about the effectiveness of some programs is only one factor shaping the current antipoverty debate. Another is political muscle: poor people do not make campaign contributions. Many do not even vote.

10 A third factor is the federal deficit, which leaves little money for new initiatives. And a fourth is the continuing support for tax cuts, including those aimed at the wealthiest Americans, which further limits spending on social programs.

11 Indeed, even as he was calling for deep spending cuts last week, Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana, who leads the conservative caucus, called tax reductions for the prosperous a key to fighting poverty.

12 "Raising taxes in the wake of a national catastrophe would imperil the very economic growth we need to bring the Gulf Coast back," Mr. Pence said. "I'm mindful of what a pipe fitter once said to President Reagan: 'I've never been hired by a poor man.' A growing economy is in the interest of every working American, regardless of their income."

13 Economic growth is crucial to reducing poverty, but the effect of tax rates is less clear. In 1993, President Bill Clinton raised taxes on upper-income families, the economy boomed and poverty fell for the next seven years. In 2001, President Bush cut taxes deeply, but even with economic growth, the poverty rate has risen every year since.

14 In 2004, about 12.7 percent of the country, or 37 million people, lived below the poverty line, which was about $19,200 for a family of four. The figure was 7.8 percent among whites, 24.7 percent among blacks and 21.9 percent among Hispanics.

15 Hurricane Katrina gave those figures a face as no statistic can.

16 "As all of us saw on television, there is also some deep, persistent poverty in this region," with "roots in a history of racial discrimination," President Bush said in a Sept. 15 speech from New Orleans. Using the language of the civil rights movement, Mr. Bush pledged "not just to cope, but to overcome."

17 But liberal critics say his policies will have the opposite effect.

18 The week before his speech, Mr. Bush suspended the Davis-Bacon Act, a 1931 law that prohibits federally financed construction jobs from paying wages less than a local average. The administration argued that the suspension, which applied only to storm areas, would benefit local residents by stretching financial resources.

19 Critics said the savings would come at the expense of needy workers.

20 Likewise, the president suspended rules requiring federal contractors to file affirmative action plans, which his allies called cumbersome.

21 "He talks about lending a helping hand to the poor and disadvantaged," Jared Bernstein, a researcher at the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research and advocacy group in Washington, said of Mr. Bush. "But these policies push the other way, toward lower wages and less racial inclusion."

22 In another dispute, the president has taken on a senior member of his own party, Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

23 Mr. Grassley wants to expand Medicaid to cover all the poor who survived Hurricane Katrina, including many adults who did not previously qualify. The expansion would last five months, though it could be extended, and the federal government would cover the costs.

24 While most Democrats support the measure, the Bush administration strongly opposes it, arguing that evacuees would be served faster through more modest changes in existing state programs.

25 In part, the dispute has the feel of a proxy war about the larger fate of the program, which the administration has sharply criticized.

26 A similar proxy war has played out in housing policy after the Senate voted to house evacuees through the Section 8 program, which offers poor people subsidies for private housing. Critical of the program's cost, the administration instead created a parallel voucher program for hurricane evacuees.

27 In budget battles, the storm had one immediate effect: delaying the $35 billion in spending cuts ordered in last spring's Congressional budget resolution. About $10 billion over five years was expected to come from Medicaid and about $600 million from food stamps.

28 The delay occurred after some lawmakers said it was wrong to cut safety net programs with so many storm survivors seeking aid.

29 But the pendulum is swinging the other way. Concerned about the storm's costs, a group of 100 House conservatives released a list of suggested spending cuts totaling $370 billion over five years.

30 And President Bush weighed in last week, saying, "Congress needs to pay for as much of the hurricane relief as possible by cutting spending."

31 The chairman of the House Budget Committee, Representative Jim Nussle, Republican of Iowa, wants to increase the cuts in the budget bill to $50 billion, from the $35 billion agreed on last spring. Senate leaders are also talking of new cuts, though they have not announced a numerical goal.

32 As they search for spending cuts, neither chamber has turned away from the $70 billion package of tax reductions authorized last spring. Mr. Greenstein, of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, says those tax cuts come on top of two others, passed in 2001, that are scheduled to take effect in January and that benefit the wealthiest Americans.

33 Mr. Greenstein argues that the logic of shared sacrifice requires the tax cuts to be reconsidered. But most Congressional Republicans disagree, including Mr. Pence, the conservative leader.

34 "To allow tax cuts to lapse is a tax increase," Mr. Pence said, "and the economy would suffer."

35 Some conservatives say the storm, in exposing the depth of poverty, gives them a chance to push their own solutions to the problem, like school vouchers or subsidies to help poor people accumulate assets.

36 "What we've done for the poor hasn't worked," said Robert L. Woodson, president of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, a conservative policy group. "People are going to say, 'How did these people get into this circumstance in the first place?' It gives us an opportunity to really turn over a new leaf."