Truthiness. (Leave your word of the year in the comments section.)
Bush’s approval rating, according to a new Zogby poll, an all-time low.
In case things were unclear, Joe Lieberman seizes advantage of her passing to re-iterate that he is a conservative Republican on foreign policy issues. Kirkpatrick, as Lieberman observed, “lived a life of a tribune of democracy” if by “democracy” we mean “right-wing military juntas.”
At a Pentagon townhall meeting today, outgoing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said he began reading books about the U.S. Civil War, but “turned away from that” because he “there were so many people killed and wounded, and they were all Americans.” Rumsfeld said he began reading books about World War II instead.
Rumsfeld appears to be in denial about civil wars, refusing to read books on the U.S.’s history and failing to recognize there is one going on currently in Iraq. Watch it:
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“Hollinger has Millsap as his early Rookie of the year? Do you agree with that?” Chris Sheridan does not agree: “I’d have to go with Morrison right now, but it’s very, very early, and I like what I see out of Millsap.” Sheridan is apparently working from the “raw scoring totals are the only statistic that matters” school of basketball analysis with Morrison’s 14.4 points per game giving him the edge over Paul Millsap’s 7.3 ppg. And, hey, if Morrison scores almost twice as many points, he must be better, right? Well, he also happens to play more than twice as many minutes. And, despite the much greater playing time, actually secures fewer raw steals, blocks, and rebounds — never mind per-minute adjustments. What’s more, Morrison shoots poorly from the field (.385%) and from the line (.684%) leading to a TS% of 46.7 percent to Millsap’s 63.2 percent.
Note that the Bobcats’ offense is better with Morrison off the court, which, while hardly the be-all end-all of analysis, is not a good sign for a pure scorer. I don’t see this as even close.
In the coming days, Congress will likely pass a “tax extenders” bill to “renew popular expired tax breaks,” such as the “research credit, a deduction for tuition and other college expenses, and a deduction for teachers who spend money out of their own pocket for classroom supplies.”
But Congress has decided to use the bill for partisan purposes. In closed-door negotiations, Congress “added a tax break benefiting high-income taxpayers that was never passed by either the full House or Senate.” The measure would increase the amount that individuals could contribute to Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), “thereby allowing those who could make these additional contributions to shelter even more of their income from taxation.” A look at these HSAs:
– HSAs are disproportionately used by high-income individuals. The Government Accountability Office found “that the average income of HSA users was $133,000 in 2004, compared to $51,000 for all non-elderly tax filers.”
– The higher the participants’ incomes, the larger their tax-deductible HSA contributions. According to a GAO study, the “average HSA contribution made by participants with incomes exceeding $200,000 was more than double the average contribution made by participants with incomes below $50,000.”
– Many HSA participants are use their accounts as tax shelters. In 2004, the “majority of people with HSAs withdrew no funds from the accounts…and HSA participants in the focus groups that the GAO convened spoke of using their HSAs for tax sheltering purposes.”
Via Drum and Sirota, Sherrod Brown says “anybody that runs for the president will have to go through Ohio, literally and figuratively.” That means “that doesn’t just want to increase the minimum wage” but also favors “different trade policy, standing up to the drug industry, taking on the oil industry.”
This is one of the weirder consequences of the way the American method of electing presidents gives votes to states rather than people. Given the election outcomes in 2004 and 2000, Democratic strategy is bound to focus on swinging either Ohio or Florida into the “blue” column. Economic conditions in those two states are, however, quite different. Ohio has a very large manufacturing sector and Florida has a relatively small one. Population growth in Ohio has been anemic, rising from 10,652,017 in 1970 to 11,464,042 35 years later. Florida has been growing like gangbusters from 12.9 million in 1990 to 18 million in 2005. Meanwhile, even throughout a period of rather sluggish labor market conditions, there’s been rapid job growth in Florida.
The thing of it is that neither state is particularly reflective of economic conditions throughout the country as a whole. Nevertheless, the remorseless logic of the electoral college dictates that one pick one state or the other and tailor an entire nationwide message to its peculiarities — a dour one focused on de-industrializing for Ohio, or an optimistic one focused on the possibilities of the service economy for Florida. The 2006 Ohio GOP meltdown tends to imply an Ohio strategy rather than a Florida one, and thus we may in effect see an entire nationwide approach to the politics of the economy de facto substantially determined by the “coingate” scandal, which, wouldn’t seem like the sort of thing to have such dramatic implications.
“The House ethics committee has concluded that Republican leaders did not break any rules in handling ex-Rep. Mark Foley’s improper advances to former male pages but were negligent in protecting the teenagers, a congressional aide said Friday.”
Alongside the silliness of the Baker-Hamilton Commission and Tom Friedman’s newfound commitment to good sense, there’s yet another new brand of liberal hawk madness bopping around town. This week’s New Republic editorial, for example, perspicaciously observes that “On the question of withdrawal, which is politically the most sensational question, the report is evasive” before going on to evade the question of withdrawal. In the same issue, Peter Beinart complains that “across ideological lines, American politicians and pundits are finally coming to a consensus on Iraq: It’s the Iraqis’ fault” and concludes that “If we need to leave; we need to leave. But let’s not pretend the defeat is anyone else’s but our own” but doesn’t say whether or not we need to leave. Likewise, George Packer groused in The New Yorker that withdrawal advocates were being unduly rosy about the potential outcome of withdrawal without saying whether or not he favors withdrawal. And here we had Jason Zengerle charging me with undue churlishness in my estimation of Robert Gates’ support for the continuation of the war, combined with an unwillingness to express a view on the underlying policy issue.
To dust off an old term, I think we need to have a conversation about “moral seriousness” here. This passion for nitpicking and meta-commentary is a serious abdication. If you’re going to spend your time writing about Iraq, you have some responsibility to form a view on the central Iraq-related question: The wisdom of continuing the war. If we should stay, then, fine, complain about the rhetoric of withdrawal advocates. But if we need to leave not only do we need to leave, but people who think we need to leave need to say we need to leave.
On the issue Beinart raises, I agree with him. The “blame the Iraqis” account of the war is somewhat offensive and factually misguided. That said, it’s a lot less misguided than continuing the war. If politicians who need to stand for election choose to put the most-politically-palatable possible spin on that policy view rather than the most exactingly accurate one, I don’t think that’s seriously problematic. Practical politicians are in the business of putting positive spin on their policy preferences, and there’s no sense calling 911 every time you hear it happening.