Ed keeps asking about the state of Australian basketball. I know almost nothing about Australian basketball. Key facts — I once had a summer camp counselor who played basketball at Virginia Tech and claimed that though he wasn’t good enough to get drafted for the NBA when he graduated, he thought he might go play professionally in Australia. Arne Duncan, currently head of Chicago’s schools and Barack Obama’s choice to be Secretary of Education, used to play pro ball in Australia. Third, I think David Andersen from CSKA Moscow is Australian. Beyond that — I have no idea.
Only 29 percent of Americans approve of the job Dick Cheney is doing as Vice President. In an interview with his hometown Wyoming newspaper, The Caspar Star-Tribune, Cheney expressed his bewilderment over his low approval numbers:
QUESTION: How do you explain your low approval rating?
CHENEY: I don’t have any idea. I don’t follow the polls.
My experience has been over the years that if you govern based upon poll numbers, upon trying to improve your overall poll ratings, people I’ve encountered who do that are people who won’t make tough decisions. And the job the president has and those who advise him is to make those basic fundamental decisions for the nation that nobody else is authorized or able to make.
In addition to his well-documented abuse of power and disregard for the rule of law, Cheney’s public disapproval ratings might be explained in part by his own personal disregard for the public. When told that two-thirds of Americans disapproved of the Iraq war, Cheney responded “so?,” adding that he didn’t care what the American people thought.
While he says he doesn’t follow the polls, Cheney was all too proud to state shortly after the 2004 elections: “President George W. Bush won the greatest number of popular votes of any presidential candidate in history.” (That’s no longer true.)
Cheney is still holding out hope, however, that the polls will turn his way. He said recently, “I’m personally persuaded that this president and this administration will look very good 20 or 30 years down the road in light of what we’ve been able to accomplish.”
I came up to New York City yesterday to visit my dad and some other folks for a few days. When I checked the listings and saw that the Wizards had a home game against the hapless Thunder for last night, I realized I had some bad timing. Obviously, a C-List game like that wasn’t televised in NYC, and I was pretty sure — and correct as it turns out — that we could win that game, making it one of only a very few opportunities I would have this season to watch the Wizards win a game.
At any rate, the whole Wizards season has been so pathetic that I can barely roust myself to blog about it. Suffice it to say that I was totally right when I spent all last season talking about Brendan Haywood and how his presence on the court was integral to the Wizards’ grasp on mediocrity.
What are folks interested in?
Commenting on Israel’s attack on Gaza, NRO’s Andy McCarthy wonders whether the strikes will “demonstrate that terrorism is a loser for those who vote for it.”
The question is whether the Palestinian people are educable. Which brings me back to the first point: the Palestinians voted to put in power — i.e., vest with the power of a quasi-sovereign government — a terrorist organization which thinks legitimate governing consists of bringing about the annihilation of its sovereign neighbor and, meantime, targeting the said neighbor’s civilian population with bombing attacks. When you do that, you make yourself a target.
It’s one thing to defend Israel’s disproportionate attacks as a legitimate attempt to destroy Hamas’ capacity to launch rockets into Israel, but it’s quite another to defend them as an attempt to “educate” the Palestinian people. The former is debatable, the latter is a forthright embrace of terrorism, the use of force against civilians to achieve a political goal.
McCarthy’s advocacy of violence against people who vote the wrong way raises an obvious question. Granting, for the moment, McCarthy’s simplistic interpretation of Hamas’ election, (which was more a vote against Fatah’s incompetence and corruption than it was for Israel’s destruction) if Palestinian civilians have made themselves targets by voting into power a party that advocates the destruction of Israel, have Israeli civilians made themselves targets by voting into power successive governments that have continued a military occupation while expropriating Palestinian land? Have Americans made themselves targets by voting in governments that support that occupation? According to McCarthy’s reasoning, the answer to both questions is yes.
The American people are the ones who choose their government by way of their own free will; a choice which stems from their agreement to its policies. Thus the American people have chosen, consented to, and affirmed their support for the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, the occupation and usurpation of their land, and its continuous killing, torture, punishment and expulsion of the Palestinians. The American people have the ability and choice to refuse the policies of their Government and even to change it if they want.[...]
This is why the American people cannot be not innocent of all the crimes committed by the Americans and Jews against us.
Allah, the Almighty, legislated the permission and the option to take revenge. Thus, if we are attacked, then we have the right to attack back. Whoever has destroyed our villages and towns, then we have the right to destroy their villages and towns. Whoever has stolen our wealth, then we have the right to destroy their economy. And whoever has killed our civilians, then we have the right to kill theirs.
This is the rhetorical company in which McCarthy now finds himself. While we shouldn’t be surprised that there are many things that conservative extremists from all cultures agree on, decent and reasonable people should agree that there is no legitimate justification for intentional violence against civilians, by anyone.
There’s a real lack of understanding in this country of the extent of the problem of medical waste and what I guess you’d have to call doctors’ incompetence. Uwe Reinhardt has a great post laying much of this out including the striking fact that “on average, American patients receive the recommended treatment for their condition only slightly more than 50 percent of the time.”
The structure of Medicare allows us to do pretty solid apples-to-apples comparisons of what different hospitals are spending on treatment, and the evidence is clear that the hospital-to-hospital variance is costs is large, and in quality is also pretty big, but the differences seem uncorrelated:
According to the Dartmouth researchers, if physicians with relatively higher cost preferred practice styles could be induced to embrace the preferred practice styles of their equally effective but lower-cost colleagues, overall per-capita Medicare spending probably could be reduced by at least 30 percent without harming patients, and similarly for commercially insured younger Americans. How can a nation that routinely wails over its high cost of health care ignore such important research?
I’ve been watching a lot of House re-runs lately, and they’re a striking encapsulation of part of what’s wrong with the way Americans think about medicine. Dr House is unfailingly portrayed as a bad person but a fantastic doctor and the medical ideal is seen to be that of the brilliant explorer-hero who does what it takes to solve the most difficult cases. An alternative model would see the doctor as a kind of custodian of public health. A general practitioner who develops an effective method of nudging people toward quitting smoking or exercising more during his brief post-checkup chats would save many more lives at dramatically lower cost than would all of Dr House’s heroics.
And of course most doctors in the real world aren’t like genius television characters — unleash them from concerns about cost-efficacy and imbue them with a heroic self-conception and they don’t even give you costly-but-effective medicine. Almost half the time they don’t even do the right treatment.
If I weren’t on vacation, I wouldn’t have read Oprah magazine. No really. But then I would have missed a piece of misinformation gratuitously foisted on her readers.
For her legion upon legion upon legion of fans, the big news is the O has recently been losing her battle with weight [-- one legion does not do her empire justice. Turns out a Roman legion isn't that big, just a few thousand fighters. Who knew? In any case, Oprah is now bigger than ancient Rome. No, I don't mean physically -- give her a break, it's only 40 pounds, and she's under a lot of stress and has a thryoid problem to boot. But I digress]. Even legions have their limits in certain fights.
But for clean energy advocates, it is a single sentence buried deep in the magazine that should be a source of distress:
This morning on CBS, Sunday Morning’s Rita Braver interviewed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In a portion of the interview that does not appear to have aired, Braver noted the results of the recent Pew Global Attitudes survey which found that “the U.S. image abroad is suffering almost everywhere.” Braver prompted Rice saying, “It has to be more than just a perception problem.” Rice dismissed the poll’s results, claiming that the Bush administration has “left a lot of good foundations”:
Q: Looking at the big picture of what’s the whole foreign policy of this Administration – you come out of the academic tradition so I think it’s fair to ask, what kind of grade do you give yourself and this Administration on foreign policy?
RICE: Oh, I don’t know. It depends on the subject. I’m sure that there are some that deserve an A-plus and some that deserve a lot less. … We’ve left a lot of good foundations.
Q: You know, you say that, but the Pew Global Attitudes Project released a new report very recently. On the very first page it says, “The U.S. image abroad is suffering almost everywhere.” … It has to be more than just a perception problem.
RICE: No. Rita, first of all, it depends on where you’re talking about. In two of the most populous countries, China and India, the United States is not just well regarded for its policies, but well regarded.
When pressed further, Rice responded by saying, “It’s not a popularity contest.”
While the U.S. is indeed well-regarded in India, Rice’s claim that the U.S. is “well regarded” in China is puzzling. The Pew Survey that Braver noted found that in China, the U.S. is viewed favorably by just 41 percent of the country. Similarly, just 30 percent of China has confidence in the Bush administration. A BBC poll from April of this year found similar results for many other nations around the world.
Overall, the Bush administration’s foreign policy agenda has seen few successes. U.S. influence abroad is predicted to decline over the next 20 years. The U.S. military is weaker now than it was five years ago, while the State Department is suffering from staffing shortages and low morale. The recent violence in Israel dramatically highlights the fact that Bush largely ignored the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
No matter how many times Rice repeats herself, the fact that the world does not look kindly on the Bush administration’s foreign policy record will not change.
Also during the interview, Rice would soon “start to thank this president for what he’s done.”
I’d like to know what Matt (and to an extent the commenters on this site) think about Dalton Conley’s work, specifically about how differences between families explain only 25 percent of the nation’s income inequality; the remaining 75 percent is explained by differences between siblings…Thoughts?
This finding would seem to have some negative implications for quite a few preferred policies…
It seems to me that there are some tricky mathematical issues involved in this kind of calculation and I’m not in a position to rigorously evaluate that aspect of Conley’s work. But his findings are certainly interesting. I don’t think they really have the policy consequences they might seem to have at first glance. For one thing, the “only” in “only 25 percent” is doing a lot of rhetorical work — 25 percent is a lot. But more to the point, Conley himself says that socioeconomic status plays an important role in determining the extent of sibling divergence. Here he is writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2004:
Those are among the many stories that illustrate the complicated, rather unpredictable family life of American siblings. We tend to think that brothers and sisters dramatically differ from one another only in extreme cases. The truth is that some families are rafts overcome by stormy seas, some are sailboats tacking through the wind, and some are big, stable ocean liners unconcerned about the weather. In other words, when parents have lots of “class” resources to go around — time, money, social connections — kids often are more alike since parents don’t have to “choose” between them and can actively compensate for disparities in skill or pluck. (Think of the Kennedys or the Bushes.) However, when parental resources are stretched thin because of financial hardship, large family size, short spacing between kids, single parenthood, minority racial status, and so on, kids tend to drift apart in terms of their socioeconomic status. (Think Bill and Roger Clinton.)
Long story short, I think Conley’s work tends to re-enforce the general picture we already have of parental SES being an important determinant of life prospects. But because parents can “invest” disproportionate resources in one child or another — either by design or through quirk of fate — you still don’t see siblings marching in lockstep through the economy.
This is very cool. The NYT is doing great things with multimedia.