It seems that there’s a tradition of the Queen of England making Christmas broadcasts. And, now, those broadcasts are available on YouTube via The Royal Channel. It’s interesting stuff, but apparently embedded video is too revolutionary for the monarchy so you’ll have to click the link to see it.
Ezra Klein pronounces himself basically happy with the three major Democratic candidates. Matt Stoller responds with a proclamation of unhappiness, citing a variety of objectionable elements of the status quo than none of them dare tinker with. Matt’s right, I think, to outline an agenda that goes well beyond the list of things Democratic Party politicians are prepared to tackle — the related problems of America’s crazy drug regulation regime and America’s horrific prison system are, rightly, going to look like huge scandals to future generations and the odds of any of the major Democratic contenders doing much of anything about any of it are tiny.
That said, happiness is relative. All three of the potential nominees seem like they would make the country a better place. Hence the “fairly common sentiment among both Democratic base voters and Democratic elites” that Stoller bemoans. “Better than what we’ve got” seems like a kind of low bar to cross. And yet, in politics it’s really the only bar that matters.
Kevin Drum reads a New York Times article about holiday retail sales and bangs his head against the wall as he observes the story citing nominal sales figures: “Question: why does this happen so routinely?”
It almost certainly happens so routinely because many reporters and editors don’t really understand what they’re doing. Reputable colleges hand out degrees to people who have almost no understanding of quantitative methods. I recall that Larry Summers observed in his inaugural speech that “We live in a society, and dare I say a University, where few would admit—and none would admit proudly—to not having read any plays by Shakespeare or to not knowing the meaning of the categorical imperative, but where it is all too common and all to acceptable not to know a gene from a chromosome or the meaning of exponential growth.” Journalists, being basically a species of writer, tend to come from humanities backgrounds even though we deal with quantitative issues all the time. Journalism schools might help close the gap by making people take “math for journalists” classes (the concepts of statistical significance and margins of error in polls come up constantly, for example, and are often dealt with very poorly) but as best I can tell they normally don’t.
Juan Cole of Informed Comment outlines — and debunks — the top 10 Iraq myths of 2007, including that the “reduction in violence in Iraq is mostly because of the escalation in the number of US troops” and the “US public no longer sees Iraq as a central issue in the 2008 presidential campaign.” Read his full post HERE.
Mark Kleiman notes that back when we were looking at budget surpluses, it was deemed necessary to pass large regressive tax cuts to stave off the socialist dystopia that would surely result from government ownership of stocks (don’t ask about the dubious logic that failing to pass large regressive tax cuts would inevitably have this result). What we have now instead are “sovereign wealth funds” (a.k.a. foreign governmnets) buying up equity in American companies. Somehow, though, this is all fine.
Here’s a telling bit from The Washington Post‘s account of yesterday’s bombings in Iraq: “U.S. military commanders have said that major military efforts in and around Baghdad have pushed fighters to the areas north of the capital, often to rural or mountainous hideouts, where there are fewer troops pursuing them.”
Two morals from this story. One is that aside from the “surge” — the temporary increase in the overall number of American forces in Iraq — we’ve seen a surge-within-the-surge, an increase in the Baghdad-centricity of our deployments. The other is that outside of this surged areas, there haven’t been any security gains. There’s no change, in short, in the nationwide dynamic.
So what happens when we start de-surging?
Well, things will just get worse again. After all, when the goal of the surge was outlines as creating space and time for national political reconciliation, that wasn’t something Bush and Petraeus just pulled out of their asses. A temporary increase in force levels aimed at creating a temporary increase in security doesn’t, after all, sound like much of a strategy. So they said that the temporary increase in troops would lead to a temporary increase in security which would lead to political reconciliation which, in turn, would lead to sustainable security gains. But it hasn’t happened. So when we start desurging, we’re just going to find that nothing’s changed and nothing’s been accomplished.
U.S. Army photo by Spc. Angelica Golindano
The top ten tracks on Pitchfork’s Top 100 Tracks of 2007 list:
- Rihanna, “Umbrella,” Good Girl Gone Bad
- The New Pornographers, “Myriad Harbour,” Challengers
- The National, “Mistaken for Strangers,” Boxer
- Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, “La Costa Brava,” Living With the Living
- Arcade Fire, “Keep the Car Running,” Neon Bible
- M.I.A., “Boys, Kala
- Feist, “1 2 3 4,” The Reminder
- Jens Lekman, “A Postcard to Nina,” Night Falls Over Kortedala
- Spoon, “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb,” Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
- Justice, “D.A.N.C.E.,” †
That’s in no particular order. I don’t really believe in ordinal rankings and have no idea what it would mean to claim that “D.A.N.C.E.” is ‘better’ than “A Postcard to Nina.”
You’ve laughed at the hilarious excerpts on Sadly, No! but now Spencer Ackerman gives you the in-depth analysis of Liberal Fascism you’ve been waiting for. Using non-standard definitions of both “liberal” and “fascism” seems important to this project.
Everyone likes a good scary/tragic animal attack story, but I find it hard to believe the zoo was open on Christmas in the first place. Here in DC the zoo is open the other 364 days of the year but no luck on Christmas.
Photo by Flickr user Ber’Zophus used under a Creative Commons license
Number of “close family members of U.S. troops” who “disapprove of President Bush’s job performance,” according to a USA Today analysis of recent polls. A December LA Times/Bloomberg poll also found that just 36 percent of active-duty military, veterans, and their families believe “it was worth going to war in Iraq,” compared to a 2004 survey that found “64 percent of service members and their families supported the war.”