Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Conservative Bias?

Earlier, I referenced an NYT story in which the content indicates that Bush’s support has dropped substantially among Hispanics–a story mysteriously titled Hispanics Back Big Government and Bush, Too. I speculated that the titles was an effort, conscious or unconscious, to avoid charges of liberal bias. To which frequent AB contributor Tom replied,

The NYT is erring conservative to avoid the label of a liberal bias?

The NYT?

Somehow I don’t buy that one…

Now the standard response is to talk about Jeff Gerth and the NYT’s role in trumpeting Whitewater, or the NYT’s hapless exploiting of Wen Ho Lee in order to attack Clinton. But now I’ve got something even better and, remarkably, it comes via Howie Kurtz. Kurtz describes a study done at the Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy (admittedly, the author is a well-known liberal, Michael Tomasky, but read the study before alleging bias). Here’s a sample of the results:

The liberal papers criticized the Clinton administration 30 percent of the time, while the conservative papers slapped around the Bush administration just 7 percent of the time.

The liberal papers [NYT, Washington Post] praised the Clintonites 36 percent of the time, while the conservative papers [WSJ Editorial, Washington Times] praised the Bushies 77 percent of the time.

One more set of numbers: The liberal papers criticized Bush 67 percent of the time; the conservative papers criticized Clinton 89 percent of the time.


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Rice Watch Day 14

Bob Somerby first points out the obvious, but in incomparable fashion:

Because Rice is a press corps icon, there is no attempt—repeat that, none—to hold her work to normal standards. Rice doesn’t read 90-page reports? The press corps completely ignored that matter (for a fuller chronology, see below). But it’s hardly the first time the slumbering press corps looked away from Rice’s odd performance. To help flesh out the amazing way the corps behaves toward Icon Condi, let’s review a previous howler which the press almost wholly ignored.

He then goes on to make a decent case that, rather than currently positing Rice as Powell’s replacement, we could instead be in Rice Watch Day 445. Way back on 5/16/2002, Rice made another statement that was also either a display of naked mendacity or blinding incompetence (in fairness to Rice, the 2002 statement was much less consequential, as it did not contribute to the case for war; instead it was typical CYA and not really cause for a resignation or a “Rice Watch”).


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Even the Conservative Economist

The current Economist has an interesting piece, Hidden dangers: The American government’s accounts look about as reliable as Enron’s (article here–subscription required). The story reports on a study by two AEI economists, Jagadeesh Gokhale and Kent Smetters, that uses two new measures of how sustainable deficits are. One of them is the Generational Imbalance (GI) index, which measures (in net present value) how much society will spend on the current generation over their lifetimes versus how much society will collect from that generation over their lifetimes. They estimate that Medicare alone represents a transfer of $20 trillion (1.7 times GDP in today’s dollars) from future generations to the current one!

This seemed a bit high at first, so I took a look at the 2003 Status of the Social Security and Medicare Programs, where I found this graph:

Chart C-Medicare Expenditures and Non-Interest Income by Source as a Percent of GDP

I didn’t run the numbers, but based on this the Gokhale and Smetters number seems plausible. Not surprisingly, the AEI economists use their result to argue against expanding Medicare and Social Security benefits (a position I agree with, unless taxes are raised or other spending cut to pay for them). On the other hand, exacerbating the transfer from “the children” to the current generation via massive tax cuts and the accompanying deficits seems like an equally bad idea. Oh wait, I forgot, the solution is trivial: use more tax cuts to increase revenue–we better get taxes down and pronto!

Back to The Economist‘s assessment of the situation:

As the late Herbert Stein, a noted economist, once said, “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” One way or another, America’s budget gap will have to be closed. The question is, will it be done responsibly, by coming clean about the hidden liabilities now and taking the necessary, if painful, steps to deal with them? Or will the top management, like Enron’s, stave off admitting the true state of America’s finances until it is forced to do so by some spectacular collapse?



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Liberal Media

A number of bloggers (e.g., Atrios and Yglesias) are taking note of Billmon’s solid analysis of an NYT piece that inexplicably has the headline, “Hispanics Back Big Government and Bush, Too,” yet contains this statement:

Mr. Bush won the support of 35 percent of Hispanic voters in 2000; in this poll, 21 percent of Hispanics who say they are registered to vote said they would vote for his re-election.

Election-wise, there are only two kinds of support: money and votes. The story doesn’t mention the former and on the latter account, a more accurate headline would be, “Bush’s support among Hispanics plummets,” or something to that effect.

In fairness to Nagourney and Elder, they don’t write the headlines. And while they could easily have put the fact that only 21% of Hispanics plan to vote for Bush earlier in the story, they did put this near the front, in paragraph four:

In many ways, the Hispanic respondents questioned over the course of two weeks mirrored traditional Democratic ethnic constituencies. They were twice as likely to call themselves Democrats as Republicans, viewed the Democratic Party more favorably than the Republican Party and, by a margin of 49 percent to 21 percent, said the Democratic Party was more likely to care about the needs of Hispanics.

So, unlike the headline, the story itself is gives a fairly accurate portrayal of the poll results. The real issue question is, “what story did the headline-writer read, because it clearly wasn’t this one?”

My guess is that it’s another instance of the working the refs phenomenon that Alterman discussed at length in What Liberal Media? Specifically, newspaper staff, weary and leary of incessant charges of liberal bias, look for ways to head the charges off at the pass. In this instance, it takes the form of attaching a good-news-for-Republicans headline to a story that’s in fact almost entirely good news for Democrats. Sadly, working the refs like this has proven effective for Republicans. The refs need to open their eyes.


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Rice Watch Day 13

Events continue to indicate that the Rice Watch may extend into triple digits:


President Bush slipped speedily into vacation mode this past weekend at his furnace of a ranch in Central Texas, where he spent Sunday fishing, clearing cedar and going for a walk with the first lady and his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice. But before the president ducked out of public sight, he made sure to address one of the biggest re-election anxieties of Karl Rove, his chief political adviser: the nation’s continuing loss of jobs and the uncertainty about the economy.

But CalPundit reports that somebody will be leaving, though not until the next inauguration on Jan. 21, 2005:

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and his deputy, Richard L. Armitage, have signaled to the White House that they intend to step down even if President Bush is reelected, setting the stage for a substantial reshaping of the administration’s national security team that has remained unchanged through the September 2001 terrorist attacks, two wars and numerous other crises.

Armitage recently told national security adviser Condoleezza Rice that he and Powell will leave on Jan. 21, 2005…

While not as much of a restraining influence as I had hoped, Powell is the sole voice with any authority in the White House that is not entirely in agreement with the neocon agenda. Bush foreign policy without Powell will be even more scary than it already is, and I suspect that a good portion swing voters will realize this and adjust their voting plans accordingly.


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Point of Clarification

A note to conservatives: when states legalize gay marriage or civil unions, it does not mean that you (or any of your loved ones) have to personally engage in gay sex or marriage, witness gay marriages or sex, subsidize gay sex or marriages, have your church or other religious institution support gay sex or marriage, contemplate gay sex or gay marriage, or otherwise involve yourself in any way with anything related in any way to gay sex or gay marriage. I point this out because the only explanation I can come up with for the conservative histrionics I’ve heard on this subject is that conservative are suffering from one of these misconceptions.


UPDATE: This, at least, is a positive step.

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Surely the Next Tom DeLay

Who? Why Paul Kelly Tripplehorn, Jr., of course, for he is apparently much better than you. Assuming this story is true (which it likely is since it comes from Roll Call, a reliable source for Capitol Hill goings on–subscription required, but see the teaser here), it provides a deeply disturbing, yet highly amusing, peek into the soul of a Republican intern (Link via Ted Barlow).

It seems that Mr. Tripplehorn the II (I suppose that’s six horns?), until recently an intern to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), sent an email–in what I sincerely hope was an exceptionally drunken state–to another intern with whom he had some sort of relationship. Horn3II’s email closes with this:

Once again from your intellectual, moral, social, and emotional superior,
Paul Kelly Tripplehorn, Jr.

But there’s much more, including his ruminations on the social merits of owning a house in Aspen, “hipocrits”, the presumably meritocratic value of ones parents having influential friends, and how those at the top of the ladder view those on the lower rungs (hint: “I [Horn3II] am at the top and people like me hate people like you”).


UPDATE: More Young Republicans Gone Wild here.

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Tom Tomorrow Today

His latest book of hilarious yet scary comics is out now (conveniently available via the link to the right). Note that it’s a greatest hits collection, so if you own every other Tom Tomorrow book, it might be redundant.


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It’s Funny Because It’s True

Charles Kuffner, who recently had a brush with fame, links to this hilarious must-see photograph. The arrow is pointing to the front gates of the Texas State Capitol, which I suppose is ironic since the man holding the sign is standing on Martin Luther King Boulevard whereas Gov. Rick “Boss” Perry is leading an effort to disenfranchise many minorities.


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Rick Santorum Must be Outraged

They say that Dog Bites Man is not newsworthy; Man Bites Dog, on the other hand, is news because it’s unlikely and unexpected. Well this essay (titled “‘Conservative’ Bush Spends More than ‘Liberal’ Presidents Clinton, Carter”) from the libertarian Cato Institute falls into the category of man and dog doing something that keeps Ricky S. awake at night. (Link via Atrios).


UPDATE: It’s nice to have Atrios back and in full effect. He also bring us this great quote from Nobel Prize Winner (and all-around genious) George Akerloff:

“I think this is the worst government the US has ever had in its more than 200 years of history. It has engaged in extradordinarily irresponsible policies not only in foreign policy and economics but also in social and environmental policy…This is not normal government policy. Now is the time for (American) people to engage in civil disobedience. I think it’s time to protest – as much as possible.”

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