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

Adding to the Chorus

This guy should really be kept far, far, away from the 11th Circuit Court, or any other Federal bench. Signorile’s got a great overview of Pryor’s views. In a nutshell, Pryor’s view is that we need God–the Christian God–everywhere…In schools, courts, federal buildings, your office, your car, and, especially, your bedroom. The “so- called separation of church and state” must be eliminated. And, if you are having sex, stop it. Oh, and women have no choice on the issue of abortion. Gays? “A constitutional right that protects ‘the choice of one’s partner’ and ‘whether and how to connect sexually’ must logically extend to activities like prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography and even incest and pedophilia.” I’m just guessing here, but he’s probably not real big on minorities and women outside of the kitchen.

Given the nominees this administration keeps putting up (Owens, Pryor, Pickering, Estrada), about the only thing that would surprise me–and it wouldn’t surprise me that much–is for Rehnquist to resign and Bush to nominate Ken Starr to the Supreme Court.

For more on Pryor go here and to see what you can do to oppose confirmation of this would-be theocrat, go here.

AB

P.S. Theocracy is bad for the economy, yet another reason to oppose Pryor.

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Monkey See…

Again, today’s NYT has a story that’s mixed at best for the administration. In this instance, it’s about the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo. Hell, the title of the story is “Tales of Despair From Guantanamo“. But right near the beginning, in paragraph four, appears this phrase: “None of those interviewed complained of physical mistreatment.” Based on this quote alone, the story could easily be written in one of two ways:

  • Well-treated prisoners complain about conditions, or
  • conditions [are described] as so desperate that some captives tried to kill themselves.”

This story is clearly written along the lines of the second example, which is a quote. In contrast, my subjective view is that both pre-war and during the war, almost every news piece was spun along the lines of the first example. Now stories appear to be increasingly written in a fashion unfavorable to the administration, as exemplified by the latest NYT story.

No, this is not liberal bias. It just shows that if three pieces tell a story in a given fashion, the fourth piece on the subject is almost sure to tell the same story–partly press stupidity, but mostly laziness. Of late, other journalists have written less-than-glowing articles about the war and Bush, so now Gall and Lewis (the authors of this Gitmo story) can do the same. What got the ball rolling? Possibly Kristoff last Friday, but it may date back to E.J. Dionne, who was the first to reclaim his spine at the start of 2003. (If I missed a predecessor, let me know).

AB

P.S. Morat’s got more here and, particularly, here.

UPDATE: On the other hand, the intelligent bloggers at Not Geniuses bring us this.

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Dueling Quotes

On Libertarians, I previously wrote that “now, if I could just make Libertarians realize that sometimes we’re all better off when the government puts its hands in our pockets (you know: “form a more perfect Union”; “promote the general Welfare”)”. Now Amy Phillips comes at me with this quote from James Madison:

“If Congress can apply money indefinitely to the general welfare, and are the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their own hands; they may establish teachers in every State, county and parish, and pay them out of the public Treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may undertake the regulation of all roads, other than post roads. In short, everything, from the highest object of State legislation, down to the most minute object of policy, would be thrown under the power of Congress; for every object I have mentioned would admit the application of money, and might be called, if Congress pleased, provisions for the general welfare.”

Ouch! Direct hit! Quick, to The Federalist Papers!

…The SIXTH and last class consists of the several powers and provisions by which efficacy is given to all the rest. 1. Of these the first is, the “power to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.” Few parts of the Constitution have been assailed with more intemperance than this; yet on a fair investigation of it, no part can appear more completely invulnerable. Without the SUBSTANCE of this power, the whole Constitution would be a dead letter.
Federalist #44 (Madison)

Hamilton also argued in favor of a broad interpretation of “necessary and proper” (more quotes here). Amy’s quote above was in reference to the 10th Amendment, the interaction of which with the “necessary and proper” clause has been the subject of debate from the earliest days of the Constitution to the present. Madison, Jay, and Hamilton were striving mightily to gather support for the Constitution. Against this were fears of the not so distant monarch, distrust of central authority, and the Anti-Federalists. Notwithstanding this challenge, Jay, Madison, and Hamilton viewed any loose confederation as doomed to fail, proposing instead that broad powers be vested at the Federal level. In The Federalist Papers, originally published as a series of essays in New York papers, they codified and systematized their arguments. So the quote enumerating the perils of unchecked federal government appears to be an argument to encourage the states to ratify the Constitution, by arguing that the 10th amendment (“…reserved to the states…”) would prevent such incursions (This interpretation seems supported by Amy’s source for the Madison quote).

Back to Madison, he immediately follows the second quote above with a discussion of alternative ways of assigning authority to the Federal government, rejecting each in turn, and concluding,

We have now reviewed, in detail, all the articles composing the sum or quantity of power delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, and are brought to this undeniable conclusion, that no part of the power is unnecessary or improper for accomplishing the necessary objects of the Union. The question, therefore, whether this amount of power shall be granted or not, resolves itself into another question, whether or not a government commensurate to the exigencies of the Union shall be established; or, in other words, whether the Union itself shall be preserved.
Federalist #44 (Madison)

Many widely respected Founding Fathers were Anti-Federalists, notably Patrick Henry, but the Federalists–most famously, Washington, Madison, Hamilton, Jay, and Franklin–carried the day. Punchline: Broad federal powers to provide for common defense and the general welfare. That said, absent a compelling reason, the federal government should stay out of lives and markets. Where it initially finds a reason to intervene, such as positive or negative externalities, it should frequently reevaluate whether continued interference is warranted.

AB

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More Bad Press

Even Bob Somerby generally endorses the theory that the press are more lazy and stupid than conservative, per se. This, of course, excludes Fox News, The Washington Times, The New York Post, and the like. The laziness manifests itself via a herd approach to reporting the press’s collectively received wisdom. Al Gore is a liar; George Bush is stupid, but honest, trustworthy, and compassionate; Everybody hates Hillary Rodham Clinton [“Rodham” is mandatory]…

As a number of bloggers, myself included, have noticed, Bush coverage has become a bit less fawning of late. And in particular, a “Bush Lied” conventional wisdom may be starting to take shape. Witness, for example, the two editorials cited in the previous post (“Becoming Sane”), though they stopped just short of using the word “lie”. And today, there’s another negative story, this time in the Washington Post: Former Aide Takes Aim at War on Terror. The aide, Rand Beers, rips the administration’s tactics in the War on Terror as well as the War on Iraq, and with tenure at the NSC dating back to the Reagan years, he has some credibility. Beers held the same job that Oliver North held during Iran-Contra, Director for Counternarcotics and Counterterrorism; for more discussion, see Billmon’s post. While you’re there, make sure to take a look at his collection of pre-war WMD quotes.

Back to the media, Beers apparently left the NSC around March 14th, though the article doesn’t give an exact date. Shortly after leaving the NSC, he joined John Kerry’s campaign. My point: this story has been “out there” for about three months now. That it appears so shortly on the heels of a rise in negative press in general, is at least suggestive of a turning tide in press coverage.

AB

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Becoming Sane

Read Kristoff’s editorial and note how, as Josh Marshall points out, Kristoff waffles a bit at the end, writing “But it does look as if ideologues in the administration deceived themselves about Iraq’s nuclear programs”. See? They didn’t decieve the public, or at least if they did do so, it was only because they themselves were deceived (by themselves). Here’s Marshall’s take on the issue:

There was an element of self-deception. A strong one.

If you simply insist on believing white is black, even when you can see it’s white, then when you tell people it’s black then, well, maybe you’re sort of not really lying, right?

Here’s an example from Kristoff’s column of this doublethink in action:

It was a foregone conclusion that every photo of a trailer truck would be a `mobile bioweapons lab’ and every tanker truck would be `filled with weaponized anthrax,’ ” a former military intelligence officer said.

Finally, here is Winston being tortured in the Ministry of Love:

“You are a slow learner, Winston,” said O’Brien gently.

“How can I help it?” he blubbered. “How can I help seeing what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.”

“Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.”

We must try harder.

AB

UPDATE: Via Thinking it Through, another tough column–this time from the Chicago Tribune–for the administration.

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Bizzaro World

What did I tell you? Two posts ago, I called the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page “just plain wacky”. Six posts ago I recommended a fairly new libertarian blogger, Amy Phillips. Now Amy reports on more wackiness from the virulently pro-war editorial page of the WSJ: WSJ editorial writers are using the lack of WMD to attack anti-war politicians.

I know, it doesn’t make any sense the first time you read it. There must be a typo, you think. So I’ll say it again: WSJ editorial writers are using the lack of WMD to attack anti-war politicians.

The logic? Well, only the anti-war Democrats knew that there were no WMD. But they lied and said there were WMD, in a vain effort to scare Americans out of supporting the invasion. I’m not freakin’ kidding! Here’s an excerpt:

we can’t help suspecting that war opponents knew better and deliberately misled the public in an effort to establish a pretext for keeping a mass-murdering dictator in power. In either case, [anti-war politicians] now face a yawning credibility gap.

The only explanation I have is that they are joking: making fun of calls for investigation of, e.g., Bush’s false claims in the State of the Union speech, by calling for investigation of anti-war politicians. In fact, upon closer inspection, I’m pretty sure that is their intention. But don’t hold your breath for a “just kidding” piece on Monday, and don’t expect most of their readers to grasph the subtlety. In any event, Amy P.’s got a lot more and she finely shreds the editorial writers with their own words.

AB

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A Lucky Ducky Speaks Up

One of my earliest posts was on the subject of the “lucky duckies”, deemed Lucky by the writers for the editorial page of the WSJ because they make so little money that they pay little or no income taxes, though they pay substantial payroll taxes.

Via The New Republic’s Blog, &c, I see that a Lucky Ducky has offered to share his good fortune:

‘LUCKY DUCKIE’ INVITES EDITORS INTO HIS POND I am one of those lucky duckies, referred to in your June 3 editorial “Even Luckier Duckies” who pay little or nothing in federal income tax (at least by the standards of Wall Street Journal editors; $800 is more than a chunk of change to me). I am not, however, a stingy ducky, and I am willing to share my good fortune with others. In this spirit, I propose a trade. I will spend a year as a Wall Street Journal editor, while one lucky editor will spend a year in my underpaid shoes. I will receive an editor’s salary, and suffer the outrage of paying federal income tax on that salary. The fortunate editor, on the other hand, will enjoy a relatively small federal income tax burden, as well as these other perks of near poverty: the gustatory delights of a diet rich in black beans, pinto beans, navy beans, chickpeas and, for a little variety, lentils; the thrill of scrambling to pay the rent or make the mortgage; the salutary effects of having no paid sick days; the slow satisfaction of saving up for months for a trip to the dentist; and the civic pride of knowing that, even as a lucky ducky, you still pay a third or more of your gross income in income taxes, payroll taxes, sales taxes and property taxes. I could go on and on, but I am sure your editors are already keen to jump at this opportunity to join the ranks of the undertaxed. I look forward to hearing from you. Pier Petersen Chicago

How about it, WSJ Editorialists? Put your money where your mouth is?

AB

P.S. Note that there’s a big difference between the WSJ, which is a great source of news and analysis, and the WSJ Editorial Page, which is just plain wacky.

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Consumer Sentiment Down

“University of Michigan’s closely watched gauge of consumer confidence slipped to 87.2 in June from May’s 92.1,” Reuters reports. Gains in the stock market (it’s about where it was a year ago, after being way down), and dividend tax cuts, cuts in the top marginal rates, and expansion of the 10% bracket, are apparently not enough to offset the fears caused by steadily increasing unemployment and ballooning deficits.

AB

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A Little Late

Hopefully, Mr. McGruder won’t mind. It’s the perfect final take on the Franken/O’Reilly debate on CSPAN. (click to enlarge)

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AB

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