Information Addict

This is a thought experiment. My focus is consistency and cogency. By forcing myself to organize my meandering thoughts into something coherent, I will hopefully be able to identify information gaps, poor reasoning, and ill-founded assumptions. Where reason is too wedded to self-love to admit such shortcomings, I have faith that readers can aid me in getting over myself. Feel free to comment.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Ever reliable, conventional wisdom tells us that the Middle East is fertile soil for conspiracy theories. If Israel-Palestinian peace talks broke down (in my little imaginery world, such talks exist) and Israel claimed that it was because Arafat wanted too much while the Palestinians charged that Sharon was demanding the ritual sacrifice of every first-born Palestinian male, the latter would have some tractrion. More realistically , there is some truth that U.S. support for Israel has something to do with the domestic Jewish lobby while the love fest between our government and the House of Saud has something to do with oil. Taken to extremes, of course, such connections can morph into crackpot, LaRouche-like ravings. Then again, its not surprising that oppressed people would be given to speculation when interpreting the opacity of government workings.

Given the above, I am not sure it is a good idea to have a media blackout in Najaf.

The US Army is not exactly viewed as an objective source: Iraqi police ordered all journalists to leave the holy city of Najaf on Sunday, just as a new U.S. offensive against militants hiding out in a revered shrine there began. Concerns about the interim government's commitment to freedom of the press were sparked Aug. 7 when officials order the Baghdad office of the pan-Arab television station Al-Jazeera closed.

Looks like the Washington Post is also focused on the subject of undermining regulations . Apparently, it is the topic de jure. Unfortunately, I fear it may be too late and too complex to actually become part of the larger political debate. The paragraph that caught my eye in this article, the first of three, was about the proliferation of "voluntary" requirements, an idea I find utterly silly:

It has made sense to strengthen the agency's relationships with businesses, encouraging voluntary compliance. To do so, OSHA has created a new kind of voluntary program, intended to foster "trusting, cooperative relationships" between the government and groups of industries and professional societies, according to an agency fact sheet. These new alliances, as they are known, depart from a central tradition throughout the agency's history: They are allowed to exclude labor unions.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

"Most people are busy just trying to make a living," he said. "And with all the
focus on Iraq and bin Laden, it gives the administration an opportunity to take
a lot of loot out the back door without anybody noticing."

Today's NY Times has great article on the rollback of regulations underway by the Bush Administration:

The administration's 2004 budget proposed to cut 77 enforcement and related
positions from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, while adding
two new staff members whose jobs would be to help industry comply with agency

I don't have a particular preference for big or small government. I actually think there is a choice between good and bad, necessary and unnecessary, etc.. Some regulations are poorly drafted. Some are impossible to enforce. Some are outdated. Getting rid or reshaping regulations can be a healthy process. The Administration, however, has slashed the costs of regulation to about 1/8th of Reagan's free-for-all 80's. It would seem that we are moving into a situation where one self-interested faction is getting too much power. I was not surprised by this observation:

Some analysts argue that the Bush administration has introduced rules favoring
industry with a dedication unmatched in modern times. "My thoughts go back to
Herbert Hoover," said Robert Dallek, the presidential historian. "No president
could have been more friendly to business than Hoover" until the Bush

It tracks the tenor a recent article in the American Prospect:
For most Americans, the last four years have represented a low point in our
economic history. But for the big-business interests financing the Bush
campaign, these have been high times. In previous eras, and even under previous
Republican administrations, corporate America was one of a number of players in
the public-policy arena. But under the Bush administration, big business is both
the player and the referee, having finally won its decades-long campaign to
eliminate the boundary between executive suite and public office.

Nicholas Kristof has a long attention span. I am grateful anytime he moves on to a subject of great import because I find him informative. His recent articles on nuclear terrorism are must reads. For entertainment, I, of course, enjoyed these lines:

The Nunn-Lugar program to safeguard the material is one of the best schemes we have to protect ourselves, and it's bipartisan, championed above all by Senator Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican. Yet President Bush has, incredibly, at various times even proposed cutting funds for it. He seems bored by this security effort, perhaps because it doesn't involve blowing anything up.

The best hope for stopping Iran and North Korea (and it's a bleak one) is to negotiate a grand bargain in which they give up nuclear aspirations for trade benefits. Mr. Bush's current policy - fist-shaking - feels good but accomplishes nothing.

President Clinton's approach to North Korea wasn't a great success, but at least North Korea didn't add to its nuclear arsenal during his watch. In just the last two years, North Korea appears to have gone to eight nuclear weapons from about two.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Shame on me.

In a post last night, I lashed out at the Administration's simplistic view of success in the war on terrorism. (a phrase I dislike because the tactic "terror" will always exist) I was responding to speech by Richard Clarke and a new ad from the Bush campaign.

In the speech as in his book, Clarke invoked the movie The Battle of Algiers. In the final scene, the French authorities cross out the final picture on the organizational chart of resistance fighters. As the movie fades out the viewer is informed that the French were forced to abandon Algiers within two years. The point is the French battled the organization not the ideology and in the process created more enemies than they vanquished. Clarke links this to the chart (cards, in the book) that Bush requested after 9/11. Clarke imagines a self-congratulatory Bush placing large X's over pictures.

The ad reflected the image. In it, Bush speaks of bringing enemies to justice. I could not understand how he was going to score political points by calling attention to the fact that UBL remains at large. The AP article on the ad referred to Bush's claim that two-thirds of senior Al-Qaeda leaders have been killed or captured. The claim launched me into the aforementioned tirade on how to measure progress. I, however, did not question the underlying assertion. Shame on me. A chart in the recent Economist called my attention to my negligence:

"In October 2001, the United States produced a list of the 22 'most wanted terrorists'... So far only three of the 22 have been captured or killed."

I watch the wires all day long. I am an addict and I need help. Sometimes it gets confusing. For example, these two simultaneously released headlines:

Iraqi Cleric Says to Fight Until Death or Victory (Reuters)

Cleric Seeks Truce to End Najaf Fighting (Associated Press)

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

I find the obession with "flip-flopping" annoying. People change their minds on issues. Worse, "gotcha" journalism often takes two quotes entirely out of context so that they appear contradictory. Finally, politicians say different things to different audiences. Those are the rules of the game. A prime example of this tendency would be Lincoln's statements on slavery before the the election of 1860 as detailed in Hofstadter's The American Political Tradition.

Of course, most of my conservative friends don't want to hear about it. They weary me with bromides about character and credibility. The only way to get around these tired discussions is to go over the long litany of Bush flip-flops. Thanks to American Progress for condensing the list.

A few pieces of spin that are getting play elsewhere.

1) The administration unable to keep the public in the dark about drug reimportation has decided to pull out the trump card:

"Cues from chatter" gathered around the world are raising concerns that terrorists might try to attack the domestic food and drug supply, particularly illegally imported prescription drugs, acting Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Lester M. Crawford says.

2) Not only are we worried about Canadian pharmo-terrorism, but also those Hattian jihadis:
According to the attorney general, releasing this young Haitian would tend to encourage mass migration from Haiti, and might exacerbate the potential danger to national security of nefarious aliens from Pakistan and elsewhere who might be inclined to use Haiti as a staging area for migration to the U.S.

3) President Bush is the homosexual messiah because he has saved gays from the gravest threat: the estate tax

KING: Gay people would honestly say they want the benefits of a

G. BUSH: Well, you can do that through the legal process. You know, people
have said to me, well, if you're gay, you can't inherit because -- and you don't
get the exemption from income tax. Well, my answer there is get rid of the
inheritance tax forever, the death tax
, which I'm trying to do. And there are
ways to make sure gays have got rights. And you can do so in the law.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Watching Richard Clarke speak at the ACLU convention. Clarke, on whom I have a nonsexual crush on, has been an ACLU member for over 30 years. Given his personality and the ACLU stereotype, I'm surprised. Then again, I often make mistaken assumtptions.

He repeated something that I read in his book about Bush requesting an organizational chart (in the book, its cards) with pictures and names of the "managers" of Al Qaeda. Bush wanted to cross them out as they were captured or killed.

This made me think of two things. The first was the top-down orientation of our CEO president. For him, only the people at the top matter. Publius over at Legal Fiction has a long post on this topic. Second, is the rather widespread notion that we are fighting a fixed number of individuals. It is the same kind of zero sum thinking that makes more jails a solution to crime.

I am so happy Alan Keyes is running for something. It's nice to have such a badass of bombast trolling around and claiming mononpoly on the basic principles of justice. I just listened to him on NPR go on and on about Obama having a "slaveholder's mentality" because of his pro-choice stance. He even chided the host for implying that slavery had some relation to race.

The host then gave Keyes a chance to expound on an issue of his choosing. The most important issue other than abortion: gay marriage. With the wars, the defecit, jihadist terrorism, nuclear proliferation, the retirement of the boomers and the exploding costs of health care and energy, it never ceases to amaze me that gay marriage is even on the agenda.

I do give Keyes credit for consistency. He thinks abortion is murder and is therefore unacceptable even in cases of rape and incest. Given the premise, such a conclusion is required. It is the premise that gives the pro-lifers all their moral force and it gripes me that some posit without extending their logic. Abortion, if it is murder, is indefensible in the case of rape or incest. Furthermore, all mothers and doctors should be convicted of first-degree murder if they initiate the procedure. Also, pregnant women should be charged with manslaughter for any negligence that results in the death of the fetus. The logic is inescapable.

Such arguments are often met by a retreat to the potential life position. This deflates the prolife case by leaps and bounds. Now, they are not protecting life, but potential life. It is very clear exactly what rights potential life is supposed to enjoy. The issue is then debatable, not absolute. Once it is debatable, the rationale of choice is wholly defensible.

I am quasi-pro choice. That is, I am uncomfortable with abortion but would never vote for my discomfort to be statutory law that bound others. I do, however, agree with many of the jurisprudential critiques of Roe and Casey. I am not convinced that choice is enshrined in the Constitution. I think it is a perfect example of a state-by-state issue, even though I would certainly vote against it.

My stance that it should be a political question also recognizes that it isn't. This is one reason why I can't understand how people like Keyes run primarily on the issue. There is not much a Senator or any elected official can actually do about abortion. They have three options. 1) They can create silly little laws that make abortion more inconvenient. 2) They can hope that a Supreme Court justice retires and that their newly constituted Court would actually take on abortion again (This was the Reagan strategy that ultimately met defeat with Casey) 3) They can pass a constitutional amendment.

A constitutional amendment makes much more sense in the case of abortion, which has been read into the federal constitution, than gay marriage, which heretofor has not been federally recognized and seems unlikely to be so even after Lawrence and under the 'full faith and credit" clause. Of course, you don't hear anything about the amendment because it brings with it the same logic I have already reviewed,

Toxic words on toxic waste. AP reports on the Bush speech in Nevada:

President Bush on Thursday defended his decision to use Nevada's Yucca
Mountain as the nation's high-level nuclear waste dump, an unpopular move in a
swing state that he won four years ago. "I said I would make a decision
based upon science, not politics. I said I would listen to the scientists."

The article responsibly investigates the assertion:
Dozens of scientific studies remain incomplete and a recent federal appeals
court ruling raised questions about whether the waste repository will be built,
or at least meet its target of 2010 to begin operation.

It's actually good journalism as evinced by this passage:
Bush accused Democratic Sen. John Kerry of pandering to Nevada voters by
playing both sides of the issue, part of a broader effort to cast the
Massachusetts senator as someone who bends to the political winds.

"He says he's strongly against Yucca here in Nevada, but he voted for it
several times," Bush claimed.

That is not exactly true.

Each time Kerry has faced the simple choice of voting whether or not to
send waste to Yucca Mountain, he has voted against it. But he has voted for some
measures that had provisions to allow nuclear dumps there. Some 16 years ago,
Kerry voted for an overall budget bill that included a provision favoring
putting the nuclear waste in Nevada.

The best is this new refrain:
Bush defended the tax cuts in his speech at a Las Vegas union hall, which the
Bush campaign packed with hundreds of Republican supporters."All I ask is to be
careful about all of this talk about taxing the rich," Bush said. "The so-called
rich hire accountants and lawyers to maybe not pay as much. And therefore in
order to meet all of these promises, guess who ends up getting stuck with the
bill? The working people."

I am not exactly sure where to begin. It is true enough that tax evasion creates revenue gaps. There are two ways close that gap: crackdown on the evasion or raise taxes. Bush makes two assumptions. The first is that increased enforcement is impossible. This is a canard unless you critically underfund and tie the hands of the IRS, both of which the Bush administration has done quite effectively. The second assumption is that if taxes are raised to make up for this gap, they will be raised on the working class.

The best thing about the statement, however, is that we have finally found the worst rationale for the Bush tax cuts: Might as well because the rich are going to evade taxes anyway. It is amazing how far we have come from giving back the surplus to a short term stimulus to creating jobs to this.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

I am not politically deft. I do not doubt Republican advertising savy, but I fail to understand why Bush's new ad call attention to the fact that Usama Bin Laden remains at large:

President Bush vows in his latest campaign ad to "bring an enemy to justice
before they hurt us again
" although Osama bin Laden remains at large and only
one U.S. defendant, Zacarias Moussaoui, has been charged with crimes related to
the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Apparently the campaign in positing that two-thirds of bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network has been "brought to justice" since the attacks. They really should read the New York Times:
For the past several months, the president has claimed that much of Al Qaeda's leadership has been killed or captured; the new evidence suggests that the organization is regenerating and bringing in new blood.

Once again, somethings are not as simple as somepeople make them appear.

I am often berated for not disowning John Kerry because he did not back the enormous $87 billion dollar spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan. (Naturaly, Kerry's "I voted against it before I voted for it" doesn't help. It is yet another example of Kerry's lackluster skills as a straddler. Kevin Drum has a great post on that topic.) I try to explain to my more conservative acquaintances that there were different versions of the bill. They accuse me of obfuscating. Credit the Daily Howler with pointing me to fact that Bush threatened to veto one of the versions of the bill. It should provide the proper ammo for rebuffing the attacks; it moves the argument from (1) irrefutable evidence of anti-Americanism because Kerry did it to (2) need for further exploration because Bush could never do anything wrong.

Here is the article:

The Bush administration threatened for the first time Tuesday to veto an $87
billion package for Iraq and Afghanistan if Congress converts any Iraqi rebuilding money into loans.

The logic: The United States must be lead by the "right" people. Bush is the "right" person to be president. Thus any action to keep him president is prima facie "right". Silly notions about politicization, undermining the war on terror or mendacity are completely misplaced. A good example is this irresponsible story in the LA Times:

Heightened terror alerts and high-profile arrests of suspected Islamic extremists have international security experts and officials concerned that the Bush Administration's actions could jeopardize investigations into the Al Qaeda network.

Officials in Pakistan reportedly said Tuesday that Washington's recent disclosure of the arrest of a suspected Al Qaeda operative, Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, allowed other extremists under surveillance to disappear.

British security officials are angry over recent U.S. revelations of terrorist threats and arrests, said Paul Beaver, an international defense analyst based in London. He said the attitude among some British intelligence officials was that the "Americans have a very strange way of thanking their friends, by revealing names of agents, details of plots and operations."Along with such criticism, the administration faces questions at home about how it handles terrorism investigations and alerts.

Several senior U.S. counterterrorism officials have expressed concern in the last week about the amount of information leaking out, saying it has begun to have a direct and negative effect on efforts to round up suspects and gain insight into any conspirators.

"It is really hurting our efforts in a very demonstrable way," said one official, who declined to elaborate.

Larry Johnson, a former senior counterterrorism official at the State Department and CIA, said Tuesday that the leaks were part of a pattern in which the administration had undercut its own efforts to fight terrorism by divulging details when doing so was deemed politically advantageous.

"Protecting secrets and sources is serious business," he added. "Regrettably, the Bush administration appears to be putting more emphasis on politicizing intelligence and the war on terror. That approach threatens our national security, in my judgment."

So sad when genius becomes lazy. Many have written on Nialls Ferguson abandonment of academic rigor and his new dedication to broad generalizations and bold hypotheses on a huge number of targets. His views on empire try to refute Paul Kennedy's "imperial overstretch", but he should worry about mental overstretch. His Op-Ed in today's LA Times is a prime example comes to this conclusion:

You see, the most remarkable thing about the transatlantic divergence in working
patterns is that it has coincided almost exactly with a comparable divergence in
religiosity, both in terms of observance and belief. There is surely something more than coincidental about the simultaneous rise of unbelief in Europe and the decline of Weber's work ethic.

Ferguson, playing off Weber, even goes as far as to label it "The Atheist Sloth Ethic and the Spirit of Collectivism." His main evidence is anecdotal, comparing the summer work environment in New York and London. He pairs this with survey data on religiosity, vacation time and unemployment.

A first and obvious problem is his use of Weber, who focused on Protestantism as it had emerged out of Catholicism. Ferguson expands the thesis to include all religions including Catholicism. Not being an expert on Weber, it seems to me that a thesis that compares one religion to another is not particularly useful when comparing religion to lack thereof.

Another glaring problem is that Ferguson uses religious survey data from the all of the United States, but uses New York as his example. It might be more helpful if Ferguson were actually using data that compared New York and London.

Ferguson's hypothesis would seem to have a problem explaining the widespread poverty in South Asia, the Middle East and Latin America where religion is firmly entrenched. Even if Ferguson's hypothesis is limited to the first world it could be tested by matching the United States against itself. That is, a rise or decline in religiousity would match a rise or decline in unemployment or productivity. Unfortunately for the wild speculation does not hold. The CUNY survey demonstrates that religious identification decreased in the United States from 1990-2001, a time of markedly low unemployment and increased productivity.

Ferguson, an immicon, ends his piece with the quip "If I weren't on holiday, I'd write a book about it." Fortunately for him, someone did. In today's Internation Herald Tribube two sociologists introduced their findings:
There is, of course, an element of truth in these stereotypes, but as descriptions of two supposedly different cultures, they are far too simplistic. The lesson to be learned from comparing work cultures is not that Europeans should become more like Americans, nor that Americans inhabit a different, more materialistic culture. It is that Europeans have gained politically and socially what many Americans say they want individually but have been unable to achieve politically. Americans, too, would like to have employment security, more flexibility, more leisure, fewer worries about health care and pensions, but the United States still has a long way to go.

I would be loath to say that Americans and Europeans share the same attitude towards work, but I seriously doubt religion has much to do with it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

I just returned from a trip to see family in the Midwest. I spent time with my relatives in rural Ohio and in Chicago. I will try not to devolve into Brooksian pop sociology, but I found both groups rather interesting. In Ohio, my relatives are rural white poor; on welfare with more illegitimate children than high school diplomas. In Chicago, my family is urban middle class: strong marriages, cute kids, picket fences and unions.

Both were insular in their own way. In Ohio, convincing them that politics mattered was a Sysiphian task. Pointing to cash assistance, food stamps and housing subsidies, they acquiesced that government policies affected their lives, but they just could not connect it to paying attention and voting. In Chicago, politics always matter, but local politics rule. Daley, the City Council, Springfield were far more important than Kerry and Bush.

They also shared a certain social conservatism. Their positions on race, religion, homosexuality, and abortion were more Republican than they were Democrat.

The Chicago clan was far more politcally literate than those in Ohio, but not as much as I expected. They knew to vote; they knew to vote Democrat, but beyond that, they paid little attention to taxes, war, spending or any other policy. Furthermore, the Chicago group was much more given to complaints and bold assertion that they could not back up with facts or figures.

My family represented two groups that I often rail against: those that don't vote and those that simply vote the party line. They are both part of the composite that makes up the infuriating electorate.

My simplified view of the electoral landscape sees three culprits for the sad state of American politics: parties, money and people.

Much has been made about the evisceration of the parties. I don't buy it. Their power is not as manifest, but it still plays an important role. True, the silly presidential primary system has changed the nature of the game for that office, but local offices and the House are still very much party affairs. This is especially true given the rampant gerrymandering and the virtual elimination of unsafe districts. When victory in a party primary is tantamount to an election victory, the purists and exteremists that control that process are given a ridiculous amount of power. Also, since they are the only ones with the energy, obsesssion and time on their hands to follow Congressional (or City Council, or whatever) voting, their ideology holds sway even when the voting is done.

I am forever hearing complaints about money and special interests. Unfortunately, campaign finance reform is subject to the law of unintended consequences. McCain-Feingold has not reduced the amount of money poured into campaing coffers, but simply reorganized the way contributions are made. Instead of large donors, candidates are beholden to the more furtive masters of the rolodex. A case in point is the recent uproar over the Swift Boat idiots. It was rather refreshing that they were backed by one big donor whose politics and methods are widely known. It was a relief from plowing through the articles that detail Pioneers and Rangers and how they arranged for such large contributions. I don't see how Ken Lay giving $200,000 or raising $200,000 makes a difference in the final analysis. It just makes it harder to track.

Finally, there are the people. Some just don't care. Some are in it only for themselves (subsidize my business, cut my taxes). Some have only one issue (Guns; Abortion; Gay Marriage) Some treat the parties like sports teams. (Go Republicans! Liberals are American hating pussies!) Some make incompatible demands (Lower my taxes; Increase my services) Some don't think their demands are incompatible because they have subscribed to various myths (Eliminating "waste" could cure the deficit; Immigrants cause the decifit; Welfare causes the decifit; Bad administration is the only difficuly facing education). All of these groups share a similar distaste for reality that interferes with their beliefs; they categorically refuse to pay attention.

Reform is possible. Moves to instant runoffs, districts drawn by bipartisan, professional committees, and reworking of electoral apportionment could make politicians more beholden to the moderation of the majority than the extremes of minorities. Taking money out of the system through public financing, forcing television to give politicians airtime and limiting how much they themselves could spend on commercials would lessen the hold of moneyed interests and decrease the pressures of the constant campaign. Yet, I, for the life of me, have yet to see a solid proposal for a better electorate.

The media deserves quite a bit of blame, but what can they do if people choose FOX News over PBS, Rush Limbaugh over NPR. If I owned a station, it would be difficult to put on a show featuring Bill Moyers rather than Little Russ. Even if the former is the ten times the journalist, the latter gets ten times the ratings. Similarly, as a politician, the guy who promises universal health coverage, reduced taxes and a budget surplus is going to get more votes than one who admits that expanded coverage either means more money or less benefits and that the Laffer curve is an absurd construct.

The panaceas/silver bullets/cure alls always revolve around the press, education and leadership. When the first is done right, we ignore it. We refuse to fund the second. We do not reward the third. I have a visceral dislike for George Bush and his policies, but a part of me always feels like we are getting what we deserve.

"Now I have to face stupid reality!" - Homer J. Simpson

From the New York Times:
While the findings may result in a significant intelligence coup for the Bush administration and its allies in Britain, they also create a far more complex picture of Al Qaeda's status than Mr. Bush presents on the campaign trail. For the past several months, the president has claimed that much of Al Qaeda's leadership has been killed or captured; the new evidence suggests that the organization is regenerating and bringing in new blood.
From Krugman:
Finally, many apologists have returned to that old standby: the claim that presidents don't control the economy. But that's not what the administration said when selling its tax policies. Last year's tax cut was officially named the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 - and administration economists provided a glowing projection of the job growth that would follow the bill's passage. That projection has, needless to say, proved to be wildly overoptimistic.What we've just seen is as clear a test of trickledown economics was we're ever likely to get. Twice, in 2001 and in 2003, the administration insisted that a tax cut heavily tilted toward the affluent was just what the economy needed. Officials brushed aside pleas to give relief instead to lower-and middle-income families, who would be more likely to spend the money, and to cash-strapped state and local governments. Given the actual results - huge deficits, but minimal job growth - don't you wish the administration had
listened to that advice?

From The Wall Street Journal:

"I support the idea of creating a personal saving account for younger workers," Mr. Bush told his audience.

The problem with that idea is finding the money to pay the current generation of retirees, if revenue from current workers is diverted into the workers' own accounts. As a leading proponent of creating private accounts from Social Security, South Carolina's Sen. Graham said he hopes Mr. Bush will promote the idea, which is the single biggest unfinished item from the 2000 campaign platform. But Mr. Graham has been willing to address the $1 trillion transition costs, whereas Mr. Bush has not. Mr. Graham would raise the amount of wages subject to payroll taxes to cover costs. But Mr. Bush has said he won't raise taxes or reduce benefits...

From the Washington Post:

Increasing the number of low-income students who attend college is an ambitious goal, and one that intuitively seems as if it might appeal to precisely the voters both candidates are courting. That makes it all the more odd that the president barely addresses it. Or perhaps, given his campaign's assessment of the issue, it isn't surprising: If a problem doesn't exist, after all, it doesn't require a solution.

From Brookings:

But Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld probably spoke too soon when he suggested in late July that Iraq "continues to calm down." Casualty levels remain high - for Iraqis and foreigners, citizens and soldiers alike. Car bombings, rates of violent crime, and insurgent attacks on foreign and Iraqi security forces show no signs of abating. And according to the most recent American intelligence, the Iraqi resistance is now substantially larger than previously estimated.

Friday, July 23, 2004

These are the people we trust to conduct war, secure peace and build democracy. 

in·ad·ver·tent   (nd-vûrtnt)adj.
1. Not duly attentive.
2. Marked by unintentional lack of care. See Synonyms at careless.


The Pentagon  on Friday released payroll records from President Bush's 1972 service in the Alabama National Guard, saying its earlier contention the records were destroyed was an "inadvertent oversight."

The Pentagon had said that the payroll records for that time period had been inadvertently destroyed.

My thoughts exactly.

WaPo Editorial:

IT'S STILL NOT clear why former national security adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger improperly removed secret documents from the National Archives last year.  Whether it was a mistake or not, Mr. Berger's conduct, the subject of a criminal investigation by the FBI, was reprehensible, and he was right to resign as a Kerry adviser.

Still, it's hard not to be repulsed by the reaction to the affair by President Bush's campaign spokesmen and Republicans in Congress. They have suggested, without foundation, that Mr. Berger took the papers to benefit Mr. Kerry, who says that he knew nothing of the matter; House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has spoken, with gross hyperbole, of a "national security crisis." Having squelched congressional examination of a genuine national security scandal -- the involvement of U.S. military commanders in grave violations of the Geneva Conventions in Iraq -- House leaders, including Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), have rushed to announce hearings on the Berger affair. As happened so often during the Clinton administration, they are treating a real but apparently limited case of misconduct as an opportunity to misuse congressional oversight powers to wage partisan warfare.

It's worth noting that news of the months-old investigation of Mr. Berger just happened to leak on the week before the Democratic convention, and two days before the release of the Sept. 11 commission's report -- which covers serious lapses by President Bush as well as President Bill Clinton. Officials at the Bush White House had been briefed on the Berger probe. Could that be a coincidence?
NY Times Editorial:
Exactly why Samuel Berger removed copies of classified documents from the National Archives last October is not clear. If, as Mr. Berger says, the removal was simply a blunder, it was inexcusably careless legally and daft politically.

Meanwhile, the Republican hyperventilating is overdone. The same Congressional leaders who shrugged at the leaking of a C.I.A. agent's identity to punish her husband, a critic of administration policy, demand hearings on Mr. Berger. The politicians should all let the Justice Department do its job.

Of real concern is that bleeding, yet again, of politics into criminal justice. After initially claiming it knew nothing of the case, the White House has had to admit it was informed. That sort of heads-up taints both sides. It leaves the White House open to questions about whether it timed a leak to the release of the 9/11 panel's report, and it feeds cynicism about the independence of federal prosecutors.

Sometimes things just get strange.

Bush wants to be a peace president

"For a while we were marching to war. Now we're marching to peace. ... America is a safer place. Nobody wants to be the war president. I want to be the peace president."

The Republicans reject a tax cut
Several Republican congressional and administration officials said the president rejected as insufficient an offer by GOP leaders for a two-year extension of expiring tax cuts for parents, married couples and workers.  Bush, in the midst of a difficult re-election campaign, wants a five-year extension of the tax cuts, which are scheduled to expire on Dec. 31. Many conservative lawmakers prefer a five-year extension of expiring tax cuts, hoping not only for the economic benefit but also for the political boost on an issue that favors the GOP.

The Republicans urge an investigation:

The main investigative committee in the Republican-led House will look into allegations Clinton administration national security adviser Sandy Berger mishandled highly classified terrorism documents, lawmakers said Wednesday.

Even though the matter already is the subject of a Justice Department criminal probe, House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis said the panel has "a constitutional responsibility to find out what happened and why."