Sunday, January 28, 2007

Mr. Schilling Goes to Washington, Metaphorically
John Kerry's announcement late last week that he wouldn't mount a second presidential campaign next year ensured that the junior senator from Massachusetts instead would seek a fifth Senate term in 2008. In his first four Senate campaigns, Kerry fought a close race only once: 1996, when popular governor Bill Weld, a liberal Republican, polled evenly with him through most of the year before Kerry eventually won his third term with 52 percent to Weld's 45 (a third-party conservative took 3 percent). In 2002, running against token opposition, Kerry was re-elected with 80 percent.

Given Massachusetts' reputation as among the most liberal states in the union, one would figure Kerry's seat a safe one as Democrats set out to defend and expand their effective 51-49 majority next year. But if anything can shake up a race like that, it's the emergence of a charismatic, rich opponent with no name recognition problem and an emotional connection to the electorate. In Massachusetts, Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling could be that candidate--if he wanted it.

Curt Schilling seemed surprised yesterday by the sudden groundswell of local supporters hoping to draft him into national politics and a 2008 Senate run against John Kerry.

The Red Sox [team stats] pitching hero didn’t flatly rule out the idea, either, though he didn’t sound like he was about to hit the campaign trail anytime soon.

“I couldn’t rule it out because it’s not something I ever thought about in a serious capacity,” Schilling told the Herald.

“I envision that I will probably be pretty busy in 2008,” he said. “But I’m flattered as hell to even make this phone call.”

But Schilling may doesn’t feel he’s a good match for Capitol Hill.

“While I am a registered voter, I have too many problems with the political scene, and I don’t think I’d fit into it,” he said.

Schilling, who is planning to retire from baseball after this season, did give a glimpse of what he would do in a political office. His first task would be to “fire everybody and anybody who had anything to do with the Big Dig,” he said.

Schilling said in 2008 he’ll vote either for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whom he called a personal friend, or Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). “If they are both on the ticket it will be a tough choice,” he said.

For now, I'll take Schilling at his word that he won't run for Senate in 2008. I don't think he has the legislative temperament--though I could see him wanting to be a governor someday--and I think he's sincere in his plans to work in charity and run his video game business, probably carving out time to kill Doug Glanville online. He'll do those things until he gets bored, at which point the competition and ego gratification of politics could well appeal to him.

I think what is interesting is that his top two choices for president next year are McCain and Obama. For one thing, those choices suggest that Schilling's politics aren't particularly ideological; like his baseball thinking, they seem driven at bottom by emotion.

Of course, what Obama and McCain have in common is a great story to tell. For Obama, it's his almost comically diverse background and unlikely emergence as a post-racial hero offering the potential of partisan reconciliation; McCain's POW ordeal remains compelling in a time when the media culture is loath to tell stories of sacrifice from our current quagmire of a war, and his gradual emergence into a leader who seemed like he could transcend the usual partisan crap and appeal to something more fundamental and benign in the national character appealed to voters across the spectrum. (This is what has made his non-stop pandering to "crazy base land" since 2004 all the more disheartening, not to say disgusting.)

Mike Huckabee was on the Tim Russert yakfest this morning, explaining his plans to run for president, and reminded the audience that "Americans love an underdog." This might be true as far as it goes, but I think it's not quite descriptive when it comes to voting choices. In picking the president, Americans want a leader who makes them proud to be Americans; at least on paper, and at this tired and somewhat dispirited moment in our national life, Obama and McCain come a lot closer to filling that bill than, say, the guy who lied even when he didn't need to and couldn't stop cheating on his wife, or the inarticulate, proudly arrogant boob who was born rich and screwed up everything he ever touched, with tragic results.

Curt Schilling probably identifies with McCain and Obama, given his own weird path in life: moved around as a kid, close to his dad, his dad passed away, bounced from one organization to the next with a Nuke Laloosh reputation, suddenly seemed to catch up with his talent, then did some legendary things over an eight year stretch (from 1997, when he set a modern NL strikeout record with the Phillies and, with Scott Rolen, saved them from the ignominy of losing 100 games, to 2004, when he stained a sock red and helped end the Red Sox curse). You just hope our next president's story has such an ending.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Now or Never
In early 2004, many of us were bemused at how quickly the Democratic presidential nomination was settled. John Kerry, almost an afterthought through the first few weeks of January of that year, was the all-but-assured standard-bearer for his party less than two weeks after the Iowa caucuses. This had been the intention of the Democratic National Committee: determine the nominee early, allowing the party to save money and resources and emerge without bad blood or inevitable intra-party attacks that the Republicans could then use in the fall. But it also served to elevate a candidate who had not been as politically battle-tested as he should have been, and it reinforced the suspicion that money (Kerry had opted out of the public financing system and used his own sizable family resources to fund his campaign) and organization were largely decisive in settling the race.

As Democrats conducted their quadrennial reconsideration of the nominating process, they concluded--not wrongly, IMO--that part of the problem was giving Iowa and New Hampshire, the two early-voting states that don't reflect the national electorate in terms of demographics or priorities, so much weight in the process. So they agreed to move up Nevada, a western state with many Hispanic voters and a large union presence, and South Carolina, which has a large percentage of African-Americans among its Democratic electorate.

Then all hell broke loose. It now seems likely that California, Florida, Illinois and New Jersey will move their primaries to February 5, two weeks after Iowa, one week after New Hampshire. They will join, and totally overshadow, a half-dozen or so smaller states set to vote that day.

There's debate about what this will mean--whether it will make the first four states more important, by virtue of giving one candidate momentum heading into the quasi-national Feb. 5 primary, or less, given how many more votes and delegates will be at stake that day and how much more focus will be on those states, which include or border on a majority of the biggest media markets in the country. But what I think is undeniable is that the front-loading of the calendar gives a big advantage to the candidates with the name recognition and bank account to fight hard out of the gate for those Big Four. Right now, that's Hillary Clinton and John McCain. And their campaign managers can hardly stop themselves from blurting this out:

Associates of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the New York Democrat, and Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican, said that should either of them stumble early on, the respective party primaries in California and New Jersey — two states that would seem particularly hospitable to them — could offer an expensive but welcome firewall.
“I think this is huge,” said John Weaver, a senior adviser to Mr. McCain. “And the unintended consequences could be even bigger.”
“We don’t set the calendar, and we don’t control the calendar, but we are going to compete aggressively in all these states,” said Patti Solis Doyle, who is the manager of Mrs. Clinton’s exploratory presidential effort. “And I will also tell you we have the resources and the organization to compete in all those states.”

If you're one of the many, many Democrats who doesn't want Hillary, or one of the many, many Republicans who doesn't want McCain, this front-loading is bad news, and the process it will create seems directly counter to how the last two presidents seized their parties' nominations.

The Democrats' Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary in 1992 didn't mean that much because favorite sons were in play: Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin won his home state almost uncontested, and former Sen. Paul Tsongas (of neighboring Massachusetts) took New Hampshire. Clinton needed more time to break through; had 10 or 12 states gone to the polls immediately after his place/show finishes in the first two races, who knows if he would have gotten it. In 2000, meanwhile, John McCain stomped Bush in NH and almost immediately pulled even in South Carolina, where the next vote was set... but Bush had three weeks before that primary to bring his campaign strengths--unlimited money and unlimited willingness to smear McCain--to bear.

I think that of the two parties and presumptive front-runners, Hillary Clinton gets more of an advantage than does McCain--whom I increasingly believe will plummet into the ever-widening gap between his "Straight Talk" persona and his relentless far-right pandering (which today included a vote against the minimum wage). This should scare Democrats who particularly want to win the White House, given this note from Charlie Cook:

Among Democrats who knew enough to rate the candidates, 74 percent said they were enthusiastic or comfortable with Edwards and Obama, compared with 71 percent for Clinton and 39 percent for Biden.

When it comes to the candidate voters simply cannot support, Clinton tops the field with 46 percent, followed by Edwards with 32 percent, Giuliani at 26 percent, Biden and McCain at 25 percent each, Obama at 23 percent, Romney at 19 percent and Brownback at 17 percent.

46 PERCENT. That's pretty close to half the country, a far larger chunk of the electorate to write off from the jump than any other Democrat, and twice as much as Barack Obama. And this isn't someone who can reintroduce herself, or pander her way to greater acceptance; people know who she is, and they know they think she is.

So anti-Hillary Democrats who figured they might have two shots to take down Our Lady of Perpetual Triangulation--before the primaries began, and after the race narrowed to Hillary vs. Not-Hillary--have to reconsider their options. The race is being decided now; we might know who the nominee is by the end of 2007, with the first four primaries as confirmation, the Feb. 5 delegananza as coronation, and the remaining five months to the Democratic Convention set aside for a crushing case of buyer's remorse. If an alternative is to be found, it probably has to be now.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Now, Matters Are Worse
It wasn't a surprise, but it was still a bummer to wake up this morning to the news that Hillary Clinton, Our Lady of Perpetual Triangulation, has officially jumped in to the 2008 presidential race.

How her campaign unfolds will tell us a lot about where our political culture is after two terms of a president who never should have been allowed within 500 yards of the Oval Office. George W. Bush won in 2000 on the strengths of a famous name, an enormous bank account, undue and undeserved deference from the media, and perhaps most importantly a widespread sense that it didn't much matter who was president. Hillary Clinton has the first two, and while she won't get anything like the kid-glove treatment Bush got from the press, the experience of 15 years in the unblinking spotlight has made her perhaps better than anyone alive at talking without actually saying anything.

Will the mediots point this out? Will her opponents? On a certain level, the question becomes whether or not one can get away with saying nothing of substance so long as the megaphone is sufficiently powerful.

I won't reiterate at length my other objections to Hillary's campaign--that there's no clear purpose to it, that Democrats down the ballot (perhaps most importantly, those freshmen House members in purple or light-red territory) would be forced to run away from her, that even if she wins she won't be able to effectively govern. But it's worth pointing out that the advantages of money and organization are probably largest in the first stretch of the nomination race. With seven or eight candidates in the field, she can win pluralities in the high 20s and low 30s; as the field thins, those dropping out will be under pressure to endorse the likely winner, and eventually it could and probably will come down to Hillary versus Not-HIllary. At that point, a ton of institutional weight falls upon Not-Hillary: stop resisting the inevitable, stop doing the Republicans' oppo work for them, stop squandering resources we'll need for November. Unless she's been bloodied by then, Not-Hillary won't win that duel.

Then to a convention and nomination that, in its staged meaninglessness, will make the Democrats' last two gatherings look like the Algonquin Club; a hyper-motivated Republican base and millions more who might be disgusted by Bush's failures but would sooner eat their own livers than vote for That Woman; the endless re-fighting of the Clinton Wars; the eventual election of a president whom either half the country hates or whose victory could be seen as a vindication of the Bush disaster.

It's a potential nightmare, for the Democrats and much more importantly for the country. We are facing HUGE problems in the next ten years, from global warming, to demographic change and strain on entitlements. to unsteady competitive standing in the post-industrial economy, to the viral spread of religious extremism worldwide. The idea of that stuff getting crowded out of the debate by still more analysis of the Clinton marriage and scandals should horrify every American who cares about our collective future.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Fun With Jerks (including myself), Plus an Actual Point
It's not quite blogroll-worthy, but one of the sites on politics I've taken to reading regularly is Dick Polman's American Debate, linked off For the most part, he plays it straight--despite constantly being attacked as yet another America-hating liberal in the comments section of the blog, I have yet to discern which if any pols are his personal favorites. He points out the hypocrisies of all public figures; over the last year, of course, Republican failings have been more prominently on display, so that's where he has aimed much of his fire, but Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats come in for occasional rough treatment too.

Anyway, perhaps because I'm no longer posting on and have pledged not to talk politics on BackSheGoes, I've taken to commenting on Polman's blog. The right-wing nuts there tend to post anonymously, and most of them just regurgitate the usual attacks on leading Democrats or, in his role as an MSM mouthpiece for the secular monsters who want to turn our kids into Muslimiac homos, Polman himself. Here's an example from today's post, about Hillary Clinton's triangulation (though he doesn't use the word) on Iraq:

At 3:15 PM, Anonymous said...
Hillary is unfit to serve in any political office. She should have never been permitted to enter the Senate race in New York. She is a far-left socialist who cannot be trusted. She was involved in over a dozen scandals as the first lady stolen FBI files, Travelgate, Whitewater illegal land deal revealed, death of Vince Foster, vacation trips including a safari to Africa, stealing White House furniture and gifts, did not want military personnel to salute or be in uniform in the White House, attempted healthcare socialization plan and more.

The media has covered up these things and never questions her on these items. And by the way, why did her brothers spend time in jail??????

It's drivel like this that reminds me why, despite reservations even then, I voted for Hillary in her first victorious Senate race back in 2000: precisely because her victory upset asshats like this guy. And frankly, much as I can't stand Our Lady of Perpetual Triangulation, it's the only reason I could possibly support her again.

When I first started commenting on Polman's blog, I did so under "David," my actual name. It didn't link to anything--Annie has made it clear that she doesn't want me tangling with any more right-wing nuts online--but I eventually decided that it would be more fun to adopt a more detached persona in my comments while writing under a name that would be particularly likely to annoy your average reactionary Philadelphian. Having grown up among and around some of these people, and still seeing the ugly undercurrent of residual racism in my hometown's sports fans--seriously, how else could one argue that Jeff Garcia is a more effective quarterback than Donovan McNabb?--I think I know what bugs them.

So I started posting under the name "iverson."

More on that in a minute. Further down in the comments to this same post, someone makes a more pertinent point:

At 12:25 AM, AST said...
The problem for the Democrats is that they are burdened with a large number of voters who are irrational about any use of force anywhere. The quagmire is their thinking about terrorism. They see Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and the rest as just modern equivalents of the Viet Cong trying to take control of their own nation and drive us out.

Of course, the facts of the current terrorism and the aims of the Mujihadeen don't support that view. They will not be appeased.

Responsible political leaders should lead, not be driven by the likes of the Daily Kos and the crowd. The role of a leader is two-fold: to understand the realities of the world and to persuade his followers to take a responsible course. Abandoning the Iraqis is not a responsible course, unless you think that instability and more fighting among the nations of the Middle East is good for our interests.

This guy or gal has it exactly right. I'm very worried that the Democratic presidential contenders, in their zeal to capture the antiwar sentiment that increasingly looks like the most powerful driver of the nominating process, will go overboard and try to outdo each other in at least implicitly renouncing the use of military force. The reasons for this likely would range from simple political calculation--if you're in a seven-candidate pool, and you figure that 30 percent of the electorate in a small-state primary or caucus will support any plausible contender (sorry, Kucinich) with the strongest antiwar position, that's a big incentive--to guilt, at least for those current and former Senators who voted in 2002 to give warmaking power to a simpleminded sociopath who had already decided to use it.

It would be almost as simpleminded to send a strong signal that the presidential nominee, and the party more broadly, would hesitate to use force under almost any circumstance. I don't foresee another 9/11-level attack, simply because I think it's almost impossible to plan and coordinate something that big when a country as capacious is ours is on the lookout for it, but something smaller--a truck bomb driven into a post office in a county seat, or just some maniac firing a machine gun into a crowd at a mall--is at least possible and perhaps likely. Suppose that happens in September 2008; suddenly the Democrat goes from a 12 point lead to a 10 point deficit as the ads follow, questioning whether Senator X has what it takes to protect America.

There's also the simple matter of statecraft. Military power can't solve every problem, obviously. But anybody with the first clue about how the world works understands that it's an important tool to be used--judiciously, for sure--in pursuit of essentially political ends. Every president of both parties between FDR and Clinton grasped this, and most of them used our enormous power more or less rationally; you can argue the morality of various interventions, but the bulk of them had some logic in a realpolitik sense.

(The one that didn't, of course, was Vietnam. I still have this strong sense that if the East Asia branch of the State Department hadn't been purged in the '50s as a result of the McCarthyite mania, we never would have screwed that up so badly. But that might be another topic for another time.)

Hillary, for all that I'm not a fan, gets this. The New Yorker article to which Polman refers in his post shows her with a pretty nuanced grip on foreign affairs; as occasional AIS commenter Dr. Catloaf recently said to me, the one who comes off as a naif in that piece is Edwards. As I'm broadly sympathetic to the equity-based economic agenda Edwards is pushing, this bugs me; if he emerges as Not-Hillary, I'll want to support him. But the fervor he's showing, perhaps not just on Iraq but as a worldview issue, strikes me as both bad policy and, in a general election context, very bad politics.

I posted a shorter version of these thoughts on Polman's blog here, using a nom de web I think I like even better than "iverson."

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Keep Digging
Just watched Bush on 60 Minutes. Astonishing. Almost five years into this thing, if you start from early 2002 when the internal push to war really got going, he still doesn't demonstrate the most basic understanding of how the factors in Iraq and throughout the middle east push on each other.

Asked if he felt like he owed the Iraqis an apology, he said no, and instead suggested that part of the domestic problem he's facing is that Americans don't believe Iraqis are sufficiently grateful for being liberated from the dictator. It was hard to miss the impression that he shares this view.

Admitting that the country is not stable, he still defended taking out Saddam as "removing a source of instability."

He basically shrugged off the Democrats' coming attempts to block the troop increase, as well as the public resistance to the strategy, noting that "sometimes I'm the commander-in-chief, sometimes the explainer-in-chief... that's why I'm doing this interview." What was missing, from the interview as evidently from the speech last week (which I didn't watch), was any actual, y'know, explanation as to how escalating the war in the way contemplated would help advance us toward the desired outcome of stability in Iraq, them standing up/us standing down, etc.

There were weasel words about thuggish killer Moqtada al-Sadr, whom Bush seemed to be trying to imply was "an enemy of the United States" without actually saying so. In a way, though, this is encouraging, as it might signal that he understands the nominal Iraqi PM is more beholden to Sadr than he is to the Americans. After all, we can just cut off support; the Shi'ite militants can cut off his head, balls, et al.

And there were some pro forma sentiments about how tough it is to talk with families of those killed in the line of duty, with Bush showing his core political stripes by noting that many have said to him, "Don't let my loved ones die in vain." Those who might have another view--"don't let any more families suffer the pain ours has to endure"--weren't mentioned. I'm not saying that Bush is uncaring or callous to those families; I'm sure he's moved when he's with them. But I also believe, based on everything I've seen and read, that he takes from that emotional experience only the sentiments that reinforce his existing views.

Those views remain frightfully uninformed. There's no sense, listening to this man, that he's contemplated the notion that the American presence might be doing more harm than good. There was no mention of the institutional strain on the armed forces, how badly positioned we'd be as a country to respond to crisis elsewhere, how we would conduct the larger war against Iran that it seems the administration at least wants to bluff willingness to take on, and of course no notion either of the problems that come with a country already in deficit fighting a war on credit, or that the distribution of sacrifice--a few hundred thousand families bearing it all, the rest of us mostly wishing the news were less depressing--is unfair or immoral.

The last two years of a president's second term are not a good time to attempt big things, and I think the country has a certain expectation of its lame duck chief executives. Clinton spent his last two years fending off impeachment, pushing a lot of small-bore measures, and coming fairly close but tragically short of resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict. Reagan, perhaps the last true lame duck by virtue of the Democrats' decision not to pursue impeachment over Iran-Contra, was by then pursuing a foreign policy of de-escalating the Cold War that had wide bipartisan support; domestically, he did next to nothing. Both Clinton and Reagan enjoyed high approval ratings in their final two years.

Bush is taking a different approach. Thoroughly repudiated in the 2006 midterms, relatively unpopular even among many Republicans who see him as an anchor as well as true conservatives who feel that he's transgressed against their principles, he's still pushing, pushing, pushing to somehow "win" an unwinnable war. Maybe it's the sad consequence of never having been forced to clean up his own messes throughout a stunningly privileged life. Maybe it goes back to the managerial weakness of not being willing to entertain a diversity of views and have all the advisers fight it out on the merits of their arguments. Maybe it's just supreme narcissism. But either way, he's bidding fair to leave the presidency as the most reviled two-termer ever, doing long-term damage to the country's international standing, economic health, military might, and internal comity. While almost everyone wishes he'd just lie down in his hole, Bush keeps digging.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

...And Now, the News
On the New York Times homepage a bit after midnight this evening, I saw a headline of some interest. As I don't generally read the Times in print, I'm not sure where this story will appear in Monday's paper. On the homepage, it could be found two clicks below the virtual fold (where you'd need to scroll down), in two sections, "Washington" and "U.S.": third story of three in one, second of three in the other. On the homepage, there are about a dozen stories above the scroll-down, maybe another 40 more below. The story I'm referring to was, visually and in terms of immediate draw to the reader's eye, about in the middle of the pack among those 40 or so.

So there's little to make it stand out. But in explaining what's happened and what's happening in our country in this decade, it would seem to have more to say than "Ducks Top Wings to Snap 4-Game Slide" or "When the Choreographer is Out of the Picture." (The direct link to the Eagles game story is no longer on the homepage as I write this, but the article I'm talking about probably outweighs that too.)

Its title is "Bush Tax Cuts Offer Most for Very Rich, Study Finds":

WASHINGTON, Jan. 7 — Families earning more than $1 million a year saw their federal tax rates drop more sharply than any group in the country as a result of President Bush’s tax cuts, according to a new Congressional study.
Based on an exhaustive analysis of tax records and census data, the study reinforced the sense that while Mr. Bush’s tax cuts reduced rates for people at every income level, they offered the biggest benefits by far to people at the very top — especially the top 1 percent of income earners.

Though tax cuts for the rich were bigger than those for other groups, the wealthiest families paid a bigger share of total taxes. That is because their incomes have climbed far more rapidly, and the gap between rich and poor has widened in the last several years.
The study estimates that the effective federal income tax rate, which excludes payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, declined modestly for people in the middle- and lower-income categories.

Families in the middle fifth of annual earnings, who had average incomes of $56,200 in 2004, saw their average effective tax rate edge down to 2.9 percent in 2004 from 5 percent in 2000. That translated to an average tax cut of $1,180 per household, but the tax rate actually increased slightly from 2003.

Tax cuts were much deeper, and affected far more money, for families in the highest income categories. Households in the top 1 percent of earnings, which had an average income of $1.25 million, saw their effective individual tax rates drop to 19.6 percent in 2004 from 24.2 percent in 2000. The rate cut was twice as deep as for middle-income families, and it translated to an average tax cut of almost $58,000.
Mr. Bush and his Republican allies in Congress want to permanently extend that tax cut and almost all of the others that Congress passed in his first term. The cost of doing that would be more than $1 trillion over the next decade, a cost that would hit the Treasury at the same time that the spending on old-age benefits for retiring baby boomers begins to soar.

In one sense, the de-emphasis on this story is appropriate and justified: it isn't "news" in the sense that it provides any knowledge that the attentive citizen didn't previously possess. If you've been paying attention at all since 2001, you probably understand that Bush/Republican tax policy, on a real-dollar basis, has disproportionately rewarded the wealthiest folks in the land. The interpretation and value/meaning of this fact can be disputed ("that's the entrepreneurial class, re-investing their money in the economy; they earned it and they get to should keep it," etc) but not the fact itself. The outcome of the Ducks-Wings donnybrook, decided on an artifical pond frozen by man and bordered by advertisements seeking the semidiscretionary dollars of a live and television audience that either lacks an NFL team (Anaheim/LA) or just saw theirs finish 3-13 and blow the first pick in the draft (Detroit), really does have more news value.

But the Bush tax story--the mere publication of which, by the way, will be enough to trigger Pavlovian howls of "liberal media" from the dogs so disposed to howl that refrain; "hey, Comrade Sulzberger, where's the quote from the AEI or Heritage expert explaining why this policy is just and proper?"--does have significance in terms of setting the framework and creating a context not only for understanding the past (the original enactments of the cuts themselves), but for real news stories soon to come.

When Congress gets going in earnest over the next few weeks and months, proposals will be on the board to do any number of expensive things, from raising the minimum wage to increasing student loan aid to fixing the Alternative Minimum Tax and reauthorizing No Child Left Behind to provide more federal support to schools. Pushing back against these proposals will be Republicans in Congress, the White House, and the media, all talking about how much they'll cost, waving the bloody balance sheet of tax-and-spend, charging newly powerful Democrats like this guy with having dollar-sign eyes and no regard for the shy and retiring nature of the global capitalist. Doing all these things, they'll say, means raising taxes and killing the prosperity of the last few years.

The New York Times will write stories covering these political fights, as of course they should. But if the paper were to contextualize every quoted salutary reference to "the Republican tax cuts" (for that will be the frame; Frank Luntz insists) by adding a phrase like "which benefitted millionaire families a few dozen times more than middle class families," you'd have... well, you'd have a liberal Fox News, presenting just one spin on the facts to push the reader/viewer toward a specific conclusion.

The point--or one point, anyway--is that the Republican argument here (though certainly not just here) depends upon a limited public understanding of what's informing the dispute. In a sense, it would be bias to include more detail about the real value of the Bush tax cuts--as well as the arguably important fact that the areas of the federal budget that have been cut or seen the slowest growth during this decade tend to favor the non-rich, while those that have continued to grow favor the wealthy--in every story about tax and budget fights to come.

In another sense, though, it's bias not to provide this context. "Preserving tax cuts versus increasing spending" has a different feel to it than "preserving tax cuts for the wealthiest versus increasing spending for everyone else."

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Minor Housekeeping
Just wanted to commend a couple new links on the blogroll here: the top politics/policy link is now Democracy: A Journal of Ideas. This site, launched last summer by some wonky liberals, didn't really interest me at first but seems to have hit its stride in a big way. The current issue (I think it's a quarterly) has an excellent piece about the (somewhat silly) urban policy debate between advocates for investment in "the creative class" and the jobs-and-services crowd; a strong critique of the "corporate social responsibility" model that capitalist-sympathizing progressives (like, um, me) have long seized upon as a best-of-both-worlds solution; and this article on the dangers of advocacy-oriented history.

Also new on the left side is, a Phillies community site where I'm a moderator. Thus far, it's been blessedly free of political arguments; as I can do that here or at any number of other places online, I've come to the conclusion that baseball, basically a joyous subject (even with the heavy dose of masochism that comes with Philadelphia phandom), should stay as free as feasible from the cares and clashes of the serious world.