The kids are alright

There's a great graph making the rounds of the liberal blogosphere lately…

As you can see, young voters are increasingly moving into the Democratic column.  The combination of the successful Clinton years followed by the disastrous Bush years seem to have had a rather dramatic impact on the political-thinking of younger Americans.  For Democrats, this is really great news.  Firstly, nothing helps explain voting decisions like Party Identification.  Secondly, this is a really good thing for the long-term.  I'll leave it to Ezra's Political Science-y summary because he does it so well:

Democrats have moved from an 11-point advantage among youth in 2004 to a full 25 points.
That's a remarkable leap. Political scientists argue that the more
often someone votes for a party, the more that preference gets locked
in. Each vote marginally increases your personal identification with
the party you pulled the lever for. Three election cycles, and you're
probably a partisan for life, or something near to it. Which means an
advantage like this, though potentially temporary, also opens the door
to a more enduring electoral edge with this generation.

I guess we can consider this the plus side of the Bush legacy.

(Not) enough with Wright

So, I just posted “Enough with Wright,” but as usual anything new and original I had to say pales in comparison to some other great commentary I've read on the matter.  To that end, a couple of great comments.  First, Glen Greenwald:

Why the Jeremiah Wright story deserves more attention

I
think the most important thing to note about the Jeremiah Wright Story
is that we're a Nation plagued by exceedingly few significant problems;
blessed with a quite healthy political culture and very trusted
political and media institutions; composed of a citizenry that is
peacefully content with its Government and secure and confident about
their future; endowed with a supremely sturdy economic foundation free
of debt and other grave economic afflictions; vested with the ability
to command great respect and admiration from the other nations of the
world; emancipated from the burdens of war and intractable conflicts
which have toppled and destroyed so many other great nations of the
past; and, most of all, we're becoming freer and more prosperous by the
minute.

Not only that, but we have an extremely impressive, serious and honor-bound ruling imperial class devoted to the preservation of all of these blessings.

So it isn't as though we really have anything else to talk about
besides Jeremiah Wright. There are some countries in the world –
probably most — which have so many big problems that they could
ill-afford to devote much time and energy to a matter of this sort.
Thankfully, the United States isn't one of them. I believe it's
critical that we keep that in mind as we discuss him for the next seven
months.

For the non-sarcastic approach, this post from John Cole is simply amazing:

So Jeremiah Wright has acted like a jackass the past few days, and
he may have acted supremely selfishly by hurting Obama?s electoral
chances. Regardless, he may be a flawed man, but that does not undo all
the good he has done over the years. I don?t know of any bloggers with
thirty years of service to the poor and the indigent. Get back to me
when Chris Matthews feeds hungry people for three decades. And even
with all his flaws, Jeremiah Wright did give us this quality bit of entertainment,
and I have to admit to enjoying someone treat the media with the
respect they deserve (which is to be mocked, have eyes rolled at them,
and taunted as Wright did yesterday at the Press Club).

Maybe
it is because I am totally and unrepentantly in the tank for Obama, but
I just can?t get worked up over what his pastor said. Maybe it is
because I am not religious, and I am used to religious people saying
things that sound crazy. Or maybe I just refuse to spend any more time
and energy getting worked up over and denouncing, distancing, and
rejecting the wrong people- people who really don?t matter in the big
scheme of things. If you have a memo from Jeremiah Wright to John Yoo
showing how we should become a rogue nation, let me know. If you have
pictures of Jeremiah Wright voting against the GI Bill,
send it to me. If you have evidence of Jeremiah Wright training junior
soldiers on the finer aspects of stacking and torturing naked Iraqi
captives, pass them on.

Until then, I just can?t seem to get all worked up about the crazy scary black preacher that Obama has to ?throw under the bus.?

Enough with Wright already!

So everything Jeremiah Wright says and does is news now??  Yeah, the guy has done a bit of a media offensive this weekend– clearly taking advantage of his 15 minutes– but are any of his pronouncements truly newsworthy.  Obama has already quite clearly rejected (if not denounced) Wright's more extreme statements and outlines his clear areas of disagreement with Wright's views.  Therefore, just why is it so newsworthy when Wright continues to publicly espouse the particular views that Obama has rejected?  EJ Dionne asks “are the media paying too much attention to Wright?”  I think you know the answer. 

I started this post last night, today I see that George Will has piled on.  The essence of his column seems to boil down to: Wright says bad stuff and Obama was his parishoner for 20 years– how do we no he doesn't believe it.  Ummm, maybe because Obama already disowned all of Wright's more odious views?

“Objective” Journalism

I noticed this amazingly flawed story in the New York Times on Sunday, and was pleased to see its been caught around the blogosphere.  The lede:

3 Candidates With 3 Financial Plans, but One Deficit
By LARRY ROHTER and MICHAEL COOPER

The
Republican and Democratic presidential candidates differ strikingly in
their approaches to taxes and spending, but their fiscal plans have at
least one thing in common: each could significantly swell the budget
deficit and increase the national debt by trillions of dollars,
according to tax and budget experts.

Some various sharp commentary: Matt Yglesias offers some nice numerical perspective:

Later in the article we find out that McCain's proposals “if enacted
as proposed, would add at least $5.7 trillion to the national debt over
the next decade.” Conversely, “even taking into account that there are
some differences between the proposals by Senators Hillary Rodham
Clinton and Barack Obama, the impact of either on the deficit would be
less than one-third that of the McCain plan.” Let's do some math.
McCain's plans will at “at least $5.7 trillion” whereas the Democratic
plans will add “less than” $1.9 trillion to the deficit. The difference
between them, in short, is at least $3.8 trillion.

That, obviously, is a huge difference — larger than the
net worth of Bill Gates or the GDP of Italy. There's no grounds for
saying that two plans' costs have something “in common” when they
differ in cost by at least $3.8 trillion, but to understand this you
need to understand what you're talking about. After all, if one
candidate was offering budget-busting on the Democratic scale, and
another candidate was offering $2 trillion in deficit reduction nobody
would have trouble distinguishing between the budget hawk and the
deficit spender. But the difference in magnitude is the same in either
case.

TNR's Jonathan Cohn points out how this ultimately comes down to wrong-headed journalistic values:

Clinton and Obama can probably achieve
most of their goals
either by trimming (rather than ditching) some proposals, finding a
politically acceptable way to raise a few taxes, or letting the deficit
grow at a moderate rate. (Or, most likely, some combination of the
three.) McCain, by contrast, is
going to have to jettison some of his ideas altogether. Either he'll
have to let go of those tax cuts or he'll have to let the deficit
explode.

This is,
arguably, a very important distinction–one about which the voters
should know, as it says a lot about the candidates' honesty and ability
to govern. The Times deserves great credit for highlighting it.

But
I suspect many readers of the Sunday Times didn't grasp this distinction. In fact, I suspect many came away with the
very opposite impression about the candidates–i.e., that they're all equally irresponsible…

It's just one article, of course, but it's also
indicative of a broader phenomenon in campaign coverage: Journalists
trying so hard to seem even-handed that they end up distorting reality.
I have no idea whether it was the reporters or editors who chose to
frame this particular story this way. Either way, though, it was a poor, if all too typical, decision.

I do think this is largely a typical example of the media's false objectivity, but I also suspect that, more often than not, such examples will end up playing in John McCain's favor.  As the 2000 campaign so clearly demonstrated, the more you lie with the numbers, the more you benefit when the media pretends your whoppers are equivalent to the other guy's mild exaggerations. 


McCain and taxes

The Post had a great article today analyzing McCain's disaster of a tax plan.  Not only is it just dumb and budget-busting, it is also in direct contrast to many of McCain's earlier (more reasonable) political pronouncements and just a super-duper pander to the anti-tax at all costs Republican right.  Some highlights:

Now that he is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee,
however, McCain is marching straight down the party line. The economic
package he has laid out embraces many of the tax policies he once
decried: extending Bush's tax cuts he voted against, offering
investment tax breaks he once believed would have little economic
benefit and granting the long-held wishes of tax lobbyists he has often
mocked.

McCain's concerns — about budget deficits, unanticipated defense
costs, an Iraq war that would be longer and more costly than advertised
— have proved eerily prescient, usually a plus for politicians who are
quick to say they were right when others were wrong. Yet McCain appears
determined to leave such predictions behind.

Of course, even in the face of such incontrovertible pandering, the article cannot help but fall back on the pathetic little, he said, she said, game, as if this is all just a matter of perspective:

To supporters, McCain has simply seen the light and now understands the
power that business tax relief has to spur economic growth and
innovation. Said J.D. Foster, a former Bush White House and Treasury tax policy expert, now at the Heritage Foundation: “It's logical that he wouldn't be repeating the arguments he made then. We all learn from experience.”

To critics, it is political pandering. “It's just part of the new John
McCain that's taking on the conventional wisdom that in tight races,
you have to energize the base and win by 50.000001 percent,” Chafee
said. “I was frankly surprised that he's kept it up after securing the
nomination. I thought he'd move to the center, and I haven't seen it.”

Of course, this is the opposite of “learning from experience.”  The concerns he had about the problematic nature of the Bush tax cuts when he was not running for the Republican nomination have proven dead-on. 

And if that's not enough, McCain is making ridiculous pronouncements that somehow he can balance the budget by savings here and there.  Think Progress has a nice visual that shows just how not true that is:

If we want to actually cut the budget deficit, we're simply going to have to raise taxes on the rich country-club Republicans, and that's that.

Why I could never be a politician

 I was listening to an NPR story the other day about a recent Hillary Clinton rally in Indianapolis.  Since the rally was on Pennsylvania St, her Indiana campaign co-chair, Joe Hogsett, proclaimed, with seeming passion and authenticity, “We're gonna take this campaign from Pennsylvania Street in Indianapolis, Indiana, all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”  Hearing such (typical) political absurdity I couldn't help but roll my eyes and wonder about the people who would actually be inspired by such silly rhetoric (most of us?).  Then it occurred to me, how could I ever say such a ridiculous line with a straight face, much less mean it.  Yet, we hear such political humdingers all the time, so it is clearly just part of politics.  Conclusion: no way could I ever run for elective office.

Bananas

No, I'm not talking about Hillary supporters who think she's got a real shot at being the nominee now that she's won PA (though, the term does apply).  I'm talking about a new book, Banana: the Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World.  I have not read (and I probably won't), but there was a wonderfully entertaining interview with the author last month on Fresh Air– it allowed me to innundate my friends with fascinating (to me, at least) banana factoids for days.  Should you not want to make the 40 minute commitment (well, worth it) to the Fresh Air podcast, last week Salon ran a nice story highlighting many of the most interesting parts of the book, well worth your 5 minutes.  Some of the juicier parts (let's just say, Banana Republic was an appropriate name:

The mass-produced banana first came to the United States in the 19th
century. As the next century rolled on, buccaneering banana men
pioneered such innovative business practices as propping up puppet
heads of states throughout Latin America, keeping them in power through
corporate largesse, and exploiting local workers, when not actually
encouraging local governments to enslave or kill them. By building
railroads, in exchange for land for plantations, United Fruit tightly
entwined itself with the economies of many countries, and came to own
huge swaths of Central America. Its reach was so extensive that it
became known as “the Octopus.”

When local leaders threatened taxes or complained about the
company's abysmal labor practices, such as paying workers exclusively
in company scrip to be spent only at the company store, United Fruit
threatened to leave the country, taking its business next door. Mere
bribes to local officials were strictly junior varsity in this jungle.

In some countries, United Fruit blatantly paid no taxes at all for
decades. In others, when troubled by local officials, it simply
installed a more sympathetic government. In Honduras in 1911, the
banana men not only staged an invasion to depose the current regime and
put in a new one, they had the audacity to demand the new government
reimburse the costs incurred in the invasion!

On the purely fruit front, I was quite intrigued to learn that the bananas we eat today, are a much inferior product to the ones, an entirely different species, that Americans happily consumed 50 years ago, before they were done in by disease. 

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