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3/04/2005

"Ramadi Madness"

Read all about it. Torture & abuse.

Eason Jordan

I haven't written anything about Eason Jordan, mainly because it's a waste of time, but this seems relevant to his assertion: Freed Journalist Fired on by U.S. Troops.

Bush in New Jersey

David Stout, NYT:

"I didn't run for office to dodge problems," Mr. Bush said in Westfield, N.J., where he once again promoted the idea of optional private investment accounts within the retirement system for younger workers.

The president said he had a message for those younger workers: "You better listen carefully to this debate, because you're the ones who are going to have to pay for it. And if I were you, I'd be saying, 'Well, if we have a problem, Mr. President, what do you and the Congress intend to do about it?' "

The Senate minority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, said Democrats had an answer, drawn from the age-old words of Hippocrates: "First, do no harm."
Bush isn't doging problems, he's creating them. We who support Social Security have dropped the ball a bit in accepting the SS Trustees/CBO figures as accurate predictions, instead of what they really are: mere guesswork, and in the case of the Trustees, guesswork produced by partisan appointees. There is no decent evidence for the proposition that Social Security will begin paying out more in benefits by 2018/19. The pessimistic assumptions underlying those models are what we need to be fighting against, not just meekly accepting them.

Productivity growth, GDP growth, and the share of national wealth dedicated to wages are not received from on high. They are things directly impacted by our fiscal decisions. Our policies should be focused on preventing mediocrity, not managing it.

Bush's Deficit

Some decent reporting from AP's Alan Fram:

President Bush's budget would keep federal deficits over $200 billion annually for the next decade, and add $1.6 trillion to the shortfalls that would occur if his tax and spending proposals were not enacted, Congress' top budget analyst said Friday.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the president's budget would leave a 2005 deficit of $394 billion and a 2006 gap of $332 billion.

But the budget office noted that Bush's fiscal blueprint omitted the costs of overhauling Social Security, which some analysts have said could cost $2 trillion over the next decade.

Bush's budget also omits any new money for U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for 2006. The congressional analyst said to keep next year's military operations at this year's levels would probably add about $40 billion to the 2006 shortfall, pushing it to perhaps $375 billion.

By 2009, the deficit would be $246 billion, the budget office said.

That would fulfill Bush's goal of halving the $521 billion shortfall he projected for last year a projection that ended up being $109 billion too high. But it would not be close to cutting last year's actual $412 billion deficit in half.

Overall, the budget office said Bush's budget would leave deficits for the decade ending 2015 at $2.58 trillion, or $1.6 trillion over the $980 billion that would otherwise occur. The increase is mainly due to Bush's plan to make his already enacted tax cuts permanent.

Bush's budget projected figures only for the next five years.
Fram's a bit circuitous, and he leaves out the costs of Alternative Minimum Tax Reform, but he at least mentions most of the budget lies.

Bush on the Defensive on Social Security

Robert Toner, New York Times:

President Bush dismissed the notion Thursday that his campaign to create private accounts in Social Security was in serious trouble, asserting he was still "at the early stages of the process."

Vowing to push ahead and acknowledging that "I've got a lot more work to do," Mr. Bush said he was open to ideas from both parties and tried again to allay the fears widespread in his own party that Social Security was "the third rail of politics."

"Ultimately," he said, "I think politicians need to be worried about not being a part of the solution."

Senate Democrats seemed unworried. They said they would work with Mr. Bush on Social Security only if he would "publicly and unambiguously announce" that he rejected his proposal for private investment accounts financed by payroll tax revenues.
Democrats have a solution to the Social Security problem. It's called investing in America's future. Rather than accepting as inevitable America's descent into mediocrity, we need prudently allocate our resources, investing in workers, future generations, and our national infrastructure. We can avoid stagnating wages, weak productivity growth, and slow GDP growth if we make the right choices today. President Bush would rather deal with symptoms than the disease.

Asa Hutchinson, War Profiteer

New York Times: Official Leaving Security Dept. Shifts to Advising Contractors:

WASHINGTON, March 2 - Asa Hutchinson, who stepped down this week as a top administrator at the Department of Homeland Security, has joined a law firm based in Washington that represents major domestic security contractors and companies regulated by the department.

Mr. Hutchinson, 54, who as under secretary at the department oversaw transportation and border security, will be barred for at least one year from interacting directly with department officials. But he can advise companies that are pursuing contracts with the agency or are subject to its regulatory review.

3/02/2005

The Right's Assault on Professionalism

Strong, yet seldom connected, practices of the modern pseudo-conservative movement have been criticized on many fronts: their treatment of journalists, their treatment of scientists, their treatment of educators, their treatment of lawyers, their treatment of intelligence professionals, their treatment of professional civil servants, even their treatment of doctors. These targets of conservative opprobrium have each been attacked in different ways - the creation of micro-regulations that punish teachers, the injection of politics into the scientific community, the vilification of the legal profession and journalists, the legislative control of which medical treatments a doctor can offer. But there is a common theme: each of the targets is a profession.

This strongly suggests that the basis for pseudo-conservative hostility is not anything particular to the fields in which these professionals work, but to the very concept of professionalism.

Which makes sense. The core of the concept of professionalism is that a person can, by agreeing to constrain themselves by rules of conduct, advance a greater interest - a common good. Pseudo conservatives reject this idea. They believe that it is impossible to constrain ones' passions with rules, that personal biases are inevitably injected into every decision. They believe that one can never strengthen their position by agreeing to constraints. They believe that there is no "greater good" to be advanced by working in well-designed systems and institutions. In short, they reject all of the foundational assumptions underpinning the idea of professionalism.

Look at the media. The media profession is founded on an assumption about the ability of reporters to set aside their personal beliefs in a search for objective truth. It is founded on an assumption that following a set of reportorial procedures will increase the likelihood of discovering that objective truth. It is founded on the assumption that the public has a powerful interest in being informed of objective truths. Pseudoconservatives reject each of these assumptions. They have believed, at least since Nixon, if not before, that reporters intentionally interject their personal political views into their reporting, that "liberal media bias" can be proven by things like the voting records of journalists. They look at reportorial practices and see not a system for reliably arriving at truth, but an opportunity for bad-faith exploitation. They pay "journalists," elevate prostitutes into the rarified White House press corp, and attempt to manipulate the media's ethic of impartiality at every turn. They reject the idea that "truth" exists, attempting to replace reporters' professional and objective practices with "fair and balanced" reporting that emphasizes controversy and wordsmithing, without resolution. And they reject the idea that the public has a legitimate interest in reliable information. They shamelessly promote dis and misinformation, always in service of their agenda.

Scientists are attacked if they find evidence of global warming. They are attacked if they reject the profoundly unscientific concepts of divine design. They are attacked if they honestly report findings of well designed studies. And they aren't just attacked. They are replaced on advisory committees, blackballed from federal funding, and personally retaliated against. Hacks from industry (including the religious industry) and shills from diploma mills are elevated in their stead.

Lawyers perhaps face the broadest attacks, as the very idea of law has been under assault since the 60s, but never more so than following Bush v. Gore. The ABA's certification process for judges has been replaced by the Federalist Society and pseudoconservative fellow travelers, resulting in judicial nominees that display an alarming disdain for professional norms. The adversarial system is attacked with apocryphal anecdotes and misinformation, always to protect major conservative constituencies, whether it be homebuilders, insurance companies, or the general business community. Settled law on torture is discarded as "quaint."

Intelligence professionals are ridiculed for following the practices of their profession, for trying to report reality rather than the president's agenda. The civil service system is labeled an obstacle to national security, an impediment to Presidential flexibility. University professors are labeled fifth columnists, and pseudo-conservatives embrace affirmative action for disseminators of bad ideas. Elementary and secondary educators are denied curriculum control and discretion, forced to teach to the test. Doctors are told that medically necessary procedures are sins against God.

Again, all of this makes sense. Pseudoconservatives have an incredibly simple conception of power, entirely driven by their desire to realize their personal passions. In their Straussian fervor, the ends always justify the means - ideologically rejecting the reality that agreeing to principles of action can advance certain ends. It all comes down to power. Pseudoconservatives want it, and they don't want it to be mediated by anything. Especially not principles that might prevent them from indulging in their short-sighted, counterproductive passions.

This little rant was inspired by Eric Boehlert's article on the press, Michiko Kakutani's review of Ari Fleischer's book, and Chris Mooney's work generally.

 

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