My column in today's New York Times eXaminer is on Ross Douthat's riff on Charles Murray's book about the moral decline of working-class white Americans. It's a short-course in how conservatives mischaracterize liberal policies and hide their own true agendas behind policies that sound good or that contains appealing elements. The NYTX front page is here. You can contribute here.
James Fallows, in a long Atlantic article, "explains" President Obama & his presidency. CW: I think you're still going to come away asking, "How could Obama have made such mistakes -- of personnel and tactics -- that even I could see were mistakes?" There's not a chance, for instance, that I would have larded top-tier Cabinet & staff positions with Clinton leftovers, especially since the Clinton people were part of the problem in the first place.
"Kill the Pill." Rachel Maddow in a Washington Post op-ed on the right's war on birth control, one which all the GOP presidential candidates have pledged to lead or embraced "absolutely." ...
... Nicholas Kristof: "I had thought that Jesus talked more about helping the poor than about banning contraceptives.... The cost of birth control is one reason poor women are more than three times as likely to end up pregnant unintentionally as middle-class women.... Coverage for contraception should be a pillar of our public health policy — and ... of any faith-based effort to be our brother’s keeper, or our sister’s.... Every dollar that the United States government spends on family planning reduces Medicaid expenditures by $3.74.... We try to respect religious beliefs, and accommodate them where we can. But we ban polygamy, for example.... Your freedom to believe does not always give you a freedom to act."
** Binyamin Appelbaum & Robert Gebeloff of the New York Times: "... many ... residents who describe themselves as self-sufficient members of the American middle class and as opponents of government largess are drawing more deeply on that government with each passing year. Dozens of benefits programs provided an average of $6,583 for each man, woman and child in the county in 2009, a 69 percent increase from 2000 after adjusting for inflation.... The government now provides almost $1 in benefits for every $4 in other income. Older people get most of the benefits, primarily through Social Security and Medicare, but aid for the rest of the population has increased about as quickly through programs for the disabled, the unemployed, veterans and children.... Politicians have expanded the safety net without a commensurate increase in revenues.... In 2000, federal and state governments spent about 37 cents on the safety net from every dollar they collected in revenue.... A decade later..., spending on the safety net consumed nearly 66 cents of every dollar of revenue."
** Rod Nordland of the New York Times: The war in Afghanistan "is a war where traditional military jobs, from mess hall cooks to base guards and convoy drivers, have increasingly been shifted to the private sector. Many American generals and diplomats have private contractors for their personal bodyguards. And along with the risks have come the consequences: More civilian contractors working for American companies than American soldiers died in Afghanistan last year for the first time during the war. American employers here are under no obligation to publicly report the deaths of their employees and frequently do not."
Erik Eckholm of the New York Times: "Far from dissipating, [Occupy] groups around the country say they are preparing for a new phase of larger marches and strikes this spring that they hope will rebuild momentum and cast an even brighter glare on inequality and corporate greed.... Though still loosely organized, the movement is putting down roots in many cities. Activists in Chicago and Des Moines have rented offices...." With photos. CW: this article is pretty negative, but try to read past Eckholm's skepticism for the content.
New York Times Editors: "The $26 billion foreclosure settlement between the big banks and federal and state officials is a wrist slap.... The banks did not get the blanket release they originally sought from legal liability for all manner of mortgage misconduct. But the settlement still shields them from state and federal civil lawsuits for most foreclosure abuses.... The banks are not off the hook for criminal prosecutions ... or for private lawsuits. They are also not off the hook for wrongdoing in their aggressive pooling of mortgages into securities.... President Obama will need to press his own administration hard to deliver an unsparing follow-on investigation that results in more clarity, more money and more justice." ...
... New York Times Editors: "The [Obama] administration has put forth far-reaching proposals to help homeowners qualify for refinancing. But the proposals would be paid for, in part, by a new tax on banks. That requires Congressional approval, which Republicans are unlikely to provide. The White House needs to challenge Republicans to explain why they are more interested in protecting the banks than protecting homeowners.... Too much time has already been wasted."
** Adam Liptak, who reports for the New York Times on the Supreme Court, writes an important op-ed on the "high-tech war on leaks.... "It used to be that journalists had a sporting chance of protecting their sources. The best and sometimes only way to identify a leaker was to pressure the reporter or news organization that received the leak, but even subpoenas tended to be resisted. Today, advances in surveillance technology allow the government to keep a perpetual eye on those with security clearances, and give prosecutors the ability to punish officials for disclosing secrets without provoking a clash with the press." CW: technological surveillance is not only a threat to privacy; it is also a threat to a free press.
Sarah Lyall & Ravi Somaiya of the New York Times: "As dozens of investigators and high-powered lawyers converge on Rupert Murdoch’s News International in the phone hacking scandal, attention has focused on the printout of an e-mail excavated three months ago from a sealed carton left behind in an empty company office. Addressed to Mr. Murdoch’s son James, it contained explosive information about the scale of phone hacking at The News of the World tabloid — information James Murdoch says he failed to take in because he did not read the whole e-mail chain."
Stephanie Coontz in a New York Times Sunday Review article on the changing patterns of men's views on the qualities that make a desirable mate. It's good news all around for well-educated women who want to marry men. CW: Coontz doesn't say so, but obviously men's drastically changed attitudes are a result of the women's equality movement. So, you're welcome, young women, for all of the effort women of my generation made to make your life more fulfilling. And if you're married and your husband is "evolved," figure out a nice way to thank him, too!
Vanessa Thorpe of the Guardian: "A close-knit band of friends and colleagues around Bill Clinton at the time of the Monica Lewinsky affair will speak publicly for the first time of their disbelief and sense of betrayal this month in a much-anticipated four-hour documentary about the former US president." CW: the documentary will air on PBS's "American Experience" February 20 & 21. Here's an extended preview:
Right Wing World
Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post has a long piece on the GOP presidential nominating fiasco: "... what is happening to prevent the party from coalescing? GOP veterans say there are at least five forces at work: unsettled voters, lackluster candidates, muddled messages, an unprecedented inflow of money, and new rules that have prolonged the race."
Rick Santorum tells Sam Stein of the Huffington Post that health insurance should not cover contraception at all. ...
CW: Willard may have won the Maine beauty pageant (nonbinding caucuses) yesterday & the CPAC poll, but Public Policy Polling reports, "Riding a wave of momentum from his trio of victories on Tuesday Rick Santorum has opened up a wide lead in PPP's newest national poll. He's at 38% to 23% for Mitt Romney, 17% for Newt Gingrich, and 13% for Ron Paul." Great. Because contraception is just wrong. *
* Economist Brad DeLong says the poll sample size is too small.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times on Mitt Romney's evolution from abortion rights supporter to anti-contraception, anti-abortion orthodoxy. CW: while Stolberg allows a surrogate to complain that Romney had not signed the "personhood pledge," she does not bother to tell the reader that Romney said he "absolutely" agreed with it.
Reuters: "Greek lawmakers looked set to agree to a deeply unpopular bailout deal on Sunday to avert what Prime Minister Lucas Papademos warned would be 'economic chaos,' and Germany demanded Athens dramatically change its ways to stay in the euro." ...
... New York Times Update: "After violent protests left dozens of buildings aflame in Athens, the Greek Parliament voted early on Monday to approve a package of harsh austerity measures demanded by the country’s foreign lenders in exchange for new loans to keep Greece from defaulting on its debt."
Here's the New York Times obituary of singer Whitney Houston, who was found dead yesterday. Story includes a photo slideshow & links to related stories. Links to the Los Angeles Times obituary and related content are here.