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Posts Tagged ‘E.J. Dionne’



Ironic Potheads, Obama Mojo MIA, EJ in the Zone

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Pot post-mortem: Who knew the most interesting, intriguing and ironic question of the entire election would turn out to be: WTF did North Coast potheads vote against Proposition 19?

Calbuzz kudos to Bob Salladay of California Watch for breaking it down in a nice piece that reports how the dope legalization measure lost big in weed-rich Humboldt and Mendocino counties, which mirrored the statewide vote of 53-to-46 against, while Trinity County smoked Prop. 19 in a 60-40 landslide.

Prop. 19 undoubtedly failed because some of the state’s largest counties voted against it, not sparsely populated areas in Northern California. But that’s not stopping supporters of the initiative from lashing out at pot producers in the so-called Golden Triangle. Here’s one comment that has been getting attention:

“Lets grab machetes and head up to Humboldt… Humboldt, your little community just pissed off a ton of people who are sick of paying your inflated crop prices!”

The arguments against Prop. 19 centered in part around the layers of regulatory oversight imposed by the initiative. Some worried about a provision restricting growing to a 25-square-foot plot of land, even though the initiative allowed for larger cultivation amounts approved by local authorities….

Many felt that asking pot growers to vote for Prop. 19 was like asking bootleggers to overturn Prohibition: Why would they give up such enormous, tax-free profits?

Bottom line: the free spirits who’ve built the market in California don’t want the damn government hassling them with taxes and regulations. In other words, they’re Republicans, as Calbuzzer cartoonist Tom Meyer aptly demonstrates today.

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P.S. Also check out John Hoeffel’s look-ahead political analysis which seems to point to the inevitability of legalization, perhaps as soon as 2012.

What ever happened to the guy we elected? As Democrats across the nation, at least those without the good sense to live in California, descend ever-further into a pit of political despair following the Republican wipeout, perhaps the most depressing development has been the total weenie act being performed by a self-pitying Barack Obama.

After a sulky, day-after press conference in which he more resembled a spoiled teenager stuck in detention than what you call your Leader of the Free World, Obama sunk to new depths in a sad sack appearance on “60 minutes.”

As Huffpost blogger and business executive coach Kathleen Reardon excellently reported:

I waited last night for the confident Democratic President of the United States to appear on 60 Minutes but he never quite arrived. In fact, the president who did arrive said when asked by Steve Kroft about his promise to change Washington:

“That’s one of the dangers of assuming power. And you know, when you’re campaigning, you, I think you’re liberated to say things without thinking about, ‘Okay, how am I gonna actually practically implement this.’”

What? Nah! He didn’t say that, did he?

Washpost columnist Gene Robinson took a broader and politically more  trenchant look at the president’s woe-is-me session with Kroft.

Obama was reasonable, analytical, professorial – but also uninspired and uninspiring. I’m just being honest, if not generous; when Kroft asked whatever happened to Obama’s “mojo,” the president gave the impression that he’s been wondering the same thing.

“Do you get discouraged? Are you discouraged now?” Kroft asked.

“I do get discouraged,” Obama replied, according to the transcript of the full interview. “I thought that the economy would have gotten better by now. You know, one of the things I think you understand – as president you’re held responsible for everything. But you don’t always have control of everything, right? And especially an economy this big. There are limited tools to encourage the kind of job growth that we need. But I have fundamental confidence in this country. I am constantly reminded that we have been through worse times than these, and we’ve always come out on top. And I’m positive that the same thing is going to happen this time. You know, there are going to be setbacks, and we may take two steps forward and one step back, but the trajectory of this country is always positive.”

Well, it may be unfair, but presidents aren’t allowed to be discouraged. They aren’t allowed to talk about the limitations of the job, or the fact that they are held accountable for everything from inclement weather to the lack of a championship playoff system in college football. Presidents are not permitted to acknowledge familiarity with the concept of “one step back.” And good things aren’t “going to happen,” in the presidential lexicon. They’re already happening.

We keep wondering when the Democrats will get serious about pointing out that the Republicans who went before them — like George Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger — have left behind them a path of utter devastation, from the national economy to a $25 billion California deficit. Wonder if Jerry Brown is studying what a weak-ass job President Obama has done making it clear that he’s had to clean up a pile of doggie doo left on his doorstep?

Meanwhile, truly masochistic erstwhile Obama fans won’t want to miss Politico’s take out on the president’s political perils (warning: do not attempt to read this if you are a Democrat taking Cymbalta, Effexor, Lexapro, Paxil, Prozac, Wellbutrin, Zoloft or suffer from suicidal ideation), although Jason Linkins helpfully lightens things a bit with a nice takedown of the piece’s extraordinary Beltway-centric perspective.

E.J to the rescue: Our old friend E.J. Dionne, who long ago set down the theoretical framework for Bill Clinton’s Third Way centrist politics, appears to have been taking an extra helping of progressive pills in recent weeks, as he’s been on a real roll with columns urging Democrats to stop whining and stiffen their spines.

After his world scooplet interview with Never Say Die Nancy Pelosi, his  smackdown of the post-election instant conventional wisdom industry and his lead-the-way analysis of some of the actual factual reasons behind the GOP House takeover, our boy outdid himself on Thursday with a terrific piece in which he picked the docile and doleful Dems up by the scruffs of their necks and tried to shake some sense into them.

Funny that when progressives win, they are told to moderate their hopes, but when conservatives win, progressives are told to retreat.

Worse, Democrats tend to internalize the views of their opponents. Already, some moderate Democrats are claiming that all would have been well if Obama had not tried to reform health care or “overreached” in other ways. Never mind that Obama’s biggest single mistake (beyond the administration’s projection that unemployment would peak around 8 percent) was giving in to Senate moderates and not demanding the much bigger stimulus plan a weak economy plainly needed.

In fact, moderate Democrats would do better calling attention to how extreme and out of touch the conservative program actually is. Moderates should be more offended than anyone that the GOP’s ideological obsessions (health-care repeal, tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation) have little connection to solving the country’s problems, particularly the economic difficulties in the electorally pivotal Midwest..

Give Republicans credit for this: They don’t chase the center, they try to move it. Democrats can play a loser’s game of scrambling after a center being pushed ever rightward. Or they can stand their ground and show how far their opponents are from moderate, problem-solving governance..

A working class hero is something to be: If, like us, you’ve been too busy with the Odyssey of eMeg to have caught The Onion’s recent series lampooning Joe Biden, NYT biz writer Jeremy Peters is on the spot, explaining the nuances of the counter-intuitive humor behind these very funny pieces, and pointing to the best examples.

Beware Murphy, Rasmussen and Other B.S. Artists

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

In the days following the elections in California and across the country, so many commentators, “political experts” and partisans have engaged in so much overstated, hyperventilated and tortured analysis, we at Calbuzz have hardly known what to say.

But when we saw meathead David Gregory interviewing our friend Mike Murphy, the $90,000-a-month campaign guru for Meg “Biggest Loser” Whitman, on “Press the Meat” the other day, we felt compelled to get up off the floor and say something.

“We got beat and, you know, I ran the campaign, and I take responsibility for it,” Murphy said, at least acknowledging that he had been in the neighborhood.  But then came excuse, No. 1: “It’s a very blue state and it’s getting bluer. As the red, you know, wave kind of went one way, there was a bit of a blue riptide coming the other way.”

And then, excuse No. 2: “CEO candidates who are doing kind of a tough medicine message . . . Meg and Carly Fiorina in California, they weren’t buying it. So we just couldn’t get there. We could win the Republicans, win the independents, but in California if you don’t win a lot of Democrats… you don’t win and we did not.”

Whoa there, big fella. “Win the independents?” If Meg and Carly had actually won the actual independents, they would be governor- and senator-elect.

Now it’s Murph’s job to spin. And when you make $2 million off a political client (if you just count Whitman’s initial investment in Murphy’s film company and his salary) you have good reason to try to convince the world that it was an impossible task. But it’s Gregory’s job – and since he didn’t do it, ours – to question his spin.

What you have to ask, though, is what was Murphy doing telling the California and national media – the day before the election – that his polling showed the race to be essentially tied and that Meg’s GOTV program was going to put her over the top?

Consultants have an obligation to work as hard as they can for their clients, but they also ought to consider their credibility with the reporters who will be covering them in the future. There are a lot of ways of doing both: “Look, it’s going to be close. This is a heavily Democratic state. But we think we’re going to do well.” Whatever.

Which brings us to Harry G. Frankurt, professor emeritus of philosophy at Princeton University, who wrote in 2005: “One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit.” Unlike liars, bullshitters are unconcerned about whether what they are saying is true, Frankfurt argued in “On Bullshit.” They simply alter the rules of the discussion so that truth and falsity become irrelevant.

In this way, Frankfurt contends, bullshit is an even greater enemy of truth than lies. This may be an even more important argument than Calbuzz made in our essay “The Death of Truth: eMeg and the Politics of Lying” back in July.

As we explained yesterday, Jerry Brown carried the independents in California even though the National Election Pool exit poll by Edison Research showed Whitman winning them 47-43%. That’s only because the NEP exit poll didn’t actually survey actual independents – or “Decline to State” voters as they’re known in California. They called “independent” anyone who didn’t think of him- or herself as a Democrat or a Republican.

We harp on this because we want to bust the myth that Whitman carried the independents in California BEFORE it becomes part of the historical narrative about the 2010 election. (Like the so-called “Bradley Effect” has become part of mythology. This is the false belief that voters lied to pollsters before the 1982 governor’s election because they didn’t want to appear racist when being surveyed. Long story short: the polls were right among precinct voters but they didn’t count absentee voters and George Deukmejian beat Tom Bradley among absentees who had already voted.)

Here’s the point: Brown won the moderates 60-35% and he beat Whitman in the polls that surveyed actual DTS – independent — voters. To win statewide in California you have to carry your party, win the independents and make some inroads into the other party. That’s what Brown did.

But Whitman’s standing with independent voters is just one of the myths being perpetuated about the 2010 election. And though it’s of immediate concern in California, it’s likely not the most important fiction at large in the journosphere.

Let’s take the “historic repudiation of Barack Obama and the Democrats,” the “powerful ideological shift” or whatever formulation is most current.

Didn’t happen.

As the notoriously neutral Cliff Young and Julia Clark, pollsters at Ipsos Public Affairs, argue in a lucid piece published by Reuters:

Pundits and politicos alike would have us believe that the Obama era is over, with the general elections in 2012 being a mere formality to an imminent Republican resurgence. Obama went too far left, or so the argument goes, and the Republican gains this year are a leading indicator of a re-adjustment.

In our view, this perspective is fundamentally wrong: the results of the present mid-term elections have little to do with the probable outcome of the general election in 2012 . . .

The 2010 electoral cycle, with the poorest performing economy in a generation, was a change election which favored the party out of power – the Republicans. This means that there was no fundamental shift in American values, or a “new Republican mandate,” but instead that the election was the result of the natural ebbs and flows of voter sentiment, driven by larger economic forces.

Then there’s the “rejection of Obamacare” – an odious label the Republicans use to describe the health care reforms passed by Congress and which some numbskull journalists insist on mimicking.

As CNN reported Wednesday, according to the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll (a very professional and reliable outfit and wholly transparent): Americans are split and conflicted about their opinion of the new health care reform law. . . 42 percent have a favorable opinion of the law, compared with four in 10 who have an unfavorable view of the new measure. The survey indicates that roughly one-third of Americans are enthusiastic about the law, almost one-third are angry about it, but more than half are confused when it comes to health care reform.

According to CNN’s digest of the survey, about half of adults say they’d like Congress to repeal all or parts of the health care reform law. But when asked about specifics, most want to keep key provisions. More than 70% would keep the tax credits to small businesses and financial help to Americans who don’t get insurance through their jobs. And a majority wants to keep provisions that close the Medicare doughnut hole and prohibit denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions.

As Kaiser reported: It is unclear how much public support House Republicans will find should they attempt to repeal or dismantle the law. Overall, about a quarter think the law should be entirely repealed and another quarter think only parts should be repealed, while about two in ten think the law should be left as is and another two in ten want to see it expanded. Still, even among those who voted for Republican candidates and those who say they want to repeal parts or all of the law, majorities still want to keep some of its most popular provisions.

So much for the “mandate” to undo health care reform. If Obama and the Democrats have any spine, they won’t be stampeded by those who would do the bidding of the medicopharma lobby.

Besides, as our old friend E.J. Dionne at the Washington Post, digesting Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin of the Center for American Progress, and the very smart Hendrick Hertzberg of the New Yorker argue, the electorate that turned out in November 2010 was not the same electorate that showed up at the polls in November 2008: it was older and whiter. So talking about what “the people” are demanding – as so many Washington pols are wont to do – is just so much (there’s no nice way to put this) bullshit.

And while we’re on the subject of bullshit: Let’s not forget all those Rasmussen polls that predicted elections everywhere wrong, wrong, wrong and which appear also to have had an outsized influence early in election cycles of creating narratives that showed Republican candidates doing far better than public polls were showing.

For further detail, read Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog at the New York Times where he explained that “polls conducted by the firm Rasmussen Reports — which released more than 100 surveys in the final three weeks of the campaign, including some commissioned under a subsidiary on behalf of Fox News — badly missed the margin in many states, and also exhibited a considerable bias toward Republican candidates.”

And don’t miss poll wizard Mark Blumenthal, now ensconced over at Huffington Post, who reported:

A remarkable bi-partisan group of campaign pollsters released an open letter this afternoon that assailed the “sometimes uncritical media coverage” of the “proliferation” of public pre-election polls that fail to disclose basic information about how they are conducted and that “have the capacity to shape media and donor reactions to election contests.”

The authors of the letter — 9 Democrats and 10 Republicans — amount to a virtual “who’s who” of campaign pollsters, the political consultants that conduct the opinion surveys sponsored by political campaigns for their internal use.

Their message is a bit unusual: At a time when political journalists and bloggers are busily scoring the accuracy of the final public election surveys, these pollsters called on the news media to judge the quality of polls based on “the professionalism with which they are conducted” rather than “their accuracy in the closing weeks of the election.”

More specifically, the campaign pollsters urged journalists to hold public polls to disclosure standards of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) that call on pollsters to release details such as the exact wording of questions, the demographics of their samples, the methods used to draw their samples and interview voters and the response rates they obtain.

Loyal readers of Calbuzz will note that back in October 2009, we laid out the kinds of standards we’d apply in taking polls seriously and while we have, from time to time, made mention of private polls and those that don’t adhere to AAPOR standards, we’d consistently used them only as referential data – not as principal measures of any horse race.

Our point, dear Calbuzzers, is this: Don’t buy a bag of bullshit just because it’s in a pretty package. The best spin is true.

Happy Labor Day: Meyer, Krusty & the Unions

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

Asked once what he wanted for trade unionists, Samuel Gompers, the founder and first president of the American Labor Federation, is said to have replied: “More.”

His terse answer serves as a one-word Rorschach test for sorting out the conflicting perspectives about unions held by the political forces now arrayed in California’s campaign for governor.

For billionaire Republican nominee Meg Whitman and her corporate allies in the California Chamber of Commerce, it is the insatiable greed for taxpayer dollars by public employee unions that is the fundamental cause of most of the dysfunction and financial distress that afflicts California and its government.

For the members and leaders of those unions, however, Gompers’  pronouncement is simply a guideline for social justice and equality, an effective way to ensure that working people get a fair share of wealth in a world where, as Gompers put it, “the man who has his millions will want everything he can lay his hands on and then raise his voice against the poor devil who wants ten cents more a day.”

And for Democratic candidate Jerry Brown, “more” no doubt describes his hope of what will be forthcoming for him from labor in the final two months of the campaign. As wunderkind Calbuzzer cartoonist Tom Meyer observes today, the union salad bowl (and its $10 million in lettuce) that sustained Brown’s candidacy through the summer, as Whitman bashed him with $24 million of TV ads is unfortunately empty, at least for now.

As Brown prepares to launch his campaign (finally!) with a tour of big Labor Day events around the state, however, he’s no doubt mindful that eMeg has many mega-bucks more to drop on his head before Nov. 2. So he must fervently wish there’ll be lots more green union salad coming his way before long.

This week’s Calbuzz Little Pulitzers:

The Francis Pharcellus Church Award  for Editorial Writing to the Fresno Bee for its sharp-eyed attack on Senator Dianne Feinstein’s below-the-radar  effort to stop Calbuzz redefine the First Amendment.

The Grantland Rice Award for Profound Sports Writing to law student Josh Fisher, whose Dodger Divorce blog is by far the most comprehensive, timely and intelligent reporting and commentary on the big league divorce trial of Frank and Jamie McCourt, the shameless social climbing owners of the Dodgers who have spent far more money on lawyers than on players, the outcome of which will determine the future of the franchise. Giants fans say: Go Frank!

The Walter Lippmann Award for Elite Opinion Mongering to the Washpost’s E.J. Dionne for his latest analysis of how Obama screwed the pooch through his disdain for politicking.

The Truman Capote Award for Fiction/Nonfiction – What’s the Big Difference? — Reporting to Michael Joseph Gross for his Sarah Palin profile in Vanity Fair,  which triggered a frightful journalistic row about accuracy and sourcing and led herself to accuse him of being “limp” and “impotent,” which next resulted in Palin being accused of being a gay-baiting homophobe.

The Nellie Bly Award for Investigative Blogging to Torey “Don’t Call Me Dutch” Van Oot for reporting out the efforts of legislative Democrats to throw big bucks behind their cynical and sneaky effort to take back control of reapportionment from the citizen’s commission approved by voters just two years ago.

Final word for Labor Day

The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people.

CA GOP’s ‘Enough is Enough’ is Not Good Enough

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Nothing we saw at the California Republican Party convention last weekend suggested that either of the leading GOP candidates, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, has a strategic message or distilled election theme that goes much beyond unrelenting negativity about government and their opponents.

“Enough is enough,” seemed to be the closest thing to an overarching slogan from any candidate and that’s not much to hang a campaign on. While “Yes we can” could be translated into “Si se puede” for Latino voters, don’t hold your breath waiting for the cries of “¡Basta Ya!”

Even if it worked linguistically, what does it mean? Who does it recommend? More importantly, where the Republican’s Reaganesque sunny optimism? Or even the Bushy saccharine positivism?

Instead, the California GOP of 2010 says, the hell with that stupid shining city on the hill: let’s tear down that derelict village in the valley, by God.

It’s telling that the most enthusiastic response of the convention came when  secretary of state candidate Damon Dunn kept yelling “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”  When your best campaign theme is a line filched from “Network” –  a 1976 movie written by Paddy Chayefsky and delivered by Peter Finch — you know you’re struggling to come up with what communications professionals like to call a (quote-unquote) message.

Whitman (“A New California”) and Fiorina (“Protect the American Dream”) pay lip service to the great possibilities that lie in California’s future. Their most constant rhetoric, however,  is all about the sorry state of affairs in Sacramento and Washington and the horrible impact  Democratic foes Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer have had and will have on civic life.

It is the Republican’s great good fortune that neither Brown nor Boxer has yet developed a concise and coherent theme, either. Brown’s slogan is a flaccid “Let’s get California working again” and Boxer’s is, er, well, she doesn’t seem to have one at all.

But just 10 weeks before the election, one would expect the GOP convention to serve as the venue for the candidates to roll out their meta-message for the fall campaign as a rallying cry for the party faithful. It didn’t happen.

Instead, Whitman tried to argue that she was running against the incumbent governor:  “After four years as attorney general, four years as secretary of state, eight years as mayor of Oakland and two terms as governor, we once and for all are going to say goodbye to Jerry Brown’s failed ideas and broken promises,” she told the delegates.

California can’t afford Brown’s “radical approach and failed philosophies” when the state is facing an unemployment crisis that is “tearing at the fabric of our very culture”  and “strangling” business with unnecessary rules and regulations.

Sheesh. Given that state of affairs, you’d think she’d be pissed at Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger – the actual incumbent.

Fiorina, at least, can rightly complain about a Democratic president and U.S. Senator whom she portrays as closet socialists who are weakening the social structure.

But man is she a downer:

I’ve crossed every region of California and I have found islands of despair. In our beautiful state, there is a steady, grinding injustice where the failed policies of Washington’s ruling class have smothered hopes in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people — losing jobs, losing homes, destroying businesses, and worse, sapping the life and the strength and the dreams out of working families in every corner and every county.

Guess we’ll just slit our throats right now and be done with it.

To their credit neither Whitman nor Fiorina appears ready to throw in with what columnist E.J. Dionne calls “the rise of angry, irrational extremism” of the Glenn Beck, Tea Party variety.

Of course, in California, that would not be smart political strategy, which explains why Whitman’s royalists killed a resolution to back Arizona’s “papers please” immigration law and why Fiorina had to be racked by reporters to acknowledge she thought the resolution might be “appropriate” before she was swept away by her handlers.

But neither do they advocate the optimistic conservatism of candidates like Marco Rubio of Florida who says, “Vote for us because you couldn’t possibly vote for them? That’s not enough. It may win some seats, but it won’t take you where you want to be.”

Fiorina’s negativity has a stronger rationale than eMeg’s: she is trying to oust an incumbent United States Senator and has to make the case both against Boxer and for herself. She’s doing a pretty good job of the former if not too well on the latter.

But Whitman is running mostly against Brown who, last we checked, is not the incumbent. Her campaign’s strategy is to make him look like the incumbent, but that has led to such a negative approach that Whitman has been unable to get above 40% favorable despite spending ungodly amounts of money.

Whitman’s big problem is that, after pouring $104 million into her effort, her campaign has failed to craft, let alone sustain, a clear and consistent positive message that gives voters a reason to be for her instead of just being against Brown.

Bottom line: In the end, “Say Goodbye to Jerry” won’t be enough to get her over.

Press Clips: Windbags, War & WikiLeaks

Friday, July 30th, 2010

It didn’t take long for the Beltway’s windbag geniuses to prove anew how brilliant they are, by devising instant conventional wisdom about the unprecedented dump of classified Afghanistan war documents by the double-secret online cult called WikiLeaks.

From the condescending Anne Applebaum (“these documents just don’t matter that much”)  to the first class blowhard Doyle McManus (“The most surprising thing about WikiLeaks’ released trove of officially secret documents is how few surprises it contains”)  and the tiresome Richard Cohen (“the news…is that there is no news at all”)  the message was nearly unanimous from the opinion shapers who spend their days mainlining self-importance: Evvveryone worth knowing already knew all this.

Except…everyone didn’t.

Call us disconnected from the One True Reality of Washington, D.C., but we missed the prime time presidential addresses when Bush and Obama looked straight into the camera and said: “We’ve poured $876 gazillion down a rat hole and all we got show for it is a hyena pack of back-stabbing double dealing so-called allies, an uncounted number of massacred civilians and our own, deeply bruised well-kicked asses.”

Among the allegedly elite East Coast journos who populate cable TV like termites, only the level-headed Jim Fallows, a true insider with an outsider’s mind, had the common sense God gave him to opine that  “information that may be old news to insiders may seem a revelation to the broader public.”

Media massages: We don’t claim to understand the complexities and nuances of AfPak  policy, but the Calbuzz Department of Pioneering New Technologies and Sensitive New Age Guys does know a world-class media story when we see one, and the startling coup pulled off by Julian Assange, the Mr. Weirdo Orville Schell lookalike who runs WikiLeaks  (Rafti Khatchadourian’s New Yorker profile remains the defining piece about him) was extraordinary, game-changing and historic.

Not only did Assange imagine and build an unheard-of digital and security infrastructure to solicit, obtain  and channel a steady stream of official and corporate secrets offered up by conscience-stricken whistleblowers around the globe, but, in the instant case, he enlisted the managements and resources of three of the leading  MSM operations in the world to help.

If that’s not some kind of milestone of what you like to call your still-emerging radical transformation of the global news business, well then, Dr. P.J. Hackenflack ain’t from Vienna.

Amid the reams of dead tree and puny-minded analysis, NYU’s Jay Rosen, our favorite Big Think Media Guy, seemed best to grasp the sweeping scope and implications of the event:

If you go to the WikiLeaks Twitter profile, next to “location” it says: “Everywhere.” Which is one of the most striking things about it: the world’s first stateless news organization. I can’t think of any prior examples of that…WikiLeaks is organized so that if the crackdown comes in one country, the servers can be switched on in another. This is meant to put it beyond the reach of any government or legal system. That’s what so odd about the White House crying, “They didn’t even contact us!”

Appealing to national traditions of fair play in the conduct of news reporting misunderstands what WikiLeaks is about: the release of information without regard for national interest. In media history up to now, the press is free to report on what the powerful wish to keep secret because the laws of a given nation protect it. But WikiLeaks is able to report on what the powerful wish to keep secret because the logic of the Internet permits it. This is new. Just as the Internet has no terrestrial address or central office, neither does WikiLeaks.

Whew. Pass the smelling salts, please, it’s the fainting couch for us.

Silver lining dep’t: Happy to say, all was not a lost cause this week amid the teeming ranks of opinion mongers resident in Our Nation’s Capital.

In truth,  it appeared at times that someone had spiked the coffee in the op-ed offices of the WashPost, where scribblers Ruth Marcus and E.J. Dionne put on a clinic about the logic and rhetoric of expression, with a couple of finely crafted columns of high political import that put the Applebaum/Cohen ilk to shame.

Both pieces came in the wake of the stomach-churning Brietbart/Sherrod scandal. Although neither focused on the particulars of that matter, both  seemed somehow birthed by the industry-wide whirlwind of  post-mortem self-critical navel gazing, which resulted in solemn declarations of renewal and re-commitment to the kind of upright truth-telling that was soiled by the sordid episode, as if the writers had had a bellyful of punditry parsing, mushy language and false equivalencies, and decided simply to announce that the Emperor had no clothes.

First up was Marcus. Tackling the issue of whether the Bush tax cuts should be extended, she noted that Republicans always make exactly the same argument, whether the federal government has a surplus or a deficit, whether the economy is growing or sinking and regardless of the facts. Offering a neat, quick stroke sketch of GOP cant, she had us saying, “we wish we’d said that.”

The modern Republican argument about taxes seems to boil down to two principles, both misguided: Taxes can be reduced, but they can never be allowed to go up. And whatever level taxes are at, they are too high.

Next came our old friend E.J., unburdening himself in a well-reported column called “The Politics of Stupidity,” in which he bashed the absurdities of the U.S. Senate, surgically dispatched pig-headed arguments about the stimulus and worked the same rich vein of tax policy as Marcus, beginning with a contrast between the fact-based tax-and-cuts deficit strategy of British P.M. David Cameron and “the fairy tale of supply-side economics (which) insists that taxes are always too high, especially on the rich.”

The simple truth is that the wealthy in the United States — the people who have made almost all the income gains in recent years — are undertaxed compared with everyone else.

Consider two reports from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. One, issued last month, highlighted findings from the Congressional Budget Office showing that “the gaps in after-tax income between the richest 1 percent of Americans and the middle and poorest fifths of the country more than tripled between 1979 and 2007″…

The other, from February, used Internal Revenue Service data to show that the effective federal income tax rate for the 400 taxpayers with the very highest incomes declined by nearly half in just over a decade, even as their pre-tax incomes have grown five times larger.

The study found that the top 400 households “paid 16.6 percent of their income in federal individual income taxes in 2007, down from 30 percent in 1995.” We are talking here about truly rich people: Using 2007 dollars, it took an adjusted gross income of at least $35 million to get into the top 400 in 1992, and $139 million in 2007.

The notion that when we are fighting two wars, we’re not supposed to consider raising taxes on such Americans is one sign of a country that’s no longer serious…

What say you, Meg and Carly?

Today’s sign civilization is getting better all the time: Man’s best friend.