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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

It's not just cutting Social Security death benefits. President Bush has actually written Social Security phase-out into this years budget. Go look.

Now TPM Reader JB responds to the Times piece: "Why didn't anyone mention last week's NBC-Wall Street Journal poll showing Dems leading Republicans 51-37 in Congressional preference? I believe it was the Dems best showing in more than 20 years on that question. So my questions are: (1) If that demonstrates a missed opportunity, what would a victory have looked like? (2) Why can't Nagourney be bothered to include this one piece of releavnt hard data along with all the silly navel-gazing? and (3) Why is Howard Dean talking about anything else? His response should be, 'The American people disagree with what you're saying. By an overwhelming margin they prefer our agenda to theirs.'"

Sounds like the two senators from Maine -- Snowe (R) and Collins (R) -- aren't taking any position on the new Bush Social Security cuts. Neither is Rep. Bradley (R) of New Hampshire. Sen. Grassley's (R) office is telling constituents the same thing.

Heard from your representative or senator yet?

TPM Reader PM on the Times article: "Looks like the Times is reporting on the Dems the way Miller, et al. reported on Iraq: repeat the administrations theme and talking points. In this case: Dems are weak. I assume the quotes reported were selected to present that point of view. It follows a pattern. Dems speak out forcefully and fairly against some administration action, and the press report is couched in "Dems are weak" tones."

Charlie Cook on the state of play: "A year ago, with Republican victories in the 2004 elections still fresh and with President Bush's job-approval ratings still above 50 percent, Democrats' chances of capturing the House looked fairly slim. Today, however, with Bush's approval ratings hovering around 42 percent, the possibility of a Democratic takeover -- although less than 50-50 -- is very real."

Here is a perfectly nauseating article in the Times about how Democrats are apparently not taking full advantage of GOP woes, are generally sad, haven't come up with a plan, aren't crazy about their leaders, are afraid the Republicans are going to do this or that to hurt them, and apparently a bunch of other stuff too.

If what the article reports is true, the Democrats haven't even won back the majority in either house of Congress yet.

The article itself reads like a pretty lazy piece of journalism.

But the people quoted, the mindset, the navel-gazing and sad-sac carping. Truly, just shut up.

My point isn't that dirty laundry shouldn't be aired. But the mindset of chatter and enervating insiderism is not the solution to the problem: it is the problem.

There is hardly a shortage of things wrong with the current direction of the country. Explain what they are, propose alternatives, advocate for them and hit the campaign trail. Everything else is a distraction and a waste.

Be an opposition party, oppose what deserves opposing, leave the verdict to the voters. And mainly just grow up.

Last year President Bush made phasing out Social Security the centerpiece of his legislative agenda. But he got stopped in his tracks and suffered a severe blow to his popularity.

But the desire to do away with the program dies pretty hard.

This year he's asking Congress to eliminate the already-measly lump-sum death benefit that Social Security has paid for half a century. He also wants Congress to cut off survivor benefits for 16 and 17 year olds who are not currently enrolled in school.

If you can find out whether your member of Congress supports the new cuts to Social Security, let us know.

George C. Deutsch, the young Bush campaign flack who was telling NASA personnel that they shouldn't discuss the Big Bang without considering the topic from its religious perspective, has been forced to resign. As reported first earlier today by the Scientific Activist blog, Deutsch claimed on his resume on file at NASA that he was a graduate of Texas A&M.

Only he never graduated.

So he lied on his resume, and presumably his job application too. Always a bad move if you're planning to become embroiled in a major media firestorm.

Just to keep the recollection fresh, Deutsch was an intern in the Bush-Cheney 2004 'war room'. That qualified him for his next assignment screening scientific information NASA personnel could communicate to the public.

When reviewing NASA documents Deutsch became concerned at references to the 'Big Bang'.

The Big Bang is "not proven fact; it is opinion," he instructed one person working at NASA. "It is not NASA's place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator ... This is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue. And I would hate to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate from NASA. That would mean we had failed to properly educate the very people who rely on us for factual information the most."

Deutsch's directive was that every reference to the 'big bang' be preceded by the words 'theory of'. And a number of you wrote in to say that whatever Deutsch's foolery, it is correct to refer to the Big Bang as a 'theory'. Indeed, the big bang is much closer to being a 'theory' in the colloquial sense of the word (as opposed to the scientific sense) than evolution is.

That is quite true. But Deutsch's comments above show that a narrow scientific reading, absent the political context, misses the point.

Deutsch told the NASA guy that the Big Bang was not a "proven fact", which is certainly true. But in no meaningful sense is it mere "opinion."

It's not just some idea someone thought up which stands on an equal footing with any other idea anyone else could cook up. Among cosmologists today, it's the dominant theory about how the universe began. It is based on various theoretical work (which I won't try to understand or explain) and supported by a lot of astrophysical data.

The theory could turn out to be wrong. And it will almost certainly end up being revised in one or more ways. But it is not 'opinion'.

It's worth taking note of the word choice because it captures the mix of obscurantism and relativism which has characterized all the Bush administration's attitude about science and, really, pretty much all empirically based knowledge -- something we discussed at length here.

The rub here is the failure to see that knowledge which has been subjected to and survived -- indeed been strengthened by -- empirical and theoretical scrutiny stands on a higher footing than information that hasn't. This isn't pedantry. Nor is this some obscure alcove in the science curriculum.

This mindset -- obscurantism and relativism duking it out to be of most use in the pursuit of power -- suffuses the Bush administration: a lack of respect for facts and the set of tools we use to discern factual information from chatter and bombast.

I just noticed this at Atrios' site. And he's right. This is a significant development. This from Wednesday's Times ...

A House Republican whose subcommittee oversees the National Security Agency broke ranks with the White House on Tuesday and called for a full Congressional inquiry into the Bush administration's domestic eavesdropping program.

The lawmaker, Representative Heather A. Wilson of New Mexico, chairwoman of the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence, said in an interview that she had "serious concerns" about the surveillance program. By withholding information about its operations from many lawmakers, she said, the administration has deepened her apprehension about whom the agency is monitoring and why.


There are multiple layers of potential concern about the NSA wiretap program. One is simply that it breaks the law -- regardless of whether it serves a useful anti-terrorism purpose or whether the administration is using the tool in good faith (i.e., not using it to snoop on political enemies or something like that). That seems to me to be close to an open and shut case. And to me at least it's the most important issue since it goes to the heart of our republican system of government.

But if the Times characterization of Wilson's position is accurate, she's saying more than that. She seems to suspect that the administration may be using the program for nefarious or inappropriate purposes.

Why would she be doing this? You can't read these tea leaves without knowing about Wilson's political situation.

Heather Wilson is a Republican from a tenuous swing district centered around Albuquerque. (Today her opponent released a poll showing her tied in the low-40s in her race for reelection.) Every position Wilson takes is finely calibrated to keep her politically well-positioned since she'll probably never have a truly easy race in her district. You may remember that early last year we had some fun trying to get her to actually come clean on whether she would reveal her position on phasing out Social Security.

Is this just a decision on the merits in her role as subcommittee chair? Or does she have s read on the politics going into November?

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