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Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Propaganda 

I'm really not sure why this hasn't gotten more attention.
The Bush Administration--specifically the Department of Health and Human Services--produced what are essentially ads for the new Medicare law, and then sent them to television stations as news spots. They have actors hired to be "reporters" and everything. How this doesn't fall under campaign finance laws, or anti-propaganda laws, or something I don't know.
CJR is one of the few blogs (they probably wouldn't like me calling them that) that I've seen to write about this.
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Arrogance 

The New Yorker recently ran an article (no link--it was a couple issues ago) about how New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg is highly unpopular even though he's doing a good job. I've disagreed with a fair number of Bloomberg's policies, but having lived in New York under both Bloomberg and Giuliani (in his pre-sainthood days), I find it hard to bear a grudge against mayor Mike (plus, he's a Red Sox fan).
But it's things like this that make it hard to feel bad for the guy. Without getting into the nitty-gritty: Bloomberg's been trying to push through an education reform. It looked like his policy was going to lost a key vote in the Educational Advisory Board, so Bloomberg fired two members of the board on the day of the vote and put in people who would support him. His comment on it?

"Mayoral control means mayoral control, thank you very much," Mr. Bloomberg said. "They are my representatives, and they are going to vote for things that I believe in."

Trouble is, that's not how it's meant to work at all. There's a difference between having a board appointed by the mayor and having a department that's directly under the mayor's control. This is meant to be a case of the former. Yes, the mayor appoints the members and can fire them, and so, yes, we would expect those members to share Bloomberg's philosophy. But the reason there's a board there at all is so that there's somebody else looking at Bloomberg's policies and signing off on them. That's obviously not what's happening here.
The New Yorker article basically argued that Bloomberg was a good mayor but a lousy politician. It's things like this, though, that remind us why mayors are meant to be politicians. If you can't even convince members of a board you appointed that you're right, maybe it's time to reconsider your policy. Or in Bloomberg's case, maybe not.
(Plenty of parallels to the White House here, but you can draw those yourself)
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Monday, March 15, 2004

Spain 

Every conservative out there is crowing about how the socialists' victory in yesterday's Spanish elections represents a "win for bin Laden."
Can we please end this absurdity right now? Let's assume for a second that Aznar lost, and the socialists won, exclusively because of Aznar's support for the Iraq war, and not because he tried to portray last week's terrorist attacks as the work of ETA because that explanation suited his political purposes. Even working on that assumption, Spanish voters weren't casting their ballots yesterday for bin Laden, and they weren't voting against Aznar because they thought he'd been too hard on the terrorists. They were voting against Aznar because, in their minds, his Iraq policy had distracted the country from the fight against terrorism--in other words, his policies failed.
Now, you can disagree with those who voted for the socialists. You can think the Iraq war really was a part of the fight against terror, or was irrelevant to it but didn't hinder it, or whatever you want to believe. But that doesn't change the fact that those who voted for the socialists were voting that way because they wanted a different focus to the war on terror, not because they opposed the war in principal.

(Edited to correct the name of the winning party)
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