New reporter Nicholas Confessore pens "Breaking the Code," on the conservative Bush's push for tax reform, for the cover of the Times Sunday Magazine (sharing the space with a defense of the Social Security program from liberal contributing writer Roger Lowenstein).
Confessore, who made his Times debut this month as a city reporter, is a former editor at the liberal journal Washington Monthly and more recently was staff writer for the liberal American Prospect magazine. He's also written for liberal mags The New Republic and Salon. Apparently this is an ideal resume for a Times reporter, because he jumped to the NYT and now has a magazine cover story for his clip file.
Some of Confessore's more provocative recent opinions can be found in the archives of the American Prospect's blog TAPPED. In November, while discussing a Village Voice posting (scroll down), Confessore opined that "keeping down the black vote is really quite an old Republican game."
In Octoberhe insisted : "The Bush administration, having already succeeded in getting the corporate bosses at 60 Minutes to keep away from stories too critical of this White House, would like to cow another of the country's most effective and prestigious news organizations." (The "prestigious news organization" in question, interestingly enough, was the New York Times.)
And in one of his last postings  before leaving the blog to become a Times reporter, Confessore praised a misleadingNYT story on Social Security : "This New York Times news analysis gets it right: 'Most G.O.P. Plans to Remake Social Security Involve Deep Cuts to Tomorrow's Retirees.' There's simply no two ways around it. I'll be curious to see how the papers deal with any potential White House maneuvers to redefine or explain away the massive amount of government borrowing that would be required to finance the abolition of Social Security and the transition to private accounts."
Confessore's magazine piece in the Times is less flagrantly liberal, but there's still little doubt where he's coming from: "Bush's cuts have greatly reduced the costs formerly borne by corporations and the wealthy, leaving the tax code considerably less progressive than it once was. Instead of getting rid of loopholes so that fewer businesses escape paying taxes, conservatives have essentially set out to universalize those loopholes, aiming for a day when corporations won't have to pay taxes at all."
Later he argues: "In theoretical terms, Bush's cuts have brought the United States tax code closer to a system under which income from savings and investments aren't taxed at all and revenues would be raised exclusively from taxes on labor. The consequence of those policies is that a greater proportion of tax revenues now come from what the middle class earns and a smaller proportion from what the wealthy earn. Whatever changes the Bush administration pursues, there is every reason to believe it will aim to move further in that direction. 'I think Bush does have a master plan on tax policy,' Stephen Moore says. 'The goal is to eliminate all taxes on savings and investment. That means no capital-gains tax, no dividends tax, no estate tax, no tax on interest.'"
Confessore then goes to meet Clinton's last chief of staff for the real scoop: "How you view this arrangement depends a lot on whether you buy the assumption that letting the wealthy off the hook will eventually benefit everyone else. Early one recent Saturday morning, I paid a visit to John Podesta, the last chief of staff to serve under Clinton, at his home in Washington. He greeted me at the door in sweat pants and a T-shirt, and we sat down at his kitchen table to talk taxes. Podesta has a lean, shrewd face, a twinkle in his eye and a reputation as one of the party's canniest operatives; these days, he heads the Center for American Progress, which he founded a little more than a year ago to incubate new policies and approaches among left-of-center types. Podesta has little faith in the conservatives' trickle-down approach. He also says it is bad economic policy - 'fatally flawed,' as he put it."
For the rest of new reporter Confessore's liberal take on Bush's tax reform, click here :
"What the World Wants From America" = What the Times Wants From Bush
The lead story in Sunday's Week in Reviewis headlined  "What the World Wants From America."
Quite a lot, according to foreign policy reporter Roger Cohen : "The first-term view of America as an unrivalled power with a single focus, uninterested in consultation, its perceived arrogance captured by the photographs at Abu Ghraib, will be hard to shake."
But Cohen thinks that could change if Bush starts being less friendly to Israel and reins in his own obsession with terrorism: "The Middle East is the nexus of the world's expectations from the president. Mr. Bush and his secretary of state-designate, Condoleezza Rice, may ease hostility to America if they are seen to bring fresh energy - and greater balance - to their approach to the Palestinian conflict, and if they can find a way to start withdrawing from Iraq this year.But to concentrate on Islamic terrorism to the exclusion of all else would probably hurt the president in the rest of the world. Africa wants greater attention to debt relief and more open trade. Latin America feels neglected and is turning to China as an economic partner. The Dec. 26 tsunami focused attention on poverty, an issue where the world wants more American leadership."
Cohen's piece serves as an introduction to seven short pieces from foreign correspondents concentrated in various parts of the world. Reporter Mark Landler  follows up with a look from Europe damning the U.S. with faint praise: "Realism about the United States does not mean cynicism. Many Europeans who deplore Washington's blunt methods and go-it-alone tendencies still say the United States can recapture its moral leadership."
"Destructive Consequences" of Three Mile Island?
From a remote part of coastal China comes Saturday's story from Howard French on China's use of nuclear power to fill its growing energy needs, a story that emphasizes anti-nuclear scare-mongering: "There are countless ways to show how China is climbing the world's economic ladder, hurdling developed countries in its path, but few are more pronounced than the country's rush into nuclear energy - a technology that for environmental, safety and economic reasons most of the world has put on hold.American experts, mindful of the destructive consequences of the near catastrophic accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in 1979, warn against overconfidence."
What destructive consequences? The liberal media and environmental activists did ensure Three Mile Island had "destructive consequences" for the public relations of nuclear power in America. But as an industrial accident, Three Mile Island was a minimal event: No one died or was hurt by the radiation released from the plant.
After quoting a nuclear analyst at the Department of Energy, French emphasizes the safety issue by quoting an "expert" from one of the Times' favorite unlabeled liberal groups, the Union of Concerned Scientists: "Reinforcing this point, David Lochbaum, a nuclear energy expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a private, nonprofit group based in Cambridge, Mass., said that of the 103 reactors in operation in the United States, 27 have been shut down for at least a year since September 1984."
But a shutdown doesn't necessarily mean an accident. Given the overwrought fears of nuclear energy in America, it's worth asking how many of those shutdowns were truly safety-related.
For the rest of French on nuclear power, click here :