COUNTING THE YEARS. Michael Kranish's piece in today's Globe on Social Security and African-Americans is hardly pro-Bush, and Kranish has pulled together a lot of information. Still, I think the statistics offered by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman on Friday provide a truer picture.
The question of whether the system is tilted against blacks has become a central argument in the debate over private accounts. The White House strategy for selling the idea of private accounts includes an effort to win over African-Americans, on grounds that black males, on average, die at age 69, compared with 75 years for white males. Social Security's full retirement benefits begin to be paid between age 65 and 67.
That's true. But as Krugman points out, those life-expectancy figures are calculated at birth. The principal reason that life expectancy among African-Americans is so low is that they are far more likely to die younger - much younger.
It's true that the current life expectancy for black males at birth is only 68.8 years - but that doesn't mean that a black man who has worked all his life can expect to die after collecting only a few years' worth of Social Security benefits. Blacks' low life expectancy is largely due to high death rates in childhood and young adulthood. African-American men who make it to age 65 can expect to live, and collect benefits, for an additional 14.6 years - not that far short of the 16.6-year figure for white men.
GROPING FOR THE TRUTH. The Herald's David Guarino and State Auditor Joe DeNucci are at loggerheads over Guarino's Saturday story reporting that DeNucci intervened in the groping investigation of his son-in-law. In today's Herald, DeNucci denies it.
BUSH ON KERRY. Today the Herald runs a transcript of its interview with George W. Bush. The president is among the least interesting of public figures, but his take on John Kerry is at least worth noting:
Q: We wonder what your relationship is with your opponent, Senator Kerry. Have you had a chance to speak to him after the election?
A: No, I haven't. When you're in a race as competitive as that, you, at least I, came to respect my opponent. And he ran a tough campaign and campaigned hard, and I was hoping coming down the stretch he would tire and lose his composure, but he didn't. He was a very strong candidate, and I hadn't talked to him except for Election Night, I guess it wasn't Election Night, the next day in the Oval Office, he called me at about maybe 10:00 or 10:30 in the morning and I told him then. I said I admired the campaign. I know it's not easy to lose, and you know, wished him all the best.
FIRE AWAY. The Globe's first installment on fire-department response times, by Bill Dedman, is a pretty astounding piece of work, and it's even more useful on the Web. Here is a website with additional resources, including something you'll go to right away: maps and detailed statistics for the city or town in which you live.
Numbers can't tell the whole story. For example, the town in which Media Log Central is based has a lower rating than another community that had actually cut its firefighting budget so deeply that other departments - including my town's - had threatened to cut off mutual aid.
Still, this is fascinating and useful, and it brings out into the light an important problem that rarely gets discussed.
PRO-WAR, ANTI-TORTURE. There's no reason conservative supporters of the war in Iraq should be any less critical of torture than liberal opponents. Nevertheless, in many conservative circles there has been a disconcerting reluctance to condemn the widespread torture of inmates in Iraq, at Guantánamo Bay, and elsewhere.
Which is why I say good for Jeff Jacoby. The pro-war Globe columnist not only says all the right things today, but he even nails the hypocrisy on the part of the conservative establishment, concluding:
If this were happening on a Democratic president's watch, the criticism from Republicans and conservatives would be deafening. Why the near-silence now? Who has better reason to be outraged by this scandal than those of us who support the war? More than anyone, it is the war hawks who should be infuriated by it. It shouldn't have taken me this long to say so.
No kidding. And Jacoby could have mentioned the shameful near-silence of much of the media as well.