Archive

  • THE IRAN OPTIONS....

    THE IRAN OPTIONS. I spent much of the day at the National Iranian American Council/New America Foundation conference, "US-Iran Relations: collision, stand-off, or convergence?," about which more tomorrow, so am just getting around to Ezra 's item . I'd like to agree with the commentator who argued that it would be a politically disqualifying act for any presidential candidate to take military action off the table in dealing with a country that is a potential regional threat, and that it would be folly for any group on the left to demand this of them. There are basically three options for handling Iran: 1) Engagement. As was recommended by the Iraq Study Group, talks could potentially begin over security questions involving Iraq, and move from there to other issues, such as Iran's nuclear aspirations. Democrat Jane Harman of California, the conference's luncheon speaker, recommended this approach, as well as economic sanctions. 2) Containment. Conference speakers noted that, in...
  • FALSE NOTES FROM GUILANI'S HOUSE ORGAN.

    FALSE NOTES FROM GUILANI'S HOUSE ORGAN. During Rudy Giuliani 's tenure as mayor of New York City, the conservative periodical City Journal , associated with the Manhattan Institute, functioned as a sort of house organ. They justified Giuliani's policies with a neoconservative critique of the welfare state and urban underclass social norms, while helping to churn out the policy ideas he implemented. (Indeed, they boast in the first paragraph of the "About" page of their website, "During the Giuliani Administration, the magazine served as an idea factory as the then-mayor revivified New York City, quickly becoming, in the words of the New York Post , 'the place where Rudy gets his ideas.' The Public Interest goes further, calling City Journal �the magazine that saved the city.�) So it should come as no surprise that they are now flacking for Giuliani's nascent presidential campaign. There is a very long article by Steven Malanga in the new issue of City Journal , claiming that Guiliani...
  • POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: V FOR VENDETTA.

    POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: V FOR VENDETTA. It's a veritable Valentine's Day massacre as conservative outfits mobilize to protest "V-Day" productions of The Vagina Monologues today. Ann discusses what these groups are really objecting to, and what they're really advocating. --The Editors
  • KIDS SAY THE DARNDEST THINGS.

    KIDS SAY THE DARNDEST THINGS. The WaPo humorously pointed out today that while the House debates the non-binding resolution on the troop surge, Bush scurried to a seemingly more friendly YMCA, where a little boy ruined the photo-op with a peace sign. Bush told him to, "Put your hands down." In the last line of the story, one kid said, "My favorite president is President Obama ." --Kay Steiger
  • WHY AMERICAN HEALTH...

    WHY AMERICAN HEALTH CARE COSTS SO MUCH. The nonpartisan McKinsey Group has released a study called "Accounting for the Cost of Health Care in the United States." The idea, as the title suggests, is to figure out, in a rigorous and methodical way, why we pay so much more than any other developed country. To do this, McKinsey constructed the Estimated Spending According to Wealth (ESAW) index, which adjusts cross-national health spending for increases per capita earnings (you would expect, after all, that a country which makes more money would pay more for care) and creates a clean baseline for comparisons. On this metric, we overpay to the tone of $477 billion per year, or $1,645 per capita. The question is why. ( Note: From here on out, most numbers refer to the amount we spend above what ESAW would predict ) The very short answer is that we pay more for units of care. McKinsey estimates that it is not higher disease prevalence. Differences in health account for only about $25 billion...
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: SICK TRANSIT.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: SICK TRANSIT. Ben "Badler" Adler discusses the substantive importance and difficult politics of mass transit. --The Editors
  • LOOK PAST THE...

    LOOK PAST THE FACIAL HAIR. Greg Anrig has quite a crummy valentine for Robert Samuelson : Samuelson compares the size of the "welfare state" in 1956 to 2006, counting Social Security and Medicare, and seethingly highlights its growth from 21 percent of the federal budget to 59 percent. He doesn�t mention that in 1956, the poverty rate among the elderly was over 35 percent compared to about 10 percent today. The two countervailing trends are intimately related. Say what you want about welfare, but social insurance works. Samuelson is one of America's finest chin-strokers, forever sniffing over the irresponsibility of the federal budget and the growth of entitlement programs (which he wants to rename "welfare" programs) and the generosity of the state. He's particularly effective because his comments are always framed as Big Questions about Economics that only Robert Samuelson, speaking as a highly-paid and economically secure member of the intellectual elite, is courageous enough to...
  • More Attacks on Social Security from the Coward's Corner

    Robert Samuelson uses his secure position within the Coward's Corner (a.k.a. the Washington Post opinion pages, dubbed the "coward's corner" for the Post's refusal to print dissenting opinions on this issue) to take a sideways swipe at Social Security. Samuelson makes the valid point that transfer payments have grown rapidly as a share of the federal government budget over the last four decades. The dishonest part of the story is in the graph accompanying the article. The graph shows that "Social Security and other payments to individuals" rose from 21 percent of the budget in 1956 to 59 percent of the budget in 2006. The deceptive part of the story is that the "other payments" accounted for the vast majority of this increase. While Social Security went from 7.8 percent of spending in 1956 to 20.6 percent in 2006, "other payments" went from 12.8 percent of spending to 38.4 percent of spending over the same period. The bulk of these other payments are the main government health care...
  • THE IDIOTIC SEASON.

    THE IDIOTIC SEASON. Eric Boehlert has an excellent (if depressing) rundown of the thoroughly phony Pelosi plane non-scandal . As recently as Sunday -- although the House Speaker-At-Arms had released a statement saying she didn't request the plane on Thursday, and even the White House had dismissed it as a "silly" non-story -- Glenn Reynolds appeared on CNN's Reliable Sources and not only falsely claimed that Pelosi had "requested" a larger plane but added the made-up-from-whole-cloth embellishment that "her staff said she wanted to have room for an 'entourage,' which was perhaps an unfortunate choice of word." (Were it not for the unfortunate death of Anna Nicole Smith , it's frightening to think of the traction this smear job would have received.) What's particularly useful about the Boehlert piece is that he notes carefully how this fake scandal fits into pre-existing Republican smear narratives: "Journalists adore the Democrats-are-hypocrites narrative so much that they often...
  • POLITICIZING VALENTINE'S DAY....

    POLITICIZING VALENTINE'S DAY. This being an unabashedly progressive magazine that often argues for more state involvement and derides the Bush administration's small bore, overly individualistic solutions to (domestic) problems, I've been trying to figure out how to really paste them on Valentine's Day. Thankfully, a six-year-old article on the attempts of Singapore's government to increase their country's quotient of mojo gives me the hook I need: The country's birth rate had dropped from an average of 1.96 children per woman in 1988 to below 1.5 in 1999. The phenomenon seemed to have causes beyond the use of contraception: according to the local press, many couples were finding themselves too tired after the long Singaporean workday to have sex. Alarmed by the statistic, Singapore's government decided to act. On August 20 Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong took up the matter in a speech broadcast on radio and TV in honor of National Day, commemorating Singapore's emergence as an...

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