Archive

  • THE FREEDOM TO...

    THE FREEDOM TO BE VILIFIED. On Ann 's post below , one thing groups like NARAL have a tendency to do is accept vaguely acceptable-sounding or politically popular bills in an effort to remain in the center, believing their group's moderate credentials -- see also their early endorsement of Lincoln Chafee -- somehow important. The alternative strategy -- practiced by the NRA, among others -- would be to wage all-out war on even these minor encroachments, thus fighting to shift the center left. This strategy of trying to join the center rather than move it is a damaging one. If NARAL were totally dogmatic and absolutist, that would make life much easier on Democrats who could occasionally show their "centrism" by voting against NARAL-opposed legislation that actually doesn't much matter. Instead, however, to demonstrate independence on choice, Democrats end up supporting much more onerous and repulsive legislation, because just aping NARAL's priorities line doesn't win them any points in...
  • FETAL PAIN IN THE ASS.

    FETAL PAIN IN THE ASS. As expected, the House rejected the ridiculous fetal pain bill , which would have required abortion providers to inform women that fetuses are capable of feeling pain, and offer the option of fetal anesthesia. The legislation would have applied to any woman carrying a fetus "20 weeks or more after fertilization." As Broadsheet pointed out, defining the age of a fetus by the weeks past fertilization , rather than by the woman's last menstrual period (as every ob/gyn in the country does) was a back-door attack on hormonal contraceptives, many of which don't prevent fertilization, only implantation. To boot, research shows fetuses can probably only feel pain beginning at 28 weeks, at which point abortion is illegal, anyway. While most pro-choice groups opposed the fetal pain bill, NARAL took a "neutral" stance, saying it was in favor of women having "all the information" about fetal anesthesia options. Apparently they're a-OK with the fact that, in this case, the...
  • THE KOOCH STRIKES...

    THE KOOCH STRIKES BACK. News that Dennis Kucinich is willing to swoop in and provide the Democratic Party with a real bigfoot for 2008 isn't terrifically surprising. It's the same thing with Mike Gravel or, to some degree, Biden : Whether you think you'll actually become president, for a certain type of politician, actually running for president is a lot of fun. People listen to you, you participate in closely watched debates, you join in the pageantry of a campaign, you get face time in the national press and, always lurking at the edge of the probability distribution, you could just unexpectedly break through. Indeed, what's surprising is not that so many folks run for president, but that so few do. I guess it's a rare ego that can take the inflation of a campaign without being too afraid of the likely rejection at the end of it. --Ezra Klein
  • Whose Taxes Will Congress Raise to Avoid Reforming the Medicare Drug Plan?

    The Wall Street Journal joined the crowd pronouncing the Medicare drug plan a great success, going so far as to tell readers that the Democrats may not be able to bring down the cost of the plan, even if Congress allowed Medicare to negotiate prices. In fairness, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) also says that Medicare could not get lower prices. This raises the obvious question -- why do we think that Medicare could not negotiate the same sort of prices that the Canadian government receives? After all, it would actually be a larger buyer. Does CBO think that Medicare is run by bumbling and/or corrupt fools? If that's the case, maybe we can just contract with the Canadian health officials to negotiate on Medicare's behalf, Or, maybe we can have the folks at the Veteran's Administration (VA) do the negotiating, since they also pay prices that are 40-50 percent lower than what the private insurers pay who are in Medicare Part D. There is little doubt that the government could...
  • SALVAGE.

    SALVAGE. It would be fair to say that few are as battleship obsessed as I, so this series of articles at The New York Times may be less interesting than I think. The articles, censored during Worlds War II, discuss the salvage efforts on the battleships sunk on December 7. Interesting to me because of the basic subject matter, they also give some indication as to the real reasons that the United States won the war, causes that have less to do with "will" and high-flying rhetoric than with technical expertise and economic strength. --Robert Farley
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: BORDER PATROL.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: BORDER PATROL. Gershom Gorenberg writes about the Israeli education minister's controversial new proposal to include the Green Line border in school textbook maps. For nearly 40 years, Israel has treated its own border the way Victorians treated sex: It shapes society, but explicitly portraying it violates respectable conventions. Those who do so are seen as daring, not quite part of polite society. Bright children know the border exists from adult conversations, know it will be terribly important when they come of age, and are not quite sure what it looks like. My daughter, child of an impolite father, asked her high school geography teacher why the Green Line was missing from a map he handed out, and left him wordless. Read the whole thing . --The Editors
  • MARKETERS-IN-CHIEF.

    MARKETERS-IN-CHIEF. Regarding the Blair-Bush press conference this morning, is it just me or is Tony Blair becoming less eloquent and coherent the more he stands side-by-side with Bush? By comparison, watch this most frightening of videos from September 2002, when Bush and then-White House Chief of Staff Andy �From a marketing point of view, you don�t introduce new products in August� Card were rolling out the administration�s marketing campaign for the Iraq war. The video is of an outdoor Q&A at Camp David after the two leaders just got off the Marine 1 helicopter. Looking like a seven-year-old slowed by an overdose of Ritalin, Bush practically gets propped up rhetorically by Blair. That was four years ago. Sadly, today, it�s getting harder and harder to tell these two listing chief marketing officers apart. --Tom Schaller
  • YOU'RE KIDDING! ...

    YOU'RE KIDDING! Turns out the World Bank's development projects aren't lifting as many people out of poverty as had been hoped. Among the 25 countries examined by the Independent Evaluation Group, only 11 saw reductions in poverty since the 1990s. To some degree, that may not be the World Bank's fault: Famine, war, AIDS, and a variety of other confounding factors might mean holding a country's deterioration to modest levels is a triumph. But it's hard to assume the best when you have such head-bangingly obvious conclusions as this one: The study emphasized that economic growth is, by itself, no fix: How the gains are distributed is just as important. In China, Romania, Sri Lanka and many Latin American countries, swiftly expanding economies have improved incomes for many, but the benefits have been limited by a simultaneous increase in economic inequality, putting the spoils into the hands of the rich and not enough into poor households, the study concludes. In Georgia, the Bank has...
  • NO CREDIBILITY.

    NO CREDIBILITY. As the Iraq War continues to get more and more hopeless, we're sure to start hearing more of the tautological trump card inevitably played by the dead-enders of ill-conceived wars: we need to maintain a ruinous war in order to preserve American "credibility." As Daniel Davies pointed out in comments about Michael Novak 's particularly insane version of this argument, this would seem to be the �if something is not worth doing, it has to be done at ruinous cost� theory of deterrence. Or, as he put it in his more extensive discussion of why this doesn't work even as abstract game theory, "It is certainly true that one of the benefits of doing something stupid is that it saves you from having to spend money on maintaining your reputation as an idiot. However, is the reputation of an idiot really worth having?" As our colleague Rob has pointed out in detail , the idea that one should keep fighting a ruinous war to preserve "credibility" or "reputation" is one of the dumbest...
  • HOPE IS A...

    HOPE IS A PLAN. IT IS IT IS IT IS! Jonah Goldberg , amid a column bashing the ISG report for a lot of good reasons, takes an ill-advised whack: Nowhere does the commission ever seriously consider how to win the war in Iraq. Why? Because winning is no longer a possible consensus position. And pulling out isn't a consensus position either. So rather than a real strategy about Iraq, we get Laodicean tripe about how the Iraq Study Group is our last best hope to unite Americans. I'm sorry, but that wasn't its mandate. This reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the report. Indeed, the only serious thing it considered -- and pronounced on -- was the possibility of winning the war in Iraq. And the absence of such a strategy isn't because winning isn't a "consensus position," it's that it no longer appears a realistic outcome . The ISG essentially concluded that the war was lost, and the question was how to lose most quietly. That's not because the members didn't want to break out the...

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