MORAL CLARITY. Via Drum , I see that in his new LA Times column ("Iraq Needs a Pinochet ") Jonah Goldberg argues that you can't make an omelet without throwing a few people out of planes, and that the baseline for measuring the quality of a country's leadership should be Fidel Castro . (This must have been the grading curve his colleague John Podhoretz was using when he called George W. Bush a "great leader.") Of course, if one was inclined to be charitable -- and when it comes to people who supported this disastrous war for many years, I'm not -- it could be pointed out that the current situation in Iraq proves that pretty much any state is better than having no effective state, which is true enough. But consider how much is being conceded here. Evidently, it was never plausible to think that Iraq was magically going to turn into a stable, pro-American democracy after the invasion, which means that the immense cost in lives and resources was going to be expended in a war in which the...

    EDWARDS' STRENGTH : John Nichols of The Nation highlights a poll that shows John Edwards is the only Democrat to beat John McCain in a head-to-head matchup. Nichols ascribes Edwards' advantage over Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to his position "as the far more progressive candidate in the race." A more cynical progressive might point instead to the facts that Edwards is the only one to have ever been on a national ticket, that he has looks and charisma, or the that unlike Clinton and Obama, he is a white man. Nichols also seems to take Edwards stronger positions against the war and Bush's Supreme Court nominations at face value, when they may be largely explained by the fact that being out of office gives him more leeway. Even so, Nichols is probably right to point to Edwards' "concern about the growing gap between rich and poor in what he describes as 'two Americas,'" as one reason for his appeal. I know a few people at this magazine trumpeting the return of populism who would...

    THE COMING BLOG PEAK. Via the BBC comes the prediction that worldwide blogging activity will peak next year, then level out at about 100 million. And also this not totally surprising news : The firm has said that 200 million people have already stopped writing their blogs... "A lot of people have been in and out of this thing," Mr Plummer said. "Everyone thinks they have something to say, until they're put on stage and asked to say it." Indeed. --Garance Franke-Ruta
  • LORDY.

    LORDY. Good to see Eason Jordan , of all people, legitimizing an absurd right-wing mau mau campaign against the press. --Sam Rosenfeld

    QUICK ANNOUNCEMENT. For our DC readers, Tom will be at Olsson's in Dupont Circle tonight at 7:00 PM discussing Whistling Past Dixie -- all are welcome and Tom's eager to say hi. --Sam Rosenfeld

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: JUSTICE DEPORTED . When immigration enforcement agents raided six meatpacking plants on Tuesday, officials said it was because the workers were using stolen identities. In fact, as David Bacon reports , immigration agents wanted to send a message to unionized workplaces. They also wanted to send a message to Democrats: After six years in office, ICE's choice of this moment to begin their campaign is more than suspect. It is designed to force the new Democratic congressional majority to make a choice. The administration is confident that Democrats will endorse workplace raids in order to appear "tough on illegal immigration" in preparation for the 2008 presidential elections. In doing so, they will have to attack two of the major groups who produced the votes that changed Congress in November -- labor and Latinos. Read the whole thing here . --The Editors

    BLAME CONGRESS. Glenn Greenwald and Lyle Denniston have excellent analysis of the decision of District Court Judge James Robertson to dismiss the habeas corpus claim of Salim Ahmed Hamdan . Under the circumstances, the decision is actually about as good an outcome for opponents of arbitrary detentions as could be expected. Robertson held that Congress has not suspended the writ of habeas corpus for American citizens--it lacks the power to suspend the writ because there is not a n ongoing "rebellion or invasion." Admittedly, it's easier for courts to construe the statute more narrowly when doing so doesn't require ruling against the administration, but this is as least one reason for cautious optimism. Still, for the most part this decision is depressing; as Denniston notes, it is unlikely that many detainees will be able to take advantage of the inapplicability of the statute to American citizens, even assuming that other courts will construe the statute similarly. The key thing to...
  • WYDEN 3: COST...

    WYDEN 3: COST CONTAINMENT STRIKES BACK. I need to spend some more time reporting out the cost containment provisions on the Wyden plan, but since that appears the primary objection, let me go into the underlying strategy of the legislation for a moment: As I explained in my last post , the legislation seeks to tame the insurance industry by imposing community rating, thus ending the competition for healthy individuals and the race to price out the unhealthy. That has a secondary, and possibly greater, impact than simply ending price discrimination. Indeed, it's the foundation of the plan's cost containment strategy. You often hear that health insurance isn't a market. That's not true. It is a market, only the goods being sought are healthy individuals, and the efficiency gains are aimed at finding ever better methods for separating the well from the sick. The market works precisely as it's supposed to, creating an enormously effective conveyor for industry profits. What it doesn't do...

    SHOUT-OUT. Readers may recall the tech troubles we had a few weeks ago that shut down the blogs. While we managed to fix things enough to start back up and keep content flowing, we've had lingering issues on the back-end that have been a real headache for this small-staffed office lacking resources or much tech support. Now that the problems have actually been fixed, we'd be remiss in not giving a plug to EchoDitto , a member of whose crack staff found the database problems and made it all better with dispatch. Those folks really know what they're doing, and we thank 'em. --The Editors

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: JOHNNY COME LATELY . John Edwards has completely reversed his pro-war stance, and now he appears to be gearing up for another run at the Democratic nomination. Zack Pelta-Heller reports that Edwards' plan for the immediate withdrawal of 40,000 troops from Iraq could distinguish him from the more centrist candidates. --The Editors