Archive

  • 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...
  • NON-PROLIFERATION AND BRITISH NUKES.

    NON-PROLIFERATION AND BRITISH NUKES. In the non-proliferation community there's some tension between the goals of non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament. It's often argued, not wholly unreasonably, that convincing Iran, North Korea, etc. to eschew nuclear weapons is pretty difficult when the great powers refuse to give up their own nukes. The NPT includes a formal commitment to disarmament, which the recognized nuclear powers have largely ignored. Thus far, nuclear disarmament has occurred only in a few debatable and highly unusual cases, including the decision of Ukraine to give up Russian weapons on its soil, and the dismantling of South Africa's atomic weapons shortly prior to the end of apartheid. I've been pretty skeptical of disarmament both as a practical possibility (hard to put the genie back in the bottle), and as a policy focus for non-proliferation efforts. I find it almost impossible to imagine a situation in which the major nuclear powers would be willing to give up...
  • NOT REALLY A...

    NOT REALLY A JOKE. Wonkette 2.0 Alex Pareene joked on Tuesday that John Edwards 's new hire and potential presidential campaign manager David Bonior will be "key in the important race to determine which white dude will win the support of the powerful 'won�t vote for a negro or a lady' bloc." He was being snarky, and using that as cover to get at this obvious but somewhat politically awkward-to-mention probability: If Barack Obama really does run for president, the race for the Democratic nomination in '08 moves from being about Hillary Clinton and the TBA anti-Hillary into a three-way contest between Hillary, Obama, and whoever is able to beat out the rest of the contenders for the role of credible white man. That's the spot Evan Bayh , John Edwards , Joe Biden , Tom Vilsack , and possibly Wesley Clark will all be vying for, hoping to make the campaign a three-way contest where the more centrist first-ever candidates (Clinton and Obama) wind up somehow either destroying or cancelling...
  • FCS TRIMMED.

    FCS TRIMMED. Future Combat Systems, the integrated, high tech system that the Army has been pursuing for the last few years (sort of the eqivalent of the F-22 or the Zumwalt destroyer, and more likely to be used than either) has taken a significant hit in the latest Army funding request. Land Warrior, a system designed to make individual infantrymen part of a high-information network, has temporarily been shelved. For those interested in the latest zombie fighting techniques, Land Warrior featured prominently in a chapter of Max Brooks' World War Z . Anyway, Defense Tech has a good discussion, including some speculation that the cut is strategic and that the Army expects to get everything back from the incoming Congress. --Robert Farley

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