Archive

  • UNIFORMITY AND CONFORMITY....

    UNIFORMITY AND CONFORMITY. Yesterday, Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell detailed the lack of diversity among Post columnists and then concluded, "The point is not to toss excellent white male columnists; the point is to add more and lively voices to The Post." Today, however, Ezra bemoans the lack of excellence and accountability among those throngs of white male columnists, and how op-ed pages are the one part of newspapers where no one ever loses their job for getting major matters of national importance completely wrong. It's hard to imagine these two issues -- lack of diversity and lack of accountability -- are entirely unrelated. Indeed, it seems like this might be a good time for editors to really think about what defines excellence, and what their obligations are to their readers, and whether the similarity of the opinion writers' backgrounds is so great that it might contribute to a dangerous uniformity in the opinions they express, and so increase the risk that the...
  • GETTING SPECIFIC.

    GETTING SPECIFIC. I think Max Sawicky is getting at something very important here: The task for those who have come around to oppose this war is to extrapolate wisely in order to cope with the bouquet of calamities elaborated in the article. It pretty much comes down to Iran. Will the U.S. permit Iran to become a regional, nuclear power, or will it precipitate yet another lurch down the slopes of disaster. In principle, I would say that is the number one issue for the next presidential campaign. Given where I think we'll still be in two years regarding Iraq, I'd dissent from that last line, but this is still important. Intra-center-left foreign policy fighting tends to get as airy and abstracted as it is virulent. Iran presents a specific issue that's going to be with us for a while and which will likely be put back on the front burner of political discussion by interested parties sooner or later. As the Iran question surfaced periodically as a subject of political debate this past...
  • PORK PRESERVES. ...

    PORK PRESERVES. This rather misses the point of what the GOP did last week: The hero of the lame-duck session was freshman Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina. He was instrumental in blocking a Senate-House conference on a military construction appropriations bill, which would then be used as the last train out of town to carry pork. He didn't block the bill, he delayed it. DeMint and a handful of other Republican congresscritters kicked a couple bills down the road, the better to not be blamed for them. Fair enough -- that's politics. But they did nothing to actually eliminate the pork; they just removed the GOP's fingerprints and made sure Democrats would control the process. Funny how a massive defeat focuses the moral righteousness. Meanwhile, Tom Coburn 's bill to force a pork report card, "under which the Pentagon would grade earmarks on a scale of A to F," seems interesting, depending on how the grading body is set up. Democrats and Republicans united to defeat it,...
  • QUESTIONS FOR JOHN CARROLL.

    QUESTIONS FOR JOHN CARROLL. Greg has emailed a few good ones to the man. UPDATE: Meanwhile, Carroll tells Tom that the mistakes will be addressed in an on-air "Beat the Press" segment as well as on the show's blog. --Sam Rosenfeld
  • MAKING FLEX-TIME RESPECTABLE

    MAKING FLEX-TIME RESPECTABLE ... by portraying it as "macho"? A radical idea! If all employees make use of flexible hours and paid family leave, then women are less likely to be penalized for doing so. The Wall Street Journal (subscription req'd) reports today that some companies, including the accounting firm Ernst & Young, are attempting to do just that by "redefining the issue as a quality-of-life concern for everyone." While flex-time and other family-friendly policies have long been touted as a way for women to get ahead in the corporate world, they often carry the "mommy track" stigma, making many women reluctant to take advantage of these options. In a survey of 2,443 women college graduates released by her center and the Harvard Business Review, 35% of respondents thought they would be penalized for taking advantage of their employer's work-life policies. ... about two-thirds of professional women who stop working would stay if they had a "recognized and respectable" way...
  • CRY FREEDOM! ...

    CRY FREEDOM! Being a nanny-state lovin' liberal, I'm perfectly pleased with the ban on trans fats. The freedom of fast food joints to inject a cheap, near-poisonous substance into their foods doesn't strike me as a liberty I need worry too much about (I fear this will be another nail in the coffin of liberaltarianism). That said, things like trans fats have always struck me as a sort of market failure. Only X percent of the population knows what they are, only Y percent knows they're bad, and only Z percent would ever think to ask restauranteurs if their foods contains the nasty buggers. And Z is small . So you've got an information asymmetry. That's why, when the FDA forced producers to put trans fats on their labels, they largely disappeared from packaged food. And part of it, too, is a class issue. Studies show a sadly limited percent of the American population can accurately interpret nutrition labels. But since those labels go out to rich and poor alike, producers can't continue...
  • LOOKING BACK. ...

    LOOKING BACK. In fall 2006, the United States turned on the NeoCommentators. Their smug, wrongheaded chatter had helped lead the country into a catastrophic war and then, without missing a beat, turned to condemn those who sought to end it. Infuriated, readers nationwide began agitating for their removal from op-ed pages, magazine columns, and television roundtables. And so began the Pundit Purge of '07 -- the first time in recent history that the predictive failure of an ideology led to actual occupational consequences for its peddlers. Historians differ on what, precisely, sparked the upheaval, but no small number point to a December 10th column by David Brooks , which pretended to peer back at America's foolish withdrawal from Iraq from some point far in the future, when it was well understood that the folly of exit had triggered what Brooks termed "the Second Thirty Years' War." Experts differ on what proved so infuriating about this column: Some name Brooks' total avoidance of...
  • SET YOUR BOOKMARKS.

    SET YOUR BOOKMARKS. The Hammer 's got a blog . As a signal of open intellectual engagement with the left, Delay has even breached the ideological divide to include Mickey Kaus on his blogroll... --Sam Rosenfeld
  • UNEVEN PROGRESS.

    UNEVEN PROGRESS. Adam Nagourney 's smart Week in Review piece definitively answered the question Ben Wallace-Wells asked in The Washington Post about a month ago: "Is America too Racist for Barack ? Too Sexist for Hillary ?" Nagourney's answer: when it comes to winning elected office, America has proven more enduringly racist than sexist. Over the past of the past eight years, in the view of analysts from both parties, the country has shifted markedly on the issue of gender, to the point where they say voters could very well be open to electing a woman in 2008. That is reflected, they say, in polling data and in the continued success of women running for office, in red and blue states alike. "The country is ready," said Senator Elizabeth Dole, the North Carolina Republican, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2000. "I'm not saying it's going to happen in '08. But the country is ready." By contrast, for all the excitement stirred by Mr. Obama, it is much less certain that an...
  • A (QUALIFIED) DEFENSE OF THE TRANS-FAT BAN.

    A (QUALIFIED) DEFENSE OF THE TRANS-FAT BAN. This probably won't help increase comity between progressives and our newly receptive libertarian brothers and sisters, but as William Saletan and Lindsay Beyerstein point out, the case for New York City's much-derided ban on trans-fats is actually very compelling. I tend to start from quite libertarian premises on such issues, and I certainly for the most part don't think that it's a legitimate role of state coercion to mandate asceticism or conformist aesthetic values. But this isn't what this ban will accomplish. There are many problems with making reducing obesity in itself a primary goal of public health (starting with the fact that, as an independent variable, being overweight has a weak impact on one's health), but in this case it has had the ironic effect of making the case for banning trans-fats look weaker than it actually is. To be clear, this ban will not cause New Yorkers to become thinner, or result in a significant reduction...

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