Archive

  • HEY ARNOLD! ...

    HEY ARNOLD! This article on Schwarzenegger's halting, halfhearted attempts to bring universal coverage to California neatly encapsulates the central hurdle facing Republican reformers: Taxes. You simply cannot cover a new segment of the population without the addition of some revenues. And since Schwarzenegger's advisors are already ruling out funding streams as minors as cigarette taxes, you've got just about no place to turn. The example of Massachusetts has, in some ways, been destructive here, as governors have looked to that state and then done some throat-clearing about replication. Problem is, Massachusetts was a rare case that didn't need new revenues. As I explained in this article , a previous wave of progressive health reform had already created a massive fund to care for the uninsured in the Commonwealth -- which meant the Roney plan only had to redirect revenues, not create new ones. Add in a huge hospital-industrial complex, a very low number of uninsured residents, the...
  • GO NOWHERE.

    GO NOWHERE. Thanks to Tom Ricks, we learn that the Pentagon's Iraq review promises more of the same -- an infusion of an unspecified number of forces for an unspecified period of time to fight the insurgents, and an eventual but unspecific shift in emphasis to the training of Iraqi troops and police. This is called "Go Long," but in reality it's "Go Nowhere." This is exactly what we've been doing for at least a year, plus or minus an Army division. As a wise man once said: WTF? Well, for one thing, the Pentagon gave the review primarily to three very highly-regarded colonels, all of whom will be generals in the extremely near future. One of them is H. R. McMaster , the hero of Tall Afar . To be high-minded about it, McMaster & co. believe that even at this late hour, the discrete and short-term successes in places like Tall Afar can be applied across Iraq. To be cynical about it, McMaster & co. don't want to be the ones who recommend that the war end with the U.S. -- and...
  • PARTY OF ONE.

    PARTY OF ONE. May I just say that this Orman character is now my favorite person in all of American politics? We're stuck with Weepin' Joe Lieberman for another six years. In their infinite wisdom, the voters in America's File Cabinet pried their fingers off the handles of the slot-machines in Ledyard long enough to send this human hairshirt back to the Senate, where he will maintain his seniority, assume the chairmanship of a committee, and enable public idiocy for the next six years because the majority's too thin for any other course to have been viable. The only thing left for us is ridicule, loud and unceasing, if only because Weepin' Joe is about as funny as an andiron. This is a helluva start. --Charles P. Pierce
  • AND I THOUGHT DISPLAYING RESOLVE WAS IMPORTANT.

    AND I THOUGHT DISPLAYING RESOLVE WAS IMPORTANT. Apparently not . Henry Kissinger : �If you mean, by �military victory,� an Iraqi government that can be established and whose writ runs across the whole country, that gets the civil war under control and sectarian violence under control in a time period that the political processes of the democracies will support, I don�t believe that is possible,� Mr. Kissinger told BBC News. This is odd coming from a guy who, according to Bob Woodward , thought that "the problem in Vietnam was that we lost our will". By one reading, it could be argued that Kissinger is trying to redefine success down in order to make it easier to declare victory and leave. By another, he could be trying to salvage his reputation as a realist by jumping off of a war that's really not his. In any case, suggesting that victory is impossible can hardly be seen as a positive contribution to the problem of losing our "will", although it's nice to see that Kissinger is once...
  • SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT.

    SOUTHERN DISCOMFORT. I�ve learned a lot of lessons from the 2006 elections, including this: The argument for a non-southern strategy simply drives some people batty . They lose any mathematical facilities they once had. Or worse: They blithely cherry-pick election results and poll data. They reach inaccurate conclusions built upon the soft foundation of non-quantifiable statements riddled with terms like "some" or "many" or "a whole lot." Again, I'm not sure what the root causes of this phenomenon are. But I suspect that these behaviors have, um, "a whole lot" to do with the rather inconvenient truths that were revealed on November 7. --Tom Schaller
  • STRAIGHT TALK.

    STRAIGHT TALK. That new cable fun show, John McCain Will Say Almost Any Damn Thing, rolled into George Stephanopoulos ' joint this weekend, where the Straight Talker flipped, flopped, and flew. Gaze in awe. I swear, if I walked up to the man, and whispered that I could deliver a precinct in Manchester, he'd give me his car on the spot. That he plainly doesn't know what he's talking straight about, however, is a more alarming problem. If you throw the privacy rights of 51 percent of the American people back to the states -- and that is what the debate over choice really is, all scriptural filigree aside, an argument about the right to privacy -- you are not a "federalist," the historical antecedents of whom were the advocates of a strong central government empowered to tell the states what the national interest really was. (As best I can recall, Ronald Reagan was the first one to take this particular scam for a spin.) What you are proposing is a return to the doctrine of "states'...
  • MCCAIN AND ABORTION: THE DANCE OF DISINGENUOUSNESS.

    MCCAIN AND ABORTION: THE DANCE OF DISINGENUOUSNESS. John McCain has come out for overturning Roe . Frankly, I'm not sure what this tells us that we didn't already know . McCain has already expressed support for the draconian ban in South Dakota, and voted to confirm Robert Bork and Samuel Alito . And in case McCain apologists once again mention that McCain "said that if his daughter wanted an abortion, he would leave the decision up to her," I note that the fact that McCain wouldn't dream of applying general bans on abortion to people in his social circles doesn't make him a pro-choicer; it makes him a Republican . John McCain's daughter won't have a problem getting an abortion whether Roe is good law or not, but a lot of other women won't be so lucky. Social conservatism for thee-but-not-for-me is pretty much what social conservatism means in this country. And his justification for supporting the overturning of Roe is also classically dishonest: MCCAIN: I don�t think a constitutional...
  • Poland: Yet Another Worker Shortage

    I feel so old. Back when I learned economics, they taught you that in free markets prices adjusted to bring supply and demand into line. But, these days we keep hearing about how there are labor shortages that can only be addressed by finding lower paid workers in other countries to take the jobs. According to the NYT, the latest case is Poland , where apparently all the construction workers have gone to work in Western Europe. What makes this story especially annoying to those of us who learned the old economics is that the wages of workers in the occupations facing shortages have been falling relative to the wages of workers in occupations not facing shortages. Many economists have sought to explain the relative decline in wages for less-educated workers as the result of skill-biased technical change (i.e. computer technology reduces the relative demand for less educated workers), but how do we reconcile a story of skill-biased technical change with recurring shortages of the...
  • Thoughts on Milton Friedman

    I am a bit slow commenting on the passing of Milton Friedman because I was travelling and having connectivity problems (in Montainview, CA, the homeland of Google), but I will now chime in with my two cents. First, I would take issue with claims about him being proven right on macroeconomic questions. Milton Friedman was the author and main promulgator of the money growth rule. His gospel was that we did not need the Fed, we just needed a computer that would increase the money supply by 3 percent annually. While central banks did experiment with this approach (including the Volcker Fed), I don't think that anyone in the world (not even Milton Freidman at the time of his death) still believes that this is a good way to manage monetary policy. One can view the current inflation targeting fad as a variant of the money rule, but even here there are few advocates of a strict target. Most proponents of inflation targetting support targetting with a human face, which is little different than...
  • BEST EVER.

    BEST EVER. Oh, Matthew , Matthew, Matthew . Allow me to retort. The 1986 Boston Celtics. The 1985 Los Angeles Lakers. The 1972 Los Angeles Lakers. (Don't worry. We're getting there.) The 1967 Philadelphia 76'ers. The 1964 Boston Celtics. (Almost) The 1996 Chicago Bulls. Maybe. --Charles P. Pierce

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