Archive

  • FROM THE DECEMBER PRINT ISSUE: A LIBERAL MANIFESTO.

    FROM THE DECEMBER PRINT ISSUE: A LIBERAL MANIFESTO. Recently, Tony Judt wrote a piece for the London Review of Books entitled "Bush's Useful Idiots," which charged American liberals -- not "some" or "too many" American liberals, simply "American liberals" -- with "acquiesc[ing] in President Bush 's catastrophic foreign policy." The essay caused a big stir -- and made Todd Gitlin and Bruce Ackerman a bit mad. It inspired them to write this manifesto, a statement of liberal principles for the waning Bush era: " We Answer to the Name of Liberals ." Clearly this is a moment for liberals to define ourselves. The important truth is that most liberals, including the undersigned, have stayed our course throughout these grim five years. We have consistently and publicly repudiated the ruinous policies of the Bush administration, and our diagnosis, alas, has been vindicated by events. The Bush debacle is a direct consequence of its repudiation of liberal principles. And if the country is to...
  • THE CENTRIST AESTHETIC....

    THE CENTRIST AESTHETIC. Does David Ignatius remember the 90's? Because I do (indeed, they're about the only decade I can say that for). In his latest Post column , Ignatius warns that "there's a larger, overarching battle this year between two visions of America: testing whether it's a country defined by its political center or one defined by its political extremes." The first is Bill Clinton 's "synthesizer" style, which "holds that Americans for the most part, with the exception of irate groups at the edges, are less interested in ideology than in practical solutions to basic problems." The second is the base mobilization strategy Bush and Rove . But Clinton proves the point: This yearning for polite centrism is a hollow farce. Clinton, as I recall, was the coke-smuggling sexual assault artist who murdered Vince Foster before breakfast and sold off the White House by lunch. Whether his third-way policy ideas were smart approaches, his decidedly bipartisan approach to governance was...
  • RACE MATTERS. ...

    RACE MATTERS. Joe Klein 's recent mash note to Barack Obama , which Charlie Pierce talks about here , contains some interesting (if banal) reflections on the problems faced by black Democrats. Either they can seek to appeal to other African-Americans, thus jacking up turnout but confining them to majority African-American districts, or they can move towards white voters, which will depress turnout among liberals and blacks. It ain't easy. But Michael Steele is proving that Republican candidates have it no easier. The Steele path to the Senate relies on heavy white support from Republicans and cutting Ben Cardin 's margins among blacks. In the past few days, though, Steele has received some help with the latter that may not be wanted: Mike Tyson , his one-time brother-in-law, happily endorsed him (and then explained to the assembled reporters how he'd like to box women for money) and Don King has hit the campaign trail for Steele (Said King: "I must have an indictment list longer than...
  • CONSPIRACY.

    CONSPIRACY. Ezra had an interesting post over at his place the other day about the problematic relationship between Serious People and what they dismiss as conspiracy theories. He then thanks someone for passing along the details of the MK-Ultra fiasco. (By the way, according to recent reports, everything old is new again .) It's all a matter of perspective, really, even for those of us who've had a sweet-tooth for American political paranoia most of our lives. We grew up in what was its modern golden age, abetted by the excessive secrecy of the Cold War, and jump-started forever by the botched inquiries into John Kennedy 's assassination. That said, we'd believe anything, because LBJ really did lie about the Tonkin Gulf. COINTELPRO was a real program. Ronald Reagan really did sell missiles to the mullahs. Hell, even the original explanation for the Roswell incident turned out to be a grand fib. And, just to play with young Ezra 's noggin a little more, here's my personal favorite ...
  • CONSPICUOUSLY ABSENT.

    CONSPICUOUSLY ABSENT. Not for nothing, Senator Obama , but you should probably run for cover. Joe Klein may be about to subject you to one of his big old man-crushes. This can't be easy for Joe. After all, the last one of these he had was on that smiling hunk o' red-hot centrism from the Ozarks who ultimately threw him over for Sidney Blumenthal and then a chubby staffer. So it's understandable that Joe would be proceeding cautiously here. Once burned and all. The most interesting passage scrawled on the cover of Joe's Social Studies notebook of the mind is the one in which he writes down the names of other way-cool African Americans, and reinforces it with a quote from Shelby Steele , which is very often a problem, about how white people love the black people who don't make white people feel too badly about themselves. We are, according to Steele, grateful for this. Joe certainly is. His list includes Colin Powell , Michael Jordan , Oprah Winfrey , and Tiger Woods . (Holy Pudding...
  • SPOILER. Over...

    SPOILER. Over on Bolton Watch Michael Roston does an excellent job blogging the race between Venezuela and Guatemala for a seat on the UN Security Council. So far, there have been more than 22 rounds of voting, with neither country winning the necessary two-thirds support from the 192 UN member states of the General Assembly. The United States is strongly backing Guatemala, (or, more accurately, strongly opposing Venezuela) for one of the Latin American seats on the Council. And in doing so, the United States has shown that its influence at the world body is remarkably limited. As Roston points out, Venezuela has consistently pulled at least 70 countries in the balloting. And for their part, the Guatemalan delegation does not appreciate being branded the �American candidate.� Nevertheless, it looks like Venezuela will be blocked and a compromise candidate will emerge from Latin America. This is a good thing. Lots of folks may not think it all that terrible should Hugo Chavez have a...
  • GETTING OUT OF IRAQ.

    GETTING OUT OF IRAQ. Nearly everyone except Billy Kristol and John McCain agrees that the U.S. needs to reduce its presence in Iraq. Even George Bush has made "as the Iraqis stand up, the U.S. will stand down" as the centerpiece of his "strategy." Often, the debate is portrayed as "stay the course" (or the hilarious "adapt to win" spin of RNC hack Ken Mehlman ) versus "cut and run" in partisan circles, but the reality is more complex. The American military has been consolidating its position into fewer, larger bases for well over a year now, while endeavoring to hand over security responsibilities to the Iraqi military and police. As we've seen, this approach has been hijacked by sectarian militias and criminal gangs, who together have rendered the government of Nour al-Maliki largely powerless. Any large-scale withdrawal will require some form of negotiation with the real centers of power in Iraq, among them some of those we are currently fighting. Since it's better to negotiate with...
  • WHAT WAS THE...

    WHAT WAS THE VOTE COUNT ON THE FEDERAL MARRIAGE AMENDMENT AGAIN? Ed Morrissey claims that attempts to out GOP Senator Larry Craig shows that "Left hates gays." First of all, "a poster at Daily Kos and a gay activist" does not equal "the Left." (I mean, what do Ward Churchill and the immortal Some Guy With A Sign Somewhere have to say?) But more importantly, whether it's right or wrong the idea that outing someone reflects "hatred" for gay people is just silly. The premise is rather that politicians should be as comfortable with homosexual identities as they are with their heterosexual ones (you may have seen a political ad or two with a candidate's family prominently displayed), and that it's particularly odious for gay people to use the depriving of rights of gay people for reasons of political ambition. You may also remember this argument from the ridiculous Kabuki surrounding Mary Cheney , in which various cultural conservatives (and glibertarians ), as part of a campaign in which...
  • ISLAMISTS ON THE MARCH?

    ISLAMISTS ON THE MARCH? Marc Lynch has a new post up about the 2007 Jordanian parliamentary elections on his excellent new group blog, Qahwa Sada ("black coffee" in Arabic). The fear in the Hashemite Kingdom and in Washington, following the success of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas in Palestine, is that Jordanian Islamists will make big gains. They are represented primarily by the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood, which is legal in Jordan but not in Egypt. As Lynch explains, however, an Islamist takeover is unlikely if not impossible due to the way the system has been designed. Morocco will also be holding parliamentary contests in 2007, and these may be more interesting. Morocco has a range of Islamist parties and groups, from the relatively moderate and successful Party of Justice and Development (which currently has 42 seats out of 325) to the banned Justice and Spirituality Association , which is radical insofar as it rejects...
  • The Threat of Zero Population Growth

    The Washington Post reports on France's pro-family policies which it tells us are proving effective in combatting the "threat of zero population growth." While I am big fan of policies that lessen the burden on families raising young children, no one is ever going to scare me with the threat of zero or even negative population growth. Economists know about the concept of productivity growth. Respectable rates of productivity growth easily offset the impact that a rising ratio of elderly dependents can have on living standards, as simple arithmetic shows. I'll use some extreme numbers to show the case. Suppose that a country goes from having a ratio of 3 workers to retiree to 2 workers over a span of 30 years. This is roughly the pace in the U.S., which is extraordinarily rapid because of the large post-war baby boom cohort. Suppose further that the typical elderly dependent gets an income equal to 70 percent of the income of the typical worker. (This story ignores any benefits from a...

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