WHY INEQUALITY MATTERS. My friend Will Wilkinson is puzzled over the excess concern liberal economists express over inequality. He gets why they'd care about each individual's well-being, but not why they'd worry about the gap between Tom and Bobby, assuming both of them have enough. I'm no liberal economist, but I sometimes play one on the blogs, so let me take a crack at it.
BUSH V. GORE. Great presidents educate the public, and what's most distressing about the Bush era is that the president has so horribly mis-educated the public on the two biggest public policy decisions of his presidency: taxes and Iraq. On the first count we were told by Bush during the 2000 campaign and many times subsequently that, despite massive debt, annual surpluses were a problem for the public and the economy.
DIPLOMACY FOR BEGINNERS.John Judis has a nice piece about the history and sorry track record of conservatives' odd aversion to diplomacy and liberals' tragic failure to adequately resist it. The upshot is that, specific issues and countries aside, the whole assumption that there's anything to be gained by either de facto or de jure denying diplomatic recognition to other countries is wrong. Having ambassadors in each others' countries and regular talks between officials about matters of common concern is just what countries that aren't actively at war with each other do.
NEOCONSERVATISM: DEMOCRACY OR HEGEMONY? Reading Shadi Hamidnew article reminds me that I really think liberals ought to stop saying that the Bush administration's foreign policy -- or that of the neoconservative faction within the Republican Party -- has ever really had anything to do with democracy. In particular, framing the foreign policy debate as one in which liberals and neoconservatives agree about democracy, but disagree about methods, while realists disagree with liberals and neocons alike on this topic is, I think, highly misleading.
STRAIGHT HOGWASH.John McCain stopped by the studios of Meet The Press last Sunday, where he was greeted by David Gregory, who is somewhat less of a regular on MTP than the senator is. The conversation got around to the NSA wiretapping decision last week, and the Straight Talker went right to the manure wagon. In fact, "most constitutional scholars" don't believe anything like what the senator attributes to them.
ONE FOR THE FAMILY. So, this week, we read this about our commander in chief:
He loves to cuss, gets a jolly when a mountain biker wipes out trying to keep up with him, and now we're learning that the first frat boy loves flatulence jokes. A top insider let that slip when explaining why President Bush is paranoid around women, always worried about his behavior. But he's still a funny, earthy guy who, for example, can't get enough of fart jokes. He's also known to cut a few for laughs, especially when greeting new young aides, but forget about getting people to gas about that.
HENTOFF OFF-MESSAGE. Nobody in this business has fought harder for the Bill of Rights than Nat Hentoff has, but this piece is just awful. Hentoff ought to be embarrassed to be tossing around accusations of anti-Semitism in the pages of a toy newspaper owned by Sun Myung Moon. The Great Father, after all, is on record as blaming the Holocaust on the fact that the Jews rejected Jesus.
IN AIDS NEWS.Hillary Clinton is blocking renewal of the 1990 Ryan White Act, the primary HIV/AIDS legislation covering people with low incomes and little or no insurance. The reasoning is kind of interesting: The old formula apportioned money based on the number of actual AIDS cases, heavily favoring areas like New York and San Francisco that absorbed the epidemic early on. The new formula would hand out cash based on HIV incidence rates, which would give quite a bit more to rural and Southern areas which were hit by the plague hit later and are still undergoing the transformation.
JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: MIND MATTERS.Neil Sinhababu (everyone's favorite ethical werewolf) makes the philosophical case against Ramesh Ponnuru's views on moral status and personhood in The Party of Death. Read to find out why Ponnuru's philosophy would mean "shrug[ging] at the enslavement of hobbits, the slaughter of kittens, and the destruction of all life beyond earth."
PERPETUAL WAR. Another bizarre Bush press conference led off the week followed by another great column by Fred Kaplan. Something I note in the text of the article that Kaplan doesn't make a big deal about, though, is Bush's statement that "We're not leaving, so long as I'm the president."