Archive

  • CHARACTER COUNTS, BUT ONLY WHEN CONVENIENT.

    CHARACTER COUNTS, BUT ONLY WHEN CONVENIENT. Yesterday Ohio Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland challenged Republican rival Ken Blackwell to release his tax returns, so voters could see exactly how Blackwell, who favors implementing a flat tax and cutting the capital gains tax, would benefit from his own proposals. Blackwell refused, telling the Canton Repository that his millionaire status proves his ideology that hard work leads to riches. It�s odd, though, that he�s not being more forthcoming, since his officially sanctioned, pabulum-filled initiative The Ohio Center for Civic Character demands that people of character �appl[y] truth in our relationships.� And that truth, he says, requires accountability and transparency: High-character people scrutinize themselves and welcome the scrutiny of others. They acknowledge that human nature compels us toward independence. Our preference for independence results in isolation from one another. Isolation breeds temptation to...
  • WILL MEDICARE MATTER?...

    WILL MEDICARE MATTER? It may be a bad bill, but the Medicare Prescription Drug Program may not be the electoral club many Democrats were hoping it would be. New polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that 8 out of 10 seniors are basically satisfied with the new benefit, hardly the sort of numbers congenial to a November counterattack. Two issues, however, may disrupt the calm. First up, seniors knowledge of the doughnut holes -- the period of a couple thousand dollars where all costs come out of pocket in an effort to discourage overuse of drugs before insurance kicks back in -- is spotty: The survey tested seniors� knowledge about the Medicare drug benefit�s coverage gap, or �doughnut hole,� in which most plans stop paying for medications and seniors must pay the full cost of their prescriptions. One- third of seniors in a Medicare drug plan say that their plan has a coverage gap (34%); about as many say that their plan does not have a gap (36%); and the others say they did...
  • THE OP-ED DOJO.

    THE OP-ED DOJO. Wandering through the nation's op-ed pages is like ambling through a dojo. Each writer has his own particular style, technique, finishing move. There's Tom Friedman , who rushes in with the Implausible Conversational Anecdote, links it to an Off-Topic Invocation Of World Travels, and finishes you with a Confusing Metaphor From Above. Or there's Maureen Dowd , who deploys Unfounded Personal Speculation mixed with Confusing Allegories till she's set up her killing blow: Insinuation of Character Defect. It's impressive stuff. The deadliest op-ed columnist, however, is unquestionably David Brooks . He's the drunken boxer of the opinion page, luring you into a false sense of security with Banal Observations that comfort through Faux Bipartisanship until you're ready for the Illogical Conservative Conclusion. Today's column is an archetypal example of the master at work: a series of cogent critiques of Hillary Clinton 's college aid proposals that effortlessly glide through...
  • SERIOUSLY CONFUSING.

    SERIOUSLY CONFUSING. Last week's puzzling editorial from The New Republic called on the United States to "move ruthlessly to prevent Iran from acquiring the deadliest arsenal of all" but couldn't quite seem to say whether or not this was a call for war. This week's edition fails to clarify matters, asking rhetorically "Will the West finally get ruthlessly serious about Iran? (No, bombing is not the only instrument of policy we have.)" In all ruthless seriousness, what does this mean? That bombing would be insufficiently ruthless and we should mount a full-scale invasion? That we should engage in ruthless measures short of military action? Which measures? Ask the Europeans nicely to impose sanctions? How ruthless is that? What's the difference between getting ruthlessly serious about something and getting seriously ruthless about it? How serious is it to play footsie with the idea of starting a war and then totally fail to say what you're talking about? --Matthew Yglesias
  • STEELE AT IT.

    STEELE AT IT. Well, that didn�t take long: As I predicted yesterday, Michael Steele would somehow turn his media blunder around and try to blame the media, and sure enough here come this first volley, lobbed directly at the Post �s Dana Milbank . Too bad for Steele press secretary Doug Heye that Milbank kept a record of their communications, which clearly show that not only was the Post allowed to publish the �off record� but �on background� material, but they apparently wanted the Post to have the scoop . Not to mention, Milbank held back on some identifiers that would have made Steele�s identity obvious. Just like the Oreo cookie incident , Steele and GOP governor Bob Ehrlich have either fabricated or embellished the events. And just like the Steve Gilliard sambo episode , Steele�s objective is not to run a serious campaign on the issues but to create a victimology vote in order to somehow endear himself to what he clearly thinks are gullible voters. Apparently, Steele also thinks...
  • THE NUMBERS GAME.

    THE NUMBERS GAME. Here�s some interesting polling on the Middle East from The New York Times . Fully 64 percent of the public thinks there will never "come a time when Israel and the Arab nations settle their differences and live in peace." As a general matter, I think people are way too inclined to say that things will never happen. Lots of crazy stuff happens -- in 1910 none of these countries even existed and only crazy people thought they ever would. More specifically, people tend not to realize this but just ten years ago the bulk of the Israeli right and the bulk of the Arab states rejected the idea of a two-state solution, and only over the past five years or so has that ceased to be the case. The differences between the sides are still large (obviously) but they're way narrower than they were quite recently. The other noteworthy finding is that 58 percent of Americans say the United States has no responsibility "to try to resolve the conflict between Israel and other countries...
  • JUST POSTED ON...

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: JUSTICE BYPASSED. On Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill making it illegal to take a minor across a state border for the purposes of evading parental consent and notification laws regarding abortion. If you think parental consent regulations are reasonable in the first place, this measure will of course seem like a common-sense way to bolster those state laws. And one reason those parental consent laws do strike so many people as reasonable is that they all have built-in judicial bypass procedures for minors who truly can't tell their family about their pregnancy without risking abuse or some other problem. But as Wayne Fishman and Helena Silverstein (a political scientist who has done extensive research on judicial bypass mandates) point out , on the ground, in state after state, that bypass process is either dysfunctional or simply non-functioning: So the argument for the CCPA goes like this: Parental involvement is generally a good thing. Parents know...
  • RUMSFELD: DIFFERENT THINGS ARE DIFFERENT.

    RUMSFELD: DIFFERENT THINGS ARE DIFFERENT. Via Andrew Sullivan , Don Rumsfeld gets asked whether or not Iraq is close to a civil war and replies, "You know, I thought about that last night, and just musing over the words, the phrase, and what constitutes it. If you think of our Civil War, this is really very different." And, indeed, it is rather different. There are no cavalry commanders in Iraq and there were no car bombs during the Civil War. For that matter, the Russian Civil War was a whole different thing as well -- it got really, really cold and one side was full of Communists . Seriously, what's wrong with this guy? One shudders to think of the tens of thousands of American soldiers deployed in Iraq and serving under the command of a political leadership that has no idea what's going on. --Matthew Yglesias
  • WHERE'S THE META-MESSAGE?...

    WHERE'S THE META-MESSAGE? One would have hoped that the announcement of the Capitol Hill Democratic confab scheduled for today -- the one at which the Democrats will lay out their election agenda -- would have brought a sense of excitement to yours truly when she read about it. (Still I look to find a reason to believe...) But when I read of the plan in today's Associated Press story by Liz Sidoti , I found yet another laundry list of fix-it items, all worthy, but none of them big enough to raise gooseflesh on the arms of likely voters. Calling the agenda "A New Direction for America," the Democrats list a number of laudable plans on the following: income, national security, energy, education, health care and retirement accounts. Swell. But as the Prospect 's Robert Reich pointed out (PDF) some time ago, the Republicans have never won on the particulars; they have won on the narrative. And once again, it seems, the Democrats will offer no story of America, no heroic theme, to which...
  • Medical Tourism: The Response to Protectionism

    If we use protectionist barriers to artificially prop up health care prices in the United States, then people go overseas for health care. It's extremely wasteful (it's much cheaper and better for people's health to have the medical procedures done here), but that is what happens when you have protectionism. --Dean Baker

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