BIG IDEAS. It's sadly locked behind The New York Times cursed subscription wall, but Maureen Dowd has penned one of the best op-ed columns I've read in months. The context is yesterday's launch luncheon for Democracy, where Andrei Cherny, Ken Baer, Bill Kristol, Francis Fukuyama, and Mike Tomasky batted around the worth of "Big Ideas." Cherny recalled a conversation with a conservative pundit who asked, "Who's on your tie?" Apparently, the Reaganites signaled their seriousness by using Edmund Burke and Adam Smith as neckwear.
WHEN PRINCIPLE MATTERS. See, man, you try to insert a little nuance into your argument and the young punks jump all over you. But here's the rub -- on issues that are going to be before Congress one way or another, principles don't really matter. Does Joe Lieberman really think the Employee Free Choice Act is important, or is he just pandering to a key liberal interest-group? I don't care. What matters in this instance is that he'll vote for it. It seems that he will, and that's all to the good.
THE MAGAZINE READER. Is the age of small magazines once again upon us? And has Washington become America's new intellectual center? Washington certainly is looking like the new Boston this week, with the launch of The Democratic Strategist, an online journal, and the aforementioned journal Democracy. Indeed, the city looks, in particular, to be entering an era of intellectual ferment on the left (and center-left) the likes of which it has not seen in some time.
PRINCIPLES. I generally agree with Matt's article today, particularly his conclusion that principles are "only good if your principles are the right ones." But he seems to be contradicting himself here:
MEANWHILE IN AFGHANISTAN. I've avoided commenting on the apparently deteriorating situation in Afghanistan because I don't understand the dynamics over there very well, but it is worth noting that the situation certainly does seem to be getting bad: "Suspected Taliban guerrillas in the southern province of Helmand ambushed and killed 32 people on Sunday, all of them relatives and tribesmen of an influential member of Parliament, among them a former local government official, the legislator said Monday."
I COME NOT TO BURY DEMOCRACY, BUT TO PRAISE IT. Like Matt, it wasn't my intent to greet Cherny and Baer's new magazine with a negative post, it just happened that I wandered into an article that I had to hack my way back out of. So let me take the opposite tack now and highly recommend Gar Alperovitz's piece on a progressive ownership society. He goes through the usual -- though undoubtedly important -- asset-building stuff, but I'm more interested in his rundown on employee-owned corporations, of which there are now nearly 12,000, with some mega-companies boasting revenue in the billions.
HIGHLY EXPLICABLE. It's a small point, but one passage in the aformentionedNational Reviewarticle made me laugh out loud:
If Republicans want credit for spending restraint, they also should have some high-profile program eliminations. Corporate welfare presents obvious targets. It seems inexplicable that Republicans haven�t taken up this issue despite the fact that every conservative think tank has pushed them to do it for years.
ADVICE, GOOD AND BAD. The latest National Reviewcover story by Kate O'Beirne and Rich Lowry offers a blueprint for Republicans to save their congressional majorities. Much of their advice, I think, is actually (unfortunately) pretty sound, including their forthright endorsement of the renewed GOP efforts to make a lot of noise about security issues and the Iraq War in spite of the war's unpopularity.
MAKING NICE. Just to avoid the appearance that Ezra and I are waging some kind of anti-Democracy jihad, let me say I liked thesetwo book reviews a great deal, and nobody can accuse Jedediah Purdy of failing to put forward bold, outside-the-box ideas here. Indeed, that's so bold and outside the box I really can't think of anything to say about it at blog-speed . . . perhaps after some consideration. I'll have to give the rest of the issue a read and you should too.