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  • HIGHLY EXPLICABLE. It's...

    HIGHLY EXPLICABLE. It's a small point, but one passage in the aformentioned National Review article 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. Indeed! It's a bottomless mystery why Republicans haven't cut off the public spigots to corporations. If TAPPED were a less honest enterprise I'd leave the excerpt truncated like that, but duty compels me to point out the authors' next sentence: "But the influence of business lobbyists and farm-state members has preserved Washington�s 'spending for the rich.'" Very true. So what's "inexplicable," again? -- Sam Rosenfeld
  • ADVICE, GOOD AND...

    ADVICE, GOOD AND BAD. The latest National Review cover 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. The authors say that the "the most important point to make" regarding the war is that "the cost of failure is dear" and that a pullout would create more problems than it would solve, and indeed, I think it's clear that George W. Bush and the GOP retain the ability to capitalize politically on the abject failure of their own war initiative, with the quagmire they've created serving the function of a gun pointed at the heads of American voters. (" Of course the war's a disaster -- vote for us if you don't want it to blow up in your face. ") The piece gets less and less persuasive as it...
  • MAKING NICE. Just...

    MAKING NICE. Just to avoid the appearance that Ezra and I are waging some kind of anti- Democracy jihad, let me say I liked these two 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. --Matthew Yglesias
  • SHOULD I JOIN...

    SHOULD I JOIN THE ARMY? If you haven't heard , the much-rumored Democracy: A Journal of Ideas is now up and running, with all content seemingly available online for the low, low price of a somewhat cumbersome registration process. It "will serve as a place where ideas can be developed and important debates can be spurred." So let's debate. Kathryn Roth-Douquet writes "The Progressive Case for Military Service," but I don't understand what she's trying to say. The article starts out with a Tomasky - esque tour of the difference between rights-based liberalism and civic republicanism � la Michael Sandel , except she unhelpfully uses the term "civic progressivism" instead. What's more, she rather bizarrely identifies John Locke and Immanuel Kant with the civic republican side of this divide rather than the rights-based liberalism side. Idiosyncratic history of ideas aside, it at least seems clear where we're headed. Communitarianism + pro-military = conscription, � la the Carter /...
  • DEMOCRACY: A JOURNAL...

    DEMOCRACY : A JOURNAL OF IDEAS? Congrats to Andrei Cherny and Ken Baer on the coming out party for their new journal Democracy . It's long been a frustration to me that I can enter a bookstore and find the shelves dotted with serious -- which is to say oddly sized and densely written -- conservative journals, but can't pick up anything save the occasional copy of Dissent when I'm in the mood for some lefty wonkery. That said, I'm a bit confused by the wonkery on display. Explaining the "why" of their magazine, Cherny and Baer write that "Progressives too often have come to eschew bold ambition, preferring to take shelter in the safe harbor of 'realism' and 'competence.'" As a result, Democracy will "not seek to publish policy papers or political plans; we�ll leave the budget line items and electoral strategies to others. Rather, Democracy will serve as a place where ideas can be developed and important debates can be spurred. We see our role as upsetting accepted assumptions and...
  • ABOVE THE LAW....

    ABOVE THE LAW. An informative but odd Washington Post editorial about detention policy notes all the ways the post-9-11 Bush administration has violated pre-9-11 rules against abusing prisoners, then notes all the ways the Bush administration has sought to evade post-Abu Ghraib efforts to get them to comply with the law, and then concludes with . . . suggestions for more stuff Congress might do. But Congress has already banned torture -- several times, depending on how you count. The only way to get the administration to conform to the law would be to replace the personnel -- starting with the President -- with different people, people willing to obey the law. Alternatively, Congress could try and use the power of the purse to force the administration to start following the laws it's already passed. But simply trying to pass new laws won't change anything. Worse, it seems to involve implicitly conceding that it was somehow okay for the administration to have been breaking laws in the...
  • From the Times Europe Bashing Desk

    The NYT had a piece this morning reporting on how Europe is heavily dependent on coal, despite its "green image." While the article had much useful information, it never mentioned the fact that Europe emits approximately 50 percent as much greenhouse gas per capita as the United States. In the numerate world, this is an important piece of information. At one point the article discusses how much Europe will have to reduce its emissions if it is to compensate for growing emissions in China and India "to say nothing of the United States." As far as I know, none of the people running European countries are morons, nor are the environmentalists who promoted the Kyoto agreement. If China, India, and the United States do nothing to contain their emissions of greenhouse gases, then whatever Europe does or does not do will be completely irrelevant. There would be absolutely no point in Europe absorbing substantial economic costs in a futile attempt to stop global warming. The proponents of the...
  • LITTLE FISH EAT...

    LITTLE FISH EAT BIG FISH. Bloggers were in a tizzy all weekend over a New York Times report by Opinionator Chris Suellentrop on Friday unearthing the fact that Mark Warner PAC Internet strategist Jerome Armstrong was charged with being a stock tout in the late 1990s, hyping a worthless company in which he held stock without disclosing the conflict of interest , leading to an Securities and Exchange Commission investigation that alleged that �there is sufficient evidence to infer that the defendants secretly agreed to pay Armstrong for his touting efforts�; a permanent injunction against Amstrong touting stocks; and ongoing litigation over potential penalties. Suellentrop then called "the links between online stock speculation and online politics...delicious." The New York Post picked up the story on Sunday, running with the much harder-hitting -- it's a tabloid -- "SHILL TO HACK: CELEBRATED LIB STRATEGIST HAS SHADY MARKET PAST." Since Friday, speculation has raged in blogosphere...
  • MORE MINIMUM WAGE...

    MORE MINIMUM WAGE FUN. From EPI's inimitable Jared Bernstein : The federal minimum wage has been raised 19 times by Congress since its introduction in 1938. Eighteen states, covering about half of the national workforce, have minimum wages above that of the Federal level. And over 100 cities have living wages--a higher minimum that applies to workers on city contracts or at firms with local government subsidies. In other words, more than any economic policy, we've had hundreds of "pseudo-experiments"--rare in economics--that allow us to test the impact of wage mandates on various outcomes. These experiments allow us to compare before and after, or, even better, compare nearby places that face similar economic conditions but have different minimum wage laws. The question that has received the most scrutiny is whether increases in the minimum wage lead employers to lay workers off. You probably don't want to hear the results from me, but here's how Nobel laureate in economics, Robert...
  • THE IRAN OVERTURE....

    THE IRAN OVERTURE. Yesterday, Kevin Drum mentioned a Washington Post article recounting the contents of a secret 2003 letter to the United States from Iranian officials putting a huge slew of issues on the table for direct negotiation (nukes, recognition of Israel, etc.). Drum notes that the Post buried the article. I'll just note, again, that if anyone hasn't yet read Gareth Porter 's comprehensive feature story in the June Prospect , "Burnt Offering" -- Porter, like the Post , got his hands on a copy of the actual 2003 letter -- they really, really should. --Sam Rosenfeld

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