Archive

  • PARTY OF DEATH...

    PARTY OF DEATH REVIEWS. About a week and a half ago, I noted conservative whining that liberals weren't reviewing Ramesh Ponnuru 's The Party of Death and promised that if the publisher or author of the book would take the simple challenge of sending me a review copy I'd gladly step up to the plate. So far, it hasn't happened, and the conspiracy of silence on the left continues. Peter Berkowitz , a conservative in good standing, did get a copy to write a review for The Wall Street Journal and seems unimpressed : "It doesn't matter to Mr. Ponnuru that this argument flies in the face of a complex intuition that seems to underlie the American ambivalence: Invisible to the naked eye, lacking body or brain, feeling neither pleasure nor pain, radically dependent for life support, the early embryo, though surely part of the human family, is distant and different enough from a flesh-and-blood newborn that when the early embryo's life comes into conflict with other precious human goods or...
  • EDGING TOWARD A...

    EDGING TOWARD A POSITION. One of the most curious political strategies I've seen in some time has been Mark Warner 's apparent belief that he can run for president without taking a position on the Iraq War. Today, though, he starts edging toward one : Mr. Warner spoke empathetically of his potential rivals who as senators voted for the war. "I don't think any U.S. senator, regardless of party, if they had known there weren't W.M.D., that we were going to get selected leaks, I don't think anybody would have voted for it," he said. "Second-guessing people who made a valiant attempt at judgment is not where I am at." That seems almost shockingly sensible to me, though at some point if he wants to actually win a primary he'll want to criticize -- i.e., second-guess -- his rivals. That, however, can wait and Warner's at least put some distance between himself and the absurd Hillary Clinton / George Bush position that even with 20/20 hindsight there's nothing to regret about the decisions...
  • IT SHOULDN'T BE...

    IT SHOULDN'T BE A CHOICE. Far be it for me to disagree with Enlightened Being and Creator of Fire Mike Tomasky , but his post on the Department of Homeland Security's funding allocations seems a bit wrongheaded. His point is that the cuts in cash for New York and Washington may well make sense -- who says terrorists won't next strike fear in our hearts by striking the Heartland? Fair enough. But it's not really the case that "New York�s still getting a lot of money, as is Washington." DC will get $46.5 million from the DHS's main grant program, and $4.3 million from their state-oriented program. To give an idea of scale, DC's state grant will be less than Rhode Island, Wyoming, or Puerto Rico's. It's simply not a lot of money, and it's coming out of a total pot of less than $2 billion, also not a lot of money. Nor does Mike's confidence in the DHS's allocation system seem well-placed. The orgnaization's inspector general, furious at his inability to compel changes, just wrote a book...
  • WHERE THE RISK'S...

    WHERE THE RISK'S AT. The inimitable Dana Milbank throws up a terrific headline -- "Flash: DHS Disputes Al-Qaeda's 5-Star Rating of Two U.S. Cities" -- on his way to discussing how much different cities are at risk of terrorist attack: The new DHS plan is advertised as a "risk-based" model, but it came up with almost the opposite conclusions to a Rand Corp. study last year that calculated terrorism risk to 47 cities. Seven of the 10 highest-risk cities in the Rand study will lose funding under the DHS plan; six of the 10 lowest-risk cities in the Rand study will see increases in funds, including such hot spots as Milwaukee and Tampa. Calculating risk is a complicated business, but, fortunately, America has a lot of very smart people studying the problem. Rand, in particular, argues that treating assets equally without considering the threat environment is likely to give a false picture of risk . The Department of Homeland Security, in an effort to beat back some of the criticism it's...
  • TERRORISTS: WHAT'S THE...

    TERRORISTS: WHAT'S THE DEAL? I agree with Mike -- if I were a terrorism consultant or what have you, I'd tell my loyal jihadis to forget all about New York. To forget about monuments, for that matter. Probably even to forget about bombs. I would just try and organize as many attacks as possible, no matter how unspectacular, and put them in random shopping malls and movie theaters and so forth in ordinary suburbs around the country. That would be a lot more terrifying than the occasional strike in a big city. Nevertheless, whether or not we're right in thinking this would be a better method, it's worth being clear that would-be Islamist terrorists don't seem to think along these lines. Plots against targets in the West, whether successful or foiled, have all been directed at either symbolic targets -- the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the United Nations -- or against big city transportation infrastructure -- trains in London and Madrid, LAX airport, various bridges and tunnels...
  • WE USED TO...

    WE USED TO BE FRIENDS. "They crush them with their vehicles and kill them just on suspicion," according to Iraq's new Prime Minister, "This is completely unacceptable." The crushing and killing just on suspicion are, he says, being done by the American military. And based on recent reports, there's obviously some truth to this perspective. Dare one suggest that the love affair between the Bush administration and Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is destined to turn bitter at some point in the near future? Enough political leaders have come and gone in Iraq already that we ought to be able to see that the dynamic is simply untenable. Iraqi politicians who identify themselves too closely with American become discredited in the eyes of their constituents -- see, e.g., Iyad Allawi . Those who identify themselves too closely with the views and interests of their constituents wind up falling out with the American government which then tries to get them dumped. When these sorts of relationships aren't...
  • IF I WERE...

    IF I WERE A TERRORIST� I'm a former New Yorker (and one who watched the first tower collapse in person, not on TV) and a present Washingtonian. So I ought to be as lathered up as the next guy about this terror-funding thing . But what if DHS is...right? I have sometimes thought, �If I were a terrorist, where would I strike next? What would really mess with the psyches of my hated Great Satanic foes?� And I�m not sure I�d hit New York or Washington. Too obvious. Been done. Besides, both probably are reasonably well fortified. Therefore, I could easily imagine a scenario in which the next terror attacks occur in, say, Wichita, Des Moines, Memphis, and Omaha. Such a series of coordinated strikes in heartland small cities would be pretty devastating, I�ve always thought, and might well rattle many Americans even more than another attack on Manhattan, which, let�s face it, many Americans think of as a western province of France. And if they happened, everyone would be sitting around saying...
  • THE 71,000 SEPT....

    THE 71,000 SEPT. 11 SURVIVORS & THEIR STUDY. The same days as news hits that New York's homeland security budget is being reduced by 40 percent, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene announces the next phase of their study of the long-term health of the more than 71,000 survivors of the attack on New York, some of whom apparently still suffer from something known as "World Trade Center Cough." Previous surveys have documented a higher than normal incidence of respiratory ailments, rashes, and mental health problems among the population caught in the dust cloud or otherwise impacted by the unusual mix of toxic chemicals unleashed that day and after, as people evacuated and returned to the 38 damaged or collapsed buildings in lower Manhattan. You can click here for more information on the survey or its latest (April 2006) results (PDF). --Garance Franke-Ruta
  • BUT HOW MANY...

    BUT HOW MANY TOILETS ARE THERE? New York City most certainly does contain monuments and icons -- especially if, as I'm given to understand, Jacksonville's Alltel Stadium counts as one -- but it may suffer from a more serious threat: toilets. Your fact of the day, courtesy of John Mueller is this: "Outside of 2001, fewer people have died in America from international terrorism than have drowned in toilets." Watch out! --Matthew Yglesias
  • TAXES ARE HARD....

    TAXES ARE HARD. Some attention has already been paid to this hackish op-ed expounding on the conservative virtues of the Alternative Minimum Tax. It is, the author writes, the quickest way of taking the country to a flat tax, which should be the preferred conservative solution. How weird then that conservatives are all clamoring for its repeal! What gives? In a nutshell, this is why taxes are a tricky issue. Everyone is always clamoring for tax simplification, but that's not actually hard to do. The AMT has two tax brackets -- a 26 percent, and a 28 percent -- and you pay into one depending on how much you make. It's dead simple. A progressive tax structure could have six income brackets, and it wouldn't take you any more time. You'd look at a chart, compare it to your income, and multiply. What makes taxes complicated are deductions and loopholes. But they're not the product of erosion, or some other natural, inevitable process. They're implemented because they're popular. People...

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