Archive

  • THE QUIET IRAQI....

    THE QUIET IRAQI. Check out yesterday's Spencer Ackerman post noting that the Iraqi government includes a man by the name of Muhammed Shahwani who was appointed back in the Iyad Allawi days. He apparently can't be fired by Allawi's successors, is paid by the United States of America, and runs a secret police outfit that, likewise, is accountable to the American government rather than the Iraqi one. --Matthew Yglesias
  • THERE'S THE BEEF....

    THERE'S THE BEEF. The New Republic has obliged those of us puzzled by their previous Darfur editorializing with a new one spelling out what exactly they think we should do. I have some concerns. "The consensus among experts," they write, "is that it would take approximately 20,000 troops to secure Darfur." At the same time, the explicit model for this operation is Kosovo where the initial KFOR deployment was over twice that size, and even today "more than 16,000 peacekeepers" are on the ground. Darfur contains 2-3 times as many people as Kosovo, is over 20 times as large in terms of area, is more diverse in ethnolinguistic terms, and is less conveniently located to NATO's home base. So why should a much smaller mission suffice? And what if Sudan doesn't want to be invaded by 20,000 foreign troops? Well, if they resist, "NATO would have to follow through on its threat and attack Sudanese military installations from the air until Khartoum got the message. This is precisely the strategy...
  • Is Alan Blinder a Protectionist?

    Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne is a decent person, whose views on many issues I share, but his column today is almost a caricature. It perfectly demonstrates why liberals/progressives are so lost on economic policy. Dionne notes the collapse of good-paying jobs in the auto industry, the manufacturing sector, and increasingly other sectors due to trade and outsourcing. He then cites a recent article by Princeton University professor and former Fed Vice-Chairman Alan Blinder (identified as "no protectionist") warning that the trend toward declining wages due to competition with the developing world is likely to spread to more sectors in the future. The implicit question that Dionne then poses is "how can we maintain middle class living standards without being hoary protectionists?" The answer of course is that Alan Blinder, Bill Clinton and the other "free traders" referred to in the article are in fact protectionists. They just don't own up to it. The competition that our...
  • THE MYTH OF...

    THE MYTH OF THE FREE RIDE. Via Tom Lee I see that in the course of editorializing against network neutrality, The Washington Post 's editorial writers have decided that big Internet firms "want their services delivered fast but don't want the pipe owners to extract fees from them." This is misinformation pure and simple. As Tom writes, "Content providers pay for their bandwidth." Here's a quick-and-dirty experiment that can prove the point to readers. Try to start a website. Go do it now. Give it a shot, and you'll see soon enough that to start a website you need to pay someone to host it and for the bandwidth it uses . Right now, my website is a TypePad site. To start one, you need to pay Six Apart a monthly fee. As you'll see here , for $4.95 a month you get two gigabytes per month of bandwidth, whereas $8.95 a month will get you (among other things) five gigabytes per months of bandwidth. It costs money. As it should. Bandwidth is a valuable commodity, so if you want it -- either...
  • SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK. ...

    SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK . On the great David Brooks debate , can I suggest a compromise? Let kids read what they want. Give them a list of books to choose from and allow them into the classes, or into the groups, that are studying books they'd actually like to read. As it is, Brooks' contention that boys are desperate to read Hemingway but foiled by a feminized education system is a bit silly. Hemingway, for one, would think any male lacking the gumption to stride into Barnes and Nobles and pick up the damn book himself deserved a whupping. Except he would've said so with fewer commas. As for Mike Tomasky 's musings about what kids actually read, a quick glance at college syllabi shouldn't be that hard. My experiences with the educational system are relatively recent, so here's some anecdotal evidence: High school offered lots of literature that I was too young to appreciate. None of it was the estrogen-laden sludge of feelings that Brooks identifies. I don't know why he thinks The...
  • KEEP DIGGING, TOM....

    KEEP DIGGING, TOM. The Tom Friedman column mocked �round the world (in which he boldly declared for the umpteenth time that "the next six months are crucial in Iraq") just gets funnier as Friedman goes on the defensive. To wit, on CNN today he defended that stereotypically hollow, centrist nonsense with... hollow, centrist nonsense! Money quote, via Think Progress: So the left � people who hated the war, they want you to declare the war is over, finish, we give up. The right, just the opposite. But I�ve been trying to just simply track the situation on the ground. And the fact is that the outcome there is unclear, and I reflected that in my column. Here Friedman engages in several typical MSM pundit tactics to discredit his critics. First he implies that everyone on either the right or the left is an ideologue whereas he is a disinterested reporter. He doesn't seem to recognize that one could be, say, a liberal who honestly observes the situation on the ground and comes to realize...
  • DEATH OF THE...

    DEATH OF THE BALLOT INITIATIVES. I'm really surprised by today's E.J. Dionne column on the defeat of Proposition 82. Unlike Matt , I don't think it makes many good points. Rather, I think it determinedly ignores, or simply doesn't know, the crucial one: What Dionne identifies as "voter skepticism about public spending" is really a profound fatigue for and increasingly negative disposition towards ballot initiatives. Remember, if you will, all the way back to the heady days of 2005, when no less than eight ballot initiatives, all from wildly different ends of the ideological spectrum, went down to ignominious defeat. Proposition 75, a poison pill that would've limited union funds under the guise of offering union members "paycheck protection" from paying dues, failed. Proposition 76, a conservative effort to impose spending limits on the state, got crushed, 37 percent to 62 percent. Truth is, the ballot initiatives have become such an annoying element of Californian public life that...
  • MALLABY GETS IT...

    MALLABY GETS IT RIGHT. Sebastian Mallaby pens an excellent column today. As John Bolton approaches the one-year mark of his recess appointment, it is clear that his tenure has been defined by the waning of American influence at the United Nations. His preference for zero-sum games in a forum that has advanced beyond those kinds of negotiating tactics has backfired, and has done so to the detriment of American interests at the United Nations. The set of reforms championed by the Secretary General and the West is being held up by an increasingly assertive coalition of developing countries -- even though, as Kofi Annan wrote in the Financial Times (subscription only), these reforms would do much to streamline the services that the United Nations now offers to the developing world, like health care, AIDS education, peace-building, and more. The developing world, however, insists that the management reforms sought by Annan and the West are a thinly veiled power-grab. Though this is far...
  • LESSONS LEARNED. He...

    LESSONS LEARNED. He makes some good points, but I think E.J. Dionne 's column on the lessons of failing to achieve universal preschool in California misses some important structural issues. As he writes, one lesson here is that even in California it's hard to enact a gigantic ambitious new government program. But one should also remember something important here: Had California enacted the gigantic ambitious government program in question, it likely would never have been repealed . Universal programs are very expensive and, therefore, very hard to establish. But whereas, say, a modest, means-tested preschool tax credit aimed at the poorest Californians would have been easy to pass and equally easy to roll back next time an economic downturn or a spate of Republican tax cuts created a budget crunch, a universal preschool program would have been almost impossible to get rid of or even seriously scale back. That, fundamentally, is the reason why it's worthwhile to think big even though...
  • MORE ON FEELINGS...

    MORE ON FEELINGS AND STUFF. See, I read Brooks � column yesterday in a kind of light spirit, which I thought he intended (while recognizing, of course, the subtle conservative subtext, which David always sneaks in toward the end of such ruminative columns). Now, Linda H. comes along to remind me that there�s nothing light about these questions at all, that I�ve fallen into Brooks� well-sprung trap, and am only demonstrating that, when it comes to the phrase �male liberal,� the first word is fated always to pulverize the second. My question is: Does anyone out there actually know what young people are being made to read today? Because Linda has a point when she talks about the generations of women who were made to read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Moby Dick and such. I�m trying now to think back through my humble, non-elitist schooling and remember what I was in fact assigned to read. Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn , certainly. Other major American writers. In my advanced high school...

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