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  • STATES' WHATS? ...

    STATES' WHATS? The Washington Post 's invaluable business columnist Steven Pearlstein has an elegant little takedown of this week's round of supposed health reforms. "The Republicans," he writes, "are engaged in a largely cynical exercise to blame government regulation for everything that's wrong with the insurance market while offering to reward their friends in the small-business lobby with a lucrative new health insurance franchise. The proposal they back requires them to ignore everything they've ever said about federalism and states' rights." That's true enough. The proposal in question is the so-called " Enzi bill, " which would invalidate all statewide regulatory structures for insurers. It's a remarkable little ball of cynicism, a clear win for the GOP's business overlords against the party's supposed conservatism. Worth keeping in mind, too, is that when state's rights collided with the moral imperatives of desegregation, the Republican Party gave primacy to the coherency of...
  • A SIMPLE PLAN....

    A SIMPLE PLAN. Pondering the common good versus individual rights while in line for a burrito just now, a thought occurred to me: Why do you need to opt-in to be an organ donor? I'm not going to take such a stridently collectivist line as to suggest that we harvest organs against people's wills, but surely we could change the default rule so that objectors can opt-out of organ donation. I see lots of saved lives and no real downside. --Matthew Yglesias
  • IF A, THEN...

    IF A, THEN A. Good to see my colleague Harold Meyerson continuing the GOP-has-no-ideas argument. As he notes, their case for retaining Congress isn't an agenda, but a tautology -- if the Democrats win Congress, then the Democrats win Congress. It's an unsettling thought, to be sure, though when pollsters ask , "Overall, which party, the Democrats or the Republicans, do you trust to do a better job in coping with the main problems the nation faces over the next few years?,� Democrats come out on top by a 14 percent margin. One might also wonder why the GOP is so obviously terrified by the prospect of investigations. Bush hasn't done anything wrong, has he? --Ezra Klein
  • A COUNTERINSURGENCY TACTIC...

    A COUNTERINSURGENCY TACTIC BY ANY ANOTHER NAME. I think there's more heat than light to my disagreement with Fast Leon , since we're in pretty close agreement about reasonable policy responses to the situation in Sudan. On the semantic issue, I -- and the U.N. -- want to say that a given mass killing is either a genocide or else a war-fighting tactic. Mark , the State Department, Samantha Power , etc., want to say that both kinds of mass killing deserve the label "genocide." As far as that goes, that's fine -- we often have words that denote more than one kind of thing. The word "rock" applies to both diamonds and to random stones you might find anywhere. But here's the thing. You wouldn't want to develop a response to finding a rock in your backyard -- pick it up and throw it away, say -- and then apply when you find a diamond, all the while saying "well, look, it's a kind of rock !" If you have two kinds of phenomena -- mass killings inspired by a desire to exterminate an ethnic...
  • The Conservative Nanny State is Here!

    The moment you have all been waiting for has finally arrived. You can download your copy of The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer today. The book is available as a free e-book (read chapter 4 for the reasoning). You will soon be able to order paperback copies at Conservativenannystate.org . The book takes issue with the prevailing political metaphor in U.S. politics: that liberals want the government to intervene to promote fairness and equity, while conservatives want to leave outcomes to the market. The book argues that conservatives (or at least those in power) support a wide range of government interventions that have the effect of distributing income upward. This list includes a trade and immigration policy that places less-skilled workers in direct competition with workers in developing countries, while protecting highly paid professionals from the same sort of competition. Another item on the list is Federal Reserve Board...
  • CONTRA MATT. My...

    CONTRA MATT. My friend over the cubicle wall does a disservice to the debate over Darfur by calling into question some basic facts about the genocide. First, he falls into a trap that paralyzed international responses to genocide following the holocaust. Namely, that �genocide� primarily means the German slaughter of the Jews of Europe. The legal definition is a bit broad, and it's best to leave it up to the lawyers at the State Department and the United Nations to argue over whether it fits the case at hand. What comes to mind when non-lawyers hear the word "genocide," however, is something akin to the events of the Holocaust, where a regime pursues the destruction of an ethnic group as an end in and of itself. Without denying that monstrous things are being done in Darfur, I don't think that genocide -- in this sense -- is what's happening. Undoubtedly, he is correct. Darfur is not Europe in 1939. Jews are not getting carted off to death camps in Poland. But genocide is not the...
  • WHERE MY HO'S...

    WHERE MY HO'S AT? While we've been busy with blogosphere inside baseball, Laura Rozen points out that the MSM has been mighty quick to swallow the White House line that Porter Goss 's rapid and unexpected departure has absolutely nothing to do with the burgeoning investigation into Hookergate. To review the contrary case quickly, we're talking about a scandal involving a contractor who liked giving bribes to people who sit on the Intelligence Committee ( Duke Cunningham ) or are high-level CIA personnel ( "Dusty" Foggo ). Goss just so happens to be a former House Intelligence Committee member who was put in charge of the CIA, is friends with Foggo, and promoted him soon after taking over. What's more, members of Goss's staff seem to have been taking bribes from Brent Wilkes , the very same person doing all the rest of the bribing. And then Goss is supposed to have suddenly resigned -- by coincidence! -- right in the middle of all this coming out? I'm completely prepared to believe...
  • THE END OF...

    THE END OF THE MEME. We've been hearing for the past two years, mainly from Republicans, that the Democratic Party has no ideas. It's time to put that meme to rest, because the American people clearly disagree. According to today's New York Times /CBS News poll, which also found President Bush with a 31 percent approval rating : By better than two to one, Democrats were seen as having more new ideas than Republicans. Two-to-one. Over. Done. Time to move on. --Garance Franke-Ruta
  • The New York Times Discovers Sweden

    The Times had an article this morning that reports on Sweden's success in sustaining healthy rates of economic growth, while also ensuring a high degree of economic security for its workforce. The article is mostly fair, but is misleading on a few points. For example, the article reports that Sweden overhauled its Social Security system in the mid-nineties and added private accounts. This is true, but it would have been helpful to add that the defined benefit portion of Sweden's system is still approximately one-third larger (relative to wages) than the current U.S. system. The article also reports a common complaint that the official unemployment rate of 4.8 percent substantially understates true unemployment because it excludes the people in government retraining programs. (The article reports that labor unions put the true rate at 8 percent. Labor unions rarely appear as a source for economic data in Times articles.) It is not clear why workers in government funded training...
  • EARLY RETURNS. Russia,...

    EARLY RETURNS. Russia, China, Cuba, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia are among the inaugural members of the new Human Rights Council. In a perfect world, none of these countries would be entrusted with a seat on the council. But the world is not perfect, so it was inevitable that some countries with less than stellar human rights records would become members. The true test of the council, however, will not be its membership, but the actions it takes once constituted. The United States decided not to seek a seat on the council, claiming that it was not enough of an improvement over the previous Commission on Human Rights. But because the United States became disinterested in the success of the (admittedly imperfect) council, I suspect that John Bolton did not do much to persuade countries to vote against admitting, say, Cuba. To a certain degree, the United States is reaping what it hath sowed; disengagement from the U.N. Human Rights Council has produced a council less favorable to the...

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