Archive

  • The Grand Old Plutocrats

    There are times when nothing I could write would do a passage justice. This is one of them: The White House is aware of the growing political problem and has moved on several fronts to pacify Republicans -- with decidedly uneven results. Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, in a speech yesterday, said the White House will be forced to put several plans on the "back burner," including changes to the estate tax and permanently extending first-term tax cuts. "It's taken over the national agenda, and I think it will for a while," he said. This prompted protests from one of the White House's closest allies, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), who said waiting on taxes was unacceptable. That's really all you need to know about the modern Republican party, isn't it?
  • When Pro-Choice Republicans Go Bad

    Not to reopen the old NARAL debate or anything, but after endorsing Lincoln Chafee to prove they'd stand by Republicans who support choice, watching him gladly shout "aye!" for John Roberts must be a real kick in the pants. I've said it before, but the basic reason not to endorse Republicans is that, right now, given party discipline and the agenda set by the Republican leadership, there is no such thing as a pro-choice Republican. What they believe is almost as meaningless as what they say. The Republican party is best viewed not as a collection of individuals but as a coherent, unified organism that quiets offending sections and moves in the direction that important constituencies demand. Republican moderates, chimerical creatures that they are, talk a good game and vote right when it doesn't count, but when the chips are down, the only way to distinguish them from Santorum is a Bush/Putin-style soul gaze. Chafee's behavior here should be example #1: In the area that most matters on...
  • Cassandra Was Right

    Matt's got a good post on why Katrina isn't the sort of expenditure you want to pay for through cuts,, but through deficit spending, and why Bush's fiscal philosophy has really cut off the option. The genuine issue here is that before the hurricane there was a lage gap between revenues and expenditures. Spending is, right now, about where it's historically been as a share of the economy. Tax revenues, meanwhile, are far lower. The best solution is to restore revenue. But if you want to close that hole on the spending side, you need to do it on an ongoing basis. Playing around with phase-in dates accomplishes nothing. What you could easily cut out of the Medicare bill is the plan to increase subsidies to private insurance companies that agree to cover senior citizens. All the evidence shows that Medicare itself can provide this coverage more cheaply. That would do something to reduce the deficit on a sustainable basis... [But] fundamentally, there either needs to be a tax increase or...
  • All Hail Our New Robot Overlords

    Lots of folks are talking about Ray Kurzweil's new book The Singularity is Near . His argument, basically, is that true artificial intelligence is a function of computing power, we currently haven't created it because we don't have the computer power, given current trends we will have it in about 20 years, then our artificially intelligent robots will begin working on speeding up the process ever-more, making human intelligence almost useless in a relatively short period of time. Kurzweil kindly goes in for the "this will help humans and make us all much happier" explanation rather than the "we're all gonna be robot-slaves" argument. To me, that one seems a coin toss. In any case, the singularity is when it happens, when our intelligence becomes increasingly non-biological and and the world becomes Totally Awesome. Reactions vary. Kevin thinks he's right, but that he cheated on a graph. Matt thinks he's wrong, and points to our dashed hopes for nuclear power as proof. Tyler wonders...
  • Educational Inequality

    Jonathan Kozol, in an interview with Campus Progress, touches on something I've been thinking a lot about: Some young people will tentatively say to me, “well maybe I oughtta get involved.” Well I say, “You don’t have any choice; you’re involved already. Even if you never do anything about this, you’ve benefited from an unjust system. You’re already the winner in a game that was rigged to your advantage from the start. If we did not have an apartheid school system in America, what is the chance you’d walk into this college so easily? It would have been a lot harder because there would have been a far larger applicant pool of highly capable minority kids to compete with you. This week, I graduated from college. My diploma will come from UCLA, I will have been in-and-out within three years, and it never should've happened.
  • Kilgore v. Kerry

    The Corner , right now, has a banner ad attacking VA Gubernatorial candidate Tim Kaine in a fairly innovative way. First you see Tim Kaine's head on a sheep, with the message that "Tim Kaine would like you to think he's the next Mark Warner." Switch to a John Kerry's head on a sheep with the text, "But he is really a Kerry clone in sheep's clothing." Fade to both of their heads on sheep's bodies with the coup de grace : "Click here to make sure a John Kerry clone won't end up in Richmond." The subtext, of course, is that they're sheepfuckers. Okay, maybe not. But what is interesting is that Kerry, unlike Carter or Dukakis, didn't lose with any firmly-held meme dragging him down. There was the flip-flopper thing, sure, but no overriding impression of weakness or wimpitude. And yet here he is, the bogeyman on an attack banner. Warner, I guess, is a bit above politics in Virginia, a Democrat, sure, but not a Democrat . Tying him to Kerry is an attempt to lash him to the national party,...
  • Questions

    Red State's got a Ginsburg-Roberts comparison that doesn't quite mean what they think it means: Ginsburg: 17 Hours of Questioning Breyer: 18 Hours of Questioning Rehnquist (for Chief Justice): 12 Hours of Questioning Roberts: 22 Hours of Questioning Ginsburg: 216 Questions Roberts: 510 Questions They deploy this to prove that John Roberts has answered so many questions that unless senators start relying on Trivial Pursuit cards, they can't possibly think of anything more to ask. But that's not what the stats prove. If you do the math, Ginsburg answered 12.17 questions an hour, Roberts, in contrast, sped through 23.18. So senators asked Roberts almost twice as many questions per hour than they asked Ginsburg. Why? Any guesses? Ginsburg answered the questions. And answering questions bogs down a Senators' ability to rapidly ask them. Roberts, in contrast, didn't answer most of the questions, preferring instead to bat them back for being too specific/vague/likely/unlikely/person/...
  • Been A Long Time Since I Had This Feeling

    When I got an e-mail alerting me to John Edwards' latest speech on poverty, I expected the usual hand-wringing about a country so great and a shame so large and an inequity so massive and so forth. That's not to dispute the truth of it, but it's a debate that Americans have long ago been inured to and, unless Edwards was bringing something new to the table, rehashing it would be good for the soul but far from the center. And then I read this: The trouble is that for too many Americans—not just in the Gulf but everywhere—the American Dream has become too distant. You can see it in the numbers: millions of parents work full-time but still live in poverty. The typical white family has about $80,000 in assets; the typical Hispanic family, about $8,000; the typical African-American family, about $6,000. “Income is what you use to get by, but assets are what you use to get ahead.” This huge asset gap is one reason so many families are barely getting by. And again, it’s not just the poor:...
  • Now With 50% More Cronyness!

    This piece by Noam Scheiber on Bush's extended cronyism makes a very good point: It's the second kind of cronyism--call it "outer-circle cronyism"--that's truly destructive. The focus here isn't so much on handing out jobs to dubiously qualified friends and associates--that is, to one's own cronies. It's on handing out jobs to cronies of cronies, which increases the scale of the cronyism exponentially. He goes on to list examples, which you should go on to read. But rather than recondemning Bush for Michael Brown, fun as that may be, the point to be made here is different. Brown's appointment and Bush's cronyism shouldn't surprise, they should be expected, and the fact that so many are gaping in open-mouthed awe at Bush's cavalier attitude towards appointments just shows that America has some serious dissonance between what they elect and who they think they're voting for.
  • Big Government Conservatism

    Stephen Moore, former Club for Growth head and all-around nutty tax-cutter, penned an op-ed in the WSJ that you can just tell had him sobbing tears of frustration by the last line. Nevertheless, it's fairly good stuff, if only for the minty-cool refreshing feeling that comes from seeing at least one conservative flip out at Bush for betraying everything he believes in. To wit: Alas, in the world of compassionate conservatism, the quaint notion of limited federal power has fallen to the wayside in favor of an ethic that has Uncle Sam as first, second and third responder to crisis. FEMA, despite its woeful performance, will grow in size and stature. So will the welfare state. Welcome to the new New Dealism of the GOP. Both political parties are now willing and eager to spend tax dollars as if they were passing out goody-bags to grabby four-year-olds at a birthday party. The Democrats are already forging their 2006 and 2008 message: We will spend just as many trillions of dollars as...

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