Archive

  • Who Killed Clinton Care?

    This is Matthew Holt from The Health Care Blog with the article I've threatened Ezra's readers with for some time about what in my view really happened the last time we got serious about health care reform. And in it there are lessons for what we should do when the opportunity next comes up. There are lots of versions about what killed the 1993-4 health care reform effort. Hillary Clinton has now decided that the problem was the lack of incrementalism in her plan . Last week the New York Times said that since becoming a Senator: She has deliberately avoided the major mistake she made as first lady, namely trying to sell an ambitious plan to a public with no appetite for radical change. <SNIP>. She summed up her approach in the first floor speech she delivered in the Senate about four years ago, when she unveiled a series of relatively modest health care initiatives. "I learned some valuable lessons about the legislative process, the importance of bipartisan cooperation and the...
  • All Crazies Are Not Created Equal

    Michael Crowley, in his fun Slate bio of L. Ron Hubbard, writes: Comparable crackpots-in-chief like Lyndon LaRouche and Sun Myung Moon have had almost no detectable national influence. Originally, I was going to say, "tell that to John Gorenfeld." But when I surfed to his site for the link, turned out he'd already written a better response to exactly the same quote. So I'll just copy-and-paste : The late Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard has a high profile, that's for sure. But only in his most feverish, drug-fueled dreams could the inspiration for Mind Head see himself hailed at a U.S. Senate building, toasted in South America by President Bush, or transformed into a major media mogul who's poured a fortune into the Religious Right and the old anti-Communist lobby. The guy owns UPI and The Washington Times. All Hubbard's done is turn Tom Cruise ridiculous. Cults are bad, but let's not pretend they're worse than a messianic nutbag deeply insinuated into the ruling party's media and...
  • Always Low Prices. Sometimes.

    Brad's post on the pro's and cons of Wal-Mart is a good one, not least because he's more balanced than most shrill lefties (read: me) on the subject. One thing I do have to take issue with, though: The low prices increase wages for other people. (Wal-Mart's entry in an area can drive down grocery prices 15 percent .) For low-income families, groceries are a somewhat big percentage of the budget. Wal-Mart's low prices are severely overstated. The company's done such a good job of branding itself your checkbook's guardian angel that folks have begun to believe them. It's not so, though. Wal-Mart squeezes pennies on about 1% of a store's merchandise, what are called cost-sensitive items. How does the number-one retailer maintain an image of low prices? First, by actually making sure its prices are lower than its competitors, at least on key items. These items are called "price-sensitive" items in the industry, and it is commonly believed that the average consumer knows the "going price"...
  • What Democrats Want

    Over at Early Returns , Ken Baer is using Matt Bai's article on Lakoff to lash Democrats for lacking a "public philosophy". Generally speaking, I'm fine with the Lakoff part. Matt Bai's criticism of him, at least the part that Baer quotes, is exactly the criticism I wrote a few months ago, and I'm always excited to see the NYT plagiarizing from my site. But then Baer goes on to say this, and all my warm fuzzies fly away: This, in a nutshell, is the problem with Democrats. We lack an overriding argument or a clear public philosophy. That is, the outlook on politics and government that informs one's stances on the central issues that face a country: from its role in the world to how its goverment should work and how its consensual values should be put into practice. I don't understand people who say this. Generally, when confronted with public policy X, people know which side Democrats are going to come down on. That predictability is informed by a basic understanding of the values that...
  • On Literary Fiction

    Not to march in on Fortuna's territory or anything, but this bit from Nick Hornby's Polysyllabic Spree is too good not to excerpt. He's talking about Zoe Heller's Desperate Characters and, by extension, all "literary" fiction: It's brilliantly written, I can see that much, and it made me think, too. But mostly I thought about why I don't know anyone like the people Fox writes about. Why are all my friends so dim and unreflective? Where did I go wrong? Toward the end of the book, Otto and Sophie, the central couple, go to stay in their holiday home. Sophie opens the door to her house and is immediately reminded of a friend, an artist who used to visit them there; she thinks about him for a page or so. The reason she's thinking about him is that she's staring at something he loved, a vinegar bottle shaped like a bunch of grapes. The reason she's staring at the bottle is because it's in pieces. And the reason it's in pieces is because someone has broken in and trashed the place, a fact...
  • Polling Plame

    Via the Stakeholder , ABC News has started polling on the Rove affair, and, well, it's no wonder that Bush is trying to move his Supreme Court justice up to tomorrow's news cycle. Skepticism about the administration's cooperation has jumped. As the initial investigation began in September 2003, nearly half the public, 47 percent, believed the White House was fully cooperating. That fell to 39 percent a few weeks later, and it's lower still, 25 percent, in this new ABC News poll. This view is highly partisan; barely over a tenth of Democrats and just a quarter of independents think the White House is fully cooperating. That grows to 47 percent of Republicans — much higher, but still under half in the president's own party. And doubt about the administration's cooperation has grown as much among Republicans — by 22 points since September 2003 — as it has among others. Those are bad numbers for an administration that refuses to comment. But then, they're nothing compared to the numbers...
  • A Match Made in Heaven

    Tom Tancredo, the Republican demagogue who's promising to run for president until the Republican frontrunners swear they'll issue executive orders to shoot illegal immigrants on site, seems to be expanding his platform. Till now, it was just anti-Mexican. Yesterday, though, Tom branched out into national security: Talk show host Pat Campbell asked the Littleton Republican how the country should respond if terrorists struck several U.S. cities with nuclear weapons. "Well, what if you said something like -- if this happens in the United States, and we determine that it is the result of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites," Tancredo answered. "You're talking about bombing Mecca," Campbell said. "Yeah," Tancredo responded. Excellent. I'm sure the Muslim world is ecstatic to know that a band of nuts with Russian fissile material could provoke us to detonate Mecca. But happy as they may be, I know a man who'll be even happier, and should really...
  • RoveRoveRoveRoveRoveRoveRoveRove

    From the Washington Post : President Bush, accelerating his search for a new Supreme Court justice, appears to have narrowed his list of candidates to no more than a few finalists and could announce his decision in the next few days, Republican strategists informed about White House plans said yesterday. Advisers to Bush had anticipated an announcement closer to the end of the month, but the White House signaled allies over the weekend to be prepared for a nomination this week, according to the strategists, who asked not to be named because the process remains officially confidential. How odd. I wonder why he decided to move it up so much? Snark aside, that the Rove mess has thrown the White House off schedule with the Supreme Court is about as good as it gets. The less they dictate the news cycle, the less they decide the timing, and the less they can do things according to plan, the better off Democrats are in the upcoming battle. The smart thing now would be to cut Rove loose, stop...
  • Condemning Costco

    Via Nathan Newman comes this NY Times article on how Costco became the anti-Wal-Mart. These pieces pop up every so often to contrast Costco CEO Jim Sinegal's pro-worker philosophy with Sam Walton's throw-them-in-pits attitude. What I love, though, are the clockwork quotes from analysts upset at Costco's good labor practices. Even though Costco's stock price has jumped more than 10% in the last year, even though they sell stock at 23 times what their earnings would predict (Wal-Mart is 19 times), it's not enough. If you're not squeezing the workers, say the analysts, you're not doing your job: Costco's average pay, for example, is $17 an hour, 42 percent higher than its fiercest rival, Sam's Club. And Costco's health plan makes those at many other retailers look Scroogish. One analyst, Bill Dreher of Deutsche Bank, complained last year that at Costco "it's better to be an employee or a customer than a shareholder." ... Emme Kozloff, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Company,...
  • The (Lack of) Power of Prayer

    For the last few years, there's been a fair amount of talk about the medical power of prayer. A few interesting studies came out saying there might be some positive benefit and the excitement swelled from there, hitting every pulpit and spiritual book in the nation. But this week, a study of cardiology patients pretty well disproved it: The study of more than 700 heart patients, one of the most ambitious attempts to test the medicinal power of prayer, showed that those who had people praying for them from a distance, and without their knowledge, were no less likely to suffer a major complication, end up back in the hospital or die. I've never resented the hope that prayer could heal -- that's merely human. But the idea that it could, particularly in the scattershot way the other studies showed, always seemed fairly problematic. So if you pray God makes the ill 5-10% better? And He only does that for some of them? And what of the lonely, who have no one to pray for them? It almost...

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