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  • Elizabeth Anderson Will Set You Free

    The full moon is out, and I'm about to change into my werewolf form and run off into the night, performing various ethical deeds. But while I'm still a mild-mannered philosopher, let me point anyone interested in political philosophy to Elizabeth Anderson's latest post . It contrasts two kinds of freedom -- freedom as non-interference and freedom as expanding one's opportunity set. The former is the one emphasized by libertarians, but the latter is the one that's worth caring about. If the only kind of freedom that matters is that no one intentionally interfere with one's formal freedom of action, and not that one's opportunity set be large and full of worthwhile options, then freedom-lovers would have to oppose traffic laws, stop lights, and so forth, for interfering with freedom of movement... By contrast, if we give up certain formal freedoms--to run red lights and stop signs, to drive indiscriminately across lanes--we get in return a vastly expanded opportunity set, including the...
  • A Strike Against Canonization

    Yeah yeah, not the most credible source, but if true...
  • The Personal Isn't Political

    David Brooks' paean to the pre-Senate Bill Frist is a puzzling piece of work. I mean, I'm as glad as the next guy that Frist broke off his engagement, has loyal friends, and wrote an occasionally self-critical memoir, but really, who cares? Since hitting the Senate chambers, He's been such a stunning flop, such a weak-willed opportunist, such a hapless, outmaneuvered patsy that the conversation on him is really over. After all, good men can be great in private, but the presidency demands great men able to excel in public. For that reason, Frist's private persona and trail of well-wishing acquaintances is as immaterial as his favorite sandwich, the proving ground was his ability to stand firm and do right while in front of the cameras. Unfortunately, he spent his days slavishly courting interest groups, using the Senate as a promotional vehicle, and finding himself caught hand in cookie jar each time the media turned on the lights. Having Schiavo proved blind after Frist tele-diagnosed...
  • Things happen in Gitmo

    The first time I saw the "What Happens in Gitmo Stays in Gitmo" T-shirts , I thought some liberal group was selling them to call attention to prisoner abuse and to the government's ability to control the news flow out of Guantanamo. Furthermore, anything that makes people more aware of the existence of Guantanamo hurts Bush more than it helps him. As it turns out, the shirts are being sold by Rush Limbaugh. Don't buy them, I guess, because Rush will get your money and he'll just blow it on drugs. But be happy that Republicans will advertise our position by wearing them. And what's with putting in that apostrophe to make it "G'itmo", anyway? -- Neil the Ethical Werewolf
  • You Trust Me? Really? Why?

    Powerful article in the Times today about the real-world impacts, effects, and uses of Social Security. The piece profiles a set of seniors in Grand Rapids, digging into how Social Security affects, and in some cases, dictates their lives. One quote in particular stood out: But others, like James Townsend, who worked as a forklift operator, defend the traditional program. "If they hadn't had Social Security, I wouldn't have saved that money," he said. "If I'd had extra money, I'd have spent it. I wouldn't have anything at all." Generally, that strikes me as the primary divide between those in philosophical solidarity with private investment and those ideologically opposed. Putting aside clawbacks and phase-out and everything else, would you support a competently structured privatization program? Republicans answering the question usually say yes because they "trust people with their own money". That always struck me as hopelessly naive. In a society where the average man on the street...
  • Gird Your Loins

    A few days ago, Kevin Drum was worried that pushing aggressively for a pullout from Iraq would get Democrats tarred as the party that lost the war. Kevin isn't arguing against pullout -- he spends much of the post attacking delusional people who think we can beseech the Troops Fairy for another 100,000 soldiers, and then acknowledges that withdrawing is all we can do. Only then does he go into Gloomy Kevin mode, bemoaning the evils that might befall us after the troops leave. Fear not, O moderate Democrat, and hearken to the whirlwind that rides the Downing Street Memos. As the realization that we're in a quagmire develops outside the Democratic Party, we reach the moment when criticisms of the Bush Administration's non-planning for reconstruction will have maximum impact. (Thanks for the link, Shakespeare's Sister .) Now is the time to press -- the more intensely people are aware that Bush's lack a postwar plan saddled us with this dismal set of choices, the less likely it is that we...
  • Don't Kick the Donkey!

    There's been some discussion recently about how centrist Democrats should talk about people more liberal than themselves. Sometimes centrists attack liberals because they're worried that the Democratic Party will be perceived as some kind of crazy liberal party and will lose its appeal to moderate voters. The centrists are right that it's worth some sacrifices to win moderate voters, since we need moderates to win elections and govern. But some of the standard centrist moves actually do more to damage the party's appeal to moderates than to improve it. Regard the DLC-Dean story from the primaries as a cautionary tale. Despite Dean's centrism on issues like gun control and the budget, the DLC treated him like a fringe candidate for his opposition to the Iraq War, which they thought would alienate moderate voters. Partially thanks to them, he's now regarded as a radical. The DLC didn't even dream that they were giving their future party chairman a radical reputation, but that's what...
  • Big Bird's Values are My Values

    The Republicans are proposing some pretty huge cuts in funding for PBS -- $100,000,000, or 25% of PBS' budget. This should be an opportunity for any Democrat who wants to make a play for the parent vote -- unless you're worried about the liberal media contaminating your children's minds with literacy, you'll probably support PBS. Another possible way for Democrats to gain ground in the culture wars, suggested by Matt Yglesias , is legislation that allows parents to buy some cable channels and not others. Republicans are against this measure because of cable company campaign contributions, and I think there's a lot to be gained in being the party of Family Choice Cable. -- Neil the Ethical Werewolf
  • Unintentional Irony Watch

    From Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs, in response to Dean's condemnation of anti-semitic literature: But the problem is, the bigots are already inside, and they’ve taken over the DNC’s message, thanks in large part to the cheapening of political discourse spearheaded by none other than ... Dean himself, who says he “hates Republicans.” All you have to do is visit bile-spewing web sites like Democratic Underground and Daily Kos to see how much of their “base” is simply insane. Man, that guy's got self awareness like Charlie Brown's got field goals. Or maybe Johnson has a split personality writing all the vile, racist stuff but hiding it, Zaphod Beeblebrox-like, from the rest of him? Weird.
  • Misunderestimated on Every Channel

    Tiereny's column on TV's "doofus dad" is suprisingly perceptive today. Well worth a pre-father's day read. It is, after all, a pretty interesting TV phenomenon. If the majority of shows presented other demographics the way they present fathers, they wouldn't survive a day. Ignorant blacks? Bitchy, materialistic moms? Moronic, accident-prone dads? The whole set fits, but only the last is widely allowable. Odd. Maybe white males, as the dominant majority, are secure enough in their power and public image not to mind? Maybe they're the last demographic group safe to infantilize because, as of yet, they haven't protested their portrayals? And is it white males, or do the black-acted sitcoms work off the same format? Ah, the mysteries of pop cultures. Tierney's answer, which makes sense, is that 3/4ths of sitcom viewers are female, and this is what they like. Maybe. Or maybe it's just that the stereotype works for everyone. Aggrieved women get to laugh at a father worse than their husband...

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