• Drink! Drink!

    Over at Sirota's place , we get this excellent pic of [Montana Gov.] Brian Schweitzer publicly downing a shot of scotch in celebration of a reopening bar. Looks like fun, not to mention great PR. I've never understood the politician's obsession with ribbon-cutting ceremonies and Rotary Club dinners. It's not that these things shouldn't be attended, but so far as the visibility they bring, headline-hungry congresscritters can really do better. After all, post-Reagan, post-Bush, post-Clinton, post-television, there's no doubt that Americans like their politicians possessing a high "jes' folks" factor, as in that guy's "jes' folks". Speechifying at a brand new grocery store doesn't really play into that. Downing scotch at bar openings does. Some pols understand this, with Guiliani top among them, and Clinton not far behind. Most don't. Not sure why that is though, not only isn't it tough to divine (act like a movie star), but it seems like a hell of a lot more fun. -Ezra
  • The Decline of the Times Op-Ed Page

    Matt Yglesias I'm not. Brad Plumer neither. My posts are not, unfortunately, cascading lists of think tank documents I've absorbed, and I rarely feel able to talk about marginal tax rates. But even little substance-free me was able, on Friday (randomly chosen), to write about Bush's atrocious nominee for UN Secretary, Labor politics in Los Angeles, Social Security privatization, the way presidents from different political parties benefit during foreign policy crises, and the DLC's rapidly-shrinking ability to distance themselves from the credit card bill. You're not gonna catch me defending the quality of all those posts, but at least the intent was sound. So imagine my surprise, as an aspiring journalist consistently certain there's too much fluff and too little meat in my writing, to find the Times op-ed page trumpeting opinion pieces lighter than Splenda. David Brooks, for his part, chimed in with a column about decaf coffee. Worse, it wasn't about waves of decaf drinkers affecting...
  • Ownership Society

    At Friday's regularly-scheduled Social Security passion play, Bush went on a little elocution safari : "I believe everybody should have the opportunity to invest," Bush said. "We want people owning stuff. The more people owning something, the better off America is." The president is ideologizing on a fifth-grade level. Is our children learning? Not from this guy. - Daniel A. Munz
  • Design Changes

    I'm trying to spruce the place up a bit now that I'm all settled in. First order of business was moving the picture, which I think was too prominently displayed. Those wanting to stare at me can now do so in the "About" section. Next up, I need to find a picture for the top banner. My idea was a photo, maybe black-and-white, of a row of empty chairs, or an auditorium. Always seemed like it'd be cool. But I don't know where or how to find that, so I'm kinda stumped. Suggestions from you guys would be great.
  • Citizen-Journalists

    Well Garance knocked that one out of the park.
  • Democracy Freestyle!

    Over the last weeks, an interesting back-and-forth kind of dialogue has developed over the situation in Syria. It's gone roughly like this: Good News: Democracy may, in fact, be on the march in Syria. Bush's strategy worked! Bad News: Pro-Syrian, explicitly anti-American counterprotests dwarfed those staged by the opposition. Bush's imperalist-tinged adventurism in the Middle East has complicated a reform that could otherwise have gone relatively smoothly. It didn't work! Good News: At least the anti-American protesters protested, and didn't resort to violence . Spreading democracy has worked, after all. These are often presented point-counterpoint style, but I'm not sure why any of them are mutually exclusive. They seem to me to be the obvious consequences of Bush's confused policies. He deserves applause for adopting a "forward strategy" on democracy in the region, although it's unclear whether he decided to adopt one until it became obvious that WMD would not be found. But reading...
  • Iron Candidate: Battle African-American

    Political Wire reports that Paul Sarbanes is getting out of the legislating business . It's too bad; Sarbanes is a very good Senator. He's a strong liberal (he voted against Iraq, both tax cuts, and Ashcroft), but he works harder behind the scenes than Barbara Boxer does in front of the cameras. (Don't get me wrong: I love Barb. But she's not exactly a workhorse.) He was a lawyer, a Rhodes Scholar, and an economic adviser to Kennedy. I'll be sad to see him go. In terms of replacing The Sarbanator, both parties have deepish benches. For the Dems, there's Reps. Elijah Cummings and Chris Van Hollen, and Montgomery County Exec. Doug Duncan. Republicans have Reps. Roscoe Bartlett and Wayne Gilchrest, '04 Senate candidate and "The Hobbit" character E.J. Pipkin, and maybe even Gov. Bob Ehrlich. But there are two candidates who would produce by far the most interesting race: Republican Lt. Gov. Michael Steele , and recently-retired NAACP President (and former Democratic Congressman) Kweisi...
  • A Talent for Torture

    With many thanks to commenter Nick, I finally found that Jim Talent quote , and she's a doozy: But a Republican panel member, Senator Jim Talent of Missouri, signaled that, as far as he is concerned, little if any blame rests on American shoulders. "If our guys want to poke somebody in the chest to get the name of a bombmaker so they can save the lives of Americans, I'm for it," Talent said, according to The Associated Press. "I don't need an investigation to tell me that there was no comprehensive or systematic use of inhumane tactics by the American military, because those guys and gals just wouldn't do it." Set aside for a moment the fact that torture is wildly ineffective at procuring information. Set aside that 70-90% of those we tortured were non-combatant civilians. Set aside the fact that Iraqis knew about Abu Ghraib long before we did, and our failure to acknowledge and deal with it seriously only added fuel to the insurgency's fire. And certainly, set aside Talent's gut-...
  • Defense Savings Accounts

    This week's TNR features dueling pieces on Social Security. The second, by Jon Chait, is a principled case for obstructionism, hitting all the points you blog-readers have now committed to memory. The first , however, is by Greg Mankiw, former Chair of Bush's Council of Economic Advisors, and it argues -- I'm not making this up -- that Social Security privatization is a good thing because he and his colleagues at Harvard have similar pension plans (also known as 401(k)s and they like them fine. Excuse me? Putting aside the ivory-tower elitism that should have O'Reilly rushing to retch, can conservative arguments reach any lower? Maybe we should stop funding defense, just for a single year, and give each American an equal share of the savings, which would mean everyone gets a check for $1,332.43. With that money, they can invest in stocks, weapons, whatever they want. It'll be an enormous economic boost, allow consumers to make wise decisions for the future (defense or assets? Hmmm...
  • The Kids Aren't All That Interested

    DHinMI is wondering whether young voters, who seem to support private accounts, will help Karl Rove create the enduring Republican majority he seeks. Nope. Young voters barely care about politics, Social Security excites them about as much as Golden Girls cliffhanger. From 15 years ago. Seriously -- whether or not my generation likes Bush, and the election results resoundingly proved we don't, we're not going to flock to his side because he'll grant the opportunity to transfer 4 percentage points of payroll taxes into private acZZZZZzzzzzzzzz. I like my peers, and I don't mean to feed the stereotype that we're apathetic, but most of us are and, even among those who aren't, the idea that pension plans are going to spark some sort of realignment is absurd. It ain't* going to happen. * See? I'm a populist , sho' nuff.