Ezra Klein

Oops, Uh-Oh, and I Don't Know: Foreign policy chatter

Oops Steve Chapman, in today's Chicago Tribune , writes that the Iraq war may have had the unintended consequence of convincing our foes that they MUST obtain WMD - that Saddam's mistake was not possessing the weapons in order to defend himself against the invasion. Sounds plausible to me. Uh-oh Chapman's solution (read: not mine) in dealing with Iran and North Korea, as a result, is to say, "Ok, you have weapons, we can't invade you right now (Iraq, Afghanistan), and we're not sure we'd even want to anyway (given the risk involved). However, if any nuclear attack (and I'm sure any WMD attack works here as well) can be traced to you guys, the United States will seek to destroy you instantly." Besides continuing the diplomatic discussions, economic incentives, and stern warnings, should the United States make this threat? Similarly, should the United States, along with Europe, lead a global coalition willing to unite and annihilate them in the event of any attack traceable in any...

Style or Substance?

Kevin Drum's post reminds me of a topic that Ezra , Dave Weinfeld , and I (the three interns at the Washington Monthly last summer) frequently commented on: the fact that the Left appears to be much more willing to attack and despise their own hacks, public figures, talking heads, symbolic personalities, op-ed journalists, etc. than than the Right is willing to do regarding their own. Yes, Michael Moore was at the Democratic National Convention, which goes completely against what I am saying here, but through many conversations I've had with both Liberals and Conservatives, I have found exactly what I stated in the first paragraph. There seems to be a lot more Lefties willing to ridicule and debunk Michael Moore, Maureen Dowd, and Molly Ivins than Righties openly distraught at the words written and said by David Brooks, Rush, Robert Novak, and the Wall Street Journal Eds. I hope the reason for this phenomenon is that Lefties really do cherish the truth and/or possess a higher degree...

Piggybacking Matt

Matt Yglesias focuses on Crown Prince Abdullah's scheme to be written up as "reform-minded" in the Western press while simultaneously ensuring that the same Western press will call for Abdullah to stay in power...the Crown Prince being able to institute such a plan by holding very limited elections practically guaranteeing the Islamists a victory. Read his post. The more compelling inquiry is found in studying both America's political response and the general public's response. How Americans react to this event will illuminate our foreign policy's priorities, goals, and expectations. -- Steve Cieslewicz "

Curious Cieslewicz

Just out of curiosity, if you could institute or subtract one government policy or law, what would it be? If you can't reduce it to one, list several. I want this to be as personal of a response as possible so, in order to avoid any powers of suggestion, I'm going to refrain from stating mine (until perhaps a later time) and allow you to speak your minds. -- Steve Cieslewicz

Virtue from Vice

Nothing more aptly applies to the phrase “beating a dead horse” than the legalizing marijuana debate. The common sense arguments for its legalization have been repeated ad nauseam for at least the last 40 years. But I read a Chicago Tribune article last Tuesday (I apologize for not having a link, but really the article is irrelevant)quoting a Richard Nixon appointed commission, “marijuana is relatively harmless and possession of less than an ounce should be legal.” Let’s resolve this inconsistency. When the constitution was an embryo, Alexander Hamilton realized the federal government had to tax. One of the first federally mandated taxes was the whiskey tax and Hamilton’s reasoning was basically: from the consumption of that vice would come virtue i.e. government revenue. This philosophy, of course, continues today via the heavy liquor and tobacco taxes…and the profits reeled in via casinos. The government is able to extract good from people’s “bad” behavior. If this works for liquor...

BLOGosophy

In part due to the reaction toward my Indecent Proposal post and in part do to the nature of my next post, I'd like to make a quick point regarding my interpretation of the nature of blogs. Blogs have three major beneficial effects: dissemination of information, a check on the media (as well as a supplemental source of that media), and blogs create a forum where ideas are placed on a table and then people can either admire, ponder, critique, applaud, add to, subtract from, etc. to those ideas. Blogs create dialogues. I am a person filled with curiosity. My mind wanders, I daydream, and I constantly search for ideas and details that have been hiding in the shade. With that said, I like to play devil's advocate, I like to defend positions I don't agree with, and I also like to tinker with the perception of certain subjects in order to obtain a fuller understanding. The point of this post is that it is much more beneficial for all of us to critique a stance or reasoning, than it is to...

Got Dean

Since it is now official , I'd like to say congratulations to Howard Dean. I supported you for president and I'm glad to see you elected as Chairman. The guy can raise money, energize the base, and connect with television viewers (my grandma absolutely loved him, that is coming from a woman who faithfully votes Republican). A man who was able to expand health care while remaining fiscally responsible (perhaps suggesting efficiency), and a man who courted the gun-rights vote while legalizing civil unions: balance. I like Dean because he understands the biggers picture (of course, this observation is based solely on words rather than actions thus far). He wants to bring the Democrats to the South and the rural areas, and not just focus on swing states. He understands how important it is to have Democrats in positions of power throughout all levels of the political power i.e. school boards. Dean will lead the Democrats down a path where the Democrats are defining who the Democrats are,...

State. Church. Abortion. Reason.

Amy Sullivan, of the Washington Monthly , calls attention to this Pro-Choice America letter citing Senator Harry Reid's Prevention First Act - an act that would make it easier to get birth control and therefore cut down on unwanted pregnancies, unwanted pregnancies being something all people can agree are not good. Of course, the strictest pro-lifers will oppose this because they detest the idea of having sex and not making a baby. Fine. But the following quote is found in the comments section: I am a conservative Christian, and I believe birth control is wrong just as the Pope believes. To use birth control is a sin against Jesus, God, and the bible. Therefore, supporting your attempts at birth control is a sin. If God didn't want fornication to result in pregnancy, God would not have made woman as he did. Birth control is unnatural and violates the natural law. What I find most outrageous about such religious conservatives of any religion is the fact I firmly believe in the right...

Justice Malpractice

I have no earth-shattering comments on this ABA report stating that the legal representation of indigents is in a state of crisis, but I did want to take a moment to publically vent my frustration. The insurance companies cry, Republicans listen, and all of a sudden medical malpractice is placed on the high priority list and becomes a household issue. But people going to jail due to crappy lawyers is, it appears, considered to simply be unfortunate. -- Steve Cieslewicz

Indecent Proposal

The Supreme Court, 1942: There are certain well defined and narrowly limitd classes of speech, [such as the obscene and the libelous, that] are no essential part of any exposition of ideas and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality (as written in Geoffrey R. Stone's Perilous Times : Free Speech in Wartime). With that said, t his year the Super Bowl, unlike many primetime programs, treated its viewers to tasteful programming. Paul McCartney’s wholesome tunes replaced Nelly’s crotch-grabbing, Janet’s peek-a-boo, and Timberlake’s Musketeer mime sex. The commercials, for the most part, refrained from crotch shots, crude jokes, and booby bonanza: the Super Bowl was a primetime event the whole family could sit down and enjoy without awkward “how to explain this one/I’ll explain when you’re older” moments. I suggest the Democrats pounce on this opportunity and...

My Pet Monster (truck)

It is 9 feet high, 21 feet long, 8.5 feet wide, 7 tons, can carry nearly 6 tons in load, and gets 8 miles per gallon…“It” is the new International CXT . In fact, the CXT has a gross vehicle weight rating of 25,999 (compared to the Hummer’s 10,300 lbs.) which is exactly, and purposely, one pound under the 26,000 GVWR minimum requiring a commercial driver’s license. Since the popularity of these behemoths appears to be feverishly expanding, I find it appropriate to transcend the obvious gas-guzzling and pure absurdity objections. First, should there be (is there already?) an extra tax or registration fee (both?) on these and alike vehicles simply due to the enormous wear and tear they will inflict on the roads? There is a “toll” in toll roads because it makes sense to tax the drivers who use those particular paths for transportation. So, should governments charge an extra fee for vehicles that will be unnecessary burdens on the health of public roads? Second, think about it, the GVWR is...

Site Stuff and Introducing Steve

I know the quality's been down a bit over the last week. The posts are shorter, there are fewer of them, and I've increased the spelling errors. Apologies all around. Like a good liberal, I'm going to blame it on something, mainly my decision to graduate early. I'm swamped with job applications, course work, and general craziness. The Prospect Fellowship in particular is trial by fire, requiring a 15-page critique of the most recent issue. As George Bush would aver, it's hard work (I'm a bipartisan excuse-maker). So rather than try to complete all this amid blog posting and massive hyperventilation, I'm taking a break this weekend and going to Pismo Beach with the girlfriend, where we will proceed to ignore each other as we madly tap out our respective applications. Should be fun. As for the site, it'll be hopping, maybe even improved. Rather than leave it dormant, I'm turning it over to my friend (and frequent commentor) Steve Cieslewicz. He was an intern at the Washington Monthly...

iLife

Mark Schmitt's got an excellent, thought-provoking post on the changing face of membership. Contra the Dean campaign and NARAL, he believes the era of dues-paying, weekly-meeting organization has passed, and we should start asking what's next. He's right. I was as enthused as everyone else about the Dean for America MeetUps, but they survived only till the campaign's close, and only thrived while their buzz was enormous. The Democracy for America meetings that succeeded them were a pale shadow of their former selves. And I don't know anyone my age -- including me -- who's a due-paying member of any group, even those we distinctly agree with. What's next? I fear it's this. Virtual community. Mark's observation that he simply doesn't have time to hit up a weekly or monthly meeting is well-taken, and much echoed. But he does have time to run a blog, and he's certainly enjoying the comments and community that have grown up around it. Zooming out, DailyKos has created a hell of a community...

Great Minds, Etc...

Brad Plumer jumps on a hobbyhorse of mine , namely, the need to build more medical schools. There are a mere 125 in the nation, and the competition is so intense that a B here and there disqualifies you. Fast forward a few years and doctors are so overloaded that they make patients wait hours but can only offer them minutes. Residents are in such high demand that they work inhuman shifts and their exhaustion leads to mistakes. Sounds like we need a supply increase. Further, can anybody explain why the pre-med track makes sense for anyone who wants to be a primary care physician? In that job, which mainly consists of treating basic cases, reassuring harried parents, and referring complex problems, interpersonal abilities are the most important attribute. Yet the training ground is an absurd load of sciences that prizes the workhorses above the socially-adept. Maybe we can create a separate track for those wanting non-surgical, non-specialized, non-research based practices? Maybe we can...

I Want A Reality-Based Electorate

Via Kevin Drum , this is really the most amazing graphic I've ever seen: At any given time, significantly more than half of Americans think the government's primary outlays are coming from food stamps and foreign aid. Meanwhile, back in reality-land, Americans spend $32 billion on food stamps and $7.4 billion on foreign aid, all this coming out of a $2.5 trillion budget. The two combined account for about 1.5% of spending. I wonder which party could have misled them so?

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