Ezra Klein

High-Risk Blogging

Wow. This LA Times op-ed is quite brave. It's from an Iranian blogger who spent 36 days in jail for criticizing the regime on her website. Having confessed to her sins, she's now awaiting trial, which probably won't go well for her either. With all that swirling around her, publishing this critique in a major American newspaper (which the American-obsessed Iranians surely keep tabs on) seems like a bad idea, but no one can doubt its courage. Make it worth her while and read the piece .

Second Term Econ

Remember that time when the Bush administration silenced an actuary and lied $100 billion off the cost of Medicare reform so Congress would pass it? That was fun, even quaint. But this is a brave new second term world, baby! And $100 billion bucks ain't shit to these guys, so now they're saying they lowballed by $670 billion. Yowza! That's second term economics for ya! Bam! But second term dynamics shouldn't be forgotten, either. Because right now the Bushies are doggedly trying to ram Social Security privatization through, and having little luck with it. As you followers of Josh Marshall know, the most effective, and common, Republican beg-off has been "y'know, yeah, good idea, but a bit later when the deficit looks smaller". Looks like a bit later just got a lot later, and the Conscience Caucus has found itself a rallying cry. What's that Rahm Emanuel? You want to close this one out? Do it, buddy: "If you're looking for a crisis, I would suggest you look at a crisis that was self-...

Opposite Day

Sam Rosenfeld, talking about Republicans playing the race card, says : I’ve yet to hear any conservative offer a principled defense of a tactic that Republican politicians and right-wing pundits have come to use more and more over the years. Nor have I seen enough attention paid, by anybody, to a development that extends beyond the conserve-race card: In a whole array of arenas, conservatives are now the ones most likely to employ a politics of victimhood and grievance -- the persecuted Christian! the intolerant academy! the oppressive elite of blue America! -- to try to foreclose substantive debate over issues and subsume political disputes into zero-sum battles of culture and identity. The conservo-race card is only the most obvious (and obviously cynical) manifestation of this kind of right-wing identity politics. If it wasn't so corrosive, it'd be really funny. More and more, Republicans have come to embody everything they project onto others. They call liberals big-spenders then...

Koufax Awards

The semi-finals are ending this week. I'm up for "Best Writing" and if you feel like throwing me a vote , I won't hold it against you.

The Red Scare

This was written about a month ago, after I was commissioned to write an article on California's dying Democrats only to find the meme had no truth but the LA Times had no scruples. I wrote this as an op-ed for the Times but they, unsurprisingly, passed. A few days ago, a friend mentioned the same fear to me, so I figured there are a few people who'd still gain from reading this. So enjoy: Any election with the emotional intensity of 2004’s is bound to send the losers into a soul-searching tailspin, desperate to find a political Dr. Phil willing and able to diagnose their electoral afflictions. They reject the idea that a close loss can be a close loss rather than a resounding message, as it argues against a single, easy-to-repair cause and paints a cloudy, uncertain future full of deadlocked contests and unknown outcomes. That’s no fun. Americans like bright colors and bold strokes, if we’re going to lose, we’ll lose big (no matter what the numbers say). And so it’s happened that...

The Master Plan

As Brad Plumer rightly notes , that whole "the era of big government is over" idea is being quickly supplanted by the era of "I kinda like big government and respectfully ask for more". The number of Republicans viewing government as "almost always wasteful and inefficient" has fallen from 74% in the early 90's to fewer than 50% now. Which, I think, goes far towards explaining Bush's Medicare and Social Security reforms. With such precipitous drops in contempt towards the government, someone needs to step in and prove how totally incompetent the public sphere really is. Did 9/11 convince you the government can keep you safe? Watch them blitz a foreign country based on totally incorrect intelligence! Think torture is probably bad for America and an affront to moral values? Your government won't even allow the guy who let Abu Ghraib happen resign ! He tried twice! They're forcibly keeping him at his desk! He also fucked up the war effort! Gah! And that's not all! They're going to...

It Does?

Brad Plumer did a nice job of smacking down an errant peer yesterday: On Sunday, the Washington Post got Laura Thomas, a twenty-something writer, to ponder the future of Social Security. The verdict? "People my age are as likely to believe in Social Security as they are in Santa Claus." Fair enough, but fortunately for retirees across the country, the program exists wholly independent of what someone in their mid-twenties does or doesn't believe. Read the rest.

Same Old Prejudice

Robert Farley asks an interesting question on farm subsidies, namely, if the reason liberals are so quick to line up against them (in violation of our traditional affection for subsidies) because we don't like the rural farmers who vote against our candidates and perpetuate Republican rule. The question is fair, I think, but the answer is no. Liberals share the same mythology concerning the small-American farmer that everybody else does. Insofar as we have a stereotype of country hicks, they're not the salt-of-the-earth families tilling fields and sweating to feed the nation. Indeed, liberals dislike farm subsidies for precisely the opposite reason -- they benefit massive corporations. 80% of farm subsidy recipients get an average annual payout of $768. The top 4%, however, receive an average of $59,000 a year. Topping the list is Tyler Farms with an $8.1 million payout, and trust me, no small family farm are they. Eve more galling, simple redistribution (which, to be clear, I don't...

So Brooksian

Brooks's latest column is so, ugh, Brooksian . Billed as a short history of Deanism, it tries and fails to connect Howard Dean to the breakdown of fraternal orders. Or something. I'm really not sure, but I do know that PZ Myers did an excellent job gutting it: Ooh, there [Brooks] goes, treating some nice words as if they were smutty slanders. "Secular" is a virtue: we live in a secular state, which means it carries out its functions without requiring specific religious beliefs of its citizens. It does not mean that we hunt down and persecute Christians, much as the religious right would like you to think it is so. "Embodying the educated class" is also a lovely advantage to me. He makes it sound like some narrow, weird group of people with freakish habits, but I think he's just trying to play that divisive red-blue state game. Guess what? Alabama is full of educated people! So is Idaho! And Florida! Even Texas, although I understand they have to hide in armed enclaves. Those people we...

Not So Honest

Sam Rosenfeld has a very persuasive rebuttal to my recent post on Bush's farm subsidies. You should read it. I should add, by the way, that I agree with him, but my post was less about the President's conviction in supporting subsidy reform and more about the total lack of conviction that publicly supporting it displayed. As such, color me unsurprised that his support is totally disingenuous -- he's a flip-flopper either way.

Competing Discourses

In context of a post on post-war Japan, Steve Clemons writes: Bush needs to be careful of trumpeting too much about our experience democratizing Japan -- as we were frequently on the side of the anti-democrats. To some degree, Japan democratized despite our promotion of a profound model of structural corruption there -- and the Japanese public and civil society institutions deserve credit. But Bush, as of late, has been warping this history. Read that first line again -- "Bush needs to be careful of...". I've used it myself, Bush better watch for this or that, because he's flagrantly rewriting history/ignoring evidence/contradicting reality. I was wrong. Bush needn't be careful at all. Who in our press is going to stand up and correct the historical record? Is it you, Nedra Pickler? You, Ron Fournier? You, Dana Milbank? You, Judith Miller? Of course not. As Digby is fond of saying, we've entered a full-fledged Foucaultian state of competing discourses, and Steve's -- ours -- takes...

Do You Want More?

I probably shouldn't admit this, but the Linkin Park/Jay-Z mashups are really much better than they have any right to be. Every time I listen to Numb/Encore I either have to write a polemic or punch someone in the face. Fear of jail time is probably going to mean more posting this week.