Ezra Klein

Sally Ho, Oh Sullivan!

Andy Sullivan is sorta-kinda-maybe leaving the blogosphere, at least for awhile. I don't generally agree with the guy (particularly when he called me part of some imaginary liberal fifth column), but he's one hell of a writer and I've always liked his blog. Plus, when he agreed with you, you could just quote him and appear eloquent by association, which was a nice service. His reasons for leaving are good ones, by the way, you should read them and keep them in mind as you trawl through your daily blog list. This is a medium that overtly discourages consideration, editing and the slow evolution of thought in favor of overheated missives charting an instant reaction. That's got its good points, but it also leads to a lot of mistakes and a fair amount of intellectual mediocrity. I know, for instance, that my ability to read outside works is terribly hampered by the need to stay current on enough blogs, articles and news to feed this site. That's good in keeping me hyper-informed, but it...

We're The Winners, But Where Are The Contestants?

Matt's got a post full of true bigthink on the multipolarity (present and future) of the word, and our position vis-a-vis the emerging powers of China and India. Read it in full. I, on the other hand, am going to zoom in a bit: In military terms, I think there's also less here than meets the eye. As India and China get richer, their militaries will grow more powerful. But it's not as if the American military is so powerful right now that we can credibly threaten to invade China or India (or the EU, for that matter). American global military supremacy simply doesn't take the form of giving the ability to just muscle anybody around. In practice, only fairly ramshackle nations like Serbia and Iraq can really be subdued by the force of our conventional arms. Nothing about Sino-Indian growth is going to change that.... The only possible change here would be if China or India were to somehow acquire the ability to deploy power in this manner. That would certainly have important results, but...

Doctor Said What?

Do we really need a Senate majority Leader saying things like this? "I can play hardball as well as anybody," he said, unprompted, at the end of a recent interview. "That's what I did, cut people's hearts out. On the other hand, I do it to cure them, to heal them, to make them better." Weirdo. When he starts comparing us to cats, it's time to call the police.

Did Summers get Screwed?

Zoe Vanderwolk has emerged out of retirement to defend Larry Summers. I'd do some quoting but her comments really deserve to be read in full, they're the best I've seen on the issue in weeks. Worth noting is that Zoe is a female statistics major at Harvard, if she wasn't around to weigh in on this, some newspaper somewhere would have to invent her. Anyway, go read .

Let's Get Ready to Ruuummbleee

Dean's got it . That, at least, is how it looks, with the only potential obstacle being some bizarre Fowler-led revolution, which I'm just not seeing. Beyond the race and into the reactions, Pelosi and Reid would probably do well to refrain from kneecapping the party's titular head just days before the votes come in. He's clearly got the loyalty of the party's base and, during the primary, attracted significant support. So comments like these are neither truthful nor helpful: "I think that Governor Dean would take his lead from us," said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader. And Mr. Reid said: "The Democratic chairman has a constituency of 447 people. Our constituency is much larger than that." Circular firing squads says what? Also , Tapped has a roundtable on the Doctor's potential chairmanship, and they bring the optimism . Garance Franke-Ruta, however, brings the reporting , and underscores Dean's need for a good manager behind him. Paging Simon...

Free Mags?

My inbox, on any given day, contains The Nation advisory, a dispatch from The Boston Review , and a host of link requests and post pointers. And I love and honor them all. But I'm surprised that my mailbox doesn't contain the same. I know, for instance, that The Washington Monthly sends each issue to every Senator, Congressman and major media personality in the hopes that their coverage will influence the influencers and receive a more visible perch in the wider debate. So I'm surprised that The Monthly and it's competitors aren't showering bloggers in issues, especially considering that our whole game is trolling for interesting and/or provocative reporting that we can use to fuel our writings. If TNR really is serious about attracting subscribers to TNR Digital, wouldn't it make sense to let a few publicizers inside their gates so the locked articles can be teased to a wider audience? My self-interest aside (and with my list of magazine subscriptions, this shift wouldn't help me for...

The "For Something" Trap

I'm rapidly losing patience with the "Dems need to stand for something" trope, the one usually offered by kindly conservatives in the context of well-meaning advice. This week, the guidance was proffered by QandO's Dale Franks , and it's springboard is a Christian Science Monitor editorial that worries itself sick over the Reid-led move towards opposition party. The criticism follows the usual trajectory, a graceful arc from sadness over the failing opposition party to invocation of the now-unemployed Tom Daschle who, the writer predictably writes, would be glad to tell you how well this opposition party stuff works out. Too bad such a fun to write post is so intellectually bankrupt. Tom came from a crimson state that voted for President Bush in overwhelming numbers, so maybe if you're from Dubya country you might not want to be the nation's highest profile opponent of his policies. And I'm sure that's exactly what he'd tell you if you went to his door and asked, rather than simply...

Today's Goodies

• A tad aged, but Kung Fu Monkey misses Republicans. • Jeanne d'Arc preaches it. • Mark Schmitt comes out for Rosenberg, and makes the point that net-savvy isn't the sole or even primary attribute needed. Is he sure? • Henry hooks Easterbrook's Collapse review up to the Insight Machine and returns with this : It seems to me that there’s a shared attitude towards science among various right-leaning technophiles (Glenn Reynolds being a paradigmatic example). Roughly speaking, they tend to agree with science when it suggest new possibilities for human beings (the Singularity! nanotechnology! conquering the universe via spaceflight! longer lifespans!) and to strongly disagree with scientific results or prognoses that suggest fundamental limits to human beings’ can-do ability to prevail over their circumstances (global warming, ecological collapse). Most impressive! I'll see Henry's point and raise him a reversal -- liberals are no less entranced with technology's potential but portions of...

Organize Me!

Paul Waldman's distillation of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' new report is a must for anyone wanting a reminder of the great good unions do their members (good to the tune of a 20-25% increase in salary). As for the canard that unions stifle innovation and choke economies, take a peek at the top 10 unionized states and the bottom 10, and try and figure out which group, on average, has the more advanced economies, higher GDP's, largest tech/knowledge sectors, and best quality of life. Don't worry, it won't take you long.

Mother Jones Rock

Brad Plumer explains how a Democratic bill becomes a law.

Of Ayatollahs and Imams

Somewhere in Mother Jones's impossible to navigate archives, Brad Plumer writes : it might not be the end of the world if democracy in the Middle East gave rise to Islamic governments, as many have feared. Eventually, these leaders have to keep the country running smoothly, and they need to answer to voters. An overly-zealous and incompetent government could well turn people away from religion altogether, or promote the development of a secular society, as we're seeing in Basra. That's a pretty undercovered point. So long as religion is kept out of the public sphere, it gets to play in rhetorical fantasy lands and promise all sorts of utopias for the glorious day when it takes hold of the government. That, for instance, is exactly what what Ayatollah Khomeini used to fuel the Iranian revolution. Religion, which by nature is conceptually unmoored from the terrestrial realities that constrain (if only slightly) the promises of most political parties, can promise nothing short of...

The Politics of Branding

Tucker Foehl points out this interview with Naomi Klein. Her thoughts on the anti-war movement, the state of Iraq, the failure of the left, and basically everything else are worth reading in full, but this caught my eye: So what the Republican Party has done is that it has co-branded with other powerful brands — like country music, and NASCAR, and church going, and this larger proud-to-be-a-redneck identity. Policy is pretty low on the agenda, in terms of why people identify as Republicans. They identify with these packets of attributes. This means a couple of things. One, it means people are not swayed by policy debates. But more importantly, when George Bush's policies are attacked, rather than being dissuaded from being Republicans, Republicans feel attacked personally — because it's your politics. Republicanism has merged with their identity. That has happened because of the successful application of the principles of identity branding. Klein, of course, is an expert on branding,...

Things You Should Be Reading

• The world has an oil problem , but the best solution may be the doomsday scenario of a sharp and irrevocable rise in oil prices. At least, so long as it happens before India and China accelerate into huge dependency on cheap oil. • The president has a problem with his speeches, mainly, that they contradict his actions. While I've already pointed to a few articles offering a general overview of our despotic allies, Steve's rundown of the Uzbeki leader's tyranny is much more viscerally illustrative. • And so long as we're wonking out, head over to Slate for this critique of Hernando de Soto. I've always found his theories appealing, but it seems the evidence isn't stacking up that way. • The Nation has a fawning profile of Dick Durbin , which I link to because Durbin might indeed deserve some fawning. • The NY Review of Books has a longish, wide-ranging profile of Abu Mazen and the likely crosscurrents of his Administration. Well worth the read. The moral of the first two links, by...

And Don't Do It Again

In an otherwise impressive synthesis/review of the current glut of books promising a European Revolution, Tony Judt hobbles his piece with a near-fatal opening: Consider a mug of American coffee. It is found everywhere. It can be made by anyone. It is cheap—and refills are free. Being largely without flavor it can be diluted to taste. What it lacks in allure it makes up in size. It is the most democratic method ever devised for introducing caffeine into human beings. Now take a cup of Italian espresso. It requires expensive equipment. Price-to-volume ratio is outrageous, suggesting indifference to the consumer and ignorance of the market. The aesthetic satisfaction accessory to the beverage far outweighs its metabolic impact. It is not a drink; it is an artifact. Consider the following lazy writer trick: Rather than reporting to find the perfect example that sums up your piece, or simply eschewing a gift-wrapped synecdoche, you spend a paragraph inventing an analogy that'll do the...

Good Show!

Bayh really nailed the framing on Social Security privatization on This Week (the Stephanopoulos show). [L]ook, the president is probably going to talk a lot about ownership and individual choice. I think those are great concepts, and I can support those -- but in addition to the current Social Security system, not as a replacement for it. Look, you may own your home; a lot of Americans do. I bet you have insurance. Ownership and insurance have to go hand in hand. Social Security is the insurance. Senior citizens in our country can always rely on it to make sure they're not desperately poor in their old age. Should we have ownership and choice in addition to that? Yes, we should. But we should never do anything to undermine that insurance. That is one of the bedrock principles of our country. Word. Don't fight ownership and insurance, just force George to make it a topping. If he wants to lay the groundwork for expanding the safety net after we shrink his deficit, I'm all for it. But...

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