Ezra Klein

A Miracle?

I had no idea that one man fixing his faucet could so perfectly parallel the evolution/creationism debate!

No, I Mean Really Hit Me

Congratulations to the LA Times' on their new and ballsy op-ed feature, "Outside the Tent", wherein an unaffilated writer trains his guns on the LA Times and blasts them for their deficiencies. While the feature sounds like the ombudsman/public editor dispatches that other papers carry, Kinsley's page isn't pretending at dissent by allowing a neutered "reader's advocate" (who receives checks signed by the paper and has a desk adjacent to those he's criticizing) to write a column. Instead, the LA Times is inviting flamethrowing writers from opposed publications to scorch their printed earth. This week, Marc Cooper, of The Nation and The LA Weekly, steps up to the plate and swings at "objectivity", particularly in the paper's Iraq reporting. Why, Cooper asks, should the few correspondents brave enough to be on the ground be forced to contaminate their reporting with government press releases while the editorial page, safely ensconced in Los Angeles, can write what they want? Cooper's...

They All Have Kids and They All Get Checks

We're not gonna get those goddamn polygamy queens off welfare until we get a good, God-fearin' Christian heading the HHS. Too bad Bush's nominee ain't the guy.

How We Got Here

Democrats really need to assign someone to troll the archives of Cato, The Heritage Foundation, and the American Enterprise Institute, as it's becoming all-too-clear that the future, and for that matter, the present, trajectory and tactics of the conservative movement are all laid out in the Nostradamic papers published within the walls of think tanks. But if Democrats have ignored the Rosetta Stone, the LA Times hasn't, and their staff archaeologists have emerged with an article tracing the genesis of Social Security Privatization. Moving from a CATO journal tract on "Achieving a Leninist Strategy" for Social Security privatization all the way to Bush's crucial meeting with Chile's top privatizer, the piece tracks the guerrilla effort that spent the last three decades convincing the conservative movement that Social Security needed privatization and has now turned it's sights on the whole country. It's today's must-read .

Iraqi Elections

I'm with Matt on the Iraqi elections, a day that will go down in history but be forgotten the morning after. Like the June 30th handover, this is a largely symbolic event whose success -- given the constraints of Sunni non-participation -- will be forgotten by nightfall. At the moment, the streets seems blissfully clear of shrapnel and gore, and I think they'll probably remain so. The insurgents realize that, with or without attacks, tomorrow's elections will produce a government. So why expose themselves to the elevated risk promised by the day's enhanced security? They can lay low for a day, or even a few, waiting for the heads of government to shift (or, if Allawi wins, emerge codified) and the new leaders will find themselves no more protected than the old. After all, an Iraqi-led government has been "ruling" for months now, what do the insurgents care which Shi'ite is at its helm? Americans, for our part, will spend the morning watching CNN say the same thing a thousand ways. We'...

Finding Demigods

Digby's got a predictably terrific post on the need for more telegenic, effective, and conscientious media representation among the Dems. Like me, Digby has latched onto the heuristics of elections as the crucial component. Terrorism, the economy, social values -- these things matter substantively, but they generally manifest in predictably symbolic, superficial, ways. As Matt Yglesias rarely tires of noting, the Democratic policy elite -- both foreign and domestic -- are excessively capable, but the leaders they advise are rarely judged as favorably. That's because the game is appearance. If Kerry radiated military the way Clark did, terrorism would have been no problem; if he oozed empathy as Clinton could, he would have won on kitchen table issues; if he could project the longing for propriety that Buchanan perfected, social values wouldn't have been a problem. Of course, the last thing I want the Dems doing is studying the Buchanan's playbook ("Screen left! Pick the Jew!"), but we...

The Dean Machine

Continuing his historical habit of accumulating surprise endorsements, Dean got the nod from Harold Ickes this morning. Ickes, of course, is cleaved to the Clintons, and his emergence at Dean's side effectively ends all speculation that Hillary is standing athwart his candidacy yelling "Stop!". Here's the money quote or, more to the point, the money leak: Ickes, who heads the political action committee of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., said the endorsement was his alone and "does not reflect Sen. Clinton's opinion." While Ickes would not comment on the Clintons' preferences, he is a close ally and would not be endorsing Dean against their strong objections. No one was immediately available in Sen. Clinton's office to comment. Italics, of course, are mine. The appearance of such a speculative paragraph in an AP article, of course, is Clinton's. And without their opposition, I just don't see Frost mounting a strong enough challenge to topple the governor. The funny thing is that...

Backs Patted, Arms Tired

Jack Shafer's decided to take on the dicks who tout the blogs and I, as a blogger, could not agree more: When the Times' Abramson asked rhetorically if the conference bloggers had any idea how much it cost to maintain a news bureau in Baghdad, the supreme confidence of a couple of bloggers fractured into petty defensiveness. "That's a silly question!" snapped Winer. "Asking bloggers what this costs is silly. If you want to tell us what it costs, that's fine. ... But there are bloggers in Baghdad! That's your competition; that's what you have to deal with." Moments later, Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine criticized the Times for missing an antiterrorism demonstration in Baghdad that an Iraqi blogger photographed and posted. The Times ignored this story, Jarvis claimed, because it ghettoizes news gatherers who aren't professionals. Abramson shook her head as he spoke. "We're not trying to ghettoize anyone," Abramson said. "So why did you shake your head!?" the ordinarily composed Jarvis...

Speak It, Brother

Clinton has some wise words on Iran: He called Iran a far more formidable foe than Saddam Hussein's Iraq and a "perplexing" country split between "two governments": a hard-core minority that controls security forces and a reformist, pro-Western majority. A hasty and bloody military strike might alienate that majority , he said. "We ought not to do any [military action] until we have exhausted all reasonable diplomatic efforts," Clinton said, describing the main danger of a nuclear Iran as the potential transfer of nuclear materials to terrorists. "Deterrence still works, just like it did between us and the Soviet Union. So if Iran had a nuclear weapon, the main thing it would do is cast a pall over the Middle East. But they'd have to think a long time before they used it, because they'd be toast if they used it." Sadly, we've already alienated that majority, and most others, with a hasty and bloody military strike in Iraq. But Bill's right, we'd be better off not doing it twice.

The Whine and Cry Faction

So Republicans are complaining that Times piece on Chile's privatize Social Security system was biased against privatization. They're shrieking about robocalls telling constituents that so-and-so wants to privatize Social Security. They're picking up, abandoning and then demonizing terms so quick that copy editors are left in the corner with a martini and tears. Does it seem to anyone else like they've already lost this fight?

Swift Vets for Electoral Gain

Jerome Corsi, coauthor of the SwiftVets book, is moving to Massachusetts to challenge Kerry in 2008. And I can't imagine how sweet it will feel for Kerry when he electorally crushes this lying carpetbagger.

Bayh The Way

Evan Bayh voted against Rice? Seriously? He might as well have printed up "Bayh '08!" stickers and plastered the Senate podium with them. You know who's not running? Lieberman. His argument that Rice's great virtue is "the world knows she has the President's trust and confidence" is severely lacking in Joementu . What if we started nominating people who simply inspired trust and confidence, rather than showing their virtues to a select few? Wouldn't that just work better all around? And what if we, speaking as a party now, started challenging those who long ago ceased inspiring trust and confidence in us? Yeah, that sounds like a good idea . P.S -- Sorry for the awful, awful, pun.

The "Purple Nurple" Theory of International Relations

I agree with Justin that Israel's brinksmanship towards Iran has some US backing behind it. We're a bit tied up at the moment, so they're providing the promise of force that our people, and resources, won't allow. But the Bush Administration is making the same mistake with Iran that they've made everywhere else. Bush himself, by turning himself into a hated figure, has sabotaged our foreign policy by making it popular to oppose him. Thus, when we've got an unpopular priority it makes domestic sense for other countries to deny us our wish. Using Israel to threaten Iran creates the same scenario. Nothing does more for an unpopular Middle East autocracy's approval numbers than standing up to Israel, it's political viagra. Not only that, bringing a verbal aggressor into the picture weakens the EU's hand; suddenly, their calming tone is undercut by Iran's sworn enemy, who's now hopping around in the corner and providing proof for Iran's paranoid weapons rationale. I forgot where I saw it (...

"The Red Light Means Time, Not Kill"

The Washington Post has a great article on Democracy training in Iraq. While most commentary is focused on macro issues like ethnic tensions, tribal loyalties and the whims of the insurgency, it's easy to forget about the basic glitches, like the fact that none of these candidates have ever run for office before. And it's nice to see that our election institutions, unlike the Pentagon and their soft-money problems , are playing no favorites. When the Communist party is ecstatic at the quality of American training and help, we're doing something right. And when the unnamed Hill vet/Kerry voter who's running the program returns to the states, I hope she runs for office herself. Democrats for democracy indeed...

Bush's Chilean Fiction

The Times, unwilling to buy Bush's idealization of Chile, has run a stake through the heart of that comparison. The article on the failings of Chile's privatization system is excellent all around, but this is the money quote: "It is evident the system requires reform," the minister of labor and social security, Ricardo Scolari, said in an interview here. Chile's current approach based on private pension funds has "important strengths," he said, but "it is absolutely impossible to think that a system of this nature is going to resolve the income needs of Chileans when they reach old age." Privatization has its strengths, but it's not a system that can resolve the income needs of our seniors when they reach old age. For the better part of a century, Social Security has. Bush can shout his "reforms" from building tops nationwide, but that doesn't change the simple fact that he wants to transform an income that guarantees dignity for seniors into a supplementary check that'll send them...