Ezra Klein

Know Thy Enemy

Via Kriston , I see Doubleday is taking fire for their decision to publish an al-Qa'eda Reader . The book would consist of translations of tracts penned by the organization's leaders with all profits going to charity. Of course, the usual outcry is emerging, and it's only a matter of time till O'Reilly pops a blood vessel over it, but I'll be first in line to buy a copy. Years ago, Mein Kampf became the top seller in Germany, with the government giving a copy to every newlywed couple and readers lining up in bookstores to purchase what was quickly becoming a must-have for all "proper" Germans. The book was nothing but the ramblings and theories of Hitler, distilled onto the page but retaining all their hatred, paranoia, bigotry and enormity. Had other countries taken a careful look at the tome, maybe stopping Hitler would've seemed less a diplomatic breach and more an overriding priority. But we didn't, and so we understood neither the German agenda nor the depths to which Hitler and...

Sucks For You, Now About My Offer...

Michael nails this one nicely. Generally, the US government works off a speak no evil policy where, if they're not talking about a problem, it doesn't exist. It's quite convenient, actually, appearing as less an oligarch's callousness than a child's sweet, blissful ignorance. The government couldn't have done anything, they didn't even know! Which brings us to Bush's grossly self-serving use of African-American life expectancies. Having spent four years doing nothing to make their lot better, he suddenly revealed a full knowledge of black inequality. Which means he has spent four years being aware that African-Americans die before their time and, with the entire power of the American government arrayed before him, consciously chose to do nothing about it. And he has decided, finally, to publicly acknowledge it not in order to rectify the injustice, but to push an unrelated policy that'll help -- guess who? -- rich white folks. Bush has done a lot of disappointing things. He's done a...

Duck Hunt

Nicholas Thompson's case for Chief Justice Scalia is persuasive, but a tad optimistic. While I agree that, given Scalia's predictability, intelligence, and symbolic value to the right, we'd benefit from a trade that put him in Rehnquist's place and filled his vacancy with a moderate, what in Bush's history or character makes Nick think such a trade is even within the realm of possibility? Is there any evidence that Bush is a political moderate held hostage by his association with the Christian Right? Is there any evidence that the Republican-held Senate won't vote to confirm a conservative nominee? Is there any evidence that Bush, having made this deal, wouldn't immediately renege on it or define "moderate" as arch-conservative? Far as I can tell, there isn't. Now, I support nominating Scalia for Chief Justice. He's a lightning rod with questionable ethics and and reams of extremist public statements, all atop a singularly unappealing public persona. So let's have that confirmation...

Ding, Dong

Doug Feith has quit . Oh happy day! The prime incompetent amid a sea of pretenders, he distinguished himself as an omnipresent voice for incompetence, playing a crucial part in fucking up of the invasion, and occupation, of Iraq. To quote Suellentrop: Of all the revelations that have surfaced about the Abu Ghraib prison-abuse scandal so far, the least surprising is that Douglas Feith may be partly responsible. Not a single Iraq war screw-up has gone by without someone tagging Feith—who, as the Defense Department's undersecretary for policy, is the Pentagon's No. 3 civilian, after Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz—as the guy to blame. Feith, who ranks with Wolfowitz in purity of neoconservative fervor, has turned out to be Michael Dukakis in reverse: ideology without competence. Should be getting a Presidential Medal of Freedom any day now.

At Least Give Us An Abacus

So, as Jesse finds out, the Cato and Heritage Social Security calculators are totally misleading. But the real question is, why don't liberal organizations have similar, albeit less lie-filled, calculators online? Why isn't the DNC hitting their list with a calculator letting them see what the Bush plan could do to their retirement? Why isn't Kerry e-mailing the world with his progressive-themed java applets? I mean, not to pick on anyone, but CAP doesn't even mention Social Security on their front page! The Heritage Foundation, in contrast, has it (along with their !@*!#& calculator) in as prominent a spot as they could find. The right's institutions, while certainly mendacious, are a hell of a lot more focused than ours. The calculators, by the way, are a good example of what I was inarticulately arguing earlier about the political adeptness of policy organizations.

Clinton 2.0

Da Moose is right , Hillary is making the sweet moves. If Bill's enormous charisma and obvious potential gave him the credibility to cross liberals on key policies (or symbols), Hillary's position as bugaboo of the right and liberal icon is allowing her to assume unorthodox stances on issues where progressives desperately need some creative repositioning. And it's freedom she's taking, at least if her efforts to stake out consensus ground on choice and tougher, but fairer, positions on immigration reform are admissible as evidence. I've said it before, but after spending three years laughing at Hillary for President remarks, I'm starting to take them quite seriously. Now, if I could only power through The Right Nation and The Persian Puzzle , maybe I could get to Hillary's Turn and give you all a feel for her abilities as a campaigner. Ah, bookshelf, why must you mock me so?

Policy Pitfalls

Brad's got a good post on the ironically named Copenhagen Consensus, Bjorn Lomberg's blue-ribbon panel to determine the most cost-effective forms of environmental activism. His point -- that it'd all be well and good if governments would actually follow the recommendations rather than just use them to knock down spending on global warming prevention is well-taken, and one that's relevant far beyond Lomberg.

Suggestions?

Privatization . Private accounts . Personal accounts clearly have but a few days left before some forgetful pundits start getting Guantanamo'd for the term. And yes, we could just watch successive labels fall like manna from the lips of Luntz, but here at EK Inc., we like to stay ahead of the curve. So what's the next, next, next name for this kick in the New Deal's gut gonna be? Best answer gets a mention, and the transcendent joy that comes from seeing your label appear in my posts. Get crackin'. Update : Matt's got a great idea ...

Talking 'bout Labor

Nathan Newman, as usual, has the indispensable last word on the labor debate. Arguing over how to revitalize labor and publicize its internal struggle for reform is well and good, but bloggers would be better used and the movement better off if they focused their attention towards individual, on-the-ground labor fights. Point taken. To start, he suggests signing up for e-mails from American Rights at Work (done) and shining the light on the Bush NLRB's various outrages, the most recent being their ruling that supervisors who advocate for a union taint the election and invalidate the results, while supervisors who campaign against a union are perfectly kosher. Done.

Kramers

Sue reminds me of what impressed me most about DC -- the brilliant merging of the bar and bookstore. My drunkenness is seriously impeded by my nerdiness, hanging out with the books often wins over cracking open some beer. Usually, this inconveniences only my girlfriend*, who is stunningly tolerant of my poor life choices. Other groups of people, however, are less enthralled by periodicals and usually respond to my suggestions with a mix of derision and incredulity. But DC! There I can suggest going to the bars and sneakily lead to a bookstore. It's a dream come true. *How I got a girlfriend is an excellent, excellent question. Chalk it up to freestyle shirt buttoning.

What About Promotional Flashlights and S'mores?

I really like James Wolcott's idea for a weekly Air America show about Bush-based conspiracies. But it'd have to be done right. A shrill show with unlikely sounding tales repeated breathlessly by a too-dramatic host would be no good, it'd make liberals look nuts. But a show with a slightly incredulous host, who could deal with the theories in a skeptical but respectful manner could be very effective. God knows the material is there; even those of us who dismiss most of the tales can't but shake our heads at the appearance of total impropriety and desperate secrecy the Bushies seem dead-set on achieving. And simply giving those connections free reign -- letting hardcore viewers believe the conspiracies while most are unpleasantly surprised by the skull-and-daggers mask so often worn by this administration -- would be an interesting show, not to mention the good it'd do by promoting some of these stories into the mediastream. Add in some laughs through a sane-everyman-in-a-world-gone-...

American Mediocrity

How is Michael Lind so damn prolific? If he's not writing books rearguing Vietnam or tracking Southern ascendance , he's penning must-reads on America's burgeoning dispensability in foreign affairs. And I thought bloggers covered a lot of ground. Jealousy aside, Lind's piece , sneakily reprinted by Steve Clemons, is the best big-think I've read on foreign policy in the last couple of months. American exceptionalism, until recently an international belief, is now confined to mere regions of our own country. But since those regions control the bully pulpit, the world is finding itself more and more contemptuous of the arrogant, hypocrital, self-defined superpower righteously condemning the uncooperative just before begging for their help. As a result, various areas of the world are uniting to create international superstates, confederations of countries unified in world affairs, often for the sole purpose of blunting American influence. And it's working, both in practical matters and in...

Pesky Political Bedfellows

James Dobson, fresh from protecting our children from the persuasive homosexual arguments of aquatic cartoon characters, has turned his attention to bigger, harder, longer fights. Namely, homosexuals (what can I say? The guy's got focus). Along with some Christian superfriends, he's formed The Arlington Group and written Karl Rove a letter promising to sink Social Security privatization private accounts obliteration if Bush doesn't move faster on outlawing his Vice-President's daughter. Dobson has reason to be worried. Bush, of course, famously broke with the party platform and argued that: "I don't think we should deny people rights to a civil union, a legal arrangement, if that's what a state chooses to do so." When Charlie Gibson asked if he was disagreeing with the GOP platform, Bush, shooting characteristically straight, replied "Right". Only it seems that his inflection was off. What he meant to do was say "Riiiiight", give a wink and cross his fingers. At least that's what...

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