Archive

  • BUT DO WE...

    BUT DO WE KNOW? My first thought was that I shouldn't comment on "The Politics of Definition" until it was, you know, fully published so that I could actually read the whole thing. But on second thought, this is a blog so who needs due diligence. I have concerns about the idea that the essay's soi disant straightforward thesis: "Progressives need to fight for what they believe in -- and put the common good at the center of a new progressive vision -- as an essential strategy for political growth and majority building," is actually all that straightforward. I wouldn't want to deny that progressives ought to fight for what they believe in, and the evidence that a failure to be perceived as driven by a strong core of basic beliefs is an electoral problem seems strong to me. That said, the metaphysics of the claim seem off-base to me. There's an implicit assumption here that there's something ("what we believe in") that needs to be handled differently -- fought for, communicated clearly,...
  • TIMING IS EVERYTHING....

    TIMING IS EVERYTHING. Buried deep in some bureaucratic catacomb, some pencil pusher has a smile on his face today. Yesterday, the FDA rejected claims of marijuana's medicinal usefulness, courageously contradicting a major study by the Institute of Medicine, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, the highest scientific body in the nation. You show those pointy-heads, FDA! The ruling was even bolder considering that the FDA actively discourages research into marijuana's biochemical effects, routinely rejecting proposals by researchers to conduct gold-standard studies on the subject. As Dr. Craker , a University of Massachusetts professor who applied for permission to grow and study pot but was repeatedly rejected, said, "the reason there's no good evidence is that they don't want an honest trial." So why, exactly, amidst this tawdry story of politics putting its foot on science's throat, do I think some bureaucrat somewhere is having a good chuckle? Well, the ruling came out on...
  • WHEN CROOKS GO...

    WHEN CROOKS GO DOWN. This hasn't gotten much attention, but Silvio Berlusconi is refusing to admit defeat in the Italian election. In this, he has the support of seemingly none of the relevant legal institutions in Italy. What's more, all of the democratic world's left-of-center governments have already congratulated Romani Prodi on his victory. Then again, all of the democratic world's right-of-center governments have done so as well. All, that is, except for George W. Bush 's here in the United States of America. This aligns Bush with Vladimir Putin 's Russia and, well, nobody. The subtext here, naturally, is Berlusconi's distinctive blend of public sector corruption, misgovernment, and low-grade gangsterism that puts his political machine somewhere between Putin's and Bush's on the spectrum of undermining democratic governance. During the 2000 election cycle, naturally, Al Gore didn't want to lose the election. Thus, he pushed his legal claims. But when the courts ruled against him...
  • MORE COMMON GOOD!...

    MORE COMMON GOOD! Over at TAP Online , we�ve posted the first portion of a major study by John Halpin and Ruy Teixeira of the Center for American Progress Action Fund (and other affiliations, in Ruy�s case) called �The Politics of Definition.� The authors have written this paper as a sort of 2006 version of the famous �The Politics of Evasion� by Bill Galston and Elaine Kamarck , the 1989 study that helped lay the groundwork for the Clintonian centrism of 1992. Except that Halpin�s and Teixeira�s goals for progressives and Democrats are a little different. Their conclusions -- totally by coincidence, really! -- are very similar to Tomasky �s in the current cover essay . The paper is 18,000 words long, so we�re going to be rolling it out in four parts over the next few days. Part I gives a general lay-of-the-land discussion, and presents a close parsing of electoral and demographic data showing progressive electoral strengths. Part II will come next Monday, and the rest over the course...
  • Inertia, Budget Reporting and Starving Children

    I had earlier promised to give my explanation for the fact that articles on the budget fail to put budget numbers in a context that would make the millions, billions and trillions meaningful to readers. While laziness is part of the story, the bigger factor is simply inertia, why change? Reporters may agree that it would be very simple and more informative to express budget numbers as percentages of total spending or dollars (or cents) per person, but this is not how their papers did it last year. Including this information is a change, and doing things differently can put you on the spot. In short, since no one put budget numbers in context last year, no one will do it this year. There are forces that overcome inertia. For example, if inaccurate or incomplete reporting was giving readers a bad impression of Microsoft or the pharmaceutical industry, their lawyers and lobbyists would be haranguing reporters and editors on a daily basis, demanding a change in practice. While the media...
  • WAR IS PEACE!...

    WAR IS PEACE! Whoah . . . there's some crazy stuff lurking behind that TimesSelect subscription wall , notably Paul Kane 's notion that "President Bush and Congress should reinstitute selective service under a lottery without any deferments." Why? Well, because if we do, "Iran's leaders and public will see that the United States is serious about ensuring that they never possess a nuclear weapon." This sounds to me like an excellent way to reduce the level of TAPPED content as Garance and Greg need to hold down the fort while Sam , Mark , Ezra and I go off to get killed, but it seems to lack other merits. Kane, however, says it "may be our last best chance to avoid war with Iran." To me, though, the last best chance to avoid war with Iran would be to not start a war with Iran . This thing about responding to Iranian peace overtures would be nice, but I think it's impossible to overstate the role that not starting a war with Iran plays in the Yglesias War-Avoidance Plan. Basically, if...
  • WHEN LEGISLATIVE ASSISTANTS...

    WHEN LEGISLATIVE ASSISTANTS GO BAD. Representative Jo Ann Emerson experiments with a bolder, "straight-talk" approach to constituent correspondence. (Thanks to reader S.M. .) --Sam Rosenfeld
  • MAYBE WE NEED...

    MAYBE WE NEED A DRAFT. Props to TNR 's editors for calling bullshit on "The Mommy Wars." Whatever pitched warfare is raging between mothers who choose to stay home and raise their children and those who decide to work is a minor skirmish, important only because it distracts attention from the real fight -- the one being quietly waged against middle-income families where both parents must work. This is where Republicans show that business profits trump all family values. Bill Clinton 's accomplishment, the Family and Medical Leave Act, allows a mere 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth of a child or the wreckage of illness. It, too, barely benefits the poor, who often can't afford three months without paychecks. Stronger bills exist, notably from Lynn Woolsey and Steny Hoyer , but they're ignored by the Republican majority, trapped in committee and barred from the floor. And so those mothers -- and fathers, for that matter -- who lack the luxury of choosing their employment status...
  • ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE ON...

    ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE ON MCCAIN. Daniel McKivergan offers his view on the John McCain issue: Since Jonathan Chait and others have turned their focus to Sen. McCain the last few days I'd like to add one point -- for now at least -- going back to 2001. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I was his legislative director back then.) Yes, McCain voted against the 2001 tax cut. But his collective reasons for doing so were far different than those of the Democratic caucus. Based on the "surplus" projection, he wanted to enact a smaller tax cut primarily targeting the lower- and middle class (including a child tax credit, a cut in the marriage tax penalty, payroll tax reform, and an estate tax cut capped at five million to reduce any negative impact on charitable giving), ramp up defense spending to substantially enlarge our air, land and naval forces (this was pre 9/11 I may add), fund the transition costs associated with moving toward some form of Social Security personal accounts to ensure its...
  • TENN DOESN'T CARE....

    TENN DOESN'T CARE. It can rarely be said enough, but Tennessee governor and occasional media darling Phil Bredesen is a pretty loathsome sort of Democrat. Having dismantled and tossed 225,000 people off of TennCare -- which provided serious health insurance for the poor, sick, and young -- he's replacing the laudable progam with a cheap rip-off. Cover Tennessee, Bredesen's new idea, will offer insurance to 185,000 folks (I'm still waiting on an explanation for the missing 40,000), but not the ones covered by TennCare. These will be richer, healthier applicants; people who could buy into private insurance but want a cheaper, barebones option. Explaining it, Bredesen boasted that "we have not set up an entitlement program, we can set limits on the number of people who can enroll, we can modify the benefits if we need to, we can change the eligibility requirements, we can change the law.� What a relief, the last thing this country needs its Democratic governors to support are entitlement...

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