Flashback: When Bill Clinton Was A Populist
June 25, 2008

While I was hunting down video links for my item about vice presidential candidates and their great moments in campaign debates, I stumbled across the clip below, which is from the 1992 campaign. It doesn't feature the veep candidates, though. It showcases Bill Clinton going up against George H.W. Bush in what would become an iconic moment of that campaign. For those who don't remember, this was second of the three presidential debates that year. It was a town hall-style event, with audience members asking questions.

About That Education Crisis
May 20, 2008

This email just in from a reader education analyst Sara Mead*: I just saw your Plank post on the new AAUW study; since you had questions about its objectivity (which is fair, given the documented problems with their 1992 "how schools shortchange girls" report), I wanted to direct you to a report I wrote for Education Sector, a nonpartisan education policy think tank, two years ago.

I'll Take Helen Suzman Over Nadine Gordimer Any Day
April 29, 2008

Nadine Gordimer is, at 84 years, still an elegant lady. She is also a Nobel Laureate in Literature and so some people hope that she does and others hope that she doesn't come to a writers's conference or not. Especially if the conference is in Israel and coincides with the 60th anniversary of its independence.  Frankly, I couldn't care less whether she chose to attend the conclave. Israel's literary reputation does not hang on her participation. It has enough moral spirits who write with incandescent words to do without her.

Is Bush The Worst President Ever?
April 07, 2008

According to this poll, 61% of professional historians think George W. Bush is the worst president of all time. Matt Yglesias adds: More interestingly, I also take the view that Bush is probably correct to think that history will remember him kindly. American presidents associated with big dramatic events tend to wind up with good reputations whether they deserve them or not.

What Should Come First?
April 07, 2008

A few days ago, Obama again told reporters that he'd like to give Al Gore a "major role" in his administration—something climate-related. Yes, Obama's angling for an endorsement, etc. etc. but I wonder… Every so often, like at last December's NPR debate, Obama sends off signals that he wants to make energy and climate change the centerpiece of his domestic-policy agenda if he gets elected. By contrast, it seems likely that Clinton would make health care her top priority. I'm sifting through tea leaves here, but that's my best guess.

Poll On The Economy (bad!) And Liberalism (not So Bad!)
April 03, 2008

The latest CBS/New York Times poll is out and its full of provocative results. The headline (literally) is "Weak Economy Sours Public's View of Future." Among the findings: 48 percent of Americans say the economy is "fairly bad" while another 30 percent say it's "very bad." The last time the CBS/Times poll captured such pessimism was January of 1992, while the country was deep in recession. Not surprisingly, the economy is also voters' top concern: 32 percent say it's the most important problem facing the country today.

Shariah Sham
March 24, 2008

In this week's issue, Leon Wieseltier has a great take-down of Noah Feldman's recent NYT Magazine article about Shariah. I found Feldman's article so misguided that I could not help myself from building on Leon's argument and pointing out some of the numerous flaws in Feldman's piece: - Feldman claims that the reason Islamist parties are so popular in the Middle East these days is that they promise a return to Shariah as the guiding principle of governance.

Climate Tweaking Made Easy
March 07, 2008

The rough consensus among climatologists these days is that, if we want to stave off the worst effects of global warming, we're going to have to stabilize carbon concentrations in the atmosphere at about 450 parts per million by mid-century (we're at about 383 ppm now). That means whopping emissions cuts, especially in the United States and Europe—but also in China, India, and elsewhere. It all sounds so drastic, no?

John Mccain, Economic Fuddy Duddy
March 04, 2008

John McCain will be a formidable general election candidate, I know, but I still think economic policy is going to bedevil him politically. In his remarks to supporters tonight, he devoted all of three paragraphs to economic issues.  That's not a huge amount of attention for what is, according to most polls I've seen, the voters' top concern.  But put that aside and look at the way he talked about it:* I will leave it to my opponent to argue that we should abrogate trade treaties, and pretend the global economy will go away and Americans can secure our future by trading and investing only amon

Israel Is To Blame
February 06, 2008

There have been several United Nations Development Reports on the Arab world, and all of them have reported virtual disasters in every field: education, reading and translation of books, women's entrance into mainstream society, literacy, life expectancy and infant mortality. Now comes a more specific study from the World Bank about the results of forty years of investment in schooling. Another across-the-board disaster. The FT reports this morning that "Middle East and North Africa schools fail the test." Which test? Every test. Why? The usual.