March 12, 2009

Against Pragmatism
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WASHINGTON--Maybe pragmatism isn't enough after all. President Obama regularly speaks disdainfully of "ideology," says he is focused only on "what works," and loves to be described as "pragmatic." Well, sure. No one ever admits to being an ideologue, and as historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. observed many years ago, democratic government should be about "the search for remedy." But there comes a time when first principles need to be articulated. The economic crisis has let loose a furious philosophical debate over the meltdown, its causes and its cures.

Health Care Reform, A San Francisco Treat
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Anthony Wright is executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition.

Economists Grade The Obama Administration
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From the Journal's indispensable Phil Izzo--let's just say not quite as good as Obama's law school grades: A majority of the 49 economists polled said they were dissatisfied with the administration's economic policies. On average, they gave the president a grade of 59 out of 100, and although there was a broad range of marks, 42% of respondents rated Mr. Obama below 60. Mr. Geithner received an average grade of 51. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke scored better, with an average 71. ... The economists' negative ratings mark a turnaround in opinion. In December, before Mr.

March 11, 2009

Shot in the Arm
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WASHINGTON--A decade ago, the U.N. General Assembly set an objective of "eliminating or significantly reducing" narcotics cultivation and trafficking "by the year 2008." According to the data of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, the effort has been an unmitigated disaster. Opium and cannabis production has doubled, while cocaine has slightly increased.

Barack’s Too-Long Wish List
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A surprised Rudolph Penner, assistant director of President Ford’s OMB and later a CBO director, offered a blunt assessment of the new president: “[He] has proposed a huge restructuring of government, and people are actually taking him seriously.

Do or Dybul
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On January 9, Ambassador Mark Dybul circulated a memo to his staff informing them that President-Elect Barack Obama’s transition team had asked him to stay on, at least temporarily, as the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, a position to which he had been appointed by President Bush in 2006. The backlash from AIDS activists was swift.

When Libertarians Cry

Getting fired is never easy, but the brush-off that bloggers at the Pajamas Media Ad Network received this January was particularly callous. "I just received a Dear John form letter," says Jeff Goldstein, a libertarian and mixed martial artist who writes on the blog Protein Wisdom. The notice began as a promotion for Pajamas Media's new TV channel, but buried halfway through was news that Goldstein's contract--and those of his fellow bloggers on the PJM Ad Network--would be terminated. When I spoke to Pajamas Media CEO Roger Simon five days later, he was unsympathetic.

Obama's Earmark Bind
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First Read had some smart thoughts on the subject today: *** Becoming John McCain: When it comes to the topic du jour -- legislative earmarks -- it’s fascinating how the political world turned President Obama into … John McCain. That’s right, for those of us who followed the two-year-long presidential campaign, it was McCain who crusaded against earmarks, not Obama (who instead said he would work to reform the process and make it more transparent). In fact, had earmarks been the public’s top concern in November, the Arizona senator probably would have won the election.

Chas Freeman's Psychic Defenders
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Newsweek has an important story today providing new details on why the Tiananmen Square Massacre enthusiast Chas Freeman was dropped as Chairman of the National Intelligence Council. The reason seems to be not, ultimately, his views on Israel, but his even more controversial statements on China. Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball report that: Chas Freeman, the Obama administration's choice to serve in a key U.S.

Tnr Slideshow: Our Favorite Feuds
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Why worry about unemployment, the healthcare crisis, or the broken financial system when you can take down an ailing Supreme Court Justice, a Republican Barbie, or the ever-mockable Michael Steele? Sometimes it helps to let off a little steam--especially in Washington. Just in time for Thursday night's face-off between Jim Cramer and Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, we bring you a lineup of our favorite feuds from the past few weeks in today's TNR slideshow. --Katie Koch