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Ezra Klein: August 30, 2009 - September 5, 2009

Tab Dump

• Ed Glaeser considers Jane Jacobs. • Starvation amid abundance. • Ta-Nehisi Coates considers the logic — or lack thereof — of street violence. • The "Great Arteries" theory of history. • Mosquitoes do not like us all equally. •...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 4, 2009; 6:41 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (12)
Categories:  Tab Dump  
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Touching the Stove

It's a pretty good thing that touching hot things causes us sharp and relatively immediate pain. It means the incentives to avoid touching hot things are well-aligned. That's less true with health-care reform (and much less true with global warming)....

By Ezra Klein  |  September 4, 2009; 6:05 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (41)
Categories:  Health Economics  
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Al Franken: Mob Whisperer

Presumably, years of stand-up in front of angry, illogical and intoxicated crowds gets you good at this sort of thing:...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 4, 2009; 5:40 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
 
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More on the Deficit Double-Standard

To say a few more words on the double-standards that afflict Democrats with regard to the deficit, take a look at how Bush passed his tax cuts. Since he didn't have 60 votes for the hefty package he wanted, he...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 4, 2009; 5:08 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (8)
Categories:  Budget , Democrats  
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The Primacy of Congress

The problem with David Brooks's column today isn't that it's wrong on the specifics. It's not, really. It would be good if the health-care proposals on the table accorded more closely with the views of the most ambitious experts....

By Ezra Klein  |  September 4, 2009; 4:37 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (19)
Categories:  Congress , Health Reform  
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Gang of Six Has a 'Productive' Chat

The "Gang of Six" held a teleconference today. Lori Montgomery reports: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) made clear that he is committed to moving forward with health reform legislation "in the near future" with or without an agreement...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 4, 2009; 3:51 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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What If They Had a Health-Care Reform Bill and Nobody Could Support it?

I'm firmly on the record as being willing to support all manner of compromises on health-care reform. Policy dogmatism has not, over the long history of this issue, proven a successful strategy. But there's an increasingly evident path by...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 4, 2009; 3:04 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (27)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Geithner Goes After the Banks

Timothy Geithner has released his principles (pdf) for regulating the capital requirements of too-big-to-fail banks. Forcing big institutions to keep a larger cushion of cash could both curb the risk they pose to the system (as they'd have more money...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 4, 2009; 2:16 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Financial Regulation , Solutions  
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Deficits and Democrats

What did Bush's first set of tax cuts, Bush's second set of tax cuts, Medicare Part D, the Iraq War, the Afghanistan war, and No Child Left Behind have in common? Two answers: First, they all passed atop Republican votes....

By Ezra Klein  |  September 4, 2009; 2:07 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (18)
Categories:  Barack Obama , Budget  
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Lunch Break

Jimmy Kimmel wishes the internet a happy 40th birthday, taking a look back on all that it's given us:...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 4, 2009; 12:34 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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The Partisan Path to Bipartisanship

As Jon Cohn writes in this week's New Republic, there have been plenty of moments for bipartisan compromise. The Wyden-Bennett Healthy Americans Act, which most Republicans never embraced and a bunch of the early co-sponsors have now abandoned. The Bipartisan...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 4, 2009; 11:45 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (12)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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The Broken Brakes of Civil Discourse

Joe Klein reports from Arkansas: I was at a Blanche Lincoln town hall meeting in Russellville, Arkansas, yesterday -- and the number of people who believe that the President has larded the government with communists (!) was astonishing. One woman...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 4, 2009; 11:37 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (45)
 
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The Money Problem

The loudest problem in health-care reform is the public plan. But the biggest problem is finding the money to fund any plan. The House bills didn't solve the problem, as deficits explode after the first 10 years. The number $700...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 4, 2009; 11:23 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (22)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Why No One Pulls Triggers

Kevin Drum notes that trigger ideas pop up fairly often as compromise proposals but never quite seem to make it into the final legislation: Alan Greenspan and Paul O'Neill tried to sell the idea of a trigger for the 2001...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 4, 2009; 10:28 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
 
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What Happened to Last Year's Max Baucus?

"[T]he main reason to be hopeful about the prospects for universal health care," writes Matt Yglesias, "wasn’t so much the election of a new progressive president as the fact that Max Baucus, one of the most conservative members of...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 4, 2009; 10:00 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Tab Dump

• Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman takes on ... economics? • The key to bringing the public into the health-care debate. • The bureaucracy of American journalism. • Richard Nixon's health-care reform plan. • Are all budget deficits inflationary?...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 3, 2009; 6:15 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
 
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The Bush Record of Tax Cuts, Failure and Betrayal

I'm not sure what good it does for progressives to delude themselves about Bush's success in passing pure domestic policy initiatives that easily overcame the opposition of Republican moderates, but the reality is that he saw his initiatives watered...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 3, 2009; 4:49 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (13)
 
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The Town Halls the Media Didn't Cover

One of the questions a lot of people asked amid the hysterics of August was why, if these town halls were astroturfed shout-fests, were members holding them at all? The answer appears to be simple: They largely weren't astroturfed...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 3, 2009; 3:07 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (64)
Categories:  Journalism  
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The Structuralist Club

In my chat today, a lot of the questions were some variant of "what compromise could you support?" I could accept a lot of compromises. I could accept pretty much any compromise that makes people's lives better. But to actually...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 3, 2009; 2:12 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (11)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Olympia Snowe is About to Become a Very Popular Person

On Wednesday, for instance, hundreds of health-care reform supporters gathered outside her office in Bangor, Maine, and delivered 35,000 letter, postcards, e-mails and online petitions in favor of reform. And my guess is that within a week or two, that...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 3, 2009; 1:22 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
 
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Today's Chat

Today's chat covers health care, an armed revolt in Washington and even the dread "Journolist." Manassas, Va.: A number of pundits, columnists and congresspersons keep talking about a government mandate for individuals to purchase health insurance as if there were...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 3, 2009; 1:04 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
 
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Lunch Break

A brand new "Autotune the News" (featuring T-Pain!):...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 3, 2009; 12:30 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
Categories:  Lunch Break  
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Nepotism on the Ropes

The graph above comes from Tom Schaller, who's done some research on nepotism in the Senate and took issue with Glenn Greenwald's impression that it's gotten much worse in recent years. He writes: [W]hen Greenwald cites U.S. senators --...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 3, 2009; 11:57 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Senate  
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Tom Toles Is on Fire Lately

By Ezra Klein  |  September 3, 2009; 11:25 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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Live Chat Today

Noon Eastern. As always, you can submit questions in advance, or join in at noon. As always, I'll post the transcript here afterward. As always, I beg you for your participation, as nothing is sadder than a lonely blogger in...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 3, 2009; 10:48 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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Can You Beat Centrists at Their Own Game?

Matt Yglesias, explaining the tactical thinking of liberals who want to draw a line in the sand over the public option, writes, "If you become known as the guys who are always willing to be reasonable and fold while...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 3, 2009; 10:47 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (39)
Categories:  Democrats  
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'A Peculiar Moral Code'

Steve Pearlstein took a long, hard look at the Mulligan Club yesterday. "[T]hey were the financiers who earned huge bonuses for creating, trading and investing other people's money in those complex securities that resulted in trillions of dollars in...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 3, 2009; 9:41 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Financial Crisis , Solutions  
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Against the Grain

D.C. has a lot of faux-counterintuitive punditry. Commentators showily express opinions that they pretend are unpopular or courageous but are actually perfectly well accepted among elites. Not Pat Buchanan. His unrepentant defense of the Nazis and, in particular, Adolph Hitler,...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 3, 2009; 8:48 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
 
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Tom Daschle on Reconciliation

From today's Wall Street Journal: By far the best path to success is to continue to pursue a traditional, bipartisan solution. I have great admiration for former Senate Majority Leaders Bob Dole and Howard Baker who, earlier this year, demonstrated...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 3, 2009; 8:19 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
 
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Tab Dump

• Why are placebos becoming more effective? • William Buiter thinks that transaction taxes aren't the answer to the financial industry's woes. • David Leonhardt argues that health-care reform is a process, not a punctuation mark. • Organized labor is...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 2, 2009; 6:43 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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What Leverage Do Republicans Have on Olympia Snowe?

Whatever Chuck Grassley wants to do, he can't get away from two facts. First, he is facing a Republican primary challenge in his 2010 reelection campaign. Second, his term as ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee is coming...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 2, 2009; 5:41 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (17)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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The Divisions in the White House Over Health-Care Reform

This is health-care reform's endgame, or close to it. Next Wednesday, Barack Obama will give a prime-time address before both houses of Congress. But that's not all he's giving Congress. The administration is going to put a plan down...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 2, 2009; 4:48 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (109)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Global Warming and the Wildfire Problem

California's wildfires have been getting worse, larger, and more frequent over the past few decades. Estimates suggest that about half the reason is land-use decisions, but the other half is — wait for it — global warming. "The mechanism...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 2, 2009; 3:45 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Climate Change  
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The Stimulus is Working

From the Wall Street Journal: Many forecasters say stimulus spending is adding two to three percentage points to economic growth in the second and third quarters, when measured at an annual rate. The impact in the second quarter, calculated by...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 2, 2009; 2:34 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
Categories:  Economic Policy , Solutions  
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Hard Decisions

The New York Times has a good piece today examining the focus the pharmaceutical industry is putting on new cancer treatments. Part of their shift in priorities is attributable to scientific advances: We have some new ideas on how to...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 2, 2009; 1:15 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (14)
Categories:  Health , Health Economics  
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Lunch Break: Darwin Meets NASA

Nina Jablonski, author of Skin: A Natural History, explains the history of human skin pigmentation, and what Charles Darwin would have seen if he had access to NASA's satellites....

By Ezra Klein  |  September 2, 2009; 12:40 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
 
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Is Technology a Friend or Foe to Food?

This column also appears in today's Food section. Nora Ephron's "Julie & Julia" has plunged us deep into a bout of Julia Child nostalgia. And what could be more delightful, or delicious? The movie has grossed more than $60 million...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 2, 2009; 12:34 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Food  
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Paragraphs That Should Worry Liberals

From Politico's interview with presidential adviser David Axelrod: On health care, Obama’s willingness to forgo the public option is sure to anger his party’s liberal base. But some administration officials welcome a showdown with liberal lawmakers if they argue they...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 2, 2009; 11:45 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (33)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Obama Set to Engage on Health Care

“We’re entering a new season,” senior presidential adviser David Axelrod told Politico. “It’s time to synthesize and harmonize these strands and get this done." That will begin as early as next week, when President Obama puts his full weight...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 2, 2009; 11:26 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (14)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Back-to-School Disappointment

Back-to-school sales are weak this year, which is bad news: It suggests that consumers might not be in much of a mood to spend. New pencils and backpacks and binders are in the category of men’s underwear when it comes...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 2, 2009; 11:03 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
Categories:  Economy  
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The Most Powerful Senator

The breakdown of the "Gang of Six" talks means that you won't seen Mike Enzi or Chuck Grassley sign onto the final bill. But that doesn't mean it won't have any Republican votes. Olympia Snowe remains a possibility, as does...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 2, 2009; 10:58 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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The Evolving Conservative

Repulsed by a world in which every politician's senior thesis becomes a campaign issue and the occasional kindergarten essay makes it into an attack ad, Kevin Drum proposes the 25/25 rule: "it doesn't count if you did it more...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 2, 2009; 10:33 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (10)
 
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Tab Dump: Partial Answers to Difficult Questions Edition

• Is global warming causing the wildfires? (Partly!) • Is Twitter making us more literate? (Maybe!) • Is modern finance more like junk food or electricity? (Both!) • Should we remain in Afghanistan? (Hard to say!)...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 1, 2009; 7:13 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
 
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The Rationales for Reconciliation

The idea, as it stands, is that there will be two health-care bills. The one with the hard stuff — the subsidies, the Medicaid expansion, the Medicare reforms, the public plan, and the revenue measures — will go through...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 1, 2009; 6:31 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Opposing Afghanistan With Emphasis

George Will's column today has so many italicized words, and so many of them in weird places, that I actually went back and read them in order to try and detect a secret message. Alas, there's no secret message: He...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 1, 2009; 5:36 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Afghanistan  
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The Ethics of Placebos

An analysis of over 4000 wines entered in 13 U.S. wine competitions shows little concordance among the venues in awarding Gold medals. ... An analysis of the number of Gold medals received in multiple competitions indicates that the probability...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 1, 2009; 5:03 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (15)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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The Great Centralizer?

David Brooks's column today sure produced a lot of good blog posts in response. Earlier, Kevin Drum asked about the mechanics of unpopularity. Now, Noam Scheiber responds to the charge that Obama is finding himself unpopular because he has pursued...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 1, 2009; 4:36 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
 
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Why Do Democrats Hate Medicare? An Interview With Rep. Chris Van Hollen.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) is chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. I spoke to him Tuesday about Medicare cuts, the result of August, and what passing health care through the reconciliation process would mean for the House of...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 1, 2009; 3:57 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Health Reform , Interviews  
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Tom Toles, Prophet

By Ezra Klein  |  September 1, 2009; 3:02 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (1)
 
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Should the Polls Doom Health-Care Reform?

David Brooks argued today that "the public has soured on Obama’s policy proposals" and the president should respond by moderating his pace and trimming his ambitions. There's a certain logic to this: Obama's poll numbers really have dropped. The public...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 1, 2009; 2:25 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (32)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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The Uncertainties of Reconciliation

Brian Beutler has a good explainer on some of the difficulties inherent in trying to push a public plan through the reconciliation process. The basic lay of the land is that you might need a really strong public option to...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 1, 2009; 2:23 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (9)
 
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What Will the Market Think?

This is an interesting argument from Simon Johnson and James Kwak on the fiscal importance of succeeding on health-care reform. They separate the long-term success of the bill at restraining costs from the simple fact of getting a bill through...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 1, 2009; 12:28 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (16)
Categories:  Health Economics , Health Reform  
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Why Aren't You on Medicare?

A few minutes ago on MSNBC, Maria Bartiromo and Rep. Anthony Weiner had a shouting match over universal health care. If you like Medicare so much, Bartiromo snapped at Weiner, why aren't you on it? Weiner is 44 years old....

By Ezra Klein  |  September 1, 2009; 12:15 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (57)
 
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Has Obama Played Health Care Exactly Right? Does It Even Matter?

The White House's legislative strategy is coming under a lot of fire lately. Some observers think it's been too focused on bipartisanship. Others believe it overly solicitous of Congress. But congressional expert Norm Ornstein thinks that it will eventually...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 1, 2009; 12:08 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (14)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Gang of Six Death Watch: Baucus Begins to Back Away

This morning's Washington Post sees Sen. Max Baucus beginning to protect himself from the collapse of the "Gang of Six": "I think the chances are still good," Baucus told The Associated Press in an interview Monday. "I talked to them,...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 1, 2009; 10:04 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (12)
 
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Mike Huckabee's Plan to Socialize and Bankrupt the United States of America

You might not know that Mike Huckabee records radio commentaries for ABC News. I didn't. But Sam Stein of the Huffington Post has been listening to the missives and came across this gem, aired hours after Ted Kennedy's death: [W]hen...

By Ezra Klein  |  September 1, 2009; 9:51 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (17)
 
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Tab Dump

• Did we execute an innocent man? • Some simple ways to reengineer the climate. • Do scarecrows work? • How do you fill empty storefronts? • Setting the record straight on antibiotics and livestock....

By Ezra Klein  |  August 31, 2009; 6:58 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
 
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What the Fonz Can Teach Us.

I've been trying to decide if I have anything interesting to say about Will Wilkinson's elegant demolition of the gender-equality-is-just-so-confusing argument. Ambiguity over who opens the door (I generally do) or who picks up the check (after the first date...

By Ezra Klein  |  August 31, 2009; 6:47 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (15)
 
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Reconciliation for Reconciliation's Sake

Put aside the manifold problems of using the budget reconciliation process to pass health-care reform. Increasingly, it looks like there will be no choice. And that may be a good thing -- though not for health care. Reconciliation began as...

By Ezra Klein  |  August 31, 2009; 6:04 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
Categories:  Senate  
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News Entertainment

You want your horse-race journalism? Politico has your horse-race journalism. The headline atop its site right now reads "Experts see double-digit Dem losses." Big, bold type for a big, exciting story about an election that is still more than 400...

By Ezra Klein  |  August 31, 2009; 5:28 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (3)
 
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The Gang of Six Appears to be Dead -- But How Many of Them Know It?

The White House has, for the first time, spoken out against a member of Max Baucus's "Gang of Six." After Mike Enzi used the GOP's weekly radio to attack the Democrats' health-care plan for promoting "the rationing of [America's]...

By Ezra Klein  |  August 31, 2009; 5:01 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (39)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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The Rise of the Circus

One other point about the relative dominance of horse-race-style political coverage is that the velocity of the news has really increased in the past few years. It used to be that every individual had access to a newspaper, a few...

By Ezra Klein  |  August 31, 2009; 4:33 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (6)
Categories:  Journalism  
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What Does "Victory" Mean?

Monday's op-ed by Anthony Cordesman is titled "How to Lose in Afghanistan." In it, he uses the word "victory" three times. He uses the word "win" four time. He also mentions losing, and defeat. But nowhere does he define what...

By Ezra Klein  |  August 31, 2009; 3:19 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (5)
Categories:  Afghanistan  
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Why Is There so Much Horse-Race Coverage?

Paul Krugman wonders why the media is dominated by horse-race reporting rather than substantive inquiries into policy. His hypotheses, however, all assume agency on the part of the reporter: Maybe horse races are easier to research, he wonders, or simpler...

By Ezra Klein  |  August 31, 2009; 2:51 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (13)
Categories:  Journalism  
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Doing Things Better

Mark Kleiman has a useful post on the problems with cost-benefit analysis, which is to say, the problems with the way we estimate the worth of regulatory changes. For instance: Formal benefit cost analysis counts everyone's gains and losses equally....

By Ezra Klein  |  August 31, 2009; 1:08 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (4)
 
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Lunch Break

Remember Damon Weaver, the adorable child reporter who proclaimed Joe Biden his "homeboy" during the campaign? Well, he's back, and he landed the biggest interview of them all....

By Ezra Klein  |  August 31, 2009; 12:47 PM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)
 
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Chuck Grassley Fundraises Against Health-Care Reform

Chuck Grassley is facing a potentially difficult primary challenge in 2010. As such, he's been working hard to cover his right flank. That would all be fine except for one thing: As ranking member of the Finance Committee, Grassley is...

By Ezra Klein  |  August 31, 2009; 11:46 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (35)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Trust Matters, and Misleads

Carlos Lozada looks at three books limning the Madoff scandal and concludes that the financier at the center of them wasn't a genius or a legend, but a pretty good con man running a simple scheme. And the central...

By Ezra Klein  |  August 31, 2009; 11:19 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (2)
Categories:  Financial Crisis , Solutions  
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Why Seniors Oppose Government-Run Health Care (Except for Their Own)

This appeared in Sunday's Outlook section. I'm posting it here so folks can comment. "We need to protect Medicare," Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele exhorted last week, "and not cut it in the name of 'health-insurance reform.' "...

By Ezra Klein  |  August 31, 2009; 10:04 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (36)
Categories:  Articles , Health Reform  
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The Problem With Deals

On Sunday, former senator Bill Bradley took to the New York Times to outline a grand compromise on health care. "The bipartisan trade-off in a viable health care bill is obvious," he wrote. "Combine universal coverage with malpractice tort reform...

By Ezra Klein  |  August 31, 2009; 9:44 AM ET  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)
Categories:  Health Reform  
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