Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 31, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

QUICK HITS....Some quick hits for New Year's Eve:

  • Tyler Cowen's list of "policy areas where my views are uncertain." There are areas where I'd disagree in some ways — I think national healthcare is a necessary first step to containing healthcare costs, charter schools are a better bet than vouchers, and there's plenty of scope for getting started on global warming at only a modest cost — but overall, it's surprising how closely I agree with him. It just goes to show that real-world evidence that's inconclusive to a libertarian can be equally inconconclusive to a liberal, even if our temperaments and ideologies point us in different policy directions anyway.

  • And speaking of uncertainty, Borzou Daragahi has a good piece in the LA Times today about who really rules in Iran. The answer: it's not nearly as clear as a lot of people would like you to think. Daragahi's piece is a worthwhile corrective to a lot of the bloviating you read about Iran from neocon pundits and their fellow travelers.

  • And finally, aside from the sheer inanity of the New York Times picking a jingoistic hawk like Bill Kristol as its "conservative" columnist, what's really disappointing is how conventional the choice is. Kristol is well known, appears on TV a lot, and goes to the right parties, so now he's a Times columnist. Would it really have killed them to choose someone a little more interesting and little more heterodox? Will we even have to bother reading past the first paragraph of Kristol's columns to know what he's going to say? How about Chris Caldwell or Bruce Bartlett or Tyler Cowen or Clive Crook or Matt Continetti or Ross Douthat or Irwin Stelzer or David Kuo or — well, just about anybody besides the safest of safe choices? I don't agree with any of these other guys either, but at least they might occasionally write something that I didn't expect.

And with that, a Happy New Year to all! Except for Pinch Sulzberger.

Kevin Drum 12:25 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (23)

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In addition to writing something you may not expect, maybe actually being right about something once in a while might be a good qualification.

Posted by: AJ on December 31, 2007 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

You may think you know everything, Kevin, but did you know there's a dead horse upstairs in my bathtub?

Posted by: Bill Kristol on December 31, 2007 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

I would be remiss if I didn't pimp my new comedy short, Ron Paul's Time Machine Mega Money Minuteman Missile Mania...particularly since it is New Year's Eve



Posted by: Lee Stranahan on December 31, 2007 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Commenter Bloix on Digby's place....

The Times is bracing for an all-out assault on its up-market clientele from the Wall Street Journal, which even before Murdoch began to transform itself from a specialized financial paper to a general-interest paper for the rich. These readers support the lucrative advertising of luxury goods that the papers need in order to survive. (How many Rolexes and Bermuda condos have YOU bought recently?) That's what the Kristol hire is about - it's to make the op-ed page more wingnuttily appealing to readers who might otherwise prefer the Journal.

The clientele the Times wishes to attract, or keep, want to read people like themselves, who are, or imagine they could be, someone "..well known, [whp] appears on TV a lot, and goes to the right parties"

Whether Kristol has been right any time since the death of vinyl is irrelevant. I don't necessarily think the 'wingnutty' part is even that important. He's a brand name, in a marketplace where that is very important.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on December 31, 2007 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, hils din mor og ønsk hende godt nytår ... !


To the rest of you: Happy New Year to y'all.

Posted by: Ole on December 31, 2007 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

You want unexpected? Read Prometheus 6.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on December 31, 2007 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

I think it's neat that BK is joining the NYT. Now there will be a consistent voice for perpetuawar.

We need it. How else is our sputtering economy going to survive?

Just watch, 2008 will be the year the planet turns it's back on the US, with Bill Kristol's shill leading the way.

Happy New Year!

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on December 31, 2007 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

Lee - you would have been remiss indeed. Thanks for pimping your video here!

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on December 31, 2007 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

The biggest problem with Kristol is that he's not even really a pundit or a columnist. He's a Republican party operative, as dedicated to that cause as Fox News or Haley Barbour. Is there any issue of any significance where he has opposed conventional Republican thinking?

Posted by: Boots Day on December 31, 2007 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Re Cowen's list: I agree with Kevin on the first two.

3) Social Security: I'm glad Cowen doesn't see a Social Security "crisis" in the numbers, but the appropriate place for fiscal conservatism isn't in the program itself, but in the general fund. That should be obvious by now.

4) "I am uncertain how much the United States should "move first" with costly anti-global warming measures, assuming that China and other nations are not very cooperative."

Simple also: we're big, we're rich, we can lead. And we need to lead anyway, so U.S. companies can be first with new technologies for conservation, solar and wind power, etc. After all, we'd like to have a big, rich economy in the future, too.

5) "To what extent is the ongoing loss of biodiversity a very serious problem? I suspect in the long run this will prove a more important issue than global warming, but I am not sure."

The big cause of loss of biodiversity is fragmentation and loss of habitat. Global warming will cause this on a huge scale. So dealing with global warming is an essential step in preserving biodiversity.

The other, of course, is preventing habitat loss. While some habitat loss has been due to governments' actions and incentives, even most of that action has been driven by pressure from private groups. There's no libertarian solution to this. Government needs to buy up critical habitat, and regulate land use elsewhere. If we want to preserve species, the idea that, just because I own it, I have the right to do whatever I want with a piece of real estate must end.

6) How about, as a pilot project, we legalize the possession, but not the sale, of marijuana? Let people grow it in their backyards or in their closets under a grow-light, and share it with friends. That way, we don't create a new industry with a stake in preserving and expanding legal dope, until we're satisfied that the experiment works.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on December 31, 2007 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

I looked at Tyler's list last night, and so far from agreeing with him, I thought that it just showed that his particular libertarianism is founded on atrocious judgment, rather than the more usual case of a cover-up for ill-will.

I can almost understand why people like him. He seems so darn decent.

But, I don't understand why anyone would argue with him, after looking at that list. The man's an idiot.

Item 1: Health care costs have to be contained. (No kidding, Sherlock, ya thunk?) And, then there's the bad judgment: Tyler immediately jumps to . . . wait for it . . . means-testing Medicare.

Means-testing Medicare is a way to address run-away medical care spending?!? On what bizarro planet?! Or, I forget. In Libertarian World, that would be true.

See Tyler's uncertainties is just looking at the world reflected in the fun-house mirrors of his horror show of an ideology. What's the fascination?

Posted by: Bruce Wilder on December 31, 2007 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

It's strange that the same newspaper that ran today's scathing editorial about the lawlessness of the Bush administration, would hire as a columnist a complete apologist for that administration.

Posted by: Helen Troy on December 31, 2007 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

I wondered about Caldwell myself. He's already in the Times -- usually the Magazine -- 6 or 8 times a year, so they must think he's all right. But Kristol has a only one-year contract, and maybe Caldwell wasn't interested in that. FWIW, that contract length makes me suspect the Times's real agenda here is to have someone who'll knife the Dem nominee every week, which squish-conservative Brooks and even misanthropic MoDo can't be relied on to do.

Posted by: penalcolony on December 31, 2007 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

Kristol is a soldier in Bush's War Against America. He is a shameful man. It is a shameless choice. Expect Kristol to always take the hawkish Israeli line at the expense of American interests.

Posted by: allie on December 31, 2007 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

What penalcolony said about Caldwell. Honestly, though Matt Continetti?

Posted by: Randy Paul on December 31, 2007 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

It's a smart hire. Look how Michael Gerson has turned around the reputation of The Washington Post op-ed page. Oh wait...

Posted by: jimbo on December 31, 2007 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

Happy New Year to everyone, and have a terrific Allmess too!
(That is the new holiday I AFAIK made up that is every other holiday, including whatever you want to make up, all mixed together! By definition, you can celebrate it any time, anywhere, in any manner you want!)

Posted by: Neil B. on December 31, 2007 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

So this is how the NYT will deal with the decline of printed news?

A wealthy clientele makes good sense in an economic downturn.

Posted by: Joey Giraud on December 31, 2007 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

Paul Krugman has taken on George W. Bush, Barak Obama, and even (without naming him) David Brooks. Maybe Bill Kristol is next.

Posted by: Ross Best on December 31, 2007 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

With Bill Kristol on board, no one will ever accuse the Times of being too tough on Israel again. Isn't this the point? I mean, why else would they choose him?

Posted by: Alan Vanneman on December 31, 2007 at 8:24 PM | PERMALINK

last feelgood energy, CO2, food and water news of 2007:


go to the news releases of December, 2007.

Rapid growing vegetables (for consumption) and algae (as a biofuel feedstock) that uses little water.

The U.S. gets 10,000MW of power from renewable sources, about 1%. But solar increased 60% in 2007, and wind and biofuels increased about 100% each. Assuming that 50% per year is sustainable for a long time, then the U.S. will have at least 70,000MW from renewables by 2012, at least 400,000MW by 2017, and at least 2.8millionMW by 2022, 2 and a half times total U.S. consumption today. NO ONE KNOWS the limits to this process: labor is there (laid off construction workers), material is there, financing is there (record profits in the energy industry), demand is there (oil at $90+ per barrel), technology is there and improving monthly. All that's needed is perseverence, and we get a lot of that from our immigrants.

Watch as the future of American energy unfolds before your eyes. The whole energy economy will be unrecognizable in 5 years.

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on December 31, 2007 at 11:38 PM | PERMALINK

>How about Chris Caldwell or Bruce Bartlett or Tyler >Cowen or Clive Crook or Matt Continetti or Ross >Douthat or Irwin Stelzer or David Kuo or — well, >just about anybody besides the safest of safe >choices?
How about Dennis the Peasant? He's (somewhat) on the right, and you NEVER know where he'll come down on an issue. Plus, he's a whole lot wittier than Kristol.

Posted by: jim on January 1, 2008 at 4:05 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks for the LA Times piece. However, Borzou Daragahi states that: "Hashemi Rafsanjani [is] a senior cleric who heads the Expediency Council...." While this was (and may still be) true, it has been reported that he has recently been elevated to president of the Council of Experts (the body which will choose the next Supreme Leader).. The fact that he does mention this, combined with both his apparent expertise and my near total lack thereof, makes me wonder wether news reports of his presidency are wrong. Enquiring minds want to know.

Posted by: jhm on January 1, 2008 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK



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