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Jul. 28 2010 — 6:56 pm | 72 views | 1 recommendations | 1 comment

And I’m out

As you know by now, True/Slant has been bought by Forbes and is about to close shop. So, this will be my last post here. A big thanks to everyone who has stopped by this page regularly, occasionally, or just once. Thanks also to Michael, Coates and Lewis for the great opportunity to have had a blog here.

True/Slant was founded on the innovative idea that writers thrive when left to their own devices, and are paid while at it — that premises are important and perspectives are valuable. It’s a model that worked perfectly for me, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated being a part of this community.

I hope you’ll continue to read my work on Raw Story, The Guardian, Washington Independent, and Huffington Post. It’s all available at my website, http://sahilkapur.wordpress.com. Keep in touch on Twitter and Facebook.

Jul. 11 2010 — 6:47 pm | 62 views | 1 recommendations | 2 comments

Dem economic recovery plans in limbo

WASHINGTON - APRIL 22:  (L-R) Democratic Confe...

Image by Getty Images North America via @daylife

Atrios and Paul Krugman ponder the reticence of Democrats to push forward with their plans for economic recovery, concluding they just don’t have the courage of their convictions to follow through.

In the medium- and long-term, institutional timidity can be overcome given the appropriate incentives. Which is why I think there’s more going on here than simply a lack of conviction.

As the old saying goes, “It’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” And whatever is true about Republicans, Democrats also have a vested interest in placating their Rolodex of campaign contributors on Wall Street and the corporate world, which basically want to pull the plug on the unemployed and start making public policy that exclusively caters to the top 1 percent of income earners — something Republicans are more than happy to do.

Hence all efforts to help struggling Americans, even when unemployment is between 9 and 10 percent, pose as much or more of a liability than an asset for Democrats. Hence Democrats can’t quite muster that extra-added motivation to keep on pushing.

And let’s not pretend any of this is about the deficit — folks like Ben Nelson and Jon Kyl say a dozen or so billion in unemployment benefits would bust the budget, but these concerns immediately disappear when it comes to giving rich people hundreds of billions in tax cuts.

Jul. 11 2010 — 2:43 pm | 169 views | 3 recommendations | 6 comments

Red-herring arguments against the Right to Die

SOUTHFIELD, MI - MARCH 24:  Jack Kevorkian, 79...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

On these pages, my colleague Ethan Epstein explains his opposition to the right to die via assisted suicide.

Assisted suicide laws do not, therefore, guarantee a right to die. Rather, they create a new right through legislation: the right of doctors to kill their patients. The only party whose rights are expanded by assisted suicide laws are those of physicians who wish to terminate their patients’ lives.

I can’t quite understand the argument here but it is, at best, a classic exercise in missing the point. Nobody is suggesting that physicians should have carte blanche to go around killing whoever they want, whenever they want. For doctors to perform this should require iron clad proof of consent from the patient — or at the very least, from a family member or friend who the individual has legally authorized to make such a decision. Absent that, the doctor should be tried for murder, no two ways.

In a broader sense, it’s premature to simply declare that assisted suicide can’t be legalized in a way that enhances individual liberty.

Forbidding it off-hand violates fundamental tenets of conservatism and libertarianism, as it permits government to legislate extremely private matters and to let bureaucrats make decisions that only doctors and patients should be allowed to make.

As for the Hippocratic Oath, it’s plain to see that forcing a dying individual to live the remainder of his days in pain and suffering against their will, can be construed as an example of government doing harm.

Beyond this, there’s the religious notion — fleshed out in Jack Kevorkian’s life story film “You Don’t Know Jack” — that permitting assisted suicide is “playing God,” that only God should decide who lives and dies. This, again, is a red herring. Leaving aside that whole Church and State thing, the very concept of modern medicine reflects a desire to “play God.” Anytime a physician operates a procedure or prescribes scientific medicine to a patient, that doctor is altering the course of nature.

Jul. 3 2010 — 5:03 pm | 474 views | 1 recommendations | 7 comments

Sarah Palin, RNC chair?

Republican vice presidential candidate Alaska ...

Image by AFP/Getty Images via @daylife

Writes Kevin D. Williamson at The National Review on Steele-gate 145,824.0 and the RNC leadership spot:

This is a job for Sarah Palin. Palin would be a much better RNC chairman than presidential candidate or freelance kingmaker. She’d raise tons of money and help recruit good candidates, i.e., she’d excel at doing the things Steele should have been doing instead of appointing himself Republican pundit-at-large.

A Chairman Palin would help set the right tone for the Republican party without having to get herself entangled in the minutiae of policy-development, which has not been her forte. …

Let me just start by saying that a Chairwoman Palin would be the greatest gift Republicans could possibly give to political reporters. Secondly, I think the GOP establishment would be pining for Steele a couple months into a hypothetical Palin reign.

The fact is Steele’s not an idiot, he’s just got a loose tongue and tends to rattle off before conceptualizing the impacts of his words in print. And as much as he slips up, he is capable of answering questions from reporters without necessarily looking like a total buffoon.

Palin, however, is not. That’s why she’s exclusively reliant on Facebook and Twitter — along with the home-turf Fox News — when dealing with the media. And being RNC chair would require you to go up against adversarial journalists and field tough questions.

Also, Williamson says she’d “help recruit good candidates.” But according to a recent NBC/WSJ poll, the mere fact of Palin endorsing a candidate makes 52 percent of the national electorate is either very or somewhat uncomfortable with said candidate. Do Republicans really want a party chair who will instantly alienate half of all voters?

Besides, Palin isn’t a hard worker, nor is she competent at much other than energizing the tea party crowd. In that sense she’d be a great fundraiser, yes, but she’d be a disaster on all other fronts.

Jun. 20 2010 — 11:41 pm | 388 views | 1 recommendations | 4 comments

The Telegraph’s suspicious story about Rahm quitting WH

Updates below: WH denies, Rahm calls “BS,” Spillius responds

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel looks ...

Image via Wikipedia

A new item in the conservative London Telegraph, published today, has a catchy headline: “Rahm Emanuel expected to quit White House.” The supposed news, that he’ll be out in “six to eight months,” has already made its way onto a number of US news sites and blogs, including the New York Daily News, and I’m sure it’ll be a topic of chatter Monday.

Don’t read much into it.

Firstly, the two sources it relies on are anonymous, neither of them White House or even purported to know Emanuel. Second, it’s not even clear which of the “Washington insiders” it quotes — “a leading Democratic consultant” and “[a]n official from the Bill Clinton era” — who made the 6-8 months claim and beyond that, nothing that can be verified and that couldn’t just be made up.

In fact, they don’t even make any assertions, just guesses. “I would bet he will go after the midterms,” is the money quote from an unknown DC consultant who may or may not know anything about Emanuel’s plans.

Secondly, the Telegraph is a right-wing paper that has published allegedly unsubstantiated stories about the Obama administration in the past. Take for example this one, written in March by Alex Spillius — the same author of today’s Rahm story — which boldly announced, “Barack Obama threatens to withdraw support from wavering Democrats.”

That one didn’t even purport to have sources — named or anonymous — it simply made the assertion, out of nowhere, that Obama was blackmailing Democrats and threatening to strip his support for them in the November elections to get their votes on the health care bill.

A White House spokesman told me at the time the story was bogus, and Robert Gibbs said as much in a briefing later.

Point is, read this new article with some skepticism, especially since it’s common knowledge that Rahm won’t be chief of staff for the whole Obama presidency (does anybody keep that high-pressure job throughout?), and since the article features little more than anonymous sources speculating on the topic (again, the only detail isn’t even attributed anonymously and the reporter makes no claim that any of the sources are even familiar with Rahm’s plans).

Update: Sure enough, the White House tells Fox News Monday morning that the story is “ludicrous” and “not worth looking into.” Chalk it up to an agenda-setting attempt by a conservative paper that has long disliked the Obama administration.

Update II: “This is B.S.,” says Rahm in a statement. “And if you need it for translation, it is baseless.” Not only that, Lynn Sweet (a trustworthy reporter) adds that Rahm might be staying longer than expected. In other words, the Telegraph didn’t just get the story wrong, it got it entirely backwards. I’ve e-mailed Alex Spillius for a response, and told him I’ll print it in full.

Update III: Spillius responds to my e-mail with this:

There’s no ‘right-wing agenda’ here, as you so confidently surmise. That’s absurd. The story just reflects the perennial interest in Washington movers and shakers. If you had read comment pieces I’ve written you’d see I’ve no interest in pushing any side’s agenda.

I’m absolutely confident in the sources, and there were more than those I quoted.

Everyone I spoke to said they expected Emanuel to go after the mid-terms. Sally Quinn was writing something similar a few months ago.

I’d also point you to a sentence in your piece:

‘…it’s common knowledge that Rahm won’t be chief of staff for the whole Obama presidency (does anybody keep that job throughout?)’ In this case there is much more at issue than burnout. And Andrew Card did five years, by the way.

One main reason I reached out to Spillius was because I was curious if he actually talked to someone familiar with Rahm’s plans. He didn’t claim to in the article or in this e-mail, which makes his story seem — to me, at least — like a resuscitation of old conventional wisdom presented as a scoop on something imminent. You can decide for yourself what’s going on here.

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