The Big Lobotomy: How Republicans Made Congress Stupid
A quick refresher: In 1995, after winning a majority in the House for the first time in forty years, one of the first things the new Republican House leadership did was gut Congress’s workforce. They cut the “professional staff” (the lawyers, economists, and investigators who work for committees rather than individual members) by a third. They reduced the “legislative support staff” (the auditors, analysts, and subject-matter experts at the Government Accountability Office [GAO], the Congressional Research Service [CRS], and so on) by a third, too, and killed off the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) entirely. And they fundamentally dismantled the old committee structure, centralizing power in the House speaker’s office and discouraging members and their staff from performing their own policy research. (The Republicans who took over the Senate in 1995 were less draconian, cutting committee staff by about 16 percent and leaving the committee system largely in place.) Today, the GAO and the CRS, which serve both House and Senate, are each operating at about 80 percent of their 1979 capacity. While Senate committee staffs have rebounded somewhat under Democratic control, every single House standing committee had fewer staffers in 2009 than in 1994. Since 2011, with a Tea Party-radicalized GOP back in control of the House, Congress has cut its budget by a whopping 20 percent, a far higher ratio than any other federal agency, leading, predictably, to staff layoffs, hiring and salary freezes, and drooping morale.
Matt Welch, Reason: The Death of Contrarianism
Klein, then at The American Prospect, a progressive D.C. opinion magazine founded in 1990, wanted Peters, founder (in 1969) of The Washington Monthly, to answer for the way neoliberalism had degenerated into lefty-on-lefty contrarianism. “What has happened, at least to some younger folks like me,” Klein said, “is that at times this appears to have become not an honest critique, but a positioning device. The idea that it’s not about the quality of the argument, but the display: You show honesty by attacking Democrats, you show independence by attacking liberals. At times I think that has been a damaging impulse on our side.”[more inside]
"Then I see how they treat Ronald Reagan—he needs to get credit for saving the world from communism and for the good economy over the last twenty years because he lowered taxes."
Revisionaries: How a group of Texas conservatives is rewriting your kids’ textbooks.
Will universities go the way of newspapers and the music industry? Says so right here. ITTET will students continue to pay huge tuition for college when they can get the same education on-line at a fraction of the cost? [more inside]
How to win in Afghanistan? Peter Bergen looks at the capability of the Taliban insurgents, NATO troops, and the Afghan army and police, compares the current conflict to the Soviet invasion, and weighs the dangers of civilian casualties and popular support. He concludes that renewed American effort in the fight will "produce a relatively stable and prosperous Central Asian state." (via Matthew Yglesias)
"'I am not a defendant,' Mitchell declared. 'I do not have attorneys.' The court 'lacks territorial jurisdiction over me,' he argued, to the amazement of his lawyers. To support these contentions, he cited decades-old acts of Congress involving the abandonment of the gold standard and the creation of the Federal Reserve ... Judge Davis ordered the three defendants to be removed from the court, and turned to Gardner, who had, until then, remained quiet. But Gardner, too, intoned the same strange speech. 'I am Shawn Earl Gardner, live man, flesh and blood,' he proclaimed." Too Weird for the Wire: How black Baltimore drug dealers are using white supremacist legal theories to confound the Feds. [via]
The Top 200 Universities in the World. [logon:mefier/pass:metafilter] For the second year, the Times Higher Education Supplement has exhaustively ranked the top schools in the world. The US, and, to a lesser extent, the UK, dominate the list, but Australia continues to have a strong showing, and China makes more appearances. If you don't like that list, try Newsweek's Top 100 Global Universities, or the ranking by Shanghai Jiao Tong University, which looks at Nobel Prizes and highly cited articles, or just judge universities by their age. All of this a little too global? Washington Monthly rates universities by how they contribute to social mobility and the US as a whole, Mother Jones ranks by social activism, and Young America's Foundation lists the 10 best conservative colleges. [prev.]
The Road To Abu Ghraib A generation from now, historians may look back to April 28, 2004, as the day the United States lost the war in Iraq... It was a direct—and predictable—consequence of a policy, hatched at the highest levels of the administration, by senior White House officials and lawyers, in the weeks and months after 9/11. Yet the administration has largely managed to escape responsibility for those decisions; a month from election day, almost no one in the press or the political class is talking about what is, without question, the worst scandal to emerge from President Bush's nearly four years in office... Given the particular conditions faced by the president and his deputies after 9/11—a war against terrorists, in which the need to extract intelligence via interrogations was intensely pressing, but the limits placed by international law on interrogation techniques were very constricting—did those leaders have better alternatives than the one they chose? The answer is that they did. And we will be living with the consequences of the choices they made for years to come.
What busking could teach the music industry An intelligent essay on how the music industry should adapt to the new digital realities, drawn from the author's experiences as a street (well, subway) musician. No one who could learn from it will read it, of course.
Lies and the Lying Presidents Who Tell Them. The Washington Monthly publishes its "mendacity index" of the last four U.S. presidents, ranking their overall history (and severity) of lying. TWM's site also lets you rate them yourself, just in case ranking the 20 worst Americans got boring.
"Chaos in the Middle East is not the Bush hawks' nightmare scenario--it's their plan." This is a fascinating and disturbing article by Josh Marshall for next month's Washington Monthly, released early due to recent events. Of course, whether or not the war will destabalize the Mideast is open to debate.
Theocracy in America? Specifically, in Utah, according to the writer of this Washington Monthly piece, who grew up there. Is the article too harsh, though, given the author's apparent lingering bitterness regarding her upbringing?
Soul Mates? Black like me. Do black Americans love Clinton because of his "in -your -face attitude" , a legacy going back to slavery, or because he "feels your pain"?