From the Executive Editor

How much has changed? In Washington, this has been the question on everyone's lips. On many key issues, from health care to counterterrorism and national security, reform is stalled. In this issue, Adam Serwer asks why it has been so difficult for the Obama administration to fully reverse the Bush policy of preventive detention and why even the fiercest civil-liberties advocates are torn about the right policy. Dana Goldstein explores the question of whether the new wave of health reform can avoid an ugly battle over reproductive rights -- and warns that reform that doesn't include the full range of services that women need is doomed to fail. And Tim Fernholz asks whether a brilliant crop of liberal-leaning economic reformers can make a difference in our financial sector.

Change is not just a matter of replacing Bush policies with Obama policies. It's also a matter of rethinking some of the familiar verities of Democratic policy. As Michael Dannenberg argues, the routine progressive agenda on higher education, which is to invest more money in financial aid, is limited if progressives are not willing to confront the cost of tuition, help students make informed choices, and consider a more sweeping agenda that would include tuition-free community colleges. Also, a special report looks at some of the new approaches to reducing poverty that have emerged over the last decade as well as the opportunity to build a new agenda suitable for the economic challenges of the moment.

And speaking of change, you might notice a few new things about the way this issue looks. We've given the magazine a little "facelift" to bring it up to speed with what we hope is a new era of progress.

-- Mark Schmitt

State-Level Détente

Pete Guither at comments on Eli Sanders' piece about Obama's approach to the "war on drugs": "Nobody really thinks Obama's administration is going to dismantle the war on drugs. At best, there will be rhetoric with no action. At worst, there will be a running away from the discussion. But that opens the door for us -- and the states -- to take the lead on drug policy."

Public Debate

In response to Paul Starr's column warning that a public health-care plan could become "a dumping ground for the sick and the old," libertarian economist Tyler Cowen notes on his blog, "I should add that some or maybe all defenders of the public plan can consider that an acceptable outcome: spend more money to cover more people and of course mostly from high-risk groups. But that's what it boils down to, not some kind of magical competition which will allow us to save on general health care costs without cutting back on real health care treatments."

Veteran journalist Merrill Goozner responds on his blog that "for the public plan to work, Congress will have to regulate the exchanges to mitigate adverse selection. At the least, that requires insurers of high-risk patients to receive risk adjustment payments. Another option is to establish an aggressive government overseer for private insurers to prevent them from avoiding high cost patients. A third way is to tax insurers who cherry-pick healthy customers from the risk pool."

Starr also engaged in an online debate about the public option with Robert Reich and Robert Kuttner, who sums up their discussion: "It's interesting that the three co-founders of the Prospect are reprising the three major strands of progressive views on health reform. Robert Reich is arguing that the Obama plan, with the public option, is the best practical brand of reform available. Paul Starr, holding out for something that looks a lot like the Clinton plan, argues (convincingly in my view) that the most likely form of the public option will backfire. And I continue to be the single-payer guy."

Rape on Trial

Reader William Pugliese takes issue with a section of Michelle Goldberg's article on Hillary Clinton's efforts to make the State Department more feminist. He writes, "The passage 'There's never been a trial at a U.N. criminal court for committing rape or allowing rape as a war crime' is incorrect. The case before the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda involving Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza is one of many in which the Trial Chamber convicted a perpetrator for rape as a crime against humanity. The Statute of the Court charges that rape -- and other crimes of sexual violence -- are chargeable as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and/or genocide depending on the severity and level of the offense(s)."

Goldberg responds, "I think that this is a matter of wording. Mass rape is chargeable as a war crime; nothing in the piece suggests otherwise. But no one has ever been charged simply for engaging in or orchestrating widespread sexual violence. Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza was brought up on war-crimes charges for being the architect of the genocide. Rape was just a part -- and not the biggest part -- of the case again him."


Correction: Our July/August cover story, "The Last Drug Czar," misstated the class of drugs to which morphine belongs. It is classified as a Schedule II drug under the Drug Enforcement Administration's rating system; heroin, a morphine derivative, is a Schedule I drug.

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