Archive

  • Is Europe Hiding Its Productivity?

    The Wall Street Journal has an interesting piece today on how France Telecom is trying to set up its workers in their own business as a way of getting around restrictions on layoffs. The story itself is interesting -- it�s an innovative initiative that would seem to produce win/win outcomes. But the discussion also raises another serious question about excess labor in France and other countries with restrictive laws on layoffs. The article implies that much of France Telecom�s 120,000 workforce has been made unnecessary due to the rapid changes in technology over the last 15 years. In the United States, the old-line telephone companies have all had massive layoffs. In France, and most other European countries, employment protection laws prevent such large-scale dismissals so companies must retain workers even if they don�t need their labor. This could be one of the factors explaining the difference between European and U.S. productivity growth over the last decade. (Prior to 1996,...
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: A HAWK FOR ALL SEASONS.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: A HAWK FOR ALL SEASONS. Is Joe Lieberman actually strong, or at least serious, on defense issues? Spencer Ackerman says no. The senator adheres to no coherent or systematic foreign policy doctrine beyond a blanket, consistent hawkery on every security issue of the day. Ackerman examines Lieberman's record since the Persian Gulf War, concluding that "the most surprising thing about Lieberman's defense record is the difficulty of defining Liebermanism. On the central question of why a nation should or shouldn't go to war, Lieberman's answer is simply, 'yes!'" Read the whole thing . --The Editors
  • WHAT DO THE...

    WHAT DO THE POPULISTS WANT? It seems to me that Noam Scheiber 's column on Ned Lamont 's populism suffers from a couple undefined premises. What, for instance, does the populism of Ned Lamont and the netroots actually seek? Scheiber indicates that it's a more fundamental critique of capitalism and corporations than the New Democrat wing of the party would tolerate. I'd like to see the evidence. It's been my impression that the more strident a class warrrior's rhetoric, the more banal his set of solutions. Lamont, for instance, isn't advocating massive increases in marginal tax rates, but universal health care. He doesn't want to break up Wal-Mart through an antitrust suit, he wants them to pay better wages and let their workers unionize. It's populism-lite, asking merely that the corporations be a bit more kind and gentle, or at least allow the government to do the kind and gentle things the corporations seem unwilling to pay for. The first stirrings of class revolution this is not...
  • GOREWATCH. Al...

    GOREWATCH . Al Gore 's companion book to An Inconvenient Truth is resting comfortably atop the New York Times Bestseller List, which reports 20,000 copies flying off the shelves each week. The book itself is a very slick production -- mostly pretty pictures and eye-catching graphs, about as colorful and as quick a read as anything on the subject of climate change can possibly be -- but I have a hard time believing that customers are buying a coffee table tome on global warming rather than a little piece of Gore-mania. And, while a bestseller does not make a presidential campaign, it's got to be one more siren song tempting the ambitions of the former contender... --Ezra Klein
  • CHICKENS COUNTED PRE-HATCHING.

    CHICKENS COUNTED PRE-HATCHING. As best as I can make out, the mandate of John Nichols ' blog for The Nation is to be preternaturally optimistic about the prospects for left-wing activism, but I think his post arguing that Nedraline could put Russ Feingold in the White House is missing a whole bunch of steps. Realistically, Hillary Clinton is no Joe Lieberman in terms of political profile, even though I agree that their views on Iraq are less different at the end of the day than Clinton would like us to think. But that brings us to the larger point, Lieberman lost by a pretty narrow margin at the end of the day -- had he not decided to run around acting like Dick Cheney 's sock puppet he would have won easily. What's more, the dynamics of the Connecticut primary were very different from a presidential one. Had Lieberman agreed to respect the outcome of the primary, the general election would have been a blowout win for whoever won the Democratic nomination. That took the dread "...
  • TROTTING OUT CHERTOFF....

    TROTTING OUT CHERTOFF. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff yesterday made the rounds of the Sunday shows, once again proving his status as an administration toady, and one with no apparent interest in keeping you and me safe from the designs of terrorists. On Meet the Press , NBC's David Gregory asked Chertoff to comment on Friday's statement by Vice President Dick Cheney , who said that Ned Lamont 's win in the Connecticut primary "would only encourage �Al Qaeda types.�" Chertoff replied, "I stay out of domestic politics. What I do think is important is that we be very clear in our message to the world�and this has to be true on a bipartisan basis�that we are steadfast and resolute in the war against terror. I think if we suggest any weakness, that does encourage them to believe they can carry out their missions." In other words: I stay out of domestic politics, but Cheney is right. Over at Face the Nation , Scott Pelley of CBS, in something of a get-tough battle of the...
  • THE NETROOTS AND DIALECTICAL MATERIALISM.

    THE NETROOTS AND DIALECTICAL MATERIALISM. Noam Scheiber argues that despite the mutual loathing between leading blogger-activists and, say, the leadership of the DLC, the natural ideological tendency of the netroots is New Democrat-style neoliberalism rather than labor-liberal economic populism. Why? Demographics. Netroots activists have a New Dem demographic profile -- relatively affluent, relatively well-educated -- and everything follows from that. This was something I was inclined to say myself throughout, say, 2004. The blogosphere turned out, however, to be dogmatically -- and correctly -- opposed to privatizing Social Security. What's more, as Noam discusses, empirical analyses from the Pew Center and by Scott Winship indicate fairly clearly that netroots activists really do have populist economic policy views. Noam counters this with what amounts to a Marxist analysis -- the netroots neither can nor will transcend their objective status in the class system and are currently...
  • IN RETROSPECT....

    IN RETROSPECT.... The good news over the weekend is that the relevant parties have reached a cease-fire agreement that will be better for Israelis and Lebanese alike than continued fighting would have been. The bad news is that, as skeptics like me have been saying from the beginning, pretty much nobody with the exception of Hassan Nasrallah is better off than they would have been had this major incursion not happened in the first place. Israel's achieved essentially nothing in a strategic sense, has gotten far more of its own citizens killed than were at risk from Hezbollah in the first place, the Lebanese government is weaker than ever, and Hezbollah's Shiite constituents have paid the highest price of all. This is the way it tends to go with preventive war. Fighting other people is a highly undesirable outcome compared to cooperating with them or even tensely coexisting with them. It's very, very easy for both sides to lose in these situations. --Matthew Yglesias
  • IN PRAISE OF NEW IDEAS.

    IN PRAISE OF NEW IDEAS. For columnists, that is. Over the weekend, The Los Angeles Times 's Gregory Rodriguez fretted that Democrats were looking to the Iraq war to save their party when what they really needed were Big Ideas. Call it the conventional wisdom remix, with Rodriguez's new beat being his concern that Democratic rhetoric on Iraq will foster debilitating political divisions and destabilize support for government as a whole. And, while he had the good form to base his column mainly off of quotes from articles written by Prospect supreme beings Mike Tomasky and Paul Starr , it's still an aggravating effort. The problem for the New Ideas division of the Columnist Corps is that they, well, have none. It's easy enough to spin a few hundred adjectives extolling fresh thinking and dismissing tired bromides, but whenever these offerings finally skid towards the constructive paragraph marking the column's close, the whole project falls apart. Rodriguez, for instance, wonders why "[...
  • THE DIVE THEY DIDN'T NEED TO TAKE.

    THE DIVE THEY DIDN'T NEED TO TAKE. Over the weekend, there was some more dust kicked up about the decisions that The New York Times made concerning the timing of the publication of its groundbreaking story regarding the administration's domestic surveillance program. Editor And Publisher pretty much argues here that the Times took a dive so as not to affect the outcome of the election. Now, I happen to think that's one of the worst excuses short of bribery for holding a story. If you think you've unearthed news to which people have a right, then you're supposed to affect the election. People have no greater right to any news than they have to that news which informs their choice as to who will lead them. That said, however, I have to admit that I don't think the outcome of the election would have changed worth a damn if the Times had published what it had when it first had it. I regretfully concluded a while ago that the Bill of Rights has no constituency in this country any more, and...

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