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  • WHERE DO YOU...

    WHERE DO YOU COME FROM, WHERE DO YA GO? After Monday's immigration marches, The National Review 's Cliff May crept forth with a dark, ominous post wondering about the shadowy groups organizing these demonstrations and the nature of their true "agenda." Well May can take that extra layer of tin foil off his hat, because the answers are out , and they're pretty innocuous. According to the AP, the story goes something like this: After James Sensenbrenner brought his endearingly medieval outlook to the issue, a hastily called confab of unions, civil rights groups, and religious organizations met in California. The consortium decided to sponsor some rallies with a simple purpose: against Sensenbrenner's legislation, for some undefined path to citizenship. Outreach was conducted primarily through Hispanic radio, e-mail, and churches, with the Service Employees International Union and the Catholic Church eventually taking the lead, particularly on funding. The rallies tapped into the...
  • DEAN CALLS FOR...

    DEAN CALLS FOR DECLASSIFICATION RE WASHPOST PIECE. DNC Chairman Howard Dean this morning called on the Bush administration to declassify a 2003 Defense Intelligence Agency-sponsored report that undercuts a key administration claim about Saddam Hussein -era Iraqi weapons. As reported in this morning�s Washington Post , the DIA sent a team of experts to Iraq in May 2003 to examine trailers that were suspected of carrying equipment needed to make biological weapons. The team determined that the trailers did not contain such material, and reported that finding to Washington on May 27, 2003. Two days later, President Bush said, �We have found the weapons of mass destruction.� Dean, at this morning�s Prospect breakfast meeting with roughly two dozen journalists, said, "We are going to call, probably today, for the declassification of the report.� He wouldn�t say whether he had already spoken to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi about this strategy, but one source said that such conversations...
  • PSA. For the...

    PSA. For the past few months, spammers have bombarded our comments section. It came to a point where, for a brief period yesterday morning, they had brought down all of TAP Online . We had to temporarily deactivate the comments section to look into this problem more carefully, but it should all be resolved later today. Sorry for the inconvenience. --Alec Oveis
  • ABOUT THAT SCLEROSIS....

    ABOUT THAT SCLEROSIS. The economic performance of the large continental European economies -- France, Italy, and Germany -- really does leave a great deal to be desired. That said, the American press seems dogmatically determined to vastly overstate the extent of the problems. This editorial in my morning paper argues that "European governments seem unable to summon the strength even to address the economic sclerosis eating away their prosperity -- much less challenge American power." Mixed metaphor aside, Europe isn't becoming less prosperous . Rather, it's becoming more prosperous at a slow rate . If Europeans were actually getting poorer, then I think you'd see much more electoral support for dramatic changes. As things stand, it's always worth noting that European economic growth could be boosted rather easily if the European Central Bank would loosen monetary policy. My understanding is that they've been maintaining a tighter-than-necessary monetary policy in order to...
  • BOOING CHENEY. This...

    BOOING CHENEY. This is bizarre. Dick Cheney was selected to throw out the first pitch at the Washington Nationals home opener yesterday and got booed as he took the mound because he's ridiculously unpopular . This, as Jane Hamsher notes , was reported by The Washington Post thusly: The first pitch of the Washington Nationals� second season at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium was low and away, bouncing in the dirt before being scooped up by catcher Brian Schneider. For that, Vice President Cheney received a round of boos from the home crowd this afternoon. By all other accounts in the press and rather plainly on the Post 's video , Cheney was getting booed from the beginning just as you would expect. --Matthew Yglesias
  • When Out of Context Is Untrue

    A couple of days ago, I gave my standard diatribe about the importance of putting numbers in context, especially budget numbers, which as isolated billions or trillions are virtually meaningless to the typical reader. In some cases, the issue is not just one of being uninformative, it's also a question of actually being wrong. In budget reporting, the most obvious case in which out of context is wrong, is when comparisons of the deficit are made through time. There have been many news reports pronouncing the Bush deficits the largest in history based on the fact that nominal deficits (which peaked at $413 billion in 2004) were larger than the size of the deficits in any prior year. This statement is true, but sufficiently misleading to be wrong. The impact of the deficit on the economy, and the potential debt burden it poses to taxpayers in the future, depends entirely on its size relative to the economy. This is the Bill Gates principle. If Bill Gates chooses to borrow $1 million for...
  • ITALY'S STABLE INSTABILITY....

    ITALY'S STABLE INSTABILITY. Earlier today, Ezra linked to an article suggesting that Italy's history of unstable governments is a contributor to the difficulty of introducing economic reforms. A National Review editorial makes a similar claim: Prodi's coalition is a gamut of nine parties � running from two Communist parties at one extreme to liberals and Catholics at another � all of them unable to agree either on political ends or on means. It should be child's play for Berlusconi or any opposition to bring down such a government and return to the routine of the last 50 years, in which Italian prime ministers have come and gone in rapid succession as though through revolving doors. The famous fact is that during the immediate post-WWII era, Italy had something like fifty governments in fifty years (The Donnas beat that pace by a wide margin) which seems excessive. This "instability," however, masked a great deal of underlying sameness. A single political party was the dominant force...
  • KNOW WHEN TO...

    KNOW WHEN TO FOLD 'EM. One idea I've seen kicking around the past couple of days is that talk of military strikes against Iran may be part of some kind of clever gamesmanship designed to achieve a diplomatic resolution. I think people need to think harder about that. Airstrikes would, at best, delay Iranian acquisition of nukes. Giving in to the United States would, of course, entail abandoning the quest for them entirely. So the structure of Bush's offer, under this theory, would be "either give up your nukes or else I'll slightly delay the point at which you can get them." That, I think, isn't quite in "offer they can't refuse" territory. Indeed, they'd have no reason whatsoever to accept that offer. It's a pointless threat. The only way to make this work would be to put carrots on the table. "Give up your nukes and we'll lift our sanctions and grant you diplomatic recognition, or else I'll use force to slightly delay the point at which you can go nuclear." This will work, of course...
  • ROBERT SHRUM DISPUTES...

    ROBERT SHRUM DISPUTES JOE KLEIN'S ACCOUNT OF KERRY CAMPAIGN. Robert Shrum , the chief strategist for John Kerry 's presidential campaign, is disputing some aspects of a forthcoming account by Joe Klein of the 2004 campaign, saying Klein's version is "inaccurate" and "misleading." In his latest Time magazine column, Klein published an excerpt of the book, one which offers a scathing look at the inner dynamics of Kerry's campaign. In the piece, Klein asserts that Kerry allowed himself "to be smothered by his consultants," and cites as a key example the campaign's handling of the Abu Gharib scandal: Perhaps the worst moment came with the Bush Administration torture scandal: How to respond to Abu Ghraib? Hold a focus group. But the civilians who volunteered for an Arkansas focus group were conflicted; ultimately, they believed the Bush Administration should do whatever was necessary to extract information from the "terrorists." The consultants were unanimous in their recommendation to the...
  • A SQUEAKER IN...

    A SQUEAKER IN ITALY. It looks like Romani Prodi 's center-left coalition will eke out a very narrow victory against hilarious crook-turned-politician Silvio Berlusconi . If so, Italian society may soon prove less divided than it seems. Even the narrowest of margins for Prodi's coalition would allow him to remedy the current situation where some television stations are owned by Berlusconi, and the other television stations are owned by Berlusconi's government. Everyone likes to complain about media bias, but the situation the Italian left's been dealing with is truly off the charts. --Matthew Yglesias

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