Archive

  • SELECTIVE ORIGINALISM.

    SELECTIVE ORIGINALISM. Amy Stuart Wells discusses the school integration cases that will be argued before the Supreme Court today. In addition to their intrinsic interest, cases involving racial classifications that are used to facilitate integration rather than segregation are intriguing because they provide evidence (beyond the obvious ) of the incoherence of modern conservative judicial theories. It's not uncommon to hear the Court upholding affirmative action programs as "judicial activism," although of course in such decisions the courts are deferring to electorally accountable branches. So perhaps this means that the court is departing from the "original meaning" of the Constitution? The problem is that it's almost impossible to justify striking down affirmative action programs in "originalist" terms, and the Supreme Court's purportedly "originalist" judges have never bothered to try. If you look at the relevant jurisprudence of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas , you'll see...
  • HARDER, BETTER, FASTER,...

    HARDER, BETTER, FASTER, STRONGER. Good column by Daniel Gross making the point that, contrary to popular belief, America does have a sort of national health care system. It's just not organized in a way that makes any sense. If you tally up the amount spent on deductibility for employer-based care ($208 billion), Medicare ($378 billion), Medicaid ($180 billion), not to mention military health care, coverage for public employees, and various sundry other programs and subsidies, you have the federal government picking up 2/3rds of the total tab for health care in this country. It just does so in an inchoate, nonsensical fashion. Some politicians, including former governor John Kitzhaber , argue for simply totaling up the money we already spend, then funneling it all into some sort of new, coherent program that could do much more for much less. After that, we could talk about new funds. Always seemed sensible to me, but the political life expectancy of someone suggesting an end to...
  • MORE WHERE THIS CAME FROM.

    MORE WHERE THIS CAME FROM. Last week, Think Progress called attention to an excellent local news report out of California debunking a new right-wing myth about Nancy Pelosi . In his compendium of agitprop, Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy , Peter Schweizer of the Hoover Institution accuses Pelosi of hypocrisy because her vineyard in Napa Valley doesn�t use union workers. Since the election, with the right desperately trying to turn Pelosi into a Democratic liability a la Newt Gingrich or Tom DeLay , the claim has been getting attention in the conservative media. You will be shocked to hear that the charge is bogus. As the San Francisco ABC affiliate demonstrated in a news report, Pelosi pays more than the average union wage in her area. More to the point, unless workers decide to form a union, it is beyond her control whether they belong to one. It is illegal for her to discuss a union contract with her workers unless they first vote to unionize. I wrote a...
  • ARE WE ALL...

    ARE WE ALL LABOR-LIBERALS NOW? For all the talk of divides between the left and the center-left on economics, it's becoming harder and harder to pinpoint the rifts. It's obvious, to be sure, where the players think the divides lie, but these imagined arguments appear increasingly unmoored from any debate I've recently heard. Over the weekend, Hamilton Project head and prominent neoliberal Peter Orszag stepped forward to caution against interfering in the direct workings of the market and instead institute a system of robust safety net programs, increased investment in education, and enhanced incentives for saving. Which is, so far as I've seen, all anyone, anywhere, is calling for. So here's my question to readers: What are the poles in the progressive economic debate? And how far are they really? What does Peter Orszag and the Hamilton Project want that the Economic Policy Institute reviles, and vice versa? It's certainly true that both ends cling tight to historical enmity, but I'm...
  • BEST UN AMBASSADOR EVER.

    BEST UN AMBASSADOR EVER. You don't want to read me on the end of John Bolton 's tenure as United Nations ambassador, you want to read Fast Leon . But I had to chuckle when I saw this line in today's AP write-up : [White House spokeswoman Dana] Perino said that among Bolton's accomplishments, he assembled coalitions addressing North Korea's nuclear activity, Iran's uranium enrichment and reprocessing work and the horrific violence in Darfur. Yeah, how's all that going? Everything copastetic ? Moving in our direction? There's also the great Perino quote, "Despite the support of a strong bipartisan majority of senators, Ambassador Bolton's confirmation was blocked by a Democratic filibuster. . ." Now, you would think that the second clause would have made her rethink the first, but if rethinking were a White House specialty, Bolton would never have been nominated in the first place. --Spencer Ackerman
  • PLAN AVIATION.

    PLAN AVIATION. John points us to this report about a Chinese purchase of 2 Russian Su-33 carrier capable fighter attack aircraft. The Su-33 is a carrier based upgrade of the Su-27, and China reportedly may purchase another fifty or so aircraft. The People's Liberation Army Navy has played around with the possibility of carrier aviation for quite a while, purchasing a few older carriers, including the Australian Melbourne , the Russian Minsk , and the Ukranian Varyag . Minsk is currently a theme park, and indications are that the PLAN is tearing Varyag apart in preparation for the construction of a new carrier of between 65000 and 80000 tons. The IASC article indicates that China could have a couple or even three carriers operational in a decade, but that strikes me as remarkably optimistic given the difficulties of starting a carrier program from scratch. My guess is, assuming that there's no fundamental shift in PRC foreign policy, and that there's no economic meltdown, we'll...
  • WILL CARVILLE ABANDON THE BUBBAS?

    WILL CARVILLE ABANDON THE BUBBAS? James Carville 's post-election tirade against Howard Dean got me to thinking about Hillary Clinton 's 50-state presidential chances in 2008. As a Hillary person, Carville surely must be pondering ways she can amass 270 electoral votes. Presuming she starts with the same 252 electors John Kerry won, there are five routes for her to get the other 18: 1. Single-shot Florida. Less competitive in 2004 ( Bush by 5 points) than during the Year of the Recount, the 27 electors from this least southern of the southern states will be on any Democratic nominee's target list. But she's no lock to win the Sunshine State. 2. Single-shot Ohio. The 2006 midterms revealed Ohio to be trending blue, and with Secretary of State Ken Blackwell out of the way it will be easier to put Ohio's 20 electors into the Democratic column, with two electors to spare. This would be my recommended route. 3. Flip three of the four southwestern states. If John McCain 's on the ticket,...
  • TAPPED OUT.

    TAPPED OUT. You may have noticed -- hopefully you noticed! -- that neither Tapped nor Beat the Press nor The Horse's Mouth had any new content on Thursday and Friday. Just to be clear, contributors didn't all take off on a road trip together -- we've been having some serious technical problems with Movable Type. We're still figuring out the issues and I don't think it's safe to say the problems have yet been surmounted, but as of now we are able to post content again, so for now I'm tentatively saying that all three blogs are in fact back on regularly scheduled programming. Apologies for the radio silence. --Sam Rosenfeld
  • The Housing Crash Recession is Coming

    Had this website been working, I would have been saying a lot about the economic news on Friday. The Commerce Department reported that non-residential construction fell by 0.7 percent in October following a downwardly revised fall of 0.6 percent in September. This should put to an end silly claims that growth in the non-residential sector would offset plumetting residential construction. The residential sector is twice as large as the non-residential sector, which by itself made such an offset unlikely. Furthermore, there was no basis for any sustained boom in the non-residential sector. There is still plenty of vacant office space, retail stores are cutting back, the manufacturing sector is stagnant or declining -- what would support a boom? Friday's data also included a release from the Institute of Supply Management that showed the manufacturing sector declining in November and weaker than expectd car sales. In addition, on Thursday we had a sharp jump in weekly unemployment claims...
  • The Chinese Central Bank is Not Run by Morons

    Would the Chinese central bank be concerned about the fall in the dollar against the euro and other free floating currencies? Absolutely, the bank is targetting the price of its currency in order to sustain demand Chinese exports. If the dollar falls against other currencies, this means that the yuan is falling against other currencies. Other things equal, this increases demand for China's exports from other countries, which could mean that they would opt to raise the value of the yuan against the dollar to offset this increase. (The Chinese government has been worried about its economy growing too fast.) Is the Chinese bank worried that this reduces the value of its dollar holdings as the NYT claims ? Not unless they are morons, which is not plausible. Virtually every economist in the world believes that the dollar will be falling at some point in the future. The logic is simple. The trade deficit is unsustainable. The only way (other than a prolonged and severe recession) to bring...

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