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  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: BARE NECESSITIES.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: BARE NECESSITIES. Graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi 's latest is the tale of her great-uncle, a famed musician who loses his beloved instrument and his will to live. Writes Noy Thrupkaew : Plums is Satrapi's most structurally daring narrative, and perhaps her most subtle in its depiction of her hotbed homeland, Iran. In her past three works, Satrapi has made a name for herself by braiding together intimate, memoir-ish narratives with Iranian history. In Plums , a eulogy to the death of pleasure, Satrapi works on both the personal and political scale once again. Her references to Iran are more allusive than in her previous works, but just as haunting. Read the whole thing here . --The Editors
  • THE POST-DEAN PRIMARY....

    THE POST-DEAN PRIMARY. Evan Bayh 's decision to forego the 2008 campaign is an interesting one. Bayh joins with Mark Warner and Russ Feingold as serious candidates who, in an open year and facing a broad field, decided to ease off the trigger and unload the gun. And the three of them make for an illuminating bunch. Warner and Bayh were both supposed to uphold the New Democrat consensus, the triangulating Southern moderation perfected by Bill Clinton . Feingold, on the other hand, was supposed to play the insurgent, the serious lefty in a field Hillary had tilted right. But a funny thing happened on the way to the caucuses. In presidential primaries, "space" is the definitional attribute. Niches get filled, interest groups sated, and constituencies satisfied. And so it has happened in the Democratic primary. Hillary has settled on the center, while all of the excitement and other candidates have veered to the left. Obama, Edwards, Gore -- say what you will, but this crew currently...
  • SMELLS NICE.

    SMELLS NICE. Via Drum , see this American Footprints rundown on the Iranian elections, which did not go well at all for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his allies. The post makes an important point at the end: "The results will certainly please Western capitals. Not that we should expect any major shifts in Iran's foreign policy, which in any event isn't controlled by Ahmadinejad." Meanwhile, was Ahmadinejad's list of allied candidates really called the "Sweet Scent of Service" coalition? Is that alliterative in Farsi? --Sam Rosenfeld
  • W STANDS FOR...

    W STANDS FOR WOMEN WAHABBISM. During the build-up to the Iraq war, you may recall various Bush apologists who have less than no interest in women's rights domestically using women's rights in other countries as a prop to advance the administration's foreign policy (often spiced up with dishonest claims that American feminist groups ignore violations of women's rights in Islamic countries). Exactly how the Iraq War was supposed to improve women's rights was unclear, and not surprisingly replacing a brutal secular dictatorship with a quasi-state beholden to Islamic radicals for social control has made things even worse : Life has become more difficult for most Iraqis since the February bombing of a Shiite Muslim mosque in Samarra sparked a rise in sectarian killings and overall lawlessness. For many women, though, it has become unbearable. As Islamic fundamentalism seeps into society and sectarian warfare escalates, more and more women live in fear of being kidnapped or raped. They...
  • IRAQ: GROTESQUER AND GROTESQUER.

    IRAQ: GROTESQUER AND GROTESQUER. Sam sounds a powerful call in his last post : While Reid's line on this, taken word for word, is quite logical and in keeping with his call for withdrawal, I too must admit to yearning for a cessation of all deliberate ambiguities and bank-shot calculations in Democrats' stated reactions to the president's Iraq plans, now that the policy direction under discussion is set so squarely in the face of overwhelming public opinion, as well as basic humanity. Of course I'm sympathetic to this. But I don't want to see the right succeed at hoisting the albatross of the lost Iraq war around the left's neck. That will get us two, three, many Iraqs. It goes a little something like this (hit it): Democrats take over Congress in 2007. Bush begins a troop increase, allegedly in the name of bringing the war to a desirable conclusion. It has all sorts of anticipated ill effects: increased deaths, increased chaos, mounting strain on the military. Bush demonstrates no...
  • IRAQ: THE GROTESQUE PHASE.

    IRAQ: THE GROTESQUE PHASE. Cliff May informs us that he is one of the anonymously quoted party attenders in the truly lovely opener to this new Fred Barnes piece : It turns out you only have to attend a White House Christmas party to find out where President Bush is headed on Iraq. One guest who shook hands with Bush in the receiving line told him, "Don't let the bastards get you down." Bush, slightly startled but cheerful, replied, "Don't worry. I'm not." The guest followed up: "I think we can win in Iraq." The president's reply was emphatic: "We're going to win." Another guest informed Bush he'd given some advice to the Iraq Study Group, and said its report should be ignored. The president chuckled and said he'd made his position clear when he appeared with British prime minister Tony Blair. The report had never mentioned the possibility of American victory. Bush's goal in Iraq, he said at the photo-op with Blair, is "victory." Barnes goes on to quote one official as describing Bush...
  • Horror Show at USA Today

    In an article that discusses a serious issue, the laibility of state governments for retiree health benefits, USA Today also tosses in a bit of holiday fearmongering. It tells people that the liability of all levels of government for retirement pension and health benefits is at least $57.8 trillion, or $510,000 per household. So as to avoid ruining anyone's holiday spirit, income by the same measure is projected to be around $1,000 trillion or more than $10 million per household. This context should have been included in the story, but I guess they couldn't find the room. One other important point, about two-thirds of this projected liability would disappear if health care costs only increase due to aging and otherwise rise at the same pace as per capita income. This is yet another disaster that is predicated on exploding health care costs. If we ever fix our health care system, then most of the basis for this scare story disappears. (Thanks to Peter Hart from Fairness and Accuracy in...
  • The NYT Nails the Drug Industry Yet Again

    According to the NYT , drug giant Eli Lilly knew that Zyprexa, a drug used to treat schizophrenia, had a number of serious side effects, but decided not to trouble doctors with this information. The NYT has done a great job over the last decade uncovering cases where the pharmaceutical and medical supply industries have engaged in unethical behavior to promote use of their products. This usually has meant concealing evidence of potential harm, but they also engage in a wide variety of unethical sales practices that often take the form of kickbacks to doctors for prescribing their products. What has been largely missing from the NYT coverage is any economic analysis of this issue. As anyone who has ever sat through an intro econ class should recognize, these sorts of abuses are exactly what we would expect when the government gives companies patent monopolies that allow them to charge prices that are far above the cost of production. Most readers will see this last sentence and comment...
  • Unnecessary Instances of Breast Cancer, Yet Another Dividend of Patent Financed Drug Research

    Most people probably saw the news about the sharp fall in the incidence of breast cancer. This was attributed to a drop in the use of hormone replacement treatment for menopause. And why were so many women getting hormone replacement treatment? Well, the pharmaceutical industry pushed it as a way of combatting aging. That is the incentive structure created by the system of patent financed research. Government patent monopolies give drug companies huge mark-ups on each prescription they sell, which means that they have enormous incentive to try to get their drugs used as widely as possible. The fact that they may not be entirely safe is secondary. CEOs don't get $100 million paychecks for saving lives, they get this money by boosting the bottom line (and putting their friends on the compensation committees). --Dean Baker
  • If There Is Inflation, the Problem Isn't Wages

    Real wages have risen less than 2 percent over the last five years. Because of the sharp drop in gas prices over the last four months, real wages have grown rapidly over this period. Of course, once oil prices stop falling (as they already have) real wages will be growing in the range of 1.0-1.5 percent annually, well below the 2.7 percent rate of productivity growth of the last five years. Since real wage growth is clearly trailing productivity growth, why are reporters so obsessed with the idea that wage growth is causing inflation? If there is cause for concern about inflation in the current economy, it is due to the fact that productivity growth may have slowed back to its pre-1995 rate or that the falling dollar is leading to rising import prices. These are topics that deserve more attention. The media should be discussing these issues instead of obsessing that workers may finally be getting a share of productivity growth. --Dean Baker

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