Archive

  • Productivity Tanks, No One Notices

    Okay, that's not quite right, the Wall Street Journal came though with a front page story . But the reporting on the latest productivity data was buried near the end of a story on retail sales in the NYT and nowhere to be found in the Post or on National Public Radio. Just to get people's eyes on the ball, productivity growth is a big deal. In the long-run, it determines the size of the pie that we have to cut up. I take distribution very seriously (a bit less for Bill Gates and friends is a lot more for everyone else), but the world looks much better, both in ensuring decent living standards and dealing with environmental problems like global warming, if we can sustain strong rates of productivity growth. The Labor Department reported that 3rd quarter productivity growth was flat. The quarterly numbers are very erratic, but looking back over a year productivity growth was just 1.3 percent. Since the big upturn in productivity growth in the 2nd half of 1995, there were only two...
  • ARCTIC NOT SO HOT AFTER ALL?

    ARCTIC NOT SO HOT AFTER ALL? Joshua Kurlantzick's story in this month's Prospect was a fascinating look at how huge energy companies (including some that have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to undermine the global scientific consensus that the Earth is warming and that we are responsible) are rushing to lock up oil and gas resources in the Arctic region. Yesterday, however, energy consultants Wood Mackenzie and geoscientists Fugro Robertson released a joint study casting doubt on what Wood Mackenzie's VP called "the long-considered view that the Arctic represents one of the last great oil and gas frontiers and a strategic energy supply cache for the U.S." Most of the resources up there, moreover, are difficult-to-transport gas rather than oil. No doubt the report's findings will curb some enthusiasm for Arctic drilling among the oil majors. More here from the Houston Chronicle . I'd be interested to hear Kurlantzick's thoughts. --Blake Hounshell
  • EN GARDE.

    EN GARDE. One of my own personal quirks is that I am an aging epee hack. I have been fencing, off and on, since 1971, having picked it up again in 1993. To my friends who play other sports, I make note often of the very cool facts that, a) Neil Diamond was a sabreur and the fencing captain at NYU, and b) that Bruce Dickinson , the lead singer of Iron Maiden, is a world-class foilist. So, I have to admit that, while I was cruising along the various tubes of the Internets, this (from a few months ago) freaking alarmed me . You and me, Annie . Fifteen touches. The CNN studios. Book it. --Charles P. Pierce
  • AZ SEN: PEDERSON MAKES HIS MOVE?

    AZ SEN: PEDERSON MAKES HIS MOVE? When we last checked in with the Senate race in Arizona, businessman Jim Pederson (D) was inching closer to incumbent Sen. Jon Kyl (R), narrowing the gap to just six points in a race Republicans didn't expect to be competitive this year. It continues to get more interesting by the day. National Journal reports that the DSCC is watching the race closely and is making an 11th-hour investment in pulling an upset. According to two sources familiar with the TV ad buy sheets in Arizona, the DSCC is buying up as much time as they can find in the Tuscon and Phoenix for TV ads that will begin airing tomorrow. With the NRSC trying to put more Dem seats in play earlier this week (see MD, MT and MI), it's not surprising that the Dems wouldn't try the same thing, especially since they are still raising money at an incredibly fast clip. As for the AZ race, our sources tell us that Republican Jon Kyl continues to hold a mid-to-high-single digit lead but Dems are...
  • WAR ON WHAT NOW?

    WAR ON WHAT NOW? Timothy Garton Ash makes a good (if familiar) point on the naming of the War on Terror: Apart from anything else, to use this language dignified the terrorists with the status of belligerents when they should have been treated as criminals. In a backhanded way, the coinage was itself a kind of glorification of terrorism. Right. Referring to anti-terror operations as "war" fulfilled some emotional needs (and laid the framework for the Bush adminstration's accumulation of executive power) but it hamstrung the actual fight against terrorism. The elimination of terrorism is simply not a plausible foreign policy goal. It's not logically impossible (thinking of terrorism as a social institution somewhat akin to dueling or slavery is helpful in this regard) but it's practically impossible, meaning that any war fought to defeat terrorism will invariably fail to achieve its end. There will be no final moment in which terrorism surrenders upon the deck of a Zumwalt class...
  • NE 3: SIGN OF THE TIMES IN NEBRASKA.

    NE 3: SIGN OF THE TIMES IN NEBRASKA. Indicative of the kind of year it's been for the GOP, President Bush will spend the final weekend before the midterm elections in Nebraska, campaigning in one of the country's most Republican congressional districts. As the GOP battles nationwide to keep control of Congress, Bush's plans to attend the Sunday rally in western Nebraska's 3rd District calls attention to the competitive race there between Republican State Sen. Adrian Smith of Scottsbluff and Democrat Scott Kleeb. [...] Bush's visit means that despite fiercely contested races across the country, he is choosing to spend some precious last-minute campaign time in a district where he won 75 percent of the 2004 presidential vote and where Republicans outnumber Democrats 2-to-1. Western Nebraska hasn't sent a Democrat to the U.S. House since 1958, and no Democrat has ever been elected from the state's 3rd congressional district, but Scott Kleeb clearly has the Republican establishment's...
  • MI SEN: DOES THE RSCC KNOW SOMETHING WE DON'T?

    MI SEN: DOES THE RSCC KNOW SOMETHING WE DON'T? Of all the close Senate races in the nation, Michigan rarely factors into the mix. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) has led challenger Mike Bouchard (R) in every poll this year, and no poll has shown the Republican within five points of the incumbent since August. Consultants on both sides of the aisle concluded weeks ago that the result of this race is a foregone conclusion. Why, then, is the RSCC investing in Michigan? National Republican Party officials pumped $850,000 into Mike Bouchard's campaign on Wednesday, a move the GOP called proof of momentum against Sen. Debbie Stabenow, but one that independent analysts called puzzling. The Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee began airing television ads Wednesday, backing Bouchard and attacking Stabenow, D-Lansing. It's the largest investment in the state this year by one of the national parties' congressional fundraising arms, according to documents filed Wednesday with the Federal Election...
  • UNPRODUCTIVE.

    UNPRODUCTIVE. The central economic mystery of the last decade or so is how the economy's robust productivity growth has not translated into commensurately large wage increases (I discuss this further here ). But as Dean Baker points out, the inexplicably bad good times may be ending: the Bureau of Labor Statistics is saying that productivity growth in the last quarter was...zero. 0. A goose egg. This country is so screwed. Oh, and here's Paul Krugman explaining why we're about to topple into a massive recession. I was at that conference and, later on, there was a panel asking how we can prevent the next recession. The four economists on the stage displayed a comforting unanimity in their responses: We can't. --Ezra Klein
  • "TORT REFORM" ARGUMENTS -- ARE THEY EVER RIGHT?

    "TORT REFORM" ARGUMENTS -- ARE THEY EVER RIGHT? Brother Ezra had a Slate piece this summer about the many empirical problems with the argument that capping medical malpractice suits would be a major source of cost reduction for the American medical system. (As Ezra points out, the overwhleming evidence against the idea that runaway malpractice awards drives up health care costs is amassed clearly and devastatingly in Tom Baker 's terrific book , The Medical Malpractice Myth .) Another "fact" often used by proponents of tort reform was that doctors were allegedly fleeing states like Texas because of its "out-of-control" tort system. So after Texas passed a bill in 2003 dramatically limiting the rights of Texans injured by doctors to sue, doctors must have started flooding back into the state, right? Er, not so much . In fact, "growth rates for the post-reform years were below the Texas norm ... From 1990-2002, the number of physicians practicing in the state grew at an average rate of...
  • THE COLOR REVOLUTION WE DON'T WANT.

    THE COLOR REVOLUTION WE DON'T WANT. We all got excited when the Ukrainians and Georgians kicked out Russian stooge governments in mass "color revolutions" backed by American dollars and encouragement. Now it looks as if Hezbollah, fresh from its relative success in holding out against the might of the Israeli military, may attempt to stage a yellow and green revolution of its own. Yesterday, following a visit by Druze leader Walid Jumblatt to the White House and the Wilson Center , the Bush administration issued a statement warning that Syria and Iran, Hezbollah's sponsors, are plotting to overthrow the current pro-Western government of Fuad Seniora . The threat was underscored when Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah explicitly warned that he would topple the government or force new elections unless a national unity cabinet is formed. Shi'a in general, and Hezbollah in particular, feel under-represented in Lebanon's sectarian system. Another issue at stake here is the U.N...

Pages