HELP AMERICA BELIEVE IT CAN VOTE. E.J. Dionne has a good column today about H.R 515, Rep. Rush Holt's augmentation of the Help America Vote Act to ensure paper trails, create routine, random audits of two percent of precincts, and keep voting machines offline where they can't be remotely tampered with. The bill currently has 219 sponsors (which means, a majority of the House), a fair chunk of them dragging an "R" behind their names.
FOLEY THE SCAPEGOAT. So, if the GOP loses Congress next month, will it be because of Foleygate? Were the Republicans on the upswing and set to hold on to their majorities as of September 28, when the scandal broke? We're going to be hearing arguments along these lines preemptively for the next month and (depending on what actually happens on November 7) possibly for a long while after. In a must-read post over at Midterm Madness, Steve Benen takes a close look at the data and says, basically, it just ain't so. Be sure to take a look.
TOO MUCH INFORMATION. Data, questions, and commentary abound on the North Korean nuclear test. Most interesting to me is how the bomb performed. The inital Russian report indicated the detection of an explosion of 5-15 kilotons, a respectable weapon. Later reports from French, South Korean, and American sources indicate a much smaller blast, around .55 kilotons (a kiloton equals 1000 tons of TNT). If the latter reports are right, the explosion was either not nuclear or was a failure.
OUR TERRORIST. Be sure to read Peter Kornbluh's Nation article on the curious case of Luis Posada Carriles. Posada is suspected of blowing up a Cuban jetliner in 1976, killing 73 people. He has a history of anti-Castro violence, and worked for the CIA during the 1960s and 1970s. Posada has been in the United States for some time, yet the Bush administration has refused to turn him over to the Venezuelan government on the grounds that Venezuela might extradite him to Cuba, which could result in torture.
The Washington Post published the results of a poll today showing that almost 40 percent of those expressing an opinion believe that the recent fall in gas prices is attributable to political manipulation of the market. While I don�t consider this a credible proposition (of course I also didn�t believe that Enron could be actively manipulating California�s electricity market in 2001), it is striking how many people are willing to believe the worst about the Bush administration.
The awarding of the non-Nobel prize (this prize was created by the Bank of Sweden in 1968, not Alfred Nobel) to Columbia University Professor Edmund Phelps, in part for his work on the theory of the natural rate of unemployment, provided the media with a good opportunity to talk about the current status of the natural rate theory. Unfortunately, they seem to have largely missed the opportunity.
Most of the news articles on yesterday's employment report noted that the Labor Department's benchmark revision will add 810,000 jobs to the numbers reported in the establishment survey, as of March of 2006. This is an extraordinarily large revision that implies that job growth was considerably more rapid between March of 2005 and March of 2006 than the unrevised data show.
Most economists view productivity growth as being the key to rising living standards through time. The basic story of productivity in the post-war era is that growth was rapid in the years from 1947-1973, but then slowed sharply over the years from 1973-1995. Productivity growth then ticked up again in 1995 and has been relatively rapid since 1995.
INTELLECTUALLY GROTESQUE INDEED!Jonah Goldberg apparently cannot distinguish between arguments about suboptimal economic outcomes of private monopsonies and those dismissing cowardly opera house owners as something less than an existential threat to speech. Truly, it's a subtle distinction, and Jonah should not in any way feel bad about missing it.