Archive

  • Are Falling Gas Prices Offsetting the Impact of Housing?

    The latest Fed Beige Book, which gives assessments on current economic conditions from the Fed's 12 regional banks, reportedly finds that the impact of falling gas prices is offsetting the impact of the weak housing market. This one doesn't sound quite right. The country buys approximately 130 billion gallons of gas annually. If we say that prices are down 80 cents a gallon from the spring peaks, this translates into savings of just over $100 billion annually. If 70 percent of this goes to consumers (a substantial portion of gasoline is used for commerical purposes), it means that lower gas prices will put another $70 billion a year in consumers pockets, compared to a situation in which gas had stayed at its peak prices. By contrast, homeowners are pulling more than $700 billion in equaity out of their homes. While the full impact of lower home prices will only be felt through time, given the small amount of equity that many homeowners have, this figure can easily fall by two-thirds,...
  • HOW DO YOU...

    HOW DO YOU SAY "SI SE PUEDE" IN CHINESE? Here's a very simple question: Do you think worker laws are too generous in China? Do you think employees there get paid too much, or treated too kindly? Well, America's corporations do. The Chinese government, concerned over the social effects of their rapid economic expansion, has proposed a raft of reforms that would actually create some standards floors for Chinese laborers: Unions will get new powers to negotiate wages, safety laws, benefits, and ground rules; layoffs will be somewhat harder; and the state will do more to ensure against the exploitation and mistreatment of ordinary Chinese. The legislation won't make the country into California, but it will make it less like, well, China. But for all their high rhetoric about worker's rights and treatment concerns, American corporations seem oddly opposed to the new laws. The American Chamber of Commerce -- representing, among others, Nike, Dell, Ford, Microsoft, and GE -- is staging an...
  • BEATS KEN BURNS.

    BEATS KEN BURNS. OK, so the Turkish guy seems like a real standup fella, but next year's Nobel better go to these folks or there will be all kinds of Swedish hell to pay. You wouldn't think there were that many people who could do Jonah Goldberg imitations, but, damn, this guy's good. By the way, note to all Rush Limbaugh fans and the insecure Beltway drones whom they make nervous -- this is what you call satire. Pass it on. --Charles P. Pierce
  • SADAT'S NEPHEW GETS IN TROUBLE.

    SADAT'S NEPHEW GETS IN TROUBLE. The 25-year anniversary of the assassination (video link) of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat passed last Friday without much hoopla here in Cairo. Many journalists, including my friend Zvika Krieger , used the occasion to reflect on Sadat's major legacy: the Camp David Accords . Sadat's nephew Talaat , for his part, has made a splash here by suggesting in different venues that current President Hosni Mubarak was involved in the assassination, and that the military guard looked the other way. A deputy in the Egyptian People's Assembly, Talaat had his parliamentary immunity stripped for making such allegations (slandering or otherwise insulting the president is a crime in Egypt) on an Al-Arabiya talk show. He also claims that the U.S. and Israel were in on the plot. The younger Sadat's trial began Wednesday in a military court (because he "insulted" the military in his comments). In an ironic twist, his lawyer is Montasser al-Zayyat , who was once the...
  • Lack Skills, But Need a Good Paying Job? Call the NYT

    Yes, Thomas Friedman is back (it's Times Select, so there's no linking). Mr. Friedman reports that voters want energy independence, but they are not prepared to support higher gas or BTU taxes. Instead he tells us that they want higher mileage standards and energy use regulations of the sort put in place by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in California. Friedman's source on what voters support is Democratic political advisors James Carville and Stan Greenberg, who he tells us "are are professional campaign advisers. They get paid to get people elected � not to offer feel-good nostrums." Actually, I thought that people get elected by offering feel good nostrums. (They certainly don't have to offer to worry about tough analyses from the likes of Mr. Friedman.) In fact, the California regulations, while a step in the right direction, will not get us close to energy independence. We will have to go much further than these regulations, and maybe have a target date of something like 2050,...
  • A NEW CHAMP.

    A NEW CHAMP. This is even more evidence that the late Abe Rosenthal 's crown as Positively The Worst Published Writer Ever is being struck even more daily into the hazard by Marty Peretz . I won't bother totaling up the productive and talented people produced by places like Georgetown or Notre Dame. I won't even stick up for my own alma mater, Marquette University. Rather, I would just point out that, by any standard he has used in the past to glibly accuse someone of anti-Semitism, and even by the standards he uses in this very post, Peretz has written an opening paragraph of pure, old-fashioned American nativist anti-Catholicism. --Charles P. Pierce
  • SCHALLER V. SCHALLER....

    SCHALLER V. SCHALLER. I sort of hate to do this to Tom , but has he read his new book? I have, and really liked it. But it doesn't seem to say what he thinks it says. Below, Tom rails against me for skepticism that Democrats are going to find their greatest gains among state-hatin' libertarians, largely because he appears to think that means writing off the Interior West. Which it doesn't. The Interior West is trending left, in part, as Ryan Sager will tell you, because of a decidedly non-libertarian influx of Hispanic and Californian immigration, which Sager likens to "a bucket of blue paint spilled across the region." Happily, Tom's books show him prepared to appeal to these people on populist terms. Which made his post something of a surprise given that lbiertarians are not, shall we say, particularly inclined to agree with Tom's prescriptions. For instance, Tom blasts Democrats for supporting NAFTA, complaining that it's "a perfect example of how not to flag plant [build your...
  • NO SPACE TO FILL.

    NO SPACE TO FILL. Whatever the realities of family life that contributed to Mark Warner �s decision this morning to bow out of the 2008 presidential race, there had to be some pretty compelling political realities that contributed to his decision as well. Chiefly, the fact that there really isn�t all that much political space to run to Hillary Clinton �s right in that year�s Democratic primaries and caucuses. Indeed, Hillary�s decision to position herself in the center-right of the party set the stage for Warner�s fall and John Edwards �s rise in this year�s sorting of Democratic presidential hopefuls. Her positions on the largest economic questions, particularly her advocacy of education, broadly defined, as the solution to the dislocations of globalization, anchor her firmly in the Robert Rubin wing of the party. Her don�t-rock-the-boat-too-much-capsizing-though-it-be position on Iraq, while by no means close to Joe Lieberman �s embrace of administration policy, still puts her...
  • WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH VERMONT?

    WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH VERMONT? Alas, I have no time at the moment to weigh in on the Dems - and - libertarians debate, but one aside in Tom 's post really caught my eye and I did just want to throw out a question to him or to folks in comments -- Bush's share of the Vermont vote went up by 10 percent between 2000 and 2004!? What's the deal with that? How/why did that happen? UPDATE: That was fast! Tom called to say he screwed up when looking at the spreadsheet and Bush's number in Vermont in fact declined (rather than increased) by 10.3 percent between 2000 and 2004. That answers that. (And, obviously, makes more sense.) --Sam Rosenfeld
  • MARK DOWN.

    MARK DOWN. I�m disappointed that Mark Warner has dropped out of the presidential race. I think he would have made a good candidate, and hope he will consider running for Vice President, if asked. Many are already speculating that he will run for Senate in 2008 if Republican incumbent John Warner retires. I�ll presume he didn�t consider the presidential run just to build up a massive war chest of federal dollars he will then hold and dump into a Senate �08 race, but whether that was his original intent or not, the latent effect is the same -- he�ll be locked and, um, loaded. Who is the big winner in all of this? Al Gore , because the Hillary -alternative crowd now has one fewer choices on the menu. John Edwards is still there, too, of course. If Gore is smart he�ll invite Edwards down to Tennessee and ask him to put together a Democratic �greatest hits� ticket from 2000 and 2004: The better of the two presidential candidates and the better of the two veep running mates. Gore-Edwards in...

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