Archive

  • ISLAMISTS ON THE MARCH?

    ISLAMISTS ON THE MARCH? Marc Lynch has a new post up about the 2007 Jordanian parliamentary elections on his excellent new group blog, Qahwa Sada ("black coffee" in Arabic). The fear in the Hashemite Kingdom and in Washington, following the success of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas in Palestine, is that Jordanian Islamists will make big gains. They are represented primarily by the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood, which is legal in Jordan but not in Egypt. As Lynch explains, however, an Islamist takeover is unlikely if not impossible due to the way the system has been designed. Morocco will also be holding parliamentary contests in 2007, and these may be more interesting. Morocco has a range of Islamist parties and groups, from the relatively moderate and successful Party of Justice and Development (which currently has 42 seats out of 325) to the banned Justice and Spirituality Association , which is radical insofar as it rejects...
  • The Threat of Zero Population Growth

    The Washington Post reports on France's pro-family policies which it tells us are proving effective in combatting the "threat of zero population growth." While I am big fan of policies that lessen the burden on families raising young children, no one is ever going to scare me with the threat of zero or even negative population growth. Economists know about the concept of productivity growth. Respectable rates of productivity growth easily offset the impact that a rising ratio of elderly dependents can have on living standards, as simple arithmetic shows. I'll use some extreme numbers to show the case. Suppose that a country goes from having a ratio of 3 workers to retiree to 2 workers over a span of 30 years. This is roughly the pace in the U.S., which is extraordinarily rapid because of the large post-war baby boom cohort. Suppose further that the typical elderly dependent gets an income equal to 70 percent of the income of the typical worker. (This story ignores any benefits from a...
  • Deficits and Tax Cuts

    I am not a deficit hawk, but the Bush deficits are larger than can be sustained. I will not explain this further, because I trust that BTP readers know arithmetic. The tax cuts contributed to this deficit. There is no serious economic model that shows tax cuts paying for themselves. The Congressional Budget Office (under the direction of a Bush administration economist) did an analysis of Bush's tax cuts using a wide range of economic models, and none showed them to do anything other than increase the deficit. In a best case scenario, increased economic growth can offset 15-20 percent of the cost of the tax cut in the short-term. Given the lack of ambiguity in economic models, why does the Post feel the need to treat the argument that tax cuts pay for themselves seriously? Sell these people some swamp land in Florida. By the way, the Post also deserves a big kick for not reporting on the size of the deficit relative to GDP. That is the only way to make the context meaningful. The...
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: CURT'S NEW HURT.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: CURT'S NEW HURT. Laura Rozen , who's been on the Curt Weldon beat for a while now, brings us up to date on the current FBI investigation into Weldon and his daughter, and ruminates on possible explanations for the Justice Department's recent interest in the relationship. Guess who comes up? But a Washington lobbying expert who asked to speak on background has another theory: someone cooperating with the Justice Department on another matter might have tipped them off to Weldon. That person: Jack Abramoff. �I think that Abramoff told them that his Russian clients told him this Russian company [Itera] had an in with Weldon,� he said. �The info provided by Abramoff would have been sufficient for the FBI to get a warrant for the wiretaps.� Read the whole thing . --The Editors
  • �Y TU, MEXICO?

    �Y TU, MEXICO? Over the last few years, Mexico has been rolling out a universal health care system focused on access to preventative care and free enrollment for the bottom income quintile. The results ? The number of cases of malaria have dropped by 60%, six times more people are receiving antiretroviral therapy, TB mortality has fallen by 30%, and Mexico is only one of seven countries on track to reduce child mortality by two-thirds by 2015; the fourth Millennium Development Goal (MDG4). The reforms have also led to a 17% reduction in the proportion of male teenagers who smoke, a 17% increase in the use of mammography, and a 32% increase in the number of pap smear tests over the past 5 years. Beyond preventative care, new data out today shows that childhood cancer mortality is plummeting as well. In addition, the Mexican government has vastly updated their health infrastructure, building 1,700 new facilities, enrolled 22 million residents in the plan, and is on track for universal...
  • CHARACTER COUNTS.

    CHARACTER COUNTS. Posted without comment. You may now release the hounds. --Charles P. Pierce
  • BELIEVABILITY. Folks...

    BELIEVABILITY. Folks may have vaguely noticed the sordid story of United Health Group CEO William McGuire trickling out over the past couple of days. In an age of obscene CEO pay, McGuire put every other executive to shame: At the end of 2005, his stock options were worth 1.8 billion dollars. Unfortunately, those options were backdated -- the dates were forged to begin at the lowest point for the stock, so the holdings would be worth more. And now everyone hates the guy. Eat your heart out, Shakespeare . What's so infuriating about McGuire's compensation package, however, wasn't the malfeasance that went into augmenting it, but the grotesque and inexplicable wealth it offered in the first place. A couple billion for a CEO beyond his salary? That must be some productivity. Possibly the best justification for the cash came compensation committee member Mary Mudlinger : "We're so lucky to have Bill," Ms. Mundinger, a longtime compensation-committee member, told the [ Wall Street Journal...
  • ONE-TWO PUNCH.

    ONE-TWO PUNCH. See, not all political campaign staffers are the somber, well-bearded, and amber-lit sages that "The West Wing" folks threw out there for our entertainment during the Santos - Vinick campaign. (Well-bearded, of course, except for Donna Moss , Valkyrie Wonk Queen Of the Great Lakes.) Sometimes, they're just, well, dopes. On a day in which convicted killer and international grifter Don King signed aboard Michael Steele 's foundering plague ship in Maryland, who was the campaign genius who came up with this endorsement , too? This is a one-two combination of such pure stupid that I'm beginning to believe all those theories about the Diebold machines. No serious political party could possibly believe it could win honestly doing stuff like this. --Charles P. Pierce
  • THE WAR OF STRATEGIC DEFERRALS.

    THE WAR OF STRATEGIC DEFERRALS. An interesting article by Warren Richey about whether the Supremes will "trim" the appalling Military Commissions Act. My guess, as Richey suggests, is that the Court will do pretty much nothing -- Justice Kennedy invited Congress to act, and it did. These kinds of interactions between courts and legislatures have long been a hobbyhorse of mine , and I was happy to see the always-excellent Dahlia Lithwick tackle the subject recently in the WaPo : Congress gives in to the temptation of passing bills that are of questionable constitutionality because it's easy and convenient. Political expediency seems to trump constitutional principle. The elected branches need never defy the popular will if the courts are available to do so instead. And those members of Congress who insist that the courts should stay out of Congress's business should recognize Congress for the enabler it has become. It's a two-way street: The courts work with what Congress sends them...
  • YOU'RE OUT OF THE MAINSTREAM: YEAH, YOU.

    YOU'RE OUT OF THE MAINSTREAM: YEAH, YOU. While I�m kvetching about regional politics, I may as well tell you I�m sick of the double standard that operates with respect to Democrats or liberals when it comes to the politics of opponent-framing. With impunity, sneering Republicans and conservatives can mock �northeastern liberals,� but duck and cover if you dare point the �out of touch� finger at southern conservatives. They are the real Americans, you see, and no amount of data will suffice to disprove the back-of-the-napkin Applebee�s analyses of the �Great Davids� ( Broder and Brooks , that is). Here�s just one fact from my book the national media will never report because, gripped as they are by conventional wisdom and too lazy to consider that they might be wrong, they won�t bother to take even five minutes to look it up: The partisan preferences of white northeastern voters are much more mainstream than that of white southeastern voters. The simplest way to demonstrate this is by...

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