Archive

  • SPOILER. Over...

    SPOILER. Over on Bolton Watch Michael Roston does an excellent job blogging the race between Venezuela and Guatemala for a seat on the UN Security Council. So far, there have been more than 22 rounds of voting, with neither country winning the necessary two-thirds support from the 192 UN member states of the General Assembly. The United States is strongly backing Guatemala, (or, more accurately, strongly opposing Venezuela) for one of the Latin American seats on the Council. And in doing so, the United States has shown that its influence at the world body is remarkably limited. As Roston points out, Venezuela has consistently pulled at least 70 countries in the balloting. And for their part, the Guatemalan delegation does not appreciate being branded the �American candidate.� Nevertheless, it looks like Venezuela will be blocked and a compromise candidate will emerge from Latin America. This is a good thing. Lots of folks may not think it all that terrible should Hugo Chavez have a...
  • GETTING OUT OF IRAQ.

    GETTING OUT OF IRAQ. Nearly everyone except Billy Kristol and John McCain agrees that the U.S. needs to reduce its presence in Iraq. Even George Bush has made "as the Iraqis stand up, the U.S. will stand down" as the centerpiece of his "strategy." Often, the debate is portrayed as "stay the course" (or the hilarious "adapt to win" spin of RNC hack Ken Mehlman ) versus "cut and run" in partisan circles, but the reality is more complex. The American military has been consolidating its position into fewer, larger bases for well over a year now, while endeavoring to hand over security responsibilities to the Iraqi military and police. As we've seen, this approach has been hijacked by sectarian militias and criminal gangs, who together have rendered the government of Nour al-Maliki largely powerless. Any large-scale withdrawal will require some form of negotiation with the real centers of power in Iraq, among them some of those we are currently fighting. Since it's better to negotiate with...
  • WHAT WAS THE...

    WHAT WAS THE VOTE COUNT ON THE FEDERAL MARRIAGE AMENDMENT AGAIN? Ed Morrissey claims that attempts to out GOP Senator Larry Craig shows that "Left hates gays." First of all, "a poster at Daily Kos and a gay activist" does not equal "the Left." (I mean, what do Ward Churchill and the immortal Some Guy With A Sign Somewhere have to say?) But more importantly, whether it's right or wrong the idea that outing someone reflects "hatred" for gay people is just silly. The premise is rather that politicians should be as comfortable with homosexual identities as they are with their heterosexual ones (you may have seen a political ad or two with a candidate's family prominently displayed), and that it's particularly odious for gay people to use the depriving of rights of gay people for reasons of political ambition. You may also remember this argument from the ridiculous Kabuki surrounding Mary Cheney , in which various cultural conservatives (and glibertarians ), as part of a campaign in which...
  • 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...

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