Archive

  • BACK TO THE COURT?

    BACK TO THE COURT? The detainee bill passed by the Senate yesterday came as a result of the Supreme Court's Hamdan decision, so some obvious questions now include whether this bill will itself end up being looked at by the Court, what the prospects are for it being struck down, and what the grounds would likely be for that action. Scott Lemieux thinks the odds are overwhelming that the Court will not find this bill unconstitutional (adding as a crucial grace note that "that opponents of this scandalous legislation should not use the courts as a crutch "). The Washington Post 's write-up today includes some scholars who think questions might be raised on 14th amendment "equal protection" grounds, regarding the provision declaring conspiracy to be a war crime, and, especially, regarding the elimination of habeas corpus rights. Even a Pepperdine University prof who supports the bill told the Post that he thinks the habeas corpus provision might not stand up in court. Speaking of "using...
  • WITH GOD ON...

    WITH GOD ON YOUR SIDE, WHO NEEDS THE FACTS? Kirsten A. Powers wrote a piece for TAP Online on the pope controversy that is, in part, a rebuttal to my essay, "Benedict the Bombthrower" . Powers misrepresents my work as a defense of the violence perpetrated by some Muslims in the name of God, and accuses me of partly blaming the U.S. for the murderous and abusive actions of Islamic theocracies. Hers is a tactic more commonly used on the right: State that someone said something she clearly did not, then berate her for having supposedly said it. An honest rebuttal would have taken on my interpretation of the pope's speech, which is what my piece was about. Anyone who read my essay knows that I in no way condoned the violent reaction to the pope's comments. My commentary simply takes the pope to task for pouring, in an apparently deliberate manner, gasoline on smoldering coals, and it sets his words into context, assessing actions by the West (not just the U.S., as Ms. Powers asserts) that...
  • From the WSJ's Humor Edition: Good Economic News Boosts Republicans

    The Wall Street Journal reports that a batch of good economic news might give Republican candidates a boost in this fall's elections. Well, good economic news is generally good news for the party in power, but the reports we have been seeing lately don't look very good. At the top of the list we have falling home sales and prices, and record high ratios of mortgage debt to home values. Yesterday, the Commerce Department reported that new orders for durable goods are also headed down. Employment growth has been weak for 5 straight months, while wages have been struggling to keep even with inflation. None of this adds up to a disaster (at least not yet), but I'm not sure that anyone would boast about it either. Gas prices have tumbled in the last few weeks, and this is clearly good news for people's pocketbooks, but I'm not sure that many people will vote Republican because of $2.30 a gallon gas. I guess my question is, if there is in fact so much good economic news, why hasn't the Wall...
  • Is Productivity Growth Slowing?

    The news reports on the release of revised data for 2nd quarter GDP missed the fact that output in the nonfarm business sector was revised down by 0.4 percentage points. This means that (ignoring rounding) productivity growth for the quarter should also be lowered by 0.4 pp to a 1.2 percent annual rate. At this point, the consensus estimate for 3rd quarter GDP growth is about 2.5 percent, which translates into a 1.5 percent rate of productivity growth, assuming hours grow at a modest 1 percent annual rate. Productivity growth has clearly slowed from its extraordinary 3.6 percent annual rate over the years 2002-04. If the third quarter growth comes in at close to 1.5 percent, then the year over year rate (3rd quarter 2005 to 3rd quarter 2006) would be under 2.0 percent. That would be news. -- Dean Baker
  • NELSON: CASE IN POINT.

    NELSON: CASE IN POINT. I don't want to keep beating up on Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) -- I realize he may be the best one can hope for out of Nebraska -- but today he once again cast a decisive ( corrected, as commenters had noted ) vote of major importance. By a 51-48 margin, the Senate rejected an amendment to strike provisions on habeus corpus review from the putrid "compromise" bill on torture. It was a party-line vote, Nelson being the only Democrat voting with the majority. This is not long after Nelson earned the dubious distinction of being the only Democrat to vote against funding for embryonic stem cell research. If the Senate is more closely divided next term, liberals will need to bring some pressure to bear on guys like Nelson. --Ben Adler
  • HOUSE ENACTS A POLL TAX.

    HOUSE ENACTS A POLL TAX. Following up on my post from yesterday about the importance of election oversight at the state level comes news of an attack on voting rights at the national level. From Katrina vanden Heuvel at The Nation : Republicans in Congress are on the job and doing everything they can to further disenfranchise voters.... The House recently passed a bill along party lines requiring voters to present a photo ID beginning in 2008. Starting in 2010, voters would need to pay for a government-issued proof of citizenship -- a virtual poll tax.... Demos, a national public policy organization, reports that the legislation would disproportionately impact people of color, individuals with disabilities, rural voters, people living on reservations, the homeless, and low-income people -- all of whom studies show are less likely to carry a photo ID and more often have to change photo ID information. It's unclear if and when the Senate will act on this legislation. But, if it's...
  • LUCKY WE CUT...

    LUCKY WE CUT THOSE TAXES. Following this bit of good news out of Iraq, there is a new congressional analysis showing that we're spending $2 billion a week on the war -- more than twice as much as it cost per week during the first year of operations. The change in spending is coming both from increased combat, but also from "the building of more extensive infrastructure to support troops and equipment in and around Iraq and Afghanistan." Here's how that looks: All in all, the Congressional Research Service estimates we've spent more than $500 billion on war since 9-11. One might wonder what we're getting for all that money, particularly with the new NIE report showing it's made us less safe from terrorism, but then they'd be weak-kneed Defeatocrats. -- Ezra Klein
  • A UNITER. ...

    A UNITER. I think it's time for liberals to admit that, at least in Iraq, George W. Bush is a uniter, not a divider. For instance : He's united more than 60 percent of Iraqis in support of attacks on U.S. troops. He's united even more than that in terms of those who the Americans out within a year. And he's united nearly 80 percent behind the proposition that our presence provokes more violence than it prevents. That's some impressive uniting! Now, if only his administration would listen: The State Department, meanwhile, has conducted its own poll, something it does periodically, spokesman Sean McCormack said. The State Department poll found two-thirds of Iraqis in Baghdad favor an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces, according to The Washington Post. McCormack declined to discuss details of the department's poll. "What I hear from government representatives and other anecdotal evidence that you hear from Iraqis that is collected by embassy personnel and military personnel is that...
  • IN CASE YOU...

    IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING. As per usual, if anyone is still confused as to the median voter's stubborn resistance to admitting the economy's overall awesomeness, new data showing that health premiums went up 7.7 percent in 2005 may help illuminate things. After all, 7.7 percent was more than twice the inflation rate and the growth in worker's wages. In fact, since 2000, health premiums have gone up by 87 percent. Somehow, I doubt the average worker's salary has done the same. -- Ezra Klein
  • SPEAKING OF POST...

    SPEAKING OF POST COLUMNISTS... David Broder continues his "political independence" jihad today , this time with a column celebrating Arnold Schwarzenegger 's political transformation from righty to moderate deal-maker, which "demonstrat[ed] in the most dramatic way possible the value of political independence." But now I'm really confused. As Broder's own recounting shows, Arnold's shift was borne of dire political necessity -- his efforts to govern and legislate as a right-winger were completely rejected by the California electorate, and so in response he's shifted gears and tried to mend fences with the Democrats who have real power in the state. There's plenty of ways to spin this as a positive thing (democracy in action, responsiveness to the voters, etc.), but chalking it up to "independence" seems almost perversely inapt. (I now see that Susie Madrak already put this more pithily.) --Sam Rosenfeld

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