Archive

  • DEVELOPMENTS HOME AND ABROAD.

    DEVELOPMENTS HOME AND ABROAD. The biggest news on the international front of the North Korean crisis appears to be China's apparent willingness to think about strong punitive measures. I'm not sure what to read into this, as "tough measures" undoubtedly means something radically different in Beijing than in Washington or Tokyo. Nevertheless, China is one of a very small fraternity of countries with serious influence over North Korea, so any indication of willingness on their part to use leverage is good news. I doubt, though, that any set of carrots and sticks will get Pyongyang to give up its remaining weapons. Indeed, the current level of tough talk is likely to push them into another test. On the domestic front, the Republicans have settled on their narrative; Clinton did it. The point man here is John McCain , who, as Brad Plumer notes, is making noises that seem to indicate that he would attack North Korea if he were president. This is the perfect political opportunity for McCain...
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: PROBLEM POLITICS.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: PROBLEM POLITICS. Harold Meyerson writes about the GOP's penchant for ignoring real problems while concocting fake ones for political purposes. In the latter vein, he recounts a kooky subcommittee hearing in September discussing the dangers of "mixed unions": On September 28th, Texas Republican Sam Johnson (who regularly introduces legislation to repeal the 16th Amendment, which established the income tax) convened his subcommittee on Employer-Employee Relations to examine the threat to civilization posed by the organizing campaign that the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) was conducting among the employees of Wackenhut, the venerable security guard company. SEIU also happens to be among the most politically active unions, usually on the Democratic side, in the land. �In the post 9/11 world,� Johnson intoned, "we cannot risk the potential for a lapse in security that could have disastrous consequences.� The hearing that followed was plainly...
  • 655,000 DEATHS.

    655,000 DEATHS. A staggering figure from Johns Hopkins University researchers assessing the number of deaths in Iraq caused, directly or indirectly, by the American invasion. These researchers, who published their findings in the British journal Lancet, are the same ones who did the controversial death count survey in late 2004 that also produced far higher numbers than people had expected. That survey came in for much drubbing from pro-war pundits and even folks like Fred Kaplan . That Kaplan piece seemed persuasive to me when I first read it, but then Daniel Davies eviscerated ( twice ) most of the lay critiques of the study and I ended up being de-persuaded by Kaplan and more than a bit ashamed at my innumeracy and statistical ignorance. If we see another round of debate about this research team's findings, those two Crooked Timber posts will be worth revisiting. --Sam Rosenfeld
  • NAVAL DOCTRINE.

    NAVAL DOCTRINE. Speaking of maritime issues, two days ago Kim Jong Il bequeathed a wondrous gift on the Navy and the Air Force. Because the Army is deeply engaged in Iraq, it has been requesting additional funds to the point that the fiscal division-of-spoils between the Army, Air Force, and Navy has been threatened. As Defense Tech and Arms and Influence point out, any military confrontation with North Korea would most immediately be handled by the USAF and the USN. A couple months ago in Armed Forces Journal , Frank Hoffman critiqued naval acquisition strategy and proposed an alternative approach. Hoffman's core point is that the Mahanian navy, built around a few powerful capital ships and intended to destroy the fleet of a peer competitor, is an increasingly anachronistic vision that is nevertheless held to by a considerable portion of the Navy. I'm not as comfortable with this argument as I once was, because the Navy has done some serious work increasing its littoral capabilities...
  • 1000 SHIP NAVY.

    1000 SHIP NAVY. Probably the biggest concern that the North Korean nuclear program presents is the problem of proliferation. One solution that's been floated (so to speak) is the establishment of a maritime inspection regime that will limit Pyongyang's ability to export nuclear technology. Any such effort would need to be multilateral. Coincidentally, the latest thing in maritime circles is the "1000 ship Navy" . This isn't an effort to triple the existing USN; the Navy is looking for 313 ships, and won't get that. Rather, the 1000 ship Navy envisions a global coalition of navies cooperating to fight terrorism, piracy, drug trafficking, human trafficking, natural disaster, and any other ills that afflict the international system. The project is extraordinarily ambitious, but the rewards for developing a successful international coalition could be enormous. A lot of work that navies do can be thought of as constabulary. When not fighting each other (and high intensity naval warfare is...
  • ONE WHAT?

    ONE WHAT? As much as I hate to risk the wrath of the Tapped Grammarians again, I have to point out that this advertisement , which is causing a stir in the Massachusetts gubernatorial race, is an even cheaper shot than it would appear at first glance -- and, at first glance, incumbent Lieutenant Governor Kerry Murphy Cuchulain Tir na Nog Healey ought to be thoroughly ashamed of it. However, pay close attention to the last two lines, which say: "While lawyers have a right to defend admitted copkillers, do we really want one as our governor?" That "do we really want one" business is the problem. It's a rancid enough business to imply that a defense attorney who does his job too well is disqualified prima facie from being governor, but look a little deeper. That sentence also can be reasonably read as calling Deval Patrick a "copkiller," whom we don't want as our governor. Taken in at the lickety-split pace of television advertising, it certainly can be heard that way. (By the way, no...
  • News Flash: Microsoft Doesn't Like Competition

    The Times has an interesting article about a plan to get low-cost laptops to children in the developing world. To keep costs down, the computers will use Linux, an open source operating system, instead of Windows. The article reports that Bill Gates doesn't think it's a good idea to use laptops to connect the world's poor to the web and that cell phones would be better. Is this a surprise? --Dean Baker
  • Who Do Washington Post Reporters Have to Thank for Their Jobs?

    I tried really hard to ignore this, but I do have the business section of the Washington Post sitting on my dining room table staring at me. And it says, " You Might Have to Thank Him for Your Job ." Yes, that is the headline of the Washington Post's article on Edmund Phelps winning the Nobel Prize. Let's see, as I recall Edmund Phelps said that we have to keep the unemployment rate at or above the "natural rate" in order to keep inflation from accelerating. This would seem to imply throwing people out of work, as in the Fed raises interest rates, thereby slowing the economy and job creation and raising the unemployment rate. This is pretty much what happened in both 1989-90 and 1994-95. This view could perhaps justify a headline like "You Might Have to Thank Him for Losing Your Job," but it is hard to see how you get from Phelps theory to the Washington Post headline. The best is yet to come for those real masochists among BTP readers -- last chance to get away and not have your day...
  • FEAR THIS OPERA.

    FEAR THIS OPERA. It's not at all clear why Jonah Goldberg is so obsessed with hyping the threat to Idomeneo , but responding to Jews convincing the Polish Embassy to cancel a talk by Tony Judt , he writes: "But, tell me, did Foxman threaten to cut off Judt's head?" Of course, the only head that was getting cut off in Idomeneo was Muhammad 's. According to Bloomberg , "The police have since said that they received no concrete threat." Oh. So free speech now quakes before phantom threats? Indeed, interior secretary Ehrhart Koerting , the official who asked the opera director to cancel the show in the first place, now admits that he made a "mistake," and was "worrying too much about security." So let's get the facts straight: Working off no specific threat of any type, the interior minister feared Muslim backlash and asked an opera director to cancel a production. The political and media establishments mocked and opposed the decision, the interior secretary admitted he was overreacting,...
  • GOTV.

    GOTV. Jay Cost 's post explaining the trouble in measuring the actual impact of the GOP's much-vaunted voter mobilization scheme is an important one. Their GOTV advantages -- microtargeting, the 72-strategy, etc -- are being sold as a secret, even insurmountable weapon. But there's precious little data supporting that. To be sure, Bush's largest vote increases in 2004 came in Democratic areas, which certainly speaks to the power of microtargeting. But Alan Abramovitz argues that Democrats did just as well, if not better. And, in any case, Democrats aren't going to be blindsided by the same tricks again. Indeed, just six years ago, the Donkeys had the unstoppable GOTV advantage, and it was the GOP playing catch-up. My suspicion? If the right's real GOP gains come in grabbing marginally sympathetic voters in unlikely places, they may find this year that those voters aren't quite so sympathetic. GOTV works to combat laziness, not hostility. And for now, all polls show the right's worry...

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