Archive

  • DOUBLE-EDGED EXECUTIVE.

    DOUBLE-EDGED EXECUTIVE. John Quiggan makes a point that should be obvious to conservative supporters of enhanced executive power, especially as regards combatting terrorism: So, for those who support the bill, it might be useful to consider the standard thought experiment recommended to all who support dictatorial powers for a leader on their own side. Think about what the other side might do with these powers. For concreteness, suppose Hillary Clinton is elected in 2008 with a Democratic majority in Congress, and appoints someone like Janet Reno as her Attorney-General, and that some rightwing extremist takes a potshot at her. Suppose that the unsuccessful terrorist turns out to have drifted widely through the organisations that Clinton famously called the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, ranging from organisations with a track record of association with terrorism, like Operation Rescue and the militia movement, to those of the mainstream right, not engaged in violence, but prone to the...
  • HUMAN DIGNITY.

    HUMAN DIGNITY. Three weeks ago, President Bush pointed out that Article III of the Geneva Conventions prohibits "outrages against human dignity", a term that he found too imprecise to guide detainee policy. As Rodger Payne notes, the Bush administration has felt free to use the term "human dignity" in other contexts without feeling a need for clarification. In the National Security Strategy of the United States , Section IIA: The United States must defend liberty and justice because these principles are right and true for all people everywhere. These nonnegotiable demands of human dignity are protected most securely in democracies. The United States Government will work to advance human dignity in word and deed, speaking out for freedom and against violations of human rights and allocating appropriate resources to advance these ideals. President Bush also made use of the term "human dignity" in his UN speech of September 21, 2004, suggesting that a belief in human dignity led to a...
  • THE FOLEY WEEKEND.

    THE FOLEY WEEKEND. Hard to stay on top of this scandal, but it certainly looks mega-toxic. The FBI's investigating , Nancy Pelosi is calling for a House ethics committee probe that includes "questioning, under oath, the House Republican Leadership," and more former pages are beginning to surface with creepy-email tales of their own. See some cynical-but-plausible reads on Speaker Hastert 's call for a criminal investigation here and here . Needless to say, cover-up and hypocrisy are the key themes worth focusing on. To digress slightly, however, I'll second this comment from Glenn Greenwald noting "the bizarre and incoherent contradiction in the law � that in-person, actual sex between Foley and a 16-year-old page would be perfectly legal in D.C. and in most places in the U.S., but it seems that it is a criminal act for Foley to discuss or solicit sexual acts with the same page over the Internet." (Greenwald has more here .) That does seem odd, and, not to get all James Kincaid here (...
  • Protectionist Hysteria at the NYT

    The New York Times had an editorial this morning warning about the dangers of protectionism resulting from the large U.S. trade deficit with China. This should lead to gigantic "huh" from informed readers. The United States already has a wide range of barriers that make it difficult for foreign professionals (doctors, lawyers, accountants, economists etc.) to work in the United States. There is no economic theory that shows great harm from trade barriers on cars and shoes, that doesn't also show great harm from barriers to trade in porfessional services. In other words, if the NYT is so scared of protectionism, it should be railing constantly against the protectionism that keeps the pay of our doctors and lawyers so much higher than their counterparts in the developing world or even Europe. The NYT also gets the trade deficit story wrong. The proximate cause of the trade deficit is the decision of foreign central banks to buy dollars to keep the dollar high and the value of their...
  • David Brooks' Ignorant Protectionism Strikes Again

    Every time his column appears, David Brooks demonstrates that the U.S. economy still offers good-paying jobs for unskilled workers. His Sunday column (sorry, Times Select and therefore non-linkable) is yet another diatribe against Democratic politicians (e.g. Sherrod Brown and Bob Casey) who are opposed to trade and immigration policies that are designed to redistribute income from less-skilled workers to college educated workers and capital. Brooks does the usual routine of contrasting these backward looking nationalists with forward looking internationalists like Hillary Clinton. Of course, if Times columnists were required to know what they were talking about, Mr. Brooks would know that the Hillary Clinton "internationalists" are actually strong proponents of protectionism, but only for the professionals who make up their base. Their trade agreements do little or nothing to subject doctors, lawyers, and other highly paid professionals to international competition. Rather, they...
  • The High Cost of Protectionism: Dangerous Drugs

    The NYT reported today that the German pharmaceutical company Bayer A.G. concealed a study from the F.D.A. that showed a drug used in heart surgery might increase the risks of strokes and death. Of course, economic theory predicts that government granted patent monopolies will create incentives for exactly this sort of behavior. Economists should be focusing a large portion of their research to developing more efficient alternatives for financing pharmaceutical research. Unfortunately, they spend much more of their time calculating the gains from eliminating 5 percent tariffs on pants. As a result, tens of millions of people cannot afford drugs that would be sold at very low prices in a competitive (i.e. patent free) market, and drug regulators get lies about the safety of the drugs they evaluate. --Dean Baker
  • FRIDAY FIVE O'CLOCK...

    FRIDAY FIVE O'CLOCK FOLKWAYS. The entire American labor movement has been atremble today, waiting for the National Labor Relations Board to deliver its decisions in the Kentucky River cases -- decisions in which the Board is widely expected to reclassify as many as 8 million workers as management, and hence ineligible to join or belong to unions. The ruling would apply to nurses who schedule shifts or offer training on some new devices, say, to other nurses, perhaps to carpenters who help train apprentices -- you get the picture. The whole point of the ruling, labor fears, is to further cripple its ability to organize and represent workers -- and crippling unions and afflicting workers, after all, is the very the raison d�etre of the Republican and management hacks who constitute the majority of the board. It turns out labor must tremble a little longer. With the board's current deliberative term at an end as the month ends, the word, as of 5:00 PM Eastern time today, Friday, is that...
  • BROWN'S VOTE.

    BROWN'S VOTE. Surely Sherrod Brown 's vote in favor of the detainee bill was one of the more notably dispiriting to behold this week. As it happens, Jim McNeill has a profile of Brown in the new print issue of the Prospect that sets up his race as the test case for a certain kind of (very Prospect y) political approach -- the bet that amped-up economic populism can trump social and security issues in red states. But certainly this week showed that Brown isn't above casting a compromised vote on a security question if its profile is sufficiently high. These political questions were actually hashed out at some length at the Prospect breakfast event with Brown back in March. The transcript of the discussion is here , and I think it's highly worth taking another look at. There's much about Brown that impresses, but his answers touching on both the substance and politics of national security really nicely capture, I think, some of the continued pathologies that afflict Democrats in that...
  • FOLEY.

    FOLEY. Not sure what to add regarding the news of Florida congressman Mark Foley 's resignation (looks like the GOP is going to have a hell of a time trying to keep that seat Republican). In the spirit of kicking a guy while he's down, I guess I'll just note that, yes, he did vote to impeach Clinton . --Sam Rosenfeld
  • THE LESSONS OF...

    THE LESSONS OF WARS. You often hear of Vietnam Syndrome, that odd affliction wherein liberals who noticed America's last occupation attempt didn't go that well made the crazed extrapolation that this one wouldn't either. Loons! But Spencer Ackerman notices that the right has their own dysfunction left over from the war or, at least, its aftermath: Disillusionment with a war usually follows a predictable pattern, particularly among elites: support or acquiescence for the enterprise; a tortured recognition of the war's poor fortunes; and, finally, denunciation. Norman Podhoretz, the neoconservative founding father, followed exactly the opposite course with Vietnam. In 1971, as editor of Commentary, Podhoretz wrote despondently about the war, "I now find myself ... unhappily moving to the side of those who would prefer ... an American defeat to a 'Vietnamization' of the war which calls for the indefinite and unlimited bombardment by American pilots in American planes of every country in...

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