NICHE-MARKETING A WAR. It wasn't so much where Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice turned up on the airwaves last night, but that she landed on these two shows on the same day: The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer (PBS) and The O'Reilly Factor (FOX News Channel). Secretary Rice, it seems, sees two influential groups that need persuading on the U.S. approach (hands-off?) to the current conflict in the Middle East: the small, intellectual "opinion-maker" crowd who watch Jim Lehrer, and the angry, right-wing anti-intellectuals who love Bill O'Reilly.
I DON'T NOT WANT MY 401(K). The Los Angeles Times has an interesting article on the move towards automatic enrollment in 401(k)s, also known as opt-out 401(k)s. The basic concept is simple: People are lazy. You, probably, are lazy. If forced to request, fill out, and turn in the forms that are necessary in order to set a retirement nest egg, you'll probably instead just go watch somebody get hit in the crotch with a baseball on YouTube. Similarly, if you're automatically entered into the 401(k), rather than go through the hassle of removing yourself from a sensible, dutiful savings shelter, you'll just adapt. While saving.
JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: CONTRA IRAN. Last month Laura Rozentalked to Mark Perry about Hezbollah and the unfolding crisis in Lebanon. Today, she talks with another Hezbollah expert, Magnus Ranstorp, who offers a very different perspective.
YEAH, IMAGINE THAT. Last Sunday, chatting up Wolf Blitzer on CNN, Senator Mitch McConnell imagineered himself up the following scenario: "Imagine the United States, if you had a couple of terrorist organizations in Mexico or Canada, that came across our borders, captured two of our soldiers, and then started launching rockets against our civilian population. We'd go after them, too."
RUBIN REPENTS? I just noticed it, so I guess I can hardly wonder why it attracted so little attention, but I'm sort of stunned that Nation national affairs correspondent and leading fair-trader William Greider's tentative rapprochement with establishment economics guru and former Clinton Treasury secretary Bob Rubin attracted so little notice. Greider and Rubin sat down last month for a long chat on the state of the economy, the problems of trade, and the dangers of inequality.
REVISITING IRAN-CONTRA. The more I look back on it, the way that the crimes of the Iran-Contra affair came to such an uncertain conclusion, the more it strikes me as a lost opportunity, and not just because so many of the principals are back to screwing up the nation now, 20 years later, although that's a pretty good reason in and of itself. What Iran-Contra resembles is nothing less than an embryonic exercise in the notion, now popular in the lunchroom at the Department of Justice, that the Executive Powers section of the Constitution resembles more closely than anything the operating principles of the Corleone family.
THE NEED TO COPE. In this post, Martin Peretz notes that having Hezbollah de-militarize by being absorbed into the Lebanese Army would be unsatisfactory from an Israeli point of view. He also says that "it would even be terrible if the Lebanese army didn't absorb but simply occupied the southern part of the country." And here, he says he doesn't like the idea of a UN force either. This, however, leaves only the possibility of Israel re-occupying southern Lebanon, which didn't work out well at all, or else a return to the status quo ante.
GIVE 'EM UP. Now this is comforting. A New York Appeals Court has ruled that a federal prosecutor can inspect the phone records of the New York Times reporters who revealed the government's plans to take action against two Islamic charities. The charities were tipped off when the reporters called to get their reactions to a raid that hadn't happened yet. The court ruled that the government's need to know the tipster outweighed the paper's desire to protect its sources. Weirdly, though, the court simply demanded the telephone records, not the cooperation of the journalists.
This is the first posting as a TAP blog, so I thought I would mark the occasion with a comment on the housing bubble. We have enough data at this point (lower sales, rising inventories, falling median prices) that I feel confident in saying that the crash has begun. We don't yet know the speed of the decline or the full repercussions in terms of the financial havoc or the extent of the economic downturn.