Archive

  • THE LESSON OF RHODE ISLAND.

    THE LESSON OF RHODE ISLAND. The Republican story on Connecticut and Rhode Island, repeated a little too credulously by much of the press, is that the Dems shoved aside their moderate incumbent, Joe Lieberman , while the Republicans wisely kept theirs, Lincoln Chafee . But hold on a minute. Didn't voters in both states' primaries choose the guy who is opposed to Bush 's Iraq War? The man who narrowly lost to Chafee, Warwick Mayor Stephen Laffey , was actually the faithful Bush supporter, just like Joe Lieberman. The RNC held its nose and poured money into Chafee's race, calculating that the moderate Chafee had the better chance of holding onto the seat for the GOP in the blue, blue Ocean State. But Chafee's win hardly validates voter enthusiasm for Bush. Maybe the Republican National Committee should be disparaging Chafee in the same terms they disparage Lamont . (How do you spell Defeat-o-Rep?) --Robert Kuttner
  • A GOOD START....

    A GOOD START. The always worthwhile Jon Cohn has a terrific article on the burgeoning Democratic consensus around card check that stumbles on one point. "Bloggers on the left," he writes, "take notice: Last week, the dreaded Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) got something right. And the only major political writer who seems to have noticed was the equally dreaded David Broder." That something was endorsing card check. As it currently stands, the path to creating a union runs through an NLRB election process so difficult and skewed that employers can essentially decide the outcome. Add in that the fines for firing organizing workers are laughably low, and organizing has become nearly impossible -- it's too dangerous for the workers involved. The alternative is card check, where if a majority of workers sign a card expressing their desire for a union, they have one. It's already the law in Canada, and progressives are seeking to import it here. This week, the DLC endorsed it. Good for...
  • THE THORNY ROSE...

    THE THORNY ROSE OF TEXAS. The reasons liberals will miss former Texas Governor Ann Richards , who died yesterday of cancer, are many -- not least among them her biting wit and willingness to turn it on the Bushes. She first caught the nation's eye as the keynote speaker at the 1988 Democratic National Convention, at which she took on the transplant-to-Texas and bumbling George Herbert Walker Bush , playing on the Connecticut native's patrician roots. "Poor George," she said in her trademark twang, "he can't help it; he was born with a silver foot in his mouth." Of course, the Bushes -- that vindictive dynasty of mediocrity -- got their revenge when, in 1994, Richards was defeated in the Texas gubernatorial race by none other than our current president. My reasons for mourning Richards are more personal. She was a feminist, a champion of civil and gay rights, and a recovering alcoholic who went public with her recovery. It was as if she were my personal champion, the patron saint of...
  • OH, THE HORROR.

    OH, THE HORROR. It's nice that the administration's Torture Enabling Act of 2006 -- a provision of the Omnibus Gin-Up the Crazee Base bill -- may well get sunk by its own side, and equally spiffy that the last of the scales seem to have fallen from the eyes of Colin "Day Late, Dollar Short" Powell . However, it seems to me that the struggle over this issue is distracting from the equally atrocious attempts to legitimize retroactively what are pretty clearly impeachable offenses -- namely, the president's brazen law-breaking with regard to warrantless electronic surveillance. The Specter bill is awful for a whole host of reasons -- not the least of which for the demonstrable surrender of congressional powers that is part of its very existence, and for the craven surrender of American values without which there would be nothing left of the bill except the punctuation marks. Any compromise that I've seen -- even Feinstein's, which is the best of them -- is simply a higher class of horrid...
  • AIRING THEIR DIRTY LAUNDRY.

    AIRING THEIR DIRTY LAUNDRY. Ezra 's nice grab of the Verizon-NSA connection from Raw Story happily recalls the glory days of Bush Scandals Past -- specifically, the long, complicated and very unresolved Bush 41 jiggery pokery involving the Banco Nazionale del Lavoro and its possible role in using agricultural credits to arm...wait for it... Saddam Hussein 's Iraq, and the subsequent efforts of the Department of Justice in stonewalling the investigations thereof. Here�s a good pr�cis of the whole business, and if you read this speech from the late great Henry Gonzalez , you will note that he didn't think very much of the work done by William Barr , then the acting attorney general and, in today's news, now the chief legal apologist for Verizon. One of the worst mistakes the old Democratic congressional majority made was in not fully closing the coffin lid on things like this, the BCCI affair, and the Iran-Contra scandal, and not doing so in such a way that public careers were...
  • THE WAR ON...

    THE WAR ON TERROR/ISLAM/RADICAL ISLAM/BROWN PEOPLE. Last night, Steve Clemons hosted an evening with George Soros . Held at The Metropolitan Club -- which initially turned me away for lacking a tie, and only admitting me once I'd radically enhanced my elegance with the finest in $4 neckwear sold by the umbrella stand at 17th Street and I -- the evening was dominated by an argument pitting the dynamic duo of Mort Kondracke and Adrian Wooldridge against Soros on the acceptability of the War on Terror metaphor. Wooldridge, Kondracke, and the rest of that peculiar breed of conservative who spends their days beating their chests and their nights cowering beneath the bed are, to me, among the most baffling figures in American political life. Their argument last night was that the War on Terror was, if anything, a PC understatement, a way to inoffensively mask the true battle which was against "radical Islam." Why you'd err in that direction, rather than calling it a War on al-Qaeda, escapes...
  • ADVENTURES IN PICKING...

    ADVENTURES IN PICKING UP THE DAMN PHONE. George Will is scandalized today by page 38 of "the American Prospect, an impeccably progressive magazine," which carries "a full-page advertisement denouncing something responsible for �lies, deception, immorality, corruption, and widespread labor, human rights and environmental abuses� and for having brought �great hardship and despair to people and communities throughout the world.�" That something? Coca-Cola. Dum dum dum! For those interested in the allegations, KillerCoke.org can fill you in. Will, however, is struck by this example of "liberalism as condescension," a "philosophic repugnance toward markets, because consumer sovereignty results in the masses making messes." Or something. So far as I can tell, Killer Coke is worried about all the union organizers who keep getting murdered when they try to unionize foreign Coca-Cola plants, which isn't something I assume the average American consumer supports. That aside, though, this seems...
  • LES ETUDIANTS.

    LES ETUDIANTS. Over at Open University , David Bell makes an argument about Harvard's decision to drop early admissions: Two cheers for Harvard for getting rid of early admissions.... Yet if Harvard really wants to do something to make admissions fairer, it should consider doing away with the most inane and manipulable part of the present process: the application essay. Bell goes on to explain how the emphasis on "character" demonstration through the personal essay and extracurricular resume is ineffectual at actually gauging character and presents an opportunity for the wealthy to give their children an unfair advantage in admissions. But here's the catch; as Bell acknowledges, all systems, even the most ostensibly meritocratic, like France's, where elite college admissions are determined entirely on knowledge-based test scores, will be gamed by people with the most resources. But, as Bell points out, at least a system like France's would mean our ambitious students would spend their...
  • The Consumer Price Index and Living Standards

    One of the themes that has arisen in the recent Paul Krugman inspired debate on middle class living standards is the possibility that the consumer price index (CPI) misses improvements in the quality of various goods and services, and therefore overstates the true rate of inflation. This would then mean that "real" wages and income have risen more than official data show. I have spent far more time on this issue than I would have liked. In the mid-nineties there was an effort inspired by Alan Greenspan and spearheaded by the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan to cut Social Security benefits based on this claim.
  • "OUTRAGEOUS AND DISHONEST."

    "OUTRAGEOUS AND DISHONEST." The Washington Post 's Daphna Linzer has one hell of an aggressive piece out today on the IAEA's apoplectic reaction to the House Intelligence Committee's recent report on Iran's nuclear capabilities. Yesterday's letter, a copy of which was provided to The Washington Post, was the first time the IAEA has publicly disputed U.S. allegations about its Iran investigation. The agency noted five major errors in the committee's 29-page report, which said Iran's nuclear capabilities are more advanced than either the IAEA or U.S. intelligence has shown. Among the committee's assertions is that Iran is producing weapons-grade uranium at its facility in the town of Natanz. The IAEA called that "incorrect," noting that weapons-grade uranium is enriched to a level of 90 percent or more. Iran has enriched uranium to 3.5 percent under IAEA monitoring... Privately, several intelligence officials said the committee report included at least a dozen claims that were either...

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