Newspapers should try to report economic data in ways that are clear to their readers. That should not be a debatable point.
The NYT badly failed in this task in an article on European economic growth. The headline told readers that "Economy Grows Nearly 1% in Europe." Before anyone bemoans poor European growth, it is important to realize that the 1.0 percent is a quarterly growth rate. In other words, Europe's economy grew by close to 1.0 percent in the second quarter of the year. This translates into close to a 4.0 percent annual rate.
The Wall Street Journal has an interesting piece today on how France Telecom is trying to set up its workers in their own business as a way of getting around restrictions on layoffs. The story itself is interesting -- it�s an innovative initiative that would seem to produce win/win outcomes. But the discussion also raises another serious question about excess labor in France and other countries with restrictive laws on layoffs.
JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: A HAWK FOR ALL SEASONS. Is Joe Liebermanactually strong, or at least serious, on defense issues? Spencer Ackermansays no. The senator adheres to no coherent or systematic foreign policy doctrine beyond a blanket, consistent hawkery on every security issue of the day. Ackerman examines Lieberman's record since the Persian Gulf War, concluding that "the most surprising thing about Lieberman's defense record is the difficulty of defining Liebermanism.
WHAT DO THE POPULISTS WANT? It seems to me that Noam Scheiber's column on Ned Lamont's populism suffers from a couple undefined premises. What, for instance, does the populism of Ned Lamont and the netroots actually seek? Scheiber indicates that it's a more fundamental critique of capitalism and corporations than the New Democrat wing of the party would tolerate. I'd like to see the evidence. It's been my impression that the more strident a class warrrior's rhetoric, the more banal his set of solutions. Lamont, for instance, isn't advocating massive increases in marginal tax rates, but universal health care.
GOREWATCH. Al Gore's companion book to An Inconvenient Truth is resting comfortably atop the New York Times Bestseller List, which reports 20,000 copies flying off the shelves each week. The book itself is a very slick production -- mostly pretty pictures and eye-catching graphs, about as colorful and as quick a read as anything on the subject of climate change can possibly be -- but I have a hard time believing that customers are buying a coffee table tome on global warming rather than a little piece of Gore-mania.
CHICKENS COUNTED PRE-HATCHING. As best as I can make out, the mandate of John Nichols' blog for The Nation is to be preternaturally optimistic about the prospects for left-wing activism, but I think his post arguing that Nedraline could put Russ Feingold in the White House is missing a whole bunch of steps. Realistically, Hillary Clinton is no Joe Lieberman in terms of political profile, even though I agree that their views on Iraq are less different at the end of the day than Clinton would like us to think.
TROTTING OUT CHERTOFF. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff yesterday made the rounds of the Sunday shows, once again proving his status as an administration toady, and one with no apparent interest in keeping you and me safe from the designs of terrorists.
THE NETROOTS AND DIALECTICAL MATERIALISM.Noam Scheiber argues that despite the mutual loathing between leading blogger-activists and, say, the leadership of the DLC, the natural ideological tendency of the netroots is New Democrat-style neoliberalism rather than labor-liberal economic populism. Why? Demographics. Netroots activists have a New Dem demographic profile -- relatively affluent, relatively well-educated -- and everything follows from that.
IN RETROSPECT.... The good news over the weekend is that the relevant parties have reached a cease-fire agreement that will be better for Israelis and Lebanese alike than continued fighting would have been. The bad news is that, as skeptics like me have been saying from the beginning, pretty much nobody with the exception of Hassan Nasrallah is better off than they would have been had this major incursion not happened in the first place.
IN PRAISE OF NEW IDEAS. For columnists, that is. Over the weekend, The Los Angeles Times's Gregory Rodriguezfretted that Democrats were looking to the Iraq war to save their party when what they really needed were Big Ideas. Call it the conventional wisdom remix, with Rodriguez's new beat being his concern that Democratic rhetoric on Iraq will foster debilitating political divisions and destabilize support for government as a whole.