Archive

  • CAN'T SAY I...

    CAN'T SAY I LIKE DOOR #2, EITHER. Kevin Drum explains that there are three methods Wal-Mart uses for keeping their prices down. 1) A spectacularly efficient supply chain and logistics system that's the envy of the industry. 2) A willingness � in fact, an almost palpable enthusiasm � for using their enormous size to beat the lowest possible prices out of their suppliers. 3) A scorched-earth campaign to prevent unions from organizing at Wal-Mart sites, thus keeping wages and benefits as low as possible. Progressives, he says, merrily embrace #1 and #2, but oppose #3. Well, as embarrassing as it is to wreck a consensus, I have to confess that I have some concerns over #2 as well. My guess is that Wal-Mart's size and might is having much more profound effects on our economy through the demands and strains it places on suppliers than through their lowish wages and benefits for direct employees (although those labor standards give them a competitive advantage over chains with higher...
  • THE SILENT PARTY.

    THE SILENT PARTY. You worthless passel of cowards. They're laughing at you. You know that, right? The national Democratic Party is no longer worth the cement needed to sink it to the bottom of the sea. For an entire week, it allowed a debate on changing the soul of the country to be conducted intramurally between the Torture Porn and Useful Idiot wings of the Republican Party, the latter best exemplified by John McCain , who keeps fashioning his apparently fathomless ambition into a pair of clown shoes with which he can do the monkey dance across the national stage. They're laughing at him, too. The New York Times has the right of it here , limning the pathetic gullibility at the heart of the "compromise." There is nothing in this bill that President Thumbscrews can't ignore. There is nothing in this bill that reins in his feckless and dangerous reinterpretation of the powers of his office. There is nothing in this bill that requires him to take it -- or its congressional authors --...
  • THE DEAL ON...

    THE DEAL ON THE DEAL. So here's the " compromise " on detainees: [T]he legislation will enumerate "grave breaches" of the Geneva Conventions which, if committed, could expose US officials to criminal prosecution. The list includes acts such as rape, murder and intentional infliction of bodily harm. For less-than-grave breaches, however, President Bush would be given authority to interpret the Geneva Convention provisions through an executive order. Defendants and their lawyers will not be given access to classified material in military tribunals, and prosecutors will enjoy wide latitude, according to Hadley, in the use of hearsay evidence, with burden on the accused to show that such evidence is either unreliable on irrelevant before it could be excluded. More in-depth analysis is available here . So Bush got, basically, everything he wanted. The other day, in TAP 's weekly editorial meeting, a few of us were puzzling over the motivation for McCain 's actions. Why would he sacrifice...
  • Does A Faulty CPI Make the U.S. Look Good? Final Stabs on Living Standards

    While I am reluctant to perpetuate the debate on living standards and the accuracy of the consumer price index (CPI), I just can�t resist holding economists and pundits to the things they claim to believe. My last post featured the claim that living standards had improved substantially despite the stubborn refusal of the CPI to support this claim. When median family income is deflated by the CPI, then real family income was just 14.4 percent higher in 2004 than it was in 1979. This increase is explained largely by an increase in working hours per family, as the median hourly wage rose by even less over this period. The stagnation deniers (SD) argue that the CPI has missed the benefits of all the new goods that have appeared on the market in the last quarter century � cell phones, the Internet, and the great gains in health care over this period. Life expectancy in the United States increased by 3.5 years over this period, from 73.7 years in 1980 to 77.2 years in 2003.
  • IRAN'S GAME. ...

    IRAN'S GAME. It was nice to see Charlie Rangel and Nancy Pelosi attack Hugo Chavez 's ham-handed attempts to condemn President Bush . Chavez is a clumsy, crude political actor, and his extended comparison of Bush and the devil looked over-the-top and foolish. More interesting, and more relevant for American interests, is the current charm offensive of Ahmadinejad . From this Time piece, you could easily get the impression that Iranian leader had just finished Lakoff . Every other sentence was an appeal to approach the world with logic, love, respect, and humanitarianism. His basic argument was that George Bush is a wacked-out aggressor who, for inexplicable reasons of his own, seeks to dominate Iran and keep them from nuclear technology. Meanwhile, Iran has previously called for total disarmament of all nuclear weapons, and wouldn't want a nuke even if they could get one. "We are opposed to nuclear weapons." He said. "We think it has been developed just to kill human beings." So the...
  • NATIONAL I.D.

    NATIONAL I.D. To follow up on Ben 's post , I see Kevin Drum makes a similar critique of the GOP legislation, but also comes out in favor of a universal I.D. given to everyone in the country. This is an idea that Boston bossman Bob Kuttner proposed in 2004. I remember finding his old column on the subject highly persuasive -- it's worth a read. --Sam Rosenfeld
  • DEMOCRATS FOR REPUBLICANS?

    DEMOCRATS FOR REPUBLICANS? In his latest piece , Jacob Weisberg addresses the question of whether the party that loses the midterms will, as a result, actually win in the long run. Although I think he takes the silly proposition a little too seriously, he admits that the right answer to this is the "boring" one: "the real winner in the November election will be the winner." While Weisberg raises some good points to support that position, there are a few others worth noting. First, the main premise of the "Dems should win by losing" line is that they will do better in the 2008 presidential election by being completely out of power, and therefore be able to run against the Bush administration's incompetence without any constraints. But given that the 2008 Republican front-runner is the MSM�s favorite son, John McCain , who has carefully distanced himself from Bush at times, and the Democrat's prohibitive favorite is the wildly unpopular Hillary Clinton , the Dems would be unwise to make...
  • WAL-MART...GOOD? Some...

    WAL-MART...GOOD? Some of my right-wing readers may think this'll make my head explode, but Wal-Mart's embarking on a new initiative to use its size and weight to bargain down the prices on generic prescription medications. In other words, the company I always accuse of acting like a monopsony is now going to use their might to act as consumer advocates on health care -- which will be good for consumers and bad for Pharma. Hooray! It's worth saying, though, that this is exactly what I and most Democrats are always calling for the government to do, and it's precisely this apparently unfair tactic that the Republican Party barred Medicare from using in the 2003 Modernization Act. It's rather weird that Congress felt the need to outlaw Medicare from bargaining down pharmaceutical prices, but thinks Wal-Mart should run wild. -- Ezra Klein
  • THERE MAY NOT...

    THERE MAY NOT BE ROOM, BUT THERE'S CERTAINLY MONEY. The Big Bossman and I had slightly different interpretations of Mark Warner 's admonition that Democrats shouldn't alienate the wealthy by opposing their tax cuts the other day. I viewed the move as politically unhelpful anti-populism of the type favored by influential elites but harmful to the progressive project, while Mike saw the effort as a substantively insignificant move that would project electability and centrism and allow Warner space to push the progressive line on other subjects. Maybe we're both wrong. Writing in the New York Observer , Jason Horowitz details Warner's hunt for funds among rich Democratic donors unconvinced about Hillary Clinton 's viability. It may indeed be that if Warner sees an opening on Hillary's right, part of that opening contains megawealthy funders unnerved by the renewed populism of many in the Democratic Party. Signaling that he'll be a centrist, incrementalist executive in the pro-wealth,...
  • I.D., PLEASE.

    I.D., PLEASE. Much like how the PATRIOT Act included a host of provisions that had been on the right's wish list for years before 9/11, House Republicans are using the current uproar over immigration (which they themselves have stoked) as an excuse to disenfranchise likely Democratic voters. From The Los Angeles Times : Republicans pushing for tougher means to stem illegal immigration got a boost Wednesday when the Senate agreed to consider a bill that would build a 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border and the House approved a measure that would require voters to show photo identification at the polls. Republicans in both chambers said the steps were necessary to protect the United States from illegal immigrants entering the country or trying to corrupt the voting process. The Reps seem uninterested in offering much evidence for the alleged epidemic of illegal voting. ("We have 12 million illegal aliens in this country," said congressman Dan Burton . Many of them, we believe,...

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