Archive

  • UNEXPECTING THE EXPECTED.

    UNEXPECTING THE EXPECTED. "Two top U.S. generals said yesterday that the sectarian violence in Iraq is much worse than they had ever anticipated and could lead to civil war," reports The Washington Post . It's good to see some reality creeping in. At the same time, it's worth noting that this outcome was fairly widely predicted by observers outside of the U.S. government. John Judis warned Prospect readers in April 2003 that "even if the United States quickly ousts Saddam Hussein, the Mideast might more closely resemble the gates of hell than the new dawn." He was drawing on some pretty basic facts: The country was knitted together by the British after World War I out of three Turkish-controlled provinces and is composed of three feuding religious-ethnic groups, the Sunnis, the Shia and the Kurds. Even though the Sunnis constitute only about a third of the population, the British, following the practice of the Turks, put this group in charge. Under Hussein they have remained so, but...
  • COMPLETELY OFF-MESSAGE FRIDAY AFTERNOON POST.

    COMPLETELY OFF-MESSAGE FRIDAY AFTERNOON POST. I noticed a couple weeks ago that Kevin Drum had a post laying out his wise strategy for avoiding sales clerks. So if he can do that one, I can unload with this. What bugs me is receipts. In this town, sales clerks everywhere are ceaselessly forcing sales receipts into your hand. What the hell is this about? I go into a CVS (a horrifying experience under any circumstance). I get a couple things. It comes to $4.38. Do most people really want a receipt for $4.38? Who still goes home and enters $4.38 into a checkbook? I simply cannot believe that 51 percent of consumers really want their receipts for small purchases like this. It�s just one more piece of useless paper to throw away, to have to� do something with. And when I work up the courage (such is their wrath) to tell them, no, I do not want the receipt, they look at me as if I�ve refused communion. Receipts for expensive purchases, sure. Those, I keep in a safe place. But for the drug...
  • OH, I SEE THE DIFFERENCE.

    OH, I SEE THE DIFFERENCE. Over at the Corner, they�ve been trying to poke holes in E.J. Dionne �s Post column today about the collapse of conservatism. The most beguiling entry is by Kate O�Beirne : E.J.'s eulogy for conservatism�recognizes that moderates in the largely conservative party have to be accommodated. True. That's the fate of a governing majority party. The alternative - a destructive purge to purify the ranks of the minority party - is on display in Connecticut. Hmmm. I guess she means like the way Lincoln Chafee is being tolerated in the Republican Party. In fact, the GOP is tolerating Chafee into a primary next month. He�s in a tight-as-a-tick race against a winger named Stephen Laffey , who has the endorsement of the Club for Growth and whose candidacy against Chafee is closely analogous to Ned Lamont �s challenge to Joe Lieberman . So if what�s going on in Connecticut now is a �destructive purge to purify the ranks,� then what exactly is next month�s Rhode Island...
  • PREDICTIONS. As...

    PREDICTIONS. As I've come of political age in the Bush era, I'm never comfortable watching expectations rise, my historical memory being an uninterrupted cycle of lifted optimism followed by dashed hopes. That said, with more and more pundits predicting a Democratic landslide, it's worth noting that there's a self-fulfilling aspect to these declarations. The stronger the conventional wisdom that Democrats are going to retake Congress, the more business and funders will seek to get on the good side of the coming majority party, and the less they'll see Republicans as a good investment. That means Democratic campaigns will have more resources with which to contest marginal or closely-fought seats, while Republican campaigns will have fewer. And, particularly in an environment where Democrats will get close to overturning Republican rule, those cash infusions could mean the difference between Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Emmanuel . --Ezra Klein
  • A CONSENSUS, FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH.

    A CONSENSUS, FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH. Kevin Drum is optimistic about the emergence of a new consensus encompassing most everyone "outside of the neocon crazies and the rabid partisans." Sadly, the governance of the country has been entrusted to neocon crazies and rabid partisans. This afternoon, for example, Rich Lowry penned one of the most chilling phrases I've ever read: "one pro-Israel hawk in the adminsitration I was talking to this morning very much shares Krauthammer's view . . . " -- no good could possibly come from having people agree with Krauthammer. He's one of -- if not the -- most genuinely pernicious people on the American intellectual scene. A forceful polemicist, blessed with the ability to engage in staggering levels of dishonesty on behalf of shockingly wrongheaded ideas. Or, as the vice president of the United States put it , "a man I admire very much . . . one great American . . . a superior intellect." This is the reality of the situation. Wrack your brain for a...
  • END OF AN...

    END OF AN ERA? It looks like Toyota is on track to pass GM as the world's largest automaker next year, and last month, they passed Ford to become America's second leading car company. Their second quarter income rocketed up 39.2 percent, and their July sales increased by 12 percent. GM and Ford, meanwhile , saw sales drop by 23 and 24 percent, respectively. I hate to harp so often on this point, but it remains true that unions are not the ill racking GM and Ford -- it's their inability to make cars that people want to buy that has so hampered them. Toyota's sales are being driven by fuel efficient autos (Corollas are up by 37 percent, Priuses by 15 percent), while GM and Ford's drop comes anchored to losses in their trucks divisions. Over the last couple of decades, the American automakers bet on power and size, leaving wimpy efficiency up to their Japanese competitors. They bet wrong. And they're paying dearly for it. But, speaking as a Ford owner whose car posts dismal mpg readings...
  • WHAT MORTAL DANGER?

    WHAT MORTAL DANGER? "I do not see that one can fairly oppose the Israeli campaign against Hezbollah," writes Leon Wieseltier , "without asking a state to acquiesce in a mortal danger to itself." A shockingly large number of Israel's supporters seem to have convinced themselves this is true, but there's just no way Hezbollah's sporadic pre-war rocket launches and cross-border raids can be construed as a mortal danger to Israel. To be sure, to have simply done nothing in response to the raid that launched this crisis might have encouraged Hezbollah to up the ante somewhat, but massive Israeli retaliation has merely led Hezbollah to dramatically increase its level of rocket attacks in response. By contrast, an attempt at a much smaller tit-for-tat style retaliation might have actually decreased the incidence of Hezbollah provocations. Either way, though, mortal danger to Israel just isn't on the table -- Hezbollah doesn't come close to having the necessary juice; surely if history has...
  • TRIFECTA. It...

    TRIFECTA. It was a big -- and, oddly enough, good -- night in the Senate, as Democrats rejected the mutant estate tax/minimum wage hybrid and passed pension reform. Props, of course, go to Harry Reid for asserting that working folks don't need to deprive the government of $750 billion in revenue that'll shore up Medicare and Social Security in order to get a slight pay hike. Of course, one of those pesky anonymous Republican aides chortled , "We won the last 2 elections and beat Tom Daschle by campaigning against Democrat obstructionism. This could be the gift we were looking for." Don't bet on it. There's not a person in the country who thinks the Republicans are really eager to raise the minimum wage and Democrats are just pro-business obstructionists. Every time a conservative even utters the issue, he's going to drop three points in the polls. Meanwhile, I wouldn't be surprised to see Democrats pasting Republicans for trying to shoehorn in the Paris Hilton tax relief of 2006...
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: DEMOCRATIC DILEMMAS.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: DEMOCRATIC DILEMMAS. Liberals cheered the passage of the Voting Rights Act extension last month, but Columbia political scientist David Epstein, who's done research on race and redistricting, makes the case for feeling some ambivalence. At issue is the interplay of majority-minority districting and Republican dominance in the South, a dynamic that has vexed progressives for many years now: The fact is, the voting arrangements that elect the most minorities as possible to office are not the same as those that do the most to promote the policy goals supported by minority voters. This wasn�t always the case; it used to be that the best way to get pro-minority legislation was to construct districts that were sure to elect minority-supported representatives. But with the decrease in polarized voting in the South, and increased polarization between the parties in Congress, this equation no longer holds. Indeed, research I have conducted with Sharyn O�Halloran...
  • ARE NEWSPAPER READERS LEARNING?

    ARE NEWSPAPER READERS LEARNING? This isn't really my thing, but there's something absurd about Carl Hulse �s writeup of yesterday's Senate action on the estate tax cut and minimum wage bill for The New York Times . Hulse covers this kind of thing professionally and has been writing about this specific bill for a while and presumably isn't some kind of moron. Therefore, Hulse must know what everybody in Washington -- or around the country -- who's been paying attention to this knows: The Republican bill was a political gambit. The GOP didn't want a minimum wage increase. But a minimum wage increase was popular and blocking one threatened to hurt vulnerable Republicans in November. So by linking it to the estate tax cut, they created a situation where Republicans could vote "yes" on a minimum wage increase while Democrats vote "no," thus muddying the waters while also not increasing the minimum wage. That is the story. And yet, I don't think a person who didn't already know the plotline...

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