Archive

  • WHO RULES?

    WHO RULES? A whole bunch of people died yesterday in Iraq . More surprising is the second paragraph of the AP rundown of the latest violence: "The attacks came a day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki sharply criticized a U.S.-Iraqi attack on Sadr City, the area of Baghdad that's the stronghold of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia." What's this all about? Is Maliki in charge of his country or not? Are we at war with Sadr 's forces or is his political party represented in Maliki's cabinet? It's a both/and situation in both cases, it would seem, but it's hard to say what kind of sense that makes. It's also increasingly hard to say what the American strategy for Iraq is even supposed to be. Statements from the administration have become so incredibly nonsensical that you can't really peel beneath the propaganda and discern the core of what they're trying to say or do. Are our forces really going to be running around launching attacks against members of...
  • DEMOCRACY-PROMOTION.

    DEMOCRACY-PROMOTION. Spencer Ackerman calls the Bush "freedom agenda" a "fiasco." Michael Rubin has his doubts , asking "isn�t it terrorism and militias, rather than democracy, which are the problems in Iraq, Gaza, and Lebanon?" He plugs this op-ed by Stephen Cook that urges us not to �Blame Democracy Promotion" and works through the typical sleight-of-hand of redefining "democracy" to mean something like "growing strength of pro-Western liberal political groups" (argument stolen from Praktike on an earlier Cook article). Rubin concludes, "It�s one thing to be anti-Bush, but when did it become �progressive� to celebrate White House silence on the crushing of dissent in Egypt , Tunisia , and the failure to even support organized labor in Iran ?" I'd be fascinated to see an example of an anti-Bush person celebrating Bush's silence on the crushing of dissent in Tunisia. My guess would be that the bulk of liberals have said nothing whatsoever about Tunisia because Tunisia is an obscure...
  • LIVE, FROM NEW HAVEN.

    LIVE, FROM NEW HAVEN. Lieberman spokeswoman Marion Steinfels took a few minutes to answer some questions about last-minute campaign developments here in Connecticut. My paraphrased questions and her answers follow: 1. Did the latest poll [showing Lieberman down only 6 points, instead of the earlier 13-point deficit] give the Lieberman camp a lift? I feel like there�s been a bit of a shift, but I think it�s coming down to people having to make a decision. I think people are shifting to our guy because they know him. It�s hard not to get a little pumped, but we were pretty confident already. I also think the earlier poll was a big wake up around the state that got a lot of people asking, �Do we really want to wake up Wednesday to learn Joe Lieberman will not be our senator any more?� 2. What�s your response to Lamont�s decision to spend another $500,000 late in the campaign? We don�t have any official response. It doesn�t really affect our very aggressive GOTV plan. I don�t know...
  • A DEEPLY FOOLISH CONSISTENCY.

    A DEEPLY FOOLISH CONSISTENCY. Jon Chait flags the core oddness of Robert Kagan �s view that changing your mind about something in light of events and new information is a form a dishonesty. The super-weird part, however, concerns Al Gore , who never favored the invasion of Iraq but stands condemned as a "one-time Clinton administration hawk" who "turned on all those with whom he once agreed about Iraq and about many other foreign policy questions." This is just crazy. Gore "turned on" many of those "with whom he once agreed about Iraq" when many of the people he used to agree with stopped defending the Clinton-era approach to containing Saddam Hussein and started arguing for a unilateral invasion as a good solution. It certainly is an interesting fact about the world that many of the actual architects of the Clinton-era Iraq policy turned against it in 2002 and 2003, but certainly the fact that Gore didn't change his mind can't be used as evidence of flip-flopping. Kagan's view seems...
  • More Evidence of a Bursting Housing Bubble

    New data from the Fed show that credit card debt rose at a 9.8 percent annual rate in June after increasing at an 11.0 percent rate in May. This extraordinary two-month rise is consistent with the story that homeowners are finding it increasingly difficult to borrow against their home � presumably because prices are no longer rising. If you need to borrow, and borrowing against the home is not an option, credit cards may be the next best alternative. A sidebar on home prices: all of our standard house price series use contracted sales prices to measure price changes. This could be leading to an overstatement of current prices, and therefore concealing price declines. The reason is that in many bubble areas it has become common for sellers to offer various inducements � for new homes, builders offer free additions/alterations. For existing homes, sellers offer help on closing fees, one-year of condo fees, etc. Check the real estate listing to get a sense of what�s being offered in your...
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: TONGUE-TIED.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: TONGUE-TIED. Eric Rauchway delves into the early-20th-century history of immigration politics in the U.S. to help explain why liberals' efforts at discussing the issue have so often been fraught and unsuccessful. --The Editors
  • WHAT ABOUT BOB?

    WHAT ABOUT BOB? I had been hoping to do a short, humorous item for our print magazine this fall about how amidst all the "culture of corruption" hype this year, the two most flamboyantly corrupt pols of them all, Ohio's Bob Ney and Louisiana's William Jefferson , were actually both poised to win re-election assuming November rolled along before their indictments did. Tragically, as Steve Benen discusses over at Midterm Madness , Ney has finally forfeited his race against time (and pending legal action), and is calling it quits. Steve notes the timing of the announcement -- soon after news came down the pike that the Justice Department is now looking into the considerable evidence that Ney lied to Senate Indian Affairs Committee staffers. --Sam Rosenfeld
  • FLAT-FOOTED JOE.

    FLAT-FOOTED JOE. The recent news that Joe Lieberman is abandoning some portions of his late-campaign field effort seems like a stunning, late-game admission of defeat. What it is, rather, is an admission that Lieberman got caught flat-footed by the Lamont insurgency much earlier than this week. For all the war metaphors abused in writing about politics, the field campaign is actually the one case where the analogy is most relevant. A get-out-the-vote effort is expensive, plodding, inefficient, and labor-intensive -- just like the massing and marching of armies are, with their supply lines and recon. A voter contact effort is not one step back to make two steps forward; it would be wildly efficient if that were the case. It�s more like five steps back to make six steps forward: Still a net of one step ahead, but at much greater costs. Lieberman's potentially fatal error was that, by the time he realized the Lamont challenge was real, it was simply too late to build a proper field plan...
  • SOUTH ASIA: THE...

    SOUTH ASIA: THE NEXT MIDDLE EAST? Given the turmoil in the Middle East, the mounting nuclear-tinged tensions in South Asia have been largely ignored in the United States, even after India and Pakistan each withdrew their diplomats from the other country last week, just two days after the House approved a nuclear assistance package for India. The technology transfer is being sold as a peaceful-use energy deal. Late last month, Congress learned from press reports of the construction in Pakistan of a new heavy-water reactor, which the Institute for Science and International Security estimates (PDF) could produce enough plutonium for between 40 and 50 warheads. Meanwhile, the Bush administration contends that the Pakistani project at Khushab is "10 times less capable" than the estimates provided in the ISIS report. So, I guess the administration decided it wasn't a big enough deal to worry Congress's pretty little head over. Revelations of the Pakistani reactor apparently weren't enough...
  • THE NEW MINIMUM...

    THE NEW MINIMUM WAGE CONSENSUS. Bloomberg's got a good article on the wide array of prominent economists coming around on the minimum wage. While the profession as a whole used to be basically unified in opposition, research emerging in the early '90s broke that consensus, and strong job growth after the Clinton increase further calmed their fears. As Arindrajit Dube , a labor economist at Berkeley, puts it, "[t]he debate now has become over how small the effect is as opposed to how large." That's forced a conversation over whether minor job losses are outweighed by broad income gains, and with the minimum wage at a 54-year low, the answer appears to be "yes." After all, argues Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz , "We saw no ripple effect at all in the unemployment rate [after the 1997 increase], unemployment just continued to go down." The minimum wage increase, he said, "was totally swamped by other factors going on in the economy." And with all other things being mostly equal, you'd...

Pages