Archive

  • REVISITING IRAN-CONTRA.

    REVISITING IRAN-CONTRA. The more I look back on it, the way that the crimes of the Iran-Contra affair came to such an uncertain conclusion, the more it strikes me as a lost opportunity, and not just because so many of the principals are back to screwing up the nation now, 20 years later, although that's a pretty good reason in and of itself. What Iran-Contra resembles is nothing less than an embryonic exercise in the notion, now popular in the lunchroom at the Department of Justice, that the Executive Powers section of the Constitution resembles more closely than anything the operating principles of the Corleone family. Of course, back then, the president -- good ol' infinitely impeachable Dutch Reagan -- chose not to faithfully execute only a few laws, and not 800 of them, but the theory that the president pretty much can do what he pleases in foreign affairs obtains, in both cases, a fundamentally un-American heresy that should have been crushed into the dust along with the public...
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: THE CENTER HOLDS.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: THE CENTER HOLDS. Mike considers the argument that a defeat next week for Joe Lieberman will signal the death of moderation in the Democratic Party. He doesn't buy it. --The Editors
  • THE NEED TO COPE.

    THE NEED TO COPE. In this post , Martin Peretz notes that having Hezbollah de-militarize by being absorbed into the Lebanese Army would be unsatisfactory from an Israeli point of view. He also says that "it would even be terrible if the Lebanese army didn't absorb but simply occupied the southern part of the country." And here , he says he doesn't like the idea of a UN force either. This, however, leaves only the possibility of Israel re-occupying southern Lebanon, which didn't work out well at all, or else a return to the status quo ante . The hard truth is that there simply isn't an appealing solution to Israel's Hezbollah problem, which has its roots in public opinion dynamics among Lebanese Shiites that military force can't improve and that, realistically, can only change fairly gradually over time. The good news from the Israeli point of view is that the pre-war status quo , while certainly sub-optimal, wasn't so terrible either. The low-intensity border conflict that had been...
  • GIVE 'EM UP....

    GIVE 'EM UP. Now this is comforting. A New York Appeals Court has ruled that a federal prosecutor can inspect the phone records of the New York Times reporters who revealed the government's plans to take action against two Islamic charities. The charities were tipped off when the reporters called to get their reactions to a raid that hadn't happened yet. The court ruled that the government's need to know the tipster outweighed the paper's desire to protect its sources. Weirdly, though, the court simply demanded the telephone records, not the cooperation of the journalists. As Robert Sack , the sole dissenting judge wrote: �Reporters might find themselves, as a matter of practical necessity, contacting sources the way I understand drug dealers to reach theirs � by use of clandestine cellphones and meeting in darkened doorways. Ordinary use of the telephone could become a threat to journalist and source alike. It is difficult to see in whose best interests such a regime would operate.�...
  • The Slow Motion Train Wreck

    This is the first posting as a TAP blog, so I thought I would mark the occasion with a comment on the housing bubble. We have enough data at this point (lower sales, rising inventories, falling median prices) that I feel confident in saying that the crash has begun. We don't yet know the speed of the decline or the full repercussions in terms of the financial havoc or the extent of the economic downturn. Of course, the housing crash, like the stock crash, was entirely predictable. Housing prices had never risen like this in the past and NO ONE has identified anything that made the period after 1996 different from the period prior to 1996. The press can be given a bit of a pass on this one ?- as with the stock bubble, most of the blame lies with my profession. In both cases, economists were more worried about the possibility that we might have to raise Social Security taxes in 50 years or tariffs on imported shirts, than trillions of dollars of paper wealth disappearing with the...
  • BEAT THE PRESS.

    BEAT THE PRESS. We're very excited to announce that TAP Online will now be hosting Beat the Press , Dean Baker 's blog on economics and reporting. Many Tapped readers already know about Dean; he's an economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research . He was a Social Security "crisis" debunker before Social Security crisis debunking was cool, and has recently released the must-read (and free!) e-book The Conservative Nanny State . (His most recent TAP contribution was this piece heralding the benefits of an aging population.) We've been a fan of Beat the Press since it started up a few months ago, and we encourage everybody to check in on it regularly. Set your bookmarks . --The Editors
  • I NEVER WOULD HAVE GUESSED.

    I NEVER WOULD HAVE GUESSED. EPA scientists say the agency is bowing to political pressure and preventing action against toxic chemicals that "pose serious risks for fetuses, pregnant women, young children and the elderly." It's hard to believe these allegations, though -- the Bush administration would never do something like that. --Matthew Yglesias
  • BIG RACE FOR SMALL DOLLARS.

    BIG RACE FOR SMALL DOLLARS. Solid reporting by Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in this recent piece provides a preliminary answer to the question, Which Democratic presidential candidate is most effectively harvesting the small-dollar donor base? Answer: Hillary Clinton in terms of total dollars, but Russ Feingold in terms of the share raised from donations of less than $200. Gilbert covers Feingold closer than almost any national beat reporter, and Feingold�s campaign finance filings caught his attention, especially this jump-off-the-page factoid: The Wisconsin senator has raised 62 percent of his $2 million so far this year in small-dollar increments. Clinton has actually raised more in small donations ($2.2 million) than Feingold�s total receipts, but they constitute just 18 percent of her $12 million raised so far in 2006. Before the netroots chirp that Hillary just doesn�t get the power of small-dollar raising (online or otherwise), they might want to check the...
  • WHO CAN DO BETTER THAN "WE CAN DO BETTER"?

    WHO CAN DO BETTER THAN "WE CAN DO BETTER"? There has been a certain amount of sneering disappointment, mostly from liberals, about the rather milquetoast mantra developed by the Democrats: �America Can Do Better.� Yes, the phrase is vague and policy inspecific, and thus seemingly says everything and therefore nothing all at once. Yet semantically, it�s hard to beat the theme �America can do better.� Substitute �we� for �America,� and you have what has to be the pithiest statement of potency anyone in any campaign (politics, sports, military) might fashion. Indeed, in just four words -- and merely 13* letters, no less -- look at what this tag line suggests: �We� is first-person plural, thus connoting unity and inclusiveness. Though substituting �America� lends a patriotic flavor, I prefer �we� because it also implies a �them� -- an opponent or foe. �Can� suggests ability and capacity to accomplish something, a means and a method. It also connotes readiness and competence. �Do� is the...
  • THE LEFT'S WEDGE ISSUE: REALITY.

    THE LEFT'S WEDGE ISSUE: REALITY. The Washington Post reported today on a political rebellion in Kansas against the state's notorious Board of Education standards on evolution. In an appearance on PoliticsTV, Tapped 's own Addie Stan explains why she smells political blood in the water in this fight. --The Editors

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