Archive

  • 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...
  • The Washington Post's Social Security Fantasies

    When it comes to Social Security, the Washington Post editorial page and the truth never enter the same room. The editorial page is probably the country�s main promoter of the �entitlement� problem. This is the trick in which Social Security is lumped together as an entitlement, with Medicare and Medicaid, and then pronounced a huge problem. As the Post editorial board surely knows, the real story is that we have a broken health care system with rapidly rising costs. If the system is never fixed, then health care costs will devastate the economy. Insofar as we pay for health care through the public sector, exploding health care costs will also lead to serious budget problems. Honest people see these facts as demonstrating the need to fix the health care system. The Washington Post editorial board sees these projections as a basis for cutting and/or privatizing Social Security. The Post �s edit includes the inaccurate assertion that President Bush�s Social Security plan was not...
  • COW STEREOTYPES.

    COW STEREOTYPES. Ezra keeps mentioning that Jonah Goldberg has an interesting mind. Okay, I'm willing to be convinced. However, this kind of crap is, ah, not doing the job. I could take this far more seriously than it deserves to be taken and point out how thoroughly those "rugged cowboy types" -- Gooey! Dripping! Steaming! as Frank Zappa once opined -- depend on the largesse of the federal government and its grazing policies. But, no, let's just have this dirty-tricks legacy hire get up at 4:30 a.m. in the middle of February in Wisconsin to milk the cows and we'll see who represents "soft America" and who doesn't. Also, if you're going to expound, however briefly, glibly and humorlessly, on the Political Sociology Of The Basic Food Groups, shouldn't you at least spell "Montana" correctly? Yeesh. --Charles P. Pierce
  • GOODBYE, JOE.

    GOODBYE, JOE. It is time now for Joe Lieberman to go away. He's managed to respond to a challenge from a guy who sounds like a prep-school rowing coach by running what may be the most singularly inept political campaign in the history of the United States Senate. He's steadily tossed away ever advantage that an incumbent has until, now, with his career squarely on the line next Tuesday, he's floundering around Connecticut making Alan Keyes sound like Daniel Webster . Today, there was a noisy dust-up in which he demanded that Ned Lamont distance himself from firedoglake blogger Jane Hamsher because of a picture that Hamsher posted on The Huffington Post in which Lieberman was depicted in blackface. Hamsher has since apologized and taken down the photo. Something of a tactical blunder, to be sure, in that it allowed Weepin' Joe to take his pet conscience out for a walk again, but this distance-yourself-from-X debate is not one that he really wants to have because Lamont would then be...
  • THE NUTMEG STATE STAKES.

    THE NUTMEG STATE STAKES. Over on PoliticsTV, our own Tom Schaller offers further thoughts on the Lamont - Lieberman showdown. Give it a look . --The Editors
  • WHAT IS HEZBOLLAH?...

    WHAT IS HEZBOLLAH? Tim Cavanaugh 's reply to Robert Pape 's op-ed is interesting. Pape, the author of a book on suicide bombers, argues that Hezbollah is a territorial organization, staffed and sustained by anger over Israeli incursions. Cavanaugh, however, has done some more recent work with the organization, and found them a centrally structured, highly sophisticated group. "[W]hen I went to interview Mohammad Fneish, for example, they certainly seemed organized, requiring a battery of security checks, disclaimers to fill out, personal information, etc., and that's after you go by a bunch of hard-looking characters who patrol outside their headquarters building (or patrolled; the building is gone now). The tasks of the security people, the PR people, the politicians, and the clerical staff all seemed as well established as you'd see in a military organization, and this was just to get access to a politician." That would suggest that Hezbollah evolved beyond their origins as an anti-...
  • The Long-Term Deficit Trap

    It is fashionable in many circles to warn of the impending bankruptcy of the federal government ( see USAToday ). Be warned � this is not a story about the evils of Bush�s tax cuts for the rich. These tax cuts are just a footnote. The real villain in the bankruptcy story is the projected explosion in the cost of Medicare and Medicaid. This cost explosion is not due to aging; Social Security costs inch up in these projections � just like they have been doing for the past seventy years. Medicare and Medicaid costs explode in this story because the U.S. health care system is broken and the projections assume that we never fix it. Being an optimist, I think that American politicians are not so much more incompetent and corrupt than politicians elsewhere in the world. Every other wealthy country manages to provide health care for its people at a fraction of the price of the U.S. system. Per person health care expenditures in other rich countries average less than half as much as in the...

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