Archive

  • 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...
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: LEARNED AGGRESSIVENESS.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: LEARNED AGGRESSIVENESS. Ezra explains why less is at stake in tomorrow's outcome in Connecticut than people realize, because the truly significant achievement on the part of netroots and activists has already been won. --The Editors
  • HILLARY HATING: IT'S NOT JUST FOR REPUBLICANS ANYMORE.

    HILLARY HATING: IT'S NOT JUST FOR REPUBLICANS ANYMORE. �Lying b**** . . . shrew . . . Machiavellian . . . evil, power-mad witch . . . the ultimate self-serving politician.� So said the grassroots Democrats who were part of New Hampshire pollster Dick Bennet 's focus groups. And this is New Hampshire, Hillary 's strong primary state, not Iowa, where she's already trailing John Edwards in the polls. Now, that's not to say these haters represent the median opinion of Clinton. But if a significant portion of the Democratic electorate in New Hampshire is strongly motivated to turn out against her, her much vaunted strength in the state may be almost entirely illusory -- particularly if she loses in the preceding caucuses, as may very well happen. Meanwhile, John Edwards, newly reenergized by a Democratic calendar that puts his strongest states (Iowa and Nevada) first and second, has called for an immediate withdrawal of 40,000 troops from Iraq. Given his deepening alliance with organized...
  • RICE ON IRAQ.

    RICE ON IRAQ. In an awesome bit of goalpost-moving, the secretary of state can now claim for Iraq that it won't be Iran : Iraq is not on track to become another Iran despite the disconcerting images last week of Iraqis burning American flags and chanting "Death to America," Secretary of State Rice said yesterday. "I have no doubt that this is an Iraqi government and an Iraq that is going to be a fierce fighter in the war against terrorism, because they themselves are experiencing the effects of terror on their population," Ms. Rice said. "I have no doubt that this is going to be a government that is on the right side in the war on terror." This whole line of argument is heavily invested in the new gigantic conceptual error being made by the American right of thinking that Iran -- rather than, say, al-Qaeda -- is the enemy in the war on terrorism. There is, simply put, no contradiction between vast swathes of Iraq emerging as an Iranian-dominated theocracy (see here ) and the...
  • WEEPIN' JOE STILL AT IT.

    WEEPIN' JOE STILL AT IT. "The point I was trying to make was about how we disagree. My concern was, and remains, that if opponents or supporters of the war go beyond disagreeing to exploiting the war for partisan political purposes, much like Republicans did to Max Cleland on homeland security, we could lose more than an election. We could put our mission in Iraq, the lives of thousands of American soldiers carrying it out, and our national security at risk. That is what I care about." If anybody in Connecticut needed a reason to vote against Weepin' Joe Lieberman -- whose bladder, as my old Irish granny used to put it, is far too close to his eyes -- that quote should just about do it. (And, before anyone mentions it, yes, I know Cleland has campaigned for him. Hell, Joe's made a career out of sponging off the loyalty of his betters, why stop now?) Let's just unpack some of the bovine fodder therein, shall we? First, here's the statement in question: It's time for Democrats who...
  • WHAT ALCOHOL DOES....

    WHAT ALCOHOL DOES. Trying to settle the great Mel Gibson debate, The New York Times spoke with addiction specialists and alcohol experts to see whether Gibson's anti-Semitic spray could've been the tequila doing voice-over. The answer? Not likely. Contrary to certain recent press releases, alcohol does not, in fact, invent new parts of your brain or replace old opinions with shinier, fresher ones. Instead, its primary effect is to suppress activity in the prefrontal cortex, the portion of your brain which acts as superego, considering whether your acts are appropriate to the moment and cultural context. The prefontal cortex, though, checks out after a couple drinks, and so you begin drunk-dialing the folks you wanted to talk to but wouldn't let yourself, or admitting your undying love to your buddies, or finally letting that ugly core of anti-Semitism burst forth. But none of those feelings, impulses, or opinions are newly generated -- the prefontal cortex had simply blocked their...
  • AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION.

    AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION. Noam Scheiber responded late last week to my contention that Hezbollah posed no "mortal danger" to Israel by, in essence, agreeing with me. According to Scheiber (and I tend to agree), the Israeli government wasn't reacting to a perceived current or imminent danger but, rather, saw Hezbollah's cross-border raid as offering a reasonable casus belli for launching a preventive war aimed at curbing a perceived future threat from what was seen as Hezbollah's growing power. The difference is that I don't think this is a good idea at all. Preventive war has always been regarded as morally suspect (see, e.g., this recent article from Michael Walzer ) since it lacks the element of necessity that can justify the killing of innocents. In addition, were preventive war to be legitimized as a widespread tool of international conduct, the result might well be a general global downward spiral into chaos. Countervailing that risk is the simple fact that preventive war's...
  • Economic Malpractice at the Financial Times

    In case you thought that the United States had a monopoly on bad economic reporting, the Financial Times is out to prove you wrong. In a column this morning, Lex sought to show that an increase in the value of the Renminbi will not necessarily lead to a decline in the U.S. trade deficit with China. The evidence is a chart showing that the large rise in the euro against the dollar since 2001 has actually been associated with an increase in the U.S. trade deficit with Europe. What�s wrong with this story? Simple, the large rise in the euro since 2001 followed a large decline prior to 2001. The euro was born in 1999 at a value of approximately 1.17 dollars to the euro. Its current value is just over 1.25 dollars to the euro. Since inflation in the euro zone has averaged approximately 1.0 percentage point less annually then in the U.S., the real value of the euro against the dollar today is approximately the same as it was in 1999. Trade does not adjust immediately to changes in currency...

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