Archive

  • ON PARENTING. ...

    ON PARENTING. As a childless twenty-something, I've been really enjoying the Corner's weeks-long debate over whether or not parenting matters. In the "cranky bugger" corner, with the impressively hiked-up grandpa shorts, has been John Derbyshire , who's argued that parenting matters very, very little, and peer influences, genetics, and culture are the real determinants. His primary assailant has been Jonah Goldberg , a proud parent determined to prove he matters. And occasionally ducking into the ring to slam either Derbyshire or Jonah with a folding chair has been Charles Murray , the wise old man of strange rightwing social science arguments. Despite a lot of harping over the evidence, none of the participants seems particularly quick with the social science data. Partially, that's because there's depressingly little on the role of fathers, which seems to be the obsession of all the participants. Derbyshire has wildly overstated the consensus of the scientific community on any...
  • GIVE ME DIGNITY...

    GIVE ME DIGNITY OR GIVE ME EMPLOYMENT! This weekend's New York Times had a fascinating piece on the growing number of middle-aged men who are jobless by choice. It's always hard to discern if the anecdotes and quotes chosen for these articles accurately reflect the trends, but assuming they do, it's worrying stuff. The basic outline is that many workers from blue or gray collar jobs who lost their positions in layoffs and bankruptcies are finding it nearly impossible to find subsequent positions offering the same level of dignity and challenge. So a unionized steel workers whose seniority had finally brought him an acceptable level of intellectual engagement and occupational satisfaction is unable to accept a tumble down the occupational ladder into a job that his skill set, rather than his accumulated experience, actually qualifies him for. That's the basic tension here: You can take a man's job, but what if he refuses to subsequently sacrifice his dignity? �To be honest, I�m kind of...
  • OHIO SWIFTBOATING NOT SO SWIFT.

    OHIO SWIFTBOATING NOT SO SWIFT. The Ohio Republican Party has fired �social conservative coordinator� Gary Lankford , the operative responsible for last week�s e-mail suggesting that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland and his wife are gay. Lankford�s effort to discredit Strickland proved even too embarrassing for the shameless Ohio GOP, and chair Robert Bennett gave him the boot. Lankford, a veteran of the �values voters� crowd, once again proves that moralizing doesn�t equal morality. Lankford is also the Ohio coordinator for TeenPact , which is training teenagers to bear false witness against neightbors to �change America for Christ.� (TeenPact teenagers swarmed the Capitol when the Senate took up the bogus Federal Marriage Amendment last month.) Just because the state GOP fired Lankford doesn�t mean the swiftboating of Strickland will end, because Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell is fully capable of handling that on his own. Blackwell, who had...
  • IRAN RESOLUTION.

    IRAN RESOLUTION. In a move not likely to enhance the reputation of the Security Council, Russia and China forced the West to water down the resolution on Iran's nuclear program so that it now threatens to threaten Iran with sanctions if they don't stop enriching uranium by August 31, rather than actually threatening sanctions as such. On the other hand, Iran has already said that they'll respond to the latest Western offer by August 22 so the whole thing may be moot anyway because people will be reconsidering their positions in light of whatever Teheran says then. The genuinely ominous sign here is that the resolution passed 14-1, with the one "no" vote coming from Qatar, at the moment the one Arab nation represented on the Council. As we saw in the initial days of the Israel-Hezbollah crisis, the Arab regimes are, on the merits, actually very alarmed about Iran. But as we saw in subsequent days, they're also somewhat under the sway of Arab public opinion, which has come to be pro-...
  • THE TROUBLE WITH THE IMPOSSIBLE.

    THE TROUBLE WITH THE IMPOSSIBLE. I don't really have new observations to offer about the war in Lebanon, which continues to be a bad business . Sebastian Mallaby does, however, have a positively Yglesian analysis in today's Post concluding that "wars are only defensible if they can be won" -- something Olmert and Bush would both do well to consider. --Matthew Yglesias
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: JOE, KO'd.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: JOE, KO'd. Provoked by that blistering Times editorial , Mike "Bossman" Tomasky speculates : What if Ned Lamont not only beats Joe Lieberman , but throttles him by, say, 10 points? "[I]f it were to happen, Lieberman�s career might be effectively over August 9," says Mike. He explains why here . --The Editors
  • HOLY HOWELL RAINES, MARKOS!

    HOLY HOWELL RAINES, MARKOS! It's as though the ghost of Howell Raines has somehow snuck back into the New York Times editorial page. Who could have guessed when looking at the Lieberman / Lamont headline that The Times would ditch their establishmentarian penchant for high-minded bi-partisanship and endorse Ned Lamont ? To a political junkie, this was like Bobby Thomson 's pennant-winning shot heard round the world. Since Raines' departure from the top of the editorial page, The Times has reverted from his crusading liberalism back to a more comfortable moderation. The paper infuriated some of their liberal readers by endorsing Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Representative Chris Shays (CT-R) for re-election. And, in the case of Shays, they did so in part on the grounds that having a Republican moderate in the seat was better for the country because it was good to have some ideological diversity within the party -- even though the alternative was a Democrat whose actual...
  • DEMOCRACY, IF YOU...

    DEMOCRACY, IF YOU LIKE IT. I don't quite know what Jackson Diehl is trying to say about Ukraine here, but his column seemed to me to partake freely of various unfortunate but all-too-common presuppositions. As you'll recall, back in 2004 Viktor Yanukovich was Ukraine's ruling party's candidate for president. He lost to Viktor Yushchenko , but Yanukovich tried to steal the election through fraud. Then came the "Orange Revolution" and Yanukovich was forced to back down and let Yuschenko take office. Between then and now, a parliamentary election and a breakdown between Yuschenko and some of his political allies has created a situation where it now looks like Yanukovich will become prime minister in coalition with a third political party. Describing that situation as a "setback" or "crisis" for Ukrainian democracy as opposed to for Yuschenko personally is a silly error. A democracy requires multiple political parties. Yanukovich's electoral victory was based on fraud, but much of his...
  • Cheap Tip

    Last quarter the markets were surprised by a stronger than expected number for personal consumption expenditures in March. I commented that the surprise was surprising because March personal consumption expenditures were embedded in the first quarter GDP data that had been released the prior week. Here's a chance to look for more surprising surprises. The consensus number for June personal consumption expenditures is an increase of 0.4 percent. My arithmetic puts the figure at over 1.0 percent. There is always the possibility of a substantial upward revision to the April and May data, but absent a large revision, June expenditures should come in much higher than "expected." Will the markets be surprised? --Dean Baker
  • Can You Say "Lower Profit Margins?"

    Apparently the reporters at MarketWatch can't. An article noting the uptick in labor compensation reported in the second quarter Employment Cost Index reported that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said that higher labor costs need not lead to inflation, if they are offset by rising productivity. Well, in the very next sentence Mr. Bernanke also said that higher labor costs could be offset by lower profit margins: "Whether faster increases in nominal compensation create additional cost pressures for firms depends in part on the extent to which they are offset by continuing productivity gains. Profit margins are currently relatively wide, and the effect of a possible acceleration in compensation on price inflation would thus also depend on the extent to which competitive pressures force firms to reduce margins rather than pass on higher costs." But that part didn't make it into MarketWatch . Thanks go to my friend Jared Bernstein for this tip. --Dean Baker

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