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. 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. 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"? 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 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

    WAL-MART FALTERS. Kerry Howley notes that Wal-Mart's long-planned global takeover is being routinely repelled. Be it the resistance in South Korea or Germany, the Arkansas retailer is proving unable to navigate new cultural norms, and is either abandoning ship or resigning itself to minor market status. This, oddly enough, is a rather bad thing. Assuming relatively equal international pricing, if Wal-Mart's low prices are good for Americans, they're far better in country's with smaller GDPs per capita (which is basically everyone save Luxembourg). Indeed, the worry with Wal-Mart is that their near monopoly over the American marketplace will drive all manner of producers into countries more amenable to low-wage labor, thus undercutting America's ability to generate high-wage jobs in return for relatively minor savings in retail goods. For countries whose retailers tend to be multinationals, or whose average incomes are already far lower, Wal-Mart represents a rather impressive deal,...

    THE NEW OLD REGIME. Ed Kilgore �s latest post on Joe Lieberman is really pretty fascinating. It highlights what I think basically amounts to a generation gap in views of politics. That's not quite the correct term, though, because it's not exactly a question of age. Rather, I'd say that there were a series of events from 1998-2003 -- the Clinton impeachment, the Florida recount fiasco, the Iraq War -- which served to draw a lot of people into higher levels of political engagement, sometimes because we were little kids during earlier dramas, but often just because the people in question were doing something else earlier. People who look to those years as their reference points just have very different ideas and perceptions about a lot of things. I always find it intriguing that Bill Clinton , his wife, and his friends, advisors, and collaborators seem to have been a lot less radicalized by the events surrounding his impeachment than, say, I was. Ultimately, it basically comes down to a...

    REDISTRICTING ROUNDTABLE. The folks at the new online strategery webzine The Democratic Strategist have produced a forum on gerrymandering, with Binghamton University political scientist Jon Krasno leading off and responses and reaction pieces from Emory University�s Alan Abramowitz , MyDD�s Jerome Armstrong , New America Foundation�s Mark Schmitt , the DLC�s Ed Kilgore , and yours truly. Worth a read for those interested in how gerrymandering (racial and partisan) affects competitiveness�if at all. --Tom Schaller

    A NEW DIRECTION? I've been a bit remiss in not talking through the Democrats' "New Direction" agenda items -- the so-called Six for '06. As I've long believed that what parties need isn't a ten word philosophy but a pithy agenda, I'm glad to see past platitudes sacrificed for a series of actual policy proposals that could be rapidly instituted given a change in House leadership. As it stands, the agenda, which you can access here , is: � Real Security : Phased redeployment starting before the end of 2006, double the size of the special forces, beef up homeland security in accordance with the 9-11 Commission's recommendations. � Better Pay : Increase the minimum wage, block hikes in congressional pay till that's done, end tax breaks that encourage offshoring. � College Access for All : Make tuition deductible, cut interest rates on student loans, expand Pell Grants. � Energy Independence : Energy boilerplate that doesn't lend itself to specifics. � Affordable Health Care : Empower the...

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: BRANCHING OUT. After years in which legislators ceded all ground on national security questions to the president and failed to challenge his expansion of executive powers, Hamdan is now forcing Congress to step up and show its cards regarding detention policy. As Jonathan Hafetz explains , "If Congress ends up blessing the executive�s power-grab, it may prove itself to be the most dangerous branch, by giving the president what he has so far lacked -- the stamp of democratic approval." Read the whole thing . --The Editors