NEWT'S RETURN. Of all the conservative writers who emerged from The Weekly Standard , Andrew Ferguson by far was my favorite. Which is why I summon up his valedictory to Speaker Newt Gingrich here in the context of Gingrich's sudden reemergence channeling Charles Martel through the voice of Kermit The Frog . Over the weekend, you may have noticed, the former intellectual anchor of the history department at Billy Bob's College And Bait Shack took to the parapets of the Washington Post op-ed page in order to rally us all to his banner . Whenever Newt starts getting giddy like this, it's important to remember the following passage from Ferguson's farewell: Gingrich's ambitions, it turned out, were even vaster than those suggested by his five-page prospectus. A couple of years later, the House Ethics Committee released an appendix to its report on the Speaker's various ethics problems. The appendix was an amazing compendium of Gingrich's notes, speech drafts, memos and correspondence -- a...
  • Alan Greenspan and the Stock Bubble

    The biggest sin that the Greenspan sainthood proponents must sweep under the rug is his failure to do anything about the stock market bubble. There are 3 questions here that the critics and worshippers must address: 1) Could it have been recognized? 2) Did it actually do the economy serious harm? 3) What could have been done? These questions are loosely touched on by a worshipper�s ((Daniel Drezner) review of a critic�s (Peter Hartcher) book in the Post book review section. The worshipper comes up seriously short in his assessment.
  • Hidden Housing Price Declines

    As I mentioned in a prior note, house prices may be dropping in ways that are not picked up by price indices because the indices all use the contracted sale price. Currently sellers are using a variety of kickbacks that reduce the effective price below the sale price. Today's Washington Post has a good example. Centex, a major national builder, has a full-page ad (sorry ads don't appear in the web edition) offering mortgages at well below the market rate, plus closing cost assistance. (The difference on the 30-year is about 0.8 percentage points.) The ad also promises realtors a $5,000 bonus. So, on a $400,000 home, these incentives could easily come to 5 percent of the purchase price. So the next article on housing prices that doesn't mention kickbacks of this sort gets a special BTP goat prize. --Dean Baker

    IS OUR CHILDREN LEARNING? Via Billmon by way of The Arabist , I see that apparently 30 percent of Americans, according to a new survey, can't recall what year 9-11 happened. And five percent don't remember the day and month of 9-11 . As Billmon asks, "I wonder how many of them know who's buried in Grant's tomb?" --Garance Franke-Ruta

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: FAULTY TOWERS. Yes indeed, Oliver Stone keeps his politics in check for his new film World Trade Center . He seems to have done the same for his storytelling skills, according to Sudhir Muralidhar . --The Editors

    IRANIAN-AMERICAN RELATIONS, D.C.-STYLE. When did "Do you speak Farsi?" become the new pick-up line in D.C.? First, I read this report on Michelle Persaud , dubbed the number one looker in The Hill 's annual 50 Most Beautiful People issue: Seeing her dark eyes and mocha skin, her flowing black tresses and expansive lashes, [men] sidle over, take in a breath and start speaking � Farsi! �I just look at them and smile,� the Maryland native, who has no Persian ancestry, says with a chuckle. �I get that all the time.�... Although Persaud looks Iranian, her family comes from the small South American country of Guyana, a former British colony where East Indians, Africans and Europeans settled centuries ago. And now, not two hours ago, some man followed me from across the street, into the TAP office building, and up to our seventh floor offices in order to try to hit on me. His opening line: "Do you speak Farsi?" Are there really that many Iranian women living in the city that this works? It's...

    THE OTHER BOSSMAN. This from the occasionally sensible Jonathan Chait is crazy-making enough on its merits. Why shouldn't there be an emboldened left-wing of the Democratic Party, particularly if it results in a demand to change course in the middle of the greatest foreign-policy cock-up of the age, a change that today seems to have the support of 60 percent of the American people? Chait will have to forgive some of us if we don't feel like waiting any longer for the principal architects of this idiocy -- including those who work down the hall from him -- to shut up and slink off to the babbling obscurity they so richly deserve. Taking some of these people seriously about Iraq is like listening to Joe Hazlewood on celestial navigation. So, he'll have to be patient with outbreaks of genuine democracy. So who's Chait afraid of? Michael Moore ? That capitalist tool who self-finances his own movies and who didn't have to marry into a sewing-machine fortune to buy himself a platform? After...

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: IT'S MEDICAL FRIDAY! Three pieces relating to health care/medical issues are up today. Maggie Mahar raises doubts about Merck's much-hyped new cervical cancer vaccine, and argues that the drug's ascendancy illustrates a good deal about American health care inefficiencies and inequities. Meanwhile, following Humana's recent announcement of higher-than-expected earnings last quarter due to the Medicare prescription drug program kicking in, Barbara Dreyfuss gives us the gory details of how it and other insurance companies rigged the Medicare drug bill in their favor three years ago. And finally, Aziz Huq talks to Steven H. Miles , author of the new book Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity and the War on Terror , about military physicians' role in aiding and abetting detainee abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay. --The Editors

    THE CASE FOR REDEPLOYMENT. "Retreating from Iraq and 'redeploying' to Okinawa is not a sufficient response" to the threat of terrorism, wrote White House hack Peter Wehner yesterday. Okinawa, of course, is a straw man. But there's ample reason to believe that redeploying resources out of Iraq and to other locations would be very helpful in fighting terrorism: We could send more troops to Afghanistan, where our military venture is running into some significant problems but where there are still much better prospects for success than in Iraq. We could reassign Arabic-speaking U.S. government personnel to translating and monitoring signals that intelligence has gathered from terrorism suspects instead of having them do civil affairs work and train Iraqi security forces. We could stop using such a high proportion of our surveillance satellites on force protection in Iraq and use them to better monitor the rest of the world and get a better handle on what's going on in the Horn of Africa,...

    A CHALLENGE. I didn't know that acknowledging that the Israeli government has pursued some policy shifts in recent years -- shifts that those of us who oppose Israeli expansionism should cheer -- makes you a " Likudnik, " but allow me to defend my honor. A cursory glance at the website I edit, , will reveal three articles on the current conflict between Israel and Lebanon. Two are reported from Beirut and the third from both countries. I challenge anyone to find any AIPAC talking points in any of them. As I've stated earlier , it is precisely because I think Israel needs encouragement to remove itself from the occupied territories that I think pointing out the fact that Christian Zionists are to the right of the Israeli government is so necessary. --Ben Adler