Archive

  • EMBASSY CLOSURES: WHAT...

    EMBASSY CLOSURES: WHAT DOES IT TAKE? Curious to see what kind of political upheaval it normally takes to close a U.S. embassy, I googled around and found the following recent examples: In late February 2003 , "certain families of American diplomats started to leave" Damascus, Syria, and by March 21 , "American and British embassies in Syria...closed their doors until further signals following the beginning of the American and British war against Iraq." Direct protests and threats of violence led the embassy in Indonesia to close in October 2000, according to The New York Times . "The United States Embassy said in a statement today that its consular and visa services, which were hastily closed last week, would not reopen as scheduled on Monday because of a continuing threat of attack, though it declined to give specifics." A "serious terrorist threat" shuttered the embassy in Kenya temporarily in June 2003. In late December 2002, a crisis in Venezuela led to a situation where "violence...
  • MESSAGING THE CONFLICT....

    MESSAGING THE CONFLICT. Via Laura Rozen , MSNBC has this about the evacuation, which confirms the American commitment to keeping the embassy open and an American presence in Lebanon. I should note that this is probably also a gesture of support for the Lebanese government, and not just the Israelis. U.S. Brig. Gen. Carl Jensen, who is coordinating the evacuation, estimated that more than 6,000 Americans will have been evacuated by the weekend, most of them on ferries and Navy ships. Despite the increased efforts, some expressed frustration. �I can�t believe the Americans,� said Danni Atiyeh, a civil engineer from Kansas City, Mo., waiting earlier Wednesday with his pregnant wife and sons, ages 6 and 10, for a bus to take them to the cruise ship. �Everybody else has gone home ... We�re still here.� The U.S. State Department said Tuesday it had dropped a plan to make Americans reimburse the government for the transport, but Atiyeh said he and others were asked to sign promissory notes...
  • A LITTLE GROVELING...

    A LITTLE GROVELING NEVER HURT. A little birdie who attended last weekend�s big DSCC fundraising event in Nantucket tells me that donors were very impressed by candidates Sherrod Brown (OH), Claire McCaskill (MO) and Jon Tester (MT), but that Virginia nominee Jim Webb fell flat. Somebody close to Webb told me that, to put it rather bluntly, Webb just isn�t good at the ass-kissing that (some) Democratic donors expect. I�m not sure if it�s Webb�s military background, the fact that he�s a former Republican, or just his personality that�s the issue here. And, frankly, I have a grudging respect for candidates who don�t prostrate themselves to donors. Many big-dollar donors are, by definition, self-made millionaires or people who have inherited their wealth and, in either case, tend to be self-important -- with varying degrees of justification for that self-importance. Politicians tend to be self-important too, which is why it�s so rare to find pols who like to ask for money. It�s a bit...
  • WHY IT'S TAKING...

    WHY IT'S TAKING SO LONG. A reliable source tells me that the reason the United States has been so slow in evacuating its citizens from Lebanon is that the public diplomacy (i.e., P.R.) issues raised by evacuating under Israeli assault are so complicated. Individuals within the State Department, I am told, have been reluctant to create an impression that the Israeli assault on Lebanon is as bad as it is or that civilian U.S. citizens are being threatened by U.S. ally Israel. If a conflict this severe had broken out in, say, Indonesia, the American embassy would have been shut down the next day and its personnel and families rapidly brought to safety. That's how things normally work. (See Laura Rozen on the evacuation from Albania here .) In this case, however, the diplomatic message sent by shutting down the U.S. embassy in the face of Israeli bombing would have contradicted the U.S. government message of support for the Israeli mission against Hezbollah terrorists, which, when added...
  • THE DOUBLE PLUG....

    THE DOUBLE PLUG. Folks really should read the Dean Baker article that the shadowy figures known as " The Editors " plug below. Baker takes on a couple of the canards meant to scare us into fearing a society with a whole lot of old people, most importantly the "how will we support them!?" fear: We know that, barring an economic catastrophe, workers will be far more productive in 2035 than they are today. Technology will continue to improve, computers will get better, workers will be more educated. Even if productivity growth were to fall back to its slowest pace on record (1.5 percent annually), workers in 2035 would still be producing 50 percent more on average than workers do today. This means that two workers in 2035 would be as able to support a retiree as three workers are today. If productivity grows at the same rate as it has over the last decade (and during the period from 1945 to 1973), then workers will be almost twice as productive in 2035 as they are presently. In this...
  • JUST POSTED ON...

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: STAGNATION CELEBRATION. Bring on the birth dearth! Dean Baker makes the case for an aging (or even declining) population. --The Editors
  • WAR PORN WITH...

    WAR PORN WITH A BEAT. There's been some great war reporting coming from NBC, especially from Martin Fletcher , who spent yesterday chasing Hezbollah's Katyusha rockets as they made landfall in Israel, and interviewing the people huddled in nearby shelters. Here, I'd like to put in a good word for the videographers covering the conflict. It's always the on-air reporters who get the glory when a rocket lands near to the site of their reports, but it's the video guys who are the most exposed -- and without whom those reports would not exist. Yesterday, as NBC's Richard Engel ducked during a rooftop report while a rocket whizzed overhead, the camera stayed fixed, except to record the visual effects of the rocket's subsequent landing. When Engel returned to the frame, he found himself elevated to the equivalent of this war's Scud stud. (I've yet to find a synonym for "stud" that rhymes with " Katyusha .") Engel's close encounter occurred during a live report for MSNBC's Scarborough Country...
  • INFRASTRUCTURE AND JUSTICE....

    INFRASTRUCTURE AND JUSTICE. Highly trained moral philosopher Michael Walzer has a nice piece up at TNR that, conveniently enough, is in line with my take (which, in turn, is pretty much based on Walzer's book, so it all comes around) -- attacking Hezbollah rocket installations or stockpiles or what have you is fine, bombing Lebanon's civilian infrastructure is not fine, and firing rockets at random into Israeli cities is also not fine. --Matthew Yglesias
  • The Washington Post's Happy Face Version of the Fed

    There is plenty of room to debate what the Federal Reserve Board's monetary policy should be, but the necessary prerequisite for a serious debate is the knowledge of how monetary policy works. Readers of the Post would be badly misled on this topic by an article in today's paper. The article correctly reports that the Fed adjusts interest rates to prevent inflation from getting too high, explaining that "when inflation is a concern, it raises borrowing costs to cool economic growth, which weakens businesses' power to raise prices." Well, not exactly. The immediate target of the Fed's anti-inflation policy is wages, not prices. In fact, many macro-models have prices being a fixed mark-up over wages, which implies that the only way to control prices is to control wages. The Taylor rule, the standard guidepost for Fed policy, is based in part on the gap between a definition of full employment (the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment) and the current level of unemployment...
  • CHUTZPAH. Hartford...

    CHUTZPAH. Hartford Courant columnist Kevin Rennie thinks he's picked up on Joe Lieberman 's coming message: Heads I win, tails I make you lose. Rennie writes that "[t]he theme of a Saturday conclave of Greater Hartford Democratic town committee chairs was that if Lieberman loses the primary he will hurt all other Democratic candidates by running as an independent in November. The message was clear: help him now or your favorites suffer in November." So vote Lieb, or the Democratic Party gets it! A similar rationale emerged during a dinner argument with a friend last weekend: How can bloggers, usually so invested in the Democratic Party's successes, possibly rationalize throwing the seat to the Republicans? Since Lieberman's independent candidacy is a virtual certainty, a Ned Lamont victory in the primaries would create a three way race that could, quite conceivably, allow a Republican to squeak through. Worse yet, given the possibility of real Democratic gains this November, it could...

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