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  • BIKINI KILL. I...

    BIKINI KILL. I hadn�t noticed at first, because the print is squintishly small, but the latest Vanity Fair cover takes a pretty rude and gratuitous shot at Hillary Clinton . The cover is of two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank in a white bikini kneeling in the surf, accompanied by the tag �Hey, there, HILARY!*� The asterisk references the following clarifying text: �*The Hilary you want to see in a bikini!� You may recall the January 1998 episode when the Clintons were vacationing in the Virgin Islands and an Agence France-Presse photog hiding in the bushes snapped a shot of then-50-year-old Clinton in her bikini, dancing with the president. Her response, as recounted in Living History (p. 438), to the charge that she choreographed that for political gain: �Just name me any fifty-year-old woman who would knowingly pose in her bathing suit -- with her back pointed to the camera.� Even Hillary�s indefatigable, her-ambition-is-limitless critics, who are convinced that 99 percent of Clinton...
  • MUM'S THE WORD....

    MUM'S THE WORD. I just returned from the ostensible news conference at which Valerie Plame Wilson and her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson , issued statements on the reasons behind their launching of a civil lawsuit against Vice President Dick Cheney , Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove , former vice presidential Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby , and 10 unnamed political operatives. I use the word "ostensible," because it seemed to me that no news was broken here, with neither of the Wilsons taking questions. (Unless, of course, you count the revelation of the creation of a fund for the Wilsons' legal expenses, to which supporters may contribute here .) The Wilsons' attorney, Christopher Wolf of Proskauer Rose LLP, answered questions in a lawyerly way, which meant he didn't really answer them at all. I asked if he could explain how the Bevins precedent on which the case is based -- which, in the past, apparently applied only to the actions of law enforcement...
  • FOREHEAD GROWTH. ...

    FOREHEAD GROWTH. Paul Krugman returns to the economics beat with an invaluable look at how our economy is growing: Here�s what happened in 2004. The U.S. economy grew 4.2 percent, a very good number. Yet last August the Census Bureau reported that real median family income � the purchasing power of the typical family � actually fell. Meanwhile, poverty increased, as did the number of Americans without health insurance. So where did the growth go? The answer comes from the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, whose long-term estimates of income equality have become the gold standard for research on this topic, and who have recently updated their estimates to include 2004. They show that even if you exclude capital gains from a rising stock market, in 2004 the real income of the richest 1 percent of Americans surged by almost 12.5 percent. Meanwhile, the average real income of the bottom 99 percent of the population rose only 1.5 percent. In other words, a relative handful of...
  • AND SOMEONE INVITE...

    AND SOMEONE INVITE CHINA. Justin Logan notes a wee problem with the proposal below , namely that permanent Security Council member China isn't a member of the G-8 so, technically speaking, "The five permanent Security Council members" can't, as such, do anything at "this weekend�s Group of 8 meeting." At any rate, China doesn't normally take strong stands on these issues, so they could presumably be brought on board if everyone else could. It's worth mentioning here that the Bush administration has a strong interest in stepping up to the plate. The elected government in Beirut is really Bush's only real positive achievement in the region and the whole thing risks falling apart at the moment. --Matthew Yglesias
  • DISPROPORTIONATE? I...

    DISPROPORTIONATE? I keep seeing European diplomats and leaders refer to Israel's attack as "disproportionate," which seems a sort of weird criticism given that wild overreaction is pretty much the point. Israel has long operated off a fire and brimstone theory of military reprisals, deploying excessive strength in order to markedly disincentivize small attacks by their foes and neighbors. It's assymetrical warfare of an oddly inverted sort: Israel can launch massive attacks, their opponents can't, and so Israel responds to small provocations with massive responses. There is, to be sure, the question of why they do it, or whether it's a good idea, but pointing out that their strategy of disproportionate reprisal seems dependent on disproportionate reprisals is a tautology, not a criticism. --Ezra Klein
  • TIME FOR A...

    TIME FOR A TIMEOUT. This seems smart from Michael Young : The five permanent Security Council members, perhaps at this weekend�s Group of 8 meeting, should consider a larger initiative based on the resolution that would include: a proposal for the gradual collection of Hezbollah�s weapons; written guarantees by Israel that it will respect Lebanese sovereignty and pull its forces out of the contested Lebanese land in the Shebaa Farms; and the release of prisoners on both sides. Such a deal could find support among Lebanon�s anti-Syrian politicians, would substantially narrow Hezbollah�s ability to justify retaining its arms, and also send a signal to Syria and particularly Iran that the region is not theirs for the taking. One important thing: No Lebanese government could legitimately help to advance such a plan if Israel were to try to, as its army chief of staff put it this week, �turn back the clock in Lebanon by 20 years.� Israel must cease its attacks and let diplomacy take over...
  • The Conservative Nanny State: LIVE in NYC!

    I will be giving a talk on my book, The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer , at Demos next Thursday at noon. The talk is free, as is the book, if you want to download it. You can the details on their website . --Dean Baker
  • Big News: Arithmetic Problems at the Council of Economic Advisors

    Economists are supposed to be good at math. It is a great honor for an economist to be appointed as head of the President's Council of Economic Advisors. For these reasons, it should be big news that the person currently holding this position apparently has problems with simple arithmetic. According to an article carried by Dow Jones Newswire, Ed Lazear, the current chief of the Council of Economic Advisors, claimed that wage growth "seems to be taking off right now." The article reports Mr. Lazear's view that workers now seem poised to get substantial real wage gains. If the article presented Mr. Lazear's comments accurately, then it missed the real news. Nominal wages are at best just keeping pace with inflation, leaving no room for real wage growth. From June 2005 to June 2006, the average hourly wage increased by 3.9 percent in nominal terms. From May 2005 to May 2006 (the June data is not yet available) the consumer price index increased by 4.1 percent. This means that the real...
  • MEET JOE AND...

    MEET JOE AND EILEEN. An audio recording of yesterday�s breakfast with Senator Chuck Schumer is now available. You�ll hear he begins with a discussion of his workout regimen (the House gym, not the Senate), and from there, launches into a detailed description of his vision for a new Democratic Party. It rests largely on the WWJAED (What Would Joe And Eileen Do) principle. Who are Joe and Eileen? They're a fictional couple from Massapequa, New York, who voted Clinton -Clinton- Bush -Bush -- though Matt said yesterday a more accurate voting record probably would have been Perot -Clinton- Gore -Bush. They supported the war. They think what Ken Lay did was bad, but hate flag-burners more. They supposedly agree with many of the Democratic Party's values, but can�t stand it when arrogant liberals speak down to them. These are the voters that Schumer believes the Democrats should target. Listen and see whether you agree ( Ezra had a few objections ). --Alec Oveis
  • BLEACHING THE WHITE...

    BLEACHING THE WHITE HOUSE. Now that former Communications Director Nicolle Wallace (nee Devenish) has left the White House political operation, the National Journal (in its July 1 issue) notes that there are only four women (Counsel Harriet Miers , Secretary of State Condi Rice , Legislative Affairs Director Candi Wolff and Personnel Director Liza Wright ) among the top 20 White House posts, and that �there are no African-Americans or Asians among Bush�s inner circle of White House advisers, and only one Hispanic.� I always find it fascinating that Republicans complain that diversity in hiring for political jobs by Democrats is done for superficial, symbolic purposes, and then turn around and pretend that they do not hire for symbolic reasons while screaming that they deserve credit for their own hiring practices. The current administration repeatedly bragged about its staffing diversity, especially before Bush �s re-election; even after the votes were in, Dan Bartlett was still...

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