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  • IRAN VERSUS THE...

    IRAN VERSUS THE ARAB STATES. An intriguing subplot I've overlooked so far in the Lebanon situation has been the attitude of the "axis of pro-American dictators" (to coin a phrase) which is extremely close to the main line of analysis we've heard from American and Israeli hawks. Take this reporting in The Jerusalem Post : The anti-Hizbullah coalition, which appears to be growing with every Israeli missile that drops on the heads of Hizbullah leaders and headquarters, is spearheaded by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. These three countries, together with many Arab commentators and political analysts, are convinced that the leaders of Teheran and Damascus are using Hizbullah to divert attention from Iran's nuclear program and Syria's involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. For Arab states to so openly take Israel's side in a dispute is noteworthy on its own terms, and the Egypto-Saudi-Jordanian view that Iran and Syria are responsible seems to be...
  • MY OH MY,...

    MY OH MY, WE DO HAVE A BETTER PRESS CORPS. Having already offered up an example of the press corps at its worst, let me now turn to how it looks at its best. Last week saw the release of data showing federal tax revenues far exceeding estimates. True to form, the Bush administration credited its tax cuts, arguing that they spurred the economy, generated massive growth, and proved Supply-Side Economics. Arthur Laffer lives! Given the press corps' usual facility with economic data, the coverage went roughly as expected: Some numbers explaining the increase in revenue, some quotes from administration officials crowing over the news, some quotes from some other folks tempering their joy, and a meaningless rundown of clashes over tax cuts. The Wall Street Journal , however, let Greg Ip and Deborah Solomon actually report out the story, which is how they created that rarest of all things: A newspaper article that takes the news and helps you understand it. Ip and Solomon found that growth...
  • A WARNING FOR...

    A WARNING FOR PODHORETZ. John Podhoretz 's attempts to use a single DailyKos diary to characterize the views of all the "Kos Kids" is illustrative of either mendacity or ignorance, but certainly one of the two. Given that he later makes a big show of being uninformed -- "I am not familiar with the posting rules and systems on Daily Kos, because I have better things to do than know them" -- I'll be charitable and assume he's just a really, really, really lazy commentator, and not a willful liar. In keeping with the laziness theme, Podhoretz clearly found it too tiring to keep reading below the diary, where the comments dismantle the diarist for lack of balance, factual misrepresentations, and anti-Semitism. Moreover, this is a peculiar impulse blogs seem to generate in some folks, particularly media professionals. Because so many of us are used to publications with a defined editorial line and a certain amount of institutional ownership over each published story, there's a desire to...
  • BLOCK THAT METAPHOR!...

    BLOCK THAT METAPHOR! Recently, at something called the Aspen Ideas Festival -- and how did Plato and the rest of them manage without having an Ideas Fest, I ask you -- Bill Clinton said the following concerning the situation in Iraq: "Once you break the eggs, you have a responsibility to make an omelet." I disagree. For one thing, once you break the eggs, you can make almost anything. You can make scrambled eggs, or poached eggs, a five-layer chocolate cake, or a pitcher of skullbuster eggnog, for all that. There's no affirmative obligation to make an omelet, and only an omelet, once you've broken the eggs. This is small-bore thinking, dammit, like school uniforms and V-chips. Enough of this! Moreover, there is a more serious flaw in Mr. Clinton's approach to this vital metaphorical issue. Let us say, just for fun, that I entrust the eggs in question to some belligerent and unsophisticated children and they go out in the backyard and, for a number of reasons that later turn out to be...
  • OUR FARCICALLY DISAPPOINTING...

    OUR FARCICALLY DISAPPOINTING PRESS CROPS. If I were crafting a parody of the political media's decline, I could hardly construct a better set piece than today's reportage. A live mic at the G8 Summit caught Tony Blair and George Bush talking privately about the conflict in Lebanon. Given the relative opacity of Bush's thoughts on the situation, the frank discussion offered a fair amount of insight and a couple nuggets of news, including that he was going to send Condi to the region (or possibly the U.N. -- but she's going somewhere to deal with this), that he blamed neither Israel nor Lebanon for the violence, and that "the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over." That's a big deal: Bush believes it within the Syrian government's power to calm the conflict. Theoretically, that should have major implications for American diplomacy and, possibly, policy. So what's CNN 's headline? "Open mic catches Bush expletive on Mideast"!...
  • EQUALLY -- YES!...

    EQUALLY -- YES! I was really hoping that my claim that Israel's targeting of Lebanon's civilian infrastructure and Hezbollah's use of indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli cities were "equally indefensible" would bring forth an outraged condemnation of my "moral equivalence." It seems I'll have to settle for Jon Chait saying he doesn't "see how [I] could morally equate the actions of the two sides." I think it's pretty easy. Jon says Israel has been "attacking the parts of Lebanon's infrastructure that could be used to spirit the kidnapped soldiers out of the country, and followed it up by trying to destroy Hezbollah's artillery." No objection to destroying Hezbollah's artillery from me. It's the civilian infrastructure part that bothers me. Jon wants to say this is justified because Israel needs to prevent the captured soldiers from being moved out of the country. I don't think this holds any water -- surely Hezbollah can transport two guys across the Syrian border even if the...
  • JUST POSTED ON...

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: WHY WE FIGHT. TAP talks to political scientist Nolan McCarty , co-author of the new book Polarized America: The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches . McCarty points to economic inequality as the culprit for rising political polarization in the United States: What�s happened in the past 25 to 40 years or so is that as economic inequality has increased, there�s been a polarization of the parties on economic issues -- mostly due to the Republicans moving to the right. In the �70s and the �80s there was a rapid increase in incomes at the top without the commensurate increase of incomes at the bottom. And economic policies that Republicans had promoted and lost elections on in the �60s they began to win elections on in the �70s and �80s with the support of this new wealthier vote. So, there�s a direct relationship between the polarization of the parties on economic issues and the increased economic inequality that took place, primarily because these new,...
  • GORE WATCH: ENTERTAINMENT...

    GORE WATCH: ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY EDITION. There are, I hasten to acknowledge, much more important things going on in the world at the moment, but nevertheless this passage from EW 's cover story on Al Gore includes a softer Gore line on the "running for prez" question than I've seen before from the man: Of course, Gore can always go back to being an ordinary presidential candidate -- he hasn't completely sealed off that option. ''I do not expect to run for president again,'' he says, choosing his words carefully. ''But I haven't completely ruled out the possibility of running at some future time. I haven't given any Sherman-esque statements: 'If nominated I will not run, if elected I will not serve...'''... Maybe this has been his line for a while; it was new to me. UPDATE: Commenters inform me that, indeed, this has been his line for a while and I'm just behind the times. Perhaps I should stop depending on Entertainment Weekly for updates on American politics... --Sam Rosenfeld
  • JUST POSTED ON...

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: A CRISIS FORETOLD. Jo-Ann Mort reports from Israel and contemplates a major casualty of the crisis: the dream of peace achieved unilaterally. --The Editors
  • ISRAEL IS NOT...

    ISRAEL IS NOT INDIA. I would join with Jonah Goldberg 's criticism of today's Sebastian Mallaby column. That India has shown impressive restraint in responding to its rival Pakistan doesn't necessarily offer a template or commentary on the Israel-Hezbollah situation. Israel's calculus in attacking a non-nuclear, largely diffuse enemy that's incapable of matching their military strength is rather different than India's decision to refrain from courting nuclear war against a large state. That's not to say Israel's actions are right or wrong, but it's a specific situation with its own history and context that deserves to be analyzed as such. The situation is complicated enough on its own merits that our nation's op-ed columnists needn't be muddying the waters. --Ezra Klein

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