Archive

  • POWER VACCUUM 101....

    POWER VACCUUM 101. One thing you can say about Newt Gingrich : the guy doesn't pull his punches. On Sunday, Newt announced, on " Meet the Press ," the commencement of World War III in the Middle East and explained how to use that characterization of the current wars there as an election strategy. Come Monday, he carried his game plan to two distinct, if overlapping, constituencies: right-wing politicos and self-identified "born-again" Christians. To the rabidly liberal-hating, Ann Coulter -loving readers of Human Events Online , Gingrich laid out his whole clash-of-civilizations WWIII scenario -- targeting, one presumes, the Capitol Hill crowd. In a longish discourse with numerous bulleted points, the disgraced former House Speaker connected North Korea's bomb, a number of alleged terrorist plots targeting North American sites, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez , the Mumbai bombings and the "Iran-Syrian-Hezbollah-Hamas terrorist alliance." Offering numbered talking points on the...
  • Shame and Pain: The "Medicare and Social Security" Line Again

    I believe that the Washington Post has a copyright on combining the words "Medicare" and "Social Security" in a single sentence. Anyone who writes on these issues on their editorial pages always seems to do it . Again folks, the numbers are real clear. Medicare is a big problem because U.S. health care costs are projected to explode, which means that Medicare costs will explode. The moral is fix the health care system. Social Security is not a problem. The story on aging is not very different in the future than in the past. We are living longer, that has always been true. I assume that some of the editorial and op-ed writers actually do look at the projections occasionally. This makes you wonder why they are so insistent on ignoring the projections when they discuss these issues. --Dean Baker
  • WHY DOES NELSON...

    WHY DOES NELSON GET A FREE PASS? It's been often noted, in the ever-expanding coverage of the liberal bloggers' animosity towards Joe Lieberman (the most recent and best comments come from Hendrick Hertzberg in this week's New Yorker ), that many Democratic senators, like Ben Nelson of Nebraska, have equally conservative voting records but don't incur the same wrath because they are from red states or because they are more loyal to the Democratic Party in other ways. Fair enough. But yesterday's Senate stem-cell vote has me wondering: Why, exactly, is Ben Nelson being given a free pass on his morally reprehensible vote against federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research? Here is an issue where the public policy benefit is clear and the public policy cost is non-existent to anyone who doesn't hold rather peculiar, even mystical, views of the eternal soul of a blastocyst (as opposed to, say, a viable fetus). Public opinion polls clearly support the Democrats� position. Numerous...
  • IT'S PERSONAL. ...

    IT'S PERSONAL. It just so happens that I have a couple of really ugly-ass dogs in this fight over embryonic stem-cell research. Not many political issues are personal with me, but this one deeply is. I have watched slow death from neurological disease once too often in my life to be anything but furious when Sam Brownback , a United States senator to the everlasting embarrassment of that body, pulls out a child's drawing of an embryo with a smiley-face in order to argue his position. Or when Tony Snow , that towering public fake, starts getting glib about "murder," as though there isn't enough blood lapping at the ankles of everyone in this White House to float a barge. Or when Snow's boss, that tough-talkin', crumb-spittin', neck-rubbin' international buckaroo, uses the first veto of his presidential career and then hides behind children while maundering incoherently about a "moral line" as though he'd recognize one if he fell over it. Is there any doubt that, if this guy got...
  • LOSING JOE-MENTUM. Jon...

    LOSING JOE-MENTUM. Jon Chait , no Joe Lieberman fan but still a leading proponent of anti-anti-Liebermanism, seems to be edging closer to the Nedhead position since "[t]he view that Lieberman is unique is starting to seem more persuasive to me." --Matthew Yglesias
  • 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...

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