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  • WHAT'S THE MATTER...

    WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH GAZA. Among many other things, it's run by thugs, gangs, and militias who have no more concern for civilian Palestinians than they do for Israelis. The Washington Post makes that pretty clear in this story about the Israeli ground re-invasion of Gaza: Mariam el-Selgawi, a neighbor who fled her home with her eight children and elderly in-laws, said she knows why the Israelis are back. "Because of the rockets, everyone is launching rockets," from the agricultural areas inside the Gaza Strip over the border at Israeli towns, she said. "Days before, there was a group trying to shoot a rocket, and they were hit by a missile from a drone, and all of them died." "All the time I get in fights with them when they come. They know it will bring Israel back to the area," she complained of the Palestinians firing the projectiles. "The last time I said: 'The Israelis are going to come and kill us. Aren't you afraid you're going to make us orphans?' And one of them said: 'We...
  • WEEK TWO. I'm...

    WEEK TWO. I'm lacking in deep thoughts on the situation at the moment, but it occurs to me that folks defending recent Israeli attacks on Lebanon seem to me to be defending something that's happening in an alternate reality rather than the actual events on the ground. Repeating the mantra that Israel is aiming to crush Hezbollah doesn't change the fact that, in practice, this isn't what Israel is doing. For one thing, they're not just attacking armed Hezbollah personnel; they're dropping bombs on offices in urban areas with all the attendant devastation that entails. But more broadly, they're systematically targeting Lebanon's civilian infrastructure -- the airport, fuel depots, power plants, roads. The direct consequences of this have been a civilian death toll that's far higher than what Hezbollah's equally indefensible indiscriminate rocket attacks have done. Whatever the intent of all this is, the actual effect is going to be to kill a lot of people, make many more into refugees (...
  • THUMBSUCKERS BEWARE: NOVAK'S...

    THUMBSUCKERS BEWARE: NOVAK'S NAMING NAMES. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Robert Novak gave quite the unconvincing performance yesterday on � Meet the Press .� As Novak answered question after question from anchor Tim Russert about his role in the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson and the subsequent investigation by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald , the Prince of Darkness (as he is known in these parts) proved himself more dottering than wily, contradicting himself, and giving weak and multiple explanations for why he gave up his sources to the special prosecutor. Novak's excuse? Well, the prosecutor already had their names. How's that for standing on principle? Novak also told Russert -- who himself appeared before Fitzgerald's CIA-leak grand jury -- that the name of his primary source has not yet been disclosed, though he did not dispute that it was former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage when Russert made that suggestion. "I�m not going to speculate on who the...
  • Monopolies Breed Corruption: Medical Supplies Industry

    The NYT had a good piece this morning reporting on how the medical supply industry pays top hospital executives thousands of dollars for advice on how to market their products. This is what you expect to happen when government patent monopolies allow these firms to sell their products at prices that are several hundred percent above the free market price. --Dean Baker
  • NPR Doesn't Believe in Markets

    NPR had a piece this morning warning of a shortage of agricultural workers in California. It reported that some crops may rot in the field, if farmers there can't get more workers by the end of the summer. Those of us who believe in markets would suggest that the farmers try raising wages. It is possible that some of the crops being farmed now in California would not be profitable, if farmers had to pay the wage necessary to attract workers in the current market (or if they had to pay the market price for water). In a market economy, that means that the farmers made bad choices on crop choices. That's unfortunate for the farmers, but that's how markets work. I would like to be able to get a lawyer for $20 an hour, but because we have a lawyer shortage, that is not an option. Maybe NPR will be able to find some folks who understand markets to help with their reporting on economic issues. --Dean Baker
  • Soviet Style History in the New York Times

    Back in the days of the Soviet Union, key facts were often excluded from historical accounts in order not to put the regime in a bad light. The NYT seems to be experimenting with this journalistic style. Today's article on the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg included a passing reference that described Russia's 7-year long economic recovery as "oil-fueled." Well, the rise in oil prices certainly has helped Russia over this period, but it is probably at least as important that Russia abandoned the economic straightjacket that had been imposed on it by the I.M.F. and then U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin (with help from his deputy Larry Summers). Until the summer of 1998, Russia had tied its currency to the dollar. In order to sustain this link, it was forced to raise interest rates to ever higher levels. The over-valued ruble, coupled with high interest rates, was strangling Russia's economy, bringing growth to a halt. The I.M.F. and the U.S. Treasury both insisted that Russia maintain...
  • Reassurances on the Housing Bubble

    The Times had an interesting piece discussing the impact of more than $1.2 trillion in adjustable rate mortgages resetting in the next two years. The article points out that many homeowners may find their rates increasing by as much as 2 full percentage points when their lock-in period ends on an adjustable rate mortgage. The article notes that this increase in mortgage payments may cause serious distress for many homeowners and may even lead some to give up their house, especially if it has lost value since the mortgage was issued. However, the article assures us that the situation will not pose any problem for the mortgage banking industry. How do we know it won't pose a problem? Well the industry said so. That pretty much settles the case. After all, if they were seriously worried, the representatives of the industry would no doubt be anxious to have their concerns prominently displayed in the New York Times . I have written on the housing bubble at length (see our site ), but I'll...
  • JUST POSTED ON...

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: THE RULES OF THE GAME. Earlier today, Laura Rozen talked to Mark Perry , co-founder of the Beirut-based Conflicts Forum , which has administered dialogues between Hezbollah and former American and British officials for the past several years. Perry assesses the current crisis, and doesn't pull punches: We�ve been hearing the theory that the timing of Hezbollah�s Tuesday kidnapping of the two Israeli Defense Force soldiers was planned well in advance and with coordination from Tehran or Damascus. Can you speak to that? Oy vey . There are a lot of people in Washington trying to walk that story back right now, because it�s not true. Hezbollah and Israel stand along this border every day observing each other through binoculars and waiting for an opportunity to kill each other. They are at war. They have been for 25 years, no one ever declared a cease-fire between them. � They stand on the border every day and just wait for an opportunity. And on Tuesday morning...
  • SPECTER'S SHAM INDEPENDENCE,...

    SPECTER'S SHAM INDEPENDENCE, EXAMPLE #2,494. For those who haven't yet read much about the Arlen Specter - Bush administration "compromise" on the NSA domestic surveillance program, this from Marty Lederman is highly worth reading. Orin Kerr elaborates further on the troubling balance-of-power implications in the bill, while Jane Harman concurs that the thing's no good. Meanwhile, Greg highlights one particular aspect of the media's generally dismal initial coverage of the bill. --Sam Rosenfeld
  • JUST POSTED ON...

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: AN END TO HEDGING The challenge against Joe Lieberman , argues Terence Samuel , will transform the Iraq war as a political issue for Democrats. The "competence" critique of the administration's war will no longer suffice, and a number of the '08 presidential contenders are going to have to hop off the fence in one direction or the other. --The Editors

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