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  • TESTER TEST. A...

    TESTER TEST. A year ago, I had a chance to sit down in Great Falls, Montana, with Senate candidate Jon Tester , who is in DC now for fundraising events and meet-n-greets. The one thing he said last July that still sticks in my memory was this reflection on the life he and his wife have been living in Montana for 48 years: �We�ve got a great quality of life where we live. Washington will not be a step up; it�ll be a step down as far as quality of life goes.� All politicians tell you how much more they like their home district than Washington, but somehow you just knew he was serious as a heart attack when he said it. I popped in at a house party last night here in DC hosted by a native Montanan who was meeting Tester for the first time. I wanted to see if Tester�s recent victory in the Senate primary, his current lead over Conrad Burns in the polls, and being dressed in a suit and tie at a Capitol Hill fundraiser might just reveal a different Jon Tester than the one I met a year ago...
  • ON A LIGHTER...

    ON A LIGHTER NOTE. Shamu is back at number one on the New York Times most e-mailed list. --Garance Franke-Ruta
  • IRAN'S CHESSBOARD. Kevin...

    IRAN'S CHESSBOARD. Kevin Drum takes up the question of how involved Iran and Syria have been in recent events in the Middle East. While Los Angeles Times reporters speaking primarily to American or U.S.-based sources painted an inconclusive picture , a Gaza-based New York Times reporter's overseas sources pointed a more direct finger at Tehran: An Arab intelligence officer working in a country neighboring Israel said it appeared that Iran � through Hezbollah � had given support to Mr. Meshal to stage the seizure of Corporal Shalit. The officer said the Shalit case, even before the capture of two more Israeli soldiers, amounted to Hezbollah and Iran sending a message: �If you want to hurt us, there are tools that we have and that we can use against you.� Israeli intelligence officers and analysts say they believe that the message is primarily Iran�s, acting through Hezbollah and Mr. Meshal. Itamar Rabinovich, former Israeli ambassador to Washington and chief negotiator with Syria on a...
  • 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

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