MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: THREE YEARS LATER. Three years is a long time, so it's no surprise that late last week there were once again press reports that a drawdown of American forces in Iraq was in the works. But, of course, we've heard that at least half a dozen times since the end of "major" combat operations. This account of building mock Iraqi villages in the Mojave desert so troops can practice fighting insurgents certainly doesn't sound like the sort of thing a military on its way out would be doing.
MESSAGE DISCIPLINE! Remember the Republicans' once legendary capacity for staying collectively on-message and coordinating their talking points? Yesterday, Bush administration officials and GOP senators hit the Sunday chat shows to talk up the party�s bold new steps to address rising gas prices. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman showed up on Meet the Press and, in nearly the same breath, described the President�s plan to suspend contributions to the strategic petroleum reserve as �an effort to ...
It would be reasonable to think that a densely populated island with exorbitant land and housing prices would be happy to alleviate its crowding problem. That's not the thinking at the Washington Post.
The Post had an article this morning noting the surprising fact that the number of obstetricians in Japan is declining along with its dropping birth rate. The article notes that Japan's population is currently shrinking, and that if current trends continue, its population will fall from over 127 million to just 100 million by 2050. The Post then describes this drop in population as a "problem."
NPR had a report this morning on the debate over extending the lower tax rate on dividends. The report correctly pointed out that the vast majority of this tax cut will go to the richest 1 percent of the population. It also noted the ambiguity of the evidence showing any substantial link between lower dividend taxes and increased investment and growth. However, the report neglected to point out that the vast majority of stockholders do not benefit from the cut in the dividend tax rate.
Eduardo Porter had a very good piece in the Times this morning on the huge run-up in the foreign exchange reserves of developing countries. The basic point is that these reserves are held in short-term deposits that typically pay little or no real return. In poor countries that have great need of capital, diverting money to foreign exchange reserves has a large opportunity cost.
The passing of John Kenneth Galbraith is a real loss. His works made major contributions to public debate over the entire post-World War II era, and continue to have an impact. The New York Times had a mostly fair commentary today on Galbraith's life and work. (Brad DeLong does a good job pointing out the ways in which it is not fair.) The Post apparently did not learn the news in time for the Sunday edition, or alternatively it had not prepared an obit in advance.
Eric Dash at the New York Times had a very good piece this morning on a backdoor $500,000 bonus that Denny's gave to its CEO, Nelson Marchioli, by allowing him to buy stock at below the market price. Of course Denny's is free to pay Mr. Marchioli whatever it feels is appropriate, but by making the payment in the form of stock options priced at below market values, it was able to conceal this payment from all but the most vigilant analysts. As the article points out, Denny's is not the only company making such surreptitious payments to its top executives.
BILLIONS SQUANDERED IN IRAQ AREN'T JUST AN ABSTRACTION. A commenter to this post below takes issue with the argument that Dems should oppose Iran by pointing out that Bush's wars could cost more than Vietnam. M.J. writes: "arguing that we shouldn't take military action in Iran because it's too expensive" won't "resonate with the American people," adding, "the rest of us are worried about a madman with nuclear weapons." Obviously financial cost alone doesn't add up to enough of an argument. Human toll is the most important consideration, needless to say; also critical is the potential impact on the United States' already-tattered global relationships.