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  • 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
  • WHAT MAKES A...

    WHAT MAKES A CONSERVATIVE? Fred Barnes writes about Bush 's favorite foreigners : The president's favorites don't have to be conservatives. Blair dislikes American economic policy. Merkel has urged that Guant�namo prison be closed. Rasmussen has worried aloud about abuse at Abu Ghraib prison and possible murders at Haditha in Iraq. But, an aide says, "the president is looking for people who see the world as he sees it." That means, at a minimum, they support his post-invasion policy in Iraq and regard the spread of democracy as important. Am I correct in reading these remarks about Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen as implying that not worrying about abuse and murder is actually constitutive of what Barnes thinks it means to be a conservative? By normal standards, after all, Rasmussen is a conservative. He leads Denmark's free market party and governs in coalition with the Conservative People's Party. His main economic policy agenda item has been tax cuts and he backed the...
  • CASH, INFLUENCE, AND...

    CASH, INFLUENCE, AND CONTROL. I don't have any special insight into the interrelationships between Syria and Iran on the one hand and Hamas and Hezbollah on the other, but I think it's worth saying that this notion out here that Syria and Iran actually control the latter two groups seems to lack a serious evidentiary basis. Undeniably, the two states give money and weapons to the two non-state actors. And, clearly, this affords Damascus and Teheran some degree of influence over Hamas and Hezbollah. But one needs to put this sort of relationship in perspective. The U.S. government gives money to Egypt, which gives us some influence over the government in Cairo. But we don't control Egypt in the sense of micromanaging Egyptian policy decisions. In principle, we could always tell Hosni Mubarak "do X or we'll cut off your funding." In practice, though, such threats need to be used rather sparingly, and there's always the possibility of Egypt viewing such a demand as a bluff and calling it...
  • THE OTHER MIDDLE...

    THE OTHER MIDDLE EAST MESS. In case Israel's attempts to level Lebanon had temporarily lifted your depression on all issues Iraqi-related, The New York Times reports that Sunni calls for American withdrawal have quieted as fears of mass slaughter at the hands of rampaging Shiites have deepened. Recently, Shiite militias have been conducting public executions of Sunnis in broad daylight, and Sunni areas have had to erect armed checkpoints to deter roving Shiite death squads. Consequently, groups who once wished us out post haste are rconsidering the decision, fearing our vacuum will embolden a virtual genocdie. In this context, those pockets of Baghdad still littered with Saddam Hussein supporters are rejoicing every time the Americans pass, using the loudspeakers to inform residents that the military rolling through is not Iraqi, and thus should not be shot at. Next thing you know they'll be giving us BFF lockets. --Ezra Klein
  • WHAT INFRASTRUCTURE WHERE?...

    WHAT INFRASTRUCTURE WHERE? It's worth noting that Israel's target choices are a bit trickier to evaluate than Matt lets on. While it's true that "they're not just attacking armed Hezbollah personnel; they're dropping bombs on offices in urban areas with all the attendant devastation that entails," it's not true that they're just hitting the Chase Western on the corner of Jihad St. and 14th. Most of the rockets are being launched from shell civilian and urban residences, and it's neither new nor unexpected that Hezbollah's infrastructure is tucked away in the most civilian-heavy portions of the country. As always, these groups like to ensure that any destruction of their property will force the maximum in collateral damages and thus do the most to turn public sentiment against the attackers. Savvy strategizing, to be sure, but rather ruthless. That said, it's rather hard to discern what Israel is actually attempting here. They seem to have rebuffed Tony Blair and Kofi Annan 's proposal...
  • 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 (...

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