Archive

  • WHEN IN DOUBT:...

    WHEN IN DOUBT: FIND AN EXILE. Ah, excellent. Farid Ghadry , part of the Syrian exile group Reform Party of Syria, says that the recent operation where Israeli jets buzzed Bashar Asad 's house "is very encouraging to the Syrian opposition." Let me go on record as sharing Justin Logan 's skepticism . Appearing to be working in collaboration with the Israeli Defense Forces has not, historically, been a great method of gaining popular support in Arab countries. The good news is that a couple of weeks ago Ghadry "met with Vice President Cheney on June 17 at the American Enterprise Institute�s annual retreat" in Colorado, so it's not like there's any precedent for this sort of thing going awry. I mean, Cheney + exiles + AEI = victory, right? Right. --Matthew Yglesias
  • If the Politicians Say It, It Must Be True

    That's the word from the Washington Post when it comes to the WTO negotiations. Today's article on the prospects for the Doha round asserts that "unlike previous negotiations with similar aims, this set of talks has an ambitious twist: The main goal is to change rules that have put poor countries at a disadvantage in the global marketplace." Yes, and we know that because... Look, the people structuring the Doha round are politicians. It should not be news that politicians are not always entirely truthful in their public comments. In other words, just because they say that the purpose of the Doha round is to help developing countries, this does not mean that the real purpose of the round is to help developing countries. The evidence actually shows that the Doha round is likely to do very little for developing countries and will actually hurt some who are net importers of agricultural products. (The removal of rich country subsidies causes agricultural prices to rise, which means that...
  • The Problem of Rising Wages in China

    The Times had one of the most convoluted articles yet on demographics. Apparently, China's slowing population growth may lead to a shortage of cheap labor, no kidding the headline is "As China Ages, a Shortage of Cheap labor Looms." It wasn't that long ago that I learned my economics, but back then this was THE POINT of economic development. Countries wanted to have more good paying jobs relative to the size of their population so that people would not be forced to take the bad paying jobs. I am not quite sure what theory of economic development the Times has where a lack of people in low-paying jobs is a problem. (Maybe we can make Times reporters do them.) Just about everything else in the piece is equally incoherent. It gives us the warning of the rising ratio of retirees to workers. But let's toss in some arithmetic. China's per capita GDP is growing at more than 8 percent annually. This means that in a decade, per capita income will have more than doubled. Suppose the tax burden...
  • JONAH GOLDBERG RESPONDS....

    JONAH GOLDBERG RESPONDS. But not very convincingly. Here's the nut of it: I think Ezra is desperate to misconstrue my point so that he can wag his finger and whine about mean and dishonest conservatives. My point was simple. The American economy depends on fossil fuels and the world depends on the Amerrican [ sic ] economy. Jonah appears to cede the point that precisely none of his examples are related to the consumption of fossil fuels, and thus his markers of American economic leadership would survive a drastic increase in CAFE standards. Even so, this doesn't much help him. He'd now have to prove that the health of the American economy relies on our refusal to, say, deploy a serious carbon tax, or vastly raise CAFE standards, or embark on a serious conservation effort. He doesn't prove any of those things because he can't. As economists believe a serious anti-emissions effort would cost us about two tenths of a percentile of GDP growth over the next couple of decades, his point...
  • THE CASE AGAINST...

    THE CASE AGAINST READER MAIL. In response to the proposition that people should sometimes "make some decisions which are different from the ones dictated by narrow self-interest in a social context deeply shaped by the enduring legacy of sexism," reader J.R. remarks that my views are "simply fascism with a velvet glove." But I wrote them in a blog post, making it "hard fascism with a Microsoft face" in a velvet glove , which is really bad. Seriously, to coin a phrase, everyone needs to stop being such wankers about this. People make judgments about the prudential or ethical merits of others' life choices all the time -- that's not "fascism," it's functioning in human society. --Matthew Yglesias
  • BODY POLITICS. The...

    BODY POLITICS. The July/August print issue of the Prospect has a three-article package on abortion politics that is now available online, and worth a look. Helena Silverstein and Wayne Fishman assess the Supreme Court's swing voter on abortion, Anthony Kennedy , while Allison Stevens reports on a crucial shortcoming in the choice movement's strategy. Finally, Scott Lemieux of Lawyers, Guns, and Money fame does us all the service of delivering -- at long last -- a comprehensive riposte to the scores of contrarian arguments proffered by "pro-choicers" about how women and Democrats might be better off if Roe was overturned. Lemieux makes the definitive counter-counter-intuitive anti-anti- Roe case here , and it's well worth a read. --Sam Rosenfeld
  • EMERGENT MEME WATCH....

    EMERGENT MEME WATCH. Joe Scarborough is a real problem for my channel-flipping habit. Every time I happen across his program, I pause, figuring I've found Friends , only to realize that someone gave Chandler a rightwing talkshow. It's no mere resemblance -- the two look precisely identical . It's such a shame, I never figured Chandler the Republican type. Anyway, that's all digression. Yesterday, Chandler/Scarborough hosted a global warming segment with John Stossel , who was arguing that worries over global warming are not, in fact, about the logistical issues that will make Bangladesh unlivable, but about a deep-seated hatred of capitalism. Yes, if you're worried about global warming, you're a commie. But Stossel is something of a laughingstock anyway, so I didn't take the segment very seriously. Jonah Goldberg , though, has changed my mind, offering up nearly the same argument over at The Corner. Jonah's formulation is less accusatory (you're not necessarily a Communist) and more...
  • NEVER SACRIFICE? I...

    NEVER SACRIFICE? I don't really want to spend all day on this, but Jonah Goldberg 's posted and endorsed an email on Linda Hirshman that makes the bizarre claims that her arguments are "fantastically illiberal" because "Hardly anyone in our deeply liberal society argues that we should sacrifice our desires to a greater good � the churches do, ever so timidly, but that's about it." Come on, now. For one thing, we're not living in a libertarian utopia. We're all subject to any number of legal regulations on the pursuit of our desires enacted in the name of some greater good. So many that I don't think I should need to enumerate them. Besides regulatory efforts, we're all beset by any number of efforts to use moral suasion to get people to check their desires in pursuit of larger social goals. I cursed at a Wizards playoff game and earned a dirty look from a father sitting in front of me with his young daughter. People ask me to contribute to charity. Religious groups tell teenagers not...
  • THE DAILY SHOW...

    THE DAILY SHOW REVISITED . I awoke this morning to a gleeful Lee Siegel post trumpeting a new study that shows, just as Siegel predicted, that exposure to The Daily Show turns viewers off of politics. "Jon Stewart's show," Siegel wrote, "is destroying democracy as we know it." Only it isn't. Siegel got his information from a woefully incomplete Washington Post column on the subject, whose author either didn't read the paper he purported to explain or didn't understand it. The actual findings were that Stewart's show increases cynicism towards politics, but included no data showing that heightened cynicism decreases participation (indeed, I'd expect it wouldn't). Determined to get to the bottom of this, I employed a variant of the secret reporter tactic of PUTDP (Picking Up The Damn Phone) and sent John Morris , one of the study's authors, an e-mail. Here was his reply: Bloggers and the mainstream media have overstated our findings greatly. Our study does not argue that Jon Stewart is...
  • THAT WAS THEN....

    THAT WAS THEN. So I woke up in the middle of the night and flicked on TCM. And there was The Shoes of the Fisherman , the 1968 Michael Anderson -lensed (as they say in Variety ) adaptation of the famous Morris West novel about the ascension of the first Eastern European Pope. I was transfixed. I remember both novel and film being much discussed in my house when I was a kid, although I don�t really remember anyone�s opinions. I think I recall my late, beloved Aunt Vicky , who was the devout Catholic among our extended clan, speaking of it approvingly. Which is interesting for the following reasons. TSOTF struck me as having, very clearly, a liberal message -- a subtle piece of propaganda that was pro-Catholic (reverent attitude toward the ceremonies of the Church) but that must have been, at the time, egging its audience to embrace Vatican II and change in general. Pope Kiril I, played with a certain appealingly leaden steadiness by Anthony Quinn , announces at his investiture (forgive...

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