Archive

  • BEN-GURION REDUX. All...

    BEN-GURION REDUX. All right, on this David Ben-Gurion business, I was trying to be provocative and maybe should have just gone with Menachim Begin whose Irgun is less controversially considered a terrorist group. That said, the different pre-independence groups did work together before the King David Hotel bombing, and Ben-Gurion's group was involved with "kidnapping of British officials in Palestine and sabotaged the British infrastructure in Palestine." My inclination would be to say that kidnapping British officials serving in Palestine or other colonies wasn't terrorism. It's conventional, however, to describe the attacks on the Marine barracks in Lebanon, on the Khobar Towers installation in Saudi Arabia, on the USS Cole at sea, on our embassies in East Africa, and on various American officials in Iraq as terrorism. If those things were terrorism, then so were Haganah�s tactics. Be that as it may, my intent was less to compare Zarqawi to Ben-Gurion and Michael Collins than to...
  • Cooking Unemployment Data to Make the U.S. Look Better

    Laurent Guerby made a post on the prior topic about European-U.S. unemployment comparisons, I was just at a conference sponsored by the OECD where exactly this issue came up. The basic point is that proponents of the U.S. model want to add people in employment training programs and disability roles in Europe to their official unemployment rates for purposes of international comparisons. This seems bogus on several grounds. First, the employment training programs are obviously heavily subsidized by the government (often 100 percent), but there are many situations in the U.S. where jobs enjoys substantial government subsidies. The EITC peaks at more than 35 percent of wages, throwing in work related child care benefits can easily push the subsidy to more than half of the wage. At what point do we say that the job is simply concealing unemployment, a 60 percent subsidy?, an 80 percent subsidy?, or does it have to be 100 percent? Furthermore, what if the government paid the full wage, and...
  • OF COURSE I...

    OF COURSE I THINK THE MEN SHOULD STAY HOME WITH THE BABIES. But just in case the guys are too busy and are thinking of using a little outside help, this week, New York Times business columnist David Leonhardt trumpeted the results of a 2005 economics study of Canadian child care, which concluded that �across almost everything we looked at, the policy led to much worse outcomes for kids.� Leonhardt fails to mention that the study, which was promoted by the ultra-conservative C.D. Howe Institute , was immediately and heavily challenged (PDF) by the child development experts at the University of British Columbia�s Human Early Learning Partnership , Drs. Hillel Goelman , David Kershaw and Clyde Hertzman , who objected to results on the grounds that they were inconsistent with all other analysis, included no longitudinal data about the children, and most importantly did not include data on the quality of child care provided. As these real experts note, no peer-reviewed child development...
  • THE MOST EFFECTIVE...

    THE MOST EFFECTIVE DEMOTED TERRORIST. Following up on Matt 's item below, it's worth noting this Eli Lake report yesterday that a move was afoot to lower the price on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi 's head before he was killed because of a somewhat different assessment of his importance on the part of U.S. forces: Even as American and Iraqi soldiers were closing in on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the commander of the American forces in Iraq was trying to get Washington to lower the terrorist leader's importance and profile. In May, the Multinational Forces in Iraq sent a cable marked "secret" to the Pentagon requesting that the reward of $25 million for Zarqawi's capture be reduced, according to military and administration officials. The request was part of a recalculation by American war planners who had noticed that the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq's role in the insurgency was gradually diminishing after Iraq's foreign fighters, Islamists, and irredentist Baathists in January formed a new umbrella...
  • LIKE RATS FROM...

    LIKE RATS FROM A SINKING SHIP. Michael Gerson , the exceptionally skilled speechwriter who put all them purdy werds in the President's mouth, is retiring . "It seemed like a good time." Gerson said. "Things are back on track a little. Some of the things I care about are on a good trajectory." Apparently, one of the things he cared about was not the Bush presidency, now languishing in the mid-30's . --Ezra Klein
  • PLEASE, NO MORE...

    PLEASE, NO MORE JACKBOOTS STOMPING ON HUMAN FACES! To add a slightly more frivolous point to Matt 's post below about Jonah Goldberg , isn't it high time to retire the "jackboots-stomping-on-a-human-face" clich� that Goldberg quotes " Derb " as using? I mean, does any military outfit itself with jackboots anymore? That's a real question. Anybody know? My inclination is to think that the only people who wear jackboots and might want to stomp on human faces these days are off begging on St. Mark's Place in New York's East Village. Such people stopped seriously stomping on human faces in the early 1980s, if they ever really did it at all. Even if there are jackboots in military use today, it's still a very bad idea to use the phrase. It unwittingly reveals a writer's sneaking belief that he or she is the modern-day re-incarnation of George Orwell , who famously wielded the image to great effect. Sure, many people who do this for a living have a germ of a desire somewhere to be a modern-...
  • BASEBALL IS ONE...

    BASEBALL IS ONE THING, BUT PLEASE, NOT BASKETBALL. I sincerely hope that Matt is wrong about the imminent takeover of basketball by the saberrnetric kudzu that's come to spread itself over baseball. I have no problem with it there. After all, the difference between the essential thrill of watching the average major-league baseball game and the essential thrill of adding up long columns of numbers is not vast. But more than any other sport, basketball relies on its performance esthetic for its essential appeal. This began with James Naismith 's eureka moment when he decided to put the goals of his new sport off the ground, thereby guaranteeing that, sooner or later, people would leave the ground to get to them. The fact that gravity always has been incidental to the sport is one of the reasons why basketball's fundamentals change as quickly as they do, why basketball took less than four decades to go from the standing guard to Michael Jordan , whereas it took baseball nearly 100 years...
  • ECONOMICS 101. In...

    ECONOMICS 101. In regard to the minimum wage debate, I'm getting a little tired of appeals to "Economics 101" (or Social Analysis 10 , as the case may be) as a conversation-stopper in political debate. After all, there's a reason they offer more economics classes and you don't get your degree after taking just one. A lot of introductory physics classes don't deal with relativity or quantum mechanics, which doesn't make quantum mechanics wrong; it makes introductory physics an oversimplification of complicated reality designed to provide a foundation for further learning. Advocates of minimum wage increases aren't fools who don't understand a stripped-down supply and demand model (okay, to be fair, there are lots of fools in the world and presumably some are on our side), which is exactly why you don't find people arguing for a $100/hour minimum wage. I promise you that all these dudes (PDF) took introductory economics (I took the Advance Placement test), and it's perfectly possible to...
  • SINCE WHEN HAS...

    SINCE WHEN HAS SHAME STOPPED THEM? I'm going to disagree with Matt 's hypothesis that intellectual writers are focusing of football because all the other sports have become too math-heavy for them. First, like my friend Brian Beutler , I think the upsurge in football commentary is a function of the quadrennial World Cup, rather than some sort of soccer fetish. Where was all this commentary, as Brian wonders , in the halcyon days of three weeks ago? Add in that blogs and websites have given writers a virtually unlimited amount of space on which to opine, and so their quirky soccer obsession doesn't have to compete with Haditha, and I think you've got your answer. The second reason the math hypothesis doesn't hold up is that the punditocracy has never shown any reluctance to approach data-heavy subjects with nothing more than a sack of adjectives and a dream. As much as baseball can be statistics-heavy, economics and policy are really far more empirically grounded, and yet the nation's...
  • DEFENDING BUSH FROM...

    DEFENDING BUSH FROM JONAH'S SMEARS. I think Jonah Goldberg 's notion that the Bush administration has erred by emphasizing democracy over other liberal values -- the rule of law, pluralism, etc. -- is appealing, but basically mistaken. I also thing he's missing the point that this has actually become a fairly standard attack on Bush from important left-of-center circles. My argument on this score, which I've made before, is basically stolen from Thomas Carothers , the Carnegie Endowment's rule-of-law guy, who's neither a Bush fan nor (as you can tell from his job description) one inclined to overlook the importance of the rule of law. The basic problem here is that contrary to the impression one gets from, say, Fareed Zakaria 's book, liberal autocracy, while certainly a conceptual possibility, doesn't seem to be much of an empirical possibility. If you're compiling a list of modern liberal autocracies, you're going to start with Singapore and you're going to end with . . . Singapore...

Pages