Archive

  • BEST. TERRORIST. EVER....

    BEST. TERRORIST. EVER. That's Abu Musab al-Zarqawi , according to George Will . Or at least he's "the most effective terrorist in history." That seems misguided. Zarqawi's dead. What's more, I'm quite certain that his long-term goal of constructing a pan-Islamic neo-Caliphate or whatever isn't actually going to be achieved. Where's the love for Michael Collins or Haganah -era David Ben-Gurion ? They both managed to more-or-less get what they wanted by recognizing that maximum violence and maximum unwillingness to compromise aren't actually the best approach to these questions? Or were they so successful that none dare call it terrorism? --Matthew Yglesias
  • Is Bernanke Promoting Inflation?

    There is an interesting aspect to the recent rise in the inflation rate that the media have not really explored. The biggest factor in the higher than expected May measure was a jump in rent. (The two rental indices, owners' equivalent rent and rent proper, account for nearly 40 percent of the core consumer price index [CPI].) One explanation for more rapid increases in rents is that people who cannot afford to buy houses, due to higher mortgage rates, are now looking to rent. The Census Bureau's data on vacancy rates gives us evidence to support this position. Rental vacancy rates have fallen by almost a full percentage point from their record high 10.4 percent in the first quarter of 2004. At the same time, the vacancy rate in ownership units has increased from 1.7 percent to 2.1 percent over this period. (There are twice as many ownership units as rental units, so the overall vacancy rate is basically the same over this period.) Insofar as this story is true, it implies a very...
  • Great Political Caricature, Courtesy of David Brooks

    In his New York Times column today, "Changing Bedfellows", David Brooks did a far better job describing the nanny state conservatives' framing of economics than I could ever hope to do in my book. Of course, he ostensibly was saying how the world actually is, rather than how the nanny state conservatives want us to see it. According to Brooks, we have the populist nationalists who argue against immigration and trade, and want to ensure workers' security through Social Security and national health care insurance. This group includes Pat Buchanan, Lou Dobbs, Al Sharpton and Kevin Phillips. On the other side, we have the progressive globalists, who want to expand trade and allow immigration in order to promote economic growth. This group includes Hillary Clinton, Mark Warner, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. It's great caricature, a perfect example of the framing that I criticized in my book, The Conservative Nanny State : How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer [...
  • THE TWO CULTURES....

    THE TWO CULTURES. Like Bryan Curtis , I've been puzzling recently over the apparent upsurge in intellectuals' interest in soccer. I don't think I really understood it, though, until I read this Frank Foer post noting that "[s]occer is largely immune from sabermatrics and other instantiations of mathematical nerdiness." There, I think, is the rub. The rise of analytic approaches to sports has been, in my opinion, an excellent development. But for a certain segment of literary types in America it's produced a crisis. Baseball turns out to be the most quantifiable of all major sports which has seriously threatened its status as a pretext for long-winded airy writerly musings. Football and basketball aren't far behind in coming to be dominated by pundits arguing that most of the Dallas Mavericks' "defensive improvement is an illusion" that vanishes once you adjust for pace factor and look at efficiency rather than raw points, and counter-arguing that the sample size was too small . Only...
  • MORE GITMO. An...

    MORE GITMO. An Afghan government delegation says they'd just as soon not have their citizens held indefinitely in legal limbo on an American Navy base in Cuba. What's more, "about half of them were not guilty of serious crimes." Fortunately, "the officials said the Afghan detainees were not being held in bad conditions." Except, of course, for the sense in which being imprisoned for years without trial is a pretty bad condition. --Matthew Yglesias
  • THE MINIMUM WAGE....

    THE MINIMUM WAGE. To follow up on Matt 's post below, while reasonable people can disagree on the impact of minimum wage laws, it's time they stopped. William Niskanen , in arguing against a federal boost to the wage, trots out the same old canards about wage increases decimating jobs. And yes, if you jack the wage up to $16 an hour, jobs will be lost. But up to $7 over a period of years? The evidence doesn't back him up. And, luckily, it's so easy to check that you folks can play along at home. Just crosscheck this list of state minimum wage laws with this rundown of state unemployment rates. The lowest unemployment rate in the country is Hawaii's 2.8 percent, which somehow survives with their $6.75 minimum wage. Second lowest? Florida, with a luxurious $6.40 per hour. Vermont, resting comfortably at number 5, has a minimum wage of $7.40! And the very highest unemployment in the nation? Mississippi, with no minimum wage laws at all. And this is how it is. The minimum wage, of course...
  • THE QUEEN RANIA...

    THE QUEEN RANIA FACTOR. I was in Whole Foods the other day, like a good out-of-touch elitist, shopping for cheese, and at the checkout stand I saw a glamour shot of Queen Rania of Jordan on the cover of Washington Life magazine. I have to say that I've long been bugged by Western elites' fascination with this particular queen. Here she is hanging out with Bill Clinton , Bill Gates , and George Soros . And here she is with Laura Bush . Here she's written up in Hello magazine. She's a bipartisanly loved celebrity -- everyone thinks she's great! And she certainly is good looking and appears to be involved in some worthwhile charitable endeavors. But here's the thing. As you'll recall, pretty much everyone nowadays is in some sense interested in promoting democratic reform in the Arab world. And Queen Rania isn't a fun cosmetic constitutional monarch like you have in England or Spain. She and her husband are actually existing despots who make their living exploiting the productive members...
  • LARRY AND ME....

    LARRY AND ME. As my time guest-blogging at TAP begins to draw to a close and as someone who�s had a fair amount of attention in the blogosphere lately, I want to say that the level of the comments here is pretty impressive. Now it would not be hard to be more rational and literate than much of what goes on amongst the mommy-bloggers (see the recent eruption of �Linda! Vomit!� on the ABC news website after I appeared in the second hour of Good Morning America yesterday to suggest that people might want to read my new book ). But evidence of the occasional quality of the commentary here is that one particular comment to my piece on David Brooks � Sunday �eeew, Jane Eyre � column picked something up that no one has noticed, even though it has been in plain view for months. That is, much of what I say on behalf of working women and much of what Harvard ex-President Larry Summers says sound the same. As the commenter cleverly laid it out : Feminist Linda Hirshman, in TAP: "Even the most...
  • WORDS TO LIVE...

    WORDS TO LIVE BY! In case you're wondering why the GOP leadership doesn't spend a lot of time taking advice from libertarian intellectuals, take a gander at William Niskansen 's view that "the House Republicans should split off the minimum wage provision from the appropriation bill, allow a separate floor vote on this provision, and demonstrate the absurdity of this proposal by a defeating this measure by a large margin." Obviously, people disagree on the merits of the minimum wage issue. But nobody can seriously deny that this would be a ridiculous stratagem from the House Republicans to take up. Year after year GOP candidates try as hard as they possibly can to obscure the fact that they want the minimum wage to go down while Democrats want it to go up. And they know what they're doing. Following Niskansen's advice would just make Nancy Pelosi very, very, very happy. --Matthew Yglesias
  • WHO SHOULD YOU...

    WHO SHOULD YOU CHEER FOR? The World Cup's a tough time for wannabe cosmopolitan progressives. We always hear about the Europhiles populating the left, but the truth is, Europhilia requires a bit more than a taste for good cheese and an affection for the welfare state. Indeed, it demands a near encyclopedic knowledge of soccer. And not just teams who've already penetrated the literate lefty's consciousness (I'm looking at you, Barca and Arsenal), but the unknown squads, the local teams, the regional powers. And even that knowledge, once acquired, proves itself rapidly obsolete come World Cup time, as the multinational European outfits disassemble so their players can rejoin their native country's all star teams. So who to root for? Who's good? The latter question is tricky, though Brazil, Germany, Italy, and Argentina are all good answers. But as for who you should cheer for, there's help a-coming. Who Should I Cheer For lets you support soccer the way you support Europe: on...

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