THE END OF LEGAL BRIBERY? I have to say, I'm a little concerned with this "end of legal bribery" business. The thing smart people say after some pol goes down in a corruption scandal is that the real scandal is what's legal -- the perfectly ordinary day-to-day business of favor granting, cash-for-access, blah, blah, blah. I've always understood that clich� to mean something like "the biggest problems need to be solved through the political process (i.e., elections) rather than the legal system." The FBI seems to have taken it in the opposite spirit to mean "we ought to start treating things formerly understood as legal as, in fact, illegal."
THESE WERE THE BEST OF TIMES.David Leonhartsays Americans have never been better off than they are today. There's a certain amount of truth to this, but also a great deal of non-truth. I think Brad DeLonglays out the real shape of the situation pretty well.
THE GORE BACKLASH. Only a matter of time until it started in earnest, right? First up is Jonah Goldberg with an attempt to reactivate the Gore-as-exaggerator storyline. Turns out Arianna Huffington, swooning over her new crush at Cannes, reported Gore saying "'This is my second visit to Cannes. The first was when I was fifteen years old and came here for the summer to study the existentialists � Sartre, Camus... We were not allowed to speak anything but French!' Which may explain his pitch-perfect French accent." Goldberg grabs this and, under the title "There He Goes Again," compares it with reports that Gore was working on his family farm at age 15.
TWO QUICK SCANDAL FOLLOW-UPS. Regarding Mike's take on Charlie Rangel, Nancy Pelosi, and Bill Jefferson, tensions between Pelosi and the Congressional Black Caucus (including Rangel) have indeed exploded since her move yesterday to have Jefferson step down from his Ways and Means Committee post.
The Commerce Department's data for new home sales in April showed a 4.9 percent increase from March. Many news reports took this as evidence of the continued strength of the housing market. A bit of caution is appropriate here.
First, monthly data are always erratic. This should be a mantra for anyone trying to track the economy. If a particular data source shows data that are out of line with other data we have on the economy, then it was probably driven by some quirk in the data.
EUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM.Scott McLemee has written a terrific, thoughtful critique of the deeply annoying Euston Manifesto; it's well worth a read. Todd Gitlin's quoted comments in the piece strike me as particularly apt and refreshing.
No one has really managed to top this short-and-sweet riff from Daniel Davies, however.
NOT CROSSING THE AISLE.Ed Kilgore and Matt game out some of the politics of immigration legislation, with Matt taking a slightly more hardline don't-pass-anything position. Kilgore, however, fully acknowledges that a bill coming out of a House-Senate conference would be substantively worse than no bill at all if it leans in the House's draconian direction.
It appears that Mexico is not the only Latin American country for which the media have difficulty with official statistics. Apparently, the media have been anxious to tout high poverty numbers for Venezuela. The problem appears to be that they want to cite poverty data for 2004, which showed a large upturn in the poverty rate in the immediate wake of a strike in the oil sector.
The Venezuelan economy rebounded sharply, beginning in 2004, and the poverty rate predictably fell back below its previous levels. However, even though the 2005 data is now available, the media continues to use the much higher numbers from 2004. My colleagues at CEPR posted a short piece on Venezuelan poverty today.
GORE WATCH. When I started this up, I had no idea it would be such a massive undertaking. But Gore's popping up all over the place. He hit John Tierney's column Monday, forming the inspiration for a fairly bizarre effort that lambasted Gore for getting global warming right before others did. "As therapeutic as this history may be for Gore," writes Tierney, "it has certain problems. Scientists recognized the greenhouse effect long ago, but the question was how much difference it would make. And until fairly recently, when evidence of global warming accumulated, many non-evil economists doubted that the risks justified the costs of the proposed remedies."