Archive

  • BUT WHAT WILL...

    BUT WHAT WILL BE THE CAUSE OF DEATH? I spent this morning at a Brookings/New America Foundation event on the future of employer-based health care. The consensus? The system, captain, she canna' take anymore! The morning's most interesting speech came from Andy Stern , head of the SEIU and catalyst for last year's union split (which gets a dim review from Harold Meyerson in the upcoming issue of The American Prospect ). And make no mistake, the guy can talk. Despite having a look and speaking style unsettlingly similar to Bill Maher 's (if Maury Povich ever has a "Long Lost Brothers" show, and Maher or Stern is waiting uneasily on stage, you can be sure that the other is set to stride out from the wings), he gave a ripsnorting condemnation of the current system -- a decaying, dying structure -- and called on the room's business leaders and policy wonks to show some damn leadership and hasten what comes next. It was powerful stuff, and Stern knew how to deliver it. His union, after all...
  • IDEALISM AND SUCH....

    IDEALISM AND SUCH. Writing like this from Richard Just makes me suspicious. Ostensibly, the argument is that "there are plenty of ways short of military action that America can oppose tyranny in Iran and elsewhere" and that we should do so. The post doesn't, however, name any such ways, cite any arguments that such ways would be effective, or debunk any counterarguments against any such proposals. Instead, the actual weight of the post is just dedicated to bashing liberals. I'd be interested in hearing about what these ways are -- really! My read, though, is that the tragedy of the situation in Iran is that there's actually very little we can do to affect internal Iranian developments -- we have almost no leverage over the situation. We might be able to do more vis-�-vis friends and allies, like Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, but even there I'm not sure, in practice, what can really be done. I think it would probably be somewhat helpful if countries that don't have suspect geopolitical...
  • THE WAR: IT'S...

    THE WAR: IT'S HERE, IT'S REAL, GET USED TO IT. Yesterday's scummy GOP political stunts over Iraq were, of course, scummy. At the same time, though, Democrats are paying the price for the ostrich-like attitude they've taken to the war ever since the 2004 election. There's been this persistent hope that either the Bush administration would declare victory and go home, or else that the mounting casualties, costs, and unpopularity of the venture would somehow allow a bipartisan truce to prevail letting Democrats wage a campaign that's all about ethics and prescription drugs. There's a lesson in yesterday's events that Democrats need to learn, and quickly: The Republicans are confident -- very confident -- about the politics of national security. Confident enough to try and sell a war based on bogus intelligence. Confident enough to, in the wake of the intelligence's evident wrongness, simply revise history and say it was about something else. Confident enough to try and make the war a...
  • 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...

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