Archive

  • CAN'T WIN FOR...

    CAN'T WIN FOR WINNING. LB is right -- the conventional wisdom is shifting against the Democrats. As today's Washington Post shows (and as Sam noted ), the GOP is setting up victory as merely keeping Congress in 2006. Of course, with gerrymandered districts and the natural benefits of incumbency, losing Congress is a virtual impossibility. The punditocracy, egged on by the example of 1994 -- not to mention the predictions of Newt Gingrich , Bill Kristol and a variety of other eminences from that most golden of ages -- have begun salivating for the drama and intrigue of a Democratic Revolution, but the Republican resurgence of a dozen years ago was a historical inevitability, a realignment of conservative Southern seats from a party that enjoyed their tribal loyalty but not their ideological allegiance. Those districts had long been teetering Republican, they just needed a sufficient gust of wind to push them over. Democrats enjoy no similar regional historical trend. The likeliest...
  • WHAT DID DHS...

    WHAT DID DHS KNOW? Jeff Stein reports that some members of Congress are asking questions about whether the Department of Homeland Security may have had access, via its NSA liaison, to the NSA's illegal wiretap and phone record surveillance programs. This would be the same Department of Homeland Security, we recall, whose operatives were used to help Tom DeLay try to resolve a partisan dispute in the Texas legislature and that did such a heck of a job in New Orleans. --Matthew Yglesias
  • METAETHICS: THE SAGA...

    METAETHICS: THE SAGA CONTINUES. I don't want to get too bogged down in this, but since Jonah Goldberg 's written some posts in response to what I said Friday on relativism, here's a bit more. One thing, for the philosophers in the room, is that "relativism" per se is a vulgar term that just about everyone rejects. I'm more like a quasi-realist or a non-cognitivist or some other jargon term you may prefer. The interesting point came, I think, in Jonah's second post wondering, "How are you going to convince others, to pick a nice progressive example, that gay marriage is a moral imperative or that torture is wrong without an appeal to conscience?" To me, this is just the point. Jonah's witnessed me engage in arguments with moral aspects in the past, and, indeed, we've debated various issues from time to time. There's no point in an actual moral conversation where adding "and my views are objectively correct !" adds anything to what's happening. Obviously, appeals to conscience are a...
  • EXPECTATIONS GAME. Some...

    EXPECTATIONS GAME. Some good times to be had reading through The Washington Post 's write-up of the Bush administration's bold plan for revival through GOP victory in November -- with victory defined as " Nancy Pelosi not becoming Speaker of the House." (From the article: "If Republicans retain Congress in November, Bush advisers note, he could assert that for the third straight election, the party defied historical patterns and popular predictions." Of course, not only is it widely acknowledged that the odds still favor Republicans retaining Congress despite their massive unpopularity, but also, for Republicans to sustain losses this year without actually losing control of Congress would in fact be in keeping with historical patterns.) As far as bar-lowering goes, the new line being pushed by Ken Mehlman is especially amusing -- that the GOP can prosper by moving the election "from a referendum to a choice," or "from a period where the public looks at things and says thumbs-up or...
  • GOREWATCH. It's...

    GOREWATCH. It's getting a bit hard to keep up with Gore 's press. He's got the cover of New York Magazine this morning, under the heading "The UnHillary?" The story is written by John Heilemann , who received significant access to the man himself, and came back with the stories to prove it. "Eleven years ago, I wrote a story about Gore in which I remarked that 'what any sensible person does in anticipation of a sustained piece of oratory by Al Gore' is 'order another cup of coffee�black.' So I can�t help but laugh when Gore arrives for the first of our conversations carrying a dainty white cup, walks silently over, waiterlike, and intones, 'I understand, sir, you take it black.'" And Heilemann, for his part, takes his comments on Gore's plodding oratory back. He calls Gore's speech "a stump speech�or rather, half a stump speech. And a damn fine one at that. It�s certainly a more coherent and rousing condemnation of the Bush administration than I�ve heard from any other potential 2008...
  • The Times Versus Bush on the Deficit and the Dollar

    The lead editorial in Saturday's New York Tim es noted the recent drop in the dollar. It then blamed President Bush's deficits and warned of an impending recession unless the budget deficit is reduced. As best I can tell, the editorial was incoherent, like much of the discussion on the trade deficit and the budget deficit. In the last quarter century, the conventional wisdom on the relationship between the dollar and the budget deficit has changed almost as frequently as the seasons. It may not be surprising that politicians would change their views on how the economy works whenever it is convenient. It is a bit more disappointing that the media would show similar flexibility. In the old days, economists used to say that large budget deficits lead to higher interest rates in the United States. When interest rates in the United States rise, more people want to hold dollar denominated assets (e.g. government bonds or money market accounts in U.S. banks). This increases the demand for...
  • The Fed and the Housing Bubble: Fool Me Once, …..

    The financial press eagerly reported Federal Reserve Board Chairman Benjamin Bernanke's comments this week saying that he expected a gradual softening of the housing market, not a serious collapse. Mr. Bernanke's comments may reflect his true view of the housing market. However, it is also possible that these statements were made simply to soothe the financial markets. One of the most fascinating stories in the stock bubble was Alan Greenspan's view of the Fed's proper role in dealing with the bubble. Following the bubble's collapse, Greenspan has publicly stated that he recognized the stock bubble, but thought it was inappropriate for the Fed to take any steps to reign in the bubble. This included saying anything publicly about the bubble. Greenspan's comments about the stock market as it was soaring to unprecedented price to earnings ratios were carefully crafted comments of noncommittal nonsense. He never said that a 5000 NASDAQ could be justified by fundamentals, but he was also...
  • ECHOES OF WHAT...

    ECHOES OF WHAT NOW? Via Matt Singer , this isn't comforting: Iranian expatriates living in Canada yesterday confirmed reports that the Iranian parliament, called the Islamic Majlis, passed a law this week setting a dress code for all Iranians, requiring them to wear almost identical �standard Islamic garments.� The law, which must still be approved by Iran�s �Supreme Guide� Ali Khamenehi before being put into effect, also establishes special insignia to be worn by non-Muslims. Iran�s roughly 25,000 Jews would have to sew a yellow strip of cloth on the front of their clothes, while Christians would wear red badges and Zoroastrians would be forced to wear blue cloth. Here's a question: Why do the Jews wear yellow? Is it just in homage to the brightly-colored stars the Nazis made them wear, or is there some free standing identification with the hue that I'm unaware of? Update : This appears to be a hoax. My apologies. --Ezra Klein
  • FRIDAY AFTERNOON METAETHICS...

    FRIDAY AFTERNOON METAETHICS HOUR. I don't want this to be misunderstood, but I'm a moral relativist. Or, rather, I reject moral realism , the view that "moral claims do purport to report facts and are true if they get the facts right. Moreover, they hold, at least some moral claims actually are true." This is a much-debated philosophical issue, but in punditland, it's just a term of abuse. Ergo, Fred Siegel writing in Blueprint about the least-significant challenge currently facing America -- college professors who are too left-wing for Siegel's taste: If, as Michel Foucault told the Berkeley faculty in 1983, "There is no universal criterion which permits us to say, this category of power relations are bad and those are good," then there is no way to prefer a liberal society to fascism, communism, or Islamism. Tragically, I don't have time for a full-throated defense of my meta-ethical views at the moment. But this kind of claim, oft-made, is clearly false. Is there a universal...
  • TOTALLY OFF-MESSAGE FRIDAY...

    TOTALLY OFF-MESSAGE FRIDAY AFTERNOON POST. Some of my old New York friends and I have gotten into a discussion about the most popular television shows of all time. I made the case for The Flintstones . Hear me out. Fred & Crew debuted in 1960 as a prime-time sitcom -- the first prime-time cartoon in TV history. It ran for six seasons on ABC, with 166 episodes produced. Since then, it has never been off the air. Ever. In fact, Rick discovered with some quick Googling that the Bedrock gang is on television in 80 different countries in 22 languages. Every single second of every single day, somewhere in the world, The Flintstones is airing. Rick countered with I Love Lucy , and I confess that he may well have a point. Lucy debuted in October 1951 and, according to Rick�s research on the TV Land Web site, it has never been off the air since then. But I wonder: Is Lucy on every second of every day? I kinda doubt it. So I think I�m on reasonably solid ground, although the nine years�...

Pages