Archive

  • Sweatshops in Jordan

    Steven Greenhouse had an excellent piece in today's New York Times about sweatshops in Jordan that manufacture apparel for export to the United States. This industry has been developed largely as a result of a trade agreement that Jordan signed with the United States in the late nineties. The article describes slave-like conditions, as foreign workers routinely have their passports confiscated by factory owners so that they cannot freely leave. According to the article, workers can be forced to work up to 48 hours straight, are routinely ripped off for their pay, and are beaten if they complain. Two aspects of the article raise especially interesting questions. First, the article indicates that the apparel jobs have gone almost exclusively to foreign (largely Bangladeshi) workers. It is unlikely that the trade agreement was sold in Jordan based on the jobs that it would create for guest workers. The benefits to Jordan's economy from this trade would be very limited. Second, the Jordan...
  • Cash Out Refinancing and the Housing Crash

    At the risk of damaging my standing as one of the leading proponents of the housing bubble argument, I would take issue with the assessment of a Washington Post article . The article reported that the percentage of people refinancing homes with mortgages that are larger than the original mortgage (in other words, pulling equity out of their home) hit a 16 year high in the first quarter. The article rightly notes that people cannot use their homes as banks indefinitely, and that this process depends on continually rising house prices. This is all fair enough, but there is a key issue that is missing in this analysis. The main reasons to refinance are to save money on interest by taking advantage of lower interest rates and to pull equity out of your home by taking out a larger mortgage. Well, mortgage interest rates are back up to levels not seen since 2002. This means that few homeowners can save money by refinancing at a lower interest rate. Those looking to do so almost certainly...
  • DEAD RIGHT. As...

    DEAD RIGHT. As I believe Matt and others have noted before, David Frum could be a candid and sharp conservative political observer before he descended into Bush hagiography and addled foreign policy nuttiness. His new online Cato essay on the death of small government Republicanism is good and worth reading (and not merely because it provides fodder for this funny gotcha from Jon Chait ). Frum's argument is that in the mid-1990s "the newly elected Republican congressional majority enjoyed what we can now see was the fairest opportunity in half a century to reduce the size and cost of the federal government," and when they failed, the small government window basically closed: "the state is growing again -- and it is preprogrammed to carry on growing," while "the day in which we could look to the GOP to have an affirmative small-government vision of its own has�definitively passed." I think Frum's take is mostly right, though I don't really think a serious small-government constituency...
  • THE PLAME-IRAN CONNECTION....

    THE PLAME-IRAN CONNECTION. Kevin wonders what's up with David Shuster 's assertion that Valerie Plame was working on Iran issues while undercover at the CIA. In today's Washington Post chat, Tom Edsall reports that Walter Pincus is on the case, so I suspect we will all have answers soon enough: Washington, D.C.: MSNBC reported last night that Valerie Plame was working in Iran's nuclear program at the CIA. This would seem to be a monumental piece of information - yet not a mention in The Post. What's going on over there? Tom Edsall: I am told by Walter Pincus that the Iran link was made by a blogger in Iran, and the story needs further confirmation before we can report it. I assume we are working on it. And also this: Valerie Plame: Blogger? Yes, a blogger broke the original claim about Valerie Plame working covert on Iran's nuclear program in January of this year. but David Shuster says he confirmed it with "intelligence sources" in his report yesterday. Tom Edsall: I assume that when...
  • THE DOUGHNUT IN...

    THE DOUGHNUT IN THE OINTMENT. This Hill article , citing recent poll numbers showing that a majority of seniors are satisfied with their prescription drug coverage, questions whether Democrats will be able to make political hay over the " drug bill debacle " in November. I don't actually think that's a totally dumb question to ask, and only time will tell. But Congressman Pete Stark 's quote in the piece -- �They haven�t hit the �doughnut hole� yet. � Let�s do the poll then� -- should definitely be heeded. Beneficiaries are going to start paying 100 percent rather than 25 percent of their drug expenses once those expenses reach $2,250, and most seniors at risk will be hitting that lower limit close to Election Day . How many are actually aware of what's coming? --Sam Rosenfeld
  • A PLEA TO...

    A PLEA TO OUR EXPERTS. For the reasons that Suzanne Nossel outlines here , I am tempted to think that a Chapter 7 Security Council resolution could offer the international community the necessary diplomatic leverage to get Iran back into the fold. And it is refreshing, for once, to see the United States and the EU-3 (France, Germany, and the U.K.) on the same page as they work together to draft a resolution that invokes Chapter 7 but is also palatable to the Russians and Chinese. To be sure, this effort may be futile and suggest that the Euro-American alliance simply cannot use the Council to pressure Iran. But how bad of an outcome is a Security Council paralyzed over Iran? In today�s Guardian , Scott Ritter urges the EU-3 to join with China and Russia in blocking a Security Council resolution that would put the Iranian nuclear program under Chapter 7 mandate. Such a resolution, Ritter argues, would merely be pretext for an eventual unilateral American war against Iran. I�m not...
  • A BAD CHOICE....

    A BAD CHOICE. Since Mike brought it up , I have to say I was really disappointed by Matt Santos 's choice for secretary of state. Bill Clinton gave a key national security job to the GOP when he made Bill Cohen his secretary of defense, there was talk of John Kerry trying to give a foreign policy job to someone in the Lugar / Hagel / McCain axis (this was especially odd since Hagel and McCain have diametrically opposed views), and now it's taking over The West Wing . This business just sends a horrible message: Democrats aren't up to the job, while impeding the party's ability to build its own cadre of leaders on security issues. What's more, the view that one ought to try and put foreign policy somehow above party politics doesn't make real sense to me. FDR 's conduct during World War II was admirable, but total mobilization against a challenge on the scale of that conflict is obviously the exception rather than the rule. Ordinarily, things aren't going to work like that and they...
  • PHILOSOPHY FOUL! Brad...

    PHILOSOPHY FOUL! Brad DeLong and Eric Umansky both praise today's John Tierney column which deploys John Rawls 's notion of a veil of ignorance to argue for a more liberal immigration policy. I agree with Tierney's conclusion, but he's abusing the philosophical material here which just happens to be drawn from my alleged former area of academic expertise. The entire argument of A Theory of Justice proceeds under certain idealizing assumptions, notably the assumption of a "closed society" in which the only entrance is birth and the only exit is death. Consequently, you can't apply the argument to questions of immigration policy. Relatedly, the crucial move in Tierney's argument is to appeal to the benefits of immigration to immigrants which seems correct to me, but would be rejected by Rawls. In The Law of Peoples he considers the possibility that the principle of giving priority to the poorest should be extended on an international basis and rejects it. He says we have an obligation...
  • WRONG AGAIN, TOMASKY....

    WRONG AGAIN, TOMASKY. Nope, not about the Democrats and the common good. I�m basically right about that. But my daring prediction that Matt Santos would make Arnie Vinick his vice president on The West Wing went up in smoke Sunday night (and I wasn�t even around to see it -- I was in an undisclosed location in old Europe). The pain was made all the more intense because, last week, a friend heard from someone associated with the show that they�d read my prediction-post, and that I was right. Good feint. I think I�ll try to claim half credit because Santos did, however half-heartedly, discuss the vice-presidency with Vinick. Anyway. I think Santos made the right call here. So what�s left to do now, in, what, the three remaining shows? Will they take us into the Santos presidency? If so, I suppose (another wrong prediction) that Vinick, with a strong assist from Santos, who will make the crucial strategic decision at the crucial moment, will solve this Kazakhstan situation. --Michael...
  • LIES AND THE...

    LIES AND THE LYING LIARS WHO TELL THEM. I believe I mentioned the $100 rebate plan on this fine blog yesterday. Matt might consider reading Tapped sometime. I will agree with him, however, that the current collapse of the Republican juggernaut is rendering the liberal blogging game mighty difficult. The post where I mentioned the rebate, for example, was like the umpteenth GOP-in-disarray congressional update post we've done recently; gloating gets monotonous. We should probably be reading more Powerline or Michelle Malkin posts and pointing out how they're awful. In the meantime, to generate more content I'd at least be willing to challenge Matt to a debate on the " TAPPED " vs. " Tapped " question. --Sam Rosenfeld

Pages