Archive

  • THE BEST COVER...

    THE BEST COVER EVER. Via Atrios , I see HuffPo contributor Philip Weiss has some concerns about Kenneth Pollack 's new book, The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America : I just got a copy of Ken Pollack's latest book on Iran, The Persian Puzzle, and was shocked on flipping to page 429, the Author's Note at the end of the book, to read that Pollack has never been to Iran and doesn't speak Persian, has only dribs and drabs of Arabic. You'd think a book that purports to explain the "Persian Puzzle" might have offered that disclaimer at the front. Pollack is an influential intellectual. As a scholar at the liberal Brookings Institution, whatever liberal means these days, he advocated invasion of Iraq in the book The Threatening Storm, back in 2002, thereby giving crucial centrist support to the neocons. Pollack argued that the way to peace in the Middle East lay through Baghdad. I.e., convert the Arabs to democracy there and everything else will fall into place. That book...
  • TNR AND DARFUR...

    TNR AND DARFUR TNR �s Adam B. Kushner went to the Save Darfur rally on Sunday, and concludes that we liberals are na�ve to think that anything short of military strikes will stop the carnage in Darfur. This seems to be the emerging line over at The New Republic . Last week, I responded to a similar argument by Lawrence Kaplan by spelling out some intermediate steps that the administration has been loathe to take but could go a very long way to pressing Khartoum to cease their aggression. So rather than repeat myself, I�ll respond to Kushner by invoking Samantha Power �s exhortation that when we define doing "something meaningful" exclusively as �intervening militarily� we set the bar for intervention too high. Thankfully, Kushner only calls for air strikes, not dispatching marines to Darfur. But knee-jerk lines like, �Only by exerting the full force of American power, which liberals have thoroughly come to fear in the last decade, can anybody really �Save� Darfur,� are both untrue and...
  • BETWEEN WAR AND...

    BETWEEN WAR AND PEACE, MORE WAR. If you're looking for an illustration of Jason Zengerle 's point that John McCain continues to enjoy strong support from the MSM, look no further than David Ignatius 's column on the maverick in which McCain's opportunism and flip-flopping turn out to be virtues because he's so tortured about his opportunism, and the only real question is whether McCain can develop the cojones to flip-flop enough to win. Even better is this: "The most polarizing issue for the country is the Iraq war. Here, as on other fronts, McCain tries to bridge the extremes." Really? I thought McCain was a die-hard hawk, darling of Bill Kristol , committed to an extremist position to the right of George W. Bush . Or, as Ignatius puts it: "He has been one of the sharpest critics of the administration's strategy in Iraq, arguing loudly since 2003 that there weren't enough U.S. troops to stabilize the country . . . at the same time, McCain has backed President Bush and the basic U.S...
  • WHITE HOUSE: EARTH...

    WHITE HOUSE: EARTH MAY BE ROUND, FURTHER STUDY NEEDED. An administration-commissioned scientific study has concluded what everyone already knows: Global warming is real and human activity is an important factor. Is a change of heart on the White House's part in the offing? Of course not: "White House officials noted that this was just the first of 21 assessments planned by the federal Climate Change Science Program, which was created by the administration in 2002 to address what it called unresolved questions." Twenty-one assessments! We also learn that the administration remains committed to "using voluntary means to slow the growth in emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide." Obviously, using voluntary means to curb dangerous negative externalities of profit-making businesses isn't going to work. But there's a kind of deeper dishonesty here as well, where the implication is that if you could use voluntary means to slow the growth of carbon emissions, this would be a...
  • LIBERAL BLOGGERS DON'T...

    LIBERAL BLOGGERS DON'T WANT TO DESTROY THE "MSM" -- THEY WANT TO MAKE IT BETTER. Just about everyone in the lefty blogosphere has taken a swing at Mike McCurry 's piece over at The Huffington Post, and now it's my turn. In case you missed it, McCurry wrote that he knows reporters -- and Pulitzer Prize winners, at that -- who feel "intimidated" because "most of the blogosphere spends hours making them feel that way." There are a few striking misconceptions here worth unpacking. The first is the notion that anyone in the press would see it as "intimidating" that people are scrutinizing his or her work. An unnamed reporter wrote in to Josh Marshall claiming that death threats and all sorts of other horrors descend on any media figure fingered by bloggers. That may be, and it's unfortunate that some Web denizens give ammo to critics of the Internet by doing such things. But the fact remains that any serious reporter should see the added scrutiny not as a threat, but as an enhancement of...
  • 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

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