Archive

  • FUN WITH SURVEILLANCE....

    FUN WITH SURVEILLANCE. Turns out the NSA, with the collaboration of every phone company except Qwest, is monitoring all of our calls -- not to listen in to what's being said, but simply to gather data about the calls and draw inferences from that. It's important to link this up to the broader chain. One thing the Bush administration says it can do with this meta-data is to start tapping your calls and listening in, without getting a warrant from anyone. Having listened in on your calls, the administration asserts that if it doesn't like what it hears, it has the authority to detain you indefinitely without trial or charges, torture you until you confess or implicate others, extradite you to a Third World country to be tortured, ship you to a secret prison facility in Eastern Europe, or all of the above. If, having kidnapped and tortured you, the administration determines you were innocent after all, you'll be dumped without papers somewhere in Albania left to fend for yourself. Once...
  • DEAN'S BURN RATE...

    DEAN'S BURN RATE DEJA VU. The Washington Post reports this morning that Rahm Emanuel , head of the DCCC, stormed out of a meeting with DNC head Howard Dean over worries that Dean was spending too much money in too many states in a way that was not geared to winning this fall's congressional elections. Emanuel's fury, Democratic officials said, was over his concern that Dean's DNC is spending its money too freely and too early in the election cycle -- a "burn rate" that some strategists fear will leave the party unable to help candidates compete on equal terms with Republicans this fall. That reminded me of this October 2003 controversy over Dean's spending, � Deans Burn Rate Raises Questions .� Basically, the concern in 2003 was that Dean was spending too much money on organizers in too many states (13), and far too early in the cycle, rather than husbanding his resources for use in a targeted fashion come crunch time. That is the exact same concern Emanuel is raising now about Dean's...
  • The Times Discovers Temps in Europe

    The New York Times had an interesting article about the growth of part-time and temporary employment in Europe. It notes that in several European countries, 20-30 percent of the workforce is employed either part-time, or on temporary employment contracts, or both. It is good to see this piece, because part-time and temporary employment has been an important part of many European economies for close to two decades. As the article notes, these workers tend to enjoy far less employment protection than do full-time workers. Of course, the article is somewhat misleading in implying that these workers enjoy no protection. The extent to which employment protection extends to part-time and temporary workers varies substantially across countries, but in most countries, part-time and temporary workers enjoy more legal protection than do full-time workers in the United States, who generally can be fired without cause at any time. Part-timers and temps in Europe also generally have health care...
  • WATERS WARS. Let...

    WATERS WARS. Let me recommend Jon Margolis 's fascinating piece on TAP Online about Canada's strange, and potentially untenable, refusal to export their fresh water. As Margolis writes , "Canada has 20 percent of all the world�s fresh water, to slake the thirsts and irrigate the crops of only 0.5 percent of the world�s population. [And] with the United Nations estimating that almost two-thirds of everybody, or almost 5.5 billion people, will face chronic water shortages by 2050," such protectiveness of their reserves will eventually appear cruel. Margolis focuses mostly on Canada's unwillingness to sell water to the profligate United States, but I'd be interested to know their position on dampening drought and quenching Third World thirst. And if you're interested in reading more on the issue, Brad Plumer has further context and commentary . --Ezra Klein
  • TRUTHINESS IN THE...

    TRUTHINESS IN THE STYLE SECTION. Inspired by Friends With Money , The New York Times decided to inflict a little ignorance on the American people, informing their readers that economic barriers to friendship are growing in salience because "other barriers have been broken down." After all, people make friends in college where "Students from country-club families and those on scholarships are thrown together as roommates, on athletic teams and in classes." This is best put in the "deeply misleading" file. Tuition is so high at private colleges that most of the people on financial aid ( e.g. , my freshman roommate) are from richer-than-average families. Similarly, while it's true as the article states that a higher-than-ever share of people from more modest backgrounds go to college nowadays, rich kids and poor kids go to different colleges . The actual level of economic diversity on elite campuses is low and declining. If economic differences among friends really are increasing in...
  • STATES' WHATS? ...

    STATES' WHATS? The Washington Post 's invaluable business columnist Steven Pearlstein has an elegant little takedown of this week's round of supposed health reforms. "The Republicans," he writes, "are engaged in a largely cynical exercise to blame government regulation for everything that's wrong with the insurance market while offering to reward their friends in the small-business lobby with a lucrative new health insurance franchise. The proposal they back requires them to ignore everything they've ever said about federalism and states' rights." That's true enough. The proposal in question is the so-called " Enzi bill, " which would invalidate all statewide regulatory structures for insurers. It's a remarkable little ball of cynicism, a clear win for the GOP's business overlords against the party's supposed conservatism. Worth keeping in mind, too, is that when state's rights collided with the moral imperatives of desegregation, the Republican Party gave primacy to the coherency of...
  • A SIMPLE PLAN....

    A SIMPLE PLAN. Pondering the common good versus individual rights while in line for a burrito just now, a thought occurred to me: Why do you need to opt-in to be an organ donor? I'm not going to take such a stridently collectivist line as to suggest that we harvest organs against people's wills, but surely we could change the default rule so that objectors can opt-out of organ donation. I see lots of saved lives and no real downside. --Matthew Yglesias
  • IF A, THEN...

    IF A, THEN A. Good to see my colleague Harold Meyerson continuing the GOP-has-no-ideas argument. As he notes, their case for retaining Congress isn't an agenda, but a tautology -- if the Democrats win Congress, then the Democrats win Congress. It's an unsettling thought, to be sure, though when pollsters ask , "Overall, which party, the Democrats or the Republicans, do you trust to do a better job in coping with the main problems the nation faces over the next few years?,� Democrats come out on top by a 14 percent margin. One might also wonder why the GOP is so obviously terrified by the prospect of investigations. Bush hasn't done anything wrong, has he? --Ezra Klein
  • A COUNTERINSURGENCY TACTIC...

    A COUNTERINSURGENCY TACTIC BY ANY ANOTHER NAME. I think there's more heat than light to my disagreement with Fast Leon , since we're in pretty close agreement about reasonable policy responses to the situation in Sudan. On the semantic issue, I -- and the U.N. -- want to say that a given mass killing is either a genocide or else a war-fighting tactic. Mark , the State Department, Samantha Power , etc., want to say that both kinds of mass killing deserve the label "genocide." As far as that goes, that's fine -- we often have words that denote more than one kind of thing. The word "rock" applies to both diamonds and to random stones you might find anywhere. But here's the thing. You wouldn't want to develop a response to finding a rock in your backyard -- pick it up and throw it away, say -- and then apply when you find a diamond, all the while saying "well, look, it's a kind of rock !" If you have two kinds of phenomena -- mass killings inspired by a desire to exterminate an ethnic...
  • The Conservative Nanny State is Here!

    The moment you have all been waiting for has finally arrived. You can download your copy of The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer today. The book is available as a free e-book (read chapter 4 for the reasoning). You will soon be able to order paperback copies at Conservativenannystate.org . The book takes issue with the prevailing political metaphor in U.S. politics: that liberals want the government to intervene to promote fairness and equity, while conservatives want to leave outcomes to the market. The book argues that conservatives (or at least those in power) support a wide range of government interventions that have the effect of distributing income upward. This list includes a trade and immigration policy that places less-skilled workers in direct competition with workers in developing countries, while protecting highly paid professionals from the same sort of competition. Another item on the list is Federal Reserve Board...

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