Archive

  • More Fact Checking Problems at the Washington Post

    Last Tuesday, I pointed out that a front page Washington Post article had overstated Mexico's growth in the post-NAFTA era by a factor of five ( Mexican Deportee's U.S. Sojourn Illuminates Roots of Current Crisis , 4-17-06:A1). It appears that the Post's problems with arithmetic are continuing. The front page of the Sunday Outlook section had an article that refers to the rise to power of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia ( Old States, New Threats , 4-23-06;E1). The article comments that "social tensions have exploded as a result of the unleashing of market economies that create rapid but uneven growth." Growth in Venezuela and Bolivia may have been uneven, but it certainly was not rapid. According to data from the Penn World Tables and the World Bank, per capita GDP in Venezuela was more than 10 percent lower when Hugo Chavez took office in 1998 than it had been in 1980. In Bolivia, per capita GDP had fallen by almost 15 percent between 1980 and 2005 (see also "...
  • "Protectionist," a Four Letter Word?

    In many economic policy debates, the worst possible adjective is "protectionist." All right thinking people know that protectionism is bad. According to the economic in-crowd, only ignorant and reactionary people support protectionism measures. (The Post gives a nice example of this thinking in a piece explaining how the IMF will act to prevent protectionism in an economic crisis: " IMF Calls for Cooperation Ahead of Imbalances Meeting .") The image of hoary protectionism lurking on the horizon can be very effective for powerful interests seeking to push their agendas, but it has nothing to do with real world economic policy. The United States has all sorts of protectionist barriers, the most important of which apply to professional services like physicians' services and lawyers' services. These barriers take the form of licensing requirements that are deliberately designed to make it more difficult for foreign professionals to practice in the United States. If the United States was...
  • KARL ROVE'S IMMINENT...

    KARL ROVE'S IMMINENT FROG-MARCH? Atrios and Think Progress have both noted that the Plame grand jury met this morning, and a frisson of excitement has rippled through the liberal blogosphere at the prospect that Karl Rove might be indicted. In that regard, a few things are worth keeping in mind: 1) Rove had motive to mislead the grand jury. In the summer of 2003, Rove was petrified that the truth about President Bush 's pre-Iraq war deceptions would come to light, and thought that evidence of them could destroy Bush's reelection prospects-- or so Murray Waas has told us. If true, that's a critical piece of this puzzle. As I argued here , it provides a possible motive for misleading the grand jury about Plame . Before, it never quite made sense -- why risk perjury charges to cover up what may not have been a crime to begin with? But now it seems perfectly plausible that Rove worried that if the truth about the administration's role in outing Plame came out, the resulting firestorm...
  • HOLY IMPATIENCE. Yesterday,...

    HOLY IMPATIENCE. Yesterday, we buried Reverend William Sloane Coffin, Jr . One year ago, I read his biography, Holy Impatience , and it gave me what I haven�t gotten from the left in my lifetime -- in the words of Johnny Cash , �gravel in your gut and spit in your eye.� Rev. Coffin challenged those who misused power and that got him into a lot of fights. But they were a lot of fights he relished. As Yale Chaplin, he was one of the first whites to be arrested in the freedom rides during the civil rights movement. Later, he would be a major force in the peace movement during the Vietnam conflict and, later still, a proponent of decreasing our nuclear arms supply. People of all faiths, and those who do not profess one, can all acknowledge that the houses of worship had a huge impact on most of the social movements of the 20th century. For the better. Friend and mentor Rev. Bert Campbell said in response to Rev. Coffin�s passing: �The world is a little less now and the void waits for...
  • KLEIN V. KLEIN....

    KLEIN V. KLEIN. You've really got to read Digby 's excerpts from Hugh Hewitt 's interview with Joe Klein . Klein desires -- aches really -- for Hewitt's approval, and it leaves him a quivering mass of eager-to-please. The interview primarily consists of Klein parading all his points of agreement with George W. Bush and proudly bragging about his White House nickname -- Mr. Faith-Based, in case you were wondering -- which he hastens to add is just "one of Bush's nicknames for me." It's pathetic. Klein, you'll remember, is supposed to be Time 's in-house liberal, so maybe he feels the need to keep his identification slippery (in which case, speaking as a liberal, I assure him it's worked). I wonder, however, why you never see Charles Krauthammer on the Rhandi Rhodes show prostrating himself for her approval and slamming his party. He seems perfectly comfortable in his political identity. Klein , meanwhile, is prancing about, saying Bush is an "an honorable man," who "I really like" and...
  • COMPARE AND CONTRAST....

    COMPARE AND CONTRAST. Joe Klein thinks the "left wing of the Democratic Party" doesn't "respect the military sufficiently." Meanwhile, in recent weeks a lot of generals have put forward the idea that America's current military policies are serving the country poorly. Uber-hawk columnist Charles Krauthammer accuses them of laying the groundwork for a coup d'�tat and/or opening the United States to foreign subversion in the course of comparing George W. Bush to Abraham Lincoln . In the real world, of course, the Lincoln-McClellan point cuts in the other direction. Lincoln had some policies. General McClellan disagreed with them. Eventually, McClellan got fired. He expressed his disagreements with Lincoln vocally, eventually becoming Lincoln's opponent in an election. The Republic survived this outbreak of elected leaders being subject to criticism, and by adopting an un-Bush-like strategy of implementing successful policies , Lincoln won the election. No coup, nothing bad happened, and...
  • FEAR THIS DEFICIENCY...

    FEAR THIS DEFICIENCY WE HAVE CREATED. Like Matt , I haven't finished John Halpin and Ruy Teixera 's article . And like Matt , I'm going to comment anyway. And like Matt , I think progressives disagree on a bunch of stuff, and it's tough to achieve clarity of message when you're tangled in disagreement. Or at least it should be. But here's the thing: conservatives disagree on as much stuff as liberals. Large swaths of the rightwing think we shouldn't run up massive deficits, yet they've fallen into line behind a leader doing just that. Serious sectors of the Republican movement are essentially isolationist, but they've thrown up their hands and ceded foreign policy to the neocons. Matt notes the tension between our own Harold Meyerson and the Clinton establishment's new Hamilton Project, but those disagreements are no more fundamental or fierce than those between big-spending conservatives like David Brooks and Karl Rove and the Club for Growth. Immigration slices the Gordian knot...
  • BUT DO WE...

    BUT DO WE KNOW? My first thought was that I shouldn't comment on "The Politics of Definition" until it was, you know, fully published so that I could actually read the whole thing. But on second thought, this is a blog so who needs due diligence. I have concerns about the idea that the essay's soi disant straightforward thesis: "Progressives need to fight for what they believe in -- and put the common good at the center of a new progressive vision -- as an essential strategy for political growth and majority building," is actually all that straightforward. I wouldn't want to deny that progressives ought to fight for what they believe in, and the evidence that a failure to be perceived as driven by a strong core of basic beliefs is an electoral problem seems strong to me. That said, the metaphysics of the claim seem off-base to me. There's an implicit assumption here that there's something ("what we believe in") that needs to be handled differently -- fought for, communicated clearly,...
  • TIMING IS EVERYTHING....

    TIMING IS EVERYTHING. Buried deep in some bureaucratic catacomb, some pencil pusher has a smile on his face today. Yesterday, the FDA rejected claims of marijuana's medicinal usefulness, courageously contradicting a major study by the Institute of Medicine, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, the highest scientific body in the nation. You show those pointy-heads, FDA! The ruling was even bolder considering that the FDA actively discourages research into marijuana's biochemical effects, routinely rejecting proposals by researchers to conduct gold-standard studies on the subject. As Dr. Craker , a University of Massachusetts professor who applied for permission to grow and study pot but was repeatedly rejected, said, "the reason there's no good evidence is that they don't want an honest trial." So why, exactly, amidst this tawdry story of politics putting its foot on science's throat, do I think some bureaucrat somewhere is having a good chuckle? Well, the ruling came out on...
  • WHEN CROOKS GO...

    WHEN CROOKS GO DOWN. This hasn't gotten much attention, but Silvio Berlusconi is refusing to admit defeat in the Italian election. In this, he has the support of seemingly none of the relevant legal institutions in Italy. What's more, all of the democratic world's left-of-center governments have already congratulated Romani Prodi on his victory. Then again, all of the democratic world's right-of-center governments have done so as well. All, that is, except for George W. Bush 's here in the United States of America. This aligns Bush with Vladimir Putin 's Russia and, well, nobody. The subtext here, naturally, is Berlusconi's distinctive blend of public sector corruption, misgovernment, and low-grade gangsterism that puts his political machine somewhere between Putin's and Bush's on the spectrum of undermining democratic governance. During the 2000 election cycle, naturally, Al Gore didn't want to lose the election. Thus, he pushed his legal claims. But when the courts ruled against him...

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