Archive

  • IN RETROSPECT....

    IN RETROSPECT.... The good news over the weekend is that the relevant parties have reached a cease-fire agreement that will be better for Israelis and Lebanese alike than continued fighting would have been. The bad news is that, as skeptics like me have been saying from the beginning, pretty much nobody with the exception of Hassan Nasrallah is better off than they would have been had this major incursion not happened in the first place. Israel's achieved essentially nothing in a strategic sense, has gotten far more of its own citizens killed than were at risk from Hezbollah in the first place, the Lebanese government is weaker than ever, and Hezbollah's Shiite constituents have paid the highest price of all. This is the way it tends to go with preventive war. Fighting other people is a highly undesirable outcome compared to cooperating with them or even tensely coexisting with them. It's very, very easy for both sides to lose in these situations. --Matthew Yglesias
  • IN PRAISE OF NEW IDEAS.

    IN PRAISE OF NEW IDEAS. For columnists, that is. Over the weekend, The Los Angeles Times 's Gregory Rodriguez fretted that Democrats were looking to the Iraq war to save their party when what they really needed were Big Ideas. Call it the conventional wisdom remix, with Rodriguez's new beat being his concern that Democratic rhetoric on Iraq will foster debilitating political divisions and destabilize support for government as a whole. And, while he had the good form to base his column mainly off of quotes from articles written by Prospect supreme beings Mike Tomasky and Paul Starr , it's still an aggravating effort. The problem for the New Ideas division of the Columnist Corps is that they, well, have none. It's easy enough to spin a few hundred adjectives extolling fresh thinking and dismissing tired bromides, but whenever these offerings finally skid towards the constructive paragraph marking the column's close, the whole project falls apart. Rodriguez, for instance, wonders why "[...
  • THE DIVE THEY DIDN'T NEED TO TAKE.

    THE DIVE THEY DIDN'T NEED TO TAKE. Over the weekend, there was some more dust kicked up about the decisions that The New York Times made concerning the timing of the publication of its groundbreaking story regarding the administration's domestic surveillance program. Editor And Publisher pretty much argues here that the Times took a dive so as not to affect the outcome of the election. Now, I happen to think that's one of the worst excuses short of bribery for holding a story. If you think you've unearthed news to which people have a right, then you're supposed to affect the election. People have no greater right to any news than they have to that news which informs their choice as to who will lead them. That said, however, I have to admit that I don't think the outcome of the election would have changed worth a damn if the Times had published what it had when it first had it. I regretfully concluded a while ago that the Bill of Rights has no constituency in this country any more, and...
  • NEWT'S RETURN.

    NEWT'S RETURN. Of all the conservative writers who emerged from The Weekly Standard , Andrew Ferguson by far was my favorite. Which is why I summon up his valedictory to Speaker Newt Gingrich here in the context of Gingrich's sudden reemergence channeling Charles Martel through the voice of Kermit The Frog . Over the weekend, you may have noticed, the former intellectual anchor of the history department at Billy Bob's College And Bait Shack took to the parapets of the Washington Post op-ed page in order to rally us all to his banner . Whenever Newt starts getting giddy like this, it's important to remember the following passage from Ferguson's farewell: Gingrich's ambitions, it turned out, were even vaster than those suggested by his five-page prospectus. A couple of years later, the House Ethics Committee released an appendix to its report on the Speaker's various ethics problems. The appendix was an amazing compendium of Gingrich's notes, speech drafts, memos and correspondence -- a...
  • Alan Greenspan and the Stock Bubble

    The biggest sin that the Greenspan sainthood proponents must sweep under the rug is his failure to do anything about the stock market bubble. There are 3 questions here that the critics and worshippers must address: 1) Could it have been recognized? 2) Did it actually do the economy serious harm? 3) What could have been done? These questions are loosely touched on by a worshipper�s ((Daniel Drezner) review of a critic�s (Peter Hartcher) book in the Post book review section. The worshipper comes up seriously short in his assessment.
  • Hidden Housing Price Declines

    As I mentioned in a prior note, house prices may be dropping in ways that are not picked up by price indices because the indices all use the contracted sale price. Currently sellers are using a variety of kickbacks that reduce the effective price below the sale price. Today's Washington Post has a good example. Centex, a major national builder, has a full-page ad (sorry ads don't appear in the web edition) offering mortgages at well below the market rate, plus closing cost assistance. (The difference on the 30-year is about 0.8 percentage points.) The ad also promises realtors a $5,000 bonus. So, on a $400,000 home, these incentives could easily come to 5 percent of the purchase price. So the next article on housing prices that doesn't mention kickbacks of this sort gets a special BTP goat prize. --Dean Baker
  • IS OUR CHILDREN...

    IS OUR CHILDREN LEARNING? Via Billmon by way of The Arabist , I see that apparently 30 percent of Americans, according to a new survey, can't recall what year 9-11 happened. And five percent don't remember the day and month of 9-11 . As Billmon asks, "I wonder how many of them know who's buried in Grant's tomb?" --Garance Franke-Ruta
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: FAULTY TOWERS.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: FAULTY TOWERS. Yes indeed, Oliver Stone keeps his politics in check for his new film World Trade Center . He seems to have done the same for his storytelling skills, according to Sudhir Muralidhar . --The Editors
  • IRANIAN-AMERICAN RELATIONS, D.C.-STYLE....

    IRANIAN-AMERICAN RELATIONS, D.C.-STYLE. When did "Do you speak Farsi?" become the new pick-up line in D.C.? First, I read this report on Michelle Persaud , dubbed the number one looker in The Hill 's annual 50 Most Beautiful People issue: Seeing her dark eyes and mocha skin, her flowing black tresses and expansive lashes, [men] sidle over, take in a breath and start speaking � Farsi! �I just look at them and smile,� the Maryland native, who has no Persian ancestry, says with a chuckle. �I get that all the time.�... Although Persaud looks Iranian, her family comes from the small South American country of Guyana, a former British colony where East Indians, Africans and Europeans settled centuries ago. And now, not two hours ago, some man followed me from across the street, into the TAP office building, and up to our seventh floor offices in order to try to hit on me. His opening line: "Do you speak Farsi?" Are there really that many Iranian women living in the city that this works? It's...
  • THE OTHER BOSSMAN.

    THE OTHER BOSSMAN. This from the occasionally sensible Jonathan Chait is crazy-making enough on its merits. Why shouldn't there be an emboldened left-wing of the Democratic Party, particularly if it results in a demand to change course in the middle of the greatest foreign-policy cock-up of the age, a change that today seems to have the support of 60 percent of the American people? Chait will have to forgive some of us if we don't feel like waiting any longer for the principal architects of this idiocy -- including those who work down the hall from him -- to shut up and slink off to the babbling obscurity they so richly deserve. Taking some of these people seriously about Iraq is like listening to Joe Hazlewood on celestial navigation. So, he'll have to be patient with outbreaks of genuine democracy. So who's Chait afraid of? Michael Moore ? That capitalist tool who self-finances his own movies and who didn't have to marry into a sewing-machine fortune to buy himself a platform? After...

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