Sunday, September 16. 2012
Some scattered links I squirreled away during the previous week:
Jonathan Bernstein: Paul Ryan Fails -- The Truth: Much one can say
about Ryan's mendacity, but this is a pretty good example. Ryan attacked
Obama for not doing anything about the Simpson-Bowles commission report:
He created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent
report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly
From this quote, you'd never suspect that Ryan was himself a member
of that commission ("they . . . them . . .
them"), and that he and the other House Republicans had voted against
the report. There was, in short, no bipartisan agreement for Obama to
walk away from. More examples follow, but Bernstein is only scratching
While you're at it, take a gander at
Brad DeLong: Paul Ryan Calls for Fewer Jobs and Higher Unemployment
in America. That's not literally what he said. His phrase was,
"We want honest money." Which is to say he's against the Fed expanding
the monetary base. Whether that means he wants to dispose of the $8
trillion of "fiat currency" the Fed has created since 1950 isn't
clear, but at least looking forward he wants an economy that cannot
grow, which certainly adds up to DeLong's title. (I am saddened,
though, that Paul Sweezy takes a fall in the end.)
Lawrence Downes: The Man in the Empty Chair: Applauds Clint Eastwood
at the GOP Convention ("the perfect distillation of the Republican
The last four years have been an extended exercise in Republican
denialism: This cannot be. This isn't happening. If you're really
the president, show us your papers.
Imaginary Barack was invented in Hawaii, sneaked into the Oval
Office, and has no legitimate claim on the presidency. As for the
real tall black guy posing in Washington, go ahead and treat him
any way you want. You can jab your finger in his face, shout him
down, call him a Muslim, a Kenyan, an illegal alien, you can invent
all kinds of lies about him and then you can tell him -- get out
of that chair.
In reality, the president is a more-or-less mainstream,
smarter-than-average pol, left-of-center on some things, to the
right on others, like guns, disturbingly hawkish on ordering the
killing of American citizens suspected of terrorism, on national
security, executive secrecy and immigration. He is, too, an
inveterate compromiser who used to bend over backward to make
deals -- sometimes in advance! -- with Republicans.
But that guy is not as scary as Imaginary Barack.
Matt Stoller: Clinton's No Liberal Hero:
A few years ago, Clinton said, "I never had any money until I got out
of the White House, you know, but I've done reasonably well since then."
That's $2.9 million, just in 2011, for 15 speeches. Indeed. So while
Romney and Clinton are ostensible political opponents, they share more
than you'd know just from press reports. The primary difference between
them is not a question of fealty to finance, but that Romney made his
fortune with Bain Capital before he sought office, whereas Clinton made
his afterward. [ . . . ]
This split is why the 2012 election is so empty of substance, because
the concerns of the elites are addressed, and the voices of millions are
simply unacknowledged. Bill Clinton offers essentially the same belief
system as both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, one in which private industry
runs the government through payoffs to ex-officials, and government returns
the favor through bailouts. If Americans are ever going to grapple with the
power of banks over their lives, they are going to have to come to grips
with the real track record of their leaders, including Bill Clinton. And
it isn't pretty. And until people like Bill Clinton can be compensated in
ways that aren't obviously corrupting, and their track records honestly
assessed, elections will continue to be unimportant, simple popular
ratification of an increasingly authoritarian creditor state.
Stephen M Walt: Why Do People Keep Predicting War With Iran?:
Cites a number of examples starting with Jeffrey Goldberg's 2010
cover story in The Atlantic -- one could go back further; as
Juan Cole notes, back in 1992 Netanyahu predicted that Iran
was "3 to 5 years" from having a nuclear weapon -- up to yesterday:
Last but not least, yesterday's New York Times featured a one-sided
story on the "shadow war" between Israel and Iran that placed virtually
all the blame for the trouble on Tehran. On the front page, it described
a "continuing offensive" by Iran, without mentioning that there has been
a long cycle of tit-for-tat between these two countries. Only after the
jump came any mention of the assassination of Iranian civilian scientists
(almost certainly by the Mossad), or any acknowledgement that Iran might
be acting defensively rather than conducting a totally unprovoked campaign
of aggression. [ . . . ]
As I noted a few months back, it's virtually impossible to know how
much credence to place in the repeated predictions that Israel is about
to attack. It does prove that there is no shortage of journalists or
pundits who are willing to serve as sympathetic stenographers for
government officials, but it doesn't tell you very much about what is
going to happen or what these officials really believe. Why? Because
the various officials whose alarming testimony forms the basis for
these articles have lots of different reasons for stirring the pot
in this fashion.
It's worth reminding ourselves that there is considerable opposition
within Israel's own security illuminati to attacking Iran, which as far
as I can tell has more to do with how unlikely an affective attack would
be than with any repercussions (which, most likely, would redound on the
US far worse than on Israel). One outspoken opponent of a strike is
ex-Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who unfortunately has an even worse idea
in mind for a solution: subvert and overthrow the Iranian regime.
Walt also has a piece titled
Why Americans Don't Understand the Middle East, which starts with
a photo of NBC correspondent Richard Engel.
Links for further study:
James K Galbraith: No Return to Normal: Written in 2009, subhed:
"Why the economic crisis, and its solution, are bigger than you think."
Main thing wrong with the piece is the assumption that there would be
a solution: in fact, the Republicans have managed to kick the legs out
from under nearly everything Obama pushed, and have intimidated Obama
to the point that he didn't push much. Then there's important stuff
that never occurred to Obama or his team, like:
Second, we should offset the violent drop in the wealth of the elderly
population as a whole. The squeeze on the elderly has been little noted
so far, but it hits in three separate ways: through the fall in the
stock market; through the collapse of home values; and through the drop
in interest rates, which reduces interest income on accumulated cash.
For an increasing number of the elderly, Social Security and Medicare
wealth are all they have.
That means that the entitlement reformers have it backward: instead
of cutting Social Security benefits, we should increase them, especially
for those at the bottom of the benefit scale. Indeed, in this crisis,
precisely because it is universal and efficient, Social Security is an
economic recovery ace in the hole. Increasing benefits is a simple,
direct, progressive, and highly efficient way to prevent poverty and
sustain purchasing power for this vulnerable population. I would also
argue for lowering the age of eligibility for Medicare to (say) fifty-five,
to permit workers to retire earlier and to free firms from the burden of
managing health plans for older workers.
Plug at the end of the piece for Galbraith's book, The Predator
State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals
Should Too. As far as I'm concerned, it's the best political book
written in the last decade.
Jeremiah Goulka: Why I Left the GOP: Better late than never, but
John B Judis: Mitt Romney, Latter-Day Neoncon
Ed Kilgore: World Without Labor Day: Looks like it's become a
Republican meme that the people we should celebrate on Labor Day
are the entrepreneurs (you know, the "job creators") instead of
the people who actually did the work.
TPM quotes Eric Cantor: "Today, we celebrate those who have taken
a risk, worked hard, built a business and earned their own success."
Andrew Leonard: Apple's Enormous Insult:
I've been an Apple-hater since c. 1980, but more evidence why should too:
Apple shrugs. Instead of joining this one-world utopia of interoperability,
Apple is replacing its own unique, incompatible-with-everyone-else dock
connector with a new dock connector that is incompatible with itself.
[ . . . ] That's the true genius of Steve Jobs. He
resurrected a model of old-school tech monopoly that everyone else thought
Stephen M Walt: What Terrorist Threat?: Includes a link to an
article (PDF only) by John Mueller and Mark G. Stewart,
The Terrorism Delusion: America's Overwrought Response to September
11. Mueller wrote a book in 2006 called Overblown: How
Politicians and the Terrorism Industry Inflate National Security
Threats, and Why We Believe Them, in 2009 wrote Atomic
Obsession: Nuclear Alarmism From Hiroshima to Al-Qaeda (has
a couple pages on Israel and Iran, not nearly enough), and
co-wrote with Stewart the 2011 book, Terror, Security, and
Money: Balancing the Risks, Benefits, and Costs of Homeland