Sunday, September 30. 2012
Some scattered links I squirreled away during the previous week:
Ryan Cooper: Delisting an Islamo-Marxist Terror Cult and Elite Decline:
Looks like the big lobby effort behind the MEK is succeeding -- it will
be hard to ever forgive Howard Dean, in particular, for this.
But the fact that Giuliani, Dean and company would choose to associate
themselves with this organization in such an obviously corrupt way is
indicative of the general decline of elite quality that is afflicting
this country. Islamist, terrorist, Marxist, and cult are probably the
four most toxic adjectives in American political discourse, and yet we
have literally an Islamo-Marxist cult with a history of terrorism,
including murdering American soldiers, that has bought its way off the
terrorist organization list. And recent history is stuffed with examples
of this sort of enemy-of-my-enemy thinking blowing up in our face!
Does anyone remember how arming the Afghan mujahideen in the 80s
Cooper missed one big thing, which is that the reason MEK has gotten
so much support is Israel: much of the bogus "intelligence" that Israel
has trumpeted on Iran's "nuclear ambitions" has come from their alliance
with the MEK. It's also likely that Israel views the MEK as not just a
good way to sabotage Iran but as a prospect for regime change -- which
is what many Israeli security gurus see as the ultimate solution to
their Iran problem. Another big point is that approval of MEK shows
the world that for the US terrorism has more to do with who you target
than with the act itself. As long as MEK was listed, the US could argue
otherwise (admittedly from shaky grounds -- cf. Cuba, Nicaragua, a lot
of cases, including Afghanistan and Al-Qaeda, all of which have tempted
the US to cross the line). With this embrace of the MEK, that line is
an even more transparent joke.
Paul Krugman: Notes on the Political Economy of Redistribution:
Somewhat wonky, and I'm not sure the model really holds up, partly
because there are more to the question of how government redistributes
income (e.g., patents redistribute up). But beyond the model:
In particular, imagine yourself as a hired gun for the right tail
of the income distribution. What would you do in an effort to stop
the median voter from realizing that she would benefit from a more
European-style system? Well, you'd do everything you can to exaggerate
the disincentive effects of higher taxes, while trying to convince
middle-income voters that the benefits of government programs go to
other people. And at the same time, you'd do everything you can to
disenfranchise lower-income citizens, so that the median voter has
a higher income than the median citizen.
So far, efforts along these lines have been remarkably successful.
But operatives on the right are clearly worried that their three-decade
run of success may be coming to an end. Indeed, the whole panic about
the lucky duckies and all that can be seen as reflecting a great fear
on the part of the right that any day now the median voter will realize
where his true interests lie, and start supporting much more
Andrew Leonard: Romney's Ohio Problem: The political problem is
globalization, a problem for both candidates, but more so for Romney,
especially if you consider his tax returns:
Consider: 267 out of the 379 pages of Romney's return detail his
holdings in 34 offshore foreign corporations and partnerships --
including 15 in the Cayman Islands, as well as Bermuda, Luxembourg,
the Netherlands and Ireland. In 2011, Romney reported $3.5 million
in foreign income out of total of $13.7 million. He paid $88,853 in
foreign taxes -- an effective tax rate of a minuscule 2.4 percent.
He also applied for and received a foreign tax credit in the U.S. --
so he actually lowered his U.S. tax liability by getting a credit
for the low taxes he paid on investments parked outside the United
This also underscores a big problem with trickle-down policies
like tax cuts and easy credit for the rich: even when they turn
around and invest that money, they're more likely to invest it
abroad, because that's where the returns are, and the tax breaks
are just gravy on top of that.
Patrick Tyler: Defusing Israel's "Detonator" Strategy: The "detonator"
is a Moshe Dayan concept: basically, Israel tries to bully other nations
into doing its bidding by threatening to make an even bigger mess if they
have to act alone. It is unlikely that an Israeli strike can seriously
disrupt Iran's nuclear infrastructure, but attempting to do so is certain
to make a region-wide mess, not least for the US.
"The philosophical underpinning of U.S. policy toward Israel," President
Ford said, "had been our conviction -- and certainly my own -- that if we
gave Israel an ample supply of economic aid and weapons, she would feel
strong and confident, more flexible and more willing to discuss a lasting
peace." But after serial wars and a strong aversion within the ruling
elite to compromise, Ford lamented, "I began to question the rationale
for our policy."
Israel deserves our attention and protection. But 60 years after its
founding, it remains in the thrall of an original martial impulse, the
depth of which has given rise to succeeding generations of leaders who
seem ever on the hair trigger in dealing with their rivals, and whose
contingency planners embrace only worst-case scenarios in a process that
magnifies the sense of national peril, encourages military preemption
and covert subversion, and undermines any chance for a more engaging
diplomacy based on compromise and accommodation.
By the way, Tyler has a new book out, Fortress Israel: The Inside
Story of the Military Elite Who Run the Country -- and Why They Can't
Make Peace. I've ordered a copy.
Matthew Yglesias: Plossers "Warns" That QE 3 May Lead to Economic
QE 3 skeptic and Philadelphia Federal Reserve President Charles Plosser
gave a very strange speech outlining his opposition to monetary stimulus
which I think can best be summarized as starting with concerns that it
won't work and ending with dire warnings that it might work. Perhaps the
strangest part comes when he warns that aggressive monetary stimulus in
today's era might lead to consequences similar to those seen in the
mid-1930s, when FDR's stimulative monetary policies broke the back of
the Great Depression.
The sense you get from bankers like Plosser is that we already have
the perfect recovery, aside from the lose end of disposing of the Democrat
in the White House. The big banks are flush again, more concentrated than
ever; profits are back up to pre-recession levels, companies are sitting
on piles of cash, and the stock market is higher than ever, so business
(and Republicans) are quite content with doing nothing more. After all,
the vast increase in unemployment isn't their problem -- if anything, it's
their blessing, as it weakens labor markets, allowing businesses to demand
more givebacks from labor.
Links for further study:
Brian Beutler: A History of Mitt Romney and the 47 Percent
Ryan Cooper: Democrats and Hunters: A Natural Alliance: Actually,
hunters have long been concerned about environmental depradations
(except, of course, their own, but even there not without exception).
David Corn: Secret Video: Romney Tells Millionaire Donors What He
Really Thinks of Obama Voters: on the freeloading 47%, the
"takers" who are in thrall to Obama's socialist largesse.
Nicholas Lemann: Transaction Man: Long piece on Romney, but only
the abstract is online.
John Quiggin: The White Working Class: Unraveling confusion about who
supports the Republicans: nothing correlates more than money, but there
is a bump for non-college-educated white men over college-educated at
the same income levels. The former are fortunate to have gained their
success without education credentials and connections, and so are eager
to believe their success earned, where much of it is arguably luck.
Quiggin posted a follow-up,
A Quick Update on the White Working Class, where he admitted that
most of the Republican trend in this class so defined is concentrated
in the South -- no big surprise there.
John Quiggin: The Golden Age: Major article on whatever happened
to all that leisure science, technology, and capitalism had promised
to economic thinkers like Keynes.
Mark Thoma: Nontaxpayers Are Overwhelmingly the Elderly and Students.