Sunday, October 7. 2012
Some scattered links I squirreled away during the previous week:
William J Broad: Robert F Christy, Atom Bomb Physicist, Dies at 96:
Dr. Christy may be best remembered for a bitter encounter that crystallized
the resentment that many American scientists felt toward Edward Teller,
considered the father of the hydrogen bomb.
During the height of American cold war fears of Communist influences,
Teller, a veteran of the Manhattan Project, had testified against Oppenheimer
before the Atomic Energy Commission, questioning his judgment and recommending
that the government revoke his security clearance.
Shortly after the testimony, in the summer of 1954, scientists attending
a conference at Los Alamos were preparing for a picnic lunch on a terrace.
Teller saw Dr. Christy, an old friend, and hurried over to greet him.
But Dr. Christy, a former protégé and colleague of Oppenheimer's and
known to be a courteous, genial man, threw back an icy glance and walked
"I was so stunned that for a moment I couldn't react," Teller recalled
in Memoirs, a 2001 book. "Then I realized that my life as I had
known it was over."
I'm not really familiar with Christy, although I've read enough
about the Manhattan Project I must have run into him somewhere. Some
other recent obituaries I plan on writing about sooner or later:
Eugene D. Genovese, Eric Hobsbawm, Barry Commoner.
Paul Krugman: Disdain for Workers:
By now everyone knows how Mitt Romney, speaking to donors in Boca Raton,
washed his hands of almost half the country -- the 47 percent who don't
pay income taxes -- declaring, "My job is not to worry about those people.
I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility
and care for their lives." By now, also, many people are aware that the
great bulk of the 47 percent are hardly moochers; most are working families
who pay payroll taxes, and elderly or disabled Americans make up a majority
of the rest.
But here's the question: Should we imagine that Mr. Romney and his party
would think better of the 47 percent on learning that the great majority of
them actually are or were hard workers, who very much have taken personal
responsibility for their lives? And the answer is no.
For the fact is that the modern Republican Party just doesn't have much
respect for people who work for other people, no matter how faithfully and
well they do their jobs. All the party's affection is reserved for "job
creators," a k a employers and investors. Leading figures in the party find
it hard even to pretend to have any regard for ordinary working families --
who, it goes without saying, make up the vast majority of Americans.
Am I exaggerating? Consider the Twitter message sent out by Eric Cantor,
the Republican House majority leader, on Labor Day -- a holiday that
specifically celebrates America's workers. Here's what it said, in its
entirety: "Today, we celebrate those who have taken a risk, worked hard,
built a business and earned their own success." Yes, on a day set aside
to honor workers, all Mr. Cantor could bring himself to do was praise
their bosses. [ . . . ]
The point is that what people are now calling the Boca Moment wasn't
some trivial gaffe. It was a window into the true attitudes of what has
become a party of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and for the wealthy, a
party that considers the rest of us unworthy of even a pretense of respect.
Andrew Leonard: What the Presidential Candidates Aren't Talking About:
Issues they don't have any substantive disagreement on, and issues Obama
would rather not talk about for various reasons -- he doesn't see any
tangible gain from doing so, he doesn't want to expose himself to attacks
(gee, look how well that's worked out), he doesn't care, and/or he doesn't
know any better. Leonard's examples: climate change, Afghanistan, poverty,
drone wars, gun control. I'm not big on politicking over the latter myself,
but I was surprised by how large some of these numbers are:
In 2010, the last year for which data are available, there were 31,672
gun-related deaths in the United States. The last 18 months have witnessed
three high-profile shootings, the Tucson attack on Rep. Gabby Giffords,
D-Ariz., in January 2011; the Aurora, Colo. massacre in July 2012; and
the mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in August. In the wake
of the Aurora shootings, ABC News reported that "the gun murder rate in
the U.S. is almost 20 times higher than the next 22 richest and most
populous nations combined."
But there's a pretty simple answer as to why gun control has not been
an issue in the 2012 presidential campaign. Obama' response to the
high-profile shooting incidents that have occurred during his term has
been to take no action. Romney's response would be the same. With no
difference between the two campaigns, there's nothing to cover.
Links for further study:
Mike Konczal: Is Taxing Capital Income Fair? I wound up writing a
long letter about this piece, squirreled away in the notebook, so I
won't repeat all that here. Konczal states the idea, then dismisses it,
so I'm not arguing. Rather, I'm shocked that anyone -- well, actually
we know who those people are -- would be so brazen as to argue on any
grounds that income from capital ownership should be exempt from taxes.
I'll add one more point here: we already favor capital income in two
huge ways. One is that through Keogh and other plans we allow taxes
to be deferred on long-term savings. The other is that workers do not
get to deduct their expenses before labor income is taxed, business
owners and investors do: indeed, much of the advantage of owning a
"small" business is the ability to deduct and depreciate some (or in
many cases much) of your living expenses, only paying taxes on the
profit left over. And now they want to avoid paying taxes on that,
too. Go look up the definition of Chutzpah.
Mattea Kramer: Tough Talk for America: subtitled "A Guide to the
Presidential Debates You Won't Hear"; author of A People's Guide
to the Federal Budget; looks into debt, recession, taxes, Medicare
("or any other kind of health care"), the military, education; finds
we're doing just about everything wrong, which is about right.
Andy Kroll: The Death of the Golden Dream of Higher Education:
The detailed reporting is all about California, but the general idea
applies elsewhere. For whatever reasons, it's becoming prohibitively
expensive to get a college education, and the economy (not to mention
the well being of the populace) suffers for that.
Michael O'Donnell: A Malevolent Forrest Gump: review of Joseph
Crespino's book, Strom Thurmond's America, reminds us "he was
there at all the major choke points of modern conservative history."