What Does the Obama Administration Think that It Is Doing?
And I Was Just This Morning Saying That the World Economy Had Dodged a Bullet...

links for 2009-11-30

  • If you’re where I’m from, it’s impossible to hear [Springsteen's] songs and miss their intended meaning. I’m not saying that makes me better than David Brooks. Far from it. But how can people who get millions of dollars in speaking fees, who live in mansions in Connecticut and attend exclusive parties inside the Beltway claim that not having a universal health care system because of fears (stirred up by them) of socialism is what’s good for middle America
  • The current LRB has a wonderful example of one style of academic review: the long essay outlining the book that ought to be written about the subject, concluded by a paragraph dismissing the work under review. But what a paragraph!: "André Burguière does not want to admit this. For him Annales remains a cause to fight for. But his book will do the cause no good at all. It is written seemingly without any knowledge of the wider historiography. Lutz Raphael’s Die Erben von Bloch und Febvre, the best and most comprehensive account of the school, is mentioned in the bibliography, but there is no sign that Burguière has read it. Self-important, pompous, pretentious, solipsistic, often obscure, sometimes barely coherent, his book seems to address itself only to those in the know. The translation by Jane Marie Todd renders all these faults with exemplary accuracy."
  • Tom Friedman can declare with a straight face that "anyone who shoots up innocent people is ... mentally imbalanced" without seeing how clearly that applies to himself and those who think like he does.  It's that self-absorbed disconnect -- seeing Hasan's murder of American soldiers as an act of consummate evil and sickness while refusing to see our own acts in a similar light -- that shapes most of our warped political discourse.  And note the morality on display here:  Hasan attacks soldiers on a military base of a country that has spent the last decade screaming to the world that "we're at war!!," and that's a deranged and evil act, while Friedman cheers for an unprovoked war that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and displaced millions more -- all justified by sick power fantasies, lame Mafia dialogue, and cravings more appropriate for a porno film than a civilized foreign policy -- and he's the arbiter of Western reason and sanity.
  • ...that Obama has listened too much to Larry Summers, who is a deficit hawk, and who was never really a full believer in Keynesian prescriptions... He thought things should be left more to central bankers. And so went w/ a small stimulus. Here's the thing: this might not have been so bad but for a Fed which is perfectly content with 1.4% inflation and 9.7% unemployment. And but for Macroeconomists like Alan Blinder who call this "hitting the bulls-eye".
  • I wrote the blog entry in question, and it hasn’t stood the test of time nearly as well as Pittman’s article. At the time — between the collapse of Bear Stearns’s subprime hedge funds and the collapse of the bank itself — I was well aware of subprime alarmism, not only because of the Bear news, but also because I’d spent five months working for Nouriel Roubini. So I concentrated on the way that the story tried to back up its headline, dismissing its damning litany of problems with subprime credit ratings more generally as “2,000 words of throat-clearing”. Sorry, Mark. In hindsight, your story was indeed prescient, and helpfully aggregated a lot of the well-founded worries that the subprime crisis was going to get much, much worse, and that none of the ratings on subprime CDOs could be trusted. It wasn’t until a good six months after your article was published that I finally understood the importance of what you’d been saying.
  • Debra Doyle has pointed me at a piece by Mary Beard in her weblog, A Don’s Life, at TLS. It’s titled Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo: what was Catullus on about?, and as Doyle says, it’s "A truly marvelous blog entry and comment thread, in which a discussion of the difficulties of translating certain Latin obscenities in Catullus becomes entangled with a discussion of the relative merits of oldest-first versus newest-first comment posting order." True. We do like that sort of thing.
  • I would say that this is blinkered, but we’re talking about Thomas Friedman, so that would be redundant. One of the most irritating things I have noticed during the last decade has been the whining from American pundits about how ungrateful the world’s Muslims have been in response to our alleged beneficence on their behalf. The grimly amusing part of this is that the whining pundits accept the assumptions of pan-Islamists, but put them to different, limited use: Muslims everywhere must feel gratitude for any assistance we have ever rendered to a Muslim population. Of course, if our policies have ever adversely affected a Muslim population, Muslims everywhere should not think that they have any particular interest in this, but should instead resist the siren song of pan-Islamism...