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links for 2010-05-24

  • MOC: "Global warming: Cute, but deadly"
  • CG: "What timing. On the day that the new coalition government starts down the road of rapid deficit reduction, Adam Posen, external member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, throws a well-aimed grenade into the mix. The questions he asks should make everyone pause for thought.... In his speech, Mr Posen uses his ample experience of Japan’s lost decade to look at the consequences of fiscal tightening after a big bust and when monetary policy is not as effective as normal. It suggests the ambition from fiscal tightening is not to consider a brighter future, but to avoid disaster and accept pain. It is not cheery stuff."
  • TNC: "I don't mean to pick on Rand Paul over this courage point. When I was at Howard, a certain kind of Negro was always big on talking about what he "would have done." As in "Ain't no would have been a slave," or "I would have been with Nat Turner." I just used to think, "Nigga, you wasn't going do shit but pick that cotton." Sorry, I digress. I've got the movement in my blood, but no way can I imagine being white, nineteen, violating the law, and being sent off to jail. In Mississippi. As I understand [Joan Trumpauer] Mulholland went on to transfer from Duke to historically black Tugaloo. We need to be careful about talking up what we "would have done." It's easy to talk that shit now."
  • StF: "The iPad and other devices like it are going to murder large sections of the Windows based market.... It’s not the form factor per se. Not that it’s a “tablet”. I’ll boil it down: 1. Instant on. It just works... the iPad (and future devices of its class) are just much more convenient. I love my ThinkPad T400. But when I go to it, I have to pray whether it’ll come out of sleep. If it does come out of sleep, it’ll be slow. Maybe it will be out of batteries. Who knows.... 2. Speed. Similar to #1, I can check my email, look at my various RSS feeds and scan my schedule in less than 30 seconds.... 3. The App store. I have downloaded (and paid for) a lot of $2.00 programs that are just amazing. It’s not that you couldn’t make these on the PC, it’s just that people would scream that it should be free.... The iPad is only the beginning. Once Android devices and WebOS devices show up, it could spell the beginning of the end of Windows dominance."
  • T-NC: "When discussing them, all bloggers are required to begin their missives by quickly dispensing with with the "Are they racist?" strawman. Answering in the affirmative has been outlawed in polite company, where there are no actual racists. And so we are left, as I've said, with imbecility as an explanation, and a much more troubling query--"Are they stupid?" ("Are you so stupid that you would allow racist newsletters to be published in your name?" "Are you so stupid that you would have a campaign manager with "Happy Nigger day" on his Myspace page?")"
  • RR: "Two cheers for Senator Christopher Dodd and Senate Democrats who... have passed the most sweeping reform of financial markets in 80 years.... The bill was long in coming and must now be reconciled with a similar bill passed by the House of Representatives last December (on a 223-202 vote, with 27 Democrats joining unanimous Republican opposition), before it can be signed into law. Among many other things, it sets up a council of regulators to monitor “systemic risks”, creates a consumer protection division within the Federal Reserve charged with coming up with rules to protect consumers from abusive lending practices, allows the government to seize and liquidate failing financial companies and gives regulators new powers to oversee the giant derivatives market, forcing most trading on to open exchanges. But the Senate bill does not merit three cheers. Although it is tougher than the House bill, it contains some whopping loopholes"
  • MK: "\Opinion is still mixing about the status of the financial reform bill.... It's a perfectly reasonable first response to the crisis we went through, and it should have been passed in exchange for TARP. In an ideal world, we as a people could have said: "Yes we will loan you $800,000,000,000 and untold amounts more through the Federal Reserve. But in exchange for this loan, we need a legal mechanism to FDIC you guys, to undo the derivatives deregulation of the 1990s and update the derivatives regime for the 21st century, consolidate consumer protection and expand it to include the shadow banking lending networks, and if you are a shadow bank please act like you are a regular bank when it comes to capital." Sadly that wasn't ready to move as an attachment to that short document that Federal Reserve provided in the 2008 panic."
  • JH: "In walking this stuff back... Paul is walking back his longstanding, core philosophical commitments. So now we know: he is willing to vote for things things that, by his own lights, go against the Constitution and reduce individual liberty, in the most essential sense.... This retreat really ought to be worse than out-and-out liberalism, again by Paul’s own lights, because liberals at least have the decency to be confused about what the Constitution says.... And liberals don’t value freedom all that highly, supposedly, so it’s not surprising that they are perfectly willing to chuck liberty into the fiery maw of the Moloch of ‘social justice’.... What’s Paul’s philosophical excuse? Why aren’t conservative-libertarians up in arms, complaining about this cowardly betrayal of...? Is no one willing to shout from the rooftops that Jim Crow – privately and informally enforced! – is the price we should be willing to pay for freedom?"

Ta-Nehisi Coates Sends Us to Richard Pryor on Courage, the Nazis, and Other Things

Ta-Nehisi Coates writes:

Toward a Manifested Courage, Cont.: This made me think of the great Richard Pryor riff on courage and the Nazis. "Vat is dis?" There's a lot before that, but most of shows what I love about Pryor. He found his art in his own averageness, in his vulnerability, in his human cowardice. Of course stripping yourself naked is, in itself, a kind of courage:

Can We Please Shut the Washington Post Down Today? I Really Can't See It Doing Anybody Any Good...

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

Larry Summers opens his speech at Johns Hopkins today:

Reflections on Fiscal Policy and Economic Strategy: [T]he observation that the economy is again ascending does not mean that we are out of a very deep valley.... [W]e are nearly 8 million jobs short of normal... $1 trillion [a year] – or $10,000 per family [per year] – short of the economy’s potential output... recent events in Europe have introduced uncertainty.... Shortfalls in output and employment stunt the economy’s future potential as investment projects are put off and as the skills and work habits of the unemployed atrophy. This last point is especially important... for the first time since the Second World War the typical unemployed worker has already been out of work for more than six months. And behind these statistics lie millions of stories of Americans who have seen the basic foundations of their economic security erode.  Beyond the economic projections and equations we economists make lie the struggles of communities devastated by the impact of this recession. Whatever the judgments of groups of economists about the official parameters of the recession and the growing signs of recovery, for millions of Americans the economic emergency grinds on...

Writing for the fake newspaper that is the Washington Post, Dana Milbank covers Larry Summers. His opening:

Summers needs to take Explaining Econ 101: Millions of Americans are out of work, the budget deficit is in the trillions and Europe is flirting with economic collapse. Fear not, says Larry Summers, the chief economic adviser to President Obama. It is merely a "fluctuation." Summers delivered this dismissive judgment during a speech Monday morning to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. In a Q&A session afterward, a man in the audience asked about the debt crisis in Europe -- and the former Treasury secretary and Harvard president answered in a most curious way.

[M]y guess is that most of you, unless prompted, would not mention the move from a G-7 towards the G-20 as one of the most important things that happened last year," Summers said. "But I suspect that when historians look back at this time, after the precise details of this economic fluctuation have been forgotten, the establishment of a global forum that really does embody all the major economies in the world will be remembered as an important aspect of this moment.

It was vintage Summers: smart, esoteric -- and utterly unhelpful. Maybe he's correct, in an academic sense, that this era will come to be known not as a period of economic misery and human suffering but as the time when the Group of 20 large economies came to replace the Group of Seven (G-8, actually). Still, is that the message the White House wants to be putting out now? The Summers speech, SAIS Dean Jessica Einhorn told the students in her introduction, was arranged on "short notice" and would be "a most timely presentation." This hinted at big news.

What he delivered instead was a lot of econo-speak that could only baffle Americans worried about finding or keeping a job. He spoke of "the multiplier process" and "a range of catalyzing investments." He invoked the "liquidity trap" and "tail risks." He alluded to the "width of the confidence interval" and the need to "achieve the sustainability criterion." It was the language of the PhD thesis: "Conditions for fiscal policy to have an expansionary impact are especially likely to obtain... considerations militating in favor of sustainable budgets... the ultimate consequences of stimulus for indebtedness depend critically on the macroeconomic conditions"...

I don't know lots of things.

I don't know why Dana Milbank decided to misrepresent what Summers said so egregiously.

I don't know why Dana Milbank thinks that an address to the students and faculty of something that calls itself an advanced school cannot use big phrases like "liquidity trap" and "multiplier process" (which are the meat and fish of first-semester freshman macroeconomics) or "confidence interval" (freshman statistics) or "tail risks" (introductory finance). I don't know why Milbank thinks it is offensive every time Summers's vocabulary crosses the twelfth-grade level. (I would give him "a range of catalyzing investments," "achieve the sustainability criterion," and "conditions for fiscal policy to have an expansionary impact are especially likely to obtain... considerations militating in favor of sustainable budgets... the ultimate consequences of stimulus for indebtedness depend critically on the macroeconomic conditions"--if not for the fact that this is an audience of graduate students and their teachers.)

I don't know why Stanley Kaplan Test Prep Daily in its current incarnation is still publishing.

I do know that over at the real newspaper--the Financial Times--we can find Ed Luce and James Politi covering the same speech:

Obama adviser calls for new ‘mini-stimulus’: The Obama administration made a strong plea to Congress on Monday to grit its teeth and pass a new set of spending measures – dubbed the “second stimulus” by some economists – in order to help dig the economy “out of a deep valley”. The call for action, which was made by Lawrence Summers, Barack Obama’s senior economic adviser, who urged Congress to pass up to $200bn (£138.9bn) in spending measures, came at the same time as Mr Obama asked Capitol Hill to grant him powers to cut “unnecessary spending”.

The combined announcements was made amid rising concern that centrist Democrats, or those representing marginal districts, might vote against the spending measures, which include more loans for small businesses, an extension of unemployment insurance and aid to states to prevent hundreds of thousands more teachers from being laid off. It also comes at a time when last year’s $787bn stimulus is wearing off. Mr Summers argued that it would be a premature move at this stage in the cycle to move to fiscal discipline.  “I cannot agree with those who suggest that it somehow threatens the future to provide truly temporary, high-bang-for-the-buck jobs and growth measures,” he said. “Spurring growth, if we can achieve it, is by far the best way to improve our fiscal position.”

Taken together, Mr Summers’s speech and Mr Obama’s announcement show an administration walking a fine line between the need to signal strong medium-term fiscal discipline and not jeopardising what they fear may be a fragile recovery. “The observation that the economy is again ascending does not mean that we are out of a very deep valley,” said Mr Summers...

Can Scott Sumner Read? Empirical Evidence Suggests Not...

Paul Krugman writes:

Down The Memory Hole: Richard Green flies into a rage over remarks by Peter Wallison, who declares that "Indeed, the modern era of rapid economic growth commenced after both Democratic and Republican presidents undertook to lift costly and stultifying New Deal regulations." Green points out that growth has actually been slower since the big rightward shift circa 1980. But what he doesn’t seem to realize is that Wallison is just following the party line. Read almost any conservative commentator on economic history, and you’ll find that the era of postwar prosperity — the gigantic rise in living standards after World War II — has been expunged from the record.... Basically, US postwar economic history falls into two parts: an era of high taxes on the rich and extensive regulation, during which living standards experienced extraordinary growth; and an era of low taxes on the rich and deregulation, during which living standards for most Americans rose fitfully at best...

Scott Sumner writes:

Why Krugman is wrong: [T]he performance of every single country on the list is consistent with my view that the neoliberal reforms after 1980 helped growth, and inconsistent with Krugman’s view that they did not. Krugman makes the basic mistake of just looking at time series evidence, and only two data points:  US growth before and after 1980.  Growth has been slower, but that’s true almost everywhere.  What is important is that the neoliberal reforms in America have helped arrest our relative decline...

And then Paul Krugman notes:

Lies, Damned Lies, and Growth: Scott Sumner says that I’m wrong... [that] although American growth has slowed since deregulation and all that, the growth has been better than we might have expected. We can try to parse whether that’s true — but in any case it’s not a response to my original point. That was about the claim, quite common on the right, that the US economy was stagnant until Reagan did away with those nasty New Deal policies — a claim that is simply, flatly, false. The era of strong unions, high minimum wages, high top marginal tax rates, etc. was also a period of rapid growth and rising living standards. That doesn’t prove causation; it does disprove the widespread dogma that these things are always economically devastating. And it’s telling that so many on the right have airbrushed the whole postwar generation out of history.... [W]here this all started was with the common assertion that the US economy was a failure until Reagan came along. This should be true, according to doctrine — so that’s what people believe happened, even though it didn’t.

UPDATE: Weasel words from Scott Sumner:

Sumner says that when he wrote "Krugman is wrong" he meant, instead, "Krugman is right":

TheMoneyIllusion » What does Krugman think of the neoliberal policy revolution?: What does Krugman think of the neoliberal policy revolution? Paul Krugman replied to my critique of his comments on neoliberal reforms after 1980.  First a couple quick points: 1.  Krugman’s right that I didn’t really refute his specific point—that these reforms were associated with a slowdown in real income growth.  Indeed I agree with that observation...

And then he goes on:

I thought it would be more interesting to explore an implication that I believe 99.9% of his readers drew from the post--which is that the reforms did not boost growth in real incomes relative to the [counterfactual] alternative of maintaining the 1945-80 economic model...

Nevertheless, he has not corrected his earlier post. His title still reads:

TheMoneyIllusion » America’s amazing success since 1980: Why Krugman is wrong.

Winston Churchill Liveblogs World War II: May 24, 1940:

Winston Churchill: May 24, 1940:

Prime Minister to M. Reynaud, for General Weygand: General Gort wires that coordination of northern front is essential.... Roger Keynes tells e that up to 3 p.m.... Belgian Headquarters and Kind had received no directive.... Gort furthe rsays that any advance by him must be in the nature of sortie, and that relief must come from south, as he has not repeat not ammunition for serious attack.... [W]e are instructing him to persevere in carrying out your plan. We have not here even seen your own directive, and have no knowledge of the details of your northern operations...

links for 2010-05-23

  • MT: "Jeff Frankel argues that energy security does not mean minimizing imports of oil and maximizing domestic production of energy. Instead, it means insuring ourselves against future variations in supply that might damage the economy or interfere with our national defense needs. When approached in this manner, it's important to have large domestic deposits available under some scenarios that lead to long-term reductions in the available supply of oil. Since the economic and strategic damage could be large if one of these scenarios were to occur, it's also important to give them substantial weight when thinking about insuring ourselves against the risk of long-term reductions in our access to outside sources of energy. What this means is that current thinking on energy security -- termed "Drain America First" below -- is not the optimal energy security policy"
  • CM: "The "top secret" minutes of meetings between senior officials from the two countries in 1975 show that South Africa's defence minister, PW Botha, asked for the warheads and Shimon Peres, then Israel's defence minister and now its president, responded by offering them "in three sizes". The two men also signed a broad-ranging agreement governing military ties between the two countries that included a clause declaring that "the very existence of this agreement" was to remain secret. The documents, uncovered by an American academic, Sasha Polakow-Suransky, in research for a book on the close relationship between the two countries, provide evidence that Israel has nuclear weapons despite its policy of "ambiguity" in neither confirming nor denying their existence."
  • GM: "WE noted last week the oddness of The New York Times publishing an op-ed by Zev Chafets that was nothing more than a wet kiss to Rush Limbaugh--and a sales pitch for Chafets' new book, An Army of One, about the Big Man.... Now, for Monday's paper, Janet Maslin has panned Chafets' book, saying that even the few mild criticisms in the magazine piece had disappeared in a "de-clawed" narrative. Sample: "Mr. Chafets shoos unwanted facts and individuals out of the way relentlessly, in accordance with what seems like a case of Stockholm syndrome."... But refusing to leave well enough alone, the Times online also published tonight a lengthy excerpt from the Chafets book."

The New York Times Needs Help Badly...

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

A "libertarian" is somebody who prioritizes liberty: anti-immigration anti-choice Rand Paul is many things, but he is not a libertarian.

Ross Douthat simply does not know what a libertarian is:

The Principles of Rand Paul: Paul is a libertarian, certainly... a particular kind of a libertarian... culturally conservative (opposing both abortion and illegal immigration), radically noninterventionist.. views nearly everything today’s federal government does as a violation of the founding fathers’ vision. This worldview goes by many names, including “paleoconservatism,” “the old right” and “paleolibertarianism.”

Let me turn over the microphone to Lew Rockwell, who explains what Douthat thinks Rand Paul is:

Wikipedia: In January, 1990 Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. published "The Case for Paleo-libertarianism" in Liberty magazine. In it he wrote that the “conservative crack-up presents an historic opportunity for the libertarian movement” to unite with conservatives but only if “libertarianism is deloused” of those who believe in “freedom from cultural norms, religion, bourgeois morality, and social authority.” Citing drug use by libertarians and the nomination of a prostitute as the California Libertarian Party candidate for lieutenant governor, Rockwell asserted that “the only way to sever libertarianism’s link with libertinism is with a cleansing debate.” Assailing alleged “hatred of western culture,” he asserted that “pornographic photography, ‘free’-thinking, chaotic painting, atonal music, deconstructionist literature, Bauhaus architecture, and modernist films have nothing in common with the libertarian political agenda - no matter how much individual libertarians may revel in them” and stated “we obey, and we ought to obey, traditions of manners and taste.” After explaining why cultural conservatives could make a better argument for liberty to the middle classes, Rockwell predicted “in the new movement, libertarians who personify the present corruption will sink to their natural level, as will the Libertarian Party, which has been their diabolic pulpit.”

Winston Churchill Liveblogs World War II: May 23, 1940:

Winston Churchill: May 23, 1940:

Prime Minister to M. Reynaud: Communications of Northern Armies have been cut by strong enemy armoured forces. Salvation of these armies can only be obtained by immediate execution of Weygand's plan. I demand the issue to the French commanders... of the most stringent orders to carry this out and turn defeat into victory. Time is vital as supplies are short...

links for 2010-05-22

  • MB&BM: "Some of the items that make up the Consumer Price Index change prices frequently, while others are slow to change. We explore whether these two sets of prices—sticky and flexible—provide insight on different aspects of the inflation process. We find that sticky prices appear to incorporate expectations about future inflation to a greater degree than prices that change on a frequent basis, while flexible prices respond more powerfully to economic conditions—economic slack. Importantly, our sticky-price measure seems to contain a component of inflation expectations, and that component may be useful when trying to gauge where inflation is heading."
  • JG: "Post-Google I/O, there’s not much room left to see iPhone-vs.-Android as anything other than an all-out war. What we’ve got here is a good old-fashioned epic rivalry. It’s exciting, vicious, fun to watch, and ultimately should prove to be excellent news for consumers. Competition drives innovation and innovation raises the bar for everyone. And the bar, for smartphones, is rising quickly. Like any great rivalry, there are striking differences between the two competitors. Apple and Google are jostling to shift the comparison between the two platforms to their very different strengths. Apple’s strengths: user experience, design, consistency. Google’s strengths: the cloud, variety, permissiveness."
  • ES: "[I]t is crucial for the country to recognize that there is one crime with a legal profile so singular that it can — even standing alone — convey the wholesale contempt for the rule of law displayed by the Bush administration. That crime is the act of torture. The absolute prohibition of torture in national and international law, as [legal philosopher] Jeremy Waldron argued… "epitomizes" the "spirit and genius of our law," the "prohibition draw[s] a line between law and savagery," it requires a "respect for human dignity" even when "law is at its most forceful and its subjects at their most vulnerable." The absolute rule against torture is foundational and minimal; it is the bedrock on which the whole structure of law is erected. (p. 133)"
  • PK: "I pointed out that... tort law to make people pay for the damage... doesn’t work in practice, because when push comes to shove politicians will shield the rich and powerful from paying the real cost. Commenters say, but isn’t that an equally strong reason to believe that regulation won’t work either?... [R]egulation demonstrably does work where tort law doesn’t. Consider the environmental issue: in reality, the perpetrators of oil spills never pay most of the cost; but in reality, environmental regulation has led to much cleaner air and water.... So why.... If polluters can buy off the system ex post, after a disaster, why don’t they manage to totally corrupt regulation ex ante? There’s a lot to say about that... one thing we tend to forget in this age of Reagan is the importance and virtues of... bureaucracy: when you have professional government agencies with a job to do, and treat them with respect, that job often gets done.
  • SN: "This paper estimates the political and economic effects of the 19th century disenfranchisement of black citizens in the U.S. South.... I find that poll taxes and literacy tests each lowered overall electoral turnout by 10-23% and increased the Democratic vote share in national elections by 5%-10%.... I show that disenfranchisement reduced the teacher-child and teacher-student ratio in black schools. Finally, I develop a model of suffrage restriction and redistribution in a 2-factor economy with occupational choice to generate sufficient statistics for welfare analysis of the incidence of black disenfranchisement. Consistent with the model, disenfranchised counties experienced a 7% increase in land and farm values per decade, despite a 4% fall in the black population share. The estimated factor market responses suggest that black labor bore a collective loss from disenfranchisement equivalent to at least 13% of annual income, much of which was transferred to landowners."
  • GS: "Politico reports that The New York Times did, in fact, possess the full video of Richard Blumenthal's incriminating speech -- but still posted a truncated one.... Times top editor Bill Keller defends the decision by saying Blumenthal's claim that he served "during Vietnam" doesn't contradict his later false assertion that he served "in Vietnam." That's true, and there's no quibbling with the fact that Blumenthal did repeatedly mislead. But Blumenthal's earlier description does raise at least the possibility that the false description the paper presented as its most important piece of evidence was inadvertent, even if it doesn't prove this one way or the other. Reasonable people can disagree over whether his earlier description was relevant or exculpatory in any way. But it seems to me that it's precisely because this point is debatable that it would have been better to err on the side of more context, not less, particularly on a story as explosive as this one"
  • DS: "A dramatic deterioration in investor confidence triggered across-the-board risk reduction and a flight to safety this week, as fears rose that policy responses to Europe’s sovereign debt crisis could undermine the global recovery. “Sovereign risk has polluted the government bond market, the corporate debt market, the equity market and, finally, the currency markets,” said Philip Isherwood at Evolution Securities. “The result has been a collapse in risk appetite and a collapse in risk assets.”"

Paul Krugman on the Arc of Post-WWII Social Democracy in the North Altantic

Paul Krugman:

Down The Memory Hole : Read almost any conservative commentator on economic history, and you’ll find that the era of postwar prosperity — the gigantic rise in living standards after World War II — has been expunged from the record. You can see why: the facts are embarrassing. Here’s a rough-cut version. The blue line, left scale, shows median family income in 2008 dollars; the red line, right scale, shows the top marginal tax rate, a rough indicator of the overall stance of policy. Basically, US postwar economic history falls into two parts: an era of high taxes on the rich and extensive regulation, during which living standards experienced extraordinary growth; and an era of low taxes on the rich and deregulation, during which living standards for most Americans rose fitfully at best.

This does not, to say the least, make the case for free-market orthodoxy. So a large part of the right has invented an alternative history in which the good years came after, not before, the Reagan revolution. Hey, that’s what should have happened; who you gonna believe, the doctrine or your own lying eyes?

Now, here’s what I know I’m going to hear in comments: stagflation! Jimmy Carter! The 70s! You can sort of see the bad years of the late 70s in the figure; it’s that little downward wiggle in the middle. But that wiggle must be emphasized, lest the overwhelming success of the postwar economy be noticed.

Economics and Politics - Paul Krugman Blog -

Winston Churchill Liveblogs World War II: May 22, 1940

Winston Churchill: May 22, 1940:

To: Lord Gott: I flew to Paris this morning.... Reynaud, Weygand, and ourselves... agree:

  1. That the Belgian Army should withdraw to the line of the Yser and stand there, the sluices being opened.
  2. That the British Army and the French First Army should attack southwest towards Bapaume and Cambrai at the earliest possible moment, certainly tomorrow, with about eight divisions, and with the Belgian Cavalry Corps on the right of the British.
  3. That as this battle is vital to both armies and the British communications depend upon freeing Amiens, the British Air Force should give the utmost possible help, both by day and by night, while it is going on.
  4. That the new French Army Group which is advancing upon Amiens and forming a line along the Somme shoud strike northwards and join hands with the British divisions who are attacking southwards in the general direction of Bapaume...

links for 2010-05-21

  • EM-S: "His past caught up with him... the extreme libertarian fringe of the Republican party. And, as we found out this week, that means he has baggage. A lot of it. First, Paul told NPR that he took issue with parts of the Americans With Disabilities Act (as well as federal regulation of mining and the environment.) Then came the doozy -- a 20 minute discussion of the 1964 Civil Rights Act on the Rachel Maddow Show.... Friday morning, Paul claimed that the way President Obama has been criticizing BP for helping to cause one of the largest oil spills in the nation's history was "un-American."... The week that began with Paul triumphantly bursting out onto the national stage ended with him slinking away from it. Perhaps not willing to take his still-green candidacy to broadcast journalism's most revered stage, Paul backed out of a long-planned interview on Meet The Press late Friday afternoon."
  • DL: "Congress and the White House have completed 16 months of activity that rival any other since the New Deal.... First... stimulus bill that... aimed... at ending a deep recession... the nation’s educational system... expand scientific research. Then President Obama signed a health care bill that was the biggest expansion of the safety net in 40 years. And now Congress is in the final stages of a bill that would tighten Wall Street’s rules.... If there is a theme to all this, it has been to try to lift economic growth while also reducing income inequality.... It is far too early to know if these efforts will work. Their success depends enormously on execution.... By focusing on long-term problems, Mr. Obama and the Democrats have given less than their full attention to the economy’s current weakness and turned off a good number of voters.... Democratic leaders said... they had finally reached agreement on a bill that would send aid to states
  • MBS: "Rand Paul cancels out national tv appearance to spend more time with his family."
  • And he hasn't even gotten to the NAFTA Superhighway yet... ER: "Rand Paul keeps on giving. 'What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of, ‘I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP,’” Paul said in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business.' This is yet another thrilling episode pitting the modern Republican Party against the scientific community. 'Tensions between the Obama administration and the scientific community over the gulf oil spill are escalating, with prominent oceanographers accusing the government of failing to conduct an adequate scientific analysis of the damage and of allowing BP to obscure the spill’s true scope.' We can also file this under “I Miss Republicans,” and the enduring mystery of why academics don’t vote Republican more than they do."
  • EA: "A few hours ago, the Senate did something truly amazing: it clobbered Wall Street and the banking industry, defying armies of overpaid lobbyists and passing genuine reforms for our run-amok financial system.... For all its compromises and omissions and special exceptions, this is a strong bill that will make life a lot less free-wheeling and lucrative for the big banks and, with a little perserverence, a lot safer for consumers and the economy as a whole. This is a victory for the good guys.... [B]efore all the armchair pundits begin carping and tut-tutting, let us first appreciate how much the Senate bill actually does accomplish and how difficult it is to do anything at all when the full force of the financial industry is against you."
  • LG: "the Military Commissions Act of 2006.... Senator Specter, then a Republican and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, denounced the jurisdiction-stripping provision as unconstitutional. “What the bill seeks to do is set back basic rights by some 900 years.”... Then... Specter went ahead and voted for the bill. But wait, there’s more. A few months later... Specter filed a brief urging the justices to accept the case and declare the law unconstitutional in order to “avoid an incongruous legal ‘black hole’ at Guantánamo.”... The jurisdiction-stripping provision was “anathema to fundamental liberty interests,” he declared. This from a man who voted for the bill! I found these briefs so remarkable that I have kept copies of them alongside my desk for more than three years.... I don’t regard myself as naïve..... What I mean to convey by these reflections on Senator Specter’s trajectory is not surprise so much as sadness — sadness because he knew better."
  • PK: "What’s good? Resolution authority, which was sorely lacking last year; consumer protection; derivatives traded through clearinghouses; ratings reform, thanks to Al Franken; tighter capital standards for big players, although with too much discretion to regulators. What’s missing? Hard leverage limits; size caps; not much in the way of restoring Glass-Steagall. If you think that too big to fail is the core problem, it’s disappointing; if you think that shadow banking is the core, as I do, not too bad. Now, the truth is that we won’t know how good a reform this is until the next crisis (which is very different from health care, where there will be ample opportunities to learn from experience.) And the new system clearly won’t be robust to really bad leadership: once President Palin appoints Ron Paul as Treasury Secretary, all bets are off. But I still think this counts as a qualified win."

I'll Start Paying the Cost of the Print Edition to the FT If It Will Can Chris Caldwell...

Just saying. I wouldn't want the print edition--the FT could keep the money--I just would be willing to pay for it if they would remove the value-subtracting Chris Caldwell from their roster:

Christopher Caldwell: Profligacy and the primaries: Most Americans like Barack Obama personally, but support for his agenda has levelled off well below a majority. Mr Obama divides American voters because he has thrown a major decision into their laps. At a time of fiscal retrenchment in all western countries, the US two months ago committed itself to digging a big new fiscal hole. Mr Obama’s unpopular healthcare plan meant to extend services and contain costs. In course of negotiations, the bill wound up doing the former but not the latter. His promise not to raise taxes on the middle class looks implausible, even irresponsible. So in November’s midterm elections Americans must decide whether they are going to reject Mr Obama’s style of government (presumably by electing Republicans) or pay for it (presumably by electing Democrats)....

The victory of Rand Paul in Tuesday’s Republican senatorial primary in Kentucky – with the strong support of the constitution-obsessed, small-government Tea Party movement – shows that Republicans are ready to offer the public a drastic reduction in the size of government. They offered this before, of course, in 1994, but ran aground on their own corruption and the public’s shallow understanding of what cutting government actually meant...

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports:

Rand Paul: Cut Spending But Not Medicare Doctor Payments: Tea party favorite Rand Paul has rocketed to the lead ahead of Tuesday’s Republican Senate primary here on a resolute pledge to balance the federal budget.... But on Thursday evening, the ophthalmologist from Bowling Green said there was one thing he would not cut: Medicare physician payments.... Paul... wants to end cuts to physician payments under a program now in place called the sustained growth rate, or SGR. “Physicians should be allowed to make a comfortable living,” he told a gathering.... [O]n Medicare, cuts will hurt doctors, but “patients will pay a price, too,” he said in an interview, predicting physician shortages if they continue.

Seems to me that Rand Paul continues to have that same shallow understanding of what cutting government actually means.

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

David Weigel Has Stockholm Syndrome...

David Weigel defends Rand Paul:

Right Now: Defending Rand Paul, Part II: I first grappled with it in a 2008 story about racist passages in Ron Paul's newsletters.... But there's no comparison between the 2008 newsletter story and this story. That was about explicitly racist populism. This is about the libertarian dream of a colorblind society, faithful to the Constitution, with as little regulation of business as possible. I'm sticking up for Rand Paul here.... How does Paul's opposition to racism explain his position here? He's a property-rights absolutist, and he believes property rights, and the choices of consumers, are the only constitutional remedy to discrimination against race, against disability, against anything else.... He does not believe that the Constitution allows the government to force businesses, landlords, etc. to change how they do business and who they do business with. And he fears that doing so in the name of positive social change puts us on a slippery slope to extra-Constitutional measures in the service of negative social change -- taking away guns, putting people in camps. You can disagree, but that's where he's coming from....

[U]nderstanding Paul's view gets at the second reason I am fine with defending him -- it is better that we have an honest discussion about the strict constructionist view on discrimination (and, as the campaign goes on, on manifold other issues) than the hidebound, trite and dishonest conversation we have now...

"Strict constructionist." What does that mean?

William Rehnquist had a definition:

A judge who is a 'strict constructionist' in constitutional matters will generally not be favorably inclined toward claims of either criminal defendants or civil rights plaintiffs...

The non-racist libertarians of America--Brink Lindsey, David Bernstein, Richard Epstein--have long since made their peace with Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Neither Ron Paul nor Rand Paul has. There is something very wrong with both of them.

Another Reason Rand Paul Is Hiding from Meet the Press This Weekend

Joan Walsh:

Twitter / Joan Walsh: Honestly, what Rand Paul s ...: Honestly, what Rand Paul said about the miners who died in his own state is more shocking than his views on civil rights.

Rand Paul:

BP and Massey: What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of, you know, “I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP.” I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business. I’ve heard nothing from BP about not paying for the spill. And I think it’s part of this sort of blame game society in the sense that it’s always got to be someone’s fault. Instead of the fact that maybe sometimes accidents happen. I mean, we had a mining accident that was very tragic and I’ve met a lot of these miners and their families. They’re very brave people to do a dangerous job. But then we come in and it’s always someone’s fault. Maybe sometimes accidents happen...

Who Were the Huns and How Could They Shatter an Empire That Had Dominated Western Europe for 700 Years?

Tyler Cowen writes:

Marginal Revolution: Books in my pile: Peter Heather, Empires and Barbarians The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe; good book but I've read too much on this topic lately...

I would urge him to finish it and write about it. Peter Heather's earlier book, The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians (New York: Oxford, 2006) is I think best in its class--certainly it for the first time made me see not what the Huns were and how they shattered the Roman Empire in the West (we don't know that) but rather who they might have been and how they might have shattered the Roman Empire in the West.

That is, Peter Heather is the only person to have a coherent model of the Huns and a narrative of how they might have managed to do it. The only major point that I think Peter Heather misses is the difference between societies that don't dare arm their populations and societies that can, in a pinch, put nearly every single adult male on the battle line. Other than that, his is the most coherent and complete and possibly true account I know of about how even a military politician as skilled and capable as Comes et Magister Utriusque Militae et Dux et Patricius Flavius Aetius could not save the Roman Empire in the West.

From Peter Heather (2006), The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians (New York: Oxford):

James's Kindle For Mac - The Fall of the Roman Empire : A New History of Rome and the Barbarians

James's Kindle For Mac - The Fall of the Roman Empire : A New History of Rome and the Barbarians

James's Kindle For Mac - The Fall of the Roman Empire : A New History of Rome and the Barbarians

James's Kindle For Mac - The Fall of the Roman Empire : A New History of Rome and the Barbarians

James's Kindle For Mac - The Fall of the Roman Empire : A New History of Rome and the Barbarians

James's Kindle For Mac - The Fall of the Roman Empire : A New History of Rome and the Barbarians

James's Kindle For Mac - The Fall of the Roman Empire : A New History of Rome and the Barbarians

James's Kindle For Mac - The Fall of the Roman Empire : A New History of Rome and the Barbarians

James's Kindle For Mac - The Fall of the Roman Empire : A New History of Rome and the Barbarians

James's Kindle For Mac - The Fall of the Roman Empire : A New History of Rome and the Barbarians

James's Kindle For Mac - The Fall of the Roman Empire : A New History of Rome and the Barbarians

James's Kindle For Mac - The Fall of the Roman Empire : A New History of Rome and the Barbarians

The Rise of Margaret Thatcher: Background

The point of a strike was always to convince the decision makers and the residual claimants to the cash that they were better off paying you what you asked for rather than holding out until you came back to work--and to do so without convincing the broader civil society that the framework that gave you the power to strike was too much of a bother and an inconvenience to maintain and support.

The British Labour movement in the 1970s seem to have been extremely bad at this. And so Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister--with the Conservatives deciding that toleration of the Attleean settlement had outlived its usefulness, with the Liberals agreeing, and with a third of even Labour believing that it was time for a period of Conservative rule to take the unions down a peg.

One would think that such a Legimation Crisis of the Attleean settlement would have called forth a lot of thought and agitation on the left as to how to avoid such a disruption of the institutional framework of post-World War II High European Social Democracy. But no.

English activist and historian E.P. Thompson on the power workers' strike of 1970:

E.P. Thompson (1971): "Sir, Writing by Candlelight..."

Let the power workers dim the street lamps, or even plunge whole districts into utter darkness, the lights of righteousness and duty burn all the brighter from 10,000 darkened drawing-rooms in Chelsea or the Surrey Hills.


May I, writing by candlelight, express my total support for the government in their attempt to halt the unbelievably inflated wage claims now being made?

inquires one correspondent to The Times (12 December). Undoubtedly he may and will....


[T]he clergy... do not push themselves forward so obtrusively.... Some small part, perhaps, has been taken over by that new conscience-bearer, the middle-class housewife, who being out of the hurly-burly and puerility of industrial warfare... can instantly detect from her kitchen the national interest. Thus, on 11 December, a correspondent from Prescot, Lancs.:

...the radio is dead. The television is dead. The electric heaters are dead. The kettle is dead. The fridge is dead. My washing machine is dead. My iron is dead, All the street lights are dead.... Goodness knows how many tragic deaths may result...

It is (she concludes) 'an exhibition of power surely grotesque in its selfishness.'

All dark and comfortless: we stalk the drear world of the psalmist or the space-fiction writer: all that inanimate world of consumer goods, animated each quarter by the insertion of money, lies inert, disobedient. All flesh is grass, we know: but what (O ultimate of horrors!) if all gadgets turned out to be grass also?... Grotesque and selfish the power workers' action may have been. How can one know? Facts have been scarcer than homilies. Reading the press one learns that one has been through little less than cosmic disaster. One had thought that one's neighbors had suffered little more than power cuts for several hours on three or four days, but the mistake is evident. Outside there in the darkness, the nation had been utterly paralysed for week upon week: invalids dependent on 'continuously operating' kidney machines lived two or three to every street....

What is, of course, 'grotesque in its selfishness' is the time-worn hypocrisy of the bourgeois response to discomfort... that old bourgeois theme for moralisms: the 'servant problem'. But the servants are now out of reach: an electric light switch is impervious to the scolding of the mistress; a dust-cart cannot be given a week's wages in lieu of notice.... For 95 percent of the bluster and outrage was the miasma arising from tens of thousands of petty material inconveniences. The electric alarm failed to go off, mummy fell over the dog in the dark, the grill faded with the fillet steak done on one side only, daddy got stuck for half an hour in the lift on the way to a directors' meeting, the children missed Top of the Pops, the fridge defroze all over the souffle, the bath was lukewarm, there was nothing to do but go early to a loveless bourgeois bed. But, wait, there was one alternative: 'Sir, writing by candlelight...'

But to mention the real occasions might seem petty. It was necessary to generalize these inconveniences into a 'national interest'. The raw fillet steak became an inert kidney machine, the dripping fridge an unlit operating theatre, the loveless bed became a threat to the 'whole community'....


The grand lesson of the 'emergency' was... the intricate reciprocity of human needs and services.... What other people do for us is mediated by inanimate objects: the switch, the water tap, the lavatory chain, the telephone receiver, the cheque through the post. That cheque is where the duties of the good bourgeois end. But let the switch or the tap, the chain or the receiver fail, and then the bourgeois discovers--at once--enormous 'oughts' within the reciprocal flow.... Why, all these people owe a duty to the community!

What the duty of the community is to these people is less firmly stated.... [S]alary increases (like those of admirals and university teachers) [that] are awarded quietly and without fuss... [create] no national emergency and no dangerous inflationary pressure.... It is the business of the servant class to serve. And it is the logic of the reified bourgeois world that their services are only noticed when they cease. It is only when the dustbins linger in the street, the unsorted post piles up--it is only when the power workers throw across the switches and look out into a darkness of their own making--that the servants know suddenly the great unspoken fact about our society: their own daily power.

They Want Their Deficit Crisis and They Want It Now

Paul Krugman is bemused:

Crying Fire! Fire! In Noah’s Flood: I’m getting a lot of rage from people who want their deficit-and-inflation crisis, and won’t take no for an answer.... By spring 2009 a sharp division had emerged among economic commentators... many people looked at big budget deficits and the rapid expansion of the monetary base, and saw terrible things happening to interest rates — who will finance all that government borrowing? — and inflation — look at all that money.... [S]ome of us... argued that... government deficits would not crowd out private spending, but rather promote it... in [our] situation, expanding the monetary base isn’t inflationary. On the contrary, the danger was deflation from excess capacity. In effect, we’ve had a test of those two views. And guess what? Interest rates have fluctuated, but as of 20 minutes ago the 10-year bond rate was 3.17, yes, 3.17 percent. Bond vigilantes, where have you gone. Meanwhile, core inflation — and yes, that is the right measure — just keeps falling. (As Mark Thoma points out, this is a total refutation of those who kept claiming that there is no Phillips curve.) But... people who want their deficit-and-inflation crisis just won’t take no for an answer.

I was trying to come up with an explanation of the curious insistence that we’re facing an imminent interest rate and/or inflation crunch; then I realized that John Maynard Keynes had already done that, in explaining the hold classical economics retained on thought despite its obvious inability to account for the Great Depression:

The completeness of the Ricardian victory is something of a curiosity and a mystery.... That it reached conclusions quite different from what the ordinary uninstructed person would expect, added, I suppose, to its intellectual prestige. That its teaching, translated into practice, was austere and often unpalatable, lent it virtue. That it was adapted to carry a vast and consistent logical superstructure, gave it beauty. That it could explain much social injustice and apparent cruelty as an inevitable incident in the scheme of progress, and the attempt to change such things as likely on the whole to do more harm than good, commended it to authority. That it afforded a measure of justification to the free activities of the individual capitalist, attracted to it the support of the dominant social force behind authority.

And all of this has a real, damaging effect... FOMC inflation forecasts are pulled up by a small group that keeps forecasting much higher inflation than anyone else; this in turn helps limit the Fed’s willingness to support the economy. And the deficit hawks have, of course, killed any hope of more stimulus...

Richard Epstein Says That Rand Paul Is Brain-Dead

Byron Tau marshalls the smart libertarians to say: we are really, really not as stupid as Rand Paul is:

Rand Paul's Position on Civil Rights Too Hot Even for Liberatarian Stalwarts:

[Brink Lindsey:]

I think Rand Paul is wrong about the Civil Rights Act. As a general matter, people should be free to deal or not deal with others as they choose. And that means we discriminate against those we choose not to deal with. In marrying one person, we discriminate against all others. Businesses can discriminate against potential employees who don't meet hiring qualifications, and they can discriminate against potential customers who don't observe a dress code (no shirt, no shoes, no service). Rand Paul is appealing to the general principle of freedom of association, and that general principle is a good one. But it has exceptions. In particular, after three-plus centuries of slavery and another century of institutionalized, state-sponsored racism (which included state toleration of private racist violence), the exclusion of blacks from public accommodations wasn't just a series of uncoordinated private decisions by individuals exercising their freedom of association. It was part and parcel of an overall social system of racial oppression," Lindsey said. Paul's grievous error is to ignore the larger context in which individual private decisions to exclude blacks were made. In my view, at least, truly individual, idiosyncratic discrimination ought to be legally permitted; for example, the "Soup Nazi" from Seinfeld ought to be free to deny soup to anybody no matter how crazy his reasons (they didn't ask nicely, they mispronounced the soup, etc.). But the exclusion of blacks from public accommodations wasn't like that -- not even close...

[Richard Epstein:]

To be against Title II in 1964 would be to be brain-dead to the underlying realities of how this world works. In 1964, every major public accommodation that operated a nationwide business was in favor of being forced to admit minorities...

[David Bernstein:]

We have to start with some historical context. If segregation and discrimination in the Jim Crow South was simply a matter of law, federal legislation that would have overturned Jim Crow laws would have sufficed. But, in fact, it involved the equivalent of a white supremacist cartel, enforced not just by overt government regulation like segregation laws, but also by the implicit threat of private violence and harassment of anyone who challenged the racist status quo. Therefore, to break the Jim Crow cartel, there were only two options: (1) a federal law invalidating Jim Crow laws, along with a massive federal takeover of local government by the federal government to prevent violence and extralegal harassment of those who chose to integrate; or (2) a federal law banning discrimination by private parties, so that violence and harassment would generally be pointless. If, like me, you believe that it was morally essential to break the Jim Crow cartel, option 2 was the lesser of two evils. I therefore would have voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act...

Greg Sargent Notices What Rand Paul--and Ron Paul, and America's Right Libertarian Caucus--Believes

They believe that, if America were a good society, our tax dollars would be spent to pay police officers to taser and evict peacefully-shopping African-Americans from stores just because the shopkeeper doesn't like their faces. That's what Rand Paul thinks a good society looks like. Deal with it:

Greg Sargent: [Rand] Paul... cannot bring himself to say -- clearly and unequivocally -- that the Federal government should have the power to prohibit private businesses from discriminating on the basis of skin color, religion, or national origin.... Paul himself can't manage to say this. He visibly doesn't want to say this. It's remarkable. Paul had a chance this morning on ABC News to clarify his views on the proper role of Federal power vis-a-vis discrimination by private entities and institutions. He conspicuously declined to do so.... George Stephanopoulos read aloud from that 2002 letter Paul wrote attacking the Fair Housing Act, in which he said "a free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination" and added that discrimination should not be "prohibited for private entities." Pressed repeatedly on whether he stuck by those views, Paul refused to answer. Instead, he reiterated that he doesn't favor repealing the Civil Rights Act or the Fair Housing Act. And when Stephanopoulos asked directly whether Paul still believes what he wrote, he didn't answer directly...

Erwin Rommel and Gerd von Runstedt Liveblog World War II: May 21, 1940:

Generalmajor Erwin Rommel: May 21, 1940:

Very powerful [enemy] armored forces thrust out of Arras and attacked the advancing 1st Btn. of the 6th Rifle Rgt., inflicting heavy losses.... Out anti-tank guns... far too light to be effective against the heavily-armored British tanks... put out of action by gunfire... overrrun by enemy tanks. Many of our vehicles were burned out. S.S. units close by also had to fall back to the south before the weight of the tank attack. Finally, the divisional artillery succeeded in bringing the enemy panzers to a halt south of the line Beaurains-Agny.... [T]he Panzer Rgt. clashed with a superior force of heavy and light enemy panzers and many guns south of Agnez... an extremely heavy engagement in which the Panzer Rg.t destroyed seven heavy tanks and six anti-tank guns and broke through the enemy position at a cost of three Panzer IVs, six Panzer IIIs, and a number of light tanks. This action brought the enemy panzers into such confusion that in spite of their superior numbers they fell back into Arras. Fighting ceased at nightfall...

Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Runstedt: May 21, 1940:

A critical moment in the advance just as my lead elements have reached the English Channel. A British counterstroke south from Arras. We feared, for a short time, that our panzer divisions would be cut off before the infantry divisions could arrive to support them...

links for 2010-05-20

  • D: "Should your tax dollars be used to pay police to remove people from private businesses solely because the proprietor doesn’t like the color of their skin?"
  • GS: "It's worth stepping back and considering the larger story here. It took a raging national media controversy to persuade the GOP Senate candidate in Kentucky to state unequivocally that the Federal government should have the power to tell restaurants they are not allowed to decline African Americans service based on their skin color.... Paul... doesn't believe that the government should have the power to prohibit private institutions from discriminating against people not just on the basis of race, but also religion, gender and national origin.... [The record] shows pretty clearly what his true beliefs are. Or, at least, what they were until today, when a raging national controversy forced him to revise them."
  • KS: "BP is still using spill estimates that outside experts believe grossly underestimate the size of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Instead of the 5,000 barrel figure BP has given, they believe the spill rate may be closer to 95,000 barrels, or 4 million gallons, every day. The Obama administration has so far echoed those figures, though they've now organized a task force to get an official government estimate."
  • DJ: "Holy wow! Tesla gets $50 Million from Toyota, will build in legendary NUMMI plant: (thx @fetchguy)"
  • Clark Hoyt, coward. TPL: "Times public editor's office is refusing to say whether he has any intention of looking at their article hitting Richard Blumenthal."
  • RP: "I certainly join my colleagues in urging Americans to celebrate the progress this country has made in race relations. However, contrary to the claims of the supporters of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the sponsors of H.Res. 676, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not improve race relations or enhance freedom. Instead, the forced integration dictated by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 increased racial tensions while diminishing individual liberty."
  • JM: "Latest headline: 'Miss USA: Muslim Trailblazer Or Hezbollah Spy?'"
  • JM: "The truth is that there's a long and hard to explain history of both Pauls being associated with a lot of people who are avowed or crypto-racists.... Ron Paul's early 1990s era newsletter.... Paul... claiming... he wasn't familiar with what had appeared there.... Rand's Senate campaign spokesman Chris Hightower had to resign because of racist posts on his Myspace page.... [A] couple of guys... aren't racist in any way... stumble their way into close associations with racists with an astonishing frequency. It's almost like a painful race version of that classic Onion headline: "Why Do All These Homosexuals Keep Sucking My ----."... [I]t's hard to get the sense that the Pauls exude a strong racial justice vibe in private given the friends they seem to attract.
  • MY: "A followup to yesterday’s economic crisis reading list. One is that I obviously haven’t read every book under the sun. Brad DeLong says he would add David Wessel’s In Fed We Trust: Ben Bernanke’s War on the Great Panic. I haven’t read it, but just put in an order. The other is that contrary to self-interest, I was also biased in my recommendations against bloggers. Yves Smith, Simon Johnson & James Kwak, and Dean Baker are all people I’ve been reading on a regular basis for a long time now and consequently I didn’t find any of their books to be particularly earth-shattering in terms of my own thinking. But that’s almost certainly an underestimation of their books judged in isolation."
  • RB: O"n the question of whether Blumenthal's descriptions of his service were mostly technically true but actually misleading, Colin McEnroe... asked other reporters who'd covered Blumenthal what they'd known about Blumenthal's military service before the Times story broke. Of the ten... all ten were clear from Blumenthal's public statements that he had not served in Vietnam.... For what seems to be a one-time, one word slip of the tongue, then, the NYT devoted two front page and one interior stories, several additional versions on the web, an editorial and an op-ed to what they describe as Blumenthal's extended pattern of deception about his military service.... After getting savaged like this, I think Blumenthal could probably use some money, and I'm going to send him some. I'm also planning to write to Clark Hoyt, the Public Editor of the NYT, to comment on their horrifically irresponsible coverage of this story. Anyone care to join me?"
  • JdP: "In Murray's memory, Newton becomes a kind of Jeffersonian village, where neighbors help neighbors and class distinctions are minor... what society might look like if the misguided state would just get out of the way. But Rutledge, who was arrested for theft in high school, says this is an airbrushed view.... [T]here is at least one adventure that [Murray] understandably deletes... the night he helped his friends burn a cross.... A long pause follows when Murray is reminded of the event. "Incredibly, incredibly dumb," he says. "But it never crossed our minds that this had any larger significance. And I look back on that and say, 'How on earth could we be so oblivious?' I guess it says something about that day and age that it didn't cross our minds.""

Rand Paul Distances Himself as Fast as He Can From Rand Paul

Rand Paul, 2002:

The Daily News ignores... the distinction between private and public property. Should it be prohibited for public, taxpayer-financed institutions such as schools to reject someone based on an individual's beliefs or attributes? Most certainly. Should it be prohibited for private entities such as a church, bed and breakfast or retirement neighborhood that doesn't want noisy children? Absolutely not.... A free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination even when that means allowing hate-filled groups to exclude people based on the color of their skin. It is unenlightened and ill-informed to promote discrimination against individuals based on the color of their skin. It is likewise unwise to forget the distinction between public (taxpayer-financed) and private entities...

Rand Paul today:

CNN Political Ticker:

Wolf Blitzer: All right, I want to give you a chance to explain, because there’s a lot of confusion right now about precisely where you stand. I’ll ask you a simple question. If you had been a member of the Senate or the House back in 1964, would you have voted yea or nay for the Civil Rights Act?

Rand Paul: Yes. I would have voted yes.

Wolf Blitzer: So why is there all this confusion emerging right now? Give me your analysis, because you’ve had to issue a statement today. There have been interviews on NPR yesterday and MSNBC. Tell us what’s going on.

Rand Paul I thought I was supposed to get a honeymoon. When does my honeymoon start after my victory?... I think what troubles me is that the news cycle has gotten out of control. For several hours on a major news network yesterday, they reported repeatedly that I was for repealing the Civil Rights Act. That is not only not true, never been my position, but is an out and out lie. And they repeated it all day long.... There was an overriding problem in the South that was so big that it did require federal intervention in the Sixties. The Southern states weren't correcting it, and there was a need for federal intervention...

Eric Rauchway on Barry Goldwater


AuH2O all over again: “Conscience” features numerous dog-whistle appeals to American racists.... [H]is vote against the 1964 Civil Rights Act would speak for itself, even if Goldwater didn’t speak for it: “the Supreme Court decision is not necessarily the law of the land,” he said in 1964, and he (or Bozell) said likewise in 1960, describing Brown v. Board of Education and allied decisions as “abuses of power by the Court.” In italics, Goldwater declares that politics needs to take into account “the essential differences between men.”... In a 1974 article trying to explain why liberals love Goldwater, the journalist Roy Reed tried to distinguish Goldwater and George Wallace: Goldwater’s crowd:

was not scary in the same way a George Wallace rally is.... The difference is in the build of the men at the top.... While Wallace is a demagogue, Goldwater is merely a crowd pleaser.

Apparently, whatever race-baiting Goldwater encouraged, it was not sincere: He really just wanted to defend a limited interpretation of the Constitution.

So far, so libertarian.... But the tenth chapter of “The Conscience of a Conservative” repudiates the first nine. Up to the book’s conclusion Goldwater harps on the need to cut government down, but here he declares, let government’s power grow. Why? The title of the chapter is “The Soviet Menace,” but Goldwater... sees [the enemy] as an idea... war on an -ism....

Our goal must be victory.... [W]e must always try to engage the enemy at times and places, and with weapons, of our own choosing.

So important is this strategy of aggression, so pressing is the need for a preemptive military war against an ideology that could be anywhere that, Goldwater says, he’s willing to set aside his libertarian principles:

As a Conservative, I deplore the huge tax levy that is needed to finance the world’s number-one military establishment. But even more do I deplore the prospect of a foreign conquest, which the absence of that establishment would quickly accomplish.

Someone who truly believes, as Goldwater writes, that “individual liberty depends on decentralized government,” might nevertheless subordinate his principles in time of war. But once you declare war on an idea, you’ve declared endless war: Once you’ve committed yourself to maintain a permanent war footing and a first-strike capacity anywhere at will, you’ve no kind of libertarian principles at all.... CC Goldwater says, “Anyone who motivates our decisions by fear cannot restore the principles of a country founded in freedom.” And she is surely right. Unfortunately her grandfather laid the foundation for the modern use of that motivation. Liberals don’t recognize it. But it’s all there if you read Goldwater on Goldwater.

The Labor Market Puts Down Its Mat and Stops Walking...

Jeffry Bartash:

U.S. jobless claims climb 25,000 to 471,000: The number of people applying for unemployment benefits shot up 25,000 in the latest week to 471,000, the highest level in a month, according to the Labor Department.... A Labor Department official said there were no unusual factors to explain the increase...

Economagic: Economic Chart Dispenser

And, from Beijing, Mark Thoma emails that he made the mistake of reading the New York Times, and is going to recover his psychological equilibrium by going to view the Temple of Heaven...

For some reason they waste their ink, their newsprint, their electrons, and my time on Rob Cox. Rob: Sales of Whole Foods's products is not a piece of information in addition to the disappointing macroeconomic aggregates. Sales of Whole Foods's products are part of the disappointing macro aggregates. There is no statistical evidence that a V-shaped recovery is coming. And each anecdote showing strength above the average story told by the macroeconomic aggregates is balanced by another anecdote showing weakness below the average story stold by the macroeconomic aggregates: that is, after all, why the average is the average--it is the average. And the average does not look like a "V" at all:

Economagic: Economic Chart Dispenser

Economagic: Economic Chart Dispenser

Rob Cox:

Is Fed Missing Early Signs of Recovery?: The rich may be... a leading economic indicator. The corridors of wealth and finance are alive with new optimism. The Federal Reserve, though, doesn’t seem to share it. The central bank has not indicated any intention of raising interest rates soon.. if the Fed is behind the game, there’s a good chance everyone will suffer. All seems well indeed atop the food chain. Whole Foods, purveyor of richly priced organic onions and other groceries, last week raised its best estimate for same-store sales growth this year to as much as 7 percent from as little as half that. Its shares have gained 45 percent this year.... The chief executive of one of America’s biggest banks contends that the strength of the American economy will surprise everyone. The hedge fund manager John A. Paulson has been busy telling investors he is seeing the upward side of a V-shaped recovery.... These could be the observations of a cloistered few.... Then again, Mr. Paulson’s arguments, echoed in big company boardrooms, have evidence. Indicators including California housing prices, American household net worth and bank lending practices back up the idea of a sharp recovery.... If robust growth is just below the surface, a failure to bring interest rates into line early enough could bring about an inflationary cycle. That wouldn’t just hurt the rich, but everyone else, too.

And no, the Federal Reserve does not need to raise interest rates right now.

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

links for 2010-05-19

  • MY: "The Duty To Do The Right Thing. Reading Jeffrey Goldberg’s debate with Peter Beinart I’m struck by how frequently Goldberg deploys a tactic of topic-switching. He’s really interested in emphasizing the idea that Israel faces incredibly serious national security threats from Hezbollah and Iran.... [That is] simply not relevant to what Beinart is talking about, which is the maltreatment of Israel’s Palestinian subjects and the prospect of increasing maltreatment of Israel’s Arab citizens. The former simply isn’t relevant to the latter.... [In the U.S.] mistreatment of African-Americans didn’t invalidate the legitimacy of [Cold War] security concerns, but... security concerns didn’t mitigate the wrongness of Jim Crow.... It just wasn’t relevant.,,, [Arab elites]... share the Israeli government’s outlook on the regional security situation but public outrage... makes it difficult for them to cooperate... with Israel. America didn’t have Jim Crow because it was afraid of the Russians."
  • DD: "Yesterday’s results in the election showed what has now become conventional wisdom: an “anti-incumbent mood,” something the media will parrot.... Have they explored why?... They can look no further than what they ignored during election coverage – last night’s debacle.... Carl Levin and Jeff Merkley were stonewalled from presenting their amendment.... Byron Dorgan’s... amendment was tabled with lots of Democratic support.... Tom Harkin realized one of his amendments which he filed three weeks ago wouldn’t get a vote.... Harry Reid called for a cloture vote today at 2pm... told Maria Cantwell...her amendment WOULD NOT BE GERMANE POST-CLOTURE.... Chris Dodd filed an amendment to gut the... derivatives piece “authored” by Blanche Lincoln.... [V]oters... seen defeat grabbed from the jaws of victory over and over and over again, and they simply have lost all trust in this crop of elites to do the job. And it’s hard to argue with the public on this one."
  • DK: "If Blanche Lincoln's tough derivatives provision was just a gimmick to ward off her primary challenger... if the plan all along was to gut the provision once she made it through the primary, then Lincoln and Dodd and whoever else hatched this plan are now in an exquisite squeeze.... So a short time ago, Dodd withdrew his effort to water it down -- at least for now. There will be other opportunities to get rid of the provision in its current form, something Dodd, the Senate leadership, the White House and Wall Street would all like to see happen. But the way things are moving, they are no longer in the driver's here. Each time they've come to an exit ramp on derivatives regulation, the politics of financial reform have blocked their way. So at this point you have to think all bets are off. No one quite knows how this will turn out now."
  • JM: "Cancer, mental illness, car crashes, bedding down your married congressional staffer in some clearing in the forest. Fate is so precarious. And so many things that can befall us. "If Mark Souder is capable of sexual misconduct, it could happen to anyone," says Concerned Women for America CEO Penny Nance"
  • BB: "it has taken the most dysfunctional, the most rudderless government Israel has ever known, to make moderates uncomfortably aware of the... ways... the right... have come to plant and nurture the seeds of fascism. Wrote Boaz Okun... of Israel's ban on Noam Chomsky: "The decision to shut up... Chomsky is a decision to shut down freedom in the state of Israel. I'm not speaking of the stupidity of supplying ammunition to those who claim that Israel is fascist," Okun wrote, "rather, of our fear that we may actually be turning that way."... Israeli police riot troops waded into a thoroughly non-violent sit-in near the entrance to this East Jerusalem settlement zone, where Palestinian residents were expelled by Israeli court order, to allow their homes to be taken over by Jews. What was curious here was not the neck-wrenching brutality of the Yasam riot police... [but] that the police seemed so entirely bewildered, so completely lacking in clear orders... Fascism with a confused face."
  • DF: "Rand Paul’s victory... a depressing event for those who support strong national defense and rational conservative politics.... This year however the tide is running so strongly with the GOP that … well … that Rand Paul may benefit.... Paul will not have an easy ride. Paul offers a target-rich environment for negative advertising. On the other hand, Paul does lead his (likely) Democratic opponent, Jack Conway. It could be his year.... How is it that the GOP has lost its antibodies against a candidate like Rand Paul?... [D]espite Paul’s self-presentation as “anti-establishment,” the D.C. conservative establishment by and large made its peace with him. It is this acquiescence – even more than Paul’s own nomination – that is the most ominous news from tonight’s vote." The answer is simple: this is the end of the road that started with Eisenhower's and Taft's embrace of the anti-establishment politicians of their day, Joe McCarthy and Dick Nixon. The cake was baked long ago.
  • YX: " Goldman Sachs Group Inc. racked up trading profits for itself every day last quarter. Clients who followed the firm’s investment advice fared far worse. Seven of the investment bank’s nine “recommended top trades for 2010” have been money losers for investors who adopted the New York-based firm’s advice, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from a Goldman Sachs research note sent yesterday. Clients who used the tips lost 14 percent buying the Polish zloty versus the Japanese yen, 9.4 percent buying Chinese stocks in Hong Kong and 9.8 percent trading the British pound against the New Zealand dollar."
  • JW&JW: "Economic recoveries from the past two recessions have been much more gradual than the rapid V-shaped recoveries typical of earlier downturns. Analysis of the factors that determine economic growth rates indicates that recovery from the most recent recession is likely to be faster than from the two previous recessions, but slower than earlier V-shaped recoveries."
  • BB: " Wall Street reform legislation nearly came off the rails on Tuesday after Republicans--tacitly backed... by top Democrats--used Senate rules to block votes on far-reaching, consumer-friendly amendments, portending a potential progressive revolt. This afternoon... Leader Harry Reid will attempt to bring debate on the financial reform bill to a close, though it remains unclear whether he has the 60 votes he'll need to prevail. A big reason for that? A number of Democrats--most vocally, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND)--have threatened to vote against ending debate until their flagship amendments get a vote on the floor. But Republicans are standing in the way, saying they'll filibuster those amendments, subjecting each to a 60 vote requirement, and, more importantly, several days' worth of delay. Faced with a choice between picking a fight with Republicans over those amendments and simply moving ahead with the bill, Democratic leadership has, for now, chosen the latter."
  • DK: "We'll have more on this as the day goes on, but all this talk of anti-incumbency and "throw the bums out" really oversimplifies what's going on out there. It's an easy instant analysis, especially for the time-strapped broadcast media. But particularly as it concerns last night's results, it's such an overbroad analysis that it's not just meaningless, it's actually misleading. In almost every respect the big losers last night were national Republicans. Even in cases where the ostensible Democrat lost or suffered a setback -- Specter in Pennsylvania and Lincoln in Arkansas -- the Democrats emerged with a stronger or potentially stronger candidate. More on this later, but Democrats come out of last night in about as good a shape as they could possibly have hoped for. And Republicans have to be wondering if they are up to surfing the expected 2010 wave."
  • MY: "Gillian Tett Fool’s Gold: How the Bold Dream of a Small Tribe at J.P. Morgan Was Corrupted by Wall Street Greed and Unleashed a Catastrophe. Gary Gorton, Slapped By the Invisible Hand: The Panic of 2007. Raghuram Rajan, Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy. Stephen Cohn and Brad DeLong The End of Influence: What Happens When Other Countries Have the Money. George Akerlof and Robert Shiller Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism." I would add David Wessel, In Fed We Trust
  • DA: "why does the guy make my eyes roll.... The Fed has the ability to create money "out of thin air!" Whenever I hear this expression, I chuckle. We all have the power to create debt out of "thin air."... If you bum a beer from a friend and promise to repay him next week, you create a debt obligation "out of thin air." Ooooo..."out of thin air!"... [H]his energy here could be better spent elsewhere: there are bigger fish to fry in the realm of fiscal policy reforms."
  • PB: "The prime minister of Israel has repeatedly compared the establishment of a Palestinian state to the Holocaust. His foreign ministe... flirted with... physical expulsion of Israeli Arabs. The spiritual leader of his government's fourth-largest party has called for politicians who advocate ceding territory to the Palestinians to be struck dead. West Bank settlements are growing at triple the rate of the Israeli population.... One-third of Jewish Israelis favor pardoning Yigal Amir, the man who murdered Yitzhak Rabin. I hate writing these words. I was raised to love Israel, and I will teach my children to love it. But we don't get to choose what is true. And if you love Israel... because it is a liberal democratic Jewish state... there is only one decent response to these truths: fury.... [M]y old friend Jonathan Chait... ends up more critical of the people criticizing Israeli abuses than of the abuses themselves."
  • AG&LS: "Last week in Washington, Sarah Palin addressed the Susan B. Anthony List - the political action committee that calls itself the "nerve center of the pro-life movement" - claiming that her opposition to abortion rights was rooted in our "feminist foremothers." No one asked for sources.... Our conclusion: Anthony spent no time on the politics of abortion. It was of no interest to her, despite living in a society (and a family) where women aborted unwanted pregnancies. The List's mission statement proclaims, "Although [Anthony] is known for helping women win the right to vote, it is often untold in history that she and most early feminists were strongly pro-life." There's a good reason it's "untold:" historians and good journalists rely on evidence. Of which there is none."
  • JW: "Mitch McConnell, Dick Cheney and the NRCC lost big, as Kentucky voters rejected Trey Grayson and Jeff Reetz.... In Pennsylvania... Democrat Mark Critz beat Republican Tim Burns.... Burns tried to nationalize his race by with a campaign cartoon that depicted Nancy Pelosi as a monster.... He only succeeded in showing he has Mommy issues with his silly Pelosi caricature.... President Obama got rocked... Democratic insurgent Joe Sestak beat "incumbent" Sen Arlen Specter....Bill Halter... pushing Sen. Blanche Lincoln into a run-off.... Ultimately, Sestak is a better vote for Obama than Specter was, so it's hard for me to see his victory as a loss for Obama.... The Tea Party has shown that it can be a force in electoral politics..... Kentucky... Democratic turnout was higher than 2006.... Rand Paul's... stances... Repeal the Americans with Disabilities Act.... [S]estak running stronger against Club for Growth Republican Pat Toomey... may also be more electable."

The New York Times Also Has a Big (Albeit Different) Problem with Reporters Katharine Q. Seelye, Jim Rutenberg and Jeff Zeleny

They write:

White House Embraces Upstart Who Beat Specter: Shortly after Representative Joe Sestak won an improbable victory Tuesday over Senator Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senate primary...

Unpopular, uncharismatic,, trimming, party-switching incumbent senator runs in a primary against:

Joe Sestak is serving his second term as the Representative from Pennsylvania's 7th Congressional District, which includes most of Delaware County and parts of Chester and Montgomery Counties. Born and raised in Delaware County, Joe Sestak spent 31 years serving our nation in the U.S. Navy, rising to the rank of three-star Admiral.... During his distinguished career in the Navy, Joe led a series of operational commands, culminating in the command of the George Washington aircraft carrier battle group, which consisted of 30 U.S. and allied ships, 15,000 sailors, and close to 100 aircraft. Under Joe's watch, the George Washington battle group conducted combat operations in Afghanistan and precursor operations to the war in Iraq. Joe also served in President Clinton's White House as the Director for Defense Policy on the National Security Council...

A victory for the admiral is hardly "improbable."

It Looks Like the New York Times Has a Very Big Problem with Reporter Raymond Hernandez

Colin McEnroe:

Colin McEnroe's To Wit Blog: The Linda McMahon campaign is taking full credit for digging up the tape about Blumenthal and Vietnam. They say it unequivocally in this story. "The campaign of Republican Linda McMahon acknowledged finding and providing the video. 'We got our hands on it', said Ed Patru, McMahon's director of communications." Kevin Rennie went into greater detail, writing that the entire story was researched by the McMahon campaign and fed to the Times. The McMahon campaign put Rennie's words up on its official site and then later took them down. But not before they were spotted by people like Mike Allen.

I appeared with Raymond Hernandez of the New York Times on The Takeaway this morning. The host asked him about that claim, and he flatly denied that was the case. You can hear it around 1:53. I appeared again with Hernandez less than two hours later on the Brian Lehrer Show and asked him again about the original source of the story. He first said "I don't recognize" my summary of his previous remarks (you have to drag all the way to 14:37 to hear this). He then seemed to become irritated. Ultimately, he said, again, "The answer is no"...

Fox 61 and Hartford Courant:

McMahon Confirms Campaign's Role In N.Y. Times Story On Blumenthal: STAMFORD Linda McMahon,a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, on Wednesday confirmed that her campaign had a role in this week's New York Times story about Democratic candidate Richard Blumenthal's misstatements about his military career. McMahon was asked whether her campaign fed the Times information for the story. "We did," McMahon said. "We've had some role with our research, yes." She did not elaborate. McMahon made her comments to Fox61 reporter Laurie Perez while on her way into the Republican Party's annual Prescott Bush Awards Dinner. The campaign has previously acknowledged that it played some part in the story...

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

Jo Walton on Ursula Le Guin's Tehanu

Jo Walton: A woman on Gont: Ursula Le Guin’s Tehanu:

Le Guin is speaking with a double tongue in [Tehanu]. On the one hand she’s saying very clearly that women’s domestic lives are central and important, and on the other the force of story is bending everything to have an actual plot, which needs an evil wizard and men and the world of action. The burned child Therru, who has been raped and survived, calls the dragon to the rescue. It’s too easy an answer, as well as being a nice trick if you can do it. And it denies the centrality of the importance of the well-lived life. She says that women’s lives matter, but she shows that they don’t, that what matters is magic and power and calling on dragons. This is a restless book with very strange pacing. Tehanu is a very problematic book for me.... I’m much more sympathetic to what she was trying to do in Tehanu than before I’d tried it myself--there’s a whole weight of expectation to do with the way stories go that she was trying to roll uphill singlehanded to make this book work, and it’s amazing it works as well as it does. But if you want a feminist fantasy about small-scale domestic life, I recommend Phillis Ann Karr’s At Amberleaf Fair. And if you want Le Guin telling confident fantasy stories set in worlds where women are people, I recommend the Western Shore trilogy.

Rand Paul Appears to Come Out Against Calorie Counts and in Favor of a Progressive Income Tax

From, at the Louisville Courier-Journal:

A: I'm not in favor of the government telling you what to do.... It's important that we try to protect freedoms.... Here's the next step. The next step is we tell you smoking's unhealthy we tell you eating's unhealthy, and that's already coming. In New York, they ban certain kinds of foods, they tell you the calorie count. And overeating is a big problem. So is smoking. Overeating might be a bigger problem than, well, to tell you the truth we would be better off if someone if we had a policeman tell you how many calories you could eat a day, but who wants to live in that kind of society? I don't want to live in that way. And smoking's going down every year anyway. We are winning the battle against smoking. Let's be happy with that, and not give up our freedoms in the process.

Q: You want to be a senator from Kentucky, which is a relatively poor and unhealthy state. What do you propose to do to enrich the lives of Kentuckians, if you are elected senator?

A: Well, I think Kentucky would do better, and we all would do better, if we sent less money to Washington. So I'm for keeping more money at home, and spending less in Washington. It's more efficiently spent, and makes us better as a people and a country. I think that there are certain pockets of poverty in our state and it amazes me how long this has been going on. For example, if you read Henry "Night Comes to Cumberland," it was written in 1961. And I read it the other day and it was like, this could have been written last year and it was written forty years ago and imagine how it can be in some ways worse than it was in 1961, with welfare dependency and drug dependency and unemployment and people not working. But our solution is always government. And maybe that is not the answer. Maybe we need to rethink how we fix things. For example, not only did we steal the Indians' land and put them on reservations, we destroyed their spirit you know by putting them on reservations. I think in some ways the culture of dependency on government destroys people's spirits. Maybe we lift people up in eastern Kentucky by giving them a tax holiday for a year, you know. You have to have jobs coming from businessmen and women. And maybe have no taxes in counties that have fifteen percent unemployment. See if you can get people working again. But also maybe welfare should have a local person, a man or woman who sits down across the counter from them and says "What are you doing to find work?" and gives them some tough love and says "Go to work!" It can work, you know. We've tried the other way, just cobbling people and giving people everything. Why don't we try just getting them to work?

Q: Would you have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

A: 1:00:03: I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that in ended discrimination in all public domains, and I'm all in favor of that.

Q: But?

A: Ha ha ha. You had to ask me the "but." I don't like the idea of telling private business owners. I abhor racism. I think it's a bad business decision to ever exclude anybody from your restaurant. But at the same time I do believe in private ownership. But I think that there should be absolutely no discrimination in anything that gets any public funding. And that's most of what the Civil Rights Act was about, to my mind...

Rand Paul Twittering from E_fish


Ron Pauls son, Rand Paul, just said on NPR that he would have voted against the Civil Rights Act. 23 minutes ago from UberTwitter

"Freedom." I don't think that word means what Rand Paul thinks it means...

The New York Times Hit Piece on Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)


Journamalism: Either the NYT just ran with oppo research they were fed without bothering to check, or they did their own snipitty snip snipping. Given recent history, I imagine they'll address the issue in 10 years or so.

Jamison Foser:

The New York Times  has some explaining to do: This Associated Press report about the controversy surrounding Richard Blumenthal’s description of his military service raises some questions about the New York Times’ handling of the story:

The crisis erupted when The New York Times reported that Blumenthal had repeatedly distorted his military service. The story included quotations and a video of Blumenthal saying at a 2008 event that he had "served in Vietnam." The newspaper also said Blumenthal intimated more than once that he was a victim of the abuse heaped on Vietnam veterans upon their return home. A longer version of the video posted by a Republican opponent also shows Blumenthal at the beginning of his speech correctly characterizing his service by saying that he "served in the military, during the Vietnam era."

So why didn’t the Times include Blumenthal “correctly characterizing his service” in its version of the video?  That’s awfully misleading, isn’t it?  Given that Republican Linda McMahon’s campaign has taken credit for feeding the Times the Blumenthal story, you have to wonder if it gave the Times the incomplete video, as well.  Either way, the Times should explain why it chose to omit Blumenthal’s correct characterization of his service.

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

Alex Beam on the Press Corps of a Generation Ago

Alex Beam:

When being a journalist-on-the-rise was a glass half-filled job: My first job in journalism was at the now-foundering Newsweek.... Newsweek in 1977 and 1978 was fat, plush, almost 100 pages long, and choked with advertising.... I was an editorial assistant/fact-checker, with duties analogous to those of an 18th-century cabin boy in the Royal Navy. My favorite person... Richard Steele, assured me of a bright future, because I knew when to refresh his bottomless vodka glass.... The entire, nutty journalism model had been lifted wholesale from Henry Luce & Co. over at Time. Correspondents sent lengthy dispatches to New York, where modestly gifted, self-hating writers boiled their work into readable squibs. Actual editors then rehashed the silage a second or third time, until it came out sounding like the Delta Airlines flight magazine.... [I]n addition to pouring vodka I checked facts, a process that left me bleakly cynical about journalistic accuracy. We would publish whole stories that were lies — Francois Mitterrand’s plan to destroy the French economy was a recurring theme — but at least the names were spelled correctly. Two T’s, two R’s. I will never forget.

I worked at the international edition, where our big mission was refighting the Cold War. The fall of Saigon was only three years behind us, and glasnost was still eight years away. We printed many “exclusives’’ by a remarkably tanned, anti-communist crusader named Arnaud de Borchgrave, known as “the short count.’’ De Borchgrave would announce his masterpieces with the antiquated phrase “Three bells!’’ an allusion to the old wire-service tickers which used to chime bells touting stories of capital importance. Everyone laughed at de Borchgrave’s copy, but we printed it anyway. Those decisions were made well above my pay grade...

Winston Churchill Liveblogs World War II: May 19, 1940

Winston Churchill: May 19, 1940:

Winston Churchill: After this battle in France abates its force, there will come the battle for our Island.... In that supreme emergency we shall not hesitate to take every step, even the most drastic, to call forth from our people the last ounce and the last inch of effort of which they are capable. The interests of property, the hours of labor, are nothing compared with the struggle of life and honor, for right and freedom, to which we have vowed ourselves.

I have received from the Chiefs of the French Republic,and in particular form its indomitable Prime Minister, M. Reynaud, the most sacred pledges that whatever happens they will fight to the end, be it bitter or be it glorious. Nay, if we fight to the end, it can only be glorious.

Having received His Majesty’s commission, I have formed an Administration of men and women of every Party and of almost every point of view. We have differed and quarreled in the past; but now one bond unites us all — to wage war until victory is won, and never to surrender ourselves to servitude and shame, whatever the cost and the agony may be. this is one of the most awe-striking periods in the long history of France and Britain. It is also beyond doubt the most sublime. Side by side, unaided except by their kith and kin in the great Dominions and by the wide empires which rest beneath their shield – side by side, the British and French peoples have advanced to rescue not only Europe but mankind from the foulest and most soul-destroying tyranny which has ever darkened and stained the pages of history. Behind them – behind us- behind the Armies and Fleets of Britain and France – gather a group of shattered States and bludgeoned races: the Czechs, the Poles, the Norwegians, the Danes, the Dutch, the Belgians – upon all of whom the long night of barbarism will descend, unbroken even by a star of hope, unless we conquer, as conquer we must; as conquer we shall...

links for 2010-05-18

  • SB: "CAN'T BRING THESE FOLKS ANYWHERE.... The Maine Republican Party... endorsed a right-wing party platform combining "fringe policies, libertarian buzzwords and outright conspiracy theories." Almost as interesting was the Maine GOP's behavior.... GOP members used an eighth-grade classroom for a caucus meeting, and took it upon themselves to start making some changes.... '"We allowed them to use the space and I'm appalled that they would go through a teacher's things, let alone remove something from a classroom," [School Committee member Sarah Thompson] said Wednesday. "We want the public to use school spaces, but they need to respect that it's a school and understand that they should leave it the way they find it." ... Clifford learned that his classroom had been searched. Republicans who had attended the convention called Principal Mike McCarthy to complain about "anti-American" things they saw there, including a closed box containing copies of the U.S. Constitution...'"
  • B: "Best throwaway line of the week comes from The Economist's wrapup on Hugo Chávez... '[T]o many... including this newspaper, he has come to embody a new, post-cold-war model of authoritarian rule which combines a democratic mandate, populist socialism and anti-Americanism, as well as resource nationalism and carefully calibrated repression.' And the zinger: 'This model has proved surprisingly successful across the world. Versions are to be found in countries as disparate and distinct as Iran, Russia, Zimbabwe and Sudan. In one way or another, these regimes claim to have created a viable alternative to liberal democracy.'... I should think they are describing also China, the Central Asian Republics and a whole host of less-noticed governments where a combination of state capitalism and soft police state have coalesced into s viable... I should think that maybe "parody/lampoon of liberal democracy" captures the new reality even better. For more background, look here."
  • MY: " the Tea Party... is grounded in a number of durable U.S. political traditions and it has a demographic profile similar to other conservative political movement. It’s not going anywhere... it’s never gone anywhere.... [I]n the United States (like most countries I’m familiar with) a minority of the population strongly adheres to populist nationalist views and becomes mobilizes when its political adversaries are running the country.... The problem for liberals today isn’t so much that the Tea Party isn’t going away as it is that a lot of people who aren’t Tea Partiers feel specifically that the Obama/Reid/Pelosi trifecta has not made their lives better."
  • MY: "Rajan writes in the style of a member of the political right and has a couple of wingnutty preoccupations, but the bulk of his ideas would fit comfortable on the progressive agenda.... He sees growing income inequality in the United States—particular the tendency of the top ten percent to pull away from the middle class—as a key driver here that compelled politicians to look on cheap credit as a way of maintaining middle class consumption even in the face of wage stagnation.... His proposed solutions... the performance of our education system... high-quality preschool... prenatal health care and child nutrition.... [T]he problems of “global imbalances” have been well-understood for years and nobody seems interested in doing anything about them.... [W]ingnutty preoccupations with Fannie & Freddie and the Community Reinvestment Act..."
  • MD: "The iPad launch clearly demonstrated that iPhone OS is the future of the business..... If the Cocoa Touch app empire crumbles before a next-generation replacement is ready, the next best thing is an open standard. The alternative is that someone else’s proprietary technology.... An open web is a safe, neutral fallback.... Apple is a W3C member... has a product in Safari / WebKit that not only tracks the standard, but drives it. WebKit has been a leader in modern web technology adoption for years. Apple happily gives its improvements back to the public WebKit branch, because leading is the next best thing after owning.... Apple.., is doing everything it can to limit the list of Cocoa Touch replacements to: (a)A newer native Apple framework (b) Safari.... Not HTML5. Not even WebKit. Safari.... Apple spent nearly a decade trying to unshackle the Mac from Internet Explorer. It will not hand over iPhone OS so easily."

Exorbitant Privilege Rocket Jetpack or Wile E. Coyote Moment?

What explains the continued extraordinary high prices of U.S. Treasury securities given a massively disfunctional U.S. political system and Republican Party?

Is global demand for dollar assets in a safe haven the equivalent of a rocket jetpack for the U.S. economy, or are we waiting for a Wile E. Coyote moment?


Stacy-Marie Ishmael writes:

FT Alphaville » The Treasury non-conundrum, or why yields are trading below 3.6%: SocGen economist Aneta Markowska affects bemusement at the benign bond yield environment in the US....

Sovereign debt concerns have rocked many economies in recent months. Fundamentally, countries with large twin deficits are most vulnerable because they have to rely heavily on foreign investors to finance their government budget gaps. Based on these criteria, the US is right up there with the most vulnerable economies. So why are Treasury yields trading below 3.6 per cent?... 1 – Inflation trends remain very low. Core CPI was flat in Q1 and the y/y trend now looks set to dip below 1%. 2 – Fed has been very slow to embrace the cyclical recovery and shift to a more neutral policy stance. The “extended” language is a green light for bond investors to remain in carry trades. 3 – Treasuries and the dollar have benefited from safe haven flows....

But there may be a real conondrum elsewhere, in “the fact that the unsustainable fiscal outlook is not triggering higher risk premiums.”... [T]herein lies the major difference between the peripheral European countries and the US — the US simply has more time to address its fiscal problems... "partly an outcome of greater credibility of US policy, but even more importantly it is a function of US growth dynamics. The latter is a key differentiating factor between the US and peripheral Europe.... The US is achieving some degree of fiscal consolidation via growth, rather than via painful austerity as is the case in the European periphery. While cyclical forces are likely to push bond yields higher, they will be going up for the “right reasons”, and at a pace that is unlikely to derail the recovery."

Can you say "exorbitant privilege?" I think you can.

Peter Lauria Says That Gillian Tett Is Now a Celebrity...

He writes:

The Most Powerful Woman in Newspapers?: As The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal bash each other, the Financial Times, led by its sharp, glamorous new U.S. editor, Gillian Tett, intends to become a status symbol of American business. "I brought the English weather with me," bemoans Gillian Tett, the new U.S. managing editor for the Financial Times, as she steps into the Peninsula Fives restaurant in Manhattan last Wednesday morning, dressed in a fuchsia raincoat accompanied by one of those umbrellas large enough to cover the width of a New York City sidewalk. She's a few minutes late for our interview, which can be easily forgiven: She'd only arrived stateside two days prior, and her meeting with me was wedged in between an appearance on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann the night before, a day filled with internal meetings on the FT's strategic direction, a jaunt down to Wall Street to report out a column due by the end of the week, and preparations for a speech.

The publicity is all part of a months-long coming-out party here in the States for Tett, whose early outing of the credit-derivatives pyramid scheme that crippled the global financial markets has given her something of a celebrity moment. Or at least as much of a celebrity moment as a financial journalist can have. The horrible financial climate has been great for Tett, who has given the FT the authoritative voice documentating the global economic meltdown, while her camera-ready looks have made her the go-to journalist for television outlets across the globe. In ascending to the highest U.S. editorial position at the Financial Times, Tett has managed to make the august, salmon-hued broadsheet two things never identified with it before: trendy and sexy.

“You have to understand money to understand the world.”

"The FT has become a sort of status symbol, people want to show off that they read it," says Reed Phillips, managing partner of boutique media advisory firm DeSilva & Phillips. "They'd rather leave the FT out on the coffee table than The Wall Street Journal."

"Status symbol" isn't a word recently associated with the newspaper industry, but the FT has been an anomaly. Long thought of as a British newspaper, the FT has quadrupled its circulation in the U.S.... Evidence to support the FT's rising prominence can be found in, of all places, emails from Goldman Sachs' suddenly infamous Fabrice "Fabulous Fab" Tourre, recently unearthed by the SEC. "Darling, you should take a look at this article..very insightful..more and more leverage in the system," Tourre, the executive who helped design the dubious financial product that sits at the center of the charges against his bank, wrote to one of his girlfriends. The article "Fab" was referencing—"The Unease bubbling in today's brave new financial world"—came from the FT and carried Tett's byline.

But unlike other business journalists who have gained a modicum of fame outside of Wall Street such as The New York Times' Andrew Ross Sorkin or CNBC's Maria Bartiromo, Tett, who talks with both her hands and a lisp, doesn't covet the attention. She dismisses honors, like being named Journalist of the Year by the British press in 2009 and winning the Spear's Award for Financial Book of the Year for Fool's Gold, as "guilt awards" bestowed on her by a discredited media trying to clear its collective conscience for missing the financial crisis' warning signs...

Let me just say that anyone who read Gillian Tett because she thinks that it is the way to appear high-status is as sadly misinformed as anyone who watches Maria Bartiromo or reads Andrew Ross Sorkin expecting--no, I'm not going to go there.

I will go here: It's very rare that I read something by Gillian Tett or her colleagues that I don't learn something. And it's very, very rare that I read something and am told something that turns out to be wrong. And given what my other information sources are, that's a very high bar for them to clear. And the FT does it, every day.

Simply the best newspaper for me in all the world. Just saying.