Daily Archive: 01/14/2013

Jan 14 2013

A ‘The Daily Show’ Fail

Normally Jon Stewart and his writers are reasonably good at lampooning current events and especially the media that covers them, but occassionally they fail.

Now normally it’s something stupid and petty like his inside comic interviews that make no sense at all, or more seriously his letting big ‘gets’ weasel away from the tough questions, especially his pet beltway ‘friends of the show’.

His blessedly rare independent editorializing is dreadful because he’s always going for the false equivalence of liberals and conservatives, a meme he constantly lambastes in others.

Thursday he displayed his and his writers’ mind boggling ignorance of Economics 101-

Herr Doktor Professor

Stewart seems weirdly unaware that there’s more to fiscal policy than balancing the budget. But in this case he also seems unaware that the president can’t just decide unilaterally to spend 40 percent less; he’s constitutionally obliged to spend what the law tells him to spend. True, he’s also constitutionally prohibited from borrowing more if Congress says he can’t – which is a contradiction. But that’s the whole point of the discussion.

And it makes no sense at all to talk about any of this without the context of extortion and confrontation.

Above all, however, what went wrong here is a lack of professionalism on the part of Stewart and his staff. Yes, it’s a comedy show – but the jokes are supposed to be (and usually are) knowing jokes, which are funny and powerful precisely because the Daily Show people have done their homework and understand the real issues better than the alleged leaders spouting nonsense. In this case, however, it’s obvious that nobody at TDS spent even a few minutes researching the topic. It was just yuk-yuk-yuk they’re talking about a trillion-dollar con hahaha.

Hey, if we want this kind of intellectual laziness, we can just tune in to Fox.

Just because I like you most of the time doesn’t mean you get a pass.  Which goes for Krugman too.

Jan 14 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

The New York Times Editorial: An Incomplete Fix

Thanks to the fiscal cliff deal, the alternative minimum tax will not ensnare tens of millions of middle-class Americans for whom it was never intended. The deal raised the income thresholds before the A.M.T. kicks in and indexes them for inflation going forward. As a practical matter, this means that 28 million filers who would have had to pay the tax on their 2012 returns have been spared and are much less likely to have to pay the tax in the future.

Yet the fixes are incomplete. The purpose of the A.M.T. is to ensure that wealthy taxpayers cannot make excessive use of deductions, shelters and other tax breaks. It was thus supposed to hit multimillionaires and billionaires whose tax shelters reduce their tax bills to a pittance relative to their incomes. In the absence of comprehensive reform, the A.M.T. will continue, for the most part, to allow the highest-end taxpayers to escape, while still afflicting many taxpayers below those lofty levels.

Paul Krugman: Japan Steps Out

For three years economic policy throughout the advanced world has been paralyzed, despite high unemployment, by a dismal orthodoxy. Every suggestion of action to create jobs has been shot down with warnings of dire consequences. If we spend more, the Very Serious People say, the bond markets will punish us. If we print more money, inflation will soar. Nothing should be done because nothing can be done, except ever harsher austerity, which will someday, somehow, be rewarded.

But now it seems that one major nation is breaking ranks – and that nation is, of all places, Japan.

This isn’t the maverick we were looking for. In Japan governments come and governments go, but nothing ever seems to change – indeed, Shinzo Abe, the new prime minister, has had the job before, and his party’s victory was widely seen as the return of the “dinosaurs” who misruled the country for decades. Furthermore, Japan, with its huge government debt and aging population, was supposed to have even less room for maneuver than other advanced countries.

Glenn Greenwald: The US, Saudi Arabia, Propaganda and Tyranny in the Middle East

The most significant problem in political discourse is not that people embrace destructive beliefs after issues are rationally debated. It’s that the potency of propaganda, by design, often precludes such debates from taking place. Consider how often one hears the claim that the US is committed to spreading democracy and opposing tyranny in the Middle East in light of this fact from a New York Review of Books article by Hugh Eakin reviewing three new books on Saudi Arabia (via As’ad AbuKhalil):

   “The US does more trade – overwhelmingly in oil and weapons – with Saudi Arabia than any other country in the Middle East, including Israel, and depends on close Saudi cooperation in its counterterrorism efforts in Yemen.”

[..]

In other words, the single most repressive regime in that region is also America’s closest ally. Eakin also notes that while Saudi leaders have exploited the rhetoric of the Arab Spring to undermine leaders its dislikes (primarily in Syria and Iran), its only direct action was to send its troops into Bahrain “to stave off a popular revolt and prop up the Bahraini monarchy” and use “its influence in the Gulf Cooperation Council, the alliance of autocratic Persian Gulf states, to pull together support for the beleaguered royal houses of Morocco and Jordan.” About all of this Saudi bolstering of tyranny, Eakin says: “The White House has remained silent.”

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship: Corporate Gold on the Fiscal Cliff

In economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman’s book, End This Depression Now!, there’s a chapter titled “The Second Gilded Age” in which he describes the extraordinary rise in wealth and power of the very rich during this era of unregulated greed. Since Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980, the top one percent of Americans have seen their incomes increase by 275 percent. After accounting for inflation, the typical hourly wage for a worker has increased just $1.23.

Big Money, as Krugman writes in his book, buys Big Influence. And that’s why the financiers of Wall Street never truly experience regime change – their cash brings both political parties to heel. So it is that the policies that got us where we are today – in this big ditch of chronic financial depression – have done little for most, but have been very good to a few at the top.

John Nichols: Why Bernie Sanders Objects to Obama’s Treasury Nominee

Bernie Sanders campaigned, hard, for Barack Obama’s re-election.

But the independent senator from Vermont is not going to rubberstamp the president’s selection of Jack Lew, a supporter of banking deregulation who has passed back and forth through the revolving door from Wall Street to Washington, as the nation’s seventy-sixth secretary of the Treasury. [..]

One of the Senate’s most vital duties is that of providing “advice and consent” on presidential nominations. A president has broad leeway when it comes to naming members of the cabinet-arguably broader leeway than in the naming of lifetime appointees to the federal judiciary. But that leeway is not such that senators can or should simply approve every nominee. Advice should be given, and at times consent should be denied-not just by partisan foes of the sitting president but, sometimes, by allies of that president.

Dana Milbank: Obama’s Cabinet of yes men

President Obama hasn’t even begun his second term, yet already he has been ensnared by scandal.

Republicans have uncovered a shocking level of wrongdoing in the Oval Office, and I’m afraid what they say is true: The president is brazenly trying to fill his Cabinet with . . . people he likes.

Alas, the perfidy doesn’t end there. Not only is Obama naming agreeable people to his Cabinet, he is also – audaciously, flagrantly – nominating people who . . . agree with his policies. [..]

But that’s Obama’s prerogative. He won the election. The only scandal is denying him the right to choose his own advisers.  

Jan 14 2013

On This Day In History January 14

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

January 14 is the 14th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 351 days remaining until the end of the year (352 in leap years).

It is celebrated as New Year’s Day (at least in the 20th & 21st centuries) by countries still following the Julian calendar.

On this day in 1761, the Third Battle of Panipat is fought in India between the Afghans under Ahmad Shah Durrani and the Marhatas. The Afghan victory changes the course of Indian History.

The Third Battle of Panipat took place at Panipat (Haryana State, India), about 60 miles (95.5 km) north of Delhi. The battle pitted the French-supplied artillery and cavalry of the Marathas against the heavy cavalry and mounted artillery(zamburak and jizail) of the Afghans led by Ahmad Shah Durrani, an ethnic Pashtun, also known as Ahmad Shah Abdali. The battle is considered one of the largest battles fought in the 18th century.

The decline of the Mughal Empire had led to territorial gains for the Maratha Confederacy. Ahmad Shah Abdali, amongst others, was unwilling to allow the Marathas’ gains to go unchecked. In 1759, he raised an army from the Pashtun tribes and made several gains against the smaller garrisons. The Marathas, under the command of Sadashivrao Bhau, responded by gathering an army of between 70,000-100,000 people with which they ransacked the Mughal capital of Delhi. There followed a series of skirmishes along the banks of the river Yamuna at Karnal and Kunjpura which eventually turned into a two-month-long siege led by Abdali against the Marathas.

The specific site of the battle itself is disputed by historians but most consider it to have occurred somewhere near modern day Kaalaa Aamb and Sanauli Road. The battle lasted for several days and involved over 125,000 men. Protracted skirmishes occurred, with losses and gains on both sides. The forces led by Ahmad Shah Durrani came out victorious after destroying several Maratha flanks. The extent of the losses on both sides is heavily disputed by historians, but it is believed that between 60,000-70,000 were killed in fighting, while numbers of the injured and prisoners taken vary considerably. The result of the battle was the halting of the Maratha advances in the North.

The Legacy

The Third Battle of Panipat saw an enormous number of casualties and deaths in a single day of battle. It was the last major battle between indigenous South Asian military powers, until the creation of Pakistan in 1947.

To save their kingdom, the Mughals once again changed sides and welcomed the Afghans to Delhi. The Mughals remained in nominal control over small areas of India, but were never a force again. The empire officially ended in 1857 when its last emperor, Bahadur Shah II, was accused of being involved in the Sepoy Mutiny and exiled.

The Marathas’ expansion was stopped in the battle, and soon broke into infighting within their empire. They never regained any unity. They recovered their position under the next Peshwa Madhavrao I and by 1772 were back in control of the north, finally occupying Delhi. However, after the death of Madhavrao, due to infighting and increasing pressure from the British, their claims to empire only officially ended in 1818 after three wars with the British.

Meanwhile the Sikhs, the original reason Ahmad invaded, were left largely untouched by the battle. They soon retook Lahore. When Ahmad Shah returned in March 1764 he was forced to break off his siege after only two weeks due to rebellion in Afghanistan. He returned again in 1767, but was unable to win any decisive battle. With his own troops arguing over a lack of pay, he eventually abandoned the district to the Sikhs, who remained in control until 1849. . . . .

The battle proved the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling‘s poem “With Scindia to Delhi”.

The strength of Afghan military prowess was to both inspire hope in many orthodox Muslims, Mughal royalists and fear in the British. However the real truth of so many battle hardened Afghans killed in the struggle with the Marathas never allowed them to dream of controlling the Mughal Empire realistically again. On the other side, Marathas, possibly one of the only two real Indian military powers left capable of challenging the British were fatally weakened by the defeat and could not mount a serious challenge in the Anglo-Maratha wars 50 years later.

Jan 14 2013

Krugman: The Keys to Economic Recovery

Paul Krugman Explains the Keys to Our Recovery



Transcript can be read here

Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman argues that saving money is not the path to economic recovery. Instead, he tells Bill, we should put aside our excessive focus on the deficit, try to overcome political recalcitrance, and spend money to put America back to work. Krugman offers specific solutions to not only end what he calls a “vast, unnecessary catastrophe,” but to do it more quickly than some imagine possible. His latest book, End This Depression Now!, is both a warning of the fiscal perils ahead and a prescription to safely avoid them.

On Pres. Obama’s choice of Jack Lew for Treasury Secretary

(W)hat the president needs right now is he needs a hardnosed negotiator. And rumor has it that’s what he’s got, so.

The president can’t pass major new legislation. He can’t formulate major new programs right now. What he has to do now is bargain down or ride over these crazy people in the Republican Party. And we what we need now is not deep thinking from the treasury secretary. If the president wants deep thinkers, he can call Joe Stiglitz, he can call other people. What he needs from the Treasury secretary is somebody who’s going to be very effective at dealing with these wild men and making sure that nothing terrible happens.

Damning praise, indeed.

Jan 14 2013

In Memoriam: Aaron Swartz 1986 – 2013

The brilliant mind, righteous heart of Aaron Swartz will be missed



The transcript can be read here

Lean into the pain

by Aaron Swartz

When you first begin to exercise, it’s somewhat painful. Not wildly painful, like touching a hot stove, but enough that if your only goal was to avoid pain, you certainly would stop doing it. But if you keep exercising… well, it just keeps getting more painful. When you’re done, if you’ve really pushed yourself, you often feel exhausted and sore. And the next morning it’s even worse.

If that was all that happened, you’d probably never do it. It’s not that much fun being sore. Yet we do it anyway – because we know that, in the long run, the pain will make us stronger. Next time we’ll be able to run harder and lift more before the pain starts.

And knowing this makes all the difference. Indeed, we come to see the pain as a sort of pleasure – it feels good to really push yourself, to fight through the pain and make yourself stronger. Feel the burn! It’s fun to wake up sore the next morning, because you know that’s just a sign that you’re getting stronger.

Few people realize it, but psychological pain works the same way. Most people treat psychological pain like the hot stove – if starting to think about something scares them or stresses them out, they quickly stop thinking about it and change the subject.

The problem is that the topics that are most painful also tend to be the topics that are most important for us: they’re the projects we most want to do, the relationships we care most about, the decisions that have the biggest consequences for our future, the most dangerous risks that we run. We’re scared of them because we know the stakes are so high. But if we never think about them, then we can never do anything about them. [..]

Next time you start feeling that feeling, that sense of pain from deep in your head that tells you to avoid a subject – ignore it. Lean into the pain instead. You’ll be glad you did.