Daily Archive: 03/18/2013

Mar 18 2013

Stupid or Evil?

Marches of Folly

By PAUL KRUGMAN, The New York Times

Published: March 17, 2013

Ten years ago, America invaded Iraq; somehow, our political class decided that we should respond to a terrorist attack by making war on a regime that, however vile, had nothing to do with that attack.

Some voices warned that we were making a terrible mistake – that the case for war was weak and possibly fraudulent, and that far from yielding the promised easy victory, the venture was all too likely to end in costly grief. And those warnings were, of course, right.

There were, it turned out, no weapons of mass destruction; it was obvious in retrospect that the Bush administration deliberately misled the nation into war. And the war – having cost thousands of American lives and scores of thousands of Iraqi lives, having imposed financial costs vastly higher than the war’s boosters predicted – left America weaker, not stronger, and ended up creating an Iraqi regime that is closer to Tehran than it is to Washington.

So did our political elite and our news media learn from this experience? It sure doesn’t look like it.

The really striking thing, during the run-up to the war, was the illusion of consensus. To this day, pundits who got it wrong excuse themselves on the grounds that “everyone” thought that there was a solid case for war. Of course, they acknowledge, there were war opponents – but they were out of the mainstream.



What we should have learned from the Iraq debacle was that you should always be skeptical and that you should never rely on supposed authority. If you hear that “everyone” supports a policy, whether it’s a war of choice or fiscal austerity, you should ask whether “everyone” has been defined to exclude anyone expressing a different opinion. And policy arguments should be evaluated on the merits, not by who expresses them; remember when Colin Powell assured us about those Iraqi W.M.D.’s?

Iraq War: An Eight-Year Massive Crime-But the US Political Class & Press Ask, ‘Was It Worth It?’

By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake

Monday March 18, 2013 12:29 pm

Let’s stay away from discussion of whether war was a “mistake” or not. It cannot be a “mistake” because the administration of President George W. Bush did not just happen to stumble into Iraq and bomb it with a campaign of “shock and awe.” The administration spent months constructing a case for war knowing there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein posed any imminent threat yet they fabricated arguments to convince government agencies, the political class, the press and the public that this was a war that had to be waged. All of which makes the war a crime, not a mistake.

There should be reflection on the crime that was the Iraq war. Throughout the week, government documents revealing the conspiracy and corruption should be highlighted. Stories from Iraqis who were subjected to bombings, torture, arbitrary detention, night raids, Iraqi security forces backed by the US that conducted themselves as death squads, abusive and exploitative private contractors, corruption that propped up Iraq’s ruling elites, etc, should all receive attention.



President Barack Obama’s administration, Congress and others in government do not want to see a real outpouring of empathy and remorse for what happened. That would undermine the idea of America, the myth of  the country being a force for good in the world.



Is it worth it that the US invaded and left behind a country where torture is pervasive? Is it worth it that the US only worsened sectarian tensions and even played groups against each other to get results desired and now that is fueling violence? Is it worth it that all war crimes committed in Iraq have gone unpunished; that few responsible for murder and torture have been held accountable, particularly those who were serving as high-ranking government officials and authorized or looked the other way when such acts were committed?

Not only did Iraq war hawks push America into war, but the House and Senate, including Democrats, authorized war. The media notoriously signed on to the war. People in power who could have spoken up and sections of society that could have been more outspoken were silent.

No persons have ever been held accountable for the war. The organization of a truth commission, where Bush administration officials and others complicit or responsible for the criminal Iraq war are exposed and shamed, has not occurred.

Mar 18 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

New York Times Editorial: A Worsening Haitian Tragedy

The aid group Doctors Without Borders said last Tuesday that the cholera crisis in Haiti was getting worse, for the most unnecessary and appalling of reasons: a lack of money and basic medical supplies. [..]

The dreadful backdrop to this emergency is an abdication of responsibility by organizations that have pledged to help Haiti, particularly the United Nations. The U.N. said last month that it would not pay financial compensation for the epidemic’s victims, claiming immunity. This is despite overwhelming evidence that the U.N. introduced the disease, which was unknown in Haiti until it suddenly appeared near a base where U.N. peacekeepers had let sewage spill into a river.

Paul Krugman: Marches of Folly

Ten years ago, America invaded Iraq; somehow, our political class decided that we should respond to a terrorist attack by making war on a regime that, however vile, had nothing to do with that attack.

Some voices warned that we were making a terrible mistake – that the case for war was weak and possibly fraudulent, and that far from yielding the promised easy victory, the venture was all too likely to end in costly grief. And those warnings were, of course, right. [..]

So did our political elite and our news media learn from this experience? It sure doesn’t look like it.

Les Leopold: Too Big to Whale: Why JP Morgan Chase Should Be Shut Down

If you want more evidence that JP Morgan Chase is closer to a criminal enterprise than a economically useful bank, then read the report from the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, JP Morgan Chase Wale Trades: A Case History of Derivatives Risks and Abuses. It shows in high definition how this mega-bank, touted as the best managed bank on Wall Street, repeatedly lied and dissembled to regulators and investigators. [..]

The stench of Wall Street arrogance wafts through the report. Executives show utter contempt for regulators and for telling the truth. How dare those lowly public servants interfere with the banks primary mission, which is making as much money as possible, anyway possible, and damn the law!

Dean Baker: Capitalism, Steven Pearlstein, and Morality

The Washington Post had a major column by Steve Pearlstein on the front page of its Outlook section headlined, “Is Capitalism Moral?” The piece notes the sharp upward redistribution of income over the last three decades and asks whether we should just being willing to accept market outcomes.

Of course this question is absurd on its face. The upward redistribution of the last three decades was the result of deliberate government policies designed to redistribute income upward; it was not the natural workings of the market. [..]

The massive upward redistribution of the last three decades has been the result of these and other deliberate policies that had the goal of redistributing income upward. It was not the result of free market capitalism. [..] The real question is whether a system that is designed around policies that redistribute from the middle and the bottom to the top is moral.

Robert Kuttner: Talking ‘Bout My Generation

I will start drawing Social Security next month. I think I’ve earned it. On the other hand, I have to admit that society has been good to my generation.

I was able to graduate from a good private college with no debt. Four years at Oberlin cost $10,000 — tuition, room, board, books, fees. Not $10,000 a year — but for four years.My employers all provided good health insurance. Though I’ve had a somewhat unorthodox career, I did not hold multiple jobs because economic circumstances forced me to but because I enjoyed being at the cusp of journalism and academia. Yeah, I’ve worked hard, but the truth is, I’ve had a nice generational tailwind.

Why am I telling you this? Not because I expect to retire any time soon. But because, if you are under 40, your generation is getting utterly screwed compared to mine, and you should be in the streets.

Joe Romm: The Dangerous Myth That Climate Change Is Reversible

The CMO (Chief Misinformation Officer) of the climate ignorati, Joe Nocera, has a new piece, “A Real Carbon Solution.” The biggest of its many errors comes in this line:

   A reduction of carbon emissions from Chinese power plants would do far more to help reverse climate change than – dare I say it? – blocking the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Memo to Nocera: As a NOAA-led paper explained 4 years ago, climate change is “largely irreversible for 1000 years.” [..]

The fact is that, as RealClimate has explained, we would need “an immediate cut of around 60 to 70% globally and continued further cuts over time” merely to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of CO2 – and that would still leave us with a radiative imbalance that would lead to “an additional 0.3 to 0.8ÂșC warming over the 21st Century.” And that assumes no major carbon cycle feedbacks kick in, which seems highly unlikely.

Mar 18 2013

On This Day In History March 18

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.

March 18 is the 77th day of the year (78th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 288 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1766, the British Parliament repeals the Stamp Act

After four months of widespread protest in America, the British Parliament repeals the Stamp Act, a taxation measure enacted to raise revenues for a standing British army in America. However, the same day, Parliament passed the Declaratory Acts, asserting that the British government had free and total legislative power over the colonies.

The Stamp Act of 1765 (short title Duties in American Colonies Act 1765; 5 George III, c. 12) was a direct tax imposed by the British Parliament specifically on the colonies of British America. The act required that many printed materials in the colonies be produced on stamped paper produced in London and carrying an embossed revenue stamp. These printed materials were legal documents, magazines, newspapers and many other types of paper used throughout the colonies. Like previous taxes, the stamp tax had to be paid in valid British currency, not in colonial paper money. The purpose of the tax was to help pay for troops stationed in North America after the British victory in the Seven Years’ War. The British government felt that the colonies were the primary beneficiaries of this military presence, and should pay at least a portion of the expense.

The Stamp Act met great resistance in the colonies. The colonies sent no representatives to Parliament, and therefore had no influence over what taxes were raised, how they were levied, or how they would be spent. Many colonists considered it a violation of their rights as Englishmen to be taxed without their consent, consent that only the colonial legislatures could grant. Colonial assemblies sent petitions and protests. The Stamp Act Congress held in New York City, reflecting the first significant joint colonial response to any British measure, also petitioned Parliament and the King. Local protest groups, led by colonial merchants and landowners, established connections through correspondence that created a loose coalition that extended from New England to Georgia. Protests and demonstrations initiated by the Sons of Liberty often turned violent and destructive as the masses became involved. Very soon all stamp tax distributors were intimidated into resigning their commissions, and the tax was never effectively collected.

Opposition to the Stamp Act was not limited to the colonies. British merchants and manufacturers, whose exports to the colonies were threatened by colonial economic problems exacerbated by the tax, also pressured Parliament. The Act was repealed on March 18, 1766 as a matter of expedience, but Parliament affirmed its power to legislate for the colonies “in all cases whatsoever” by also passing the Declaratory Act. This incident increased the colonists’ concerns about the intent of the British Parliament that helped the growing movement that became the American Revolution.

Mar 18 2013

The Three Budgets

Like the tale of the three bears, the congressional budget battle has three budget proposals one from the House Republicans penned by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chair of the House Budget Committee; another from the Senate Democrats that was worked out by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), chair of the Senate Budget Committee; and a third called the “Back to Work” budget presented by the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Each one has is proponents and opponents and, like that bear tale, it has one that’s too hard, one that’s too soft and one that’s just right.

Paul Ryan’s budget, which is getting the most press, the most negative reaction and is “dead on arrival” so to speak, is a rehash of his last two budgets only worse. The proposal would slash Medicare, Medicaid and repeals Obamacare, which even Fox News host Chris Wallace acknowledges, isn’t happening. It proposes balancing the federal budget with the usual draconian cuts to all non-defense spending and reduction of the already smaller federal work force by another 10%. The Ryan proposal would slash $4.6 trillion over 10 years. The budget plan includes no cuts in Social Security. Pres. Obama has suggested changing an inflation measurement to cut more than $100 billion from the program, which makes no sense since Social Security does not contribute to the debt or the deficit.

The there is the Senate Budget proposal which the Republican leadership insisted the Democrats produce even though, constitutionally, all budget and spending bills must originate in the House. That budget  would seek $975 billion in spending reductions over the next 10 years as well as $975 billion in new tax revenue, which Sen. Murray said would be raised by “closing loopholes and cutting unfair spending in the tax code for those who need it the least.” It includes a $100 billion in spending on infrastructure repair and educational improvements and the creation of a public-private infrastructure bank.

Then there is that third budget proposal from the House Progressive Caucus that is just right balance of spending, revenue increases and spending cuts. The basic plan is the put Americans back to work, by as Ezra Klein explains fixing the jobs crisis:

It begins with a stimulus program that makes the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act look tepid: $2.1 trillion in stimulus and investment from 2013-2015, including a $425 billion infrastructure program, a $340 billion middle-class tax cut, a $450 billion public-works initiative, and $179 billion in state and local aid. [..]

Investment on this scale will add trillions to the deficit. But the House Progressives have an answer for that: Higher taxes. About $4.2 trillion in higher taxes over the next decade, to be exact. The revenues come from raising marginal tax rates on high-income individuals and corporations, but also from closing a raft of deductions as well as adding a financial transactions tax and a carbon tax. They also set up a slew of super-high tax rates for the very rich, including a top rate of 49 percent on incomes over $1 billion.

But to the House Progressives, these taxes aren’t just about reducing the deficit – though they do set debt-to-GDP on a declining path. They’re also about reducing inequality and cutting carbon emissions and slowing down the financial sector. They’re not just raising revenues, but trying to solve other problems. But they might create other problems, too. Adding this many taxes to the economy all at once is likely to slow economic growth.

As for the spending side, there’s more than $900 billion in defense cuts, as well as a public option that can bargain down prices alongside Medicare. But this budget isn’t about cutting spending. Indeed, the House Progressives add far more spending than they cut.

On Sunday’s Up w/ Chris Hayes, host Chris Hayes discussed the various budget proposals released by Republicans and Democrats in Congress this week with his guests Representative Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ); Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY); Sam Seder, host of The Majority Report, co-host of Ring of Fire; and Heidi Moore, economics and finance editor for The Guardian newspaper.