Monthly Archive: August 2010

Aug 31 2010

Punting the Pundits

Punting the Punditsis 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.

Bob Herbert: We Owe the Troops an Exit

Wars are not problems that need managing, which suggests that they will always be with us. They are catastrophes that need to be brought to an end as quickly as possible. Wars consume lives by the thousands (in Iraq, by the scores of thousands) and sometimes, as in World War II, by the millions. The goal when fighting any war should be peace, not a permanent simmer of nonstop maiming and killing. Wars are meant to be won – if they have to be fought at all – not endlessly looked after.

One of the reasons we’re in this state of nonstop warfare is the fact that so few Americans have had any personal stake in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no draft and no direct financial hardship resulting from the wars. So we keep shipping other people’s children off to combat as if they were some sort of commodity, like coal or wheat, with no real regard for the terrible price so many have to pay, physically and psychologically.

Not only is this tragic, it is profoundly disrespectful. These are real men and women, courageous and mostly uncomplaining human beings, that we are sending into the war zones, and we owe them our most careful attention. Above all, we owe them an end to two wars that have gone on much too long.

Eugene Robinson: The Iraq war leaves a fog of ambiguity

Now that the Iraq war is over — for U.S. combat troops, at least — only one thing is clear about the outcome: We didn’t win.

We didn’t lose, either, in the sense of being defeated. But wars no longer end with surrender ceremonies and ticker-tape parades. They end in a fog of ambiguity, and it’s easier to discern what’s been sacrificed than what’s been gained. So it is after seven years of fighting in Iraq, and so it will be after at least 10 years — probably more, before we’re done — in Afghanistan.

Aug 31 2010

It’s only a Nobel Prize…

in Economics.

This is one of the untold tales of the mess we’re in. Contrary to what you may have heard, there’s very little that’s baffling about our problems – at least not if you knew basic, old-fashioned macroeconomics. In fact, someone who learned economics from the original 1948 edition of Samuelson’s textbook would feel pretty much at home in today’s world. If economists seem totally at sea, it’s because they have carefully unlearned the old wisdom. If policy has failed, it’s because policy makers chose not to believe their own models.

On the analytical front: many economists these days reject out of hand the Keynesian model, preferring to believe that a fall in supply rather than a fall in demand is what causes recessions. But there are clear implications of these rival approaches. If the slump reflects some kind of supply shock, the monetary and fiscal policies followed since the beginning of 2008 would have the effects predicted in a supply-constrained world: large expansion of the monetary base should have led to high inflation, large budget deficits should have driven interest rates way up. And as you may recall, a lot of people did make exactly that prediction. A Keynesian approach, on the other hand, said that inflation would fall and interest rates stay low as long as the economy remained depressed. Guess what happened?

On the policy front: there’s certainly a real debate over whether Obama could have gotten a bigger stimulus. What we do know, however, is that his top advisers did not frame the argument for a small stimulus compared with the projected slump purely in political terms. Instead, they argued that too big a plan would alarm the bond markets, and that anyway fiscal stimulus was only needed as an insurance policy. Neither of these arguments came from macroeconomic theory; they were doctrines invented on the fly. Samuelson 1948 would have said to provide a stimulus big enough to restore full employment – full stop.

Aug 31 2010

On This Day in History: August 31

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

August 31 is the 243rd day of the year (244th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 122 days remaining until the end of the year.

I am very hesitant to make the death of Princess Diana the prominent story of the day but her death was a tragedy on so many levels that it is not surprising that the world nearly stood still for 6 days until her funeral. There are many things that we remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when they happened. Of course, recently 9/11 and, for those of us old enough, JFK’s assassination.

I was living in Paris then not far from the site of the accident. I had been out to dinner that evening with my then ex-husband, Dr. TMC, when we heard the crash, it was that loud, and shortly after the sirens of emergency vehicles. Not unusual in Paris, so, we continued on to our destinations. It wasn’t until very early that I heard that the Princess had died and where. Paris was stunned. The site became a instant memorial.

We all sat glued to the TV for days waiting for the Queen to say something. The Queen badly underestimated the admiration that was held her former daughter-in-law.  The day of her funeral Paris froze, the only time I have ever seen the city this quiet was on 9/11.

After being criticized for failing to satisfactorily match the grief of the British people, the royal family arranged for a state funeral to be held for Diana at Westminster Abbey on September 6. Diana’s coffin was taken from Kensington Palace to the Abbey on a horse-drawn gun carriage, and an estimated one million mourners lined the route. Diana’s sons, William, 15, and Harry, 12, joined their father, Prince Charles; grandfather Prince Philip; and uncle Charles, the Earl of Spencer, to walk the final stretch of the procession with the casket. The only sound was the clatter of the horses’ hooves and the peal of a church bell.

The service, watched by an estimated two billion people worldwide, sacrificed royal pomp for a more human touch. Workers associated with Diana’s various charities represented 500 of the 2,000 people invited to attend the funeral. Elton John, a friend of Diana, lent a popular touch to the ceremony when he sang “Candle in the Wind,” accompanying himself on piano. After the service, Diana’s body was taken by hearse to her family’s ancestral estate near Althorp, north of London. In a private ceremony, she was laid to rest on a tree-shaded island in a small lake, securely beyond the reach of the camera lens.

Since the death of Princess Diana, Althorp, which has been in the Spencer family for over 500 years, is now a popular tourist attraction that offers tours to the general public.

I still light a candle in her memory on this day.

Blessed Be.

                                                       

Aug 31 2010

Morning Shinbun Tuesday August 31




Tuesday’s Headlines:

Why failure of climate summit would herald global catastrophe: 3.5°

Advances Offer Path to Shrink Computer Chip

USA

Obama speech on Iraq has risks

Filthy conditions found at egg producers

Europe

Libyan leader’s unique brand of diplomacy has Italy spellbound

The man who first saw Belsen

Middle East

Iraqis want American to stay

Fayyad: State organs within a year

Asia

Attack on China whistleblower shows risk of unveiling corruption, fraud

Occupation politics stymie Afghanistan  

Africa

How Nigeria’s plan to privatize its electricity company could light up Africa

Southern Sudan to purge child soldiers from army

Latin America

Chilean miners await rescue as drilling begins

Aug 31 2010

Stopping Obama’s Targeted Assassinations

I will fight targeted assassinations even if a Democratic is President. I am a purity troll.

Glenn Greenwald: Lawsuit challenges Obama’s power to kill citizens without due process

Three weeks ago, I wrote about a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights, based on the Treasury Department’s failure to grant a “license” to those groups to represent U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki in his efforts to obtain a court order barring the U.S. Government from assassinating him without due process.  In response, Treasury officials issued the license (those groups are nonetheless proceeding with that lawsuit in an attempt to have the entire licensing scheme declared unconstitutional on the ground that the Federal Government has no authority to require its permission before American lawyers can represent American citizens, even if the citizen in question has been accused of being a Terrorist).

With the license now issued, the ACLU and CCR this afternoon filed a lawsuit on behalf of Anwar Awlaki, with Awlaki’s father as the named plaintiff, to prevent the Obama administration from proceeding with Awlaki’s due-process-free assassination.  Awlaki is unable to file the lawsuit on his own because the U.S. government’s threats to kill him, as well as its prior unsuccessful attempts, cause him to be in hiding and thus make it infeasible for him to assert his legal rights directly.

Aug 31 2010

Punting the Pundits

Punting the Punditsis 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.  

Aug 31 2010

Prime Time

No more prison documentaries.  Yahoo TV Listings is really bad at the moment, so a very short list.

I want you to know that I’ve been Captain of this ship for 22 years.

22 years, eh? If you were a man, you’d go in business for yourself. I know a fellow started only last year with just a canoe. Now he’s got more women than you could shake a stick at, if that’s your idea of a good time.

Hey, what’s-a matter, you no understand English? You can’t come in here unless you say, “Swordfish.” Now I’ll give you one more guess.

…swordfish, swordfish… I think I got it. Is it “swordfish”?

Hah. That’s-a it. You guess it.

Pretty good, eh?

Later-

Alton does whole fish.  Return to Malice.

Let me tell you a little story? I once knew a guy who could have been a great golfer, could have gone pro, all he needed was a little time and practice. Decided to go to college instead. Went for four years, did pretty well. At the end of his four years, his last semester he was kicked out… You know what for? He was night putting, just putting at night with the fifteen-year-old daughter of the Dean… You know who that guy was Danny?

No.

Take one good guess.

Bob Hope?

Ha ha… No, that guy was Mitch Comstein, my roommate. He was a good guy.

Aug 31 2010

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

48 Top Story Final.

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 UN climate panel ordered to make fundamental reforms

AFP

30 mins ago

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – An international review panel on Monday called on the UN global climate change body to carry out fundamental reforms after embarrassing errors in a landmark report dented its credibility.

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was caught in an international storm after it admitted its landmark 2007 report exaggerated the speed at which Himalayas glaciers were melting.

The review panel said the IPCC has been “successful overall” but called for leadership changes, stricter guidelines on source material and a check on conflicts of interest.

Aug 30 2010

US Economy Grinds To Halt… Again

Bernanke

Calling it “basically no more than five rectangular strips of paper,” Fed chairman Ben Bernanke illustrates how much “$200”

is actually worth.
Nation Realizes Money Just A Symbolic, Mutually Shared Illusion

WASHINGTON-The U.S. economy ceased to function this week after unexpected existential remarks by Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke shocked Americans into realizing that money is, in fact, just a meaningless and intangible social construct.

What began as a routine report before the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday ended with Bernanke passionately disavowing the entire concept of currency, and negating in an instant the very foundation of the world’s largest economy.

“Though raising interest rates is unlikely at the moment, the Fed will of course act appropriately if we…if we…” said Bernanke, who then paused for a moment, looked down at his prepared statement, and shook his head in utter disbelief. “You know what? It doesn’t matter. None of this-this so-called ‘money’-really matters at all.”

“It’s just an illusion,” a wide-eyed Bernanke added as he removed bills from his wallet and slowly spread them out before him. “Just look at it: Meaningless pieces of paper with numbers printed on them. Worthless.”

Aug 30 2010

Punting the Pundits

Punting the Punditsis 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.

Anne Applebaum: ‘It’s too soon to tell’ how the Iraq war went

On Tuesday, Barack Obama will make a speech about Iraq. With 50,000 troops still in the country in an “advisory capacity” he can’t declare victory, so he will instead celebrate “the end of combat operations.” If he follows others who have already marked this occasion, his comments will focus on Iraq: the state of Iraqi democracy, the level of violence, the impact seven years of war has had on Iraqi society.

All of which is fair enough. But I hope he spares a few minutes to assess the impact that seven years of war has had on American society — and American foreign policy. I supported the invasion of Iraq, I think the surge was a success and I believe that an Iraqi democracy could be a revolutionary force for good in the Middle East. Yet even if violence abates, even if all American troops go home, we have still paid a very high price for our victory — much higher than we usually admit.

Aside from the very real blood and the very real money spent in Iraq, there were other casualties, some of them hard to count and classify.

E.J. Dionne Jr.: Obama needs to relearn the art of politicking

President Obama’s address to the nation on Iraq this week underscores the agony of his presidency and its core political problem.

Seen from the inside, the administration is an astonishing success. Obama has kept his principal promises and can take credit for achievements that eluded his Democratic predecessors.

He pledged to have all combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this month and, as Obama will remind us on Tuesday, he’s accomplished just that. Congress enacted a comprehensive health-care bill and a sweeping reform of how the financial system is regulated. His rescue of the American auto industry worked, foiling predictions that he’d run GM and Chrysler as if they were arms of Chicago’s Democratic machine. There are many other legislative and administrative actions that, in normal circumstances, would loom larger if these were not such exceptional — and difficult — times.

Yet the challenging nature of the moment does not explain all of the president’s struggles. It’s true that his accomplishments will have important long-term effects, even if they have not resolved the country’s central concern: the continuing sluggishness of the economy.

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