11/08/2010 archive

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Violence breaks out in Myanmar after election


Mon Nov 8, 12:00 pm ET

YANGON (AFP) – Deadly clashes erupted on Monday between Myanmar government troops and ethnic minority rebels, prompting an exodus across the border in the wake of an election that the junta’s proxies looked sure to win.

At least three civilians were killed when heavy weapons fire hit the town of Myawaddy in Karen State, an official in the military-ruled country said. There was no information on any troop casualties on either side.

Clashes were also reported further south near Myanmar’s Three Pagodas Pass.

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.

Andy Worthington: No Appetite for Prosecution: In Memoir, Bush Admits He Authorized the Use of Torture, But No One Cares

With just days to go before George W. Bush’s memoir, Decision Points, hits bookstores (on November 9), and with reports on the book’s contents doing the rounds after review copies were made available to the New York Times and Reuters, it will be interesting to see how many media outlets allow the former President the opportunity to try to salvage his reputation, how many are distracted by his spat with Kanye West or his claim that he thought about replacing Dick Cheney as Vice President in 2004, and how many decide that, on balance, it would be more honest to remind readers and viewers of the former President’s many crimes – including the illegal invasion of Iraq, and the authorization of the use of torture on “high-value detainees” seized in the “War on Terror.”

As I fall firmly into the latter camp, this article focuses on what little has so far emerged regarding the President’s views on Guantánamo, and, in particular, on his confession that he authorized the waterboarding of “high-value detainee” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, which is rather more important than trading blows with a rapper about whether or not his response to the Katrina disaster was racist, as it is a crime under domestic and international law.

Nancy J. Altman: New York Times Columnist Peter Orszag Joins the Social Security Fearmongering Crowd

Former OMB Director Peter Orszag writes a tin-eared response to the elections, in his NYT op-ed, “Saving Social Security.”

Tuesday’s election gave expression to a deep frustration that Washington is not listening to Main Street. This frustration seems reasonable after reading the tin-eared response to the elections penned by former OMB Director Peter Orszag, in his recent opinion piece with its fear-mongering title, “Saving Social Security.”

Social Security is not in need of saving. It is the most fiscally responsible part of the entire federal budget. Its benefits are modest, averaging less than the minimum wage. It is extremely efficient, returning in benefits more than 99 cents of every dollar spent. At its most expensive, when the Baby Boom generation is fully retired, Social Security will cost half as much, in terms of percentage of GDP, that France, Germany and many other countries are paying for their counterpart programs right now, today. Its projected deficit, still decades away, is manageable in size – just 0.7 percent of GDP, about the same amount as extending the Bush tax cuts for the top two percent of Americans. (Paradoxically, Orszag recently penned a piece advocating the extension of those tax cuts)

Barry Eisler: The Definition of Insanity

Last month, the Washington Post published an op-ed by Jack Devine, former CIA deputy director of operations and chief of the CIA Afghan Task Force. When I read it, I thought it was perhaps the most insane op-ed I’d ever come across. But leave it to David Broder, “Dean of the Washington Press Corps,” to try to one-up it just three weeks later.

Let’s take Devine’s piece first. Devine argues that our top priority in Afghanistan must be capturing or killing bin Laden. Devine asks, “We have entered into two problematic wars and have expended a great deal of blood and treasure since Sept. 11. What was it all about, if not capturing bin Laden?”

I think I know now why invading Iraq was “problematic.” You see, bin Laden wasn’t in Iraq. No wonder we can’t find the guy. . . .

And now, Broder.

There’s less to say about Broder’s piece, but only because he expresses his insanity more succinctly than does Devine. First, he lays out his premise: war and peace are the only forces influencing the economy that the president can control. Second, his evidence: World War II resolved the Great Depression. Finally, his slam dunk conclusion: Obama should take America to war with Iran (Congressional declarations of war are so pre-9/11) because war with Iran will improve America’s economy.

When you’ve lost Adam Serwer…

Standing For Nothing.

Look, if Democrats can’t repeal a policy more than two thirds of the American people, including a majority of conservatives want gone then they can’t expect people to vote for them. Preserving DADT is rank absurdity, even in 1993 the RAND study commissioned by the government showed that combat effectiveness would not be harmed by allowing openly gay servicemembers to serve, and the fact that DADT investigations are sometimes delayed when servicemembers are deployed undermines the notion that openly gay servicemembers harm the war effort.

The plain fact of the matter is that DADT undermines the military by forcing discharges of servicemembers with critical skills and walling off an entire section of the population from recruitment. The only remaining arguments for preserving DADT are premised on archaic cultural attitudes towards homosexuality, and Republicans’ insistence on undermining the military by preserving repeal is vanity, a projection of their own superficial prejudices onto the very servicemembers they claim to respect.

(h/t Atrios)

How’s that austerity thing working out for you?

Let me explain slowly and clearly-

The problem is overcapacity and lack of aggregate demand.

Austerity by definition means less spending and less aggregate demand.

Irish Debt Woes Revive Concern About Europe

By LANDON THOMAS Jr., The New York Times

Published: November 7, 2010

LONDON – When interest rates soared last week on Irish government bonds, it served as a grim warning to other indebted nations of how difficult and even politically ruinous it could be to roll back decades of public sector largess.

An Irish bond market already in free fall plunged further after Ireland announced on Thursday that it planned to nearly double its package of spending cuts and tax increases to try to rein in its huge deficit. Investors took it not as a sign of resolve but rather of Ireland’s desperation and uncertainty about the true extent of its problems.

A year ago, as cascading mortgage defaults brought down the biggest Irish banks, Ireland became the first major developed nation to impose an austerity program. The country was hailed worldwide as an exemplar of probity and national consensus.

But as the full extent of the banking and real estate bust became evident, it was clear that the government of Prime Minister Cowen, which has been in power since the onset of the crisis more than two years ago, had underestimated the cost of fiscal recovery. Now the possibility that he will be forced from office or compelled to call a new election grows by the day.

The British chancellor, George Osborne, perhaps the keenest deficit hawk among policy makers in the developed nations, was taken to task last week by lawmakers. They accused him of exaggerating the extent of the country’s fiscal problems to justify broad cuts in middle-class benefits like universal payments to parents with children.

“How many children will be forced to leave their homes?” demanded one furious member of Parliament. “Will the numbers of homeless increase or decrease under your government? Will there be a reduction in special needs education for children in our schools?”


I’m reliably informed Keith will be back tomorrow.

Inflation is Good!

Monday Business Edition

Following the economic story is a trifle confusing because there are at least 2 threads to it.  One of those threads is the failure of our financial institutions and their systematic culture of fraud.

But another thread is the failure of academic economists and Washington policy makers to correctly diagnose and take action on our National economic problems.

Let me start by saying that what we are seeing in the United States macro economy is a textbook example of the complete and utter failure of Monetary Policy from Milton Friedman to Alan Greenspan.  What ails us is overcapacity and a lack of aggregate demand.  Businesses are making everything that anyone will pay for and could easily make much, much more at little marginal cost.

They are sitting on piles of cash which they are currently using to buy sort term treasuries at 0% interest (a safe way of parking it not investing it), stock repurchases, mergers and acquisitions, expanding overseas operations, and other non productive pursuits; non productive in this case meaning- Not Increasing U.S. Aggregate Demand.

Now the textbook response to a situation like this is for the Government to step in as a purchaser of last resort- Dig Holes.  Fill them up.  At least you’re putting money in people’s pockets and because of the Multiplier Effect Aggregate Demand will rise and your National economy will pick up.  Tested and proven.

Indeed, this is exactly the argument David Broder uses for advocating War with Iran!

Umm… aggressive warfare for economic gain is pretty specifically a war crime Dave.

But it does validate the idea of Government fiscal policy as a tool for jump starting the economy.

Instead of that we are pursuing a policy of pushing on a string.  The object of Bernake’s $600 Billion repurchase is to create negative interest rates in the hopes that losing money by keeping it parked in T-Bills will spur investment.

A thin hope at best and as Krugman points out, by foregoing the chance to create increased expectations of inflation in general we are reducing that incentive.

Doing It Again

By PAUL KRUGMAN, The New York Times

Published: November 7, 2010

Eight years ago Ben Bernanke, already a governor at the Federal Reserve although not yet chairman, spoke at a conference honoring Milton Friedman. He closed his talk by addressing Friedman’s famous claim that the Fed was responsible for the Great Depression, because it failed to do what was necessary to save the economy.

“You’re right,” said Mr. Bernanke, “we did it. We’re very sorry. But thanks to you, we won’t do it again.”

For the big concern about quantitative easing isn’t that it will do too much; it is that it will accomplish too little. Reasonable estimates suggest that the Fed’s new policy is unlikely to reduce interest rates enough to make more than a modest dent in unemployment. The only way the Fed might accomplish more is by changing expectations – specifically, by leading people to believe that we will have somewhat above-normal inflation over the next few years, which would reduce the incentive to sit on cash.

The idea that higher inflation might help isn’t outlandish; it has been raised by many economists, some regional Fed presidents and the International Monetary Fund. But in the same remarks in which he defended his new policy, Mr. Bernanke – clearly trying to appease the inflationistas – vowed not to change the Fed’s price target: “I have rejected any notion that we are going to try to raise inflation to a super-normal level in order to have effects on the economy.”

And there goes the best hope that the Fed’s plan might actually work.

Think of it this way: Mr. Bernanke is getting the Obama treatment, and making the Obama response. He’s facing intense, knee-jerk opposition to his efforts to rescue the economy. In an effort to mute that criticism, he’s scaling back his plans in such a way as to guarantee that they’ll fail.

Business News below-

On This Day in History: November 8

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

November 8 is the 312th day of the year (313th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 53 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1793 the Louvre opens as a public museum. After more than two centuries as a royal palace, the Louvre is opened as a public museum in Paris by the French revolutionary government. Today, the Louvre’s collection is one of the richest in the world, with artwork and artifacts representative of 11,000 years of human civilization and culture.

The Musée du Louvre or officially Grand Louvre – in English the Louvre Museum or simply the Louvre – is one of the world’s largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and a historic monument. It is a central landmark of Paris and located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement (district). Nearly 35,000 objects from prehistory to the 19th century are exhibited over an area of 60,600 square metres (652,300 square feet).

The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace (Palais du Louvre) which began as a fortress built in the late 12th century under Philip II. Remnants of the fortress are still visible. The building was extended many times to form the present Louvre Palace. In 1682, Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles for his household, leaving the Louvre primarily as a place to display the royal collection, including, from 1692, a collection of antique sculpture. In 1692, the building was occupied by the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres and the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, which in 1699 held the first of a series of salons. The Académie

remained at the Louvre for 100 years. During the French Revolution, the National Assembly decreed that the Louvre should be used as a museum, to display the nation’s masterpieces.

The museum opened on 10 August 1793 with an exhibition of 537 paintings, the majority of the works being confiscated church and royal property. Because of structural problems with the building, the museum was closed in 1796 until 1801. The size of the collection increased under Napoleon when the museum was renamed the Musée Napoleon. After his defeat at Waterloo, many works seized by Napoleon’s armies were returned to their original owners. The collection was further increased during the reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles X, and during the Second French Empire the museum gained 20,000 pieces. Holdings have grown steadily through donations and gifts since the Third Republic, except during the two World Wars. As of 2008, the collection is divided among eight curatorial departments: Egyptian Antiquities; Near Eastern Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Sculpture; Decorative Arts; Paintings; Prints and Drawings.

Morning Shinbun Monday November 8

Monday’s Headlines:

Nuclear bomb material found for sale on Georgia black market


Now in Power, G.O.P. Vows Cuts in State Budgets

For many businesses, 2010 midterm election campaign was a winner


Russian outrage over new attack on journalist

Pope denounces gay marriage and abortion in Spain

Middle East

Police demolition of mosque incites riot as Israeli Arabs vow to rebuild

Iraqi leaders expected to form government


Burma poll marked by threats and low turnout

China builds a ‘new Silk Road’ to pave over its troubles


A lesson for Africa?

Latin America

20 killed over weekend in Mexican border city

A fresh slate at the Pentagon for Obama

President’s choices could have lasting consequences for national security agenda


WASHINGTON – With critical decisions ahead on the war in Afghanistan, President Obama is about to receive an unusual opportunity to reshape the Pentagon’s leadership, naming a new defense secretary as well as several top generals and admirals in the next several months.

It is a rare confluence of tenure calendars and personal calculations, coming midway through Mr. Obama’s first term and on the heels of an election that challenged his domestic policies. His choices could have lasting consequences for his national security agenda, perhaps strengthening his hand over a military with which he has often clashed, and are likely to have an effect beyond the next election, whetherhe wins or loses.

My Views This Week

Cross-posted at Progressive Blue, Docudharma and even the Big O.

What a tough week this has been, the Yankees were out of it and the Jets had a buy week. To make matters even worse the right wing corporate home team got the great shellacking by the visitors from beyond the right field wall. But I was walking around with the old camera and taking photos. Plenty of photos, plenty of back lighting.

I spent the week with a familiar song locked in my head, the lyric “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” After the past two years I could never again come up with a reason to support a Dem but without the tradition of photography I would be a shaky as a fiddler on a roof. So during that fabulous Jets win, I slapped together a few photos from the week.  

Prime Time

Treehouse of Horror #21, also new Cleveland Show, Family Guy, and American Dad.  Throwball, Boys @ Packers– Cheeseheads all the way.  Amazing Race.  Nature Braving Iraq, Masterpiece Mystery Sherlock: The Great Game.

MSNBC offers more of their quality weekend programming- Sex Slaves: Texas (premier).

Put it away, son. It’s not worth you getting beat again.

You didn’t beat me. You ignored the rules of engagement. In a fair fight, I’d kill you.

That’s not much incentive for me to fight fair, then, is it?


Childrens Hospital, live Season Finale.  Metalocalypse, first airs a week from now.  Assisted Suicide.

Not just the Spanish Main, luv. The entire ocean. The entire wo’ld. Wherever we want to go, we’ll go. That’s what a ship is, you know. It’s not just a keel and a hull and a deck and sails, that’s what a ship needs but what a ship is… what the Black Pearl really is… is freedom.

Zap2it TV Listings, Yahoo TV Listings

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Myanmar votes in rare election marred by fraud fears


Sun Nov 7, 11:33 am ET

YANGON (AFP) – Myanmar voted Sunday in its first election in 20 years as complaints of intimidation reinforced fears the poll was a sham to create a facade of democracy after decades of iron-fisted military rule.

Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi remained locked up for the vote and two pro-junta parties were together fielding about two-thirds of the total candidates, leaving the splintered opposition little chance of success.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi swept her party to power in 1990 but the result was never recognised by the ruling generals. She has been detained for most of the last 20 years and supported a boycott of Sunday’s election.

The Week In Review 10/31 – 11/6 is posted.